The table stakes are raised again

The city gets a brief respite from the snow as the temperatures plummet to the teens, reaching into the low single digits with the wind. Nigel sends runners with letters for Briz, Belenus, and Xarth requesting a one-on-one meeting with each of them. They each respond positively and agree to meet.

Nigel speaks with the others

Briz arrives first to the Tumbling Stone tavern located just south of the Stonemason Guildhall. The place is mostly empty during the day. After making a circuit around the area Nigel, heavily cloaked and wearing a mask, arrives as well. Nigel presses Briz on his intentions regarding their paymasters. Briz says in no uncertain terms that he no longer works for the Vulfgrau, but will not divulge any secrets told to him by Amer. He is more cagey about why he has agreed to meet with Amer after months of avoiding all contact. Nigel tells Briz that if he does interfere then he will have to be silenced. As that hangs between then a young boy runs inside and tells the barkeep that a large caravan was destroyed by Reavers on east road.

Later than evening Nigel meets with Belenus at Amer’s house. Nigel believes that Belenus is mostly on-board with the stated goals of the Vulfgrau, but as a sellsword his loyalty is only as good as the coin. He does offer him some suggestions that he should take more care of how he goes about town. Wearing an solid black kilt so far from his homeland makes his noticed and remembered. Stories about the Rusty Anchor are already spreading in the city. If he becomes too recognizable then his use to Nigel’s employer will be diminished. During the conversation Mirwen arrives at the house to speak with Belenus. The elven warrior seems overly interested in Nigel, but does not mention anything.

Mirwen

Nigel leaves a short time later and Belenus goes off with Mirwen. She takes Belenus to meet a friend of hers that may be able to help him overcome his difficulties with controlling his magic. When Belenus tries to mention that he has not specifically decided what to do, Mirwen brushes that off. She takes him to a chandler shop where Belenus meets with an elf dressed in very fine clothes. They exchange pleasantries; although the man sidesteps any attempt to discover his name.

Bel asks questions and the man answers as best as he can. He tells Belenus about the Bloodstaff and its connection to Danshi and the Reavers. He tells him that many of Danshi’s most loyal followers will come to this city to see if one of them has the strength to become an Blood Priest. Unlike the Reavers, a Blood Priest has full control over the power of desecration granted to them – they can call Reavers to their banner and forge them into a single entity to carry out their will. Should that happen the city will be destroyed by larger Reaver army than has been seen in generations.

Nigel catches up with Xarth

A few days later Nigel again returns to the Tumbling Stone tavern, this time to meet with Xarth. Both men have been on the trapped in a city under siege and know full well the desperation and devastation of famine and plague. He agrees in principal with the secretive goals of the Vulfgrau, but will not support Oswald’s idea to starve the city into riots and submission. He is far more concerned with the supernatural threat hanging over the city. He knows that it is circling around Amer, but does not voice these concerns with Nigel. NIgel attempts to threaten him into keeping the faith, but Xarth simply retorts that he better kill him with the first strike because he will never get second.

During the conversation several men come in to purchase large quantities of food and supplies. Overheard during the conversation is that the Stonearm clan will be marching north to deal with the rumors of a monsterous force gathering, while the strength of the City Guard is mustering to march east and destroy the Reavers.

Lords of Water

Briz sees Ingram, one of the Lords of Water as the smuggling gangs call themselves, approach him flanked by several of his men. When last they saw each other they parted on good terms, but much has happened since then. Ingram wants Briz to set up a meeting between the him and Amer to discuss a solution to many problems. In addition he asks if Briz will carry word to the Lord Marshall that the Lords of Water was willing to reduce their take by half on foods and necessary supplies. They are willing to do that if he is willing to intervene with the hashan who have been moving into their territory. Briz agrees to carry both messages.

Nigel, still concerned over his conversation with Briz, spends several hours along the docks and through the nearby neighborhood looking for any information about Briz. Most of the stuff he finds out is simply grist in the rumor mill except that Briz has been making trips nearly every other day up to the Lord Marshall’s residence. Knowledge that he is courting the Baron’s daughter’s maid is pretty well known, but his visits are far too frequent.

Incar

Gloria and Briz meet at the Fourth Glory of Karash for a small meal. Gloria expresses her worry that the Lord Marshal is increasing becoming distracted by the events piling up on the city. He has been forced by events to make deals with the dwarves and elves that he would have never agreed to before. She reveals to him that she if Mladovian and she well remembers the stories of her grandmother. When the coldest winds of the Three Witches howl out of the north their white cloaks will fall as death upon these lands. Briz comforts her on the way back, earning him a kiss, but just after that everything freezes in place as if time itself is now frozen.

The incar tell Briz that something coming from a nearby house has noticed them and they sense food inside. The incar never seem to eat, so Briz is intrigued enough to go inside. Inside the narrow townhouse a crone sits beside a blazing fire. Her shadow dances and moves of its own accord, but never leaving her side. The woman knows of the shadow, calls it her companion since the time she almost died of plague. When she pulls out a silvery amulet from her childhood the incar leap towards it faster than Briz can stop them. When they eat the amulet Briz watches in horror as the woman’s body putrefies in front of him.

The incar, now able to speak in simple broken sentences tells Briz that they must leave or suffer the same fate. When Briz exits the house time begins to flow once more. He escorts Gloria to the Lord Marshal’s residence, but is too wrapped up in thinking to even press for a second kiss. He does manage to remember to tell the Lord Marshal about Ingram’s offer.

Ælfric, A boy of trouble

Bel finishes working with Mirwen and goes to several taverns to enjoy a drink. At Dorrels Drunk he is bumped from behind by one of the serving girls. When he turns around to accept her apology a look of terror appears on her face – directed at him. She screams something about a son and him never taking him from her. He also catches something about her agreeing to work with him and she was protected. It is all very confusing as the women flees the tavern as fast as she can go. Bel followers her outside, but she is far down the street by the time he gets through the crowd.

Once inside he is approached by a man that asks if he is ready to meet. Belenus has no idea what the man is talking about and says such to him. The man apologies and says that he was only told to meet a man dressed as he is dressed. This has been one strange night and its time he got to the bottom of at least one thing.

He follows the trail of people that saw the woman running, which brings him deep into the wash where he comes across the building guarded by three men. The men attempt to brush Bel aside and threaten him, but when Bel hears the scream of a woman he springs into action. The men are clearly skilled with the blade and neither is able to gain an advantage when a young boy jumps out of a window as the woman’s screams are silenced. Bel protectively guards the boy and with new found incentive cuts down the three men and stopping a would-be assassin who leans out from the window.

The boy runs into the night when a constable patrol arrives. The men that Bel killed turn out to be members of the City Guard called the Night Watch. This escalates eventually involving the locale constable and Captain Pipen of the Night Watch. In the end Bel is locked up at the constabulary until a trial can be held.

Two days later a wealthy man arrives who bribes the guard to leave. After questioning his motives he offers Bel a way out and a chance to help the boy he rescued yesterday. His mom is still being held by the Night Watch, but they have someone watching her so she at least will come to no harm. After paying for Bel’s freedom he takes him to a wealthy house near the bay. Inside he finds the boy attended to by several people and hears a nearly impossible tale.

The boy is the son of Anne of Clan Horne, one of the largest clans in Krandryia with a proud history. His father was Crown Prince Corwyn, who was killed during an ambush by some orcs returning from visiting Clan Horne. Fearing that Dakarian nobles were behind the attack when Anne showed signs of pregnancy they spirited her deep into the highlands. When the child was born the priests of Vayne confirmed his birthright, but Queen Aurora, who took the throne when her father, King Reiner IV, abdicated has a long arm. Assassins and other threats forced them to flee. They tried to take shelter with the Western Lords of Dakar, who suffered under the Queen, but Lord Bachman sent his men to kill the young prince. Finally with the help of the last clansmen of Horne that started with her, Anne reached Bornheim where she would find a safe haven.

The boy, Ælfric of Clan Horne and the rightful ruler of the Kingdom of Dakar, asks for Bel’s help in restoring him to the throne. As the blood of Krandryia runs through his veins and Vayne guides him to battle the boy asks Bel for his help. Bel never hesitates to offer the young prince his swords and strength. The rest of the night passes in the style of the highlands – drinking and exchanging of the most outrageous oaths they can imagine.

Spirit Callers

Xarth decides for himself to see first hand what is happening in the north as he fears the worst. He travels to the village of Kernwerk where Yswa the Stonecarver lives. He heard that Adolphus, a Mladovian spirit caller, lives there. He asks Adolphus to call up a wind for him to carry him to the north so that he can see what this darkness. After an equal exchange of knowledge Xarth is soon carried upon a wind several times faster than a horse. He flies over the dwarven encampment settled along the road just on the edge of a desolated land. The land feels unnatural and wrong. The only people he sees is a mercenary company flying a banner of black with a blood-dropped sword on it, and several Knights of The Light shepherding and protecting some peasants.

He does not get near the center of the broken land, instead skirting around the outside of it to gauge its size. Although he does not see the source he is quite sure that Tminir Tower sits in the center of it. Reinforcing this is the fact that the stream that flows from the lake is just as ruinous. This pattern flows along with the river until it empties into the sea.

It is nearly nightfall with Xarth returns. He speaks of what he saw with Yswa and asks for his advice. The disguised member of the Stone clan is cryptically stoic, but does say that Adolphus’ wife is well-known for her meals. Xarth joins Yswa and Adolphus’ family for dinner that night – staying over in Kernwerk for the evening. It is a peaceful night as if the very stone of the earth shields this land.

Burning Man

Briz spends the morning working the people at the docks that he knows about Oswald. He cannot find much information, but he does get a lead that Captain Oswald’s ship left and that he often goes and visits Iiro, a rope maker. After passing that information on to the Lord Marshal he tries to find anything about Amer’s friend that spoke with him. The only thing that happens is that Nigel hears about Briz poking about asking about him.

Nigel waits for Briz in his room. When Briz arrive they argue back and forth about what Briz is doing and what is happening. Briz tells Nigel about Amer and that ever since arriving in the city he is not a man to be trusting. Gwyndolen, a enchanter they met in the town of Ulrichstein, found him and in front of the Lord Marshal told everything about Amer. He convinced her to bind the Bloodstaff to his fortune so that he would play a role in his fate. He seemed like a man determined to possess the staff. It is very likely that Amer is trying to become of Blood Priest and bring damnation to this city. Nigel cares nothing about that, he was given a mission and if Briz threatens that mission he will be dealt with permanently.

This argument would have continued increasing in volume except that a man on fire burst through the doorway. Wielding a spiked cudgel he was doused in oil and determined to kill Nigel. He kept shouting that there can be only one Blood Priestess and he would kill anyone that stopped her anointment. The blood of Danshi that flows through Nigel’s veins has called to him and he must stop him before everything is ruined. With fire raging about them Nigel strive to kill the man before he says anything more, but he needs the help of Briz’s illusions to finally kill the Reaver.

Shwarma

Briz, with his few remaining possessions not consumed by the fire goes to Amer’s house to take him up on the offer of shelter. He meet Belenus and Xarth who are already sitting around the table having supper. With a moment of peace they finally have a chance to catch up and speak, at least a little, about what is happening in the city and beyond. The peace is short-lived as a city crier run by shouting “Plague!” as the City Guard go house to house telling everyone they cannot leave until given permission.

Such warmth and companionship is not for people like Nigel. Is late into the night and although the bitterly cold weather will keep many off the streets, there is still information to gather about exactly what is a Blood Priest.

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