“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.
The group had be back-and-forth over options and tactics.
“Well, the Beaming Censer is on the way to the North Gate,” said Kalista. “We can see Lady Sipran on the way.”
“And keep our pledge to Lord Tovran,” Don’ added.
“I really must ask you to reconsider. It is quite dangerous in Stonecrest,” Brannighan’s careful voice warned.
“Thank you but we must perform this task,” Kalista responded.
“Then, seeing as you have refused my aid and counsel seven times, I am realised from by bonds to protect you. I wish you luck in finding who, or what, you pursue.” With that he left and went about his business.
They too left the library and entered the streets. It was not as cold as they expected but the sky was strange bruised peach colour. Dark clouds, grey-purple, striped the sky. The streets were busy with foot traffic and people pulling rickshaws carrying richly robed figures.
“I expected wizards flying about the city and displays of powerful magic,” Kalista muttered.
“That would be wasteful,” Felghanis answered.
It was a dozen yards or more before they identified what was disturbing.
The Beaming Censer was close and they entered quickly. It was richly appointed with polished wood panelling and carpets from wall to wall. They felt out of place and even Aenir seemed unsure of himself. A concierge approached them with a warm smile.
“Are you seeking rooms?”
“We seek a guest here, or at least we think she’s here, Lady Sipran of Vrim.”
“Ah, yes. Please won’t you wait in the lounge whilst I pass on the message. Who shall I say seeks her audience?”
“Lord Mikhail Tovran sends us.”
The concierge bowed his head politely and departed.
Hanging on the walls of the lounge were numerous paintings. Most depicted the city under wheeling clouds that spiralled over the tall tower dominating Stonecrest’s skyline.
“What is that, you suppose?”
“Who is it that seeks Lady Murelle Sipran?”
The woman’s voice was strong, commanding even, and when they turned to face her she wore a veil covering her face from below the eyes all the way down. Behind her stood a shield guardian.
“Lord Tovran sent us to find Lady Murelle,” said Don’.
They exchanged words and Varnia was bristling; even defensive. She took a fighting stance.
“Who are these people, Varnia?” An older woman’s voice approached.
“They claim that Mikhail sent them, Mother.”
“Why did he send you?” The lady asked as she entered the lounge. She seemed very old and moved slowly as if in some pain yet bore it with dignity. Varnia hovered at her left seeking to attend to her. The shield guardian was at the doorway.
“To find out why you fled the keep.”
“To save my family line,” Lady Murelle said simply. “We are the last four of the Sipran blood. The last women of the line and against the fiend that attacked our home we had no chance of victory.”
“But your a powerful spellcaster?” Don’ protetsted.
“Who told you that?” Lady Murelle was wry. “Once, I was a competent sorceress. Age has taken that away leaving me with only a few talents and my visions.”
“You did not see it coming?” Felghanis was incredulous.
“No. My visions have never been so accurate and simple. I had a recurring dream in these last months. The winter…” she waved it away.
“We seek to stop that winter from returning.”
They explained the books of Fimbulwinter and Lady Murelle did not know them. Even after Felghanis stated that Lord Kentos had left one with the family generations ago she had no idea.
“It makes sad sense, though. I saw a hand of stone and bears, a pair of them, chasing three trees that even though didn’t move were elusive. I saw winter setting in all the year round and far away an empty throne. The empty throne of Davinus.”
“Davinus? That was Kentos’ liege,” Kalista said
“Davinus, was the great-thane of Kiltayre, the first king, and ascended to become the true god of the Church and all Kiltayre.”
Felghanis, Donhallan, Kalista, Aenir, and Kellor were all stunned.
“What? Davinus is the god of the Church?”
“Yes. It was Davinus who ascended to the throne of Kiltayre and founded the Church. It is why in Vrim we do not follow the teachings of the Saint. But I must leave you now. I am so tired and so struck with grief. I take my leave.”
Varnia escorted her mother from the room and the shield guardian followed them with heavy footsteps.
“Someone is trying to become a god,” Felghanis conjectured.
“In business we have a saying. Deal with a problem before it grows too large and becomes beyond your ability to fix,” Aenir said.
Kellor nodded, “We need to stop Jonas and take back the book.”
The party flew into a torrent of speculation. Kellor and Aenir stood to one side and spoke quietly. It seemed to motivate the others and they collected their gear to head out into the streets again.
North of the Beaming Censer was the markets. A large square filled with stalls, stands, tents and carts selling goods ranging from mundane food to exotic focii, and services from basic healing to forging of magical staves.
“Maybe we can find a way to heal my arm?” Aenir said. Together with Kellor the split off to search the sellers for a cure.
“There’s the Amorrensis Trade Guild chapter house,” Donhallan pointed to a three storey narrow-house near the north gate.
Felghanis, Kalista and Don’ pushed open the doors and came into a small room with a counter. Two men were standing to one side waiting. Each was kitted out with packs and ropes as if going on an expedition. They gestured to go to the counter and made room. A man in lead-grey robes looked up as the door closed and Kalista saw the Captain from the stone ship.
“Ah, this a surprise.” The Captain said. “Have you brought me Fenris?”
Kalista’s heart skipped a beat; he remembered them.
“No. We have not but we did see him.”
Felghanis chipped in, “He’s compelled by some force, probably the lords of Elemental Water. I don’t think he’s in control of himself.”
“That may be the case and could explain a few things,” said the Captain, musing on the idea.
“How did you come to be here?” Kalista almost blurted out.
“Well, it was a bit of bad luck and good luck. After the ship was destroyed I was going to be banished from the guild. Luckily I had, well stole, the crystal you were carrying and that enabled me to purchase my station but with a transfer to this chapter house. I will miss the sea but at least I am still with the Amorrensis. I really should give you my name. Villeroy Morgane, Captain.”
“Morgane; isn’t that Fenris’ name, too?” Kalista asked.
“Yes, he is my cousin. Thankfully he takes no issue with me personally. He is a dangerous man, and luckily I can keep tabs on him through his sword. Which I knew I’d probably not be able to prevent him recovering. Maybe I should have had twice as many guards.” He sighed, “It is done now. He has it back that horrid blade of man bane. But enough of me, how can I help you? Maps, guides, travel, other services?”
“We plan to go through the Rift Weave, can you help with that?”
“There is a storm coming so at the least tie yourselves together. The guards told me that some people left recently through the gates.”
“That’s who we pursue.”
“People from the Church?” Villeroy asked. “Well they left nearly two and a half hours ago. You’ll have a hard time catching them, if indeed you even can. I could help you for a price.”
“Well, we know of a place you can get more of those crystals, possibly.”
“That seems a fair trade to me,” Captain Villeroy was excited. “There’s even a way I could perhaps help you close that gap in time. You see after some research over the last weeks I have found that with enough spell energy and will one can travel a short way through time’s passing by riding certain currents in the Rift Weave.”
Felghanis was drawing a map on a scrap of parchment. He finished it and handed it to Villeroy.
“Ah, I know this place. It makes sense that a mine may be there.”
They talked a little more and it was decided. Villeroy would help them cross back to when the Scours left in exchange for that map of the Deep Earth Crystal mine at the Hand of Gulresh.
“My arm!” The door flew open and Aenir burst in with Kellor beaming a huge smile behind him.
“It’s healed.” He flexed his hand a few times. “I think it’s even stronger than it used to be. Kellor, let’s test it.”
They gripped hands and tried to crush each others palm.
“Aye, I think it is stronger,” Kellor nodded.
With a renewed Aenir they left Stonecrest to be met with a roaring wind. The Rift Weave was ahead of them. A swirling mirage-like scene of wavering landscapes covered in snow and backed by tall mountains. The storm was closer and the Rift Weave seemed almost alive. Parts of it seemed to reach and grasp. They tied themselves together and approached.
“You may see some things in the Rift Weave that appear as visions. Pay them no mind. It’s some time of time leak. In the storms they are more active and will be quite visible. Head forwards,” Captain Villeroy said loudly to be heard.
They walked forward, a bit stumbling because of the rope at first, and entered the Rift Weave. Creatures or spirits started swirling around them pulling at their clothes and brushing their cheeks.
“Pay them no mind, they’ll leave soon …”
But Felghanis bristled at the attention. He surged with negative energy and the things harrying the others surged away to congregate on Fel’.
“Don’t do that. They feed on that energy. You’ll have them all trying to drain you,” Villeroy warned.
Felghanis ceased instantly and then there was a pull on the rope. The landscape swirled and darkened. He saw a flare of purple lightning and a tear of blackness. Beyond his Uncle seemed to be sitting at his desk.
The dread necromancer unlocked and opened a drawer, retrieved a large crystal ball and began peering into it.
“Uncle?” Felghanis asked again.
“Felghanis? What… what are you doing?”
“What is your plan, Uncle? What are you doing?”
“I…” Fel’s uncle seemed to be struggling against some force. “I won’t tell…”
Faint traces of purple electricity ran from the orb up Uncle’s arms.
“Tell me!” Felghanis pushed.
Like he was straining against it physically, a compulsion of the mind, Fel’s uncle suddenly seemed to wilt. “I… I will seize the bell and with it raise an army. Then, then, I will take the throne for myself!”
With a mewling scream Uncle fell forward.
Kalista was in silence. The Rift Weave seemed to have gone quiet. A curved wall seemed to loom into view. There was the sound of battle and fallen bloodied men lay about. It was the Iron Tower’s library where the Scours were killed by the steel dog. Jonas and another man fought the construct and suddenly Fenris seized the other man driving a dagger between his ribs from behind.
Jonas pushed them both away and felled the steel dog with a might blow from his war axe. Fenris scrambled to his feet and Jonas seemed to simply no longer be there. The Scour had seized the book of Fimbulwinter and moved through a door. He pushed it closed as Fenris rushed him with a wicked looking arming sword. Try as he might Fenris couldn’t get through the door.
It was suddenly dark. Kalista could see a figure kneeling in prayer before an old altar. Suddenly a second figure was standing there. The scene lightened and Kalista recognised the chapel at Vrim. Jonas stood and turned to Mellevictus and they seemed to be talking but she could not hear any of their words.
They were standing before Goran. This time she could hear.
“You will go to the inn and ransack the necromancer’s room. Then place his rapier under the girl’s bed.”
Kalista could see Felghanis’ old rapier in Goran’s hand as the Scour went out into the snow.
A swirl of deep purple like the worst type of contusion. Jonas and all the Scours save Goran were standing at the narrow path to the Sipran Keep. He drew out the Iron Flask.
Mellevictus protested, “You can’t do this.”
Jonas said some arcane phrases and threw the flask down. The demon appeared in a haze of rust streaked smoke and surged up the path with its terrible blade held high.
Twisting, a wrenching sensation, in her perception and Kalista saw Goran in a cell. Jonas approached and seized the door. The Scour, the werebear mentor of Thiridea, ripped the door from its hinges, iron bending like clay. Jonas seized the cowering Goran by the collar and threw him through the portal to the waiting demon. It cut Goran down in two swings and that was just enough time for Jonas to step through and cast the Dismissal which sent it back to the Pale of War.
“They’re evil. So evil and cruel. The Church is lost,” Kalista thought.
Like a ship heaving beneath them they suddenly found themselves in a cold biting wind. Ahead of them the Scours were gathered around Jonas.
“Quick, hand me the book,” Jonas says to Mellevictus.
Thiridea reacts first. “Enemies!”
Before anyone can respond she hurt Felghanis, some telekinetic effect launched him with enough force to nearly knock over the dwarves crushing him in the rope, and advanced with her poleaxe.
Felghanis cried out, “I claim sanctuary in the Saint’s name.”
“Necromancers have no protection from the Church,” Thiridea yelled back.
“Wait!” Jonas commanded. “I would hear what he as to say.”
“My uncle plans to steal the throne using the Bell of Thullemon.”
“You know where the bell is?”
“I think so. In the Iron Tower, the crystal in its base.”
Jonas nods and then, annoyed, pulls Thiridea back. “Get back here.”
Felghanis pushed, “My Uncle wishes to overthrow Davinus.”
“Has he retrieved the bell already?”
“No I don’t…” That was as far as Felghanis got with his response.
Jonas cast a spell. Fire and divine force smashed down on the party. Felghanis, Kalista and Aenir fell to the ground. Then Thiridea leapt to the attack. With Willem’s long spear and Frellan’s Spiritual Weapon to support her she finished them quickly.
“Finish them…” Jonas commanded but he was struck by a powerful blow of ice.
A figure had risen out of the ice to attack. Thiridea lead the charge.
Guards, the lizardmen, came out of the Rift Weave.
“Ah, there. The fire of gods led us here. See… it is as the old one said.”
They gathered up the party and bound their wounds.
“We take them to Villeroy. He might help.”
“And he close,” added another.
In the trade guild Kalista was woken first.
“This is a surprise. I didn’t expect to see you again. Have you found Fenris?”
“No… didn’t we already have this conversation?” Kalista strained against her disorientation.
“I haven’t seen you since you left me at Plateau Point…” Captain Villeroy trailed off. “The guards said they found you outside the Rift Weave. Had you just left Stonecrest, by any chance?”
Kalista nodded sadly. They had come back before they left and this Captain Villeroy had indeed never met them since Plateau Point.