Several days pass while Xarth, Nigel, Amer, and Belenus are kept in their rooms away from the others inside the Cathedral. Several times a day a priest visits bringing food, drink, and companionship. Although he asks each of them to pray with him for guidance and hopefully conversion to The Light each of them politely refuse. Amer constantly tries to convince the priest that he was simply the pawn of a demon, but the man long ago looked into Amer’s heart and found only corruption and a thirst for power.
On the start of the third day the priest informs Belenus that his trial has been prepared. If all goes well he will walk away a free man, if not then he will be hung alongside Amer. Bel is led into a small chamber with a single chair facing three men sitting behind a table. Baron Donat Lange, the Lord Marshal of Bornheim, Hochwürden Edvin of the Temple of Light, and Alanna of the Guardians of Order will judge him. They read off the charges laid against him and read from his previous statements. After Belenus agrees with what was said and adds nothing else, additional witnesses are called.
Mirwen of the Elves enters the room. She offers a cure for Belenus as he is currently under her tutelage in the magic of war. The three judges are dismayed to hear that he has fallen under the sway of the elves and even worse is practicing magic outside the confines of the church. The Hochwürden asks him again to reconsider the cost to his soul if he should continue – to look upon Amer and see what the judgement awaiting him.
She laughs at the feeble men and tells them they have been fighting demons longer than their kind has been scratching in the dirt.Mirwen
Belenus is released into the care of the elves.
Xarth and Briz
When Xarth is escorted to his trial, Briz is asked to be in attendance as well. Briz has recovered somewhat from the sickness affecting the magicians in the city. In attendance is the Lord Marshal, Hochwürden, and a Karashite priest that neither of them know. After a few opening statements the Karashite calls in Father Jana, who traveled to Tminir Tower at the same time as Xarth, Briz, and Amer. He tells them of the death of his mentor, Father Ernst, and swears to the fact that a Holy Sword of Karash was stolen by one of them; although he does not know which one. They were the only people to reach the storage room before him and the relic was already gone.
Xarth tries to move around the truth of what happened, but the three judges are too astute in their observations. Eventually he comes clean that it was Rukul that stole the blade. He does not know where Rukul is at the moment, the Karashite priest accepts this – much to the anger of Father Jana. Father Jana is dismissed and thanked; although he clearly is not happy with the result.
The next to speak is Inquisitor Valten. He appears to have aged nearly a decade and looks quite sickly. He speaks of events in Ulrichstein, but it is his damning testimony that each of them lied upon the gospel that he prepared. Hochwürden Edvin agrees that the papers were drawn up in good order and can speak with absolute authority that nobody corrupted them. Given the Inquisitor’s testimony and written statement of both the lies and double words Xarth fate was sealed. At the last moment the Lord Marshal stepped in and granted Crown Immunity for both Xarth and Briz. Its very unorthodox, but the other judges yield their arguements.
For Nigel’s trial the Lord Marshal, Hochwürden Edvin, and Allana sit in attendance. He says only the briefest answers to questions and it would appear that Nigel will join Amer at the Gallows. Fortunately for his life, but not his sanity, his sister requests to testify. Dae recounts the horrors that Nigel inflicted upon her and the pain she daily suffers from his actions – actions committed of his own free will. Alanna cannot speak from direct experience, but she can speak of the condition in which they found Julie, who is now named Dae.
Nigel is sure that his sister wants him to suffer for all that he did to her, but she forgives him. She invokes the teachings of The Light that all Children of the Darkness can seek the light. She believes that Nigel is not damned by the accursed blood of their father, for that would also deny her redemption and she refuses to see herself so damned. She implored, practically begging, her brother to seek the The Light. Nigel simply cannot speak nor even look at her as she takes off her mask and hood for the others to see how she has suffered.
Nigel is released based upon the impassioned defense by his sister.
Amer tries to beg and wheedle his way out of any punishment, but his list of crimes if too long and far too dark. He tries to convince them to let him hunt demons – anything just spare his life. The judges speak only that he has willingly used the power of darkness against the good men of this city. He willfully poisoned his own companions with the blood and entrails of demons. Hochwürden Edvin declares his soul as black and damned as any he has ever met.
Nobody comes to speak in Amer’s defense, nobody offers words of counsel or comfort. The sentence is death by hanging. Not even the gods will have mercy on his soul.
The trials are over and justice is simply waiting for the ceremony to be in place. It is the afternoon of the Winter Solstice. Normally a joyful and festive time, but so many of the citizens are hungry or starving. Food stocks are nearly gone, with several of them lost because of looting or fires. The city turns in on itself in a desperate attempt and individual survival.
Before Belenus can leave the sanctified ground he must sleep or else the poison will kill him before he can reach the Elven Quarter. He drinks what she gives him and the next few hours pass in a strange haze. He seems himself sleeping on a bed of moss, roots wrapped around him and vines piercing his skin. He feels feverish as the poison eating away at his body is washed out of him. In time he comes fully awake in room, simply adorned, with the only other inhabitant a single elven man meditating.
Seeing his charge the man leaves allowing Mirwen to enter the room. She demands that Belenus draw forth his magic so that she can see if he is truly cleansed. Magic is a reflection of the soul and Bel magic seems to bear no more taint. She offers him the chance to act as a diplomat among the people that live along the docks. The elves are bringing in a large fleet of grain ships, but the dwarves have sown decades of distrust and that will be hard to break.
He agrees, but also offers the suggestion of Lord Brandr. He is a minor noble that Belenus has been in contact with recently. Bel is sure that the lord would be willing to support an effort to help those starving from the lack of food.
Specters in the Night
As Briz and Xarth exit the cathedral, Gloria meets them in the courtyard. Xarth says his farewells to Briz and even in great pain he makes his way quickly north towards Kernwerk. Briz takes Gloria’s arm and says he will escort her back to the castle, but she insists there is something by the north gate that he needs to see. As they make their way along Main Street, stopping at a few of the shops along the way, Nigel catches up with them. Gloria is a bit miffed at the intrusion, but Nigel is in a great deal of pain. He turned down both the offer of assistance from The Light as well as the Guardians of Order. He needs someone to remove the poison from his body.
Briz offers to help him. He grasps Nigel’s hand and opens himself up to the font of magic within him that so interests the spirits. The Mladovians said it was magic untouched by anything that flowed through him without changing him. When Briz opened himself up the Incar moved swiftly to wrap themselves around the grasping hands – hardening into an unbreakable chain. The demonic infection immediately flows out of Nigel and into Briz, but before it can be released three ethereal figures appear. Two of them bear large hooked clubs while the largest is adorned with a crown, blazing blue eyes, and a great sword.
As the creature flows behind Nigel it demands that Brizanthimus leave the Child of Darkness alone and join him upon his throne.Llannoth the Lich King
Gloria is frozen with fear, giving Briz and Nigel no chance to flee. With bravado Briz demands the creature leave, instead it laughs and attacks. Nigel and Briz are hard-pressed by the creatures as their weapons pass right through them with little effect. Eventually Nigel determines that for a brief instant the creatures become solid as they attack. Timing his strikes he drives the two creatures back, but Briz’s arm is crushed when he shields a blow that would have pierced Nigel’s back. Nigel, not willing to be in debt to anyone, moves quickly and efficiently to dispatch the specter.
Nigel drags Briz back to the Cathedral for treatment before he dies of his wounds.
To Remember for All Time
As the last of the sun’s setting rays touch the town a new glow appears on the horizon all around the city. At first the people panic expecting it to be either a demon or Reaver army. Instead nine of the most beautiful people in all of existence steadily walk towards the city. Called the True Elves, First Ones, or sometimes First Elves most will have only heard of them in legends. They are so rare that even the most worldly traveled will have not seen a single one in hundreds of lifetimes. Of the several thousand elves in the valley only a handful of them have even seen their elusive kind. Now there are nine of them coming towards the city.
As they come closer their elven beauty is so breath-taking and many people near them go blind as if staring into the sun. The elves of Bornheim and drop to a knee in silent respect and reflect upon how far they have fallen. Tears fall unbidden and unabashedly from all within the city. Even the city itself is changed by their passage. Stone bends, water flows, and plants spring to life where they walk. The great tree at the heart of the Elven Quarter grows over two feet and blossoms to life and animals that before existed spring from its boughs. Large pods grow and hang from the tree.
As the nature of the world shifts around them, so are they changed by the world. Their beauty begins to take on a cold and sharp-edged demeanor. Their hair is now rimmed with ice and their eyes shift from gold to clear as ice. The only thing unchanged in all of their passage is Clanhold Stonearm. The stout dwarven hold is so grounded by the remaining inhabitants that it simply cannot be changed at a whim; although the outer walls begin to crack when one of the First Elves passes too close.
The nine of them encircle the Cathedral of the Light. The top of the main building opens before them as a flower petal towards the sun.
The city watches as Ameranth Terrante floats in the air above the cathedral and simply ceases to exist, leaving behind only the afterimage of his blackened soul. A dark and bloody chain extending to the north.The Final Day of Hochwürden Edvin
The chain snaps taut and drags Amer to the north – into Tminir Tower. It is the last time anyone will ever see him.
One moment the First Elves are there and then suddenly they are gone. Their absence immediately brings everyone back to awareness. Both as individuals and small groups, people argue about what exactly they saw – the priests of The Light are sure the gods themselves cast their judgement upon the wickedness of Amer. It is in the moment of religious fervor that Nigel slips into the Hochwürden’s personal study and kills him. He is skilled enough that nobody will suspect the old man’s death was not natural.
Hope at Last
Belerus, after his conversation with Mirwen, heads to Lord Brandr’s townhouse in Baymount. Normally he would looked over given his condition in such a wealthy environment, but even the patrols are too dumb-founded by the events to stop anyone. When he arrives he finds a sense of euphoria about the household. Everyone surrounded Ælfric in the foyer as he makes his announcement. What they just witnessed was a sign that their endeavor is blessed by the gods. He will make the formal and public announcement of his birthright. The men around him not only cheer but enthusiastically pledge to support him publicly. The time is at hand for him to take back the throne.
Belerus knows what the elves told him about the nine beings, but he chooses to hold his tongue on the matter. Instead he approaches Lord Brandr with news of the arriving elven grain ships. Lord Brandr thinks highly of the young Krandryian’s plan and supports it when Belerus approaches the soon-to-be-king. Ælfric greets his kinsman warmly and listens as Belerus explains what is happening. The would-be king believes this would be the best time for the public announcement. It is a time for all people to come together and stand against the darkness.
The final decision is to rescue Anna, Ælfric’s mother, who is being held by Lord and Lady Liese. Belerus and Lord Brandr agree to undertake this task. Lady Liese has extended several invitations to Lord Brandr to discuss affairs of the city and this is the perfect opportunity. Belerus will accompany him as a bodyguard and use an opportunity to slip inside and find her. One of the household maids is working for him, so she will be able to help.
While Lord Brandr is in the parlor with Lord and Lady Liese, Belerus manages to slip inside with a wink and nod towards the other guards about a fair maid he met that works for Lady Liese. He finds the maid in question who directs him to Anna’s room with but a single guard outside. Belerus draws his war magic into this legs and charges down the hallway at inhuman speeds, crashing into the guard. The guard is not so easily defeated and the two of them trade blows, but he is still no match for a Son of Krandryia.
Belerus and the maid slip inside her room. After a brief introduction they make a simple knotted fabric and lower Anna to the ground, but it will never hold Belerus. He tells Anna that there is a man waiting over the wall to take her to safety and that he will leave the same way he came. Things do not go as planned for Belerus. He is caught by a guard and when brought before Lady Liese his “uncontrolled rutting” leaves Lord Brandr to “admonish” him and the maid dismissed from her service.
A City ready to burst
The first thing in a long time that Gia remembers is walking along with a great throng of people. She was drawn here by the voices, the spirits calling her ever forward. Nearly fifteen thousand refugees feeling the Reavers of Danshi gathering on the lands east of the city. Saved by the City Guards and Knights and now guarded by the same as they march slowly towards Bornheim. Gia speaks with a few of them as they walk along, stopping only briefly to let others pass them by – knowing that stopping for even the night is deadly.
By the early morning the front of the massive crowd can see the city. The sight of their salvation drives them forward quicker, but once against the walls the waiting begins. The city cannot house nor feed such a massive influx of people, so the gates remain shut allowing only a small, but steady, flow of people into the already stressed city. Gia flows into the city with those refugees allowed inside feeling the discordant flow of the city.
She overhears the woes of the city – too little food, sickness, bitter cold, not enough space for so many, a demon army to the north, the gods called home the Hochwürden, Karash has abandoned the people. So much despair and desperation in the faces around her. She spends time at the east gate calming and speaking to people – her presence turns what might have been a rush for safety into a orderly, if slow, processes.
Inside the city she finds a tribal feeling has overcome the people as neighborhoods bunker in for their own survival. She is able to make very small progress among the shopkeepers of the central market. They are willing to help if she can convince others to as well, but they will not work alone. With that in mind she makes a beeline towards the Old Town. The oldest part of the city it is a warren of buildings built, expanded, and rebuilt over generations. With some help from the city they are willing to take in a sizable number of refugees, but they need help as there are already people starving.
Briz works with the mostly Mladovian magicians that still have the plague. With the ceiling of the Grand Cathedral opened to the sky it is nearly impossible to keep the sick warm, several of them pass away overnight. The spirits of circling Briz and he senses a contentment about them, something drawing them. Given that he believes the plague is actually a spirit she he tries to draw it into him. He is partially successful and while must of the spirit flees to the southeast the man is cured. News of this miracle spreads rapidly and those nearby crowd around him seeking his help. To help overcome the sheer numbers he trains some of the Mladovian spirit talkers to assist him.
Nigel makes his way into The Wash to uncover information about a Blood Priest. He definitely draws attention as a reaver attacks him. The battle in the narrow street and alley is brief and very deadly, but more than that it is illuminating. Something about the blood of the reaver on his skin gives him a sense, a pulling or calling to the south-southwest. His eyes cast over the wharf, grocers, craft halls, merchants, nobles, and castle. There are over ten thousand people, but information is always useful. As he takes a moment to write down his information to the Vulfgrau Trading House he notices that they have already sent him a missive. There will be a gathering tomorrow night – take all precautions for concealing your identity.
Xarth, now cured of the poisoning, sits and speaks with Yswa for several hours over breakfast. He offers several suggestions, but not of the answers Xarth seeks would be found if he chooses wrongly. There is still so much to do and he needs help now. He shows Yswa the power of the Ifrit, which although it does not impress him, he does point him to the donjon. It is the central authority of the town and where Mistress Eva held sway. It has been a dark place ever since they built it and she quickly fell under its sway. Xarth may find his answers inside.
Belenus finds himself at the docks among a crowd a people. The elves have constructed a platform and Euriel stands atop it. She tells the crowd that her people have heard the suffering of their friends and neighbors and have arrived to help them. They have brought twelve ships full of food and supplies. In addition the elves have always fought against the darkness and so they have come to Bornheim to fight to protect the people of this city.
Ælfric then steps up to the platform. He warmly thanks the elves for their help during this dark time. He then announces to the crowd the truth of his birthright. Euriel says that her people have verified his claim to be of the bloodline. Ælfric promises to retake the throne that should have been his and revenge against his sister that murdered his father Crown Prince Corwyn. The people of Bornheim cheer and swear their allegiance to Ælfric and his elven allies as elven soldiers spread out and take control of the docks to ensure that not just the wealthy and powerful of the city get fed.
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