DC/RH Special

DC/RH BK II, CH 23: Deliberations

Chapter Twenty-three: Deliberations

“Yond decision falls to the crown”, the Duke answered lazily as he ate from a platter of conjured grapes. “Mine concern is the fae within its depths.”

The emperor stared at him with suspicion. “Are you considering letting them have their own court?”

The handsome figure reclined on his settee gave a decidedly unbecoming snort that conveyed his thoughts on the matter. “To be fair, their claim is not completely without merit”, he announced to the emperor’s surprise. 

“Many transformations art happening in those depths, peradventure mo’or than we realise. However, they have yet to meet even one of the requirements and they would never unless I has’t gravely misread their situation. They shall remain mine forevermore!”  

“Nay!” he said sitting up with a serious expression. “Our worries lie on the dungeon’s divinity and what they art doing with it. Worryingly, they have achieved some success in directly channelling its domains.”  

“Domains?” Caius found himself asking. “It has more than one?”

“Aye”, the fae replied seemingly delighting in his worry. “By mine own reading, it hast seven; fire, water, space, wind, metal, war and wealth. They have claimed a vessel for fire and this one believes the hero called Thorn might be trying for War. There is another with a golden wing but his progress is so little as to be insignificant.”

Caius groaned, feeling a headache beginning to form. Rising from his seat, he walked up to a shelf and poured himself a glass of liquor. “What is your suggestion?”

“This one believes, we shouldst send a few of our own in thither to wrest control of some of these domains such yond they doth not falleth solely into the undeserving hands of the dungeon fae”, Duke Galronde stated.  

“And into your own I take it”, the emperor asked with a disapproving frown. 

“Matters of the faerie fall under mine purview”, the Archfae reminded him.

Caius wasn’t in the mood. He shut that line of argument down instantly, “And all dungeons are the property of the Golden Throne, your point?”

He did not even give the Archfae a chance at a rebuttal. “They renounced you not me. Those fae are still citizens of my empire. They will be accorded as such.”

“Thou wouldst wait till they turn against thee then?” the duke asked.

“If it ever comes to that then I have failed but yes, until we are certain they are acting to undermine this empire, they will be safe from prosecution”, the emperor announced in a tone that brokered no argument. 

“As for the divinities of the dungeon…”, he said swirling his tumbler. “Let the dice fall where they may. Opportunities in dungeons belong to those brave enough to seek them and powerful enough to seize them. I will inform my adventurers to act as they always have.”

“Thou art playing a dangerous game, scion of Basileus. Leaving such power outside thine grasp could easily see it turned against thee” the faerie warned. 

The emperor laughed. As if triggered by the sound, the spear at his side let out a loud thrum that had the fae lord flinching. “As if I have anything to fear from gods.”

“I wouldst be careful if I were thee!” 

The emperor waved away his concerns, concentrating instead on what the tricky fae lord had chosen to omit. “I notice you have said little about where such power originates. I know you well enough to know you have suspicions. If you didn’t know something, you would be out there looking for answers.”

“Know?” the Archfae blustered. “Who can truly claim to know anything? Certainly not I. Besides, I am truly bereft of answers in this queer case.”

“Oh? Surely there can only be so many possibilities”, Caius said not buying the fae’s words for even a second. One got very good at spotting lies and fakes when your godfather was a faerie duke of illusions, especially if it was that same fairie duke attempting to lie to you.

“There are only so many ways that dungeon could come by its divine domains”, he postulated. “Space, fire, earth, wood, water, beasts and magic are the common attributes among dungeon kind but of these, it only has two.”

“It might be a variant but even variants have limits”, the emperor added after a sip from his tumbler. “It had to have gotten its domains from somehow. Could it have eaten something?”

Caius watched the fae lord intently as he spoke, waiting for him to butt in like he always did. Finally, with an exaggerated and exasperated sigh, Duke Galronde answered what he asked of him. “Thou wishes to inquire if the dungeon could have gotten hold of a divine spark. The answer is nay!”

“Are you certain?” the emperor pressed. “I seem to recall that there was a grand battle between my ancestor and some gods over the Battle Hammer Mountains not far from where the dungeon is sited.”

The Archfae shot him a look as if insulted, he was being doubted. “I remember every battle fought in that age and after. I remember the battles fought over the mountains and across the empire as well as the gods who then were slain. None, save the gods Selos and Ultakelos, possessed powers that couldst match what we see therein.”

“The War God and the God of Decadence?” Caius spoke, identifying the from his ancestral annals.

“Aye!” Duke Galronde confirmed. 

“Selos was slain trying to lead an army across the mountains but Ultankelos perished in the heart of Tuldaruin. His spark was passed on so it can’t possibly be involved but of Selos… there art whispers.

“What rumours?” the emperor asked with apprehension. 

“There art some that say his spark was never recovered. Others claim it wast destroyed and some still maintain it wast recovered by his servitors”, came the strangely low voice of the usually cheerful fae. 

Still, the emperor pressed on. “You were there. What happened?”

The fae lord gained a faraway look in his eyes as he pondered the question. 

“I did not see the square off itself”, he admitted. “But I did feel its aftermath. Selos was slain. Basileus’s spear tore him asunder and shattered his divine spark.”

“Shattered? Not destroyed?”

The faerie continued to speak, lost in his recollection. “Never have I felt anything like it. Not then or since. The sheer destruction it wrought on the world. I did see his servitors scramble, picking up the pieces of their god. Some went crazed. We put those down. Others simply mourned. Basileus alloweth those folk wend, in his desires of stopping the bloodshed. The pieces of Selos’ divine spark should have been recovered then but as the centuries went by rumours began to circulate concerning shards of might that granted incredible power.” 

The emperor’s eyes widened as a pit seemingly opened in his stomach. “The altar of Zalach”, he realised, recalling the tale.

“Is but one of the artefacts allegedly forged from such shards” the fae lord confirmed. “Others still exist though most were recovered by the Dorthon Empire long ago, their owners slain in the most brutal of ways. If ‘t be true this dungeon did absorb one such shard, it won’t long take ere it draws the eyes of the Selos liegemen.”

The Emperor scoffed. “As if Dorthon spies weren’t already scouring the lands surrounding my empire.”

“Aye!” the faerie affirmed with a nod. “Curious is it not?”

Caius gave the elfin being a look over. The fae lord was strangely subdued. Even his grapes lay forgotten on their platter. Belatedly, the emperor realised that maybe his godfather might not have appreciated the trip down memory lane and yet, he still had questions. Questions that couldn’t wait.

“Curious how?”

“The spokes on the wheel of history doth often turn in familiar ruts. I has’t seen such ere. Thy ancestor, Basileus wast a sir curs’d with opportunity. T wast for valorous reason we hath called him the doom of the Dorthon Empire. The sir couldst not walketh ten feet without stumbling on something of use to the campaign!” Duke Galronde said with a small smile.

“It doest maketh one think. How is’t yond just as ominous portents stir in the North, his heir finds himself beset with a dungeon which pours out treasured weapons and martial powers?” 

Caius felt a chill run down his spine at the implication. Before he could interrogate the fae lord, however, the creature began to fade away. however, its voice lingered ringing in the study and in his mind. 

“This one fears terrible things crest the horizon, childe. Out yond something is clearly stirring. Thou has best prepare!”

For several minutes, Caius stood there in his study, glass of brandy growing warm in his hands. His mind played the conversation he had with his faerie godfather’s words on repeat. Eventually, he roused himself and stubbornly marched back to his desk. As he sat down, the emperor’s mind raced with ideas, the weight of his decisions heavy on his shoulders. But he was steadfast, determined to do what was best for his kingdom, no matter the cost.

Caius sighed, knowing that there was no way he was going to be able to get back to his reports now. Not after the events of tonight. He knew that there would always be more reports to review, and more decisions to make, but right now, he needed to look beyond them. There was a war coming. A dark tide that would slaughter and enslave all in its path. New plans had to be drawn. When the time came, people would look to him for guidance, like they did his ancestor. Caius only hoped he was up to the task.

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