The Gopher King: Chapter 26

The Viceroy arrived in a flash outside of the town of Jivet-au-Marruse near where the dragon had ruined the bridge. There were a number of guards here, an increased security presence since Druuna’s attack. When the soldiers saw the lich that had teleported into their vicinity their initial and predictable reaction was panic. Likewise the Viceroy’s first reaction was to silence them. His magic missile spell shot forth and all eight of the soldiers fell to the ground dead. The Viceroy turned his attention to the town itself and using his blood link to the dragon he began to impress upon her, subtly rather than forcefully, that the town was ripe for harvesting. He then transformed into a wraith and silently slipped across the open ground and vanished into the busy little village behind its laughably weak wooden stockade. There was a lot of commotion here as the sentries on the wall had seen the soldiers by the ruined bridge fall, but they hadn’t seen how they were killed. More soldiers began to respond to their stricken comrades and the Viceroy took note of all that was happening.

There were three knights in particular who looked as though they were ready for a dragon attack. They had with them a lance, a helmet, and a shield that all looked to be enchanted for one purpose and one purpose alone; to slay a dragon. The Viceroy could not allow this challenge to go unchecked, and so he leveled his attention on them fully as he unleashed a powerful fireball. Exploding with tremendous force the great green blast of fire erupted right on top of the three brave knights, incinerating them completely. Chaos erupted in the town as cries rang out from all quarters. Even being unfamiliar with the language didn’t prevent the Viceroy from knowing that the alarm was being raised.

Careful not to reveal who was behind this attack, the Viceroy released a noxious cloud of poison from a devastating spell and sent it plummeting through the town in all directions. This would mimic the attack of Druuna had she been there in person, and anyone witnessing might think the dragon had descended from the clouds cloaked in invisibility. More screams as the hapless townsfolk were swallowed up in the foul toxic air. Collapsing in all directions the people wailed with their last breath, presumably for mercy, but the Viceroy would not be having any of that.

Almost precisely on cue the real dragon roared up out of the forest to the north and as a crashing wind fell upon the town in fury. Unconcerned with the toxic cloud already present, Druuna blasted her own chlorine gas into the besieged village with a fury only dragon lungs can conjure. Careful not to be trapped in the ensuing carnage the Viceroy took on the form of the green will o’wisp again and flew out of harm’s way as he watched the seething reptile tear into the people, their homes, and businesses. He truly admired the power Druuna unleashed. She was a veritable wrecking ball of unhinged terror. She gobbled up the fleeing townsfolk like a child ate candy treats. After a few satisfying crunches she would swallow and then release yet another belching cloud of poison gas into the area around her. There wasn’t any getting away from this monster.

Not that there weren’t survivors, mind you. The handful of people that had been outside of the town perimeter to the south when all of this occurred were able to flee unopposed from what was happening. That was just fine as far as the Viceroy was concerned and Druuna never took notice. Her full attention was on destroying everyone and everything in her vicinity. The lich bobbled overhead and filled the dragon’s mind with ever increasing rage to drive her further into wanton destruction. The mighty beast was utterly unaware of this manipulation as she roared with delight at the inability of her foes to resist her onslaught. Parts of the stockade were even flattened by the bulk of her thrashing body as she sought to completely trample this ridiculous little settlement. It never entered her mind to ponder why she was so enraged or what the purpose of this attack was even all about, but she was enjoying herself immensely.

The dragon was drunk on the bloodlust and slaughter precisely as the Viceroy wanted her to be. He now had the beast fully under his sway and he had every intention of milking this victory for every drop of satisfaction it provided. The lich had proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could now control almost entirely the actions of this wonderfully destructive creature. How much more awesome would she be as an undead! That would happen sooner than the dragon realized. The Viceroy had set the stage for the upcoming showdown. He had faith that the same fearless attitude that made mere mortals stand up against him would be sufficient to drive them to bring an end to Druuna’s reign of terror. But they wouldn’t do anything more than open the door to an evil greater threat. While the troublemakers were going to be more difficult to manipulate than this dragon they were certainly going to prove to be of far greater use to the schemes of the lich. He just had to get the two of them together to drive the point home to all involved that he, the Viceroy, was the one calling the shots.

Getting the troublemakers in the same arena as Druuna was now as easy as could be hoped for. Nobody that survived the destruction of Jivet-au-Marruse would remember seeing the lich there. All they would recall with nerve-addled certainty was that the green dragon from the forested realm of Forêt Verte just north of them. Something must have gotten the dragon riled up, perhaps something done by reckless thrill seekers. Whatever the case they wouldn’t draw a direct link to the meddling of the Diosian Lodge based on what happened in this doomed town today. Therefore the troublemakers would have to conclude that this dragon acted entirely on her own, peeved perhaps by the bridge into her territory that they themselves helped to create. They would doubtlessly feel some desire to get back at this dragon and in the process avenge their hometown.

There was still another aspect that the Viceroy was mulling over. Having destroyed what could have been their base of operations for future bothersome endeavors the Viceroy effectively put the troublemakers out looking for a new home from which to work. There would certainly be options abundant. But after wrecking the Maison de l’Iris on behalf of the Diosian Lodge, and the ruination of Jivet-au-Marruse by the green dragon, the Viceroy felt fairly confident that the King of Fanolania would have one good option as to where these brave adventurers should reside. Somewhere close to the action, so to speak. Someplace they could operate and be as troublesome as they liked without endangering any vital Fanolanian interests. Once the Viceroy gated Malindra and her larvae out of this plane there was only one place in the world that fit that bill precisely. Maelonbourg. Somebody would have to rebuild and develop a land otherwise unclaimed. If their King ordered them to take up residency there the troublemakers would have no other choice than to accept.

Of course there would be one other resident in Maelonbourg. Deep in the ground, hidden from prying eyes and curious minds the Viceroy would sit and savor this delicious development. Should it come to pass as he thought it might the lich would have right above him the full power and majesty of Fanolania securing Maelonbourg and the lich wouldn’t have to so much as lift a finger. They would all become his minions, wittingly or not, as he pressed forward with whatever schemes he dreamt up. As the Viceroy watched Druuna smashing about in Jivet-au-Marruse he couldn’t contain his joy. Everything was shaping up quite nicely.

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