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The Unholy Threat

AuthorThe Unholy Threat
Rumours of all sorts about a high-ranked dwarf prisoner caught in the open and contained in the detention block rolled like an avalanche through the whole Empire, bringing up those who were sleeping and those awake but still luxuriating in warm beds. Last night's roundup gave its results, bringing a patrol dwarf into the hands of the Empire subjects.

The seven councilors urgently convened at the Central Square to discuss their next move. Her Majesty the Empress fell back into unreceptiveness, so according to the protocol, the Council was to carry out a unanimous decision concerning further actions.
"Report, squire. I have heard so many versions of his capture that I don't know what to believe".
"He was leading a numerous vanguard patrolling our border north of Silent Hill, but never moving inside. Some of his troops were slain, we had losses too, but overall casualties were minimal, as our troops retired quickly making use of knowledge of the terrain. Captains who performed diversion returned to Grand Capital in full numbers."
Kalirosh praised the actions of the military and inquired about the captive himself.
"He claims to be a general, member of a very noble family, but he refuses to call his name. He seems to know a lot about us, the Empire, its form of government, population and so on. And he keeps persuading that they are no enemies of ours."
"Ah-ha, and he expects to be released and allowed to go, is that right?" Feurlis gibed.
"At this point he only expressed contempt to the detention staff, wishing to speak to an equal."

"That's a good sign", lady Quetlisse took word. "If he does, we should listen to him. It will not only help us understand their intentions and form an idea about their numbers, but also reveal himself. If he is as noble as he claims, we will have a trump to trade should any negotiations be held in future."
Feurlis' face wrinkled as heard about negotiations. "Mylady, in what possible way would you be certain whether the creature is saying the truth or not. While I agree that procuring information is our topmost priority, to my belief, different methods are to be applied to ensure..."
The knight councilor immediately objected, interrupting the dreamy voice of the internal affairs councilor. "Is it not known to you how Her Majesty treats torture? Or does the absence of Her mind in these harsh times entitle you to ignore the rules established long before you even became the leader of Necromancer faction?"
Feeling that the two would bicker again wasting precious time remaining to take the right decision, Arabat Flamesoul snarled "Councilmen! You know why we are here, we have to reach a unanimous decision, which to me is obvious." The demon coughed letting puffs of smoke out before continuing. "Feurlis' methods are ultimate and will be used inevitably as the last resort when every other has failed. Therefore, Quetlisse should start the questioning and we shall see where it leads."
After some moaning about wasting time and lacking efficiency, the necromancer agreed.
The door into the interrogation chamber opened before lady Quetlisse. A robust corpulent figure was standing inside, of a lower-than-average height of a wizard, with a thick beard and creamy long hair. The dwarf turned around instantly to examine the entering elf councilor, and Quetlisse, without giving much account or importance, noted at once to herself: Warrior. Left-handed, slight limp. Refuses to sleep for many hours. Without a doubt is a noble hero with a high military rank. "Councilor for foreign affairs is here to hear you", a voice introduced lady Quetlisse as she made her way into the chamber.
"A woh-man?" The dwarf crinkled his nose. He spoke with a strong accent, spelling the letters without any rules of pronounciation, exhaling strongly at almost every vowel. "Ah but of coh-urse", he sniffed. "Yoh-ur coh-untry is rul-led by a woh-man. Ttis is vhy yoh-u vill never grov strong enoh-ug for ttis."
"That depends on what side to look from, general." Quetlisse's melodic voice filled the dark and narrow interrogation chamber as she moved to her seat and graciously sat down. The chamber immediately seemed wider and brighter to the captive. "Many revere female wisdom, and when it comes to rule, wisdom loses to strength and valor, can you deny that?"
"In a land eezolah-ted from ttreh-at as yoh-ur ovn, yoh-ur vay of ttinking mig-t hav a rig-t for existence-eh", the dwarf nodded, unable to object, persuaded less by the meaning than by the way of stating the past point of view. "And yoh-ur eezolat-eeon is tte mahin rehason vhy yoh-u neh-ed to let me go. I meh-an yoh-u no harm, ve are reh-ady to forgive tte sig-ns of hostility tovards oos ehven ttohug non vere manifested by oos. Ve are hehre to vah-g var, not on yoh-u but on someh-tting ttat is of ekval ttreh-at to yoh-u as it is to oos."
"Did you say the same thing to the Empire men across the sea when your people led an assault at them?" Lady Quetlisse seemed totally unconcerned with the subject, asking of it as if of last night's weather.
"Yoh-u do not oonderstand. Tte problems witt ttat Empih-re vere amended. Ttey fah-ced tte sah-me ttreh-at ttat is coh-ming hehre now, and ve lended ttem ouhr help."
"If what you say is true, and you come to lend us your help this time, why don't you speak about this threat? Why do your people evade contact with our forces, whereas together we would lead a more effective campaign?" Lady Quetlisse asked her question slily, trying not to let tones of disbelief spoil the atmosphere of trust growing between herself and the interrogated.
"It was an order from my king. Forgive me, woh-man, but I vill not say any fuhrtter. Ttose oondeh-ad are no match for yoh-ur militahry, and by confronting oos yoh-u are only mahking ttings worse-eh for yoh-urselvehs. If yoh-u do not let oos do ouhr bidding, very soh-on it mig-t be toh-o lah-te."
An even slier look by lady Quetlisse made the dwarf stop short, looking back to what he had just said. He slipped, he mentioned the hostile armies were undead. The dwarf bit his tongue badly. "And for ttat, yoh-u neh-ed to let me go", having said so he turned away ignoring any further questions and remarks from the elf councilor.

"I told at once that this would be a mere waste of time", the necromancer councilor finished examining the torture chamber. His face was shining with bloodlusty anticipation.
"Councilor, no matter what, it was necessary to let the diplomat persuade him first. You know the code of Her Majesty."
"Diplomat? Despite all the praising by everyone else, Lady Quetlisse sounds more like a shrink to me", Feurlis grinned, crackling his phalanxes impatiently. "Lead him here. Initially apply the second level of interrogation. When I give a sign, switch to third level. I will be questioning him from the unlit corner. As for the rest, you know the procedure."
Six councilors were sitting outside the detention block. The tension was strong, everyone was too strained to start a casual conversation, the council's thoughts were concentrated on the necromancer and his victim.

Several hours later a skeleton appeared and imparted that Bilir's assistance was required in the "questioning". The latter, horrified to a nervous tremor, stood up and walked to the detention block entrance in a faltering gait.
Slightly less than one more hour passed, and Bilir crawled out of the building pale as flour. Feurlis followed him, his predatory look proving that it was over. "Sound the horns, Lords are to prepare themselves for a full-scale campaign. Our foe is not whom we thought to be. We shall convene at the Square after the proclamation is made."

Soon, Arctic the Herald stood on the Square proclaiming the mission:

"Lords and Ladies of the Empire! An unexpected enemy will soon, if is not already, invade our land. Part of the undead hordes are arriving led by Unholy knights, others are being raised by unseen creatures called Mummies.

While the plans to extinguish the threat will require a lot of consideration by the Council, the first objective is to fight back. At this point it is important to neutralize the undead and secure our lands for a future assault at the source of this invasion.

Should you spot Dwarven troops outside our borders, you are not to engage in armed conflict.
To Arms, for Her Majesty and all our Empire!"
Feurlis was standing on the tribune inside the Chriselleum, occasionally fixing his rectangular-lensed spectacles that constantly aimed to fall off his nose, which irritated him to the point of exhaustion. He was reviewing the report, composed by the imperial Chronicler with his guidance, which he was about to read out in front of the Council and other eminent members of the Court. The glorious hall was used for an unusual purpose on that day to increase, yet limit the number of Empire subjects to those only who indeed needed to hear the announcement. Other Council members were sitting behind the tribune, facing the rest of the public attending the conference.

"Dear Lords and Ladies, Councilmen, civil servants. This is a full report about the latest happenings and current situation in the Empire, in political and military aspects.
Her Majesty the Empress, who is not feeling well due to a sickness none of you could be ignorant about at present, has entitled this council in its full composition to fully control the management of the so called Dwarven question. Later, due to a unanimous decision, I was allowed to personally obtain information that is to be considered true and extremely precise.
Dwarves have set a base of operations to the North of Silent hill, with their camps concentrated directly to the Northwest of the Grand Capital, in the explored but unclaimed territory north of Blooming Glade. They have no hostile intentions towards this Empire. The purpose of their presence close to our lands is known and appears to need our immediate involvement. Yes, dear gatekeeper. What is your question?" The Necromancer reacted to Leyshoash de Berg's raised arm.
"Your highness, there was a lot of talk about a prisoner. Was he the source of the information, and if so, how do you estimate the reaction of their detachment to our actions?".

Feurlis, clearly pleased with the high form of address towards him, turned away to briefly consult the other six council members.
"There you go, didn't I tell you they would ask", Kalirosh whispered squeezing the rail of his chair. "No matter how you and Skunder tried to mask the matter to avoid this question, it was imminent! You will have to lie, Feurlis. If you let them find out that the general did not survive your knackery, it will sooner or later reach the enemy's ears. And then - help us Twin Gods." Lady Quetlisse compressed her lips tightly and turned away at the knight's words. She was one of those trying to attach the noble dwarf's life to this world after Feurlis' atrocities, but failed, and now felt most bitterly about the dwarf's passing.

"There was indeed a high rank captive who was.. interviewed for this, and despite being reluctant, shared all information we needed to know about their current status." Feurlis assumed composure after returning to the tribune. There was no way to say by his looks that he wasn't honest. More questions sounded about the disposition of the neutral visitors, which the necromancer answered in as many details as he was able, or considered it right to. "If you allow me, I will now get back to the briefing."
"The undead you saw our lords fight in the Capital, were spread throughout the Empire. In a few hours the Lordship will succeed in destroying the raised ones and manage to push the infestation out of our border to the famous verdant arc between Blooming Glade and Silent Hill. Our regular army is situated all along the border from Seraph's Tears down to Blooming Glade's Academy sites in the South, therefore it will be the Lords' responsibility to lead a counterattack at the undead to lay them to rest and surround the source. Yes, give me a second, I am coming to that..."

Feurlis took a sip from a goblet standing on the tribune to his left before continuing. He put the goblet back on the right side of the tribune. This was a sign stipulated with the wizard councilman that soon it was his turn to take the place at the tribune. Bilir began to fidget on his chair, replaying his speech in his head.

"Now to the so called source, and then I shall answer your questions which will undoubtedly appear. Centuries ago, an ancient undead force was sealed off in a crypt that was later made invisible. Someone or something recently took that seal off. At this point we are not aware who, or what, uncovered the crypt, but it is clear that whoever or whatever it was, it meant harm to the Empire. The raised undead forces are controlled by an ancient cult of undying necromancers, previously sealed inside the crypt. It is believed, and this council has surmises to prove this supposition, that those necromancers are now doing its bidding. There are no doubts that their aggression is directed at this Empire.
The Dwarves were in certain ways made aware of the unleashing. They sailed here to lay the undead to rest and seal off the crypt using their native runic magic. Councilor Bilir will step in my stead now to explain why there is no way this can be allowed to happen."
The wizard replaced Feurlis at the tribune. He did not have a document to read from; what he was going to say was printed in his head. He looked unusually calm. "Lords and ladies, as you all know, the Academy of Magical Sciences is working day and night to discover a remedy for our beloved Empress. We have already made a huge step in preventing the sickness from progressing. We also had located the source of the malady. An excursion has been led to the location of the source, which as we found out yesterday is the location of the crypt, at that time still invisible despite having been unsealed.
As you may be ascertained, the following is now considered the most probable course of events.
The necromancers, or better to say venomancers, what they were called in ancient times for having unmatched talents for both controlling the undead and casting Unho... umm, poisonous curses, have targeted one such curse at our Empress and almost succeeded in ending Her life and sowing discord and destruction in the Empire. Whoever had unsealed the crypt and is now playing the role of the dark confidant for the venomancers, had everything planned in a long scale. Before we can begin to recoup ourselves, Her Majesty must be freed from this paralyzing evil, and I am convinced that somewhere within that crypt lie our answers as to what we are missing to do so.
Therefore, instead of sealing the crypt, we will need to invade it and explore the contents of that ancient place. Obviously, we will meet resistance. Our dear herald will help us to proclaim our mission throughout the Empire."
Arctic stood up and left the Cryselleum to find himself on the Central Square again. Again he spoke in his unique way to be heard by every inhabitant of the Empire, no matter where they were, clearly as if they were right in front of him.

"Lords and Ladies of the Empire! The Council has sanctioned that, in order to seize control of the territory including and surrounding the crypt, we shall annex the location behind the famous Arc. It is a matter of an hour and several formalities now until the territory of the Empire is officially expanded by the northwestern region which our cartographers agreed to call Verdant Dell. Once the annex has been legitimately performed, our regular troops will move in and guard the new border, pushing out the dwarven forces which were given orders not to intervene nor to encroach into our territory. It will then be the your hour to act.

Dearest Lordship, today you are our weapon and our remedy. With you lie our hopes to pacify the undead threat and purge the awful malady. You will lead new or join the existing vanguards, either into the Dell or in the adjacent locations, to lay the undead to rest. If you have tried-and-true brothers in arms within your military clans, you can limit the vanguard you lead to members of your clan, no others will be able to volunteer into your vanguard.
When that objective is accomplished, you shall proceed downwards into the crypt, specific orders will be given at that point. You have the final hour to prepare yourselves.
Go and remember: Her Majesty's gratitude as well as your Empire's recognition for your deeds and feats will reward your individual successes."
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