Winter is long in this part of the world, and Vlad finds it difficult to relax, wanting nothing more than to be hunting his brothers murderer. With Mal, he works off his stress training with the Order of the Crimson Cloak, the church warriors. Additionally, he commissions the master blacksmith Ulfberht to craft him a new sword and breastplate, to better prepare himself for his confrontation with the wichtel and demons to come.
About a week into spring, Vlad, Mal and Pyotr start gathering information in order to locate Hilde and the wichtel. Mal’s contacts report that the land routes through the forest are becoming more dangerous, with couriers raising their prices. Wichtel are also a growing problem in the forests around Siegsdorf. Remote hamlets throughout the region have been attacked and burnt, seemingly by bandits.
The three head to Siegsdorf to get better news on the Wichtel problem, and to see if anyone in the area has fresher news on the market attack. As they arrive on the Crouching Tiger, Mal and Vlad take note of the crew making signs of protection in the direction of a ruined tower on the headland of Seigsdorf, something that they had not observed on previous trips. When queried they mention stories of an ancient demon temple being located there. The town itself appears re-energized after winter, with an increase in the town guard, and a new barracks for a local chapter of the Order of the Crimson Cloak now in place. Vlad goes off to talk to Father Alte about the temple rumours, while Mal goes to the sailors bars to chase down their source.
Father Alte has little information about the temple tower other than it is old enough to pre-date the Great Contagion. Otherwise any information would have been in the destroyed library. Returning to the Crouching Tiger, Mal reveals he had better luck: apparently the rumours of the demonic temple were started by… the crew of the Crouching Tiger. That evening, they get the crew together, and slightly drunk, then question them about the temple. Most of the crew recycle the tales from the bars, but 2 of them squirm and try to avoid notice. When pressed, they reveal that they know about it since they, Aujam, Hailong and Laima opened the temple “looking for loot”, via the old wall in the smuggler tunnels. Vlad is stunned by this revelation. he now believes that Laima not only tried to hide information on a demon-summoner who also turned out to be his brothers murder, but has been keeping the existence of a demonic temple from him, no doubt for her own nefarious purposes “to gain power”. That the pirate and barbarian had gone along with this concealment spoke volumes about their own morality.
Vlad, Mal and Pyotr decide to investigate the temple, and see if anything else can be learned of the previous visit. The previously solid stone wall has been clearly broken down, with no attempt at disguise to keep others out. Heading in they following a corridor forward, with Pyotr reading the tracks in the dust. Apparently, something had been walking here for many many years, and more recently they passage of the last group can be determined. They come to an open door leading into the temple proper and tentatively enter. on the floor is the decaying carcass of a blood ape. Decayed friezes on the walls depict a story, mostly unreadable, but reference a “Lady of Wrath” having built this place as a temple to the “Mother” – Vlad recognises this as a reference to the Demon Kimbery, one of the most powerful of the demons (and discovers a need for a fresh set of under-wear. Again). A locked door in one direction contains some sort of creature, likely another demon which the 3 of them are not equipped to deal with at this time, so they leave it alone.
They follow the tracks of the others further into the temple, and eventually come to a room with an alter, and murals depicting human sacrifice to Kimbery – all very disturbing just to look at. In the room is a font containing a black liquid. This is known as the Mothers Blood, and grants “power” to those that drink it with the correct rituals. Leaving this alone, the tracks lead into a final room which contains the actual shrine to Kimbery, and shallow depression filled with a dark liquid, Pyotr refuses to enter, but Vlad and Mal go in. Looking around the room reveals a demonic guardian. It speaks in a odd dialect of Old Realm, which Vlad has trouble translating at first, but he soon gets the hang of it. The demon calls itself “Nctosa, Daughter of the Moving Waters” and is glad to have new people visit the temple. It asks Vlad to lower his sword, as it does not wish for violence to occur. Vlad distrusts it immediately, however he lowers the sword as requested, but does not sheave it. A fight is not something to risk in this situation. Mal seems enchanted just by the look of the demon, even though he doesn’t understand the words. Vlad tried to question the demon, but doesn’t get very far. Pyotr, getting increasingly nervous, takes Vlads lowering of his sword as being swayed by the demon, and so rushes in to rescue them. The 3 flee the place, closing doors as best they can. Vlad has a new problem to resolve before hunting Hilde, and several less associates that can be trusted.