a continuation of my novel!, which can be purchased here, if you like what I do and want to support me. Or if you just can’t wait for the updates. Now without further delay, here are the next 4 chapters of Heaven’s Gold Spear.
Chapter 9: Meeting of Monsters
Delilah stretched out with clawed hands toward the night sky as she reappeared deeper in the forest. She gave a cute little yawn and laid her eyes on a soft glow coming from a few feet away. She had told Ophelia that what she had seen so many nights ago was a simple raiding party, and she had been honest when telling the little unicorn such. But, she had left out a few other details.
Like the fact that there was indeed an army in the forest, a day’s march from Vasherton. Within the thicket of trees lay a large company of tents. Stretching over 1000 feet in either direction. Campfires adorned the landscape haphazardly, with no thought given to their layout or organization. The tents were a cacophony of colors and shapes, as varied as the creatures they housed. Lamia, goblins, harpies, slimes, ogres, dullahan, and more ran about. These creatures all bore the mark of the new era. No longer were goblins short green pot-bellied men with long ears and noses. Now they were diminutive girls with nubby horns, and petite frames, innocent faces and mischievous grins. Harpies bore a youthful countenance, rather than a crone-like visage. Ogres, while still the giant muscle behemoths of yore, were also shaped in the curvaceous allure of a woman. Slimes too, were changed, no longer amorphous blobs, but beautiful beings matching even the wildest young boy’s imagination. The womanly monsters conformed to no standard. They varied in height, shape, weight, bust, and color. Only one thing they kept in common. An unearthly beauty, powered by the change afflicted onto them a millennium ago.
Delilah looked on at her troops with pride. Vasherton would fall within the month. And with it, all of Lancaster. She smiled widely, ear to ear, thinking of all the plans and schemes she’d started in her brief absence before heading into camp.
The camp was not a stealthy affair. The tents were all brightly covered canvas, stripes of every color adorned them, with small flags atop bellowing in the night wind. The lights that shone within the camp were not limited to campfires. Monsters had their own ways. Along hooked poles staked into the ground intermittently, hung flower pots with a curious flower inside. Beautiful five-petal flowers of pale lavenders, pinks, blues, and greens gave off a lustrous glow, bathing the camp in steady lights of many colors.
As Delilah strolled about the camp she was greeted by every creature that spotted her. They were warm welcomes, as friends would greet each other, rather than how a military typically runs. Informal attitudes aside, the numbers and power of these creatures was a sight to behold, and Delilah could not keep herself from grinning at the thought of the upcoming battles. Swords, spears, arrows of every shape were passed about, all with a distinctive pink luster. The men and women of Vasherton would not be culled, that was not the Monster way. They would be harvested, and join in the debauchery. Delilah was nearly overcome by her giddiness.
She came to a black tent with the symbol of a red eye surrounded by gold filigree on its entrance and ducked inside. The first most noticeable thing was that the interior was larger than its exterior. With curtain’s for walls, and the same red eye motif repeated among the black canvas. From the ceiling hung a small crystal chandelier, giving the impression that it wasn’t a tent at all. All in all, it was far more lavish and posh than a tent in the middle of the woods had any right to be. With black furs adorning the floor and actual wooden furniture decorating the place. But Delilah wouldn’t have it any other way. If she was to go to war, she would go to war in style.
Suddenly, Delilah gave a small yelp as cold water poured on top of her head. She was drenched with cold water dripping off of her as she shivered.
“Trixie! Goddess take you! I told you to stop that!”
A pop of colors and light revealed a small giggling monster floating above Delilah’s head, desperately trying not to burst into hysterics as she held a small wooden bucket.
“Sorry Big Sis, it slipped! I swear! I was going back to my room when-“
“Oh shove it, you act more like an imp than a proper devil.”
As Delilah looked for a towel to dry her head, The little creature named Trixie floated downward to sit her butt on the nearest table, looking smugly at the tall demon who was so easily harassed.
Trixie was not actually Delilah’s little sister, though the relationship often played out much like a sibling one. She was a devil, a cousin to the demon species. They stopped their physical aging approximately on the cusp of puberty, giving her the physical body of a twelve year old girl. Other than that, she looked very much like a smaller version of a demon. Blue skin, shiny black horns, slick bluish-black wings and spaded tail. Her eyes were red, however, whereas Delilah’s were yellow.
Though Delilah’s clothes would certainly turn heads, Trixie’s would make people blush. She wore small, thigh-high leather boots, elbow-length leather gloves, and a two small leather garments that barely protected her decency. One only just covering her rear and unmentionables, and one covering her small breasts, attached to a collar clasped around her dainty neck. The collar clasped with a silver skull ornament, similar ones adorned her gloves and boots.
As she whistled innocently, swinging her legs back and forth on top of the table, Delilah came back, dry and seemingly unfazed by the ordeal.
“Soooo, where ya been?”
“Plans within plans, Trixie. making sure I cover every angle. Druella would be disappointed if she invested this much into our offensive and we failed.”
“That’s not what I asked. I asked where ya been!”
Delilah gave an exasperated sigh and plopped onto a nearby chair, as cushioned and ornate as the rest of Delilah’s possessions.
“I was out. I wanted to meet that guy the unicorn’s been meeting. See what she liked about him.”
“Ooh! And what did you find?”
“He’s sly, slow to trust, clever, a little too honest for his own good.”
Trixie smiled in a knowing way.
“Sounds like you’ve got a crush~!”
Delilah blushed a bit, but didn’t deny it.
“He’s cute. Technically unclaimed, and untouched as far as I can tell. But I need to think of others. Ophelia would be very cross if I took him before she could claim him.”
Trixie waved her hand in a dismissive fashion.
“Unicorns have a built in sharing mode, she’ll get into the idea… with a little incentive.”
Delilah stroked her chin a bit in thought.
“Maybe. But we have other matters to discuss. Have we received words from the emissaries yet?”
“Yeah, Eros’s emissaries arrived this morning, The Fallen God’s ambassador won’t be coming. Apparently she’s already in the city, working on something.”
“Oh Dear. When’s the meeting with my generals?”
“In five minutes.”
Delilah groaned and hung her head. She really needed to schedule these meetings better. This was way too much for one night. She had hoped she could enjoy a nice soak in the tub and a prance about the forest in the buff before dealing with all the petty politics of the 78th Division. She had been so eager to volunteer to lead the loose coalition at the beginning she hadn’t thought about all the work it would be! But she supposed it was for the best. Lancaster was a small kingdom cut off from the others by mountains and desert, only really reachable by sea. With Vasherton taken, the other port-cities would fall due to lack of trade, and thus the entire realm would be hers, and the world would be one more step towards utopia. Or so Druella had told her. And why wouldn’t it be? Humans were such weak things, Delilah was doing them a kindness really.
No one else could lead these misfits and rebels. All considered too extreme and radical even by their own monster-kind. It took an Iron will to make them follow even the smallest order, let alone get them to work together in any meaningful capacity. Especially to reach out to gods not explicitly on the Chief God’s side. Druella chose wisely by making her Lord over the 78th Division. Now she only needed to cross the finish line.
Delilah stood up and sauntered over to the entrance of the tent, motioning to Trixie with her finger.
“Well then, lets meet the generals. Remember to bring the writing utensils this time, I need you to actually do your job and take down the minutes.”
Trixie flew off out of the tent to gather her things, Delilah didn’t bother to wait on her and instead went straight to the meeting tent. Delilah was greeted by two centaur guards as she entered. She gave a friendly wave that was met with embarrassed looks and very serious salutes. The centaurs were a bit more uptight than most of the girls in the army. Delilah liked to keep things casual, most monster’s did. As such most of them wore skimpy clothes and merely ornamental armor, designed to show off their bodies and entice men. But the centaurs were an exception, wearing full functional plate armor over their entire bodies, and taking the concept of an army as seriously as a typical human. Delilah didn’t mind it of course, but wondered how they planned to steal a husband with all the bulky metal covering themselves.
As she entered, she made note that someone else was already waiting inside. The long chestnut table held a small girl reading a tome at its far end, dwarfed by the ornately carved wooden chair.
She wore silver bands at her wrists and ankles, decorated by smiling skulls. But other than that, she wore nothing but a ragged blue cloak. She seemed young, her body only around 14 years of age physically. But she was far more ancient than that. Older even than Delilah. Her figure, though young, was one that exuded beauty, but of a more innocent beauty than the likes of Delilah or Trixie. She seemed like a tasteful statue brought to life. Gentle eyes, wispy frame, rosy lips, and button nose, she hardly seemed the seductress. Her pale bluish-gray skin, pale gray hair, and blue eyes gave a hint at what she truly was.
“Ivanka, you’re early.” Delilah said as she sat at her place on the far end of the table.
The small woman did not bother looking up from her tome for several seconds before lifting her gaze to the buxom demon.
“I wanted to get some reading done before we started in earnest. Alexandra has been particularly troublesome lately. I sought to avoid her.”
“And how has she been troublesome?”
“Excited. Wants to pounce on the first man she sees. Insulted me when I told her to calm down.”
Delilah nodded. She imagined not many liked waiting as long as a lich to find their husband.
“Hmm. Well the meeting is about to start. Are you enjoying your book?”
Delilah decided not to continue the conversation. Ivanka was terse at the best of times. Trying to get a conversation out of her was like trying to get water out of a stone. She sat in silence as her other three generals arrived. The first to show up was Alexandra, a tall busty chimera. Chimera were volatile at the best of times. But Alexandra was on a whole other plane, especially so close to so many men. She had the basic form of a woman, as all monsters did, but her appearance was far more bestial than Delilah’s or Ivanka’s
Her right eye was blue, her left green. Her hair a flaxen blonde. Her right arm was covered in golden-brown fur, and her hand was like a lion’s paw. Her left arm was covered in thick black scales and her hand was like a dragon’s claws. Her legs were womanly until just above her knees, where they began to resemble a goats. Behind her were large black wings, resembling a drake’s, and a long black slender tail ending in a viper’s head with bright blue unblinking eyes. She wore ornamental armor decorated with silver horns and sapphire eyes. It covered little, cradling her breasts and covering her nethers, a ring about the neck with a sapphire in the middle flanked by two silver horns in the shape of a dragon, resembling her real horns atop her head. The one on her left was black as her scales, the other an earthy tan. Her lion-like ears twitched as she sat down next to Ivanka. Unusually silent.
After her, was Delilah’s third general. A basilisk named Calypso. She slithered in the tent with little fanfare. Her dress was more modest than the others, though her bust was nearly as large as Alexandra’s. She wore a silk plum-colored tunic that clasped to her neck with a golden necklace, and with billowing sleeves. It hung loose on her body. Like all basilisks, she wore a mask over her eyes to protect others from her frightful gaze. A purple velvet mask with gold filigree patterns overlaid on top. Her hair was a luxurious white and held in a long braid. Her snake-like lower half was a rich red, a rare color for her species. At the end of her tail grew pale white feathers the same shade as her hair, the tell-tale sign that she was more than an ordinary lamia. Her arms also grew those same feathers, about the wrist to little above the elbow. Her hands were clawed and scaled, though they resembled a fowl’s more than a serpent’s
Calypso sat on her coils, a little ways from the table.
Finally, the last to arrive was the General of the foreign legion, a monster from Zipangu, Naruko. She was a raiju, a creature born of lightning storms. She had pale white skin, almond shaped blue eyes, and soft delicate features. She had a long electric blue tail like that of a weasel, and ears to match. She had fur starting at her wrists, and ending at her elbows in large fluffy waves, she had the same from her ankles to just under her knees. Her hair was much the same shade and stuck out wildly in all directions in long flowing waves. She seemed to crackle with energy, wearing a short garment of her native land, a fantastical blue, black and white robe that seemed to always be on the verge of falling off her bosom, the largest of the four generals. She walked in on dainty feet, covered in the strange socked sandals of the Zipangu land. She sat across Ivanka, close to Calypso.
Delilah cleared her throat and began to speak.
“Welcome sisters. Today we discuss our strategies and options in relation to taking Vasherton. The battle is scheduled in one month’s time, to coincide with the full moon. I will need updates on your quadrant and on all items we discussed in the last meeting. Once my assistant arrives we’ll begin.”
Alexandra’s eyes shifted into wide slits like that of a dragon as she slammed a clawed fist on the table. “One month? why are we waiting that long? They’re right there! A day’s march away at most!”
Naruko gave off a coy smirk, as she nodded her head. “I agree with Alexandra, I’m afraid. There’s no need to wait so long. We’ve been taking so long to get here, most of the girls are near crazy with lust. They haven’t seen a man in ages, some of them have never seen one.”
Calypso spoke softly, not raising her voice. “You two are too reckless. We need to plan, like Delilah said. We mess this up, and the Order’s response will make taking Vasherton impossible. Remember, this is more than a raid. We’re trying to take Lancaster. For that to work, we need the city. For us to take the city, we need ample time to prepare.”
Delilah waited a moment to see what Ivanka might say, but she remained silent, flipping a page in her book and continuing to ignore the others.
“Ladies, please, I’d like to wait for Trixie to get here. We can discuss all of this on the record.”
“You don’t want any discussion at all!” Alexandra barked.
Delilah sighed in exasperation, not wanting to go through this again.
“Alexandra, may I speak to Alexa please?”
“No! You have to deal with me! I’m not go-” suddenly, Alexandra’s pupils switched from draconic, to goat like, with wide horizontal ovals.
Alexandra sat back in her seat with a heavy contented sigh.
“I apologize everyone. She’s just really pent up. But don’t worry, I’ll take over for all future meetings.”
Naruko giggled a bit, covering her smile with one hand, as her other seemed to be preoccupied under the table.
“No need to apologize. You were right. A month is too long. I haven’t had a man since leaving Zipangu. I came to get a husband, and it’s been near a year. The other girls feel much the same.”
Delilah interjected then with a hand held up to silence them. Trixie came in through the flap of the tent, letting in a small amount of the multi-colored lights from outside as she settled in on an oversized velvet green pillow in the corner. She held up a notepad and a graphite rod, signaling to Delilah with a smile and a thumbs up.
“Alright, now we can start in earnest. Naruko, dear, we’ve been over this. The primary goal of the 78th Division is to convert Lancaster into a Demon Realm. The secondary goal is to provide the army with husbands. We cannot sacrifice our primary goal for our secondary goal. That’s the end of the discussion.”
Calypso nodded her head. Alexandra smiled and settled back in her chair. Ivanka finally closed her book and sat straight and proper. Naruko, meanwhile gave a small groan and nodded in acquiescence.
Delilah looked over her generals with a critical eye, it was time to get serious.
“We have a few obstacles we’ll need to neutralize to take Vasherton quickly and without any loss of life. The walls, the guard, the local church, and of course, Lord Vasher. Now, Alexandra, you will be in charge of destroying or breaching the wall. Calypso, you will be in charge of defeating the guard. Ivanka, your job is to neutralize the local church. And finally, Naruko will head the campaign to take care of Lord Vasher. Any questions?”
Ivanka raised her hand and Delilah chuckled a bit.
“You don’t need to raise your hand Ivanka, just speak your mind.”
“Of course, I apologize. I wanted you to be aware that I have recently received word of permission to use a particular spell of mine by Her Highness Guinevere. One that might make the conquest of Vasherton much quicker. I could potentially take the city in a day if we began preparations tomorrow. However, there are consequences. But your dream of converting all humans will be accomplished.”
Delilah was intrigued. Ivanka was powerful true, but what spell did she possess that could take the entire city in a day? Delilah was reminded of the fact that the petite pale little girl was a much older and much more powerful spellcaster than she appeared.
“What are the consequences?”
Ivanka gave a small ghost of a smile.
“Vasherton will become an undead stronghold, under the protection and rule of Her Highness Guinevere.”
Delilah rolled her eyes. So it was to be like that was it?
“You and I will discuss this spell at a later date. For now, let us strategize in accordance to our original plan. Alexandra, dear?”
The chimera’s ears perked up at the mention of her name.
“Yes, Lady Delilah?”
“What is the composition of your forces? Any changes since last time?”
“Yes, actually. I have acquired five wurms since the last time we met.”
Delilah gave a wicked smirk of satisfaction at the news. The rest of the meeting was promising, with news that the local werewolves had joined their ranks, as well as the ghosts and skeletons raised by Ivanka from the many graveyards that had accompanied the villages they would periodically raid to keep the army satisfied. Overall their numbers totaled over five thousand. From reports, the local population of Vasherton was ten thousand, and the Guard was only a scant fifteen hundred. Delilah was thrilled at the overwhelming force. But she knew not to underestimate the humans. Weak, and pathetic as the human body was, their spirit and cleverness was what made them formidable, and in her opinion, a delight.
She left the meeting with a smile on her face, glad all had gone well. Plans had not been decided on, but each general would take their task and accomplish it in their own way. Delilah had the utmost faith in them. The night was dark now, many of the monsters had gone to bed and the many campfires had died. Delilah was tired. Now that she had a moment to wind down, she really regretted scheduling so many meetings in the same night. With a sigh, she waited for Trixie to catch up before heading off.
Trixie left the meeting tent with Calypso, chatting about the upcoming raid of Vasherton rather animatedly. Well, Trixie was. Calypso was rather reserved as she normally was. Delilah called them both over. Her meeting with the emissaries was in a few minutes, so she needed Trixie to hurry up.
“Trixie, dear, we need to get going. The meeting with the Emissaries is soon. Calypso, it’s been a long night, but I’m afraid I’ll need to take Trixie from you.”
The basilisk nodded with a demure smile. “Actually, Lady Delilah, if you wouldn’t mind I’d like to accompany you. Is that alright?”
“I… suppose so. As long as Trixie does her work.”
Trixie stuck her tongue out.
“I always do my work! You don’t give me enough credit.”
Delilah rolled her eyes, not bothering to engage. She led the three through the dark of night to a plain white tent on the edge of camp. The demonic lamp flowers still lit the way, but being such a gentle light, they still allowed the stars to shine brightly overhead. Delilah entered the tent first to find the emissaries already present, seated among the many plush pillows that littered the tent atop the Demon-Bear fur rug. Delilah made way for Trixie ,who flew in rather clumsily, and Calypso.
The emissaries for Eros were a cupid and an apsara. The cupid looked uncomfortable while the apsara seemed rather happy to be there. The cupid was about the same height as Delilah, so she was rather tall. She had dusty tanned skin and pink hair and eyes, a lovely heart shaped face with a body that could inspire love in any man, curvy yet toned. She wore a white uniform, with long heeled-boots reaching up to her mid-thigh. She wore thin white gloves up to her mid-bicep, and a pink top that let her cleavage and midriff show. Her shorts let most of her thighs open to the air as well, kept there by two white belts with gold buckles. Slung on her back was a golden bow decorated with pink jewels in the shape of hearts, and a gold quiver with gold arrows inside, and, more mysteriously, dark black arrows too. She wore a white beret atop her head, her hair, though long, was braided and reached a considerable length. Delilah wasn’t sure how long it was exactly, since she was sitting down on, but she guessed it must have at least reached her knees.
The apsara was dressed in white and pink as well, but far more scantily clad. As water nymphs that worshiped the god of erotic love, they were exceptionally lovely. This one was no exception. With a gentle face and welcoming eyes, Delilah had no doubt that she required no trickery to entice a man. She wore a silk dancing outfit, that only barely covered her nipples and strained against her bosom. It clasped to a golden collar she wore about her neck, which had a similar heart shaped jewel much like the cupid’s. Her silk bottom also covered only her nether regions, a thin black string keeping it in place. She was covered primarily in the apsara’s signature ambrosia, a milky liquid that all apsara produced and clung to them like billowy fabric. It covered all her legs save her feet and inner thigh. It gathered about her wrists as well, and flowed behind their every movement like a long shimmering white ribbon. She had long aqua colored hair flowing like water down her back, dusky tanned skin and green eyes that sparkled like emeralds.
Delilah looked over the two and nearly felt jealous for the first time in her life. Eros had blessed her most devoted followers with beauty as great as any monster could hope for. She smiled to them and extended a hand, which the apsara took after standing up.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lady Delilah. We’ve had a long journey, so this tent was very relaxing, thank you so much! I hope we bring good news to you today.”
“The pleasure is all mine, Miss…”
“I am called Lakshmi, my companion, who has protected me during my trip, is Annabelle.”
Delilah extended another hand out to Annabelle, who stood up slowly, looking uncomfortable. She shook Delilah’s hand but said nothing. Lakshmi did not seem to notice. She instead shifted her gaze to Trixie and Calypso, a small warm smile on her face.
“And who are your two lovely companions, Miss Delilah?”
“This devil is Trixie, an old friend and my transcriptionist. The basilisk is Calypso, one of my generals and a good friend.”
Pleasantries were exchanged again and after it was long enough not to be considered rude, Delilah redirected them back to the pillows for their meeting. The setting might have been considered too informal for humans, but it well appreciated to the two weary travelers. Calypso kept back and coiled up by herself away from the meeting, a silent observer. Trixie sat in her coils, also not interfering, but merely writing down the words of everyone involved.
“So, I suppose I’d like to be blunt about this, can we rely on Eros to provided forces for the 78th Division? I know your god has, in the past, wished to remain neutral. But considering the effect of the Demon Realm on so many of her followers, I had hoped for a bit more sympathy.”
Lakshmi nodded her head once, the same serene smile still on her face.
“Yes, let’s just be blunt. The truth is that relationships are strained among the gods right now, and Eros doesn’t want to make any waves. She isn’t powerful enough to break away like Poseidon did. But the Chief God isn’t exactly in a position to exert force over anyone still claiming loyalty or even neutrality. To put it plainly, Miss Delilah, no. Lady Eros cannot, at this time, provide forces to any branch of the Demon Army.”
Delilah’s heart sunk a bit. She had hoped that she might succeed where Lady Druella had failed, if only to impress her.
“But,” Lakshmi said with a bit of exuberance,” That does not mean that her followers cannot help you of their own accord. Annabelle and I would like to join you! If you’ll have us, that is.”
Trixie scoffed, unable to keep quiet.
“C’mon! How’s that supposed to help? Two more monsters are a drop in the bucket! We needed an army, and you think it’s ok to come here with just your sorry butts?”
Delilah quickly gave Trixie the evil eye, quieting the outrage. Calypso spoke before the silence could become awkward.
“Actually, a single cupid could cause quite a lot of damage. Depending on who’s on the receiving end of their arrows, that is.”
Annabelle, the cupid in question nodded, but remained silent. Delilah quirked an eyebrow. She didn’t know much about what the angelic cupid could do. She had heard the rumors that they were responsible for the truest of love. But she didn’t really know how it worked. Still…
“So, Annabelle, I have an assignment for you, if you really are eager to help.”
She nodded once, a solemn look on her face. Suddenly, a large woman entered the tent, a tall muscular brown-skinned woman with brown hair and black tattoos covering her face, wearing nothing but a loincloth. Delilah looked at her, annoyed.
“What is it Sarash? I’m busy.”
“I’m sorry Lady Delilah! But, that unicorn. She came just like you said! And she has something for you!”
Delilah’s face twisted into a smile.
“Oho. And what, exactly did the dear bring?”
Sarash stepped to the side, allowing a very nervous looking Ophelia to enter the tent, a golden blade in her hand.
Chapter 10: Vasherton
David was in awe. The town he and his companions had been traveling to was no town. It was a fortress! Walls at least fifty feet high, a castle even taller lying beyond. All settled near an impressive sea port. They were still a mile off, but he could see it all plainly in the morning sun.
He suppressed a yawn when Bernice looked back at him. He was in his usual spot, behind her on her horse.
“Pretty impressive right? I’ve never actually been to Vasherton, but I’ve seen the illustrations. Its even prettier in person though!”
“Illustrations? Is this place that famous?”
“Yes. This is the ‘Jewel of the North’ considered the most well guarded port city in the western continent. Renowned for its trade and wealth, and seat to several powerful organizations and guilds. Everyone of any importance has visited the city at least once in their lifetimes.”
David rose his eyebrows in surprise. This had been a rather unimportant land three thousand years ago. He looked out over the fields they were passing along the road to the city. Grim faces looked back, farmers working hard at gathering their harvest, unconcerned with the strangers on the road, no matter how strange they appeared.
David wondered if any of these poor souls had ever made it inside the very city that they were most likely farming for.
“Who owns these lands? Some lord I’d wager.”
“And you’d wager correctly. Lord Vasher rules over Vasherton. More specifically, Lord Vasher XV. Though his health is failing. If so, his son will inherit his title and lands.”
“So am I correct in assuming this land has always been ruled by a Vasher? Hence the name ‘Vasher town’?”
Silas nodded his sagely head.
“I don’t know the details, I’m not much for contemporary history. But that’s the gist yes.”
They continued making small talk as they went on down the road, the city of Vasherton coming ever closer. As they approached, the farms receded into the background, and small villages popped up near the road and over the horizon. All of them, David surmised, were built close in case of attack, allowing the villagers to reach the safety of the walls. He spotted young boys and girls playing with no care to the somber attitude displayed by their parents. He was glad to see that.
Finally, they reached the gates, solid oak doors that were so large David was certain that they could let in a full sized dragon if they were both open at once. But as it was, it seemed a smaller door had been carved into one of them, which was guarded by two men in full metal plate.
David was in awe at the craftsmanship of the armor. He expected metal crafting to improve, but not quite so much to allow common gate guards intricate metal plate. The men had their face plates up, and stared out at him with an amused expression. But they didn’t linger long on him. Instead they shifted their gazes to Silas, and their amusement seemed to become nervousness.
The one on the right, a bushy-browed man with a blonde mustache and strong chin, spoke in a commanding tone.
“State your business elf. Non-humans are by business only.”
Silas waved a hand and out of the air a sparkling document appeared. The guard grabbed it and after a few moments handed it back to the wizened old elf. He waved his hand once more and it vanished just as it had appeared. The guard harrumphed and waved them in, clearly upset.
Silas paid him no heed and entered the city first, Bernice and David trailing after.
The interior of the city was as marvelous as David had expected it to be. Cobblestone roads ran throughout, the buildings were brightly painted, and the people moving about were all in rather bright clothes. Fashion had certainly improved since his time. While the peasants outside wore simple tunics and breeches, it seemed living in the city provided for a sense of wealth. Vests, hosiery, long frilly dresses, doublets, all cotton he found. Bernice’s outfit suddenly made much more sense. Something had reduced the cost of dyes and cotton, and as a result, David was actually feeling pretty shabby in his make-shift robes, despite their rich color.
Silas dismounted his horse and took several packs and strapped them to his back and handed the reins to Bernice.
“Alright girl, why don’t you and our guest go to the stables and take care of the horses? I’ll need to rendezvous with our employer. I’ve never been in this city so it might take a while to find them.”
Bernice shook her head.
“If you’ve never been here before Silas why don’t you wait for me to go with you? You’re not going to save that much time. ‘Sides how were you going to come get me and David huh? We’d have no idea where you would be!”
He shook his head and waved his hand.
“We’ll meet back here at noon, whether I’ve found it or not. How’s that? Our employer is skittish, and a bit paranoid, so I need to meet him alone. In the mean time… I don’t know, have fun or something. I don’t really care. Just be back here at noon.”
Bernice attempted to argue with him, but ultimately he ignored her and went off into the crowd, hobbling onward with his staff. Bernice gave off a guttural growl and dismounted. David followed, glad to stretch his legs.
“That stupid old elf is the worst, I swear! Probably won’t even be able to find the stupid guy. The Order was insane for agreeing to fund this dumb expedition of his. Why couldn’t he just teleport to all these dumb locations? Why am I here at all?!”
David, oblivious to the fact that she was not talking to him, but rather simply venting her frustrations, spoke.
“Well, you can only teleport to somewhere you’ve been before, usually. I mean, there are ways around that, but you need a special artifact or a way to look at the location in real time. Neither of which are all that easy. Used to, me and my brother would scout out locations ahead of time so we could sleep in before a big job. In fact-“
David cut himself off when he saw Bernice giving him a look.
“What? What’d I do?”
She rolled her eyes and shook her head.
They found the communal stables quickly enough and let the stable-boys take over. David was impressed that such a thing existed. So many years ago, a common stable for visitors to a city would have been unheard of. After traveling a while, Bernice sat down at the lip of a well, exhausted and irritated, David joined her, but he felt relatively fine.
Bernice looked down forlornly at her feet, face buried in her hands. David sat still, looking at the city folk walk past. So many fashions, so many colors, so many luxury fabrics worn like they were common. He shook his head. He had imagined certain technologies would improve, but he hadn’t thought so many people would be so well off. He imagined that sort of thing hadn’t come to Silas or Bernice when they were explaining the current state of the world to him. Why would it? They had been steeped in it their whole lives, so they probably didn’t realize how fascinating it was. He glanced over at Bernice, and wondered why she was sulking.
“What’s wrong? You don’t seem your usual self.”
“It’s… silly. You’ll think I’m silly.”
“Probably. Tell me anyway.”
Bernice gave him a playful punch on the shoulder.
“We’ve been on the road for months now and I’m disgusting, and Silas didn’t leave us with any money. I want to get new clothes, a nice haircut, and most importantly a bath.”
“Hmm. I guess I can see that. How respected is your order exactly?”
“Very. The Order keeps the lands peaceful, and protects human society from the monster forces.”
“Then why not run a tab? Show them a badge or something. You have one don’t you? To be honest, I could use a trim myself.”
Bernice stroked her chin in contemplation. After a few moments she nodded her head.
“Yeah, that could work, I hear Vasherton has a few bathhouses. They might have barbers nearby too, you are looking a bit scruffy.”
David smiled and stood, gesturing for Bernice to follow. Bernice scoffed a bit.
“Do you know where you’re going?”
“No. But neither do you. You’ve never been here either right?”
Bernice had no retort, so followed with a bit of a smirk on her lips. David was glad they were getting along again. She had been upset with him for some unknown reason. Or at least, that’s what he surmised with the way she seemed to deflect conversation on the last few days.
They passed by several brightly colored merchant carts and looked some over before coming to a pole with several arrows on it, and a script on each one. David decided to see what it was, but the words were nonsense to him. Bernice however, seemed to be able to make it out. It seemed to be the common tongue of the day, but even though David could speak it, he couldn’t make heads or tails of the written word. She was able to discern that there was a bathhouse just a few yards away.
After passing over a beautifully carved wooden bridge and a small garden with yellow roses, they found a large stone building with several large elaborate fountains with marble statues of great heroes and lions. The fountains were twenty-five feet long. David could hardly contain his excitement. He’d never seen anything so beautiful. Only the few kings who had commissioned him had ever had anything so splendid. And this was just in the city? For public use? He had a hard time believing it.
But Bernice assured him that it was indeed the bathhouse, with a barber, sauna, and beauty merchants holed up inside.
“This is incredible. Back in my day, we had nothing like this!”
“Really? Nothing? How’d you guys keep clean?”
“Well, the normal people had to go get well water, boil it in a cauldron and put in a tub. Usually at home. Then you shared it with your siblings and children, or parents, depending.”
Bernice made a face at that.
“Ew! gross! Everyone did that? Really?”
“Well, no. Nobles had servants to fetch the water. And they could afford to use different water each time.”
Bernice shook her head and grabbed David’s hand.
“C’mon, let’s go have a real bath.”
David blushed at the innuendo, and Bernice did the same after she realized what she said.
“I-I didn’t mean it like that of course.”
David smiled to hide his nervousness.
David attempted to break away to head toward the bathhouses, but Bernice did not let go of his hand. He looked back, confused. Bernice had an odd look on her face, but it vanished as she looked David in the eye. She had a stern look come over her as she began to speak.
“Hey, listen. I want to talk about what happened in that dungeon. I wanted to talk before but… Silas was always around. And I don’t want him to overhear.”
David’s eyebrows raised slightly.
“I just wanted to let you know, I appreciated what you did. A lot. I mean, I wasn’t in my right mind and I may have said some things that, well, sounded a little crazy. But…”
Bernice stopped herself, face red. She cleared her throat before continuing.
“David, I’m sorry for what happened. I was careless, and if you were anyone else, we’d both probably still be in the dungeon doing… unseemly things. I don’t remember everything, honestly, but it comes to me in flashes and dreams. You’re a good person. So, thank you.”
“Hey, don’t worry about it. you thanked me that same day remember?”
“Yes, but, well there is something else.”
“I wasn’t chosen as Silas’s escort just because of my skill. I was chosen because my mother arranged it for me. To get here, to Vasherton. There’s something I’m doing. I can’t talk about it, but I just wanted you to know.”
“Your mother, you mentioned her before. Who is she?”
She rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly.
“Yeah. Well… she’s important. Let’s put it that way.”
“You know, you’re going through an awful lot of trouble to tell me things you can’t tell me.”
“Yeah, I know. Sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up. Listen, let’s go to the front desk together so I can get us both under the Order’s tab. Then we’ll go our separate ways and freshen up. I’ll meet you by the statue of Goliad the Fair, okay?”
David cocked his head and gave her a look. She took a moment before slapping her forehead.
“Right, sorry. The statue of the man with a beard and an eye patch.”
“Right. Sounds good.”
Bernice lead the way as David followed behind. The entrance was covered with a blue cloth to separate it from the street, it seemed mundane enough, but when David passed through it, he felt as if he had entered a different world. Large vaulted ceilings stretched upward with golden statues holding trumpets toward the sky. Great chandeliers hung overhead, in addition to candle stands every few yards lighting up the interior in a warm glow. The entrance was one long hallway, a stone bench that stretched all along down the middle that actually doubled as a fountain, a small pool of water at the top that reached higher than the heads taking rest there. On either side of the hallway were arches that lead further into the building. Each archway had a sign above it with a drawing and more of the writing that David could not decipher. But the drawings were easy enough to understand. The scissors and thread were the tailor, the scissors and comb were the barber, the water with steam coming off of it was the bath.
He and Bernice stepped up to a wooden desk with a large man behind looking at a small book with a red leather cover. Bernice cleared her throat to get the man’s attention.
“Oi, what do you want?”
“My name is Bernice Von Vanderhousen. I’m with the Order.” At this she took out a badge with a gold cross on it from her pocket and flashed it to the man. “My companion and I would like to run a tab as we use these facilities.”
“A’right. Which facilities will yous be usin’?”
“All of them.”
The man scratched his chin, pensive. He asked for the badge one more time and as Bernice handed it over, he wrote something down in a notebook before handing it back. He gave Bernice two wooden coins with a bearded man printed on one side and a lion printed on the back.
“Right. So, you and your boyfriend here just need to show that coin when they ask for payment. When’s all said ‘n done I’ll send the tab to the church. ‘Ave a pleasant day.”
David was about to correct the man on his and Bernice’s relationship, but she just thanked him and took the coins. They walked inside and Bernice handed him his coin and wished him good luck before departing. She headed to the baths first, the women’s side on the left. He decided to get a trim first and went off, somewhat excited to see what new splendors this world had to offer.
Chapter 11: Meeting of Men
Silas shifted his weight as the pack he carried proved heavier than he first assumed. He ducked past a nondescript alleyway marked by a dilapidated shop with a sign of a faded black cat hanging by a single chain from the post above it. He rounded the alley in back of the store and pulled out a single iron key from under his robes. He inserted it in between two bricks that appeared to have come loose. He gave a twist and a satisfying click could be heard. The wall shifted slightly, and Silas pushed it away, revealing a secret door.
As he entered the dusty room, he made sure to close the door behind him securely. He pocketed the key once more and took notice of his surroundings. As dusty as it was, he could make out a trail of prints on the floor leading to the far wall, before vanishing. He walked up to it and began feeling the wall, old gnarled wood that it was. Eventually he found a small section of wood that seemed to be a bit more springy than the rest. He pushed in and slid it to the side. Another lock greeted him, and he produced another key, this time made of steel. The wall slid to the side, revealing a stairway into the darkness below. With a flick of his wrist, a bright light emanated from within his staff as he followed the stairs.
He didn’t have to go far. The tunnels were blocked by debris several times, indicating they hadn’t been used in some centuries. But along the dirt path, he came across a candle-lit dinner settled off to the side, a cloth banner hung on the wall behind with a black heart on a red field, a silver crown encircling the heart. Red apples, green grapes, roast chicken and bread overflowed. Three bottles of wine were placed on the table as well.
The dinner table contrasted heavily with the dust and musty atmosphere of the tunnel. There was an empty chair on one end, and on the other side of the chair sat two men, of comparable size, weight, and if their dress was anything to go by, status. The one on the left had blonde hair bunched up into a ponytail and a clean-shaven face with high-cheek bones that would make any girl swoon, and on the right was a balding man with a bulbous nose and a vertical scar on his forehead. He wore the robes of a high-ranking Church Official, as opposed to the noble finery of his companions. He gave Silas a smile as he took a bit of bread from the table and slathered it in butter.
The blonde one spoke first.
“We’ve been waiting for you Silas, we were afraid you might be another day or two.”
The bald man laughed a bit and slapped the other man on the back
“Oh come off it John! The old elf had a long way to travel! Dangerous dungeons to loot too! Why I’m surprised he made it here at all.”
“Rupert, please, show a bit of decorum, you’re in the presence of a living legend. My apologies Silas, his recent promotion has made him insufferable.”
Silas slung off his packs and took his seat among the three.
“Don’t apologize for someone else’s actions, John. No need.”
Silas took a slice from the roast chicken and began to eat, with slow methodical bites. Rupert, the Church Official, went over to Silas’s pack, and began rummaging. John cleared his throat, causing the man to look at him with a clumsy smile. He gave a shrug and went back to his seat. John gently grabbed Silas’s hand as it reached for the wine.
“Let’s begin this meeting proper, shall we?”
“I haven’t had a good meal in months. Let me be. We’ll get to it.”
“You can continue eating after. Tell us about your journey. We’re eager to hear what you accomplished.”
“As luck would have it, I found the Spear. It was in some ruins not far from here, one of the tombs I’d marked inconsequential. Quite fortuitous. I was nearly ready to skip it, but that girl Rupert forced me to take talked me into it at the last minute.”
Rupert laughed as he gobbled down another dozen grapes.
“Well I’m glad she was useful! Lady Vanderhousen was breathing down my neck about getting her daughter here. Thanks for keeping her safe.”
“She’s been a nuisance, mostly. That ridiculous lie that she was guarding me nearly had me track you down and turn you inside out.”
“Oh come on! She can’t be all that bad!”
Silas put his chicken down and patted his beard dry with a silk napkin, cleaning out the grease.
“She isn’t, truly. But all of you humans annoy me. Always acting as if you’re already masters of the world.”
Rupert just laughed again.
“Well aren’t we?”
Silas remained silent, seemingly thinking about the question. After a few moments he got to his packs and fetched a few bundles before placing them onto the table. Rupert nodded to John and they cleared the table of food. Rupert produced a satchel from under his chair and John took a small folded piece of parchment from his pocket, both placing their items on the table.
Rupert leaned forward, eyes shifting to each man at the table.
“The Order is eager to hear progress. As you all know we’ve been backed by some very wealthy and independently minded people. If we succeed here then we’ll be rewarded beyond our wildest dreams. Besides that, we’ll go down in history as the men who catalyzed the Overlord’s defeat. Now, Silas, you said you found one of them.”
“Yes.” Silas pulled out a long sword-shaped bundle from his pack. As he unwrapped it, a golden spear- blade revealed itself, decorated in elaborate knots and patterns. It was attached to a stained wooden pole broken at the haft making it seem a sword. John picked it up in awe, but as he attempted to touch the blade, Silas snatched it away.
“Don’t do that.”
Rupert smiled as he gazed at the blade, a hungry look coming about him.
“This is excellent news! Excellent! And you found it in a tomb near here? Of all places?”
“Yes. It’s a rather interesting story, actually. I’ll tell you all about it later. Now, I take it you have the other two artifacts?”
Rupert and John gave each other a look. John looked bashful as he looked the old elf in the face.
Silas rubbed his eyes, a scowl forming on his face.
“What do you mean, ‘Not Exactly’. You two had actual leads. I had nothing but a hunch and prayers! Where’s the Chalice?! Where are the Sands?! Gods damn it you useless idiots I spent three months in the wilderness for this moment!”
Rupert took on a more solemn composure as told Silas to calm down. The elf barely calmed as Rupert took out a large metal disk from his satchel. It was roughly two feet in diameter and a large snowflake was etched into it.
“I don’t have the Chalice, but I do have the next best thing. I know where it is, and I know how to get there. Same for John here.”
John gave an apologetic look to the furious elf as he unfolded his parchment and placed it on the table. On it was a strange script, and two illustrations. One was a circular design with a sun at the center with twelve flames emanating from the sun. On the other, an hourglass decorated with hooded serpents.
Silas snatched the parchment away and began to read it, only becoming angrier the more he read.
“The Sands of Plenty are in the tomb of Zipporah Nas Vashti Lancasta? And what of the Chalice of Eternity?”
He looked at John with barely checked rage.
“Why aren’t they here if you knew where they were?”
John spoke up, a calm voice of reason in Silas’s stormy anger.
“We weren’t about to risk their lives, Silas. We’re all a bit more important than that. If one of us fell to a monster, then where would we be? There are plenty of adventurers here in town willing to brave an ancient tomb or two for some coin.”
“And what about the Chalice you dunderhead? That,” he pointed to the metal disk Rupert held, “Doesn’t look like it could hold much liquor.”
“Its a teleportation disk, set up by Rupert himself, brilliant artificer that he is.”
Rupert gave a nod to John, “Quite right. I braved the snowy wastes up in the mountains for this. Nearly got captured by a Wendigo you know? So show some consideration. This disk will teleport someone straight to the Ice Palace in the North.”
Silas’s jaw dropped. He couldn’t mean?
“You mean to tell me the Chalice is in the hands of the Ice Queen to the north?”
Rupert gave a bit of a smirk, proud of himself for braving the domain of such a powerful monster and returning alive.
Silas gave a look of disbelief at John.
“So a Pharaoh’s tomb to the east, and an Ice Queen’s Palace to the north? And the best news we have is that we know the artifacts are there and some dumb idiot here will be willing to go fetch it for us? How on earth do you morons plan to get someone skilled enough to get the Chalice and the Sands and yet dumb enough to hand over something worth more than all your fortunes combined?”
John spoke up, hopeful.
“Actually, it’s not so bad as all that. The Pharaoh, as far as we know, hasn’t awoken. And the Ice Queen in the North has two palaces. One for the winter, closer to Vasherton, and one for the summer, deeper and higher in the mountains. As luck would have it, the Chalice is in the winter palace, which is currently abandoned. We don’t have much time though… maybe three months before winter starts.”
Silas nodded slowly.
“Better than nothing, I suppose. That doesn’t answer my previous question, however.”
Rupert chuckled a bit to himself.
“Well, I was thinking Bernice might work. She’s eager, well-trained…”
Silas shook his head.
“No. She’d become a monster the moment you let her go. I let her out of my sight once during the whole trip and she got infested by a Parasite Slime. Luckily we had just picked up a fellow traveler who subdued her.”
Rupert whistled at that. But John was the one to speak.
“He defeated her? Single-handed? Where is she now? Is she alright?”
“Yes, he defeated her quite soundly, and she’s in the city,” Silas covered his ears as John and Rupert let out a cascade of questions. “Shut up! She’s fine. I used the spear on her, a field test as it were. She’s been under my constant surveillance for about two weeks now, she’s completely unmonsterized.”
Rupert laughed a bit, a smile crawling along his face.
“Impressive! And resourceful. Perhaps this hmm, what did you call him? ‘Fellow Traveler’ would be interested in retrieving our artifacts?”
John and Rupert gave their agreement. Silas, however, remained silent. He didn’t know David too well. Despite how long they had traveled together, they hadn’t really bonded. He had overheard the occasional conversation, and he seemed an alright fellow. But he was soft. He attempted to play the merciless mercenary but was quite awful at it. The fact that he had been sneaking off into the woods was suspicious, but the fact that he came back every night both relieved that suspicion and confused Silas quite a bit. If he had been enthralled by a monster, why had she allowed him to escape her night after night? That was so atypical as to make Silas leave it be until they were nearly upon Vasherton. And David had accepted his warning. His alarm spell hadn’t gone off, anyway.
But He didn’t know how useful the short man would be now that his soul had been rendered. The spear had a price for its work. One he had not anticipated. Even now, he didn’t know how it worked. Only that it had tore out a piece of the wizard’s soul, and used that to dig out Demonic Energy from those it cut.
“Silas, you seem deep in thought.”
Silas looked up at John, a frown on his face.
“David may prove useful. But-“
“The man who I picked up in my travels. He may prove useful, but he’s been handicapped. I’m not sure if he’d really be able to do much. You might have to figure something out with your original plan.”
John looked on Silas with concern
“Handicapped? How? Was it during his fight with Lady Vanderhousen’s daughter?”
“No, after. The spear works strangely. He helped me find it in the ruins. When he touched the blade it tore a piece of his soul off for reasons I can’t explain. The spear uses the soul fragment to rend out Demonic Energy. That’s why it works. How it works, however, I have no clue. I had assumed it worked like Demon-Realm Silver, but obviously not. In addition, the rendering of his soul has hampered his ability to cast spells.”
“A wizard eh? interesting,” Rupert said as he continued his meal with a slice of bread. “Those are rare. How powerful you reckon he was?”
“Fairly. For a human. I found him petrified in the ruins. According to him, and records found in the ruins, he was turned to stone by one of the former Overlords, a fellow called ‘The Silver Crown.’ as it were. Apparently he impressed the former Overlord in battle, and was turned into a trophy.”
Rupert chuckled at that.
“A ‘Silver Crown’ hmm? interesting. But he doesn’t sound all that impressive. At any rate, it doesn’t matter. He can’t cast spells, so what use is he?”
Silas tapped a finger on the blade, a slight metallic ring went out.
“I might be able to fix him.”
John cut in, sounding rather happy at the news.
“That’s great! When can y-“
“Be quiet!” Silas barked, scowling at the young enthusiastic man. “If I fix him, the spear won’t work anymore. And I don’t know if it’ll still grab any soul that comes around afterword. If I fix him, There’s no telling if we can get the spear working again, it’s a complete unknown.”
“Then we leave his fragment where it is. We’ll go through with the original plan, right John?”
The two men nodded and the meal resumed. Small talk broke out between the humans every now and then. Silas remained silent, enjoying the best meal he’d had for months. He wasn’t looking forward to leaving the fate of the world on some random adventurer too greedy or stupid to actually take a suicide mission in the snowy region or desert region.
He came to his senses as Rupert called his name. He asked Rupert to repeat himself, and cleaned out his long pointed ear.
“I said, I’d like to see the spear blade in action.”
“Well, unless you have a monster on hand, that’s not going to happen.”
Rupert laughed as John looked away uneasy.
“I was hoping you’d say that!”
Rupert reached under the table and brought out a cloth-covered birdcage. Silas looked on in curiosity as the cloth was lifted.
Inside the cage was a fairy, rather ill-kept in a green and purple dress. She looked up at him with large green eyes and scruffy red hair. She seemed to brighten up at the sight of people, but she only smiled, not a word escaped her lips. Silas noticed she let a strap fall from her shoulder as she eyed him, batting her eyes.
“I found this little thing following me when I was coming down the mountain for our rendezvous. Caught her on a whim. Let’s see that blade work its magic!”
John looked curious as well. Silas shrugged, not seeing the harm. He picked up the blade in one hand and tested its weight. A thought occurred to him, however, before he did anything.
“You might want to let her out of the cage. This should, theoretically, turn her human. Without the Demonic Energy, she’ll return to her original state.”
“No need to worry about that, I reckon she was a pure fairy ‘for she got harassed by pixies or some such. Quit stalling you old geezer! Let’s see it!”
Silas gave a huff and stabbed the blade into the cage.
Only for the blade to push the fairy down.
“Ow! That hurt! Ya big meanie!”
Silas grew cold. John and Rupert looked at him confused. What had happened? He tried again, and again, nothing happening each time. John asked Rupert if he was sure the fairy was corrupted, to which he exclaimed he was. Why would the blade not cut?!
An idea came to Silas. A terrible frightening idea. David had not set off the alarm, but what if he had still met the stranger in the forest somehow? Or the Stranger had come to him? Was the purple-clad wizard a traitor? But if so, how had they sapped the spear-blade of strength? Had they returned his soul fragment somehow? Silas whispered a spell, ignoring the questions and comments of his three companions.
His eyes glowed golden and he looked down upon the blade to find out what exactly had happened since yesterday. As he saw the truth, a scowl formed on his face. He grit his teeth and felt his blood boil. This was treason of the highest order, and the damned fool who did it was running free in Vasherton.
He dismissed the illusion spell, and revealed what was truly in his possession.
His companions looked up at him, alarmed. Silas pointed a finger to John.
“Lord Vasher, I believe you ought to get topside and ask for the arrest of one David the Purple.”
Chapter 12: Friends and Enemies
David stretched languidly on the bench provided for the finished customers inside the bathhouse pavilion. He felt like a new man, like he was finally out of that dream-like state that had followed him these past few weeks. He had finished up his trim and tailoring before Bernice and had decided to wait on the bath. He wasn’t sure he was ready to bathe with multiple people just yet.
He had decided to shave his face completely smooth, ridding himself of the stubble he acquired in the wilderness. His hair was cut nice and short, like he liked it. He wore a trimmer, more fashionable robe than his old one, which he wore like a cape behind him. They had quite a few colors in stock, and he was surprised to find the dark shade of purple he preferred. No silver stars, but he decided to let it pass. He also got some new trousers and slippers, made of weresheep wool and the finest leather apparently. David had never heard of a weresheep, but their wool was far more comfortable than a normal sheep’s by leaps and bounds.
He wondered, briefly, where the demon Delilah was, and her exact connection with Ophelia. Demons weren’t known to be especially honest. But their prowess in deceit came from their ability to twist the truth, rather than fabricate it. He banished the thoughts of the blue-skinned woman from his mind as he looked out for Bernice leaving her side of the building. Apparently they had completely separate sections for men and women, to keep things decent. The dress was less conservative than in his day, but the attitudes were all kinds of strange. Sex was a taboo topic in conversation, and women were coddled as always. But they were granted an inordinate amount of freedom that he’d never seen before. They walked freely without chaperones, dressed provocatively, and were generally treated with great care.
The men, not so much. He’d seen at least two young men approach a woman for a chance of courtship only to be chased away or ridiculed, mostly by other men. In his day the men would ask the father for permission, not approach the woman herself. He thought it an improvement at first, until a very obvious smooth-talker was able to convince a rather demure woman to leave the bathhouse with him. He knew exactly what was going to transpire there. Her father would have been able to filter him out in the past, or he would have been chased away by her chaperone. He wondered if this was everywhere or just Vasherton?
As he let his mind wander further he saw a peculiar sight up at the front desk. A dozen armored men talked to the man who had given him and Bernice their coins. As they talked, the man pointed in David’s direction, and the armored men entered the pavilion.
David felt a lump in his throat and an edge of panic enter his gut. David had been in this position before, but never alone.
He felt rather small as the guard surrounded him and made the other guests leave. They were all six feet or taller, in gleaming plate with swords at their sides wearing tabards with a black heart on a red field, a silver crown encircling the heart.
“Are you ‘David the Purple’?” one asked.
“Why are you asking?” David replied, a bit nervous.
“Answer the question.”
David nodded once, feeling like lying in this situation wasn’t going to do him much good. Especially when he was wearing the aforementioned purple. The leader of the bunch, a grey-headed man with amber eyes and a handlebar mustache gestured to the men. They leapt forward quickly and grabbed David roughly by the arms, throwing him to the ground. He yelled out in pain and shock, not expecting the show of force.
“Hey! What’s this all about?! I’m with Bernice Vanderhousen! Of the Order!”
The soldiers hesitated, slightly, but the man with the handlebar mustache eased their fears with a wave of his hand and a scowl.
“Lord Vasher asked for your arrest by name. For treason, theft, and conspiracy.”
David struggled helplessly on the tiled floor, unable to get free of the many large and powerful soldiers holding him down. He cursed heavily under his breath, if only he had his damn spells!
“That’s ridiculous! I’ve never even met Lord Vasher! I’ve been in the city for a few hours!”
“And yet,” David saw the stooped Silas enter the Bathhouse, a look of fury on his face. “You have accomplished all of this. How very impressive.”
Silas spat on the ground as he approached.
David tried to buck the soldiers off of him again, failing miserably. He did manage to move his head a bit, glaring at Silas with open rage.
“What the fuck is this all about!?”
The elf slowly dropped to his knees, supporting his weight on his staff.
“You know damn well you ungrateful whelp. You went out again that night didn’t you? And you took the Heaven’s Gold Spear when you did.”
David kept his face passive, but he panicked a bit.
“I have no idea-“
Silas slapped him hard.
“Don’t lie to me you cur. You think because I’m old I’m senile? I know. Now tell me where you put it, or gave it to. Maybe I’ll tell these men to let you go with a few broken bones and you can live out the rest of your life as a beggar scratching a life in the dirt. But if you don’t tell me…”
Silas grabbed David by the jaw, forcefully, and with a surprising strength forced him to look up into the elf’s green eyes.
“I’ll have them cart you to the castle dungeon, where a good friend of mine will extract every fingernail, and every secret you have. And you’ll rot there, for the rest of your miserable life, feeding off of rats. That is if they don’t feed off of you.”
David looked up at Silas with a stern face.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Silas gave him a good hard look, David simply looked on impassive.
With a final heavy sigh Silas got back to his feet and motioned to the soldiers keeping David pinned.
“Take him to the dungeons. We’ll have to get to the bottom of this the hard way.”
Both David and Silas looked off to the side, into the furious face of Bernice, hair dripping wet, and her uniform haphazardly worn. She strode to the scene with unconcealed fury, her blade in hand. The captain stepped in front of her, blocking her from approaching Silas.
“Stand aside! I have business with that elf!”
“I’m sorry Miss Vanderhousen, but we have orders from Lord Vasher to take this man into custody and follow Mr. Silas’s orders until otherwise notified.”
“Vasher senior, or Vasher junior?”
The man scratched his mustache, nervously.
Bernice gave a nasty scowl to the man, before turning her attention to Silas.
“What the hell is this all about? He helped us remember? Why are you treating him like this?!”
“Because,” Silas matched her with an even nastier look. “He’s been seduced by some… thing. I saw the signs in the forest, but thought he had won out. He was sneaking off every night to meet the beast, but always returned. I always wondered why, well now I know. They were after the spear. It’s gone.”
Bernice’s rage seemed to dissipate at those words. Instead her jaw dropped and with a confused pained expression turned her eyes to David.
“That’s not true is it?”
David held her gaze for a few moments. But couldn’t bear it much longer. He had been seeing Ophelia, had she seduced him? It hadn’t felt like that. She always seemed too pure and honest for something like that. But, he had taken the spear. But he had returned it hadn’t he? How could it have been taken? Had Ophelia taken it when he wasn’t looking? But…
His confusion was not well hidden, and Bernice could see his thoughts written plainly on his face.
“You, you don’t know if it’s true, do you?”
David finally broke the gaze, and shifted his eyes to the floor. Bernice turned her eyes back to Silas. She sheathed her blade and gave a single nod. David could not make out what expression she was making, but she left the bathhouse without another word. He felt a lump in the pit of his stomach. The guardsman lifted him up onto his feet and began to escort him roughly. He was not looking forward to the next few days.
He was not looking forward to them at all.