Jalmari leads us through Riven’s streets and towards the Keep, where Prince Navuul is. Even though he’s a known enemy of the king—as we all are—he assures us that it’s safe to walk through the streets because the town is under the protection of the Prince and is a city of resistance.
Jalmari also explains that the Prince thinks the endgame is near. That said, he leads us into the throne room, barely glancing around. The rest of us, however, take in the room, which is dominated by two thrones. On one of them is a young man who looks very different from Fiamma. This man is clearly Prince Navuul, who stands and greets Jalmari by name.
Jalmari approaches and the two men embrace. Jalmari steps aside and the Prince greets the rest of us. I, for one, am eager to greet the prince and somewhat in awe of him. I kneel and greet him deferentially, but the Prince gestures for me to rise. Everyone else does the same in their own way, but the Prince is less concerned with deference and more concerned with what’s going on.
He tells us that we have much to discuss. We take a moment to introduce ourselves, and he tells us that he’s heard about us. Jalmari then gives him a rundown of what he’s been up to in Easar, though he leaves the adventure to the Royal Archives out.
We then ask the Prince if he knows of the prophecy, and he answers affirmatively, though he doesn’t know the wording. Since it’s clear that Jalmari trusts him, and because most of us are working to put him in power, we share it with him though it’s clear that he doesn’t have any more insight into the meaning than we do,
The prince also asks after Fiamma and we describe her to him, and he appears sad when we tell him how she died. He visibly shakes it off and the we turn to other business. He tells us that he has grim tidings: that Lord Miden has been captured and—between that and the attack at the warehouse— Second Dawn is either entirely or on the verge of being compromised. This news is particularly distressing to me not only because he’s one of the few people to know who and what I am, but also because of the seeming realization Tavrix made during the battle at the warehouse.
We inform him of what we discovered about Lady Strael—namely, that she is probably dead and was replaced by a changeling, which explains how we were betrayed at the warehouse. We also tell him that her bodyguard is clearly on Tavrix’s side, though we don’t know why or how this was accomplished.
The Prince then tells us that he thinks it’s time to throw caution to the wind, that the time to act is near, telling us, “They will torture him to death for the secrets he holds. And he holds many. Between this and the attack on the warehouse, Second Dawn is virtually undone. We must throw caution to the wind—either we strike now or we allow our movement to wither on the vine. And make no mistake: my father will pick us off one by one. His Inquisitors and Skinwalkers are everywhere. They will find us all.”
So we begin to plan, and the first suggestion is that Gavrash could create a large undead army as a diversion.
None of us—particularly Eben—are fond of this idea, though. Targoth then suggests that we use the formorians as a decoy. Since we opened the Feywild, we would need a way for the threat to be legitimate enough for the King to send the King’s Guard away from Easar. It’s a risky plan because the formorians are really only interested in conquest, and unleashing them on the world—even one—could risk everything we’re fighting for.
Given the difference in manpower, though, it’s the only plan that we can all agree on. We learn that there’s a worldfall near Easar that the formorians have occasionally come through before. We also know that it’s far enough away from their main homeland that there’s little risk of more than one or two coming through. It seems the best strategy that we have at the moment.
We decide to eat and rest at this point, since we’ve been on the go for some time. Before we break, Aideena asks Prince Navuul if there was any word of the Allexis, who were traveling with Miden. He says that there wasn’t; they weren’t captured, but no one’s heard anything of them.
At this, we’re led to quarters and given food. The food is good but parsimonious—evidence that what money there is is not being unnecessarily wasted. We all rest for a few hours.
After resting, Helena tells Jack that she needs to go see the guildmistress. Jack asks her when she’ll be back, but Helena regretfully says that she thinks she has to stay with the guildmistress from now on.
Jack is upset, saying that he needs Helena. In response, Helena looks like she’s going to cry, and says that she’ll see Jack in Easar.
Jack says that this is fine, provided that he can see her again. He tells her he missed her.
“Is that emotion?” Eben asks incredulously, and a bit cruelly, given the moment.
“Yes,” Jack responds, hugging his sister.
“Eben, shut up,” Aideena reprimands him.
Jack is very emotional, even tearing up at this point, and it’s clear that Helena is on the verge of tears herself. They share one last moment of hugging before Helena pulls away and leaves very quickly, leaving out of a window.
Aideena attempts to be there for Jack and they share a friendly moment, which Eben proceeds to ruin by being rather mean. Jack runs off while Aideena tells Eben off for ruining Jack’s emotional moment.
Eben simply smiles in a way that Aideena finds infuriating, and she turns to leave. Just as she’s reaching the door, though, Eben says, “Nothing unusual for that witch.”
Aideena hears him and whirls around to face him, her wand drawn. As she does, she hears a whisper in deep speech, what sounds like two voices whispering, “fire.” Shocked, she drops her wand, and tells what she heard.
Eben remains unrepentant and Aideena storms out of the room. Targoth chides Eben, for all the good it does.
Meanwhile, I was in another room by myself looking over the ring I was given, and came out to witness the end of the confrontation.
I don’t have much to say about that, specifically, so I glance out the windows while everyone is otherwise occupied. Outside, I see an execution taking place. There is no way to tell who is being executed or why, and the whole scene fills me with a slight sense of uneasiness.
I then ask Targoth what was going on and he recounts the situation to me.
Jalmari shows up after Targoth recounts the scene and I ask about the execution I saw taking place. He seems as surprised as I was, though he doesn’t seem concerned, and says that he’ll ask the prince about it.
After this, we all head down to the dining hall to have lunch with the prince; Eben reluctantly accompanies us.
When we arrive, the prince greets us and says that we should talk. We sit down and begin to have lunch and Jalmari starts the conversation off by asking the prince what he thinks we ought to do.
The prince affirms that our best option is to use the formorians as a diversion. This means that we’ll need to travel back to Easar. Given that we’re wanted criminals, we agree that we’ll have to use the secret entrance into the Thaumaturgy once again. We’ll go on our own, since Prince Navuul—despite the very real dangers that the formorians present—doesn’t doubt our ability to protect ourselves and we can’t spare any further men.
Lunch wraps up and the prince asks us to leave immediately and head for the ruins of the Free Cities of Tas Tarsel and Essend, where the worldfall is located. We are told to look for the broken spires of Tas Tarsel; from what we understand, the ruins are about a day’s ride south of Aldastra. We also learn that we should be on our guard for orcs and bugbears in that area.
We head up to our rooms to gather our stuff and discover, on the nightstand in Eben’s room, a grey hat that wasn’t there before. No one recognizes the hat, nor where it came from, though there doesn’t seem to be anything unusual about it.
Targoth, however, notices a disturbance around the window, but nothing seems to be missing. Aideena and Eben take this opportunity to snipe at each other again while we try to discover how that hat came to be in our rooms and who might have put it there.
We are able to discern that teleportation magic is probably involved, and from somewhere on the grounds. Furthermore, there appears to be very powerful magic woven into the threads. Eben takes this into account, but puts that hat on and decides to keep it.
When we come back down with our stuff, we’re greeted by Jalmari and the prince. We inform them about the hat and the teleportation magic, and then we leave the Keep to stop at the Sleeping Dragon. There, Targoth meets his mother and gets his new sword. When he touches it, he sees visions like he did at the dragonborn ruins. After seeing the visions, he explains them to us.
After this, we leave Riven and begin riding to Aldastra. The first day’s ride is uneventful and, towards the end of the day, we find an inn to stay at called The Roadside Inn. When we enter, though, we realize we’ll have to be careful since there are some King’s Guard present. Targoth inquires with the proprietor about playing for the audience in exchange for allowing us to stay the night. The owner does, so Targoth begins playing on stage.
I head to the bar alone and listen to see if I overhear anything of interest. All I’m able to hear is discussion of odd roundups in Riven, and a possible disagreement between the prince and his father. There’s also a rumor about a strange farm that everyone flees from, which I think sounds interesting enough to follow up on. I approach the group of men who are discussing it and ask them about it while flirting and buying them drinks and trying to avoid anyone buying me drinks.
At this point, unfortunately, I’ve drawn the attention of some of the King’s Guard, who approach me. I flirt and bluff my way out of it successfully enough to not be arrested, but not enough to make them completely unsuspicious, as they seem to think they recognize me. I’m forced to leave the bar and change my clothes and form in an outhouse before re-entering and sitting at the bar alone
Aideena, at this point, is staring into space and has generally removed herself from what’s going on around her and Targoth—who has finished playing—approaches the King’s Guard and begins to talk with them. Through the course of this discussion, Targoth is able to convince them that we’re a relatively well-known troupe of traveling performers and, thankfully, they don’t pay any of our group any further attention beyond Targoth offering them his autograph.
At the end of the night, all of us save Eben head up to our rooms. Eben decides to stay in the barn for reasons known only to himself. When he decides this, we are worried about the welfare of the horses.
When Aideena and I are alone, I show her a ring and ask her about it—specifically, if there’s anything magical about it. She is able to tell me that there’s a strong magic to it and when she holds it she feels compelled to put it on. She does so, and feels the presence of another person some distance away. She senses emotions from the person, particularly deep longing and regret, which then harden into steely resolve. At first she can’t tell who the person is, but then she realizes that it’s Jalmari.
I ask her what she’s experiencing, and she tells me that she felt Jalmari’s presence, and that he was longing for something or someone. I snatch the ring away from her and put it on and I, too, am able to sense exactly where he is and how strong he is. What I have is a ring of Brotherhood and Aideena gives me a look that is both knowing and slightly disgusted, which I ignore. We then go to bed with no more discussion.
The next morning we leave the inn and find the farmland around Aldastra. On the road we spot a thick knot of travelers and hear the screams of horses and the sound of steel on steel. As we get closer, it becomes apparent that a family is under attack by a group of bugbears, so we ride in to help them.
As we’re fighting, some of our horses get away—though we’re able to save all but mine—thanks to the family, which is able to escape. During the battle with the bugbears, however, the King’s Guard shows up and it’s clear that they know who we are. We engage them in battle and kill all of them to protect ourselves.
We drag all of the bodies off into the bushes along the side of the road and then Jack picks the pockets of the King’s Guards’ bodies, finding miscellaneous items along with 500 gp for each person.
After that task is done, we continue down the road to Aldastra. There are no walls around the city and, just outside of the city limits, we dismount and walk our horses in, tying them up outside of an inn.
We have to be careful because there are some guards present, but it’s not as many as we’ve encountered in other cities. We all decide to go shopping, though there aren’t that many shops and many of us are ultimately disappointed at the limited stock.
We then head back to the inn and hang out in the common area. While there, we notice that the place is fairly crowded and seems to mostly cater to families. We do, however, sit near a group of men who are discussing the fact that it’s been fairly quiet on the roads for this time of year. Too many families have had to leave their farms after the Garyerdra boys died.
Someone asks why families are abandoning their farms, and the man who’d mentioned the Garyerdra boys says that livestock have gone missing only to later be discovered dead without a mark on them. He says that the ones caged are even worse, because they are found with scratches and claw marks. He also mentions that even the hardiest roots won’t grow and that there’s an awful silence. There have even been some who hear voices.
Aideena is the only one of us who doesn’t hear this conversation, while Targoth quietly says what some of us are thinking: that this bears all the hallmarks of the pearls that we’ve encountered. Targoth then approaches the group and starts to talk to the man who seems to know all about these rumors. He tells Targoth that these strange events have been happening for the better part of a month and that the area we need to avoid is three hours south of the city where there’s a headstone within a copse of trees.
Jack noticeably reacts to these words in particular, but the man continues, saying that it’s the third farm on from there.
The conversation winds down after this and we make our excuses and head to our rooms for the night.
The next morning, we all wake up and ask Jack about what we heard the night before. He shares with us the note that the Rag and Bone Man gave him which details the location of Jack’s mother’s grave, specifically that her grave is on the road between Aldastra and Easar and is marked by a raven feather.
Jack wants to stop there, which we all agree to do, and then we leave the inn. On our way out of the city, we head to a stable and inquire about any horses they may have for sale, since I’ve been forced to share with Aideena. All he has available is a donkey, which he is willing to sell to me for 70 gp. I’m unwilling to ride the donkey, but Jack agrees to trade with me if I’ll purchase the donkey, which I’m happy to do.
Thus, we’re able to all have our own mounts as we leave the city.
We don’t meet anyone on the road. Soon, we reach the copse of trees the man described and tie our horses to a rock outcropping. We then make our way into the copse.
We reach a small clearing and see a tombstone that is mostly covered in snow. Jack is hesitant to approach it, but eventually does. The rest of us stay back to give him a bit of privacy as he digs at the snow to clear it away. On the headstone is a bird, along with the words: “Lemiye Hanswurst. She is gone to see the face of the inevitable and in Her judgment find peace.” Eben respectfully mutters a prayer to the Raven Queen.
Jack then finds an intact feather on the ground, which he picks up and puts away. He kneels, bows his head, and then stands, touching the top of the headstone as if in a gesture of farewell. He then heads back over to the rest of us.
Targoth claps Jack on the shoulder, causing Jack to leap away in surprise. Targoth asks if Jack is okay, and Jack answers, “I’ll be ok. We never really got along anyway.” He laughs a strange, bitter laugh, and then continues, “I never really knew her name.”
Aidena looks at Jack, but also keeps a suspicious eye on Eben.
We all then head back to the horses and head in the direction towards the farm the man at the inn told us about. Soon, the world around us becomes unnaturally silent and we reach a point where our horses refuse to go any further. We dismount and move closer on foot. The silence grows heavy and we soon reach the farm. Between us and the house is a cornfield with huge stalks that are taller than all of us. Jack begins to walk through the field on his own and becomes separated, forcing the rest of us to go in after him.
The stalks, as soon as they’re disturbed, burst and pollen explodes out around us.
Eventually, we’re able to find Jack, though when we do, we notice that he seems to be flickering, though we don’t know why. We keep pushing on, though, and eventually leave the field and reach the house. Jack picks the lock and we enter a large room which is shrouded in darkness.
Targoth lights up his sun lamp, though we’re still not able to see much. What we can see seems to be covered in grey dust, except for a few sinuous looking lines on the ground which seem to indicate that something moved through here relatively recently.
As we look around, we realize that things that should have kept have gone bad. Also, nonsense syllables skitter over our minds. Nothing seems to be on the lowest floor and the trail leads up the stairs. We decide to follow it, with Jack in front.
At the top of the stairwell, there’s a door and—as we approach—we hear a voice in our mind whisper. Jack opens the door and beyond is a narrow, cramped hallway ending in two doors. Unfortunately, the trail we’re following goes to both. Jack feels an itching sensation and decides to attempt to drowse which door to pick using the feather.
It’s not helpful, so Jack picks the door on the left and attempts to open it. It’s heavy and we soon discover why: there are two bodies pushed up against it, though they’re barely recognizable as bodies. The smell is so foul that Jack vomits.
The strange thing is that there are no agents of decay working at the bodies; there are no flies or maggots or any other type of carrion. Jack is forced to jump over the bodies to enter the room, which is a bedroom with furniture which all stands open.
Not finding anything in there, Jack jumps back into the hall and goes to the other door. This room is brighter, but there are two people on the bed, turned away from the door. It appears to be the farmer and his wife, though there’s an unnatural silhouette, something that doesn’t seem right about the shapes of their bodies.
Jack enters the room and moves closer. What he can see of their skin is taut and dry, and then he spots the pearl on the nightstand.
Eben whispers a prayer to the Raven Queen about the pearl. We all wonder whether the feather will work to neutralize the pearl again. Jack really doesn’t want to give it up, so he and Eben approach the pearl. Jack grabs the neutralized pearl and lays the feather on the pearl on the nightstand.
As the feather touches the active pearl, Jack gets a massive migraine, screams, and falls back. He’s in incredible pain, but the feather does sink into the pearl. Eben experiences a numinous presence in the room, and has the sense that the Raven Queen is acting at least partially in response to his summons. This contact thrills Eben, and Jack feels his pain recede when the Raven Queen’s presence departs.
The pearl is now inert and Jack is in a heap on the far side of the bed from the door. Targoth moves into check on Jack to be sure he’s okay and he seems to be, though he’s a bit weak.
At this point, we all leave the area and go back out to the hallway. The light in the house—which had been very dim and creepy—is improving, though it’s still too early to tell if the atmosphere is improving.
We decide to leave the farm and exit the house and head back towards where we left the horses. This necessitates us going back through the creepy cornfield, which are still grey but are no longer swaying towards the farmhouse like they were before.
Things seem to be improving until we’re attacked by all sorts of tentacles. We’re hit hard and are in grave danger, being attacked on the ground and from beneath it. At one point, Aideena gets pulled through the earth and deposited in a completely different place.
We are finally able to defeat the creatures attacking us and escape back towards our horses.