Chapter Eighty-Four

December 30, 2012


7th of Autumnharvestmonth


            We sit at the table sharing stories and garnering all the details we can regarding Brannick’s death.  We are all quite inebriated.

            Silas tells us that twelve years ago, Luarana and a band of adventurers stumbled on a demonic cult and attempted to destroy the cult.  It was then that she was captured, but none of them knew about it until recently when they were together to address some of Quinn’s personal issues. 

            Originally, Sir Stefan was the third son, but both his brothers were killed, forcing him to marry the woman to whom his brother was betrothed.  However, both Stefan and Brannick loved Laurana.  She loved Stefan more, but could see the rift she could cause between the friends.  She decided, with all the factors against them, to leave the group to avoid further issues.  Stefan fulfilled his duty, and Brannick never married.

            Since we were already planning a trip to the mainland, Silas tells us that he will take us back to Brasov tomorrow and we can tell Sir Stefan what happened.  He knows that the Count will wish to accompany us on the quest to crush the cultists, rescue Laurana, and retrieve Brannick’s body.

            Silas takes his leave to get his sleep and renew his spells.  Shortly thereafter, the Knight Paladin, Sir Anthony comes in.  He walks up to Briggette and recognizes the markings on her cloak.  He explains that the men are upset, as they’d all expected to move out immediately on hearing the news of Brannick’s death.  She and Ulric enter a lively discussion as to whether or not going is a personal or church matter.

            Meanwhile, Boian begins looking at me strangely.  After a moment, he tells me not to move, and pulls out his dagger.  He places it next to my right horn, considers a moment, then moves it to the left one and does the same.  “Your horns have grown,” he states simply.  I am quite distraught.  After a while, we all make our way to our rooms, with Brianna and I and a barmaid assisting Finn.  Boian does not sleep that night, but rather sits guard in a chair by Briggette and Ulric.

            In the morning, we all get up and join the duke for breakfast, making ready for our departure later in the day.  All of the sergeants want to join us on our quest, but it is decided that 12 will stay and 10 will go.  The men draw lots to decide who will go and who will stay.  The ten going are sent ahead to the chapter house at Heltragen.

            Sir Anthony meets us in the square, and hands Briggette a scroll case that is completely black.  It is from the head knight of the Black Order here in Tulcea.  “We understand your loss, and that you will be reduced in number.  You may count on our support in any conflicts which may arise.”  This sort of message and support from the Black Order is unprecedented.

            Silas meets us in the square and has us join hands.  In a moment, we are standing in the town square in Brasov.  Stefan is there with horses, and he asks us, “What’s going on?”

            “Not here,” Briggette answers.  Sir Stefan looks at her incredulously, as would any man of his station being given an order by anyone other than his king or his duke.  She looks him in the eye and says, “I am the Protector of Grozney.  Not.  Here.”  We all mount up and head up to the castle.

            When we arrive, drinks and food are laid out for us.  Stefan looks at Silas, then at Briggette.  “What do you mean you are the Protector of Grozney?”

            Briggette does not mince words, “Brannick is dead.”

            Stefan stands up and goes to his steward, “Ready my armor.”  He sits down and asks what happened.  Briggette begins trying to explain somewhat diplomatically, and Silas breaks in with the nitty gritty details.

            “They have Laurana, they have Brannick’s body, I killed the sorceress, but I don’t know who she’s working for.”

            For the first time since Ulric was a child, even counting battles fought side by side, he can feel the anger radiating from his father.  Ulric explains the plans he has made and that he’s already told the duke they both would be going.  We spend the evening in plans and memories.  Briggette goes out to the chapter house to visit with Aethelred and Cal and make them ready for her absence.


            The next morning, Sir Stefan has a hastily arranged official ceremony to pass his circlet to Iulien.  He wants to be certain that if he does not return, there will be no question of Iulien’s position.  We spend the day connecting with the townsfolk and underscoring Iulien’s appointment.  An old man volunteers to join us, and seems to have known Stefan and Laurana when they were young.

            Before we leave, my mentor and trainer comes to me.  She takes me back to her place and tells me, “You’ve progressed quite far, Gizli.”

            “I hope so.”

            “Still follow the rules I taught you?”

            “Of course.”

            “You are Ulric’s Mistress of Secrets?”  I answer affirmatively.  “Tell me about myself.  What have you learned of me?”

            “You’ve hidden yourself well.  And I’ve had no reason to seek information about you.”

            “I am the master of two guilds in a town three days ride from your home.  There is always reason to know more.  If you live, when you return, you will return to me, not to Heltragen.  I’ve taught you well, but not for this role; this is not the path I’ve expected you to take.  I will train you to me a more effective Mistress for your Master.”

            I don’t like what she’s said, but I acquiesce, “That’s fair enough, I suppose.”

            She takes my tone as one insulted.  “Don’t take this as disparagement, Gizli.  It’s as much my fault as your own.  We’ll just have to rectify it.”  I agree.

            “Look after Sir Stefan,” she tells me.  “He is quite dear to many of us.”

            “To me as well, though perhaps, in a different way.”

            “This chapeau you’re after—she’s trouble.”

            “I was just mentioning that she must be one hell of a woman to have all these men chasing her across continents.”

            “She’s a pain in the ass.  I should know, she’s my sister.”  With that, she reminds me that my ultimate duty is to Ulric, to ensure he is protected.


            The following day, we mount up and head to Heltragen.  On the way there, one evening, Ulric sits Briggette down and tells her that he cannot join her in this quest.  “Our son is too young to put this responsibility on him, or on Gustav.  For now, I must think of the future, and our county needs a Count.”

            Briggette doesn’t like this, but she understands it.  She assures Ulric that she will be okay; she is surrounded by capable and able people.  They argue back and forth for a bit about who will and will not accompany her on this quest.

            “Don’t get yourself killed.  I can’t imagine the kind of man I would be without you,” Ulric says.  He sits with her a moment longer, then goes off to tell his father and everyone else.  He calls us all together.

            “As much as Sir Ulric wants to go with you, Count Heltragen must stay behind.”  He looks around at all of our stunned faces.  “Sir Finn, you’ll fly my banner as you lead my hundred men.  Korvinean, you will go in my stead.”  Korvinean almost makes a smart-assed comment, but thinks better of it.  “Gizli, until such time as you return, I release you from my service.”

            “Can you release me from an oath I’ve sworn?” I ask.

            “I can do anything I want to,” he answers.  A low murmur goes up throughout the camp, and after a while, we all disperse our separate ways.

            That evening, Silas comes to the tent to speak with Ulric.  “Sir Ulric, for the record, you are making the proper decision; however, I don’t want to have to be doing this again in two years.  So, when we get to Heltragen, I will need a room.  One where I can be guaranteed privacy for at least ten hours a day for two days.”  Ulric agrees, and Silas takes his leave.

            When we arrive in Heltragen the next day, Silas asks Ulric for some blood and hair, and retreats to the small room with these things in a silver bowl.  No one sees him until dinner, where he takes only a small cup of tea and a bowl of soup.  The same routine is repeated the next day, but most of us spend the day getting ready to leave.

            After dinner, Silas pulls Ulric and Briggette aside.  “I made one of these for him,” he holds up a piece of paper, “Do you want me to give it to her or to someone else?”

            They both seem confused, “What is it?”  Silas explains that it is a spell word that, when said, will offer Ulric the opportunity to be instantly transported to wherever in the world Briggette is.  He says that if Ulric says no, he will not have another opportunity.  Once he is certain they are fully aware of what the letter does, he leaves them to their last evening together alone. 

            The next morning, our departure is very somber.  Ulric seems out of place being left behind, but we ride on without him anyway.  It takes three days to travel to the Mladenov lands where a ship is waiting for our departure.  We sling the horses and board the ship, everyone who knew Ulric personally still a little down.  We sail for three days on the open ocean.  We make port at a city called Minsk, and the captain advises us to let the powers that be know that we are just moving through.

            Once we’ve unloaded, we agree to move our men out of their immediate environs within two days.  Silas takes Briggette, Boian, and I to see Quinn.  We pop up in the middle of a small village where the houses are made of wood with thatched roofs, and in some cases, even tents.  It is small, and in a moment, several armed men run up to us.  They recognize Silas, but are confused by my presence as they think I am a demon.  It takes a minor toad transmutation threat from Silas, but they leave us alone.

Silas leads us through the village to a giant, two-story wooden house.  He bangs on the door, and a half naked woman answers the door.  She runs off to get Quinn and leaves us in the main room where all of the furniture is covered in furs.  Quinn pokes his head over the rail and sees us.  He throws on some pants and runs down the stairs, picking up Briggette in a giant bear hug.  He sets her down, then realizes that if we’re all here—without Brannick—something must be wrong.  Silas tells him the whole story of how this came to be.

After hearing it all, Quinn asks what Briggette would have him do.  She replies that she wants him to make an informed decision, and that she is always willing to accept help when it is offered.  He decides to join us in our venture, and asks for about an hour to make arrangements.  Shortly thereafter, he is ready to leave, and Silas whisks us all back to the rest of our army.

As we make our way inland, we are challenged by several patrols, and more than once, we earn an escort through some lands.  At one point, we come to a Cuthbertine town, where the billet recognizes our marked hair.  He asks why we are here, and he offers what support he can by notifying nearby chapter houses.  “There’s someone here for you,” he says, looking at Briggette.

“For me?”

“I can’t imagine who else he’d be here for,” the billet says and sends for someone.  He offers us dinner for the evening and tries to set us up with houses to stay in before Briggette assures him we can make camp outside of town.  She knows we have a large force, and we don’t want to put anyone out.  He invites the officers and important dignitaries in to lunch immediately.

While we are eating, a runner comes in to tell us that the man is outside to see Briggette, but that he won’t come in the church.  When we step outside, it is Sir Connor.  He greets us as warmly as can be expected for a paladin of the Black Order, and invites me to walk with him while the others finish their lunch.

Oddly, as down as I’ve been, when I’m walking next to Sir Connor, I just seem to feel better.  “Why are you here, Gizli?”

“To watch after Briggette, I suppose,” I answer him honestly.

“You Cuthbertines, you are believers in retribution?”

“Yes,” I’m not sure where he’s going with this.

“My order does not do such things…  If I am killed in battle, my order will not send anyone.  But if someone was to capture me and not allow me to die, scores of my brothers would come for me.  You come for your captured comrade; you come to protect your friend. Brannick was a skilled warrior, I’ve fought with him.”


“I’m going to ask you to make me a promise.  I’m going to ask you to make it in the name of St Cuthbert.  It is a terrible promise,” he pauses to consider his words carefully.  “Whatever happens, you will do everything in your power to keep Briggette and Finn alive, even if it means watching others you care about die.”

“Why those two over others?” I ask him.

“I can’t tell you.  Just know, I will.  I will do whatever it takes within my power to see that Briggette and Finn and you live.  And if I die, that is inconsequential.”

I consider his words for a moment.  “I will promise you this.  I will protect all my chosen brethren to my last breath.  If it comes down to a choice amongst them, I will choose Briggette first.  Beyond that, I cannot say.  But this, I promise it in St. Cuthbert’s name.”

He goes on to tell me that his priority here is to see that Briggette and Finn and I survive.  “I can’t say that doesn’t comfort me a bit,” I confide.  We walk together and talk for a while longer before heading back to the billet’s house.


The next day, we move out, continuing toward the interior of the continent.  On the 7th of Storemonth, we arrive where Silas had the confrontation with the sorceress.  He tells us that they arrived in the town and discovered that a demonic cult had been terrorizing this town for over twenty years.  The people of the town had asked that they not try to do anything, claiming that things got much worse for them after the last group of people tried.  After talking to them for a while, they realized that the last group was the party with Laurana.  Silas cast an augury to try to locate her body, only to discover that she was still alive.  Of course, at that point, there was no convincing Brannick to leave, and further investigation led them to the house outside of town where they discovered torturous sexual violations were standard practice for this cult.  As he describes the situation, we realize that this sounds like the same cult we dealt with in Heltragen and in Zurwald, right down to the six fingered symbols.  This must be another cult of Grzzt.