Chapter Fifty

All that hard work pays off

Hubert was unsure if he should be happy that he was not mentioned as being someone who was to be killed or depressed that he wasn’t mentioned at all. It was possible that he was still going to suffer the same fate as the Chosen One but did clearly did not rate a mention to the crowd. Honestly, it was a little insulting. He was, until quite recently, the Master of Evil. He knew he had not been the best one, but it did still hurt.

Garfan, on the other side of the Gurmer’s Choice, seemed unaffected by the announcement of his imminent demise. Hubert thought, and was correct, that people had often, and until now, erroneously predicted the Chosen One’s death, so it must be a bit tedious for him at this point. He envied and slightly resented the calm which Garfan faced his end. Hubert knew that he would not die with any sort of grace. There had been no prophecy regarding it, but he knew himself too well. There would be screaming, crying and his nose would run in an unending and undignified way. It would be one last way in which he’d disappoint his father, which seemed fitting. They were rolled next to stands giving both men an excellent view of the proceedings.

“My lackeys! Prepare me!” screeched the Mistress of Evil in a way she thought was fearsome but was in reality just annoying.

Nameless servants rushed in and prepared her, divesting her of her pointy headgear and inhuman gown. They did this so quickly and efficiently, that it seems that they waved their hands over her and she was changed into a new outfit. It was a scarlet robe with runes sewn into the sleeves and along the hems. Balor-Nar floated next to her.

“You should remove any other enchanted objects you wear,” he advised.

“These really bring this outfit together,” she replied as she jangled all the magic rings, bracelets and other assorted arcane bangles she had on. “I’m not taking them off!”

“You’re right of course, if the ritual makes you hideously scarred, the vassals will absolutely be terrified of you,” the ghost mused. “Of course your young man will be as well, but such is the cost of power.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” she hissed. “Boyfriend!”

Caliric ran right up to her, well as fast as one can in an elaborate and spiky codpiece. “Yes, my darling?”

This earned him a smile and a lick. The fact that this didn’t make him twitch was quite an accomplishment.

“Here, hold these,” she said as she removed a double handful of enchanted accessories. He held them in both his hands, as his outfit had no pockets, her choice, as she said it would ruin the look. Caliric thought the look was pre-ruined. He pushed this thought down, as he had done with every impulse he had since he had become Lady Daphnae’s “boyfriend.” If he had to push too many more down, he would either just erupt, which clearly would be the end of him, or he’d start to enjoy all of this. Death had a slight lead, as all the “making out” would then be over.

Nameless servants flowed like intelligent water, a drink you would not wish to imbibe, back to the edge of the hexagon past Tarnah. Something small was pressed into her hand in the midst of the Nameless Servants passing by her. The General of the Citadel of Darkness followed the palanquin as it retreated and passed the edge of the huge statues that were the demarcation point for safe viewing range and arcane danger.

The deep drumbeats that were part of the initial entrance were an unnerving counterpoint to the chanting and music being played on flutes carved from bones. A random bolt of lightning danced across Tarnah’s face as she glanced at what she held in her hand. She smiled, a grim smile to be sure, but it was true.

Garfan and Hubert, who were not close enough to notice this, watched the proceedings with interest (Garfan) and dread (Hubert).

“What is this all about?” nonchalantly asked the Chosen One.

Hubert, whose mouth was very dry at the point, cleared his throat and said, “I’ve got absolutely no idea.”

“Are they summoning something? Channeling some sort of extra-dimensional energy? Causing a natural disaster?” pressed Garfan.

“I just said I’ve got absolutely no idea. How could you misunderstand that?” hissed Hubert.

“You don’t have be snippy.”

Hubert thought he did have to be snippy. It was better than his instinct to flee and find someplace to hide until this was over. Being attached to a huge wheel of death tempered that urge but the Chosen One’s la dee dah attitude irritated him enough to think of doing it to just spite him.

“I just thought that seeing it might jog something, you know, memory wise,” added Garfan.

Hubert wanted to point out that he couldn’t remember something he never knew, but he decided that with the end so near, that he would die in a way he never thought he would. With dignity.

“Listen,” Hubert said, “it was actually nice to meet you.”

“Thanks, you too! For a Master of Evil, you’re all right,” said Garfan.

“Former Master of Evil,” said Hubert with a little sigh.

“That’s the spirit!” said the Chosen One as he rapped the Gurmer’s Choice, which shifted slightly. Any flare-up of confidence from his new friend’s enthusiasm was quickly quenched by the possibility of a horrible death. Habits die harder than people, Hubert thought and got a little more depressed.

In the center of the hexagon, Lady Daphnae spoke one last time before the ritual began. Everyone leaned in. What sort of Mistress of Evil would she be?

“Listen up, losers! I’m about to become more powerful than all of you put together, so get ready to kiss my ass!”

This question answered, her vassals prepared for the worst, which is what they had pretty much prepared for.

She giggled a little after saying ‘ass’ as she had been forbidden from swearing by her father who thought it was unbecoming for a Lady.

She threw out her hand and started chanting. At first, it was in

her voice but soon it the register got lower and lower till it was a basso profondo, whose hum was felt in the bones. The drum beat got incrementally louder and vibrated with her voice, giving those with inner ear problems a bit of unwelcome pain.

Next a greenish gray light started whipping around the heads of the statues, weaving in and out. Soon a plait of green grey light linked the statues and the eyes lit up with an eldritch energy that shifted through the color spectrum from red to ultraviolet, and a few others that you needed to be a para- dimensional traveler to see. There were a few in the crowd and they were suitably impressed.

Glyphs moved on the polished floor and spelled out great secrets, but much to quickly to be fully read, thereby frustrating those who attempted to understand such mysteries. They would be haunted by those incomplete, half grasped truths, which was part of the point of an evil ritual.

Suddenly, the light shot from the Munthos statues eyes in to the hexagon and flowed towards the inscribed crystal in the center. Energy poured upward and engulfed Lady Daphnae, whose currently deep voice fluctuated over a range of pitches and timbers. Whatever it was doing it sounded painful. Again, evil ritual. There was a flash, and those didn’t avert their eyes were blinded. There are always a few people who think, “how bad could this be?” The answer is inevitably, “very.”

For the rest, there was a fair amount of blinking to get those spots out of their vision. Blinking doesn’t really help, but people, just or unjust, do it all the same. When they could reasonably see again, what they beheld was the crouched figure of the Mistress of Evil. She stood, looked out at the crowd and smiled.

“Your Master has returned,” she said with the deep and commanding voice of Balor-Nar.

Hubert looked at Garfan through the spokes of the death wheel and said, “So now we know what that was for.”

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