[Vfw-times] MK Winter Assault Intermission part 6 - End intermission

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Mon Sep 10 21:55:01 CDT 2001

Yet, like all journey's, theirs came to and end as they finally found 
themselves faced with the Cathedral doors.  The climb back up the treacherous 
ridge had been painstakingly slow.  It was so much easier to go down than up, 
and so they had chosen an even leveller route up, switching back and forth 
nearly twenty times before they were finally at that solitary door in the 
wall, which had been wedged open by the falling snow.  And even so, there had 
been many occasions where their hooves had slipped on the snow and ice, and 
they'd had to make another turn to regain their ground.

Egland had felt as if he were playing a game of Flumes and Ladders with his 
life as they'd climbed up that ridge, but thankfully, they only ever caught 
the short flumes.  When they had reached the door however, other concerns 
took their minds.  The Lutins were abundant inside the halls of the Keep, how 
could they possibly escape detection?  Yet they had proceeded inside anyway, 
where Saulius undid the cloth holding himself onto Egland's back, and the 
knight returned to his humanoid self, bearing the weapon that the rat had 
brought for him.

Yet as they carefully walked across the carpeting to muffle their hoof-falls, 
they continuously kept their ears open, and their noses sniffing, trying to 
discover if an ambuscade waited around the next corner.  Yet, the only Lutins 
they ever saw were ones already dead, or even a few sleeping, half-empty 
bottles of fine wine clutched in their arms as they waited for a group of 
Keepers to come along and slit their throats.  At the behest of Thomas's very 
insistent nodding and stamping, Egland and Saulius did so, though it was not 
the sort of behaviour they were particularly fond of as knights.

So it was with great relief when they finally came upon the doors to the 
Follower Cathedral.  Egland slammed his fist on the door, smiling over at 
Thomas, who was still a horse carrying Bryonoth over his back.  Thomas 
however did not appear to mind stalking the halls of his own palace as a full 
equine.  When the doors were opened, they were of course greeted by sword 
points at first, but soon by riotous joy!  Egland nodded, smiling down to 
Saulius, whose whiskers were a twitter, and back at Thomas as they were 
ushered into the Cathedral and the doors closed behind him.

Vinsah and Hough were standing very close to see, while Thalberg and Cassius 
lay on mats along with the other injured a short distance away.  Copernicus 
was beaming down to them as he half sat upon the edge of one row of pews.  
Finally, Hough found himself capable of speech, "Is that Duke Thomas?"

Egland nodded, even as he and Copernicus began to undo the thongs holding 
Bryonoth upon the horses back. "Yes, he decided to help carry back his 
presumptive captor.  You remember Sir Bryonoth, do you not, Bishop Vinsah?"

Vinsah came forward, long striped tail swirling behind him underneath the 
black cassock. "Why, yes, I do.  But why would he attack the Duke?"

"I'll let Thomas answer that," Egland murmured, as he and Copernicus drug 
Bryonoth along the floor for a bit, setting him down cautiously amongst the 
soldiers with their swords still unsheathed. "Watch him, we don't know how 
he'll react yet."  They nodded, and a few of them leaned upon their swords as 
they kept an eye on the unconscious knight.

After Saulius had removed the saddlebags from Thomas's back, the horse began 
to shift, rising up upon its hind hooves, the fore hooves shifting, breaking 
into three pieces, as the head shrunk a bit, taking on a more human guise.  
The blankets draped over his back fell off as he stood upright, collecting 
around his hooves and fetlocks.  Soon, in all his naked glory, there stood 
Duke Thomas.  Saulius was quick to grab the blankets and offer them to Thomas 
for modesty's sake, and the Duke was in no position to argue, wrapping them 
about his waist, while his tail flicked from side to side between his knees.

"I do apologize for not arriving with my escort, but I had a slight delay," 
Thomas remarked, much to the amusement of the other Keepers who could not 
help but laugh a bit.  The sound of laughter felt as if it had been gone from 
the Cathedral for aeons, and to hear it now cause a brightening to fill the 
air, as if the oppressive archaic and timeless quality of this antiquarian 
edifice had been brought into the present and vanquished.

Vinsah was leaning over Bryonoth's body, running his dark paws across the 
man's face. "What had he wanted with you?"

Thomas narrowed his eyes uncomfortably. "For some reason, he wanted to make 
me into a breeding stallion back on the Steppe."

Egland narrowed his eyes as he tried to call back some long forgotten memory. 
 Suddenly, the actual events began to return to him, the long beautiful 
houses, streets so clean, the magnificence that had since become so familiar 
to him had all been new that day, as if freshly cleaved from the womb.  They 
had been walking side by side with their steeds between them.  The remark 
that he had found so amusing just before they reached the stables had been so 
typically Flatlander of him, that Egland had not forgotten, and apparently, 
neither had somebody else.

"I remember him remarking the first day we arrived in Metamor that he thought 
you could sire many great foals, my lordship," Egland said, feeling a bit 
embarrassed even in saying it out loud, despite what he had just seen that 
night. "He's from the Flatlands, and has been around horses all his life, I 
suppose nobody can blame him for thinking such things at least in jest."

Saulius appeared suddenly uncomfortable and nodded. "'Tis true, my liege.  I 
hath often wondered what fine steeds thou couldst produce."

Thomas blinked a few times and then let out another laugh.  Both Egland and 
Saulius stood there for a moment considering what was going through Thomas's 
mind, but the Duke explained himself. "I find it a rather strange honour to 
be considered so highly for my lineage, even if in such an unconventional 
way!  We of the nobility have often been bred by our families, so I suppose 
what Bryonoth wanted for me was hardly different than what I could have 
expected out of life had I not lived in such an enlightened city as Metamor."

The ridiculous nature of his comparison left both the knights wondering if 
they were not being made fun of for a moment, but as the rest of the 
Cathedral let up in laughter with there liege, so too did the knights.  Why 
should they feel slighted, after all, they had saved the Duke.   And as they 
both thought on that, Thomas came to their sides and placed his hands upon 
their shoulders. "Thank you my friends.  You have done a great service to me 
and this castle and to these people.  When all this is over, I shall see to 
it that you are honoured appropriately."

Both Egland and Saulius turned to face the Duke, and then bowed to their 
knees, lowering their heads. "We could do no less for thee, my liege," 
Saulius intoned reverently, while Egland spoke clearly a similar epitaph.

Thomas then looked back to Father Hough. "How are the guards and Thalberg who 
had accompanied me?"

Hough shook his head. "Two of them didn't make it.  Thalberg is resting right 
now, but he will survive.  Gregg and Miles will survive, though poor Miles 
has lost his arm."

Vinsah was still leaning over Bryonoth, his green eyes a study in curiosity. 
"We've done what we could for them, but nothing we can do for a missing arm."

"I shall find a new place for him to serve," Thomas said, his voice drawing 
the attention of all by its breadth. "After this is over, I believe there 
will be much work for everyone" Most of the people in the Cathedral simply 
nodded at that, many of them capable of remembering what had happened the 
last time Nasoj had attacked. "There will be more destruction than there was 
last time.  But I think our spirit will be stronger too."

"We will make Nasoj pay for everything he has taken from us," Hough declared, 
which was a strange thing to hear from a priest.  Yet his fiery statement 
caused many of the Keepers to cheer and wave their swords and daggers about.

The coon Bishop was still looking down at the knight, but suddenly stood up 
and pointed at the prone figure. "And what of him?  How do you intend to 
punish him?  Do you truly believe he did this of his own accord?  I knew Sir 
Bryonoth before this, and though his ways were sometimes strange to me, he 
never before showed a glint of malice in his soul, not like this."

Sir Egland nodded, his antlers slicing the air. "I have known Sir Bryonoth 
for even longer than His Eminence has.  He is a good man, a good knight, one 
that loved his steed and adored his friends, but had the utmost of respect 
for those in authority.  For him to do something like this, he must have been 
deranged in some way."

Thomas nodded at that and rubbed his chin with one hoof-like hand. "I saw 
many sides to him during my captivity under him.  He showed me great kindness 
at the stable.  I do not believe he was acting on his own volition.  It 
strikes me most likely that whoever killed the Patriarch decided to use him 
to sow more dissension here at Metamor.  I want Wessex to examine him and the 
magical items he used to enslave me."

The Duke of Metamor then looked at the knight curiously, his eyes a mix of 
both anger at what was done, but concern for the man. "However, we won't see 
Wessex until after Nasoj is pushed back again, I think.  Is there anything 
you priests could do for him?  He is of your faith after all."

Vinsah and Hough gazed at each other for a moment before the Bishop clasped 
his paws together, his ears standing upright, and his tail circling about one 
of his ankles. "We can fight evil spirits, at least a priest at my level can. 
 I do not know if this extends to abjuration."

"Do you think you could try?" Thomas asked. "It would mean a great deal to me 
if you could rid him of the evil influencing him." The horse's eyes narrowed 
and he peered at Vinsah more closely. "Wait a moment, just who are you 
anyway, I don't recall ever having seen you before."

Vinsah hung his head for a moment. "Yes, I know.  I am Bishop Vinsah of 
Abaef, the former Patriarch's adjutant.  I've been out of the coma for some 
time now, but was not ready to reveal myself until just now."

Thomas's eyes rose in delight. "Ah, it is good to see you healthy at last.  I 
am grateful that you can spare your talents for us, Bishop Vinsah.  I must 
say that you look much younger as a raccoon than I had thought you would."

Vinsah nodded, his face looking a bit uncomfortable. "Let me see what I can 
do for the knight." He leaned down, and placed his paws on the knight's 
chest, and closed his eyes, clearly praying.  After a few minutes, he made 
the sign of the yew tree upon his chest, and the body suddenly stirred, quite 

Vinsah nearly leaped back as Bryonoth's eyes came open in livid rage, hatred 
pouring out of them, yet he could not raise his chest from the ground, as if 
it had been pinned there, or some great weight was bearing him down.  
Bryonoth grabbed at Vinsah's tail and tugged him back to his knees, ripping a 
small bit of fur clear when he did so.  The Bishop let out a startled cry, 
and slammed his fists back into the man's chest, praying loudly, his words in 
the language of Yesulam, completely foreign to most of the Keepers' ears.

Bryonoth screamed violently, but it was not his voice, but something far more 
sinister.  It was as if some terrible daemon had crawled up from necrophagous 
pits and had let loose the cry instead, buried as it was inside the knight's 
throat.  But Vinsah kept his focus upon his prayers of release, signing the 
tree upon the knight's chest several more times, each time unleashing another 
torrent of violent objection from the possessed man.  He kicked, hit, clawed 
and ripped fur from Vinsah's hide in his attempt to dislodge the racoon, but 
the Bishop would not move.

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