Klingsor lay upon his stone bed, eyes shut. He did not sleep, because he could not sleep--had forsworn the luxury of sleep and rest, as had all the predecessors to his exalted rank. To be the Lord of Old Stones was to cast off certain human weaknesses, even if those weaknesses also gave one… a certain comfort. Instead he used his mind to search his hill, to make sure it was secure. It was painstaking work, but that is what it meant to be the Lord of Old Stones.
He had a crick in his back. A niggling awful crick that got worse when he tried to ignore it. It occurred to Klingsor he was getting old--very old indeed--and that the time might have come to pass the title on to another of the kin. Still, he wasn’t sure he could--the family was getting spread very thin these days, its numbers fewer and fewer, forgetting their old covenants. He cursed the Medbs, those meddling Witch Queens of the old days, and then consoled himself with the thought that though Witches of Rock and Stone had vanished from the earth, the Lords of Old Stones remained, even if it was in a severely reduced capacity.
A pebble bounced off his forehead. Klingsor’s eyes began to open drearily, only to see a crack of light that should not be appearing in his ceiling…
His thoughts on the matter were left unfinished as a short woman came crashing in from above, followed by a tall, lanky man. “Hi,” she said, waving.
“You… you vermin!” snapped Klingsor, sitting up quickly and regretting it immediately. “How did you get past…?”
“Your little weakass wards?” said the woman. “I’m a Thanatos, he’s a Cruel Disciple--and you are a shitty hedge wizard with pretensions.” She gave a shrug. “We may not be big shakes, but we’re good enough to break through your crappy charms without much trouble.”
Klingsor snarled. “You fools don’t realize who it is you’re dealing wi--!”
The man yawned. “Lord of Old Stones. One of the Petty Dark Lords. Oh--and the Prince of Dead Leaves says hello. And that he still hates you.”
“He… he isn’t dead?” said Klingsor with a blink.
“Nope, not the last time we checked,” said the woman, leaning forward. “Actually, he’s really got a knack for surviving. And not pissing off people who could kill him.” She cracked her knuckles. “I’d suggest you go to him for pointers, but aside from the whole ‘hating you’ thing, you’re really not going to be in any shape to do that when we’re done with you.”
Klingsor glanced around desperately, cursing that he’d let himself become unprepared for this happening over the long years. “How’d you find me…?”
“Hrol told us about you,” said the woman. “Of course, the sort of tricks you were pulling on him and Bayezit may have impressed a couple of stupid crazy hicks, but Holdfast and I are people of the world. You ‘met’ with the delightful nutter brothers at that tower over there by casting a sending into it. Which let you do all those neat little effects that amazed them so.”
“Hrol…?” Klingsor blinked. “You--this is about… the goat herd.” He looked around. “Did the Abbé
“No, but it is about the goat herd,” said the man. “Well--that and your paying a couple of crazy killers to steal goats for you. And specifically sending them after the monks so that they could kill them. We don’t like that.” He spread his hands. “And I don’t even like monks that much.”
The woman stared at him. “Yeah--I was wondering--what did these guys ever do to you…?”
“Stole my land!” snapped the Lord of Old Stones. “My land and many great and secret things! Centuries ago…”
“And stop right there,” said the woman. “So, you don’t mean ‘your’ land you mean the land that belonged to your predecessors. And you don’t mean ‘them’, you mean the guys who used to belong to the same order.”
“Wait a minute--” said Holdfast. “This happened during the Ecclesiastical Disputes, didn’t it?” The woman shot him a puzzled look. “A big battle between the Dark Lords and the Faith. Well--more like a whole lot of little ones. About land donations to the Faith, made without permission of the heads of houses. It was decided they were valid based on…” He scratched his head. “Ehh, some legal principle. And people dying. Lots of that last one.”
The woman rolled her eyes. “So, it’s not just ancient shit that people shouldn’t care about anymore--it’s ancient bullshit that people shouldn’t have cared about in the first place.” She shook her head. “Yeah, this is going to be a pleasure…”
Klingsor gulped. “Beating up a helpless old man…”
“No,” said the woman, stepping forward. “Beating up a murderer by proxy who pursues utterly useless vendettas while squatting in his cave. That’s the fun one…”
“I… I am one of a great lineage!” declared Klingsor weakly. “There will be another who will follow me! Another who will seek vengeance!”
“Then we’ll beat him up too,” said Holdfast stepping forward. “We’re simple folks, Your Lordship. We tend to try and solve our problems with our fists.”
“It’s surprisingly effective,” noted the woman.
Klingsor shut his eyes and whimpered.