|Photo by Ines Alvarez Fdoz at Unsplash|
Casimir turned his eyes skyward, as if searching the heavens for an answer. After a few moments he said, "I'm being tested. I've been tasked with finding something. I already nearly failed when I got captured by those bandits. This is a second chance for me. Probably won't get another." Cryptic, but it was an answer of sorts.
Further north, in the realm of Lamashtu, it began to snow. They considered ditching the wagon they had looted from the bandits, as it kept getting stuck in the rough terrain, but Casimir insisted it would come in handy later on down the road, so he made every effort to keep the wheels out of ruts.
Cresting a hill, they saw a terrible thing.
A woman, her blonde hair braided and coiled around her round face, was running from half a dozen men and women clad in ragged, filthy furs. Each of them bore a harpoon.
Unwilling to let the woman be run down, Sable and Khamad rode to her defense while Casimir unslung his musket and begin to take shots at the savages. Sable stove into the unrushing barbarians like a cavalry officer. Khamad summoned fire from the ether, letting it dance upon these infidels.
The running woman, as it transpired, was not without fire of her own. Now that she was not absolutely outnumbered, she turned and faced her pursuers. Fingering a wooden rosary, she chanted words in the holy language of the saintly blood, calling radiant fire down upon the fur-clad barbarians. They screamed and roared, but still they came out.
Casimir's shots rang out, sending a few of them to the Abyss. Sable and Khamad fought back-to-back, holding their new foes at bay.
The newcomer again touched her rosary. Her eyes when white and inhuman. She rose from the earth on spectral wings. She emitted an aura of unkind death, rotting flesh on the bone.
When the battle was over, Casimir came running down the hill while Sable and Khamad regarded the woman with a mixture of horror and wonder. "Who were those beasts, and who are you?" Casimir asked.
"Those are Helvinter cultists," she said. "To advance in their cult, they need to hunt, kill, and cannibalize their victims to please their fell mistress."
"You're a priest of the Church of Saintly Blood, aren't you?" Khamad asked.
She tucked her rosary away.
"Yes, or...something like that. My name is Devanya. I serve Saint Mairwen and Azrafina, the Angel of Death."
"Why would a living saint be in vampire-blighted Lamashtu?" Sable asked.
"I was heading to the court of the Queen. Someone there has an relic sacred to Mairwen. I mean to recover it."
Sable and Khamad exchanged glances. "We're headed to Castle Siebenhurst as well. Shit, I'll bring the wagon around, you'll ride with us," Casimir said.
It wasn't so much an offer as it was a cold, hard fact.
* * *
Losing a Fight in a Frontier Tavern