Category Archives: Ghost Rage

Ghost Rage – a wrap-up discussion thread

Feel free to leave any comments or questions about “Ghost Rage” here and I’ll answer them as best I can.

The ending didn’t turn out at all like I thought. Several times I set up the poll with what I thought was an incredibly, blatantly obvious choice, and started to write the next episode along those lines, only to have the voting go in exactly the opposite direction. Deadlines, I should point out, are a marvelous way of overcoming writer’s block.

Also, I think we’ve proven that being a fantasy heroine is way more dangerous than being a science fiction heroine. After all, in “Flight of the Morningstar“, Cray didn’t get killed at all, but Caina got killed once. So we have proof that fantasy is more dangerous than science fiction!

“Choose Your Own Adventure” will return at the end of December or the beginning of January. I’ve got to buckle down and finish “Nightfighter” before I do anything else. Since I’m on chapter 27 of 34, (85,000 words of a guesstimated 110,000) hopefully it should not take too much longer.

-JM

Ghost Rage, Episode 25a – The End

You take hold of Lucan’s collar, pull his head down, and kiss him before he can react.

It takes him a minute to get his breath back.

“You know,” says Lucan, “you caught me off guard. I don’t think I did that quite right. We should try again.”

“You’re sure?” you say, voice quiet. “You might regret it. A lot of people want me dead. They’re going to catch up to me, sooner or later. Do you really want that? It…”

Lucan puts a finger over your lips. “Can you see the future,  now? For all you know, you’ll choke on a piece of bread tomorrow. And regret…I know all about regret. The magi murdered my wife, I told you that. If you died tomorrow, I think I would regret it more if I hadn’t tried to kiss you.”

After a moment you nod. “That makes sense.”

Lucan smiles. “Good. So, let’s try that again…”

You step back from him. “Later. We have work to do. Unless you want to explain to your father why there are dead Civic Militamen in his mansion.”

“You may have a point,” says Lucan, and you get to work.

#

The Imperial magistrates investigated LORD JULIAN TRIMOGENA’S death, and found documents proving that he had been murdered by a corrupt centurion of the Civic Militia named CENORIX. Apparently Cenorix and his men had later quarreled and killed each other while robbing Lord Corbould Maraeus’s mansion.

Caina knew some capable forgers.

AMANIA RHAZION and CHRYSANA KARBONOS, to their surprise, overcame their mutual enmity and became close friends. After surviving a murderous spirit of rage and a ruthless necromancer, their experience with Lord Julian no longer seemed quite so significant. Amania eventually joined the Temple of Minaerys, preferring a life of scholarship, while Chrysana continued her pursuit of a wealthy husband, eventually marrying a Kyracian jewel merchant.

At her prompting, he regularly made large donations to the Temple of Minaerys.

MORESTI settled in Malarae, leaving behind the life of a wandering mercenary. He found the city amenable; the wine was cheap, as were the whores, and wealthy men always needed strong sword arms to guard their treasures.

Though he did regularly do jobs for the Ghost Countess, on the side. She paid well, after all, and the tasks she gave him were never boring.

LORD CORBOULD MARAEUS arrived at his mansion a few days later, and beheld the smashed furniture, broken doors, and the shattered windows.

“What in the hell,” he bellowed, “happened here?”

He never did get a straight answer.

MORLAINE continued to lurk in the common room of the Black Rose, selling secrets to anyone who could pay. Sooner or later, he knew, it would catch up to him. But for now…the gold bought him all manner of pleasures.

SEPTIMUS RHAZION continued as preceptor of the Magisterium’s chapterhouse. Eventually the First Magus grew frustrated by Rhazion’s apparent inability to take effective action against the Ghosts, and demoted him. Rhazion found himself forced into semi-retirement, which wasn’t so bad, as it gave him time to write a book about the mavrokh – accompanied by stern warnings against the dangers of summoning the rage spirits.

It could have been so much worse, after all.

Rhazion made sure to regularly send reports to the Ghost Countess.

KORTHION died of his injuries as the Black Wolves took him back to the Magisterium chapterhouse. The magi secured his corpse in the vault below the chapterhouse, intending to bury it later.

Two days later someone broke into the vault and stole the body, killing four Black Wolves in the process.

LUCAN MARAEUS remained in Malarae, though Lord Corbould threw him out of the mansion, forcing him to seek lodgings elsewhere. He continued to hunt down outlaw magi and rogue sorcerers, and attended numerous balls and feasts, keeping up his persona as a wealthy idler.

Very often he had Countess Caina on his arm.

CAINA AMALAS made sure that no slave trader set foot in Malarae, that the nobles did not plot against the Emperor, and that the magi did not use their powers to wreak havoc upon the innocent.

They didn’t dare.

They feared the shadows…for they never knew when the Ghost Countess might be watching.

#

Thank you for playing!

-JM

Ghost Rage, Episode 24a – Vote Now!

“I suppose,” says Rhazion, blinking up at you, “that you’re going to kill me now, when I’m too weak to stop you.”

You say nothing. The Black Wolves are too far away to stop you, or to even notice; you could make it look like he cut his throat on the broken glass during the fight.

“Father?” says Amania.

“The Ghost Countess has no mercy for the magi, or for their servants,” says Rhazion. “That is well known. And…I’ve made mistakes. Maybe I deserve it.” He lifts his chin. “Just…do it quickly.”

Lucan is staring at you.

“The Ghosts helped you,” you tell Rhazion at last. “Remember that when the Ghosts ask for your help.”

Rhazion looks astonished. “You…want me to spy for you? I don’t know how much use I’d be. The First Magus will almost certainly demote me from preceptor, since I failed to kill you, and…”

“Would you rather,” you say, “that I killed you?”

Rhazion snorts. “Certainly not.” He closes his eyes, and leans back against the wall. “I accept.”

Under Rhazion’s orders, the Black Wolves clean up the corpses of the slain militiamen, and gather up Korthion, who is dying from the cracked skull Lucan gave him. You pay Moresti (double rate, for fighting dead men), and send him on his way. Rhazion and Amania depart with the Black Wolves, and it is almost dawn when you find yourself standing alone in the rubble with Lucan.

“Thank you for your help,” you tell him.

Lucan smiles. “A pleasure, as always. Rhazion was only a fool, and misguided. Korthion, though…if he was willing to murder a child, and all those militiamen, to please the First Magus…I’ve seen his sort before. I won’t lose any sleep when he dies.” He hesitates. “I am surprised that you spared Rhazion, though.”

You roll your eyes. “Perhaps I merely wished to avoid another lecture from you.”

Lucan shakes his head. “I don’t think that’s it.”

You shrug. “Isn’t it obvious? A spy within the Magisterium will be useful. Maybe it will help keep things like this from happening in the future.”

“A good reason, certainly,” says Lucan, “but that’s not the real one.”

“Oh? Then enlighten me. What was my real reason?”

“You told me the magi killed your father in front of you,” says Lucan, stepping closer to you, “and you didn’t have it in you to do the same thing to Amania.”

You open your mouth a few times to respond, but say nothing.

“Everyone,” he says, “calls you the ‘Ghost Countess’, thinks of you as a hard and merciless killer. You even believe it yourself. But I think you have more of a conscience, and more of a heart, then you let on.”

“You think so?” you say at last.

“I do,” he says.

“Perhaps you are blind,” you say, voice thick, “and are only seeing what you wish to see.”

“Caina,” he says, and you realize that it’s been a very long time since anyone dared to call you by your given name, “you are very clever, more than anyone else I have ever met, but in this I see more clearly than you.”

He steps closer, and you realize that he’s going to kiss you.

[poll id=”52″]

Ghost Rage, Episode 23a – Vote Now!

You leap at Korthion, and are on him before he can bring a spell to bear upon you.

He might have warded himself against steel, but he failed to ward himself against flesh and bone, and you’ve practiced fighting with your hands for a long time now.

You drive a fist into his gut, staggering him, and the palm of your hand smashes into his face, breaking his nose. Your leg sweeps behind his knees, and Korthion falls hard to the floor, eyes wide with pain and surprise. You raise your foot, intending to crush his windpipe between your heel and the hard marble floor.

Korthion howls and thrusts his hand, and a blast of invisible forces seizes you and slams you into the wall. You try to kick away, but his will holds you fast, pinned in place. He staggers back to his feet, blood pouring from his broken nose, and grimaces as he makes a fist.

You gasp in pain as the invisible pressure holding you against the wall doubles, and then doubles again. You can feel your ribs start to creak and groan against the pressure. He’s going to crush you like a bug.

Then Lucan steps behind Korthion, holding one of the heavy wooden legs from the destroyed couch. He swings, and the leg connects with Kortion’s temple with a loud crunch.

Evidently Korthion neglected to ward himself against wood, as well.

The magus drops unconscious to the floor. The pressure holding you vanishes, and you slide off the wall, breathing hard. The green flames on Korthion’s bone wand wink out, and his undead go inert without the presence of his will to drive them.

To judge from the amount of blood and hair sticking to the couch leg, Korthion is not getting up any time soon. Maybe not at all.

“You know,” murmurs Lucan, helping you to regain your balance, “I believe I owe Father an apology. I always told him that furniture made from oak was an extravagance. Plainly I failed to consider its possibilities as a blunt weapon.”

You cough out a laugh. “Plainly.”

“The wand!”  You look up, see Rhazion kneeling at the edge of the steps, blood dripping from a half-dozen cuts on his face and arms. “The wand! Quickly, quickly, before the mavrokh breaks loose!”

You seize the ivory wand, dash up the stairs, Lucan at your heels, and thrust the wand into Rhazion’s shaking hand. Rhazion takes it, points it at the warding sigil and the boiling storm cloud of the mavrokh, and shouts another incantation.

Again you feel a roiling surge of arcane power, and the wand blazes with blue light. The mavrokh screams in fury, the sound making the mansion tremble. And then it simply vanishes, like water pouring down a drain, and the light in the warding sigil and the wand flickers out.

The echoes from the mavrokh’s enraged howl fade away a few moments later.

Rhazion slumps against the wall, shaking, and Amania hurries to his side.

“It’s over,” he says, his voice a rasp. “The mavrokh…it’s been banished.”

“Father, are you all right?” says Amania.

He manages to laugh a little. “I’ll be fine. I’m just…a little exhausted, that’s all.”

Exhausted…and defenseless.

He summoned a mavrokh. His mistakes killed Julian Trimogena and Chrysana’s maid, and might have killed more people, had Korthion not gotten you involved in this. He might do something worse in the future.

Unless you stop him.

Amania stares at you, her face gone white, as if she has realized what you are thinking. The magi murdered your father in front of you, years ago. Do you want to do the same thing to Amania?

Does Septimus Rhazion deserve to die for what he has done?
[poll id=”51″]

Ghost Rage, Episode 22a – Vote Now!

“Lucan,” you say, “shoot him!”

Lucan raises the heavy crossbow and fires. The heavy bow shudders, throwing a massive barbed quarrel right into Korthion’s chest.

Or it would have, if not for the blue flash that intercepts the quarrel an instant before it strikes Korthion. The quarrel shatters into a dozen pieces, the shards falling to the floor at Korthion’s feet.

Evidently he had the foresight to ward himself against steel.

But not, perhaps, flesh or wood or stone. If you can get close enough to hit him with something other than a blade, you might be able to disable or kill him.

Assuming, of course, that you can get close enough.

Even as the thought comes to you, the undead militiamen crash into the Black Wolves’ shield wall, and screams and the sounds of battle fill your ears. Korthion spins, eyes narrowed as he looks at you, and makes a twisting gesture with his left hand.

Behind you, one of the couches floats into the air and comes hurtling at you. You duck, Moresti and Lucan besides you, and the heavy couch shoots over your head and falls over the edge of the stairs.

Rhazion laughs. “Is that the best you can do, Korthion?”

He gestures, and the couch rips apart into a spray of jagged wooden shards, all of them flying towards Korthion. But Korthion casts another spell of his own, and the shards orbit around him, shooting back towards Rhazion. Rhazion beckons, and a marble bust rips free from the wall and hurtles towards Korthion. Soon both magi stand in a double helix of flying debris, their faces taut with strain, their hands hooked into shaking claws, and you feel the snarling arcane power in the air as they struggle against each other.

“Go!” you say, and you race down the stairs, Lucan and Moresti following.

“Moresti is reliable mercenary,” he puffs, “but he charges double for fighting dead men!”

You reach the bottom of the stairs, and one of the undead militiamen lunges for you. But Lucan is faster. He spins around, his sword blurring in a double-handed grip, and takes the dead man’s head from his shoulders. Moresti knocks down another with a kick to the gut, and then you’re past the struggling undead and mercenaries, with a clear path to Korthion.

His eyes widen as he sees you coming, and he dips one hand into his sash. It comes up holding a vial of blood, which he spills over his fingers. Green flames blaze into life around his hand, and you realize that he is burning the blood, using it to fuel his next spell.

He screams and throws out his hand.

And a blast of invisible force explodes out from him, throwing you to the floor, knocking down the Black Wolves and the undead alike like grass in a storm, sending debris flying in all directions, and flinging Rhazion against the wall of the solarium. He crumples in a motionless heap atop the shattered glass of the windows.

The ivory wand rolls from his hand, bouncing down the stairs, and the blue light of the mavrokh’s warding sigil starts to flicker madly. The thing looks like it’s about to break free.

Korthion sags a bit, breathing hard, but lifts his bone wand and laughs.

“Kill them!” he shouts. “Kill them, now!”

The undead, unaffected by the psychokinetic blast, rise back to their feet.

But for the next few seconds, you have a clear shot at Korthion.

[poll id=”50″]

Ghost Rage, Episode 21a- Vote Now!

“Do it,” you tell Rhazion.

Rhazion takes a deep breath, gives a jerky nod, and begins. He starts by producing a piece of chalk and drawing an intricate symbol upon the marble floor. It’s the warding sigil against the mavrokh, the symbol tattoo uponed Moresti’s face, but far, far more intricate. You feel a crawling tingle on your skin as Rhazion begins muttering a spell, pouring arcane power into the sigil.

“My fault,” mutters Amania. “My fault. I killed Julian.” She looks at Chrysana. “I would have killed you, too, if the Ghost hadn’t stopped the mavrokh.”

Chrysana shakes her head. “I brought this upon myself. If I hadn’t seduced Julian…I only wanted a husband of noble birth. If I hadn’t…”

“Silence,” you say, “both of you.” Both the women flinch . “Have you ever killed a man with your own hands? Have you? No? I have, more times than I wish to remember. Until you have, stop tormenting yourselves. You didn’t kill Lord Julian. The mavrokh did.” You look at Rhazion, hunched over his sigil. “This was…good intentions gone awry.”

Lucan stares at you, a strange expression on his face.

Rhazion straightens up, and the sigil begins to glow with a flickering azure light.

“Amania,” he says. “This is…this is really going to hurt.”

Amania nods and braces herself.

Rhazion produces an ivory wand, its length carved with more variations of the warding sigil. He begins a long and complex spell, and you feel the power building, building.

Then he thrusts the wand at Amania.

Amania screams, long and loud, and falls to her knees. She doubles over, mouth open as if to vomit…but instead something that looks like a black storm cloud erupts from her mouth, crimson light flashing in its depths.

The mavrokh. You feel hatred pouring from the thing, and rage, pure, molten rage. It would kill everyone in the room, everyone in the world, if it had the chance.

“Mavrokh!” bellows Rhazion, brandishing the wand. “By this sign and sigil I compel you. Avaunt! You are bound! I compel you! You are bound!”

The mavrokh howls in rage, and every window in the solarium explodes at once. Chrysana shrieks, covering her ears, Amania stares at the mavrokh, and both Lucan and Moresti have their swords out.

Rhazion groans, sweat pouring down his brow, and makes a raking motion. The snarling black cloud flows across the floor and hovers over the warding sigil…and does not move.

Amania shudders, and Chrysana helps her to her feet.

“It…it worked,” gasps Rhazion, wiping sweat from his brow. “It’s trapped in the sigil. I can banish it now. Just…just let me rest for a moment. Oh, merciful gods, do I have a headache.”

You nod, and see a flicker of green light behind Rhazion.

A ghostly child of green light floats up through the floor, her face a rotting skull. It’s Korthion’s seeking specter. But how could it have found you? You’re wearing the shadow-cloak.

Then you realize that it wasn’t looking for you.

It was looking for Rhazion.

You hurry to the edge of the stairwell, and you hear the Black Wolves stir in sudden alarm.

Korthion strides into view below, smiling. In his left hand he carries a wand that looks like a human leg bone. Sigils have been carved down its length, flickering with ghostly green flame. The specter of the child floats back down to him, and does a grotesque little dance at his feet.

“Preceptor Rhazion!” calls Korthion, his smile widening. “Summoning otherworldly creatures? I am shocked, shocked!” His dark eyes turn to you. “And consorting with the Ghost Countess, as well? The First Magus will be most displeased.”

“This is none of your concern, Korthion!” says Rhazion. “Leave, now!”

“I think not,” says Korthion. “I’m going to do very well out of this, you old fool. The First Magus wants the Ghost Countess dead, and she will die at my hand. And you…alas, you will have died foolishly attempting to summon creatures from the netherworld. And your daughter, as well. So very sad.” He looks over your shoulder. “And Lord Lucan, as well, the famed slayer of magi! Truly, my cup runneth over this day. When the First Magus hears of this, I will become the new preceptor, or perhaps even one of the high magi!”

Rhazion barks out a laugh. “Don’t be a fool, Korthion! I am far stronger in the arcane sciences that you are. And I have the Black Wolves,” he gestures at the mercenaries, “and I hardly expect the Ghost Countess and Lord Lucan will lie down and let you kill them.”

Korthion’s smile widens, and you see something moving in the darkness behind him.

“Do you really think,” he says, “that I was foolish enough to come here alone?”

Cenorix steps into the light.

Except Cenorix is dead. His throat has been cut, blood stains the front of his armor, his mouth sags open, and his eyes are glassy and unblinking. Yet he is up and walking. Behind him you see more militiamen, and more, dozens of them, all of them dead, all of them with cut throats.

Yet moving.

Now it is Korthion’s turn to laugh.

“You might be stronger in the arcane sciences, old fool,” says Korthion, “but the necromantic sciences are stronger by far!” He gestures with the bone wand, the sigils flaring bright with green flames. “Kill them! Kill them all!”
[poll id=”49″]

Ghost Rage, Episode 20a- Vote Now!

“No,” you say, unwinding the shadow-cloak from your waist and throwing it over your shoulders. “Come up here and we’ll talk.”

“Do you think I’m a fool?” says Rhazion. “You’re the Ghost Countess, aren’t you, the one the First Magus wants dead so badly? Your hatred of the magi is well known. You could give your word for safe parley,” his lip twists, “but your word given to a man so despicable as a magus means nothing, does it? You kill me the minute you get a chance.”

He’s…not entirely wrong.

“What about my word, Rhazion?” says Lucan.

“You’re Lucan Maraeus,” says Rhazion. “The hunter of outlaw magi. The First Magus wants you dead, as well.”

“But when has a son of House Maraeus ever broken his word?” says Lucan, glancing at you. “Come to talk, and I give you my word that we’ll let you return to your men before we try to kill you. Unless you start something first, of course.”

Rhazion stares at you for a moment. Then he gives a sharp, jerky nod, says something to the Black Wolves, and starts climbing the stairs. As he climbs, you feel the crawling tingle of low-level sorcery; he’s holding a spell ready, and probably has several defensive wards laid over his person.

“All right,” you say as he reaches the top of the stairs, “what did you want to say?”

“Amania,” says Rhazion, peering over your shoulder, “Amania, are you hurt? They didn’t hurt you, did you?”

Amania gets to her feet alongside Chrysana. “I am well, Father. No thanks to you.”

Guilt flashes over his face. “No. No thanks to me.” He takes a deep breath and looks at you. “It is my fault. I…I need your help, Countess.”

You gesture for him to continue.

“When we lived in Varia Province,” says Rhazion, “Amania contracted bloodburn fever.”

“Bloodburn fever is always fatal,” says Lucan.

“But…I couldn’t have gotten bloodburn fever,” says Amania. “I got better.”

“My wife died of bloodburn fever,” says Rhazion. He’s not looking at you, and the words are tumbling out of him faster and faster. “I…I couldn’t endure that, not again. But I had been studying the old Szaldic legends of the mavrokh. And…they said that anyone possessed by a mavrokh received superhuman strength and endurance. I knew that summoning otherworldly creatures was forbidden. I knew of the First Magus found out, he would have me executed, or if you Ghosts found out, you would simply kill me. But…I did it anyway. I summoned the mavrokh, and bound it to Amania.”

She stares at her father, jaw hanging open.

“And it worked,” says Rhazion. “It healed her. She recovered from the bloodburn fever. But…but I couldn’t banish the mavrokh from her. I couldn’t exorcise it. So I locked it behind wards inside her head, kept it chained. And that worked. At least until that damned fool Trimogena broke their engagement. The psychic pain was sufficient to…damage the wards. Not enough for it to escape completely. But when she sleeps, the mavrokh can…view the world through her subconscious mind, let us say. It can see people she feels very strongly about, and attack them.”

“That’s how Julian Trimogena died?” you say.

“Aye,” says Rhazion. “I had Amania contained in a warded room, to keep the mavrokh contained. I tried a spell…a ritual to banish the mavrokh. It didn’t quite work. And Julian Trimogena died because of my mistake.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” said Amania. “I thought you had gone mad, that you were using me for some sort of experiment.”

“I didn’t dare risk it,” says Rhazion. “I didn’t dare tell anyone.” He looks at you. “The First Magus ordered me to kill you.”

“But you didn’t,” you say, “because you were afraid it would draw attention. And that’s why Korthion tried to kill me behind your back. To make you look bad in front of the First Magus.”

Rhazion nodded. “He did, damn him. He knows I’m hiding something, but he hasn’t figured out what, not quite yet. I ordered him not to bother you, lest he draw your attention.”

“He ignored you,” you say. “Amania still has a mavrokh in her skull, and the minute she falls asleep it’s probably going to kill Lady Chrysana. Or you.”

Rhazion gives a jerky nod. “I think I’ve perfected the spell. I can expel the mavrokh from Amania, trap it within a warding circle, and banish it back to the netherworld.”

“Or you’ll accidentally release it,” says Lucan.

“No,” says Rhazion. “I know what I did wrong the first time, and I can banish it.” He looks at you. “Let me do this. Let me fix my mistakes, before more people die.”

[poll id=”48″]

Ghost Rage, Episode 19a- Vote Now!

“We need a more defensible location,” you tell Lucan, “now.”

“The solarium on the top floor,” says Lucan. “The stairs are exposed, and I have some crossbows hidden there. If necessary, I can shoot down anyone who tries to come up.”

“That’s my father,” says Amania, voice shaking as she looks out the window. “He’s come to take me back. How…how did he even find me?”

“He probably used a spell to find you,” says Lucan. “And since you’re of his blood, he can find you anywhere.”

“Discuss it later,” you say. “Move.”

You herd Amania and Chrysana across the room, Moresti and Lucan following. Lucan then leads you through the mansion’s corridors to the tower stairs. Amania sighs in relief as you leave, and rubs her head again.

You hear a crash as the Black Wolves break into Lucan’s rooms.

Fortunately, the solarium on the mansion’s highest floor is quite defensible. The stairwell is a massive square shaft, offering no cover to anyone attempting to ascend. The solarium has an excellent view of the stairwell, and the room on top has broad windows with an good  view of the mansion’s grounds and the surrounding city. Lucan produces a heavy crossbow (from inside a couch, of all things) and loads it, and you tell Amania and Chrysana to stay down and out of sight.

You hear the Black Wolves start up the stairs.

“Gentlemen!” Lucan shouts, pointing the bow at the stairwell, and the Black Wolves freeze. “You may notice that I have a rather expensive crossbow pointed at you. I strongly suggest that you stop at once. Otherwise the first man up the stairs is going to get a quarrel to the teeth.” He pauses. “I understand that isn’t at all pleasant.”

The Black Wolves freeze. They don’t look frightened, not precisely, but wary.

“Now,” says Lucan, “will someone explain why you see fit to invade the home of Lord Corbould Maraeus? I should point out that he’s not the forgiving sort.”

“Enough!” The man in the black magus robe steps into the bottom of the stairwell, staring up at you. He looks like an older, balder, and somewhat fatter version of Amania. This must be Septimus Rhazion, preceptor of the capital’s magi, and Amania’s father.

Amania shivers at the sound of his voice.

“And I should point out,” says Rhazion, “that Lord Corbould will not be at all pleased that his son allowed the Ghosts to kidnap my daughter and hide her in his mansion! I demand that you return Amania to me at once!”

His voice shakes. He looks…rather frightened. No. He seems downright terrified, like he’s on the verge of losing control entirely.

“So you can continue to hold her hostage in the cellar of a brothel?” you say, stepping to Lucan’s side. “I think not.”

Rhazion rakes a hand through his thinning hair. “You don’t…damn you, you don’t understand. I was trying to help her!”

“By killing Julian Trimogena?” you say.

“No!” says Rhazion. “No! I didn’t kill him! That was…that wasn’t supposed to happen. But what I did before that was necessary. She would have died otherwise. I didn’t know…I didn’t know things would get so out of hand.”

“So you summoned a mavrokh,” you say, “and loosed it on those who had wronged your daughter?”

“Is Amania asleep?” Rhazion says.

The question throws you. “No. She’s awake.”

“Good,” says Rhazion. “Good. Just…don’t let her fall asleep, whatever you do. There’s…a lot you don’t know. Come down, and we can talk. I give you my word as a master magus of the Magisterium that you will come to no harm.”
[poll id=”47″]

Ghost Rage, Episode 18a- Vote Now!

“Back to your father’s mansion,” you tell Lucan. “We can question her in peace there.”

Lucan nods, and you return to his rooms at Lord Corbould’s mansion. Chrysana Karbonos still lies unconscious and motionless on the couch, and the wards against the mavrokh upon the doors and windows are still intact.

Amania winces as she walks through the door, her hands going to her temples.

“What is it?” you say. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” she says. “No…I just have a headache.” She sees Chrysana, and her expression darkens. “What is that whore doing here? She stole Julian from me.”

“Something tried to kill her,” you say. “Specifically, a mavrokh.”

Amania blinks. “A…mavrokh? A Szaldic spirit of rage? Father used to study them, when we still lived in Varia Province. But he said they could never come this far east.”

“The mavrokh tried to kill her,” you say, taking a deep breath, “and it did kill Julian.”

Amania’s eyes go wide, and all the blood drains out of her face. “What?”

“It killed Julian Trimogena this morning,” you tell her, “and it killed Chrysana’s maid, and it tried to kill Chrysana, but we managed to interrupt it.”

Amania is starting to cry. “Oh, no. Oh, Julian. I…I dreamed that he had been killed, but this…but this…”

“I think your father summoned and controlled the mavrokh,” you say. “I need you to tell me everything that happened to you. Everything! Else the mavrokh might come after you next.” Actually, you think that it might try to kill Lady Chrysana again, but you suspect that prospect might not trouble Amania in the slightest.

“I…I…” She scrubs at her eyes. “I…Julian sent me a letter, telling me that he was breaking our betrothal for Chrysana. He didn’t even have the decency to tell me in person. I was…it felt horrible. Father took me, locked me up in that awful place. He said it was for my own good, that I might hurt myself. Or someone else.”

You frown. You don’t see how that’s possible. If Amania is dangerous, she’s doing a good job of hiding it.

“I was trapped down there for a week,” said Amania. “Sometimes Father would visit, vast spells on me, or on the room. He’d bring me food and water. And then you came and rescued me.” She shakes her head. “Father must have gone mad, if he summoned a mavrokh. I hate that whore Chrysana, and I…I hate Julian for what he did to me, but…gods, I didn’t want him to die.”

You’re missing something.

Rhazion might have the ability to summon and bind a mavrokh…but the preceptor, from what you’ve heard of him, doesn’t seem like the sort of man to go on a murderous rampage to avenge his daughter’s broken betrothal. You’d suspect Amania of doing it, if she had any arcane skill.

You’re missing something. But what?

Right then Chrysana groans, sits up on the couch, and you look at Lucan.

He shrugs. “She recovered sooner that I expected. Evidently she’s tougher than she looks.”

“Where…where am I?” says Chrysana, blinking.

You and Lucan cross over to the couch.

“You’re safe, for now,” you say. “Something called a mavrokh tried to kill you.”

“I…” Chrysana shakes her head.

Then her eyes fall upon Amania, and she starts to scream at the top of her lungs. Real screams, raw and full of terror.

“Keep her away from me!” Chrysana shrieks, scrambling backwards off the couch. “Keep her away from me!”

“What?” you say.

“She tried to kill me!” says Chrysana. “You…you were there! You saw it! She ripped apart my maid, and she was going to rip me to pieces, and then you stopped her!”

You were there. The mavrokh killed the maid, and tried to rip apart Chrysana. And the mavrokh are invisible. And Amania was tied up in the Black Rose’s cellar at the time.

Or so she claims.

“What are you talking about?” said Amania, anger and bewilderment fighting in her voice. “I’ve spent the last week tied to a chair.”

“Frostmaiden!” says Moresti, pointing at the window. “Look!”

You hurry over to the window.

Close to a score of armed and armored men are crossing the gardens, naked swords in hand. They wear black leather jerkins over chain mail, and each man carries a heavy shield upon his arm. Mercenaries, but hardened professionals, not drunken caravan guards like Moresti. And you recognize the company. The Black Wolves – the favorite mercenary company of the Magisterium.

And behind them, you see a man in the black robes of a magus.

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Ghost Rage, Episode 17a- Vote Now!

“Quick,” you tell Lucan, “into another room.”

He nods and helps Amania along.

You duck into the hallway. Korthion will reach the bottom of the stairs at any second. You pick the nearest door, push it open, and hurry inside, Lucan and Amania following.

You push the door closed, leaving it open a crack so you can see and hear.

And as you do, a half-dressed fat man sits up from the bed, his black robes in disarray.

“What is this?” he demands, looking at you and Amania. “I only paid for one woman; I’m not going to pay for two.” He glowers at Lucan. “And I certainly did not pay for a man! This is an outrage! I demand to speak to…”

Lucan’s sword moves so fast you can barely follow the motion, and the outraged magus falls into a sudden shocked silence as the tip of Lucan’s blade comes to rest on his lips.

“Kindly shut up,” says Lucan. “And…ah, don’t try any spells. It would indeed be tragic if my hand happened to slip.”

The magus shuts up.

You watch and listen as Korthion stalks down the hallway, Cenorix trailing after him. Korthion comes to a sudden halt as he sees the corpse of the guard on the floor, and then he steps over the dead man and into the warded room. You feel a sudden crawling tingle as Korthion casts a spell in the warded room; a spell to sense the presence of arcane force, you think, though you can’t be certain.

“Whatever it is, it’s gone,” says Korthion, walking into the hallway.

“Rhazion must have realized you would look,” says Cenorix, “so he took…whatever he had hidden down here.”

“No,” murmurs Korthion, and a smile spreads over his lean face. “No. I spoke to Rhazion not five minutes past. He wouldn’t have had enough time to retrieve whatever he had hidden down here, and,” he gestures at the dead guard, “and he certainly wouldn’t have killed his own guard. And he wouldn’t have killed the guard with a throwing knife to the throat…which, as you will recall, is the signature weapon of a certain Countess.”

Cenorix frowns. “You mean…”

“Do I have to spell it out for you, fool?” says Korthion. “The Ghosts broke into Rhazion’s room and took whatever was there. Perhaps even the Ghost Countess herself did it. Just as well. That means both the Ghost Countess and Rhazion will soon be in the same place, which makes it all the easier for me.” He smiles. “Come along. I have one…final task for you and your men, and then I will release you from your service to me.”

Korthion is rather cleverer than you would like.

“You will?” says Cenorix.

“You have my word,” says Korthion.

They both leave.

You count to one hundred, and then beckon Lucan and Amania forward, leaving the terrified magus sweating in his bed.

“I want a refund!” he calls after you.

You return to the Black Rose’s main floor and nod to Moresti, and he follows you outside. In short order you are outside once more, the night air cool against your bare arms and shoulder.

“That was close,” says Lucan.

“Just say it and get it over with,” you say. “I shouldn’t have killed that guard.”

Lucan raises his eyebrows. “Actually, I was going to say we should get away from here as soon as possible. But…”

Amania screams.

You spin, a throwing knife in your hand. Amania is staring at Moresti, trembling, her face filled with fear. Moresti, for his part, only looks baffled.

“Don’t let him hurt me,” she says, “don’t let him hurt me.”

“What did you do to her?” you say.

“Moresti is very confused,” says Moresti. “He only looks at pretty woman, and she starts screaming. But Moresti has never seen her before.” He shrugs. “Moresti is reliable mercenary, but he does not often meet noblewomen.” He thinks about this for a moment. “At least before today.”

“He’s not going to hurt you,” you say, but Amania only huddles into herself. What is she so frightened of?

Moresti’s warding tattoo, perhaps? But that makes no sense.

No doubt she is still frightened from her ordeal in the Black Rose’s basement. But right now you need to figure out how Rhazion is controlling and summoning the mavrokh, and to do that, you need to question Amania at length.

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