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Settling In - Part 2

Horgi, the cellar boy, put down the last barrel with a convulsive jerk of his tired muscles and sighed. Finished, he thought. Good I can get out of the bloody cellar and get me some of that fresh bread and beer that cook set for me. His stomach growled lustily as if agreeing with him wholeheartedly.

The Cellar of the Silk'n Plume was big, dark and full. It stretched the length of the building and had racks of wine, piles of barrels and stacks of stores filling up the whole room, turning it into a maze of tiny, alley-like, passages between them. Horgi didn't like the cellar much, it was always cold and full of big hairy spiders and the occasional rat. Of course, the cats kept the rat population down to a point but they were getting fat and not doing their job right. Horgi sometimes thought that the Plume's cats had some sort of peace treaty with the rats, they left them alone so much.

He had dusted his hands off and straightened to leave when he heard the creak of tearing wood. Whatssat? He thought. Came from the old stores area. He moved quickly through the stores to have a look. The old stores area was a big heap of the Plumes old decor, furniture and stuff they used only for special occasions like sacred time. It was always dusty and most of the rats came from there. Cook used to tell Horgi that there was an entrance to the Underworld beneath that pile to scare him but Horgi had long ago mastered such childish fears. Still, for some reason, that creaking put a chill in his spine but he resolved to have a look anyway. Probably cook pulling a prank, he thought. The Plumes cook had been in a poor mood lately, ever since that new Lunar fella had told him his cooking had "all the sophistication of Bison dung". Horgi had laughed when he'd heard that but the cook hadn't been amused.

His lantern lit up the way ahead and he reached the old stores but stopped short of going into the cobwebbed corridors of junk. The feeling in his spine was very tingly right now. The sense of fear irritated him, the irritation spurred him on. "You in there cook?" He whispered. He was surprised to find his voice hoarse and timorous sounding. Get a hold of yourself Horgi! I'm fifteen, a man! He shook his head and moved in.

The creaking noise suddenly became a tearing noise that made him jump, it sounded only a few feet away. He looked around hastily but could see nothing but old, dusty, stacked chairs walling him in. The noise stoped as quickly as it had begun and there was silence.

Horgi peered around, eyes wide and searching. A rancid smell struck his nostrils. He almost gagged. It smelt of death, decay and something else, something worse. His fear built. It wasn't cook, not a prank, he began to back away. As he did, a long, muscular arm burst through the wall of chairs and a hand that looked more like a claw seized him by the throat, pulling him with brutal force through the stacked furniture. The wall crashed around him as his leg caught, then broke at the ankle. Horgi couldn't scream, he had little air anyway but shock totally paralysed him as he came face to face with his attacker. His soul screamed instead.

Its horned head framed a rat-like face full of leering teeth and red, hateful eyes that oozed pus in a stream that had matted the curdled fur. The breath was from hell itself and Horgi saw droplets of thick, viscous liquid on fangs layered and wicked as they closed with a crunch on his frozen face.

The towering ceature threw aside the limp body and turned its attention back to the hole in the floorboards. His Drools were coming through under the direction of the two Lips. The Thanatari stood by the hole casting his magics. His heads squirmed and screamed silently on his belt as he worked his arts and prepared the way.

"You ready Head-taker?" Snarled Korgle, Jaw and Lip of Krarsht. Asark, the human Thanatari nodded his skull-like head avidly. He cackled. "I'm ready Goatkin, you promised me his head, you promised, or maybe I take yours?" He laughed insanely, exposing rotting teeth and a rolling, slug-like toungue. While he spoke, he snapped his silver garrotte taunt over and over again between his bony but powerful hands. His anticipation was palpable.

"Stay away from me head Thanatari, I'm warnin' yer. Do yer job or the Waiting Mouth will suck on yer soul!" Korgle unslung his net and mace, casting spells of his own. He looked to his team. The two Lips nodded their readiness to Korgle, one was a Alynx-Broo called Frassank, fast and deadly, one was an ogre of great strength and quickness named Holrugarn. The eight Drools stood ready too, four were Broo of warped but deadly appearance, two were ogres, much like Holrugarn and the last two were chaos tainted humans, more evil and sick than the rest put together. They were the Jaw's best and they were ready to complete the contract.

Sigarn Manfralsson chewed contentedly on his chicken leg. He had his feet up on the kitchen table. Cook and his staff had gone to bed and the Plume was quiet as it always was in the early hours before dawn. Only a few driven card players were still awake in the game room but they only need one staff member. Most of the guards had either gone home, or like Sigarn, had taken their chance at some relaxation.

Something in his guts made him stop eating and it wasn't the food. His senses came alive in a way he'd never felt before. Since initiating last Season he'd served many hours in the Plume or the Temple and his Swordbrothers had told him of a feeling like the one he felt now. The said that Humakt was warning them of craven-killers. Deathbringers without honour. Assassins! He lurched to his feet and drew his sword. His instinct, new though it was, brought him round to face the cellar door, moments before it burst open.


What came through the door almost warped his mind beyond reason but the endless drill of his service and training took hold of his numb body as he gripped his sword in two hands and raised it for a swing. The leading goat-headed figure had a wickedly serrated knife in one hand but before closing it hurled something at him from the other fist that seemed to grow in the air.

Sigarn dodged sideways, instinctively backstroking the attack. Fast though he was, he was still hit by a sheet of sticky white material that stuck fast to his blade, sword arm and right shoulder. He was semi-immobilised immediately, allowing the lead broo to come in low with a gutting strike.

Sigarn felt the blade slice home, tearing into his Plume issue silken shirt but the pain and his panic gave him massive strength and he pulled his sword free, cutting hard into the surprised Broo with all his strength. Its head seemed to launch itself from its body under the impact of that mighty blow and Sigarn felt some relief at taking one with him into Humakt's embrace. It was short lived relief as Korgle's mace ended his life by smashing his brains out throught the back of his skull.

Korgle kicked his dead Drool in annoyance. "Move faster, we have not time!" He snarled. He and his Drools moved quickly through the kitchens to the servants stairs led by Holrugarn who'd scouted the place last week. The Thantari scuttled along with them, his head collection squirming on his belt in their orchestrated insanity.


Deville finished the last page of his weekly report to the Overseer. It contained his views on the local events and political situation as well as profiles of those members of the administration he considered suspect. He often had the feeling that his views were ignored or very rarely even looked at but he perservered anyway.

He sealed the letter and sat back in his chair and stroked an attentive Fluffy. Trask and Hrothmir had been in bed for some hours while Deville worked the night away. He'd had three hours sleep in the last three days and it was beginning to tell on him. He still looked immaculate as ever, though he wore just a bit more eye make-up than usual to cover up the growing bags beneath his eyes. The most notable change in his was his constant bad mood. He was looking forward to meeting Sharpsword again for another bout. He'd tried Krogar Wolfhelm but the Orlanthi had refused to even see him and so he'd fallen back on sparring with the local Tarnils community.

His favourite opponent there had been Sitzag Redmoon who was fast, skilled and gave his all, even in practice but he was not in Sharpswords league, nor Devilles. Radak was reputed to be good but had refused the offer to spar. He claimed he was too busy for "messing about like a bunch of girls playing soldier". Deville had liked that. He found Radak amusing.

Lissus came into the room in his bed-clothing. "I've cleaned your robes for the morning sir, is there anything I can get you before I go to bed?"

"No Lissus, I'm fine, but thank you for your concern. Get yourself to sleep, you've worked far too late as it is." Deville admonished.

"As you wish Lord." He bowed.

Deville watched him go then his minds eye opened to the sight projection lense he'd left covering the corridor to his rooms. Through its narrow focus he saw a horde from hell approaching his outer door. In mere moments his two guards there were covered in a web of a sticky white substance part of his mind named calmly as pratzim. Another part of his mind was directing his body as it vaulted the table screaming alarm.


He saw with two views, one of himself bolting the inner door and pulling a divan to block it with furious strength and the other of the Krarshti slaying his bound guards while attacking the outer doors to his apartment with murderous intent.

Trask and Lissus came charging out of their rooms at the same time, sounds of Hrothmir grunting to wakefulness could be heard from his room.

The outer doors were smashed open with a resounding crash, Deville heard and felt his warding going off and the two ghosts he'd bound there attacked the intruders as instructed. That should hold them, he thought, then both ghosts where suddenly dismissed and the warding was blown down by powerful magics that reeked of something strange.

Trask slipped his hauberk over his head and placed his helm on. His swords began to glow. Hrothmir came out, axe in hands ready to slay. Even Lissus stood ready with his shortsword held nervously before him.

Deville had cast several combat magics on himself and threw a powerful Shield on the doors not a moment too soon. A massive thud shook them in their frame. Deville felt other presences. "Beware spirits!" He yelled. "Get onto the rug! Now!" He jumped onto the big circular rug in the center of the room, the other three followed immediately. Several ghostly presences came throught the walls and came at them, two were repelled easily by the Protective circle's spirit resistance the remaining three penetrated but were weakened. Deville defeated his in moments, learning that it was a Pain spirit as he did. Hrothmir also won easily but Lissus seemed in trouble. He screamed in fear. Deville cast a Spirit Block on him to help and turned to face the door as it was finally smashed off its hinges, the wardings blown down.

Onward they came, a screaming horde of chaos that would terrify most men but Deville, Hrothmir and Trask faced them without flinching. They'd seen worse in their time. Many would say they were worse.

The Krarshti threw pratzim and the Teeth of Krarsht as they came, though to their surprise the sticky webs and poisoned weapons bounced of the air infront of the waiting men. They closed to weapon distance.

As they were slowed by the protective circle, Deville skewered one of the Broo through the head. Trask tried to do the same but his Bastardsword was covered in acidic flem as his Broo opponent was sick all over it. Undaunted Trask drew his dagger off handedly and stuck the blade through its left eyeballwhile parrying a human Krarshti with his scimitar.

Hrothmir swept his axe in massive arcs as he went berserk, piling into them, out of the circle. Deville screamed, "No Hrothmir!" But the big man didn't listen as he cut a screaming Ogre in half with stunning power. He leapt through his falling opponents remains to meet his next foe who was a thin man with a collection of heads on his belt. The thin man smiled insanely and with a gesture he severed Hrothmir's spirit from his body.

Deville went mad then, a burning anger that took his bladework into new realms of fury. He sliced the Alynx-broo in front of him so rapidly, so often that it seemed to slide apart as it stood there, his point flicked twice around heavy parries leavng an Ogre Lip eyeless and screaming. Then he was infront of the Thanatari.

Trask and Lissus faced the remaining foes, Trask had picked up a dead Drools sword and firebladed his scimitar, he waded into them. Lissus bravely faced two Drools but his death seemed certain until Fluffy joined in the fight.

Deville's cat familiar had quietly cast its spells and was now as big as a lion, its claws glowing with magics that allowed it to cut bronze and bone like paper. With a feline roar of anger it leapt onto the backs of the two Drools, tearing them apart with powerful claw strikes. Seeing this, the Jaw of Krarsht leapt to the attack while the Thanatari fought Deville.

With all the power of his massive arms Korgle smashed his mace into the giant white cats leg, breaking it in a spray of blood. Undaunted, the giant cat spun round in a radiant blur. The Jaw barely parried the sweeping claw and, howling with rage, went for Fluffy with his Tongue of Krarsht and his gigantic poisoned fangs. They rolled together, tearing and biting in a fury of movement that was so quick that it was beyond the ability of normal human senses to follow the blows. Korgles magical Tongue was torn out and his body ripped and stressed almost beyond the tolerance of even his supra-mortal muscles but he sunk his teeth into the cat again and again in his primal rage, ignoring the pain in his lust to triumph.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, his foe jerked once and fell still.

He reeled back roaring his victory exultation. His joy was abruptly cut short as his intestines dumped themselves around his feet from a stomach that had been torn fully open by a paw the size of a steak plate duringthe melee. He gurgled his cry for Krarsht to aid him but failed to finish it. Lissus rammed his shortsword through his face with surprising power. "I liked that cat you bastard." He snarled.

After watching the Broo die, Lissus turned to see Trask slice down the last Drool with his flaming sword. His master stood five feet away from the Thanatari as they fought a duel of magics that burned the room with their puissance.

Deville felt the sweat on his brow and the tiredness of his soul but kept up the pressure. He'd used much of his magics against the Thanatari who had started the duel with six heads, he now had three and none of them looked healthy.

The Thantari had hurled massive magics at Deville from several sources to be baulked at every turn though he too had tempered the Lunars' magic with his own.

Tiring of the direct struggle, he used a powerful spell and teleported directly behind Deville. Turning with superb dexterity he dropped his garrotte over Devilles head and jerked his wrists together with all their bony power.

His arms nearly tore themselves out of their sockets as his foe instantly teleported to a few feet in front of him, leaving the garrotte empty. Deville turned and smiled casually. "You'll have to do better than that head-hunter. Your faith is false, I bring you Enlightenment." and he lunged with all thepower in his body.

The point smashed through the Thantari's rotting teeth and out the back of his skull, grey brains were exposed to the air amid the shattered bone and dark red blood.

Deville held the position of full lunge as the dead Thantari slid slowly down the blade, jarring to a halt as his face hit the crossguard.. Deville pulled Enlightenment out with a jerk and surveyed the wreckage that had once been the finest suite in the Silk'n Plume. Hrothmir lay dead and Fluffy was bloating with the deadly poisons that filled his torn body.

Devilles face became a rictus of hate. "Somebody will pay for this, somebody will pay with blood!" He roared. And Morthander Deville was a man of his word.

<< Part 1 | The Deville page | Part 3 >>


May 31, 2000

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