Kevin had been busy for the first few days after getting back from the Crusader Kingdoms… There had been the new Thralls to induct. Kelsaru had done a marvelous job of getting that organized, he’d never have been able to get so many bonded so quickly if she hadn’t sorted out the ones who were willing just on the basis of the recorded information and gotten them set up with mass appointments – but it had still taken time.
He’d had to talk to Gelman, organize the information network, dispatch new agents, and a dozen other projects – but all of them were underway at last.
Gelman was right; he really should delegate more.
Anyway, he finally had time to look back on the last few hours they’d spent in the Crusader Kingdoms.
He’d been focusing on keeping an eye on Death (and making sure that he STAYED pacified) while some of the Thralls got Death Knights (including the ones who’d had their foci captured, but not yet broken) on the road to recovery, Thrall-contingents had been dispatched to the other major cities – both to serve as gate-foci and to relieve what was left of the undead sieges (it wasn’t too hard now that Death’s power was no longer backing them) – and the rest had been assigned to maintain the defenses of Jerusalem, produce food and supplies (at least until a new harvest was in) and to answer questions for potential recruits.
Marty had just sworn blood-brotherhood with Thawban (not something that he’d seen coming, or really would have suggested, but it was Marty’s decision), was considering where Puck might have escaped to, and was trying to get to know his previous incarnation. He’d wanted to take Thawban along when they left too… He hadn’t thought that there was much left for the poor man in the Crusader Kingdoms. He hadn’t really thought about that; if the man wanted to come along, why not? He could probably use a change of scene.
Jamie’s heaviest sarcasm (Oh why not? After all, it wasn’t like they didn’t have enough trouble already without hauling along someone who was sure that THEY were one of the biggest menaces in the universe!) hadn’t been enough to penetrate Marty’s psychological armor of cheerful and slightly-tipsy anarchy.
Back on Core Earth, the Unified Church, House of Roses, and Department of Mysteries had been frantically preparing a secure place to debrief Death. They desperately needed information, and Death had to have at least a little, just to direct his contingent of the enemy forces.
The priests had been looking for a way to argue with Kevin, but their attempts had been swiftly falling to A’ikana’s subtle theological points. Up against a core-style education, formal training in debate, and fifteen hundred years worth of theological development, they had about the same chance as a shield wall against a tank division. Still, some of the local priests were fairly tolerant and had been turning out to be more aware of the existence of other dimensions than she’d thought. Some of them might be ready to join the Unified Church after all.
When they’d departed, they’d spent a total of twelve days in Jerusalem… One realm saved, three hundred Death Knights either destroyed or saved, better than a hundred thousand lesser undead destroyed, thousands of Thralls recruited, one Horseman of the Apocalypse pacified and ready to be debriefed, magical ward-repairs completed, supernatural beings once more intervening, dimensional barriers down, insane Dr Frankenstein type dealt with, magical knights considering an alliance, remaining sieges being relieved, and many people badly confused. It hadn’t been a bad trip.
It had been a mildly amusing discussion though – at least if you thought about their committment to pursuing the Trickster.
(Thawban) “Leave? Where would we be going to? Much of this world lies in ruins. Or are you suggesting heading to where you hail from?”
(Marty) “Possibly. Or we could go to Kevin’s realm.”
(Thawban) “So you are not all from the same world then?”
(Marty) “No, we are not.”
(Thawban) “It may be that this was fated. I do feel that in order to better understand the threat to my home and elsewhere, it would be prudent for representatives to go to the wider conflict. I have nothing keeping me here save a blood oath against a vile creature, and I suspect that where ever I may go, I will run into him again.”
(Marty) “Yeah, well, we’ll get him someday!”
(Thawban) “Very well then I will come with you.”
(Jurin Hans) “Well that does seem to have gone much better than I would have thought possible. (Watches the treatment of the Death Knights for a moment) So the process of becoming a Death Knight can be reversed?”
(Kevin) “Yes. Bodies are relatively easy; it’s retrieving a soul that’s passed on that’s nearly impossible. If the soul is available though – such as by being trapped in a focus – bringing someone back is merely tedious.
(Jurin Hans) “Fascinating. I imagine the rune weapons are the foci containing the soul then? That would explain why slaying Death Knights accomplished so little in the long run, the creature was really the blade and not the body. When you are done here, there is someone else I would like for you to have a look at before you leave.”
(Kevin) “Yes, although a few seem to use foci other than swords. I do hope we haven’t completely upset the order of your world. It would still be better than it’s destruction – but most worlds exist because people want them that way, and it’s rude to simply turn them upside down. Who is it you want me to have a look at? I’d rather not get too far from keeping an eye on Death until he’s safely into counseling and debriefing.”
(Jurin Hans) “Well, when it comes to upsetting our world, it apparently happens from time to time. Should things get too out of hand, the people rally around a single Emperor for the world and he makes decrees to set things back on track again. Last time this happened was the formation of the Roman Empire. As for the special individual, the Knight-Commander’s elder brother was taken by the Death Knights during the war but was captured before the siege began. The Knight-Commander could not stand the thought of slaying him though, so he was locked away deep inside the walls of the Temple Complex. If you could heal him, I expect the Knight Commander would be overjoyed once he recovers.”
(Kevin) “Well, I see no reason not to heal him as well if he is willing – and that is interesting. Most worlds are not so aware of how people can act to maintain them.”
(Hans) (Claps his hands) “Great! I am sure that will make a fine victory reunion for the Knight-Commander. So most worlds are not aware that the leader of the world can reshape the world by virtue of his position? It would seem obvious to me.”
(Kevin) “Hm… No, most worlds do not have quite such an expansive view of authority. I would guess that it comes of the deeply religious nature of your world and of the idea of leaders as agents of god. Most worlds are not so accepting.”
(Hans) “I am not sure whether to be intrigued that other worlds view such matters so differently, or to be saddened that those worlds would lack such guidance in times of great need.”
(Kevin) “Every world must follow it’s own nature, and I suspect that all of them have advantages and disadvantages of their own.”
(Hans) “Nonetheless, each of you does deserve a boon for you efforts over the last weeks. Have you any thoughts of what you would ask?”
Marty had actually given that a bit of thought beforehand; the locals weren’t up to upgrading his sword, although they could forge mystical latin scripts into the blade to grant it local holy powers – but that wouldn’t help him much and didn’t exactly suit him. Still, unrestricted trading rights in Jerusalem would be nice – and the locals had no problem with that. They NEEDED trade to get back on their feet.
Jamie wanted her campaign ribbon. She’d participated, and thus should get the appropriate award – and some local souvenir in token of a job well done seemed in order. Any actual pay or increase in grade would – of course – be up to her actual employers, but she’d been serving on detached duty with the local forces, and the recognition would be nice.
A’ikana felt that she would be well-rewarded if the locals would extend a welcome to any other emissaries of the Unified Church that might come along.
Kevin was a bit baffled… He came to worlds for his own purposes, recruited there, and departed. He was a Lord of Darkness, and took what he wanted; if his personal activities happened to be to the advantage of the locals, that was their good luck! The locals didn’t usually offer to reward him for manipulations… Ah! This time he was here to help the locals both because it suited him, in search of information, AND to get an “in” with the Unified Church! It just looked to them like he was being gratuitously noble!… and it wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of that. Ah well. A token of appreciation (maybe a title to go with his local ID, he could start collecting those) and allowing his agents to continue their investigations and aid / defense operations would cost the locals nothing at all – and it would continue to let them recruit a bit on the side. Of course, the locals probably had no real way of stopping that anyway, and – if they had – it would unfairly stretch their religious scruples to ask them not to try. He could ask for some social reforms, such as a limit to slavery-terms, but social change would be barreling down on the realm anyway. It might be nice to know who’d set up their wards, but they hadn’t even known about the foci, so they’d surely have no idea of who’d made them.
Marty felt that it might have been the original founders of the realm – after all, the place might well be linked to Heaven or Eden, so all they’d have needed to have done would be to draw on the holy power – but Kevin felt that most of the local stunts involved active divine magic being channeled through people – and whoever had set up the wards had a modern education and used Tengwyr – Tolkien’s invented script. That put it within the last five hundred years, and probably a lot more recent than that.
Another mystery to be added to the list. Something about the whole thing made Kevin suspect that Ryan was involved somehow, but there really wasn’t any evidence of that at all.
(Kevin) “I hadn’t really considered such a thing… I think your world needs time to recover with as few demands on it as possible in any case – although I was planning to ask if you needed a few local gates set up before I left”.
(Hans) “Gates to other worlds might be good to have, although I must admit having no knowledge whatsoever on the nature of such things. However I will ask some of our most wise leaders and see what insight they might have.”
(Kevin) “I can also set up a few local gates if you like; those should allow you to move people, information, and materials, between various points more readily. It should make it easier to get everyone back on their feet again.”
(Hans) “Also intriguing, I suspect routes connecting the various capitols would be the most prudent, but I shall once again have to consult the others… I shall leave you to your endeavors for now. I, unfortunately, have matters I need to attend to.”
Meanwhile, Marty was having his companions wrap him up in more protective spells and was keeping an eye on the Death Knights (while avoiding actually touching any of them or their stuff). It didn’t look, however, like any of them wanted to challenge the massed Knights and the beings who’d defeated Death.
Kevin, meanwhile, went back to keeping an eye on Death (and talking to him to maintain his influence) and organizing a few more Thralls – mostly the ones’s he and Marty had arrived with and who knew the ropes of the Manifold – to keep an eye out for attempts at interference. He had some doing divinations, more keeping an eye on the dimensional barriers, more acting as waiters/watchers for Death, keeping up aerial scouting and layers of anti-divination wards… Death was a major prize, and he wasn’t taking ANY avoidable risk of losing him. He wanted to get Death to Core, where magic generally wouldn’t work, and to wherever the House and the Church had decided to stash him, without any accidents.