Tag: Recap

Escaping the Madness

Previously, the adventurers found themselves inhabiting the bodies of several crusaders caught inside of Atilesceon’s recurring dimension in which the same hellish day in which the crusaders suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of a demonic horde. They found that all of the crusaders were compelled to act out the same battle over and over, and for most it had meant their minds were destroyed. The fabled knight Estienne was one of the few who had some semblance of sanity and he explained many things. When the battle started the adventurers found themselves unprepared for the chaos and fear that washed over them, and some fled, while others futilely participated in the battle. Whether they fought or fled, it made no matter as eventually the battle played out as it had so many times before and the crusaders were defeated and their corpses nailed to the walls of Atilesceon’s tower. After their defeat they once again woke up in the same position, at the start of the same day.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The adventurers quickly gathered at the commander’s tent and let Emma perform her ritual of calmness in order for everyone to put their terror of what happened to them to rest. The first thing was to keep Gorden, the house Sheridan guard who had accompanied Lord Destan and the only one of his retinue to stay behind in Old Llygad, from committing suicide. Quentin went to find him and after explaining what was going on saw the relief on Gorden’s face. He eagerly came along to talk to the adventurers.

Gorden managed to share a few important details that filled in the blanks and confirmed several suspicions. Quentin was indeed part of the expedition until being separated from the rest inside the Crimson Tower and he was genuinely relieved to hear Quentin had survived. He also explained that under Lord Destan’s command they had penetrated the tower in Old Llygad in search for the Ritual of Returning. They had found the tower richly adorned, filled with wealth and opulence, with many curious servants.

Lord Destan and his group had performed the ritual on a spot in the woods to the south east of the lake, which the adventurers recognised as Isobel’s Vale. They had gotten Patrick, squire to Ser Gregorian, to be their volunteer in the ritual. Luca remarked that it was inconsistent with what they learned from the Bristlecone villagers, who had found Jenna, Robart, and who the adventurers now knew to be Ser Edric, to the north of the path leading to Hunter’s Hollar.

The ritual went awry, and Gorden could tell something was wrong. At the same time the demons were closing in on the vale. Attempting to complete the ritual, Lord Destan commanded Mark and Gorden to protect him, but Mark lost his nerve and charged through the opening portal. Jenna and Robart were transformed back to their own bodies as they headed through the portal, but that is where Gorden died.

Afterwards, when Gorden awoke once again, he found that Mark, Jenna and Robart were no longer in camp, and that Lord Destan, presumably still in the body of Ser Edric, was unconscious. He spoke with Ser Estienne and decided that if the ones who escaped survived and managed to call for help, he would have to survive enough iterations with his mind in tact. He decided the best way was to commit suicide before each battle for as long as his willpower would allow and before the compulsion had him in its grasp. Quentin was deeply shocked that Ser Estienne would suggest such morbidity and he started to mistrust the nature of the fabled Knight of Flowers.

When the adventurers explained that they were sent by house Sheridan and that Mark, Jenna and Robert made it back, Gorden was incredibly relieved and immediately willing to help the group with whatever they needed. Quentin decided to wilfully lie to Gorden and tell him that his companions made it back safely.

In an attempt to rouse the unconscious form of Ser Edric, James attempted to perform some of the magical powers that Dame Josephine was rumoured to posses. Strangely, he had the innate ability to perform these spells, even though he himself had never studied on how to perform them. He spread the fingers of one hand and concentrated for a moment before a jet of flame burst from his hand, severely burning Ser Edric, his clothes, his bed linen, and several items around him. But it did not wake him.

Inspired by James’ attempt to access Dame Josephine’s gifts, called upon the Platinum Father to heal Ser Edric’s wounds and found himself a perfect conduit for His divine energy. A halo formed around his head and his hands glowed with radiant energy which flowed into the blistered form of Ser Edric, stitching together the badly burnt skin and smoothing it over, leaving him perfectly healthy, albeit in tattered, burnt clothes. James then took Edric’s hand and found an identical burn mark on Edric’s palm as he had on his and the same as the Edric he had seen in Isobel’s care. James carefully gave Edric some water to drink to see whether he would have an involuntary response, which he did; Edric slowly drank little bits of water. James then began talking to Edric while holding his hand, lying to him about the state of his family. He was trying to provoke an emotional response from the unconscious man, which he received when a light frown came across the young knight’s face.

The conversation between the adventurers quickly turned to what to do next. From the time of their wake up, until the time the bells tolled and the march to the tower began, they only had five hours, and there was a lot for them left to discover. Ideas were raised, from storming the tower, to letting devour all of the crusaders, to finding a way to reach out to the demons and forming an alliance for freedom. The consensus became that the best way was to break the curse and help the crusaders defeat the demonic horde. For that, the adventurers needed more information and see whether they could change some of the details of the battle. In particular, they were interested to know where the ambushers came upon the infantry and where it was they were coming from, the thought being that they were already in Old Llygad, and could possibly be preempted or obstructed before hand.

Emrys and Quentin made their way to Lauriel’s tent to talk to her about some of the confusing things she said the previous day. Along the way, Quentin shared his concerns about Ser Estienne. He felt that the knight was behaving strangely and Quentin was starting to mistrust him. He hoped that Emrys would keep an eye out for any signs that Ser Estienne was not the ally they thought he was.

They found Lauriel in reverie to the Moonmaiden inside her tent. Many things became clear to Emrys during his conversation. He learned about the mysterious Sehanine priestess Mohiam, who had been granted a vision by the Moonmaiden about an unfathomably complex mixing of different human and elven bloodlines to produce a prophet who would be able to permanently restore the Seal of Divine Animus. Mohiam was the leader of a cult who were all working towards the goal of mixing the right bloodlines in order to find this prophet. From what Lauriel explained, some of the things each of the members was required to do seemed almost random; introducing people, deposing leaders, uplifting nobility, ordering assassinations, starting wars…

She herself had been tasked to start a new tribe of elves called the Aen Adhar, the children of the moon, of which Emrys was a product. She was only known to them as “Moonwhisper”, a name Emrys had heard all throughout his childhood. They were taught just enough about the prophecy to do what Mohiam needed them to do. Over centuries the Aen Adhar turned into a magireligious cult that Emrys so despised.

Quentin learned that Lauriel had been given a second task; to improve elven-human relations by marrying Prior Benedict McAllister. She would then use her influence to prevent Dame Josephine LaValette from strengthening her house and allowing it to unify the tribes of Celticia, now modern day Beauclair, and found the first kingdom on the continent. Instead, the house was deprived of their legendary daughter, which left it influential, but not dominant. With the help of Mohiam’s followers, house LaValette would be manipulated to one day become the royal house of another kingdom; now known as house Valois, the ruling house of Lyria.

Upon his return to the commander’s tent, Emrys took a moment to tap into the divine connection that prior Benedict held with Paladine and extended his senses to feel out the corruption in the hearts of those inside the tent. Intent on only getting a measure of Ser Estienne, Emrys found that the only really dreadful thing in the tent was Blackstar.

In the meantime, Luca had gone to speak to the priests of Pholtus, who he felt would be better served among the infantry on the battlefield, rather than be held back at camp to tend to the dying and wounded coming back from the battle. What would come back for them from the battlefield was death, and if Luca could convince them to join the infantry, they might make a difference. Luca found the priests in a large tent preparing ointments, poultices and potions. He spoke to one of the priests who would acknowledge him and wasn’t simply playing their part in the story of their horrible defeat. Luca managed to convince the priest to commit his order to march with the infantry. The priest raised his hands to the pale sun in the heavens in supplication and began instructing the others on their new mission.

Afterwards, James and Luca decided to search the camp for anything out of the ordinary. James was going to pay special attention to any correspondence he could find, as well as any items that might be magical. Luca was mostly interested to find more interesting people, and hopefully some that, like Ser Estienne, had retained some of their original vibrancy and could hopefully shake off the effects of the curse.

Near the edge of the camp, close to the treeline, Luca stumbled upon a camp that was made up of mostly dwarves. They had set up their tents around a large rock that was jutting out of the ground, and they were all chiselling away at it under the direction of one dwarf who was dictating to them in the dwarven tongue. Near them stood a squire with the same dead eyes that the others around camp had shown. She was helping the dwarves by handing them hammers and chisels when they needed them. Luca saw that the young knight wore the herald of a noble house that looked familiar to him; the head of a red stallion. Unfortunately, he couldn’t put his finger on where he had seen it before, nor whose house it belonged to.

Luca quickly came to learn that the dwarves had taken to recording as much information as they could in a very complicated form of dwarven shorthand. His attempts to read it were for naught; he would need more time to study the runic script the dwarves were using in order to make nor tails out of it. He found out that the dwarves were under the leadership of Ser Kadagar Ashbeard, and that the woman was his squire.

James had found many different letters, both personal as well as strategic, which gave him the impression that the crusaders had set out their expedition with the full conviction that they would undoubtedly succeed in their mission. He also learned that there were many other conflicts that the crusaders were involved in, and that the fighting had spread to every corner of the continent. During his search, he also came across a very unusual looking robe and a beautiful brooch in the shape of a scarab, which lit up with curious symbols when he held it.

As James was planning on returning to Luca with the robe and the brooch, he heard the bells toll and the camp got ready to move out once again. The adventurers had decided that most of them would go on to support the infantry, including the priests of Pholtus, as well as Lauriel. Luca gave Ser Florian’s battle lance to Quentin, who would use it by joining the cavalry. And lastly, James would take to the air on the back of Tourbillon, taking Hejduk along with him in order to survey the battlefield from up on high.

The battle started and the cavalry set in the charge against the demons on the shore, while high overhead the air cavalry were engaging the flying demons. Due to a lack of Dame Josephine’s involvement in the aerial battle, the demons slowly took the upper hand. But it afforded James a good view of the surroundings. While Quentin was thundering his horde alongside the cavalry and the rest were laying in wait with the rest of the ambushers, James could see that the tower was quiet and that there was no other activity right before the rifts started to appear in the tree line. This meant that the demon ambushers were not laying in wait somewhere and they could not preempt the ambush itself.

Three portals opened up in the woods through which hundreds of demons came pouring forth. Emrys, in the guise of Prior Benedict, kept the moral of the infantry in check and commanded them to aid the cavalry and follow the original plan. He then used the divine might of the Platinum Father to disrupt several demon’s advance, and then used the strange magical pipes to send several of the smaller demons scurrying. Luca used the power of the Lyrium crystal he carried with him to keep some of the demons at bay, while casting bolt after bolt of eldritch energy into the incoming onslaught of demons. Astrid could be seen darting through the forest with incredible speed, attacking the demons with a frenzy and a fury that was unmatched by anyone but the most wicked monsters on the battlefield. Emma called upon the power of Sedna to conjure up a powerful tidal wave, which held the demons at bay for a time. Lauriel, strengthened by the adventurer’s steadfastness, created a shimmering symbol made from the purest moonlight, which exploded in devastating energy when the demons were almost upon them, felling many of them.

In the meantime, the infantry, supported by the priests of Pholtus, had engaged the demons on the shore and managed to allow the cavalry to make their pass with minimal casualties. The cavalry managed to wheel about unhindered and set in a second charge, clashing into the ravenous demons once more. Quentin’s lance scored several piercing hits.

That’s when the adventurers holding off the ambushers were overwhelmed. The infantry was quickly caught between the hammer and anvil of the demons but fought valiantly to allow the cavalry to continue their charge and make an attempt to wheel about once more. During their third charge, the cavalry was overwhelmed.

From up on high, James saw all of this unfold and saw that the demons were making their way towards the artillery in order to support the flying demons. He set Tourbillon into a dive to keep the flying demons off his back and see if the elementals that were fuelling the protective dome around the tower would react to his presence. As he soared past, with the demons in tow, the elementals tried to take a swipe at him. He managed to get away unscathed but noticed that some of the demons trailing him weren’t so lucky. He decided to keep doing this to see how many demons he could get taken out like that, but eventually ran out of luck and one of the elemental heavy limbs crashed down like a tidal wave and he and Hejduk died, too.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

The adventurers once again wake up feeling completely shaken to their core. They notice that with every death a piece of their resilience is lost and they can feel their willpower waning and the curse of the compulsion taking hold. Everyone gathers at the commander’s tent and Emma performed her ritual of stillness to calm everyone’s emotions and steadied everyone for the day ahead.

The conversation quickly turned to the successes of the previous day. Even though the battle was lost, they had learned several valuable lessons and quickly started to come up with new ideas on how the battle could be won.

While Luca performed the ritual of identification, using one of Isobel’s pearl earrings, on the jewellery the adventurers had retrieved from the Crimson Tower, James went to retrieve the unusual robes and the curious brooch for Luca to divine the properties of. Luca found that the jewellery was imbued with several magical properties which would greatly benefit the wearer, but there was a dark side to the set, which would leave the wearer weak willed and compliant. When Lauriel’s saw the set she screamed and nearly lost her sanity. She explained that it was a gift from Atilesceon to her, which she refused. Luca quickly surmised that the purpose of the jewellery was to protect Lauriel, keep her healthy and beautiful, but also make her subservient to Atilesceon.

A plan was formed for a preemptive strike. James ordered Ser Wentworth, who had been in charge of the artillery, to move the artillery just outside of camp and start preparing for a preemptive attack. He then moved on to the griffon riders and spectacularly convinced them to join in the attack. Quentin rallied a squad of archers and got Ser Estienne to commit his armsmen as archers as well.

It was not easy to pick up, but there seemed to be the slightest sliver of hope in the air.

Dreams of Dying

Previously, the adventurers, had entered the tower and started exploring the many floors after having found a young Beauclairois knight who was locked in the cellar. Quentin, as he called himself, had entered the tower together with Lord Destan, only to be separated from him and the rest of his expedition as he explored the lower level while they continued to venture to the higher floors. Together, they explored the library where they found much information in the different pages of Atilesceon’s private journal. They learned about his time at the Senhadrim, his personal rivalries, his interests, his research and ultimately about his downfall and the his attempts to serve his master, Mammon, the archduke of Minauros, the third level of Ba’ator. Ultimately, they discovered his bedroom, his workshop, and a portal guarded by a stone statue which attacked them. After defeating the statue, they decided to enter the portal.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

Each of the adventurers were assailed by the same terrible dream in which they were followed by a dark horse with flaming hooves. Luca was chased through an abandoned monastery, while Quentin was running through a hedgerow maze. Emrys was chased through an elven ruin, littered with human bodies, while James was trying to escape through the sewers. The damp and earthy smell reminded each of them of something which initially set them upon their individual quests which lead them to the Crimson Tower.

With each flash of the nightmare that was riding them down, they saw the future; of places foreign and familiar, in which a new age of fear had sparked violence and drove people to atrocities. Eventually the horrible images revealed that some people became corrupted by the chaos of demonic hordes, while others became corrupted by the cruelty of the infernal legions. Two armies were set to clash, one were beastly and ravenous in their appetite for destruction, while the other were disciplined and methodical in their wickedness. In between stood a small band of soldiers, dressed in steel armour coloured red white and blue, lead by golden warriors with wings of light. This band would be pulverised between the hammer of demons and the anvil of devils.

Then the nightmare was upon the adventurers and thundered its flaming hooves down on them, mortally wounding them. They were each shown what their spilled blood would cause; Luca saw fungus growing rapidly and spreading noxious spores. Quentin saw the hedges around him wither and die, the blight spreading outward with his death at its epicentre. Emrys watch his blood seep into the veins of the marble of the ruins, pulsing angrily until the dead bodies around him opened red, glowing eyes. James saw his blood mix with the sewage and spill down a drain, from which a strange eye stalk rose up to observe him as he drew his last, ragged breath.

Emrys woke up at an elegant writing desk in a large tent. He was holding a quill and the letter in front of him was one addressed to his beloved Lauriel and spoke of being wed after the military expedition was over. The letter then turned into a series of scratching, profanity before ending with a plea to Paladine to let death take him. Emrys did not remember writing the letter nor did he understand the contents. He suddenly noticed his arms were not his own, and when he found a mirror confirmed that the face looking back at him as he peered in it was not his own, but that of a black haired, bearded human man. The tent held a tactical table with a map of what he later concluded was Pinefall, in particular of the north-western corner of Lake Llygad and its strand. There were two beds in the tent, one of which was holding the unconscious body of a man he recognised as the tracker from Isobel’s hut. He could not be awoken. There were armour stands, weapon racks and a shrine dedicated to Paladine. He eventually learned that he was inhabiting the body of Prior Benedict McAllister, knight-captain in the Order of the Gryphon and devout paladin to the Platinum Father and leader of the military expedition to Gwenllygad.

Luca awoke in a modest tent, with a bed, a chest filled with personal belongings, an armour stand holding a beautiful set of platinum gilded armour, like that of the Order of the Lance as wel as a set of weapons, including a shield bearing the lightning struck oak tree of house Ironwood, whom he last saw in the hands of Ser Florianus when the adventurers met him on their way to Pinefall, watched him ramble and wither away to die before burying his remains and using the shield as a grave marker. When Luca looked down at his own hands, he saw a shock of golden curls tumble past his face; he was inhabiting the body of Ser Florianus. Luca was comforted by the fact that Blackstar was still by his side.

For James the wake up was both more pleasant and more strange. He found himself setting at a dressing table in front of a mirror, in the body of a comely, strong woman with long auburn hair and a long neck. Behind him a short haired woman was brushing his hair, using a ivory-handled brush, decorated with mother of pearl, set with soft, white bristles. The tent he was in was enormous and opulent, set with furniture, carpets and decorations. There were three beds and three armour stands, each holding a splendid plate armour gilded with lapis lazuli. One of the beds was large and richly made up, and the armour next to it was adorned with sapphires and aquamarines. The woman behind him had dark rings around her eyes and looked she performed her tasks with a haunted reluctance. A handsome man came into the tent and announced in archaic Beauclairois, which James was surprised to learn he understood, that Tourbillon was saddled and groomed, before starting to don his own armour. James didn’t know who Tourbillon was, but noticed that the man had the same dark rings and tired look about his eyes. By talking to two squires — or écuyer — he found that he was inhabiting the body of Dame Josephine LaValette, a knight in the Order of the Gryphon.

Finally, Quentin woke up in a modest tent listening to the sounds of a melancholic tune being played on a harp outside. He found his bearing and looked outside of the tent to find a military camp filled with soldiers. His tent was standing next to a larger tent, outside of which stood a handsome man, casually playing the harp. He was remarkable, not only for the harp, but also for the way in which he was observing the rest of the people in camp. There was a great sadness in his eyes. At his side was an unusual wooden scabbard, adorned with what looked like living vines, which occasionally sprouted small buds which quickly grew and blossomed into flowers, before withering away. It became apparent to Quentin that the man with the harp was the legendary Ser Estienne d’Epines and the sword at his side was Fleur, the Sword of Flowers. He also quickly realised that he was inside the body of Durand de Palemerin, Ser Estienne’s squire. Looking around the camp, he spotted an enormous tent who was flying the herald of the LaValette family, an ancient house from the time before Beauclair formed as a kingdom. He decided to head there, hoping to find some answers.

The camp was filled with dozens of knights, hundreds of armsmen. There were artillery engines, horses, griffons, tradesmen, teamsters, cooks, and the supplies necessary to support an expedition of more than six hundred people. It was tricky at first, but it didn’t take long before everyone had found each other and was gathering at the tent that Emrys had awoken in. It had a tactical map of the area and it held the unconscious body of the tracker in Isobel’s care, whom they learned was Ser Edrick the Strong.

Astrid was found to inhabit the body of the seven foot tall monstrosity by the name of Ser Gregorian Longshadow. The adventurers had met him in the presence of the Ser Edrick on the shores of Lake Llygad the previous evening, during the clash of the cavalcades. Ser Gregorian was followed around by his squire Patrick, who kept trying to convince Astrid to keep her armour donned, something she absolutely refused.

Emma found herself inhabiting the body of Dame Victoria Greywater, from the eastern black bogs, not a reference anyone had heard of. She had been afflicted by a voice inside her head who was only screaming incoherently. It had given Emma a headache, which she tried to treat with a ritual at the nearby river where she was found by Luca.

At the river, they were witness to a handful of people who had walked into the deep end of the river to be taken by the current. Another suicide happened in front of the commander’s tent, where a dead-eyed man opened his own throat with a knife and bled out while people nearby seemed not to notice. It became very clear that most people in the camp were acting like very strangely. Some were going through what looked to be well-practised motions, while others were acting out of sorts, committing suicide, weeping, screaming, or just sitting still in catatonia.

While talking to one another in the comfort of the commander’s tent the adventurers started to piece together what was happening to them. They quickly realised that they were about to replay the events of the battle at Gwenllygad where the crusaders would be betrayed by the Senhadrim mage Atilesceon. With the help of Blackstar, Luca confirmed that all of their bodies housed a soul, and a faint, secondary soul, which likely belonged to the original crusader. Both Emma and Quentin had been able to hear a voice inside their head and identify it as their host’s soul, but Quentin had not been able to commune with them, and for Emma it proved impossible due to the state of insanity that the soul was in. Quentin shared his suspicion that Ser Estienne was unlike many of the other crusaders in camp, and he was quickly summoned.

Ser Estienne was indeed unlike the other crusaders. He explained that this day had been played out countless of times and that everyone was compelled to play their part, always with the same outcome. As time wore on, everyone’s ability to resist the compulsion to play their part was worn away until most people were nothing but mindless automatons. He explained that he believed that the magic of his sword was what had protected him and allowed him to retain some of his sanity, but that the sword had lost much of its power over time. Eventually, when the magic in the sword had depleted, he too would succumb.

The crusaders, Ser Estienne explained, were cursed to remain in Old Llygad for all eternity replaying the events over and over again. Many people had entered over the ages, some of them managed to escape, leaving the crusaders behind, and some of them had failed to escape and eventually merged completely with the crusader whose body that were inside of. Ser Estienne believed that the curse could only be broken by winning the battle for Old Llygad.

The knight also shared more details about the battle, about the betrayal, and about what was going to happen later that day. This was the original plan; air cavalry would engage the flying demons attacking Atilesceon’s tower, supported by artillery, preventing them from harassing the ground troops. At the same time, the cavalry would charge the demons on the shores of the lake in formation. After the first charge, as the cavalry was wheeling around and preparing for their second charge, the infantry would emerge from their ambush inside the treeline and engage the demons on the shore, allowing for the cavalry to get ready for another pass.

But this is not how the battle played out. Instead of the infantry completing their ambush, they themselves were ambushed by demons emerging from portals that opened up with frightening precision behind them in the woods. The infantry were attacked in the back, routed, and the cavalry went unsupported and therefore found themselves out of position and quickly overwhelmed as they tried to wheel around. Once the demons collapsed the rear guard and overwhelmed the artillery, the air cavalry was doomed, and eventually the entire camp of civilians with them.

On occasion, Atilesceon would change a few things about the battle, especially early on. He would give them exotic weapons, strange mounts, others siege engines, different numbers, different opponents, but the result was always the same; he would look on from his tower and observe how the crusaders were defeated and defiled as their bodies were nailed to the tower walls by the victorious demons.

Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess of Sehanine Moonbow, who was to be wed to Prior Benedict upon completion of the expedition, and who was the one that Atilesceon was obsessed with before his fall, was also called to the commander’s tent for conversation, but her mind seemed too fractured, she was too disturbed, to yield any immediately useful information.

When the bells started to toll, everyone in camp started to get ready for their departure south, along the river, in order to engage the demons on the shores of Lake Llygad. Most of the crusaders remained dead-eyed as they started to move out. James decided not to fly out on Tourbillon, her tempestuous griffon, but instead ride out on horse back together with the rest. The plan was to ride for the tower and try to gain entry.

When the lake finally came into view, it was apparent that demons were already skirmishing on the shore in front of the tower. From afar the aberrant monstrosities looked like a crawling chaos. They came in all shapes and sizes, each defying description in their hideousness. High up in the sky, winged demons were circling the tower, probing its defences. Surrounding the tower was a shimmering dome made of what seemed like a thin sheet of water. At the base of the dome, on four sides of the tower, strange water creatures could be seen fuelling the dome. The creatures were large and closely matched the descriptions given by the Bristlecone villagers of Lady Llyn, the protector of lake Llygad.

Each of the adventurers were deeply shaken by the sight of the demonic horde. The crusaders marched on, the infantry breaking away early to enter the woods and flank from the west while the cavalry rode out in formation and the griffons riders flying in overhead, supported by the scorpion ballistae shooting bolts the size of small trees at the winged demons above the tower.

Both James and Astrid failed to steel themselves against the horror that was about to play out and decided that getting drunk back at camp would be preferable than to stay to watch the crusaders’ inevitable defeat. The realisation that they were trapped in a reality which was playing out over and over was too much for their minds to comprehend and so they turned their horses and fled back to camp. Quentin, disgusted at the sight of such cowardice went in pursuit, while the others merely stood, awestruck at the unfolding carnage.

At camp, Quentin was incapable of convincing James to stand his ground as he relied on Dame Josephine’s abilities to mount Tourbillon and take to the skies. On the back of the alabaster griffin he flew as far north as the bird would take him but soon found himself enveloped in mist, turned around and heading back south. After several attempts he landed the griffon in a nearby clearing and drank himself into a stupor until the horde of demons finally caught up with him as they had with each of his companions. He died drunk and screaming.

Second Day, Third Wik, Æftera Līþa (Pasture Mōnaþ), 736th Year of the Crusade

After each of the adventurers suffered a violent death at the hands of the demonic horde, side by side with the rest of the crusaders, they once again awoke in the same place, in the same position, in the same bodies, at the exact same time on the exact same day as before. The felt nauseous and incredibly shaken by what they had experienced, but luckily they found each other much more easily and Emma managed to perform a divine ritual that calmed everyone’s nerves and they once again felt back in control. They did, however, realise that with every death they would suffer, their resolve to simply comply with the compulsion the rest of the crusaders were under would erode.

They made plans to see if they could talk to the Senhadrim priestess, to find Gorden, the remaining house Sheridan guard that is in camp somewhere, and to search the camp for any writings that would give them a better idea of the situation in camp before the assault. All in the hopes to find a way to defeat Atilesceon, to break the curse that holds the crusaders in its grasp, and to find their way back to Pinefall.

Exploring the Crimson Tower

Previously, the adventurers had been confronted by the strange clash of the two cavalcades; the forces of the Silver Crusade and the demonic hordes which assaulted them at the Crimson Tower. Suffering through a turbulent night on the shores of Lake Llygad, they were greeted with the horrifying appearance of the tower during the first light of the morning. Before the tower disappeared once again, the adventurers ran down the causeway and moved into the tower and started exploring the ground floor.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

After having spent some time on the ground floor, looking at the various suits of armour and tapestries lining the walls, the painting above and the furniture in front of the hearth, the elaborate dining table and the huge candle-filled chandelier hanging above it, the adventurers started working on solving the crystal puzzle they had found kept a lock on the trapdoor leading to the cellar. They had found a blue and a red rod, and they were confident they could break the wizard’s playful attempt at securing the way through.

It proved harder than they had initially thought, but eventually did manage to solve the puzzle and the trapdoor could be opened. The space beyond was completely dark, save for the light coming from the chandelier. James was the first one to go into the cellar and was surprised to hear the voice of a man calling out at him.

The man turned out to be Ser Quentin Morvrayne, the son of a nobleman from Beauclair who had been locked into the cellar for a long time. He had arrived at the tower together with Lord Destan’s expedition, but had gotten separated from the others when they were exploring the tower and the trapdoor had shut behind him, locking him in. He had subsisted on some of the food and drink he had on him, and on what he could find in the pitch black, which hadn’t been much.

The cellar itself was spacious but not as lavishly decorated as the ground floor. It held a torture table, with various wicked looking implements, as well as manacles with which people could be shackled to the wall. It also held some crates, casks and barrels of provisions, which were the cause of Quentin’s survival. Without them, he most certainly would have perished.

The adventurers, ever cautious, asked Quentin to disarm himself and hand over his sword, which readily agreed to. He was weak, and allowed Emma to escort him up to the ground floor living room so that they could talk more about Lord Destan. In the meantime, James took some time to examine the cellar, where he found the green, crystalline rod.

Upstairs, Quentin had told the story of meeting Lord Destan while he was on a personal quest. He wasn’t too keen on sharing too many details about his quest, but some did notice he was fidgeting with a rather effeminate handkerchief which was tied around his left wrist and concluded that this must have had something to do with it. Through some tactical questioning on the part of the adventurers, they found that Quentin had met Lord Destan while he was in the company of his three house guards, as well as Robart, the villager. Quentin also seemed really eager to hear about what had happened to Lord Destan and his retinue and was saddened to hear that some of them had died while others had returned with their mental health no longer in tact. He proclaimed not to know about the tracker residing in Isobel’s care.

During this long discussion, some of the others started to take a look at the trapdoor in the ceiling at the top of the wooden steps that were set into the wall. They found that this trapdoor was locked by one of Atilesceon’s crystal puzzles and it proved significantly harder to solve. They did, however, manage to find out the mechanics of the crystal puzzles and how the crystals interacted with the crystalline rods. One of the mechanics seemed to be that both the blue and the green rod, when changing the colour of one of the crystals, also seemed to affect the crystals directly adjacent to that crystal. The red rod seemed to be the exception, which did not affect adjacent crystals. Some rods turned certain crystals into their own colour, some rods turned certain clear, and some rods turned certain crystals into a colour not their own.

Once the trapdoor to the second floor was unlocked the adventurers moved onward. They found that the second floor was Atilesceon’s personal library and study with bookshelves lining every wall, filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Most of them seemed old but well cared for, mostly written in an archaic form of Lyrian that was hard to follow. Three elaborate reading tables were set up among the bookshelves, each seemingly being dedicated to a particular topic of study; the planes, military history and engineering.

There was one hearth, with again a trapdoor on each side, one in the floor, from where the adventurers came from, and one in the ceiling at the top of wooden steps set into the wall. The one going up was not locked by a crystal puzzle.

Notes could be found everywhere, some of them scattered, some of them laid out neatly on the reading desks. They seemed to be Atilesceon’s words on a wide array of subjects. Most of the journal pages were read aloud by one of the adventurers as they read through all of them, picking out the ones that interested them. Some saw names that they recognised, others touched on subjects of personal interest. Only one was not for public consumption, as James surreptitiously palmed an entry on the mysterious Upright Man.

Emrys found himself interested in the entry on Mohiam, her plots and how those plots were affecting Atilesceon, who was romantically interested in one of her disciples. Emma pointed Emrys to a journal entry which spoke about the Arms of the Senhadrim, and mentioned Toruviel by name. Emrys decided to take a moment for himself to commune with the sword, hoping to get a more direct communiqué from Toruviel, but unfortunately the bond between sword and wielder was not strong enough for that yet, and all that Emrys gleaned was repulsion and rejections; for Atilesceon, his work and ultimately for his betrayal.

Quentin, while leafing through the different journal entries came across one which touched him deeply; about how Atilesceon was in love with Lauriel Skycaller, but how that love went unreciprocated. It also mentioned a dark pact that Atilesceon had struck with someone called Mammon in return for possessing Lauriel. And then there was the mention of a “prior”, but it was unclear how they factored into things.

Luca, overwhelmed with all the information, read an entry on Tharizdun, but decided not to share it with the rest. He did however, read another entry aloud that dealt with something called the Seal of Divine Animus, which Tharizdun put in place to shield the planes of the Ethereal Mist from the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Emma, in turn, read about the ebb and flow of magic and how the Seal of Divine Animus also prevented the Ethereal Mist from their access to the weave of magic.

When Luca took a moment to commune with Blackstar in the same way that Emrys had done with Toruviel, he found that the entity inside the staff was as hateful towards Atilesceon as Toruviel was.

It became clear that some of the journal entries were quite recent when Emma read out an entry that dealt with the Daerlan Empire and its current emperor. Taking another look at the journal entries, it appeared that there were some that were remarkably older than others. Some were of this age, and others were of the age of the Silver Crusade.

Hejduk found an entry on the szygani to read, and it slowly became clear that Atilesceon was very concerned with what he called the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. They seemed scattered among several figures, and that collecting enough of them could lead to someone who referred to as the “Illusive One.” Pazuzu, a demon, had five tablets, while the devil Mammon had three. Various others had one or two in their possession, including some people that the adventurers had met before or heard of.

At that point, James started to go through many of the books in the library, finding that most of them were written in archaic Lyrian, which would take time to decipher. He decided to find the two most expensive looking books and store them away in his magical bag.

When Luca found a journal entry on something called the “Ritual of Returning”, which was a ritual designed by Atilesceon in order to escape a place he called “Old Llygad”, he decided to note this down in his tome. He also noted that the cost of performing such a ritual was very high; the sacrifice of a willing soul.

Afterwards, Luca performed a ritual that attuned him to any magical aura and investigated the study, only to find that nothing stood out to him as magical in nature. That’s when the group of adventurers moved to the next floor, finding there a lavish bedroom, with a large four-poster bed covered in the plushest feather pillows and mattresses, made up with sheets of the finest silks.

There were also windows, letting in an eerie pale white light. Two doors lead to a wide balcony that looked out over the front of the tower and part of the causeway. The walls were clear and made of pale stone, not at all crimson-stained and lined with suffering victims.

The surroundings were shrouded in a pale, milky mist, diffusing the light all around. There was no sun, nor moon, nor other light source available, and yet the mist was evenly white in all directions. Very gentle waves could be heard in the distance, like that of a small lake. A titanic, shadowy creature moved like a shade through the mist at a great distance. It was unclear what the creature was. Nothing could be made out other than that it was much taller than the tower. The creature didn’t seem to notice or care about the adventurers.

After some fumbling with a mirror tied with a rope to a sword, trying to create enough of an angle to see beyond the overhanging jetty above them in the hopes of seeing further up the tower, the mirror slipped and smashed to pieces on the causeway below.

After running out of things to do on the balcony, James decided to go back inside the bedroom and do a thorough search of the floor. The only thing of interest he found was a jewellery box with a set of earrings, a necklace and two rings in them. He asked Emrys whether he could see if they were magic or not, but Emrys responded by saying that this was not part of his arcane repertoire. Once Luca was done transcribing the Ritual of Returning, he confirmed James’ suspicion that the jewellery was all magical. And so the jewellery box disappeared in James’ magical bag.

When the group moved up to the next floor, they found it filled with artificing tools, including hammers, chisels and pliers. There is a small anvil and a forge, which lay dormant. There were two baths, filled with oil and water, and a small smelter, surrounded by ingots of different metals; iron, tin, copper, silver and gold. There were shelves filled with curious glass bottles and ceramic jars, containing strange liquids, powders and pastes. And lastly, there were precious and semi-precious stones and crystals, though no Lyrium.

Emrys, spotting the precious stones, went to look for a piece of obsidian, which he would need to fuel one of his spells. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find any. James, however, quickly separated some of the more precious stones from the semi-precious stones and pocketed a small cache of them. Luca convinced everyone to help out in filing down enough iron and silver to supplement the iron filings he had gotten back in Allenham. He explained that it would greatly benefit the group in the battles to come, since it would be able to protect against the fiends that they were reading about. Everyone went to work, using the tools to file down the ingots until Luca had enough to fuel his spell.

In the meantime, James went downstairs to the bedroom and stripped the bed of the silk sheets, fashioning them into a makeshift bag. He took it down to the library and started to fill it up with books, taking about fifteen books in total before the bag became too heavy to drag around.

When the next crystal puzzle was solved and the next trapdoor up was opened, it revealed a wide, open space with a large statue directly in the centre. Made of stone, it was humanoid in shape but about the size of an ogre, with large crude arms and legs, and a blunt, shapeless head. Behind the statue, against the wall, stood a large marble archway, covered in a translucent, blue film, behind which lay the black void of a rift, much like the ones the adventurers had seen in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. At the base of the archway they saw the same molten slag and jutting crystals they had previously encountered, which seemed to go hand in hand with the formation of these rifts.

When James cautiously stepped into the room to investigate, the statue came to life and started to move. “Intruders…” it said in a low, rumbling voice, and pursued James, who quickly darted back downstairs. The statue didn’t pursue James any further, but a clear crystal embedded in its torso started to charge up in a vibrant blue light until with a thunderclap a bolt of lightning arced out from that crystal to painfully hit James.

Quentin demanded the return of his sword, which the group obliged him in, with Astrid kindly reminding him that if he raised his sword against any one of them she would pound him into dust. Quentin assured her and went down to the living room to retrieve a shield from one of the decorative suits of armour. He found a suitable kite shield made of wood, rimmed with a steel band.

In a concerted effort the group engaged what was surely the crimson guardian that Atilesceon had spoken of in his journal, they managed to use the rods to keep the guardian from using the powers of the crystals against the adventurers by touching the crystal with the appropriate rod during the time the power was charging up. Eventually the guardian was defeated, though not without some of the adventurers getting bludgeoned themselves. The life extinguished from the guardian in a super nova of flame that it sent out all around it in a desperate attempt to defeat the intruders.

The adventurers discovered one last crystal puzzle, embedded on the marble archway, which they solved and the protective bubble dissipated and the rift lay naked in front of them. The sound of the ever receding waves that they remembered well from the first rift became louder and more compelling. A conversation was started on whether to go through.

Emrys felt deeply uncomfortable at the sight of the portal. The unease he felt in the pit of his stomach was familiar to him. It reminded him of the moment right after his mentor Voriel disappeared. He was dreading the decision he had to make.

Confidently, Luca decided to step through with Hejduk obediently following him. They were sucked into the pit of the void until they could no longer be seen by the remaining adventurers. Next up were Astrid and Emma, and Quentin quickly followed. Only Emrys and James remained behind. Emrys hesitated for long moments, but eventually overcame his feelings of dread and also entered the portal.

James, the only one to remain after Emrys went through, watched as the wisps of light that had been getting caught in the pull of the void started to chaotically flicker like lightning. The flickering rapidly became more erratic and there was a rumble coming from the portal that started to shake the foundation of the tower. Cracks started to appear in the marble archway that held the portal, and James knew that there was something about Emrys that had caused the disruption. Knowing this, he dove into the rift without further hesitation, forced to leave the silk bag of heavy books behind.

The Tower At Last

Note: my recollection of the events during this session is severely limited due to the events of the last few weeks. The recap is shorter and lower on detail as a result.

Previously, the adventurers conducted more research around Pinefall, gathering more information about the region and its people by talking to Bristlecone villagers and the visiting szygani camped outside of the abandoned village.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

While searching through the abandoned village, the adventurers spoke about the nature of their mission, what they had signed up for, and whether or not they might need to renegotiate their contract with House Sheridan in light of them possibly having to enter the cursed Crimson Tower in order to find Lord Destan. And then there was the question of the message that Falka had received from House Sheridan, dissuading her from helping the adventurers on their quest. Were they even still doing House Sheridan’s bidding? In the end, Emma offered to send a message using her divine gifts, explaining the situation and possibly starting a renegotiation of their deal with House Sheridan.

While visiting the nearby szygani camp, Luca decided to approach Hejduk and talk to him in depth about what brought him to Pinefall. Luca used the information that was given to him by his master to quickly find that Hejduk was indeed the “other who serves” that his master mentioned. He quickly convinced Hejduk that he would have to join the adventurers in finding and entering the Crimson Tower, something he was nervous but eager to perform.

Because the adventurers had committed to the plan of entering the Crimson Tower, most of them spent some time coming to terms with what was about to come. Astrid and James went back to the Rudwick barton to drink while James wrote his mother a letter. Emrys and Luca went to speak to Isobel once again to try and see if there was any way in which they could have access to the tracker without James’ involvement. There wasn’t, but she did sweeten the deal by offering a pearl that Luca could use in his divination rituals. She also promised to cook the adventurers a nice meal.

While the adventurers ate, Luca shared his plan to bring Hejduk along with him, which met with surprisingly little resistance from the rest of the group. He spoke about how Maškar, the szygan deity, had brought Hejduk to Pinefall and that his destiny lay inside the Crimson Tower. Luca also shared what Emrys and himself had discussed with Isobel and that she had expanded her offer.

Second Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following night the adventurers were awoken by a storm; rumbling of thunder and the sound of rain hitting the shutters. Light kept flickering from beneath the cabin door and in the cracks of the shutters. When the adventurers opened the door and peered outside, they were confronted with a chaotic scene of the wind blowing branches and leaves everywhere while the moons were obscured by dramatic clouds.

There was screeching and howling in the air as well as strange cackling laughter. The sounds of leathery wings straining against the howling wind could be heard, with the occasional crack of a whip and the rustling of wicked chains. Wicked shadows could be seen flying overhead, but never in enough detail to make out what it was.

In the morning, the adventurers spent time at rest. The conversation turned to Emrys’ upbringing among the elves of the Aen Adhar of the Riverlands. He explained that he was raised in a cult of Sehanine Moonbow and was a prophesied child, but that much to his frustration it never became clear what it was that he was supposed to do. Emrys believed that his sometimes erratic magical ability might be at the core of the belief of the Sehanine cult, but that his occasional lack of control over his magic has lead to results far worse than his hair turning silver and his eyes radiating with light; it lead to the sudden disappearance of his tutor, the elf named Voriel. Emma recognised the name as the person Emrys had pledged his Sheridan reward to in the case he didn’t return from the mission.

After that conversation, Emrys seemed in a melancholic mood and he decided to continue writing the ballad he had dubbed “The Tragedy at Allenham.”

James decided to pay Drummond a visit and handed Drummond the letter he had written and asked that if he did not return from his upcoming expedition that the letter be delivered to his mother back in Kingsport. The old, retired soldier happily obliged James’ request.

What eventually moved James to decide to part with a lock of his hair was only known to James himself, but the adventurers finally set foot in the witch’s hut. Inside, they found the witch was preparing a meal for the adventurers while the gaunt form of the tracker lay asleep in a small bed.

As you enter the small hut in the middle of the forest your senses are immediately overwhelmed by the rich smell of Mazurian beef goulash coming from a large pot hanging over a small fire in the stone hearth. Tenderly cooked meat swirling in a thick broth of onion, capsicums and tomatoes, rich with pepper, cloves and garlic.

It’s dark inside and your eyes take a moment to adjust to the shaded surroundings. A large table stands in the middle of the hut, set with cups, plates, bowls and cutlery for all of you. Above the table, among the rafters of the moss covered roof hang wreaths of garlic, and thick bushels of rosemary, lavender and dried mandrake.

The hut is decorated with furniture which holds small jars, trinkets, spice racks and kitchen utensils. Several pots of different sizes are standing next to the hearth as well as a rack with implements to raise and lower the fire. Dried firewood is stacked neatly on one side of the hearth. A rope is strung from one end of the room to the other, just below the rafters. It holds several articles of clothing, hanging out to dry.

In one corner of the room stands a small bed in which a man lies asleep. He has dark hair and a gaunt face. He is handsome if it wasn’t for his pale complexion and his sallow features. His face looks peaceful. His hands are placed above the blanket that covers him, gently resting on his stomach. His posture reminds you of a tomb effigy.

A curious circle set with an elaborate star, adorned with unsettling symbols has been carefully drawn on the wall against which the bed has been placed. Small fetishes of dried flowers, feathers and bones have been pinned inside the circle there where the lines of the circle and star cross. The symbols seem to have been retraced with a thick, red liquid. Possibly blood. It has long since dried up.

In the other corner of the room, an owl is sitting on a perch observing everything. Elsewhere a black cat is asleep on the floor amongst several balls of wool, dyed green.

The adventurers spent some time investigating the unconscious tracker, especially after the witch revealed that he had a burn mark on the inside of his hand that was almost identical to the one that James bore. Luca noted, not for the first time, that the curious design of the mark reminded him of several wizard marks he had seen circle trained mages use as a personal seal. Fading bruises and healing wounds dotted the tracker’s body, but nothing serious, except the wound on the back of his head, which seemed to have been caused by a blow.

Once again, Luca made use of Blackstar’s ability to find souls for its consumption and found that unlike Robart, a soul housed inside the tracker’s body. Not only that, but there was a faint, second soul hidden inside the body as well.

While the adventurers discussed what their discovery possibly meant, Isobel took the lock she had received from James and started to create another fetish, weaving his hair into it, together with the small feather of a local songbird and the head of an acorn. She pinned it to the arcane circle above the tracker’s bed, explaining that she believed that James’ connection to the tracker would help power the circle in keeping the tracker’s soul from departing its body.

The conversation continued over the meal, though not all of the adventurers ate the offered food. Isobel did not seem to notice as she was beaming at Astrid’s appetite. The conversation quickly turned to Robart and his lack of a soul and the adventurers decide to talk to Coranthe, retrieve Robart and let Emma perform the Ritual of Restoration in the water of the pond behind Isobel’s hut. Isobel explained that she chose the location of her home because of the presence of a so-called “crossing” around the pond, where the fabric between the realities in the ethereal mist was thinnest.

Surprisingly, Coranthe was very susceptible to allowing Robart to accompany the adventurers into the woods. But unfortunately the ritual was not successful; both the tracker and Robart were unchanged, though Robart, having waded into the waters of the pond and washed by the priestess, did have a much needed bath.

After putting the tracker back in his bed, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Isobel who gave them a parting gift of two pearl earrings. When Luca said the agreement was for but one earring, she snapped at him demanding to know what she was going to do with an earring without its matching pair.

Robart was returned to Coranthe and Luca went to visit the szygani camp to instruct Hejduk to be at the western shore of the lake before dawn the following morning. He then returned to the farm and performed a divination on the leather bracers that James had pulled from the giant’s camp several days before. They turned out to benefit the wearer with an unnatural gift of archery.

Luca and Emrys spent some more time discussing the matters of prophecy and the arcane. Luca shared what he had learned from experimenting with the Lyrium crystals and gave one to Emrys to boost his magic in case of an emergency.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

Just like the previous night the moons are largely obscured be thick, angry clouds from inside which lightning flickers. Occasionally the lightning bursts through the clouds to the outside, where it dances and plays along the bottom of the clouds, and streaks across the sky like angry, jabbing fingers. Thunder no longer rumbles in the distances but now cracks loudly overhead. Rain drizzles down in waves as the wind blows in.

The sky is the colour of dark purple, as the Bloodmoon and the Darkmoon light up everything around you whenever the clouds part. Like the night that Luca and James met Kalindras the procyon scout and fought against Liliana, everything is awash in a constricting, purple glow. The Silvermoon is in slow ascent and occasionally tries to provide relief, but never long enough or strong enough to inspire you against the foreboding of its siblings.

When the sounds of screeching and howling start again, much closer and much clearer this time, strange shapes and shadows can be seen against the dark and purple clouds, like colonies of overgrown bats streaking across the sky. Whenever lightning strikes you are affording flashes of detail of the figures flying overhead; images of maws and claws, of spikes and talons, of maddening sadness and terrifying wickedness too horrifying for your minds to entertain.

This time there are other sounds and images, too. Those which your mind is all too eager to focus on. Of the alabaster feathers of majestic griffons and the blue and steel of the knights that sit astride them. They streak across the sky like lightning, vigorously engaging the dark shapes with a heroism and confidence that you have a hard time fathoming.

High above the lake, the two cavalcades clash. Fire and radiance, steel and claw. All against the backdrop of the Night of Violet Eyes.

Before dawn, the adventurers get up and prepare to go and search for the tower while the darkness outside is the home to terrifying images. They decide to redistribute some of the healing potions that they liberated from the Alfred Barnaby’s Concoctions and Decoctions back in Bournemouth. Emrys also took possession of the fire breath potion. When they were finally ready, they went out into the darkness, meeting up with a visibly shaken Hejduk at the bridge across the river.

After crossing the river the group ventured north along the western shores of lake Llygad, seeing roving parties of strange monsters and patrolling parties of armoured knights. When the group stumbled close to a group of knights, James decided to throw a rock at them in order to see whether they would respond, half expecting the rock to pass through them as if they were a spectral image. To his surprise, they did respond, calling out a challenge James had heard before in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe; “Decerte!”

He remembered that Ser Arman de Courtenay called that out to the knights he lead in pursuit of the skaven, and they responded with “Adversa!” And so James said just that, with as much conviction as he could muster. When he did, the knights looked visibly relieved and lowered their weapons to approach the group.

There were three knights, two in the vermilion-adorned armour of the Order of the Shield, and one was wearing the lapis lazuli coloured armour of the Order of the Gryphon. They were accompanied by two others; a male dwarf and a female elf, both armed and moving with the confidence of experience warriors.

While one of the knights of the Order of the Shield was a towering individual standing at a height to rival that of Lord Marcus Sheridan, the real shock came when the knight of the Order of the Gryphon removed his helmet to reveal the face the adventurers had only seen hours before; this was a less gaunt version of the tracker in the witch’s hut. Healthy and strong. He introduced himself as Ser Edrick and ordered them to go back to the expedition camp, taking them for camp followers.

The adventurers watched the knights and their armsmen move off back into the darkness and decided to hide out until the violent storm and strange clash of cavalcades had passed. They waited until dawn started to appear on the horizon, forcing the strange purple glow of the Night of Violet Eyes to make way for the orange glow of a new day. The group made their way to the shorelines and waited.

As the storm slowly subsides and the sky in the east starts to lighten with the coming of the dawn, you are left with a chill in the core of your stomach, caused by the bizarre events of the last few hours. You watch as the first rays of sunshine start the crest the eastern hills and hit the surface of Lake Llygad. The shimmering reflection of the sun momentarily forces you to squint your eyes and the warmth of the light softens the ill feeling in your belly. You briefly close your eyes to enjoy the sun and listen to the lapping of water up against the shore.

You open your eyes again as you hear water start to rush in retreat, reminding you of the sound of the rift you once heard in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. You watch as out on the lake, at about a hundred paces away from shore, you see a huge maelstrom appear with at its centre a dark, cavernous drop, leading who-knows-where.

At the edges of the maelstrom several figures have risen from the lake. They have a faintly humanoid shape, only much larger, standing at the height of two normal men. Their bodies are made of coursing water, roiling inside of them. They don’t seem to have any legs, nor a head, but they hold their arms aloft their burly torso and you notice the glint of thick, golden bracers at their wrists.

Suddenly, you see the battlements of a stone tower arise from the centre of the maelstrom. It rises up faster and faster as it reaches high in the sky, revealing its blood stained walls. When it stops rising, it stands at the height of twenty men, surrounded by a stone, protective wall. A rampart leads up from the water to an opening in the front of the wall.

The bodies of hundreds of people have been nailed to the surface of the tower and its protective wall. Some of the figures are writhing in pain, moaning and howling from the agony. Some have missing appendages; bloody stumps where their limbs used to be. Sometimes you see limbs impaled on spikes without an attached body. Some bodies are strung up by their own entrails. A row of heads line the top of the wall.

The figures with the golden manacles sink back into the water as the maelstrom stops spinning and the water once against comes to rest. You notice that just below the surface of the lake, a causeway leads up to the rampart.

Gathering the necessary courage, the adventurers, together with the szygan Hejduk, started to make their way across the causeway. Luca was struck with a sudden doubt and Emma had to call upon the calming rituals of Mother Sedna for Luca to regain his confidence. Trailing behind the others, Emma and Luca ran across the causeway, almost slipping on the wet stones and skidding into the water. Luckily they made it in time to go through the large front door before the tower once again disappeared and was swallowed up by the lake.

Inside the to circular tower the adventurers were confronted by a wide open floor, comfortably decorated with chairs around the hearth, a large dining table surrounded by sturdy, high-backed chairs, and walls lined with well-maintained suits of armour lining the wall, polished to a high sheen and playfully reflecting the dozens of candles set in the chandelier above the dining table. Above the mantle hung a large portrait of a balding man wearing an opulent, red, ermine-trimmed robe.

On the left of the chimney was a trapdoor leading down, on the right of the chimney was a set of wooden beams set into the wall to form a staircase ending at another trapdoor in the ceiling.

The adventurers looked around and found two curious, crystal rods, one blue, one red, on either side of a bowl overflowing with fresh fruit. They also found that the trapdoor seemed to be sealed by two sets of three small crystals. One set were all clear, the other blue, red and blue again. James and Luca immediately started to experiment using the crystal rods on the clear crystals, which changed colour whenever they touched them. They thought that they would have to turn the clear crystals to the same pattern as the coloured, example crystals, but it turned out to be more complicated than they thought.

A Simple Lock of Hair

Previously, the adventurers arrived in Pinefall and made their way around the area, meeting various people. They found that Lord Destan had arrived in the village of Bristlecone and had been a guest at a prominent farm until going on an expedition with his guards, the local dog breeder and a tracker from the neighbouring community of Hunter’s Hollar. Rides later three survivors of the expedition were found outside of Bristlecone. It was Destan’s guard Jenna, who died soon after, the dog breeder, who had lost his mind, and the tracker who was unconscious and taken to the witch for healing. The witch was unwilling to give the adventurers access to the tracker in her care until James parted with a lock of his hair, which he refused. A trip to Hunter’s Hollar revealed that Destan had come to them for aid in finding the Crimson Tower, but all of them refused. They could not explain who the tracker was in the care of the witch further deepening the mystery.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The adventurers found themselves at the abandoned village once again after having explored the shores of Lake Llygad in search for any sign that Lord Destan and his expedition may have left behind. Having found not a trace, and having been spotted by the szygani, the group decided that some of them would approach the travellers. Emma, Emrys and Luca decided to head towards the caravans, while James and Astrid sat down between the wild sorghum to have themselves an adult beverage.

The broad-shouldered, mustachioed szygan that the adventurers had heard playing the violin upon arrival introduced himself as Tibor. He seemed friendly but a little bit apprehensive of the adventurers, but he introduced his wife Selina and his children, Dimmi and Danika. Selina offered the adventurers some small bites of sausage, bread, butter and salt while Tibor offered small glasses of plum liquor.

The others szygani were Hejduk, who was explained to be the group’s “guide” and interpreter of the signs of Maškar, and Mikula and her three daughters Mira, Kezia and Lavinia.

While the conversation turned more amicable between the three adventurers and the szygani, Tibor asked whether or not the James and Astrid would be interested in coming to join everyone. When they arrived, drinks and food were offered, and James was very keen on getting his hands on some of the plum brandy. He found out that the szygani did not create the drink themselves, but had bartered for it to the south, before coming to Pinefall. Their supply was not endless, but James managed to get his hands on eight bottles of the liquor, paying a hefty sum of two crowns and five stags for them. The bottles disappeared into his bag with ease, one by one.

Tibor explained that they had arrived in Pinefall not so long ago, following Hejduk’s interpretation of the signs that Maškar was giving him. He told about the tension between the szygani and the villagers of Bristlecone and about how Drummond came to that tension and explain a few things.

When Luca went to have a conversation with the mysterious, pony-tailed Hejduk, who had been observing Tibor talk to the adventurers, Emrys decided to start playing his lute. He played a cheerful, upbeat tune that Tibor could easily follow with his violin. Together they played and Mikula sent her daughters to dance around the bonfire. James noticed that Mikula’s daughters were probably well-versed in the art of distracting people with their dance, especially men with a fat purse.

Hejduk turned out to be as wary and apprehensive as Tibor initially was, but never eased up. Luca and he spoke about esoteric matters including Maškar, magic, the Circle of Mages and about Luca’s staff. Hejduk explained that he was not formally trained and that he had picked up some tricks along his travels, mostly from other szygani.

When the sun was going down the adventurers headed back to Bristlecone, just in time for them to catch Harm the shepherd, the vulgar and impulsive Volker and Gillian, one of the spinsters with a joy for drink. James ingratiated himself with the Rudwick hands using the newly acquired plum brandy and as time wore on one by one people turned in for the night.

The adventurers found their cottages hot and humid and cleverly made use of their ability to chill water and objects in order to cool themselves down in order to go to sleep.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

The following day Luca woke up in the middle of the night from the terrible warmth and humidity in the cabin. The magical means by which the adventurers had cooled the cabin had long since worn off, turning the cabin into a steam room as hot as the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Emrys and James were still vast asleep. He felt the urge to go outside and there he was confronted by his master.

Standing in the middle of the guest cabins, impressively tall with that strange, wasp-like waist, he foretold that Luca would be making an important journey and that on that journey he would have a chance to find important books. He would have to find information on the whereabouts of Tharizdun the Mad God. This would be the way in which Luca could repay his master for all the power his master had bestowed on him. He would also be gifted a boon; upon completion, Luca would be allowed to ask one question which his master would answer honestly.

Before that, however, Luca would have to help “another who serves” who was close by. Luca would have to find a way for “the other who serves” to go along with Luca in order to complete a very important task. Luca thought of Hejduk the szygan. With that understanding, his master bent down on those powerful legs and jumped up into the air like an arrow from a bow, disappearing in a streak in the clouds high above. Luca went back to the cabin to ponder the interaction.

James woke up with a terrible itch on the strange mark he had on the inside of the right hand. He had incurred the mark on that strange night he struggles to remember, before being found in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He remembered flashes of being in the Sheridan library, riffling through their book collection when something happened in a hot flash of light, leaving him with that strange burn mark on his hand. It was that burn mark that Ser Benten mentioned when he urged James to go and find his companions and set off to return Lord Destan, ” since it is his mark you bear, after all.”

It was before dawn that everyone awoke to set out before the first rays of sunlight would crest the hills in the east, hoping to discover some clue about the poem that they recovered from the Bournemouth academy library. The adventurers had considered that the poem was a riddle to find and gain entrance to the Crimson Tower, but so far they had little to corroborate this theory. The Night of Violet Eyes was drawing closer and perhaps they might catch a glimpse of the tower.

As the adventurers started on their walk towards the lake they followed Harm the shepherd and his flock and sheep along the road, across the bridge and toward the lake. He expertly guided the flock with the help of two expertly trained dogs, likely from Robart’s kennel, through an series of intricate whistles and noises.

The conversation came around to the poem they had found in Bournemouth and in particular to the line “The white eye is to be explored.” The adventurers were unsure what this “white eye” was referring to, and they assumed that it was likely the lake.

Having found no traces of the crimson tower as the sun rose above the hills in the east the adventurers returned back to Rudwick’s farm where they enjoyed a nice breakfast. During that time they decided upon a plan to go and talk to Gregory, a local bee farmer, and Drummond, an armsman who retired to Bristlecone after serving in the Order of the Gryphon.

Gregory and Elora turned out to be a delightful older couple living in Bristlecone in a large cabin. They found Gregory in his garden tending to one of the several beehives while Elora was on the other side of the cabin tending to a vegetable garden. The adventurers sat down with them in the shade of a large tree in their garden and enjoyed some of the mead that the couple created from all the honey they farmed from the hives.

The conversation was pleasant but revealed little interesting information. The adventurers found out that the abandoned village had been abandoned for several generations, and they found out that “the white eye” referred to Lake Llygad, which used to be called Llyn Gwenllygad, which translated to “Lake of the White Eye” in an archaic dialect of the elven language spoken in the area long ago.

While the conversation with the old couple was winding down the adventurers noticed Isobel coming up the road, riding a large, black hog, making for an outrageous sight. She stopped in front of Gregory’s garden and asked to speak to James. She reiterated her offer to allow the adventurers access to the tracker in her care. Her price was unchanged; a lock of James’ hair. She did, however, up her ante, saying that she would reveal more about the curious mark on the palm of James’ right hand. James did not agree to the deal and with a smirk Isobel once again mounted her black hog and calmly rode it away.

After that strange encounter, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Gregory and Elora and went to visit Drummond. They found the barrel-chested man in front of his cabin. Their conversation ranged from the recently arrived szygani to the mobilisation of the Bristlecone villagers against the possible threats that the adventurers had seen on their way over from Allenham.

Most importantly, they spoke about Lord Destan and his expedition, particularly about the three who returned. Drummond explained that it was Vulgar Volker who found the Sheridan guard Jenna, Robart and the tracker just north of the bridge on the other side of the river. Drummond was one of the first people to be brought to the scene to help out. Jenna was alive then but had an awful gash in her side and she succumbed to her wounds near the bridge. Robart was carrying the tracker and was raving like a lunatic before his mind collapsed when they reached the bridge.

After the conversation with the retired armsman, the adventurers headed back to the abandoned village. They had previously spotted some abandoned items and the szygani had told them that quite a few interesting things were still around, so they decided to take a look and see if they could find out a reason why the village was abandoned all that time ago.

Rummaging through the village, they ended up finding a chest full of well-preserved linen fabrics hidden away underneath a thick copse of ivy, a dried leather pouch hidden behind a loose stone of a chimney holding eight heavily oxidised copper coins, two worn silver coins and a well-preserved gold crown with the face of King Philip the Tenacious on it. King Philip famously survived an assassination attempt during the Beauclair occupation on the night of Midinváerne in 1068 at Gryphon’s Roost, the nearby home of the Order of the Gryphon.

The real prize find was a scroll case with a collection of papers, together constituting a journal of sorts.The legible papers read the following:

Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1187

As predicted, tonight is the Night of the Three Eyes. Last year the Night of the Three Eyes was during the second ride of Winter Deep and therefore less terrifying. It’s the long summer nights that make the night worse on the shores of Llyn Gwenllygad. The year before all three eyes stayed closed. And the year before that it was two days before Highharvestide. Soren has said that if the cavalcade came once more from the Roost we will leave Pinefall for good.

Seventh Day, Second Ride, Summer End, 1187

Tomorrow we are leaving the only home we have ever known. Soren has promised that Fairfields might be far, but that there will be work, there will be people, and we won’t have to relive the slaughter or get woken up by the screams any longer. Soren can work the fields, and I can work the quill.

Ves and Steffen will stay. They believe folk like us won’t survive without the protection of Lady Llyn. Soren says that if the lady cared for us Ves would still have her own hair colour, and would still be able to talk.

I wonder who will live in our hut.