Tag: Recap

Towed to Kingsport

Previously, the heroes convinced the red custodians that had taken control of Rivermeet to grant them passage down the river Ivel towards Eastray, even though the city was in chaos due to a rampant plague which had taken hold of the population, causing the royal armada to blockade the port. Against all odds, they managed to manoeuvre a barge all the way downstream and arrived on the mouth of the delta just south of the city and made camp there in order to attempt to contact the armada in the morning.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

The next morning, only two days removed from Dr. Arkenward losing control of the queen’s curse, the heroes woke up south of Eastray. For the first time in a while the heroes had managed to get a decent night’s rest, despite not having a good fire available to warm them in order to avoid being spotted by any skaven which might be roaming the swamp outside of Eastray. What had saved them was the bed of reed they had created which shielded them significantly from the soggy ground. Despite the disturbing noises coming from the city, they had managed to sleep well.

The morning had started with a thick layer of fog blanketing the delta, disallowing them to get a good view of the armada, beyond a few milky silhouettes of the masts and an occasional prow in the distance. If the heroes couldn’t see the ships, those on the ships couldn’t see them either, they reckoned and they decided to rely on their magical abilities. Emrys, having slept underneath the light of the waxing Silvermoon, felt invigorated by the moonmaiden and said he could probably bestow flight on all of the members, but James thought that it would just get them shot down before reaching the ships. So instead, Emrys used his ability to shape water to dissipate the fog while Luca cast a large illusionary image of the royal crest high in the air to attract attention and declare their allegiance.

The heroes were surprised at how quickly they received a signal from one of the ships and saw that soon after a sloop was lowered into the water, manned with sailors who rowed it ashore. The heroes met them on the beach to the south of the delta. While they rowed ashore, the heroes noticed that the man they had spotted the previous evening was standing on the dune, surrounded by helm grass, observing the heroes on the beach. He made no attempt to come closer nor did he appear threatening so the heroes left them be as the sailors rowed the sloop as close to the beach as they could before two people jumped out and waded ashore.

It appeared to be a uniformed woman and an lightly armoured soldier. They introduced themselves as lady Fiona of house Kenton, captain of the Sea Spirit, and Ser Aegar of Dunagore, master commander in the Order of the Shield. When the heroes introduced themselves as the Heroes of the White Eye, the looks of caution and scepticism on the face of the two people they were parlaying with changed significantly. Those looks changed to looks of sorrow when Ser Aegar asked about the whereabouts of Astrid and Luca informed him that she had fallen.

There was an exchange of information about the situation in the rest of Lyria; the situation that was seen in Eastray had not spread to other cities like Fulcaster or Bournemouth, but there were some continued troubles in Kingsport, where the crownsguard had deputised a large group of red custodians to help maintain order in light of the strange spectres which appeared in the city in the past ride. Princess Mildred had been seen at court for the first time in a long while as she supported her husband, lord Gabriel, in his rulership of the kingdom while the queen lay ill.

A plan was made which would have to be approved by lord admiral Malcolm Linderley that would see Ser Aegar captain his ship, the Green Naga, to Kingsport with the heroes in tow. They would stay on a small sloop so as not to risk spreading any disease to the crew, and in the meantime a raven would be sent to Kingsport to request the aid of the priests of Pholtus to assure that the heroes were indeed not sick.

With the admiral approved the plan, the ravens were released, and Ser Aegar captained the Green Naga north-west to Kingsport. The journey was cold and rough, across choppy waters in a small boat which was being towed at a much higher speed than it was designed to go. Luca and Emrys had a very difficult time keeping their breakfast in their stomach due to severe sea sickness. Upon the poop deck of the Green Naga there was a steady stream of interested sailors and knights who peered over the side to have a peek at the famous Heroes of the White Eye. Meanwhile, Wyn was having a grand time running circles on the edge of the boat and balancing on the rope that tied the ship to the boat.

After long hours bouncing across the waves the first seagulls began to trail the ship, indicating that they were getting close to land, and soon the coast came into view. Shortly after the palace on top of Garamond Hill, and the Bastion of Illumination on Quayhill, flanking the mouth of the river, came into view and James immediately felt home. The sun was quickly sinking in the west, but with the remaining light it was clear that there was quite a delegation of people that came to welcome the Green Naga to port. Despite the ship being significantly smaller than the war galleons of the royal armada, it was still larger than most merchant vessels that normally lay at anchor in Kingsport, so it took a while for the ship to manoeuvre itself into position to dock. In that time the heroes discussed the next steps.

James brought up the idea of sinking both tablets to the bottom of the bay and retrieving them at a later time, but Luca thought it might be better to put them in Emma’s care, which Emrys thought it was a bad idea as he was reminded that someone was after Muirgheal and thus Emma was a target. Quentin considered whether it was best to tell the Circle of Magi, or whether to keep it from them.

It took a moment for the heroes to recognise some of the people in the delegation; they saw the lieutenant of the palace guard, William, as well as father Devon and Mother Superior Arwyn of the temple of Pholtus. Ser Roderick Corbray of the Order of the Lance was there, flanked by several lyrian knights; he had also been at their arrival in Kingsport when they returned from Pinefall. Callum the Diviner could be seen among the people on the dock, as was Ser Arman de Courtnay who was accompanied by a large company of people carrying the Courtenay banners.

Ultimately, the heroes decided that when in range, Luca would portal away, carrying the ghost orchids, one of the two tablets and the choker. He portalled himself to an entrance to the ancient waterways which was built into the dock wall, underneath the pier. Out of sight, Luca used his connection to his mysterious patron and assumed the guise of Dicky and portalled himself to a nearby alleyway. As he reappeared there was a scattering of honking geese and the laundry that was hanging from coarse ropes strung overhead went flying in each direction, but the people of the Salt knew to mind their own business when they saw the brutish Dicky walking their streets.

Back on the boat, James moved his bag from one shoulder to the other, making certain that the pocket dimension would not be found. It did mean that Wyn’s head was poking out of the bag, his long tuft of white hair billowing in the wind.

Down the River Ivel

Previously, the heroes made their way out of the ziggurat at the middle of Wyrmblood Lake with many of Kalauranthalasis’ riches. Despite encountering great reluctance, they managed to find passage to Rivermeet with an Acadian family who warned them of disease having broken out in Eastray.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Early in the morning, with only three days left until it was predicted that Dr. Arkenward would lose control of the curse that was placed on the young queen of Lyria, the heroes found themselves on the edge of Rivermeet, at the start of the large delta which would bring them to Eastray and, ultimately, beyond to Kingsport. There was one potential problem that stood in their way, and that was the large contingent of Red Custodians that were patrolling the hamlet and had taken control of the quay and all the boats there. It seemed that they had imposed a curfew and forced all the villagers into their huts, while simultaneously keeping any travellers corralled in a pen.

Quentin had observed the movements of the custodians, but could not discern any clear patterns in their patrols, which didn’t give him the confidence that the heroes would be able to sneak their way to the quay and take a boat. The heroes also realised that any documentation which might prove to the custodians how important their mission would be to the crown was still on captain Randal’s body, which they sank into the swamp outside of Blackbough after his untimely death at the hands of the foglet and the will-o-wisps.

As the heroes were lamenting being stuck in the swamp James remarked that it would be good to get back to Kingsport again, enjoying a warm bed, some good food, a strong drink. He said he’d buy everyone a whore upon return and at hearing that Quentin subconsciously reached out for his wrist where once he had tied a maiden’s handkerchief. He caught the move but had a puzzled look on his face, as if trying to recall something.

The heroes decided that the direct approach was going to work better than subterfuge and Quentin was volunteered to do the talking. They entered the hamlet and walked up to the quay and were soon stopped by two custodians, red-robed and carrying maces. They were brother Lem and sister Jane, who, after listening to Quentin’s explanation on why the heroes had to be granted access to a boat and make their way down river to the coast, deferred the decision to brother Canaan, who headed their mission in Rivermeet. It struck the others that Quentin would likely not have had the success in convincing the custodians that he did, had it not been for his station.

The heroes were lead to the pen in which the other visitors to Rivermeet had been kept, but because they were allowed to keep their weapons none of them felt particularly threatened by that so they complied. It did not take long before brother Canaan, an older, bearded custodian with a commanding presence. The man was sceptical at first, but proved no match against the collective charm and personality of the heroes and quickly consented to them taking a barge downriver in the interest of the queendom.

One of the people locked in the pen with the heroes was Hubert, a Fulham cattle breeder who was travelling with his prize-winning breeding steer and accompanied several lads who acted as his guards. Upon learning that the heroes were allowed to proceed on their way, the man became outraged and began to complain to the custodians. When the custodians ignored him, Emrys went to talk to him and leared several rumours about the area, as well as what was happening in Eastray.

Emrys leaned that the previous night, a winged, serpentine shaped had flown high overhead Rivermeet, startling everyone. It flew in from the north-west and headed deeper into the hinterland of Eastmarsh. It was dark and unclear on what it was, but the consensus among the people in Rivermeet was that it was a dragon, which hasn’t been sighted in a generation.

The situation in Eastray was dire; disease and pestilence everywhere, while house Ivel had barred their gates while people died in the streets of the bloody flux. The outskirts of the city were harassed by ratmen. The szygani camp had disbanded and moved away and the custodians were busy trying to burn the corpses and fighting an unknown threat.

The last thing Hubert was able to share was that a man had come to Rivermeet the previous day and was stopped from proceeding down the river by the custodians. The man would not be stopped and according to Hubert he had made the ground shake and the river rise and capsize the boats that the custodians were in before continuing on his way. Rumours were that it was the Old Man of the Estuary, a local hermit who was said to be a powerful druid.

Emrys was thankful for the information and gifted the man a handful of gemstones which he had found, which would allow Hubert to mitigate some of his losses by being held up in Rivermeet with his bull. After the initial shock had worn off, the man was incredibly grateful and likely would never forget the gesture.

Eventually, the heroes were released and assigned a barge and they went on their merry way. No longer being able to rely on their friend Astrid, the duties of punting the barge downriver fell to Quentin and James who quickly get a hang of it and did a spectacular job in avoiding terrifying crocolisks and treacherous sandbanks to get stuck on.

At the end of the day the heroes disembarked from the barge to the south of Eastray. To the north the dark skies above the city was glowing with the fires of the pyres where the custodians were burning the bodies of the dead. Thick plumes of smoke rose up over the rooftops of the huts and houses. There were no signs of the skaven the heroes had heard about, but occasionally some disturbing noises carried on the wind.

Curiously, they noticed a singular man, standing in a small boat in the middle of one of the arms of the river. The boat did not seem to be moving, despite the current. The man was as unmoving as the boat he was standing in, staring out to the west, across the water. It reminded the heroes of the woman in the blue cape which they had seen standing in a boat on the Bourne river, just after they had been attacked by drowners while traveling upriver on the Old Queen, from Bournemouth to Egremont.

To the west, in the distance, a small armada of ships could be seen through the fog where they lay at anchor in the gulf, intent on keeping the Eastray port locked up. There were a dozen large, royal war galleons laying alongside half a dozen smaller, faster deployment ships flying the flag of the Order of the Shield. They would have to find a way to signal to the fleet, alert them that they had urgent business in Kingsport and, crucially, had not been infected with whatever disease befell Eastray.

The bank the heroes had disembarked on was full of tall reeds, which proved to be a great bedding once cut down and stacked. It kept the soggy ground from soaking clothing and blankets as camp was made. A fire was made by Emrys using his arcane gifts to dry out the little bit of kindling they could find to make a fire.

While resting, the conversation turned to what the reason could be for the skavens’ appearance in Eastray, and Luca thought he had found a clue. He read the letter which he had found on the body of the skaven priest in the carceratum again;

The plague maidens are congregating, drawn by the pestilent potential of a potent, ancient magic. I have read the signs and portents and require the skavens of clan [unclear] to investigate and reveal the truth. I have gathered enough [unclear] that I may open a gate through the seal for a short time through which they may travel. Once verified, they will report and be given further instruction.

– Epidemius the Cataloguer, Lord of Decay, One of the Seven Proctors of Pestilence. Devoted Underling of Baalzebul the Calabite, Ruler of the Seventh, Lord of Maladomini.

While James and Quentin tended to their severely blistered hands, having had to work the barge pole all day, Emrys spent time investigating the scrolls the heroes liberated from the dragon’s hoard, finding some interesting spells inscribed on them.

The next day, the heroes would attempt to make contact with the fleet and find a way to convince them to help get the heroes to Kingsport. They only have two more days before Dr. Arkenward would lose control of the curse.

Return to Rivermeet

Previously, the heroes went on to explore the the vault at the bottom of the ziggurat at the bottom of Wyrmblood Lake, finding it filled with riches and many curious items, as well as several dragon eggs, gestating in a noxious vapour.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

After having explored the vault and having taken many curious items from the dragon’s hoard, the heroes went back up to the large, circular hall and found some rest. It was at that moment that they discovered that the large, red gemstone which they had found among the remains of Xamael was still there. It was at that moment that one of the heroes decided to remove it from the blanket they had wrapped it in and touch the stone.

The darkness that swirled deep inside of it seemed to respond to the touch almost immediately and a multi-vocal voice filled the minds of the heroes;

We are impressed by your dedication to retrieving our sight, young ones.

It was at this point that three, tall figures materialised from the darkness on the edge of the circular hall. Each stood as tall as a hill giant, but slender, with bony arms. One had mottled, grey skin, and was shrouded in red robes. The hood of the robe was deep and horns stuck out from it like a glaive. The face buried deep in the hood was long and alien and did not appear to have any eyes.

The second figure had mottled skin as well, but this time ranging from light purple to a deep crimson. She was shrouded in a gossamer veil which covered her eyes. Her face seemed fair, but her limbs were long and menacing.

The last one had grey skin and was wearing a gown of flesh, bound together by coarse rope. She wore a skirt around her waist which was made of long arms with bony hands at the end of them. Her face had hard angles and her hair seemed to have been constructed of flesh, which lay drab across her forehead and eyes.

A singular voice filled the mind of the heroes, which pleaded:

Let me touch the heartstone and claim my sight. After I have taken what is mine, we will undo the magicks which have cursed that ugly child which sits on your throne.

The heroes hesitated briefly, but finally agreed. The horned and red-robed sister walked forward and her long, bony arm reached out to the red stone. The swirl of darkness drained away the moment her eager fingers touched the stone and she let out a sigh of relief. The stone crystal turned dull and was left behind.

It was then that the other two sisters silently stepped forward. When they had reached Memra, who had just regained her sight the stood together and reached out to one another, holding hands. The started turning in a circle, like young children might, when singing nursery rhymes.

The weird sisters, hand in hand
Posters of the swamp and land
Thus do go about, about
Thrice to thine and thrice to mine
And thrice again to make up nine.
Peace! The charm’s wound up.

Once their strange dance had ended, they each let go of one another and faded away into the darkness. Three, pristinely clipped, ghost orchids floated down to the ground and came to rest where the good sisters once stood.

The ward has been lifted. Take the heartstone and bring it to the diviner. It might help the amateurs at the circle speed up their search for a way to break the curse. It might show them what real magick looks like.

For your troubles, young ones. Sacrifice awoke the magics in the old soil of the grove. Each flower has been impregnated with the blood of hundreds. They may prove useful to you in the future. Let your masters know that the good sisters continue to remain neutral in the blood war.

After the good sisters had disappeared and the heroes believed that they were once again alone, they took some rest.

Fourth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

When the heroes had rested up and processed all that had happened, the conversation turned towards Azsharastrasza’s brood, which still lay at the bottom of the vault. The decision was made to lock the vault back up, utilising another one of the lyrium crystals the heroes had with them.

Before locking the vault back up, however, the heroes went down one last time to investigate the many books and scrolls that had survived the ages. James picked up two books, and Luca managed to snatch one as well. Emrys kept himself to the different scrolls that he saw laying around, and Quentin was handed a book on old Celtician lineages which may come in handy later.

There were so many things that the heroes had to leave behind that Emrys decided to commune with Toruviel one last time before leaving the ziggurat, asking them if there was anything of importance to the elves of the Verdant Kingdoms which they might be leaving behind. The sword responded dreamily that the only thing which it thought might be of value was the petrified rose which Quentin had taken.

Before going back up to the surface Emrys made sure to harvest some of the dragon scales from Kalauranthalasis’ broken bodies. Afterwards the heroes made their way upstairs. As they made their way up James took point to navigate them through the submerged room once again, and they found themselves in the stairwell leading up to the top of the ziggurat. They noticed the same discarded clothing and the elaborately decorated abandoned lantern they had noticed on the way in.

It was at this point that they heard a familiar tingling noise and saw that Wynn came racing down the stairs. He explained that the coast was relatively clear and that the heroes were able to make their way to shore without problem. After a small discussion about Wynn’s future, he decided to come along with the heroes, explaining that he had no reason to stay, and solidified that decision with an eager jump into James’ bag, where he made himself comfortable for the trip.

They once again left the discarded items on the stairs behind and made their way to the shore. Emrys made sure that both himself and Quentin made it to shore through a new enchantment he had recently acquired, which allowed both to fly, but the rest went by way of the boat they took from the shore to the ziggurat. The lizardfolk in the villages around Wyrmblood Lake seemed to have gone into a strange trance since the death of the dragons, wailing away in a strange song. This allowed the heroes to make an easy escape without being confronted.

The trek through the swamp was an arduous one, but a few hours later the heroes found themselves at the bank of the river once again. It was the heroes’ hope to come across an Acadian family who would bring them down to Rivermeet by boat.

Eventually the heroes saw an Acadian family travelling upriver and managed to strike up a conversation with them. It took every ounce of charm the heroes had to convince them to turn around and go back to Rivermeet. The family was very reluctant and spoke of a great plague in Eastray. They would bring the heroes to the outskirts of the confluence of rivers, close to Rivermeet and the start of the estuary, but no further.

Fifth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

When the heroes were finally dropped off at the next day they saw that Rivermeet was almost empty and that the quay was almost empty of boats. The few boats that were there were being guarded by red robed members of the custodians. There were only three days left until it was believed that the royal abjurer would lose control of the curse that the queen was under.

The Vault of the Senhadrim

Previously, the heroes managed to defeat Xamael the Dreadlord deep in the the centre of the ziggurat at the bottom of Wyrmblood Lake, where Kalauranthalasis had made his lair. But not without paying the steep price of Astrid’s life.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

Luca’s keen sense of time told him that it was very late in the day, but he didn’t have to tell the rest of the heroes that; the fatigue had seeped into their bones. Each of them felt hollow inside when the adrenaline of the fight with Xamael faded away. There was an added sadness when the death of their friend Astrid descended down on them.

James took out a bottle of brandy, sat down next to Astrid and poured two cups. He sipped the drink in silence, letting the faux-warmth comfort his cold bones. Quentin sat near, shivering from fatigue, sadness and exhaustion; Emrys came to put an arm around him for comfort. The hooded lantern stood close by, giving Quentin just enough light to look upon Astrid’s body.

Slowly, the dreadlord’s body withered away with incredible speed, leaving behind some wet, organic sludge and several items. When the heroes returned from their introspection, they inspected the items. It was a simple, wooden box with a choker inside. The choker was made from blood coral, fastened by a golden lock depicting the banner of house Valois; two angelic warriors holding a shield between them with three lilies, topped by a crown.

There was also a leather scroll case with a letter inside that James retrieved and read. He found the text to be illegible and asked his companions whether they understood it. Luca, who was busy preparing a ritual that would allow him to detect the effects of the weave of magic upon things around him, would later confirm that the letter was written in the infernal tongue of the Nine Hells. It read as follows;

To our most wondrous and resplendent Master,

I am pleased to state that, after a lengthy study of our rivals, I have completed my observations. Please accept this briefing in advance of my complete report, which shall follow forthwith.

We anticipate that certain of our targets will be more challenging to topple than others. But each is prone to manipulation in different ways, and our agents have already woven themselves into their very fabric. Others are being eliminated by our assassins.

This is, after all, the solemn duty for which you sired us. As you are fond of saying: Once a desire is understood, it can be exploited.

Enough prologue. Allow me to summarize our findings.

In many ways, the celestials will be the easiest to manipulate. Their singular goal is to impose structure upon everything they see. Show them a force that opposes their drive for Order, and they will be consumed by their urge to eradicate it. Their choirs, so seemingly united in purpose, is vulnerable to fracturing.

The aberrant lords all but welcome us with open arms. They are so preoccupied with their thousand truths that they ignore the lies we sow in their very midst. I believe we can leverage their vast reach to position them as a foil against our other rivals. We remain wary, though. Since they are observant of multiple outcomes, it is conceivable they could anticipate our coming.

Similar to the celestials, the fey and their keepers are singular in purpose. Their adherence to a linear path is an obvious shortcoming. They savour nothing more than being proved right, so if they believe they have converted one of us to their precious light, they will trust that agent implicitly. The adherents to life are the most insidious of opponents, perhaps because their nature is so antithetical to our own.

Still, we learned much from observing the link between their plane and the Winter Court, and we have high confidence that a vulnerability has been identified. Our operative has already gained the trust of her target. And as previously discussed, our position within the plane of Disorder is proceeding flawlessly. Consuming fel energy is not a pleasant process, but a necessary one.

The deception you have architected will bear fruit in the ages to come.

As ever, we shall serve as your unseen hand. We will poison every cohort foolish enough to invite us into their midst. Despite our setbacks with the Steady Hand, I am confident we will root out the vault of the Upright Man and find his tablets before the Demon of the South Western Winds gets to them.

I remain, as always, your faithful servant.

Xamael

The third item was the whip that Xamael had been carrying and using to deadly effect, while the last item was a large, red gemstone, roughly cut and about the size of a human head. There was a darkness swirling inside of it.

When Luca had finished the ritual he had prepared he found that neither the box with the choker, nor the letter were magical. The gemstone, however, and the whip, exuded strong magic. While the whip was a complicated mixture of different magics, predominantly evocation, the gemstone was a primordial type of magic that Luca had come to associate with the magic of the good sisters.

Besides the items, Luca also noticed that there was a lingering background magic in the Senhadrim hall, left behind by the dragons and Xamael. The crystal pillars on the balconies, however, had gone dormant.

In the meantime, Quentin and James searched the rest of the Senhadrim hall, finding the original key in front of the first portal that gained them entrance. They had also found that the circle in the middle of the hall which had held the trap that caught Azsharastrasza, made from a similar stone as the portal, also had a hole in it that seemed made for the key. When they tried to fit it in, however, they found that the groves and etches along the side of the conical statuette did not line up and James, wise in the ways of locks, immediately recognised that a different “key” would fit this “lock”.

The heroes remembered that Azsharastrasza, while in the guise of lady Asha, had a key in her possession when they met her in Eastray. She had expressed concern for her brood, which the heroes had not found yet, so they reasoned that perhaps the key she had in Eastray fit in the lock they had found. Quentin went to investigate the body of Azsharastrasza and with some help found the key was underneath her corpse.

James cautioned against inserting another Lyrium crystal to power the key and inserting it in the lock. Quentin reminded Luca that Blackstar allowed him to search for any souls around them, and Luca found none he couldn’t account for.

Still, the heroes decided to move to the southern balcony and make themselves comfortable. They rested for a while and with the aid of a healer’s kite, which they had found in the southern chamber where the assassins had stayed, managed to heal some of their wounds.

During their rest, the conversation came up on what to do next, and how long it would take for them to return to Blackbough and report to the good sisters. At best they still had five days left before Dr. Arkenward, the royal abjurer who watched over the queen, would succumb to the curse he was trying to contain, and the heroes simply didn’t know whether they had the time.

Eventually, the heroes ended their rest and Luca conjured an eerie spectral hand which carefully guided the key, activated by another lyrium crystal, to the lock. Once the key slid into the lock the stone of in the centre of the hall began to shift with a shifting of dry stone as a mechanism was spurred into action. As the stone of the floor opened up like a diaphragm it revealed a shaft going even further underground. The floor opened up so much that the corpse of Azsharastrasza limply slid down the side and towards the bottom.

As it turned out, there was a long, winding staircase which spiralled along the side of the shaft to the bottom. The dragon’s plummeting body had caused a partial collapse of the staircase, but nothing that the heroes couldn’t navigate.

All along the side of the wall that the staircase ran along were built-in shelves of books and scrolls; most of which had decayed over time. James, who had been taking point, took a piece of chalk and marked the walls with a simple “x” every time he noticed a book had survived the passage of time. The heroes concluded that had the dragons not opened the vault for their own benefit the books would likely have survived the time of low magic.

At the bottom of the steps there hung a noxious vapour that was so deep that all of them would be submerged in it. Quentin carefully put his hooded lantern in it and saw the vapour extinguish the flame. Seven eggs of an enormous size stood, clustered together, at the centre of the shaft. The outside looked like they were made from overlapping, green scales. Azsharastrasza’s brood, nourished by the noxious vapour.

Surrounding the eggs were untold treasures the likes of which the heroes had never seen. Gold coins of different shapes, sizes, spilling out of chests, barrels and urns. Gemstones with colours matching every shade of the rainbow. Exquisite jewellery of the finest materials; necklaces, armbands, rings and tiaras. Too much for the group to carry.

There were statues and furniture and books and potions and armours and swords. As Luca gazed across the treasure hoard and made note of the different magical items, he marked each with a simple cantrip so that his companions would know what was magic and what was mundane.

But through the magical cacophony of the hoard, two circular, stone tablets, rimmed with a red-tinged metal and inscribed with primordial runes, stood out. Each was about one foot in diameter with a small circular hole in it, along the edge. The heroes judged each tablet to weigh about twenty pounds and reckoned they were two of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye, which were mentioned in Atilesceon’s journal pages.

Using Toruviel, Emrys cast a gust of wind to temporarily dissipate the noxious vapour, scattering coins and gems away from them. Each of the heroes ran in and grabbed the items that had caught their attention. They did this several times and liberated the following items:

Luca
  • One of the two tablets,
  • A conical hat, adorned with stars and moons which resembled the pattern on Atilesceon’s robes,
  • A small globe with a miniaturised scene inside; a river, a water mill, some farms and fields with people tending to them,
  • A fine, golden necklace with a pendant shaped in two hands, made in gold, which hold three rubies,
  • A large, mundane diamond with a flawless cut
Quentin
  • The second of the two tablets,
  • A set of plate gauntlets, decorated with gold filigree,
  • A set of plate armour with pauldrons decorated with platinum depictions of winged warriors,
  • A curious, round marble that is a completely lifelike eyeball,
  • A petrified, red rose on a wooden plate, covered by a glass dome
James
  • A beautifully crafted, icy blue, leather quiver with an elaborate, silver opening,
  • A set of studded leather armour,
  • Coil of hempen rope,
  • A set of light armour, masterfully woven from a single strand of silk rope,
  • A large bottle with a miniaturised galleon inside

And together, the heroes managed to pick up each of the magical potions which they could find among the hoard, on the off chance there would be any healing potions among them.

There were many other items of interest that the heroes had to ignore, like the statue of a winged warrior dressed in furs, which base read “Marduk”. Or the ten by fifteen foot oil on canvas painting of a large, noble family. Or the gilded, wooden throne with an archaic inscription that only Quentin, with the help of his sword, could read; “Whoever holds the Throne of Leshnica is anointed by Deus, the one true god, to rule over all the Plains of Selos.” Or the set of strange statuettes of animals. Or the astrolabe of different planes with a complex mechanism that moved them in and out of conjunction. And many, many more.

Defeating Xamael the Dreadlord

Previously, the heroes had made their way into the sunken vault at the centre of Wyrmblood Lake and made it into the heart where they had found Xamael the Defiler and had confronted him and the enslaved Kalauranthalasis with the help of Azsharastrasza. With great difficulty they managed to defeat both the wyrm as well as the dark priest, only for the priest to transform into its true identity; Xamael the Dreadlord, a devil in the service of the Dark Queen.

Third Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262

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

When Xamael had transformed fully into the dreadlord he stood twelve foot tall, on powerful, hairy legs ending in cloven hooves. His torso was covered in decorative plates of infernal armour and two large, bat-like, leathery wings sprouted from his shoulders. Two curved horns had burst from his head, his mouth had filled with razor sharp teeth and his hands had grown claws. The whip he had carried had lengthened and arcs of lightening were crawling all over it.

Quentin was the first to engage the devil and attempted to use Róisín to summon tangling vines beneath the dreadlord in an attempt to keep him rooted in place, but Róisín, who had been resonating with her flowery side, refused to obey Quentin.

As the fight started, Xamael penetrated everyone’s mind to deliver a warning and a threat:

You poor fools. You are meddling in the plans of the Dark Queen. Your insignificance will be punished.

Azsharastrasza was still trapped in place, but Luca had a plan. He attempted to banish the dreadlord to another plane. It would be temporary, but it might give them enough time to escape the dreadlord, or at the least regroup. He knew he was powerful enough to attempt it both on the dreadlord as well as on the dragon. While he did not want to banish the dragon in order to get away from her, he hoped that it might break the spell that she was under. The result was a mixed blessing; Xamael proved too powerful and refused to be sent away, but Azsharastrasza was too wounded and too weak to resist. Almost immediately after she vanished, she reappeared, as Luca stopped concentrating on the spell. It had worked as he had intended it to; she was no longer incapacitated by Xamael’s magical trap and was free to rejoin the fight.

My life is endless. My death will be but a moment before I return.

Unfortunately, the onslaught of the newly invigorated Xamael, now in his true form, was too much for the heroes, aided by Azsharastrasza to handle. The dreadlord lashed out with his whip over and over, mostly targeting the dragon, who eventually fell under the onslaught, having already been bloodied in her fight against Kalauranthalasis.

Astrid, despite having only just recovered from the stifling influence of the good sisters, had been fighting on the front lines together with Quentin, furiously hacking away with her sword. She had already lost consciousness several times during the fight, always recovering just enough to spring back into battle. But unfortunately, she too fell under the weight of the pressure that Xamael put on the heroes, and this time, she did not get back up.

The heroes were routed and scattered in different directions in order to save themselves, and at the same time the dreadlord vanished from sight. He began to speak to each of the heroes; infiltrating their minds and offering a truce and a chance to work together in collaboration rather than in opposition. He promised he could revive the sick queen, if only the heroes would parley. Whether out of principle or out of fear, the heroes refused to negotiate but instead used the time to regroup.

Cease your attack and let us bargain. You can hve your queen and I can help you stop the largest invasion of orcs this pitiful queendom has ever seen.

During this lull in the conflict, Emrys had found a severely wounded assassin in the chamber on the southern end of the complex as he was desperately looking for anything that would help the heroes tip the scales of the battle in their favour. This was likely the assassin whom they had encountered as they descended into the ziggurat. The man was slumped against the wall, clutching his side. There was blood all around him and he could scarcely register that Emrys was approaching. Displaying an unusually brutal attitude of grim determination, Emrys took out Toruviel or slowly sank it into the wounded man, ending his life. Emrys took a small crossbow, some bolts and another jewelled dagger and regrouped with the others.

Eventually Luca reached out to Xamael and said that the heroes agreed to parlay if he would show himself again. It was a ruse in order to put themselves in a position to pounce on the dreadlord, which they did. The dreadlord fought back viciously, even taking the opportunity to reanimate the corpse of Astrid into a mockery of her former self; a zombie automaton whose only goal was to pursue and clumsily attack Emrys, who had to defend himself against someone he had once called a friend.

Eventually Quentin fell, Emrys fell and James had run out of arrows. Luca was on his last legs and while Xamael was clearly wounded, it would take more effort to bring him down than the heroes still had in them. In a moment of desperation, Luca called out to Aurion, his patron, and beseeched him for aid. And for the briefest moment, there was an answer, as the tall, alien figure of Aurion shimmered into existence high above the battle, carried by wings made of pure light. His light descended down like little droplets and reinvigorated and revitalised the heroes. Quentin and Emrys opened their eyes again, and Luca and James felt less tired and more able.

As fast as Aurion appeared, he receded, and for all the aid he bestowed, only James and Luca were there to witness the strange occurrence. Xamael’s response was one of outrage, screaming; “Not again! You will not deny me, brother!”

The fight was resumed and by the skin of their teeth, aided by Aurion’s energy, the heroes managed to vanquish Xamael. With the fatal blow, the body of the dreadlord jerked and spasmed and the leathery wings beat uncontrollably, lifting him up in the air. His body wracked and twisted as wisps of darkness escaped his body like rats fleeing a sinking ship, and eventually collapsed in on itself, seemingly deflating and withering away. His armour crumbled and disintegrated, and eventually all that was left behind were several curious items.

Quentin found Astrid’s broken body with a small glimmer of hope that he could do something for his long-time companion, but saw that the life had long since left her. He took one of the leather bracers she wore as a keepsake and bound it to his left wrist where once he had worn something else, something important. Though he couldn’t quite remember what, or what its significance was.