Xarth led the way north followed by a very silent Ian. Briz and Sofiya trailed behind at a distance that spoke volumes about their feelings of betrayal. While Briz had been told that Xarth was a Shoag, his announcement to Sir Kaufmann was the first Sofiya knew about it. Both of them agreed it would be a long time until they could trust him again.
They were only a few hours out of Luckau when they were stopped by an elf with his hands raised in peace. He gives his name as Callan and tells them that they must turn back as their is danger on the path ahead. He was sent by Arnesta, the elder elf in charge of the enclave in Ulrichstein, to warn them of the danger ahead. When they questioned Callan to be more specific he explains that elven zealots were the once killing the people of this land and Arnesta was dealing with them.
Callan explained that, like humans, elven society also had zealots among them. The elves are called the “Red Blades” or “Poisoned Root” by those that know them. Since he rarely gets to meet with humans, Callan asks to trade with them. After some haggling Callan agrees to trade information about the “Soul Metal” for a story told by Briz.
During Briz’s story everyone is startled to discover two more elves concealed in the trees inch forward. When the story ends Callan tells them what he knows about Dwarven Soul Metal.
It was a time long before the first seeds of life sprung up on this world, when the world was inhabited by those the gods created during their war with the devils. The dwarves, blessed above all others with the spark of creation. With this power they were able to create things that the world will never see again. The pinnacle of their creation, and what led to their downfall, was the creation of Soul Metal.
Soul Metal is living silver. It is not a spirit bound within silver, but the metal itself is alive. It can think, reason, act, and with pure enough silver even reproduce. All of the Soul Metal was thought to be lost or sleeping since its creation directly led to the Brothers’ War when dwarf killed dwarf.
Xarth offers to trade his Djinn Bracelet to Callan, but the elves do not have anything he judges to be of sufficient worth. Sofiya tells them to come to her store in Ulrichstein if they find something of sufficient worth.
On the way back to Ulrichstein Briz is getting physically weaker. It could be a fever, but each day Briz gets stronger as the day goes on – only to weaken again over night. Briz agrees to see a healer when they reach town.
Back in Ulrichstein they stand before Baron Ulrichstein. Sofiya explains what they have found – except for the Necropolis. Baron Ulrichstein agrees to grant Sofiya her charter again. He also sentences Ian to 40 last, Ian demands more, so the king raises it to 60.
Father Dominic offers to help Ian, but both Ian and Baron Ulrichstein stop the good father. He does get at least one taker when Briz agrees to be treated. The good father prays over and blesses Briz calling upon the healing hand of Mara to soothe his soul. After several minutes he suggests they visit a menagerie that has set up on the east commons.
Sofiya and Ian return to the store and find an elf waiting for them. Initially worried they are assured that the stranger has been sent by Vulfgrau to check on their progress. After ensuring that they could not be overheard, the real reasons can be discussed. He has come here to uncover why Sofiya has not yet gained any information on Sir Sattler, but instead nearly lost her charter for the store. He is not impressed by her explanation, but does accept that things can finally move forward.
Xarth runs into Squire Eckard, who tells him about the menagerie as well as information that Baron Ulrichstein will be tapping a cask from his own cellar for this occasion. In addition, the master of the menagerie claims to have a dragonman among his exotic animals. Xarth is taken aback, but manages to hide his reaction long enough to accept Squire Eckard’s invitation to meet there and wave his a farewell.
Briz and Father Dominic meet Xarth at the menagerie. After a few moments of chatting they find themselves in front of the “dragonman” cage. Briz and Xarth immediately recognize the creature as a Shoag. Xarth tries to talk to it, but it only curses the weak humie. Eventually the Shoag flies into a rage and begins to rock the cage as he shouts curses at Xarth. Master Baldewin, owner of the menagerie, arrives and whips the Shoag into silence.
The night of the menagerie begins with a a great deal of work for the manor kitchen staff. Baron Ulrichstein has opened up his larder and nearly the entire town is now wandering along the east commons. Sofiya has put on her best dress and fixed herself up so that she can get close to Sir Sattler, while Briz, Xarth, and Ian find themselves gravitating towards the ale tent. In the background the elf watches Sofiya to see how she handles herself.
As the feast and games wind down Master Baldewin brings his troupe out of their tents. Several strange animals, acrobats, strongmen, and fire-eaters parade around entertaining the people and collecting coins in gratitude. It is clear from the show that Master Baldewin knows his craft as there is a mix of entertainment and danger to keep everyone waiting for more.
Sofiya makes her way towards the Baron’s pavilion. When she gets close she feigns being bumped and falls heavily to the ground – clutching her leg. Sir Sattler, who happens to be nearby, witnessed everything and helps her up. He offers her the chair by his own in the Baron’s pavilion. She spends the rest of the time making small talk and entertaining Sir Sattler.
Sod the Quest
Four strong men carry large urns unto the commons each followed by a beautiful young woman in a dragon mask with fake wings. As everyone looks on each of the nearby torches are extinguished and the dragon-women “breath” fire into the pots setting them align. As the colored fire brightens everyone can see the “dragonman” in the center of the pots. He has chains to his wrists and ankles, which are held by strong men who have strong polearms stuck in the ground near them.
Master Baldewin’s voice rises over the crowd thrilling them with tales of this creature’s homeland and how difficult he was to capture and subdue. The creature roars while it pulls at the chains. Just as Master Baldewin is reaching the peak of his speech their is a crack of thunder, all of the fires dim, and a cold wind whips around the commons. Everyone can see that the four handlers are on the ground and the creature is now free.
Briz attempts to bring up a large light spell and finds that his magic is being drained from his body. When he shuts off the flow of magic all of the metal on his clothes falls to the ground. Once there it begins to pool together and being flowing away. Briz, recognizing it as Soul Metal tries to scoop it up and talk to it at the same time.
Above the commons appear four spiritual shoag heads. Their words ring loudly over the entire area; although only Xarth and the shoag understand them – everyone else panics. The Baron’s guards, caught off-guard, are quickly overwhelmed as everyone begins fleeing towards the town. The Baron quickly orders his knights to force an orderly exodus into the city and main the walls with every able-bodied man.
While Ian walks around in the center of the fleeing crowds, Xarth runs towards the shoag. He takes each of the spears and pins the chains to the ground. Sir Sattler safely escorts Sofiya to the wall, where he tells her that he will call on her tomorrow- he then gets a solider to escort her home. The Soul Metal finally slips away from Briz just as Ian comes over to him and helps him get into the town.
With the walls fully manned the soldiers can see the spiritual “dragonmen” disappear from the sky and the fires on the commons once again flare to life. The Baron only allow his huntsmen unto the commons, who ensure that nobody was left behind and that the “dragonman” has been secured.
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