Chapter Seventy-One

September 29, 2012


24th of Fastmonth


            We make our way back upstairs to camp and recoup for the night.  The leader of the Hooves of Heaven talks with Ulric and lets him know that there have been some strange tracks seen outside of town.  His warden cannot identify the tracks.  The city seems to be well held for the moment, and the captain has isolated the women and children from the militia.  There have been some small scuffles here and there, but in general, things are going as well as can be expected.

            The next morning, Aethith speaks with Ulric to let him know the information they’ve found out.  He takes the precaution of bringing all the horses into the walls and closes the gates.  Once these preparations are made, we return to the maze of tunnels beneath the building.

            When we come to a large iron door, I find it magically trapped, but I’m able to defeat it.  Inside, we find a room filled with torture devices.  In the far corner of the room, there is a roiling inky blackness billowing around in and on itself.  Ulric hears a voice in his head, “What do you want?”

            “I don’t know,” he replies.

“Whom do you serve?”

“Cuthbert and the duke . . . in that order,” he says.

“Go home to your family and leave this place.”

“I don’t think that’s going to happen.  We haven’t been properly introduced, and I don’t think my paladin friend here would let that happen,” Ulric replies.

“Paladin, take your husband and go home.”  The voice is now in Briggette’s head.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Go home to your . . . other place,” the voice replies.

“You see, this is our place, too.”

“I have work here.  Go home.”

“It would seem your work here is done,” Briggette grins.

“Oh, I’m certain we could come to an arrangement.”  Briggette sees a vision in her head of herself on an elaborate throne being adored by thousands.

She laughs, “That’s a pretty picture.”

“You don’t like it?” the voice chimes.  “Then what about this?”  The vision changes to her slaying demon after demon in a bloody swath.

“The arrangement I was thinking of was more along the lines of you leave and I let you . . . .  Though, I can’t speak for him,” Briggette indicates Ulric.

Suddenly, I have the overwhelming urge to bury my dagger in Briggette’s back.  I cannot stop myself from this desire, despite that tiny part of me that knows it is illogical.  Just as I think to myself that I don’t want to do it, I glance down to see that I am already walking in her direction with my weapon drawn.  I manage to eek out a sound somewhat similar to her name just as I get next to her back.

Meanwhile, the voice speaks to Ulric again, “I’m trying to be reasonable.  I understand you have wants and desires.  Just go home and take your wife.  The people of this town are depraved to the point that surely it cannot be worth your time and effort.”

“Yes, they are depraved, but they have the right to seek the light of cutbert in their own way.  Now, get out of my head!”

At that moment, I stab Briggette with all my might, but I don’t manage to penetrate her armor.  Ulric charges into the roiling blackness.  We hear a horrible word in a sickening language, and I (along with several others) become paralyzed.  The rest of our group continues to fight with the blackness until we hear a thud and it recedes, leaving a demon’s slain skin it its wake.  In the corner, there is a small pyramid of stacked skulls which appear to be from children.  There is also a chest with a trap and a silver lock.  I spring both, and open the chest, finding several interesting items along with some money.  Shortly thereafter, everyone except myself and Briggette see a large, very dark-skinned black man right where the demon died.  He is somewhat transparent and has no lower half to his body.

The creature points at Ulric.  He notices that it has six fingers.  “You are becoming a real annoyance.  I require the souls of these depraved people so that I can continue my war against Orcus.”

“Well, you can’t use these people,” Ulric replies.

“Unlike many of my kind, I do not forget.  We will see each other again, Ulric.  When we do, you will not be happy.”  He moves around the room and stands behind Briggette.  He deeply inhales above her head, “She will be quite the fine addition.”  Ulric laughs derisively, and the creature disappears.  He fills in those of us who couldn’t see him.

We begin to make our way out, and stop at the bone portcullis we previously jammed closed.  Instead of leaving this one thing behind, we decide to confront it.  I see the large shape begin to get up.  His eyes glow red.  “They have you behind bars, so you must be either really bad or you really pissed them off,” Ulric says.  Just in case, I repeat the phrase in both abyssal and infernal.

The creature runs toward us, locking eyes with Ulric.  The giant lizard-like beast slams into the portcullis.  Korvinean names it as a basilisk, and Ulric directs us all to leave the area immediately.  We head back upstairs, where we speak with the chapeau and set up to rest another day or two.

After two days, we go back down, and I shadow jump in with the basilisk.  I stab into it in its sleep, but I am unable to kill it, and though I hide, it looks at me.  I am turned to stone.


The next thing I know, I wake up in the church of St. Cuthbert in the capital city.  “What happened?”

“You got turned to stone.  And I thought you were dead.  Apparently, I was wrong,” Ulric says to me.  He goes on to praise Cuthbert for my return.  He and Finn toss me around like a rag doll and celebrate my return to the fold.

However, all I am concerned with is the gorgeous specimen of virile male standing before me that I haven’t seen before.  He introduces himself as Arany and says he is here to serve Briggette.  I have never seen anyone so beautiful.  He quite literally takes my breath away.  Briggette tells me that  a month has passed and that we are in the capital. 

The high priest takes me back behind the altar and pulls out a small brooch.  He asks about the dreams I have.  He hands me the brooch, which looks like the normal Cuthbertine starburst, but has emeralds instead of rubies.  He tells me to wear it and that it will turn red if I am in any way dominated by another.

When we leave the church, there is a large man wearing a white tabard with a black dragon on a spike on the front of it.  He demands to speak with Arany, who decides to acquiesce to the request.  Arany steps over to the man, and they begin speaking to one another in draconic.  Korvinean is listening intently, and he seems to be catching what they are saying.  They discuss the place a dragon may have in this society and what is proper and improper.

After that, we make our way to the castle to meet with the Duke.  He welcomes us into the Great Hall.  He greets us with the appropriate formalities, and we announce our purpose.

“Your Grace, I have come to claim the right of conquest.”

“What have you conquered, Sir Ulric?” the duke asks.

“The fallen county of Itchovictch, Your Grace,” he answers, “there is no dragon, and the people are no longer raping children.”  He and the duke talk a bit, and he is told that the next time the duke dismisses him, he will be a count.  He also lets us know that the herald of arms is in town should we require someone to make our crest for us.

The duke has a huge festival style party to honor the promotion a few days later.  The duke presents him as Count Heltragen, which means “bright bear” in our language.  He assigns all claims, rights and duties to Sir Ulric as the new lord of the area.  He admonishes him to remember that our people are our jewels and we should care for them accordingly.  Ulric pledges fealty to the duke and the duke responds by listing his own duties in the relationship.  The party lasts well into the morning before most of us retire to our bedrooms for the evening.

Early the next morning, Silas shows up to transport our group to Brasov to speak with Ulric’s father.  We first head off to find Brannick and introduce him to our new friend, Arany, who shows off his dragon form before becoming a canary and flying off out of town.