To the Victor Goes the Spoils

After dropping off the chests in the capitol to be accounted for by the High Treasurer, Archduchess Lersha von Slothjem-Kovak piloted the little spelljammer called “The Troublemaker” with its seven passengers to Schönbrunn, the capital of Geldenreich. It was here that the Magnificent Seven were going to leave the Viceroy’s phylactery and the enchanted emerald that now held the physical form of the lich as well as his soul. There had been a spirited discussion between Lersha, the members of the Council of Schönbrunn, and the Magnificent Seven to decide how best to proceed and by the time the Troublemaker set down in a small pond on the grounds of the Imperial Palace the decision had been made.

An escort comprised of three hundred Imperial Guardsmen met the spelljammer along with the councilors who were available for this occasion and Emperor Francis II of Geldenreich. As the passengers disembarked the spelljammer they were warmly greeted as conquering heroes. They had, after all, completely subdued the Viceroy, easily the most pervasive and cunning member of the Diosian Lodge. This cabal of undead spellcasters had lost two of its members in recent years. First was the Ash King and now the Viceroy. There was an air of jubilation in the crowd of admirers that caused even Sister Agatha to smile.

Emperor Francis II extended his hand to Wrunggel, the grizzled fighter who was a veteran of many battles. Somewhat taken aback, Wrunggel shook the emperor’s hand and grinned in amazement. The emperor smiled back and said, “Well done, good sir. We knew that when we had entrusted the task of destroying the Viceroy to Archduke Kovak of Maelonbourg that he wouldn’t disappoint. Little did we know how capable his men and women were going to prove themselves! That took hardly any time at all. You are without a doubt the greatest heroes from a realm filled with adventurers.”

Turning to the Imperial Guards, Emperor Francis II said loudly, “Three cheers for the vanquishers of the Viceroy!” To which the guardsmen all yelled boisterously, “HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!”

With that the Emperor of Geldenreich walked side by side with Wrunggel towards the palace. Behind them were Wrunggel’s six companions and most of the members of the Council of Schönbrunn. Only one of the councilors had remained behind, and that was Herzgraf Archibald Speedblade of Slothjemia. He had good reason to stay behind. His youngest daughter was Lersha, and this was a chance for them to visit. While the crew of the Troublemaker set about tidying up the vessel and making sure she was securely moored to the shore, the Herzgraf and his daughter sat on the deck and chatted.

After some pleasantries about how the grandchildren were doing and how the new nanny and her husband were working out the Herzgraf got down to the questions he was most curious about. “Where is your husband, my darling? I am most surprised to find him not here. Was he not a part of this epic achievement?”

Lersha shook her head and laughed. “No, papa. He wasn’t. None of them were, his friends and cohorts. Not one of them had a hand in this victory. I don’t think this was the plan and yet here we are.” Lersha paused and took a deep breath. “They are good people, papa. But there is so much to do running the archduchy and all of the estates. Sometimes it gets tough to make time for these adventures.”

The Herzgraf nodded his head slowly. “I can see how this would be true. It is often true for me, as your dear mother can attest. Duty can weigh heavily on those who wish to follow their seeking spirit. I do hope that this will not deter any of the so-called troublemakers from seeking adventure on daring quests.”

Lersha shook her head again and said, “No, I do not think it will. I do not know how they will react to not being the center of adulation, but I am sure they have many more fantastic fights ahead of them.”

The Herzgraf chuckled and replied, “It is a mark of great leadership to attract talented men and women willing to fight and if necessary, die for their cause. I cannot imagine the Emperor of Geldenreich being able to find seven people to go and tackle a member of the Diosian Lodge all on their own. And yet your husband and his friends found just that among the small number of people they had to select from. That is a grand achievement in itself, is it not?”

Lersha laughed and said wearily, “Yes, papa. It is a great thing. But rarely are awards given for creative hiring when the henchmen do all of the work. That is how it goes, though. To the victors go the spoils.”

The Herzgraf laughed and said, “This is true. And I believe Francis has every intention of spoiling these victors. If there is anything in the world that the ruler of Geldenreich has in abundance it is gold.”