The Mercenary Queen

Something Sinister This Way Comes

“The anchor points that hold Tamathraniel here,” Aloranna points at the stonework beneath them. Aislynn can see a definite pattern in the stones. Aloranna leads her up the stone stairs back to the entrance of the Hall of the King and points down. As she looks down she sees the enormous pentagram carved into the stone surrounded by not just one circle, but three and having five separate connected circles all inscribed with arcane runes and symbols that make her head swim to look at much less read them. Aloranna gazes down at them quietly mouthing some of the words, then shakes her head. “Marrek out did himself. He told Salaius he wasn’t all that powerful of a wizard when he brought the youngster on, but apparently he had a lot more power available than he let on.” She grimaced and glanced Ed’s direction. “That’s the problem with Blood Mages, they tend to take on the aspects of the demons they cavort with.”

As Aislynn stares down at the circles within circles, she manages to connect the dots. The main circle is the summoning circle with Tamathraniel’s name inscribed within. The other circles were interconnected, but none of them held the ‘anchor points’ needed to secure any kind of bond that would keep Tamathraniel coming back. There had to be a trigger, or so she thought she remembered. A trigger that would summon the demon back. Since his name was ensconced within the circle, written in …

Her eyes went wide.

Getting excited Aislynn starts to squeal and stumble over her words then she just stops, closes her eyes, and with all the self control she can muster she exclaims with a glint in her eye, “Tamathraniel’s name is placed in the center of the circle in forged Seraphinite !!!!!” She is beside herself that she was the one to figure it out. These thing don’t usually make sense to her.

Aloranna gazed confused at Aislynn for a moment, then turns and stares down at the circle. Her eyes grow wide as she hurriedly descends the stairs and kneels down in the center of the circle, staring at the name.

“Damn!” She glances up, catching Ed’s eye, “This is bad.”

Now very scared that she did something wrong she questions Aloranna with a whine and near tears, “Wait, why bad? I figured it out right? Aloranna, did I do something wrong?”

Aloranna rises and pats her on the shoulder with a reassuring smile, “You’re fine, Aislynn, you did good.”

She points at the ground where the name is inscribed, “The reason I say it’s bad is Seraphinite is a metal which is very rare, and very hard to destroy. Very hard.” She emphasizes and continues, “That someone used it to inscribe a demon’s name and then place it in the middle of a summoning circle means a lot of power and care was expended. It also is quite permanent.” She glances back to Ed and gives a non-committal shrug, “What do you think?”

Bran peeked around the corner of the stairs after the cannon fire stops, “did we get him? Oh, and I wouldn’t go back there just yet.” Bran approaches Aislynn and Aloranna, “so what’d I miss?”

Ed swings down on a nearby rope and drops lightly to the quay. He glances toward Bran and smirking says, “Everything. Where’ve you been anyway?”

Aloranna gives Bran a quizzical look, then turns her attention to Ed.

Ed starts following the track of runes and talking as he goes, “Given the nature of the material, the amount of time needed to craft the circle and the amount of power needed to activate it, I’m guessing our buddy Marrek was a lot stronger than you might have deemed him to be, boss.” He moves closer to the circle and begins to scrutinize it as would a jeweler when looking at a diamond. After a minute or so of intense concentration he looks back at Aloranna and says, “These aren’t going anywhere without divine intervention and I don’t know about you but I don’t have an angel in my pocket I can call up at will. But, I do know we can do something about the demon right now. What’s more, we might be able to get some added information from him which could help us track down Marrek because I’ll bet you gold to gizzards he’s not quite dead… yet!”

Aloranna frowns, “What do you mean?”

“I mean if Mage boy was dead, even this wouldn’t be holding Mr. I’ve-Got-A-Bone-To- Pick-With-You over there. There might have been enough residual energy stored in the Seraphinite to keep this circle running for a good long time, but not, what, one hundred fifty years?”

“Something like that,” Aloranna nodded, then scowled and rubbed her chin. “Marrek was human though, not Asarai. He would either be a really old man, and I mean hobbling around with a cane, or he wouldn’t be alive. At least not naturally anyway.” She points over her shoulder at tall dark and ugly, “Besides, I watched him chew on the bastard. I have no doubt in my mind that he was dead.”

Sati walking up behind Aloranna and Aislynn notices the summoning circle, “Pardon me for intruding but I know a little about magic seals and demons and by looks there are breaks in that summoning circle which means it has to have multiple points to keep its energy. Look here.” Pointing at the outer circle along the edge “It’s Asari mentioning three more seals and something, I can’t make it out clearly.”

Looking at Aloranna curiously “Mind telling me what was up with that accursed book that gun happy guy and the amulet that she has on her, I sense a great evil coming from both.”

Aloranna raises an eyebrow as she looks at Sati, “Well, they might be a couple of miscreants, but I don’t know about great evil.” She gives a little grin and shakes her head, “Then again, most of us who are part of this band are probably in need of salvation.” She gives Aislynn a sideways glance and shrugs, turning her attention back to the comatose demon.

“Well doesn’t it seem a little odd that that thing…” Sati looking at the unconscious Baal-rog continues “looked straight at you first then turned his attention to… Aloranna, right? Then of all things those skeletons came to life once that amulet came off of that corpse.” Looking at Ed “So who is this Salaius and Marrek guy and where are they? From what I understand ugly there ate Marrek or at least a piece and Salaius has been with you guys, maybe he can explain a little bit about that ‘Seahammer’ book and that amulet”

“Aye, that would be me!” Salaius strode up and rested his hand on the metal railing of the central ship. “I’m the Pirate King, little lady?” He grinned at his own pun. “I have Haran secured below decks, my lady.” He nodded to Aloranna, "I think he’ll calm down eventually, but we need to get Big Ugly there taken care of as soon as possible.

“Strange things happen all the time, you just have to pay attention there, Miss …?” Aloranna raises an eyebrow and stares at Sati, “Sorry, I haven’t been introduced yet?”

“So basically we need a Priest of Light that has an angel on beckon call? Nope, I don’t know of one. But hey, I read somewhere that a human could stay alive for centuries IF the right deal was made with powerful enough demon or God. Could this Marrek guy have done that? Isn’t Big Ugly that powerful? I’m just saying that it is possible.”

Aloranna shrugs and grimaces, “I don’t know enough about him to answer that question Aislynn,” She pointed to Ed, “He knows more about them than I do. Marrek was an ass, and he seemed to think he was king of the world.” She glances at Ed, “Anything is possible though.”

Aislynn looks at Sari she comments, “You mean this amulet? What about it?”
Salaius climbs down the ladder and joins over to the rest of the group, “Blood Mage, yes. Intelligent bastard, no.” He shook his head and crossed his arms, “there’s no way big ugly there was friends or even one of Marrek’s buddies. They created the contract right there in front of me.” Salaius shudders visibly. “I ain’t never seen nothing like it before and I hope to never see it happen again.” He glances at the amulet and smirks, “That was Marrek’s little surprise on tomb raiders who were cruisin’ for a bit of cash that they thought might remain down here.” He shrugged his shoulders and glanced at Sati with a wry grin, “People will think the darnedest things about old Pirate Hideouts, now won’t they.”

“It’s entirely possible that ugly there did an illusion of him munching or….. Marrek was a blood mage right?” Sati asks.

“That would imply intelligence, and I’ve never given much credit to demons having intelligence.” Salaius chuckles. “Marrek, we’ve already established was an idiot.”

“Well Blood Mages are known to make clones of themselves. Maybe Tamathraniel munched on a clone without realizing it.” Sati shot back.

“Interesting thought. Wouldn’t big bad and bloody there have been able to taste the difference?” Bran Asks “Kinda like chicken and pork. Just cause it’s the other white, I mean red, meat. It doesn’t mean you can’t taste the difference.”

Aloranna nodded, “He would have known who he was eating, especially if he made a contract with him. They are bound to one another through the contract.”

Sati nods and continues, “Quite possible, but I heard from my master that truly skilled Blood Mages are extremely hard to tell the difference between real and fake, even for demons and devils”

Aloranna grimaces and moves to stand before the group, “All this speculation is wonderful, but I think with what our happy little friend in the mines just set off and with what Tamathraniel just said, we are up to our necks in alligators.” She glances at each of them in turn, and then looks back over her shoulder at big Ugly. “We were sent up here to find out what happened to the villagers, and that is our first priority. Whatever agreement you make with Tamathraniel,” She points to Ed, “Make sure it doesn’t involve you becoming his bitch boy.” She looks at the other. “We don’t know what we’re up against yet, or why anyone would be rebuilding that old wreck overhead, but if it has anything to do with those villagers, then we need to find out what it is that is going on, and get them out if they’re alive. Agreed?” She turns her attention back to Sati, “If you’re done seeing evil popping up at every corner, you can join us in our quest. If you’re not interested then have fun hunting undead evil wherever you may find it.”

She turns and looks back at Ed, “Let’s get this over with.”

Aislynn, looking at Salaius, “If I continue to wear this what will happen?” Looking at Aloranna, “Ready to go when you are.”

“That will end up blowing up the whole underground facility if you leave through the main entrance.” Salaius smiles a little sheepishly. “It was basically meant to be a trigger for anyone who infiltrated the hideout.” He shrugs his shoulders and grimaces, “It was aimed at the typical tomb raider, not our own people. It would be best if you just tossed it back on the throne. We won’t need it anymore.”



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