The metallic black bishop is immediately surrounded in a globe of darkness, the white bishop in a radius of dazzling white light. The group reacts at high speed. The knight charges toward the black globe, Bróccan close on his heels. Nessa, Blayne and Heraclief face off warily against the bright light of white bishop, which appears to keep its distance. Manzio uses the cover of the standing stones to circumnavigate behind the black bishop.
As Bróccan nears the globe of darkness encircling the black bishop, a single pinprick slim beam of necrotic purple light pierces the darkness, striking the big Dangrim warrior before he has the chance to sidestep. He is immediately slowed in his progress and screams in agony.
The knight has no such problem, confidently entering the magical darkness. The sound of massive blows being delivered rings out across the battlefield. For Manzio, carefully entering into the circle from the rear, he sees the familiar sparks of a blue protective skin surrounding the metallic figure at the heart of the globe. The blue light diminishes under the lightning fast, bright light of the knight’s sword: Nuada’s jewel of the Tuatha de Dannan.
As Manzio strikes out at the bishop, narrowly missing, he quickly decides to back away, as the knight once again engages his opponent with a flurry of blows. The protective stoneskins finally flicker and die before a huge double handed blow cuts clean through the right arm of the bishop, its sceptre still in hand. The knight brings his sword down upon the item, cleaving it in two, an electrical current released up his arm before the item’s power is broken.
Suddenly a wave of nausea emanates from the stricken metallic bishop, driving the night back and Manzio outside of the circle. Risking a glance to the second combat, the Vesuvian sees a fireball erupt within the white bishop’s halo of light. The combination of the emerald flames and bright white light causes Manzio to look away so intense is the contrast between light and darkness. Looking up with light patches still swimming in his vision, Bróccan replaces him, seemingly recovered from the bishop’s attack, joining in a dual pincer attack. Moments later, the dark globe blinks out of existence, revealing the smashed bishop mechanically attempting to fend off blows from either flank. As Bróccan delivers two huge blows with either gladius, the bishop explodes in a detonation of metallic shards, blasting the knight back two steps, whilst knocking the Danagrim off his feet.
With Blayne and Nessa closing in on the white bishop, the sceptre appears to extend in the out clenched fist and the construct disappears from view.
After the knight has checked the immediate vicinity with no sign of the fled bishop, the group takes stock. Bróccan is badly shaken after taking the full impact of the bishop’s attack and detonation but are otherwise remarkably unscathed after their encounter with the constructs. As Manzio waits for the big Danagrim warrior to recover he notes the incredible power and vibe of the standing stones as though some ancient force is at work.
A light snow has started to fall by the time the knight urges the group to make ready their departure from the standing stones. The land is eerily quiet with patches of freezing fog clinging to the surrounding hills. The island seems bereft of trees, as though both humanity and wildlife has fled this unforgiving land.
‘Stay vigilant,’ demands the deep, resonant voice of the enigmatic knight. ‘The islands of Lewis and Harris are notoriously unwelcoming, as just witnessed. Stay close.’
With the knight leading the group from the sacred site, Broccan falls back to the rear with Blayne close at hand. Heraclief, Manzio and Nessa situate themselves safely between the two great warriors, positioned front and back.
It is not long before the snow begins to turn to mush under the marching feet of the group. The trails become slippery and treacherous, particularly as the knight has begun to lead the group up into higher ground. Seemingly unaffected by the steep climb, the rest of the group labours to keep pace with the knight’s pace.
As the group climbs, Blayne suddenly warns those ahead of her that they are being followed by a loping figure. She describes long arms but very fast movement. The knight confirms that they are being shadowed both by those in front and behind.
The light is beginning to fade as the Knight makes camp for the night. He suggests that Heraclief keep a significant fire and departs after giving the following warning first:
‘The figures that seek us are lycanthropes…werewolves to be more precise. They were cursed with this affliction by the Black Queen and their bite adds to the clan of werewolves here in Lewis and Harris. From this base, the Black Queen can use her lycanthropes in the many theatres of war in which she is engaged. You MUST not risk their bite. I will seek to clear our path by destroying as many as I can whilst they are abroad by the light of the moon. Do not leave Heraclief’s fire.’
Rather disturbed by this news, the group makes camp at speed although wood is not easy to find in the barren, rugged landscape. Instead, Nessa digs at the Machair just beneath the surface of a thin snowy crust, seemingly unperturbed by the cold. This, combined with some thorny scrub gathered by the group gives Heraclief at least some vegetation from which to build his fire.
Having set Blayne on first watch, the group takes shelter rom the snow and wind against the side of the hill just beneath the ridge in a shallow dell. Hungry and tired from the exertions of the day, it is not long before most are asleep. Manzio too, quickly falls into a deep sleep and it is sometime much later in the night that he senses a presence, probing as though trying to make contact with him. His eyes suddenly wide awake, he has the slightly unnerving sense of a voice speaking in his mind. At first, he thinks that the great Dragon has once again contacted him but instead, he senses a female.
‘Meet me in the caves directly east of your position. I am an ally of the White Queen.’
Unsure what to do, particularly in light of the knight’s uncategorical warning, Manzio wakes Heraclief telling him of the bizarre message. Heraclief suggests that he takes his turn from Blayne on watch and that Heraclief make his way to the rendezvous point later in the night.
After a short time, the Vesuvian slips away whilst the others sleep, making his way carefully back along the ridge crouching low and using the moonlight to navigate. Suddenly, he sees the glint of flames against the cliff face further along the trail. Making his way cross country, scrambling and slipping in places he makes his way to a narrow cave entrance, the orange glow of the fire within now quite notable. Sitting within, warming her hands against the glow of the fire is a striking figure with a talon like right hand, which appears to be holding a milky, swirling crystal ball. Her face is painted in a mask of white with blood red streaks running down her cheeks. Her left hand is shaped like a hook blade with a hideous disability. She wears what appears to be the carapace of a bizarre creature, bone infused with stretched flesh beneath. The figure is a gruesome sight and Manzio cannot help but recoil in horror from the apparition. As he hesitates at the door, he hears the rasp of the creature, as she addresses him from within.
‘Well done Vesuvian. I am Nathaira. My queen is very happy with your accomplishments and bids that you continue your excellent work. She is doing all within her power to support your quest for the Spear of Lugh, although the situation has been complicated by agents of the Dark Queen, as I will explain. But first, she bids me give you and your sorcerer companion a gift. Success is rewarded by the Queen.’
Manzio, hesitantly enters into the cave and sits down a respectable distance from Nathaira. She reaches into a bag at her side, the crystal ball still suspended in mid-air. Reaching across she hands Manzio a beautifully crafted ox-bone quaich.
‘The White Queen worries that you are bereft of healing young assassin. This quaich is an ancient item and has served many loyal to our cause. Once you have slain your assailants, take a single drop of blood. Then, in the light of the moon, this will ferment into a blood potion…old magic to sustain you you in your need.’
Nathaila once again reaches into her leather satchel bag. From within, she carefully hands over a beautifully wrought emerald bottle.
‘…and for your sorcerer companion, take this. He will know what to do with this gift,’ she says with a mischievous grin.
‘Listen very carefully and I will explain to you what the White Queen would have you do. First, no other must know. Do not tell the ‘knight’ of our meeting for he will not look kindly upon your allegiance to the White Queen. Secondly, the Spear has been stolen from Adomnán at The Clisham but you must not reveal this secret. It has been stolen and then taken to the island of Iona though we are yet to discover by whom or why, although the Black Queen clearly has a hand in this.
You must still quest to the Clisham and via the crypt of Adomnán, you will find a secret staircase leading to ancient vaults. Within, there is an enchanted mirror, which forms a portal with a matching mirror placed within. The mirror is twinned with one in the Otter’s Cave and will provide you and your companions with a doorway to Iona. The knight will find the trace of those that went before and you will follow but be careful. The Dark Queen is defending her own…she will have sent some of her most powerful servants.’
Manzio, having stored the precious two magical items within the folds of his spare travelling cloak, nods to Nathaila, although the diviner looks to have already lost interest in the conversation and is once again staring ahead towards her crystal ball. The empty bloody eye sockets stare ahead lifelessly. Feeling as though he has been dismissed, Manzio nods in appreciation backing out of the cave.
‘I thank you for your gifts Nathaila. I must now return to my camp before suspicions are raised.’
Manzio carefully makes his way back onto the ridge.
The snow has intensified during his meeting with Nathaila, although there is still just enough moonlight above to light his way. He is about half way back to the camp, when he is distracted by movement above. Crouching low and maintaining his position, he slips the ring of invisibility onto his finger and sprints across the ridge. However, his footprints and more specifically the sound of his boots crunching on the snow give the assassin away and as he glances over his shoulder, he is shocked to see a winged, fanged creature wearing a crucifix of Christ descending down out of the moonlight. The creature seems to blink white and then black as it plummets at great speed. Manzio twists quickly to his left but not quickly enough. A talon rakes across his leather armour but luckily, is only a glancing blow. Reaching inside his cloak and sensing that the creature is still close at hand, he throws a blinding strike of flash powder in the face of his combatant and is satisfied as the creature shrieks in pain, beating its wings and attempting to quickly gain altitude away from him. Not waiting to find out if the creature is likely to strike again, Manzio continues to sprint back to the camp, only slowing when the emerald flames of Heraclief come into view in the distance.