What has come before
Nearly five months have passed since the Esideor were defeated and those who once worked, and still do work, for the Vulfgrau Trading House begin to put the pieces back together.
Amer has been dogged by a simple agreement he made with Charles, which has cost him dearly in the time since. There was no exchange which further irks him. Wishing to deal with this once and for all he invites the demon over to discuss the situation. Points of law, contracts, and the nature of a gentleman’s agreement are verbally sparred over the next hour – but in the end it comes down to thousands of years of negotiating with humans vs a single human lifetime. Charles gets the best of the deal, but what a strange deal – they both agree to simply go their own way and not interfere or help each other until the spring equinox.
Compared to Charles cleaning up the mess around Tminir Tower is more a matter of simply accepting the status quo. He arrives to find that the village of former servants thriving, but two groups of soldiers are also encamped around the lake. With the souls trapped in the lake released the tower is cannot stop to attackers until they reach the tower itself. The first group are flying the banner of the Temple of Light, while the second is unknown to Amer. He gates into the Tower itself to speak with the guardian. Now dressed for war and carrying a iron staff dripping blood he says that the enemy strength is too weak to breach the gates. Amer tells him to speak with him if the situation changes, then he leaves the tower to return to Bornheim.
Xarth remains a hero for many whose lives he saved, but to others he is an uncontrolled force of destruction. He trades in on this reputation to create a Fight Club that he controls. The idea is simple, to gather those who wish to test and improve their martial abilities. The location is a tavern that holds bi-weekly tournaments called The Shining Blade. It even draws a few dwarves. One name Merrik even befriends Xarth over several weeks. The club proves successful for both Xarth and the tavern, even drawing some wealthy patrons.
As the harvest season begins and the peasants work tirelessly in the fields there is a large commotion at the Eastern Gate. Xarth arrives in time to see a strange company over twenty strong enter the city. They are flying the banner of the Guardians of Order, a fighting order dedicated to Vayne the god of battle. That itself is remarkable, but what draws his eye the most of the large shoag carrying a halberd that marches with them. Seeing one of his kin so close remains Xarth of what has been lost in his life. This situation becomes even more pressing when the shoag visits his Fight Club for a challenge. On a packed night the shoag handily beat Merrik, but refuses his winnings – instead donating it to the poor box of the Temple of Light. In the conversation after the fight between Xarth and this shoag, Xarth lets slip his semi-command of the shoag language which draws a rebuke from the winner for corrupting his people.
Amer watched the fight and congratulated Xarth on the fine display and the hard work he has done with these men.
Briz spends much of the summer cursing Tomacarne for disappearing and dropping responsibility on him and idyllic outings with Gloria, Ilse (the Baron’s Daughter), and some dour looking Queen’s Guard. Eventually the Lord Marshall extends of pointed invitation to Briz for dinner. The dinner proves to be a simple affair attended only by Baron Lange, Brizanthimus, and a small collection of the Queen’s Guard. After pleasantries and wine the Lord Marshall asks Briz to serve as his eyes and ears in the city. He needs someone that can speak and listen to the people, someone that is willing to speak the unvarnished truth to him, he warns that the city’s danger is already inside the gates. It may be the wine or his own sense of justice, but Briz agrees to help the Baron.
The conversation quickly changes to Gloria. Baron Lange takes his role as guardian for Gloria, who is his daughter’s handmaiden. Briz swears his intentions are honorable as the Baron steps up some rather uncomfortable questions, causing Briz to become acutely aware of the guards in the room. Things become even more difficult as Ilse has been telling her father stories about little silver men that visit her. Briz swallows a full goblet of wine and plays off the child’s imagination. The Baron seems to accept that lie and calls his daughter into the room, trailed by Gloria. The Baron nd Ilse retire for the evening taking the guards with them – leaving Gloria and Briz alone in the room, clearly with the Baron’s blessing. Briz leaves in the morning a much happier man than when he arrived.
What awaits him is trouble in the borough. Word has begun to spread that several men have been pressed into service by a newly arrived ship captain. Also, since most of the men work as laborers they tell Briz that unseasonably cold weather has devastated the crops and livestock of the surrounding villages. If the weather holds then food shortages will become common. Briz cannot do much about the food, but he agrees to retrieve the men pressed into service.
The Smiling Sword, a hashan trading ship, anchors off the Jugalii town of Borulli, a small hashan trading community north of Bornheim. Oswald is the captain and a member of the inner circle of the Vulfgrau Trading House. He has come to Bornheim to deliver some new recruits as well as work to fragment the city further, maybe even a civil war. The only passenger of note to him was another member of the inner circle that has his own mission and rebuffed even the simplest attempt at small-talk. Anchored off the harbor Oswald turns over the daily maintenance of the to his first mate and goes to the Bornheim docks to meet with Iiro, a ropemaker that serves the Vulfgrau. Oswald sets into motion a semi-friendly plan to take control of the docks. Using a combination of the carrot and stick he wants to organize the dock workers. Iiro will be leading that effort, but keeping Oswald informed of any setbacks.
It seems a simply plan and a few weeks later Oswald is relaxing in a the Bell and Gold Tavern when Briz approaches him. Briz accuses the captain of press-ganging subjects of the crown into service. Oswald has an open conversation with Carter, the ship’s Quartermaster, who does indeed say such a thing might have happened but it saved the ship a bit of money and they will be put to shore before they weigh anchor. Oswald is displeased and insist the men be given their freedom if they wish and paid a full wage for their labor. Briz is pleased with the result, although the money-pinching Quartermaster finds any excuse to clip even the smallest silver. In the end Briz gets to return the men to their homes and Oswald’s reputation as a fair trader spreads a bit further.
Before leaving the center of the Vulfgrau Trading House Nigel meets with his handler within the organization. He gives Nigel the names of five people in Bornheim. Nigel must kill one of those people and cripple the other. He will be sent to Bornheim to work under Amer, the highest ranking member of the inner circle in the city. However, Amer is not to be told about this side mission. This is coming straight from the head of the trading house and Nigel is the only one they trust to carry it out. He is given a scroll that will allow him to communicate with his handler is absolutely necessary.
Nigel arrives in Bornheim along with other people employed by Vulfgrau aboard a hashan ship. Its a new city – a loud city – even with the early snows blanketing it the press of people can be overwhelming. His first step is to meet with Amer, who has a new house. The meeting goes well enough. Nigel explains to him that he has been sent to this city to clean up the current mess, which has a bit of an ominous tone. He specializes in removing obstacles and has been told to put his services to use helping the Vulfgrau achieve their true goals. Amer offers him a room in his house, but Nigel says he prefers not relying on others it can become difficult when they fail him.
He spends the next several weeks doing his best to learn about Hochwürden Edvin, the current highest ranking member of the Temple of Light in Bornheim. He is one of the targets on the list Nigel was given by his handler. He eventually arranges a meeting with Oswald and asks for some help. The plan is to hurt the poorest of the city to overwork Edvin who still continues to execute his duties as Würden in addition to his new role.
After he arrived in the city aboard the Smiling Sword, Belenus quickly found his way into Xarth’s Fight Club. It was at the club that a merchant approached him and asked if he would be willing to undertake a job. He needs someone to protect him and his boy making a delivery to a village east of the city. Bel agrees and within a few hours the three of them are on the road east with two loaded pack mules. The trip out there is uneventful; although Bel sees plenty of signs of frozen crops still in the fields and dead livestock, such things would not happen if his people were in charge.
The smell of death becomes overwhelming to Bel when they near their destination. Nobody is moving about; although the merchant calls loudly for a man named Eric several times. Eventually a man does come out and tells them to hurry inside before it gets dark. Inside the longhouse the remains of humans and livestock are scattered about. As the boy unloads the mules, the merchant pukes up in the corner. Bel finds out that a roving band fell upon this village and killed everyone – Eric did not get here until several days later and has laid many of the bodies to rest. He sent word to a friend in Bornheim for some supplies he needed for the trip ahead – it turns out to be sacks of spices and small iron nails/rods.
That night the raiders return – nearly a dozen strong. Their blood-curdling are nearly inhuman as they rush towards the longhouse. Bel secures the livestock door, while the merchant watches through a window – crossbow at the ready. As the raiders slam themselves into the doors the merchant turns away and gets pierced in the back of the head through the shutters. Bel draws his blades and holds the door into the house against tremendous odds. Many of the raiders are cutting and killing each other in order to get inside the house. The symbol of an cantered triangle painted in blood on their faces. Bel recognizes the symbol of Danshi – bane to everyone.
Eric suddenly stands up in the loft, gives Bel only a short warning, before he throws a satchel into the doorway. The satchel explodes with a bright and warm light – driving the raiders back from the door. Bel uses that opportunity to drive them into the village center. As the wind whips the snow around him lightning crackles in the sky, the earth suddenly rises up and smashes the few surviving raiders.
It the aftermath it is plain to tell that these raiders are not just dedicated, but the most devoted of Danshi’s followers – Reavers. People that have sold their soul and poisoned their body in the name of desecration. Eric asks Bel if he would deliver a message to the Hochwürden about the coming of the Reavers. Bel then heads back to town with the boy on the horses, while Eric goes south with the mules – following the Reaver’s trail.
The Start of our Tale
There have been trouble down at the docks. Oswald has made a point of arranging accidents for those that oppose him and bribing people to join his group. He has neither the gold nor influence enough to gain much ground, but he does get a foothold. After an “accident” aboard an elven ship all remaining elven merchantmen except one leave the harbor. An ominous feeling begins to settle over the docks. This unrest affects the neighborhoods bordering the docks, which eventually reaches Briz. He tries to stop the growth of this new gang by spreading rumors they are members of the spider cult, but it only barely blunts their efforts. He does uncover the rumor that this new group is centrally driven by a foreigner – a non-human.
Just as Oswald tells Iiro that food is the key given the coming winter – strangely enough the Erasmus’ warehouse is burned. His employees managed to get most of the goods out, but not everything. In addition a new faction has splintered at the docks and they are charging double the normal rates. Amer thanks his men for their efforts and says that he will attend to this matter personally.
Nigel is leaving his spot near the cathedral when he notices that he is being followed. His trailers are very good and he is neither able to shake or turn about on them, but at least they are not able to close in on him. He crosses paths with Oswald and working together they discover their followers are the kithkin from the Guardians of Order and a robed figure. Oswald and Nigel go to Iiro’s shop and invite the two of them inside. Khirgha, the kithkin, questions Nigel about any connection to Dellock – a chaos wizard that severely wronged her years ago. Nigel has the same scent about him; although he claims he never heard of the man.
As Khirgha leaves the robed figure stays behind – staring intently at Nigel. Eventually the person unwraps their head-scarf and removes a mask revealing a face and right shoulder heavily scarred and burned.It is Nigel’s sister, now calling herself Dae, whom Nigel thought he tortured and killed years ago. She pleads with her brother to abandon the dark and twisted path of their father or she will do everything she can to destroy him. He cannot say anything except to deny her words when she leaves with Khirgha. Nigel storms out after, not even speaking to Oswald.
The Temple of Light
Xarth goes to the cathedral to speak more with the shoag of the Guardians, who is sunning himself on the church grounds. The conversation starts off pleasant enough, but turns when Xarth discovers they are from the same tribe. When the shoag learns who Xarth really is he grabs him up, but is forced to drop him when Xarth surrounds himself with a nimbus of Ifrit power. The cry of blasphemy raises up for using magic upon holy grounds and the shoag attacks. The Guardian has the upper hand in terms of both strength and reach, but Xarth still manages to land at least a few solid blows.
Bel arrives on a lathered horse as the church guard has surrounded the two combatants. He recognizes Xarth and tries to intervene, but the guard keeps pushing him back. His news is too important and so when he spies Hochwürden Edvin speaking to Commander Alanna of the Guardians he rushes to tell him the news. When he tells the man about Father Eric and the Reavers it is too much for the priest – who collapses. Alanna immediately calls for help and with a shout of “Sergeant Stand Down!” stops the fight between her solider and Xarth.
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