Near Bleak Rock Hold, deep within the Ashwood – Varisia
The 5th day of Pharast, 4712 AR – noon
“Kyras, old friend. The passing days have not been kind to us.” Albia pulls out her sword, holding it down low as if to drop it,her hand never leaving its grip. A Hellknight or a swordsman of Cheliax would recognize the move called a Falxugon after the Harvester Devil, for offering friendship with one hand and a poisoned dagger in the other. It’s a readied disarming strike.
“The baby has escaped the fortress of my body. We are here searching for the spawn of Rovagug. His presence was masked by the Rough Beast, but soon the Doom Child will be strong enough to ravage the world as he sees fit. I did not know what I was carrying until I was spirited away, for if I had I would have ripped it from my body and strangled it with the umbilical cord.
“We have come to seek to destroy the creature. When did the gentle Kyras of old start listening to the pipes of madness?”
Immediately, without word or outward emotion, Kymrych draws his sword from it’s sheath, the rasp of the blade also audible in the air. Where Albia’s sword is held low, Kymrych’s is chest level as he moves into position to her side, yet slightly ahead of her.
“You will stay your blade and hear her words, or we may have a problem. Both Albia and Akorian are under my protection, but know this, she speaks the truth. We are here to deal with this Doom Child, to stop it before it can get any traction in what it’s task is. She had no idea of what had transpired but now, but like the rest of us seeks to fix the grievous error that has occurred.”
A quick glance then to Akorian as he speaks quickly, “This would be a good time to explain what has transpired; I’d really rather not delay our trip by engaging in a battle that does not need to be fought, but I will not let anyone attack her.” The words, vehemently spoken, are at least honest sounding as he gave his full attention back to Kyras, quite ready to get between them before anything happens.
Akorian also steps in front of Albia. shoulder to shoulder with Kymrych. He puts his hand on his rapier but does not draw it.
“Kyras! Stay your hand for a moment and hear us. The child is gone from her body!”
Seeing that Albia is already well shielded by companions known to the crazed priest, Eiko leans against a nearby tree.
“Come now,” the girl replies in a droll tone. “This sort of discord is just what Rovagug would want. The Doom Child is already birthed upon the world. You know me not, but I ask you this. Open your eyes. Look at that form-fitting armor. Does the woman look like she is still pregnant to you?”
Kyras blinks as he hears what Eiko has to say, and you see his sword-point waiver. “I…. It has been foretold. She is the spawn of the Rough Beast. She is the End Times given flesh. She… She…”
The sword lowers, and Kyras’ shoulders sag in defeat. He sinks to his knees, and his sword lands with a thud at his side. For a moment the lot of you stand in the chill winter air, unsure of what to do next. Then Akorian comes to kneel beside the despondent priest, and whispers low.
“Kyras, what happened to you? Where have you been all this time?”
“In the wilderness of Numeria, looking for her.” Kyras offers Akorian a sickly grin. “It seems you had her in your pocket this entire time. I suppose the joke is on me.”
He looks up and eyes the two Hellknight squires, who have not moved an inch since this encounter began. One of them shifts uneasily as they sit upon their horses, eying the party warily. Then Kyras turns his gaze to Akorian once more.
“It would behoove you to slay these two, Akorian. In my carelessness they have heard me speak the name of the Doom Child. They now know there is something unclean in yonder keep. If you let them live to report what they have heard, our mission will be in danger.”
Igmar does not like the sound of this! He therefore begins a slow, almost inaudible chant…his fingers flicking and gesturing symbols at his side. His gaze falls on the Hellknights as he casts ‘Command’. His thoughts concentrate on a single word as he projects his will…
…“Leave” Igmar casts his spell, and the closer of the two Hellknights seems to waiver in his saddle for the briefest of moments. Then he shakes his head, and turns to his companion.
“Go,” he says. “Warn the Paralictor of treachery.” He then draws his heavy blade, and prepares to ride you down. His partner wheels about, and prepares to ride back the way he came, at a full gallop.
Akorian is the first to act; he raises his hands, and sends slithering shadows to attempt to ensnare the fleeing knight. His magic fails. Then Eiko digs in the pouch at her belt, and withdraws something that looks suspiciously like a chicken egg from it. He winds back, and hurls the egg at the fleeing Hellknight. The egg explodes with a deafening CRACK, and a great cloud of smoke envelops the horse and its rider. The steed panics, and begins to buck wildly. The rider is thrown, and tumbles to the ground, stunned.
Meanwhile the closer of the two Hellknights speeds forward at a quick gallop, intent upon riding Albia down. Igmar raises his hand, and intones words of power. The knight’s sword glows cherry red, and he screams in pain as the now-hot metal burns his fingers. He drops the blade, and tumbles from his saddle in shock. He looks up moments later to discover Kymrych and Albia standing over him with their swords at his throat.
When the combat began, Nadine kept her distance from it. Her unseen gaze was kept on those in the party, in case there was any healing that needed doing. Otherwise, she was content to remain playing the part of the harmless blind woman. Why not? All the better to lull them into a false sense of security, right? Once the fighting is done, she will see to the minor wounds of the Hellknights… if asked to do so. Otherwise, she is fine with letting them suffer a bit. After all, they threatened to expose the groups presence, thus threatening the mission at hand.
Kymrych will sigh, but keep his weapon at the one Hellknight’s throat, “A classic example of when following without listening turned out to be a bad thing.”
He then looked at Akorian inquiringly. “Are we going to bind these two up? I’d rather them not cause any problems, but I do want them to hear the truth of it, and not someone’s warped perception….”
The young lord nods. “Bind them up and blindfold them – I don’t want them causing any problems either.” Akorin steps away from the two knights and looks at Albia, who insisted we take them alive. In hushed tones he asks, "what do you have in mind? It looks as though there is a wall and two armies out there that we need to try to get through. “Tying them up may not be enough…”
Albia scowls as she talks to the Hellknight squires directly and plainly. They are on a mission to pass judgement on the Doom Child. Their purpose is to bring it to justice. She can understand their zealousness for she too belongs to a Hellknight Order. However, it’s important that their presence not be fully told until they have spoken of their mission to the Paralictor. If they accept they can all be taken to the Paralictor. If not they will remain tied here until reason prevails. What do they wish to do?
The oldest of the Hellknights is just a squire, and just shy of seventeen years of age. As a result he seems terribly embarrassed to have been captured. He agrees to Albia’s terms, and offers to escort you through the picket lines to see the Paralictor. He does ask for their swords back, however. His word of honor is offered as proof of his sincerity.
“Aye, let’s get going,” Variel says. He hands the two squires back their swords. “We’ve wasted enough time here as it is.”
After things are sorted out you all mount up, and ride on into the army encampment with the two Hellknights at the head of the column. The pickets at the periphery of the camp stop and challenge you, but the lead squire, Varin, vouches for you and you are allowed to enter the camp. Woodsmoke fills the chill air, and the sound of a smithy’s hammer can be heard nearby. Large numbers of ill-matching tents crowd in amongst themselves, and soldiers and assorted camp followers can be seen milling about. A few dismounted Hellknights are seen as well, but few remark upon you as you are led onward into the camp, and up to the largest of the tents at its very center.
The tent itself is large, and dyed a bright crimson. The banners out front bear the sigil of the Order of the Nail, and two Hellknight squires stand post outside. Another man in Hellknight plate pauses in passing as you arrive, and moves to speak with Varin. The younger knight leans close to speak privately with the newcomer for several minutes. The man then nods, and shouts an order. Moments later a dozen Hellknights appear, fully armed and armored. They surround your group, but do not move to impede you in any way. Then the higher ranking knight disappears inside the tent, and Varin turns to you and nods solemnly.
“That is Armiger Artrex. He will summon the Paralictor.”
You have little choice but to sit and wait. A few minutes pass, and then the tent flaps open, and Artrex and another, older Hellknight step into the overcast daylight. The newcomer’s armor is very ornate, and crafted of some fine black alloy you do not immediately recognize. Demonic sigils and design motifs decorate every square inch of its surface.
“Greetings.” The man takes off his helmet, exposing thin, handsome features, close-cropped brown hair, and starting gray eyes that remind you of those of a wolf. His accent suggests he is of Varisian stock. “I am Paralictor Kolibri, and I command here. Who of you speaks for this group?”
“I do, Paralictor.” Albia slips from her saddle, and bows formally. “I am Albia Prosepine Sinterblood, an Armigier of the Order of the Chain. And I come here, bearing grave tidings.”
“So I understand.” Kolibri bids you all to dismount. “But first, I have some unpleasant business to attend to.” He nods to two of his men, and gestures to Kyras.
“Seize him, and place him in irons. Master Kyras, the charge is treason.” The priest does not resist as he is pulled from the saddle. Then Kolibri turns to Igmar, and gestures once more. “And the dwarf as well.”
“What? No!” Igmar is quickly surrounded by six Hellknights, who now have their blades drawn.
“I suggest you surrender peacefully, Master Dwarf. My men tell me you assaulted them first, thus sparking that unfortunate scuffle in the forest. That is the crime of Assault. And we do not take criminal activity lightly, I assure you.”
A dozen more Hellknights arrive, most afoot. You quickly realize that any display of force will would be pointless. You all watch then as Igmar is manhandled down from his pony, and his winter furs torn away. A guard roughly jerks back his sleeve, thus exposing the ornate prison tattoos on his arms. Paralictor Kolibri takes a moment to examine them fully.
“Hm. This is Molthuni work by the look of it – crude, but plain enough to see. And so my duty is clear. You are guilty of murder, banditry, and unlawful torture, Master Igmar. Do you claim otherwise?”
Igmar scowls, and says nothing to the man. Kolibri nods and gestures for his men to allow the captive dwarf to redress himself. “Your admission of guilt or innocence would do little in this case, I’m afraid. Your date of execution is long past, according to these markings. By twenty-two years, if I’m not mistaken. Take him away.”
“What? No! NOOOOOO!!!!!” You watch helplessly as the guards begin to drag you friend away. Kolibri turns once more to Albia, and nods apologetically.
“I actually know your father, Dame Albia, and served with him as an Armiger during the Goblinblood Wars. It was an honor to fight beside him. Now, if you will come with me?”
“Ahem. Excuse me? May I ask a question?”
Kolibri turns to see Eiko standing nearby, eying him expectantly. “You say Igmar is guilty of a crime, yes? And he is to be put to death? What manner of execution is called for in this case?
A wry smile crosses the Paralictor’s face. “Why, crucifixion of course, followed by ritualized disembowelment. His sentence is to be carried out with the dawn.”