Tag: Recap

Sly and Subtle Folk

Previously, Neamhan delivered Quentin’s steel-bound letter to the Beauclair delegation’s camp, meeting both Lord Dorian and Highlord Gauthier. Finding that Lady Gwenaëlle was part of the delegation, Neamhan felt it important to try one more time to restore Quentin’s memory of his betrothed.

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

Neamhan flew east, Quentin clutched in her vicious talons, for several hours until Gheolgothis, the enormous tree that formed the Seat of Friendship with its boughs, came into sight. She decided to land a few minutes to the north to give her some privacy to change back to her elven form, and for Quentin to gather himself after the cold and uncomfortable flight. The had departed at the eleventh bell, and they walked into the clearing of the Seat of Friendship just past the second bell past noon.

As they approached they noticed a druid, wearing a green tartan, in the tree-line, accompanying a comely, young woman, who had gathered firewood together. In the clearing, another druid, this one wearing a blue tartan, was tending to a modest bonfire. The last druid, wearing a red tartan, a thick fur, and a hood adorned with antler parts, was going around the clearing, talking to the different folk that came to rest underneath the great oak’s protection. Neamhan knew him as Ciarán.

There was a group of szygani fixing a wagon, a halfling couple having a picnic, a troop of dwarves finding some rest, and a merchant with several guards preparing to head to Kingsport. There were also two women, one middle-aged, the other one elderly, who were sitting at a small fire preparing food. Besides them stood a powerful, horned bull with a black hide, restlessly stomping the ground and occasionally rutting one of its horns through the soil.

When Ciarán noticed Neamhan and Quentin he made his way over to chat. When Quentin introduced himself, Ciarán immediately recognised him to be one of the Heroes of the White Eye. The druid went to ask for some food from the halflings and brought it back to the heroes, together with some warm tea. Neamhan explained that Quentin had lost part of his memory, which she wanted to restore, using the Seat of Friendship as a place of power to boost the efficacy of the ritual. When Ciarán asked after the source of Quentin’s memory loss, Neamhan explained that she was opposing the Ladies of Three. Ciarán said that while she was welcome to use the Seat of Friendship as a place to perform her ritual, he could not aid her in any way, lest the druids lose their neutrality. He showed the heroes a burrow in between the massive roots of Gheolgothis, which the druids used for shelter, and offered that as suitable place to perform the ritual, away from the eyes of any travellers.

While the heroes continued to talk to Ciarán about druidic magic and the influence of the moons, the restless bull become more and more restless, and louder in its protestations. One of the three women went try and calm the beast, and was aided by one of the druids. Ciarán decided to leave Neamhan and Quentin to their conversation as they prepared for the ritual. Neamhan tried to guide Quentin to find connection to Gheolgothis, and later to the swan of House Morvrayne, but the constant rutting of the bull became an undeniable distraction.

Neamhan lost her patience with the situation and went over to check on the bull and see if she could get it to calm down. The woman who was dealing with the bull was being very rough with it, and the druid was nearby but did not look about to interfere with the woman’s handling of the beast. Neamhan reached out and asked the bull what was wrong. The only thing that came back was frustration, anger and sadness, it kept lamenting its position and questioning why it was in the situation it found itself in. “Why me?” it asked, “I did everything I was supposed to! I made a mistake…”

Granny Griselda, the older woman, interrupted Neamhan, warning her to stay away from her bull. She seemed unconcerned for the beast’s well-being, and when Neamhan, in a fit of frustration, asked her whether the elderly woman was evil, she casually responded that indeed, she was. It suddenly hit Neamhan that the three women, the mother, the maiden, and the crone, were not there by coincidence. A chill went down Neamhan’s spine, and she asked the old woman not who she was… but what she was.

It felt as if time inside the glade had come to a stop. Only Neamhan, Quentin and the three women were there, while everyone else seemed frozen in time. What are you? That question hung in the an air pregnant with tension.

Most fae are sly and subtle folk,
who step as soft as cauldron smoke.

Some go among your kind enshaedn,
glamoured like an oxen laden.

Or wearing gowns to fit a queen,
we know enough to not be seen.

Many of the darker sort
would love to use you for their sport,

and make you pawns within their within their court.
Sacrifice you, no last resort.

What keeps them from their moonlit trespass?
Iron, fire, mirror-glass,

elm, and ash, and copper knives,
and solid-hearted farmer’s wives,

who know the rules of games we play
and give us bread to stay away.

But worst of all, my people dread,
the portion of the power we shed,

when we set foot on mortal earth,
you are more trouble than you’re worth.

While moons are full you may still laugh,
but know there is a darker half.

A clever mortal fears the night
without a hint of sweet moonlight.

On such a night each step you take
might catch you in the Darkmoon’s wake,

and pull you witless into fae,
where you’ll have no choice but to stay.

And on such unfamiliar ground,
how can a mortal help but drown?

Unless they are of lineage pure,
yes, then perhaps they might endure.

And if they’re meant to keep the gate,
protect the threshold t’be their fate,

then their blood best not be banal,
not common stock, but sangreal.

At that point, both Mother Dudenka, and Maiden Meshka, the maiden, joined Granny Griselda to raise their hands in the air, and repeated “Sangreal! Sangreal!”

Granny Griselda offered Neamhan the option of bargaining for Quentin’s memory, and when it looked as if Neamhan was considering it Quentin strongly objected. He felt that he struck a bargain with the Good Sisters and that it was his burden to bear. He did not want Neamhan to be indebted to the sisters as well. Neamhan realised that if the sisters were ready to bargain with her that they must think that Neamhan could succeed. This emboldened her, and she returned with Quentin to the druid’s burrow between the trees roots despite Quentin pleading with her not to go through with it.

Neamhan communed with Gheolgothis only to learn that the Good Sisters were owed hospitality, as were the heroes. It would not interfere, but would also not allow either party to interfere with one another. As such, it kept the necrophages that had begun prowling along the outskirts of the Seat of Friendship, undoubtedly at the call of the sisters, at bay.

The sisters watched calmly, smiling, as Neamhan performed the ritual. This time she was able to break the hold the sisters had over Quentin’s memory, aided by the place of power. Quentin could once again remember, both Gwenaëlle, as well as the deal he struck with the sisters. The one thing that was missing, the thing that was not restored, was any sense of affection for his betrothed. He felt no fondness, no warm, only duty.

The sisters continued to smile, claiming that a bargain had been struck. They quietly turned away and started to prepare for their departure from the Seat of Friendship. Quentin, recovered from the realisation of what happened, ran back to the clearing and yelled that there were necrophages. The visitors sprang into action; the dwarves grabbed for their weapons, the guards that accompanied the merchant moved into a defensive position, and the druids each covered a side of the woods around Gheogothis.

The necrophages soon disappeared as the sisters departed from the Seat of Friendship. Neamhan and Quentin said their goodbyes to the druids and headed north, into the woods. Frustration overcame Quentin as Neamhan turned into her eagle form. “What have you done!?” he raged, before Neamhan carried him back to Kingsport.

Last Minute Errands

Previously, the heroes had attempted to rally support for their plan to oppose Epidemius when he would reappear in Kingsport. Luca and Emrys had spoken to the head archmage at the Circle of Magi, and Quentin had written a letter to his father that Neamhan had delivered.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

As Neamhan flew west to deliver Quentin’s steel-bound letter to his father, Luca found his way to the Tomb of St. Catherine in order to speak to Jan. He found the custodian in a private chapel inside the abbey. It was lit by hundreds of candles and besides Jan, who was sitting in front of the altar, there was only his wife, who was feverishly praying behind a wooden partition.

Jan was recovering from surgery which had taken more of his arm than had already been taken by Xarrombus, and he had bandages around his shoulder which were stained with blood. He looked sweaty and feverish, which Luca took to be the same malady that had been afflicting all the wounded and sick in the city ever since Epidemius had first appeared.

Luca attempted to talk to Jan about the whispers he had heard and the dark mist he seen, but it was a difficult conversation, fraught with misunderstanding. When Luca said that he had a patron, Jan drew the wrong conclusion, and Luca had to tell him that the patron was a celestial being. Jan was still unsure, and had tried to deny the voice in his head by praying to St. Catherine. That, as well as the sudden elevation in status within the order of custodians, the revelations he had been exposed to, and the injury he had sustained, it had put a lot of pressure on him.

The two sat together for a while, both praying, until eventually Jan went back to singing his lament. Luca quietly left the chapel and went back to the Careless Wanderer.

Quentin was still raw from the cryptic revelations that Vydia had shared with him earlier, and decided to retire to his room soon after supper. To find peace, he decided to fall back on the rituals and ceremonies that he was taught by Cardinal Roark, and prayed to the Raven Queen for guidance.

Sparked by Vydia’s revelations about the petrified rose, Emrys decided to retrieve his lute from his new lute case and compose a song about the Lady Without Ending. And Chakuq spent the evening in song, to centre himself and calm his mind.

When Luca returned to the Careless Wanderer, he did something he had never done before; he asked Durham for a drink. Durham quickly surmised that the weight of the world was pressing down on Luca’s shoulders, and he called Lauryn, Ramsey and Wojciech to join. He poured each a cup of viscous liquor the colour of dandelions, made by Wojciech, and for a few minutes, all five of them were enjoying the drink in silence together. It tasted of honey and herbs.

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

Around the fourth bell, Neamhan finally arrived in Kingsport and found that Lauryn had woken up from her reverie, just in time to let Neamhan inside so she could find her bed and get some rest.

Between seventh and eighth bell breakfast was served and most of the heroes woke up. Chakuq asked after the gear that the heroes had gathered during their adventures, and how it might be useful in their opposition to Epidemius. This spawned a conversation about visiting Ecgbrith, the cantankerous herbalist who lived on the outskirts of Kingsport. He always charged extortionate prices for restorative ointments and healing draughts, but it might be worth the visit.

Céleste Deschamps came calling to the Careless Wanderer once again, together with two stevedores and she followed Durham down into the basement in order to retrieve more wine barrels and transport them onto a river boat by way of the quayside dock.

Quentin shared his decision to stay away from the auctioneer who was going to validate the authenticity of Róisín. He would need the sword while he opposed Epidemius, and therefore maintaining a ruse would be very challenging. Quentin was coming around to the idea of giving up the sword, but not before helping the two personalities inside the sword find an equilibrium.

Neamhan eventually woke up just before the tenth bell, and found her way downstairs  to join the others for a late breakfast. When she relayed the news that cavalry was coming for Kingsport everyone got very excited, especially Quentin. Neamhan believed there to be between sixty and seventy riders, a combination of riders from House Morvrayne and knights of the Order of the Lance.

After explaining that Highlord Gauthier was travelling with his daughter, Neamhan suggested taking Quentin to the Seat of Friendship for another attempt at breaking the curse of the Sisters of the Grove and restoring Quentin’s memory of his betrothed. She convinced Luca to give her a lyrium crystal, since she would need materials to perform the ritual, and she could substitute them for the crystal.

Before departure, Quentin spends some time in his room together with Ser Fulton’s shield. The shield had been in his possession ever since the knight died in Atilesceon’s tower, but he had never truly unlocked the powers of the shield. He spent some time etching the names of Hejduk, Ser Fulton, Astrid and Hamish into the back of the shield, to represent the people that Quentin felt he had not been able to save. Spending that time with the shield allowed Quentin to access the deeper magics that the shield possessed.

Neamhan and Quentin departed and left the city through the Eastern Gate and found a secluded spot about a mile out for Neamhan to transform into a giant eagle. She snatched Quentin up in her talons and flew off, heading east towards the Seat of Friendship.

Chakuq picked up his silvered dagger and silver-tipped arrows from Dagran, and the heroes went to visit Ecgbrith while they waited for Lady Commander Miranda to come back from patrolling the skies above Kingsport. The herbalist, who lived in a wooden cottage on the eastern outskirts of Kingsport, was, predictably, in a bad mood. But the heroes died find him willing to part with some of his salves, ointments and draughts. His prices were incredibly high, and while the heroes possessed many riches, those did not come in the form of hard coin, which made paying for the goods a problem.

After some haggling and Luca binding himself in a promise, the heroes bought a healing draught for Astrid, and four potions which would temporarily bolster the constitution of the one to drink it. The promise that Luca bound himself to was to pay Ecgbrith 400 gold crowns by Midsummer, which was half the crowns that was owed on the potions.

The visit to the lady commander was uneventful. The heroes learned that she and Lieutenant William had been in conversation about blocking off Steward’s Square, which was in line with what the heroes wanted. She could also inform the heroes that both the crownsguard as well as the custodians would be ready to defend the square and the city from Epidemius. When she learned about the approach of the riders from the delegation, she mused that it was likely that the pride of the Lyrian knights did not allow them to let the Beauclair knights take the honour of defending the city.

Unfortunately, despite Neamhan’s request for the heroes to ask Lady Commander Miranda whether she would be allowed to visit with Frostfeather, her griffon, they forgot before leaving just before noon.

Calling in the Cavalry

Previously, Neamhan had flown to the Seat of Friendship for help and upon her return had found that Quentin had written a letter which he wanted delivered to the delegation which was travelling from Beauclair to Kingsport. Neamhan volunteered to deliver it, though that took some persuading.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

After having taken off from the balcony of the church room at the Careless Wanderer, Neamhan flew west, along the Beauclair boulevard, in search of the delegation. She had taken the shape of a peregrine falcon. In her talons she carried Quentin’s message, bound in a ring of steel, which she knew to hold a special significance to the Beauclairois.

It did not take Neamhan long to distinguish between the different type of light along the road; the torchlight of night-time riders, the lanterns outside of farm houses, the braziers of small settlements and eventually the bonfires of the delegation. Neamhan could not believe how many tents, fires, and banners she saw stretched out across a field to the south of the road. She circled above the camp and saw tents in reds, blues, and golds, with many of them flying flags and banners carrying different heralds.

Having been shown what the banner of House Morvrayne looked like, Neamhan found a cluster of burgundy tents, edged in blue, which flew the banners she was looking for. The became clear to Neamhan that every house, every order, every group had their own section of the camp, which could be identified by the colours and banners that they erected.

After Neamhan had found a copse of trees away from the camp where she could discretely transform back to her elven form, she walked through the camp towards the largest tent of the Morvrayne cluster. Neamhan estimated that House Morvrayne had twenty people in their retinue, if the size and number of tents was anything to go by. There were carts stacked with provisions, horses and beasts of burden, knights, armsmen, squires and servants, all in service of House Morvrayne.

In front of the main tent’s canopy stood two guards, a moustachioed man and a young woman. The man turned out to speak little to no Lyrian, and the woman was hard to convince that Neamhan brought news from Quentin. Eventually Neamhan managed to convince the guard, Dame Pauline, that she was to be taken seriously by showing the letter, bound by the steel ring. Actually, it was after Neamhan angrily tossed the letter at Dame Pauline, but it had the desired effect.

The young knight left her shield, took up a banner and instructed Neamhan to follow her. Dame Pauline marched through the camp, passing armsmen who saluted her. She brought Neamhan to the very centre of camp where the largest tent was erected. It flew the lily banner of House Lys. Dame Pauline handed Neamhan back the steel-bound letter after planting the banner into the ground in front of the tent, besides a row of other banners belonging to other houses.

The interior of the enormous tent was lavishly decorated with furniture, carpets, and banners. The centre piece was a heavy table that could set a dozen people. At the head of the table stood a wooden throne with elaborately carved back and arm-rests. The table was littered with papers, maps, plates of food and cups of wine. Servants were walking off and on delivering food, pouring wine, while soldiers delivered missives and reports.

A middle-aged man with square shoulders and thick limbs sat on the throne. His hair was blonde, and he wore a colourful, silk doublet of blue and gold over a white, ruffled shirt. A short, blue cape was asymmetrically draped across his shoulders, revealing a white, silk interior. Had the clothing not been immaculately tailored for his otherwise loutish frame, it might have looked misplaced, but as it stood, the man wore it very well. Neamhan would soon learn that the man at the head of the table was Highlord Gaulthier Lys.

At the table to the Highlord’s right sat a young, golden-haired woman, wearing a light blue skirt of many layers of sheer material. She wore a headscarf of white and blue which covered her head and neck, made from the same material as her skirt. A billowing white shirt, adorned with lace flowed from a tight corset, and a comforter made of fox fur lay around her shoulders. This was Highlord Gauthier’s daughter, Lady Gwenaëlle.

Next to Lady Gwenaëlle sat a soberly dressed man with dark brown hair, wearing black tunic over simple breeches and a grey cloak around his shoulders. He had a neatly trimmed moustache and beard, and wore a simple, square black hat. His name was Monsieur Beauregard, and he seemed to be one of the highlord’s advisors.

On the highlord’s left, opposite to Lady Gwenaëlle sat an older knight with pale blonde hair, wearing an exquisitely decorated suit of armour. A beautiful filigree design was carved into his breastplate, and it was adorned with silver. While decorated, his armour was more than ceremonial, indicated by a strong gorget which reached to the man’s chin, and asymmetrically sized pauldrons. He wore a scarlet cloak, fastened to smaller of the two pauldrons by a silver brooch. This was Ser Uthred Locke, knight captain to the Order of the Lance.

Besides the knight, opposite to Monsieur Beauregard, sat Lord Dorian Morvrayne, a handsome, middle-aged man with dark brown hair and a beautifully groomed, full moustache and beard. He wore an embroidered doublet of blue and red, with simple breeches and a warm, fur-lined cloak.

Next to Lord Dorian sat Ser Croy du Menezioù, the master-at-arms of House Morvrayne. He was probably the eldest person to sit the table, with thinning white hair and icy-blue eyes, but radiated endurance. He was wearing half-plate armour and a black cloak, and was stiffly leaning towards Lord Dorian to whisper council into his ear.

The rest of the people in the tent were a mixture of Lys guards, advisors and servants.

At the foot of the table, nearest to the entrance, and with their backs to Neamhan and Dame Pauline, two guards flanked a common man with a big belly, a balding head and a thick moustache. Patiently waiting for a moment to present themselves, Dame Pauline, moved Neamhan to stand away from the entrance and away from the foot of the table. Neamhan noticed that Dame Pauline was a strong and beautiful woman, with a thick auburn braid, striking green eyes, and a kind face.

The highlord scolded the man at the foot of the table, a quartermaster and Lyrian in the highlord’s service, for having given out wine to people outside of camp, against the direct orders of the highlord. The man stammered a response about there being a wine shortage and he being able to sell at a premium price, but the highlord ignored him, claiming that the shortage was the exact reason for the order. Highlord Gauthier consulted with Monsieur Beauregard on a fitting punishment, and the soberly dressed man suggested cutting off the man’s thumbs to set an example to other quartermasters who might disobey. The highlord thought it fitting and the dismemberment, and demoted him to the kitchens to see whether the man could peel potatoes without his thumbs.

When Highlord Gauthier sensed that Ser Uthred did not approve of the decision to take the man’s thumbs, he addressed the knight. Ser Uthred said that he could not pretend to understand why such a harsh punishment was necessary, but also did not seem inclined to argue the matter. Highlord Gauthier firmly reiterated his prohibition again.

Neamhan suddenly realised that there was something bigger going on, and that this somehow had something to do with Céleste’s visits to the Careless Wanderer, but before she knew it, Dame Pauline moved her to the foot of the table, front and centre of all attention. After an inelegant introduction, where Neamhan may or may not have tripped, cursed and failed to execute a proper bow, she held out the letter to Lord Dorian.

Silence fell across the tent as everyone looked at the steel ring binding the letter. The only exception seemed to be Ser Uthred, who may not have understood the significance of the ring. Lord Dorian read the letter and then suggested to the highlord that some privacy would be advisable, and the highlord dismissed almost everyone from the tent. Only the people at the table, the odd guard and advisor, and Dame Pauline and Neamhan remained.

The letter was passed down the table and everyone read it carefully. When it returned to Lord Dorian, who said that the situation was quite unusual. Highlord Gauthier concurred, but explained that Lord Dorian was an unusual son, having succeeded in what was considered impossible; recovering the Fleur de Lys. At that point the highlord shot his daughter an disapproving look. Highlord Gauthier suggested to take the letter seriously, and asked how many men Lord Dorian could send in aid. Lord Dorian believed he could send a dozen riders, and the highlord concurred.

Ser Uthred asked whether he would be permitted to know what the letter said. Lord Dorian read the letter aloud. The Lyrian knight was troubled and became pensive. When Lord Dorian asked the highlord if he would be willing to commit knights to the cause, the highlord declined, saying that it would be inappropriate. The highlord’s daughter concurred that it would be inappropriate before the marriage had taken place. It was clear to Neamhan that Lady Gwenaëlle had nothing but disdain for House Morvrayne.

Ser Uthred could not contain his derision, stood up, and proclaimed that he and the eight companies of knights he had under his command would ride for Kingsport to protect his queen. Any conversations about finance could be conducted later, a comment that Neamhan did not immediately understand. The Lyrian knight then left the tent in order to make preparations for the Lyrian knights to depart camp.

The meeting was concluded and Neamhan was excused. Lord Dorian, Ser Croy and Dame Pauline lead Neamhan back to the Morvrayne part of the camp. Neamhan joined Lord Dorian in his tent while Ser Croy and Dame Pauline readied the Morvrayne riders for departure.

The conversation between Neamhan and Lord Dorian mostly concerned Quentin and his well-being as well as the Fleur de Lys and its wonders. Lord Dorian admitted that he long thought his son lost to him because of the foolish quest Lady Gwenaëlle sent him on. Lord Dorian had food served for Neamhan as they spoke, allowing Neamhan to recover some of the strength she would need for the return journey.

Ser Croy joined them once he was done readying the riders. House Morvrayne would send ten riders under the command of Dame Pauline. Ser Croy and one guard would stay behind as Lord Dorian’s personal guard. Ser Croy was obviously proud of Quentin and said that he was happy to hear that Quentin succeeded in retrieving the sword. Lord Dorian shot a laugh at Ser Croy and said that the predictions of the Ladies of the Woods was nothing but superstition!

Neamhan almost choked on her food and immediately questioned what Lord Dorian had just said. He dismissed her questions but she persisted, to the point where she crossed a line and Lord Dorian ran out of patience. This time Lord Dorian dismissed Neamhan from his presence and she left the tent. She spoke to Ser Croy outside and he begged her forgiveness for his Lord’s behaviour.

Ser Croy explained that Lord Dorian was a modern man who did not believe in the superstitions of the woodland and mountain folk of Monts d’Arée. Three wise women who lived in the woods outside of Albancourt had counselled House Morvrayne for generations. Lord Armand, Quentin’s grandfather, had only once disregarded the advice from the ladies, and tragedy struck, leading to the death of his oldest son, Quentin’s uncle, for which he was named.

When Lord Dorian had made the match with the second daughter of House Lys, the ladies protested, saying that the Blood of Alban needed to be protected, but Lord Dorian’s ambition would not allow him to listen. Lord Dorian never cared for the old ways, Ser Croy said, believing that clinging to those traditions had impoverished the house. The Blood of Alban, he continued, was the ability to trace an unbroken ancestral line all the way back to the progenitor of House Morvrayne; Prince Alban.

Eventually, Neamhan said her goodbyes to Ser Croy and walked out of the camp to find a secluded spot where she could transform back into the peregrine falcon. She flew east along the coast, quickly catching up with the companies of Lyrian knights, their lances gleaming silver in the moonlight, quickly followed by a company of riders from House Morvrayne. She would beat them to Kingsport by several hours.

Certainty is for the Dead

Previously, the heroes had listened to a lecture from Falka on Epidemius, and they were getting ready to oppose the fiend when he would arrive at Kingsport next. They prepared several visits, and Neamhan flew to the Seat of Friendship in order to ask the druids that guarded the place for help.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

Olafur the friendly custodian of the Circle of Magi lead Luca and Emrys up the broad winding stairs at the rear of the lavishly carpeted lobby and into the tower where Réonan had their private quarters. They passed many interesting banners, tapestries, and statues, until they arrived at the top of the tower and walked along the jetty. It had large windows, looking out over the city, and were lined with many curiosities. The interior of the tower was like a museum, and at its centre stood the great statue of Prayanti, the Guardian of the Scarab Temple of the Great Sand Sea of Noth. Olafur beseeched the statue entrance and the room turned – or did the tower turn around the room – to reveal the entrance to Réonan’s quarters.

After some conversation with Réonan it became clear that the head archmage of the Circle was sceptical about confronting Epidemius, but was prepared to support the endeavours of the heroes. They had already spoken to the crownsguard about ways in which the citizenry of Kingsport should be protected, and were willing to attend the confrontation together with the heroes. Réonan tried to temper Luca and Emrys’ expectations of what they could do. Furthermore, Réonan was unwilling to commit any other support, like students, alumni, or professors from the Circle. To signify their commitment, Réonan slipped a ring from their finger and gave it to the heroes. Luca and Emrys recognised it as the ring which would allow them to communicate with Réonan at some great distance.

Before their departure, Réonan expressed an interest in the support the heroes were gathering, and told Luca that they noticed that the presence of Aurion was missing from around him, though they did not mention it in such explicit terms. It was something that Luca was working on rectifying.

Back at the Wanderer Quentin finished penning the letter he intended to send to his father. It had taken him some time to find the right words to convey both the urgency of the situation as well as the opportunity which lay before them. Quentin turned to Chakuq, who had returned from scouting out Steward’s Square, and asked the hunter whether he would join him for a trip to Forgewright Arms. Quentin needed a steel ring forged, and Chakuq, he reasoned, could ask after silvered weapons. Astrid, who had been bored, decided to join them for a walk.

When they arrived at the smithy they found Kargath at the forge while two men, clad in leather aprons, worked the bellows as Dagran looked on. Chakuq was captivated by the process of smelting and forging, while Quentin spoke to Dagran and asked him to forge a steel ring. The smith seemed to understand what a letter bound by a steel ring implied in Beauclair and was concerned. He dismissed the two men working the bellows, suggesting they enjoy an early supper.

Inviting the heroes inside to talk, Dagran asked whether Quentin knew what he was doing sending out a steel ring. Quentin replied that he hoped that he did, but that certainty was for the dead. Dagran let it rest when Quentin explained that the heroes were looking for aid in their opposition to Epidemius. He then turned his attention to Chakuq who had still been marvelling at all the metalworks. After a short conversation Chakuq negotiated for a dagger to be forged with silvered metal, and to have silver-tipped arrowheads created. The price was well within Chakuq’s budget, but Quentin tried to pay for it well over the asking price, which Chakuq thought was odd. In the end, Chakuq insisted in paying for his own tools.

“Certainty is for the dead.”
Lord Quentin Morvrayne, Grave Knight to the Raven Queen

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer, Quentin, Chakuq, and Astrid were reunited with Luca and Emrys who were returning from the Circle of Magi. On Steward’s Square the group bumped into Vydia and her servant Darla, who had been standing near the place where Epidemius would reappear in two days time. She wanted to speak to Quentin about a pair of dreams she has had about him, which seemed in her estimation to be oracular ones. Quentin invited her to the Careless Wanderer to get out of the cold and have a place to talk.

Quentin and Vydia took a seat at a far table in order to have some privacy. Vydia explained she had two dreams. The first was of a letter, bound by steel, penned in Quentin’s hand and sent under his seal. She had seen a rider on a golden horse, carrying that letter. She saw armoured riders, carrying spears tipped with silver, following a black raven with white feathers on its wing. In the second dream, she explained, she saw the riders charge down a beast she dare not describe, and hooves thundering down on cobbled stones. She remembered seeing people with dark hoods and darker intentions, with wicked prayers on their lips and in their hearts, holding daggers made from the teeth of a great beast. She saw wagons on fire, blood in the snow, and people fighting. And finally a swan bursting forth from one of the wagons, its wings aflame, carrying a burning flower in its beak.

Quentin grew frustrated as he realised that sending the letter would have dire consequences, and his inability to discern which option would lead to the best outcome. He slammed the letter down on the table in anger, but the anger died down shortly after. Vydia had no answers for him, but hoped that Quentin would be able to interpret the dreams and divine some meaning from them.

Before Vydia departed, she mentioned that she was still working on the petrified rose and the miniature galleon. She was confident that the petrified rose belonged to the Lady Without Ending, but needed more time with it. The galleon had frustrated her; she kept being shown visions of a man chained to the rocks in the middle of a stormy bay, shouting threats at her. This sparked recognition in some, as that was also close to the interaction they had with the spirit inside of Muirgheal, the Senhadrim trident that was in Emma’s possession.

It was around that time that Neamhan returned from the Seat of Friendship. She quickly caught everyone up on her meeting with the druids and the conversation she had with Gheolgothis. She was happy to report that the druids were open to Neamhan using the Seat of Friendship as a place of power to retry performing the ritual to deliver Quentin from the influence of the Sisters of the Grove.

Quentin shared what he had learned from Vydia, and Neamhan insisted that she be the one to deliver the message to the delegation. They were two days away, but she could make it back before the dawn. Quentin was hard to convince, but eventually relented, under the condition that Neamhan wouldn’t travel, or deliver the message, in the guise of a raven.

While the heroes were enjoying dinner, Céleste came into the tavern with two porters. She engaged Durham in conversation and eventually bought and took away a surplus of wine. It was loaded into a cart outside and taken away. Chakuq shared a story about a hunt he was part of and the tactics they used to separate the bulls from the herd. He thought it relevant, because if they could separate Epidemius from his forces, then the heroes could confront Epidemius without putting their support at risk.

When Falka finally returned from the Tomb of St. Catherine, where she had spoken to Jan, Neamhan immediately wanted to know whether she was released from the risk of persecution. She said that it was more complicated than that; she had spoken to Jan, who had been suffering from having his mangled arm amputated, and arranged for a stay of persecution until after the problem of Epidemius had been dealt with.

Jan, Falka continued, had been vaulted into a role of some importance with the custodians, and as such was in a position to help resolve the problem for Neamhan. But he was having doubts about the role, about his worthiness, and was suffering from illness as a result of his injuries and the amputation. Falka also explained that Jan claimed to hear a compelling voice and seeing wisps of black smoke at the edges of his vision, which to her indicated that the man was definitely troubled.

When Neamhan decided to take the letter and fly west, Luca decided to head to the Tomb of St. Catherine in order to speak to Jan himself. He found Jan at the alter of a private chapel, singing a song of lament in praise to St. Catherine. The chapel was warm and filled with the sweet smell of incense. A thousand candles were lit all across the room, and behind a wooden screen Luca saw a woman kneeling, lost in feverish prayer. Luca sat down next to Jan and suggested it would be a good idea for them to talk.

Prayer, Communion and Visitation

Previously, Neamhan found out from Wynn that she had received the Mark of the Heretic from the custodians, and Luca helped Blackstar to feed, at the cost of his good standing with his patron. Chakuq arrived in Kingsport and found a welcome at the Careless Wanderer, just in time to listen to Falka’s lecture to the heroes on the history of Epidemius and his Book of Woe.

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

The conversation about Epidemius was still continuing at the Careless Wanderer. Chakuq, the newest guest at the inn, was a veteran hunter and had decided to offer the heroes his advice. All the while, Céleste was contemplating her worries at the bottom of a wine glass at a different table.

The heroes decided that direct confrontation of Epidemius was the best route forward, but they would need a lot more allies if they were to succeed. Falka would speak to Jan and the custodians, not just about the accusations against Neamhan, but also about help against the fiend. Astrid would try to find Brandomiir to enlist his services, and Neamhan would fly to the Seat of Friendship to speak to the druids that protected the tree at the Seat. Quentin, in the meantime, would write a letter addressed to his lord father, and visit the Forgewright Arms to see whether Dagran could fashion him a ring of steel to accompany the letter. The significance of this was lost on the rest of the heroes, but after getting quill, ink and paper from Falka, Quentin said down to write his letter.

Chakuq asked whether the heroes had the right tools to their disposal, recalling a hunt on a hag, a supernatural creature, which required silvered weapons to take it down. The heroes assured Chakuq that they were confident that they had the weapons necessary, and could even extend some of the weapons they had gathered over time to him, should he decide to stand with them against Epidemius.

Neamhan suggests that when she has reshaped herself into a fierce beast, she would be confident that her claws, talons and fangs would work against the likes of Epidemius. When Emrys asked her why she would not just sling spells at a distance, she remarked that being in the thick of melee was more “fun.” Astrid’s face darkened in response and Neamhan realised that she had crossed a line with the northerner that she did not quite understand.

Getting increasingly more worried about his inability to access his powers, Luca felt the urge to visit the Cathedral of the Platinum Father. Before leaving, he asked Quentin whether he could check with Dagran Forgewright whether it was possible to socket more lyrium crystals into weapons in preparation for the confrontation with Epidemius.

Luca stood before the cathedral and ascended the steps towards the intricately carved double doors which allowed entrance into the hallowed halls. Inside, he walked down the nave to the transept where he found the cracked altar. The pebble that St. Benedict had used to sunder the altar was still laying there. “…it takes but one to start a landslide with the casting of a single pebble,” Luca remembered. It was the last time that he had seen Aurion.

Turning into the chapel of St. Aureus the Golden One, a figure as legendary to the Silver Crusade as St. Catherine of Dunagore, Luca lit a candle and began to pray. A dimness overtook Luca’s sight, as if he had been lost in heavy concentration, and slowly he felt the presence of Aurion emerge. Eventually, the heavy voice of his patron filled his thoughts. It was not an easy conversation for Luca, but at Aurion was not refusing to answer his call. Aurion reminded Luca that chose to walk the path of order, and that strict control of Blackstar was a consequence of that pact. Luca was remorseful for taking the man’s life and letting Blackstar consume his soul, but showed no remorse for disobeying his patron. Aurion required only one thing; obedience. Luca was going to have to prove himself to his master before his obediences would return to him. Luca was once Aurion’s favourite and most promising servant, but that was slowly changing, Aurion warned.

After Aurion had left him, Luca spent some time in contemplation, and then in conversation with Sartinius, a young cleric devoted to Paladine whom he had seen at the cathedral before. He spoke of devotion, of reverence and of different prayers that Luca could use to strengthen and show his devotion. Sartinius often prayed to St. Catherine because of how relatable she is when compared to St. Aureus the Golden One, and how her sacrifice resonated with a lot of people because devotion often requires sacrifice. Luca decided to reflect on that, and what sacrifices he had made, and would need to make in the future, in order to be obedient to Aurion.

Back at the Careless Wanderer Neamhan was getting ready to travel to the Seat of Friendship to find the druids there. She asked Lauryn to help her by closing the balcony doors behind her as she took on the shape of a falcon. She flew out over the city, leaving a dumbstruck Lauryn behind. As she climbed higher and higher, she saw that two griffons were patrolling the skies above the city.

It took Neamhan about two hours of flying along the coast before the enormous tree of that marked the Seat of Friendship came into view. The oak stood much taller than the surrounding trees, and still retained all of its leaves, spectacularly coloured from light yellow to deep purple. It’s canopy was dense and its trunk was thicker than any tree Neamhan had ever seen.

Underneath the boughs of the great oak, Neamhan found travellers resting on a blanket of think moss that covered the ground, surrounding a fire which was being carefully tended to by a trio of druids. There were travellers of all stripes; commoners, merchants, noblemen with their guards, and there was a group of szygani sitting outside a colourful wagon.

After observing the people in the glade Neamhan identified the leader of the druids, a burly man with a grizzled beard wearing a red and black tartan, a sheep’s fur, and a black hood adorned with bits of deer antler. He was going around the glade, speaking to each of the travellers, making sure that they felt welcomed. Neamhan eventually hid behind the wagon of the szygani and turned back into her elven shape, revealing herself to be a traveller that had just arrived.

When Neamhan revealed herself, the druid introduced himself as Ciarán and offered her a seat at the fire, and a cup of warm brew that the szygani were sharing. She accepted and found that it was an interesting mix of sage, rosemary, cinnamon and cinnas-fruit. Neamhan took a gamble and addressed Ciarán in the shared tongue of druids, which he understood. It was clear that his accent was different than hers, but that there was enough of a common base to have a conversation.

After Ciarán disappointed Neamhan desire for help from the druids in the fight against Epidemius, she tried to convince him that Epidemius posed a threat to the tree, which Ciarán referred to as Gheolgothis. The druid did not seem concerned and claimed that the tree had survived much worse than the likes of Epidemius. Neamhan was intrigued asked whether she could commune with Gheolgothis. Ciarán offered her a seat among the thick roots of the tree.

When Neamhan reached out, she found a voice as old as time, which sounded like the rumble and groaning of the timber framework of a galleon. Eventually she started to make out words and phrases, and she learned that Gheolgothis considered itself eternal, but that it understood that it could burn, that it could end, only for something new to regrow from it when it was gone. It made Neamhan feel comforted. When Neamhan asked whether Gheolgothis felt safe, it did not understand the concept of safety, much like an advancing glacier did not understand mercy for the things it crushed in its path.


Before thanking Gheolgothis for its time, Neamhan asked it how far it reached. It seemed to struggle with the question, and then answered that it reached as far as the “Oakfather”, which Neamhan in turn struggled to understand as an answer. The tree seemed to fall back into a slumber after Neamhan’s goodbye.

During the remainder of her conversation with Ciarán, Neamhan discovers that he is very old for a human, rivalling her in age, and he has the ability to turn his skin into bark. He is part of the Circle of the Land, and managed to eventually guess Neamhan’s affiliation as a Circle of the Moon druid. They had a brief conversation about the origins of druidic magic, but Neamhan was disappointed to discover that Ciarán attributed his power to Silvanus, the Oakfather. (This also put Gheolgothis’ answer to her question about how far it reached into perspective.) Ciarán went to invite her and the heroes back to the Seat of Friendship, and that they could use it as a “place of power” any time they needed to strengthen a ritual.

When she finally bid her farewell, Neamhan assumed the shape of a falcon again and started flying back to Kingsport. She would likely arrive in the early evening.

When Falka left to go and talk to the custodians, about the situation with Neamhan and about help with Epidemius, Quentin left for Forgewright Arms and Chakuq joined Luca and Emrys as they were heading towards the Circle of Magi. They stopped at Steward’s Square and walked Chakuq through what they knew about Epidemius’ first appearance.

On the spot where the fight took place Chakuq found some old, faded blood stains, and a little further down he noticed some miniscule crystals, the size of grains of sand. They glittered kaleidoscopically in the dying light of the late afternoon sun. Luca explained what he knew about the crystals, and where they came from. Chakuq continued to walk around the square to familiarise himself with the layout, with the buildings, and with any vantage points, while Luca and Emrys visited the Circle of Magi.

Arriving at the Circle of Magi, Olafur opened the door and welcomed Luca and Emrys into the lobby. There were students milling about and when Olafur learned that the heroes wanted to speak to the head archmage, he nervously ushered them into the private room he had adjacent to the lobby. Reluctantly, the custodian of the Circle went to inquire about an audience with Réonan. When he returned, he lead them to the rear of the lobby, through a set of double doors into a stairwell with a large, winding stairway that lead up and along many statues, banners and other curious items that were collected into the top of the tower they ascended.

Olafur brought them in front of a large statue of a winged lion inside a vaulted alcove, which they had stood in front of before. “Great Prayanti, Guardian of the Scarab Temple of the Great Sand Sea of Noth, grant us access,” Olafur said, and with the sound of dry stones sliding across one another, the walls turned to reveal the head archmage’s inner sanctum.