Its a bitterly cold winter morning and Briz, Xarth, and Belenus are having a breakfast at Amer’s residence. Breakfast is nearly over when Amer comes down to join them. Briz tells him about the fire at his apartment and the Reaver attack. He implies that the Reaver seemed to only attack the cloaked man that works for Amer, but in the chaos of battle it was hard to hear what he kept saying. Xarth informs Amer about the blight that is surrounding Tminir Tower – no beasts or fowl with those lands.
Oswald had agreed to carry supplies to the Isle of Black Stars and after four days the trip is nearly done. Borulli has a contract to bring metal tools to the island in exchange for valuable minerals. As he nears the island something is off as nobody is on the dock to receive them. Oswald and a few of his men go ashore to investigate the village. With nobody around they begin to search the houses. One of the search parties yells for help. When Oswald arrives he finds the twisted and tortured bodies of the monastics. He immediately tells him men to return to the ship.
When nobody throws down a rope or ladder he climbs aboard with his men, but he does hear a woman singing. On board is the most beautiful elven man he could envision exists. All of his men were so captivated by this elf they stopped responding to his commands. The elf pays the sea god by throwing some of his men overboard. This enrages Oswald who battles the elf, but is nearly done for after several quick exchanges – the song burrowing its way into his mind.
Amer is alerted to this battle near one of the towers by the Guardian of Tminir. With no time to lose he grabs Xarth, opens a Hellgate using the power of Tminir Tower, and travels to the Tower of Stars. Recognizing the Master of Tminir Tower, the elf ceases singing and instead turns on Amer. His words towards Amer are so angry that the ship behind Amer blackens with soot. The elf warns Amer that he is continues on this path the Guardians will find him and utterly destroy him. Amer will not be allowed to bring about the destruction he so clearly craves – the power he lusts after.
Amer opens a Hellgate and pulls Xarth into damnation to save the captain. Voyages of The Smiling Blade
He then releases Oswald’s crew and returns to the island. Xarth refuses to return with Amer, preferring instead to travel with Oswald. The men the elf threw overboard are found unharmed, floating on the water’s surface. Xarth refuses to travel back with Amer, instead opting to remain on Oswald’s ship – one trip through that twisted landscape was enough for him. Amer simply opens another gate and leaves.
Nigel, rather that wasting time with breakfast, instead is following up rumors of a blood priest. Pox has agreed to help him with this endeavor. Then learn of a woman named Gwyndolen that is being held by the Lord Marshal. Nigel sneaks inside to speak with her. It is clear the maids have tried to keep her clean and well-dressed but she has pulled at her hair, clawed her skin, and tore her clothes. Its not just her physical appearance, but her mind seems quite lost as well. Nigel forces her to a more lucid state and she tells him everything.
Amer paid her to tie an artifact called the Bloodstaff to his fate, but she failed and intertwined her own as well. He craves the power of the staff and its ability to command the followers of Danshi. A blood priest ranks the highest among The Desecrator’s followers able to forge a nearly unstoppable army of Reavers. The Reavers are the near mindless, intent only on destruction of all the see. She begs Nigel to understand that Amer is an Adherent of Danshi, those hidden in the world secretly seeking desecration. Only if Nigel can seek someone who can divine Amer’s blood will he know for sure if he is an Adherent, for their blood is corrupted beyond redemption.
Nigel asks if she wants release from this world. She turns down his offer for fear that she will be needed to stop Amer. Nigel accepts that and says if she ever wants him to send word through Briz and it will reach his ears. He will grant her a quick and painless death. After leaving her room, Nigel sends word to the Vulfgrau House.
Briz realizes that he unfairly spoke that Oswald’s disruption led to the Reaver attack. He didn’t accuse the hashan of causing it directly, but instead lashed out at someone that has caused suffering for those around him. He returns to his neighborhood determined to set things right. Briz is well known and he is a natural at public speaking. Soon he has a large crowd gathered around him. As he begins to explain what happened and why he does not believe the fighting around the wharf had anything to do with it strange things happen.
As the crowd looked on in fear and awe the spirits of the world moved about him. Brizanthmus
Stones on the road begin floating around him, small bits of dust and detritus join in the dance. Soon even the winds seem to bend and twist. When lights dance and float about whispers of magic and other unnatural things move among the crowd. No matter what he says most of those he gathered filter away in small groups. After a few minutes only the Mldovians remain. They genuflect in a sign the spirits of the world have blessed him. They decide that Briz is a spirit talker and the the spirits need to be heard if the land is to be healed. Briz agrees to help them; although his neighbors might not like that decision.
In the early afternoon Belenus visits the elven man above the chandler’s shop. He tells the man about his training with Mirwen and the fire destroyed Briz’s apartment. When he shares news about the Blood Priest, the man becomes very interested. He agrees to help Belenus uncover the Blood Priest as all people come together when the words of Desecration whisper among the people.
By noon Belenus visits Lord Brandr. He is even more convinced that he can help the young prince and wants some way to stay in touch. He is clearly known in the city and rumors are spreading so it would seem odd for him to be constantly traveling to Baymount. Lord Brandr agrees to take the young man into his service as a bodyguard. The city is becoming a dangerous place and a personal bodyguard would not be unwarranted during these times.
After stepping into a bar for a drink Belenus sees several of the men from the Fight Club. They welcome him over for a drink. They tell him they will no longer be going to train with Xarth – that there is just something inhumane about him. Its more than the unnatural magic he wields, he is simply not right. Belenus tries to convince the men to stay, but Mirwen arrives to speak with him. These men are no friends to an elf and along with the other patrons speak rather forcefully on that matter. Mirwen is more than willing to leave a few bodies for those stupid enough to attack her. Although those in the bar brand him elf-lover Belenus convinces her to leave in peace.
The Smiling Blade finally docks. Xarth and Oswald have spent the days traveling back talking about Amer and what is to be done about him. It is clear that he is harnessing the infernal power of Tminir Tower to increase his own power over others. They agree that together they have to do something. Oswald heads over to Iiro’s shop to find out what happened in his absence, Nigel is waiting for him. He fills him in on the information of the past few days. Iiro interrupts him to tell him that Briz, the troublemaker east of here has been spreading rumors that Oswald is in league with the Reavers. This is not something Oswald is likely to forget or forgive.
Meanwhile Briz arranges a meeting with Dobry at his grandfather’s mill. Doby has been teach those of his people that have the talent to be spirit talkers. The true oral history of their people has been lost, but his grandfather’s book contains the seed for a new beginning. Dobry tells Briz that the spirits are being driven from their native soil, rocks, and plants by the desecration upon this land. They are following Briz around because his spirit is pure and so is the power flowing from him. More will continue to find him until they can return.
A Dinner to Remember
That evening each of the members of the Vulfgrau Trading House meet up at Amer’s house for dinner. Outside the home priest of The Light walk the street cleansing the land of the evil. Amer has spend quite a bit of coin to ensure the finest meal available. Briz falls ill and retires to the room that Amer had made available to him. Amer sends up some soup and encourages him to try it. Briz had heard rumors of a plague striking down magicians in the city. Fearing the worst he speaks to one of the priests outside and follows him to the Cathedral.
The dinner is going well, although Amer seems very odd, with everyone making small talk until Nigel suddenly bolts upright. He opens his mouth and pukes up some sort of parasite from his stomach. Small larva and insects move in the pile of rotted flesh and blackened blood. Seeing this happen Oswald throws up in a like matter. Amer stands upright and declares that he can help you if only you let him – without his protection you will die.
Amer summons forth as much of the power of Tminir Tower as possible and drives it into Nigel and Oswald. Amer poisoned his friends and now wanted to bind them to him for their own protection. Nigel manages to resist the power but Oswald, incensed with hatred over the betrayal, falls under the magical assault.
Accept my power and live, bound forever to me and Tminir Tower – or die. Amer
Everyone now knows that Amer has poisoned them with demoic entrails and blood. This throws confusion about them as some of them plan to kill Amer before they all fall pray to his twisted magic, while others defend him in the hope that only he has the cure to this assassination attempt. The sounds of priests trying to break down the front door can be heard. Before Amer can enact his evil plan he is knocked unconscious just as the priests manage to break down the front door.
Xarth, NIgel, Oswald, and Belenus are quickly escorted to the Cathedral before their continue can worsen. Once there they are put in solitary confinement until the priests can figure out what happened. After tending to their physical wounds a brother-priest visits each of them in turn. Offering salvation in one hand and the quick death for cavorting with demons.
Xarth gives a true and sworn accounts that Amer poisoned them with the demonic flesh and blood. He had no knowledge that he would do that nor any understanding why he would do such an evil act. He is only former employee and knew little about his employer’s true motives. Xarth is offered a chance to redeem his own soul and seek The Light of the Church, but he declines. He does add that he believes Amer might be a blood priest and could be tied to the Bloodstaff, which was mentioned during their time in Ulrichstein.
Nigel’s statement implies it might have been Amer, but he simple lacks the complete story enough to say if that is the truth or not. He tells this that even though Briz was gone during this time the poisoning was definitely not his handiwork. He declines any help from The Light and says that if there is no reason to keep him he would like to leave. The young priest smiles and assures him he will be released as soon as they are sure he is not a danger to others or himself.
When the brother-priest comes to Oswald to receive his confession and sworn statement, Oswald immediately declares that Amer is a Blood Priest. The priest is so shaken he summons a Guardian to hear the statement as well. The large shoag squeezes into the room and listens to Oswald’s statement. His ship is the Smiling Blade, sailing under the Jourilii flag. He brought several of Amer’s companions to the city. He proceeds to tell them about nearly everything that he has proof of and some of the things he only suspects. Amer’s betrayal strikes him so deep that he is willing to do nearly anything to see him hung for his crimes. Although the priest asks him about converting, Oswald elects to seek redemption through his own people.
Belenus is visited by an elf before the brother-priest visits him. The elf offers to take him from this place, but Belenus believes that his knowledge of the subject must be explained in full. The elf warns him that it may already be to late, but it is his decision. When the brother-priest arrives, Belenus can add nothing new to the stories the others told him. He does support their stories concerning what happened at the dinner, but he cannot speak on the issue of Amer being a Blood Priest as he has no knowledge of that specifically. He does seem to be resisting the effects of the poisoning, but the priest assures him that it is only as long as he stays on the consecrated ground of the church. Once he leaves it will surely kill him if he does not seek the purification of The Light.
Briz was not there – having an iron clad excuse because he was in the temple at the time to even offer anything more important. Still, the church is distrustful of those magicians that work their craft outside of The Light. The temptation of demonic influence it too great for most of them. The brother-priest offers salvation, but Briz politely declines.
Amer offers no defense for his actions. Trying to play as the insane puppet of a demon more powerful than himself. The brother-priest pities him, but does not believe his deception. He asks one of the more senior priests if Inquisitor Valten wishes to question him, but is informed the Inquisitor believes his soul is already lost by his own words and deeds. It is a chilling moment for the young brother-priest.
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