Again a small number of Reavers form ranks and attack the east wall. As on schedule the large multi-limbed demon comes out of the forest and whips a larger force of small demons to attack the north wall. When a number of Reavers split to attack the weakened River Gate the wealthy of Glory Ridge come to its aid. After hours the attack is turned away, but the loses are more severe. What is worse is that during the fight some of the Karashites looted the manor house of Lord and Lady Liese.
Oswald, who has spent the last several days at the bottom of a cask, rouses himself. It seemed like such an easy task, but in reality finding Countess Beatrice Hapsteng has proven difficult. Her manor is nothing more than a smoking hole and wherever she is nobody is talking about it.
Belenus comes out of the donjon, new blades in his hands. He speaks with Yswa about what happened inside. The man is grateful, but senses that his time on this world is dwindling – the sin must be paid in blood. He tells him to seek out the decedents of Horenski The Winter Witch. Her people live in the mountains to the north. The Daughters of Ice and Wind may be gone, but some might still follow the old ways.
Yswa’s people had been enslaved by the Ruenlak People for many generations. In desperation they took the living stones of the mountain and brought then to the Zaber River. Yswa sought to force the elemental of the mountain to free them from captivity. Of course he would do this by holding the elemental captive; no evil deed bears good fruit. Horenski, the greatest among them, bound the elemental so that it may never again touch the stone. She claimed the entire mountain for herself.
Belenus is concerned the village will be in danger when the elemental leaves. Yswa assures him that they will leave if by some miracle that should come to pass. If Belenus wants to free the ancient thing then he should seek out Dobry as the Mladovians know much about the spirit paths in this valley.
Oswald goes to request and audience with the Lord Marshall. He works to speak alone as one of the Queen’s Guard is always with him. There have already been several attempts on his life. He manages to convince the guard to at least wait outside the room. Once alone he tells the Baron what the Daughter of Karash told him the Baron cautions him to never speak of this. Most of the nobles and knights in these halls and along the ridge owe their loyalty to her.
Oswald explains that with this fleet the people of this city can escape. She has promised to raise a fleet the likes of which the world has never seen. The Baron agrees not to speak of this conversion, but he cannot overtly help him. Lady Hapsteng has far too many allies, even inside his own staff. He can provide Oswald with a dozen guard uniforms so that his people can inquire discretely.
A few short hours later Oswald meets with the representatives of the Lords of Water to discuss plans for finding Lady Hapsteng. Ingram and Karol, a helper for Gerro both agree. They will go to Irlo the ropemaker and get the uniforms. In exchange Oswald agrees to let them pick what ships they want of this fleet.
Demon Route 1
Brizanthimus, livid with anger with the demons that took his love, drops down from the wall when the large demon retreats. He is not so foolish as to draw its attention, but he is determined to bring the battle to it. Xarth and Gia Sojourner, watching Briz decided to follow him so that nothing foolish happens. Before leaving Gia tells Captain Jalo about the Reaver encampments along the southern ridge. Recognizing the danger he rushes to tell his commander.
The three of them travel north of the Doursse River, entering the forest. The demon has left a easy enough path to follow; although it gets smaller as it gets deeper into the woods. Although the path wanders it continues mostly north towards Tminir Tower. The sense of wrongness and hungry in the woods is palatable. Both Xarth and Gia notice it more than Briz, who is focused on his goal. Unfortunately neither Briz or Xarth notice when Gia wanders off the path after she falls behind.
Gia is drawn to a sense of emptiness. The flow of the spirits is wrong in this valley, but there is no presence in these woods. She comes to a small pool of water surrounded by young green shoots. Even the nearby trees are leaning in towards the pool and appear healthy on the side facing it. Gia gets on her knees and tests the water. It is thick with a gritty feeling and the mineral smell of a deep underwater spring. Surprising it is hot to the touch.
Gia strips down and lowers herself in the pool. She can sense a spiritual presence and tries to draw it towards her serenity. A large fish rises just out of the water, its eyes glistening. It talks of the people who uses to live here and how they spoke often. They would call to it and drink of its water – they would be happy. That was long ago. Gia offers to let the spirit drink of her essence. It comes to her and pulls her into the water.
She feels herself sliding and drawn through pores in rocks no bigger than her finger. The sensation is calming yet anticipatory. Suddenly the cools and becomes foul. The spirit slows down, become hesitant. In time everything seems to stop. She swims to the surface and finds herself in a befouled pool with a stone dais in the center. Atop the dais is a large demon strapped down by iron hooks thrust into its body. The demon’s ichor drips into the pool.
The sensation of something large and foreboding startles the fish-spirit and it flees, dragging Gia behind it. Gia knows they are being chased, but she can do little about it as the fish-spirit changes direction seemingly at random. She knows they are not heading back to the pool, but she does not know where they are going. Finally she is squeezed out of small crack and barely catches herself on a ledge before falling into a pit. The fish spirit hits the ledge and drops into the pit.
Priest of Karash
Briz and Xarth come to a small clearing around a shallow pool of water. A man in rags is drinking from the pool, a dead squirrel clutched in its hands. The man rounds on them then flees into the woods, Briz and Xarth give chase. Eventually the corner him against a tree. It turns out to be Father Jana. He has been trying to get into Tminir Tower in order to recover the sword. He has found a large cavern, but dark things come in and out of it.
He came here because he was visited by the spirit of Father Ernst. The good father’s spirit told him to come here and bear witness and all shall be revealed. All that was lost shall be found again and the bounty of the deep will rise to save the chosen people. Should Father Jana bear witness then Father Ernst’s spirit can pass on from this world.
Father Jana to take them to the cavern. A short time later they are climbing a tree into a primitive blind where they can see a large open pit in the earth. Sulfurous steam rises from the pit which stings their eyes and nose. Through the haze they see Gia hanging on to the ledge attempting to climb up, or sacrificing herself as Father Jana believes. He tells them that many people come here during the day and throw themselves into the pit.
Briz and Xarth run over and help the old woman up. As she still only has her small clothes Briz gives her his winter cloak. After brief explanitions they slowly climb into the bottom of the pit. Magic is twisted at the bottom of the pit, as if being sucked into a bottomless void – so they light torches and spread out. The pit is huge and filled with things. Large centipedes the size of a cow scuttle along always turning away from the light.
Gia comes across a clutch of eggs – eggs the size a horse. They are warm to the touch and a light inside follows her hand around its surface. Briz opens himself to the magic of his bloodline and sees vast demonic energy. The egg begins to shake and crack as it feels like a tornado touches down inside the pit. All of them scramble to a hole in near the middle of the room as a squawking and cracking comes from the eggs.
The sun is blocked out completely as a large bird lands to the sound of thunder and the crackling of lightning. As the edge of their light they can see a newly hatched “chick” stumbling towards them. Rather than risk detection they retreat farther back into the cave. They are attacked in the small tunnel by a demon that tries to leech off Xarth’s magic. Once slain its body putrefies, sending waves of nausea through each of them.
Nigel begins his search for Father Derrick. Many hours later, and numerous dead ends, he finds him in a shared room above a burned out tavern. Nigel is surrounded by several men when he tries to ask questions, giving Father Derrick time to flee
The father has stacks of paper and books scattered on his bed, rummaging through them. Nigel tries to speak with him, but the Father is clearly agitated. When he presses the issue the Father grabs a satchel and runs out a back door. Nigel shoves away the men that surrounded him and takes off in pursuit. Nigel nearly loses him, but Father Derrick slips on some ice and Nigel knocks him unconscious. He drags the Father to an abandoned building to question him.
Before the Father wakes up he goes through the satchel. A book and several rolls of paper, but he cannot make anything of it. It definitely looks like magic, but it is all gibberish to him. He slaps Father Derrick awake and tries to question him. The Father begins to babble about houses, people, forged documents, things that cannot be seen but must be understood. His words just come pouring out of him, but its nonsensicial – but he insists that things have changed. No matter what Nigel does he cannot get the priest to focus on anything. The priest believes that he has damned his soul and there is no salvation for him.
What Nigel does understand is that Father Derrick lost Rachael, someone he loved dearly. A man approached him and said that he could bring his beloved Rachael back. The man was a intermediary for a powerful spirit who approached him and said the scales needed to be balanced. A demon of the earth had taken Rachael and the spirit would not abide to loss of a life to the darkness. To accomplish this Father Derrick bought land in the city for the church. He also used the temple’s funds to get the things the man needed to aid this spirit.
Father Derrick breaks down sobbing. The man was a mladovian and before he died, he saw the man slip into the cell used to hold Amer Terrante. He could not overhear the conversion, but Amer’s soul was black as night. He tried to find something among Amer’s things, but instead Dae found something of his there. He panicked and struck her on the head before fleeing with everything. He knows nothing about what happened after that.
Belenus returns to Bornheim and speaks briefly with Roza. She will be staying with people she knows in Old Town. He has only a few days to get one-thousand people to her so that the ritual may begin. Belenus thanks her and goes to speak with Lord Koén Brandr.
Lord Brandr got Belenus’ message and has drawn up a list of one-thousand names. Ælfric, his mother Anne of Horne, and others ready to step forward and support the new king. Belenus has a problem with the list. Far too many of the city’s wealthiest balanced against too few of the desperate. Lord Brandr says they need support from the nobility to launch a campaign against the throne. The nobility have the connections, wealth, and lands to help Ælfric regain his rightful throne.
Belenus says the choice is his and he will definitely ensure Ælfric and his mother are included, but to many names on this list are men and women who oath is to defend the city. They have reaped the benefits of their station and now is the time for them to prove their worth. The commoners have toiled for them and have the right to collect their due. Lord Brandr is shamed by Belenus’ statement. He vows to stand to the last and give everything he has is Belenus will consider ensure that the young king-to-be and his mother are on the list. Belenus says they will both be at the top.
Belenus finds Dobry at the North Gate speaking to Captain Jalo. belenus inquires about Horenski and the Daughters of Ice and Wind. The name was used for many malevolent spirits in the children’s stories of his youth, but he does not think she is real. It is said she lived where the river started, it was formed of the tears of those children she kidnapped. He agrees to help Belenus, but needs to speak with Brizanthimus in the morning.
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