“So, any idea what bit of stupidity brings us here now?”
Nisrioch glanced down at his sister. Morgaine stood there, arms crossed, and face bitter. “Hmmm. Some,” he noted after awhile. “But only some.” He glanced around. “Where’s Manny?”
“His Excellency is busying himself with learning as much Ghoulish custom as he can,” said Morgaine. “You’d almost think this was a tour, instead of a retreat.”
“Actually, I’d admire his ability to find things to keep his mind busy,” noted Nisrioch. “Indeed, I think some people could do well to imitate it.”
“Yeah, well, up yours,” said Morgaine looking away. “Can I help it I’d rather be back at Castle Terribel helping people I like not die, instead of on a demented road trip looking for the Mad King’s lost treasure?“ She scowled and shook her head. “Whatever the hell that is. I’m still not too clear on that.”
“Well, I think we’re about to discover if father is,” noted Nisrioch, gesturing ahead towards the plain. Lord Shaddad stood proudly before the blackened obelisk. “Let us prepare for his doubtless edifying speech.”
“Yeah, sure, why not,” muttered Morgaine, rolling her eyes. She took one glance at her father, and blinked. “Unholy Darkness! How much dye is he using these days? The glare from his hair is getting blinding…”
The Dark Lord cleared his throat. “Loyal partisans! You who have stayed with House Cthonique in its bleakest hour! All has looked lost--and yet, as we all know, even the brightest day shall eventually fade into the cool comfort of night! Your faith--your loyalty--are to be rewarded! BEHOLD--SUTEKH’S FINGER!” He gestured back at the obelisk.
“Does he think we haven’t seen it?” whispered Morgaine. “We’ve been here for three days!”
“All of you have heard of this, but few know its significance,” declared Lord Shaddad, amber eyes feverish. “It was here that King Sutekh fled, centuries ago, with the Sword of Night, a gift from the Darksome Lady to Her favored children. With it, that remarkable man attempted to summon the Dragon.” The Dark Lord paused dramatically. “He failed, and fled further south. But he did not take the Sword with him. That he lost in the summoning.” Shaddad smiled. “It is STILL here! That great weapon of Darkness is here, and we shall reclaim it! And with it in hands, we shall restore our fortunes!” He laughed. “We stand at the beginning of a grand new epoch! The destiny foretold to Marduk Cthonique shall be achieved! You have witnessed its first step!”
Morgaine glanced at her elder brother. “Tell me, did dad just reference Marduk Cthonique and King Sutekh in the same speech?” She raised an eyebrow. “Favorably, I mean.”
Nisrioch nodded. “Yes. Yes, he did.”
“Uh huh. Despite the fact that they were… enemies?” said Morgaine blankly. “And one of the guys Sutekh was fleeing from was… Marduk Cthonique?”
“That is correct,” said Nisrioch.
Morgaine managed a dull nod. “Yeah. Yeah. I thought so.” She coughed. “You think our revered ancestor ever saw his family coming to this? Fleeing into the Blasted Heath, under the leadership of a man who admires the one Dark Lord that is as loathed in the Lands of Night as he is in the Lands of Light?”
“One would hope not,” noted Nisrioch. “After all, Marduk had a hard enough life without something like that happening to him.” He glanced back to Sutekh’s Finger, where Lord Shaddad was busily explaining how once he had the Blade of Night, all the people who had betrayed House Cthonique were going to be very, very sorry that they had chosen to do that, followed by those who had merely chosen to defy House Cthonique.
“Do you think this has any chance of working?” said Morgaine.
Nisrioch considered it. “Well, the Sword probably is here. And even if it turned out to be powerless, the prestige involved with recovering it would doubtless bring back a few allies that have drifted into neutrality. And as it almost certainly IS a mystically potent item… well, who knows what Lord Shaddad could use it for?”
“Yeah, but on the other hand, there’s the fact that everyone hates him now,” said Morgaine.
Nisrioch nodded. “True. But it’s not like they were ever fond of him. And look at all he accomplished despite that.”
Morgaine glared at her brother. “You are just trying to make me unhappy aren’t you?” She shook her head. “I mean, here I’ve been cheering myself up with the knowledge that my father’s general assholishness has finally caught up with him, and you keep suggesting he can still recover from all this.”
“Just thought you should prepare for the worse,” noted Nisrioch.
“Oh, gee, thanks,” muttered Morgaine.