"...When you have completed this task, return to me where ever you may find this vessel," Arbiddance told the ef'fretah. He watched the spirit bear the box containing body of Hern and the sealed scroll tube into the air and soar northwest into the distance.
Several pages of notes, Arbiddance thought. The best I can do to explain to his family what happened. Commoners are ignorant of magic and will wonder why we didn't just resurrect him. Nothing inside to bring back.
My friend is soulless.
The wizard turned to look at the Prince behind him. Their eyes met... each with the look of hard steel. It was time. The Prince was not grinning; now was the time to tap into that being which lurked behind the smile.
They descended the hill and into the abode.
The Baron Falang reclined in his favorite chair and sipped his drink. The view out of the window displayed his fantastic garden in its riot of color and health.
He put down the drink and twisted his head slightly to the left. Obviously, somewhere a groundskeeper was murmuring, and the Baron wanted to hear. Not that he was paranoid, mind you... just good practice to know what's going on around you.
After two seconds, he realized the murmuring was chanting.
He rose and threw himself across the room. Even as he began to move, he heard the approaching roar... like a strong wind on the front of a storm.
A burst of heat and flame shattered the window where he had been sitting. Glass and fire swarmed through the air in the room, and the maddening roar of air being sucked out deafened him.
Falang's back was on fire. He screamed and rolled on the stone floor until the heat went away. He then jumped up and rushed down the hallway to summon his butler.
The Grinning Prince met him halfway, sword drawn and pointed directly at him. Caught at the collar, Falang was brought up short and sat down on the floor.
"No," the Prince whispered. "No, no, no, no. I'm afraid not, M'Lord."
Behind the Prince, Qova came strolling up the hallway with her hands behind her back. She smiled a schoolgirl smile at the Baron and stopped.
Arbiddance came from behind. He grabbed the Baron by his hair and swiftly brought a dagger against his throat.
"Time to abdicate, Your Grace," the wizard hissed.
"I have a patrol in this area," the Baron quivered. "They'll deal with you when they return. I swear it."
Qova casually tossed a collection of horses' bridles in the Baron's lap.
"Balesire will have you drawn and quartered, and then he'll hang you, and then you'll be cut up into little bitty bits and buried alive," Qova flatly stated. "You turned an Oienduni priest loose in Doomwatch. What other possible reaction could he have?"
Falang shuddered in the chair while The Prince casually stomped out little flames here and there. Arbiddance was sitting on the table in front of the Baron with dagger in hand.
"You conspired with me. You agreed it was necessary," the Baron whimpered at the wizard. "You're just as guilty as I am."
"Maybe so," Arbiddance stared down with cold eyes, "but I have no fucking idea what you're talking about. See, my friends and I were exploring the ruins, when your snake handler and that she-wolf attacked us while we were battling undead...no, strike that... we were ridding the countryside of some horrible undead and were licking our wounds and mourning the loss of our comrade when the two attacked us. We killed her, but the snake priest managed to flee. Before she died, she intimated that the coins in her purse came from you."
Qova stood at the Baron's side. "Here's what's afoot," she scooted a piece of parchment across the table and beside Arbiddance. "You're going to write the Duke a letter indicating that you're totally abdicating your barony. You're turning everything over to Arbiddance. Arbiddance will also write a letter claiming possession of this barony and indicating he will travel to Talus in one month's time to swear fealty to the Duke. I doubt there will be any argument, so long as someone is running things over here."
"Why are you doing this?" the Baron moaned.
Arbiddance leaned closer. "For Hern. We're taking your barony. We're going to hunt down and destroy the Snake... and we're going to plunder Doomwatch itself for its secrets... not the least of which is the Gauntlet itself. Before three years have passed, there will be a new Duke in the March. Look on the bright side, maybe I'll give you a job as my court jester."