Session One Hundred Twenty-Nine - May 21, 2016

Wherein the ongoing story of the FtF campaign may be found ...

Session One Hundred Twenty-Nine - May 21, 2016

Postby Matt » Fri Jun 10, 2016 2:21 pm

Azura 24, 732

Home of Lumede of Tiselwaith
Tashal, Kaldor


Kaelyn of Aletta reached out with her mind to rearrange the threads of elemental energy around her into a form more to her liking. With a crackle of electricity a shard of luminous blue ice formed in her hand in the shape of a blade. Her magical sword lighting the way, Kaelyn crept down the stairs to the basement of Lumede of Tiselwaith’s home.

Goreg, a step behind Kaelyn, gasped. “How did you do that?”

Kaelyn smiled, but did not answer. She was a Shek Pvar, what the common folk called a wizard, though she preferred to think of herself as a seeker of knowledge. Less than an hour previous she had been startled awake by a scream in her head, yet she immediately knew it had been no dream. Something eldritch was afoot. Though she had not heard it with her ears, she knew the scream had come from the direction of the Heru Gate.

Her belief was confirmed when her search brought her to the home of Lumede of Tiselwaith, a seeker of knowledge like herself. There were other seekers there as well, including Aethel Atan and Astaroc, who was supposed to be dead.

Stranger still, Aethel had seemed quite nonplussed by Astaroc’s arrival. What was it he had said? “You’re awake, I mean, up, what are you doing here?” And Astaroc had implied he had been staying with Aethel. What game were those two playing at? Kaelyn shook her head. She would have to unravel that mystery later. She had left the two old men nattering and was now heading beneath the earth to investigate a scream she had heard only in her mind, with but the dim blue light of her magical sword to light the way.

***

“Watch your step, there is a hole in front of me,” Cekiya whispered.

“Huh, what?” Sir Baris replied.

The knight and the adder were in the basement of Lumede’s home. Baris was practically blind in the darkness.

“Baris, wait here, I’m going to go down the ladder.”

“Ladder, what ladder? Can’t you make some light, or something?”

“I can see just fine!”

“How?” Baris sputtered. He opened his eyes as wide as he could, but could still see nothing but darkness. His thoughts turned to memories of a dark cavern, of lizard-creatures, of teeth and claws and death. The knight shuddered. He wished he had brought a shield.

Over the pounding of his heart, Baris heard some shuffling in the darkness ahead of him. He gripped his sword tighter, but then realized it was probably just Cekiya climbing down the ladder she had mentioned.

What was that? Baris swore he had seen something around the corner of his eye, and whipped around. There was definitely something moving back the way he had come. There was a creak. Vlasta! Baris took a step back, and the back of his heel landed on empty air. The knight stumbled and almost fell backwards into the pit before he righted himself, arms flailing. He caught his breath and listened down below, but heard nothing. “What’s going on down there?”

“There are a set of double doors open a tiny bit, and a tunnel,” the adder’s voice came from below. “I don’t know this tunnel, though. I’m going to explore.”

There was another creak and when Baris turned to look he saw a blue light headed towards him. “Wait, I think I see Kaelyn coming.”

***

A few minutes later Sir Baris, followed by Cekiya, then Kaelyn, and finally Goreg in rearguard, stalked down a stone corridor. The flickering torchlight revealed that the floor and walls of the tunnel were made of fitted stone blocks. The workmanship was serviceable, if not quite up to royal specifications. The air was stale, and Baris heard nothing but the breathing and footsteps of the party and the crackling of the torches.

Soon the laid stone-work gave way to a natural cave tunnel. “Where are we?” Baris wondered aloud.

“We’re below the Heru Gate,” Cekiya replied. “The tunnel isn’t straight; it’s right.”

Baris looked back, but the torchlight only went so far before the darkness swallowed the light. There could be anything in the black matter. “Goreg, keep an eye behind us, make sure nothing follows.”

The squire, wide-eyed, nodded. A good man, Baris thought.

The party continued on into the darkness, and the tunnel began to meander left and right. At every sharp turn, Baris’s raised fist called a halt. He would then peek around the corner, to make sure they didn’t suddenly come upon vlasta, assassins, or whatever it was that had awoken every damn mage in the city. All he saw were rats and voles fleeing from the torchlight. Occasionally the big knight bumped his head on a root jutting from the ceiling.

“We’re well beyond the city, now,” Cekiya piped up, and the knight jumped.

“Quiet!” Baris raised his fist and cupped his ear. He heard nothing, but at the edge of his senses he thought he felt a thrum coming from ahead, as if something was plucking the strands of a web. The knight grunted, shrugged, and headed onward, motioning the rest to follow.

They continued on for another half a hundred feet. After a sharp turn to the left, the tunnel opened up into a cavern. The dim light of the torches revealed a finished stone building to the left of the entrance, its walls going from the floor to the ceiling nine feet above. On the cavern floor in front of the building lay a stout iron-bound wooden chest, and beyond the chest Baris could barely make out a doorway in the wall of the building. Beyond the doorway, just at the edge of the torchlight, lay a prone man lying on his back, his hands crooked above him. To the right the cavern went around the corner of the building, but it was a narrow opening and the knight could not see far.

Kaelyn came up beside Baris. “That’s the sorcerer, Lumede!” she whispered.

The thrum was palpable here. Baris shuddered.

Kaelyn headed into the room. “I’m going to check on Lumede.”

Baris nodded, stepped into the room, gripped his sword tighter, and kept watch.

As the mage passed by the doorway of the building there was a roar that shook the floor, sounding at once of rage and triumph. Kaelyn stumbled as if from an invisible blow and held her arm out. “Stay back!” She sounded exhausted.

Despite the warning, Baris strode towards Kaelyn, intent on defending her from he knew not what. A dagger flew from the opening and struck the unarmored knight in the ribs. He grunted and staggered, a knife sticking out of his side, blood flowing freely. As Goreg rushed to his side, Baris hustled to the right side of the doorway, ready to attack his foe should they show themself.

Kaelyn had made it to Lumede and was crouched beside him. “He’s alive!”

“Come out, come out, where ever you are!” a horrid voice sang from the doorway. It did not sound human.

Kaelyn locked eyes with Baris, and then looked at the chest. The knight nodded. “Goreg, check that chest, maybe there’s something useful in there!” Baris whispered. The squire nodded. Baris thrust his torch into the opening, hoping to distract the foe, and Goreg darted over to the chest.

“I can blow out your little candle,” the voice cooed.

“Who are you?” Kaelyn asked.

“Come in and find out,” the thing replied. “Come out, come out, where ever you are!”

“I’m right here!” the mage yelled.

A few moments later, Goreg returned to Baris’s side. “It’s locked!” he whispered.

“What is this place?” Baris asked, but there was no answer.

Suddenly Cekiya popped up next to the knight and Goreg. “I checked out the other side.” She gestured to the narrow passageway between the right of the building and the cavern wall. “I climbed some rocks, but just saw more wall.”

Baris nodded, and then noted the adder’s lowered gaze. He suddenly felt the pain in his side, and removed the dagger. Cekiya gasped. Baris looked down, and saw that, in addition to his blood, glyphs and sigils covered the blade. “That belongs to my god,” the adder whispered. The knight dropped the blade as if it was diseased.

Baris gestured to the chest. The adder grinned and rushed over to it, retrieving her lockpicks from a pouch as she went. Cekiya set to work opening the lock. Suddenly she jerked her hand back, snapping off a pick in the lock. “There was a needle.” She jiggered the lock. “It’s stuck. Still locked. I don’t feel me.” She slumped over the chest.

Kaelyn cursed, and Baris saw her moving her hands about as she did when casting a spell. She thrust her hands toward the doorway, but nothing seemed to happen. “Go and get reinforcements, I’ll be fine!” the mage mouthed.

Baris shook his head. He would not abandon Kaelyn. He turned to the squire. “Goreg, get help! And bring me a shield!”

The squire nodded, lifted his torch, and ran toward the passageway.

“Did you hear the scream as well?” Baris asked the thing inside the building.

“Did I hear a scream? I don’t think you heard a scream, but come on in, we’ll make some screams together.”

Baris gulped. “I think not.”

“Your friend is quiet, is she dead? I wouldn’t want her dead just yet.” Kaelyn was slumped against the wall on the other side of the door, no doubt reserving her strength.

“She’s made of sterner stuff,” Baris said, hoping he was right.

“Good, I’m sure her life force, will be, tasty. Tastier than yours.”

“My blood is as hot as any man’s,” Baris said.

“Who said anything about blood?”

The knight was confused, wondering what sort of feeding this monstrous thing intended. He listened, hoping the creature would expand upon its statement. He only heard its breathing, and perhaps a whimper. Someone else was in there.

***

Meanwhile, Goreg ran headlong down the corridor, torch held high. He slipped and tumbled into the walls, but kept going. The shadows moved like a living thing, and the squire thought he saw demons ahead and behind. The hair prickled on his neck, but he hurried on. The walls went from rough stone to worked blocks, and finally he came back to the double doors. He rushed through, stirring up dust. He scrambled up the ladder, nearly burning his hand on the torch in his haste. The squire rushed upstairs, out the door, and sprinted down the street towards Raven Hall. The poor lad could barely see, his night-vision ruined by the torchlight.

“Squire Goreg, report!” Lord Ewen barked.

The squire stumbled to a halt, having nearly run into the Baron. He blinked, and made out the faces of Ewen and two household guards. It took the man a few moments to catch his breath. “Mistress Kaelyn found a ... thing. Baris was struck by an evil dagger, and something happened to Cekiya. Kaelyn was sprawled on the floor and unable to do anything.”

Ewen did not seem surprised. It seemed as if Goreg was merely telling him what he already knew. The squire wanted nothing more than to return to Raven Hall, but he remembered the words of Orsin Firith: “Bravery! Willingness to lay down your life for your lord!” He straightened his shoulders, screwed up his courage, and said, “Come with me my lord, I will lead you back there.”

Ewen nodded sharply. “Good man. Let’s go. You and these two stout fellows may need to evacuate the wounded. I will deal with this situation.” The peer gestured. “Lead the way.”

***

“Ah, more have come,” a hungry voice croaked. Ewen could tell the source of the magical thrum he had sensed came from up ahead. Something was disturbing the unseen essence of things.

Ewen, Goreg, and the two men-at-arms entered the cavern that Goreg had spoken of. Ewen noted Sir Baris huddled against the wall of the building, Cekiya beside him, and Kaelyn leaning against the wall on the other side of the doorway. A prone figure, Lumede no doubt, lay past Kaelyn.

Ewen strode to Baris’s side, accompanied by Goreg. The two men-at-arms stayed behind to guard the passageway.

“Don’t step in front of the doorway, the thing has some kind of evil daggers, and magic that hit Kaelyn,” Baris whispered.

Ewen nodded. “Identify yourself,” the Baron called into the building, but there was no answer.

Baris looked at one of the men at arm’s shields, and then at Goreg. Goreg looked to Ewen, while the man-at-arms looked imploringly at his lord. Ewen raised his hand, ordering Baris to wait, not wanting to encourage the knight to rush in. He needed to find out what they were dealing with, shine some light on the situation.

Ewen gestured at the torch, held up his finger, and lowered his arm in a slashing motion. Baris nodded his understanding.

Ewen briefly closed his eyes and steadied his mind. He gave Baris the signal, and the knight thrust the torch into the doorway. At the same time the Deryni extended his senses around the corner. The image of what was beyond the doorway formed in the Baron’s mind, illuminated by the torchlight. “Good gods,” he blurted and pulled Baris back from the doorway. All were disheartened to see the indomitable man react with … fear.

“What did you see?” Baris whispered.

Ewen shuddered, and hastily described his vision. In the center of the room stood a seven-and-a-half-foot tall gaunt goat-headed creature with long, misshapen arms with too many joints. It wore a baldric festooned with daggers and was surrounded by three crow’s cages arranged in an isoceles triangle, approximately ten feet apart. The far wall appeared to be broken through, and a passageway lay beyond. There were some shelves and other bits of furniture in the room, but Ewen was so distracted by the creature he didn’t get much more than an impression of them.

From Baris’s unexpected expression of relief at this description, Ewen mused that the knight had been feeling a bit craven, but suddenly felt better about not rushing in. “I was struck by one of those daggers, am I going to be cursed?” Baris asked.

“What do you know about the dagger?” Ewen asked.

Baris nodded at the adder. “Cekiya said it was of her god.”

Ewen pursed his lips. That was a problem for later. He knelt by Cekiya and woke her. She moaned groggily and her eyes fluttered open. They widened when she recognized Ewen.

“Listen very carefully.” Ewen again described the creature he had seen. “Do you know anything about that?”

“I heard tales of such in the hive,” Cekiya began. “There are many of them. They serve the god, but they are lesser servants.”

Ewen nodded. It was as he feared. Cekiya was describing a Gytevsha, a demonic messenger servant of Naveh.

“I heard someone else in there. A woman, I think,” Baris said.

A demon was certainly a threat to his plans, Ewen mused. And it had attacked his people. He turned to Baris, Goreg, and Cekiya. “We cannot let this thing escape,” the Baron began. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” and he told them his plan. This was followed by a brief discussion with Kaelyn consisting solely of gestures to let her know what they intended.

When everyone was ready, Ewen gave the signal and stepped directly in front of the doorway. A second later Baris and Goreg darted behind him; Baris headed toward Kaelyn and Goreg toward Lumede.

Ewen saw the Gytevsha with his physical eyes now, and it was no less horrible. The being slavered a smile. It held a dagger ready to flick at the Baron, but it held off for some reason. “Come closer,” it cooed.

In the torchlight Ewen saw the room more clearly. The demon stood within a circle of power drawn on the floor, consisting of a circle encasing a triangle, the crow’s cages standing at the points of the triangle. Next to each cage was a sconce in which were burning torches that gave off no smoke. To the left of the circle was a podium, and at its foot was a prone cloaked form. Beyond the figure a blonde woman stood, a dazed look on her face. Behind the podium were chests. Along the right wall he saw a series of shelves upon which lay dusty scrolls and tomes. In front of the shelves was a large table with interesting looking equipment, similar to some pieces he had seen in Kaelyn’s room. Part of the far wall had collapsed, revealing a cavern on the other side, and there was a doorway in the far right corner of the room.

Ewen took a step forward. “Release these captives to me, creature of darkness.”

The Gytevsha barked a laugh and gestured at the figure on the ground with one of its long arms. “You may take the dead one. But the other, the beautiful Senele, she is mine.” It grinned, showing horrid teeth. “Come closer.”

“I say she is mine!” With that Ewen raised his arm and thrust his Power at the demon. A bolt of visible energy leapt from his hand and struck the creature just underneath its horns. A wisp of smoke rose and the thing bellowed. Ewen’s aura flared red.

“Ah, it has teeth!” The dagger flew from the demon’s hand, but the Baron dodged aside. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the dagger fly in front of Goreg, who was dragging Lumede to the men-at-arms. Meanwhile Baris had Kaelyn on her feet and was rushing back to the safe side of the doorway.

Ewen again thrust his will towards the demon, but something went horribly wrong. The magical energy did not form into a bolt to strike the creature, but instead discharged within the Deryni’s aura. The Baron gasped and staggered in pain.

“Chipped a tooth, did you!” The Gytevsha looked intently at Ewen, and the Baron felt his mental shields absorb a powerful blow.

The Deryni stood up straight. “Yield to me!”

“And upon what terms?!”

“Upon the terms that you recognize me as your lord, and as a good lord I will allow you to leave here, but I will take the girl as my captive.”

“Here is my answer!” Quick as lightning the demon tossed another dagger at the Baron, who barely managed to angle his body out of the way.

Suddenly Baris and Goreg joined Cekiya at Ewen’s side, but still out of the line-of-sight of the demon. A quick glance showed Kaelyn and Lumede safe by the men-at-arms.

Ewen looked the demon in the eye. “How came you to be here, servant of darkness?”

“That is no concern of yours, mortal.”

Ewen nodded at the building. “Do you venture from this abode?” His gaze fell upon the circle. “Or are you trapped within that?”

“Come closer and find out!”

“You wish to test me, creature of darkness?” Ewen drew his sword, as did Baris. “Yield to my terms!”

“I cannot yield to the likes of you!” the Gytevsha replied. “And you would not be able to pay the price if I did.”

“And what is that price, creature of darkness?”

The demon looked up, as if in the direction of some great thing. “The one that He would exact.”

Ewen gestured at the girl. “What are your plans for that one, creature of darkness?”

“I told you, she is mine.”

They were talking in circles. I need to show this creature I am not to be trifled with, Ewen thought. He glanced at the bookshelf and stretched out his mind, hoping to toss a book or scroll at the creature. Unfortunately he was still weighed down from the earlier energy discharge, and he lost his grip on the Power. The scroll simply collapsed into dust. Ewen glanced meaningfully at the pieces of parchment as they fell to the floor in little arcs. “Yield to me.”

“You do not understand mortal, I cannot yield to you, but even if I could, you could not pay the price.”

“Gytevsha, our god favors Ewen!” Cekiya yelled. “Obey our god!”

“Who speaks!” the Gytevsha roared.

“My creature speaks!”

“Show yourself, creature!” the demon demanded.

Ewen nodded at Cekiya, and the adder stepped into the doorway. Ewen attempted to draw upon his magical reserves of willpower, but the energy kept slipping through his mental grasp.

“So, a minion. Ordinarily, I would have something to say to you. But, dranatha, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I am playing hookey.”

“Oh, fun.” Cekiya actually smiled, and it sent a shiver down Ewen’s spine.

Still intent on the creature, out of the corner of his eye Ewen watched Baris wave the men-at-arms over. He whispered something in Goreg’s ear. Ewen made out the words, “will attack” and “grab the girl” and “run!” Baris gestured at one of the men-at-arms, who reluctantly gave the knight his shield.

“He does not know where I am,” the creature was saying, “and I aim to keep it that way. So, sorry.”

“Yes, I suppose that circle keeps you from being seen by our god,” Cekiya said.

“Come closer and find out.”

Ewen glanced at Baris, who nodded his readiness. “Guard the women, and if this goes south, get back to Raven Hall,” Baris told the men-at-arms softly.

Cekiya put her hand on Ewen’s arm. “Allow me to put the blessing of Naveh on you, as you deal with his truant.” Goreg blinked, and shook his head as if he wasn’t sure he had heard that right. Cekiya pointed her other hand at the ground and uttered a quiet prayer. Ewen felt a heady energy flow into his body, but it was still energy, and he began to feel better.

Lord Ewen Ravinargh, Baron of Ternua, raised his bastard sword in a high guard position. “Can you withstand my blade, creature of darkness?”

“Your iron does not frighten me, mortal!”

The Baron charged into the room, followed by Baris and Goreg. Ewen leapt across the magic circle and slashed at the goat headed creature, but it danced away from his blade. He took a step back and raised his hilt above his head, blade pointing down in a hanging guard. The demon stabbed at Ewen with one of its monstrously long arms. His parry was too slow, but the dagger slid off the Baron’s armor. Unlike Baris, who had simply run towards danger, leaving ale and everything behind, Ewen had taken time to arm.

Meanwhile, Baris was off to Ewen’s right, maneuvering around the circle to flank the creature from behind, while on Ewen’s left Goreg headed towards the girl. The Baron gritted his teeth; the knight was supposed to be helping Goreg! He was not surprised at Baris’s foolhardiness, though he would doubtless call it courage.

Ewen flicked his wrist and slashed at the demon overhand. The thing tried to dodge but had little room to maneuver with Baris’s blade threatening its rear. Smoke rose from a slash to it’s scrawny arm.

“That’s no ordinary iron!”

Ewen answered the demon with another strike, a horizontal cut that dug deep into the creature’s hip, and was rewarded with more smoke. The Baron fell back into a middle guard.

The demon leapt backwards and stole a glance at Goreg and the blonde woman. “Senele, stay!” it barked. As Ewen advanced to attack, the demon lunged past his guard! Fortunately, his armor again turned the blade aside.

“I still cannot yield to you!” the creature hissed.

Baris slashed at the creature from behind, but struck only air as the thing jumped out of the way. He took up a high guard, shield forward and sword raised to strike, waiting for an opening.

***

Goreg could not believe what he had gotten himself into. First all the political maneuvers, and now demons, and whatever this girl before him was. The girl’s form transcended beauty, even to look at her was painful. Her physical and inner beauty radiated from her. There was a stirring in the squire’s loins, but he was not conscious of it. Dimly he noted there was an unusual collar about her neck, but it was not attached to anything he could see. His eyes wandered lower and he had to bring himself back to reality. He had a mission. Goreg tried to lift the girl, but strain as he might, she would not budge. “Lord Ewen, tell it you will let it go if it lets the girl go! He’s got her under some spell!”

Goreg glanced at Ewen, who was intent on battle. He would have to do it himself. Frantically he looked around. The podium! There was a book there! He leapt to his feet and grabbed the book. “The book, maybe it has a spell!” He opened the tome, but all the pages were blank.


***

The Baron, the knight, and the demon danced an intricate number. Ewen’s blade lashed out at the creature, but it dodged aside and in the same motion slashed at Baris with daggers in each hand. The knight deflected the first blow with his shield, and angled it to block the second. The knight went on the attack, striking twice in quick succession. The creature avoided the first strike, but it could not dodge the second and Baris struck it soundly in the chest. Unfortunately, the blow had no apparent effect.

Only an enchanted weapon could injure the creature, Ewen realized. “Baris, disengage and use this!” The Baron drew his dagger and tossed it out of the circle.

The demon grinned when it realized that Baris could not harm it. It leapt away from Ewen and unleashed a bevy of blows at the knight. Baris blocked each with his shield, and deftly stepped out of the circle, sheathed his sword, and picked up the dagger.

“Coward!” the demon taunted, and turned its attention back to Ewen, its misjointed arms striking at angles the Baron could not predict. He tried to leap back, but a horrid dagger struck his arm. Fortunately it did not penetrate the mail, but it would leave a bruise.

Meanwhile, Baris closed in from the right, shield forward, and struck out with the dagger. With a contemptuous laugh the creature dodged the blow from the shorter weapon.

Ewen attempted to take advantage of Baris’s flanking maneuver, but again the maddeningly fast creature skipped out of his reach.

“If you leave, all will be forgotten,” the Gytevsha wheedled.

“Release the girl to me, slave!” From a high guard the Baron attacked at an angle, and yet again the creature simply leaned away, avoiding the blow. Ewen’s foot slipped on a break in the stone and when he was slightly off balance the creature glared at him, but the attack could not penetrate the Deryni’s shields.

The creature instead glared at Sir Baris, who staggered a step back as weariness swept over him. The creature followed up with a stabbing dagger, putting all of its considerable weight behind the blow. The knight just barely interposed his shield in time, and the dagger snapped! The creature roared and flung the useless hilt aside.

Baris took advantage of the opening and feinted an attack right and then lunged left. The demon dodged left, the blade sunk into its thigh, and smoke rose from the wound.

“Ah, another flea!” the creature snarled.

Ewen raised his arm and a bolt of energy leapt towards the creature, but it struck an invisible barrier, energy crackling along the edge of the briefly visible shield. The knight lunged forward and slashed at the creature’s wounded leg, but it somehow managed to leap aside. It turned this leap into an attack, stabbing at Baris, who again blocked the dagger with his shield. The thing cursed and drew another dagger to replace the one that had broken.

***

Goreg ran out of the room, giving the magic circle a wide berth. He found Kaelyn and thrust the book into her hands. “It’s a magic book, find something to help!”

The mage looked through the pages. “They’re all blank! Give me some light!”

The squire brought his torch closer, but no words appeared. “Cekiya!” Goreg called, and the disturbing woman who worshiped something the squire couldn’t think about right at that moment rushed over. “If this is invisible ink, how is she to read it?”

Cekiya shrugged. “I don’t know!”

***

“I’ll block your tunnel, keep you trapped here forever!” Ewen yelled as he attacked.

The creature deftly dodged Ewen’s blow. “Stay mortal, but a little longer!” It turned back to Baris, and angled its torso so that it looked askew. One monstrous arm stabbed downwards from a high angle, and the knight raised his shield to meet the attack. The second blade darted in from almost the opposite angle, and snaked under the shield to strike Baris’s weapon arm. The knight dropped the dagger, swore, and stumbled back, clutching his bleeding arm to his body.

Ewen took two steps to the right, kicked the dagger out of the circle, and at the same time sent a bolt of energy that struck the creature in the arm. The air was full of the acrid stench of the smoke rising from the thing’s many wounds.

“What will you accept beyond yielding?” the creature pleaded. “Surely we can come to some agreement. Surely there is something I can do for you.”

“Release the girl to me and yield me one month’s service,” Ewen said.

“I will yield you one month’s service, but not the girl.”

The creature stabbed out at Ewen, but the Baron leaped to the side. He met the second attack on his blade, and the clang of metal on metal echoed in the chamber.

Ewen saw movement behind him and chanced a quick glance to see Cekiya charge into the room, dagger in hand. Instead of attacking the demon, however, she sliced the blonde’s beautiful face. Clever girl, Ewen thought. He reasoned she was trying to mar the beauty of the girl hoping demon would lose interest.

“What are you?” Cekiya exclaimed. Ewen looked back, and to his dismay the cut had healed almost instantly leaving no trace.

The Baron didn’t have time to worry about that at the moment. The demon slashed at him, but Ewen caught the blow on his blade and riposted. The demon leaped backward, and in a flash it lunged at the Baron. He tried to duck the blow but it struck his helmet, and his head snapped back from the force of the attack. Ewen’s ears rung, but he stayed on his feet, gritted his teeth and stabbed at the demon. It angled its body away from the blow and laughed. Ewen knew it was a killing blow but for his helm.

Baris had stepped back from the circle and had one hand on his other wrist, attempting to staunch the flow of blood. “Grab the dagger!” he yelled at Cekiya. Squire Goreg ran past the knight, sword raised high. “Guard your right!” Baris instructed.

Ewen stepped right and slashed at the creature. “What is this creature of yours, that heals in a trice?”

“Hers is the beauty that taught me existence.”

“How came you to be here? Can you leave the circle? Or are you constrained?” Ewen attempted to truth-read the demon, but he could not steady his mind.

“I have not harmed you, but I can.”

Ewen pointed his sword at the demon. “Answer my question.”

“I am not bound to answer your questions.”

“Yield me two months of service, and you may have the girl.” Ewen stepped into a high guard stance, right foot forward, blade held high. “Or test yourself further with me.”

The Gytevsha’s eyes went to Ewen’s blade. It snarled. “Done. But you must swear an oath to this effect: If you play false with me, He will take you instantly, and not to the sable streets of Kamil. So swear.”

In for a penny, Ewen thought. “I will take that vow,” he agreed. “I swear that I will not play you false.”

“Then for two months, sixty days from this moment, I shall serve you. I keep Senele.”

The Baron nodded. “You keep Senele.”

“Then, Master, command.”

Ewen stepped back and held his blade at his side, ready, but not in a formal stance. “Begin by telling me true. Can you leave this edifice, or are you now constrained?”

“I cannot leave,” the demon said.

“What constrains you?”

The Gytevsha gestured to the markings on the floor. “This circle.” It pointed at the figure lying by the podium. “It was created by the creature that lies dead. That kobold knew the spell of binding, and then the other appeared.”

Ewen looked over at the figure by the podium. Something was strange about the body. The arms weren’t the right length, and the angles were slightly wrong.

Ewen signaled Cekiya to investigate. She flipped the body over. Under its hood the kobold had a scaly visage, with horns pointing out from its forehead.

“I must sacrifice soon,” the demon said, drawing Ewen’s attention back to it.

“What happens if you don’t?” Cekiya wondered.

The demon paused. “Then He will find me.”

“This servant of the dark one,” Ewen indicated Cekiya, “will facilitate a proper sacrifice for you.”

“Under normal circumstances I would not work with one such as she. I shall so, now, as I have pledged. And you have pledged.”

“We have,” Ewen agreed.

***

Baris was binding his wounds and shivered, but not just from blood loss. Just that morning, Ewen was merely plotting to overthrow the kingdom, betray the King, and steal the birthright of Prince Brandis, whom Baris held in high esteem. He wasn’t entirely comfortable with that situation, but Ewen was his friend, and moreover his lord. He had taken an oath. Now the Baron had also bound a demon of Naveh to his service, and was at that moment working out the terms of the agreement. He wasn’t sure what to think about that.

Now that the fight was over, he took the time to look at the room more closely. He closely and realized the opening he had spent so much time beside was actually an already opened secret door. Once it was closed, it would be flush with the outside wall.

Baris tightened the wrapping on his side and tied it up. He grabbed his sword and shield and stepped beside Ewen.

“What is your name, creature of darkness?” Ewen asked his new servant.

“My name is G’Fell.”

“Tell me in detail of your summoning here, and what befell the kobold, who is deceased.”

“Many years ago,” the thing called G’Fell began, and gazed upon the woman Senele, his visage becoming almost tender, “I saw her, and I saw that there may be something beyond submission to Naveh.”

Baris saw Cekiya’s eyes flash, and she growled. The knight imagined she found the idea that there was something beyond submission to Naveh blasphemy.

“It was many years later that my opportunity occurred. I was sent as a messenger to deal with those non-adherents who had displeased the god.” G’Fell grinned, showing all its horrid teeth. “I dealt with them very efficiently.”

Ewen nodded. “Duly noted.”

“But one day, I was seen to be enamored with Senele, and I was demoted, and became just an errand boy. This I did for many many many years, but the time came when I was to deliver to a mortal Garana, a high priest, a collar of obedience. I was not told why I was to deliver this. I simply took the chance, and installed the collar on my love Senele. She and I have been together ever since. This is why I cannot give her up.”

“Was she always like that?” Ewen asked.

“Like what?”

Ewen gestured at the woman. “Like that. Immobile, insensate.”

The goat demon shrugged, “No, I guess not, but that is not important.”

“What is important is that you possess her, is that it?”

“Yes,” the thing ejaculated. “She is mine.”

“As you are mine for two months,” Ewen stated. “Tell me about the binding, and your summoning here.”

“It is necessary for me to sacrifice.” The demon pointed at Cekiya. “She understands. I thought to come here to do so, but I was ambushed by this kobold, who quite unexpectedly knew a spell of binding and trapped me in this circle. I was able to kill him, but that didn’t free me. Days went by, weeks, I think. And then the door opened, and a human like you came through. He was unable to accept my terms, and so I smote him. He screamed like a little girl, but in a way that was quite unexpected. He screamed in a pvaric sense.”

Ewen smiled. “It was that scream that summoned me here.”

“But you are not a pvaric man,” G’Fell croaked.

“You said earlier, that you knew my kind. Explain yourself.”

“Oh, I know your kind. You are of the innate. There are cattle, and there are overseers. You are an overseer.”

“I see that you have an understanding of things,” Ewen said.

“It is important that you have a practical view of things, especially when you are trying to keep invisible.” The demon barked what could have been a laugh. “When you can no longer be invisible.”

“Is your inability to be invisible a function of the binding?” Ewen asked.

“It is, and if I am to be of any use to you, you will need to release me.”

“I have already figured that out.”

“I will keep up my end of the bargain.” The demon licked its lips. “But I need to make a sacrifice.”

“I have already said this one will bring you a sacrifice.” Ewen indicated Cekiya.

“I have not said what I need to sacrifice.”

Ewen sighed. “What do you need to sacrifice G’Fell.”

“An infant, less than six weeks old.”

“When do you need your sacrifice?” Cekiya asked without hesitation.

The demon turned toward the little adder. “Before the Dezenaka.” He looked back at Ewen. “One other thing, master. You should know that there are other kobolds within this complex.” It pointed to the door in the northeastern corner of the room. “They are that way. Three of them, I think. Terrified of me, as they should be.” It showed its teeth again. “I killed that one.”

Ewen laughed. “We will kill them for sport. What role did Lumede play in your story?”

“The one who could have released us. We were here for days, and that one appeared. He was a little surprised, and he was unwilling to help.”

Ewen nodded. “And so you exacted your punishment on him.”

The Gytevsha showed its teeth. “As well as I could.”

“He, or one of his ilk, may hold the secret to your unbinding,” Ewen said.

“Does Naveh know where you are?” Cekiya wondered.

The demon was silent until Ewen ordered it to answer.

“No, he does not,” G’Fell grated.

Cekiya smiled in a way that made even the demon shudder a bit. “What happens when he does know?”

The demon shook its head. “I will have to go back as I was.”

“How does he not know where you are?” Cekiya asked.

“I am exerting almost all of my power to prevent that,” the demon answered.

Cekiya pointed at the circle of power. “So it is not this that binds you.”

“No, it does, but I could break free if I wanted.”

Cekiya nodded in understanding. “But then you would be found, because you would have to use all your power to break free.”

The demon gritted its teeth. “Correct.”

Baris suddenly came back to himself. This wasn’t a dream. They were talking to this demon, Ewen was its master for the moment, it was going to sacrifice a baby, and Cekiya was going to help. Baris had nearly died fighting that thing and had barely scratched it, and that only with the help of a magic dagger. The gods only knew what havoc the Baron would wreak with the Gytevsha in his service. Somewhere across the city, he imagined Meden Curo deep asleep, content that all was right with the world, and everything was going according to his plans. The knight envied him.
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Matt
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