Zuula sat on her porch, and listened to the night. Listened to the song of hunting creatures falling silent, listened to trees rustling against the wind, and finally, listened to the sound of running feet moving poorly through her woods.
It was time. She reached for her mask-
-and made her perception check, as she realized that she knew the sounds of those particular approaching feet. She stood bolt upright, and stared out at the woods, possibilities churning in her mind. No, this would not do!
“Mom!” Jarrik shouted, as he burst out of the treeline; first as usual, her little scout. But she pushed down motherly pride, drowning it in a sea of motherly worry.
“What you do? What you do here? You should no be here!”
“Mom, they’re going to kill everyone! The soldiers are here to kill everyone!”
“Yes, which is why you must go!” Zuula shouted, green knuckles turning white as she gripped the porch.
“No! We’re not leaving you!”
“Child!” Zuula threw up her hands as the others came out of the trees, Garon’s forced march faltering as he reached his destination, and the others who had been swept up in it coming down from it, feeling their stamina drain all at once.
“Ksh! Inside, quickly!” The shaman commanded, holding the curtain open. “Much to do and you can help, but then you go!”
The children piled in, Celia clutching Threadbare tight, and Zuula punched through the floorboards, pulling rag-wrapped bundles from below and tossing them. “You, Jarrik, take these.” She threw a bundle at him. “Put high in trees around clearing.”
Jarrik opened the bundle, and looked at its contents with a puzzled expression. “But these are-“
“Do it!” Zuula bellowed, digging out another parcel. “Bak’Shaz, here be food. Elven waybread. Keeps forever, little bit last whole day. Elves not miss it, they be Zuula’s gumbo and shit out long ago. Porkins be out back. Get him and get back in here.”
“Oh man, Porkins!” Bak’Shaz took the pack and scrambled. “I almost forgot about him!”
“And for you,” she turned to Celia, with a large sack and a bundle of papers. “Take these. Animate with scrolls and invite to party. Then invite Zuula in and leave party.”
“What? You’re…” Celia took the bag and looked at the five items inside. “Okay…”
“Once they animated go put in treeline around clearing. Ask Jarrik if need help. Go!”
Celia scrambled.
Zuula looked up at Garon and sighed. He had his arms folded and his eyes set in a familiar glare. The same glare he always gave her as a child, whenever she tried to get him to eat sprouts.
“I’m not leaving you here,” Garon said. “Not alone.”
He never did eat those fucking sprouts, Zuula reflected.
“Your father left Zuula here. Trouble coming for him too,” Zuula said, thinking fast. “Need him if we gonna win this one.”
Garon squinted at her, and his eyes un-narrowed a bit. “You have a plan?”
“Yes,” she lied. “He out at Caradon’s. You go get him!” Zuula tossed him the last sack.
He opened it, and gasped. “This is… you just made a quest out of it? What the heck, Mom?”
“You get bonuses, right? There reward. Don’t spend none until you get you father safe!”
“This is at least…”
“Mordecai maybe not take foolish daughter Mastoya’s money when she send it, but Zuula got no problem with pride. Use it if you need to.”
“All right…” He frowned. “I don’t know if the others have the stamina to get there. I should leave them here-“
Zuula almost howled in frustration. “Unclever child! You be talking to shaman! Get them in here!”
After a few frenzied minutes, the crew was assembled. They’d left Beryl back in town to warn her family, so she was out of the equation, but Celia was looking ragged, Jarrik was wobbling, and even Bak’shaz, her little ball of energy, was drooping a bit.
Zuula sighed. “Gonna use the heavy stuff.”
Garon’s eyes flew wide open. “Whoa, mom, no, that stuff is-“
“Then make sure they don’t never get it again. Not for about five years or so.” Zuula reached into the bundle of herbs on the wall, pulled out a bright green and orange one that almost seemed to almost glow with slickness, and threw it in the fire. Smoke billowed up, and the children coughed as it filled their lungs.
When the smoke died down, they were vibrating, literally vibrating as the boards underneath them rattled.
“What is this?” Celia said, staring at her fingers. “I feel so weird… status?”
There was a pause, as the other brothers did so, all save Garon who palmed his face.
“Um…” Celia frowned at the air, blinking five times faster than she normally could. “What is the ‘high’ condition, please? And why is everything all weird colors?”
“You don't want to know,” Garon said. “Come on, let’s go before it wears off. Forced March!”
Zuula watched them go, then sucked in the smoke with a few deep breaths. The old familiar smell hit her again, peeling a year or two off her lifespan and filling her veins with fire. Being a shaman, with the poison resistance she had, it carried more benefits than the agility and stamina restore and buff it had given the children. It also added to her perception. And right now her heightened ears heard the flap of leathery wings in the distance and the tromp of metal-shod feet.
She stepped outside, seeing the air swirl with smoke, seeing through the darkness as clearly as if it was day. Better, even. Darkspawn was a good trait, about half the time.
“Call Winds,” she said, waving her good club in the air, and the distant howling changed, started to grow as they peeled away from the mountains and gathered behind her. In the distance a storm rose, a good ways west. For now.
Then, before she could regret it, Zuula clamped the mask on her face. It bit into her, taking its toll in blood.
“Slow Regeneration,” she gasped, casting her buffs before her mind could go to the place the mask sent it to. “Beastly Skill Borrow, Owl! Call Vines! Call Thorns! Fast… ah… hah, hahahhaha…” She laughed, as the mask became her, and she became it.
“Come then!” She roared, in three voices at once, raising her club to the air. “Come and die!”
Mordecai approached Caradon’s house with caution, caution that turned into concern, as he stepped out of the woods. Half the windows were broken, one wall was covered with holes, and the yard was filled with bloodstains and fur.
Mordecai knelt down, looked at it. “Manticore?” he gasped in disbelief. Then the old scout remembered what he’d taught so many others, and stepped back into cover, fading into the trees as he activated his camouflage. Wind’s Whisper, he thought, and the skill activated. “Caradon, ya in there? Give me a sign if it’s safe ta come in,” Mordecai mouthed.
After a pause, a bedsheet waved from one of the upper story windows.
Mordecai walked into the lower room. The table was on the floor, legs shattered, and the chairs were scattered kindling. A glass picture frame lay shattered and spiderwebbed on the table remnants. All the pictures and trinkets on the mantle lay scattered about, and the floor around the fireplace was scorched so badly that he could see the basement through it. Smoke filled the air.
And Emmet was nowhere to be seen.
The stairs looked broken, gaping gaps where some steps should be, and jagged nailed boards sticking up from impact craters. Emmet had done that, Mordecai could tell.
“Run Silent,” Caradon shouted from upstairs.
“Run Deep!” Mordecai shouted back. “What the hell, Caradon?”
“Get upstairs!”
Mordecai leaped, caught the upper railing, and flipped himself over, hatchet out and ready for trouble. Then he relaxed. Nobody but the old man was up here, his senses told him. And two things moving clumsily, one big and one tiny. Animi or golems, and the big one was Emmet.
“Invite Golem,” he heard Caradon mutter, as he entered the old man’s room. Books lay strewn all over the place, one of the windows was broken, manticore spines were embedded in the wall across from the window, and Caradon turned to him with a sigh, putting down his cards. “Still not responding to that,” Caradon explained, beaming. “Probably intelligence related. She can’t read or speak, I bet that’s why!” The golem maker said, standing and waving his hands. His clothing was torn, his apron hanging askew.
“What happened?”
“I succeeded.” Caradon smiled. “I succeeded.” He pointed at a tiny black teddy bear, who waved back and showed him her cards.
“A grindluck deck? What…” Mordecai’s eyes went wide.
“She came out with minimal luck. That’s what caused all this. Worse than an infant’s, worse than a goblin’s. But she’s up to about twenty-five now. We’ll keep working on that, won’t we Missus Fluffbear?”
“That’s Amelia’s old… bear...” Mordecai blinked.
“Yes. And she works. They’re people, Mordecai. They can gain stats, and I’m pretty sure they can gain class levels.”
“Going by tha last teddy bear you made, yeah, yeah they can.”
“Oh, did he pick up something? That’s nice,” Caradon said. “But it doesn’t matter. You’re here now, and I need you to stand guard.”
“Did he pick up something? What are ya talkin' about? You mean you didn't give him tha rul…” Mordecai froze. “Wait, guard? What are you-“
“It works. And I know what I did wrong. I’m going to give Emmet the upgrade, I’ve got just enough sanity left for that.”
Mordecai froze. “Caradon…”
“He’s a superior golem, Toy Golems are at the bottom of the chain. Armor golems will surely have superior luck!”
“These are our hopes and dreams, Mordecai! Moreso than we ever planned! It’s a chance, it’s our only chance, and every minute I delay is a minute that the King’s forces draw around us! Balmoran has fallen, Mordecai, and this is our only hope! This is Celia’s only hope!” Cardon’s fist hit the table.
Missus Fluffbear tried to give him more cards.
“What? No, thank you.” Caradon said, momentarily distracted. He turned back to the old scout. “Look, we can handle this.”
“This is a bad idear,” Mordecai said.
“I’m low on sanity, just enough for the upgrade, but I’ve got ten years worth of spare scrolls downstairs. You stand guard, I’ll chip in if necessary, and Emmet will grind his luck through fighting or cards. We can do this. I just spent the day doing it, and this was a worst-case scenario. Help me, Mordecai. Please, help me.”
“It's a bad idear, ya. Didn’t say I wasn’t gonna do it. We come this far on bad idears, why stop now?” Mordecai sighed, pulling out his bow. “Dark as a witch’s asscrack out there, but I should be able to hear most things comin’. Lemme go get them scrolls for ya. Where are they?”
“Downstairs in my study. A book entitled Keep an Ace in the Hole.”
“I’ll go get them for ya, then set up on the roof. Good luck, old man.”
“You too, old man.”
Mordecai leaped down to the floor below, as Caradon thundered behind him.
“Greater Golem Upgrade!”
The book was empty. Mordecai stared at the hollow space where a bunch of scrolls had once been.
“Caradon!” he shouted.
Then the first lightning bolt struck the house, as the storm built overhead.
Jericho stared at his hands.
He could only see them due to his enhanced perception, and the Sensate-created illusions they were hiding behind didn’t help matters. It was dark out here, Dark as a Witch’s asscrack, he remembered his mentor saying, on nights like this.
His mentor, the traitor.
Jericho hadn’t wanted to believe it, but there the old man was, up on the roof of the house, dodging lightning bolts and firing at the Spirewolf pack below.
Up the line, past his unit and the next two, the King paced back and forth, his crimson plate cloaked and silenced by yet more illusions.
They’d been waiting for hours. The army had rolled in at the beginning of the night, but the King hadn’t given the order yet.
“What are we waiting for?” Yules said in the party whisper. Jericho could just see her blonde crewcut, crouched among the reeds of the riverbank. He’d have to talk to her about that later, she really should have hidden better.
“We’re waiting on demons, I hear,” Zanzibar replied. His dark skin made him almost invisible, only his white, white eyes giving him away. Top marks.
Jericho wanted to tell them to shut up, to keep the chatter down, but he suppressed it. He was their Captain, and a little pre-op chatter was to be expected. He’d always given them a free hand, more so than Courtly doctrine was comfortable with, but he found he got better troops out of it. After all, it had worked with him.
Just like Mordecai did with you, back in training, the thought curled around Jericho’s brain.
Yules continued. “Demons. Wonder if it’ll be imps. Or hellhounds.”
“Those are the least kind,” Moony said. He’d been a cultist, once upon a time. And not the sanctioned kind, which was why he was working off his crimes in service. “The worst ones are the ones that look human.”
“Now why’s that?” Zanzibar wondered.
“Demons are from the outside. They have no way to understand this world, unless they’re the greatest of lords, or they’re bound by a pact, or both. And to seal the pact, you have to give it the head and heart of something. Not the body, just the head and heart. Takes a bird or a bat, to pact an imp. Kill a dog, get a hellhound. So to get one that looks human…”
“You can stop there,” Yules said.
But Moony didn’t. “They get the memories, some of them, if the brain’s intact. They get the senses, and the perspectives, and some people think they get the souls, too. But the ones that look human are the worst. They come back wrong...”
“Enough,” Jericho said, looking up the line. “The Inquisitor is here.”
And there she was, walking up to the King, dressed simply in her white-furred coat and high traveling boots. She put a hand on his shoulder, and pointed back towards town.
But Moony kept talking. “There’s always been talk, you know, of the Fallen Six. Of why they had closed-casket funerals. Why the king had all their portraits destroyed…”
“Stow it, Moony! Look alive!”
The Inquisitor ambled over to them, and nodded.
“I’m with your unit tonight, gentlemen.” She brushed back long, straight black hair with one red-nailed hand. “You have your orders. Let’s go do this.”
Jericho nodded, and the horns blew, as the legion started forward. Scouts in the vanguard, and Jericho and the rest of the ninth were among them, leaping over the rocks in the river’s ford, and charging up the hill. He saw Mordecai’s head snap toward them, as lightning flared, but then they were in the treeline and charging past the first Raggedy Man. It raked out at Zanzibar and the scout cried out, twisted aside, and nocked an arrow.
“Leave it and keep moving!” Jericho bellowed. The Raggedy Man pursued, but stopped as the first wave of infantry hit it, heavy shields dripping from the ford, swords rising and falling as they clustered around the wood golem. It turned and lashed out with thorny hands, sending troopers flying, but more closed in, and around the perimeter Jericho knew the other units were doing the same.
Then he was out and into the clearing, as the first of the three dragon knights they’d brought flew overhead, breath flaring to illuminate the area. Mordecai was gone from the roof, and Jericho’s eyes tightened. “Camouflage!” he snapped, and the scouts faded from view one by one.
Unconcerned, the Inquistor sauntered across the bloody lawn… up until she reached the door, then blue sparks flew from the handle as she tried to turn it.
Sneering, she pulled out a scroll. “Dispel Enchantment,” she told it, and magic flared, and dissipated.
Shouts from the left, and arrows flew out of the trees, into the unit following. “Rapid Fire!” Jericho heard Mordecai yell, and he held his breath and ducked low as a spray of arrows flew from the trees, into the infantry unit following behind. Men screamed and fell back. Casting a glance backward, the Inquisitor moved through the doorway, and Jericho followed. “Give me a perimeter!” he hissed over the Party Whisper.
“On it, Captain!” Yules said, and the rest acknowledged, but by then Jericho was in the wrecked front room of the house, moving from doorway to doorway, securing the area. “People moving upstairs,” he sent a Wind’s Whisper to the Inquisitor.
But the woman was stopped, by the ruin of a table. Crouched low, she held a picture frame in both hands, staring at a portrait through shattered glass.
“Miss, we need to move, you’re in danger,” Jericho tried again.
“No, Mr. Scout,” Anise said, rising up, still holding the twisted frame, staring at the distorted image through shattered glass. “I’m as safe as if I was in my own house.”
CRIK… CRAKK… CRUNCH. With inexorable strength, the woman broke the frame, ripping it and the portrait below into pieces. She tossed them into the smoldering coals of the blocked fireplace.
“What? Who’s there! Mordecai!” Came a bellow from upstairs, and the Inquistior waved a hand in Jericho’s direction.
She can see me? A chill ran down his spine.
“Go play with the old fool outside. I’ll handle the one in here,” she told him, leaping up to the second story.
Jericho nodded, and got outside just in time to see one of the dragons bellow, and fall from the sky, wings torn off by glowing arrows.
Jericho closed his eyes, and drew his bow tight. “All right, boys and girls,” he told his squad. “I want him taken alive.”
They came, with the runes on their armor suppressed, without torches, not that they needed them. Behind the unit of soldiers, Taylor’s Delve burned, sending smoke and fire far up into the sky.
Just one more house, Grant figured, then they’d be done with it. Bad for morale, running down civilians and killing them, but he’d done worse in the North. Besides, they were all traitors. And he had his orders, there, with the King’s Declaration of War buffing all his fighting stats. Death to Traitors, it said, and that was their job tonight.
A dragon flew overhead, heavy wings beating. The first pass had shown only darkness, its rider had reported.
“Gonna kill us some piggers,” one of the footmen next to Grant said “Gonna roast ‘em up and hear ‘em squeal. Makin’ bacon.”
Grant shot him a look. “Shut up.”
“Just saying, I bet they smell like ham when they burn.”
Grant’s fist crashed into the footman’s helm, and the idiot fell like a poleaxed cow. Grant didn’t even break stride.
“What the shit? What the shit was that about?” The idiot was saying as he got up, and Grant heard Boyle and Kaney restrain him.
“The Grand Knight’s a pigger, you idiot,” Kaney hissed. “Lucky she ain’t here yet! Say that word around her you’re dead!”
They made it out into the clearing, and the crude little hut on the hill. Smoke seeped out of it, and for a second, Grant wondered if the family that lived here had saved him the trouble. He was running without scouts this time, for reasons that hadn’t been made clear to him, so he was running blind and pissed about it.
“Come out with your hands over your head! By order of the King!” he called.
No answer.
He started forward-
-and the winds whipped up, as thunder roared across the clearing, as the freakish storm that had suddenly sprung up to theweast roared in, pounding rain and hail, and instantly visibility went straight to hell.
The fires of the town were rendered down to a shrinking glow, and the night pressed in…
And a voice rang out from everywhere and nowhere.
“Stupid boys…” It hissed, and Grant turned, barking orders, spreading his squad into a perimeter.
“Unclever girls…” the voice growled, and somewhere behind Grant, Kaney screamed.
“Come out and show yourself!” Grant barked.
“You come to kill an orc? You come to kill an orc in the night?”
Then the drums started all around them, and the rain fell harder as the soldiers screamed in the darkness…
“This is as far as I’m going,” Garon shouted, ending the forced march.
“What? No!” Celia shouted, staring in horror.
Ahead of them, a half-mile upriver, the forest burned. Two dragons wheeled overhead, one rider gone and the other slumped in his saddle. They were visible due to the fires that roared and billowed among the pines, glinting off of corpses in armor, and showing figures rushing back and forth through the trees.
“Yes!” Garon said. “Go and save Dad! Your Dad too!” Garon turned, and started back. “I’m going to get Mom. We can meet back at Oblivion Point, now go! Forced March!
“But…” Celia gave up, as he sped off down the river. Already enhanced by his movement buff, the weird smoke he’d inhaled supercharged his agility. There was no stopping him, and no catching up to him.
“Come on! Follow me an’ be quiet!” Jarrik commanded, and they waded through the trees and the chaos.
Amazingly, somehow, they managed to navigate the chaos and get to the side of the house. Crouched down, hidden by the remaining bushes, they were secure for the minute. Celia froze, as she saw the remaining windows shake, as a great, hollow bellow of reverberating metal came pouring out from the structure. Flames licked at the other side of the house where a dragon had sprayed it with its breath during a pass.
“I hear Dad!” Jarrik said, pointing off in the woods.
“You!” Caradon shouted from upstairs. “What is this? What the hell is this?” The old man’s voice held a pain Celia had never heard, and she panicked, her somewhat herb-jumbled mind dropping to the worst conclusions.
“We have to save Daddy!” She insisted. The boys shot her a look, looked at each other…
…then looked at the black armored guards, walking out of the burning building’s front door. They saluted in unison, as a huge man in red armor, glowing with almost its own malevolence, walked up the hill. Great horns rose from his helm, his featureless visor turning from side to side as he strode forward, sword out and shield leering, showing a moving, demonic face. Hellish images glowed in the firelight as he strode forward, not bothering to step over the bodies in his path, grinding the corpses of the fallen under his heel as he went.
“Oh my gods,” Celia hissed.
“We can’t take him,” Jarrik said. He pointed at the back porch. “Get to the second story from the overhang, get your Daddy out! We’ll need Dad to get us out of here. We’ll go get him. Use Wind’s Whisper when you’ve got him and we’ll figure out a way to escape. Go!”
Celia nodded dumbly. She threw Threadbare up to the porch overhang, then grabbed a few chairs and piled them together. “Go make sure it’s clear!” She hissed at Threadbare.
Threadbare nodded, and slipped through the broken window. He ran down the hall, just as Emmet burst out of one of the rooms the little bear had never entered. For a second, the toy golem and the armor golem stared at each other, kindred soul to kindred soul.
“Command Gol-,” Threadbare heard Caradon croak from back in the room, before the sound of flesh hitting flesh interrupted him.
“Oh do shut up, old man,” came a familiar woman's voice. “Let’s see…” Paper crinkled. “Command Golem. Go out of this building with your hands up and do nothing once you’re out.”
Emmet stomped toward the stairs and fell off the railing, with an enormous crash. A lot of yelling came from downstairs, and Threadbare realized that hey, there were guards inside the house too.
“Is it clear?” Celia whispered from the end of the hallway.
Threadbare toddled back and shook his head no. No, the direct approach seemed to be pretty much suicide.
WIS +1
“Ohhhh… Fump it!” Celia swore. She glanced up. “The attic window’s broken. Come on, let’s move.”
It took some careful balancing and scrambling to get up into the attic. Half of the house was burning, and the heat sweltered down on them as they scrambled through the boxes and crates, until they heard voices. Celia lay down, and squinted through the cracks. Threadbare did too.
They saw Caradon, in his bedroom, laying against the wall. He was bruised and battered and bloody, with his apron torn and tools spilling around him. Next to the old man, squatting on her haunches, with one red-nailed hand wrapped around his throat, was a familiar figure.
“You!” Celia gasped, then covered her mouth.
Anise Layd’i looked up. She squinted, as Celia pulled away from the crack, covering her mouth…
Metal-shod boots clanked, boards creaking below, as the crimson-armored behemoth stomped into view. Celia looked back, sighed silently in relief as she saw Anise standing, looking away from the ceiling… a sigh that turned to a gasp as she saw the armored man wasn’t alone. Five twisted black blades orbited him, the demonic faces on them gibbering and looking around with glowing green eyes as they circled and looped.
She knew that spell. Sort of… It was Animus Blade, but what kind of blades were those?
“You…” Caradon hissed with a venom Celia had never heard before. “You son of a bitch.” The old man stood, and Anise stood with him.
“Are we alone?” The demon knight said, his voice deep and unearthly.
“No,” Anise said, and pointed upward. “The girl.”
Horns tilted as the man glanced upward and that was all the warning they had.
Celia shrieked as five blades punched a hole in the ceiling around her, then shifted clockwise, cutting through the floor.
Before she or Threadbare could do anything, the girl fell through the floor, into the room below.
No! Celia!
Threadbare threw himself through the hole, going after her-
-and one of the demon blades twisted, blurred into position under him, and shot upward.
CON +1
Your Golem Body Skill is now level 20!
Your Toughness Skill is now level 12!
Max HP +2
The sword pinned Threadbare to the roof of the attic. The blade sunk in easily and kept on going, until the hilt slammed against him, stuffing spilling out, spraying to either side of him as he felt the blade rip through.
He hung there, suspended, as a red ‘159’ filled his vision, and floated up through the ceiling.
“You leave Daddy alone!” Celia yelled, shouting, going red in the face as she ran to Caradon and hugged him.
The old man, staggered, clasped Celia to his apron. He stared at the demon knight, and the womanlike thing that smiled serenely next to the intruder.
“Please, just let us go!” Celia howled.
“I can’t do that, Cecelia,” The demon knight rumbled. He waved his hand, and his whirring blades fell silent one by one, landing in a clatter on the floor. The one holding Threadbare blackened as he stared at it, green eyes fading out and fiendish face twitching before it fell still. But it was still stuck in him, holding him suspended above the people below.
“It’s time to go,” the demon knight continued. “Here. Invite Cecelia. I’ll explain everything.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you!”
“Yes you are. It’s time to go home.”
“This is my home!”
“Judging by those flames, not for very much longer,” Anise said, smling serenely. A smile that turned to a gasp of pain, as the Demon Knight glared at her, and a yellow ‘84’ floated out from her.
“Now is not the time for your twisted brand of humor, dear.”
“Sorry love,” Anise caressed his visor, pretending to forgive the moxie damage he’d just dealt her. “I’ll behave for now.”
“What did you do to her,” Caradon rumbled, finding his courage in outrage. “Why is that thing wearing Amelia’s face!”
“Wait, what?” Celia whipped her tear-stained face away from his apron. “You’re… my mother?”
Anise winked at Celia.
“No, it’s… run, Celia! Run!” Caradon shoved her toward a window-
-and the armored figure shook his head. “Animus, invite sheets,” he said before the little girl could react. The sheets peeled off of the wrecked bed and wrapped Celia before she could escape.
Caradon grimaced. “Ani-“
Anise punched him, and he fell, with a bloody nose.
“This is pathetic, old man,” The demon knight said. “Especially against your own family.”
“You’re no blood of mine!” Caradon growled, hand over his nose.
“No. But I’m blood of hers,” The figure said, pointing to Celia. “And you’ve kept her from me long enough.”
“I… I don’t understand.” Celia said, from her binding among the sheets.
“He never told you, did he?”
“Told me what?”
“Don’t listen!” Caradon shouted, then Anise was hauling him up, and wrapping her hand around his mouth.
The demon knight bowed his head. Then he reached back behind his helm. “Hello Cecelia…”
And as clasps fell away, the big man lifted away the horned helm, revealing a stern face, almost luminescent green eyes, and a manelike spray of red, frizzy hair.
The same kind of hair that Celia combed every morning, and had wrestled with all her life.
“…I’m your father,” said King Melos Ragandor the First.
Spoiler: Spoiler



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Andrew Seiple


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