The Dusk before the Dawn

When Gerhard returns to the store everyone is waiting for him. There is a very difficult struggle as Gerhard is a powerful wizard. The inside of the store is mostly trashed in the process. They manage to tie him up so that they can question him. He tells them it is pointless because this is not his real body. He suspected them ambushing him so he fashioned a body from meat and blood. Still, with some persuasion from Amer they manage to come to a deal. He explains to them the staff is called the Staff of Innocents and is very well known among his peers. He wants the staff to help augment his own control over blood magic. He came to Ulrichstein because it has appeared here more than any other place.

More revealing is that he claims to be working with Isha. Isha wants to take the staff away from the current wielder because he has misused its power. As long as Gerhard takes the staff from this place he is content. Isha was the one that told him to talk to three people. The first was a distraught Priest of Taur in the woods to the north. The second was a Diablist; although he was killed when Briz destroyed his circle that contained a demon during the Battle of the East Gate. Finally, Isha gave him an axe that allowed him to talk to a powerful spirit in the woods to the west.

When Briz told Gerhard what they knew he either suspect that he was the Fool in Isha’s tale or that everything was false in an effort to draw the staff here. It is now known that Isha is playing every side of this conflict for his own hidden purposes. Where Isha and his people have gone is unknown, but they definitely directly the danger that is crashing upon this town. His eyes opened to the manipulation they untie Gerhard who says that he will help them if they need him.

The Stained Tunnel

With a solid direction Esandeor, Sofiya, and Xarth go the the elves house and search it again. This time they have a better idea of what they are looking for and manage to find a hidden set of stairs beneath the rugs in the main room. The stairs descend very deeply requiring them to climb most of the way down a tangle of roots and vines. The only light comes from bioluminescence moss that reacts as they touch it and a pulsating light from down below. When they reach the bottom they find themselves in a shrine room with a single large alter, clothing, and a pewter cups.

A small fabric curtain covered with stictched elven runes divides the room from what is beyond. Cautiously they move forward into the hallway beyond. The hallway is long, extended far beyond their vision. The walls are rough-hewn, but ribs of carved wood are spaced evenly to provide support against caving in. They can see a light farther down the tunnel and move towards it; however, it appears that the light is moving far quicker towards them. As it gets close they can see that the wooden ribs are glowing and thus causing the light. As the ribs around them light up they feel a strong and angry presence pass over them, then it is dark once more.

As they move more slowly forward again and again the ribs around them light up as the presence moves up and down the hallway. Each time the chill down their back gets stronger and stronger. Finally, their nerves already on edge, they go from just snapping at each other verbally to actually fighting among themselves. Things become difficult as the fight among themselves begins to take its toll and blood is drawn. The spirits begin to slow down and hover over over Sofiya as she sinks deeper into the rage. Xarth and then Esandeor break free of the spirits control and race towards the exit with a murderous Sofiya chasing them. They correctly surmise that once Sofiya gets past the alter room the ability of the spirits to influence her will lessen. Bruised, battered, and exhausted they finally climb back to the elves’ house.

The Champion of Light

The next morning as Xarth is seeing to his morning ritual and Esandeor is tending to his injuries; Amer, Sofiya, and Briz watch the return of Sir Sattler. He returns from the east having raised a company of mercenaries in defense of the town. Briz realizes that many of the hardened men are in fact that bandits that they avoided on the road towards Ulrichstein. Sir Sattler stops by and speaks to Sofiya but the conversation is stilted and difficult. What she has learned about this future saddens her and she cannot just push it aside. She wants to tell him his future, but she hopes that as long as he does not know it things can be changed.

In the books they took from the elves’ house they find out more about the staff. The current wielder is the same elf that fashioned it. The author of the book clearly knew the elf that fashioned the staff personally, but who authored the book is unknown. A few scattered notes show Isha’s plan. He took the axe and put it in the smithy that sits on the Baron’s courtyard. It was he who ensured that Carina would get the map and in fact found her after she fled and told her where to go so that she would meet Aiwyn, the Priest of Taur. The priest was his greatest triumph as he played upon his loss to move him to action. All of this is designed to destroy the town so that blood may flow freely. This will draw the wielder of the staff to this location where Isha and his followers can finally deal with him.

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