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  • #31
    Chapter 29: Isekai Life & Butler Revelation

    We filed into the room the carrion crawlers had occupied, gagging at the stench, and saw what they were feasting on- a small pile of bodies, stacked like cordwood, charred and burned but still quite raw on the inside. They just barely identifiable as humanoid, and since we were unable to do anything for them now, we moved on.

    “Am I beginning to sense a theme here?” Voss said after a tense silence, “The fire pattern on the jar, the guy they burned at the stake, the arson of that temple....”

    “Yeah, I noticed that, too,” I replied, “That's part of why we're collecting evidence. We just need to know how this all ties together.”

    “There are a number of gods and goddesses that require burnt offerings,” Ashryn added, “Could be that Lord Gauthi is a worshipper gone mad.”

    “Could be that he's just a run of the mill firebug, though....”

    There was a hissing voice from the shadows up ahead. “Would you keep it down! 'S bad enough we had all them skeletons on top o' us right off, jeez!”

    We continued in glum silence.

    Of course I already knew that it wasn't a “run of the mill” anything. Ashryn's prophecy was pretty clear. “Fire and storm,” it said, then “Sea and ice. Light, shadow, and doom itself.” If “Fire” was some madman who literally set people on fire, what could the rest of them mean? A wizard who specialized in lightning for storm? A pirate for sea? A viking for ice?

    While we walked, I glanced over at Katriana. She had her own scrapes from the fight with the skeletons, although I wondered about what Corgiel said. Was Katriana really carrying my baby right now?

    And, if so... should I be letting her fight like this? But, I couldn't protest without breaking one of Corgiel's rules. How would I be able to explain how I knew she was pregnant before she herself knew?

    I was going to be a father twice over before I've been playing this game for a year. That's... that's a lot to process.

    Eventually we caught up to Enna, who was waiting at the mouth to another larger room. She pointed a thumb at it. “Centipede infestation. Shouldn't be too much of a trouble to pass, but keep your wits about you and don't let 'em get close.”

    Indeed, the next room was positively crawling with 6 inch long centipedes, who immediately sensed out presence and started closing in. I don't know what they hoped to accomplish- I guess a group of beggars or whatever else ended up down here would be easier prey- but we immediately set to work squishing bugs.

    The “fight” didn't last long, but it ended with an unfortunate bang- something fell on Calliope from above, and she screamed “Get it off, get it off!” while flailing her arms. Katriana jumped in, grabbing the centipede and flinging it against a wall where it impacted with a dull splat, but the damage was done. All at once Calliope collapsed, with Katriana barely having time to grab the girl before she fell to the floor.

    Katriana tsked with annoyance. “Yeah, she was bitten. But it's okay, she'll be fine once the venom wears off in a few hours.”

    I nodded. “Once we make the basement, we'll have a rest and wait for her to come around. Until then, can you carry her?”

    Katriana sighed and nodded. “She's not light, but I think I can manage.”

    Finally we came into an adjacent room where Enna stopped us, and pointed up at the ceiling. “I think we've found our spot.”

    Above us was a grate, and beyond that the rough-beamed ceiling of an interior room, dark but with an oil lamp set into the wall. Judging by the ooze that clung to the grating, this was where wastewater and other miserable things were poured down... but, there were also casks of some kind sitting on top of the grate, which could be bad. No way we could move them if they were actually heavy.

    Enna motioned to Voss. “C'mere, Vossy boy, and give me a lift.”

    Grimacing, nonetheless Voss kitted his hands together and lifted Enna up to stand on his shoulders as she examined the grate. Filth from Enna's booth dripped over his shiny new armour.

    “Welp, good news is that this grating 'as been used recently,” Enna said as she slipped her picklocks from a pouch on her belt. I could just make out her wiggling a padlock so it's keyhole sat over a hole in the grating. A few minutes later, she cursed. “Well, so much for 'at. Brace yerself, Vossy boy.”

    She drew her shortsword and slipped the blade in between where the side of the grate met the floor. She slammed her palm against the pommel of the sword, causing the grate to lift and fall with a loud clatter. She cursed, and tried again, this time opening the padlock with a loud snap.

    “Well, so much for bein' quiet, but we're in,” she said as she bounced down off of Voss' shoulders, “Why don't you give that spear a workout and see if'n you can prod 'ose barrels off the grate.”

    “Yes ma'am,” Voss said, extending his spear up butt-first and pushing aside the barrels with a loud, hollow clatter. He winced, but Enna shrugged.

    A moment later she was hefted back up into the air and throwing the grate open. She tied off a rope for the rest of us, and climbed on out, sword drawn.

    Getting Calliope out proved something of a challenge, so we eventually settled for Voss climbing out first, then Enna and him hauling her out by her arms while Katriana lifted her up. Thankfully, the ceiling in this chamber was relatively low, only seven or eight feet up, compared to the longer drop we had coming in from the street.

    Poor Calliope probably got a number of new bruises and scratches from the experience, but hopefully it wouldn't be too bad.

    With help form Katriana and Voss, I was able to scramble out out myself. Ashryn was getting ready for her own ascent when Enna hissed at us from where she stood beside the door to the upper room. “Douse 'em torches!”

    I heard the sizzling sound of Ashryn and Katriana dousing their torches in the mud below, but my eyes were focused on the door. What happened next was almost too fast to follow, but luckily Enna and Voss were both on point.

    The door opened, a blond teenager in scale mail- he couldn't have been older than fifteen- opened the door and walking into the room, talking over his shoulder. “I swear, old man, if we have rats- urk!” He was cut off as Enna slapped a hand over his mouth, pulled him to the side, and slammed her shortsword into the side of his neck. While the... squire, I guess? Was busy dying in Enna's arms, Voss grabbed the person he was speaking to- a sixtyish year old man in servant's livery, and yanked him into the room, clamping his own hand over the surprised man's mouth.

    I was kind of stuck by how brutal Enna was. But then again, “backstab” seems innocuous on paper, but I guess what it really means is exactly this kind of brutality.

    Enna dropped the body and was advancing on the servant when I interposed myself. “Hey, he's just an old man, let's at least see if he's willing to keep quiet and be a good hostage for us, okay?”

    Enna sheathed her sword, but I couldn't make out her expression in the dim light. “S'alright, you're the boss.”

    Voss kept ahold of the old man while Enna lit in the oil lamp in the small room. It seemed a simple basement storage room, with crates and empty wine casks stacked in the back. When Ashryn clambered up the rope, she and Enna lifted up poor Calliope to lay across a few of the crates- hardly comfortable but at least she was off the floor.

    I went over and patted her hand. “Sorry about this, Calliope. I know you're probably going to give us hell later for being so rough with you, but, well, you know our situation. I guess I don't really blame you... but I'm glad it wasn't deadly poison. I kind of like having you around, even though you can be kind of bitter.”

    She rolled her eyes at me, but of course didn't say anything.

    Katriana was the last one out of the catacombs, and once she was gone, Enna checked the pockets on the squire's body then unceremoniously dumped him down the hole. “He's probably gonna attract more of 'em crawlers, and I'd sooner they be down 'ere rather 'an up 'ere,” she said as she passed me a small purse.

    I couldn't argue with that logic, really.

    Finally I was able to turn to the servant. “Okay, you know what will happen to you if you yell for help, alright?”

    The servant, eyes as big as dinner plates, nodded.

    “Great. Voss, you can take your hand off his mouth.”

    “About time, I'm all spitty now.”

    The servant breathed a big sigh. “Please, sir, don't hurt me.”

    I gave him a nod. “If you cooperate and don't try to hinder us, we won't. We only killed the boy because he was obviously an armed combatant. We don't want to harm anyone who we don't have to.”

    “Poor lad. He shouldn't have gotten wrapped up in... but, I get ahead of myself. What's your purpose here, sir?”

    I thought for a moment before giving my response. “We're adventurers, hired to find evidence that Lord Gauthi is involved in criminal activity.”

    The old man visibly relaxed. “Oh, thank the All-Father, finally someone came!”

    I gave him a skeptical look. “What do you mean?”

    “I'm one of two remaining staff members, sir. Nobody was safe. Not even the lady of the house, nor the old lord! It is only myself and Miss Jerla left of the old guard, sir, not counting Sir Bragin, Sir Hewin, and, ah....” His eyes rolled to the side, to the hole where we unceremoniously dumped the squire.

    I thought about what he said. “Voss, let him go, he's not really a threat.” Voss did so, and the I asked, “Please, tell me your story.”

    The old man took a deep breath. “Lord Gauthi, well, the current Lord Gauthi, became interested in some kind of occult society a few years ago. It seemed fairly benign, at first, although his lady wife complained about him spending too much time at his secret meetings and not enough at home.

    But then, about eight months ago, the old Lord Gauthi disappeared, vanished in the night. The young lady did some sleuthing, it seems, because a few weeks after she accused the young lord of murdering his own father, and as thanks, he pushed her into the grand old fireplace, and held her there while she burned. Oh, the screaming, it was horrible....”

    “Why didn't anyone go to seek help?”

    “The household knights, sir, and young Thonric. They were wrapped up in this occult business too, it seemed, and helped the young lord keep us in line. Beating us, and cutting up anyone who acting disrespectful. But it got worse. First, the lady's handmaidens vanished, and the rest of us were too afraid to say anything. But we disappeared one by one regardless, the young and strong going first. Eventually, Lord Gauthi stopped with the pretenses, and began conducting rituals in the dining hall, burning people alive in the fireplace.”

    I nodded. “And the cook isn't a part of this?”

    “No, sir. At least... I don't think so.”

    “Alright, mister...”

    “Bekker, sir. Bekker Woodward.”

    “Bekker. If your story is true, and you're not complicit in this, we'll make sure you get out of here alive, but we're going to have to tie you up as a precaution, alright?”

    “Yes, sir. I understand. Just, not too tight. My circulation isn't so good these days.”

    We settled for tying him with his back to one of the heavy casks. He was too weak to get up, but relatively comfortable.

    Katriana knelt by him. “Bekker, how do the hobgoblins figure into all this?”

    “They were hired a few weeks ago, my lady. For additional security, I suppose. They're housed in the old servant rooms, now that they're... gone.”

    She shook her head, and rose. “I'm going to enjoy getting my hands on this guy.”

    “You're not the only one,” Voss replied.

    So, there was nothing to do, for a time, other than sit quietly and wait for Calliope's paralysis to wear off.

    -------------------------------------------

    Character Name: Theodore Esche
    Race: Human
    Class: Transmuter
    Level (XP): 2 (2693/5000)
    Hit Points: 5

    Ability Scores
    Strength 11
    Dexterity 17
    Constitution 8
    Intelligence 17
    Wisdom 13
    Charisma 14

    Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

    Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

    Spells Per Day:
    1st Level- 2

    Spellbook:
    (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

    Equipment: Backpack, Bags of Fine Sand (2), Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Magical Crowbill (Held in Trust), Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

    Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

    Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

    Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 1 Cleric, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker), Smokey Enna (Level 1 Fighter/Level 1 Thief)

    Sexual Partners: 2
    Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
    Currently Working On: Banter and chats
    Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

    Comment


    • #32
      Chapter 30: Isekai Life & Stolen Landscape

      It was extremely boring.

      Sitting there, talking as little as possible, waiting for hours.

      Or at least what seemed like hours.

      Finally, there was a sharp rapping on the door, one that got all of us (except Calliope and Bekker) scrambling up to our feet as quietly as possible.

      “Hey, old man! Is Thronric in there with you? How long does it take to check for some stupid rats?”

      All our eyes (except Calliope's) descended on the old butler.

      He cleared his throat. “Some of these casks are quite heavy, sir! Young Thronric is just helping move them about so we can check for ratholes!”

      “Ratholes? He ought to have better things to do than-!”

      The door opened, revealing a greasy, twentysomething man in mail, with a broadsword strapped to his waist. I'm not sure what he was expecting, but it wasn't three armed people with sword, spear and mace pointed at him.

      This time, though, the man was too canny for Enna's surprise attack. When she leapt at him from behind one of the crates, he was able to dodge back and draw his weapon.

      “Intruders! Intruders in the basement!”

      Enna cursed. “Well, a'right, looks like we're goin' loud!”

      She leapt forward with another stab, this time catching the knight in the armpit with a shallow cut. Katriana was quick to follow suit, but the man parried with a clang that was deafening in these close quarters. Voss came it with his spear them, and the knight sidestepped... straight into a full, two-handed mace swing from Ashryn. Her mace collided with his head with a gut-wrenching crunch, but to his credit the man did not fall.

      The knight's counterswipe was clumsy and ineffective, and he overextended himself such that Enna was able to get another quick poke at him in the same weak point. Voss then lunged forward, gruesomely impaling the man's throat on his spearpoint, dropping him to the floor in a gurgling heap.

      “Well, so much for stealth,” I muttered bitterly.

      Enna shrugged. “You did pick me up outta prison, you know? No guarantee I was a good thief.”

      She had me there.

      “Hey, Voss, stay and guard the door,” I asked, Someone's got to keep Calliope and the butler safe.”

      He gave me a little salute with his spear. “You got it.”

      For the rest of- Enna, Katriana, Ashryn and myself- we scrambled upstairs. There was a stubby little hallways outside the storage room with only a pair of other doors branching off from it, but we could check those later. Our real prizes were above.

      Enna was in the front of the pack, while I carried up the rear. A confused looking hobgoblin peered at us as we were coming up the stairs, but Enna cut him down easily with a shouted battle cry.

      We emerged into a grand hall, lined with portraits and what appeared to be the front doors at one end, with a wrought iron spiral staircase twisting yet upwards, and a half-dozen openings branching off from it. Seemingly guided by instinct, Enna took us through one of the archways and into a finely appointed dining room, where a squad of five hobgoblins in full plate were already hustling to intercept us.

      I kind of shrugged to myself. With only eleven combatants left, this would appear to be my best opportunity. I dug in my pouches for a pinch of sand and intoned the Hex of Lotus and Willow. Three of the hobgoblins blinked blearily and fell sleep, startling the remaining two, who were suddenly not so certain about how to proceed.

      Enna launcher herself in as usual, her strike being blocked by one of the hobgoblin's halberds. It was enough to distract him so that Katriana could stab him through the visor on his helmet, and he collapsed in a twitching him on top of his sleeping fellows.

      The other one made a clumsy swipe with a morningstar at Ashryn, but she blocked him out with her shield, and struck back, only to have her mace bounce off his armour. It was enough, still, for Katriana to come up from behind him and run him through the back, just beneath the breastplate.

      While Enna settled in to the grim task of robbing the dead and giving the sleeping hobgoblins “the ol' slitty” as she put it, we scanned the room for valuables and clues. There was a closed door heading off to what was probably the kitchen, but other than some gold candlesticks set with crystal that I stowed away for pawning later, nothing seemed too valuable.

      That is, until I came to something that looked like a liquor cabinet. Popping it open, the first thing I noticed was a glass bottle filled with some kind of syrup, multicoloured substance that look positively garish, but seemed magical in some way, so I popped it into my bag, along with a a bottle of amber liquid called “Slanting Soldier Special Reserve” and marked with a date from about a century earlier.

      Ashryn was rather taken by one of the paintings in the room. It was just under an armspan long and perhaps two feet wide, depicting a verdant landscape and waterfall and set in a finely carved frame with images of animals frolicking about.

      “You like that one?” I asked.

      She nodded. “There's something soothing about it.”

      I nodded back and reached up to take it off the wall.

      Ashryn seemed shocked. “Oh, you don't have to do that! It'll be a huge hassle carrying out a big painting!”

      I shrugged at her. “If it does prove to be a hassle, we can sell it and at least be satisfied that it's no longer in the hands of evil. If it isn't... well, I have to make sure I keep my second wife happy, right?”

      Ashryn beamed a bright smile at me. “Okay, then! Let me help.”

      “No, sorry, let me handle it, your hands have a bit of fresh blood on them.”

      Not that my sewer-stained hands were bunch better, but at least they were dry.

      I carried that painting out and leaned it against the wall by the basement stairs. Hopefully we would be able to grab it during our escape, and it wouldn't get too dirty going out through the catacombs.

      When I turned around to go back to the dining room, the front door opened and hobgoblins in that identity-concealing plate mail began to file in. I quickly dashed to the side, waving at my companions to be quiet.

      The quintet came tromping up the hall, complaining loudly to one another about not getting relieved at the end of their shift and shouting, “Idrok, where are you you bastard?” Judging by the sound, the got halfway up the hall when they stopped abruptly.

      “What is it, boss?”

      “I smell blood. And that picture's out of place.”

      A deadly silence fell. Enna got up, motioned for us all to be still, and moved to circle around come up behind the armoured hobgoblins... and almost immediately found a loose board that squeaked under her, which was deafening in the silence.

      The hobgoblins shouted a battlecry and charged into the dining room. The first in was a larger hobgoblin around with a rune-inscribed greatsword, and immediately as soon as I saw himI began chanting the Formula of Zher-ah. A greatsword was no joke- 1d12 damage per hit, plus it was magical- but now that I was level two the efficacy of my Reduce spell changed, letting me apply a -20% damage debuff. Provided he didn't save, however.

      I suppose he didn't, because the big hobgoblin immediately lost about a foot and a half of height and had his battlecry rise in pitch by a half-octave.

      He expressed momentary surprise at what, to him, must have looked like a suddenly enlargening and expanding world, surprise that Katriana immediately took advantage of, brutally chopping him in the gut with a backhanded strike that sent the chain links of his hauberk flying.

      Next, I heard Ashryn praying, and a silvery glow began to appear around Katriana. Smart girl- that Protection from Evil spell would certainly come in handy with our reduced numbers. The bonus to Katriana's AC should give the hobgoblins a hit rate of 15% at best.

      The lead hobgoblin made an awkward cut with his greatsword that Katriana ducked under easily, but she was not so lucky with the hobgoblin to approach her, making a full-bodied swing with his halberd. He collided with her full on and I winced- but there was a flash of silvery light, and when I looked Katriana had only a small, bleeding scratch from where the blow would have landed.

      Two of the hobgoblins tried to flank Katriana, but Enna intercepted them, threatening with her shortsword. The threat was short lived though, as halberd and spear both zeroed in on the young Mul, who dashed back with deep, weeping cuts from the weapons.

      Enna was in deep trouble without her armor. I took up my last, precious darts and tossed- striking home with one clean through the halberdier's visor, causing him to go down with a scream.

      With the shriek of metal on metal, Katriana slammed her blade clear through the lead hobgoblin's gorget, sending him to the ground is a spray of blood. Meanwhile, Ashryn charged, moving to support Enna, flailing wildly with her mace. She didn't connect, but instead startled the hobgoblin backwards, to where Enna was able to get in close and stab deep into the small of his back with her sword.

      From one of the remaining two hobgoblins, Katriana took a full on bash with a morningstar, and I could see her grit her teeth and shakily maintain her footing. She couldn't keep up with that for much longer, and I couldn't just stand by and watch helplessly. I dove for the fallen halberdier, groping wildly for my darts.

      Ashryn leapt into the fray, aiming for the one halberdier who was holding himself in reserve and viciously striking him with her mace, pulling his attention form Katriana's fight. I couldn't see the rest of the fight from where I was kneeling, but the crash of steel on steel made me hurry, scrambling in my search.

      By the time I snatched up my three darts- tips miraculously intact, even the one that was embedded three inches deep in a hobgoblin skull- I arose in time to Katriana finish running the last hobgoblin through and letting his corpse drop to the ground.

      Well, at least I tried.

      Ashryn approach Katriana and began to mutter a healing prayer, but my sister shook her head and gestured at Enna. “She doesn't have armour.” Ashryn switched targets, and laid on hands on the young Mul.

      I couldn't help but note that we were now out of healing, our only mage who still had spells was still paralyzed, and one of our core fighters was barely standing on her feet.

      If there were any big threats coming up, we would be in serious trouble.

      -------------------------------------------

      Character Name: Theodore Esche
      Race: Human
      Class: Transmuter
      Level (XP): 2 (2904/5000)
      Hit Points: 5

      Ability Scores
      Strength 11
      Dexterity 17
      Constitution 8
      Intelligence 17
      Wisdom 13
      Charisma 14

      Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

      Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

      Spells Per Day:
      1st Level- 2

      Spellbook:
      (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

      Equipment: Backpack, Bags of Fine Sand (2), Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Magical Crowbill (Held in Trust), Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

      Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

      Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

      Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 1 Cleric, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker), Smokey Enna (Level 1 Fighter/Level 1 Thief)

      Sexual Partners: 2
      Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
      Currently Working On: Banter and chats
      Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

      Comment


      • #33
        Chapter 31: Isekai Life & Sweet Loot

        I put a soft hand on Katriana's shoulder. “Sister... take this, and go trade with Voss. You can secure our escape route while we continue on with him.”

        I handed her the runic greatsword that the lead hobgoblin had, safely sheathed now that Enna had cut the scabbard free of his back. Chances are it was some kind of magic- these hobgoblins didn't seem to be fond of embellishments or artistry in their weapons, so I'm guessing the runes were there for a purpose, The leader also had a small vial of sapphire blue liquid on him, also probably a potion, but I kept that with me- if we had to face down a level 6 knight in full plate we might be pushed to the point that blindly sampling potions starts to become a good idea.

        Katriana breathed in to protest, but the sharp intake caused her to wince. She reluctant accepted the sword. “Don't go any further until he catches up with you, alright?” she asked in a pained tone, “I don't need you to run into any more trouble.”

        Other than the possibility of the level six knight, I wasn't too worried about clearing the rest of the manor. If the cook proved hostile, they would be a level zero warrior, and if Lord Gauthi was a Gentry (which the presence of the bodyguards and the excessive amounts of treasure almost confirmed) he wouldn't be much more of a threat. I was confident leaving that up to my companions.

        But the knight was another issue. We lucked out with the other two- one was a very low-level squire and the other wasn't tough enough to hold his own against five mildly seasoned adventurers. Someone with a potential sixty HP and probably better equipment to boot? It would be dangerous,

        The enchanted crowbill weighed on my mind. Of course, my chances for maximum benefits would be to deliver my meagre dart-based fire support and retreat, and make good my escape if my companions were overcome. But... I couldn't bring myself to do that.

        For one, even though she was very obviously more in love with me than I was with her, I was warming up to Ashryn a lot. The sweet elf girl was genuinely a joy to be around, and while her tactical instincts left a lot to be desired, her eagerness for new experiences was endearing. And, as I found out when I levelled up, she was already bearing my child... an idea I was still getting used to.

        And then there was Calliope. She was acting oddly enough at times, that I was left to wonder if she was still carrying a torch for me. Theodore was still carrying a bit of a torch for her up until the point I took over. And if I was being honest, as much as I was exasperated before, I really enjoyed her sarcastic wit. I was interested in seeing how things would go, not just for another “conquest” or whatever, but because all the sweetness from my relationships with Katriana and Ashryn kind of left me craving a little bit of sour.

        And then there were Voss and Enna. Voss was a good guy, and I had really meant it when I offered to make him a knight for helping to support me. As much as I was hoping for him to sacrifice himself for Katriana, more and more I was looking forward to having a friend like him around, someone I could trust with the garrison of my home castle or whatever. As for Enna... she had her own turn of wit, but more than that, I would feel pretty awful dragging her into all this and then abandoning her. And she was a hell of a fighter, maybe not quite punching at Katriana's level but able to ambush enemies with a terrible brutality. As much as I poo-poo'ed thieves before, that backstab was pretty effective, even if she proved to be more mediocre the longer a fight went on.

        So, even though I had my darts ready, I took out the crowbill and slipped it into my belt, just in case.

        While waiting for Voss, Enna and Ashryn went around to finish clearing the ground floor. There was a brief scream, and a short while after they returned to say that while the rest of the room were very finely appointed, “Furniture and huntin' trophies ain't good lootin'” according to Enna, so they were empty handed. They found the cook blubbering in the pantry, but when Ashryn tried to get close to calm him down, he just screamed at her, so they left him alone.

        Which meant that our true foes were above.

        Enna, as usual, led the way up the stairs, with Voss and Ashryn following after and me in the back. The middle proved to be living space, privy and bathing rooms, a sector for servants, and a few nicer rooms for guests or lesser members of the family. Ashryn said she thought she could hear someone upstairs, but that this floor was silent, so her and Enna ventured out again while Voss and I held the landing. This adventure proved more fruitful- Enna was carrying a sack that contained a gold-inlaid mandolin with silver strings, a ornate wooden box filled with gold and silver jewellery, and a quiver of arrows from the servant's quarters that were carved with an intricate pattern and fletched with some unidentifiable, iridescent green feathers that shimmered in the light. “Figgered that they coulda been magic, since those hobbo bastards 'ad a coupla magic swords.” And, well, they may be, and they didn't take up much sack room.

        Finally, we crept up to the top floor.

        We made the landing, weapons ready. The house was silent.

        “I don't like it,” Enna hissed, “You'd think that a lord wouldn't know to keep quiet.”

        “Well,” I said loudly, “We just have to hold position here and wait for Calliope to recover. Once we have an Invoker with all her spells still, clearing this floor is going to be easy.”

        Voss gave me an odd look, but Enna caught on pretty quick and grinned at me. The best part was, I didn't even have to lie... just imply some stuff that's not actually true.

        It had the desired effect. Soon, a tall, dark haired man in platemail, wielding an alchemical steel bastard sword with his other hand the drawstring of a sack flopped over one shoulder, edged out of a side room and into the one of the halls coming off the landing. He kept the tip of the blade up in a guarded position, but he smiled when he saw us. There was blood on his blade.

        “Hello, friends,” he said, “I don't know your cause or issue with the Lord Gauthi, but he's dead now. I'm wondering if we could come to some kind of agreement, to let me pass without trouble.”

        He unlimbered the sack, and spilled it on the ground, revealing a mass of platinum coins.

        The only problem with that, though, was we technically weren't here for Lord Gauthi.

        “What do you have to do with the cult that the lord joined?” I asked.

        The knight gestured expansively. “Nothing, nothing! I assure you, my friend, I wanted nothing to do with Malgarath....”

        There was a sharp gasp from Ashryn, “Malgarath the Firelord...!”

        The knight smirked. “Perhaps you don't know as much as I assumed. Well, then.” He lifted his sword so he was sighting down the blade at us. “What will it be? There's three hundred platinum in that sack, and I pass without a fight.”

        I considered it. At the very least, I strongly suspected this man heard us fighting the hobgoblins and murdered and robbed his lord, before attempting an escape. According to the butler, who I was more inclined to believe based on the previous suspicion, this man was complicit in terrorizing and murdering the staff. He was, at minimum, neutral evil.

        As much as Corgiel was implying that the people in this world weren't “real”, I would still feel bad inflicting a desperate villain on the populace. And who knows when he would feel compelled to get rid of potential witnesses.

        I drew the crowbill. “Don't get distracted, he's just as bad as the rest of them,” I said bitterly, “Maybe even worse.”

        Voss and Ashryn murmured their assent, while Enna quietly went wide. She wouldn't be able to properly backstab, but making room for the rest of us to engage him made sense.

        I reached to my belt, grabbed and tossed one of my bags of fine scribe's sand, which exploded right in the knight's face.

        He shouted in surprise while Enna came in from the and stabbed him deep in the side. Voss struck out with his spear, sparking off the knight's shoulder pad, but Ashryn was unable to get close as the knight flailed in Enna's direction, striking her in the forehead hard enough to send her stumbling back.

        I slipped in on the knight's other side slashed with the crowbill, scratching deep into the man's face, while Enna stabbed the man again in the exact same spot, twisting her shortsword this time. Voss still wasn't able to penetrate with his spear, but Ashryn piled on with her mace, smashing the man in his bicep.

        The knight slashed wide, which Enna and Ashryn had to backstep out of the way from, but the blow deflected off Voss's armor to bite into my left shoulder. I yelped- it was, after all, the first time I'd been wounded in this world, give me a break- and while I wasn't dying, I still backed off. Bastard swords dealt 2d4 damage when wielded in two hands like that, at minimum that was almost half my hp.

        The situation was looking pretty good for us, so I didn't feel bad about backing away, although Enna seemed to have the same idea. Voss was still unable to score a solid hit on the man, and his vision must have been clearing, because he successfully parried a blow from Ashryn. He took aim at Voss, but Voss evaded the knight's clumsy riposte.

        Voss finally managed to strike, his spearhead biting deep into the man's gut, and Ashryn followed through with a brutal strike to the man's temple, caving in the man's head with a sicking crack. He finally collapsed in a heap on the landing.

        Voss looked at my arm and cursed. “Katriana isn't going to let me hear the end of this. I promise I'd take care of her little brother and that's when that dumbass decides to come in swinging with his magic pick that he's supposed to be holding in trust.”

        I flushed. It's true that it was kind of a dumb thing to do....

        “It's okay, we just need a few days to get patched up, right?” Ashryn said with a smile, “If Katriana has a problem, I'll just make sure Theodore gets healed first!”

        Enna made an impressed whistle, and held out a folded piece of paper to me from where she was kneeling to rifle through the dead knight's pockets. I took the paper and whistled myself.

        “What is it?” Voss asked.

        “A promissory note worth three thousand gold to it's bearer,” I said, “No wonder he didn't mind bribing us with a sackful of platinum.”

        “Yeah, well, we oughta make sure 'at 'is boss is proper shuffled,” Enna, rising and wiping some blood off on her trousers. “Besides, might be more valuables.”

        We found the late Lord Gauthi cut down inside his own study. Small loss, from our perspective. Going through his study, we came up with two loose gems and a another, much smaller promissory note for a mere 200 gold, stuffed away in the very back of one of the lord's writing desk drawers. We also found journals, ledgers, all sorts of possible evidence.

        For some reason, though, Ashryn seemed entranced by a floor length tapestry on the wall, depicting a fairly mundane hunting scene. I had inquired with our semi-expert about that and a few other tapestries displayed here and there within the manor. Enna had just shook her head and shrugged, explaining that they were usually not worth enough when balanced out with how much they weighed. All the same, thinking of the landscape she had found downstairs, I went up beside her.

        “You like this one too?”

        “No, it's not that... I just get the oddest sense of... I don't know...”

        She reached out, grasped the tapestry and pulled, ripping the whole thing downs, and revealing an open archway into a dark alcove. In that alcove was a small table, upon which rested a goblet full of ashes, and a red stone statue in the shape of a dragon, menancing with two pairs of wings unfurled. Ashryn gasped.

        “That's...”

        “That's what?”

        “That's Malgarath the Firelord!”

        I shook my head. “Who? That's the second time you've mentioned him.”

        “Malgarath the Firelord, god of destruction... and father of the red dragons.”

        -------------------------------------------

        Character Name: Theodore Esche
        Race: Human
        Class: Transmuter
        Level (XP): 2 (2981/5000)
        Hit Points: 2/5

        Ability Scores
        Strength 11
        Dexterity 17
        Constitution 8
        Intelligence 17
        Wisdom 13
        Charisma 14

        Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

        Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

        Spells Per Day:
        1st Level- 2

        Spellbook:
        (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

        Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Magical Crowbill (Held in Trust), Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

        Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

        Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

        Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker), Smokey Enna (Level 1 Fighter/Level 1 Thief)

        Sexual Partners: 2
        Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
        Currently Working On: Banter and chats
        Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

        Comment


        • #34
          Chapter 32: Isekai Life & Dragon Myth

          I looked around at my other party members. Voss just gave a helpless shrug. Enna was mopping her her scalp wound with a bit of fabric ripped off the lord's satin cape. I looked back to Ashryn.

          “Sorry, you're going to have to back up. God of destruction sounds bad, but is it kinda bad or is it very bad?”

          Ashryn looked pouty for a moment- was she annoyed with me?- before taking a deep breath. “The All-Fathered created the earth-goddess Cyona after Lathlys, the celestial goddess, proved too cold and distant, and Asanke the ocean goddess proved too tumultuous and willful. One of his first children with Cyona was Vaeus, the god of the forest.

          “For a time the All-Father was proud of his third family, but Vaeus eventually fell in love with his mother, Cyona. He waited until the All-Father was away, settling a feud between Lathlys and Asanke, and forced himself on Cyona, covering her body with his. When the All-Father returned to Cyona and saw what was going on, he uttered a curse that was so powerful, Malgarath was born from it. Malgarath attacked Vaeus and Cyona both, scorching them, and the entire earth scorched and suffered.

          “Eventually the All-Father felt that Cyona and Vaeus were punished enough for their transgressions against him, and empowered his servant, the First Knight Reyneid, to crush Malgarath and rid the world of his ruinous influence. Reyneid took up the holy sword Avenger, and struck down Malgarath. But because Malgarath was created from the All-Father's curse, he was still technically born of the divine, and could not be destroyed by mortal man. Instead, while the God of Destruction was weakened, Reyneid uttered a prayer to Cyona, who gladly took her revenge on the marauding god and sealed him away.”

          “While Malgarath has been sealed for thousands of years, his children, the red dragons born from where his blood was spilled by Reyneid, have remained, creating desolation and chaos wherever they fly.”

          The tale was simple enough, if a little weird.

          “So... the All-Father is kind of a douchebag then?”

          Ashryn grinned a little at that. “Yes, that's why most people find worship of his children much more palatable.”

          “So there's a cult to this Malgarath guy in this city?” Voss asked tentatively.

          I shrugged. “Seems that way. Though we might have just wiped out it's real power... we should examine these journals and such in more detail later.”

          “Yeah, sure, are we gettin' outta 'ere yet?” Enna asked, “Ain't you tired of bleedin'?”

          To be honest, I had totally forgotten about my arm, despite having been cut nearly to the bone... another convenience of my Heaven, I suppose.

          We heading back downstairs after one last sweep of the top floor- there was nothing else that seemed to be valuable that wouldn't be too awkward or heavy to carry. I did grab a sheet from a linen closet, though, and when we reached the main floor, I conscientiously wrapped up Ashryn's landscape for it's trip through the catacombs.

          “We're really takin' that big ol' thing?” Enna asked.

          I shrugged. “It's light enough for me to carry, and we have ropes to lower and lift the sacks of treasure anyway.”

          As we filed downstairs, Katriana dashed out of the storage room to give me a hug, but stopped short. Her face went wan, and she gently touched my wounded shoulder. “Oh, Gods... are you alright, Theodore? Th-this looks bad....”

          “I'm fine,” I said, momentarily putting down the painting to rest against my leg, “Ashryn says she can take care of it in the morning. Come on, we have to go.”

          Immediately, she rounded on Voss. “You promised you'd take care of him!”

          “He's the one who decided the best use for a wizard was to grab a fucking crowbill and come in swinging!” Voss growled back, “I promised I'd take care of him, but I'm not responsible if he puts himself into danger like an idiot!”

          She looked back at me with a cutting glare. “Is that true!? How stupid can you be? You're lucky to be alive! You know, I swore to protect you! I sworn on your damn cradle, and this is how you thank me!?”

          I winced. “Yeah, it was stupid... but what's done is done. I was able to help everyone out, and I survived, okay? If you're still mad later, you can take it out on me then.”

          She silently seethed at me for awhile, before turning on her heel and marching back into the storeroom. There was the sound of snapping fabric, and she pushed the butler out of the room in front of her. “Make yourself useful and carry that painting! My brother needs to conserve his strength.”

          Bekker gave me a bow and gently took the painting from me. “Please excuse me, sir. Yes, that's a nasty wound, and if you'll pardon the offer, sir, I am a deft hand with a needle. Once we're to safety I'll be only too happy to close that up, sir, so you'll be somewhat more comfortable until the elven miss can heal you magically.”

          “Uh, right,” I said, uncertain that a 60-something old man would be much better at hauling a painting around than I would be.

          We headed together back into the storeroom, and lit another series of torches and distributed the sacks of loot around. We had four of Enna's big bags heavy with gold, jewels, and all sorts of other valuables.

          Enna went down into the catacombs first, and after declaring the area clear, Voss went down with a lit torch in his teeth. Disturbingly, the body of the squire we had dropped down there was gone, something unspeakable having dragged it into the shadows at some point during our manor invasion.

          Next, we sent down our loot bags, which Enna carefully stacked to one side while Voss kept his spear pointed at the shadows. Then Katriana tied the end of the rope into a loop, and one by one myself, Bekker, and Calliope (who was, at this point, about as mobile as a stumbling drunk and with a similar slurred speech pattern) were lowered down. Next came the painting, lowered to Bekker lengthwise. Finally came Ashryn and then Katriana, shimmying down the rope like normal.

          The last step was to douse the rope in oil and ignite it. It probably wouldn't burn the manor down- Voss used his spear to hook the grating and pull it closed first. And there was nothing burnable near where the rope was tied- and it might hide the signs of our coming enough for us to avoid investigation.

          We moved cautiously but deliberately through the catacombs, following our previous tracks in the mud. Enna took us on a brief detour at one point- two other carrion crawlers had arrived to devour the corpses of their fallen brethren- but be managed to make the grating to street level uninterrupted.

          Thankfully, the grating was left open and our rope was still there. Voss was the first to clamber up the rope, followed again by Enna, and then we began the arduous process of hauling our treasure and our weaker party members up one at a time.

          When finally we were all up and out of there (and Enna had recovered her rope, she had good instincts as an adventurer), we proceed to then limp our way back to the Lazy Ox.

          We were just down the block from the place, when I gently pulled Ashryn into the mouth of an alley.

          “Wha...?” she asked, but when I dipped my hand into the sack she was carrying and withdrew a handful of our platinum bribery coins, she seemed to understand. I then hustled to the front of our little line, and was the first one through the door to the inn.

          Our trip through the filthy catacombs did not prove to do us any favours, and several of the early patrons visibly shied away from our general miasma when we were all through the door. But I was bent on finding the innkeeper. Before he could speak, I slapped the fistful of coins in his hand and hissed, “Privacy, baths and clean needle and thread.”

          He seemed to get the picture, stared at the coins a brief moment, then hustled us off to the back rooms of the inn.

          A few guests were chivvied out of the sitting room, a cozy little space with a fireplace, a few books and upholstered furniture for idle guests to while away the time. More important for our purposes, it was larger than the dining room and more open.

          Serving girls cleared aside the upholstered furniture, rolled up the rug, and brought in nice, sturdy, easy-to-clean hardwood chairs for us all though. The innkeeper idly played with the small stack of platinum coins in his hand while this happened, and when I gratefully collapsed into a chair he addressed me. “Wine and cheese will be on it's way shortly, and clean linen for bandages. Dinner will come in due time. The ladies will have the opportunity to bathe first, followed by the men.”

          Bekker, true to his word, busied himself patching us each up once clean thread and needles were provided. At my direction, he started in on Katriana and Enna first- Katriana began to raise a fuss when I told her, “You're bathing first, so it only make sense to get sewn up first, unless you want dirty bathwater in all your wounds.”

          Once they were done (and we all had some very nice mulled wine to share, the equivalent of alcoholic comfort food), Katriana directed Bekker over to help me with my arm. Meanwhile, the newly sewn up Enna took the sheet off the painting, spread it on the ground, and began dumping out the sacks of treasure on the ground and pawing through them.

          “Excuse me, sir,” he said softly as he look a wine-soaked rag and dabbed it onto the wound, making me hiss. Okay, maybe Heaven wasn't 100% nice about pain....

          “Where did you learn to do this?” I asked as I conscientiously tried not to look directly at his work, “I wouldn't have thought first aid would have been a part of a butler's duty.”

          “You'd be surprised, sir,” he replied as he worked, “A butler's duty is the convenience of his or her lord, to handle all matter of mundane tasks for the lord to focus on more important things, like overseeing an estate, planning a military campaign, negotiations, infrastructure... well, you get the idea, sir.”

          “So what was Lord Gauthi doing that you'd have to learn to set stitches?” I asked, “I mean, the previous Lord Gauthi, not the dickhead who got murdered by his own bodyguard.”

          “The previous Lord Gauthi made his fortune as a questing knight, sir. Born of noble blood and decided to take up arms and armour and be something of an adventurer, only one focused on helping others and not so much... material reward,” he finished, giving our sacks of loot some side-eye.

          I sighed. “Sorry, but adventuring is hard work, and we need the money. If there's some memento of Lord Gauthi you want to keep, though....”

          “Nonsense, sir,” Bekker sniffed, “As far as I am concerned, my previous employer died when the elder Gauthi disappeared. No trinket or shiny bit will bring back so fine a person, so my only hope is that he rests peacefully, sir. I was merely intimidated into serving his unworthy scion for a blessedly short time, sir.”

          “I can respect that,” I replied.

          The old butler gave me a curt nod, and snipped the end of the thread. “If you'll excuse me, sir, I'll finish seeing to your companions.”

          Having finally been freed from the butler's attention, I pulled by chair over to Katriana's.

          “Sorry,” was all I said.

          She frowned in my direction, then sighed. “Please, Theodore... you need to take better care of yourself. Without you, I don't think I can do this on my own. You're got a cleverness that I lack.”

          “I don't think you'd make a bad queen....”

          “Yes, I'd be terrible. I'd be fussing over oaths and promises and not breaking my word, so much that I wouldn't do what's best for the kingdom. Sometimes a ruler has be cunning and clever, be willing to make use of someone like Enna, for example. Or be willing to recruit someone that makes other retainers uncomfortable, like you did with Calliope,” she sighed, “I'd be too obsessed with keeping promises and making people happy, that I wouldn't be able to make the hard decisions like you can.”

          “Well....”

          She smiled at me. “Just take care of yourself a little better, okay?”

          I nodded, feeling guilty. I was absorbed in my own thoughts for moment- think about whether we'd have enough gold yet to pay for a Raise Dead- when Katriana poked my nose.

          I looked up at her, somewhat surprised. She nodded to the rest of the room. “Not that you don't deserve time to think, but maybe you ought to go check in with the rest of your retainers, my prince.”

          I looked around the room of wounded and gloomy people. Getting out of that manor was a hard fight, and everyone seemed to have been affected by it.

          “Alright,” I said, rising out of my chair, “Let's check in with the troops.”

          -------------------------------------------

          Character Name: Theodore Esche
          Race: Human
          Class: Transmuter
          Level (XP): 2 (3146/5000)
          Hit Points: 1/5

          Ability Scores
          Strength 11
          Dexterity 17
          Constitution 8
          Intelligence 17
          Wisdom 13
          Charisma 14

          Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

          Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

          Spells Per Day:
          1st Level- 2

          Spellbook:
          (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

          Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Magical Crowbill (Held in Trust), Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

          Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

          Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

          Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker), Smokey Enna (Level 1 Fighter/Level 1 Thief)

          Sexual Partners: 2
          Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
          Currently Working On: Banter and chats
          Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

          Comment


          • #35
            Chapter 33: Isekai Life & Knights of Esche

            I knelt in front of Calliope, who was despondently flipping through her spellbook. She glanced at me momentarily, before looking back to the pages, chin in her other hand.

            I shifted to a sitting position and sighed. “Yeah, I'd be pretty disappointed in myself if that happened to me, too.”

            “Well, it didn't,” she replied, “So you don't have to worry about it. You're not a burden on anyone.”

            “Except that it could've happened to any one of us, you just got unlucky. I'm sure you'll have plenty of times to prove your worth, in the future.”

            Calliope closed her eyes and sat up straight. She took a deep breath, and then, “I know I'm not easy to get along with. I don't know why, but I have a hard time hiding my disappointment if someone else screws up, and because of that, I have a hard time making friends. I always figured that if I couldn't win people over as friends, I could at least earn their respect. And, well, you can't do that if you're paralysed for three hours because you were bitten by a centipede.”

            “If you're worried about that, why don't you just... be honest with people, and tell them how you feel? I know opening up like that can be difficult, but it might earn you some sympathy.”

            “That's just what I need, people being nice to me because I'm over here pouting like a child,” she said bitterly.

            I decided to take a gamble, so I reached out and took her chin in my hand and made her look into my eyes. She glared at me defiantly, but didn't stop me.

            “I like you because you're intelligent, competent, and brave. Walking into a fight with nothing but a dagger and fighting hobgoblins when you're out of spells? I wish I had that kind of nerve.”

            She flushed, and pushed my hand away, so she could look back at her spellbook.

            “Please consider opening up. You might be surprised at the reaction you get.”

            “Sure,” she said, softly, “Maybe.”

            That seemed the end of that, so I scanned around the room. Ashryn was, somehow, entirely unhurt and happily playing with one of the Lazy Ox's mousing cats, and I'd have plenty of time to speak with Voss when the girls went for their bath, so I walked over and plunked myself down beside Enna and she sorted the looted into piles.

            “How's the count going?” I asked, picking up the sheathed bastard sword to examine the stamped artwork on the leather.

            “Pretty damn good, if'n I do say so meself,” the Mul replied cheerily, “Just under twelve hunnert gold in mixed coin, thirty-two hunnert in bank notes, and prolly around four grand in miscellaneous loot. S'kind of haul that you could retire on, if you live modest like.”

            I blinked, impressed. That was a damn fine haul, especially for a low-level party.

            “So, are you all going to be aroun' while I finish my sentence?” Enna asked cautiously, “I mean, if'n this is the kind of business you get up to regularly, I wouldn't mind taggin' along, if you'll 'ave me.”

            “Maybe. I'm sure we wouldn't mind having you along, but we don't know where are plans will take us after this,” I replied, “You'd have more than enough gold to follow us to our next destination, if you really want to join us, so even if we have to leave it isn't the end of the world.”

            She barked a kind of nervous laugh at that. “Uh, I've never really left Tresens before, least not any further than Whitewater Tower,” she said, “So, uh, Idunno if I'd be able to find you all without a lil' help.”

            I smiled at her. “Well, we don't have to decide just this moment. You're really good in a fight, and handy with those picklocks, so I think we'd all be willing to accommodate you.”

            She smiled back, then nodded at the sword in my hand. “What's with them black bladed swords, anyhow?”

            “They're magical,” I replied, drawing a half-foot of blade, to watch the light make iridescent patterns on the metal, “Alchemical steel, not a true enchantment, but made from magically-treated metal. It's too bad that, so far, out of all the magical weapons we've found, we don't have a single one anyone really knows how to use. Katriana is practising with that broadsword, but who knows when she'll be good enough to use it properly.”

            “Well, if'n you don't mind, I'd be interested in taking that there pick off your hands and doin' the same,” she said, “Might even keep you out of trouble and in your sister's good graces if I do.”

            I drew the crowbill and ran a finger along the carvings in it's handle, then passed it over. “Use it in good health.”

            She grinned, and gently set the weapon onto the sheet. “Yeah, well, I can get a tiny bit o' practice in, then you'll be takin' care of it for me once more, right?”

            “Sure, of course.”

            We were interrupted then by a knock at the door. It was a serving maid, here to collect the women for their turn in the baths. She also came over to me, and dropped a curtsy.

            “Master Braedon wanted you to know that a room on the third floor has opened up,” she said, “Two beds and a couch, similar to your current room but with a pair of like-sized beds. If it suits your party's needs, it's yours.”

            Thinking about the cramped quarters of our current sleeping arrangements, I nodded, picking a few more platinum out of the treasure pile for the room. At least, even though we still wouldn't quite have the privacy for sex, everyone could have something resembling a bed.

            The girls cleared out and it was just Bekker, Voss and I.

            It was Voss that started the conversation. “So I guess you're going to want me, Enna and the butler to take the new room, so you can be alone with your girlfriends?”

            “Uh, sure, if that's what you're offering,” I glanced over at Bekker. “You know, you don't have to stay with us if you don't want to, right? We just need you to testify about Lord Gauthi. If you have family or something to stay with....”

            “Thank you, sir, but my home was Highcroft Manor,” he replied, “I have small desire to stay there. If it's alright, I will impose myself on your hospitality, sir.”

            “Fine by me.”

            Voss and I busied ourselves with a game or two while Bekker helped himself to one of the inn's books. Voss was in the middle of giving me a very sound thrashing (the man wasn't a genius but he had plenty of skill at his game) when the ladies returned, wearing fresh clothes and with wet hair.

            As soon as the door swung close behind Ashryn, Enna clapped me hard on the back. “You're a for-real prince!? Who woulda thought? A real-life prince robbin' folks an' stuff!”

            I winced, and look to Katriana for an explanation. She just shrugged. “Calliope was talking about how she felt useless, and trying to make her feel better, Ashryn blabbed about you having so many wives and needing other wizards to take back your throne and all.”

            Ashryn pouted. “All I knew was Calliope knew you guys from before! I didn't think that you would've kept something like that as a secret from her!”

            “Then why'd you go saying all that stuff around Enna?” Calliope asked wryly.

            To that, Ashryn could only look bashful, and played with the rolled-up carpet with a toe.

            “So, how much did you tell them?” I asked Katriana.

            “Pretty much just the basics,” she replied, “We got distracted by another topic soon after. If you want to give them 'the talk', then go ahead.”

            “Not now, a serving girl will be here any minute now to let us boys into the bath.”

            “But is it true that you're gonna make us all knights?” Enna asked.

            “If you want to take the oath, sure,” I replied, “But if that's the case, you're in it until the end of the ride. I'm going to hold you to that oath.”

            “Alright, let's do it then!”

            I blinked. “Right now?”

            Enna put her hands on her hips. “I may not be much'a one for 'onourable conduct, but 'is mornin' I woke up a thief expectin' to be a thief right up til the day I died. Seems t'me 'at wakin' up a knight wit' a quest to see m'lord Theodore, a smart guy who actually cares about rightin' wrongs, stoppin' cults and protectin' his people, back on 'is rightful throne, well, 'at'd be a damn sight better way t' live my life.”

            It took me a second to parse out her odd speech pattern, and in the time Calliope raised her hand like an obedient schoolgirl. “Me, too. My so-called 'friends' abandoned me to be a dancing girl in a seedy dockside tavern when they had better options, and, well, none of them ever really tried to make me feel better when I was feeling down. So many people will just tell you to cheer up and get annoyed when you don't. So... I want to help, too.”

            I ran a hair through my hair nervously, when there was a knock at the door. “We'll finish this discussion later, when we're all cleaned up,” I said, and got up for my bath.

            Even though it was still somewhat awkward to bathe with other dudes around, it was still relaxing. It took no less than three rounds of scrubbing and rinsing to get all the filth off my body, but once I did the soak in the hot water felt like a just reward. I have never been more grateful for a bath within sight of other men in my life.

            By the time we returned, the hardwood chairs had been joined by a small table loaded with all sorts of food and wine, and the ladies were digging right in, laughing over some joke they made

            We joined the ladies, and for a time, everything was good. It was the first time for the six of us had all gotten together and just enjoyed each other's company, without the paranoia of the hobgoblins to worry about. Sure, there was a cult's plans to figure out and maybe a dark god to foil, but right at that moment they seemed far away concerns. For now, we were wealthy, relaxed, clean and without many other cares.

            When the dinner began to wind down, Voss went to the treasure pile, fished out the greatsword and pointed it's handle at me. “Hey, if we're going to actually do this, we may as well have a proper magical sword.”

            “Do what?” I asked, momentarily confused, but as he offered the sword he sunk down to one knee, and sensing the moment, Enna and Calliope went to join him.

            I gulped nervously, covering up my sudden anxiety with a sip of wine. I searched my memory for what a knighting ceremony would entail, but nothing came to mind, so I seized upon the only thing my other half knew, half-remembered from a fantasy book I read a lifetime ago.

            Gently, I eased the magical greatsword from it's sheath, taking it unsteadily in two hands. I idly wondered if this was meant to be “the” greatsword- I was hoping for a clearer sign and maybe a bit more ceremony that it being wielded by a hobgoblin captain.

            “Voss Durand,” I said, in a tone I hope portrayed confidence worthy of a prince, “Do you swear before the eyes of gods and men to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to protect all children and the weak, to obey your king, to fight bravely when needed and do other such tasks as are laid upon you, however hard or humble or dangerous as they may be?”

            “I do,” he said.

            As gently as I could lifting a twelve-pound hunk of metal, I tapped him on each of his shoulders. “Then I dub you Sir Voss Durand, Sworn Knight of House Esche.”

            I then stepped in front of Enna, and posed the same vow with a bit more steadiness this time. She replied, “I do”, without any of her usual embellishment, perhaps acknowledging the seriousness of the oath she had just taken.

            “Then I dub you Lady Enna of Shafttown, Sworn Knight of House Esche.”

            When I stepped in front of Calliope, I hesitated. If I dubbed her a knight, could I still marry her, if she was willing? But then I gave my head a shake. If I could marry by own sister, I could marry a sworn knight.

            She sealed her vow with an “I do”, and so, “Then I dub you Lady Calliope Brevins, Sworn Knight of House Esche.”

            Once it was done, she smiled. “I'm impressed, you remembered my family name from school?”

            I shrugged. “You have to know these things to be prince,” I retorted with another favourite quote.

            “Right, well, I need anudder drink,” Enna said, her usual cadence returning as if a spell had been broken, “I can't wait to tell my mum that I'm a lady!”

            “Well, maybe not right away okay?” Katriana cautioned, “We're still trying to travel in secret, Ashryn's big mouth aside....”

            Enna laughed. “Fair 'nough, but still this lady has a lady's thirst. Let's drink!”

            -------------------------------------------

            Character Name: Theodore Esche
            Race: Human
            Class: Transmuter
            Level (XP): 2 (3146/5000)
            Hit Points: 1/5

            Ability Scores
            Strength 11
            Dexterity 17
            Constitution 8
            Intelligence 17
            Wisdom 13
            Charisma 14

            Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

            Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

            Spells Per Day:
            1st Level- 2

            Spellbook:
            (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

            Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

            Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

            Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

            Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker), Smokey Enna (Level 1 Fighter/Level 1 Thief)

            Sexual Partners: 2
            Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
            Currently Working On: Banter and chats
            Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

            Comment


            • #36
              Chapter 34: Isekai Life & Calliope Compromise

              While we enjoyed the food and good company, I kept glancing over at the treasure pile. Voss noticed and asked, “So, that's the plan for that? We could probably pawn most of the jewellery off on that one guy we know.”

              “Sell, we will sell it to him,” I corrected, “Pawning is something different.”

              “Sell, then.”

              “If we're lucky, he will know someone who might be interested in some of this other stuff,” I continued, “Can't imagine he'd be into gold-inlaid mandolin, or a bottle of fine liquor.”

              “Or a landscape painting....” I glanced over at Ashryn who smiled apologetically. “I'm sorry, Theo, while the painting is very pretty, I don't think we can carry it around with us. I think I'd rather you sell that,” she said, fidgeting, “And, maybe, get me a present with some of the money left over?”

              “Alright, if that's what you want.” She was right, but I was still a little disappointed. I really wouldn't have minded having that landscape in our castle, eventually. “But we're going to have to reorganize how we do the money division from here on out.”

              That made everyone pause somewhat nervously. Obviously, everyone wanted a share of the big haul. And now I was suddenly changing the rules on them all, now that I was the central authority in the room.

              “We need to start getting serious about saving money for our quest,” I said, “We're going to need lots of resources to overthrow a king... and, now that all of you are sworn to me in one way or another, I need to take responsibility for providing for all your needs. Tomorrow, we'll turn all this loot into liquid cash, and then I'll pay you each a stipend. The rest will go into a lockbox, which I'll need to purchase along with a sturdy lock. It'll provide a secure place for our unused magic items, too.”

              I gestured at everyone. “You'll receive less than you would otherwise, but I'll worry about your needs- clothing, armour, weapons, accommodations. Is that agreeable to everyone?”

              Voss and Enna looked a little skeptical, but what could they do? They just swore themselves to my service.

              We continued chatting long into the night. Or, rather, they continued chatting- I was content to let my mind drift on a warm sea of wine and laughter, just enjoying this thing I had started. Katriana and Voss caught everyone up on what had passed to date- our adventure in the mountains, hunting for Enna, and our early encounter with the hobgoblins.

              All these people had sworn to help me on my quest, but what did I really know about my home? I thought back, scanning Theodore' thoughts like a catalogue. It was a vast, oceanside city, which had once been split by the arrival of the Gods' Arrow, the comet that had punished the old kings for their use of forbidden magic. Thus, the oldest parts of the city occupied a thin strip of land between a massive lagoon where the heart of the old city used to be, and the ocean. But as the city had grown, it has spread outwards, and had surrounded much of the lagoon. The new castle sat at one end of the lagoon like a shining crown, four walls facing the lands and it's own harbour jutting out into the sparkling waters of the lagoon.

              “It's okay, if he's too tired, w-we don't have to do this now.”

              “Nonsense~! You've said too much, now we're determined.”

              A hand gently rocked my shoulder, and my eyes fluttered open. I must have fall asleep in my chair- the fire on the hearth has burned low, the food had all been whisked away, and Voss, Enna and Bekker must have retired to their own room. Katriana smiled, bent at the waist and shaking me, while Calliope and Ashryn watched from afar, Calliope with an embarrassed blush, Ashryn with a mischievous grin.

              “What's happening?” I said with a yawn, “Everyone else went to bed?”

              “Mmm-hmm,” Katriana said, kneeling in front of me. That got me to wake up a little more. I blinked at her, wondering, when she finally spoke. “My prince, you have your comeliest knight and your two brides-to-be before you, isn't there anything you'd like to do for you? Any royal commands?”

              My heart thudded in my chest. My older sister was suggesting that we have sex, with Ashryn, even Calliope, involved? I had thought that she was barely on board with this harem thing, and now she was lining up a sex party for me?

              Then it struck me.

              Corgiel had said this was my Heaven, that all the women in it were predisposed to like and love me, to make me happy, satisfied and fulfilled. And on top of that, what seemed like months ago, I had asking for the “the full isekai treatment, including an inexplicable harem”.

              Of course these girls were going to line up, eager to please and satisfy my every desire. They were made to be that way. They had been carefully crafted just to please me.

              Of course, Corgiel also implied that I should be nice to my creations... well, at least, I should take care not to torture them or made them unhappy. But, I could help myself to them... and get exactly the kinds of sex that I want.

              Roughly, I seized my sister by her curly red hair, and forced her head to tilt to the side. Katriana's eyes went wide, not expecting this, and neither did the other two, judging by their gasps. I looked down at her imperiously and asked, “What happened to make my beloved sister such a cock-hungry slut? I thought you were better than this.”

              “I-I'm not...” she squeaked, but I interrupted her.

              “You're here on your knees in front of me while my maiden knight and a priestess of the Silver Order look on, looking at me with these slutty, shameless eyes. Don't lie to me.”

              She swallowed. “I'm not a... a....”

              “Oh? Aren't you?” I released her hair, “Suck my cock, slut. Let's see if you can even bother resisting the urge.”

              Face flushed with humiliation and arousal, Katriana undid my belt and pulled back my robes to reveal my rapidly-hardening cock. Calliope gave another gasp as Katriana lowered her head and took the head of my rod into her mouth, running her tongue over it.

              Katriana wasn't that great at giving blowjobs... yet. I'd have plenty of time to train her. So I wasn't completely lost in the sensation, at least not right away. I gestured to the other two girls. “Come and serve your prince.”

              As if waiting for permission, Ashryn grinned and took Calliope's hand, leading her forward. Calliope was a little hesitant, “Th-this wasn't what I had in mind when I said...” but Ashryn shushed her, before kneeling beside Katriana, and pulling Calliope down with her.

              After a moment, I seized Katriana by the hair again, and slowly pulled her away from my cock. She had been liberal with her spit, just as I taught her, and a string of it connected us as she pulled away.

              I looked down at Ashryn. “You want to show your prince just how much you love him?”

              She nodded eagerly, and gave my shaft a long lick, her tongue mingling with Katriana's saliva. It sent a pleasant shiver up my spine, and Katriana noticed.

              “Where did you learn to do that, Ashryn?” she asked.

              “Oh, uh...” Ashryn gave a nervous giggle, “I was thinking of the rock candy on a stick from that shop, and just...tried it.”

              She bent down again and licked up the underside of my cock once more, only this time Katriana joined her, pressing her tongue against the side. Calliope shook her head, muttered “How am I even doing this?” and then extended her tongue licked up the other side of my cock.

              I leaned as far back as my chair would let me. The feeling was heavenly. Three soft, moist tongues lapping at my manhood, exciting my most sensitive parts.... I could feel the difference in them, Ashryn's enthusiastic laps, Calliope's reluctant, dainty licks, and Katriana's confident and eager strokes....

              I lost my concentration before too long, and my cock exploded, jets of cum flying into the air to a chorus of surprised harem girls.

              I opened my eyes. Ashryn had gotten the brunt of it, two big lines of semen climbed her face, onto her forehead and up into her hair. But the other two were not spared.

              Calliope grimaced with the saltiness of it on her tongue, Katraian was more used to it, though, having swallowed two cumshots a few days earlier. Ashryn seemed pretty happy with it.

              “Ooh, I guess we did okay? What's all this stuff?” She asked.

              “It's your prince's seed,” Katriana answered, “You can wipe it off, if you want, but it doesn't taste too bad, once you get used to the texture.”

              “It's safe to eat...?” Calliope asked, experimentally licking her lips.

              “Yes. Well, I ate a lot of it the other day, and it didn't hurt me at all....”

              This truly was a Heaven.

              I looked at Katriana. “So, I take it you're okay with Calliope...?”

              She smiled. “Yes, my prince, although I can't say for certain whether she wants to marry you.”

              Calliope fidgeted. “Well, that wouldn't be terrible, being a... crown princess, I suppose?”

              “I suppose,” I said, “But if you want to join us as part of our little family, you're going to have to wait a little bit. Katriana and Ashryn have dibs.”

              Ashryn started using her fingers to scoop up my cum and suck it off her fingers. “About that,” she said when her fingers weren't in her mouth, “I'm going to marry you, right? You'll let me? Perform the ceremony, I mean.”

              “Of course,” Katriana said with a happy giggle, “I suppose I'll have to find a dress, though. And I would like enough space for our wedding night to be private....”

              “If you're going to discuss this,” Calliope broke in, “Do you mind if Theodore and I go upstairs? I'm feeling kind of weird, and I still haven't had my first time, unlike you two.”

              All this talk was going on without consulting me, but somehow I didn't mind.

              “I also want Theo to... attend me,” Ashryn said, biting her lip.

              “Yes, aren't I supposed to be the head wife, the high queen?” Katriana said.

              “Well, queens are supposed to be magnanimous!” Ashryn countered.

              “Should it be even?” Calliope said, “Obviously it should go me, then Ashryn, then me again before we even consider you!”

              ...Maybe this harem stuff has a bad side.

              “H-hang on...” I said, doing up my robe, “I think I have an idea how we all might go to sleep happy....”

              Before too long, we were back upstairs. I knelt on the bed, with three beautiful, totally naked girls on all fours before me, facing away. Their soft asses hung tantalizingly in the air- Calliope in the centre and Ashryn and Katriana on either side.

              “A-are you going to admire us all day?” Calliope said nervously, “Or are you going to h-hurry up?”

              “I'm just taking my time admiring you,” I replied, “I have three incredibly beautiful women in front of me, I want to savour this.”

              Indeed, the thug that acted as security on this floor have me a grin and a thumbs up when he saw us all and where we were headed. It made Katriana and Calliope both blush bright red.

              “Alright, are you ready, Calliope?” I asked, as I took her gently be the hips.

              “Give me one moment,” she said, then took a deep breath, and slowly released it. “Okay. Go ahead.”

              Holding her hips firmly in place, I placed my cockhead at her moist entrance, and, with excruciating slowness, penetrated into her, causing her to gasp and a small rivulet of blood appear around my cock.

              “Are you alright?” I asked, gently.

              “I-I'm okay, I just need a minute.” Quietly, at one side, Katriana placed her hand atop Calliope's.

              “Okay,” I said calmly, even though it was hard to take my time now that I was deep in the wizard's pussy, “You need to get low and really brace yourself. I'm not going to have a lot of leverage, so you'll have to make up for that by pushing back, okay?”

              “Y-yes, my prince,” she said, “I'll do my best.”

              I took my hands off her hips, and lightly touched Katriana and Ashryn. I gently nudged Ashryn a little closer, and when I had everything lined up in what I thought was the most comfortable way, I let my hands drift lower.

              “This feels really indulgent somehow,” I said, idly.

              “Of course it is!” Calliope snapped back, “You've got three girls all in a row and your cock is inside me, waiting for the starting whistle! Do you want me to beg for it or something?”

              “Yeah, come on, Theo,” Ashryn said, wiggling her butt at me, “I can't wait any more.”

              Katriana just quietly pushed her pussy back towards my hand.

              “Maybe I do want you to beg for it....” I said, grinning to myself. When I saw Calliope look back to reply, I thrust forward into her, causing her to gasp.

              I kept thrusting, waiting for her to recover and start pushing back enough for it to feel really good, before I opened up Ashryn and Katriana's pussy and fit two fingers in each of them, making sure that my bent ring finger was rubbing up against the hard nubbin of their clits. Soon, I had each of the girls moaning in time with one another, as I thrust into Calliope, my latest fiancee, while I finger-fucked the other two.

              “Ah... you all turned out... to be such big sluts,” I said as I fucked all three, “So desperate for my attention that you get all in a row like this,”

              “Ah... it's you who made me like this... You made me into... my little brother's sluuuuuut...” Katriana moaned.

              “Oh, ah... I've wanted this for forever,” Ashryn replied, “I had no idea being with you all would be so....” She never finished the thought, instead getting lost in the sensation of her approaching orgasm.

              “I-I'm not a slut,” Calliope panted, “I just... wanted to do everything... to get what I want...” She looked back at me with lust-filled eyes. “I've loved you since school... I'll give you my love, my dignity, whatever it takes....”

              Ashryn was the first to go off, her body losing control and stiffening with a powerful sudden, orgasm. It was over quickly, but she slumped onto the bed, completely exhausted.

              Katriana went next. At some point she reached down and started rubbing her clit on her own, letting me focus on ramming my finger into her. Working together, we brought her to a quiet, shuddering but powerful orgasm that seemed to last a really long time. I wanted to play with her more- see if I could coax a second orgasm like that out of her, but I had to focus on Calliope.

              Calliope proved a challenge. She responded well, but you couldn't go too fast or too slow, it seemed. She also responded better to strong, deep thrusts than shallow, quick ones. I really had to concentrate and work to bring her off, not that she minded being fucked as I split my attention, but getting her over that threshold took focus. Once I had my hands free- still slick with the juices of my other two fiancees- I was able to pin Calliope in place and give her the hard, deliberate fuck that she ached for.

              When she finally came, it was in response to my own orgasm. I tied to stay balanced and wait her own, but with how tight and slick her virginal pussy felt, I found my self-control slipping and soon was cumming what felt like buckets into her. But that rush of cum must have finally set her off, because she had a loud, tense orgasm that roused the other two out of their stupor and ripped the sheet from the top of the bed, revealing bare mattress.

              I was too exhausted to even think after that, and settled in between Calliope and Katriana. The two women wrapped their arms around me- Calliope took my chest with Katriana, my neck and shoulders. It was a good feeling. I felt something wet on my cock, and took down to see Ashryn diligently cleaning me off, but that's when I finally spaced out and fell asleep.

              -------------------------------------------

              Character Name: Theodore Esche
              Race: Human
              Class: Transmuter
              Level (XP): 2 (3146/5000)
              Hit Points: 1/5

              Ability Scores
              Strength 11
              Dexterity 17
              Constitution 8
              Intelligence 17
              Wisdom 13
              Charisma 14

              Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

              Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

              Spells Per Day:
              1st Level- 2

              Spellbook:
              (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

              Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

              Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

              Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

              Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief)

              Sexual Partners: 3
              Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
              Currently Working On: Banter and chats
              Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

              Comment


              • #37
                Chapter 35: Isekai Life & Princely Embezzlement

                I awoke to the sounds of someone shuffling around in our room. I squinted, eyes hazy with sleep, to see a figure standing over by the couch.

                “Excuse me, your grace, I did not mean to wake you.”

                “Oh, Bekker,” I said, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from my eyes. At some point someone pulled the blanket up over me, which I was grateful for.

                “Yes, your grace. I assumed you're not adventuring today, so I picked out the blue robe for you, your grace.”

                I blinked. Your grace...? Oh. The man was in the room the whole time for all that talk of princes and thrones and knighting. I haven't even considered that, he was just so good at fading into the background.

                “Where is everyone?”

                It finally occurred to me that I was alone in bed, and not safely ensconced in a triple-woman cuddle pile.

                “Lady Calliope is below, in the reading room, your grace,” Bekker answered, “However, Sir Voss and Lady Enna departed some time ago to see about liquidating your captured treasures, and Acolyte Ashryn and Princess Katriana had an appointment to keep concerning some armour they had ordered.”

                I noticed a problem right away.

                “Bekker, please don't refer to me as 'your grace' and everyone else like that....”

                “Of course, your grace, I fully understand the need for secrecy while within mixed company. However, please, I insist on adhering to proper etiquette when in private.”

                “You know, I didn't actually ask you to be my butler,” I said flatly.

                “Of course not, your grace. But if you must know, I am sixty-one years of age. Since we were both young men, I had served Lord Evander Gauthi, helping him create a legacy, to build a home and a family. Now that great lord I once proudly served is likely naught but ashes, having been murdered by his own legacy, who received in time his just desserts. But despite that great example of a knight, when time came for me to stand alone, I failed both the young Lady Gauthi, and many of the servants who looked up to me. And now, they, too, are ash.

                “So I beg that you forgive my presumption, your grace, but I am near the end of my life. If I am truly lucky, I will have but a dozen or a score more years ahead of me. I cannot go beyond the Shadow and face my Lord again in death with such a tarnished record. However, it seems that the man responsible for earning some measure of justice for Lord and young Lady Gauthi has a cause of his own, a cause that seems, in my mind, to be worthy.

                “While I disagree with how you have chosen to fund this quest, your grace, you have saved my life and avenged my lord, and are in need of great assistance to conduct your own campaign. I happen to have a great deal of experience is providing assistance to travelling adventurers. So, if it it pleases your grace, allow me to attend to the small details of your life so you can attend to your larger goal. That way, if you are successful and prove a fair ruler, as I suspect you may, I make go to my grave satisfied that my old friend and master will not find me wanting.”

                That was quite the filibuster. I didn't know how to respond to that. It was quite a heavy topic for first thing since getting up, after all.

                Eventually, it was Bekker who broke the silence. Offering a small bow, he simply said, “By your leave, your grace,” and left.

                Still hazy with sleepiness, I got up and got dressed in the robes provided, then sat down with my spellbook. Sleep, of course, was high on my list, and it was hard to beat the utility of Reduce. Finally having a third spell slot to my name, I decided to take Burning Hands as my third. It was a handy little attack spell,and, well, after the previous day's battles with those knights, I found myself wishing that I was a little more dangerous, myself. I could have saved my friends a lot of grief if I was able to deliver a lot of damage more reliably.

                While I was studying my spellbook, Bekker returned with a some bread, honey, butter and porridge. I hadn't even thought of asking for honey to flavour the bland-but-filling breakfast I've have almost every day since becoming Theodore. Maybe having Bekker around would be so bad.

                After enjoying my meal, I checked on the treasures we had gathered. All the stuff earmarked for selling was gone, leaving only the two unknown potions, the quiver of magical arrows, and the three magical swords- the alchemical steel broadsword I had given Katriana earlier, the alchemical steel bastard sword, and the runed greatsword. Also with it were the sack of coins. I guess, once we have the strongbox, I'll need to keep a ledger....

                I counted out some coins from the sack, and passed about 100 gold pieces worth of platinum on to Bekker. “Please, could you get me a small ledger, some ink for writing, a pen, and also about forty or so darts?”

                Bekker gave me a small bow and accepted the coin. “Of course, your grace. I'll return before supper.”

                Once he was gone, I noticed what was missing I cursed. Voss and Enna had taken Ashryn's painting! I had no idea where they were, either, to stop them. I groaned and shook my head. I hope she wouldn't be too mad....

                I noticed, then, the two promissory notes sticking out of a pocket on my backpack. I took them, slipped on my shoes and headed out into the world, alone, for once.

                I don't know why I went like that, in retrospect. I guess I just felt like a bad ass, ready to set on fire anyone who dared give me trouble.

                First off, I found a banker, and had my promissory notes changed into coin. This proved to be a little bit more challenging than I though, not because the banker gave me any sort of trouble at all, but rather that sixty-four pounds of gold is a lot to carry.

                Knowing that leaving a bank with a big sack of money was an invitation for trouble, I kept an eye out, but managed to get to my next destination unmolested, and with no unfortunate holes in my pack.

                The jeweler who we had been selling gems to so frequently greeted me warmly when I entered his shop. “Ah, good morning sir. You just missed your companion and his lady friend. They asked for a recommendation of a pawnbroker who might be interested in some treasure they acquired.”

                For a second I considered asking after them and running, but I probably wouldn't be able to keep up. “Hello, good morning,” I greeted him in return, “That's good to hear, but I'm actually here as a customer today.”

                “Excellent, of course, sir. What can I do for you?”

                I explained to him what I wanted and what I expected to spend, and he showed me what I wanted to see. In the end, I ended up spending quite a bit of the cash I had, almost all of it, in fact. But I ended up with what I wanted. I secreted my little prizes on my person, and headed back to the Lazy Ox.

                I was the first person back, apparently- not even Bekker had yet returned- so I went and deposited the leftover coin I had with the rest of the treasure. After a moment's thought, I emptied by own purses in there, too. At least that would help offset what I had, basically, embezzled. But then again, I was the prince, the other swore to obey me, not the other way around.

                Not having anything better to do at that very moment, I chose to head downstairs and see what Calliope was up to.

                She was still in the reading room by the time I got down there, idly petting one of the mousers and reading a novel. When she noticed me come in, she cut me a quick, angry glare, then went back to her book.

                I was a little shocked by that. “What did I do?”

                Fuming, she closed the book with a snap and placed very deliberately on a side table before looking at me with crossed arms.

                Still she was silent. “Seriously, what did I do? Why are you so angry?”

                “You were rough with me last night.”

                “...Oh,” I said, recalling last night, “Uh, I'm sorry. I didn't realize you'd have a problem with that. I was kind of... caught up in the moment.”

                “I see,” she said simply, still glaring.

                “Um, Katriana likes that sort of thing...”

                “I'm not Katriana, Theodore.”

                “I know... but you didn't seem to mind at the time.”

                “Well, you had your cock...!” she stopped, realizing what she was able to shout about, and lowered her voice. “Your cock was inside me! I wasn't going to stop everything just because you said something weird.”

                I sighed, and felt inside one of my pockets. “Here, let me make it up to you....”

                Her eyes followed me a short while as I came around behind the chair she was sitting in. I took out the small bit of jewelry and lowered it in front of her- a black satin choker, inlaid with golden falling stars, and bearing a shimmering, fingernail-sized aquamarine.

                Her gasp was audible. “Oh, Theodore... it's lovely. Is it really for me?” she asked, as she looked over her shoulder at me.

                I smiled, relieved. “Yes, it's for you. I picked out the gem to match your eyes. And, uh,” I shifted nervously, “I'm glad you like it. I've never given a gift to a lover before.”

                “Not even Katriana!?” she exclaimed incredulously. I nodded. “Oh, wow, thank you Theodore,|” she said as she lifted up her hair so I could fasten the tiny clasp around her neck.

                Once it was on, she bounded up out of her seat and threw hers arms around me, kissing me deeply. Idly, I wondered if she'd be hurt knowing that there were two other similar chokers waiting to be given to their new owners....

                She broke off the kiss and looked at me. “Do you know where Bekker is?”

                “Yes, I sent him off to run some errands for me about an hour ago.”

                Calliope took me by the hands. “Come on, then, we don't have a lot of time.”

                Soon enough, we were both back upstairs and naked.

                Well, I was naked. She still wore the choker.

                First she had me lie back, so she could run her tongue along my cock, much like she had last night. She gave a giggle. “I have you all to myself, this time,” she said sweetly, before trying her hand (er... mouth) at giving a blowjob. She was a bit more suited for it than Katriana, making sure she had a good mouthful of saliva so the act was wonderfully wet and sloppy.

                Once I was good and hard, it was her turn to lie back. “I want to look into your eyes, this time,” she said as she pulled apart her pink lips to invite me in. Steadying myself above her, I eased my cock into her recently-broken-in pussy, the slickness of her blowjob lubricating my entry.

                Wrapping her arms around my neck, Calliope held me close as I slowly but firmly pumped my rod into her. I could feel her lips on my nape and upper chest as she peppered me with kisses. Her wall were moist and welcoming, and until the fiery passion of the previous night, I took my time and enjoyed the simple pleasure of a woman holding me close and intimately.

                Calliope's eventually orgasm was heralded by her breath hot on my neck as she gasped her way to a climax, moaning luxuriously. I wasn't ready yet, but I quickened my pace once she was done, and after I had spilled all my semen inside her I opened my eyes to find her studying me carefully.

                “By all the gods, Theodore,” she swore softly, “I've never loved anything as much as I love you.”

                I responded by kissing her, exploring her mouth with my tongue. Did I love her? I guess part of me did. I was certainly in lust with her, if nothing else.

                Our kiss was interrupted by a soft knocking at the door. Calliope sighed dejectedly, and I shook my head. But we knew that we didn't have a lot of time to begin with, and got dressed without complaint.

                Outside was not only Bekker, but Voss and Enna, too. Bekker's face was schooled and dignified, but Voss and Enna gave me knowing, dirty little smiles.

                “Sir, I've retrieved the things you asked for,” Bekker said simply, “And Enna and Voss have finished their errands.”

                “Great, thank you,” I said, holding open the door, “Come in, we've got a lot of counting to do.”

                -------------------------------------------

                Character Name: Theodore Esche
                Race: Human
                Class: Transmuter
                Level (XP): 2 (3146/5000)
                Hit Points: 4/5

                Ability Scores
                Strength 11
                Dexterity 17
                Constitution 8
                Intelligence 17
                Wisdom 13
                Charisma 14

                Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

                Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                Spells Per Day:
                1st Level- 2

                Spellbook:
                (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                Spells Prepared:
                (1st Level): Burning Hands, Reduce, Sleep

                Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (3), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Oil of Acid Resistance, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                Money: 171 gp, 2 sp, 39 cp

                Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief)

                Sexual Partners: 3
                Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                Comment


                • #38
                  Chapter 36: Isekai Life & Well-Laid Plans

                  On top of the things that I asked Bekker to pick up, it turns out he had reminded Voss and Enna of my wish for a strongbox and padlock. They had found a hardwood, rectangular chest banded with iron and longer than a child was tall. Enna promised that she picked out a padlock which would prove challenging to open without the key, which was great, although it only had to hold out for another level or so until I got my hands on Wizard Lock.

                  The first thing I did was place the greatsword inside, and there was just enough room for it to fit diagonally. The other magical blades could sit lengthwise. So, we packed up the weapons, and then I took out the stash of potions. At some point, Katriana had returned the lavender potion, probably at the same time she dropped off the broadsword. I guess, for now, her point was clear- no point carrying these things around if she had no use for them.

                  “Alright, the first person to demonstrate some level of mastery with these weapons gets to keep them,” I said, indicating the pile of magical-but-so-far-useless swords, “But those arrows belong to Katriana, she's pretty handy with a shortbow.”

                  “Well, that's fair,” Voss said, “Turns out this one is a real quick study, and already mastered that crowbill.”

                  Enna smiled. “It ain't a crow anything, it's a dwarven war pick,” then she shrugged, “I guess I'm a quick study. Trounced this guy thrice in a row in practice this mornin', when we were still waitin' for the pile of comely maidens to finish warmin' up your bed.

                  Well, that worked for me. “Now the fun part,” I said, picking up the two as yet unsampled potions, “Any volunteers?”

                  It turns out, no, people don't generally line up to sample unidentified liquids. So I took it one myself. The minty green liquid was some kind of healing potion- at least, it eased the ache in my so-recently-used penis. Which was good to know. The next potion was the rainbow-hued draught that I had gotten out of Lord Gauthi's liquor cabinet. I already suspected what it was, and the way everyone giggled at me when I drank it- even Bekker smiled and glanced away- confirmed it. It was a Potion of Rainbow Hues, which would temporarily render your skin a selected colour after quaffing a portion- apparently after my brief sample I flashed purple as a blueberry for a second. While it sounds like a neat party trick and little else, you never know when you might need your entire party to pass as half-orcs, and I retained my 21st-century understanding of camouflage.

                  The potions were packed into their own little bag and tucked away in the side of the chest. We would need dividers of some kind, in time, I noted.

                  Finally, it came time to tally up the coin. Voss and Enna were given the gold coins to split between them, I had the big bag of platinum, and Bekker had all the miscellaneous other coins to tabulate before moving on to help Voss and Enna. Calliope was there to sum everything up in the ledger.

                  As it turned out, we had a huge amount of money between us. Two-hundred and ninety-nine platinum coins, four electrum, fifteen silver, fifty copper, and a whopping five thousand, five hundred and thirty-seven gold.

                  Having noticed that hungry looks on Voss and Enna's faces, plus the fact that they also noted Calliope's new jewellery, I then counted out four hundred gold for them and Calliope, and another fifty for Bekker. “Here are your wages for the next month,” I said, “Including danger pay.” When Voss looked disappointed, I added, “Remember, I'm paying for all your necessities from here on out, so you just have to worry about fun money and saving up for your own estate and things.”

                  That seemed to mollify him.

                  “So, if we're done fussing over gold and such,” Calliope went on, “I wasn't just pleasure reading all morning. I went through that guy's ledgers and journal. I think his cult was- or is- planning something big, and I really don't think we wiped them out when he killed all his guards and such.”

                  “What do you mean?” I asked.

                  “Well, okay,” she look a deep breath, “On top of the big pots, he order pitch- gallons of it- lumber, tinder, and paper, too. Way more than he'd need to burning a few human sacrifices, too. His journal repeated mentions some kind of big sacrificial ritual, and that he was only waiting on word from a 'mistress' before he set everything in motion.”

                  That gave me chills. I thought we had taken care of everything- after all, Lord Gauthi was well guarded. I knew there was the rest of the cult somewhere but he struck me as the leadership guy. Now, with what Calliope was saying, he sounded like he was the resources guy- doing all the purchasing and logistical arrangements for someone else.

                  “Hey, Voss,” I asked, “What day is the joust supposed to end?”

                  “Uh... tomorrow,” he replied, “It always wraps up the day before the All-Father's holy day, so the award ceremony happens on the holy day itself. You think they could be planning something at the joust?”

                  I nodded. “Think about it. The arena is going to be packed, there's plenty of room for all this flammable material under the seats, and this 'mistress' he was waiting for is probably coming from out of town with all the crowds. They're going to sacrifice the arena crowd in this 'Purification' that was mentioned in the cyphered note. The mistress is going to preside over things, so the plan is probably already in motion.”

                  Calliope frowned. “Great, and we've just committed a break-and-enter, robbed the place blind, and even if we get off the hook for all that by bringing this cult to justice, nobody is going to be light on poor Enna getting involved in all this.”

                  “Well, if'n it means we can put away these folks-” Enna began, before I interrupted.

                  “As your liege, I cannot allow that to happen,” I said, “I'm not going to sell you out now just because it makes things easier. No, we need to come up with a plan here.”

                  I think I had everything figured out. I knew what pieces I had and didn't have, and I could guess at what our enemy had on their side. I took a deep breath and started yo explain my conclusions and plan.

                  Eventually, Katriana and Ashryn joined us, resplendent looking in their new suits of platemail. I didn't mind having to start from the top, though, as everyone seemed to have an idea and we incorporated them into our plans as we went, so it helped having a break to refresh everyone on our main goals and objectives. Ashryn had a little trouble swallowing our conclusions, but once everything was broken down, she seemed to understand, though her bubbly optimism had wilted somewhat.

                  Bekker at some point excused himself to make arrangements for dinner, and I realized with a shock just how hungry I was. I guess I was so into reorganizing everything and discussing this plan that I had skipped lunch. Still, that gave us something of a deadline, to stop discussing the what-ifs and small inconsistencies and just commit to something.

                  Of course, our first objective was gaining access to the arena, and I knew just who to ask about that.

                  Ashryn, Katriana, Voss and I headed downstairs to the common room, and, not spotting them immediately, I went to rap on the door to the private dining room Mariska, Ricard and Gogol used.

                  Ricard's servant was the one to answer the door. “Can I help you, sir?”

                  “Yes, can we borrow Ricard's attention for a short while?” I asked, “We've reached some disturbing conclusions about the joust tomorrow and we could use his help.”

                  The servant closed the door and conferred with the people within, then allowed us in. With use standing in the little space available, it was quite crowded, but Ricard greeted us warmly.

                  “My young friends, I am glad to see you're in good health!” he said, giving me a pat on the shoulder and shaking Katriana's hand, “You're in need of help, I'm told?”

                  “Yes, sir,” I said, “We've come to the conclusion that there's a cult operating in this city, and tomorrow they intend to use the finals of the joust to stage a mass sacrifice by burning the arena down.”

                  Ricard and Mariska looked stunned and shared a glance. Gogol didn't seem to care, as usual. “You're sure of this?” Mariska asked, “You've gathered evidence, confirmed your suspicions?”

                  “Let's call it a theory based on the evidence available,” I said, handing the ledgers and journal we look from Lord Gauthi over. “Unfortunately, we can't go to the authorities about this, as we did technically break the law when we reclaimed these....”

                  I launched into my explanation of why we stormed Lord Gauthi's manor, and about how the hobgoblins had come after us. I kept it short and snappy, leaving out mentions of Enna or Calliope. Extraneous details would only bog things down.

                  “So, what is it that you're asking?” Mariska inquired, flipping through one of the books idly.

                  “Sir Ricard, would it possible to bring us four with you as you compete tomorrow, so that we can have access to the interior parts of the arena and keep an eye out for evildoers?”

                  Ricard had a chuckle at that. “Thank you, but no, I was eliminated a few days ago. No finals for me... but the Abbess here is delivering the blessings to open the tourney that day, aren't you?”

                  Mariska smiled. “Oh, yes, an excellent idea. I will take you, Gogol and Theodore and his party as an honour guard of sorts. Then you can keep an eye out for cultists while I conduct the ceremony.”

                  I smiled back. “That would be perfect. Thank you, Abbess!”

                  Everything was coming together nicely.

                  After that, we went to our own private dining room, where Enna and Calliope were waiting for us.

                  Calliope looked hopeful. “Did she fall for it?”

                  “Hook and line,” Voss said with a chortle, “You were right, Theodore. She would have some excuse for being on the arena floor.”

                  I nodded, but still put a quieting finger on my mouth. I looked to Bekker. “Please, could you go outside and make sure that nobody is listening?”

                  He nodded, and slipped outside.

                  “Okay, so here's the plan,” I began, “Mariska is obviously the mistress of this cult, and will probably be conducting some kind of ritual for which she needs the sacrifice.”

                  “But how do you know for sure that she's the mistress?” Ashryn asked, obviously uncomfortable.

                  “It all fits,” I said, “Her and her party camped outside the ruins where we found the cipher. She's a cleric so she is capable of raising the dead to protect it. She didn't know that we would find Ricard's ring in the ruins, so of course she wouldn't protest Ricard hiring us. And then, when she asked us to find and arrest Enna, it was to cover her tracks concerning the arson.”

                  “So, what's the arson about, then?” Enna asked glumly.

                  I shrugged. “At a guess? Someone wanted to raise one of their burnt offerings. If that had happened, the person raised would be able to contact the authorities. So, they took care of the problem the only way they knew how- with fire. The point is, she didn't know that we would actually like and talk with Enna. Hell, her ideal result would be that Enna resists arrest and we kill her. Fortunately that's not what happened. This is why Enna is one of our trump cards, now. As far as Mariska knows, the person who delivered her deadly package is still rotting in a cell somewhere.

                  “Anyway, so after that, we have our little day off where Voss and I run into Calliope. We confront the potter over his pottery, and that man runs off and gets the hobgoblins to confront us. We fight our way back to the Lazy Ox, meet up with Ashryn and Katriana again. Then, on our way out to escort Calliope to her work, I clearly recall her and her party sitting by the front window and saluting us. I'd be willing to bet she was signalling someone to prepare the ambush.

                  “The ambush fails, then storm Lord Gauthi's manor. Today was the first time that Mariska finds out about us attack Lord Gauthi, so she invites us to come with her tomorrow. Finish the job that the hobgoblins weren't able to do before the ritual. She thinks that we're a fly in the ointment, too close to the truth, and pretends to deal with us when we're in range tomorrow. What she doesn't realize is that we know it's her, and we're expecting her to betray us. We intercept the firestarters before they can get in place, we interrupt the ritual, and we see that Mariska comes to justice.”

                  “You realize there are holes you can drive a wagon through in that explanation of your, right?” Calliope asked bitterly, “For example, why did she send Ashryn with you?”

                  “She knew that we'd have a better chance if we had an extra pair of hands and a skilled healer,” I explained, “And Ashryn isn't part of the cult, so to Mariska she would be expendable. That's also how I know she's not going to betray us.”

                  Ashryn brightened at that, and Katriana gave her a smile and a pat on the arm.

                  “So, here's the plan,” I explained, “We know that the cult is probably using the catacombs to get around- that's how the hobgoblins managed to catch us so quickly, and how they managed to set up their ambush with the apes. We also know that they're using the catacombs to hide the bodies of their dead, so Calliope and Enna are going to locate the arena from the catacombs, get inside, and set up an ambush there for the cultist firestarters. Calliope, you summon your fog, and Enna can take them out one by one with the cover.”

                  “Right, you can count on us!” Enna said decisively.

                  “The rest of us are with Mariska on the floor of the arena. I don't know how much we can trust Gogol and Ricard, so that's why it's important to be visible to the crowd and wait until she starts her ritual. Once she's obviously trying something, the arena guards and knights on the field should pitch in and help us out.”

                  “Assuming they're not cultists,” Calliope countered.

                  “Assuming that, yes,” I allowed, but then, “If we wait for all the answers and a perfect plan, we're going to be here a long time. What's important is that we stop the cult. Any questions?”

                  There were none. I nodded grimly. “Then, let's eat and get ready for tomorrow. Little wine and an early night for everyone. This will be our biggest challenge yet.”

                  -------------------------------------------

                  Character Name: Theodore Esche
                  Race: Human
                  Class: Transmuter
                  Level (XP): 2 (3146/5000)
                  Hit Points: 4/5

                  Ability Scores
                  Strength 11
                  Dexterity 17
                  Constitution 8
                  Intelligence 17
                  Wisdom 13
                  Charisma 14

                  Weapon Proficiencies: Darts

                  Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                  Spells Per Day:
                  1st Level- 2

                  Spellbook:
                  (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                  Spells Prepared:
                  (1st Level): Burning Hands, Reduce, Sleep

                  Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                  Money: 100 gp

                  Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                  Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                  Sexual Partners: 3

                  Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (13), Oil of Acid Resistance, lavender potion, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                  Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                  Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                  Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                  Comment


                  • #39
                    Chapter 37: Isekai Life & Climax Wait

                    Our meal was fairly solemn after that. We sent Bekker to get the usual, stew with fresh bread and butter, which he supplemented with an unasked-for plate of cheese, olives and pickles. The extra food was welcome- I've always had an extra stomach for olives, a trait I shared with previous!Theodore- and everyone was able to eat their fill.

                    When we were getting up to head off to bed, Bekker lingered, and as I was about to leave, tugged my sleeve.

                    “Your grace, may I trouble you a moment?”

                    “Of course,” I said as I turned to regard him.

                    He offered me a bow. “Thank you, your grace. By your leave, I'd like to attend Lady Calliope and Lady Enna tomorrow. I know my way around a shortsword, your grace, and they could use an extra pair of eyes.”

                    I regarded Bekker carefully. He mentioned adventuring with Lord Gauthi, could he have actual class levels? Still... I shook my head. “No, Bekker. If everything goes poorly tomorrow, you have the most important job of all.”

                    “As you wish, your grace,” he said, accepting immediately, but with a hint of disappointment in his eyes, “What would you ask of me?”

                    I nodded towards the door. “If everything goes completely haywire, you must have Katriana raised, if possible, and see that Ashryn's remains are returned to her order in case they're willing to raise her on their own volition. Following that, prioritize Voss, Calliope and Enna before me. I've always been sickly and weak, and there's no guarantee that I'll be able to raise successfully, so don't rush to help me. I can wait while the party gets back on it's feet.”

                    Bekker looked down for a moment, then met my eyes again. “I understand. Of course, your grace, you can count on me.”

                    I clapped him on the shoulder, and lead the way out.

                    I bid him goodnight on the second floor landing, and he headed up to the room he shared with Voss and Enna on the third. He might have been on the old side, but the stairs certainly didn't slow him down. He must have been pretty hale before the old age penalties started piling up. He had to be, what, -3 strength, -1 dex, -2 con for being sixty-one?

                    Either way, I headed back to the room I shared with my fiancees... seems like an odd thing to say, but there it was. Calliope was setting up a blanket and pillow on the couch while explaining her decision to Katriana.

                    “No, it's fine, I was intimate with him earlier today,” she said, not noticing my entrance, “You and Ashryn can get all cuddly. I was so sweaty with all the body heat between him and Ashryn I woke up soaked.”

                    “Sleeping arrangements, is it?” I asked, closing the door quietly behind me.

                    “Calliope and Katriana are actually fighting over who doesn't want to sleep with you,” Ashryn said with a giggle, “Clearly you should be spending more of your time with me.”

                    “I just wanted to make sure our wizards get the best sleep possible,” replied Katriana with an annoyed tone, “But, if she wants to wake up with a back ache, fine by me.”

                    Even though she was clearly joking, I still went to Ashryn and took her gently by the hand. “I'm sorry they sold your painting today.”

                    Ashryn giggled again. “Oh, don't worry about it! I told them to take it. Can you imagine carting a huge painting like that through all our adventures? No, I think it's much better that we have the coin. You can buy me all kinds of pretty paintings when you have a castle to put them in.”

                    My hand froze, just as it was drawing out her gift. I guess it could wait, and Calliope could enjoy being the only one with a gift a little while longer.

                    “I guess there's no point in playing around, then?” Ashryn asked, tentatively.

                    “Not tonight,” I said, secretly hating myself a little for it. But, my cock was aching already after the little bit I did with Calliope earlier, so maybe a break to prevent chafing was in order. “When this is all over, we'll have another night of fun all together, if you want.”

                    Ashryn nodded and smiled. And with that, we got ready for bed and hit the sack without much further ado.

                    It was a peaceful night all things considered, not that any of us got a lot of sleep. There were so many unknown factors, so many things we didn't know about the day ahead. Katriana, Ashryn and I tossed and turned a lot, and I doubt Calliope got a super restful sleep on the couch.

                    It was almost a relief when dawn came. Bekker knocked on our door, and woke us. Calliope spent some time studying her spellbook by lantern light- turns out she had cast Detect Magic yesterday morning to confirm that none of things Voss and Enna had sold were magical- and soon Enna arrived with a meal of dried fruit and jerky for the two of them. It was the first time I've seen Enna in her armour, a suit of simple studded leathers. She carried no shield, but had the crowbill and her shortsword on her belt. I hoped her THAC0 was decent enough to make up for the dual-wielding penalties....

                    I shook Enna's hand and gave Calliope a kiss on the cheek (which made her blush) before they left. “Good luck, you two,” I said, “Be safe, and if you have to choose between life and success, I'd rather you be alive.”

                    “No kiss for me?” Enna mocked gently, “And tis' nice of you to put our lives before the hundreds of people we would save, but I'm gonna aim for alive and victorious if it's all the same to you.”

                    Calliope squeezed my hand. “You be careful, too,” she said, before heading out.

                    “Ah, wait one moment,” I said as I unlocked the big chest and fished around for the bag of potions. I handed the lavender one to Calliope, and the mint green one to Katriana. “I don't know exactly what these do, except they both have to do with healing. Keep them in case of an emergency.”

                    Calliope nodded, bit her lip, then threw her arms around me one last time before she and Enna went out the door.

                    Then it was just the four of us. I had three people to help bolt on platemail for (Ashryn complained that her old armour was prettier, which I couldn't help but agree with). But once that was done and everyone had selected their weaponry, we were ready. Voss had plate, shield, spear and longsword, Ashryn had plate, shield and mace, Katriana had plate, shield, longsword and shortbow, with the magical arrows hanging in a quiver on her belt where her mace would customarily sit.

                    I had my darts, twenty-one of them, secreted about my person, and my spells. Ashryn had her spells, also, mostly healing with a dash of the good old Protection from Evil.

                    Soon enough, we marched out to meet with Mariska, Ricard and Gogol downstairs.

                    We sat with them, breaking our fast on oatmeal and bread. It was odd, sitting down to eat with people (or , at least, a person) you'd be fighting later that day. Ricard seemed in good cheer, Mariska had her usual humouring look on her face, and Gogol greeted us only with a grunt. I evaluated their arms and armour carefully- Gogol had a number of axes on him, both of the battle and the throwing variety, while Ricard had a longsword and shield. Both wore field plate, one step better than our merely platemail, but Mariska wore only her holy regalia and headdress. Maybe she had some elven chainmail underneath, but otherwise she was not all that protected.

                    “Well, now, let's see if your theory is correct, Theodore,” Mariska said, with that expression and tone that now seemed mocking instead of peaceful.

                    I nodded, and we departed.

                    There wasn't a lot of talk. I really hoped we weren't tipping off our intentions with our silence, but at the same time, I was nervous about saying something that would give the plan away. I'm sure my companions would say the same.

                    The staff entrance to the arena was a small, unmarked door on one side. An anxious looking porter let us in, and we went through a tunnel of sorts, underneath the bleachers, to a sitting room attached to the stable where many of the finalists' horses were kept. I'd guessed there was a similar stable on the other side, so that opponents facing one another wouldn't have to sit together.

                    For an hour we sat in awkward silence. Knights in variously coloured armour with different heraldry came and sat with us. Voss managed to break the tension by greeting some of the ones he recognized from our day in the stands, and spent a little time talking shop. That finally got people in our party to relax. Ricard started entertaining Katriana and Ashryn with the story of how his tournament experience went, and I was able to drift off and nap in my seat.

                    Katriana shook me awake when it was time to go. “Come, little brother, it's time.”

                    I took her hand, looked her in the eyes. “I love you, sister. Be safe.”

                    She smiled, bravely, even though her eyes watered. “You, too, Theodore.”

                    I stood, and Ashryn briefly put her arms around me. “I love you, too,” she whispered in my ear, “We can do this.”

                    I could only mutely nod, hugging her close.

                    Last was Voss. He clasped Katriana's hand, then mine. “It's been an honour. I'm hoping for the best, but in case of the worst....”

                    “Yeah, I get it,” I said, nodding, “Let's do this thing, then tell each other how silly we were being, getting so emotional over it while we sip wine and eat great food.”

                    Voss chuckled. “Sounds like a plan, friend.”

                    We headed out on the heels of Mariska, Gogol and Ricard, the latter looking wary, but the other two seemingly uncaring about the possible dangers ahead.

                    The arena was sandy, and the list was already in place, with the judge's stand cleared of seats so that Mariska could deliver the blessing. Opposite the judge's stand was the VIP box, where the lord of the city sat with his family and functionaries. All around the rim of the arena were the various boxes for noble lords and ladies, religious leaders, merchants and the like, and then beyond that on all sides were the stands for hundreds of cheering onlookers.

                    Mariska went to the judge's stand, while we hung back and lingered in the tunnel. Gogol and Ricard were at the mouth, with Katriana, Ashryn, Voss and I further back. I tried not to think of all the flammable material packed under the stands and boxes above us, and fretted about how Calliope and Enna were doing. I was surprised when a knight, all in full plate with a purple shield bearing a silver fox as his sigil, leading a horse and his weapon-laden squires came up behind us. Of course, I reminded myself, they'd be getting ready for the joust to take place immediately after.

                    Mariska gestured for silence, and the crowd piped down. Nobody wanted to upset the gods by talking over the blessing.

                    “Too often we forget,” Mariska began, intoning in a voice as clear as a bell, “Where our forefathers come from, what hands built the homes we now live in. Listen now, children, and I will tell you a great secret about how the city of Tresens came to be, and the bloody work of the forefathers of the man you now called Lord Paramount.”

                    There was a brief and excited stirring in the audience. My hands went to the darts secreted in my sleeve, and immediately in front of me I could see Katriana loosen her sword in her scabbard.

                    “This city was built, hundreds of years ago, by refugees, people fleeing religious persecution at the hands of those who refused to understand their ways,” the elven cleric continued, “It was they who built the clifftop tombs that surround this place, they who first opened the mines for precious gems, and raised temples to their God that now have been taken as palaces and fortifications! And it was their prosecutors who came over the mountains, with sword and zealotry and blood, and purged these people for their beliefs and their way of life. But some few managed to escape, and keep the flame of their faith alive.

                    “But now, we are back, your lordship,” she said, her eyes dropping to the lord's box, “Our god is a mighty one, and he hungers for ashes and blood. Come, Malgarath the Destroyer!”

                    She gestured, and a column of flames, so hellishly hot that the wave of heat hit us over a hundred yards away, appeared in the lord's box, centered right on the lord paramount's seat.

                    And then the world became chaos.

                    -------------------------------------------

                    Character Name: Theodore Esche
                    Race: Human
                    Class: Transmuter
                    Level (XP): 2 (3146/5000)
                    Hit Points: 4/5

                    Ability Scores
                    Strength 11
                    Dexterity 17
                    Constitution 8
                    Intelligence 17
                    Wisdom 13
                    Charisma 14

                    Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                    Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                    Spells Per Day:
                    1st Level- 2

                    Spellbook:
                    (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                    Spells Prepared:
                    (1st Level): Burning Hands, Reduce, Sleep

                    Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                    Money: 100 gp

                    Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                    Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                    Sexual Partners: 3

                    Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (13), Oil of Acid Resistance, lavender potion, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                    Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                    Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                    Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                    Comment


                    • #40
                      Chapter 38: Isekai Life & Fiery Death

                      The arena was filled with screams and shouts as the crowd panicked, trying to escape the flames. The fire spread quickly from the VIPs' stand, catching the hidden fuel under the stands, but fortunately the Flamestrike seemed to be the only source of fire.

                      Flamestrike... a fifth level Priest spell, often referred to as the “Cleric's fireball”. Deals 6d8 damage in a 10'x30' upright cylinder, save for half. Even if I successfully saved, I'd have to be extraordinarily lucky to survive outright. Hell, it was probably a death sentence for my entire party. So, Mariska's level had to be at least 9 in order to cast that... and elven clerics had a maximum possible level of 12. Good to know.

                      Ahead of me, Gogol drew a pair of battleaxes, turn and sank them into Ricard Parett's gut, almost to the handle. The human warrior coughed blood, looked at his (former) party member and asked, “Why...?”

                      “You always were a fool, Ricard,” Gogol replied in a gruff voice, “Mariska's cult might be weird, but they sure pay- aaaargh!”

                      Katriana was ready for the dwarf's perfidy, and thrust her longsword hard into the dwarf's side, between the plates of his armour, and the tip was red when she drew it out. Voss also struck, his spear uselessly caroming off Gogol's helmet, while Ashryn darted forward and prayed a healing spell over Ricard.

                      I didn't have the space to hit Gogol without risking hitting my own party, and I didn't have the range to hit Mariska, so instead I rounded on the silver fox knight and his two squires.

                      “That elf,” I said, pointing at the judge's stand, “Just assassinated the lord paramount and is trying to sacrifice the crowd to the God of Destruction.” I lowered my hand, “That dwarf is working for her.”

                      The knight gave me an a considering look, then nodded. “Say no more, friend,” he said, and that's when I noticed- his plate mail was inlaid with runes of copper, and when he turned to his squires, he ordered, “Give me Foxfang.” One of the boys reverently held out a bejewelled hilt sheathed in scaly leather, and the knight drew a longsword that was the faintly tinted red of dragonsteel, inlaid with runes of silver.

                      Probably the greatest Charisma check of my life, to be honest.

                      I turned, encanting magic as I went, and gestured at Gogol, reducing the dwarf by about half a foot. Ricard and the fox knight I could take or leave, but if he goes for Katriana or Ashryn, they would need the 20% reduction in his damage. Oh, Voss, too, I suppose, but I was a little more concerned about the mechanics of raising a pregnant woman.

                      Shockingly, I could see over the melee that the lord paramount was somehow still alive, and struggling forward out of the flames. His skin was black and sloughing off, and I wasn't even convinced he could see. He stumbled into the the still burning railing, when Mariska gestured and a band of light shot from her hands and bound him in place. Hold Person, I guess, keeping him in the fire where she wanted him.

                      Meanwhile, Ricard roared wordlessly, drew steel and slashed Gogol savagely in the face. Katriana and Voss maneuvered, keeping the dwarf hemmed in with their blades, and circled around to get more room.
                      The dwarf still only had eyes for his old friend, which was smart- my allies certainly weren't of a high enough level to seriously threaten him- and hacking viciously at Ricard, blood flying. Yet the older adventurer still didn't back down.

                      The fox knight brushed past me, sword flashing red in his hand, and he cleaved straight through Gogol's pauldron and bit deep into the dwarf's shoulder. Meanwhile, Ashryn hung back, in a protective stance beside me, biding her time.

                      I was stuck in this tunnel, with the angry-yet-shrunken mohawked dwarf berserker fighting my allies. I couldn't get anywhere as long as he was in the way- not without risking getting in my allies' way and maybe getting an axe in the teeth for my trouble.

                      With a great effort, Ricard managed to lash out one last time, striking true and raising a spray of blood. Gogol roared in defiance, and sank one of his axes deep into his former ally's skull. Next, he rounded on the fox knight, slashing out with a backhanded, almost casual blow that caught the knight in the gut.

                      He wasn't done, though, and the dragonsteel sword bit true once again. Then, surprisingly, one of the squires leapt forward, shouting, and took Ricard's place in the melee, his shortsword slipping between the dwarf's armour plates.

                      Meanwhile, there was another blossom of flame from the arena. The opponent knight, with a shield of midnight blue faced with a grey hammer, charged from the opposite tunnel, and struck Mariska with a glancing blow from his lance. Mariska, having been dashed to the ground by the force of the blow, stood, dusted sand off her hands, and gestured, Flamestriking the brave knight. The horse and knight alike screamed, and blindly charged into the side of the arena, both mount and rider sinking to the ground to die.

                      So, correction, Mariska was at least level ten.

                      Gogol lifted both of his axes, slamming them downwards into the fox knight, hacking open his chest in a spray of gore. The two-handed, powerful blow was enough of a distraction, however, for Katriana to come from behind and run the dwarf through with her blade.

                      Voss barked a laugh and turned to face Mariska, but I yelled, “Wait! We don't know how many more of those fire attacks she has!”

                      Grimacing, he stopped, and even backed further into the shelter of the tunnel. Though, I noted grimly, it wouldn't be a shelter for long with the way the fire was spreading through the stands. The crowds were stampeding on their way out, I could see, several of them leaping off the back just the get away from the consuming flames.

                      And yet, it was only spreading from the original Flamestrike. Either Mariska's plan was dumber than we originally assumed, or Calliope and Enna were successful in their ambush.

                      The fox knight's squires, meanwhile, had retrieved Foxfang and were in the middle of dragging the poor, dying knight back into the tunnel. Hopefully the fire wouldn't spread so far that the knight ended up cremated, after all that. I kind of liked the guy.

                      And at least he had a cool sword.

                      Guards began streaming into the arena from the tunnel where the hammer knight had ridden forth from, just basic city guardsmen armed with spears. Mariska wasn't having any of that, however, and gestured with a laugh, Flamestriking them and setting the stands on fire around the tunnel entrance. So much for reinforcements, I thought grimly, but also noted that Mariska was on her third Flamestrike. Level eleven, then. And she was allowed to use a 6th-level spell slot for a 5th level spell, I noted.

                      We waited, cowering in the tunnel, while Mariska turned to where the lord paramount was twitching and burning in the VIP box, and almost offhandedly she cast Flamestrike a fourth time, vapourizing him with a laugh. “I condemn your soul to Malgarath, heathen!” she cried, lifting her hands victoriously in the smoke-filled air.

                      Level twelve, maximum level for a elven cleric. “Alright, she's done,” I said, “Let's go!”

                      We charged out into the open, but it was my fatal error. I was so focused on Mariska's ability to annihilate us with fire, I didn't even consider that she had other tricks up her sleeve.

                      She noticed us immediately, and gestured, catching Voss and Katriana, who was in the middle of unlimbering her shortbow on the run, with bands of force, holding them in place.

                      My eyes immediately went wide, and I pushed Ashryn away. “Scatter!” I cried, and Ashryn went stumbling way in the arena sand, but Mariska was able to catch her, too, with another Hold Person spell.

                      My mind scrambled, reaching for anything I could hope to do to counter Mariska. Reduce was used up, and even if I hadn't used it it wouldn't do anything to stop her. Sleep was doubly useless- even if Mariska didn't have her elven immunity to the spell, she was of far too high a level for me to be able to affect her. Burning Hands didn't have the range to reach her... I settled on flinging three of my darts towards her, but it was an act of useless defiance. She was well out of range, and the darts fell to the floor well short of her position.

                      She cackled again and gestured, entrapping me in another Hold Person. I guess she memorized it so many times in order to stop fleeing stragglers. My momentum carried me forward and I fell in the sand not far from where the hammer knight's corpse quietly burned. My eyes lighted momentarily on where his longsword had landed, not far from the corpse, where an inch or so of blade glittered darkly in the firelight. Alchemical steel. Well, that was something.

                      Mariska closed the distance at a leisurely pace. At her level, the Hold Person spell would last for nearly half an hour, giving her plenty of time to gloat over us.

                      There had to be something I could, some way of getting us out of this situation.

                      “How does it feel, Theodore, to know that an adventurer is always just someone else's pawn?” she asked coyly, “I have to admit, your last-minute resistance was fairly admirable. A shame what happened to poor Gogol though, he was proving to be a very useful tool. Lord Malgarath isn't in the business of resurrection, more's the pity.”

                      Of course, the Hold Person spell prevented me from responding at all.

                      “Poor you,” she said to Voss as she turned to the rest of the party, “You had no idea how outclassed you would be, getting wrapped up in all this. At least you managed to last longer than your lord paramount. I feel bad, to be honest. I'll make sure your death is quick, don't you worry.”

                      That's when I noticed the ground shaking. I saw it before I felt it. Sand began flowing like water, falling from the many small dunes that formed the floor of the arena, occasionally jumping like water on a hot griddle.

                      “Sorry, Ashryn,” Mariska continued, “But the Ysiphine are just as pointless as all the rest of the gods. None of them will provide you with true power. You're doomed to always play a supporting figure to wizards and knights who get all the accolades and attention. Well, if you were to live longer, that is. Thanks for helping them take care of that messy business with the thief girl, by the way. I had Gogol use a potion to disguise his appearance, but one can never be too careful, when resurrecting dark gods.”

                      “And you,” Mariska said as she turned to Katriana, “I hate people like you most of all. Another simpering fool of a warrior, just like that pitiful Ricard. Well, some good your steel and your chivalry has done you now, hmm? I look forward to feeding you to the Firelord, idiot girl.”

                      The rumbling deep with in the earth finally reached a crescendo. Above the city, I could barely see through the haze of smoke on the periphery of my vision, one of the peaks exploded with a bang, showering molten rock into the air and sending up a great plume of ash. A bright, winged shape rose into the air, becoming larger as it headed towards Tresens.

                      I became dimly aware of Mariska cackling madly over the rumbling.

                      “Behold and despair, for you look upon Magarath the Firelord, God of Destruction!”

                      -------------------------------------------

                      Character Name: Theodore Esche
                      Race: Human
                      Class: Transmuter
                      Level (XP): 2 (3458/5000)
                      Hit Points: 4/5

                      Ability Scores
                      Strength 11
                      Dexterity 17
                      Constitution 8
                      Intelligence 17
                      Wisdom 13
                      Charisma 14

                      Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                      Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                      Spells Per Day:
                      1st Level- 2

                      Spellbook:
                      (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                      Spells Prepared:
                      (1st Level): Burning Hands, Reduce, Sleep

                      Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (42), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                      Money: 100 gp

                      Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                      Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                      Sexual Partners: 3

                      Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (13), Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                      Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                      Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                      Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                      Comment


                      • #41
                        Chapter 39: Isekai Life & Divine Intervention

                        So, to recap, while I reflect on how massively fucked I was.

                        Katriana, Ashryn, Voss and I were lying on the floor of the arena, bound by Hold Person spells (or whatever stupid name that spell had in this universe). We were all still alive, but for how much longer was anyone's guess.

                        The only other person still alive in the arena was Mariska, who had taken a hard right into mad religious nutcase territory and never looked back, cackling and capering with joy now that she had managed to unseal Malgarath the Firelord from the mountain he was imprisoned under for centuries or even millennia. I was a little hasty on the specifics there.

                        Enna and Calliope were... somewhere. Probably dead, if they hadn't shown up yet. They managed to keep the entire arena from burning all at once, for whatever good that did us. If they were lucky, they were fleeing.

                        All the allies we had hoped would pitch in- the arena guards, the competing knights, Ricard- were dead around us, having been burned or hacked to pieces by Gogol, Mariska's mercenary companion who was more than happy to murder people on her behalf. Some party they turned out to be. At least Gogol was dead, too, having fallen victim to Ricard, Katriana and one of the dead knights.

                        Hell, casting a wider net, the only other three people who even liked me in this city were a guard captain who was way over by the docks, a jeweller, and a sullen innkeeper.

                        So yeah, we were fucked. Except maybe Enna and Calliope, if they survived.

                        Corgiel, I'd like to have a word with you, please!

                        Malgarath himself lighted, if something so large could even be said to “light” somewhere, on the unburnt part of the arena. He (it?) appeared to be a red dragon sculpted from flame, massive enough that the wood groaned, but all the same he appeared... wan and indistinct, somehow. Most of his body was a suggestion, a distortion in the air, while the rest was made up mostly of pale orange flame. His core was bright red, but even that was faded compared to what you'd expect from a literal god of destruction.

                        But, still... did we manage to have an impact, somehow? In spite of everything? And, he chose the unburned section of arena to sit on....

                        However, it seemed there was nothing to do so long as we remained bound. We were completely powerless, without a prayer to hope for survival.

                        MARISKA, his voice boomed inside our heads. It was something felt rather than heard, a psychic blast rather than a physical voice. YOU FOOL, he continued, SOMEONE WHO STILL CARRIES THE BLOOD OF THE DRAGONSLAYER YET LIVES.

                        The blood of the who now!? Did he mean the lord paramount's family?

                        “That's impossible, great Firelord!” Mariska pleaded, kneeled before the dragon, “The lord's family was all in their box! I burned them all myself!”

                        SILENCE YOU WORM! That time the voice boomed loud enough to make me wince. YOU SLAUGHTERED ENOUGH TO WEAKEN THE SEAL SO I COULD ESCAPE, AND THAT IS WORTHY OF SOME COMMENDATION. BUT THE BLOODLINE OF THE DRAGONSLAYER STILL LIVES, AND YOU FAILED TO OFFER ENOUGH SOULS FOR ME TO ATTAIN MY FORMER POWER!

                        “Forgive me, my lord!” Mariska gestured back towards us, “Your servants have failed you, but I have brought those ultimately responsible to be the first sacrifices to your true greatness! You can sup on their souls and grow stronger!”

                        Wait.

                        Wait.

                        Perhaps... I did have a prayer, after all?

                        Oh Malgarath, the Firelord, God of Destruction whose true name I am unworthy of knowing, hear my prayer!

                        Though your so-called servant, Mariska, appears to be merely incompetent, hear me! She intends to betray you, and use your weakness and the existence of the Dragonslayer's line to maintain her control of you!

                        We were the adventurers her unknowing friend, Ricard Parett, hired to retrieve his ring from the same ruin she and your other servant, Lord Gauthi, were using as a dead drop for coded messages. She did so with the intention that we would intercept the messages, decode them, and use that information to stop your cult's plans.

                        She also sent us Ashryn Milaneth, servant of the Ysiphene, to help protect us and heal our wounds. We would have died many times over in our quest were it not for her blessings.

                        Mariska also sent us to find Enna of Shafttown, who Mariska had hired earlier, and who just so happened to have exactly the knowledge we needed to invade Lord Gauthi's manor later, slaughtering more of your servants and discovering the plans for the Purification ceremony, as well as the means to how your servants travelled about the city. Using this knowledge we could intercept them and disrupt the ceremony, denying you souls.

                        When our lives were in her hands, Mariska choose to dispatch her servants in small groups to ambush us, allowing us to overcome your mortal pawns piecemeal whereas one large ambush would have destroyed us utterly.

                        She knew where we slept, could have easily spied upon us or assassinated us and yet she did nothing, as we unravelled your plans just enough that you appear on this plane in a weakened state, with your great enemy still alive to threaten you.

                        She also allowed us here, with her, to be perfectly positioned to affect your ritual. She even brought along her much more skilled and experienced friend, Ricard, to join us when she had every excuse to deny us?

                        Did she not summon you to this place, the very arena where the Dragonslayers honour the gods by training knights to fight?

                        I ask of you, great Firelord, Mariska may have offered you her soul, but how do you know she does not secretly serve the Ysiphine in her heart?

                        How does this string of failures affect her?

                        Is this truly incompetence and foolishness, or is it a carefully measured grab for power?

                        Give me but a moment to prove my worth, and I will take her place as your high priest. I will deliver to you the Dragonslayer without fail, and many souls more beside. Only give me the chance.

                        This I ask of you, o great Firelord! No, this I beg!

                        The head of the great dragon swung towards me and examined me carefully as I prayed. Mariska was still pleading, professing her love and devotion to the Firelord even as she detailed her plans for making up for her failures. I hoped it had some kind of empathy or telepathy to sense how desperate I was that he believed me.

                        This was my only chance.

                        Suddenly, as I finished the prayer, the head swung back towards Mariska.

                        WHAT TREACHERY IS THIS, MARISKA!? He (psychically) roared, DO YOU THINK ME SO FOOLISH THAT I WOULD ALLOW THIS PERFIDY!?

                        “Wh-what treachery, o great Firelord?” she said ins a panic, lowering her head to the ground, “I have done nothing but be your loyal servant!”

                        WORM! MEANINGLESS MORTAL! I WILL DINE ON YOUR SOUL FIRST!

                        Gouts of flame jetted forth from Malgarath's mouth... or at least where the mouth would be on a normal dragon. Mariska screamed as the flame consumed her, that scream dying off as her lungs ruptured.

                        No, I take it back- this was the greatest Charisma check of my life.

                        With a wave of one fiery hand, Malgarath dismissed the spell placed on us, freeing us from the Hold Person.

                        I rose, unsteadily to my feet, while my companions looked around, confused.

                        STEP FORWARD, THEODORE OF ESCHE. I WOULD DUB YOU MY NEW HIGH PRIEST.

                        “Yes, o great Firelord,” I said as I limped backwards, grabbed the hammer knight's longsword, and used it as a walking stick to help me move toward the God of Destruction. Not the kind of thing I would normally want to get closer to, but still.

                        As I went by, I could see my companions' expressions. Voss seemed in a daze. Ashryn had a betrayed, hurt look that made my heart break a little. I could see Katriana mouth at me, silently, “What are you thinking?”

                        I gave her a wan smile, and turned back towards Malgarath, who had lowered himself from the stands onto the sand, since I couldn't step on the smouldering judge's stand. I hesitated a moment. “Oh great Firelord, I have but one humble request. I will gladly serve, but please, spare these two women. They are my lovers, and I would keep them so.”

                        YOU MAY KEEP THE WHO WITH HAIR OF FLAME, he replied, BUT THE ELF IS A SERVANT OF OUR ENEMY GODS AND MUST BE SACRIFICED

                        “But great lord,” I said as I drew closer, squinting at the heat of his body, “Her body pleases me greatly, and I believe she may already carry my child. Surely, she does not need a tongue to serve me as a slave and bear more servants for your greatness? That would prevent her from channeling many of the powers of the hated Ysiphine.”

                        I heard Ashryn gasp behind me.

                        VERY WELL, the great dragon allowed, BUT YOU MUST SACRIFICE THE MAN AND THIS MORTAL NAMED ENNA TO ME, AND REMOVE HER TONGUE YOURSELF TO PROVE YOURSELF TO ME

                        “Consider it already done, great Firelord.”

                        I had drawn up close to his body, my eyes watering at the extreme heat. The metal of the sword made my hands sweat, and I could feel the sweat evaporating on my brow.

                        THEN KNEEL, THEODORE OF ESCHE, AND RECEIVE MY BLESSING

                        I took a deep breath. This was it.

                        “Kings never kneel.”

                        I drew the blade of black steel and in one smooth movement, struck.

                        -------------------------------------------

                        haracter Name: Theodore Esche
                        Race: Human
                        Class: Transmuter
                        Level (XP): 2 (3458/5000)
                        Hit Points: 4/5

                        Ability Scores
                        Strength 11
                        Dexterity 17
                        Constitution 8
                        Intelligence 17
                        Wisdom 13
                        Charisma 14

                        Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                        Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                        Spells Per Day:
                        1st Level- 2

                        Spellbook:
                        (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                        Spells Prepared:
                        (1st Level): Burning Hands, Reduce, Sleep

                        Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                        Money: 100 gp

                        Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                        Companions: Katriana (Level 2 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 2 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 2 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                        Sexual Partners: 3

                        Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (13), Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                        Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                        Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                        Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                        Comment


                        • #42
                          Chapter 40: Isekai Life & Old Man Theodore

                          What had been on my mind since Malgarath first ripped his way, kaiju-style, out of a mountain and decided to show up to wreck my shit was the tale of Old Man Henderson.

                          It is a tale that made it's way around 4chan back in the day, about some asshole who decided to take his aggression out on an (allegedly) shitty GM by power-gaming and manipulating the GM to letting Old Man Henderson, a character that was dreamed up to specifically wreck the shit of the Call of Cthulhu game he was in, with a 350-page backstory so mind-numbingly long that nobody could read the whole thing to call said player out on his bullshit.

                          Either the story is fake or the GM had to be in on this at some point because, really, in a modern game setting it's not all that hard to kill someone. “The sniper you didn't detect from over a kilometer away puts a bullet in your skull and you die.” I guess the GM could have also been stupid, but who knows?

                          Hey, I really only play D&D and Pathfinder, games that are designed for people to powergame in, to a certain extent. While I don't particularly like roleplay-heavy horror games like CoC, I wouldn't show up at a CoC game and wreck the whole thing out of spite. Cthulhu players are masochists who are there largely to see their characters die or go mad in brutal yet interesting ways. If they get to dynamite some shoggoths, that's icing on the cake. I wouldn't want to take away their fun.

                          Besides, there are much more satisfying system to wreck in that way, anyway. Like Shadowrun.

                          Fucking cyberpunk nerds.

                          Anyway, to make a long story short, Old Man Henderson wound up “winning” Call of Cthulhu by wiring an entire stadium up with dynamite, summoning Hastur, and then killing a god by blowing the stadium with Hastur inside when we was still vulnerable, post-summoning. I was wondering if Malgarath was the same way- could he have been summoned in such a weak state that it was possible to kill him?

                          I wanted to find out.

                          The black alchemical blade passed through the flames and became searing hot in an instant- so hot I let it go, afraid that it would be like a “Heat Metal” spell and burn me. Oh well, not my sword anyway.

                          TREACHERY! The psychic voice boomed, YOUR SOUL IS MINE, THEODORE OF ESCHE!

                          “Spread out!” I yelled to my allies, “We don't have much time before he breathes fire again!”

                          I stayed in close to the god, though, spread my fingers and conjuring fire at the thing. I don't know how well that did for damage, but it seemed to piss him off more. Red dragons are normally immune to all forms of fire, but if I was correct, this guy wasn't- which is why he moved to the other side of the arena.

                          Still, our situation was only slightly improved from before. He had to have a minimum AC of 0, meaning depending on the person we'd be rolling 18s and 19s to even scratch the thing. To whit, Katriana fired one of her magical arrows, only to have it be deflected by nothing at all.

                          Absolute worse case scenario, it was impossible to hit for us.

                          Voss charged forward with his spear, coming up beside me with a roar and stabbed deep into the heat/fire dragon god thing. He immediately yelped and dropped his spear- I could see the wooden handle smouldering all over, and the tip of glowing a dull red. Still, he must have managed to hurt it because Malgarath cried out in fury and scarmbled at Voss with it's claws, Voss' skin blistering with the heat. Eventually, it reached down, grabbed Voss with it's “mouth”, and launched him sideways with a chilling scream.

                          I could see Ashryn chanting and gesturing at me, probably giving me her Protection from Evil spell. Dog knows I would need it if this thing was capable of defeating Voss in one round.

                          I dashed to circle around to it's back, tossing darts (probably uselessly) as I went. Now the bulk of the thing was between me and Katriana, and hopefully it would be sufficiently pissed that it would come for me instead. I must have gotten my wish, because it breathed fire to a spot just behind me, and tried to “walk” the flames over me. I could feel the flesh of my back blister and bubble, and my robe caught fire. I went spinning to the ground desperate to put it out, but landing on my back in the sand was purest agony.

                          Well, it was a good run. At least I'm not dying, bound by a stupid Hold Person spell with that bitch Mariska standing over me and gloating.

                          Fuck, are there valkryies in this world? I could swear I heard war horns....

                          Ah, there she is, I thought as I saw a shadow rise up on the stands behind Malgarath, come to take me back to Corgiel....

                          Instead, she leapt from the the stands and with two hands slammed a dwarven war pick into Malgarath's back, then screamed and bounced back, dropping the weapon so she could shake her hands.

                          I saw a dart of light burst against Malgarath's head, and it turns back to where Katriana was, roaring in defiance, only to have an arrow strike true and rip straight through it's body, disappearing into ash on the other side.

                          Enna came back into view, patting on the fires on my robe and gently lifting me off the sand.

                          “Hey there, valkryie,” I said in a pained voice that didn't seem like my own.

                          “Ooh, you're in a bad way, Theo,” she said with concern in her voice, “'Ow bout we get you someplace same an' let Captain 'Awkins and 'is boys finish up the mean old dragon god, yeah?”

                          “I thought you were dead,” I sighed as she picked me up over her shoulder, fireman-style.

                          Enna snorted a laugh. “Against those buncha pricks? I went through 'em like a hot knife through butter. One managed to sneak up on Calliope, though. She ain't in much better state than you, but insisted on coming because she 'ad a spell still up her sleeve.”

                          Was that the magic missile I saw? I snorted a laugh. She disobeyed me and didn't keep Shield memorized. Oh, well.

                          “Come on, then, Katriana wouldn't let me 'ear the end of it if we 'ad to raise you.”

                          “Sure, sure.”

                          She carried me to the shelter of the opposite tunnel, the one the hammer knight had ridden out of. Gently, she laid me against the wall, which made me hiss with pain. “Sorry, princey, but I don't think it's wise to lay an injured man on his front where he might end up drownin' in sand if it was shoved in his face.”

                          “Sounds good,” I said weakly, “Fuckin' dragons.”

                          Enna barked a laugh. “Listen, I'm gonna go back out there, make sure that your girlfriends are okay, alright?”

                          “Yeah,” I said, “Take care of yourself, too, okay? You're one of my precious knights, Enna. There are only three of you, after all.”

                          She laughed again. “You've got strange priorities, m'lord.”

                          And, she was gone.

                          It was actually pretty boring, sitting out the rest of the fight. Contrary to what people would tell you, you can't pass out from pain. Sitting there gave me a thorough education in that fact.

                          All the same, I was fading in and out, exhausted. Dragon fire sucks the life out of you in a way that a sword blow doesn't. Occasionally I would startle back into awareness from Malgarath roaring or the heat of him unleashing his fiery breath, which of course introduced a fresh stab of pain in my back, but for the most part I just drifted in a grey fog.

                          Eventually I felt a gentle hand on my shoulder, and a soothing, cool tingling sensation all over my body.

                          “He's okay, he just passed out,” I heard a sweet voice say, “He'll be alright, it's been a hard day for all of us.”

                          I forced my eyes open to see Ashryn kneeling in front of me, and Katriana and Calliope standing above. Katriana looked like she had been crying.

                          Ashryn smiled at me. “See? There he is.”

                          I swallowed, hard. “Does anyone have some water?”

                          Katriana cried out, kneeling next to me and wrapping her arms around me, giving me a very unsisterly kiss in the process. Soon, Ashryn was joining on the hug, and Calliope eventually joined in, too, with a characteristic roll of the eyes.

                          “Uh, this is nice and all,” I said after a moment, “But I'm still thirsty, and also it's really hot.”

                          “This is cozy. Mind if I interrupt?” A man's voice said from somewhere.

                          I looked up and saw Captain Hawkins standing off to one side, with a grinning Enna next to him. Both looked fairly scratched up and soot-stained, but whole and healthy. My girls helped me up, and Hawkins came forward and shook my hand.

                          “You all did a great service for this city,” he said, moving to shake Katriana's and the rest, “Enna explained to me what was going on and what you did to prevent the loss of more life. This was a tragedy, to be sure, if if not your your intervention it could have been much worse.”

                          I gave him a sly look. “The new lord paramount of Tresens, I presume?”

                          He looked surprised. “How did you figure that one out?”

                          I couldn't say “Oh, well, you're the only NPC still alive that doesn't work for me.” So, I just shrugged and replied, “Lucky guess.”

                          “Well, I've still got to figure out things here. We're only just getting the bucket brigade moving,” he said anxiously, “Please, allow me to host you and yours at the palace. We'll send your man Voss over as soon as we have him back on his feet.”

                          So Voss did buy the farm. I sighed, “Sure.” I know he's tough enough that he'll probably pass the Resurrection Chance roll no problem, but I still felt sad. He was the first knight to die in my service, and while I'm sure with the lord paramount's word he would absolutely be coming back, we can't just rely on Raise Dead. With a -1 Constitution drop per raise, eventually we'll all get so weak we die out.

                          Besides, we wouldn't always have the lord of a city telling clerics that we deserved to be raised.

                          One of the city guards escorted us out of the arena, and onto a waiting wagon. There were other wagons, for the dead and the injured. Our wagon was just for us, though.

                          This whole time, Katriana refused to leave my side. “I thought you had died, Theodore,” she said, resting her head on my shoulder in the wagon.

                          “Well, I didn't,” I said simply, “And you didn't either, and, well, I'm just going to happy for that, for now.”

                          We rode in a little bit of silence. Calliope looked sour- I had Ashryn on one side and Katriana on the other, and, well, I only had so many shoulders.

                          I cleared my throat. “So, what did I miss, Calliope? What happened with you?”

                          “Well, first, after we left the inn, we didn't go straight to the arena. Enna insisted on going to the Docks first, and speaking to Captain Hawkins,” she shrugged, “Obviously that was the right move, but at the time I thought it was dangerous waste of time. After all, Enna was basically going to admit to breaking the terms of her bail.”

                          “Thankfully, 'Awkins was on board,” Enna explained, “He knew I wouldn't come and put myself out like 'at for nothin', so he paid careful attention to what I was sayin', and got 'is guards together to come 'elp when it looked like you were in a pickle.”

                          “A pickle” is probably the mildest way you could ever put what just happened, but okay.

                          “We then headed to the catacombs, found where they opened up under the arena, dodged some carrion crawlers, and got up top where we could wait in safety. There was even a ladder,” Calliope continued, “There were only eight cultists. I summoned the mist like you said, and Enna took them out. One managed to climb out and stabbed me in the arm before I could kill him. Ashryn healed me, of course, but it was pretty ugly.” She looked a little sheepish. “By the way... I don't know what got it into your head that that purple potion had a healing effect, because it didn't do a thing for me.”

                          Well, I guess the sampling method of potion identification had some flaws.

                          “We stayed down there for awhile, thinkin' there might be another wave of 'em or somethin'. When we 'eard the fightin' up 'ere, we came runnin',” Enna continued, “By the time we 'ad eyes on the situation, you were in a rough patch with Mariska there, and so I send Calliope to get the guard while I got into position.”

                          I started at that. “Wait, how long were you up there waiting to help?”

                          She started counting off her fingers. “I saw you captured, I saw Malgarath suddenly decide to roast 'is priestess, an' I 'eard you tell a fuckin' god that you don't kneel like your balls were made of solid adamantine!” She cackled, “Yeah, at that point, I 'ad zero regrets about gettin' knighted by you. No reservations, my lord, I'm your lady forever!”

                          Calliope gave me a wondering look. Ashryn looked agape. “Is that what you said?” she asked, wonderingly.

                          Katriana just punched me in the shoulder. “Are you stupid!? You're lucky you still have a soul, nevermind your own skin! Damn it, Theodore!”

                          Calliope put up a hand. “If you're mad at him, can I have a turn?”

                          Enna cracked up laughing again. I even managed to shuck my grim mood and crack a smile.

                          “So what happened after you got me away from the battle?” I asked.

                          Katriana was settling down after swapping spots with Calliope, and replied, “Well, Hawkins came in with about two dozen halberdiers and another dozen crossbowmen, so I broke off to try and find what happened to you. A dragon god is pretty bad, but I guess we had weakened him enough that Hawkins and the halberds didn't take long to finish him off. Malgarath tried to fly off, and the crossbows brought him down so Hawkins could finish him off with some magic sword.”

                          Well, that was a little disappointing, after all we when through. I suppose it's better for us, in the end, but I'd like some recognition.

                          I guess I'd just have to settle for the love and admiration of three beautiful women.


                          Character Name: Theodore Esche
                          Race: Human
                          Class: Transmuter
                          Level (XP): 2 (4608/5000)
                          Hit Points: 5

                          Ability Scores
                          Strength 11
                          Dexterity 17
                          Constitution 8
                          Intelligence 17
                          Wisdom 13
                          Charisma 14

                          Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                          Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                          Spells Per Day:
                          1st Level- 2

                          Spellbook:
                          (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                          Spells Prepared:
                          (1st Level): Burning Hands, Reduce, Sleep

                          Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                          Money: 100 gp

                          Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                          Companions: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, fiancee), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                          Sexual Partners: 3

                          Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (12), Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                          Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                          Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                          Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                          Comment


                          • #43
                            Chapter 41: Isekai Life & New Rest

                            We were taken to the palace of the lord paramount in Tresens, which was a fortified estate. If what Mariska said was to be believed, it was also a former temple to Malgarath himself. The thought set a shiver up my spine. I don't know what will happen to Malgarath now... Ashryn's little myth seemed to imply that the gods are totally unkillable by mortal hands, but who knows if she's accurate. I mean, that sounds like something a god would totally tell a cleric to say.

                            Well, I could at least hope that he was out of the way for now.

                            The wagon rolled through the gates and to the front of the main building. Ashryn and Katriana were helping me to the ground when some servants came out to greet us. The wagon driver delivered the instructions, “These are the honoured guests of Lord Paramount Harelmaine, they are to be given a suite of rooms to themselves and their every need seen to.”

                            Fairly innocuous instructions, but there were audible gasps and one of the older maids fainted when “Lord Paramount Harlemaine” was mentioned. I guess work of the previous lord paramount's death hadn't reached here until now.

                            Also, more to the point- Hawkins' first name was Harlemaine? Poor bastard.

                            Either way, once they collected themselves and the fainted maid was taken away to recover, we were taken into the manor, and whisked away to our rooms. It was a small courtyard, partly covered with a canopy, around which there was a portico with eight bedrooms branching off of it. The canopied part of the courtyard was a comfortable looking seating area with a stone firepit, while the uncovered bit was was a small garden.

                            One of the maids curtsied as we took this all in. “Will there anything be else, sir and madams?”

                            “Well, actually, I-” I began, when Calliope gently took me by shoulder and lead me away. Katriana took my place, and continued without missing a beat, asked for Bekker and our belonging to be retrieved from the Lazy Ox.

                            Calliope, leading me to one of the chairs, sat me down and said, “Sorry, but I know how some men react to a maid in uniform, and, well....”

                            “Well?” I asked.

                            “I don't want to have to share you with... some maid,” she said, “I agree with Katriana's point of view, where we have to make sure that you only lay with... quality people. So, don't mind us if we screen some of the women you interact, okay?”

                            Apparently a conspiracy was afoot with my lovers. I had to tread carefully if I was to continue with my harem plan.

                            “Yes, well, that's fine and all,” I said thoughtfully, even though it kind of wasn't, “But all I wanted was some water, which none of you have bothered to get me since I asked for it back at the arena.”

                            She at least had the grace to wince visibly. “I'll, um, look for some water for you,” she replied, and scurried off to look in one of the bedrooms.

                            We were left there for most of the day, and while I did get a drink, it was only when the servants dropped off platters of fruit, cold cuts and cheeses, along with pitchers of wine and sweet tea for us to enjoy.

                            The immediate lack of comforts, it turns out, probably had to do with the fact that we were a relatively large party of uninvited guests. The beds in each of the rooms were unmade, bare mattresses that maids showed up later that day to make up with fresh sheets. Everything was well kept, but unlike the inn, it seem this space was on standby until guests were expected.

                            The bedrooms were a little disappointing to me. They were little rooms, comfortable for one person but crowded for two, with a writing desk, double bed, and space for a chest. Maybe we could squeeze three of us into one, but it would have been like the one night the four of us slept in the larger bed at the inn- crowded and uncomfortable. While the courtyard with it's sitting area and all was very nice, the individual rooms were very lacking compared to what I had gotten used to.

                            Bekker eventually arrived, along with a pair of stablehands carrying my chest and a line of other servants bringing in our various packs, bags and other accoutrements we left at the inn. Immediately, he took a look around, taking everything and began delivering orders to the lord paramount's own staff like he had been our butler for years instead of a couple days. He found everything unacceptable- the fact that we hadn't been offered baths to wash off the soot, the fact that we we hadn't been offered bread and salt- some kind of hospitality rule, I suppose- he even found parts of the bedrooms that were insufficiently dusted. Needless to say, the lord paramount's servants snapped to and soon we were served even more food, told that we could expect a bath shortly, and even asked what our preferences for dinner would be.

                            To be totally fair to the staff at the palace, they had just found out their lord had died and maybe had his soul devoured by a dark god.

                            It was a long afternoon, and much of it was spent filling in Bekker on everything that had happened. Only Enna was really in good cheer, and she had walked out to explore the palace pretty early on. The rest of us had gotten cleaned up, rested and were enjoying our little fire over some wine. Every time I saw Ashryn or Katriana drinking more, I winced, but what could I say that wouldn't be breaking the rules?

                            As the night wore on, my first instinct was to take Ashryn to bed and make a snarky remark about leaving Calliope and Katriana needing to discuss keeping me away from women. But... if I wanted a harem, that involved putting in the work. That is, keeping in mind the emotions of the girls. I couldn't just act like an asshole because it was cathartic.

                            Instead, maybe they deserved a little subtle reminder?

                            I cleared my throat. “Um, Ashryn, where does Calliope fit into your prophecy?”

                            “Oh!” Ashryn seemed excited for the topic of conversation to fall on one of her specialities, “I think she's the Maiden of Battles. After all, she was a maiden when you met her, and got ambushed directly after, right?”

                            “Yeah, but we were all virgins,” Katriana said, blushing a little, “And we've all seen battle. I thought you said you were going to be certain about this prophecy thing.”

                            “Well, I am,” Ashryn said nervously, “At least, I was about you and Theo. And me, too, I suppose.”

                            “In Ashryn's defence, divination is a very touch-and-go thing,” Calliope said slowly, “It could be that I don't qualify yet, for whatever reason. Why don't you tell me the whole body of your prophecy, and we can try and figure it out.”

                            So Ashryn gave up the whole prophecy again, from the top, for Calliope (and, I guess, Bekker, who was standing over us, waiting on our wish).

                            “On the first day that is not the first day, the Uncrowned King awakens,” she began, “He will bear the book of power in his left hand, and the sword of wisdom in his right, and the ground will quake at his passing. He is the ruiner of ways, the breaker of kingdoms. The ethereal prince who will master the world and build an empire that is both old and new.

                            “Seven will be the trials he much pass to earn his crown. Fire and Storm, Sea and Ice. Light, Shadow and Doom Itself will scatter before him, to make his way to the comet-shattered throne. Twelve will be his Queens. At his right hand, the Sword of Blood. At his left, the Speaker of the Stars.”

                            “That's me and Ashryn,” Katriana added, “I'm the Sword of Blood and she's the Speaker of the Stars.”

                            “Fox Princess,” Ashryn continued, “Dragon's Daughter, and The Queen of Twilight will bow before him. Behind him shall stand the Maiden of Battles, the Black Huntress, and Silence's Song. At his side, the Crimson Tiger, Laughing Flower, the Bride Veiled in Steel and the Herald of Dead Kingdoms.” She sighed. “Well, that's the end of the relevant part for his wives.”

                            “I would like you to finish the prophecy, if that's okay,” Calliope said thoughtfully, “It might be important.”

                            “Okay, well,” Ashryn continued, “Neither the crown nor the twelfth bridal bed shall end his journey. The wheel shall turn, and the raven will fall from heaven. The Eternal King shall die, and the All-Father's Eye will be put out. He will guard the Last Flame, and ignite the new age.”

                            I never really appreciated how Dark Souls-y that last bit was until now. Also, putting out a god's eye seems a lot less metaphorical now.

                            “Okay, so, if I'm getting this right,” Calliope said consideringly, “There are going to be twelve of us? I mean... that's more than I thought. Sure, you have a lot of affection to share, but that's a lot of ways to split your attention. What happens when one of us needs you, and you're off with someone else?”

                            “Well, that's where the rest of us come in, honestly,” Katriana replied. “You're thinking too linearly. We're not three women with a one way relationship with Theodore. If you have a problem, if you need support, and Theodore is busy with Ashryn or whoever else ends up in this strange little prophecy-family, come to me. Or Ashryn is it's the opposite situation.”

                            “We can make this work. We will make it work,” Ashryn said, smiling, “We just defeated Malgarath the Firelord, after all.”

                            “Well,” I allowed, “With just a little bit of help.”

                            We all had a little laugh at that.

                            “Well, its a lot to take in,” Calliope said, “But that was almost certainly this 'trial of fire'.”

                            “Yes, it was,” Ashryn confirmed.

                            “Well, I don't think we should go looking for the other trials,” Calliope continued, “They'll find us soon enough and if the actual, for real, God of Destruction was the first one I shudder to think what might follow. And, well, aside from me not being ready for more wives yet, finding people and expecting Theodore to fall in love with them if just silly. Theodore will tell us when he's found someone.” She frowned, suddenly, “You both also ignored another pertinent part of the prophecy, which is fine, I get it, it's easy to miss for all the lurid details of wives and trials, but we definitely need to keep an eye out for this book of power and sword of wisdom. And if we can figure them out, go for them.”

                            “That makes sense. So what is our next move, in your interpretation?” Katriana asked.

                            Calliope considered the question. “The one thing we can control, right now,” she said, eventually, “We need to get married.”

                            Katriana chuckled. Ashryn smiled at her. “You did say you wanted to be first.”

                            “Well,” she said as she glanced at me and smiled, “I'll go dress shopping the first chance I get.”

                            I yawned. “I'll try to find something nice, too,” I replied, “But I think I just want to sleep right now.”

                            “Who do you want tonight, Theodore?” Katrina asked.

                            “Nobody,” I said simply, “I don't think I have it in me. But... I guess I wouldn't mind it if Ashryn wants to cuddle.”

                            Ashryn giggled and rose from her seat. “Goodnight, you two, I'll see the prince to bed.”

                            Life, for a little while, at least, was going to be good.


                            Character Name: Theodore Esche
                            Race: Human
                            Class: Transmuter
                            Level (XP): 2 (4608/5000)
                            Hit Points: 5

                            Ability Scores
                            Strength 11
                            Dexterity 17
                            Constitution 8
                            Intelligence 17
                            Wisdom 13
                            Charisma 14

                            Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                            Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                            Spells Per Day:
                            1st Level- 2

                            Spellbook:
                            (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc

                            Spells Prepared:
                            (1st Level): none

                            Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                            Money: 100 gp

                            Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                            Companions: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & fiancee), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                            Sexual Partners: 3

                            Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (12), Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                            Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                            Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                            Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

                            Comment


                            • #44
                              Chapter 42: Isekai Life & Marking Territory

                              I woke up early for once. I was turned toward Ashryn, spooning her. I felt a little bad for poo-pooing the rooms here- the mattress was soft enough that you sank three inches into it, the sheets were silk, and whatever the pillows were stuffed with, they were just stiff enough to provide the right amount of support, as if they had been carefully calibrated that way.

                              Ashryn was still sound asleep, her silver hair arrayed around her head like a halo. Most of the time, she seemed to have that elvish agelessness about her, where she could have been a mature-looking teen or a young-looking grandmother or anything in between. But when she was asleep, she looked as fresh and sweet as a spring flower.

                              I slipped out of bed, careful not to disturb my elven fiancee. As quietly as possible, I rifled through my backpack and drew out my spellbook. I only had an hour or so every morning to memorize spells, else I had to do without, and Malgarath's dragon fire probably ripped through what was left of my Armor spell like it was cheap toilet paper.

                              So I sat and studied or a bit, and then intoned the magic words for my Armor. I glowed briefly, as the enchantment settled on me like a comforting (but unfelt) security blanket. Thankfully, my robe wasn't a spell component- fully luxuriating in my newfound privacy, I slept without underclothes and didn't bother getting dressed right away.

                              That finally got Ashryn to stir, so, as carefully as I could, I retrieved my key, unlocked the storage chest, and hunted out the component I would need to a different kind of spell.

                              “Theo?” Ashryn said sleepily, “Where you saying something?”

                              “Yes, just a spell, silverheart,” I said, sitting on the edge of the bed. She rolled over to look at me, idly running a hand over my lower back.

                              “What are you doing?” I asked.

                              “Just touching you,” she replied, softly, then, “Why did you call me silverheart?”

                              I reached over and tugged a lock of her hair where she could see it. “Your hair is so beautiful,” I said quietly, “I half expected it to melt when I touched it, like ice.”

                              She giggled. “I'm not that cold.”

                              “No, you're very warm,” I said, reaching up to stroke her cheek, “Just a passing thought. I don't have to called you silverheart if you don't want.”

                              Ashryn giggled again. “Be careful. I'm sure Katriana wouldn't mind be called fireheart, but I don't think Calliope would appreciate...”

                              “You don't have to say it,” I said, wincing.

                              “...Barkheart,” she finished, then gave me a confused look. “What did you think I was going to say?”

                              “Don't worry about it,” I said, shaking my head at my own foolishness, “I bought you a gift. It was to make up for the loss of your painting, before I knew you weren't upset about that.”

                              I opened my hand and revealed her present. It was a choker, much like Calliope's, black satin with designed worked in gold, this time a pattern of leaf-like designs. The stone set in the centre was a violet garnet, which I had hoped would match her eyes, but it was just a shade or two too red. So much for working from memory.

                              She exclaimed over it all the same, taking it from me delicately, and examining it before clutching it to her chest. “It's beautiful,” she said with awe, “I was a bit jealous of Calliope... but you bought one for me, too.”

                              “So you like it?”

                              “I love it, Theodore,” she said gently, batting her eyes at me, “Thank you.”

                              She immediately sat up in bed, turn to put her back towards me, and handed me the choker over one shoulder. I took the choker and gently fastened it on, the small clasp slipping a little in my grip.

                              After, my hands drifted down her shoulders, then eased forward to take hold of each of her breasts. Ashryn giggled as my hands explored, leaning back into me. The soft flesh overflowed my hands, and when my fingers took hold of her nipples, her giggling turn to sighs.

                              “I used to think they were too big,” she said, as I played with her nipples, feeling them get hard, “I thought they were vulgar and lewd....”

                              “Mmm, well,” I said, “Let me show you how much I like them....”

                              I took her gently by the shoulders and laid her down on the bed. I crawled over her, lifting her legs, and just rubbed my hardening cock against he pussy lips. Ashryn moaned a little in anticipation, but I had other plans for now. I lowered myself to one of her nipples, and licked it, circling my tongue around her areola before nibbling lightly on the tip.

                              I used her pussy on my cock as an indication of how well I was doing. The more I played my tongue and mouth over her nipples, the more she writhed and rubbed against my rod, silently begging for my cock. But I was relentless, teasing, nibbling, licking. You had to be rougher with larger breasts, or so I had heard, but all the same I played the elf priestess like a finely tuned instrument until the subtlest little touch or twitch had her moaning. Her puffy, moist lips thrust out against my cock with urgency, but still I wouldn't let up.

                              “Oh, Theodore, please!” she gasped after awhile, “Why aren't you...?”

                              “Why aren't I... what?” I said before taking a lick again.

                              “Oh, Theodore....”

                              “Come on, tell me what a dirty girl the elven priestess really is....”

                              “I need that thing inside me....”

                              I let a hand drift down between us. “Something like... this?”

                              I reached between us and pinched her clit, now a rock hard little nub, and she came like a rocket, moaning loudly and clutching my head to her breast. She thrust her hips against my hand like a wild animal, humping me until I honestly wished that my hand wasn't in the way.

                              When she was done climaxing, and lay there, panting, I moved up her body, until I was straddling her torso with my iron-hard cock between her breasts. “Theo, what're you...?” she asked, still recovering, when I pushed her big boobs together and started pistoning my cock between them.

                              I had been dreaming of doing this ever since Ashryn starting throwing herself on me, and titfucking a beautiful priestess seemed the least reward that the gods owed me.

                              The feeling was heavenly- her skin between them was soft and tender, and the pillowy flesh of her tits provided the right amount of resistance. While I was enjoying myself, I still played with Ashryn's nipples a little more with my thumbs, causing her to coo and moan a little, but her attention was focused on two things- my face, and the head of my cock popping out of the top of her cleavage.

                              Playing so much with Ashryn earlier had me going at full steam, though, and soon I was thrusting as fast and hard as I could. I was being a little rough, but Ashryn didn't complain, and soon I was wrapped up in my own orgasm, jets of semen shooting out over her pretty elven face and neck. Ashryn squeaked her surprise, but smiled sweetly.

                              I was feeling like being a little rough, though. Maybe it was the fact that she had such a virginal little smile while her face was covered in my semen. Maybe it was that thought that I was taking my reward from the gods out of their priestess (regardless of the fact that she was perfectly willing). Maybe it was just the feeling of her tender breasts on my cock.

                              I wiped the top of my cock off on her tit, then moved back down between her legs, spreading them apart with my hands.

                              She gave me an odd look, and said, “It's alright, Theo, we both already- oh!”

                              I penetrated her, even though I wasn't quite back at 100% hardness yet. “It's okay, silverheart,” I said, gently, “I'm just not done with you yet.”

                              She bit her lip a bit nervously and nodded. “Please, use me until you're satisfied,” she said quietly, “I'll take every drop of your cum you want to put inside me, no matter where you want to put it.”

                              That was enough to get me started again. Her pussy was still hot and moist from her orgasm, and I had the visual of her semen-streaked face moaning, her cumstained tits bouncing with my every thrust. I used her body, again, like a brute, but that didn't stop her from having a moaning, shuddering, noisy orgasm right before I shot a second load of cum straight into her pussy.

                              This time I needed the recovery time. I rolled off Ashryn onto the bed, and panted, my heart thundering in my ears. When I had my breath back, I looked over at Ashryn, who was watching me with that little smile on her face.

                              “I'm sorry,” I said softly, “That was a little rough....”

                              “No, it's fine,” Ashryn said, reaching over to stroke my face, “I kind of liked it like that.” She settled back. “You felt like... I don't know. A beast. But all your attention was on me. You were using me, but it felt good to be used that way.”

                              I never thought of myself as much of a beast, but it did feel like that a little, I guess.

                              “It's time I go see how the troops are doing,” I said, getting up out of bed, “Enna wasn't back by the time I retired. Chances are she isn't in trouble, but I would like to know what happened to her....”

                              I glance at Ashryn, who was running a hand over her belly thoughtfully, looking down at herself.

                              “Are you okay?” I asked.

                              Ashryn startled out of some reverie, and looked back at me with a smile. “Yes, I'm okay. Just... thinking. You know, hoping.”

                              Part of me wanted to chuckle, but I couldn't give any sign that Ashryn's wish had already come true and she'd been carrying our child for the past five days.

                              I started to wonder about Calliope, though. Was I shooting three for three? I didn't have sex with her until after I levelled up... and having three of would-be protectors and fellow adventurers pregnant at once would be a drastic decline in our ability to defend ourselves.

                              And beyond that... I didn't know how I felt about being a father. That seemed like a lot of responsibility for a heaven to put on me.

                              “Theodore?”

                              “Just thinking and hoping, too, silverheart.”

                              I just didn't know what I was hoping for.
                              Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                              Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                              Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

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                              • #45
                                Chapter 43: Isekai Life & Lord's Rewards

                                I pulled on my robe, thoughtfully left out by Bekker while we were sleeping, and headed out into the courtyard, where I was greeted with applause.

                                Enna was seated on one of the couches under the pavilion, grinning at me and clapping her hands. “Y'know, if I hear another performance like that, I'm going to be gettin' in line, m'lord!”

                                I flushed, embarrassed. Everyone else was already up, Calliope giving me a cool look as she studied her spellbook under the pavilion, Katriana giving me a knowing smile from where she was shadowfighting in the garden with her longsword. There was a platter of fruit and bread on the table under the pavilion, and my stomach rumbled, reminding me how long it had been since dinner last night. Bekker came up to me, and gave me a slight bow.

                                “Uh, good morning,” I said to no one in particular, then, to Bekker, “Uh, Lady Ashryn is going to need a bath first thing this morning.”

                                “Of course, your grace,” Bekker said, “The Lord Paramount asks that you and your entourage attend him at a private audience this afternoon.”

                                “Of course, tell him we'd be honoured,” I said, “Was there anything else? Princess Katriana wanted to do some shopping, as you may recall.”

                                “I did recall, your grace,” Bekker said, sounding a little affronted that I would imply he forgot something, “The Lord Paramount has bid that we are welcome to come and go as we please, and to forgive his inattention, but there are many issues concerning yesterday's incident to attend to, not to mention matters concerning his succession. He does ask that we not speak to anyone about what's occurred, especially people in the city who may be of noble blood.”

                                I paused at that last bit, but Katriana was on her way over. “Yes, you heard that right,” she said, longsword resting on one shoulder, “Lord Paramount Harlemaine wants all the credit for being the god-killing dragonslayer, probably because nobody wants to overthrow a hero, or at least nobody wants to be the one who overthrows a hero.”

                                My gut instinct was to be angry for having our part of the credit taken away, but I tamped that down. “Smart,” I said, “But that actually helps us. I want him to have a firm grasp on the city, so he can help us more. I'm also guessing that this audience is about offering us rewards, both for our heroism and to buy our peace,” I looked at Bekker, “Any word yet on when Voss is coming back.”

                                The butler went quiet, and looked nervous for the first time I've seen since we fished him out of that crazy old mansion. “No, your grace,” he said finally, “And, if rumour is to be believed... there are people from the incident who can't be raised. Anyone who died from dragonfire, and others. The servants seem to think that their souls were devoured by... that dragon, your grace.”

                                I frowned. Did Voss die from dragonfire? I looked to Katriana, but she just put a hand on my shoulder. “I'm sure Voss will be fine, or at least as fine as someone recovering from death can be,” she said, “It probably takes time.”

                                I nodded, and looked back to Bekker. “Please, Lady Ashryn will need that bath, and a clean robe to get her there.”

                                “At once, your grace,” he said, heading off.

                                I plopped myself before the feast left behind on the table and helped myself. The fruit was juicy and ripe, the bread fresh. It was good, and I had my fill.

                                While I was munching away, I nodded to Calliope. “You want another study session today?” I asked, between mouthfuls.

                                “Sure,” she said, “You have a couple others things I might find handy.”

                                So we spent most of the morning putting our heads together and teaching each other spells. This time, Detect Magic came to me easily, as did Wall of Fog- if Calliope was going to be whiny about taking spells with tactical use rather than spells that merely blasted folks with damage, I didn't mind taking up the slack. Besides, maybe she was right, and having her as a pure battle mage would come in handy. From her end, surprisingly, she wanted mainly handy little spells rather than anything else. Featherfall and Enlarge were the order of the day... perhaps she was beginning to see the use of handy little spells like that. Or maybe, like myself, she didn't think I was using them right.

                                Well, not that I'd used Featherfall at all. It was a pretty handy spell.

                                So that was how most of our first day passed. We spent time in our little courtyard, talking, enjoying being pampered, studying, and, well, waiting. Ashryn joined us after her bath, but after the noon bell rang, the rest of us took our own baths and we all got dressed in our finest.

                                Ashryn and Calliope, both were wearing their chokers. Calliope was acting cool about it, but as usual Ashryn wasn't having any of that. She immediately bounced over to hug Calliope's arm, exclaiming, “Oh, Calli, you look so lovely in yours! Oh, and the shade perfectly matches your eyes! I guess because Theodore and you spent so much time looking at each other over tomes and textbooks, right? Ooh, I'm jealous of your school romance!”

                                The attention made Calliope blush, and immediately broke any bad feelings between them. Not for the first time, I was beginning to expect that, even though I was at the center of our little family, Ashryn would end up holding us all together.

                                Thus, we awaited the audience of the Lord Paramount.

                                When a servant finally came for us, we were lead to a large audience chamber in the main building of the estate. Large tapestries lined the hall, with scene of battle and tourney depicted in them, but I only had eyes for the men sitting in the small lines of chairs set up before the high seat.

                                “Voss!”

                                I went to greet my friend, who got up out of his chair on shaky legs to receive my hand with a hearty shake. He had hugs, also, for the women, but after that sat down heavily back in his chair. “Dying is hard work,” he huffed, “And coming back is harder. The priests said I should feel better in a day or so, though.”

                                In one of the other chairs was Ricard, his servant fussing over him, but he still got up to shake my hand. “Glad to see you all are still among the living,” he said, a little bitterly, “It's been a hard few days, but I'll be glad to get back to my wife and my vineyard. I'm done with adventuring for a certainty.”

                                The other two men were the silver fox knight and the grey hammer knight, Sir Mateo and Sir Sylvan respectively. I guess not everyone who died from fire was consumed, if Sir Sylvan was still around. Still, they were jovial, young and vibrant and glad to be alive.

                                Soon, though, our reunion was interrupted by the arrival of the Lord Paramount himself. The former Captain Hawkins came into the room, in the silver armour and circlet of his station. He sat calmly in the high seat, and sighed. “Well, at least this should be simple,” he announced to us, “I swear the high lords of this city can be more slippery than eels and more venomous than snakes. But, that is a matter for another day, now.” He gestured. “Enna of Shafttown, step forward.”

                                We shared surprised glances, but Enna stepped forward and uneasily went to one knee.

                                “Enna of Shafttown, you are a thief and criminal, who is still facing time locked away in Whitewater Tower,” the Lord-Paramount began, “But in the last day, you proved to have a courage and compassion that would normally be thought beyond a petty thief. So, you've earned yourself a second chance. I hereby pardon you for all crimes committed before this day within the City-State of Tresens, and admonish that you use your newfound freedom wisely.”

                                “Thanks, 'Awkins,” Enna said with a grin. The Lord-Paramount grinned back, and dismissed her with a wave.

                                “Calliope Brevins, step forward,” and she did.

                                “Miss Brevins, the City-State of Tresens owes you a great debt. Merely ask, and you shall receive a reward of your choosing.”

                                Calliope took a moment to think, then, tentatively, “Does your lordship keep a court wizard?”

                                “Yes, it so happens that I do, or at least my lord father had and I see no reason to get rid of the person who currently holds that position.”

                                Calliope nodded. “I'll take a copy of their primary spellbook, if you please.”

                                “Very well, it will be done.”

                                I resisted the urge to chuckle. I don't think Hawkins realized what he was saying, spellbooks took long enough to copy, never mind the cost at 50 gold a page. What Calliope just wished for was worth a small fortune. I could afford a new spellbook with the war chest, but there'd be little enough left over.

                                “Katriana Esche, step forward.”

                                Where Hawkins had gotten the name- perhaps servants with keen ears- I didn't know, but he ought to understand the meaning of that name, being as highly placed as he was.

                                “Your lordship, all I could ask for is a strong warhorse, with some good barding. Your city is known far and wide for it's jousting culture, and although you have little space for ranch land, I'm sure only steeds of the highest quality pass through your stables.”

                                Hawkins chuckled. “A wise decision. Consider it done.”

                                “Acolyte Ashryn Milaneth, step forward.”

                                “All that I could possibly ask, your lordship, is that you not hold anything against the Starlit Order for the actions of Abbess Mariska.”

                                “The thought of seeking some form of vengeance from your order did not even cross my mind. But, so it is known to all that the city of Tresens and it's Lord-Paramount does not have a grievance with the Starlit Order, I will make a donation of two thousand gold pieces, with special thanks to Acolyte Ashryn, to the Starlit Order.”

                                “Theodore Esche, step forward.”

                                This was it, show time. I stepped forward and offered a short bow, one of respect for his position but not of submission.

                                “I suspect that the Lord-Paramount understands where mine and my sister's last name means, and what that implies.”

                                “I have been recently made aware you you and your plight, yes. Have you come to ask me for help getting your kingdom back for you?”

                                “In part, yes,” I said, “I would never ask that you win a kingdom for me or on my behalf, however. All that I ask is that when I call, you come, and pay your debt to me with steel as part of my forces.”

                                There was a long silence. I suppose I was being insolent, just a little. But I was a prince, and if his family had been satisfied being lords for centuries without daring to crown themselves, then maybe I deserve to stand a little taller.

                                “So be it. When you give the word, we march, when and where you ask. Your throne will be won in part by Tresens knights, and thus will be born a great friendship between our two nations.”

                                I inclined my head again. “Thank you, Lord-Paramount.”

                                Hawkins seemed to breath something of a sigh after that, perhaps with the weight of what he had just promised upon him, but he quickly recovered and continued.

                                “Voss Durand, I'd ask you to step forward, but I know that coming back from the dead can be hard. So, please, tell me your wish, and it shall be granted.”

                                “Uh, well,” he said, thoughtfully, “I guess I could use a magic shield, if you have one. I wouldn't want to go through all that again, so....”

                                Hawkins barked a laugh. “I will have to check the treasury, but if we have such a thing, it will be granted.”

                                “Thank you, your lordship.”

                                That started a theme. Sir Sylvan asked for magical armour, and Sir Mateo for magical horse barding. Ho hum. I guess those sorts of things might be rare wherever they come from?

                                Ricard was the next one summoned up. He demurred on any sort of reward. “Being able to spend to see my dear wife again is reward enough, your lordship,” he replied, turning to face the rest of us “Although I suppose if I were to ask for anything, it would be for you all to join me at my vineyard sometime. My wife and I love hosting, and I don't she is going to believe my story otherwise.”

                                Well, I suppose that might settle the question of where we would end up going next.

                                ---------------------------

                                Character Name: Theodore Esche
                                Race: Human
                                Class: Transmuter
                                Level (XP): 2 (4608/5000)
                                Hit Points: 5

                                Ability Scores
                                Strength 11
                                Dexterity 17
                                Constitution 8
                                Intelligence 17
                                Wisdom 13
                                Charisma 14

                                Weapon Proficiencies: Darts
                                Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Etiquette, Reading/Writing, Swimming

                                Spells Per Day:
                                1st Level- 3

                                Spellbook:
                                (1st Level): Armor, Burning Hands, Detect Magic, Detect Undead, Enlarge, Featherfall, Magic Missile, Mending, Read Magic, Sleep, Tenser's Floating Disc, Wall of Fog

                                Spells Prepared:
                                (1st Level): Burning Hands, Sleep

                                Equipment: Backpack, Bag of Fine Sand, Belt, Belt Pouch (Large, 3), Belt Pouch (Small, 4), Boots, Darts (43), Hand Mirror, Hat, Hooded Lantern, Pearl (worth 100gp), Robes (3), Signet Ring, Small Tent

                                Money: 100 gp

                                Languages: Common, Elven, Dwarven, Orc, Goblin, Draconic, 1 additional.

                                Companions: Katriana (Level 3 Fighter, sister & fiancee), Ashryn (Level 3 Cleric, fiancee), Calliope (Level 1 Invoker, fiancee), Voss (Level 3 Fighter), Smokey Enna (Level 4 Fighter/Level 4 Thief), Bekker (Butler)

                                Sexual Partners: 3

                                Storage Chest: Runed Greatsword, Alchemical Steel Broadsword, Alchemical Steel Bastard Sword, Magic Arrows (12), Oil of Acid Resistance, mint green potion, Potion of Rainbow Hues, 299 pp, 4187 gp, 4 ep, 15 sp, 50 cp
                                Currently Playing: Dragon Star Varnir
                                Currently Working On: Banter and chats
                                Current Waifu: Katarina Claes, My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!

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