Part 5: Of Blood and Bone
Written by Ben Bell and Melanie Blake.
The sentinels stood at the gate of the Necropolis, their unblinking gazes scanning the horizons. The sound of a great horn in the distance echoed over the desolate fields, which raised their alarm. As the sentinels gathered to their armaments, the blast of the great horn came again, this time significantly closer. It was as if the sound had suddenly leaped forward.
Before their ever-open eyes, a militia appeared from thin air. Figures as large as three men tall lumbered over smaller forms.
A third horn blast rose from the largest figure, standing nearly four men tall and wielding an appropriately large two handed axe.
The sentinels clamored over each other as they hurriedly prepared for battle.
From the mass that had recently appeared, a smaller figure, riding on the back of what appeared to be a large canine walked forward. The rider yelled to the top of the gate "I'm here to speak to the Mother of Bones. Open the gates and let me pass."
The leader of the gate's guard, confused by this spectacle and this living creature's bold demand, asked "And why should we allow the living to pass our gates?"
The rider replied "Because she owes me a favor."
The sentry leader laughed at the hilarity, as the rider interrupted his laughter and said "You really ought to get moving and let her know I'm here."
The leader of the sentries stopped laughing and felt rather irritated that this living thing was ordering him around. "And if I don't?" He defiantly replied.
"Then I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate the consequences. She and I had an agreement when she was young, and now a time has come that she must repay the favor. Do not attempt to stop me from collecting on my favor." the rider pressed forward. "Now open the gate and let me pass".
"And whom should I tell her has come to 'collect a favor'?" the sentry leader mockingly inquired.
"She'll know me as Ramgad." he yelled back.
Commotion arose. Some of the sentries stirred and looked over the wall at this statement. One of the older members on the wall quickly rushed over to the sentry leader and whispered in his ear. The sentry leader looked back at his new counsellor with confusion, and back to the rider.
"Why have you brought this force to our gates?" The sentry leader inquired.
"That's none of your business. They won't be entering unless invited. Now hustle and speak to your Mother, the seasons will be changing soon." Dagmar replied.
The sentry motioned for a courier, and sent it to Lilliana. The rotting one quickly scurried throughout the Necropolis towards her throne room.
Bursting into her Throne Room, the rotting one whimpered "Mother, there is --" she interrupted "How are the gates holding? Do we need to supply reinforcements?"
The rotting one groveled "We are not under attack Mother, but a rider has come and says you owe him a favor. He says you will know him as Ramgad."
She rose slowly.
The rotting one whimpered "He wishes to pass the gates and speak with you."
She stood there, staring at the courier with a fixated gaze, then said "... Let him pass".
The rotting one bowed low and scurried off.
Sitting upon her massive ivory throne looking at the door with eyes darkening, Lilliana bluntly states "Ramgad... What a pleasure... It's been a very long time, one might have thought that you had forgotten us. And now... You choose a time like NOW to come riding up on...whatever that *thing* was... And bring mention of favors owed..."
"It's good to see you're still around as well. Before we continue, I need to clarify. I'm not Ramgad anymore. Now I'm back to being Dagmar." the redcap replied.
Lilliana chose a direct approach "Dagmar? If you insist... I'm sure you know that I have much to attend to, so...Dagmar... Why have you come back here, to my home?"
Dagmar began "As I'm sure you remember, I came to your aide as an ally during the Great War of the Damned. I had my own reasons for doing so, and you needed whatever allies you could get. I put down from my immortality to help you with that, but have since regained it." He paused. "Now it's time that a favor is repaid."
Taking a breath, he continued.
"We have mutual enemies. The Damned, the Infernal, the Abyssal, and all of their network. There is a group in their network that I am hunting. There will be Damned, Abyssals, and Infernal surrounding this group, which is where we need to work together." He chuckled, and continued "This isn't exactly a bad deal for you, either -- You're going to have a militia of Fey as an auxillary, and that we are certainly formidable to a great number of foes."
Lilliana tilted her head slightly, then replied "I'm not particularly seeing where this is something I wouldn't do anyway..."
Sensing an opportunity, Dagmar's demeanor shifted as he said "Then maybe this isn't the repayment of a favor after all, but instead an unusual alliance." Curiously, Dagmar continued "So, what has been happening with you? Do you need a favor?"
Lilliana's eyes darken and she rattles "Dagmar, do not attempt to use your wordplay on me. I need few favors, and will ask for none."
Lilliana composes herself and lightens her tone, sounding a bit more 'human'. "It does seem that we have a common enemy. My children and the progeny of the Countess are in great danger. Outside of the shelter of Entros, our kind is being skillfully hunted. The Quelling Tree has many, many minions and they are growing in power. Their tendency for outright murder has increased as well... A war is coming... The time is near that we must strike at the tree itself."
Dagmar contemplates a moment before speaking "...The Quelling Tree, eh? This isn't the first time I've heard of that place. Over this past season I have been eating lots of Damned and they have been talking about that whenever I make them talk."
He pauses for a moment to think, and then continues "It seems that is a major place of operation for them. Are you seeking answers or spirits?"
Condescendingly, Lilliana replies "The Quelling Tree is more than a place, Dagmar. It is a being of a great infernal power...The answer to your question would be both"
"Good. Then we can get answers together." Dagmar replied. Pausing for a moment, he continues "I'm looking for one person in particular, but I don't want you telling your..." he pauses to think for a moment "... children..." he continues "the name of who I'm looking for. Also, it would probably just be best to not mention any names in public."
He continues "We need to find their leaders, and then Scrumrot or myself need to be present for questioning."
Lilliana begrudgingly replies "Concealment of any single fact from, any one of my children... If I do this for you, my debt is repaid. What do you need from --"
Ignoring her question, Dagmar interjects "This concealment is for your own good. We are tracking down a being who can assume any form at any time with the power of a name. We don't mention his name so that we do not get his attention. Your debt will be paid when we find him. Until then, we can have fun eating together." He thinks for a moment, then says "Do you like Hearthbeard?"