As Brody marches over to the stables to arrange travel for the march to Rivenkeep, he happens upon an unusually belligerent… sorry, usually belligerent Princess Alliah. Her skin looks unusually tanned and goes wonderfully with her ginger hair, she says her mother let her take her vows. Then asks him to hit her with his hammerplow. For fun. Hesitant to commit regicide, Brody refuses, eventually being convinced to hit her with his unique, Brodyesque fists. The only apparent damage done from the solid blow being to his fist, she indicates the cause is because she drank a balm given to Heironeous’ chosen. As they fight more, she explains more about Heironeous, who is apparently a “god” who isn’t Yondalla. He rewards people who follow his code. By the time the rest of the party meet him, our strong-willed ex-baker has finished his free personality test and is wearing the fist of Heironeous around his neck.
That’ll sort out those thrice-damned Thetans. Sorry, Hextorites.
While this is occurring, Serra suggests the group go see the other, special, daughter of the king, Princess Pepper. She hands over a painting of a royal wedding the party took from the Avalancher, asking if it’s one of hers. Apparently Pepper had a weddings phase. How many phases she could have at her age is an interesting question… Thanking the group, she offers to paint something for the group besides the portrait she’s unknowingly secretly painting for Chris. They take their leave and head out on their mission.
As the group passes into the stables to meet Heironeous’ latest slaves, a courier catches up with James and gives him an envelope, it contains the map he asked for. Sadly for our singer/songwriter map reading wasn’t considered a useful skill for a nine year old by his tutor in Erebaster so it takes a lot of searching for the city they’re in. It’s a task not helped by the fact the map is pre-cataclysm, and the world shifted around after the eruption. But it’s a start. Chris then steals the map and graffitis it. Serra is simultaneously dropped off a book by a raven, she blanches when reading it and hides it away.
Serra and James attempt to make contact with Janus and Adrienne, using a homunculus to sneak over the lines. It dies, indicating some malign influence is stopping anyone getting word out.
They decide to stay the night and set out the next day. As they wash up, Chris steals and burns James’ clothes. Tired, James can’t be bothered with a planned retaliation and instead ensorcels him with the urge to parade through the palace naked for five hours. James then kits himself out in more noble attire before they head out the next day. This day is the first day that James and Brody feel something weird happen they can’t put their fingers on. It continues daily from then on…
The trek to Rivenkeep takes several days, helped in no small part by the fact the map is in no small part inaccurate now. They eventually happen upon a ruined village with a partially intact temple. Upon further investigation they find a statue of a unicorn in the temple, with a rune inscribed upon it and an arrow embedded in its side. Serra and James both recognise this as a temple to Ehlonna, goddess of the hunt and the forests. Chris quietly leaves an offering, suggesting he might be converting to Her worship. Or continuing his existential crisis. Or just plain going nuts, who can say.
Eventually after some more days’ travel, the party reach Rivenkeep. The village has all the mod cons: a bakery, a castle… erm… anyway, moving on, the party approach the guards and demand entry on the King’s business to meet his cousin, the titular crusty old man. The guards refuse ingress, and so the party leave. Well Chris has already left to break in. Finding an open door, the group sneak in to catch him up. As their stumbling has alerted the guards James disguises them magically as guards. They then find an old madman in the cellar, who claims he’s the next in line to the throne here. Through Berwyn’s madness it appears he’s been imprisoned for three years now.
The group, as one break into the keep and attempt to find the lord. Eventually as they close in, a guard sees through James’ glamour and they attack. Or seem to, it becomes clear they’re mind-controlled somehow. Eventually the group disable to soldiers and press on. Serra meanwhile has managed to pen in some spectres patrolling the upper corridors.
They enter the lord’s throne room, to find the crusty old man poised and ready to attack. Brody leaps in to bravely tackle the pensioner, while James, Chris and Serra bypass him and see what lies behind the certain he’s guarding. It’s another copy of the crusty old man, but Serra realises it to be another disguise, it’s actually a mind flayer. The others don’t realise he’s not human, maybe suspecting something when he attacks, paralysing Serra and Chris who are both poised to attack. The creature, deciding discretion being the better part of evil, disappears, relinquishing control over the lord and his guards.
The geriatric noble, recovered from the injuries inflicted on him by the heroic Mr Copperfield, agrees to dispatch troops to reinforce the king and queen. Their job done, the group set out back with word of their success, not thinking to mention about the undead things Serra locked in the upstairs toilet…