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Reporting In

McIan

Adventurer
The woman robed in red strode quietly up the long, wide, ebony-hued staircase leading to the twin adamantine doors of the forbiddingly dark structure she knew as Schloss von Blut. Though quite accustomed to constant annoyances of creatures bent on harassing her at her station on Ilshenar, the visits here were always a source of anxiety mixed with fear.

The doors were always unlocked. Anyone could enter freely. Many did – the curious adventurer, brazen thief, vengeful assassin, and the like. Most, however, never left or were ever seen again. She entered and stood in the foyer, a narrow rectangular room with gleaming emerald floors, gray walls and vaulted ceiling concealed in shadows. From where she stood, absolutely motionless, she saw two archways spanned by a crimson curtain, separated by a wall where hung a banner sporting an enormous, leering, skull. In front of that stood a tall, tarnished, statue of a sorcerer whose finger pointed at her in the pose of casting a spell. A golden brazier lay in front of the statue and something foul forever burned in it, filling the room with the vile reek of burning flesh. Bones in great abundance, and a few bodies, lay strewn about in jumbled piles around the statue. Flanking the statue were twin black totems of unknown origin, Two armed, armor-clad sentinels, quite alive, stood to the right of the statue, merely watching her.

She knew if she made a move or misspoke the word of passing or tried to run past the guards or make any attempt to enter the archways beyond, her bones would be mingled with those she saw. The room was heavily warded against unauthorized entry. Only being who she was by sight, and knowing the password, allowed her to live and advance. “Eh Loh Klah Teh” she spoke aloud and then her name: “Aylyssa.”

A guard motioned her forward saying nothing. Both were mute, she knew, and were only there to clean up if the bodies and bone piles got too high. She walked past them and took a portal to the lower level, the throne room of the one she came to visit.

At the far end of the room were two bone thrones and upon one sat her master. He waved her forward and she drew near to him. “Aylyssa!. Tis a pleasure to see thee. Ye have aught to tell me?”

“I do my lord. Your plan is in motion. She has taken the bait.”

Scaramandine the Elder nodded with satisfaction. “I knew she would. She is desperate to save my son from his affliction.”

“My lord, may I ask why you wish for him to remain cursed in this way? What has he done to incur your ire, your wrath, against him?”

The Elder shifted in his throne. “Detect I pity in thy question?”

“Nay my lord, not pity, mere curiosity. I wish to comprehend your mind so that one day I may be able to formulate designs with equal treachery and vehemence against my enemies,” she explained.

The lich lord laughed. “While I am not affected by thy flattery, I will tell thee. My son in his current state has a chance to return to his roots, to me, his true family. He would never do so were he cured of his disease. I will never allow him to be free of it if I can prevent it. Ye would not believe how evil and treacherous he once was – my true heir. It shall be so again.”

Aylyssa gave a respectful nod. “Your wisdom is telling, sire. May your plan succeed as you wish.”

“Return then to thy station. See that all goes as designed.”

“Sire there is another matter I need to… warn about, if I may?”

“Say on.”

“She, the woman, has employed others to aid in this. One or more of them are powerful mages and one is a witch who lives in a swamp. She actually transformed the king into a toad of which he remains to this day. Will they not detect the true sources of the necklace and warn her?”

“Ye are wise to advise me of this but I have known it. My eyes and ears are quite active. Do not concern thyself with it. I expect the choice to be made but it will be made by the woman in blue alone. I am convinced she will proceed as planned. If not, we shall try again.”

Having done her duty, the witch bowed and departed. Strangely, something within her stirred uneasily. She had not lied when she told Deminatza about her husband who suffered due to lycanthropy which ultimately led to his death. She knew what the woman faced in suffering and anguish of soul. She could not ignore nor douse the lingering sympathy she felt for her and which she would only worsen. She bit her lip. Betraying the Elder would bring certain punishment and likely her doom, but perhaps there would be a means to set things right without his knowledge?

She was, after all, in love once too, and remembered how it felt to be loved in return – a cherished gift not to be stolen away by the designs of anyone, least of all by a resentful, hateful, madman she secretly despised.
 

McIan

Adventurer
EPILOGUE

“So that’s it!” the slovenly, shoddily-clad man exclaimed. “You say those words, your name, and just walk on past,” he stated confidently to the younger man beside him. Both had been hanging about the castle for quite some time, hidden or disguised, trying to find a way in to lay hold on the treasures that no doubt lay piled around inside. They watched as the robed figure leaving the place cast a spell of recall and vanished.

“You do it Duggery. I don’t like it. There’s got to be more to it than that. I haven’t heard from Neddie in a month after he said he was going inside.”

“Don’t be such a pathetic milksop, Mouse! You’re the best of the best! Neddie was a has-been, as clumsy as he was stupid. Do it. I will crack the door and you scoot inside. Whisper the words and your name and you’ll see. No one will suspect the rat scooting around inside is a thief,” the leader argued. His scowl confirmed that he would brook no further dissent.

“Mouse” as he was called, mouthed the enchantments that allowed him to deftly transform into a large brown rat. “Duggery” sneaked up to the door and quietly opened it just enough to allow his fleet footed accomplice to rush inside. Then he closed the door just as noiselessly.

“Eh Loh Klah Teh – Mouse” the rat whispered and moved to his right, cautiously.

Twin bolts of chaotic energy struck him simultaneously, piercing his skin to form an iridescent ball of sizzling purple fire that blasted outward from deep inside him, showering the floor and walls with the shattered fragments of his natural body, not the fake one he had chosen. Flesh and bone sizzled for a few moments, leaving gray wisps of smoke where they had landed.

Outside, Duggery heard and felt an ear-shattering thunderclap which sent him stumbling down the stairs in mindless terror and into the presumed safety of the open field beyond.

The revenant caught up with him a short time later.

It dragged him screaming back to the castle.
 
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