Mother stood near where the Medicine man was preparing was seemed to be an elaborate altar. She noted the precision with which he moved, chanted and placed small objects in some arcane pattern. She smiled in a way that could only convey a deep satisfaction. It had less to do with what the Medicine man was doing, he had been paid for that, and more to do with the ebon cloud billowing from the direction of Port Calm. She sat in her chair and waited for her son to bring the final piece of her puzzle.
Governor Ellis was a mess, his clothes we burned, torn and otherwise soiled. A good portion of the blackish-brown hair on the back of his head was gone due to the heat of the explosion. And he was in shackles. But he was still petulant. He was spouting threats and condemning his captors as if he still had every way to back up his claims to power. Gus’ chuckling only made him continue his tirade as he was marched from the remains of his former mansion.
As Gus, the Governor, and the party of Gus’s men moved away from the heat burning site, the chill of the evening grew on them. It was only a quarter mile to the next destination, and Gus was eager to get there, not because it promised warmth, but because it held something he had promised Mother he would give her. Something the fat little noble had almost kept from her. Gus snarled a little at the thought, but it quickly vanished from his weathered face as they approached what appeared to be a small pavillion.
It was a circular wooden building, painted white and with a mostly open design. Gus figured the former Governor probably planned on performing ceremonies and having posh little parties here. But those ruining those things did not make him smile. The 3 bells attached to the roof in the center of the building did. Two were a bright, polished brass. And the one in the center, above the others was of a silver so polished, it seemed to give off a light of its own. The silver was his prize, but he would take the brass too, trophies of his victory over Ellis and his betrayer.
“Get them down,” Gus ordered, “and if they get scratched coming down, I will make the man who does it carry our former Governor back to mother instead of the mule.” Gus and his men laughed, causing Ellis to have a tantrum that was cut off quickly by a slap to the back of his head. He turned quickly to scold the man who dared touch him without permission but the stoic face of Ruhuk made him shut his mouth and turn around. Once the fallen noble had turned, Ruhuk started laughing with the others again.
Mother and the Medicine man watched as Gus marched up the hill like a prancing tom that had brought a dead mouse to it’s owner. It almost looked like he had since former Governor Ellis was slouched across one of the mules like a sack of grain. She could see he was alive because he was infact kicking and screaming. She could only marvel at his sense of defiance in the face of his absolute defeat. Although only Mother and the Medicine man knew how much worse it actually was.
As Gus got near, he shouted in what could only be called exaltation. “Mother, I bring good tidings and presents.” He maneuvered the two mules to show her what they carried. “First is that Tarin the betrayer has repaid his debts by lighting the fuse on our dear governor’s home.” He smiled wide and pointed to the lessening smoke in the distance. “Second I have brought the man that sought to fool us and attempted to have me executed.” Gus lifted the noble’s head up by what was left of his hair so mother could see his dirty and bruised face. He attempted screaming at her, but was backhanded into silence. The Medicine man winced at the blow. “And finally,” Gus said, dropping Ellis’s face into the mules greyish hair, “I have brought you the silver bell you asked for, as well as the brass decoys used to hide it from us.” Gus took great care to set them on the ground in front of where Mother sat.
“You have done well my son, as you always do.” She stood from her chair slowly, ascending at a pace that her advanced years would barely allow. “Now place the bell where the Medicine man says. It is important to his healing of my sickness.” She watched as Gus complied, gingerly stepping over circles and symbols drawn into the ground with various materials of all manner of colors. Per the Medicine man’s instructions, the bell was placed and adjusted to his liking. “Now my son, you and the men go in the house, this will take quite a while and we cannot have any interruptions.” Gus complied with a nod and directed his men to the house, promises of ale made them move faster.
It was only Ruhuk that asked, “What of the whiney lord?”
“Leave him, he is required,” she said with a smile the orcish brute.
Hours later, in the cellar, most of the men were in a wine and ale induced slumber. Gus and Ruhuk sat on the stairs, waiting for work on if everything had work, and if Mother was no longer sick. Ruhuk had a heavy look of concern, which seemed to strain his brutal features oddly. “I don’t trust too much in magic, seems unstable. What if it hurts her?” His question came out of nowhere and seemed to stir Gus from a deep thought. “Mother planned this, she knows if it is safe or not.” Gus stated still staring forward, his look of concern betrayed his confidant statement.
It was an hour later when they heard a crash that sounded like lightning had struck the house. Instantly the two rushed up the stairs and surprisingly found nothing wrong with the house above them. They walked up to the door and as Gus reached out, his hair seemed to stand up from his head. Before he could touch it, a second crash knocked him and Ruhuk down and they head a booming voice state, “YOUR PACT IS SEALED.” A third crash came and then silence. Gus and Ruhuk scrambled up and ran to the door, when they opened it the dim evening light seemed alien. A blackish purple mist seemed to hang in the air. As they stepped into it, they saw two figures walking towards them. Gus stopped and barred Ruhuk from moving up with his arm. Something was not right, but Gus was not going to rush into the mist to meet it.
Gus gasp as he first saw the figure of his mother come out first. She was not as he left her hours ago. Her youth and beauty was returned to her, she looked as she had when Gus was but a boy stealing fruit. He was speechless, and as he turned to Ruhuk, he believed the Half-orc was going to cry. Ruhuk’s expression quickly changed to a snarl and Gus snapped back to see the second figure come out of the arcane fog. It was Ellis, still battered and burned. Before he could grab his weapon, his mother spoke.
“My boys,” she spoke, her voice no longer raspy from time and sickness, “Let us sit and talk, Mother has a plan.”
It took Gus a while to put together everything his mother had told him. She had actually hired the Medicine man, who now wore Governor Ellis’ skin as his own. Through contacts throughout the surrounding lands, he had come recommended as the only mage competent of this feat. The bell was required to do what was necessary to turn her age back, and give the aging Medicine man, a somewhat younger body. She had play the Governor from the beginning by finding a traitor in the ranks to build his confidence of ridding the area of her bandits.
“And now we are going to take our leave, he will take the Governors place as if he had somehow escaped your and my grasp, and I will play the part of the beautiful maiden he rescued from the bandits. We will own Port Calm, and none will be the wiser.” She gave a somewhat mournful look, “But this means you must leave my son, at least for a time. It must look as if we were defeated and forced out.”
Gus was slack jawed, as was his brutish cohort. “But, what will I do. I have spent so much time doing for you, I have not wanted for any other goals.” He could not find words to fit what he wanted to say. But Mother shooshed him and held up a piece of parchment and Handed it to him. He unrolled it to a familiar and snarl inducing face. “ I believe she might be your starting point to a new direction.” Mother said with a youthful laugh, “And your old friend Breaker may have information for you. He was in Hokar last I got word.”
Gus smiled and took one last look at the wanted poster that featured the face of the Elf woman that had bested him. As he rolled it as he looked at Mother and said, “I believe you are right, I have not seen my friend in a while, and me and this Ivy Nightshade have a score to settle.”