Category Archives: Knight Sword

choose your own adventure – end notes

Thank you all for voting in “Knight Sword.”

The story is not over, obviously. Rosalyn Tarnavale, the last Knight of the Soulblade, and her companions have a few more adventures before them, I think. That said, I’m afraid we’re going to have to wait to get to them. Right now I have a full-time job, a part-time job, and quite a few different pieces of freelance work. I am certainly not complaining – in this economic climate (or lack thereof), I’m glad to have that much work.

That said, getting the “Choose Your Own Adventure” episodes done has become increasingly difficult – working on an episode at midnight when you have to get up at five is not a winning strategy, all told. It proved particularly challenging to find time to write the last half of “Knight Sword.”

So I’m going to have to cut back for a few months. But my part-time job expires in December, and I think then I should have time to return to new “Choose Your Own Adventure” episodes.

Until then, thank you all for voting, and if you need a short fiction fix to tide you over, I suggest this.

-JM

choose your own adventure, episode 26c / bonus episode

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 26C

You sidestep, putting yourself in front of Dietrich, leaving yourself open to Ulmoch’s attack. A hard grin flashes over the Raven’s gaunt face, and Ulmoch springs forward, the black sword angling again for your heart.

An instant later blue-white lightning leaps from Curtwall’s staff, slamming into Ulmoch. The spell doesn’t harm Ulmoch, doesn’t even slow him down, but the sheer force of Curtwall’s magic throws the Raven off-balance, sends him stumbling.

It’s all the opening you need.

You leap forward, the soulblade plunging into the tear in Ulmoch’s cuirass, the sword biting deep into his flesh. Golden flames blaze down the blade, and Ulmoch wails, trying to wrench away from the sword. But it’s too late. The soulblade’s golden fire explodes through him, devouring the yellow glow in his eyes. Ulmoch shudders, the darkness within him disintegrating, his flesh crumbling to ash.

A moment later there’s nothing left of him but ash, yellowed bones, and a pile of black armor plates.

Silence falls over the hillside, Vlacht and his orcish soldiers staring at you in shock.

You lift the soulblade.

“Well?” you say.

The orcs flee, leaving you alone on the hillside with Dietrich, Caius, Curtwall, and Mourner.

“Paladin,” says Caius. He’s looking at you with something like awe. “I will follow you. To the ends of the earth.”

“The Blood Queen herself will tremble,” says Mourner, “when she hears of this.”

“I’m just glad you’re not dead,” says Dietrich, direct as ever.

You don’t know what to say. To anything of this. You didn’t want to become a Paladin, and the Knights of the Soulblade were a legend to you until this night.

Curtwall rescues you from having to say anything.

“Come,” he says, “let’s go.”

You turn, and follow Curtwall to whatever awaits you.

THE END

KNIGHT SWORD, A BONUS EPISODE

In the city of Tarlion, capital of the kingdom of Andomhaim, stands the Tower of the High Queen, though the commoners in whispers nicknamed it the Tower of Blood, or the Tower of Ravens. No one who enters the Tower, save for the Queen’s Ravens, ever returns.

In the Tower’s highest chamber, six hundred feet above the city, the High Queen Ashanavere, named the Blood Queen by the rebels, opens her eyes.

Most men, looking upon her, would call her beautiful. She looks no more than eighteen. Her eyes are the blue of sapphires, her thick black hair hangs to her waist, and her skin is clear and fair. She is a vision of beauty, an image to inspire poets and artists.

And yet…

No one, man or woman, could look upon her for long without their skin starting to crawl, their stomach clenching. As if this slight, radiantly beautiful woman were a venomous serpent, or a loathsome predator. The very air seems colder around her, the shadows darker.

Dogs go mad as she walks past, turning upon their owners.

In her presence children scream with fear, and suffer for nightmares for days afterward.

Milk turns sour near her, and food rotten. Sometimes old men fall dead, clutching their chests, or wake to find tumors growing upon their flesh.

“So,” says Ashanavere.

She rises and walks to the window.

She can see through the eyes of the Ravens (though they know it not), her adoring and terrified slaves, and she saw the soulblade blaze to life in the hands of that girl.

Liam Tarnavale’s daughter. Ashanavere had ordered his entire family put to death, but it seemed Ulmoch had failed to carry out the order.

Well, he was paying for it now, the fool.

For a moment Ashanavere closes her eyes and thinks, feeling the cold throb of the dark magic around her.

Ashanavere’s servants and slaves would say there is no cause for alarm. Rosalyn Tarnavale is a Paladin, but only one girl. The rebels remain disorganized and ineffective. And Rosalyn Tarnavale might be a Paladin, but she is only one – the rest of the soulblades have been in Ashanavere’s grasp for a long time.

Her servants and slaves are fools.

Ashanavere has lived a very long time (or, at least, some of the things inside her head have), and she knows the truth. The world is a tinderbox. Dry and lifeless, thirsty for water.

It only takes one spark to set it ablaze.

Such as the light of a soulblade in the hand of a new-made Paladin.

Rosalyn Tarnavale must die.

Immediately.

And Ashanavere will bend her full power to the child’s death. A price shall be placed on her head. The Ravens and their orcish soldiers will be sent out. And Ashanavere has minions far more powerful and terrible than the Ravens.

Minions that will make the girl Paladin beg for death, before it is over.

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choose your own adventure, episode 25C

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 25C

You think of your father, killed by Ulmoch and turned to a Raven. You think of your blood father, Liam Tarnavale, killed by the Blood Queen. You think of what Ulmoch will do to Dietrich and the others.

You take a deep breath.

“I’ll do it,” you say. “I will take up the soulblade. I will become a Paladin.”

The messenger nods.

“So be it. Until we meet again, Rosalyn, daughter of Liam Tarnavale of the soulblade – for we shall surely meet again.”

The messenger strides forward, lifts his right hand, and places his finger against your forehead.

Into your forehead.

Pain erupts through you, and you scream, scream as you feel the messenger’s hand sink deep into your skull. The messenger’s eyes change, no longer harsh blue, but a brilliant, blazing gold, like sunlight beaten into metal.

Then golden fire erupts in all directions, and this strange gray place vanishes.

###

You awake, lying on the cold ground of the hills, the sounds of battle and furious magic filling your ears.

You feel…

…good.

The soulblade still rests in your right hand, the hilt warm as living flesh beneath your fingers.

You open your eyes. Dietrich is bent over you, face twisted with pain…but the pain vanishing beneath sudden shock.

Like he just saw your wound disappear.

“Rosalyn,” says Dietrich.

You get to your feet.

The first thing you notice is how much more clearly you can see. You can see the currents and flow of magic around Curtwall, the locus of darkness within your father…and the much stronger well of dark power within Ulmoch. You lift the soulblade, and you see that the crystals in the blade and the pommel are glowing, seeming to burn with golden fire, sheathing the blade in a haze of light.

For a moment the battlefield falls silent as everyone looks at you.

Then Ulmoch screams, a hideous sound, full of insane rage and perhaps even a hint of fear.

“Kill her!” he roars, spinning to face you. “Kill her now!”

Jerome breaks free from his fight with the exhausted Caius and Mourner and races to face you, moving with the inhuman speed of a Raven.

But you can see him coming, and you know that he is moving fast, but he seems slow, to slow, and you feel power pouring from the soulblade, filling you, and you move to meet him. You sidestep his attack, the soulblade plunging into Jerome’s chest. The golden light blazes, extinguishing the darkness within him, and he falls like puppet with cut strings.

Your father’s body crumbles to dust, freed from the dark power of the Ravens.

Another stunned silence falls over the hillside. You see Vlacht and his orcs watching you from the trees, alarm on their faces. Caius and Mourner stare at you with something like astonished awe on their faces. But most of all you feel the weight of Ulmoch’s sulfurous yellow gaze on you, full of rage and growing fear.

For only a Paladin’s soulblade can harm a Night Raven.

“Well?” you say, surprised by how calm your voice sounds. “You want to the soulblade so badly, Raven? Come and take it.”

Ulmoch roars and comes at you in a dark blur.

He’s a lot faster and stronger than your father was.

But the soulblade gives you strength and speed to match him. You are not a very good swordsman – but neither is Ulmoch. In a flash of insight, you realize the Raven has spent years overconfident, that he has relied far too much on his immunity to mortal weapons. He has not faced a real opponent, an opponent with the power to threaten him, in decades.

In a burst of exhilaration, you realize that you can defeat the Raven.

But Ulmoch has one advantage. He is covered in black plate armor, and you are not, and even with the enhanced strength the soulblade gives you, you cannot penetrate his armor. He’s not wearing a helmet, though, and Dietrich’s hammer left a weak spot in his cuirass. If you can find a way to distract him long enough to land a telling blow…

You see Dietrich running for you, hammer in hand, while Curtwall lifts his staff and begins a spell.

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choose your own adventure, a terminal episode / episode 24c

KNIGHT SWORD, A TERMINAL EPISODE

You leap forward, the soulblade flying from its scabbard, and deflect Ulmoch’s stab. His sword clangs off the soulblade, and the Night Raven staggers, yellow eyes wide in surprise. For a moment, just a moment, you see a hint of fear in his face.

But satisfaction soon replaces the fear.

“Ah,” says Ulmoch.

“No!” shouts Caius, but the furious attacks of the thing that used to be your father keep him occupied. “No, Rosalyn, run, run…”

Ulmoch moves so fast that you barely see it. One moment his black sword rests in his hand.

The next it is buried in your chest, the hilt between your breasts.

Pain floods through you. You hear Caius shouting, hear Dietrich screaming, but it sounds so distant, so faint.

“Just as easy,” says Ulmoch in his grating rasp, “as it ever was.”

He rips his sword free in a crimson spray. You fall, but do not feel yourself strike the ground.

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 24C

Time passes.

You don’t know how much. It feels like an eternity.

After a long moment you feel a stone floor beneath you, and you sit up. You are in the ruined church of Moridun, its half-collapsed arches rising over you. Yet everything looks gray and cold, as if all the color as been leached from the world. As you stand, you see a man sitting on the steps to the altar, watching you. He is lean and gaunt, with a shading of stubble, and dressed in worn chainmail and leather.

The only color you see are the man’s eyes. Like chips of burning ice in his face, or shards of frozen azure flame. The eyes seem to flay you, drill down in your very heart, and a wave of terror shoots through you.

“Don’t hurt me,” you say.

The man stands. “No.”

“Who are you?” you say.

“Only a messenger.”

“A messenger of what?” you say.

“This message,” says the messenger. “Long ago, as your race understands time, the High God made a gift of the soulblades to mortal men, so that you might defend yourself from the dark powers outside the circles of the world. But the power of the soulblades carries of price. It can only be wielded through sacrifice.”

“The sacrifice of what?” you say.

“You must be prepared to sacrifice your life,” says the messenger.

You have no answer to that.

“The Paladins of old arranged a test,” says the messenger. “Those would be Knights of the Soulblade faced themselves, and if prepared to lay down their lives, could command the power of the swords. But you have laid down your life in truth. So, therefore, you face a choice.”

“To choose what?” you say.

“What will happen next,” says the messenger. “First, you may depart the mortal life, and never again trouble yourself again with its woes.”

You think of Dietrich and say nothing.

“Second,” says the messenger. “You may choose for the soulblade to pass to Dietrich. For he was prepared to sacrifice his life to save you from the Raven, and therefore has earned the right to wield a soublade.”

The blue eyes blaze brighter.

“And you  may choose to take up the soulblade yourself,” says the messenger, “and become a Paladin. Though I warn you, if you take this path, you shall never know peace, and will know great pain before you die.”

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choose your own adventure, episode 23b

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 23B

Both Curtwall and Caius hesitate, looking in the direction you heard your father’s voice.

“Keep running!” you shout, though all your heart wants to find your father. “Keep running…”

No sooner do you shout than your father bursts from the trees.

Or, rather, what’s left of him.

Jerome of Moridun was always a portly man, especially in the last few years, but now he moves with superhuman speed and swiftness, sometimes running on two legs, and sometimes racing along on all fours like a wolf. His face is pale, and his eyes burn with the same sulfurous yellow fire you saw in the eyes of the controlled wolves.

In the eyes of Ulmoch.

A wave of nausea comes over you, and the soulblade starts to vibrate in your hands, the way it did when you confronted the controlled wolves. You realize that whatever power, whatever creature, that controls your father is not really him, that some dark force has made a puppet of his corpse.

Yet that in no way reduces the horror of the scene, and for a moment you stand frozen, unable to move as Jerome races at you, shrieking and gibbering…

An instant later blue-white lightning explodes from Curtwall’s staff and plunges into your father. The blast strikes him with enough force to fling him into the trees, one of the trunks shattering beneath his impact. Yet when the thunderclap fades you hear him screaming curses and threats, hear him promise to kill you.

Your father has become the same sort of creature as the Night Ravens…and no mortal magic or weapon can kill the Ravens.

A black shadow blots out the moon.

You look up and see a wyvern swooping towards you. Ulmoch himself sits upon the creature’s back, a shadow in his black armor, and yet even at this distance you can see the yellow gleam of his eyes, feel the weight of his gaze upon you.

Again Curtwall lifts his staff, and lightning rips out of the sky, tearing into the wyvern with enough force that the beast explodes into a storm of flame. You see Ulmoch plummet to the earth like a comet, his cloak ablaze. It’s a fall of a hundred feet, at least, yet Ulmoch lands unharmed, his sword blurring from its scabbard with the speed of a striking serpent.

Your father leaps from the woods, his charred clothes still smoking, and you hear the tramp of the orcish soldiers charging through the trees.

Curtwall grips his staff in both hands, and you feel the charge in the air as the wizard summons his magic.

A lot of magic.

“Run!” he roars. “Run, now! Get out of here! We’ll hold them off! Go! Go, now!”

Jerome charges at you, but Mourner and Caius move to intercept him, like two dogs trying to fight an enraged bear. Curtwall looses a lightning blast at Ulmoch, but the Night Raven shrugs off the spell, and hurtles forward with inhuman speed.

At you.

You stumble away, trying to dodge, but Ulmoch’s sword reaches for your heart like black lightning…

Then Dietrich is there, Ulmoch’s sword clanging off his massive hammer. Dietrich lands another blow before Ulmoch recovers his balance, and the Raven’s cuirass rings like a bell, a fist-sized crater in the steel. The blow would have crushed the chest of a normal man.

Ulmoch reaches out, rips the hammer from Dietrich’s hands, and kicks him to the ground.

Your betrothed falls with a thump, and Ulmoch’s sword comes up, ready to plunge into Dietrich’s heart.

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choose your own adventure, episode 22b

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 22B

“Ur Morlemoch,” you say. “Even Ulmoch wouldn’t be mad enough to chase us there.”

No one seems too happy with the idea, not even Mourner, who suggested it, but no one has any better ideas.

“So be it,” says Curtwall. A firebomb arcs through the chapel’s ruined windows and sets one of the old pews on fire. “Let’s move.”

He leads you into the ruined monastery, down into the dusty cellars, and opens the secret passage. It spirals down into the depths of the hill, rough-hewn from the solid rock, and Curtwall seals the door behind you with a blast of magical fire. Then you hurry down the spiral stairs, the passage illuminated by the glow from Curtwall’s staff. A moment later the stairs end in a solid wall, and Curtwall opens the hidden door.

You find yourself at the base of the monastery’s crag, once more in the foothills. Overhead you can see the flames raging in the monastery’s ruins, and the wyvern riders circling overhead. But none of them have noticed you yet, and if you’re quiet and use no light, perhaps you can get away.

“This way,” says Curtwall, gesturing with his darkened staff. “Ur Morlemoch is three miles north of here. If we’re careful, the orcs shouldn’t notice us. Though if they do, we’ll have to take refugee in the caves anyway.”

“Then lead on,” says Mourner, and you start climbing higher into the foothills, leaving the burning monastery behind.

And no sooner do you take five steps then you see a gaunt gray wolf dart from behind a tree.

Its eyes blaze with sickly yellow fire.

“Damn it,” mutters Curtwall. “Ulmoch knows we’re here. Run!”

“Rosalyn!”

It’s your father’s voice, coming from the woods.

“Rosalyn!” His voice is still full of pain, but there’s a note of hope to it. “Rosalyn! I’ve found a way to escape. Come to me, come to me before it’s too late!”

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choose your own adventure, episode 21b

You wait until the last minute, and then throw yourself sideways. The wyvern tries to follow you, but comes to an awkward landing in the raging flames, wings beating as it tries to stabilize itself. The fire doesn’t appear to trouble the wyvern. The same cannot be said for the wyvern’s orcish rider, who shrieks as his clothes go up in flame.

Then you race across the courtyard, dodging the firebombs flung by the other wyvern riders, and sprint into the monastery’s chapel. The chapel, like the rest of the monastery, lies in ruins. However, the stone roof is still intact, and will provide protection from the orcs’ firebombs.

At least until Vlacht and his soldiers swarm over the wall.

Dietrich hovers over you like a protective shadow, and Caius, Curtwall and Mourner join you.

“You led us here to die!” says Caius to Curtwall, shaking with anger. “Jerome and I kept the last soulblade hidden for twenty years, and now we’ve lost it because of you!”

“We’re not dead yet, old man,” says Mourner with a sneer. “Since you seem ever ready to fall upon your sword and die, why don’t you do it, and save the rest of us the trouble of your…”

“Silence, both of you,” says Curtwall. “We’re not finished yet.” He points at the entrance to the monastery proper. “The monks of the High God were not fools. There is an escape tunnel in the cellar, opening at the foot of the hill. We can take the tunnel and make our way into the mountains while Ulmoch and Vlacht have their attention focused here. It’s only a few hours to midnight, and I can then cast the spell to open the portal.”

“We’ll be out in the open,” says Mourner. “How will we keep Ulmoch from finding us?”

“We’ll shelter the caves,” says Curtwall. “An entrance is not far from here.”

That gives you pause. The caverns riddling the northern mountains have an evil reputation. Tribes of wild orcs live in the caverns. Along with worse things, if the rumors are true.

“Too risky,” says Mourner. “You know why this monastery was founded. The Church of the High God built it to keep watch over Ur Morlemoch. It is a short distance away, and we can take shelter there until midnight. Ulmoch will never dare follow us into those ruins.”

“That is madness,” says Curtwall. “If we go into Ur Morlemoch, we shall never come out.”

You know the name, and your father told you the story. In ancient times Ur Morlemoch was a castle of the Dark Elves. After the Dark Elves’ High Kingdom collapsed, an undead Dark Elven wizard of tremendous magical might remained living in the ruined castle, even as the rest of the Dark Elves perished. The creature lurking in the castle has absolutely no interest in the outside world, and never ventures forth.

But the stories of what it does to intruders…

Of course, Ulmoch might follow you into the caverns, but only a fool or a madman would dare Ur Morlemoch.

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choose your own adventure, a terminal episode

KNIGHT SWORD, A TERMINAL EPISODE

You draw the soulblade, the crystal embedded in its blade flashing in the firelight, and attack the wyvern.

The wyvern is faster.

The last thing you see is its head shooting forward, jaws yawning forward to swallow your field of vision. There is a crunching sound, an eruption of horrible pain on either side of your head…and then everything goes black.

The last thing you hear is Dietrich screaming your name.

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choose your own adventure, episode 20a

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 20A

You stumble away from the battlements, the sound of your father’s agonized wails filling you with horror and guilt. Yet some part of your mind insists that you really, really need to find out what was making that faint whistling noise.

You turn around just in time to see a dark shape drop from the sky, its wings blotting out the moonlight.

The creature looks like a horse-sized dragon, with huge leathery wings stretching out on either side. Fangs sprout from its mouth, and talons from its limbs. Its long tail ends in a series of barbs, dripping black with poison.

A wyvern.

On the creature’s back sits one of Vlacht’s red-armored orcish soldiers, guiding the wyvern with long leather reins.

You scream, and throw yourself down with the others. Just in time – the wyvern swoops overhead, its poisoned tail lashing at the air where you stood. The wyvern snarls in outrage and rises into the air, wings flapping as it gains altitude for another attack.

Then Curtwall springs back to his feet, lifting his staff, its runes ablaze with harsh blue light. An instant later azure lightning screams out of the night sky, ripping into the wyvern and its orcish rider. The blast rips beast and orc apart into a raging fireball.

And by the light of the fireball, you can see a score more of the wyvern riders circling overhead. Far more than even Curtwall’s magic can manage.

Curtwall sees it, too.

“Inside!” he roars. “Inside the chapel, quickly! Quickly!”

You sprint down the stairs into the monastery’s courtyard after the others, your mind racing. If the wyverns force you into the monastery proper, that means Curtwall and his magic can no longer guard the wall. Which means that Vlacht and his orcs can swarm unopposed into the ruined monastery. The orcs will overwhelm you, and take you alive before Ulmoch.

Where he can do the same thing to you that’s making your father scream so horribly…

“Rosalyn!” shouts Dietrich.

You look up just in time to see one of the wyvern riders fling something small and dark at you. A clay sphere, and as you duck it shoots over your head and shatters at your feet. Immediately a pool of flame, ten feet wide, erupts at your feet, cutting you off from the others, and you stumble back in alarm.

And as you do, you see one of the wyverns swooping towards you, fanged mouth yawning wide, poisoned tail drawn back to strike…

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choose your own adventure, episode 19a

KNIGHT SWORD, EPISODE 19A

“Don’t do it,” you whisper, grabbing Curtwall’s arm. “It’s a trick.”

“Of course it’s a trick,” murmurs Curtwall back. “Give me a moment.”

He steps to the battlements.

“I cannot decide on my own!” says Curtwall. “I must discuss it with the others!”

“As you will,” Vlacht calls back. “Take all the time you wish, wizard. But remember. Nightfall comes soon.”

Curtwall beckons you, and he hastens to the stairs. But instead of descending into the monastery’s courtyard, he instead circles the crumbling walls.

“A distraction,” mutters Curtwall, the cold mountain wind tugging at his yellow beard. “The orcs are devoted to the Blood Queen, almost as priests to a goddess. They would never dream of betraying her, and…ah!”

You look down. Between the wall and the cliff, it’s a four hundred foot drop to the hills below…and a score of orcs in the crimson mail of the Blood Queen are scaling it. The orcs look up, see you, curse in alarm, and begin scrambling back down the cliff.

But not before Curtwall casts a spell, an azure lightning bolt screaming out the sky to explode against the cliff. A dozen orcs fall to their deaths, and the rest hasten to escape.

A moment later you here Vlacht’s voice drifting over the monastery.

“You’ll regret that!” he shouts. “You should have surrendered when you still had the chance!”

Three hours later, night falls.

You and the others have been making circuits of the monastery walls, but the orcs have not made any attempt to storm the ruins. Once Ulmoch is active, you have no idea what the Night Raven will do, only that he will do anything to capture the soulblade you carry. He might try to starve you out…which would give you the chance to escape through Curtwall’s portal come midnight. But if Ulmoch knows that Curtwall is strong enough to conjure a portal, he’ll order Vlacht and the orcs to attack. And even Curtwall’s spells won’t be enough to stop the attack of four hundred orcs driven by a Night Raven.

Yet night falls…and nothing happens.

You gather with the others over the ruined gate and stare into the night. The orcs have lit no torches. Some moonlight falls over the foothills, enough that you can glimpse distant shapes, but you can discern no details.

“What the devil are they waiting for?” mutters Mourner, hands twitching near the hilts of his sword and dagger.

“Perhaps they’ve given up,” says Dietrich, standing next to you.

“No,” says Curtwall, “they’re up to something. Be on your guard.”

You blink. You’re almost certain you just heard a…whooshing noise? It sounds almost like the faint noise of the breeze blowing over taut leather.

You open your mouth to say something…and then you hear the screams coming from the orcs’ camp.

Horrible, wet, ripping screams, screams filled with agony, screams worse than everything you’ve ever heard.

And then you recognize the voice. It’s your father. He’s still alive…and the orcs have him.

Ulmoch has him.

“Rosalyn!” Jerome shrieks. “I…no. No!” He screams again. “You have to…you have to come out! You have to bring them the sword! Otherwise they’ll keep doing…no, don’t, no, please don’t, please, please I’ll…”

His voice dissolves into an incoherent wail of agony.

You grip the sword so hard your knuckles turn white.

“Don’t listen to it!” says Caius, but his face is stricken. “The sword is more important than Jerome’s life.”

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