Bishapur / Island of Limmerik, Burg Amabis


At the end of last year some time after the Summer Campaign in Mythodea, Count Beria de Eline traveled with some companions to Burg Amabis in Bishapur where he aided in the exorcism and defeat of an arch demon. This is the story of what happned as told by Cecilya of Porto Leonis.

Report of the events that transpired the end of last year at Burg Amabis in Bishapur procured by Count Beria de Eline from its writer, Cecilya.

Story by Cecilya:

Sodgar sensed new business in Bishapur when I told him about the archipelago. So I went ashore for the third time on the island of Limmerik, which was south of Bishapur. I went alone and carried very little with me. The rest of the crew was not very magic [attuned] and since I knew [magic] best, Sodgar trusted that I would not get myself into trouble. [In] five days he would pick me up again and, I knew I wouldn't need much here on the Isle of Magic. Just the usual:  Backpack with some extra clothes, my smoking utensils, element rocks, some bandages, of course, some food and my two books. In addition, a staff and dagger, as well as a handful of lumis, which I discovered in the Foglands. Lumis were moss-like organisms, which sometimes glowed dimly in the dark and never grew bigger than a marble. From a village elder I learned that they had the ability to extract pollutants from superficial wounds and helped to heal them...

The last rays of the sun sank between the trunks of old and young trees. Nature awoke from its daytime slumber. I heard the chirping of crickets, the rustling of small creatures romping on the ground. I kept meticulously following the barely recognizable path that ran through the landscape like a long-forgotten road, digressing to the right and left every now and then just at the moment when I was training myself to be a fool, as I was looking in vain for my lamp or at least for a small ball of light, both of which I had forgotten, I noticed a small flicker from the corner of my eye, but when I turned my head, it had already disappeared. A little shiver ran down my back to my fingertips. I listened for every sound my ears could hear: A soft, intermittent rustle in the thicket to my right. Above me the wind that softly made the leaves sing. A cloudless sky, whose full moon reminded me to be alert despite the good light it gave. [crickets chirping] But nothing else. I walked on, but even slower than before, looking around me carefully and pausing now and then to listen.  I stopped at a rock formation. The feeling of being watched did not let go of me.  So I took my backpack from my shoulders, sat down cross-legged on the rock and rummaged in my bag.

A pleasant scent rose from the incense I held in my hand in front of me, what was that back there that was approaching on the eastern path? I greet you, creature of nature, and wish you a good journey, wherever your path leads you," I said clearly into the darkness, and the flickering, though it was only as big as a thumb, came closer. It crunched and out of the darkness another figure stumbled, and as I dropped the incense into the cool grass, I pulled out my dagger and stood up halfway up.  Images of undead and werewolves appeared before my inner eye.  After all, it was known that all sorts of creatures walked on this island, and there were not only light-born creatures...  "By Norin, I've had enough of this miserable forest! Nothing can be seen and this little beast...oh...I beg your pardon..."  The voice belonged to a simply dressed middle-aged man, wrapped in a dark cape and, as far as I could make out, definitely human and, judging by his aura, harmless.

Moreover, his only companion seemed to be a shoulder bag, in which he now rummaged, "Have you seen this little bastard?  Curious, dancing in my face as if it wanted me to follow it...but where are my manners?  Radek, scribe of Hallad the Baron of Uhringen, at your service."  With a flowing movement he had freed a small torch from its pocket and was now searching for another component to light it.  "Which beast are you talking about?", I said, while I watched him as he lifted a small thing to the top of the torch, which first struck a few sparks that formed into flames and lit the torch.  He had the average face of the world, except that his mouth was perhaps a little wider than normal, and Radek looked around searching.  "Well, that little flickering will-o'-the-wisp that has been lighting me up here for some time now...there it is!", he exclaimed and pointed to a point diagonally behind me.  I turned halfway around and actually there was a small, shining dot jumping around on a branch and obviously seemed to be happy about so much attention.  "Yes hello you. What are you doing here all alone?", I asked straight out, but the will-o'-the-wisp just kept dancing around on the branch.  "You talk to that thing? Can you understand it? What does it want, by my feather dear?!" The scribe's voice sounded surprised and disbelieving.  I shrugged my shoulders.

"So if you were smart enough to follow it, maybe it wants to show us something? Wisps may be deceitful, but they can also lead to surprises...", I dared to make a guess. I hadn't met any before. At least not as active as in this case.  I put my dagger away and shouldered my rucksack. I re-ignited the burnt incense and put it into a small crevice in the rock. There it could burn down without danger.

"What are you going to do now?  Do you want to follow the beast?  And anyway, you haven't told me your name.  Are you a magician?  From the looks of you, I'd say yes.  And why are you travelling alone at all and..." 

"You are indeed a scribe", I interrupted him, whereupon Radek paused in bewilderment.

"Always asking questions." I smiled.  "But good. I am Cecilya and yes, I am magically gifted. Magic is a part of me, but it is far from mature like I am.  And I am alone because I wanted it to be. Does that answer your questions first, writer?"

Radek nodded embarrassed and cleared his throat. "Aaalsoo...", he dragged the word unnecessarily. "I suppose you want to follow the will-o'-the-wisp there as well?"

I pulled up a shoulder and nodded.  "I have already had two adventures on this island.  So why not add a third?"  And with these words we marched off...

As before during my visits on Limmerick this castle was also marked by the years. The single watchtower stood there like a relic from past epochs.  Strangely enough, it was almost completely intact, and the will-o'-the-wisp that the scribe and I followed brought us another companion, an archer named Falk.  In contrast to us, he had first seen the notices which pointed to these very events around the will-o'-the-wisp and the castle.  We called, but nobody noticed. We were discussing what to do when the metal clattering sounded from the path we had come, and another large group, chattering cheerfully, appeared.  "Greetings," I shouted in their direction.  The answer came promptly.  "Greetings! Are you the lords of this castle?", a soldier asked, striking back the heavy cloak. 

"No, we are travelers ourselves and arrived here a few moments ago. The castle looks deserted...",  Radek spoke up.  One of the companions curiously looked at the small gate, then at the windows locked with bars.  Before I could notice anything else, he had already pulled himself up by them and peered through the window into the dark.  All full of cobwebs, tables and chairs that have fallen over," he said loudly into the round before he let himself fall back onto solid ground.

"I don't think it's a good idea to touch the door with no hands. What if...!", I started a warning, but - of course - that didn't help. There was a lot of hammering against the door, only to make the doorknob jiggle. "In the next 20 or so moments more groups arrived, so that our group grew to about 50 people. Even a few families with children were among them.  And when I saw them, I was very surprised:

I recognized the small group of desert emissaries whom I had already met briefly on my first visit, and the two merchants who were also bards and had their families in tow, were also remembered thanks to the musical evenings: Cae, one of the old-established people from the Blutpackt, and Bartock, the gorilla chief.  Wait, or was he even a shaman?  I wasn't sure anymore.  But I was sure that I wanted to be careful not to eat bananas near him. It made him very angry.  I was smiling inside.  I was curious if someone would make the careless mistake.

And last but not least:  The Elf, whom the majority only called "The Count", otherwise they would get lost in the endless titles he had accumulated over the centuries.  As our number grew to 50, it seemed to be enough for the castle and the wisps.  A loud bang, followed by a crackling sound signaled that the castle had apparently awoken from its slumber.the door, which had previously been locked, sprang open.we entered the hall one after the other, thoughtfully. The now dimly shimmering lamps were covered with cobwebs, tables and chairs were covered with thick dust. Here and there were window ledges, on which all kinds of altar-like coverings were found. From cloths to small skulls, lights and ornamental blankets...  A murmur rose up among us as we slowly mastered the impressions...  And as was usual in such a mixed group, there were those handful of figures who could not resist their curiosity for the unknown:  About at the end of the hall, on a small hill, there was a simple wooden frame.  On it was a book with a red cover.  Locked, of course.

A cleric--I thought I had seen her before--was asked by her companion to take a closer look, and as she approached the book, I thought I saw a kind of white mist.  Only fleetingly, it was.  "Waaahhh!!" The Cleric's hand was frightened away.  "The book bit me!"

"A biting book? Oh please...", one said, about to open the book. "AAAhhhh!!"

"You should learn to believe what you're told...ts, men..." was the Cleric's snide comment. I too had little sympathy for the young man rubbing his fingers. "If no one objects, I will try a clerical analysis...No objections?  Well..."  She began to call her dragons with her eyes closed, asked them to reveal the book to her and then remained silent for a short while. 

When she opened them again, she frowned,  "Well, what I can say is that there seems to be a kind of blue mist around this book. And I saw a symbol, a diamond with a dot in it."

The Cleric looked around.  "Any assumptions, gentlemen? Go on, get on with it, any thought can help..."

"If I may permit myself an analysis as well - magically," it spoke beside me.  A young man had joined our investigation team and I recognized him as the Count's advisor.  The cleric made an inviting gesture and stepped aside.  The advisor also swore up his powers to find out the circumstances of the book.  His forehead curled up and he rubbed his chin when he had finished.  "Very strange...  I saw something else, a green mist from which threads seem to emanate in all directions..." 

I raised my eyebrows.  Even the bystanders were confused. "So...", the lady made a movement with her left hand. "...clerical analysis, blue mist; symbol. Magic analysis:", she moved her right hand to the side. " mist and threads...  Perhaps the book was sealed. With both of these...", a man in a battered doublet and cap waved his hand to the cleric and the magician. I tilted my head. Should the book be the riddle to be solved?  If so, what exactly was it?  Was it only about opening the book?  Or should the book not be touched at all?

A queasy feeling came over me.  I thought back to my last two visits.  Had I perhaps emulated my urge to get into an adventure too much? 

"Hey!", someone shouted from the hall entrance.  "We found another door out here.  We can't get it open.  Not even a sword could get through..." 

"Open Bartock! Bartock strong!" Bartock, the gorilla, stomped courageously out and I saw that I was coming after him.  To the right of the hall entrance there was indeed another door, which I had not noticed before because of its simplicity.  Two warriors were already standing in front of it, trying to break down the door.  "Let Bartock do it," said Bartock, whereupon the two of them willingly moved aside.  The Gorilla took a running start, threw himself with full force against the door...  and bounced back as if his own force had thrown him back.  Bartock picked himself up and tried again.  But he bounced back again. 

Cea, who had also come out, put his hand on Bartock's shoulder.  "Bartock, let me run here..." He drew his sword, lifted it with the tip in front and drew out.  I stood beside him and got ready to heal him.  In case no one else did.  The sword would ricochet off just like Bartock and the rest he had touched.  And the sword would return when he threw it.  But that, I knew Cae knew. That's who he was.  Just going at it like that.  True to the motto:  Kill first, ask questions later, I sighed deeply.  The sword bounced off the barrier so that its blade hit the blood packer right in the shoulder.  So, heal once.  But instead of taking it easy afterwards, the good Lord had the next idea.

"Give me your strength...  come on, come here, give me your strength.  It doesn't have to be much, just a part, I'll knock that thing away..."  One by one, there were four people, including the cleric, who gave him a part of their power.  With Mero's permission, I transferred some of us to him as well.  Gae told Bartock to lean against the barrier.  You could almost see the man trembling under the powers he had taken.  He briefly loosened his shoulders and neck, took a run-up-the two creatures literally crashed through the door rattling and scattered wood shavings flew through the air. 

"Well, the door is open...", I murmured and checked if they were all right. "Hey Bartock, everything okay? Are you okay?", I asked the gorilla.

"Bartock okay. Bartock feels even stronger with Cae!" I laughed for a moment.  'Typical.'  I stayed outside for a while while while some of them looked at the small room.  Also alchemists were among them and seemed to smell work:  lots of small cans, caskets and parchment rolls. It might take a while to find out what had happened in this place.  The cold drove me back into the hall.  In the meantime the tables and chairs were set up again and the room was cleared of the worst dirt.  The children, six in number, dared to leave the safe circle of their families and explore the hall in their own way.  Now that the light of the lamps shone brighter, I could see that there were not only human beings among them.  Fascinated I looked after a demon girl with small horns.  I estimated her to be about 9 summers old because of her size.  Always near her, a slightly younger figure with a hood and long ears.  When the creature turned in my direction, I recognized a goblin child, maybe three summers younger.  I wondered how these two could get along and if they were even siblings, but later it turned out that they really belonged together.  The father, judging by his appearance, was at least half-demon, his wife was human, even if that didn't mean anything.  There were enough beings who could hide their true appearance.  I didn't have much to do with demons.  Yeah, I was even afraid of them.  But these two-the father and the daughter told me that there would be no danger from them if you were near them, yet I kept my distance and chose a place near the entrance, The Count, his companion, and the cleric with her companion.

As during my last two visits to the castles of Limmerick, small bowls of nuts and biscuits appeared on the tables, and the Count's advisor was worried.  "I've been here on this island twice before.  And so far the ghosts have not poisoned me with the little sweets," I cheered him up and reached out strongly. The hunger had crept in unnoticed and now that I had come to rest for the time being, it burst out like thunder.

"S-spirits...?"  The magician opposite me went a little pale.  I nodded.  "Of course. After all, we are on the Island of Magic.  It would be strange if on an island like this there were no ghosts of past inhabitants in the castles and palaces...  Now don't tell me..." 

"Yes, yes," the count grinned at his neighbor in amusement. "Our good friend here is afraid of ghosts."  He patted his shoulder.

"That's not funny!" exclaimed the tormented man, because neither the Elf nor I could stop ourselves from laughing.

"Excuse me, but that just sounds funny! You are magicians too, aren't you? How can you be afraid of ghosts?", I shook my head and had to take a deep breath to avoid being blown up again.  The magician turned up his nose, then looked at his hands lying on the table in shame.

"Is there nothing to be afraid of?", he asked and I sighed deeply, "Of course...but anyway, I will have to tell you that you will have to live with their presence as long as you are here. They also make the food..." And so it was. On an invisible command, delicious food was served in the small room next to the hall: roast and dumplings, vegetables and cakes for dessert. The rest, which had remained outside and in the alchemy room, were also driven into the hall by the prospect of a warm meal, and the air was soon filled with happy chatter... 

I had just eaten half of my cake when a small commotion broke out in the square with the sealed book.  When I turned my head, I could not really see anything.  There was a little outcry, followed by a "Rums!" "The book is open!", one shouted.  A little later one of the eyewitnesses came up to the back table and explained the incident:  Apparently someone had the idea to give the book cookies to eat.  As it swallowed them, another stabbed it with a dagger and the book jumped up, shaking me and I buried my face in my hands.  Now I was sure it was far from wise to embark on this adventure...

My fears were heightened that evening when two figures entered the hall. One of them I already knew: he was a man they called "The Sentinel".  He was present in every castle, every palace on Limmerick.  And, yes, it was always the same man.  May the goddesses know how he could smell that visitors had entered one of his protégés...  His companion was a woman, her face hidden thanks to her long pony and the bonnet of a nun. She was a nun from an old convent. She had come to support us and bring light into the dark. However, she had little of a nun, I thought. Quiet she was, yes. But her whole aura radiated something strange. Also her clothes, which were partly decorated with dead things, did not bring me much security and she was the one who told us what had happened so many years ago at this place:

Apparently there was an arch demon conjured.  Or even there was--I didn't quite get that part, because my mind went blank at the word "ERZ-Demon" for a short time.  But it could not be controlled and so an order of clerics, mages and simple creatures tries to destroy it by a blood ritual.  But they didn't succeed in this, of course not, that would be like trying to catch the wind, instead they sealed the Archdemon in the book that was now lying open on the small desk and destroyed themselves at the same time.  After this revelation panic mixed with despair and uncertainty.  And what now?

Apparently, there was an archdemon summoned Or even there was--I didn't quite get that part, because my mind went blank at the word "ERZ-Demon" for a short time.  But it could not be controlled and so an order of clerics, mages and simple creatures tries to destroy it by a blood ritual.  But they didn't succeed in this, of course not, that would be like trying to catch the wind, instead they sealed the Archdemon in the book that was now lying open on the small desk and destroyed themselves at the same time.  After this revelation panic mixed with despair and uncertainty.

And now what? "You must be very careful.  Since the book was opened, the Demon could succeed in breaking out of the book.  You must find a way to destroy the archdemon, otherwise all is lost," were the nun's last words before she retired. 

Our small troop had to sit down after this revelation.  Silence spread.  The magician buried the face in his hands.  "What have I gotten myself into?  What have I done to deserve this?...", I could hear him murmuring.  Where had the children gone?  I found a girl under the table of the two merchants next door.  The others seemed to be outside.

Suddenly screams came from outside.  The door was laboriously ripped open and the little goblin girl jumped in.  "A bad thing is coming!" she shouted.  The hall was already filled with scraping chairs and the sound of drawn weapons.  Three other guests rushed into the hall with frightened faces.

"Undead!" one stammered, "monster!" the other.  The rest of the children followed, with the oldest of the small group - he might have reached the age of 14 or 15 - waving his sword behind him in vain.  If I did not have my staff at hand, I at least drew my dagger.  My ears twitched, when at the same moment a dark masked figure stepped through the threshold.  The thing carried no weapons, its claws were dangerous enough-it knew how to use them, and it fended off attack after attack with ease, hits, bumps and kicks seemed to be unstoppable. Single-mindedly it made its way through the hall. I couldn't see what happened after that because of all the heads and bodies, but the painful screaming of a young voice went through my marrow and legs. it might have been a moment or less until the fighters succeeded in killing the being, whatever it was. for one breath there was an unreal silence. Then panic broke out. "Healers!!", the cry came from the far corner. "We need Healers!! A child was lying lifeless on the floor! "My body was frozen. Tears filled my eyes. A child! A child was hurt! Cecilya, wake up! Mero's haunting voice tore me from the frozen posture I had assumed.  Of course.  Heal.  Immediately. With children I still went through it every time.  I felt anger rise up inside me.  Why a child?

With one quick movement, I exchanged dagger for healing clay that was in my belt pouch and walked towards the crowd.  Two other healers were already caring for the injured.  A deep cut gaped over his upper body.

"How did this happen?" I asked brusquely and knelt down to the boy.  "The beast simply could not be stopped, as if it was only fixated on the children.  The boy defended himself, but then..."  I was just about to start taking out my soul stone as well-because there was no doubt something unnatural involved, too-because a commanding voice sounded behind me that would not tolerate any contradiction.  "Let me see, I know about children."  Turning to the voice, I was about to start a harsh response that would have washed.  But the words barely stuck in my throat.  I looked into the face of the Lord of Envoys.  My ears twitched again.  Good, if he thought he could do better. I f he thought he KNEW better, then...  I bit my cheek, got up and left. 

Please, don't try to break out now.  Mero was as loaded as I was.  We both hated not being able to act, just because we had both learned and internalized to our blood that a gentleman or a higher lady should be treated with respect, whatever was there.  From the masters and learned masters to the first of Porto Leonis and the Nyamen and Archons in Mythodea.  But especially when it came to children, I...  I didn't look at anyone, just cursed softly and stuffed cake into myself.  The end of the song was such that the boy almost reached the realm of the dead, but could be fetched again.  He was almost completely drained of his life energy.  The "Lord" could apparently not help with this, but suddenly I felt tired.  I ate the last piece of cake that I had left on my plate and got up. "Well, well...", I said before a yawn escaped, "I don't know about you, but I have to digest it first.  I'm gonna go into hiding. Good night."  I left without waiting for an answer.  The way to the sleeping quarters was easier than I thought.  Not least thanks to the little will-o'-the-wisp that seemed to receive me at the stairs and led me upstairs to the back room.  Or at least up to the front of it, because it could not come within one meter of the door.  One look was enough to find the reason for this: The door was protected by a barrier.  Ornaments as well as a voodoo doll made of garlic were attached to the doorknob.

"Cecilya I am, in flesh and blood, blessed by my goddesses Sinora and Gaia.  Is there a bed available in this room?", I asked just loud enough so that the people behind the door could hear me if anyone was in the room.  It remained silent at first until I heard a faint creaking and a little later the door was slowly opened.  The Gestalt of the Mistress of the desert messengers came towards me.  A smile spread across her face. "Come in.  We have another bed.  How did you know? " she wanted to know quietly and I told her about the will-o'-the-wisp.

"Good, then our protection that we have established will work. We always do that when we sleep in other people's beds when we travel," she explained, pointing to a small elevation in a bed at the end of the room.  "My son. He is barely six summers old.  It's all very exciting for him.

"He is afraid quickly." I nodded.  "Children were much more aware of what was going on than we adults realized.  To save them from scary or even evil was an act of impossibility.  I inspected the upper bed, which the mistress showed me.  It was still very stable despite its age, just creaking a little, "Then I wish you a peaceful night and good sleep. With all we have experienced so far, we are facing a difficult stay...", I whispered before I undressed and got into bed.  I was reluctant to sleep in the same room with those people, but what had to be done was done.  I hoped we could solve the mystery quickly.  On the other hand...  what kept me from simply disappearing the next morning?  The Mistress replied and turned off the light.  In my last thoughts I sent a quick prayer to Sinora, whose mantle of stars I could see shimmering through the window. 

"Let this have a happy ending..."  The next morning I was greeted with the snoring of two of the emissaries' men.  Astonishing, I had not noticed their entry and that of the other roommates--the bedchamber had eight beds, after all.  But I had a rather light sleep by nature.  I asked Mero and he just said that he had closed my ears "to make sure that I would be completely recovered", and I thanked him for that.  After I asked only briefly whether anything else had happened last night and was only told that the book was apparently able to turn the pages on its own, the cool morning air drove me out again.  For the first time I saw what was hiding in the courtyard and the adjacent green space, and it wasn't really much.  Rock walls, the archway through which we all came last night, another archway that seemed to lead to a viewing level and another thing that was very familiar to me.

"Say, do you know what this could be?" a soldier asked me, who was fixing a coloured dot in the grass with a woman.  I approached.  The woman was about to bend down and stretch out her hand.

"Don't touch it," I warned her, and she stopped in mid-motion.  I accelerated my steps and stared at the spot.  As I had thought: flowers.  Paired with plants, of which I was no longer sure which ones were poisonous. But in any case I had seen them before, only not in this constellation, which I explained to the two people present.

"Perhaps the alchemists can use it," the man speculated. I agreed with a nod. However, we should first wait and let everyone know to touch the plants with gloves or cloths.

During breakfast, more and more people emerged from their sleeping chambers and a lot of research was done.  But until the morning we did not have any really important results.  Until suddenly... "Enemy contact!", the warning call rang out. I was just outside, and I was stretching my legs when they appeared.  There were two of them.  The undead weren't very well-equipped, which doesn't mean anything.  They were hard to bring down either way.  Unless you managed to knock their heads off their shoulders.  But strangely enough, as soon as they were finally destroyed, the two dead disappeared in a white fog, and at about the same time a small research group came to the conclusion that something always happened when the book turned over a page.  And with each page that was turned, the threat would come closer, and the nun would appear again and stay this time.  She wanted to support and advise us.  She also explained that last night's creature was a harvester, a servant of the Archdemon.  By stealing the boy's life energy, he automatically transferred it to his trapped master.  The undead were proof that the Demon had already gained strength.

At noon, a single man appeared who claimed to be the coachman of the people who were staying here at the castle.  He was supposed to take the horses to a safe place and then come here on foot, which he did, but something seemed to have happened to him along the way.  It didn't take long before he and anyone who was near him or touched him began to suffer from specific symptoms not unlike a cold:  Chills, fever, nausea.  It wasn't long before the alchemists declared a minor emergency.  In the meantime the children had collected all the flowers they could find.  Of course, they had given them gloves and cloths beforehand and taught them not to touch the flowers directly under any circumstances.  Apparently they found an antidote in the scrolls.  The coachman was getting worse and worse over the next two hours.  It turned out that the other participants only suffered from the symptoms when they looked at the coachman. It was confusing.

I wanted to sit in peace in the hall and brood. A man in scholarly robes sat bent over a pile of parchment rolls and seemed to study them. I went to him, thinking differently. "Can we help?", I asked him, whereupon he raised his head in amazement. "With pleasure. These writings are all from the alchemy laboratory. In the meantime we have found out that there is a kind of blood ritual with which the Archdemon could possibly be destroyed, but so far we have not found the exact recipe and procedure. It would be...

helpful if several eyes were to search for it." I had already sat down and nodded. I didn't really like the prospect of a blood ritual, but if it was the only possibility, then so be long as I didn't have to give my blood for it...  I had just started to study the second parchment when the advisor of the count also wanted to help us.  "Well, it will most likely be the only way-the blood ritual...," he began and sighed.

"Why?", I wanted to know with a frown.

His face lost some of its color.  "A small group tried to escape from the castle. "They said they were in too much danger and wanted to leave. They went to the gate and..." He faltered. "My pulse suddenly quickened..." My voice was almost a whisper.

"...they disappeared.  Just like that.  A short time later we heard an astonished cry from one of the sleeping chambers.  Then everyone came down the stairs to the dormitories.  Completely pale, bathed in sweat as if they had been running all day... "he castle won't let us go...", he ended. "The scholar and I looked at each other. Stupid idea, very stupid idea...if we couldn't find the sequence of the blood ritual...then we really had a problem if pure evil would truly step out of the book...And so we spent the next hour looking through the scriptures. Until the magician became aware of a small paper, which was written in some kind of secret writing. At the end of this paper was painted a single symbol that looked familiar to me. However, I was so fixated on finding the implementing parchment or general information about the events of that time that I couldn't think of the context in which I had seen the symbol before, but only when the first words were decoded did it come to my mind like scales from my eyes.  This is the same text I translated on my first visit.

"Do you remember what it was about?" the scholar asked me. 

I nodded. "Yes, a little. It says here:  We're going to get the wrong bishop... ...and then somehow it goes on to say that his true nature should be revealed. That the spies were already on their way with information and...something about werewolves..." 

"Hmm...but nothing that has anything to do with our situation?", the magician next to me wanted to know, whereupon I shook my head decisively. "Forget the text. It didn't help much at that time and ..."

"ONE SIDE HAS BEEN PAPERED OVER AGAIN!", the cry came behind me. My ears twitched. The scholar awoke from his rigidity. "We should continue..."

This time the undead had claimed a victim and they knew exactly which one it should be: The sick coachman. But something was different: "Don't kill him completely yet," I heard an alchemist call out, who came with a larger ampoule. "We need the brain of the undead! "And some of his blood, if possible.

I raised my eyebrows and shortly afterwards stood outside to watch the spectacle.  The undead still twitched.  It stank [like a beast], when the alchemist with a cloth around mouth and nose parts of the brain with its equipment took and afterwards blood from the same region caught.  Suppressing the trembling, I had trouble speaking reasonably normally.  "What do you need the brain and its blood for?" I wanted to know,

"We found the list of materials to perform the blood ritual.  Sorry, this has to be done quickly here", were her short words, leaving the bystanders baffled and disgusted and disappearing in the alchemy laboratory. 

"And what are we going to do with the dead ku-...wwahhhrrgggg", one of them started to through-up as soon as he looked at the corpse.  Including the Count who had fought with him, those who were not yet affected retreated. "We should throw away his body."

"Best throw him over the wall!"

"No, burn him! Only then will we have peace!"

"What are the alchemists doing in there anyway?  When will they finally find an antidote for the epidemic here?  "Speculation, suggestions and curses, coupled with gagging and vomiting noises filled the place.  But the count, the magician and I seemed to be the only ones who seemed to have the brains to get to the point, not to mention Bartock, who suddenly threw the dead coachman over his shoulder.  

"Bartock throw him over the wall, then stop being sick."

"Bartock, wait! Just put him there by the gate to the platform!  We don't know if that will do any good," I called after him and the Count went with Bartock.

"I'll throw the body over the wall," he began, but out of the blue he too began to cough and choke.  Apparently he too had dared to take on the dead, or had come into contact with him in some way.  Bartock began to stagger, barely managing to put the lifeless body down and take two steps away as he threw up in a high arch. 

"Oh shit...", I was told. That was all that was needed.  My head was spinning.  I was not affected yet.  If it was true that one could approach the person without looking at him, without having symptoms, there was only one possibility: I had to analyze him.  No matter what.  The disease was transmitted by contact.  So if I moved backwards and didn't touch him, I should be able to find out what had made him and the others so sick.

I first waited for the okay of the bystanders before I approached the corpse backwards.  When the coachman arrived, I knelt down at the height of his belly, meticulous to keep enough distance so as not to touch him, but to sit just close enough to him so that I could begin my analysis.

With my soul stone in both hands, I raised them to my forehead and closed my eyes, "I ask Sinora, my Goddess of the stars, to open my eyes to what lies unseen before me.  I also ask your sister Gaia, the Goddess of Nature, show me what is in this body, what is not allowed to be. I beg you, open my eyes to see the truth..."  And as I took my hands off my forehead, lifted my aventurine over the body and opened my eyes, I saw what was:  a green mist was billowing like a veil in the wind over the body of the coachman.  From it I could see several threads running outside my field of vision.  But I could follow one of these threads:  It led straight to Bartock, who was still nearby, now halfway down and choking whenever he dared to take a glimpse in our direction.  I finished my analysis, thanked the goddesses for their gifts and looked towards the waiting companions. 

"Well, well..." I started and slowly stood up. "What I can say is that I saw the same green mist that emanated from the book but, without the symbol of the diamond with the dot. And there are threads coming from the mist."

"Threads? "How many?", the Count wanted to know.  I raised my shoulders.  "I can't say.  I couldn't see where they were going.  But it leads exactly...  one to...  Bartock...  wwaaarrrggggg..." I suddenly got worse and worse the longer I turned towards the dead man.  I couldn't help it.  I threw up.  "What the...I didn't touch him at all!?", I asked in astonishment and turned my back on the cause of the evil. 

Suddenly the nausea got better and I only tasted the unpleasant rest of the vomit in my mouth. I spat out. "Bah, disgusting!"  Okay, does anyone have any idea what we should do now? Because I'm really stumped right now," I moaned.  I've had enough, finally.  The cleric kept us company and I took the opportunity to tell the alchemists in the small room about what had happened in the last few moments. 

"We might have found a remedy that could help with the nausea," one of them said. "We are in the process of finishing it.  Give us five more moments and the first ampoules should be ready."

I thanked him.  I was also glad to hear that they had found another recipe to neutralize the poison they suspected in the green mist.  However, this would take a little longer."  This takes too long for me.  Let's end this now and be done with it."  In the doorway stood a tall, stocky man with a beard and a sailor's robe.  His face was already sallow from nausea, and in a sailor that meant something.  If you intend to burn the body, I strongly advise you to wait a little longer.  There is talk of building a wall around the dead man.

We hope to contain the poison, or whatever it is.  This gives us and the alchemists time to act: "The sailor growled something incomprehensible into his beard, turned around and disappeared but, I knew that someone like him would not be deterred for long.  I wished the alchemists good luck and set off again for the group of three that I had left.  In the meantime it was agreed to put a protective wall around the body.  What did I get myself into?  Do I really have to do that?", the magician just asked and the count nodded surely.  "Yes, and we are all very grateful to you if it works..."

"And if it doesn't work?"

"Then we have the same problem as before." The magician groaned, but surrendered to his fate.

Shortly afterwards the barrier was erected.  With the help of the magic of the count the barrier could slow down the spreading of the fog, but it could not be stopped.  The alchemists came and handed us a remedy that should take away the sickness.  I smelled first and then took a sip. I clearly tasted the alcohol, but if it was of any use...  besides, it was only a small bottle full, I could tolerate that.  However... "Chokes...", it sounded there beside me.  The magician had vomited.  The alchemists looked perplexed. 

"Then this was not the right thing to do... we will complete the antidote, then our word." And then they had disappeared again.

"Great, while they keep experimenting in there, we have a plague going on out here...", I heard one grumble, but for now I just wanted to get rid of the bitter aftertaste that the ineffective ampoule had left me.  One of the bards was teaching his daughter the best way to sell unimpressive handicrafts.  I got myself an orange juice, drank it empty standing up and filled it up before I went to my regular place.  My hands had become freezing cold, my feet were burning with cold.  Either I had to get new boots or thicker socks when I got out of here in one piece.  But my hope was fading like ice melting in the sun.  I mean, destroying an arch demon with a blood ritual?  Blood rituals for me were filled with black magic, impure thoughts and evil intentions.  To use it on an arch demon was like pouring oil on fire.  The cleric didn't seem too comfortable with it either.  I had already noticed that when the subject of blood first came up, she wanted to prepare her own ritual-an exorcism of her own.  Fight the negative with the positive.  It seemed much more plausible. But she was pretty much alone with her proposal.

"One side turns over!", the loud cry of the one who had been assigned to guard the book rang out. "AND ONE!!"  Two pages! That was bad.  One page was bad enough, two could bring a little disaster.  But this time I was prepared. Screams and fighting sounds were already coming. The trader instructed the children to hide under the tables while he drew his bow and pointed at the entrance.  More arrows were lying ready to hand over his goods, the staff in my hand and the dagger on the side of the bodice, I opened the door.  And with them...  the Harvester!  I saw five warriors beating on him at once, while the rest took care of the undead.  One of them came dangerously close to the door, but we knew how to stop him.  One stroke with the staff and more sword strokes later, his chain mail was shattered and he crumbled to dust.  Cries of pain, healer cries and other orders resounded in the dawning twilight. 

With the help of the lumis bandage, I cut the upper arm of one of them.  I was about to look for a man who had obviously been shot by an arrow when I noticed another pool of blood.  "Hey! You take care of this one," I instructed a profane healer and knelt down to the man next to him. He did not move.  Lost blood much too quickly.  But how did he...?  There!  Because of all the dark stains on his already darker clothes, the cuts were only possible thanks to the torn fabric.

"Just don't die on me, understand?  With my teeth clenched, I reached into my little fanny pack. I dropped the stick carelessly next to me, also throwing away the lid of my box, I took a handful of the healing earth, which I had already mixed with water to an ointment, thanks to Sinora.  I had to hurry!  And so I spoke the formula.  It is a little different every time. It was important to direct the inner forces, to connect them with the outer ones and to adjust them individually to the person to be healed and his injuries.  This time Mero and I used an additive, because the man had lost so much blood that we had to ask a part of the already drained blood to return to him.  It took a long time and I needed another handful of healing clay before I could be sure that he would come through.  However, protection was now his first priority.

About thirty moments later we were all called together. It could not go on like this.  Each group had a part of the information and now it was time to finally bring them together.  Also the nun-she now had a kind of guard with her and joined them again.  I hadn't noticed her at all in the last hours, but that was not important now.  We should gather our information NOW and decide if we should perform this blood ritual or not.  After all, the Order wanted to do this already ages ago and did not succeed.  Instead, they destroyed themselves when they locked the archdemon in the book...  so, what have we got?" asked the cleric who led the conversation.

"We know the exact procedure of the blood ritual and the materials that we have used for it needed...", came a voice from the direction of the alchemists.  "And it seems that we have all three attitudes here that are needed for the ritual: magicians, clerics, and regular people and figures.  And how do you intend to ensure that WE succeed in the ritual?  How much time do we have left?  Do we know how many pages the book has?" the dragon lady wanted to know.

"Well, judging by the thickness of the book, I would say it's about 200 pages.  Maybe less...", the young man who had been guarding the book for the time said. "And which page are we on now?"

"Page 19."

"All right, but we don't know if the Arch Demon has to finish turning the pages to escape.  So that leaves the time factor again...  besides...  WHO is supposed to perform the ritual?  Because I'll tell you honestly, I don't really want to do it, because I think it's a huge mistake to want to exorcise a being that lives on the blood of its victims, among other things.  The Cleric's voice had become sharp.  A consenting murmur went through our ranks.  I beg you to listen to me:  I am here to help you and to advise you.  And I tell you:  There will be no other way.  If you do not perform the ritual exactly as instructed, you will fail in any case.  So please, you must perform the blood ritual as it is written..."  Another murmur went through the crowd. Apparently some of the people present had changed their minds again.

"And what is this now? the longer we stand here and discuss, the higher the probability that the demon will break out and we will be left without anything at all," the Lord of Messengers drew attention to himself.  "I say we perform the ritual as it is written." Short silence.

"Very well, as you wish.  Will you perform it?  Or one of you?', the cleric turned once in a circle and looked at everyone.  Everyone was silent.  She snorted scornfully.  "I thought so... well, I'll help prepare the ritual.  Prepare!  And I will consecrate the ground.  I would be happy if someone would at least join in...  "Agreeing murmur.  So it was decided.  The next time I sat inside and tried to meditate.  I heard the cleric from far away scolding the cleric again and again.  Apparently the completion of the preparations was still farther away than I had hoped.

"Forgive me...", a voice came from the hall entrance.  "Someone should draw the ritual circle...  everyone seems too busy for that..."  I opened my eyes and saw a young soldier in chain mail and yellow tabard.  Too busy, my ass!  When no one in the room was stirring,  I got up annoyed.

"All right, I'll do it", I said brusquely.  "But you'll help me!"  The soldier had brought a rope and flour for the marker.  The only material available to us.  I surrendered to fate.

"How big did you say this circle had to be?"  I pecked at it. 

"Sixteen steps long by eight steps wide," came the answer.  "The shape must form a perfect ellipse."

"Perfect ellipse... all right, let's take this point here as our centre." I put down the flour bowl, took measurements and ran eight steps in one direction.  "So, this is our first out point.  Get some flour and mark the spot."  My commanding tone tolerated no contradiction.  The soldier was smart enough not to say anything.  He did obediently, as he was told to.  "Good. Now the other points."  We spent the next thirty moments drawing the basic structure of the ritual circle piece by piece.  In the end we were disturbed by the younger children and I had trouble keeping my voice quiet when the little boy took my staff without asking and began to run around with it, waving it back and forth.  I had marked the middle again with his tip and needed this clue, but finally it was ready.  I thanked the soldier, it was dark and dinner was served, so we decided that it would be better to [perform the ritual] on a full stomach.  Especially the cleric and I had filled our plates well.  I had already offered to help her consecrate the floor, which she thanked me for.  The magician wanted to build a protective wall around the circle and the consecrated earth and the companion of the cleric wanted to strengthen it with shamanic magic.  Whether this would be enough, the moment when everything would happen would show...

I was amazed at the powerful voice the cleric had. Her invocation sounded through the entire atrium and was filled with a conviction as if it would be impossible for a negative energy to penetrate it after this consecration, even though I had never consecrated such a large area in my life before, I was in good spirits.  It seemed to me a sign of Sinora when I found the small staff in my pocket, which shone in a faint bluish glow.  It was not a magic wand in the sense used by wizards and witches.  It was rather a relic that could absorb the light of the stars and transform it into energy.  Not even the learned masters of my order knew the exact process.

However, it was known that this energy could be used like magic, which I used, together with two special ritual incense sticks, for my own consecration.  I tried to remember how the prayer went, but I could not get it all together.  My voice was soft but clear, and the longer we walked around the ellipse, the longer we both called upon the clergy and me, the more I could feel the ground warming under our feet.  My little staff, now fully exposed to the light of the stars, gained in luminosity and soon it shimmered in a bright blue that wet my hands, and the Cleric had started earlier than me, so I spoke my conclusion after her.  The incense was burned down and I had to sit down for a moment.

"Let's hope this will help..." I said to her, whereupon she replied with a gloomy expression that it must.  Otherwise we would all die tonight.  The magician had small beads of sweat on his forehead.  He had withdrawn to the castle wall, but his gaze was fixed on the ritual circle.  He could maintain the circle for a while, but if the Archdemon should break it, he would lose consciousness...  if not worse.  I wanted to stay with him, to catch him if necessary.

"If necessary...", he giggled sarcastically. "...I'll just try a teleportation into the sphere and only return when the Demon has destroyed everything."

"You mean, if you don't pass out first," I thought about his statement with a sideways glance, because my full attention was focused on the events in front of us.  A moment passed, "Now the book!"  The book could be taken from the platform and placed in the middle of the ellipse. We all looked spellbound at the skulls, which began to glow, at the flames of the candles, which rose higher and higher.  The further the ritual progressed, the warmer the air around us became.

"This is not going well...", I heard a voice saying.  A short, wandering look revealed to me that all those who were able to wield a weapon were ready to give everything on command to keep their lives.  Even the oldest boy and the demon girl had dared to take her father's side with sword and small dagger.  Deep sorrow passed through me at the sight of them before I turned back to the main event: the cleric-knowing the impending danger- again called on her dragons to help her, to give her strength to face the monster.  Mero became increasingly restless.  His power flooded me like a raging river and made my blood boil.  Yes, I would fight!  I'd just gotten through the campaign.  I had only just found my soul mate in Sodgar.  I would return to him, and if it meant...  A scream would resound, driving us all through marrow and bone.  The earth began to glow, the entire area of the elliptical ritual circle quivered.  The book in the middle rose in a rotating motion from the ground about two and a half meters high and poured into glowing lava that burned the earth.  All those standing in and around the ellipse were grabbed by invisible hands and hurled a good eight meters away.  We had to protect our eyes, so glaring was the pillar of fire rising from the lava puddle.  I heard a woman scream.  For a moment, time seemed to stand still.

"Fools...  to free me from the book...  do you really think you can destroy me...  lower creatures..."  I sank to one knee and held my aching head. The rest did not fare well...

The voice, terrible, dark, distorted by malice, thundered through us like a raging hurricane. Those who dared to do so despite the brightness stared in horror at the figure that formed from the pillar of flame; only when the brightness was no longer blinding us did I rise again and dare to look at what was standing there in the center of the ellipse.  What I saw made my ears twitch. I could hear my blood rushing and all the color of life was fading from my face, my hands clasped the two bars and my ankles cracked.  I could even feel Mero's horror.  'This is going to be bad, little one...', he warned me urgently and thus released me from my rigidity.  Involuntarily I took two steps backwards and bumped into one of the bystanders, while the head of the Arch-Demon turned calmly back and forth, first looking at those present, then looking down at the double circle of spell.  The lips curled up into a mischievous grin. 

" even gave me a present..." A single flame flared up and devoured the skulls, the blood bowl and the other ingredients that should have contributed to the destruction. 

"It doesn't matter!..  We'll destroy you anyway...", one of the captain's companions spat out and raised his saber.  But the fear came out of every pore.

"Oh really?...", the voice of the archdemon calmly waved through the courtyard like a gentle wave that lay on the shore.  He took a step forward...  and broke the circle I had drawn, as if it didn't exist.  His flaming cloak began to roar around him.  The air was now crushingly warm, but I didn't think to take my hands off my bars to strip the cape.  Where he stood, he left imprints of molten earth on which small tongues of flame romped. 

"You must destroy him!" screamed the nun, whose companion had erected himself protectively before her with his sword raised.  "Kill him!!"

The Archdemon looked at the nun's position and his grin grew wider. "Well, well, well, look who we have here..."  A breath of rapture fell over the voice.  "I have a special gift for you..."  As if by an invisible command, the ground opened up in three places outside the magician's spell circle and just as many dark figures emerged.  "Undead!"

Finally, the rest of the audience began to move.  Blades were struck on shields - familiar sounds of the campaign.  Calls of battle were exchanged and carnage began.  I saw Bartock pounce on one of the undead.  Another servant of Evil wounded three swordsmen before staggering back at a shield that struck him with full force.  I saw the cleric, her companion and three warriors approaching the archdemon, who had meanwhile raised his hand and seemed to hold it against an invisible barrier.  My eyes searched for the magician, but in the confusion I could not make him out, but the cry of pain that resounded shortly afterwards, was clearly attributable to him.

Now there was no protection.  "The power of my dragons will bring you down!  I will wipe you from this world as an exorcist drives evil out of its victim, you creature of the underworld!", the voice of the cleric tore me out of the panic that overcame me after this realization.  It might have been in vain to consecrate the earth, he might have destroyed most of it, maybe even everything, but nature was still nature.  I did not wait for the confirmation of my soulmate, for he had long since become a raging animal in me.  I felt his power to unite with my will, but unlike during our healings together, the small staff of light shone even brighter in the face of the stars and in connection with our power, and now also flooded a part of the larger staff.  I ran to the help of the cleric, who after a blow retreated from the archdemon, while one brave fighter after another rammed the sword into the body of the monster from all possible sides, or cut it with it as best as possible. 

But the Demon laughed and mocked, his hand raised to strike the woman again, and just when he should have hit her, I came in with my staff and said "No!" My roar was only half human.  The hand was lowered.  The next blow brought the demon to a halt, but it had no further effect. There, where my staff.

Screams, metallic clank.  Scattered calls of victory.  When I opened my eyes, still completely numbed by the flaming pain, I only perceived blurred shadows.  All remaining fighters had surrounded the Arch Demon.  Something had changed.  Apparently something had happened at the moment when I was unconscious.  The Demon was much slower now, sword, spear and bullets hit him with increasing success.  After a stroke of the sword against his middle he bent a little.  But the forces all vanished.  And he was still strong enough to fight anyone who didn't
In the meantime, all those who were still capable of magic, even an alchemist, had turned their attention to the archdemon with their powers.  "Little one,...  don't...", Mero's voice burned through my thoughts as I stood up with the help of my staff.  But at one point I had an image in my mind: Sodgar, standing alone on deck.  The companions of the departure, would meet this one again on the next campaign and wonder where the healer-post, who had been so stupid at the beginning, was. 

The old castle, the seat of the Order of Taurus, in which the Star-children together with the masters mourned the death of those who, as almost the only Star-child at that time, had survived the hunt against their kind before the reconstruction.   "...I want to live, Mero...  our path simply must not end yet..."  My voice was a chopped off whisper. Tears ran down my cheeks as I raised my head towards the night sky.  I had a clear view of Sinora's starry mantle, but my body no longer obeyed me.  Again I dropped to one knee.  The pain was the only sign that there was still life in me.  "Please Sinora, my goddess of the stars...", I whispered and lifted the small, shining staff together with my walking stick with my last strength into the air.  Then the darkness that I already knew embraced me and Mero's spirit lay protectively around mine.  " know... what price you have to pay..."


The fight seemed to be coming to an end.  "Go away, you spawn of hell!"  cried the nun's protector.  His red leather armor was now burnt and soot-smeared in some places.  The cleric next to him just gasped, but she didn't dare to take a single step back.  Her hand, which held the dagger, drove into the body of the creature, which was now visibly weaker than moments before.  An alchemist with a singed beard threw the last bit of holy water he had with him.  It hissed and the archdemon gasped.  But it was not the end.  A voice came out.  There was nothing human in it anymore.  The words, unintelligible to the ears of anyone who heard them, the young woman with the red skirt and the leather hoop stomped towards the Archdemon.

There was something predatory about her walk that made her snort, and the staff had nothing in common with the ordinary wooden walking staff one remembered.  Instead, it glowed blue. Weak, but clearly recognizable through the dark.  The woman made it circle once before she rammed it into the belly of the Arch-Demon with a scream.  Sparks flashed.  The cleric felt a strange aura emanating from the young mage.  A last wave of power seized her.  The dragons really meant well to her.  She would thank them extensively if they survived the night.  It took another five moments until they brought down the Archdemon together.  With the help of her companion, the cleric began the exorcism.

The staff of the young magician had lost its blue shimmer and she herself sat on the floor, frozen and sunken.  The Demon was defeated.  Astonishingly few dead had been claimed by the fight.  The protector of the nun ventured down to the still immobile figure.  "Hey, are you okay?" No reaction.  The man put his fingertips on the magician's shoulder but pulled her back quickly when he heard a growl from her throat.  "Hey, you there. Something is wrong with her," he addressed the cleric sitting next to him.  She released herself from the strength-giving embrace of her companion and looked at the man.

"What do you think?"

"She growled when I touched her. I think she's possessed."  The Cleric sighed.  Only one who didn't know magic spoke like that. 

She sat down close in front of the young magician and put a hand in her lap. "Can you understand me? Her voice was soft and tired, and the girl's gaze lifted and the dragon worshipper gazed into two almost black eyes. 

Her brows furrowed. "Who are you?" she asked softly.

"My Mero..." The voice of the young woman was dark and croaky and had nothing in common with her anymore.

"What are you doing in her body, Mero?"

"...I am protecting her...  because I am...  a part of her from birth...", came the fragile answer.

"Can I talk to her?" Shake a head.

"She is...  too weak...  I am too...  weakened too...  but I heal..."

"I see...", the cleric said.  Thereupon she and her companion helped the body of the young mage to straighten up and brought her into the hall.  One [moment} later, the body, which was led by the Soul Fragment of Taurus and whose name was Mero, retreated into the sleeping room.  When the Mistress of the Desert Messengers woke up first the following day, the bed of the young mage was empty.