The Death of a Deity Part II

The day had dawned brightly for Olin Rutland, with a red-rimmed sun rising over the eastern sea. Serenti blossomed beautifully in autumn, especially when visited by Olin’s particular brand of chaos. In the month since he and his comrades escaped Terrinore Isle Rutland had returned to the site of his former glory, where years ago he’d tormented the citizens with his madness. The Lunatic of Serenti, they’d called him, and soon would again. Or perhaps he’d choose a different title… the Lord of Serenti, no the King, no… the Emperor. They would call him whatever he pleased once his hooks sunk deep enough into the city’s nervous center.

Olin swallowed a satisfying mouthful of morning ale and banged the empty tankard down on the fine teak tabletop. A serving girl stumbled over from the corner to refill his cup, nearly sloshing ale on the floor, her face drawn up in fear. She had belonged to the lord whose manor Olin had appropriated as his own, and he’d kept the staff on to suit his needs. He slapped the serving girl’s ass as she scooted back to the corner, eliciting a muffled thud from her skirts and a startled shriek from her mouth. He’d already sampled that particular morsel, and would again soon.

The Lunatic picked his teeth with a herringbone left over from breakfast and examined his reflection in the back of a polished silver spoon. His sallow cheeks had regained some ruddy color in the month since he escaped, and his face no longer looked gaunt with starvation. His wide green eyes still glowed with a familiar fervor. He remembered the pain and discomfort of prison all too well, and still woke in a sweat most nights expecting to find hard stone floors beneath him instead of the lord’s thick feather mattress. He shivered and took a long pull of ale, savoring the bitter brew.

The kitchen door banged open and Darrin Hornsby strode in, followed by the musty smell of the library he’d entered through. His heavy boots tracked mud across the clean tile floor. Olin would enjoy making his servants clean that up later, perhaps using nothing but their tongues. Judging by the expression on Hornsby’s face, however, he would not lack for entertainment that day.

The scarred enforcer looked grim even for him, with his white-seamed face drawn down in a deep frown. Olin smiled. Events that upset others – even events that upset his friends and allies – often amused the Lunatic. He licked his lips, savoring the final flavors of fish grease and ale, and gestured for Hornsby to sit at the small kitchen table.

The large, muscular man pulled back a chair and dumped his heavy frame down in it. He spared a quick glance for the pretty serving girl in the corner and then cleared his throat and reached inside his leather jacket. One callused hand produced a folded piece of parchment and placed it on the table. Hornsby slid the paper slowly across the teak surface, navigating a path between the platters containing the remnants of Olin’s breakfast.

“This just arrived from Smarteye,” Hornsby said in his deep, harsh voice. He tugged at his thick beard and raked a hand through disheveled dark hair, eyes blazing like coals. “Should scour that smile from your face,” he muttered darkly.

Following Roderick’s orders, Olin had brought Hornsby and Hackney with him to help take control of Serenti. Winchell Hackney, the old puppet master, was responsible for controlling the actions of the town guard’s captain. With the Watch in turmoil, Olin was free to create chaos throughout the prosperous city, leaving folks leaderless and on their knees, ready to beg for whatever scraps the Lunatic tossed their way. Hornsby’s job was to command Olin’s personal guard and keep the Lunatic alive, and his minor role in the operation clearly left a bitter taste in Hornsby’s mouth. Olin cared little for what went into Hornsby’s mouth… but the folded paper that came from the man’s hand caught his attention immediately.

Olin picked up the paper and unfolded it, and after a brief glance at the tidy scrawl on the page sighed and snapped his fingers. Nothing happened. The Lunatic growled and snapped his fingers again, twice and thrice. Suddenly the serving girl gasped and sprang into action, collecting a pair of half-moon spectacles from a nearby counter and presenting them to Olin with a curtsy. Rutland took the spectacles with a smile and then seized the girl’s hand and sank his teeth into her wrist, biting hard enough to draw blood.

The girl screamed and jumped away, gripping her wounded wrist as blood oozed between pretty pale fingers. She turned and fled, sobbing, to have a healer see to the bite. She would be back. Olin might not have trained her to be ready with his glasses yet, but she bloody well knew not to tarry in returning to his service, no matter what kind of mark he left on her.

Olin cleared his throat and wiped his lips with a linen napkin, and then perched the spectacles on his nose and shot a withering glare at Hornsby over the flats of the half-moons. The enforcer was gnawing at a thumbnail, knowing better than to look at Olin while he wore his glasses. With another unnecessary harrumph the Lunatic read the note.

My Dear Olin, it read in Smarteye Sam’s educated hand, if you are receiving this letter it is likely I am dead or captured. Roderick, of course, will have received the same news. I took the precaution of preparing these messages when I discovered two strange men poking around my Temple to Draconus in Lornius. I have since learned that their names are Shinsou Vaan Osiris and Joshua “Breaker” Cronen. Both have a list of tawdry titles and good deeds tied to their names, so there seems little doubt as to why they are interested in our operation. I have invited them into a trap which they will find too appealing to ignore, but like any good chess master, I always hold moves in reserve.

If you receive this my dear Olin, expect Osiris and Cronen at your doorstep before long. In my letter to Roderick I advised that all of you join forces, for if my enterprise in Lornius has fallen, it can only mean that these determined men will seek out the rest of our crew. Be ready for them, and take every precaution. They gained entrance to my temple with absolute ease, and had nearly discovered the source of my power before I interrupted them. Use all of the resources at your disposal to make them regret their insolence. If I am dead or captured… my final wish is for these two men to meet a painful demise at the hands of the Lunatic of Serenti.

Yours, Smarteye Sam.

Olin tossed the parchment onto the empty fish platter, where it slowly soaked up the grease coating the beige earthenware. So. Smarteye was dead, or worse imprisoned once again on Terrinore Isle. Olin felt no sadness for the loss of a friend. His lips curled into a wide smile, displaying his yellow teeth to Hornsby.

“You’ve read this?” Olin asked the enforcer, and got a terse nod in return. “I’ll want my personal guard doubled, and watch patrols tripled.” He raised a hand to quell any protest. “Tell Hackney, he will take care of it… spread the story that we’ve a pair of murderers and rapists on the loose. That will get the guards riled up and ready for blood. Release the names-” he peered at the greasy parchment on the platter – “Joshua Cronen and Shinsou Vaan Osiris. I want every man in Serenti who has eyes on the lookout.”

The Lunatic hummed a gleeful tune as he stood and danced about the table, clapping a bewildered Hornsby on his broad back.

“Don’t look so glum, don’t wear a frown!” Olin sang… “Two new playmates are coming to town!”



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