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Blog 229: Campaign Novelization

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Was I, as the author, really about to let Gorvio go unscathed for that confession? No meta way. So this is the chapter where everyone gets to beat the crap out of each other while preparing for the finale. Final countdown: 2 (chapters)!

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Chapter 40: Bet on the House

The seven gathered around the low, wooden table upstairs. With the early arrival of Mathal and Moris, there were only five stools. Moris and Tarvi shared one. Gorvio and Mathal sat on the floor on either side of Gorvio’s. Larko slid Gorvio’s stool over to Moris and Tarvi’s side of the table. Tarvi took the new seat as Sclavo broke down the situation.

The top contenders for next lord-mayor of Westcrown were Vassindio Drovenge and Eirtein Oberigo. Oberigo had taken the attack and destruction of Walcourt as an act of war by Drovenge. The remaining nobles on the Council, apart from Chammady and Eccaridian, had tried to talk the two down over the past few days--

“Why not Drovenge’s kids?” asked Mathal.

“They’ve been in hiding, allegedly since they met with Drovenge about his candidacy,” said Sclavo.

“About a week now,” said Larko.

Oh. They were the ones who’d threatened to reveal the secret of House Drovenge. They were the reason he’d attacked the Maggot Tree.

Tarvi and Gorvio looked at Mathal. She explained the falsified lineage and Drovenge’s deal with the actual Mammon.

“That...is significant,” said Sclavo.

“Noted, please continue,” said Fiosa.

The destruction of Walcourt had also convinced the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune that there’d be no Westcrown left to rule by the original deadline, so they’d advanced it. This, in turn, dissolved the tenuous peace between the two noble houses. Now they planned to take their forces, the allies of Mammon against Oberigo’s vampires, to the streets in an all-out war.

“The irony,” muttered Gorvio.

“What’s the plan?” asked Tarvi.

“We bring Chammady and Eccaridian out of hiding,” said Fiosa.

There was a chorus of ‘what’s. Fiosa explained.

It wasn’t Vassindio Drovenge who was a top candidate. It was House Drovenge itself. Chammady, Eccaridian, or even both made perfectly viable contenders for lord-mayor. With both Vassindio and Oberigo proven dangers to the city, the remaining nobles on the Council would be more inclined to vote for anyone else.

“We offer to help the Drovenge kids get elected in exchange for a voice in the government.”

“What exactly do we have to offer?”

“Protection. We get them to City Hall alive.”

“And that’ll stop them fighting?”

“They’d be beyond stupid not to. Any more questions?”

“I don’t have any spells,” said Mathal.

“Then you’ll have to do without.”

She’d dealt with that for almost four months. She could do it for one day more.

“I still have mine prepped,” said Tarvi.

“Me too,” said Gorvio.

“I won’t be able to keep up,” said Moris.

“You’re not going with them,” said Fiosa. “Come with Larko, Sclavo, and me to City Hall.”

“You know where Chammady and Eccaridian are hiding?”

--/--

Tarvi, Mathal, and Gorvio left at once for their hideout, a friend’s townhouse in Parego Regicona, the island of the rich at the center of Westcrown. All the bridges had been raised, cutting the island off from the rest of the city. Mathal cursed. She could’ve really used a swarm of wasps right then.

Tarvi pulled out Mathal’s wand of flight.

“Group hug, people.”

Mathal and Gorvio did their best to hold onto Tarvi from either side without touching each other. She flew them across the River Adivian, as black as the night sky and just as full of stars.

“Lower,” whispered Mathal.

“Do we have time for--”

Gorvio stopped as the tips of his and Mathal’s feet dangled over the surface of the water. The wind was enough to send long, widening trails of ripples out behind them and through the black sea of stars. He grinned with them despite himself.

The townhouse was one of many narrow but six-storied brick buildings on the block. Gorvio had infiltrated houses like these before. Each floor held only a single room.

“You have to climb a staircase to the bathroom both ways.”

“Great. Let’s go.”

Mathal knocked on the door.

“It’s the middle of the night! Go away!” a gruff voice shouted through the mahogany.

“I know you don’t know us,” said Tarvi, “but we know who you are and we’re here to help.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“We stopped the nightguard. We’ll stop your dad, too,” said Mathal.

The door opened a crack. A Hellknight in their full suit of spiky armor stood on the other. A personal guard of a Hellknight.

“Larazod! Drovalid! Dentris!”

And a fan of the arts. Paralictor Gonville Chard raised their visor.

“Wait, you were the ones who attacked Walcourt?”

“No, we just deactivated the relic controlling the shadowbeasts,” Gorvio half-lied.

“Were you followed?”

The three of them scanned the darkness behind them. No fourth person appeared. Chard opened the door to a foyer decorated with red and gold tapestries as well as a black marble staircase. Chard locked the door behind them and positioned themself in front of the staircase.

“Chammady! Eccaridian!” they shouted up, “I think your way out is here!”

The two auburn-haired, amber-eyed twins crept down the stairs looking far more haggard than they had since the banquet at Aberian’s Folly. Even Chammady’s feathered ruff and Eccaridian’s furred one had fallen and drooped around their shoulders.

Magic flared from the ceiling. Three hulking, humanoid creatures of stone dropped down into heavy, marble-bashing crouches. Chammady and Eccaridian screamed. Chammady ran downstairs while Eccaridian ran up.

Chard roared, sword drawn, and charged at the nearest earth elemental. Tarvi flung her hand up another. A lance of ice speared straight up through the body of second. Mathal launched herself at the third, claws tearing out stones. Gorvio stared up at the ceiling as though frozen.

“Get the invisible caster!”

His eyes dropped down at Mathal. They had glazed over like a dead body’s. He held up his palm.

“Fight.”

A tunnel of wind burst out at Mathal. She flew off the earth elemental and fell into a skidding crouch. Mathal cursed. Gorvio’s mind had been dominated like those mist punk vampires had tried to do to her.

“Mathal!”

A second lance of ice impaled her earth elemental.

“Protect the kids--I’ll deal with Gorvio.”

Chard ran up the stairs and Tarvi ran down. Gorvio’s palm remained facing Mathal.

“Fight.”

Blue-green lightning slammed into her chest. Mathal screamed a scream she couldn’t hear and hexed herself. The pain pounding in every muscle and fiber of nerve didn’t lessen, but her stitching sinew repaired the damaged tissue.

A second bolt struck. Mathal’s knees collapsed under her. She dropped to the floor and staggered to all fours.

A third. She hexed the ground under her. As the bolt pierced the skin, she grabbed into the quagmire. The charge flowed out into the semi-solid.

A fourth. She roared in pain but spread the quagmire out under Gorvio’s feet. The charge followed.

Gorvio’s mouth opened in scream. He fell back into the quagmire but pushed back up onto his hands and knees. He raised one arm out at her.

“Don’t do it.”

“Fight.”

The fifth bolt struck her below the collarbone. She screamed. It passed through her into the swamp and up into Gorvio. He screamed and called a sixth bolt.

His body wracked with the massive charge. His eyes rolled to the back of his head. He dropped face-first into the quagmire.

Mathal groaned. A bone-deep ache had set into her entire skeleton. But she couldn’t drop like Gorvio. She ended the hex on the ground. Mathal pushed up to her feet and staggered down the staircase into a damp, moldy brick basement.

Chammady cowered in the corner with Tarvi in front of her, both arms out and straining. A flurry of razor-sharp shards of ice blasted from her hands. It barely held back the searing rays of flame shooting from the hands of a flying figure masked in black.

Mathal’s muscles tensed and coiled to spring at them. Their nails caught her eye--black with a shining detail of constellations.

“Amaya!”

Mathal couldn’t hear her own call, but the figure did. Their mask snapped toward her. The gouts of flame vanished with their shifted thought.

Tarvi’s ice slammed into them. The figure hit the bricks just under the ceiling and toppled down.

Mathal sprang and caught their limp, red-leaking body. She pulled out her wand.

Tarvi ran up the stairs to check on Eccaridian and Chard. Chammady slumped against her corner. She slid down shakily.

Three charges later, the figure stirred. They pried the mask off their face. Amaya.

“Hey babe.”

Amaya’s voice was too low to pierce the ringing in her ears, but Mathal recognized the familiar shapes of her mouth.

“What’s chillin, my villain?”

Amaya threw her arms around Mathal’s neck. Her sobs went unheard straight into Mathal’s shoulder.

Mathal carried Amaya back up to the parlor with Chammady on her heels. Tarvi, Chard, and Eccaridian had come downstairs as well. Someone had laid Gorvio out on the sofa.

Mathal sighed. She set her other best friend down and squatted by Gorvio with the wand. He didn’t wake, but he breathed easier after another three charges.

The others gathered on soft, plush chairs around a shining, redwood coffee table. Tarvi explained the situation to Chammady and Eccaridian. Mathal joined them, sitting on the arm of Amaya’s chair. Amaya rolled her eyes and pulled Mathal into her lap.

“I’m seeing a holes in this plot,” said Eccaridian.

“Not the most significant, but I don’t think we could both be lord-mayor,” said Chammady.

“No, you can,” said Mathal.

She explained the devil’s lord-mayor aptitude test in Aberian Folly’s magic vault. The devil had accepted both her and Gorvio.

“So it’s...precedented. That’s probably our best option, then.”

“We’ll have to be at City Hall at dawn.”

Everyone agreed to escort them as close to the time as possible to keep from having to find a place outside City Hall to wait--they’d likely be discovered. There was no guarantee beyond Fiosa’s logic (hope?) that getting the two elected would prevent or halt the all-out war between Drovenge and Oberigo, but they were out of time to deal with the Houses. They fell into somber silence.

Gorvio jolted up to sitting. Everybody jumped.

“Fight--”

“Don’t do that,” said Amaya, waving her hand.

Gorvio’s eyes cleared. He lowered his palm, massaging his forearm, his neck, his temples.

“Ow.”

“Sorry about that.”

“What’d I miss?”

“Nothing much,” said Chard, getting up to stretch. “I know you were just out, but you should get some rest. All of you. Go time in three hours. Go take a nap.”

Mathal and Amaya mock-saluted.

“Aye-aye, cap’n.”

They looked at each other and burst into a cackling fit. Aching nerves aside, this was going to be fun.

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