Black, Purple and Silver.

Warning: Some content in this story may not be suitable for all readers due to implied unpleasantness.


“So,” Oversword Loran Dutharr began, “how bad was it?”

Meliantha recovered first. “How – what – why – you’re the commander here?!”

“I served for years doing …little jobs for his Majesty. I’ve kept Lord Lhal in the loop as to what’s going on – she didn’t want those two causing too much trouble, and when some friends of mine in the Harpers told me what was up, I took a bit of time to keep an eye on things. You, lass,” he said, nodding at Meliantha, “are luckier than you have a right to be. I was on my way over with two squads when you escaped, and those two boggies took off. They left a great deal behind, and there’s going to be a price on their heads soon enough. You’d best let me know what’s yours.” He whistled, and one of the Purple Dragons came in with a sack, placed it down, saluted, and withdrew.

Meliantha pulled herself out of bed again, slowly, and Loran pulled the sack over. “Figure most of this is yours,” he said, and started to empty it. “Didn’t find that sword of yours, though.”

Meliantha gestured with her head, at where Chainbreaker lay on top of a chest. “I may not have mentioned some of his abilities,” she said dryly, “including that he can be summoned to my hand, and unlock almost any lock.” She held out one arm, wounds faded but visible. “And I was not in a state to get anything else.”

“Torm’s gauntlet, lass,” he said, staring, “I didn’t know.” Remorse clouded his features. “I didn’t mean to be so flippant. That torture…”

“Is done,” Meliantha finished for him. She rummaged through the sack, finding boots, armor, and clothing. “My neck-chain,” she breathed, “it’s gone.”

“I can assure you that your right of armsbearing sigil will be replaced,” Loran said, then stopped as she shook her head.

“My symbol of Helm… it was special. A gift when I left my temple.” She had barely shed tears when they whipped her; the loss of that symbol made her eyes well up. “Brimmerbold gave it to me as I left. He’d carried it in battle, and I lost it.”

“No,” Ravenbrow said, shaking her head. “It was taken from you. You were tortured by Cyricists, and they almost took your life.” The wizard gazed at Meliantha. “We will do all we can to find that symbol, or find what they did with it.”

* * *

Felgar had half-drawn his blade when the second slap crossed his face. It slid back into his scabbard as he touched his stinging face.

“You were told to watch that door. Instead, you went off to one of your idiocies and now she’s gone! We had to relocate, we lost most of the funds we had and almost everything we’d taken from her, and now we’ve been revealed. Some of our informants tell me that Oversword Dutharr knows about what we’re doing, and if he does, that means that bitch Lhal knows too! And all because you couldn’t keep that thing behind your codpiece!” Norvin’s face was contorted with rage, and he raised his hand to slap Felgar again. “IDIOT!”

Felgar’s hand came up and he blocked the slap. “My gift from our master’s servant is part of his plan, and I will find the perfect woman. She wouldn’t have been the one – it told me that she’s barren. It would have enjoyed her pain, though…”

Norvin’s face twisted in disgust. “You’ve become disgusting ever since you accepted that thing from the Master’s servant. It’s all you care about, is placating it.”

Felgar grinned, a little unsteadily. He’d gotten an unhealthy sheen to his hair and skin, as he’d bathed less and less. His obsession with the master’s gift, and the mission he claimed it gave him, had drawn him into more unsavory parts of the city and had him running from the watch more than was healthy. And there was more than a hint of some terrible madness in his eyes. “I have my orders and you have yours. You bring in worshippers, and I will bring forth the herald of our Master for them to serve.”

* * *

She woke up the next morning feeling remarkably better. Ravenbrow knocked, then brought in her breakfast. She was famished, now, and devourer the ham, eggs, frybread, and finished the tankard of light beer in a matter of minutes. When she was done, Ravenbrow made a show of counting her fingers. Meliantha sighed a bit dramatically, then rose from the bed and dressed. She threw off the shift she wore, then pulled on fresh undergarments, her breeches and tunic, and then her chain shirt, fitting it in place. Her over-vest went over it, then socks, boots, belt, baldrick and finally gloves. Chainbreaker went into his scabbard over her back, and she gave a small shake to get everything into place.

“If you’ll excuse me,” she said, “I need to stretch and practice.” That said, she went and did just that in the small courtyard of the manor house that the temple once had been. Half an hour was spent preparing, then practicing, starting with the basics she knew, and then moving into the more advanced techniques and tricks she’d learned in her travels. She brought herself down from it, to see Loran watching.

“You look to be ready,” he said, “so would you mind a bit of time in the circle with an old man?” He drew his longsword, and saluted; she returned it in her own style, and they began. He was good – one of the best she’d ever battled – and even with the padding on their blades, he did not let her escape a mistake. She did the same – he didn’t make many, and she learned from every one she made – and after a quarter-hour, they disengaged.

“You’re faster than I’d expect, with that blade of yours. Here, show me that parry.” She showed him a parry that had saved her from a blow across her gut, slowly, then faster, until she was going full speed. Then she had him come in and strike, followed by the parry, slowly, speeding up until they were at full speed.

“It’s not guaranteed, but if you’ve nothing else. Mostly a desperation-counter, although your longsword would probably take it a bit easier.” She took a moment to polish Chainbreaker, a small pleased sound passing through her mind, and then sheathed him and slung him over her shoulder.

“We’ve had both Dragons and War Wizards searching the city for those two. The lad is headed for the Lord’s Chamber, and his priest friend is going to be questioned by the War Wizards about his plans. We found money down there, and there was an empty room in that inn of his, and who knows what he’d had in there secreted away.”

“Did you find poor Zalan’s body?” Meliantha asked, having not had the chance before now.

“Yes, we did,” Ravenbrow said. “His body’s being sent home to his family – apparently he left a note requesting that instead of a return.” Meliantha nodded, thoughtfully.

“I wonder what happened to Felgar. He was always Norvin’s lap-dog, but I’d never expect him to have gone that far.” Meliantha looked to the sky, then down again. “I wasn’t allowed to look for him when he ran away. Some thought he’d followed Norvin, but this is horrific.”

“Felgar’s a maniac,” Loran replied gruffly. “A half-dozen women dead, twice that many brutalized, and four Purple Dragons dead. One of them is blinded by some disease until we get a priest in to heal that. He’s gone to the darkest parts of evil – nothing but cruelty and madness left behind.”

Meliantha was about to reply when a messenger ran into the courtyard, handing Loran a scroll, and ran out again without waiting for a reply. Without waiting, the young man ran out again. Loran checked the scroll’s seal, then broke and unrolled it.

“I hope you ladies have something formal,” he said. “We’re requested at the Citadel.” He paused, then turned to Ravenbrow. Before he could even ask, she’d gestured and spoke a word, and the smell of the workout was gone.

“Let me change,” Meliantha said, and headed for the room she’d been given.

* * *

The guards took Chainbreaker from Meliantha, who knew that no one had mentioned her particular bond with the sword, and thus she did not complain. They were escorted through three different guard posts, and finally into a chamber that was obviously used for meetings – the large table and the many chairs being the most obvious clues. They remained standing until the Lord of the City arrived, a time Meliantha spent looking for spy-holes and hidden doors.

Doors opposite the ones they came in swung open, and without herald or fanfare, Lord Myrmeen Llal strode into the room. Clad in steel mesh ceremonial armor with red gems embedded in it, her brunette hair tucked neatly into a silver headdress fashioned in the image of a phoenix. She didn’t look her age, that was for sure, and the ceremonial armor was made to accentuate her form. She regarded Stormbrow, and then Meliantha, with blue eyes, then said, “Be seated.” The two Harpers bowed, and sat, while Oversword Dutharr remained standing.

“My Lord, these are the two surviving Harpers looking to assist with the two we spoke of earlier. This is Ravenbrow, a sorceress of no small power,” and at this Ravenbrow inclined her head, “and this is Meliantha, who is quite skillful with a blade – I’d put her against my best.” Meliantha gave a salute she’d learned from Olbrimsur.

“Ladies,” he continued, turning to the two adventurers, “I present to you Lord Myrmeen Llal, King’s Lord of Arabel.” He took a moment to smile. “To whom I technically report as head of the guard, even if sometimes it’s just telling her what I intend.”

The lady rolled her eyes and sighed. “Be that as it may, I remain Lord of the city. And I do welcome you ladies, as fellow amongst those who Harp. I received a message, and thus Loran was sent to help you.” She smiled. “Years of his work for the King means not that he gets to rest, just that he gets more interesting assignments. Now, he’s told me what’s gone on. What more can you tell me?”

It turned out that it wasn’t very much, really – Loran had already reported to her what they knew. Meliantha was able to tell her personal experiences, which was still a bit more about them. She finished with, “…but there’s still not terribly much more. It’s been years.”

“All right,” Myrmeen said, nodding. “At this time I would like to officially thank you for your help in flushing these two out and identifying them. However, the Crown as embodied in Arabel by me hereby conscripts you temporarily into Crown service. Your duties will be simple: locate these two and bring them here to face justice if possible. Should they resist, you are allowed to use any force required by your judgement. We would prefer one alive, but if they resist too much, well, that is what priests are for.” She rose from her chair. “Oversword Durtharr, I assign these to you. Do as you need to,” she said, following dryly with, “as you will anyway.”

Durtharr let out a hearty laugh, and gestured to the two of them to rise. They did, and Lord Llal rose from her chair as they bowed. She left the room through the door she came in, and then the three looked at each other.

“Well,” Meliantha said with a small, dark smile on her face, “Let the hunt begin.”

Posted by Meliantha Demonblood

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