Wushen opened his eyes. His inner search did not find what he was looking for. His eyes adjusted to the setting sun outside, as he stood looking out the window of the Northeast tower. He watched as lights started to blink on throughout the multi-layered streets of Pallmoor Gates- though the lights were far fewer than when he arrived two years ago. The city was huge. Even bigger than Tyn, they said. Certainly older. Nearly as large as Go-Ya, the city of his birth and trading capital of the Rice Countries, as the white men of this land simplistically called the lands to the East.
The Northeast tower- the unlucky direction. The direction of bad spirits. There were plenty of bad spirits here. Wushen was both a master and a servant to bad spirits. He had long ago made a deal with the denizens of hell to bring them what they needed, in exchange for what he wanted. What Wushen wanted most was power, and he finally had it. When he was expelled from the Monastary outside of Go-Ya, he swore that he would become more powerful than his masters. Now, he was one of an inner circle that ruled a city. He looked down on a huge, cage like device the Vermese were building in the courtyard below.
Wushen stroked his thin, long black beard and spoke without turning:
“Yokai. Returned already?” he said, in his thick accent.
A young girl stepped from the shadows of Wushen’s impenetrable chamber, her black silk garments tied in front with an ornate knot.
“Am I no longer Hazel to you?” she asked, in a low hollow voice that did not seem to fit with her small stature.
“Hazel died when Lady Ashwind discovered you were not her loyal servant.” Wushen said as he seemingly floated to his bedside table, retrieving his tea pot. “Do you care for some- oh so sorry, I almost forgot!” He said with a knowing smile.
The young dark-haired girl just looked at him, then finally spoke.
“I have news. We have returned from the burned town. The adventurers were killed in the battle. The townspeople blame them for the battle. They call them ‘Garbage’ and treat them with much dishonor. Ships from Tyn have already arrived there, carrying soldiers, and rumors are that their armies march on Steelheart.”
“All of this I know.” Wushen said, as he lifted the cup to his lips. “You have not made entrance to my chamber to tell me this.”
The girl moved in short steps that barely shook her silk gown. She pulled back the expensive covers over the four post bed once used by a Princess of Highsee. In it, lay a silver spear.
Wushen’s mouth flew open with a gasp, his eyes wide. “I thought you had lost it!”
“It was still in the Magistrate’s boat when we returned to the town.”
He ran his long fingernails over the spear, seemingly afraid to touch it. It was made entirely of silver. Elegantly simple, the shaft and spade-shaped head seemingly made from one piece. A normal silver spear would bend on a good hit, this was either an expensive replica, or …”
“Who knows of this?”
“The human woman called Renda. We killed the men whom we paid to retrieve it for us,”
“Good!” Wushen said. “Yokai, you please me.”
“I have done everything you have asked of me. Will you release me now?”
“Not everything,” he said as he put his cup down and turned back towards the spear. “I’ll allow that is was not your fault that our allies could not hold the Gate, and you did your part in Tyn, but Ashwind should not have escaped alive. And! You failed to kill four sleeping men!” Wushen chuckled at this.
The girl was on him in a split-second, her eyes seemingly red with fury. She grabbed his lapel “They are dead NOW!”
And then, instantaneously, Wushen was behind her, his long fingernails around her throat. The girl breathed heavily, then relaxed.
“You’ve done well, my pretty girl. Let’s put this behind us. I need to make my report. “
The Vermese had done some redecorating in the Palace. Once a grand, bright chamber of white marble, the Hall of the Second Seat was now covered in Shadow, only several candles lit the entire room.
Dessicatia sat on the gilt Second Seat, now covered in blood. She barely seemed to be paying attention to Wushen’s summary. Spies have information on a gathering of heroes under the city- old news. A rebellion had started in Ashwind Vale but had been quickly put down- she knew that already from her uncle. The asset in Tyn had no new useful information, other than that the Duke was trying to bribe the Ice Barbarians- not a surprise. A She held out her hand to stop Wudan.
“Has anyone found corpses of the men I asked for. Have you found the spear, or the eye??”
Wushen paused for a minute. “Not yet, your…”
Dessicatia waved him off:
“Enough, enough- you bother me today.” She croaked and coughed. Blood trickling from her withered lips. She didn’t bother to brush the long, black, straw-like hair from her eyes, but she turned slightly and pointed at the Blood Captain in his ornate foreign looking armor and unholy glowing blue eyes. “You are lucky Wushen that you have brought me this champion through the Demon Gate. He proves at least something of yours is not useless.” She smiled a half-toothed smile and looked over at Thraxus, but the Necromancer, in his standard-issue black robes and shaved head and his eerie face painted as a skull, did not smile back.
Her smile turned to a frown. She looked at the Field General next, a tough looking human in green plate. “Go” she whispered. When he said nothing she raised her voice “I said SPEAK!” then had a minor coughing fit.
When she stopped, the man stepped forward.
“Milady…troops have been spotted approaching Steelheart, about a day’s ride away from the town. But the roads are covered in snow. There is no way they can launch a successful attack until the thaw, it is well inland you see, and the snows are heavier than here.”
“I KNOW that…” her yell turned to a whisper “Why don’t they know that?” She turned towards the blood captain “Strange to commit their forces, risk deaths from the cold…”
The general continued:
“And the Straddlefort has fallen. We have no word from the Count. He is presumed captured or dead… “
At this, she leaned forward, pushing against her staff and struggling to her feet. The room grew quiet as Dessicatia Rottli, niece of the Baron himself, spoke next.
“We move up the timetable. I want to burn those humans by the next full moon. And I want to find another crystal- at any cost!”