Oswald is tracking down someone that can help with his sea monster problem. Given his recent experience with magic is not apt to trust either Elven sorcery or Mladovian Spiritualists. After speaking with a few people he tracks down a Barlow, a dwarf with a rather unhinged reputation. She claims to be an alchemist, but few would recommend her for anything except violent explosions. She lives in the second basement of a stone block house just north of the Stonemason Guildhall.
She offers Oswald barrels that will explode underwater. He will need to acquire the materials as she is far too busy discovering the effects of extremely hot fires on the body. Glass flasks holding the spark, a tar-sealed barrel, and lots of rope. They will have ballast to sink under the water and when the rope is pulled the barrel will explode. They will be very volatile so must be handled with caution.
Nigel speaks with Captain Jalo about the arsonists. He knows where they are hiding and is willing to lead some men there to root them out. Jalo is more cautious than Pippen, but he sends Sergeant Bushnell and a few men with Nigel to see if he is telling the truth. As they enter Old Town the Nightwatch close in around NIgel and attempt to ambush him. The result is unsuccessful and Nigel manages to capture Bushnell while the others escape.
Bushnell is a member of the Cult of the Black Tower. His group has been hunting a demon called Azaroch, whom Nigel takes to be the one called Charles. Bushnell says it has used many names and guises over the generations. Bushnell believes the cult has been infiltrated by people loyal to Azaroch – its possible Captain Pippen was one of these traitors. If so then all is lost as the Black Tower was the only thing stopping the demon from breaking free. Nigel passes information to him about the arsonists headquarters then sets him free.
Briz, Xarth, Belenus, and Gia all wait to speak with War-Commander Aranion along with Mirwen. Eventually the commander acknowledges them and Mirwen makes quick introductions. Briz presents the request from the Lord Marshal for ten score elves to man the outer walls in defense of the city. Aranion states that he already has fulfilled his obligations under the treaty as the elves on his warships and those acting as scouts along the likely approaches of the Reavers and Demon army count to more than that number. If the Lord Marshal wishes more of his men he can come in person and request them.
Its an arrogant stance, but Briz hopes that he can negotiate something that will get the Lord Marshal the extra soldiers he needs and mollify the elven commander. Unfortunately for him, Xarth is not in a compromising mood. He notices that Aranion’s bodyguard is a woman carrying one of the blades of the Red Knives. He foolishly mentions how many of her companions he has killed, which predictably starts a fight.
Xarth is immediately on the defensive as she attacks. It is not clear if her intention is to kill him or simply draw his blood as neither of them land a decisive blow. Eventually Briz convinces the commander to order his bodyguard to stop. The fight ends, but so does any chance of the elves providing support beyond the bare minimum. Xarth as ruined any future negotiations, so Briz spends the next several blocks shouting at him.
As they are standing in an area of the wash stripped out by Oswald’s “ship builders” they are met by Oswald who heard them arguing from the docks. Xarth notices a raven with a magical aura watching them. He kills the raven, which instantly morphs into a bird whose body has been rotting for weeks. Briz feels a calling and knows that Charles is reaching out to him. His disgust with Xarth clear he leaves the rest of the group and stomps off towards a meeting with the demon.
Briz meets with Charles at a burned out store front a block from the central square. Charles tells Briz that if he cannot control his friends then he will have no choice but to take control of Gloria for her own safety. They cannot move against Lady Hapsteng without endangering Gloria as well – who many people know visit with the Countess along with Lady Liese. Briz tells Charles he is free to do what he wants as he has no control over them, in fact he is fed up with several of them. However, should even the smallest harm come to Gloria the world will shutter with the pain Charles will suffer.
Belenus goes to speak with Lord Brandr in the hopes of getting some assistance. Instead, the young King-to-Be tells Belenus that now if the time to strike. He wants Belenus to find a way into the Palace District away from the prying eyes of the temple guards. The young king will then lead his most loyal followers in capturing the queen’s castle and taking the Lord Marshal into custody. He will not harm the old man, but instead ask him to swear fealty to the rightful king.
Belenus thinks this is a terrible idea, but he cannot convince the hot-blooded young man to diverge from this course of action. Then best he can do it put a small bump along its path. This plan is divisive just when the city needs to come together. An civil war in the city between his followers and the royalists would surely only benefit their enemies. Belenus reluctantly agrees to find a way into the palace, but tells him it may be several days until a route is found. The young king wishes him courage and to act with the speed of Vayne – his companion Briz must know of a way inside.
Guardians of Order
Oswald, NIgel, Xarth, and Gia go and speak with the Guardians of Order – specifically their commander Alanna. When they arrive she is talking to the priest that help Nigel discover his dark purpose upon this world. Oswald gets straight to the point – the Lady Hapsteng has sold her soul for power. Alanna points out that without proof she cannot act. The order has great leeway to act against Danshi within the kingdom, but she will need more to act upon than the statement of one person.
Xarth suggests she gain custody of Captain Pippen, but unfortunately the Hochwurden’s death has left her unable to act on the crown. She has spoken to the Bishop of the Temple and given the death of both previous Hochwurderns he is not likely to act, especially against the crown. They will have to bring her direct evidence of Lady Hapsteng or find their own way to capture Pippen from Blackyard.
Gia decides it is best for her to act as Lady Hapsteng is a blight upon this world. She knows the woman has reason enough to see the dark path before her and she is convinced that she can turn her from this path. She leaves the others at the Cathedral and goes directly towards Hapsteng House.
Sin of Stone
Bel meets up with Mirwen to open his soul to the possibilities. She takes him via a smuggler tunnel to a copse of trees outside the wall. From there it is a short horse to the village of Kernwerk. She convinces Adolphus to use the spirit stone at the top of the rise north of the village. Upon this stone she begins a ritual that will last into the night. This area is already strong spiritually, but the ritual will focus all of that upon the Krandryian.
The next hours are harrowing and several times Belenus is very near death. Each time physically strengthens his body and sharpens his mind. As the last rays of the sun hit the stone he sees a vision. Large two-legged lizards standing around this area melding the stone and rock of the earth with only the smallest motions. This is not magic, but something far deeper and more personal. As the vision fades the creatures turn into men and women – one of them looks exactly like Yswa.
As he staggers down Mirwen tells him what transpired is known only to him. He should spend the night in Kernwerk and recover his strength. While she knows his strength his association with the others means that he has been banned from the Elven Quarter. She has a house in the mendallie neighborhood and he is welcome to visit. Many of the elves that live within the city are in the area – he would be welcomed there.
Belenus returns to the village and speaks with Yswa. The old man does not answer any of his questions, but he does hand him a half-finished statue. When Belenus entered the house it looked like a bear – now half of it looked perfectly like Belenus while the other was unworked stone. Bel will return to the city in the morning.
It is dark when Gia stands outside of the Hapsteng gate. Several times she inquires about staying on the grounds again, each time she is denied. The Lady of the house will not have such a disrespectful woman staying on her land. She is eventually able to convince the gate guard that she is willing to die outside the gate before she moves. The guard slips her into the carriage house and gives her a blanket.
Gia is not suited for such skulduggery, but she manages to slip inside the house and hide behind some heavy curtains inside the bedroom of Lady Hapsteng. It is well after sunset when the lady returns to her bedroom for the evening. Once the woman is asleep Gia calls out her name. This is repeated several times until Lady Hapsteng comes to investigate.
Gia wants to speak privately with the Countess, but hiding like an assassin in her bedroom does not leave Lady Hapsteng in a good mood. She orders her Fredrick, her personal armsman, to drag the old woman down to the constabulary by force if necessary. She clearly intended to harm her for there is no other reason for her to be sneaking and hiding in someone’s private bedroom.
Fredrick grabs the door guard, who let Gia in for the evening, and orders him to drag the woman to the constables. The man is reluctant, but follows orders – as gently as he can. When she reaches the constables she is locked into the single cell in the basement. It still reeks of demon flesh from the battle Nigel fought here, but more interestingly Pippen is in the cell. He is taken and shackled to the wall to make way for Gia for the evening.
Xarth, Nigel, and Oswald catch up to Briz walking towards the Palace District. He is rather drunk and mostly hurls curses and insults at Xarth. They watch him stagger up to the temple guards, gain access, and continue his drunken walk to the Lord Marshal’s residence. He briefly speaks to the Lord Marshal’s Chancellor about how Xarth ruined any goodwill the elves might have harbored before passing out. Gloria is brought to help take Briz to his chambers. She keeps whispering, “I am sorry” as she takes him into the darkness.
They then return to the Hapsteng house in time to see the guard take Gia from the house. They use this moment of distraction to sneak into the cellar beneath the house through the coal chute. Xarth shapes the chute large enough for all of them to fit through. The root cellar they slide into is just below the kitchen, which is still busy as the staff clean and prepare for tomorrow’s meals.
Once the sounds diminish they climb the ladder to the main floor. Unfortunately they drag coal dust with them, but it is to be expected from their entrance. Under the stairs going up they find a very small and narrow set of stairs going down. After a few minutes they enter a small and roughly hewn room. There are crates, barrels, and trunks. In addition to a very odd set of trinkets they find clothes of various size and quality – from fine linen to homespun wool. While everything is packed away carefully there is a seeming randomness to the collection of stuff in the room.
The only exit out is a magically sealed doorway that Oswald finds. Once Xarth is able to transmute the stone and locking mechanism he pushes the door aside. Beyond the door is another set of stairs going down. A damp mustiness fills their nostrils.
Tiny URL for this post: