Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Chapter 5b: Madame Rachelle

Rain began to fall as Madame Rachelle approached the palace walls. She was still a good half block from the entrance, and shelter, but there was nothing to be done for it now. Her pace quickened. Her hard soled boots sounded in sharp splashes against the drumming rain, dress and scarves trailing wetly behind her. She wore several colorful layers of clothes that included a hood, but the water seeped through and chilled her skin. She prayed she wouldn't slip on the slick stone road as she sped through the rain.

Lightning illuminated the sky, throwing her surroundings into crisp black and white as she arrived at the guard station, the portcullis of the Cutter Path Road gate breaking the entrance up into rectangular blocks. Her whole body tensed a second later, as a crackling burst of sound assaulted her eardrums.

Two burly guards stood in a sheltered area next to the gate; not a drop of water shone across their boiled leather armor. Smirks twisted their faces as she ran under the eaves of the gate.

Madame Rachelle pulled her soggy hood back and wiped water from her face. She fought to keep a quiver from her voice as she said, "I need to see the wizard, Wellan."

One of the guards raised an eyebrow and glanced at his partner before turning to her. His snide gaze traveled from her hair to her waist, lingering on her breasts. An uncomfortable feeling of anger and embarrassment contorted her emotions as she returned the guard’s stare. She felt as if she were livestock at an auction. When his sneering eyes returned to hers, he folded his hands across his chest and asked, "Is the Duke's wizard expecting you?"

She didn't expect to easily get an appointment to see the wizard, and the guard's sarcastic tone, not to mention his wandering eyes, didn't making her feel any more confident about her chances. "Please. It's important. I have information the wizard needs to know."

The other guard had been staring at her also, but his eyes shone with curiosity rather than lust. "Aren't you the fortune teller, Madam Roquelle or something like that?"

She didn't know if her reputation was going to help or hinder her. Many of the citizens of Renier loved and respected her, but just as many called her a charlatan. With a hint of hesitation in her voice, she answered, "Madam Rachelle. Yes, I'm Madam Rachelle, the seer."

The guard turned to his sneering partner and whispered something to him, but the pounding rain forced him to raise his voice so that both his partner and Madam Rachelle could hear. "Dale, we had better find out if the Wizard will see her."

Dale turned to the other guard, looking like a child who is told he can’t play in the mud any longer. "What do you mean? No one's told us the Wizard's expecting any visitors today. If Wellan wanted his palm read, I'm sure he would have mentioned it to the Captain."

"She said she has important information, and besides, my wife knows her. If we don't at least find out if she can talk to Wellan, and my wife finds out we just sent her on her way, she's not gonna give me any …" He glanced at Madam Rachelle then looked to Dale, whose frustrated frown had turned into a toothy grin. "…dinner for a month."

Grinning and trying to hold back his laughter, Dale replied, "Okay. Go find out if Wellan will see her, wouldn't want you missing dinner tonight."

When he turned back to Madam Rachelle the grin vanished. "Just wait right here. We aught to know if the Wizard will see you within half an hour or so."

She nodded to the other guard, ignoring Dale. "Thank you."

The kind guard nodded and walked through the small guard entrance as Dale responded, his snide gaze returning to her wet clothing. "You're welcome."

She folded her arms over her breasts and prepared to wait for the other guard to return.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chapter 5a: An Ancient Tome

"Your own council you should not keep, neither take the counsel of those who are too eager to give it for in their eagerness they may lead you along the wrong path."

~ Secret Holy Scriptures of the Waken Book.

Wellan and Duke Renier sat in the small conference chamber. The room was quiet and out of the way, half-hidden in a corner of the castle, and they both felt comfortable in the small area, like a clubhouse shared between friends.

Wellan opened a small black book, which rested upon his knee. Cracks covered the leather cover like an old sea bed, with scrawling cryptic letters pressed into the hide. Time had aged the pages and made them seem brittle enough to crumble to dust at the slightest touch, while undecipherable scribbles neatly trailed across the ancient sheets.

Wellan read a segment of writing in a hushed, almost reverent tone. "Thus do the necromancers' ilk walk the earth, created and used by the black arts of Syn. Syn doth grant the corrupt heart favors in this area, but the unholy God, the Keeper of all that Dies, doeth require a great favor for such blessings which are granted unto such an evil heart. These favors are known not by any but he that requesteth the boon from Syn, and they dare not speak of it.

"A man must die in order for the boon to be granted. Such evil beings which shall be bold enough to ask for such a favor as this will have a heart of stone and will gladly find a victim to use as an unholy vessel of Syn. Once the victim is slain and given over to Syn it shall lie dormant, without sign of life or spirit for a time. When the time has expired, the vessel will still be dormant of spirit yet it shall contain life. With this life shall be only one desire. The desire shall be to feed. Bread shall it not want. Water shall not quench its thirst. The meat of the beasts of the field shall repulse it and make it ill, for the new creature is not of this world. The new being will be a vessel of Syn and require the flesh of it's brethren to fill its hunger. The new being shall require the blood of its neighbor to quench its thirst. The abomination will not see wisdom or reason. It will no longer work the hammer or plow. It will no longer create beautiful works or care of its fellow man. It will be a mindless thing, only existing to feed its hunger for flesh."

Wellan looked at the Duke to make sure he didn't need to stop and explain any of the passage. Sitting on the edge of his seat, with a stern look in his eyes, the Duke waved the wizard to continue.

"It should be known throughout the world of men that these abominations are to be greatly feared. No man shall approach them for Syn holds a fate far worse than any mortal death. Should a man contact an abomination, he shall be burned within the hour, else he also become abomination! Neither grab nor touch one such as these, else ye become as they, an animate corpse, without mind or spirit. Thou shalt avoid them and flee. If thou think to cleave them with great iron thou shall rethink thyself. How shall thou kill that which no longer lives? How shall thou separate a soul that no longer resides within the host? Nay, thou shalt not have the power to kill such a one as this with mortal weapons. Only the plasma of fire or the burning of acid shall destroy such a vile thing. If any but these are used, the abomination's hunger will live and grow with each passing minute, a hunger no mortal can understand."

The Duke stared and the small leather tome and massaged his bare chin. Finally he asked, "Is this true Wellan? These creatures can't be stopped with a sword or an axe?"

Looking at least as grim as the Duke, Wellan answered, "Yes, my Duke, they can be stopped with iron. What the passage said was that they can't be killed by anything short of completely destroying the body."

"Now I understand why you insisted that the 'leper' be burned to ash."

With a barely audible sigh Wellan replied, "Yes. I wasn't sure until I saw the creature, but there was no mistaking what it was. It had to be destroyed and destroyed completely."

The Dukes face brightened a bit. "All five of the creatures were destroyed. The last one, the prisoner, has already been cremated, so other than finding out why they were here in the first place the disaster has been averted."

Wellan shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. The captain of the Night Watch, the one that reportedly went berserk in the streets when he confronted one of these things, never reported in for duty. I requested all of the men involved to meet me on the practice field this morning before they went home. He wasn't among them. When I went to his home, he wasn't there either. Only evidence of his conversion remained."

"If he's loose in the streets…"

Wellan rose from his seat, preparing to leave the room. "Yes. He is loose in the streets, but he shouldn't be able to stay hidden. He probably won't even try, because they truly are mindless beings, as the book said. I have the city guard looking for him, so I expect to see him in the dungeon sometime early today."

As Wellan backed toward the door the Duke grabbed his sleeve. "What if he has touched or…or bitten someone."

Wellan put his hand over the Duke's. "I don't know, my Duke. Let's just pray to the Gods that it hasn't happened."

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