Tag: Recap

Over a Fucking Fish!?

Previously, the heroes spent the better part of the afternoon engaging with Réonan at the Circle of Magi where the enigmatic head archmage was interrogated about the vault they suspected was under Kingsport. They confirmed that Réonan was the vault’s keeper and had summoned Xarrombus from the far realm to act as the vault’s guardian. They also confirmed that Réonan was indeed a celestial whose name at one time was Zerachiel.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

When the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer the tavern was full of fishermen who were making merry. The heroes had a things to discuss and felt they would not be afforded the privacy they needed and so retreated to the stables room that Emrys had rented for himself.

Most of the conversation was around eyes, glass eyes and eye patches. Having liberated Jeanne and Vydia from the hands of the Steady Hand thugs, they both had damaged eyes due to the slug that had found its way into their eye socket. The day master also had a glass eye and the suspicion was that this could have been caused by those strange slugs as well.

Quentin was reminded that he had taken a strange eye from Kalauranthalasis’ lair, which had been identified as a strange magical artifact called the Eye of the Pirate King. He wondered whether it might belong to the day master, but quickly dismissed the idea; the butcher had light brown eyes with flecks of green, which did not match the artifact. But another thought crossed the young knight’s mind; eyes usually come in pairs and perhaps there was a twin that was in the possession of the butcher; he, more than most, would have reason to keep a magical eye handy.

The question came back around to what the heroes would do next, and Luca reiterated that he wanted to liberate Hamish from the aberrant lords. James explained that it was likely that Hamish had been brought to the night master’s headquarters, which could be found in the ancient waterways underneath Ravensbourne. Moreover, James believed it likely that the headquarters were the entrance to the Newport vault.

The heroes discussed the possibility of scouting the ancient waterways underneath Ravensbourne but felt there was limited opportunity for them to do so safely. This prompted Luca to dedicate some time to performing the ritual summoning of a familiar; he had found a scroll amongst the treasure in the Wyrmblood ziggurat but had been thwarted in his attempts to perform the ritual. He finally saw an opportunity to do so, having secured the relevant components only recently. The familiar might be able to assist in scouting.

James decided that he wanted to write a letter to lord Marcus explaining everything that the heroes had learned since they had spoken to him and the rest of the Sheridans last. He also felt that the heroes were deserving of a good meal and so he went out to find ingredients. Luca retreated to his modest chambers to prepare and perform the ritual while Quentin spent some time skimming the book of Celtician lineages. He concluded that he would likely have to spend more time in order for him to learn anything useful about the ancient noble houses of Beauclair.

James was able to secure the ingredients that he was looking for, despite breaking curfew in order to do so. It was testament to James’ familiarity with the city and his resourcefulness that he managed to scrounge the quality ingredients together for the modest amount of coin he did.

When James returned he noticed a knight and her retinue of henchmen ride up to the Careless Wanderer in the icy, pouring rain. The knight was wearing the elaborately decorated armour of the Order of the Lance, but before James could determine why the unusual party had arrived at the Wanderer he headed inside and spoke to Ramsey in the kitchen, instructing him to make a grand feast with the ingredients he had found. Ramsey was impressed and delighted that he could finally cook a proper meal again and forget about the curfew’s impact on the quality of his cooking. It was probably the first time that James had seen the surly man smile.

When James had emerged from the kitchen, he found the knight standing in front of the tavern room, flanked on either side by her henchmen, declaring the following:

“Grimnir Bouldertoe of the Iron Foothills, I have come on the order of Lord Aberforth of House Dunkeswell, Earl of Hungerford, Viscount of Monk Bridge, Protector of Northern Ashenvale and sworn Banner to House Grey. He demands that you fulfil your oath of service to him and return the rockplate catfish.”

Evidently, the knight was Dame Morena, sworn sword of house Dunkeswell and barontesse of Hittersleigh was there to demand that Grimnir, one of the dwarven fishermen, return into the service of lord Aberforth. Apparently the dwarf and his team had switched to lord Peregrine’s team during the fishing competition and the threat of losing the competition was enough for lord Aberforth to send an armed retinue to adjudicate the matter. As Ser Liam of the Cloakwoods, sworn sword to house Blackwell, stood between Dame Morena and the frightened dwarf, James could no longer conceal his scorn.

Several comments, none of them designed to deescalate the situation, tumbled from James’ mouth and before he knew it swords were drawn and blood started flowing. James tumbled out of the way of danger and exited through one of the windows and into the alleyway along the Wanderer, but not without sustaining a couple of wounds.

Luca, who had heard the ruckus during his preparation of the conjuration ritual, had come downstairs and confronted Dame Morena. He managed to leverage his newfound title as Baronet of Evenshade Hall into a parley and appealed to her better nature and the honour of lord Aberforth to make sure that the dwarves were treated fairly.

When Dame Morena had left, not without James inflicting some wounds of his own on her henchmen, Luca turned his attention to Ser Liam and tended to his wounds. When James returned he was treated as well, and not for the first time did the heroes see a noticeable change in Luca. His powers, while still devastating, also had the capacity to heal, to sooth and to nurture.

A familiar face popped up when dinner was served and the heroes sat down for their meal; Wynn, the blue-skinned, white-haired Quickling had found his way into the bread basket where he was gleefully munching away at the lovely sourdough that Ramsay had prepared.

James finally prepared the letter to lord Marcus and turned to Wojciech, the Silesian stable master of the Wanderer. It was not the first time Wojciech had run errands between Kingsport and Lynnecombe and he happily took up the charge. James paid him handsomely and made sure he had enough coin to bring some friends for protection. The Silesian would deliver the letter if the heroes had not returned three days after their departure the following day.

After dinner James visited Luca in his chambers just as the conjuration ritual was finishing and laid witness to the summoning. An arcane circle had been drawn on the floor of the room with charcoal and the remainder was ground up and mixed with incense and used to draw the symbols of power within the circle. Once the powder was lit and burned, the fragrant smoke concentrated itself in torrent in the centre of the circle. It looked as if it was solidifying more and more until the shape hardened into a chrysalis of pale green.

Once the smoke had completely cleared the chrysalis began to stir gently. Luca took it into his hands and slowly watched as it began to crack like an egg, and from inside a blue-skinned wyrmling with wings like those of a colourful butterfly unfurled itself, looking up at Luca with innocent eyes.

When Luca came downstairs to join at the dinner table Wynn spotted the wyrmling and exclaimed “A servant of the summer court!!” before erratically racing off with blinding speed.

Old Relationships

Previously, the heroes reconvened after their disturbing encounter with Xarrombus in order to find a suitable way forward. They had decided to visit the Sacred Baths of Sedna in order to convince Emma to take ownership, which did not come without a commitment from the heroes themselves.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The Kingsport midday was cold and wet when the heroes left the Sacred Baths after having transferred the possession of the tablets to Emma. James, still angry and disappointed at Emma’s reluctance to helping the heroes without recompense, wanted to talk to the day master, but understood that his master might be compromised by Xarrombus. It was clear to more than just himself that on the two occasions that the heroes confronted the aberrant lords, in Arkenward’s sanctum and at the orphanage in Grimsdown, that it was implied that the Upright Man and Xarrombus was, at the very least, in league with one another. “The Upright Man would not be opposed,” the aberrant lord in the sanctum said; “Xarrombus won’t be denied,” the aberrant lord at the orphanage had mirrored.

The heroes felt that another conversation with Réonan was in order; they were the vault keeper responsible for the Kingsport vault; they summoned Xarrombus to be the vault’s guardian; they had a lot to answer for. They made their way to the circle in Ravensbourne.

As the heroes crossed the Queensbridge, they saw Goodman, the crier, standing in the rain protected by a weather-treated cloak, proclamating the news. Together with the notice board on Steward Square, Goodman was one of the best way to learn about what was happening in the city and across the kingdom. One such rumours was that Silesian refugees were pouring across the border fleeing a terrible evil that was rising in the east. Another was that the queen had not been seen in public, nor her handmaid. It was said that the queen had developed quite a temper in the wake of her illness.

As the heroes arrived, Olafur opened the door and let them into the lobby. He used a quick charm to warm the heroes up and dry their clothing, showing that he was not without his own magical talents. Olafur already knew the heroes were there to speak to Réonan but insisted on knowing what it would be concerning so that he could convey it to the head archmage. When Luca informed Olafur that the heroes wanted to speak about a vault keeper, he took that and left them to wait in his chambers adjacent to the lobby.

While the heroes waited it was clear that James’ façade was fading and that he no longer had the ability to keep up appearances. The previous night’s work had taken its toll on him and he could no longer pretend to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. At the same time, Quentin promised to control his temper in the face of Réonan for the sake of Hamish, but that warned the others to question everything that the outsider would say.

When Réonan finally walked into Olafur’s chambers, they asked for the custodian of the circle to stay outside. It was hard for the heroes not to be in awe of them as the understanding of their nature had recently become clear. Luca was determined not to succumb to that awe and immediately got into Réonan’s face, accusing them of not just knowing about the Xarrombus, but not doing anything about it while its influence in Kingsport grew.

Réonan took a measured step back and Luca immediately stepped forward. At that point, Réonan warned Luca to keep his distance. The warlock realised that he was coming across too heated and cooled his temper, just in time for Quentin to step in. Réonan’s patience was wearing thin and some biting remarks were exchanged. It was Emrys who kept his cool and diffused the situation.

“I am from beyond the threshold, grave knight,” Réonan hissed. “You should have stayed there,” the Quentin retorted. “If I had, you would never have been born,” the head of the circle shot back.

Emrys asked Réonan what Xarrombus was, and why it was summoned. The arch mage explained that they, indeed, had been the keeper of the vault in Newport, as Kingsport had been known during the Age of Fear. They had summoned Xarrombus to be the vault’s guardian, just before the Great Waning set in. Everyone at the time recognised that the vaults would need protecting across the ages. Réonan claimed many vaults have been or are empty, and many more would be if it had not been for the guardians. The vault at Dunagore was empty, the Kalauranthalasis had taken control of the vault at Wyrmblood Lake, and an invasion of orcs were plundering a vault at the heart of Northshire.

The conversation shifted to Xarrombus and what it was after and Luca theorised that it was using the dark delirium that Hamish could produce in order to sleep, which in turn would allow it to procreate, though it was not clear how it did that through sleep. James posed that it was quite possible that Hamish was one of the first to have been infected by the slugs that they had found in the eye socket of both his mother, as well as Vydia.

The lack of clear answers from Réonan was beginning to frustrate some of the heroes, and the conversation turned tense. Réonan became defensive and retorted that, just like Toruviel, which they referred to as “the aeromancer”, Réonan was only slowly waking up as the tide of magic was rising. They also bit off accusations of inaction by reminding the heroes that they are “but Grigori”, supposedly the lowest choir of angels, and not like Aurion, “not like the Malakites, nor the Seraphim,” as if that was supposed to mean something to the heroes.

When things had calmed down again Astrid asked Réonan why they needed to wake up and get to their full power when it seemed that Xarrombus had gained in power since the Great Waning. Réonan speculated that the source of Xarrombus’ power might not be magic. Emrys built upon that hypothesis and suggested that Xarrombus might be gaining power by extending its network, rather than the rising tide of magic.

Réonan was unable to say who the upright man was, but speculated that they must had been around for more than a generation and the upright man had always been in charge of the Steady Hand. Their conclusion was that the upright man might be extra-planar.

The heroes asked whether Réonan could provide them with the means to detect the slugs in people so that they may determine who was an agent of Xarrombus. The heroes showed the dead slug they had retrieved from Jeanne, as well as the live slug that was extracted from Vydia, and Réonan concluded that they were likely the spawn of Xarrombus himself. But just like the time the heroes asked them for help in hiding the tablets their help was unforthcoming.

Frustrated the heroes decided that Réonan was a waste of their time and left Olafur’s chambers. Once outside of the circle Astrid stopped the heroes and suggested a vow; to never rely on celestials. James was quick to reject the vow, claiming that he would walk his own path. Not for the first time, Astrid looked deflated and rejected, and without a word continued walking.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer the conversation was started up again. Quentin wanted to know how James knew that the day master was not infected, and James had to admit that he wasn’t sure. Luca added that it was strange that James’ mother attacked the butcher while under the influence of Kalina and Melchior. James agreed that it was strange and believed that at the time of the attack she had not been infected yet.

Briefly, the heroes started to question whether or not Hamish was worth rescuing, but it became very clear that Hamish meant an awful lot to Luca; despite the mage not being the easiest person to get along with, Luca valued his friendship a lot, mostly because he did not have a lot of people he could call a friend. As he was looking to make friends with people at the Circle of Magi, Hamish was the only person that accepted him; he felt accepted by Hamish.

By the time that the heroes got back to the Wanderer James had decided against visiting the day master; it was too dangerous and there was no use in a visit. Instead he was thinking of thinking preparing a dead-drop; in case of their death he wanted to release a prepared letter.

At the Wanderer the heroes walked into the tavern and were once again surrounded by a horde of fishermen. One of them was wearing an eyepatch, which reminded him of the first time he walked into the back of the butcher shop to meet with the day master; it the previous summer and the butcher asked him to meet with a nobleman, Marcus of house Sheridan. As James took the assignment and was getting ready to depart, the butcher tapped himself on his glass eye with the tip of a knife and told James he would be keeping an eye on him. It was at that point that James suddenly realised that his master was likely infected by Xarrombus’ spawn as well.

Finding Stable Ground

Previously, James spent all his energy in finding out the location of the night master’s hideout by hitting all the usual, well-known spots; socialising, drinking, and gambling. He worked his way from the usual, well-known spots to the not so usual and lesser known spots until the sun came up, he was dead tired and couldn’t see straight anymore. At the same time, the other heroes went to visit Vydia, who conducted a ritual to divine the whereabouts of Hamish and got in contact with an alien creature named Xarrombus who seemed to be the young mage’s captor.

Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

Before going to sleep for the night, Emrys decided he wanted to commune with Toruviel. He prepared himself by washing himself, changing his clothing and meditating while Toruviel lay in his lap. Toruviel, appreciative of the tumultuousness of the day, filled Emrys’ mind with images of flight, soaring above snow-peaked mountains.

Emrys learned that during the contact between the heroes and the mysterious Xarrombus, Toruviel witnessed half of the conversation, only hearing what Emrys said. Emrys explained what had occurred, what he had witnessed and what he had heard. When Emrys asked if Toruviel could explain more about vaults and their purpose, they explained that they were built as fortresses during the Age of Fear where people could find sanctuary and protection. Later they were repurposed to be vaults to house the Senhadrim’s libraries and armouries during the Great Waning. Each vault was assigned a keeper, who in turn found a powerful guardian which would protect the vaults across the ages.

When Emrys asked whether Toruviel was part of a vault, they said that they were never allied with a particular fortress, but that their heart went out to Ard Thoradun, confirming that it was a vault in its own right, with the thane as the keeper. Emrys remembered well that at the Landsdowne auction house in Bournemouth, the dwarves of Ard Thoradun bought a lyrium crystal and intended to use it to seal their gates.

That was not the only thing that Emrys learned about Toruviel; the member of the Senhadrim was three hundred and forty-nine years old when their consciousness was transferred into the moonblade. Also, they were mostly concerned with convincing the elves to stand with the humans during the Age of Fear, when the elder races decided to retreat to their sanctuaries and leave the humans to fend for themselves.

This got Emrys curious, and he asked whether there were any elves left alive that would remember the Age of Fear, like some of the elves in the Worthwilde. Toruviel believed that it was quite possible that the Gwyndeith, the Lady Without Ending who rules the Aen Canell, would still be alive. This prompted Emrys to ask whether or not Toruviel knew Réonan. Toruviel admitted that they didn’t recognise the name, but that they had suspected that Réonan was a pseudonym of a celestial once named Zerachiel, who, when ordered back to Olympus in the Astral Sea, refused and turned renegade in order to stand by their commander; Aureus the Golden One.

Exhausted, it was time for Emrys to sleep.

Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The morning started early with Luca waking up with a plan to visit Dagran Forgewright in order to deliver the coal that he had been gifted from James. He discussed the plan with Quentin who still felt uneasy about what they had learned about Hamish’s captor the previous day. It was mid-breakfast when James returned from his nightly escapades, looking like the walking dead, smelling of alcohol. Without a word, he retired to his room.

When Emrys woke up and joined Luca, Quentin and Astrid at the breakfast table he spent a good while recounting all that he had learned about vaults from Toruviel. Quentin mused whether the rank and file members of the crusade would have known about the fortresses and their locations, casting his mind back to the crusaders the heroes brought back from Old Llygad.

Astrid mentioned that she was somewhat disappointed by the revelation that Réonan was a celestial; she seemed like a normal person and in that way reminded her more of her own gods, who she claimed regularly walked among her people, albeit often in disguise. Quentin spitefully concluded that there was no better way to make oneself more palatable to humans than to appear human.

The visit to Forgewright Arms was uneventful; Dagran was very grateful to receive the bags of charcoal which the heroes had brought, while simultaneously lamenting that his business had been supplying simple arms and armour to the new recruits of the queen’s army. Several dozen men stood outside of the smithy being handed their equipment by a quartermaster. All the while Kargath Stormwolf, the controversial smith who worked at the Forgewright Arms was standing at the back of the forge, glaring menacingly at the recruits.

Dagran told the heroes that the great sword he had promised, fully socketed with the blue lyrium crystal, would be ready in about a ride’s time, and with that the heroes returned to the Careless Wanderer.

At the Wanderer they found that James had woken up. James was feeling like shit, but was hiding it remarkably well from his friends while they explained to him what had happened at Vydia’s manse the previous day. Luca shared his suspicion that the reason why scrying from Hamish lead to Xarrombus was because his friend had likely been infected with one of those strange slugs, and Emrys voiced that it would be useful to question Réonan about Xarrombus. James said that he wanted to visit his master, armed with the knowledge of the location of the night master’s hideout.

But the heroes agreed to first visit Emma at the Sacred Baths of Sedna in order to explain to her the situation and convince her to take possession of the tablets while the heroes went to find Hamish.

Arriving at the bathhouse they were met by Dagmær who lead the heroes to Emma’s private quarters. Emma patiently listened to the heroes story and agreed to take possession of the tablets, but only on the condition that the heroes would commit to helping her dispose of Muirgheal; the weapon had been weighing on her and the need for a resolution was becoming bigger. While the other heroes consented to helping Emma with her predicament in return for her help with the tablets, this did not sit right with James; too many people understood the importance of what the heroes were undertaking, but nobody but them seemed willing to make sacrifices.

Xarrombus

Previously, the heroes made it out of the ancient waterways after failing to liberate Hamish from the Steady Hand and the aberrant lords who held him in captivity, exploiting him for his knowledge of the production of dark delirium. Despite Hamish being swept away by an aberrant lord, he managed to slip a wooden figurine into Luca’s pocket, with which Luca believed he could locate his friend.

Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waning.)

Despite coming in late from their adventure in the ancient waterways the heroes were unable to get a full night’s rest due to the fishermen waking them up with songs, shouts and laughter. The weather had turned miserable outside, but that would not deter Luca from visiting Vydia. He hoped that the diviner could use the last of the figurines that belonged to Hamish to locate him.

As the companions got ready to brave the terrible weather outside, James decided he was going to use the day to track down the night master’s hideout. Astrid stole a water-treated cloak from one of the fishermen, while Luca made himself unpopular by opening the front door and letting all the heat escape, earning him dirty looks from the patrons and disapproving looks from Durham.

When Quentin, Emrys, Luca and Astrid arrived at Vydia’s manse in Old Town, their clothing was soaked all the way through to their small clothes. Vydia’s servant, the friendly halfling, quickly gave them access to the scullery where they could hang their cloaks and take off their shoes. They were then lead into the kitchen and handed towels while Vydia made them cups of morning brew in a cast iron cauldron hanging from a hook inside her hearth.

When Luca explained why he had come, Vydia explained that she had dreams of Hamish. She could not explain what she had seen well, claiming that she was not an oneiromancer and not specialised in interpreting dreams. She was delighted when Luca handed her the missing, wooden figurine that Hamish had slipped into his pocket. She felt confident that she would be able to divine the whereabouts of the missing mage apprentice.

Vydia invited the heroes to come and stand with her at her cauldron, so that they could see what she saw. Astrid stayed seated at the kitchen table, but Luca, Quentin and Emrys came closer and stood around the hearth. They watched as Vydia started her ritual, speaking arcane words of divination while stirring the morning brew in the cauldron. One by one she tossed the figurines into the brew and they sank to the bottom and while they did a wisp of thin vapour started to rise from the murky liquid.

As Vydia continued her ritual the vapour filled up the rest of the cauldron and pretty soon started to tumble from the sides. Slowly at first, but faster as the moments went by. Soon the kitchen floor was covered and the heroes could no longer see their feet. It rose higher and higher until they were surrounded in mist and could no longer see Astrid or the rest of the kitchen. All that was visible was the hearth, the cauldron, and each other. Luca could see shadows of enormous things moving through the mist like ghostly ships and it reminded him of the things he saw while he stood on the balcony of the crimson tower looking out.

The focus came back to Vydia when she started to speak. She was still staring at the cauldron and the morning brew. She claimed to see a coastline, the mouth of a river flanked by two hills. On one hill stood a fortress, on the other hill stood a lighthouse. A small settlement lay between the two hills, on either side of the river.

She continued to describe how her view changed as she plunged into some catacombs on which the settlement was built. She saw long, dark tunnels with walls covered in glowing moss. She described a wide shaft leading straight down. The walls were covered in slugs which were hiding intricate murals. She then described an enormous eye at the bottom of the shaft. It was golden with a long black pupil, like that of a snake.

Vydia urged the heroes to peer deep into cauldron and they could see the eye too. And suddenly they all made a connection to a strange entity that called itself Xarrombus. It spoke to them through their minds. A creature that claimed to have “ownership” over Hamish and that it required the mage apprentice for his ability to create dark delirium; it helped the creature sleep and dream, which was its only way to procreate.

Throughout the communication with Xarrombus, there was a continuous whisper of negativity in the subconscious of the heroes; like a draining headache. Despite the troubling influence, the heroes continued.

Probing Xarrombus more, the heroes found that it was a creature that was summoned from the “far realm”, a place beyond the planes that neither Luca nor Emrys had ever heard of. It explained that it was summoned by a vault keeper to act as a guardian for a vault. Over time it broke its chains and took control over the vault it was summoned to guard. More shockingly, it identified Réonan as the vault keeper that summoned it, a celestial of some sort.

The heroes got Xarrombus to explain, in cold and dispassionate terms that it had no interest in the Blood War and only regarded it as a marker that it could prepare to go home. To it, the Blood War signified a weakening of the Seal of Divine Animus, which meant it could set its plans in motion.

At that point Quentin succumbed to the revelations and the constant drone of negativity. He walked through the mist from the kitchen to the scullery, donned his boats and cloak and went out into the pouring rain. The rain felt cleansing, and by the time he got to Queensbridge he paused and looked out over the river. Quentin recognised the description that Vydia gave from her vision. He looked to the west and saw Garamond hill, topped with the palace, and to the east he saw Quayhill, with the Bastion of Illumination atop it; the settlement Vydia had seen was Newport, an early version of Kingsport!

Emrys and Luca had stayed behind with Vydia and Astrid. They had continued to probe the strange entity but learned only one more useful thing; it seemed as if Xarrombus was looking to create agents all over Kingsport and it seemed to the heroes that it was attempting to do so by way of the slugs that they have found. It had attempted to do so with Jeanne, and potentially with Vydia.

Luca and Astrid returned to the Wanderer, while Emrys stayed with Vydia and made sure that she got care at the Temple of Pholtus, where father Devon performed a similar procedure on Vydia as he had done with Jeanne. He presented Emrys with a strange slug which he had retrieved from behind Vydia’s eye.

On the way to the Wanderer Luca decided to visit the Cathedral of the Platinum Father where he spoke to Aurion in the transept of Saint Aureus the Golden One. While communing with his patron he learned, like Quentin did, that the settlement that Vydia saw was Newport. He also learned that Xarrombus’ agents allowed the strange entity to connect to each of them and see through their eyes.

When Quentin came back to the Wanderer earlier that evening he spent time in his room in prayer and contemplation. He asked if this was a trial and if he should continue to guard the threshold. He bared his torso and clutched the feather talisman around his neck. The same black and white feathers that had appeared along his shoulders and upper arms during his initiation ceremony reappeared, but they did not come with an answer. When the feathers withdrew, he continued in solitude the rest of the evening, finding comfort in routinely things like caring for his equipment.

When Emrys finally came back to the Wanderer he was determined to have a heart to heart with Toruviel, and so he retreated to his room to commune with the blade.

As for James…

Most of the day was spent going around town. He started at the Silver Cross, reconnecting with some of his friends and acquaintances that he neglected since meeting the rest of the heroes in the early summer. He continue on through most of the places in Lewisham, both the well-known establishments like the Hoxton, as well as the seedier spots you could only get into if you were connected, or had a filled purse.

Luckily, James was both. He spent lavishly and took his time drinking and gambling, making sure to buy the rounds at the right times and lose a few rounds to the right people. His intention was to find out where the night master was headquartered and be back at the Careless Wanderer in the early evening, perhaps an hour or two after the curfew was erected.

But it did not quite work out that way for James…

Fourth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is waning.)

Early in the morning, just as a pale sun rose over the cloudy eastern horizon, James came home. He tired, drunk and his purse was thin and flat. He had met many interesting and colourful people, some of which would make useful assets in the future. As he shuffled through the tavern of the Careless Wanderer, getting curious looks from some of the patrons and the staff, and stumbled up the stairs to reach his room, he was confident that he had found the whereabouts of the headquarters of the night master; located in the ancient waterways underneath Ravensbourne.

A Crown of Flesh

Previously, the heroes made their way through the ancient waterways and into Grimsdown where they found where the Steady Hand was holding Hamish; the cellar of a local orphanage from where the guild was dealing in dark delirium. The operation was overseen by two aberrant lords who stood in the way of Hamish’s liberation. A fight ensued and one of the aberrant lords managed to escape with Hamish by enslaving the mind of the troubled mage.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon in high sanction.)

As Luca regained his faculties and saw that the aberrant lord had disappeared together with Hamish, he immediately reached for Blackstar and used it to sense the souls around him. Doing some quick accounting of the various people he knew to be in his vicinity, he ultimately could not determine whether Hamish was still within range. He used Lauriel’s earring to reach out to James, who was in the middle of disguising himself with clothing taken from the fallen as well as the people who were under the influence of dark delirium that would not be able to resist.

Quentin, who had run out of the front door of the orphanage, came back inside to find matron Myrtle’s body. He took a brief moment to compose her body close her eyes. James and Emrys went down to find Luca and James asked aloud why humans were so stupid; it was unclear to what James was referring, but it was not the first time he rebelled against his mother’s heritage and the culture he was raised in.

In the waterways, Luca was still attempting to discern which direction the aberrant lord had taken Hamish. Close to the ladder leading up into the orphanage there was a large junction of canals which lead to different parts of the city. Panicking, he picked a random corridor and started following it. By the time Emrys and James were in the waterways they heard Luca heading off. Before following Luca, Emrys noticed that James was very uncomfortable in being in the waterways, something he had not noticed before as they had both been invisible to one another. James had mentioned dreams about being chased through the waterways and Emrys felt like his friend was connected to these corridors in some way. As Quentin came down to join them, James took a shot of liquor from his bag in order to steel his nerves.

Before the others could catch up with Luca, the young warlock had found tracks suggesting that he was heading in the wrong direction and he turned back. Once the group was reunited. James was eager for Luca to explain what happened and why Hamish had disappeared. Luca told them that when the aberrant lord came down he had been incapacitated and that Hamish had developed a crown of diseased flesh around his head just before the both of them simply disappeared.

Quentin felt guilty; had he not been stunned, the knight reasoned, the situation would not have escalated and they would have gained the upper hand over the aberrant lords. Luca, out of conviction or annoyance, did not believe that it was the right time to discuss blame; he wanted to press on and catch up with Hamish. The heroes rushed down the corridor they felt was most likely going to lead to Hamish, though none of them could clearly explain why that corridor was any better than the others. Doing something was preferable over doing nothing.

The dash through the waterways was a frustrating one, with dead ends, filth, slime and stench making it difficult to make haste. Occasionally they would hear street sounds coming from grates and pipes leading into the corridors. With every passing minute Luca’s frustration grew. Eventually their choices lead the heroes to an exit underneath the bridge over the river just outside of the Corbray gate.

Third Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waning.)

Emrys prepared a spell that allowed the ability of flight, casting it over himself and his companions. This allowed them to fly out over the river, up to the top of the bridge and over the ramparts to get into the city. Luca reminded everyone that Astrid might still be out in the alleyway they left her behind. Emrys decided to fly directly towards Lewisham and investigate, but Astrid was nowhere to be found.

On the way back to the Careless Wanderer James noticed by the watch fires that it was probably two or three hours after midnight. He also noticed that about half of the normal watch fires were lit, probably due to a lack of fuel in the city.

Upon arrival at the Wanderer it took a while for Durham to open the door. Drenched and cold, the heroes walked in to find that there was a lot of equipment set up around the tavern; fishing rods, boots and rain-resistant cloaks. It turned out that some of the fishing teams had returned to Kingsport in time for the end of the competition.

Before everyone retired, Luca spent some time channelling radiant energy to heal Quentin of his wounds. Quentin saw that Luca radiated a soft golden glow while doing so, he the knight could have sworn he sensed the celestial energy of Aurion. He leaned in and whispered into Luca’s ear; “Did you choose him, or did he choose you?” Luca played dumb and didn’t answer the question. It did leave people wondering what happened to turn Luca the Destroyer into Luca the Healer.

As James entered his room he found Astrid asleep on a cot she had set up next to his bed. She stirred and retrieved a hot water bottle from underneath her blanket and gave it to him before turning over and continuing her slumber.

After Luca left for his room, Emrys and Quentin spoke about Myrtle dying; Quentin cautioned Emrys to show restraint, feeling that Myrtle did not have to die and only did so because Emrys used his telekinetic powers to hurl debris towards the aberrant lord. Quentin made sure to explain that he did not feel like Emrys was to blame, but that caution was necessary when innocent civilians were around.

After about five hours, certainly nowhere near getting a full night’s rest, the heroes were awoken by the rowdy banter of people in the tavern. All but Luca decided to go downstairs to have breakfast and see what the ruckus was about. Several teams of fishermen, all in the employ of lord Peregrine Blackwell, had converged on Kingsport. There was a team from the Tiverton Glades, who had gotten stuck behind the orc horde. Another was a team of dwarven fishermen from Ard Thoradun who lord Peregrine had poached from lord Aberforth Dunkeswell during the course of the competition. Then there was a combination of two teams under the leadership of Ser Liam of the Cloakwoods, who had come from Eastmarsh and Dunashire, and some of the heroes remembered seeing them in Rivermeet, as they were being held up by the Red Custodians. The only team that was still outstanding was a team from Southernhay, under the leadership of lord Peregrine himself; they were still en route.

Luca stayed in his room and decided to take a crack at transcribing the spell scroll they had found in the dragon’s lair. As he was readying his things he found a small wooden statuette in one of his pockets. It was widdled into the shape of a wizard holding a staff, and Luca knew it to belong to Hamish, as it matched the same style of widdling as the other figures they had found in his room and brought to Vydia for her to use in her scrying.

Reinvigorated, Luca went downstairs to get everything together. While having breakfast Luca explained that he either wanted to go to Vydia, or somehow confront the night master. It was clear that the warlock was not ready to give up on the fate of his friend, whether he was bound by a crown of flesh or not.