Children of Netherhearth
The harvest festival
On your return to Netherhearth you made your way to the viceroy where you confessed that you had explored the temple, thereby defying his direct orders. His predictable anger was somewhat muted – he didn’t seem particularly surprised. After rebuking the three of you, he pointedly asked Grindle what conclusions she had come to regarding the temple and the subterranean cavern. After giving her conjecture, Grindle thought she sensed a hint of relief from the viceroy, though she couldn’t be sure.
In any case, Viceroy Quill concluded the meeting by informing you that in lieu of exiling you for disobeying his orders, you were instead now tasked with finding a way to fix the Skystone. His final words to you were clear: “Travel to the surface world and find a way to repair the Skystone. Succeed in this or don’t return at all.”
A few days later Netherhearth’s annual harvest festival took place. Although a comparatively muted affair since so much had been lost in the ratkin siege, people still made an effort to get into the festive spirit.
Initially Grindle avoided the festivities, remaining in her sombre temple. However, she received a curious visitor: Ella of the Knitting Circle. More than a little drunk, she talked to Grindle about Grizelda and the lot of the priestesses of Malafice, before encouraging Grindle to attend the festival – after giving it some thought, she did, spending most of the rest of the evening talking with Stanley (practically her only intellectual equal in all of Netherhearth).
Varian, understanding that he wouldn’t be welcome at the party, remained in his cave by Netherhearth’s entrance. He was visited by Father Winston, who asked Varian to tell him of his experiences with the xilix matriarch. After hearing his story, he asked whether Varian would consider rejoining the Order of Valleron and try to win back the trust of the people of Netherhearth. Varian indicated that he would, which clearly made Father Winston very happy.
Meanwhile, at the festival, the Contest – a series of one-on-one unarmed brawls – was about to take place. The boy’s event was first, and the result was unexpected. The favourite to win was Stren, a burly oaf of a lad, but in the end he was beaten when a frail boy called Endry – encouraged by Leo following a conversation with his mother, Maeve – revealed himself as a sorcerer, and used his earth powers to incapacitate the much larger boy. In the ensuing commotion, his sister, Jeela, also revealed that she had a gift: limited control over gravity.
The long-to-be-remembered boy’s Contest was followed by the men’s Contest, which Leo had entered. He fought a series of three bouts culminating in a final fight with Karnak. Battered, bleeding and barely conscious, his powers enabled him to emerge victorious against much better pugilists. He was given the amethyst medallion received by the victor each year, and encouraged by Thom to sell it at the surface rather than leave it behind when he left Netherhearth.
As the festival drew to a close, Leo saw Stanley gesturing for him to follow him into a storage hut … though it wasn’t really Stanley at all. Inside the viceroy awaited. Hoping to exploit Leo’s drunkenness, the viceroy interrogated Leo about the journey to recover the Dreamwort prior to the ratkin siege. Unfortunately, in his inebriated state Leo was unable to keep the story consistent, and so the story told to the council by the group was revealed to be a lie.
The viceroy pressed Leo for the truth, first by insisting that he was acting for the best of Netherhearth, then by claiming he knew important things that Leo didn’t, and finally with a thinly veiled threat directed at Leo’s kindly Aunt Jibella. Drunk, confused, afraid and angry, Leo stubbornly refused to betray Grizelda’s confidence or reveal her part in the story. The viceroy coldly warned him that there would be consequences, and left.