The Heavenly Host (Demons of Astlan Book 2) (9 page)

BOOK: The Heavenly Host (Demons of Astlan Book 2)
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The Saint of Rivenrock smiled again and patted his shoulder. “Well, you are one of my most loyal devotees, so of course I want to help you.” Hilda paused and tilted her head a bit. “And you can help me in return.”

Danyel tried to bow his head, which was hard since he was lying down. “How can I possibly help you Your Holiness?”

“Well for one, don’t call me ‘Your Holiness’ in public!” The saint laughed good-naturedly. “I am trying to put together a solid understanding of the events that transpired here yesterday, and the events that led up to it.” Danyel nodded. “And I don’t want to alert too many people to what I am doing.”

Danyel shook his head, puzzled. “But certainly, you could just appear to the arch-diocate and vicar general and ask for a Holy Accounting?”

Saint Hilda made a small grimace. “Well, you see, that’s the thing. We—or rather, I—am concerned that we might not get a full and accurate accounting.” Danyel looked shocked, and Hilda patted his arm. “No, not like that. I fully trust our people on the ground. It’s just that when saints and archons appear, people sort of, well… misremember things, or sometimes just go numb and can’t remember anything. Further, I need to investigate outside the Rod. I need to go into Freehold and investigate what led to this incident and gather information about this demon and the plots surrounding it.”

Danyel looked at his patron saint, trying to understand. “You mean like a secret inquisition?”

The saint moved her head from shoulder to shoulder, thinking. “Yes, I suppose that’s a good way of phrasing it. A secret inquisition. I don’t want the identity of the questioner influencing the answers she receives.”

“So you aren’t going to tell people who you are?”

“Exactly!” Hilda beamed at Danyel, again making him feel warm and relaxed, even though intellectually he knew he should be freaking out.

“So how can I help you, Your Holiness?” Danyel asked, shaking his head. “I’m but a simple Rod member.”

The saint smiled. “My dear, you are no simple Rod member. You are a loyal devotee of mine. Not only were you a witness to these events, you were a participant. And…”

“And?” Danyel asked when she paused.

“I need you to get us a couple of horses from the Rod’s quartermaster along with tack, and then for you to pose as my squire—my man-at-arms if you will—while I pretend to be a resident of Freehold returning from an alvaren wedding.”

Danyel blinked in shock at this completely unexpected request.

~

“Very interesting, Madam Councilor,” Elrose said to Trevin D’Vils in her guest parlor as a knock came on the door. He and Maelen were continuing their discussions with her from last night.

“My, this is a busy morning!” Trevin exclaimed from the divan, upon which she was sitting upright and sipping a cup of tea. She set the cup back in its saucer and nodded to one of her serving boys to answer the door. “I beg your pardon for the interruption.” She nodded to her two guests, Elrose and Maelen.

The boy opened the door to reveal Damien as her newest visitor. “Master Damien!” Trevin greeted her fellow councilor and gestured for him to come in. “To what do I owe this unexpected visit?”

“I beg your pardon, Councilor, but at the request of our Archimage, I’ve come seeking one of your visitors: the good seer, Maelen.” Damien gestured to the seer.

Trevin shook her head in surprise. “And what does Gandros want with the good seer?” Maelen and Elrose both looked curiously at Damien.

Damien coughed slightly and glanced to make sure the servant had closed the door. “Well, it’s more like where he’d like our visitor to be.”

Trevin raised her right eyebrow in question, motioning for the inquisitor to continue.

“Well”—he looked back and forth between Elrose and Maelen —“as you are aware, we have an army still sitting outside the walls.”

“And an air fleet as well,” Trevin observed.

Damien smiled grimly and nodded. “And both are looking for Maelen, Gastropé, Edwyrd, Rupert and Jen.”

“Aaahh,” said Trevin with a nod, understanding.

“So,” Maelen said, smiling, “I’m guessing we are being invited to leave?”

Damien shrugged, slightly uncomfortable. “I’m afraid so. However, obviously, I will unofficially assist in your departure.”

“And where do you, or rather Gandros, want them to go?” Elrose asked.

“We haven’t figured that out yet, but we do know the Rod and the Oorstemothians will want to try and verify that you all departed with the demons,” Damien said. “Yes, the whole thing is going to look  awkward, but if you are all verifiably gone, they won’t have much choice but to leave.”

“I think you underestimate the logic of the Oorstemothians,” Maelen stated drily.

“And the fervor of the Rod,” Elrose added.

“Actually,” Trevin interrupted, “my colleagues here and I have been discussing an idea that may help with this situation.” Maelen and Elrose chuckled; Damien looked at her, puzzled.

“The three of us were just discussing the option of visiting some of Bastet’s old temples to see if we can: one, pick up any residue of recent activity and two, try and use these once holy sites to see if we can scry her current activities. If she has been in Astlan recently, as we are starting to suspect, we should get some sympathetic residual emanations from the shrine and any artifacts left in it, and they could provide us a link to her that we can follow. We had thus been discussing mounting an expedition to investigate. We could easily bring your friends along with us,” she said, gesturing to Maelen.

Damien shook his head. “An expedition?”

“Well, we would have to go to Natoor, on the other side of Eton. It is not a quick trip. The lady councilor is the only person we know to have been there, and even so, that was long ago. Thus, we are blind for more instantaneous forms of magical transport. Therefore, we shall have to travel conventionally. It would be an expedition,” Elrose explained.

Damien shook his head again. “I like the idea, but unfortunately, we don’t have time to mount a full expedition from here, and that would be a bit too obvious.”

Trevin waved her hand. “Nonsense. We won’t mount it from here, we’ll mount it from the Grove. I’ve got reasonable transportation there and I can get us to the Grove quickly and without anyone knowing.”

~

“Master Trisfelt!” Hilda called out as she and Danyel approached his encampment. It had taken a bit more effort than she had expected. The local quartermaster had been not entirely helpful to Danyel, so she had had to add a bit of her own persuasion and then a rather high-powered forget ritual. She had not dared to use the standard forget ritual, which was, of course, a proscribed spell. The Rod had plenty of priests with them, so they would have been able to detect the standard ritual, and so she had had to get slightly “miraculous.”

In any event, they had acquired two horses and a mule; she had then had to zap back to the quartermaster at Tierhallon and get a non-Rod set of man-at-arms clothing for Danyel. She had her own clothing already packed, which was why they had needed a mule. Of course, due to modesty, she had stopped by home and changed to her city clothes. A Sister of Tiernon was a good disguise for the Rod, but would be completely at odds with her “Hilda” persona that Trisfelt had met. She and Danyel were leading their animals as they approached the wizard’s encampment.

Trisfelt looked up from a mirror he was staring at intently. His face split into a broad smile as he saw her. “My dear lady, what a pleasure to see you again!” he said, beaming. He glanced curiously at Danyel.

“And good to see you as well,” Hilda replied. She gestured to Danyel. “This is my man-at-arms, Danyel.” Trisfelt nodded at Danyel, smiling in greeting. “Apparently, it’s not seemly for a lady to go unaccompanied to a wedding.” She shook her head in pretend exasperation.

Hilda waved her hand, brushing away the annoyance. “In any event, I noted people coming and going from the city gate again.”

“Yes,” Trisfelt agreed, slipping his mirror into a large pocket in his robe. “They just opened it this morning. The city guard is inspecting everyone going in, and the Rod and the Oorstemothians are inspecting everyone coming out.”

Hilda shook her head. “My, they are paranoid.” Trisfelt chuckled and made a face that implied she was making an understatement.

“I don’t suppose you are going into the city?” Hilda enquired.

“Well, actually I am. My friend Master Elrose has some issues he wants to discuss with me in person, so I am temporarily leaving my post. I also need to restock a few supplies.” He winked at her.

Hilda laughed. “I am so sorry to have depleted your supplies!”

Trisfelt laughed. “Not at all! Supply depletion is always better with good company!”

“Well, I do have a very nice bottle of House Tregorian 912 that we might enjoy.” Hilda frowned slightly. “Although, if they are being picky about whom they let back in, it might be best to not be intoxicated. Perhaps we can try it after you meet with your friend?”

“Excellent!” Trisfelt beamed. “I am packed. I simply need to hook up my horse and wagon.”

Hilda handed Danyel her reins. “Will you hobble the animals, dear? I’ll help Master Trisfelt with his horse and wagon.”

~

“So, we’re being carted off to a distant continent now?” Jenn asked rhetorically of Gastropé. The two were walking back towards their apartments from a meeting with Lenamare, Jehenna, Elrose and Damien.

“Would you prefer they hand us over to the Oorstemothians?” Gastropé asked. “Or the Rod?”

Jenn sent a small glare in his direction. “You know what I mean. We don’t get a lot of say in this.”

“And Jehenna normally gives you a lot of say?” the conjuror asked.

Jenn gave a disgusted sigh. “Gastropé? I’m guessing you don’t have any sisters?”

“No.” Gastropé gave her a puzzled look.

“Because if you did, then you would know that you are supposed to be agreeing with me right now. I am not in the mood to be reasonable!” Jenn shook her head in exasperation.

Gastropé chuckled. “Think of it as a field trip!” He smiled at her. “We are going to the Grove. The Grove! Do you know how many humans get to see the inside of the Grove?”

Jenn shrugged, not knowing.

“Other than some druids, none! That’s how many. It’s a place filled with Sidhe, satyrs, centaurs and all sorts of exotic races that most of us only hear about in stories! It is said that alvaren princes dine there! The noblest of the fey!”

“Are you sure you aren’t just looking to meet a cute nymph?” Jenn asked.

“You really are a curmudgeon!” Gastropé shook his head.

“Jenn!” came a booming voice from down the corridor ahead of them. Jenn’s mood lightened immediately and she took off down the hall to embrace Master Trisfelt. Gastropé caught up with them. Jenn’s wizard friend was being followed by a good-sized woman with a very bright smile, and a young man about Gastropé’s age, dressed as a guard of some sort.

“Oh, it’s so good to see you! It seems like forever!” Jenn gushed. 

“It’s been completely crazy, my dear!” Trisfelt laughed and pulled back to look at her. “You seem to be doing well, though!”

Jenn shrugged. “To be honest, I’ve been through hell, literally, a couple times now… but I’m getting used to it.”

Trisfelt shook his head in amazement. “I did hear something about you traveling through the Abyss, but not much more than that.” He looked to Gastropé. “Is this one of your new friends? Rupert’s cousin, maybe?”

Jenn shook her head and gave an exasperated look. “No, Rupert’s cousin is Edwyrd and he and Rupert apparently departed shortly after the demons to make sure they all went back to the Abyss.”

Trisfelt glanced at Gastropé as the wizard made a rather weird face. “Isn’t that a bit dangerous for little Rupert? I mean he is only ten. Are we that hard up for wizards?”

“Tell me!” Jenn almost shouted, raising her hands. “However, he’s infatuated with his cousin, who apparently is fairly powerful!” She was shaking her head. Gastropé coughed. Jenn’s eyes went wide for a second. “Oh, yeah—this is Gastropé. We, uhm, met him shortly after our caravan ambush.”

“Really?” Trisfelt looked curiously at Gastropé. He stuck out his hand and the two shook.

Neither Jenn nor Gastropé had a great desire to explain how they met, so Jenn quickly tried to change the conversation. “So, who are your new friends?”

Trisfelt blinked for a moment and then suddenly seemed to remember his company. “My apologies! This is my friend, Hilda, and her man-at-arms, Danyel!” Trisfelt stepped back to allow the four to have a clear view of each other.

“My dear girl!” Hilda moved forward and gave Jenn a great big hug. “I’ve heard so much about you from Trisfelt, I feel like we’ve been friends for ever!” She pulled back and gave Jenn the biggest, brightest smile Jenn could ever recall seeing. The large woman seemed to have a very calming and welcoming manner.

“And Gastropé, a pleasure to meet you as well!” Hilda gave the wizard a very hearty handshake and another brilliant smile. Gastropé blinked, slightly taken back by her overwhelming presence.

“So, Hilda…” Jenn struggled to recover from the woman’s strong presence. “How did you and Trisfelt meet? Are you a thaumaturge?”

BOOK: The Heavenly Host (Demons of Astlan Book 2)
9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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