The Colour of Night
Prologue - The Letter
Our story starts off in the City of Aberhaven – a sprawling city-state ruled by Duke Dorian Aberhaven and his wife, Alicia. Seven adventurers, all of various nationalities and vocations find themselves the receivers of an anonymous letter.
The letter appeared to be an invitation of sorts. One, the writer requested their presence at the upcoming charity masquerade that was to be held at the Duke’s Mansion in a fortnight. And two, the writer implied that attending this masquerade indicated the adventurer’s interest in joining a “unique family”.
While it was made very clear that the adventurers were under no obligation to accept this invitation, all seven of them decided to take up this offer for various personal reasons.
Brax and Emeric both on the run for their lives, and the sorceress Lucinda Blancoeur saw the letter as an opportunity for salvation. While the honourable and just Grail Knight Rhollin Grail and the pious Sister Agatha attributed it to a higher calling.
And last but not least, the adept thief Moerdyn understood it as a game he couldn’t pass up.
Below is the written accounts of each character and how they became involved with the quest.
Back to: The Campaign Journal
Brax – The Highwayman
“Wot’s that, then?” Scuddersby asked, cutting his eyes over at the rectangle of white as he stirred at the fire with a stick.
For its part the fire hissed and sizzled merrily, more in response to the rain that was dripping from the thick canopy of leaves overhead than as a result of the man’s efforts.
Brax – the name by which he was now known – pulled the collar of his cloak tighter about his neck in an effort to keep the cold drizzle out. ”Damned if I know,” he muttered under his breath as he unfolded the parchment. He picked up the hawk’s feather that fell out, stared intently at it for a moment, then tucked it away inside the envelope.
He had come by the letter – sealed with wax but bearing an imprint that he did not recognize – in the course of his work. She – he knew her to be female, for even though the occupant of the coach had been hidden by the shadows within the interior, the thin moonlight had revealed a glimpse of a small hand in a feminine glove – had flung the coin-purse at the feet of his horse with a seemingly insolent flick of her wrist, in response to his demand. And now that he had an opportunity to open the purse and examine the contents at his leisure, he had found the small envelope, secreted away beneath a jingling layer of gold and silver.
”By the Watcher, ‘tis a miserable night.”
”Aye, I’ll grant you that. But this foul weather has its uses. With any luck it’ll keep the patrols indoors tonight, where ‘tis toasty-warm, dry, and nary a bit muddy.”
”A pox on ‘em—on each an’ ev’ry one o’ them mean-spirited bastards!” Scuddersby cleared his throat and spit into the fire, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
Brax did not reply, for the contents of the letter had captured his attention.
”Somethin’ int’restin’?” the older man inquired of the younger when, a short while later, Brax stroked his beard-stubbled chin and glanced up from his reading.
The letter had counseled privacy, but he trusted Scuddersby with his life – and, much more importantly, his family’s honor . . . besides which, the other man couldn’t read a word if his own life depended upon it.
”Oh, I daresay,” Brax answered, chuckling.
Scuddersby lifted his hat and ran a hand over close-cropped, iron-gray hair. ”Trouble?”
”Probably – in spades.”
It was an odd turn of phrase, that one about spades – and one which Brax had had occasion to consider often enough over the last several years. Trouble indeed had come in the form of a Spade for him and his family . . . and most unexpectedly.
“But I’m going to do it any way.”
Emeric – The Worried Man
Emeric had found the letter waiting for him in his room, neatly resting on the clean shirt in his pack. His first instincts had been to run, that they had found him, and his life was over. Yet reason won out. ‘If they had found me’, he thought to himself, ‘I doubt they would have written to me! Or warned me of my impending death.’ He’d spent the last five weeks knowing that most likely he’d turn a corner and run into a blade, or find a snake at the bottom of his bed. So now slightly intrigued, he looked at the letter. Of simple parchment with wax seal, of simple melted candle wax, was all he saw. No external identification marks to let him know who had written it, or how it had got into his pack. Gingerly picking it up, aware of the threat from magic and poison, Emeric was glad he still had his gloves on. Turning over the letter, he saw his name as the addressee, and the letter slipped from his fingers into the clothing on his bed, as he sat down in shock.
Emeric held his head in his hands and wept. After all this time he had almost forgotten. Now it was evident that someone knew. ‘I cannot believe it is over. Why now, why here’ he thought to himself, as he began to compose himself. As the light in the room dulled with the setting sun, he got up and lit the lamp hanging from the rafter. The room was small, but adequate for his needs, and the small window let in the evening sun. The room was sparsely furnished, as was his want, in simple wooden bed and chair. Taking the chair, he pulled it besides the pack, and took out the letter. Quickly opening it under the lantern light, he read the first page.
Observers, unseen or seen are always watching. As such, should this proposal interest you – carry on reading, but in a private place.
Emeric automatically looked around the room, and then out the window, as if expecting to see a face watching him. Settling himself, he turned the page without a second thought, and caught the feather as it dropped from its hiding place inside. Twirling it in his fingers, his first thought was that it would make a good flight for one of his arrows, despite the size. ‘A falcon, and a fine one at that’, he thought to himself as he placed the feather into his top pocket. Reading on, he began to understand more of what was going on. Someone knew, and that worried Emeric a lot. Yet, the letter was an invitation, not a threat, or so it seemed. ‘Maybe they can help me’ he thought to himself as he reached the end of the letter.
Putting the letter down, Emeric began to go through his options. He could simply do nothing, and probably never hear from them again, and never know who they were, and how they had found out about him. Alternatively he could take them up on their offer, and see where it led him. It was certainly the second option that intrigued him the most. Yet he also knew that it was extremely likely that his enemies would have people at the coming ball, and that would out him in serious danger. After his actions, he had no doubt that they would have a price on his head, and one that would likely mean people running the risk even in such a crowded and public place, of trying to claim the money. If he did go, he’d have to employ all of his skills in hiding in plain sight, and that would mean leaving his precious bow behind. He hated to rely on a blade, but this time he’d only have a few daggers to protect himself if found.
Emeric lay on the bed, thinking through what to do. Eventually he fell into a fitful sleep, his mind remembering why he was know in the position he was.
Waking up as the light gently soaked through the window of his room, Emeric rolled over. He still felt tired. In fact he felt worse than when he had come back to his room last night. Slowing his breathing to see if he could regain the comfort of his morning dream, he found that small and irritating sounds were seeping through into his consciousness. The light footsteps of someone moving in the corridor was the first he concentrated on. Yet he heard the slight weight change as it moved away down the corridor, and he relaxed. The dagger that had slipped into his hand was replaced under the pillow, and he rolled over to face the ceiling.
‘I’ll need to go shopping’ he thought to himself as he contemplated the letter he had received last night. He wasn’t sure when exactly he’d decided he would go, but go he would. That decided, Emeric swung himself out of bed, and rubbed his face vigorously to get the blood flowing. Feeling the slowly growing bristle of a beard, he then ran his hands through his hair, and he looked over his simply room. He had coins for a better room, but he’d always led a simple life. It had been ingrained in him by his uncle and aunt, that the simply things in life gave the most pleasure.
Standing up, Emeric went over to the jug and bowl, and poured out some of the water. Washing his face and hands, he found himself saying his old childhood morning prayer. A smile appeared on his face as he hadn’t recalled that memory back for over five years. He hadn’t thought of his uncle and aunt for nearly a year. For some reason both thoughts gave him comfort.
Dressing in his clothes, Emeric checked the bandage on his hip for any sign of corruption, and then began to think of food. He wasn’t due into work until after noon, and wanted to see what he could find for wearing to the Ball. Opening the door of his room, he slipped his hand into his pocket to check what coins he had on him. ‘Perhaps I better get some more’ he thought to himself and went back to retrieve one of his notes of credit. As he pulled that bit of paper out of its place in his pack, the Letter followed. Deciding that perhaps he’d better not leave it around, he tucked both into his pocket. ‘Spicy bread for breaking my fast’ was the thoughts on Emeric’s mind as he locked the door behind him, and moved down the rickety stairs.
Yorgorov Varakzy – The Poet
Yorgorov Varakzy took a long draught of the cheep mead and grimaced, the drink in this tavern was even worse than the smell of the place, but he’d had worse in his time and so continued to read the letter.
“Seen you work and deeds….First lesson…Unique family…”
Bored by the cryptic scribblings Yorgorov screwed up the note and stuffed it in his pocket along with the feather which he would use as a new quill. He downed the rest of the mead, suppressed the urge to gag and stood up. A short, dark haired man with a narrow face and a large belly,Varakzy didn’t attract any looks as he made his way through the din of the tavern, save the occasional threatening stare as he brushed past some larger drinker. He needed air.
There had been a time when Yorgorov Varakzy would not have been seen dead in a place like this, his name the toast of the town, he would only drink the finest bouquets with the fairest lords, and more importantly ladies, of the court. In his youth Yorgorov had enjoyed some measure of success as a poet and had taken full advantage of this to make several conquests into the realm of depravity and excess.
Eventually he had played with the wrong woman and her husband, an influential man of some standing in the local region, blackballed him from the court and had his guards beat him to within an inch of his life. Since then Varakzy had lost his muse and taken to drink. He was quickly forgotten in the social circles.
And then there had been The Matter.
Even though he had since moved to other cities his inspiration never seemed to return and he has made his way by reciting his old works to those few who will listen but mostly doing odd jobs where and when they find him.
Out in the street Varakzy breathed deep in the fresh air, the moonlight casting long shadows down the street as he walked. He watched as people walked home after long days at work and listened as they discussed the upcoming annual charity ball. It had been the talk of the town for the last week. Varakzy stopped and took the crumpled letter out of his pocket and read on.
“Ah what the hell, at least the booze will be be free.”
Lucinda Blancoeur – The Sorceress
Lucie shivered cold to her bones despite the heat of the sun upon her face. She would do no good by straining against the yoke of the stock, or whispering a spell to undo the chains that dragged at her wrists and ankles, this she knew. The Magick within the shackles that held her was far greater than her own. The Mage Lord of the White Rose had seen to that, not caring that it had been Lucie who brought her crime to light by her own confession.
“I shall not think about it now,” Lucie exhorted herself, forcing herself to look past the jeering crowd. The worst part was feeling the chafing stock around her neck and the burning ache in her lower back that came because she was forced to bend unnaturally. Not for the first time did she curse the jailor who chose to lock her thus – unable to stand or kneel to find relief from the yoke about her neck and shoulders. She strained against the splintered wood that grated harshly against the tenderness of her throat, itching and bruising until she longed to scream and wrench herself free. But she had promised herself that she would not scream, she would not create any more show for the spectators than they were already going to see, for she deserved her punishment after all.
Lucie had no difficulty imagining how pathetic she looked in soiled rags with iron fetters on her wrists and ankles. Having learned her lesson, she kept her expression carefully passive, her luminous, violet-blue eyes shielded by a silken fringe of dark lashes resting on creamy, ivory cheeks now begrimed and smudged with dirt. Her once lustrous, golden tresses were tied in a tangled knot at the nape of her neck, covered by a frayed, dingy kerchief. But even as crude as the headpiece was, it failed to detract from the stunning beauty of the beleaguered young woman. Without the heart to tilt her chin in defiance, still she raised her gaze to search the throng for a glimpse of a kindly face. Lucie was painfully aware of the piercing stares of the crowd, the accusing eyes upon her that would strip her naked if they could. She turned away from them, receding into reverie.
The dwarf who approached was garbed as a jester, but his face was gaunt and scarred and the look of his eyes belied good humor. He took in the crudely lettered sign which hung about Lucie’s neck and read HUBRIS, for after all was said and protested that had been her crime. Even so, he leaned in and asked in a conspiratorial whisper, “Wot they got ye in fer?”
The midday sun was blinding when Lucie looked toward the voice that queried to know her trouble. She narrowed her eyes into a squint to make out her inquisitor. He seemed familiar, but she could not trust her vision with the sun so searing so bright. Perhaps it was the glare that brought tears to Lucie’s eyes and caused the wretched beauty to turn her gaze away.
I owe no explanations! Lucie flared. Shame flamed her cheeks as the young woman bristled, wetting parched lips with her tongue to retort, biting back her words at the last instant when a tiny voice sounded in her ear. “Mama … non.”
At that, the sad young woman so sorely displayed in the stocks thought twice and remembered that it was arrogance that had brought her to this sorry place. Petie! Lucie cried silently, a wry grimace twisting on her begrimed face. If only I had heeded you then.
She forced herself to look into the man’s face, haloed as it was by the shimmering sun.“A crime against the state,” Lucie murmured so softly that the dwarf had to stand on his toes and put his ear near to her lips to hear her. “I thought myself better than I am. . .” Her whisper trailed to nothing.
He did not react as she had expected. Instead he lifted one brow in turn and looked her over slowly as if judging her veracity. Then he put himself between her and the crowd and with slight of hand withdrew a feather quill and parchment letter from the fold of his jerkin. To her surprise within a flash the little man had the plume and letter secreted into a pocket of her skirt, and then he was patting her shackled hands.
“Ye’ll be free ‘fore day is done,” she heard him say.
Lucie caught a note of something in his voice, something she didn’t dare to trust. “Do you know?” her voice rasped.
The dwarf nodded his head. “It will serve ye well to feign repentance, lass,” he spoke softly. He quirked his mouth revealing a gapped-tooth grin, and then as quickly as he had come, the tiny fellow was lost in the milling crowd.
Rhollin Grail – The Knight
In the vast expanses of the Fangspire Castle, the young knight Rhollin Grail drank a vast amount of mead as he read and re-read the letter. He was strong and fair he knew, even for a Leonyr, and he had helped gain much land for his kingdom recently. But these deeds were expected of all knights, so he wondered why he was selected for what was obviously a monumental task. He wondered a long time, and drank a long time to accompany it.
Perhaps it is a sign that I am to break from battle and tend to diplomacy. I have done my share. And indeed he had, for that very day dozens fell under his hands as the blood fury took him and washed over the field of battle, an impossible number of enemy leaders dead at his feet when he regained his calm. And when he found his helmet on the battlefield after, apparently lost mid-combat, the letter was there. Perhaps I can best serve my people in court.
Like all good Leonyr knights Rhollin was as adept in etiquette as combat. He prepared for the occasion in his finest dress, choosing a tailored royal blue suit to compliment his golden hair, finely laced ruffled sleeves, ribbons of varying shades tying his wild mane back. He stood perfectly still in front of the mirror and once he was satisfied with his appearance called for his squire to make ready to depart. With any luck other countrymen would come and bring their great culture to the human kingdoms.
Lily – The Seductress
Seizing opportunity, Lily turned away from the commotion in the boisterous taproom to gaze at the world beyond the lead windowpane. A toss of the die followed by vulgar shouts and protestations provided a moment’s distraction as she slipped out the door.
Weighing her chances, Lily crept from dark to dark, at one with the midnight shadows as she spied upon the bard. A quick glance over her shoulder revealed that no one from the tavern had followed her. She had succeeded in slipping away from the slaves’ corner unnoticed and now she lay in wait for her mark. So far so good.
Although he had ignored her, Lily had been conscious of the man from the moment he crossed the portal, just as she was aware of every opportunity for betterment that came within striking distance. Like a cat, Lily was ready to pounce, determined to exchange her lot for what she believed was her due.
“Another pour for your tankard, traveler?” she had murmured, tipping the heavy flagon without spilling a drop and then turning away before his glance touched her. Better that way, better her way.
She was a young woman of indeterminate years, and at first glance she appeared a drab. An unruly mop of long dark-brown hair obscured her face and tumbled to her shoulders; the disheveled mane a veil hiding darkly smoldering eyes smudged with fatigue and a curved, line-thin scar that sliced from right cheekbone to jaw, marring the pale and velvet soft of her cheek.
Not favoring the wanton attention that others sought, Lily was disregarded more often than not as she went about her business, which was as she intended it to be. Garbed in overlarge wench’s rags of drab hue and rough texture as ugly and unsatisfactory as her sad life, Lily waited patiently behind her masquerade.
Even so, Lily was shamed by what she was and how low she had fallen, and because she understood that no one would save her save herself, so it was that when the sojourner prodded with a cracked thumbnail at the fine wax seal Lily was nearby listening to the soft, crinkling whisper of vellum unfolding, and that when he read the elegantly penned missive her sharp-eyed gaze devoured the calligraphy.
Now Lily lay in wait and began to feel hopeful as the big bellied man ambled down the narrow alleyway toward her hiding place. As she watched him approach she remembered walking this street with another man years before.
Then, they had pushed and shoved through the midday crowd, the child unwillingly, her small hand in his as he dragged her forward. If she allowed herself, Lily could still feel the heat of his skin and the vise like grip that held her to him, until he let her go. People had made way for them, or so it seemed, and the tavern master had greeted that man warmly. It was not until many nights had gone by that Lily had come to understand what had been bought and sold that day. But that was then.
When her prey was nearly upon her, Lily emerged from a recessed doorway and stepped into his way. “In the sky the Fates are watching, milord,” her voice seductively accosted him. “When they see such as we do they murmur among themselves: ‘Ah yes, those are content as they are.’?”
Before he might cast her aside, Lily took a hand from under her cloak, from its warm resting place, and gently laid it on his shoulder in an effort to keep him from walking away.
Moerdyn – The Red Silver Coin
Moerdyn crawled on his belly, sliding soundlessly over the tiles until he reached the edge and peered over. The guard he had been trailing wandered by and continued on to the right, continuing his patrol in the same manner as he had every night. Under the black veil that covered his mouth and nose, Moerdyn grinned and waited as the man headed off to the far right of the courtyard again. Slipping a leg over the side, he dropped noiselessly to the balcony and moved to the door. Testing the latch, he smiled again as it clicked softly open—who locks a balcony door? The arrogance of the rich was always their undoing.
Slipping inside the room, he let his eyes adjust to the darkness before padding across the floor to the ornate dresser. A glance to his left showed that the young girl still slept. Her jewelry box sat open, sparkling jewels dull in the dim light as he quickly slipped them into a velvet pouch.
Leaving a silver coin painted red on the dresser-his calling card as it were-he slipped to the balcony again, quickly hopping up to grab the lip of the roof and pulling himself over.
His long-knife flashed out. His sharp eyes studied the rooftop suspiciously. Quickly he ascended and peered over the top of the roof, scanning the other side and the streets below. A mangy dog loped through the deserted streets, but nothing else. Cursing under his breath, he crept back down the side of the sloping roof and took the item of his shock.
A small envelope. It had most certainly not been there when he’d slipped over the edge moments before. Popping the unrecognizable wax seal, he read the contents quickly and smiled. The duke’s masquerade and a mysterious figure looking to contact him; who even knew about him? This was as intriguing as it was disconcerting. If his identity were to be revealed…
Moerdyn’s smile widened. He did so love a game.
Sister Agatha – The Curse’d Nun
Letters came in many ways to the nunnery, but the outside world was not quite welcome, and so they found themselves neglected. No one would tell someone else that a letter had come and so everyone had to check, furtively, for herself whether one had arrived for her. Often, they lived betimes mired in desk drawers and boxes and across tables or even balanced precariously on a windowsill that happened to serve. Eventually, the letter would be found and only a small dry spot free of spiderwebs or dust would show where it had been. But that was not the case with this letter. Its path was direct and uncanny. One might say it was almost magical.
When Agatha opened her window to smell the air, she found it caught there, as if someone had climbed up the side of the wall, striving amongst the irregular handholds, and left it there. There was some romance in the thought, except Agatha was held to be somewhere between sixty and eighty and an unlikely object of affection.
If it had not had her name on it, she would have taken it down to the terrible desk drawers and lost it there, for no one wrote to Sister Agatha. She was a mystery, come old and penniless to the nunnery, with a fierceness of life old ladies usually cede to confusion or their children. But it had her name on it, so she opened it.
She was glad she had not lost it in the desk drawers.
“A chance for something new, ” she said aloud to the wind, which seemed disposed to humor her. “What shall I do? I do not have fine clothes, nor could I fit well into the dress of these young court girls.”
The wind did not ask whether she would accept. It was a smart, chilly wind, that had come a bit out of its way to see this part of the world, so it did not ask the obvious.
She closed the window, for privacy, and read it again and thought of old things, until the evening bell rang. Then she opened the window again, greeted the wind again, thought a bit longer about it all.
Then she packed herself a basket, took up a heavy staff to lean on, and made her way to the entrance of the nunnery, through which she left.
It must be said that she did not look back.