continued from last session
We start in the conversation in the dining room of the Lord Marshal’s personal domicile. The Lord Marshal is escorting out Countess Hapsteng and Lady Liese. Gia has physically blocked the Countess from leaving. She attempts to incite the Countess into revealing herself, but Lady Hapsteng has played this game far too long to be miss a step. Instead the tension is broken when the Countess’ retainers show up to escort the two ladies back to their homes.
The Lord Marshal, looking utterly exhausted, simply flops down in his chair and drinks heavily of his wine. By his third cup he is listening to Oswald’s appeal for help. He looks over at Briz several times to get a read on the room and when Briz speaks to support Oswald’s plan things begin to fall into place. The Lord Marshal arranges to release goods confiscated from House Erasmus for the crimes of Amer. He gives tacit support for the plan to engage with the Lords of Water; although he personally feels it will not succeed. He has his Chancellor Claude draws up the documents granting Briz authority to speak on his behalf in matters dealing both with the elves and the Lords of Water.
Oswald brings up the point about the defense of the harbor. As the sole captain remaining in Bourilli he has the authority to call the Jorulii to the defense of the city. The help him in this matter the Lord Marshal summons Sir Tav, knight-captain of his personal troop, to sit in on the discussion. Sir Tav questions much of the plan, but overall feels it would be a sound idea to construct simple barges for the evacuation of the city. The chancellor draws up papers for Oswald to be appointed to the Royal Guild of Shipwrights. The appointment will be denied by the throne once the paperwork arrives in Celenus, but that will be months away.
Sir Tav brings up the point that the scouts have reported back that an army of Reavers nearly ten thousand strong is approaching the city in a well ordered manner. This implies a Blood Priest has either been anointed or will be soon. This information coincides with a new development within the city. Several of the granaries within the city and craftsmen shops have been torched by persons unknown. The only information he has received was during a quick conversation with Jallo of the Nightwatch. He sent word this morning to Captain Pippen, but has not heard anything back.
Battles and wars are not always won by striking the head from your enemy. Not all conflicts wither because those controlling their foot soldiers are killed. The leader of a great army may be its brain, but it is not its heart. The heart is the intangible force that pulled them together. Defeat that and the war can be won.
Once outside the streets are empty enough for a private conversation. Briz pulls Nigel aside and tells him about the bargain he struck with Charles to safeguard Gloria. Nigel understands and mentions that he believes Lady Hapsteng made a similar bargain as her soul is no longer her own. Since Nigel was with him when he was attacked by the spirits Briz tells him about Llannoth at at least what he knows about why the lich is hunting him. The deal with Charles shields him from Llannoth’s power for now, but it will not protect him forever.
Bel goes to speak with Lord Brandr. He finds bodies partially in the snow buried outside of noble’s residence. After battling one shape-changing demon he approaches the house cautiously. The tale inside is much more mundane. Someone had gathered a crowd of in front of several houses and under the cover of that angry mob a small group of men attacked the house. The men were skilled killers, but they managed to hold them off until they eventually fled into the night. Bel tells Lord Brandr about the ships Oswald is building, but the young King-To-Be refuses to leave the city while the subjects still fight. Bel does caution him about the battle he fought with a dark specter outside of the Hapsteng residence.
After his conversation with Briz, Nigel goes to the Cathedral to speak with his sister. Dae, as she now calls herself, and Nigel walk around the temple’s outer courtyard. The conversation turns to one of forgiveness. Dae tells him how much she hated what he did to her and the rest of the family – he is still her brother and the priests of among the Guardians of Order have helped her understand. She forgives herself for what happened and has made peace with the chaotic darkness within her own blood. Their father was what he was, but his life will not shackle her own. Dae asks Nigel for forgive himself – to seek redemption and understanding with the Order.
Nigel agrees to at least speak of these things with one of the priests of the Order, but not the Temple of Light itself. This man spends several hours speaking with Nigel and casting an augury for his future. Its a difficult process and the priest does not have good answers. Nigel is not human as his sister is human. The reasons for this are unknown although both children believe they were birthed to the same parents. There is a darkness within Nigel that craves a mortal soul. He is not a demon nor one of the living dead; although his own soul seems to have more in common with either such creatures. Its like nothing that the priest has seen before. He cautions Nigel about exploring such potential as nothing good comes from sowing seeds in such evil ground.
After staying behind with a small force of volunteers to hold back the demons from overrunning the main body of troops Xarth summons forth his herald. He demands a battle for the right to ride a NIghtmare as such a creature is clearly from the Realm of Fire. The herald sets forth a challenge to the Horsemaster of the Shadow Herd. As the challenged the horsemaster selects a small area and no weapons for the battle. It proves to be a difficult battle as the horsemaster is skilled fighting only with hoof and fist, but in the end Xarth topples the imposing warrior. Good to his word the horsemaster grants him right to call upon Deadeye, an unruly but battle-hardened, nightmare of his herd.
Xarth rides into the demons, supported only by a few arbalests from the dwarven rear-guard. The rest of the soldiers move at their best possible speed to the relative safety of the city walls. A great many dwarves would not have survived the nearly eighteen hour forced march back to the city if not for Xarth’s battle against the demons. Xarth was hoping that the figure on a Nightmare would have made an appearance, but neither did the spirit of the tower. It is possible that something has changed at the tower as there were fewer demons, but they were driven into some semblance of order.
Lords of Water
Oswald and Briz go to speak with Ingram, whom Briz has worked with previously. He agrees to provide nearly thirty stout men and a few more that know their way around ships if the two of them can convince the others to commit as well. The three Lords of Water maintain a balance both in territory and men. Ingram is unwilling to commit his own men unless the others as well. Otherwise he risks being killed by the others for his territory.
The next step is to secure the support of Gero, a man that nobody has seen but whose reputation for violence is known in the Wash. Reaching him is very difficult as the storm tunnels below the wash are choked up with frozen detris and bodies – along with deadly traps. At long last they pass through a series of manned checkpoints and reach an old washout near the harbor. Gero is a man formed entirely of stone sitting on an iron wrought throne. He is attended by several people; although a older woman in a tattered dress does much of the speaking.
Both Oswald and Briz see through the mummery and after Oswald confronts the hidden truth it nearly comes to a fight to escape. However, they both manage to calm the situation and convince them that working with the city is a far better option as there is no real chance to escape. Should the Reavers or Demons reach the city in numbers they will turn the place into a charnel house. She agrees to provide the same number of men as Ingram. She tells them that reaching Rocco will be difficult as she has not heard from him since the elves took over most of his territory.
Bel leaves Lord Brandr to visit the siege master to lend his expertise. Carl, an old man with a short stature as well as temperament, is less than happy that a young pup with almost no experience with siegecraft is coming to offer his advice. He does have work to do if Bel is willing to actually work. Bel agrees and finds himself with several other people fletching arrows. Bundles in the hundreds are stacked and occasionally taken to storage sheds near the wall. It is hard, but honest work, and he leaves after several hours tired.
As he makes his way near the Wash three Kryandrians catch up and surround him. This is very fortunate for him as he had been looking for them – or at least those of his country that were hunting Anne. They threaten him if Bel does not disclose the location of the King-to-be. When Bel does not answer they attack. Bel is hard pressed by their numbers but in time the tight roads of the Wash work in his favor. He cuts down two and takes the third man hostage. He turns the hostage over to Lord Brandr for questioning.
Fires of Purification
With so much to digest about his past and future – Nigel elects to simply stay the course at the present. He follows up on the people have have been setting fires in the city over the last few days. He knows they come out at night, so as the sun sets he visits the most likely places for people to gather. He follows a few large groups into a rundown block of Old Town. A few hours later people leave the buildings and separate into smaller groups – most of the people carrying satchels.
Nigel follows a group and sees them pull on dark hooded cloaks over their winter clothes as they near the market district. They stop outside of the Erasmus Trading House, which Nigel knows was just emptied today, and using the satchels burn down the building. They proceed quickly to a small crafter’s shop in the greenacre district and burn it down as well.
Nigel was not as quiet as he likes and when he went to follow them to the third location a hidden man jumps him from behind. It is a very quick fight and the man is down and bleeding out on the cobblestone. The blood from his body pools together unnaturally and the face of Nigel’s father rises from it. He tells his son to embrace the power within him for his own survival. He knows that Nigel has finally touched his true heritage and only needs to awaken it. Nigel smears the blood with is foot, wiping out the visage as the light of dozens of fires lite the horizon.
Gia, Oswald, and Briz go to speak with Captain Pippen of the Nightwatch. The headquarters of the Nightwatch is at the Northern Gate, which is now manned not only be members of the Guard, but those dwarves uninjured enough for duty. They are left waiting for quite some time before the captain agrees to meet with them – decree from the Lord Marshal or not. Captain Pippen is a large man used to busting the head of drunks rather that standing against an immortal army, so it is natural that he appears overly tired and harried when they enter his office.
Although they bring good news that they have found men to thicken the ranks of the Nightwatch and constables, he does not appear happy. The idea of smugglers, cutthroats, and thieves in his ranks would not please anyone. The Lord Marshal’s decree to enlist the aid of such men rankles him even further. Oswald notices that he has been using his hand to signal some hidden ally, but cannot discern the reason. It is made clear when Captain Pippen leans back in his chair and pulls out a knife he kept hidden by the back of his neck.
“I’m being attacked!” he shouts as he flings the dagger and jumps to his feet. The dagger barely misses Briz and the sounds of booted feet already announce that this was a setup. There is no way that Briz, Oswald, and Gia can overcome such a skill adversary in battle, so they opt to simply avoid getting killed while offering no resistance to his attacks. When the door is opened by the guards from the room below they see only the captain attacking three unarmed subjects.
With the Captain’s unsettled behavior and the writ from the Lord Marshal given to Briz the guards grab their Captain. Once retrained his true nature is revealed as he declares that the tower will fall. As they grab him one of the men sees a burn or tattoo on his left arm of a black tower.
The Tower will fall and darkness will cover the land! You cannot stop what has already begun!Captain Pippen
Before the Captain is taken away Oswald notices his features shift slightly and his eyes change. Sergeant Jalo arrives with men of known loyalty and takes over the confusing situation. He jails Captain Pippen until he can be questioned properly. He thanks the three of them and furthermore for the help they secured from the Lords of Water.
Gia and Briz travel northeast from the gate until they reach Dobry’s hamlet. The small area around the mill is overflowing with entire families of refugees. Dobry welcomes them and offers to take both of them to a safe place if they wish. There are hidden locations within the mountains only accessible by walking along the spirit paths. He does not have enough to move many people at once and most of his people would rather die that help a single Dakarian.
Gia tries to rally the people to stay and help those in the city, but for too many years the Mladovians have been kept under foot by the people of the city. After a great deal of effort she manages to convince at least a few of the spirit talkers to come to the city and assist its people after they have evacuated their own people to this hidden lands. Even a few men step aside from their families to lend their strength to defend the city. Not all Dakarians are bad, but after so long it is difficult to see them otherwise.
Xarth delays the demons long enough for even the trailing dwarves to reach the gates before being overrun. He then races on ahead through the gates upon his flaming Nightmare. He startles many of the guards and commoners nearby with such a display of a clear demonic creature. He nearly gets attacked, but eventually one of the dwarves steps forward to vouch for him. He needs a strong cadre of men and goes towards the Shining Blade tavern only to find out the elves have taken over that area and refuse to allow him entrance. After speaking to a few people he knows he tracks down the owner Gerard.
Gerard knows a few of the people that were members of the Fight Club and he knows a few more people that might be willing, but they will need someone to convince them, someone is going to have rally them around as most people simply will not support the nobility and their constant bickering among themselves.
Oswald is overseeing the construction of the barges he intends to use to get as many people out of the city as possible. Although the Lord Marshal made him aware the appointment will never stand in the guild, until then his position stands. He is squeezing anyone and everyone for what he needs. The men Ingram and Gero lent him know their business and have proven themselves able hands if not skills shipwrights. His own people are quite well known and soon their “Oswalds” as the hashan are calling them being looking better.
His gaze in the evening light takes in one rather big problem as the elven warship on patrol is suddenly attacked. Large ropy tentacles lash out from the water and pull down the main masts. In a short time they crack keep and drag the larger parts of the ship underwater. The two remaining elven ships hoist sail towards the scene, but it is doubtful anyone survived as dozens of shark fins circle the area.
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