Morning grew late as the four traveled the bleak moors, clutching their cloaks tightly. Nevertheless, the chill wind did little to relieve the overcast sky.
Gottschalk’s mind wandered back to the outrageousness of last night’s attack. How did the cultists find them? He knew they hadn’t been followed to the house, perhaps they had used the fell Peek-a-boo? Many Demon Lords nowadays concealed their nefariousness behind seemingly harmless animals and childish symbology- colorful letters, birds, fruit, shapes, friendly faces- allowing them to bypass most protections, so it made sense. They were only too happy to demon-itize those who stood against them with a smile, or at least allow their cult followers to ruin lives or end them.
The others weren’t so concerned with the current state of demonic divination as with the change that had come over Gottschalk though. The man had slain two of the cultists in a rage so quickly, they barely had a chance to restrain him in order to save the remaining one. They needed to know what the cultist knew, to see if any others would be following. Unfortunately, the man refused to speak no matter how many times Gorm tried to force his mouth to move.
So Gottschalk approached the captive again, his miner’s pick still bloodstained from last night’s victims. His face remained cold despite the obvious threat from his weapon. “Are we being followed even now? TALK.”
The cultist still refused to speak. Gorm unslung his great axe to try and pry the man’s jaw open.
Laurissa intervened though, gently lowering both men’s weapons despite her own arm still being in a sling. “That’s not going to work. You there, cultist: would you like something to eat?” She pulled out some rations that she had found at the house last night.
“No, but the Great Glowing Spectral Rainbow in the Sky would certainly like to eat your Amaranthine Soul.”
Laurissa recoiled at the viciousness of the man’s statement; Gottschalk and Gorm raised their weapons again to strike.
It was now Ramzeus’s turn to intervene. “You know that you’re just a pawn, cultist.”
The man stared at him and spat, “I can’t wait for you Amaranthine scum to get your Social Justice Desserts. The Patrons will have a field day punishing you for violating my rights... brandishing weapons, threatening to use those weapons...”
The others ignored the cultists now- they knew that they were outside the reach of those corrupted town leaders here, or at least, they hoped that they were. They were more interested in what Ramzeus had said.
“What you mean... ‘pawn’?” asked Gorm.
“The cultists serve a purpose,” replied Ramzeus. “You saw it yourself with the fall of Caelum Mount and even Dinglesfuhr: it’s not just that they hypocritically preach ‘Tolerance’ and ‘Equality’ and then do the exact opposite. They serve other masters who benefit from the terrible pain and destruction they cause, not to mention the resulting tyranny they create, which in turn causes even more terrible pain and destruction.”
“So who is behind it then? Shopkeeps?” asked Laurissa.
Ramzeus shook his head as they walked on. “Many go along with the cultists, but they do so because their ultimate loyalty is to their coin. Some might be True Equalitarian Believers, but that’s not because they are shopkeeps.”
“Demons?” added Gottschalk. He didn’t understand what Ramzeus was getting at.
Ramzeus shook his head again. “There’s no doubt that they thrive on all the evil the cultists create, but there’s one mortal foe that is responsible for all that’s happened. Who else is behind the invasion of the West?”
Gorm’s mouth hung open as he waited for Ramzeus to finish. He slowly gestured to the captive cultist. Perhaps he was the one that Ramzeus meant?
Before he could answer though, they realized that they had come to some sort of town center. Yes, they had been engaged in discussion, but the place did seem to appear before them suddenly, as if out of nowhere. Such things weren’t unknown in Monjaksen.
The four immediately formed into a circle with their backs facing each other: zombie attacks also weren’t unknown in Monjaksen.
But it was still day though. They hoped that the proscription against undead, banning them from the light of the sun still applied in such an accursed place as this. The four waited a moment, muscles tensed, weapons ready to make sure.
None emerged yet from the strange, Gothic-style buildings that surrounded them though- nothing living or dead. The place seemed deserted.
The only sign of folk here was a poster of an elderly, short-haired smiling man upon the wall of what looked like it used to be the Town Hall. Strangely, the man’s eye and forehead were damaged. The words on it read: ‘VOTE MCBRAIN’.
Ramzeus took a moment to inspect it. “They must have still practiced Democracy here until fairly recently.”
Gorm scratched his mulleted head. “You not know that demons... are... crazy?”
At that, Ramzeus chuckled. “I do. No, Democracy is where the people voted for their leader.”
“I’ve heard of it,” replied Laurissa. “I remember my family saying that they used to have it back home in Chaosada and even Amercia too.”
“I imagine it didn’t work?” asked Gottschalk.
Ramzeus nodded. “At first it did, but then it was corrupted, used to destroy all tradition and meaning in people’s lives, while enriching the most crooked leaders. They would lie and cluck like chickens to keep their posts and please their dark masters. Those entrusted with protecting their country betrayed their own people by enslaving and even trying to replace them. It turned to Demoncracy.”
Gorm snapped his fingers: he thought that’s what Ramzeus originally said!
“How did it get corrupted?” asked Gottschalk.
“By the same group that is causing the invasion of the West today. Luckily, their plans for a fully decadent, deracinated society were stopped before then- when the Ancients’ society collapsed, when the Lights went Out.”
At that, a chill ran down their spines. The sense then arose that they were being watched by one of the dark windows above. Their minds went wild with all the terrible tales they had heard about Monjaksen.
Gottschalk looked around suddenly then and slapped his leg in frustration. No one had been watching the cultist; he had escaped.
Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXVIII!