Battles for Control
Arena of Ice and Snow
Belenus is fighting the duel with the physical embodiment of the living obsidian of his new blades. Mirwen, Hugo and the Horenski are in attendance. The stone elemental shifts and moves around the arena, often turning the ground beneath Belenus’ feet against him. Belenus hits the creature several times, but none of them solid enough to win. Instead, he is able to speak directly to the creature when locked in melee. He eventually convinces it that he would be able to bring honor to its existence. The elemental rejoins with the blades, which no longer fight Belenus for control.
After the fight with the elemental, Mirwen comes to tell Bel that Horenski told her that she is trapped in existence under a contract with a demon. She is being forced to corrupt the servants of her god. She had asked Mirwen if Belenus can kill her so that she will be freed from the contract. She did not explain her reasoning to Mirwen, but the elf felt the woman was being truthful.
Hugo takes them back to the city. On the trip, Belenus learns that his patron is named Cadmarel , a ascended krandryians serving under Vayne. He is a stocky man with a well trimmed beard and mustache. Cadmarel explains to Belenus that if he summons him while is inside the city, he would be trapped there the same way as Hugo. He lets Belenus know that Hugo can pass messages if the need is great.
Meanwhile, the fight under the tower rages on. Gia Sojourner attempts to grapple with the demon’s legs, but its sheer size and strength gives her little leverage. The demon simply shrugs her off and pins Xarth to the ground with its rib bone. With one had it lifts Xarth to its mouth and feeds on his connection to the Shadow Realms. After feasting on him it drops Xarth into the ichor covering the floor. Brizanthimus rushes in and manages to deconstruct the demon’s legs through the magic, crippling the demon.
Gia drags Xarth’s unconscious body deeper into the tunnel, away from the attacking demon. The demon detaches his torso from the legs and reorients himself to a four legged creature. Briz runs around the outer rim of the room, trying to get clear of it before it can attack him. The demon quickly catches him and grabs Briz in a pincer, crushing his ribs. The demon in the center commands it to bring Briz to him.
Brizanthimus is brought before the large, fleshy demon. The creature calls him a servant of Cthalock and wants to kill him so that Briz will not be a resource for his foe. Briz argues that he is not a servant, but is seeking to destroy the demon by any means necessary. The flesh demon laughs at him and tells him that Briz will not leave the room alive unless he can free it from the prison. With little choice, Briz starts to study the runes to figure out what the spell is before the demon’s patience runs out.
Several times the demon’s eye and mouth poke out of folds of its flesh. It seems curious and wishes to genuinely speak to Briz. During the negotiations, Briz gets the demon to agree that it will return to the demon plains for 100 years and one day before it will attempt to return to the world of the mortals.
Oswald is confronted by an irate Queen’s guard who has a sword drawn. The hashan simply raises his hands in surrender. He asks to be taken to Lady Hapstang. The guard claps him in irons and takes him to the prison in the guard’s tower. Oswald is locked in a cell and although he tries to free himself several times the locks prove too sophisticated.
While Oswald is chained up, he is visited by the jailer and an officer of the Queen’s guard. He is offered the same sort of protective custody that is being provided to the Lord Marshal. As the city’s Shipwright, his safety is paramount in these troubled times. Oswald tells him that he would feel better about this offer if he could talk to Lady Hapstang first. He is left alone and tries to pick his manacles again.
Nigel closes with the Reaver, a grin of anticipation on his face. The man is wearing the uniform of the city guard, but his skill in a fight is poor. Nigel quickly dispatches him, but is able to learn that the man heard calling specifically to try to kill Nigel. The man admitted to being a follower of Danshi for years, always waiting for his time to come. He tells Nigel that Danshi also dispatched Hunters in case he was not able to win against the young assassin.
Nigel and the Guardian continue to search the area. Eventually they find a shaft going down and blood is running along the ground toward the shaft. Nigel climbs down and feels that the area is unnatural. The blood continues along another runnel going into the darkness. Nigel comes across the captain of the guardians and learns that the things in the Blackyard prison have gotten worse. Whatever is inside of the walls is no longer fully constrained by the ward, its influence has begun to leak out.
Nigel goes to find Dae and speak with her. He feels that his time is running short and there are things needed to be said and done. Dae tells him about the darkness that she struggles against in her own mind. She says that she hears her father talking to her, urging her to take up the mantle of her destiny. Nigel convinces her that the best thing to do would be to disrupt the blood staff. They come up with a plan to draw Gwyndolen to Dae so they can ambush her together. They find a good location in an old warehouse.
In the warehouse, Nigel is trying to draw Gwendolyn to him. There is an interloper who is using blood magic to link his senses to Gwendolyn. The man is putting wards along the walls of the building, effectively sealing it off. Nigel watches him and then kills him when he has done his last ward. He recovers a hollow stiletto that seems to have been made to be used in blood rituals.
With a crash of impending doom, Gwendolyn appears in the building. She has a Reaver as her personal bodyguard. Gwyndolen demands that Dae to surrender and she will kill her quickly.
“You are the one who will die her tonight Gwyndolen. Attack her, Nigel!”
The surprise ambush is ruined brother and sister engage in a fight with Gwyndolen in the dark warehouse. Nigel eventually is able to sever the hand holding the Bloodstaff. The staff vanishes from sight and he kills the distracted woman by cutting out her heart.
In the dark tunnel, Gia hears things moving around. They have a demonic presence to them. Eventually, Xarth wakes up, groggy and battered. He lights a light and they see the giant centipedes all around them. They retreat back toward the room under the tower. They come back to the tunnel and see Briz in the center, studying the dais. They decide that he has switched sides and run around the room, escaping out the other tunnel. Once they are through, the half demon creature blocks it off so that no one else can go through that way.
Once inside the Tower proper, Xarth calls to the steward. The steward appears as an incorporeal figure, his face half burned off. The steward tells Xarth how a mercenary group calling themselves Bloodletters has taken over the tower. They are destroying the library and looting the place for its treasures. While they are talking, Tvarsarish, the demoness of knowledge, from the testing path comes in to speak with them. She dismisses the steward and bargains a deal for a book written about how Charles was brought to the world. It was written by the first Master of the tower Korlin. It is in Old Elvish. This journal includes notes for how Charles was granted limited freedom.
The Beginning of the End
Belenus searches for Dobry in the city. He finds the spirit caller and tells him about Horenski still being alive and trapped in a deal. Dobry tell Bel that if that is the case, the Jundari would have to be told. They are bird people who live in the mountains to the north. Bel convinces him to get him nearer the mountains via the ways that his people can travel.
They go through the ley lines that flow down the Zaber River. Bel sees temptation from the world of the fey along the path, but is steadfast in ignoring them. Dobrey drops him off at the foot of the mountains. Bel climbs up through the cold, twisting his ankle on the way. At the top Bel finds a lean-to with supplies in it. Farther beyond there is a cage made of ice. There are eight or nine jundari trapped inside. While he watches, a demon pulls one of the jundari out and takes it away. The others do not seem to put up any sort of fight.
Bel approaches the cage and tries to talk to them. They tell him that the demon is taking them to Horenski so that she can corrupt them for her contract. He breaks them free of the cage and goes to the altar. He watches Horenski corrupt the captive by merging it with a demon spirit.
The Lady of Blood
Oswald is taken to the throne room. There, Lady Hapstang is sitting at a chair near the throne. She asks him why he needed to speak with her. Oswald tells her about the offer for the fleet from the daughter of Karash. He explains how the daughter was trapped under Lady Hapstang’s residence and draws a picture showing how the room had been set up. Lady Hapstang agrees to bring his offer before the Council of Lords. He tries to maneuver her in the throne room, but notices that everyone was too self-assured to be rattled by his proclamation. Something is happening and he is not sure what it means.
Oswald then leaves to talk to the [[orgs:Lords of Water]]. He tells them where Lady Hapstang is at so they can work on a plan. He arranges a meeting with the leaders of the [[atlas:Temple of Luminous Kaskade]] and the remaining ranking priest of the [[orgs:Temple of Light]]. He tells them of the approaching storm, but the good father only sees a harsh winter in the sky. He tries to convince the leader to the Temple of Light who acknowledges Oswald’s beliefs, but the father rejects his claim. Oswald leads the Temple of Light high priest out into the bay, the two of them walking on the top of the water. While they are out there, Oswald is attacked by an elven assassin. He manages to save the high priest from harm as well.
The priest acknowledges the glory that he has just witnessed – it was no mere mummery or trick of magic. Oswald leaves the man so that he may speak with the [[people:Dawnwatcher]]. He asks that the Stormships stop holding the storm back and let Karash’s will strike the city. If they are prepared they can move the ships quick enough and leave before the storm makes the seas unnavigable.
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