Shallice and Morband: Chapter 8

By the next day, Paltrus was riding North, to Barisch-Nittook.  He had camped the night before with these men whom he had only met the day before.

The events of the previous day were continually in his thoughts.  He was still not without doubts that the One is merely an illusionist, and he was merely a pawn in a plan of the southern barbarians to invade Bel-Tharad.

These doubts were always swept away by the words of Mr. Why, “You seem to rely on what you see quite a bit.”  Paltrus knew this was true, and he knew that he could no longer rely on what his senses could tell him.  Everything that he knew to be true a week ago had now collapsed before his eyes.

As Paltrus rode further northward with his party, he could see that the day was becoming darker earlier than he expected.  The sky was becoming a dark crimson.  The ground was dry and cracked and had little growing out of it.

In the distance, Paltrus could see the Mountains of Adach, and knew that he was on the Plains of the Reparrie.  Yet at the base of the mountains there was no city.  The city of Enoth was missing.

Paltrus rode with his party towards where the city should have been.  In its place was an enormous hole in the ground.  Nothing was spared by whatever had destroyed the city.  In the hole was only darkness, and what little light was left in the day could not penetrate this darkness.  It rightfully should have been noon.

The weakening light revealed only the first two or three yards of the sides.  The hole was apparently much deeper than this, because there was a cold wind being forced into it, as if there were very little air inside.  Paltrus could hear the wind rushing against the rocks from deep within.  The wind was not very loud, indeed the scuffling of the horses was louder, but nothing else could be heard coming out of the hole.

“What happened to the city?” said Paltrus to Mr. Why.

“We called this city ‘Zsarletch’,” said Mr. Why.  “It was destroyed quite some time ago.”

“But I was here merely days ago,” said Paltrus.

Paltrus looked down into the hole again, and he saw something out of the darkness slowly and painfully climb the wall.  It was human, though not easily recognizable as such.  It was naked, seemingly, though covered in so much filth that Paltrus could not even see if it was a man or a woman.  Its entire body was covered in severe burns.  It had a great deal of difficulty in the climb.  Some of its muscles in its arms and legs were partly ripped from its bones and hanging by its tendons.  The remaining muscles were extremely weak.  Paltrus was amazed, seeing that that such a thing must not be able to even stand, much less climb.  The creature nearly slipped and fell back into the hole several times, but finally reached the edge and climbed out.  There, it awkwardly began to rise to his feet, and, with much difficulty, began to walk irregularly towards the South.  It was obviously disoriented and blind.  Paltrus could hear the creature groaning and creaking.  It looked as though it had been without water for many days, and was probably delirious.

“When the One calls someone, he will come, no matter where he may be when he is called,” said Mr. Why.

“Shall we help him?”

“Yes, we shall.”

Wolvus dismounted and brought to the creature his drinking pouch.  He stood in front of the creature, but it did not seem to notice that there was something in its path.  Wolvus put his hand on the creature’s shoulder and stabilized it.  The creature apparently could not see Wolvus and appeared to be confused, but made no fight.  Wolvus put his drinking pouch on the lips of the creature and tilted it so that water flowed into its mouth.  The creature drank the water ecstatically, and Paltrus could hear that the creature’s vocal creaks had started to become excited.

Wolvus then stopped pouring the water into the creature’s mouth and held the pouch over its head.  Then he began to pour the water onto the creature, and steam began to rise from the creature’s skin as though it were a fire being put out.  The creature began to scream a gargling scream, loud and high-pitched.  It waved its arms maniacally without reaching for anything in particular.  It did not have enough control over its legs to run away.  The cool water was agonizing, but the creature could only comprehend the pain itself.  It could not comprehend how to stop the pain, and it could not comprehend that the pain was the healing of its burns.

It fell to the ground and began to cry in gargles and creaks.  Wolvus looked at his hand and saw that it was burned where he touched the creature on the shoulder.  He took what little was left in the pouch and poured it onto his hand.  He made great efforts to suppress a scream.

Wolvus walked over to his horse and mounted it once again.  Paltrus then watched the creature begin its southward journey once again, on his hands and knees, even more awkwardly than when it was walking, crying along the way.

“Another unit will soon gather him and help him further,” said Mr. Why.  “We have done all that we can for the moment.  The One always does far more work than we do.”

The party then continued towards the North, but Paltrus looked behind to see that the creature had clumsily begun to stand again.

As Paltrus came closer to the Capital City of Morband, he saw that the very light around him was changing to a red color, and the clouds in the sky were black and perfectly still.  The land was broken as if quakes had been continually ripping it apart over a period of many years, and the party often needed to alter course to go around the aberrations in the terrain.  The black clouds soon covered the entire sky, and no sunlight penetrated them.  The red light remained and seemed to be coming from underneath the ground.  It was accompanied by what Paltrus recognized as the smell of rotting meat that could not be escaped.  The very taste of rotting meat was in the air when Paltrus tried to breathe through his mouth.

The party hurried to the Capital City.  As they climbed a steep hill, they came to the top and saw the Capital City in the distance for the first time.  Very little of the city could actually be seen from this distance through the dark and deceitful light, but there was still some evil that could be seen, or somehow detected, even from this hill.

Paltrus saw that the black clouds were coming out of something within the city to spread throughout the skies of Morband.  Light was brought into the city to be trapped and corrupted.  Or, possibly, light was destroyed utterly when brought too close to it.

They continued  to navigate the terrain until they came to the gates of the city, which had fallen outward.  As Paltrus passed them, he saw the body of a filthy and diseased peasant, and it had been pinned to the inside of the gate with a large spear.  The roads were not maintained, and were often unrecognizable.  Stones in the roads were overturned, and the dirt next to the roads was typically an easier path than the intended paths themselves.  Decrepit buildings were in the city, many of which had already collapsed and killed those who lived inside of them.  Paltrus looked to his right, and he saw houses built unnaturally and unnecessarily close together.  These buildings were built of wood and bones, but the materials did not meet to close, so that the elements could have been kept out.  Paltrus could see between the logs and bones to see corpses inside of the buildings.  Some of these corpses had evidently built themselves into a trap by not building a door into their house.  Paltrus surmised that they stayed trapped in their houses until they had died of thirst.  There were a few that were still living within these houses, and they looked to be starving to death.  To his left, Paltrus saw large empty spaces, where houses could have easily been placed to prevent the crowded conditions.

Within these empty lots, many half-starved peasants were using stones to dig holes with little success.  Paltrus could hear them desperately saying “I must find the sun” repeatedly.  Others, who were wearing what Paltrus vaguely recognized to be official law-enforcement garb, were trying to whip the peasants to force them to dig faster.  They themselves were also half-starved and could not concentrate enough strength to successfully whip any of the peasants, who did not notice the officers around them.

Paltrus slowly surveyed the city with his party.  He could recognize the city, but painfully and mournfully.  Some of the buildings that he remembered were in the correct places, but always deformed and decrepit.  Paltrus felt most disturbed at the one thing that was inescapably similar to his memory:  All of the buildings, even the buildings that seemed to be built by blind peasants, were built with respect to the central palace and chapel, the center of the city.

The roads were littered with corpses of both humans and animals, and Paltrus wondered why they did not flee the city long before they met their deaths.  Paltrus looked and beheld the structure that he once knew to be the Fort of Dorz.  Now he saw that the architecture was mostly what he remembered, but the ceiling had caved in and the walls were crumbling.  The building was not even placed on its foundation correctly.  Two guards were at their posts at the main entrance to the small fort, but one was dead.  The other was angrily fighting off a slow-moving skeleton attempting to gain entrance to the building.  Paltrus looked closer and saw that the skeleton was not actually a skeleton, but a human, starved to the point to where he was little more than a skeleton.  He was trying desperately to gain entrance to this building, though Paltrus did not know why, unless what he remembered as the kitchen was intact.

Paltrus saw the main avenue of the city, which he had traveled down merely days ago while the peasants chanted “Sel-Dhelius, our lord!”  This road now appeared as mere dirt, dry and cracked land, and no human had any interest in gathering there.

The party rode their horses onto the main avenue and slowly continued on the path to the chapel.  On either side of the road were rows of dead trees, and on these trees grew black leaves in the shapes of fingers.  These fingers were dripping some liquid of the same color.  The leaves grew before Paltrus’ very eyes, and slowly began to reach out for him, stretching further than human fingers could.

The party continued down the road while the black fingers reached towards them, but Paltrus saw that none of his companions acted as though they were afraid.  Nevertheless, all of the fingers on all of the trees continued to reach out for them.

Paltrus looked up to see what he remembered to be the White Chapel, which was as black as sackcloth made of hair.  The top of the tower had broken off and fallen onto the street in front of the chapel, and out of the opening came the black smoke that formed the clouds above them.

A round window had an illustration of two dragons on a mound of bodies of soldiers.  One was black and the other was red.  The black dragon thrust his sword into the heart of the red dragon, and the red dragon clamped his teeth onto the neck of the black dragon.  There was a shield that was broken in two lying on the mound next to them.  This was the emblem of the Landhel family.

Above that window was another window, though it may be more appropriately thought of as an anti-window.  It was rectangular at the bottom but arching at the top, about 40 feet wide and 90 feet tall.  Light did not pass through this window.  Instead, the window sucked up whatever light ventured near it and only released darkness.  If the window had any image at all, it could not be seen through the darkness.

The party rode their horses around the wreckage in front of the chapel before Mr. Why signaled a halt.

“We must dismount here,” he said.  “The horses will be safe here, but they will not be safe inside.  We will also be at a disadvantage on an easily frightened animal once inside.”

The knights dismounted and continued into the Black Chapel.  Mr. Why took point and opened the large wooden door.  After hearing the door creaking and partly break off of its hinges, Paltrus felt a cold air bring the strong stench of rotting meat that he had been smelling in Barisch-Nittook.  Mr. Why entered the chapel, and Paltrus saw him enveloped by the darkness as he entered.

He then heard Mr. Why light one of his self-lighting matches and saw him apply the match to a torch.  The torch caught the fire and Mr. Why held the torch in the air, revealing the room just well enough to move through it, though not comfortably.  Paltrus then entered the room behind Mr. Why, and saw people that were in the room running away from the light of the torch, usually on all fours.  Paltrus saw that the columns were frighteningly unstable, especially for a room of this size, and apparently neglected.  The rows of pews had mostly been broken and in some places splintered.

The room was perfectly silent.  Paltrus could not even hear his own movement or breathing.  He did hear, though, as if from a great distance, though it could not have been far, one of the knights say, “I have a horrendous feeling.  I do not know what it is.  It is not fear.  It is not sadness.  It is not anger.  But it is powerful, and I fear that it will overtake me before the end.”

“Do not pray while we are in here,” Paltrus heard another knight say, directly in his ear.

“Why?”

“We do not want them to know our prayers.”

The party continued down the chapel aisle, and Paltrus could still not even hear his own footsteps.  He looked at the sides of the chapel, and there he saw the stain-glass images of kings and saints, facing the front of the chapel.  They were difficult to see, because the light from the torch barely reached them, but there was a bit of a red glow from the light coming up from the ground outside.  The windows were broken where the eyes of the subjects should have been, and their mouths were open as if they were screaming.  Though Paltrus could hear nothing in the room, the mere sight of the silent screams of the icons brought pain to Paltrus’ ears, as if he could hear the hysterical screaming coming from the windows.  The kings and saints were terrified by whatever it was that they saw at the front of the chapel.

Paltrus turned and looked to the front of the chapel.  Where he once believed to be a statue of Dhelianos was a pillar of black smoke that stayed in place, never expanding or rising, and as dark as a moonless night.  Mr. Why continued to walk towards the front of the chapel when the pillar of darkness began to collapse onto the floor and spread to cover the ground of the entire room.

Mr. Why halted, then drew his sword with his free hand and yelled, “Brace yourselves!”  Paltrus could still only hear Mr. Why as if from a distance, but followed orders and drew his sword.  The other knights did likewise.

The darkness gathered around their feet, but Paltrus did not know what to do.  He knew that the One must know of their plight, and he began to pray that He would help them.  Paltrus saw that the darkness was no longer a distant threat, and now no longer a mere threat at all.  It was not something that was yet to come and it was not a memory of something that was past.  It was immediate, and it was real.  He was immersed in the very essence of evil itself.  His mind raced through a thousand thoughts in moments, almost all nonsensical, some that were not even relevant to the darkness before him.  When fear had brought him to the end of his mind, only his prayer emerged to drive away the lunacy.

He then heard a crash of metal against metal and looked to his right.  A knight had tried to strike Paltrus with his sword, but Wolvus had moved his shield between them to protect him.  Paltrus moved out of the way while Wolvus continued to fight the knight.  The fight ended when Pantheus came behind the enemy and drove his sword between the enemy’s helmet and armor.

The knight collapsed and Pantheus pulled off his helmet, but the knight could not be seen underneath the darkness on the floor.

“You villains!” said the knight in his dying breath.  “Why do you betray the One?  He will punish you for your crimes!  You will never again see the Crystal City!”

The knight then wheezed for a brief period before his breathing ceased.

Paltrus recognized the voice.  It was the knight who had advised him not to pray while in the Black Chapel.  He looked in the direction of the voice, and he knew that he had failed to do as the knight had said.  “My strength of mind has failed me,” he said to himself.  “He should not have died.  I cannot undo what I have just done.”

“Do not fear his words,” said Pantheus.  “He does not serve the One.”

Paltrus continued looking in the black smoke where he assumed that the knight’s body was lying.  The party began to move again and Pantheus continued standing by Paltrus.

“I’m afraid we need to keep moving,” said Pantheus.

The light from the torch was getting further away from them and the area in which they were standing was getting darker.  Paltrus looked up at Pantheus, and the two men ran through the darkness to catch up with their party.

They passed through the sanctuary and into the back halls of the chapel.  The room into which they had entered looked as though it had already begun to collapse, but stubbornly refused to fall, still allowing humans and beasts to pass through.  It was a tall room and the two walls met in an arch to form the ceiling.  Mr. Why continued to hold up his torch, but there were weak red torches lining the sides of the room that allowed Paltrus to see that the walls had been painted.  This was the hallway in which great acts of the saints were illustrated to be examples of honor for anyone who may see them.

Mr. Why’s torch cast shadows on these walls when a knight passed in front of it, but in the shadows of Mr. Why’s torch, the walls, as well as the paintings on them, could be seen by the light of the weak red torches.  At one point, Paltrus looked and beheld the painting of his father in one of these shadows.  It was as he had always remembered it.  His father was defending a maiden who was mercilessly attacked by an ogre.

The knight then moved away from that section of the wall and the light from Mr. Why’s torch illuminated the painting, showing Paltrus what he had never seen.  He recognized his father in the painting, but he was not on a road.  He was in a small room of a very old building that looked as though it should be condemned.  Out of the open door of the room, Paltrus could see a hallway with lines of doors.  Inside of the room was a mostly nude woman sitting on a blood and sweat stained bed with a blank expression on her face, as though she was only vaguely aware of where she was.  Paltrus could not help but assume that she was likely under the influence of opium.

What little attention the woman could seemingly give was given to the Dhelius’ activity, not as though it were an event to concern her, but as though it were merely in her line of sight.  She was looking indifferently as the king strangled an infant that was trying to cry.

Underneath the foreground of the painting was a message messily written in lead, “THE WHORE’S BASTARD SON WILL NOT SPOIL THE AMBITION OF THE KING!”

Paltrus looked at the image of his father, and he saw anger and desperation in his face.  He felt disgusted by the actions of his father, but also pity.  This was an act to exercise some sort of control, but demonstrated how little control the repulsive man actually had.  Paltrus could not help but wonder how and when his father lost control.

Paltrus noticed that as he continued to stare at the painting, the king began to look less menacing and the child more threatening.

“Do not lose perspective,” said Wolvus’ voice behind him.  “It is easy to forget what the images really are when illuminated by these lights.”

Paltrus then saw that the main party had continued on, and the light from Mr. Why’s torch was growing fainter.  He was now seeing these images by the light of the red torches.  He looked again, but this time more carefully.  This time, even by the light of the red torches, nothing in the image seemed to fit with its surroundings.  It seemed as though it were segments of different images plastered together to make a false image.  The image had then become chaotic and nonsensical.  Objects began to move until the infant was gone.  It was not replaced by an ogre, but by a second image of the king.

“Come,” said Wolvus, “Keep looking at the light of the torch and follow until we catch up.”

The light was so far away that Paltrus could not see his immediate surroundings, but he felt a hand take hold of his arm and begin to pull him quickly towards the party.  The hand was pulling him faster than he could run and held his arm with a strength that was painful.  Paltrus was surprised at the strength of Wolvus’ hand, which seemed to be far beyond that of any man that he had encountered before.  As they came closer to the light of the torch, Paltrus saw that Wolvus’ hand was not holding his arm, but that both men were being pulled by an unseen force towards the light.

The two men were brought up to the rest of the party, and they soon exited the passageway to enter one of the many chapel marketplaces.  Paltrus looked, and he saw that there were many pillars lining the length of the room holding the large building in place, but just as in the sanctuary, he had little confidence that they would stand long.

Paltrus looked now to the walls, and there, the red glow partly illuminated many large stain-glass windows.  The first window on his left depicted a community fair.  Children were running and playing and vendors were selling novelties.  In the center of the fair was the main attraction, a man tied to a stake in the midst of burning fuel.  The next window depicted a team of physicians hard at work examining the human anatomy, cutting out organs from their living test subjects to perform various alchemical tests on them.  In a cage next to the operating table, a future subject watched in tears while awaiting her time.

Paltrus saw these windows, and he could not turn away.  He could not move.  He looked again at yet more windows on the wall, and they all depicted many scenes of lynching, dismembering, stabbing, and other deaths.  In each of these pictures, the victims were crying for mercy and the murderers seemed to demonstrate either mirth and merriment or concentration as if finishing an important task.  Paltrus knew that to the right of the path was another row of such images, but he now realized that the images he had already seen would haunt him for many years, and he could not bear to see more.

He turned his head down to the ground, and attempted to clear his mind of the images by focusing on what he saw.  On the ground he saw very old rocks that were made black by fire, and he saw the dancing light of Mr. Why’s torch.  He then looked up at his party, and he saw that the other knights were also stunned by these images.

“Look upon these only if your stomach can tolerate it,” said Mr. Why, who was looking at the ground.  “Sometimes we must know of these things, because we are here to prevent these atrocities from happening again.  Now, let us continue to move forward.”

Mr. Why then began to move forward into the marketplace, and the knights forced themselves to look away from the windows and follow.  Very few buildings remained standing.  The further they moved into the room, the more powerful the stench of death became, and Paltrus had difficulty resisting illness in his stomach.  At the fringes of Mr. Why’s torchlight, human-like creatures ran behind rubble to hide, just as in the sanctuary, and the glow of their eyes could be seen, as if they were the eyes of dogs.  Paltrus thought he could see them more clearly in small glimpses, and he believed that he saw blood dripping from their mouths as they would abandon the corpses that they were devouring in the street.  The knights had to pass over several corpses, but some, even some that had been partially devoured, were not yet corpses.  When the living saw the knights coming, they would open their mouths to scream, because they did not have enough uneaten muscles left to run.  No sound would come from their mouths.  The party then continued to walk past them.

Paltrus soon exited the chapel and came onto the outside road.  While they were in the Chapel, a thunderstorm had started, but the force that muted sound prevented Paltrus from hearing the thunder.  From where he was, he could see the Palace of Champions from the light of the lightning.  It was as dilapidated as the Black Chapel, with many collapsed towers and crumbling walls.  The drawbridge had been destroyed and had fallen into the moat, and was replaced by an unsteady bridge that seemed to be scavenged from the hull of some wrecked ship.

The party crossed the bridge one at a time to avoid putting too much weight onto it, and they entered the courtyard.  There were many people here that were afraid of them, too, but the walls of the courtyard prevented them from running.  Paltrus saw them try to climb the walls with no success, and the party continued on into the palace.

“This is the Palace of the Conquered,” said Mr. Why while he illuminated the chamber.  “Our destination is in the highest tower.”

Paltrus followed the party to the base of the tower of the Bel-Dhelius, but as they came closer to the door of that tower, there were fewer and fewer creatures running from their light.  It seemed to Paltrus that they were afraid to approach the door.

They reached the door, and Paltrus saw that it was closed and barely still on its hinges.  From the other side of the door came the sound of a gluttonous voice, groaning while eating.  Mr. Why pushed open the door and held up his torch.  There was a hideous man-beast.  Its skin was thin and gray, if it was there at all.  In many places it seemed to be falling off of what few muscles it had, eaten away by a plague.  Its entire body seemed to be partly decomposed as if dead for some time, yet it remained animated against the will of nature.  On its hairless head was nailed a black metal crown, wildly twisted, with no consistent or sane design from whatever metal-worker had created it.

The creature did not seem to notice the light, and indeed, Paltrus noticed that it did not have eyes.  In place of eyes, the creature had dark holes.  The creature had unhinged its jaw, and its mouth grew large like that of a serpent as he devoured a corpse in military uniform with his inhumanly sharp teeth.  Its hands looked vaguely human, but had large, powerful claws which it used to rip open the body of the officer.  The corpse’s head and left arm had already been eaten, as well as a portion of its torso.

Mr. Why took a step forward.  The monster heard the footfall and faced the party, then unhinged his jaw and screamed a long, high-pitched, deafening scream that terrified Paltrus.  The monster had the voices of many screaming animals inside of him.  It then turned, held out its arms that were like the wings of a bat, and flew to the back of the room and up the spiral tower staircase, out of their sight.  It did not flap its wings as a bat does, but was propelled into the air by some force that was unseen save for a black liquid that was left in its trail.  The very liquid itself seemed to be alive, but painfully dying.

“Come, we must pursue!” said Mr. Why.  Paltrus had little time to survey the room, but he did see that there were many other corpses that had been partly eaten, apparently by this creature.  He quickly looked at the corpse that the creature did not finish eating, and he saw that its remaining hand was grasping a small chain meant for a pendant, but whatever pendant was previously on it had been ripped from it.  He also recognized the uniform, but it was not until he had already begun running up the spiral stairs that he realized it was the uniform of the Arch-Knight, Polius.

The party followed the suffering black trail up to the king’s private study.  With one hand, Mr. Why pulled the door to the antechamber off of its hinges and threw it out the window behind him into the thunderstorm.  He then kicked in the door to the main chamber, and Paltrus saw the creature inside.  It had been writing in a book, but once it heard the door being broken down, it again turned to them, unhinged his jaw, and screamed a high-pitched scream.  Paltrus turned white and started walking backwards, and Pantheus stabilized him so that he would not fall out of the window behind him.

The monster then dropped the book and flew out the back of the room, demolishing a solid wall, and flew up above to where they could not see, again without so much as flapping its wings.

Mr. Why slowly and calmly went into the room and Paltrus followed while the rest of the party waited outside of the room.

“I have never seen this room before,” said Mr. Why.

“Neither have I,” said Paltrus.

Aside from the wall that had been destroyed, the walls were covered in bookshelves that were messily filled with books, and there were books stacked as high as the ceiling all over the room.  Many papers were flying into the thunderstorm through the new hole in the wall.

Mr. Why picked up an arbitrary book off of the ground and opened it.

“This is dated 1178 A.U.,” he said.  “It looks as though it is a journal.  I believe it is written in blood.

“The pain does not go away.  I continue to thirst for blood and hunger for human meat.  Animals and vegetables no longer satisfy me.  I cannot control my desires, but I do not attempt to do so.  I write this in my own blood.  It is more freely available to me than is ink because I cannot stop my bleeding.

“I take the peasants for myself when I can.  The whores are the easiest to obtain, but the least satisfying.  Nothing yet has fully satisfied me, but instead everything only adds illness to my desire.  Yet I continue to seek satisfaction, no matter how it escapes me.

“A recent dispute between a nation and a city allowed me to take a large number of captives while they believed they were fighting each other.  The captives are now in the prisons below me, and I am eager to taste them.  Foreign delicacies will be a new experience for me.”

Mr. Why closed and dropped the book.  He examined the room in disbelief, with tears in his eyes.  “I once greatly desired to see this room,” he said.  His voice began to break as he continued.  “Even after I came to Shallice, it was difficult to suppress my great desire to see this room and what wisdom it may hold.”

Paltrus shared Mr. Why’s disbelief and shock at what he was seeing, yet his shock was too great to weep.  He walked over to the leftmost bookcase and picked up a book on the top shelf.  He picked it up and began to read to himself.

Day fifty-four of Spring in the year twenty-seven of the city.

Only the Flame can ease my suffering, but it is the Flame that creates the pain.  I cannot keep the Flame entirely to myself, but I can control what the others believe about it, and that is what I must do.  Nobody must know what this is.  I will kill all who tell of it and keep everyone out of the Great City.

Day thirty-two of Winter in the year twenty-nine of the city.

The one who claims himself to be King of the Demons to the south of my kingdom has hidden away some knowledge of the city.  All of the rulers of all of the nations now call themselves “King of the Demons,” but I must prove to them that I have become the Great Demon himself.  I have waged war against this king’s nation and burned his libraries.  I fed him alive to his starving subjects, whom I later impaled on posts and displayed throughout their capital city.  Yet I fear that he may have hidden something away that eluded me.  He or his descendants may be the end of my line.  To prevent this, I boiled his children, despite the protests of their mother.  I do not understand the reason for her concern, but it causes me to fear that she may have hidden some of her children away from me.  I regret giving her to my dogs, because I now realize that she may have one day told me of any missing children should I have made her my mistress.

Paltrus dropped the book and fell to his hands and knees.  He vomited on the book stack that was on the ground in front of him and began to cry.  Mr. Why walked over to him and handed him a clean cloth to wipe his mouth.

“That one that you just read was probably written by the first Dhelian,” Mr. Why said, his voice still weak.  “He is now in Shallice, but is still having a great deal of difficulty living with his past.  He often needs to be reminded of the nature of redemption.”

“How can such a villain have any kind of redemption?”

“You must pray that he can.  He may have more evil in his life than you do, but your hope and his hope are the same.”

Mr. Why then paused before saying, “After reflecting upon his life and his evil deeds, he said that he was able to see something that he could not see before.  ‘The truth is unpleasant for us, and we are unpleasant for the truth,’ he said.”

Mr. Why handed Paltrus a small pouch of water.  “Rinse the vile taste from your mouth.”

Paltrus sat up and took the pouch.  He rinsed and spit the remaining vomit onto the ground.  Mr. Why then handed him another pouch.  Paltrus took the pouch and drank some of its contents.  It was wine.  It slowly began to settle his stomach and bring his strength back to him.  Paltrus closed his eyes and thought of Shallice.  He heard Mr. Why walk across the room.  He opened his eyes and turned to Mr. Why and saw that he picked up the book in which the monster had been writing.

“The descendent of the King of the Demons to the South has discovered information about the Great City as my ancestor warned may happen.  His prediction may yet prove true, and my line may soon end.  I have sent my Arch-Knight and my son in hopes that their own greed will cause them to kill all who know of it, and I will kill any who know of it upon their return.”

Mr. Why then turned a page and began reading again.

“Something terrible and unexpected happened. I was relieved to kill the Arch-Knight, the only surviving person to know of Arrburdak, when my son, whom I believed to be dead, entered the tower with a group of ruffians.  I am hiding now, but I know that they are here to kill me.  Damn the Demon King.  I never expected him to cause my son to raise an army against me.  I had never thought that Mordred may one day suffer the same fate as Arthur.  I hear them pounding on my door.  I know they want the Flame, but I will not–

“The writing trails off,” said Mr. Why.  He then closed the book and dropped it before walking towards Paltrus to address him.

“Come.  Grendel is trapped and can no longer run from us, but we gain nothing from tarrying.”

Chapter 9

Comments are closed.