Palamedes looked at Hagen as they headed towards the Great Gate. “So, the priest let you off the whole--festival thing…?”
Hagen raised a correcting finger. “Gothi. And no. I must sacrifice an extra goat. And make a pilgrimage to Kitvekh.”
Palamedes stared at him. “That sounds a bit stiff.”
The Ogre shook his head. “Oh, no. I’ve been planning to go for some time. As Skalds of my people sing, ‘Kitvekh, if I forget thee…’” Hagen sighed fondly. “I shall go by the lake, look in the water, and I shall weep manly tears of sorrow.” He smiled. “And then I shall come home, make love to beautiful woman, and if my seed should quicken, have child, who one day, shall go by the lake, look in the water, and weep.”
Palamedes nodded, while thinking to himself that it was remarkable, in some ways, that Mother Night could inspire devotion as different as that of Hagen, Sacripant, and Quiet.
And of course, Vathek.
Palamedes looked at the Ogre. “You--served during Vathek’s uprising, right?” Hagen nodded, his expression grim. Palamedes gulped. “So… was it as bad as they say?”
Hagen bit his lip. “It was… worse. That is why I have chosen to foreswear Lammath this year.”
The chubby Erl winced as he heard this. But then--he’d chosen to wear the black cloak. This is what came with it. The pair reached Morgaine. The Dark Lord of the Blasted Heath was seated on a skeletal pony, dressed in what was by her standards a fairly casual outfit--a simple black breastplate engraved with a broken heart and a black coronet. Serjeant Greedigutt, Justinian Sigma and Bolekiz sat on horses next to her. Palamedes saw that Justinian still had Eurydice’s scarf on his arm. He took a deep breath, and reminded himself that this wasn’t going to bother him. Breus le Fidelé stood near the gate, a pair of Understewards by his side.
Morgaine looked at the pair. “So, you two ready?”
Grizzel snorted. “They better be.”
Hagen and Palamedes saluted. “We are prepared as polecats, Your Excellency!” said Hagen cheerfully.
Morgaine frowned to herself, then shrugged. “I’m going to assume that’s a good thing. Get in line.”
The pair fell behind Quiet and Sacripant. The Marsh Erl glanced at them. “Polecats?” he asked.
“They are very wily creatures,” said Hagen with a nod. “Always ready for things.”
Morgaine glanced at the assembled force of Kizaks and Cthonique Guards by the Great Gate. “You know, we really need more Ghouls,” she said to Grizzel.
Quiet turned towards the Dark Lord, and shot her a wounded gaze. “Hey, I’m not saying you’re not an awful lot of Ghoul in a small package, Il’Mok,” noted Morgaine. “Just that I’d like a few more.” Quiet quirked an eyebrow. “Hey,” said Morgaine. “What can I say? I like you guys. Especially the whole ‘worshiping me’ bit. It’s just--neat.”
Quiet sighed, with an exasperated shake of the head. Grizzel gave a throaty chuckle. “Well, Your Excellency, we try, but--well, the Ghouls are like the Kizaks. They stick to the old way.” He coughed. “No insult meant to your worthy self,” said the Serjeant to Bolekiz.
“None taken,” replied Bolekiz. “To state the truth is an insult only to those who believe in a lie.”
Morgaine nodded. “Okay. We’re moving out.” She glanced at Breus. “Chief High Steward--the Castle is in your care!”
“And safe in it!” shouted back Breus. “For I am faithful!” He nodded at the Understewards, and the Gate swung open.
As the small force filed out, Morgaine reached into her saddle, and produced a large glass sphere. Justinian stared at it, fascinated. “Is that…?”
“Great-Uncle Nerghal,” answered Morgaine with a nod. She gave the sphere a pat. “He’s going to do a little favor for us. In a while.”