CruelSummerLord writes "“The halfling and that drunken blonde man will save you?” he said with a smirk. “Let them try-the puny huts of Caradoc and his cabal don’t have the defenses my humble home does. But don’t worry-they’ll join the rest of your friends in the slave markets!”
To survive on the treacherous stage that was Aerdi high
society, Xavener knew he had to not only know his lines but those of his fellow
actors as well. He prided himself on being aware of what the script called for
and how he could rewrite it when needed.
Reydrich was one of the rare exceptions to Xavener’s
understanding. The wizard’s foul temper and great wizardly power made him
dangerous to deal with. If he decided he didn’t like whoever approached him,
he’d turn them into an ant and literally crush them like one. Xavener took a
dreadful risk in approaching Reydrich to divine what Caradoc and Xeravho’s
cabal was doing, and to capture the Company of the Silver Wolf for him. Most
people wouldn’t dare harm the heir to the head of House Darmen, but Reydrich
hardly cared about the consequences if he did.
Even so, Xavener knew he had an edge in dealing with
Reydrich that most people didn’t. House Darmen was by far the wealthiest of
Aerdy’s Celestial Houses. Powerful wizardry often required vast sums of money. Xavener
offered Reydrich such a sum, and so the mage agreed to carry out Xavener’s
task. Now, the two men were relaxing in a sitting room of the Darmen family
estate outside Zelradton, the Crown of Arumdina sitting on a table between
“Where’s Norreck in all this?” Reydrich demanded, his glare
seeming to pierce right through Xavener. “Why’d he entrust you with this?”
“My father’s in Zelradton on business with House Torquann,”
Xavener said truthfully. He suspected Reydrich had cast some mind-reading spell
to understand his thoughts, and he didn’t dare lie to the wizard. Reydrich
might use the lie as an excuse to incinerate him. “He’ll be away for another
couple of days, so suffice to say this is my own initiative.”
“So House Darmen can be the ones to lead the attack against
the Iron League,” Reydrich said, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “And in a way
that can’t be traced back to Norreck. That makes you expendable, doesn’t it?”
“We’ve no desire to supplant Naelax in leading any invasion
of the League,” Xavener said. “It’s only right that the House of the Herzog and
the Overking be the ones to gain the glory and the wealth if such an invasion
Reydrich’s eyes narrowed as Xavener finished speaking, and
the younger man could hear his heartbeat in his ears.
“Rightly so,” Reydrich said. He fell silent for several
moments, as if considering what to say next. Xavener knew Reydrich had little
sympathy for Chelor, who he considered an incompetent buffoon. Xavener also
knew Reydrich didn’t care much for Ivid V either, hating the Overking for
passing him over as Herzog in favor of Chelor.
That was what Xavener had counted on in approaching
“What about this bauble?” Reydrich said, gesturing towards
the Crown of Arumdina. “Planning to start a collection similar to Caradoc’s? Or
are you just looking for a profit?”
“Never you mind,” Xavener said, as his own eyes narrowed.
“It’s my concern and none of yours!”
“Its magic is incredibly powerful,” Reydrich said. “I ought
to take it as payment for everything I’ve done for you.”
“The thirty thousand gold ivids I’m paying you are ample
reward,” Xavener said, referring to the Great Kingdom’s gold coinage,
“particularly since you didn’t capture all of those adventurers.”
Reydrich’s eyes blazed at that. He grasped the arms of his
chair, as his cheeks turned a deep, angry red.
“Better to lose your crown than your soul,” Reydrich said
as he stood up.
Xavener stood up to match him, not backing down an inch.
“Family ties are a wonderful thing, aren’t they?” Xavener
said with a sneer.
“You’re fool enough to think I side with Caradoc, or
Xeravho, or any of those other-“ Reydrich said, before his mind-reading spell
showed him that wasn’t what Xavener was thinking about.
“I know all about it, of course,” Xavener said. “About your
true relations to the rest of House Naelax.”
Reydrich felt his blood run cold as he realized the
implications of what Xavener was saying. His mind-reading spell confirmed that
the younger man wasn’t bluffing.
“I could disgrace you overnight,” Xavener continued. “You
could kill me where you stood, of course, but if you did that the knowledge
would be made public. And all your power wouldn’t be able to change that.”
Reydrich stared at Xavener with pure hatred, but he said
and did nothing. Again, his mind-reading spell showed him Xavener wasn’t
Xavener reached into his pocket and pulled out a bulging
pouch. Wordlessly, he tossed it to Reydrich, who glanced inside. The glitter of
thousands of gold ivids worth of diamonds shone back at Reydrich, who placed
the pouch in his pocket.
“I believe our business is done,” Xavener said, his
expression stone calm.
“This isn’t over, boy,” Reydrich said, before he chanted a
spell and promptly vanished.
His eyes seemed to linger for a second after he disappeared,
staring at Xavener with poisonous loathing.
Xavener breathed a sigh of relief as he felt his heartbeat
start to slow down. His sides and back were uncomfortably cold from the sweat
pouring down them, and he winced at the tension in his chest. Dealing with
Reydrich was a harrowing experience, and one he hoped he wouldn’t have to
repeat for a very long time.
He felt his frustrations drain away as he went the next
room to converse with another very special guest. That guest was securely bound
in her chair, and her mouth was stuffed with a thick gag. Seline began
struggling as Xavener approached her, smiling that same smile he had when he’d
met her at the autumn ball three days ago. His men had locked the rest of the
companions in the dungeons beneath the Darmen estate, but he wanted a few words
with Seline before she joined them.
“I have to say, I admire your cleverness,” Xavener said to
Seline as she pulled fruitlessly against her restraints. “I wondered how you
might steal the documents Caradoc and Xeravho need for their plan, not to mention
your precious gnomish crown. More the pity it wasn’t enough. Don’t blame
yourself, though. No matter what you tried, I would have won in the end.”
“This venture’s been more profitable than I could have
expected. We Darmens pride ourselves on recognizing the value of things, and
that crown of yours is worth some eighty thousand gold ivids…or possibly more
if a gnomish king could tap into its power,” Xavener said, his eyes gleaming at
the possibilities. “House Garasteth will pay back my buying your debt when I
turn you and your sister over to them, and the rest of your friends will fetch
fine slave prices. Best of all, the plans of Chelor’s cabal will be ruined once
I arrange for the Iron League to find their papers.”
Seline tried to mumble something through her gag, and
Xavener understood her perfectly.
“The halfling and that drunken blonde man will save you?”
he said with a smirk. “Let them try-the puny huts of Caradoc and his cabal don’t
have the defenses my humble home does. But don’t worry-they’ll join the rest of
your friends in the slave markets!”
“Take her down with the rest of her friends,” Xavener said
as he gestured to the men he had guarding Seline, “and then come and join me in
the dining hall. I dare say we deserve to celebrate!”
Xavener walked off to find his steward, laughing
triumphantly all the way as visions of castles and crowns danced in his head.
“I’d rather try and break into the Greyhawk Grand Citadel,”
Amyalla said to Weimar as they huddled around a fire in a small copse. “If
Xavener can afford the services of a wizard that powerful, there’s no way we
can get into Xavener’s manor with just the two of us.”
The halfling wrapped her arms around her legs, closing her
eyes in shame. She and Weimar were the only members of their group who’d
managed to fight off the effects of Reydrich’s magical symbol, and she felt
terrible for abandoning her friends. Weimar pointedly reminded her that they
would have been slaughtered if they’d tried to fight the wizard, and assured
her that he could follow Reydrich’s carriage. She’d gotten completely
discouraged when she saw the carriage’s destination, wondering what they could
“Actually, there just might be,” Weimar said as he tossed
another log onto the fire. “If I’m right, then all the defenses won’t matter
Amyalla stared back at Weimar skeptically.
“How do we do get in, then?” she asked.
“We go in the front door,” Weimar said with a twinkle in
his eye. "