Two months pass while the group rest from their recent labors. Baden goes on pilgrimage and visits with other Vaisafir, gathering rumors. Abbron prowls the taverns of Lanthorn, working his own rumormill, and also continues decoding the Stoic Man’s journals. Bralta argues with Countess Vainharte over the future of the lightning-forge and delves into the libraries of the city. Honora works to assist the Tower of Vigilance, helping with the investiture of Tangryph’s replacement and spending time on vigils of her own.
As the month of Chass draws to a close and spring begins to stir, they reconvene and compare notes.
- The Stoic Man’s journals were filled with science and philosophy, in particular questions of the soul and whether a golem had any reason to fear Hell. He also wrote of the desire to craft a city filled with his own kind — to have a beautiful daughter and a realm where she’d be safe. And although it’s almost a footnote, he makes reference to his lord — in Morsevar, once home to the original Black Gryphon.
- Baden had made contact with his order, who were delighted to hear of Tythoas Nil’s most recent death. He had also learned that a caravan of Vaisafir has settled almost permanently in Morsevar, and are warning other elves to avoid the land.
- The Sevenstrong Brotherhood was largely taken into custody for collaborating with plaguebearers and the Stoic Man. Some fled, presumably deep into the tunnels, to avoid capture.
- Morsevar itself is a name of dangerous repute. The curse that fell on the Black Gryphon is said to still bedevil his bloodline. Some slayers have tried to break the curse and failed. The current Count of Morsevar, Invar Gryvault, leaves his castle rarely. While Morsevar was once a city not far from the size of Kingsfall or Graybanks, today it stands mostly empty.
Before the slayers can set out to Morsevar, though, they resolve themselves to deal with the question of Esgravan, Baron of Selpike. If the man is still seeking revenge for his sons’ deaths, Cyr Bron remains in danger — as do they. They ask to be present when Esgravan comes to Lanthorn to argue his case before Countess Vainharte. She grants them their request. Honora enlists the assistance of a lawyer recommended by the Valysan shrine, a severe man who has a reputation for seeking justice.
Esgravan arrives in late Chass. The Countess and her retinue meet him and his guards at the pier. The aged Baron is clearly in a foul mood. It isn’t helped by the presence of his two principal guards — one of whom the group recognizes as Despeth, the captain who investigated Cyr Egran’s death in Harrowglen. She naturally recognizes them as well, and quietly confirms their identity to Esgravan. The coach rides back to the Count’s keep are somewhat tense.
The Baron of Selpike refreshes himself from his trip, and then meets Vainharte and the group in her war room. The Countess does her best to present herself as a neutral party, but it’s clear that Esgravan sees himself as clearly outnumbered with both Bron and the band of slayers in the room, none of whom are in chains. Baden carefully watches the Selpike contingent for signs of a sudden attack, but none seems imminent.
Not one to mince words, Esgravan starts out by asking why the murderers of his sons walk free in Lanthron. The Countess responds by pointing out their critical assistance with the recent plague. Esgravan argues that he is responsible for a town, a town that is now bereft of two strong defenders in the person of his sons. Vainharte responds that she is responsible for the city of Lanthorn, which drives her gratitude to the group.
Abbron enters the conversation at that point. He reveals the sword Lamentation and explains that the weapon was well and truly cursed. There was no freeing Egran from the blade’s thrall. The Selpike Baron seems unwilling to accept the possibility, but Abbron’s forthrightness seems to keep him listening.
Honora then joins in, and is more starkly honest in her appeal. She speaks unflinchingly of Egran’s ambition, and how it ate at his soul. Without that corruption, she notes, he probably would not have been approached to receive the sword Lamentation. It was his hand, she says, that likely placed the curse on Bron — and therefore was responsible for the death of Esgravan’s older son. The baron stares incredulously at her as she speaks, but Honora’s words are thick with unalloyed sincerity.
Somewhat shaken, Baron Esgravan weighs their words, and agrees to listen to Bron’s story. Bron makes good use of the opportunity. Emotion is heavy in the knight of Harrowglen’s voice as he describes the brotherly bond between himself and the late Grastan.
By the end of Bron’s plea, Esgravan is actually weeping. He offers Bron his forgiveness and any help that he can render. Even Baden is misting up a bit, the tips of his ears flushed. Esgravan also states his acceptance that his son Egran had fallen beyond salvation. Abbron double-checks to make sure that the Baron of Selpike doesn’t have any bounty hunters at large searching for revenge. While it might be a bit much to expect the Baron to have complete warmth towards them, the slayers feel convinced that he longer bears them no deep ill-will.
With the Selpike situation resolved, the group decides they’re free to travel to Morsevar. There they plan to uncover and likely behead the Faceless Gryphon behind so much of the troubles. With the river surging by spring thaws, the first leg travels quickly. They reach a disembarking point within four days, dealing with the occasional threat such as a river troll straggler. After that, it’s a five-day hike up into the foggy southern mountains.
High above the lower valleys of Brelindia they find the eastern gates into Morsevar. They pass between ancient, decapitated statues flanking the gate into the valley, still thick with mist. Lights glimmer from further upriver, marking out the much-depleted city. Baden spots a smaller cluster of lights more to the south, more akin to a campsite. Marking it as likely the autumn elf caravan, he leads the group there.
The Vaisafir greet the group warily, but make them welcome. After Baden explains their presence, they recommend that the strangers speak with the caravan’s “great-aunt.” They show the four to the largest wagon, and introduce them to an aged autumn elf woman who acts both as caravan head and as a seer.
She greets each visitor by name, noting something of their past deeds. Bralta asks if she’s actually a seer, or just a very good rumormonger. The elf seems not to take offense, replying by offering them a chance to judge for themselves.
The elven diviner sits behind a table and gestures for them to gather around. She shuffles a deck of cards as she speaks that she knows of their enemy. He is the master of the realm, but trapped here, and waiting for their arrival. She believes her cards can reveal a few of the secrets, even if they must by necessity take cryptic form.
She lays out the first card, the Dark Master, crossed by the Seven of Coins. The brooding figure on the card represents the great enemy. She proclaims that he returns often to the iron chapel, under the gaze of his dark idols. He is guarded there by devices purchased with his great wealth.
The next card, the Horseman, crossed by the Six of Coins: the herald of the master, who carries his will in the greater lands. The herald is bound by a contract, concealed in a place of tranquility, of wisdom, warmth and despair. The secrets of this room are also protected by things bought by the master’s riches.
The next card is the Prison. The dark master longs to be free of this domain. The card that crosses it, revealing his goal, is the Four of Coins. The seer speaks of an invitation, spoken by an innocent tongue — by the will of a blameless maiden the master may be set free.
She then lays the Marionette — the card of a minion, a fool. The mirror that casts the twisted reflection. The card crossing it is the Ace of Coins — the mirror rests among the ruins of a place of supplication, where wealth alone is sacred.
The fifth card, depicting a crown, is the Artifact. A device of great power, that could be used against the master of the land. It is crossed by the Three of Glyphs; the unknown relic rests with a fallen prince of old, light to the master’s dark.
The final card, the Innocent, she defines as a place of refuge — the one safe place within the castle where visitors may rest. It is crossed by the Five of Swords. She speaks of a carefully hidden room of great worldly wealth, protected by a blazing fire and the blades of the master’s faithful.
The seer sinks back into her chair, exhausted. The band of slayers excuses themselves from her wagon, and set about making preparations to camp for the night.