And now for Part 5, the penultimate chapter!
Dreadful Tales: A Matter of Discretion Part 5
“It’s madness, insanity. The Houses are pointing fingers at each other. Old slights have become the only incentive for duels and mobs. Gloomhaven is inches from a civil war. As goes Gloomhaven, so goes the Empire. At best, the Houses will link your activity back to us and our House will be destroyed to soothe the feathers you’ve ruffled. At worst, if enough blood is spilt, the Queen may rise and become involved. No one wants that!”
“I long since tired of being told what I cannot do, cousin. I do not think anyone will ever control me again.”
“We all have duties, even if they pain us,” Mr. Silver said. “None are so powerful that they escape that simple truth.”
“Oh really, warlock? Yes, I know what you are. Do you think that you and my cousin pursued me without being observed? What do you know of power and duty?” he demanded, his eyes ablaze with wrath. “Everything you have, all your magic is stolen or bargained for. You’ve not earned any of it. You dance with darkness for a glimpse of power. What right do you have to tell me what I can and cannot take?”
Mr. Silver said, “What I’ve done comes only at a cost to myself. What you are doing,” he waved his hand, indicating the bodies on the floor, “is murder.”
Carstairs kicked a corpse. “These people live and die to serve the monarchy. What does it matter if their death comes a bit earlier than normal? Besides,” he leered at Lady Brae, “it’s so intoxicating.”
“But it’s forbidden!” she cried.
“Do you know why its forbidden, cousin? It’s to keep us weak. False Bloods have been kept down, forced to drink animal blood and only partake of real blood when the Church of Shadow allows us. And who controls the church? The True Bloods.” Carstairs grabbed one of the chained humans, pulling his head back by the hair. “They want to keep us as their pets, that’s all we are to them. Or, I guess I should say, that’s all you are to them, cousin.”
“What I am? What do you…No! You can’t be serious.”
The warlock cleared his throat. “What are you two on about.”
Lady Brae turned to Mr. Silver, her face ashen. “He’s been Honored. He’s True now!”
Mr. Silver swallowed hard, while Carstairs smirked at them both.
“Who? Who Honored you?” Lady Brae demanded, turning her anger back on him.
“I am not alone in desiring a change in how the Empire runs. When the Houses are tearing themselves apart, we will rise above them and claim our rightful place as lords and masters.”
“But the Queen, this will attract her notice! She will rise and destroy you all.”
“Let the old bitch wake,” he spat. Mr. Silver and Lady Brae both gasped at the near blasphemy of such language applied to the Queen. “By the time she’s able to do anything about it, we will be in control. All she cares about is stability; she will accept the New Order so long as we are the ones to put things to right.”
“I’m afraid this will take more than sharp words, Lady Brae,” Mr. Silver said. She turned and studied him for a moment before reluctantly nodding.
“Well, Lord Carstairs, it seems you have everything figured out,” Mr. Silver continued, pulling out a kerchief from another pocket. “But there is one thing I wonder.”
“What’s that, warlock?”
“What does being on fire feel like?”
“What?” the nobles both asked.
Mr. Silver dropped the kerchief, revealing a small, red stone. Muttering a hex, he crushed the stone between his fingers. Blue lightning arced from his fingers, striking Carstairs in the chest. With a howl, the Lord flew back and smashed into the wall while electricity played across his body. His clothing smouldered and burned where the lightning touched him.
The bolt ended as suddenly as it began. Carstairs snarled and tore off the burning jacket. The heavy wool ripped easily and fell, smoking, to the ground. Burns and scorch marks covered Carstairs white torso.
“That hurt, human,” Carstairs growled, his fangs extending. “I’m going to enjoy feasting on you.”
Carstairs ran forward, his form blurring with speed. Another shape slammed into him inches before he reached the warlock. End over end, Lady Brae and Lord Carstairs rolled across the ground, shattering the sparse furniture as they fell through it. They howled and roared at each other as they fought, snarling like wild animals. The captives who could, screamed in fear. Mr. Silver pulled another stone from his pocket.
When the dust settled, Lord Carstairs straddled Lady Brae, holding her against the ground by her pale throat. Her hat was long gone, and her burgundy hair spilled out upon the ground like coiled snakes. Red stained rips covered her once fine jacket and shirt. A trickle of blood oozed from her lips and down her bruised cheek.
“That was some fine sport, cousin, but your blood is still False while mine is True. You cannot hope to defeat me while you are mired in their demands and restrictions, while you hold back.” He leaned in close to her, too close for Mr. Silver to risk taking a shot, and said, “I like your spirit, cousin, maybe I’ll make you one of my brides when I rule this city.” Looking up at the warlock, he said, “And as for you…”
Mr. Silver never saw him move. One moment Carstairs menaced Lady Brae, the next he slammed into the warlock, throwing him roughly against the wall. The True Blood’s fists raised again and again, battering the frail human with their stony might. He stopped just short of killing the man. Smiling down at his bloody handiwork, he returned to his cousin who was trying to crawl away.
“Now, now, cousin,” he whispered as he walked after her, “I have so much more to show you. No use in running from the truth. I’m going to set you free from all their lies. No more communion, no more animal blood. Now it’s time you tasted what you’ve been denied for so long.”
To be continued!