Message from Prison
It was a damp, cold, bleak evening in the town of Westmark, the mood enhanced by the loss of four of their citizens. The Muddy Boot was full of townspeople, most not knowing why they had gathered, but all mourning the loss of their duchess. Though the place was full, very little life was evident - everyone sat around drinking and eating, but only talking softly, if at all. Memories of their lost ones filled the conversations, and occasionally could be heard the sound of a woman sobbing or someone sniffling back emotion.
In a dark corner, Sir Eleazar sat hollow-eyed, staring blankly at a pint of Elven Honey Mead that he had only ordered to honor the memory of the Drow girl that he had shared the beverage with last. Sir Aeric and Alis sat to one side of the knight, equally as blank-faced from their losses. Across the room, Thorm drank heavily, determined to numb the pain. Lute sat and watched the dwarf drink and comforted Siris, who would occasionally began weeping. Only Pectros and Neal were absent, both having volunteered to take a large detachment to the site of the Wyvern attack to retrieve the personal effects Darv, Aurei and Alvis had left behind when they were taken.
As for the Sorceress, she sat chained in a cell in the Ducal dungeon, with Eleazar's enchanted silence stone to keep her company, and to prevent her from casting any spells to escape. They had no idea what to do with her, but that was a concern for another day.
Eleazar was about to tell his fellow Paladins that he thought he'd just go on to bed when a scream from across the room brought him, and everyone in the room, to their feet. In the middle of the tavern, hanging in mid-air, was a giant disembodied eye - the size of two men's heads and glowing red. Everyone jumped back from the apparition when suddenly a loud female voice seemed to come from it.
"Did it work? I bet I messed it up, didn't I? I knew you should have done it! I've never read a spell scroll before. WAIT A MINUTE!! I SEE THEM!!" The eye began looking around the room, everyone cringing as it passed over them. Though the voice seemed artificial, and unnaturally loud, somehow it also sounded familiar.
"Hi, everyone!" the voice called, "Can you hear me? It's Aurei!"
For a full minute the room erupted into chaos. Everyone talking and yelling in excitement at once, others trying to shut them up, but finally it settled down and everyone looked on expectedly at the giant eye.
"I can see you and hear you, but please let me talk. I don't have long and I have a lot to tell you. First, I am NOT a ghost, I am alive and for the moment safe and very comfortable." The eye moved over to where Eleazar and the others that had escaped Thurgood stood together. Tears formed in the giant eye when it fell upon them.
"Hi friends. Brother Darv, Sir Alvis and I were taken by Wyverns. The Airship you saw was indeed a Necromancer's Guild craft commanded by a Death Knight named Abbadox."
Aeric and Eleazar both gave out groans at the news.
"Brother Darv… is… dead." The voice of Aurei cracked as she told the news, "He died from injuries caused by the Wyvern poison. Sir Alvis was taken prisoner and Abbadox sent him off by Wyvern to his master to be made into… a… a… Death Knight."
"Yesh preserve him!" Eleazar exclaimed, sinking back against the table as Aeric openly wept.
"I am sorry, I could not stop it; I was unable to move due to the Wyvern poison. They were going to turn me into a vampire then send me back to you to terrorize the town. But they had to heal me from the poison for the Vampire's bite to work. I had scooped up the Light of Yesh when Brother Darv dropped it before we were taken, and as soon as I was healed, I threw down the gem onto the metal deck of the Death Knight's Airship. Brother Darv was correct; it does indeed destroy everything around it when it shatters. Abbadox and everyone on the ship are destroyed. I was thrown off the ship, but Yesh allowed my chainmail to snag on a mooring line beneath the craft and I hung there blind, unconscious, and nearly dead until I was rescued."
Everyone in the Inn looked at each other, wondering how she could be rescued and yet still be a prisoner.
"Here is equally important news: my rescuer was from another Airship. This one belongs to the Emperor Fendoris Maximus - he is in exile on his Airship with his court, and an elite guard, after a coup attempt against him earlier this week. Armored knights dressed as Blood Knights attempted to murder him in the Imperial Senate. There is civil war in Aeropolis and the Emperor blames the Church of Yesh, though it is obviously a scheme of the Guild. He is deciding where to head, and right now we are somewhere near the southern border of Northmarch, I think. He is extremely suspicious of followers of Yesh, and St. Kinnis and all of the Archbishops escaped and are in hiding. Except for Matron Zeatt, the Archbishop of the Drow of Aeropolis - she alone refused to flee and surrendered to the Emperor, who took her as a prisoner aboard the Airship. When they found me hanging from the still levitating hull of the destroyed airship, they of course were suspicious. But they brought me to her, and through the mercy of Yesh, she completely healed me. And Laz, you were right about the family connection between us. Right now we are both being held in the brig of his Airship, but we are quite comfortable, though we are still prisoners. His Excellency has cast truth detection spells on us both, but he is still very suspicious. I'm not sure what he is planning to do, but we cannot escape, and it is probably best if we didn't even if we could, for he already dislikes followers of Yesh."
"Matron Zeatt had a scroll with this spell on it, which, believe it or not, I actually read and cast. I am afraid it is about to end soon, but I want to quickly give you some instructions." "First, send messengers to King's Reach and tell the King of the situation, and have him warn the churches in Northmarch about the coup attempt. Tell them that I and Matron Zeatt will do our best to show His Excellency that the Church of Yesh was not responsible for the coup, but we don't know if he'll listen to us. Also, Matron Zeatt, asked if one of our messengers could find a way to notify the Bitter Dregs in King's Reach so that they could locate her daughter and son, who are working for the Dregs somewhere -but she does not know where. I really wish I could be back with all of you right now, to mourn the loss of Brother Darv and Brolen, as well as pray with you for Sir Alvis as he faces the evil of the Guild. I don't know how long I will be held captive. Until then, I appoint Eleazar, Alis, Aeric, Thorm, Pectros, Siris, Lute and Neal as my council with the authority to make decisions regarding the Duchy, by democratic vote among them. Pectros will be in charge of the Ducal Keep and has all authority to do with prisoners as he sees fit, in my name. Krys and Brandi are given charge of the Muddy Boot and have the authority to make purchases and run it in my name, as best they can. Please keep vigilance with your watches, for I suspect the loss of Abbadox will not please his master, and there may be more attacks against Westmark. I am afraid that the spell is ending, as the vision of you is fading, please know that I miss all of you and I will return-"
Suddenly the eye disappeared with a pop, leaving the people of Westmark standing by with a lot to think about, and even more to do.
"Your Excellency, what shall we do?" The wizard asked the Emperor as he waved his hand over his crystal ball and the scene of the Muddy Boot faded.
Fendoris Maximus leaned back in his chair and scratched his chin in thought, "I should have them executed for the act - contacting Westmark and then ordering them to warn Haroldris of my plight. The insolence! " He paused, envisioning the two incredibly beautiful Drow women, and in spite of his common sense, his mood softened. He laughed, "They are indeed a head-strong lot - these Drow ladies. They are as fiery as their eyes. No, I won't let them know of our spying on them. From Duchess Bugley's words, she seemed to have no desire to see me dethroned and I suspect she nor Zeatt have any part in the coup. But I also don't want to let them go free yet until I can learn just where their loyalties lie. Since the tavern wench plans to contact Haroldris, perhaps we shall fly to King's Reach and see if the King of Northmarch remains faithful to his Imperial lord. Yes, we will head for King's Reach. We'll see how Matron Zeatt and Duchess Bugley react when their plans are ruined. For their sake, they had better stay loyal or I will put out the fire in their eyes forever."
To be continued in 'The Knights of Northmarch' now on Booksie.