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Arguments in the Dark
“Why is this one empty?” Phebes jabbed her thumb at an empty case.
“Father gave that sword to Benjamin before he left for Spinel.” William replied, “Every weapon in this room has some sort of enchantment or blessing that makes them better in combat. Can I tell my damn story now?”
Wyanet cocked her eyebrow. “I am curious how your people allowed this evil to spread and destroy this land?”
“Twenty years after Duke Highbrance founded New Horizon; Duke Boguslav Sofka, his son Iliya Sofka, Great-Grandfather Miles I, and grandfather Miles II set out from the Archipelago. They landed in Crescent Moon Bay and established Spinel. Three years into settling the city, Duke Boguslav died and Iliya succeeded to his throne.”
“Everyone knows how succession works,” Olivia scoffed. “You got me out of bed in the middle of the night to recount history that everyone from the peasants to the lords knows?”
“I’m getting there.” William rolled his eyes. “A few days after Duke Boguslav died, Duke Iliya adopted a little girl.”
“What’s weird about that?” Bucephalus took a step back toward the stairs. “He opened his house to an orphan, that sounds like a noble and godly act to me.”
“Three years after? Are you sure?” Olivia frowned. “Duke Iliya would have been fifteen.”
“Exactly.” William tapped his nose with a finger and pointed at Olivia. “Outside of a handful of courtiers and the serving staff, no one knew she existed. But, things get even more strange from there.”
“Let me guess,” I asked. “She tortured small animals?”
“No, but close. Things started small. Duke Iliya ignored some minor duties to spend more time with the girl. Then he became controlling of everything and ferociously protective of the girl. After that, servants started to disappear. Never in large numbers, but any servant that displeased Duke Iliya or the girl was never seen again.”
“That doesn’t mean something bad happened to them,” Phebes looked at me. “Does it?”
“Two years after she arrived, great-grandfather witnessed her kill and drink the blood of a serving boy. Great-grandfather snuck away unseen. He ordered his family to pack their things that night. The morning after, great-grandfather confronted Duke Iliya at court. He demanded the girl be arrested and executed for murder. Duke Iliya laughed in his face. That afternoon, great-grandfather quit Spinel and headed North with his full house and a few hundred upset villagers.”
“I am confused.” Wyanet asked, “Where did your family gain the ability to change into wolves?”
“Everything is muddy around that part,” William sighed.
“What we were told growing up,” Olivia interrupted. “Our great-grandfather found a wolf’s print filled with water in the mud. He was thirsty and drank the water from the mud.”
“According to our great-grandfather’s journal, the night he fled he swore to the gods he would come back and destroy the evil in Spinel. While he dreamed that night, an angel of the Raven Queen visited great-grandfather. The angel offered him the power he would need to stop the vampiric plague from spreading. The angle also warned that accepting the power would also curse all of his descendants to the same fate. Great-grandfather accepted the power without a second thought and the angel led him to the paw print.”
“That makes more sense than a nobleman drinking mud,” Olivia nodded.
“How are we supposed to help lift this curse?” Phebes looked around the room. “The vampire is in Spinel and we’re in Vercingetorix. Besides, it’s not like Nellie is the same vampire from Spinel. Is she?”
“For centuries, Nellie as you call her, has been trying to spread her plague as far as she can. Vercingetorix, my family, and the lesser nobles allied to us have held back the corruption for nearly a century.” William continued, “Last spring a plague ravaged the area we control which limited the number of crops we could sow. The year before that, the supernatural weather destroyed almost all of our crops. We won’t survive a third winter with the food we have left. Father and the people are growing desperate. We need to take some sort of action. If it destroys all of us, at least we tried.”
“Is that why father sent Benjamin South?”
William nodded. “He wants to end the entire miserable affair. He sent Benjamin to meet a handful of warriors and kill the enemy once and for all, but they failed.”
“And you want us to go finish the job?” I asked.
“You somehow managed to hurt the enemy enough to make them run away from you. If we press the attack now, we could kill the enemy in their home soil and rid the world of it forever.”
“You want us to fight her, again?” Phebes’s alabaster complexion paled. “We barely beat Nellie last time.” She burped and clapped a hand to her mouth. “My mouth still tastes like bloody vomit.”
“The enemy is weak. If you leave before sunrise, you have a chance of catching her before she can recover.”
“Why not raise an army and claim Spinel for yourself?” Wyanet asked, “Is that not how your politics work?”
“The plague weakened my father’s possibility of calling an army far more than he cares to admit.” Olivia confessed, “Even if we could gather an army, we lack the food, water and money to do it. That doesn’t even get into the violation of the multiple treaties creating a rebel army would cause. Vercingetorix is still a fiefdom of Spinel. If we failed in the assault, our bloodline would be wiped out and no one would stand in Nellie’s way.”
“Don’t you have friends, or a pack, or something to do it yourself?” Phebes pleaded.
“Father would never allow it,” William replied. “After Benjamin died, he put me on a short leash and won’t let me out of his sight.”
“You want us to fight a nigh-unstoppable, evil, little girl.” I marched up to William. “To put our lives on the line, to lift a curse from your bloodline. You ask us to die like we’re your subjects and you haven’t even known us for a week.” I stepped back to Phebes and Wyanet. “You don’t even offer anything in return. Nellie is stronger than us. Last time we fought her, we had three more people. One of the said people was a wizard and another a Dragonman of Drako, and we still lost. I don’t even have a sword anymore.”
“I’m not asking you to fight alone.” William took a small step toward us. “The enemy is weak, but I need time to gather more friends and allies, which I have to do in secret. You don’t need to kill the enemy outright. I’m asking you to put enough pressure on the enemy and their followers for reinforcements to arrive and finish the fight.”
“No,” Bucephalus snorted. “I’ve been down there already. I’m the last survivor of an entire company of holy knights, divine clerics and blessed warriors. Whatever half-cooked plan you have will fail and we will die for it. The only thing we should do right now is get me back to the Isle of the Gods. I’ll tell my superiors in the Inquisition everything that happened to me and is happening here. The Cardinal Conclave won’t ignore this evil. They will send a holy army to eradicate all the evil here and liberate those that evil has enslaved.”
“They’d murder my entire family.” William waved Bucephalus away. “Besides, how long would it take for them to get here? One month? Two? A year? My people are suffering now. We have a chance to finish this, and we can’t afford to wait for some saviours to rescue us. We have a chance and we have to take it. If we win, we’ll be written as heroes for the rest of history. If we fail, well… we can’t afford to fail, so we won’t.”
“Tell me, Father.” Olivia rested her hand on her brother’s elbow. “If a cock breaks its wing do you slaughter the hen for supper?”
Bucephalus puffed out his chest and crossed his arms. “Minotaurs don’t eat meat, it’s bad for our health.”
“That is the voice you are asking us to make. Nellie is at risk, but you would rather take an action that will kill the people who are trying to help you. The Inquisition is not known for its principles of nuance.”
“Your cowardice astonishes me.” Wyanet’s lip curled in disgust. “You would sacrifice the lives of thousands to protect your own. Are those the teachings of your gods? If they are, then your gods are cruel beings who deserve to be thrown from their thrones.” Wyanet turned back to William. “I will help you however I can.”
I clenched and unclenched my fist and bit back my frustration. “Guess that means I will too.”
Phebes reached for my hand, missed and wrapped her arm around mine instead. “I’m staying with them.”
“You’re all suicidal.” Bucephalus turned towards the stairs. “I’m not going. I’m going to find a way back to the Isle of the Gods and save Crescent Moon Bay the right way.” Bucephalus stormed out of the room.
William smiled. “I figured at least some of you would agree. I took some time this afternoon and secured you a ride further south. You can leave whenever you are ready.”
The story will continue, July 30th, 2020.
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Written by: Sweeney (@oceansoul316 on twitter)
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