Monday, July 7, 2008

Chapter 16d: The Duke and the Priest

Piet Lithor sat in the Dukes private chamber just like he had dozens of times before, but this time it felt different. Before the plague he had always wondered why the Duke, who could afford gold trim on all the walls and exotic tiles on the floor, always chose the simplest of rooms to hold his private meetings. He looked around at the few worn but comfortable chairs, the plain wood knee-high table that held a glass ashtray, a brass pitcher and two simple coffee teacups. Now it all made sense to him. While within this room Duke Renier had no intentions of putting on heirs, he wanted to feel relaxed and to make his guest feel the same way. The Piet had once looks on this with his nose turned up in the air, now he felt relaxed and thankful for a place where he could prop his feet up and leave the status and pomp behind him.

Duke Renier stepped into the room and sat in the chair across from Lithor. He poured them both tea and sat back, looking at the Piet over the rim of his cup. Lithor lifted his to his mouth and smiled as he noticed a small chip near the lip.

Leaning back the Duke asked, “So, Lithor, how did you make it out there for so long? Prayer and faith?”

Lithor smiled and set his cup down on the table. “I think prayer and faith had a lot to do with it. Vaspar kept his hand of protection over me, though I have no idea why. I’ve been an ass and I owe you and everyone else here an apology for the piety and arrogance.”

The Duke sat forward, attempting to interrupt, to politely argue with Lithor that he wasn’t an arrogant fool. Lithor knew better and stopped the duke’s protest with a wave of his hand.

“No, don’t say I wasn’t, because I was. I still am to some degree. It’s hard to retrain an old priest who thought he was above human.”

He picked his teacup back up and took a sip before continuing. He couldn’t look at the duke as he told his story so he stared at the brown liquid.

“I was in my home, complaining to one of the acolytes about the help not being around when it all began. Brother Clay…had prepared my lunch and brought it in when the other…priests…came into the room. They were in terrible shape. Vomit and blood stained their nightclothes. Their eyes were the worst thing, blank and dead. I stood up from the chair and…” He stopped, remembering Brother Clay’s sacrifice.

Leaning forward he switched his gaze from the cup to the stone tiled floor at his feet. “Brother Clay told me to run. I did. I…I left him to slow the other priests down. The great Piet left him to die so that I might live.” He wiped his eyes. His hand came away wet.

“I ran to my room and cowered behind my bed. The priests beat on the door. I prayed to Vaspar to save me. Nothing happened, They continued to beat on the door. My faith began to wane and in desperation I grabbed the holy sword of Tymra and scuttled back behind the bed. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use it, but having the weapon gave me some comfort. I continued my prayers and soon the priests left my door.

“I don’t know how long I sat there cowering, but I finally gained the courage to leave my room. I didn’t see any of the priests until I got to the front yard and looked out the door. Two of them shuffled through the rain in the front yard. Stoking what little courage I had I finally made a dash for the front gate. The gate was shut and they would have had me had it not been for the sword. It kept them at bay. They seemed to be afraid of it, like it was anathema to them.

“After making it through the gate I attempted to reach the palace, but there were far too many of the undead to make it so I ran to the Temple of Vaspar. Others were already there, surrounded by undead. The undead wouldn’t touch the temple grounds. Vaspar’s holiness kept them at bay. I ran through them with the sword held high, even knocked one over into the temple yard in my mad run. The thing began to burn as soon as it touched the holy ground. Anyway, I made it into the temple and did like the others, waited.”

He leaned back in the chair and looked at the duke. “I think you know the rest of my tale.”

Duke Renier leaned forward and put his hand on the Piet’s wrist. “You don’t give yourself enough credit, Piet Lithor. It sounds to me as though Vaspar found you worthy enough to look after you. I have to say though. I do see a change. It’s a change for the better.”

The Piet patted the duke’s hand. “Thank you, my friend.”

“No, thank you for helping those people, and for helping Wellan get into the city. That took a great deal of courage.”

Lithor shook his head. “I owed him that much. I have been terrible to him over the years, spiteful and petty. As I saw him go down amongst the undead I realized that. By the way, how is he?”

Duke Renier frowned and rubbed his hand through his goatee. “Not very good I’m afraid. They tore him up, but he is a wizard and hopefully he will have a trick or two up his sleeve that will allow him to recover. He is with the Lady Rachelle right now. He requested that she, and only she, attend him for now.”

The duke sat up straight and smiled. “Wellan isn’t the only one with a trick or two up his sleeve. Now that you are here it won’t belong before we make our escape from the city. There is an emergency tunnel in the back of the palace that leads to the water on the East side. As soon as Wellan is well enough to walk we will get everyone together and leave.”

Lithor felt a weight being lifted off his shoulders as the dukes words gave him hope. “It sounds like you have a solid plan, my duke. I will pray to Vaspar that Wellan recovers soon and we make a safe exodus from here.”

“Thank you, Piet Lithor. I’m sure Wellan will appreciate that.”

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