The Gopher King: Chapter 18

Malindra awoke from her sleep with a sudden awareness that she didn’t know for certain where those bedeviling adventurers were. She hadn’t any easy way to locate them either unless one of the humans in the group was asleep. The uncertainty put the night hag almost instantly into a foul mood. The Viceroy, however, knew exactly where they were. He had been in almost constant psychic contact with the gnomish cleric whom he had extracted blood from. The link that the gnome now shared with the Viceroy was serving the lich well, and the undead wizard began to savor the possibilities that this hapless demihuman presented.

According to the information provided by the gnome cleric the adventurers had left Castle Cambion early in the morning and were headed towards the capital of Fanolania, a sprawling city called Avondace. Any further detail would have to be gleaned by another source because the group heading abroad did not include Zedem Malroy. The lich would have to resort to other means to keep tabs on these intrepid mortals. To that end and with a clear set of goals in sight he polymorphed himself ever so slightly to appear less horrific and with staff in hand sought out Malindra.

The night hag reached her throne about the same time that the Viceroy came in looking for her. The dried blood from the carnage of the previous day indicated that the hobgoblins were fearful of cleaning up the mess and the manner in which they served her needs today proved they had no desire to end up splattered all over this very room. As Malindra sat down the Viceroy said, “I told you it would establish your control. That it alleviated your fury is but a bonus.”

Malindra ignored the comment and told the Viceroy, “I need to know where those troublemakers from Castle Cambion are and what they are up to.”

The Viceroy just stared at the night hag and said flatly, “I know. You need me to find a way to keep track of them.” He grinned as much as he could and continued, “And you know that it will cost you.”

The night hag scowled and said, “I will give you twenty more larvae above and beyond your already arranged allotment if you keep me informed of their activities until I deem it no longer necessary to know.”

The lich gave an unearthly sigh of contentment and asked, “How much more will you give me to exact a measure of revenge for the death of your sister?”

Malindra sat forward in her chair. “What did you have in mind, your unholy wickedness?”

“An act of destruction so severe as to rock the very foundations of the powers behind your current predicament.” Replied the Viceroy with an evil smile. “As they brought down your sister and her castle I propose to do the same to them.”

Malindra gasped and asked excitedly, “Do you intend to destroy Castle Cambion?”

The lich shook his head. “No, witch. I aim at larger prey than that. The misery of a self-proclaimed marquis is trivial compared to the despair of a proper monarch. These fools serve the King of Fanolania. It is there that I propose to strike.”

The fullness of what the lich was proposing settled over the night hag as her jaw dropped. “You are going to attack the Fanolanians?” she asked in bewilderment. “They are powerful, even by immortal standards! They have allies and will move against us if we hit them in this way! All we have is a handful of hobgoblins, how can we resist an onslaught of thousands?”

The Viceroy cackled in a manner that even the hag found unsettling. “I care not for such things. By the time they figure out what happened, who did it, and where we might be found it will be too late. Your revenge will be had, and you and your larvae will be on your way to the Gray Wastes.”

Malindra wasn’t sure she approved but the cockiness of the lich was enough to convince her that he might be right. “What if they figure it out and come after me?” she asked.

The Viceroy cackled again. “Leave that to me, witch. If you pay enough for me to carry out your revenge then I will see to it that you are defended should they try anything else. The King of Fanolania did nothing to prevent his subjects from attacking your family. I will ensure that the monarch of that land never again permits his vassals to act so brashly without considering the fullness of the consequences to follow.”

Malindra sat in silence weighing the proposal. “I’ll give you one hundred additional larvae for this act and whatever defenses are deemed necessary in the aftermath. Agreed?”

The Viceroy nodded his head. “Agreed.” He said.

Malindra settled back into her throne. “Then do it.”

Turning and leaving the room, the Viceroy made a mental list of what he would need. He went to his tower room and got his spellbooks, tucking them into the sash he wore so that they would be safe and out of sight. He removed his phylactery and tucked it under the cushion in his chair and cast a warding spell on the entire room to prevent trespassers from gaining entrance. He then took one last look around and with a murmured spell vanished.

He reappeared instantly right outside of Castle Cambion. He already knew from the gnome cleric which direction the party had gone in, so he polymorphed into a greenfinch and flew after them. Even if they were on horseback he would find them soon enough. In the meanwhile he occupied his mind with settling his next two schemes. With a determination unique to the undead the Viceroy flew along the trails of Chute de L’Ombre until he arrived at the river. It was here that he caught sight of the adventurers. They had crossed on a ferry over a wide river and had teamed up with what appeared to be some sort of official escort. The Viceroy guessed that they were Fanolanian, but he would have to get closer to be sure. In his polymorphed form he cast a spell to comprehend languages and flew back and forth over the group as they travelled.

It was as he suspected. The King of Fanolania had dispatched these guards to make sure that the party made it successfully to wherever they were going. It seemed as though the dark elves in the group were especially important. What this was all about was a mystery to the lich. He fluttered about overhead all day as the group travelled, and at the end of the day they had arrived in a small fortified town on the banks of the same river they had crossed earlier. Still in his avian form the Viceroy tried to see what was going on. It was beyond frustrating to him that his comprehend languages spell kept running out and needed to be recast. Fortunately the lich had no other use for his magicks as there wasn’t a single ward or sigil that needed to be circumvented anywhere in the town. The party had settled into a grand hall of sorts in the middle of town. It served many purposes, including being a huge tavern, and tonight it served to welcome home these adventurers and their dark elven guests.

The lack of magical guarding over this bucolic little town tempted the lich with destroying it outright as a vengeance on behalf of the night hag. But he had hardly began to tease this idea when he overheard some of the citizens discussing the recent activities of the green dragon to the north. This was the second time that the Viceroy had heard mention of such a beast. Perhaps there was a better way to bring this town to ruin. The lich, still in the form of the greenfinch, sat in the open window of the public hall. As his comprehend languages spell ran out yet again he thought more about the potential of having a green dragon enter this little drama. Yes, that would do rather nicely all the way around. The Viceroy began to design yet another scheme to add to his bucket list.

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