The Gopher King: Chapter 17

Malindra wasted no time upon returning to her so-called home in finding Jorwan and in her most demanding tone said, “Bring me the laziest scullery maid in the entire hobgoblin brood. Now.” The Viceroy retreated up to his tower room to focus on his own schemes for the time being while the night hag went about calming her shattered nerves. But the Viceroy knew immediately when she had begun to terrorize the hapless hobgoblin woman that was dragged before her throne. The lich could sense the horror and the pain being inflicted. He sat in his own little throne and savored the sensation of the suffering of others.

Downstairs it was nothing short of a bloodbath. The maid hadn’t been given a chance to protest, nor would such lamentations have been fruitful at this point. All that mattered to Malindra was that Malindra was angry and wanted to shred somebody alive and devour their flesh. And that is precisely what she did. The screams of the victim were short-lived but the sounds of bones being crunched upon and meat being torn from muscle lingered far longer than anyone listening thought necessary.

Once the feasting ended Malindra sank into her throne and fretted about her next move. She wanted to get at the larvae but didn’t have a clear notion how to go about it quite yet. She wanted revenge for her sister Colldrenia but didn’t have a clear plan for that either. Mostly she just wanted to go home to the Gray Wastes and pretend this entire century of her life hadn’t happened.

In his small tower room the Viceroy was pondering other things. He was spoiled by not having a horse in this race and could afford to view things from an angle that the night hag could not. Unencumbered by concerns for sleep, food, and comfort the lich could easily and quickly focus his thoughts on the precise things that perplexed Malindra. He had multiple ways to retrieve the larvae. He had a good idea as to how to exact revenge for Colldrenia, too. It was a simple matter to solve other people’s problems. The Viceroy could have made a career out of this kind of thing all the while never getting around to solving his own issues.

Night approached again, and Malindra began to think of an idea. She left the blood-soaked main hall and went to her bedroom to lie down. She closed her eyes and focused her thoughts on the human ranger she had seen in the Marquis’ castle. If the ranger was asleep then she would be able to enter into his dreams and either vex or communicate with him. She opted for the latter. And after a few tries she finally found him asleep.

Malindra chose to be her luscious human self in the ranger’s dream. While there was no indication he could be easily seduced, it was a better bet that she would get better results from this approach than to be her true self. The ranger was aware of her and must have had a similar exchange with Colldrenia because his mental guard was up.

“Hello, Xan.” Malindra purred. “You and I have unfinished business to attend to.”

The ranger was strong willed and while not able to prevent the night hag’s presence in his sleeping state of mind nor was he easily pushed around. “I understand. What are your demands?”

Malindra did her best to be disarming although she was keenly aware that it was an uphill battle. “Your destruction of the Maelonbourg Castle buried something of tremendous importance to me. I want it back. You and your friends, and by whatever means you can muster, will excavate it for me.”

The ranger replied, “And if I don’t agree to this?”

Malindra chuckled wickedly. “If you don’t, then I shall return nightly to invade your sleep. Every night you will lose a little more of your health and vitality, and in due course you will wither away into dust.”

The ranger nodded his head in this dream world, and he asked, “If I can’t convince my comrades to join in this undertaking, then what?”

The night hag shrugged her shoulders and said simply, “Then I will go after you and the blind druid. Both of you are human. Both are of equal value and vulnerability. If your friends don’t value your lives then I shall lay claim to both of your souls. I have many ways to get what I want. If it comes down to it I will hunt your companions down one by one and kill them with my bare hands.”

The ranger nodded his head again signaling that he understood. “I will speak to them then and try and sell them on this idea.”

Malindra grimaced as she replied, “You do that. And don’t waste time. I have much to do.”

Raising his hand the ranger said, “We have much to do ourselves. When we have gotten to a place that we can tackle your demand we will. But we have other obligations to attend to first.”

Feeling her anger well up yet again the night hag struggled to keep her composure as she fairly hissed, “Are you suggesting I wait for you to get around to me?”

Now it was the ranger who shrugged his shoulders. “You’ve waited this long. What is a few more days or even weeks? We’ll get to it.”

Malindra was incensed by the arrogant tone of this man. She had never encountered anyone this obstinate. By now any other mortal would have been on their knees begging for mercy and clamoring to do her bidding at once. But this guy had to have a spine. He wasn’t even close to caving in. Whatever his relationship with Colldrenia had been it had emboldened him against the powers he knew night hags to possess.

The night hag said firmly, “I am not my sister. I am not alone. And I know the strength and threat you and your friends pose. Do not think me a fool or a pushover. I will give you time enough but mark my words I will be keeping a close watch on you. I will not tolerate delay.”

“Fair enough.” The ranger said simply. With that the night hag severed the dream connection and fell into her own restless slumber. She knew not how the ranger continued his night as her own nightmares quickly enough descended upon her.

In the tower above the lich sat pondering. He had three schemes now to occupy his mind. The first was a vengeance befitting the Diosian Lodge in its heyday. The second was a means to get at the larvae. And the third was a plot to secure his own domain, to once more rule as a sovereign lord and shake off forever his petty obligations to do the dirty work of his peers. A new day was fast approaching when the Viceroy would be seen as more than a toady. Soon he would be a king again.

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