In the shadow of Cicatrice...

The Never Ending Quest - Episode 3099

Lady Andrea Croix breathed a sigh of relief as she saw the moon rise. It was not full yet. Astra seemed not to know what the dragon had meant by "astronomical alignment", which was odd. Then Andrea remembered that Astra was from Aquilaria. The two countries had different customs, different folklores. Astra might not have heard the same tales growing up.

The answer was obvious to Andrea, though. She remembered the stories her nursemaid told her in her childhood. Tales of faeries, elves, and stranger beasts. Andrea particularly remembered the tale of the very curse the Dragon had apparently learned to cast upon Astra. It was the curse of the Ergot mushroom. The tales said that the mushrooms were brought to her homeland by gypsies, who ate them habitually. Eventually, local folk took to eating them, and a terrible fact was discovered. There was a curious taint to the Ergot, that the gypsies were apparently immune to. When eaten, it infected one with a disease of the blood, a curse. It transformed them into strange wolflike reflections of themselves when the moon was full. Savage, bestial things, that killed, yet walked on two legs.

The posession of Ergot was outlawed by the father of the current king, and those infected were expunged, but there were always rumors that some of the mushrooms had been smuggled into the southern caves, and were cultivated by the Dragon's minions. Apparently the tales were right.

The full moon would come soon, Andrea knew, but she also knew Astra would not heed her after her running off foolishly. Andrea only hoped she could steal away in the coming nights, or that dread Belboz could exorcise the contagion from Astra's blood.

Thankfully enough, the night passed peacefully, and when they awoke they walked the final leg of their journey, and stood in the shadows of the black basalt peaks that housed the laboratory of Belboz, Cicatrice.

Slowly, carefully, they scaled the heights, noting the death's heads that marked the way. Finally, they came to a large hut made of a wooden frame bearing the stretched tight hides of animals and...stranger things.

"Hold," Frederigo said, lifting up a gloved left hand in gesture, "I'll go in first. I have dealt with Belboz before."

Astra nodded reluctantly, and stood aside for Lord D'Honaire.

With measured strides, Frederigo went into the hut, finding the aged master of the black art fast at work. Belboz slowly raised his wizened head, to look at him, and a look of shock and horror passed over the necromancer's face.

"You... I was told you were..." Belboz stammered.

Frederigo clamped his right hand over the necromancer's mouth quickly.

"Dead?" Frederigo whispered, "an exaggeration."

Momentarily, Lord D'Honaire removed the glove on his left hand, freeing Belboz. He quickly slipped the glove back on as a look of awe spread over the soul magician's countenance.

"Thoabath..." the old man murmured.

"It is safe, friends. You may come in," Frederigo called to Andrea and Astra, as the old man regarded him with a new respect.

"Shh, you'll spoil the ending," the fallen knight said with a finger to his lips as he turned to wait for the other two to enter...

  1. Andrea and Astra enter, and Belboz begins to minister to their needs.
  2. Before Andrea and Astra can enter, Belboz flees out the back entrance to the hut.
  3. Andrea refuses to enter.

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