The barred gate of the innermost section of the keep that lay before the Cthonique Mines burst open after several hours of battering by the former slaves, who were already starting to refer to themselves as the Army of Cthonique. Marduk limped in, glancing around the hall.
"He is in here, somewhere," he said, as his comrades followed him in. "Be on guard." He gestured towards a hallway to his left with his spear, its point still red with blood. "You five go this way. I will take five more this way, and the rest shall remain here to cut off any hope of exit…" He frowned. "And again, be careful. This place is riddled with passages…" A loud shout interrupted him.
Ursula came, dragging Striker with her. "Found pretty-boy here slinking around the halls," she said, with a contemptuous snicker.
Marduk nodded. "Ahh. Well, this may simplify things." He pointed his spear at the handsome Erl. "Where is Nycetus?"
"I… why are you… I am on your side," said Striker nervously, glancing around in desperation. "You… you all know this…"
Aethelstan crossed his arms. "Is that so? And how was it that all those people you were helping to plot their escape all were hanged, but you scaped free?"
Striker began to fidget at that. "I… Who knows… I… You don’t think…"
"Considering that they took my brother, but not me, which is exactly what we expected to happen if you proved informer… yes. Yes, I do," said Aethelstan.
"Talk," said Marduk, brusquely. "Talk and we’ll keep it short, though Lady knows you deserve it long…"
Striker stared at the spear for a moment, then shut his eyes and began to struggle in earnest to get free. "You can’t do this to me! You can’t! I’m not one of you! I’ve the blood of Magnates in me! You can’t do this to me!"
Marduk sighed. "Lord Nycetus left you out here. For all the good blood in you."
Striker’s lip trembled, and he gestured to a passage on the right. "He’s there. In… a small room with a black door."
Marduk nodded, and headed down the passageway. "Keep him under watch. This might still be a trick."
The hallway was a twisting thing, and it was awhile before he reached the black door. But he reached it, and knocked it swiftly open. Nycetus was hurriedly gathering coins and papers as he entered. He stopped as Marduk entered, and regarded him with dull amazement. "So… it is true. You are the leader of this rebellion. You."
"Me," said Marduk, stepping awkwardly forward.
A chuckle emerged from Nycetus’ chubby lips. "My goodness. It is almost comical." He shook his head. "Even grotesque! You! The bold leader of this little rebellion! The baseborn, malformed get of a thousand fathers!" He cackled now.
Marduk strode forward, as best he could, spear raised. "Surrender now, and we will grant you a..."
"Lady's love, I recall your mother," said Nycetus. "A silly creature with a swollen belly, when I found her. The things she did to protect your misbegotten life..." He licked his lips. "Oh, it was a sweet time. I thought it would end when you popped out, misshapen as you are, but no--no she seemed quite determined you should live for some strange reason, and so she continued to ser--"
Nycetus' eyes were closed as he spoke, and so he seemed quite surprised when Marduk stabbed him in the throat. Marduk watched as the fat lord fell to the ground with a thud. When Aethelstan entered, Marduk was watching Nycetus bleed to death on the ground.
"I thought we were going to try and get information out of him first," said Aethelstan.
"That was my plan," agreed Marduk with a nod. "Then he made me remember--he was Nycetus."