Tag: The Siege of Epidemius

The Second Appearance of Epidemius

Previously, Neamhan flew to the camp of the Beauclair delegation to deliver Quentin’s letter to Lord Dorian, to find that Highlord Gauthier was critically wounded, and Lord Dorian was suffering from burns sustained during an attack of the Cult of the Dark Queen. Epidemius reached out to the heroes through their dreams, arriving at the Careless Wanderer in the disguise of father Devon to persuade them not to seek out a confrontation with him.

Fourth Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

Somewhere in the distance the bells rang five times as the heroes stood silently in the doorway of their respective rooms, looking out at each other through the dimly lit corridor. Astrid stood in the doorway of the common room she was staying at, wearing nothing but her small clothes and her new sword strapped to her back, seething with anger. Behind her several Morvrayne riders were snoring soundly, asleep in their cots, ignorant of what had just transpired for the Heroes of the White Eye.

Emrys quietly stepped into his luxurious room, leaving the door open, indicating that the rest were welcome to come inside to discuss their shared dream. Neamhan wanted to know who Pazuzu was, and Luca explained that it was a demon that was older than the Dark Queen herself. It was also the demon who slipped out of the abyss and freed Tharizdun from their chains. He explained it in a way that was supposed to mean something to Neamhan, but sadly she was as confused as before she had asked.

When Emrys mentioned that Epidemius would be a tougher opponent than Xamael, it was clear to some that Astrid was still deeply affected by the fight they had with the Dreadlord. Angry tears rolled down her cheeks. It was only when Quentin said it was important to check up on father Devon at the Temple of Pholtus that Astrid snapped out of her anger. Eager to focus on something else, she offered to accompany Quentin, and they got ready and made their way downstairs. They found that Lauryn was already awake and preparing the dimly lit tavern room for the coming day. She got a modest breakfast to take with them before they stepped out into the cold and quiet morning. They made their way to Steward’s Square while Kingsport lay under the tenaebrific blanket of a heavy darkness.

Meanwhile Emrys suggested that Neamhan make sure she got her rest, as she had not been back in Kingsport for more than two hours. They returned to their rooms to resume their rest. All except for Emrys, who had retired early and had enough sleep. Instead, he continued to commune with Toruviel to see if he could gain any insights into Epidemius.

Emrys learned that Epidemius, before his fall, was Epidemael, a messenger for Labolas Enoreth, an important Seldarine deity. He was charged with the protection of the realms in the astral sea, but like so many celestial warriors in that war, he became corrupted by his exposure to the abyssal forces. First he had been an agent of energy and movement, after his fall he became its opposite; an agent of entropy and decay.

Another thing that Emrys learned was that Toruviel was an aeromancer, and was used to flying, of soaring through the sky. This was the reason Toruviel felt a kinship to Epidemael. Emrys intimated that he feared falling to Epidemius, but Toruviel assured him that as long as he wielded the blade, he would never fall. “An aeromancer never falls,” the blade claimed. Toruviel took that moment to remind Emrys of an outstanding task of opposing a dark moonblade.

When Quentin and Astrid arrived at the clinic adjacent to the Temple of Light they found father Devon standing at the foot of the bed that Pip was laying in, her body broken and bruised. He explained that he had been roused by bad nightmares that evening, of burning rings of fire shooting across the sky. They spoke to him in a multitude of voices, and though he did not know what they were, or what they said, he knew that they frightened him.

Quentin explained that the heroes had dreams too, and explained what they had experienced and urged father Devon to leave the clinic and find shelter elsewhere. Reluctantly he agreed and planned to ask to rent a room at the Silver Cross.

Pip woke up and asked why Quentin had come. Quentin gave her a noncommittal answer, and asked what had happened to her. She explained that vandals had come to her shop to smash up its stock. She had tried to stop them, but was outnumbered. She claimed, wearily, that she had recognised one of the vandals, a young, handsome Daerlan lad who she had seen hanging around the butcher shop. She also claimed, but without much certainty, that they had brought some sort of monster to the shop. After inquiring after Céleste, who Quentin assured Pip was safe, Pip fell back sleep.

Back at the Careless Wanderer the smell of roasting boar came wafting through the tavern from the open kitchen door. It would not be ready in time for the heroes to depart, but should all go well it would be waiting for them when they would return. Emrys noticed that everyone was anxious in their own way.

When Quentin and Astrid returned, the Morvrayne riders greeted their lord with a Beauclair song of cheer, which Quentin felt somewhat uncomfortable with. He stoically accepted the greeting and joined the heroes. Emrys confessed his trust in the group’s ability to make it through the upcoming ordeal, and shared what he had learned about Epidemius.

Upon Quentin’s arrival, Neamhan showed the letter which his father had given to her. He shared the news about the attack with the Morvrayne riders, and a wave of consternation went through the group. Quentin assured them that they did the right thing in riding for Kingsport, and all but Dame Pauline felt more at ease.

Luca suggested that the group move to the Cathedral of the Platinum Father on Steward’s Square to await the arrival of Epidemius. Before departure, Neamhan took the time to write a letter to her loved ones back in the mountains of Ard Thoradun, updating them on her travels and progress. With the help of Wojciech, Quentin retrieved his horse in order to take his place among Dame Pauline and the Morvrayne riders.

At the square, the heroes found that Ser Roderick Corbray, a knight stationed out of the Correntine ward of Kingsport, and a man the heroes only had the occasional interaction with, had positioned himself, together with Dame Madeline of Ashenvale, a squadron of knights, and a squadron of armsmen, in front of the cathedral. Réonan was there, as was Lady Commander Miranda together with two other griffon riders, eight squadrons of crownsguard, and two dozen auxiliary custodians. Dame Madeline greeted Emrys and told him about her joy of the return of Ser Florian Ironwood to the Order of the Lance, considering the heroes as directly responsible for that fact. Ser Roderick put a stop to the casual conversation, the tension in his voice palpable.

The square was quiet despite the number of troops in and around it. At the eleventh bell Chakuq climbed up the side of the cathedral to get a vantage point, just in time to see the arrival of Ser Uthred Locke, standing at the head of eight squadrons of knights. Through an intricate system of clarion trumpet calls, Lady Commander Miranda directed the forces on the ground, to man the barricades that shut off the square, and to patrol the main thoroughfares leading to it.

Tension filled the air, and dark clouds began to form overhead. Nerves and anxiety was palpable among the defenders as the time was nearing of Epidemius’ arrival. Slowly, snow started falling from above. Astrid seemed to be the only one that became more relaxed as she witnessed the storm brewing, a stillness coming over her.

As the bells struck twelve, the tension could be cut with a knife, and the sound of rushing air could be heard as a large, oval rift opened up to a black void in the middle of the square. The void was so dark that it sucked in all the light around it, causing a corona of menacing light along its edges. Simultaneously, hundreds of pairs of glowing, red eyes opened up on rooftops, in alleyways, in windows, and from lifted drain covers. A trumpet from above, sent troops wheeling in different directions, responding to the orders of the Lady Commander.

Epidemius had arrived.

A Corrupt Visitor

Previously, the heroes had been anxiously awaiting the day of Epidemius’ arrival. Emrys had discovered that Pip had been hospitalised at the clinic with serious injuries sustained in an attack on the wine shop. Neamhan and Quentin had returned from the Seat of Friendship with Quentin’s memories restored after a confrontation with the Good Sisters. And Dame Pauline and the Morvrayne riders arrived at the Careless Wanderer, with news soon following that the delegation had been attacked, leaving Highlord Gauthier wounded.

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

While the rest of the heroes remained at the Careless Wanderer, Neamhan took flight, soaring across the skies above the northern coast of the Lyrian gulf, heading west to deliver Quentin’s message to his father. Chakuq entertained the heroes, as well as the Morvrayne riders, with an exciting story of horse rustling. Quentin sat in quiet contemplation, Luca was considering breaking his bond with Blackstar, while Emrys prepared to spend the evening in communion with Toruviel.

Chakuq spent some time talking with Ramsey, the cook for the Careless Wanderer, and managed to convince him to prepare a lavish feast for the heroes. The cook explained that the recent events in the city, the ongoing curfew, and the coming winter meant that supplies were getting scarce, but Chakuq agreed on a price that allowed Ramsey to get excited. He promised a roasted boar, stuffed with apples and mushrooms, basted in ox fat.

After several hours of flying, Neamhan saw the camp of the Beauclair delegation come into view. She circled above the camp and observed that several carriages, supply wagons, and tents had been destroyed by fire. The different factions within the delegation were tending to their wounded, and that several of the horses and oxen had to be put down. Neamhan reckoned that one in five people were wounded, limping, walking on crutches, or were sporting bandages.

After Neamhan had landed she walked to the modest Morvrayne quarter of the camp, and found Lord Dorian’s large pavilion. She was recognised by the moustachioed guard who took her inside the lavishly decorated tent, where she found Ser Croy and Lord Dorian. Lord Dorian seemed to have some burn wounds on his hands and forearms, which had been coated in a thick layer of soothing salve. Despite his wounds, Lord Dorian was self-conscious for wearing a set of spectacles to read some important documents, which he quickly took off.

Lord Dorian explained that the delegation had been attacked by agents of the Dark Queen, though he could not explain why the delegation was targeted. He mused that they must have followed the delegation for some time and jumped on the opportunity when the Lyrian knights rode for Kingsport. Several of the perpetrators were caught, and Monsieur Beauregard was in charge of their interrogation, and had learned that they belonged to the Cult of the Dark Queen.

Highlord Gauthier had been critically wounded in the attack, and was being cared for. Neamhan’s offer to care for the Highlord was declined. When she offered to help Lord Dorian, he accepted her aid after some hesitation. He intimated to her that the only time he had seen the healing abilities she displayed was when the Ladies of the Woods had attempted to heal his older brother. There was a bitterness in his voice.

After reading Quentin’s letter, Lord Dorian penned a response:

My beloved son,

I am well, the highlord is badly injured, we will make for Kingsport in the morning, but the injured and wounded will slow us down.

Your father,

Lord Dorian

When Neamhan asked Lord Dorian about the Ladies of the Woods and pressed the point when he refused to speak on the matter. Lord Dorian grew angry and scolded for forgetting her station. Lord Dorian presented Neamhan with the letter for Quentin and then promptly dismissed her.

After accepting the missive, Neamhan bid her farewell and departed from camp to the now familiar copse of trees where she transfigured into her eagle form and took off for Kingsport.

Back at the Careless Wanderer the heroes had remarked that Falka had not been seen all day, and that she had not returned to the inn for the evening.

Luca, preoccupied, went up to his room and attempted to break his bond with Blackstar, something which turned out to be more difficult than expected. The Senhadrim spirit inside the powerful staff refused to let Luca go. Luca threatened to bury the staff, but it did not seem intimidated. Luca insisted that he was his own man, with his own autonomy, which Blackstar thought laughable; Luca had not been his own man since he had consumed those mushrooms and fell under the influence of Aurion. Blackstar seemed open to complying with Luca’s wishes if Luca would vanquish a rival that it claimed could be found to the east. This rival used souls for its own gain, but was neither celestial, abyssal, nor infernal.

For Emrys, who always had a less adversarial relationship with Toruviel than Luca did with Blackstar, the evening was spent in quiet communion with the blade. Toruviel reassured that their relationship with Emrys would never be that of Luca’s with Blackstar, and shared what they could remember of Epidemius; a fallen angel who used to embody the very nature of movement, manifesting as a great, fiery wheel. Now, all of that energy had turned inward, resulting in a violent core of malevolent entropy.

All of the heroes found themselves seated at their table in the Careless Wanderer. It was quiet, and outside it was dark. Through the glow of the hearth, the candles and the lantern lit at the front door they could see snow falling down in the darkness outside. A barefoot man in simple grey robes entered the tavern, it was father Devon. He asked whether he could sit with the heroes and discuss the following day.

Father Devon reasoned that confrontation with Epidemius should be avoided, considering the amount of death and injury it would lead to. He begged the heroes to take a different approach. When asked what the alternative to confrontation would be, father Devon suggested negotiating. Epidemius, he reasoned, did not attack the first time he appeared to state his demands; it was the crownsguard and custodians that initiated the attack.

Everything beyond the people seated at the table fell away, as if a great distance separated the heroes from the staff and other guests at the Careless Wanderer. Father Devon seemed to lock the people at the table into the conversation and that disassociation was not an option. Neamhan tried to leave the table but found herself unable to.

Father Devon seemed to grow frustrated, barely contained anger overtaking him. He argued that confrontation is the death of possibility, that the Epidemius is fighting to prevent the great desolation. The more frustrated he got, the more he barked his retorts, blood spattering from his mouth. A buzzing noise started to grow in the back of the heroes’ minds, like the cacophony of a thousand insects.

The visage of father Devon continued to change, with skin thinning, cracking and horns bulging through the skin on his forehead. Stag-like antlers sprouted from his neck and shoulders. He continued to argue that a confrontation was not in the heroes’ interest, but this time switched to voicing the argument from the perspective of Epidemius. He claimed that death was not his goal, that his divine word was decay, and that his tool was pestilence. His goal was to study, so that they could arm themselves against oblivion, resist the great desolation.

He also claimed that he was talking to the heroes at great danger to himself by infiltrating dreams that Pazuzu, the Prince of the Aerial Kingdom, the Weaver of Dreams, had been feeding the heroes. He claimed it would not be long before Pazuzu would detect him and abjure him from the contact with the heroes. He wanted to bargain.

I am talking to you at great expense and danger to myself. Once I identified you as targets for the Prince of Aerial Kingdom, it was easy to stow myself away and enter my weave of dreams. It will not be long before I will be detected.

Chakuq’s first response was to mark Epidemius. Quentin unsheathed Róisín. Epidemius, through the guise of father Devon, laughed through bleeding gums and barked that Xamael had been weak compared to him. He possessed a divine word, after all. The likes of Xamael would be under his command.

Fourth Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The connection was broken shortly after, and each of the heroes woke up, bathed in sweat, with their heart racing, bolt upright in their own beds. It was the middle of the night. Neamhan had just slipped into her reverie only an hour or so previously, having returned from her flight back to Kingsport. Each of them tentatively got out of bed and opened the door to the hallway, only to find each of them standing in their doorways, looking at each other. They immediately realised that this had been a shared dream.

Anticipation and Trepidation

Previously, the heroes were preparing for the arrival of Epidemius, gathering support, and rallying a defence of the city. Quentin wrote a letter, bound by steel, to his father, which was delivered by Neamhan. Céleste, the socialite wine merchant, came to the Careless Wanderer to buy up any surplus wine stock, but the heroes had no time to find out what had happened. And Quentin and Neamhan visited the Seat of Friendship, at Neamhan’s insistence, and attempted to restore Quentin’s memory of his betrothed, which was taken from him by the Sisters of the Grove. They were confronted by the sisters, but were at least partially successful. But at what cost?

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

It was the late morning when the heroes were nervously awaiting the confrontation with Epidemius they expected to happen the next day. Chakuq returned to Steward Square once more to investigate its layout and find any helpful vantage points.

Luca attempted to read Aurion’s tome, but found that the pages were blank. He turned to Blackstar, knowing this to be the source of Aurion’s disapproval, and tried to break his bond with the weapon. To Luca’s surprise and further disappointment he found that Blackstar refused to break the bond. Frustrated by being caught between the weapon and his master, Luca pivoted and started to prepare a ritual of protection ahead of the confrontation with Epidemius, for which he needed the true names of his companions. He knew it to be a gamble, considering his master had forsaken him, but Luca tried anyway.

And Emrys checked and double checked his belongings, more to keep himself occupied than anything else. He found some letters the crusaders had written while they were in Old Llygad. The heroes had them translated by an elf that was among the crusaders and it had given them insight into the Silver Crusade during the Age of Fear. Emrys stumbled upon a letter which wrote about how to treat certain wounds with a demonic origin and he decided to pay a visit to father Devon at the Temple of Pholtus to share the knowledge ahead of the confrontation with Epidemius.

At the clinic, Emrys found that the beds were full, and the patients were afflicted by the burden that Epidemius had put on the city. The patient that father Devon was tending to was the almost unrecognisable form of Pip, the halfling accomplice to Céleste. Father Devon explained that he had been the victim of a brutal attack on her wine shop. Looking over the notes, Emrys found that she was horribly wounded, and that the burden of Epidemius was making her recovery even more unlikely than it had been under normal circumstances.

Emrys returned to the Careless Wanderer after sharing the treatments with father Devon and found that Quentin and Neamhan had returned from their trip to the Seat of Friendship. Quentin was sullen and morose after the confrontation with the Good Sisters and after Neamhan had restored his memory of his betrothed, being left with a feeling that something had been returned to him which he had willingly parted with, and for Neamhan to pay the price for that, one way or another.

Quentin and Neamhan have a falling out, and Neamhan goes to cool off upstairs. Quentin admits feeling overwhelmed and betrayed. Emrys assured him that he has friends that will help him carry the burden. Astrid, tired of watching Quentin’s frustration, told him that if he wanted to determine the course of his own life, he should stop letting others direct it for him, giving a pointed look at Neamhan walking away.

Dame Pauline and the Morvrayne riders arrived at the Careless Wanderer, and were reunited with Quentin, their lord and commander. Dame Pauline was given a room, while the Morvrayne riders found beds in the common room. Wojciech, the stablemaster, took the Morvrayne mounts to be cared for and bumped into Chakuq on his way across Steward’s Square. Chakuq joined the stablemaster and helped him with the horses at The Bridle, north of the square. The two Silesians found a kinship in their common heritage, despite Chakuq being a mountain tribesman and Wojciech a plainsman.

A message was delivered to Quentin by a courier from the rookery. It was a letter from Lord Dorian:

My son, there was an attack on the camp last night. Highlord in critical condition. Your father, Lord Dorian.

Quentin wrote a hasty reply, indicating that he was unable to send help due to the impending arrival of Epidemius. Neamhan took the letter and promised to deliver to the hands of Lord Dorian. As she is set to depart, Dame Pauline wishes her a swift and safe trip.

While the heroes continued to wait for tomorrow with some trepidation, Chakuq shared a story, with some measure of pride, about stealing the horses from an enemy encampment. All the while, Luca was wondering where his friend Falka had been all day.

Sly and Subtle Folk

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

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Minute Errands

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

Second Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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