The Champion

Garstynnia the night hag entered the private chambers of Lord Verrat and as the doors closed behind her as if by an unseen force, she surveyed the scene before her. Lord Verrat himself sat in a high-backed dark oak chair with his foot up on a stool so that one of his servants could polish his boot. Two other servants were working on oiling and polishing their master’s blackened plate armor with mixed results. And a fourth servant looked up as the hag entered only to immediately turn his attention back to wiping down Lord Verrat’s longsword with a red velvet cloth.

Lord Verrat, the Grand Marshal of Lotharingia, looked at Garstynnia and said in a tone dripping with boredom, “What news do you bring of my realm?”

Garstynnia cackled as she walked into the chamber, her walking stick clicking on the stone floor. “Nothing happens in this fetid morass of humanity that you are unaware of. I have come to see if you wish to persist in this folly.”

The dread knight glared at the night hag and said, “I have my honor to uphold. The Green King is vanquished. Untote Druuna has been destroyed. Lotharingia is alone in Partum and far from the support promised by the Grand Imperator. By this I plan to bring our enemies into alignment with us and united we will bring about a new era in Partum.”

The night hag was unperplexed by the sinister aura that seemed to surround Lord Verrat. “You are overplaying your hand.” she hissed in a manner both foreboding and filled with alarm. “They will never agree to your terms because of the risk they take should you be triumphant. And if you lose there will not be peace, only war. Without the Green King to keep them cowed the marshals of the lodges will resume their old habits and carry on as they always have.” Pointing at herself with her thumb Garstynnia continued to hiss, “They will do as I have guided them to do for over a century and your sacrifice will do nothing to dissuade them.”

Lord Verrat cleared his throat, and on cue the servants in attendance set aside their work and quickly left the room. Once they were alone the Grand Marshal said quietly to the night hag, “I do not have time to cross swords with you. I must focus on defeating the Archduke. Once he is dead his realm will have no alternative but to accept my rulership.”

Garstynnia cackled and turned to leave the room. Over her shoulder she said mockingly, “You master didn’t cook you long enough. Too hastily did he pour you from that foul beaker and unleash your impatience. All you can see is the one possibility. You fool.” Pausing before she opened the doors to exit the chamber Garstynnia added, “You are your own champion, Lord Verrat. But the Archduke has many in his service that can dispatch you with ease. He might be a fool as well, but even he knows that. Consider that he will select his own champion and not take to the field himself. Just think about it.”

With that the night hag opened the doors and left, her evil laughter ringing in the halls. Lord Verrat sat alone in his chamber and scowled.