Blackthorn leaned on his balcony, and stared out across the water, ignoring the illusory doppelgangers placed there for his own protection It made no sense. People did not just disappear. At worst, their ghosts were sent scurrying across the landscape in frantic search of a shrine, a wandering healer, or one of Mondain’s priests. But this? Insanity!
The senior Royal Detective had left no stone unturned. How had this travesty passed unnoticed? How had the people of the land been fooled into thinking this was something natural? As he read, names flew past his eyes. Groups, Clans, even whole towns!
Evergreen adventurers. At least three large tribes of orc. Delucia’s once-massive Trade Association. House Lynn’Dannae. Arc-en-ciel. Many citizens of Yew’s Shire. A seemingly endless parade of knights. Hordes of savages. Even darker souls were listed. The Blood Clan. The Remnant. The Undead, and their Undead Lords. Vampiric Embrace. Gone, as hard to find as a silver steed. It seemed that the beast did not discriminate.
Blackthorn noted the names of Dagashi, Bey’lik and Nadal T’Sarran. That might shed some light on the financial issues raised at the council last night. He paused, and made a note to find out exactly who was currently collecting taxes for the crown.
A messenger reported that fresh wards had been placed in the council chambers. Good. Last night had been a disaster. Those creatures had slaughtered the council before his eyes. His own spells had served to weaken the attackers greatly, but that did not change the facts. Men and women who had presumed themselves to be under the protection of the crown had lain dead at his feet.Their blood still stained the floor.
He started to see patterns forming. First, remove the largest Trade Association – Delucia’s.. That had been slowly weakening the economy, and would eventually result in most citizens being driven towards just one or two towns. That in turn meant easy pickings for evil, with all their victims easy to find. Next, weaken the healers. Every healer summoned to the council meeting has been thwarted, their powers drained as soon as they arrived. The thought of a land in which the dead could not be resurrected – perhaps that explained the missing. Had they all died, permanently? An icy chill ran down his royal spine.
Blackthorn entered his library, where a small army of mages, healers, and warriors stood in battle formation around a fairly plain-looking scroll.The copy had had made of the one stolen from the council last night.
As he reached for the scroll, he felt the mages combine to cast spells of protection on him, and saw their great energy fields humming and crackling around the room. An outer circle of mystics summoned their great stone beasts as an outer ring against attack.
If anything could get through this, he thought, then the realm would need a new king. He opened the scroll.
“Beware the thief of souls. She comes for the downhearted and oppressed, her arms filled with tempting gifts, and her voice dripping with the honey of a better life. She will consume you, and leave you an empty husk. Spells of resurrection or the most noble of sacrifices will not restore her victims.”
Scribes scurried about the shelves, bringing him any works which held even a thread of related information. Blackthorn read on, growing more concerned with every passing moment.
He needed more information. Perhaps a scouting party? But where to send them?