Xarth explores around the abandoned donjon. It is a simple four story stone keep with a taller first floor and the third and fourth floors pinched in giving battlements and a walkway at its mid-point. It gives off a sense of both age and strength, something about it also unsettling. Inside the darkness seems to swallow up the torchlight. Voices of conversations long past echo through the rooms as Xarth makes his way to the second floor.
There are dozens of bodies on the second floor. Most appear to be servants, but several were clearly soldiers. They look to have killed each other in a frenzy with most bodies having dozens of wounds. The battle must have been fresh as the bodies show no signs of decay or rot. Even flies are not buzzing around the corpses lending the entire scene an unnatural aura. Each of the bodies he examines has a tattoo of a dark tower on the inside of their left arm. It appears a dark copy of the servitors of Tminir Tower.
A priest in a tattered robe and wielding a glowing scepter shambles out of the room shouting “Kill the Defiler” over and over again. The formally dead rise and attack Xarth, pressing around him and cutting off his escape to the first floor. Escape was never his plan, instead he charges the priest. After several quick exchanges the priest manages to strike Xarth with the scepter and bond him to the tower. Xarth can feel his resolve melting away as the demonic influence running wild invades his thoughts. He throws off the invasive thoughts and strikes down both the priest and those undead near him. With the priest destroyed and the scepter broken the remaining undead fall in silence.
Belenus visits the elf above the chandler’s shop. The elf is thankful that Belenus is still alive after what happened and agrees to help him, even at great cost to himself. He tells Belenus of a gathering of several women at Lady Hapsteng’s house. Lady Liese, Linda the wife of Grandmaster Harold Gertner, and Gloria handmaiden of the Lord Marshal’s daughter. Grandmaster Gertner is the Guildmaster of the Noble Smiths – both a wealthy and influential position. His wife Linda is several decades his younger. He also tells Bel of Gloria’s relationship with Briz.
Bel tries to convince the elf that Mirwen is rather outspoken about his magical talents while he would prefer to keep such things secret. The elf laughs and says that is simply her way – she is devoid of deep understanding about secrets and their need to be kept. He does agree to listen for any information regarding Ælfric. Euriel and a few prominent elves are to meet with the Lord Marshal tonight to finalize plans for the fair distribution of the food.
Belenus goes to Grandmaster Gertner’s shop to inquire about silver etching on his swords. The elderly master laughs at the very thought of putting his talents to waste for some common blade. Even if Belenus could pay he would not demean himself by such common work. He does agree to give Bel the names of two members of his guild that would undertake the job.
Just before he leaves, Linda and a well-dressed bodyguard enter the store. Bel sizes the two of them up. Linda seems like girl simply in it for the money, but her bodyguard is not simply a well-looking toy, but in fact has the look of someone quite deadly. He drops the name of the clan and only Linda showed any sort of reaction.
Briz leaves the temple and goes to where the old woman lives, passing the remains of Amer’s house along the way. Nearby houses are marked with wards and totems against evil spirits and magic. The old woman’s house looks the same as when he left. Once inside the door shuts behind him and the spirit charges – or at least would if he was not bound by a circle. Briz taunts the creature as it rages against the edge of the circle. The creature suddenly goes very quiet as the floor begins to cover with ice.
The same large creature with glowing eyes and a crown flows up from under the floorboards. He tell Briz that he is only here for him, he only wants for Briz to assume his birthright. The blood of Corvin royalty flows through his blood and he is the closest of the lineage still alive. Briz declines his offer and decides to fight the spirit instead. He needs Briz to control the magic of the city and nothing will get in his way.
During the battle the magic circle surrounding the creature unravels and the beast is free. The creature spends nearly as much time attacking the specter as it does attacking Briz. As if the battle could not get more chaotic, the front door falls over as a Templar and priest rush into the room. They defend Briz from the two inhuman monsters, but the damage is too much for the small house. The entire building collapses an the last thing he sees is darkness.
Some time later Briz wakes in a comfortable bed. Charles in sitting in a nearby chair reading a small book. He wants an agreement from Briz – in exchange for protecting him from Llannoth the Lich King Briz will not interfere with the problems of the city until after the passing of the equinox. After Briz rejects that offer Charles turns it into protection for Gloria – Llannoth would do horrible things to her if he knew that Briz cared for her. Briz has until sundown to decide.
Nigel checks in on several of Xarth’s usual hangouts looking for him. Eventually he comes across Jalo who has some information he needs to get to Xarth. He takes Nigel to a strange body that was found by the watch. It appears to have died in the middle of transforming itself into something else. When Nigel comes near the body suddenly awakens and lunges for him. A multitude of voices hammer into Nigel’s head demanding blood – the blood of the creator. Jalo runs to the watch to get help, while Nigel battles the misshapen monster.
When the watch arrives with spears, the monster has fully transformed into a large gila monster. With their help Nigel manages to get on top of it and kill the thing. He tells the watch its best to burn the body, which they find a very good idea. Jalo tells them they found the body behind the Liese manor. They believe the man did odd jobs for the Lady Liese, but none of her staff had seen him in several months.
Nigel passes by both Amer’s house, where priests are still trying to praying to rid the ground of evil and the newly collapsed house where Briz fought. Nobody knows any names, but he does hear that a noble drug a single body out of the building and personally carried it to the temple.
Gia is at the gates watching the flow of refugees and sees that although a night has passed there are still so many outside the gates. She hears the spirits warning on an impending doom at the rising of the next sun. Determined to see as many inside as possible she organizes the refugees to resist any attempt to close the gate or slow the steady progress. The gate captain notices the disturbance and comes to investigate. Its an nearly comical difference as Gia refuses to back down in the face of a burly guard who is clearly still injured from the battles with the Reavers to the east. In the end it is he that bends, agreeing to move as many people through the gate as possible.
Again the spirits push her feet onward. The city is in pain and its people fearful, long sleeping evils are once again preying on that fear. Outside of Old Town she finds a mob of men chasing out some refugees from their neighborhood. She tries to intercede only to be stuck by the man leading the mob. When her silent condemnation begins to halt the mob’s anger, the man tears off his flesh mask to reveal a centaur-like demon. Its aura of fear terrifies the refugees and binds the mob’s anger to him.
Gia draws her strength from the refugees and stands fast against the fear – not with physical violence but strength through a simple connection between all people to reject the darkness. They refuse to bow to its fear nor attack their fellow man when commanded. Together they manage to drive the demon off, but the fact that such beings can live among them undetected leaves many of those in Old Town fearful of their neighbors.
Heart and the Flesh
Belenus, Briz, and Nigel finally find each other after their ordeals. Bel tells them both about Gloria meeting with a circle of women at Lady Hapsteng’s house. Briz tells them about Charles threat about Llannoth and Gloria. Gloria seems to be involved in many of the things happening in the city so Briz wants to speak with her directly. When they reach the palace gates they find it guarded by a Templar instead of the Queen’s Guard. The templar tells them that someone in the Lord Marshal’s household is under suspicion of dealing with demons after one of them attacked the keep. The templars slew the demon, but several of the staff seemed to act under its control.
The three of them sneak towards the section of the wall that Nigel scaled when he spoke with Gwyndolen. Briz tells the incar to search the castle for Gloria – he wants to speak with her. It is over an hour before they return – both Gloria and Ilsa are not on the palace grounds. The path that Nigel used to get inside is also blocked as the templars seem more watchful than the Queen’s Guard. Bel suggests that they speak with his contact he has among the elves.
When they reach the shop, the chandler tells Belenus that the elf is not here, but that he left a note for him. Both of them go to the back room while Nigel and Briz wait in the shop. Once in the back, the chandler’s form changes and his body dissolves into a mass of flesh – too many parts to come from a single person or creature. Bel is hard-pressed by the creature as he uses the tables and cookware to keep the demon at bay – his swords seem to pierce the mound of flesh with little effect.
Eventually Briz and Nigel hear the commotion and although the creature sealed the door with its own flesh they manage to break inside Their combined effort finally brings the creature down. Several of the remaining body parts resemble the elf that was Bel’s contact as well as the chandler.
Sin of Stone
Xarth, injured but refusing to back down without answers, continues up the stairs to the third floor. What was once two floors and multiple rooms has now been devastated and made into a single room. Something ancient and powerful is inside this area. Xarth’s torch is all but reduced to the light of a candle by its presence.
Xarth carefully makes his way along the surviving floor when several stone columns above him suddenly collapse and fall down. Before he can duck for cover the columns slam into each other, grinding and crumbling into a strange almost ungainly shape. The “thing” stops just above his head, “legs” pressed against the four sides of the tower. Its voice rattles his teeth as much as the floor itself, vibrations threatening to bring the keep down.
“Child of the Children that wrought, why have you come.”
Xarth does his best to communicate with him; although he seems to posses intelligence its answers do not seem to follow his questions, but instead are just statements – possibly truths. He does come to realize that Yswa knew about this creature and was somehow involved with it. Was this the answers that he told Xarth he would find, maybe it was the questions that he should have asked about. When the creature seems angered Xarth decides to risk a confrontation that will mean his death.
Tiny URL for this post: