I stand before Lord Asad Grulios, my father, the man I’ve longed to murder from childhood, the key to Infernal Line, the one obstacle in my path, and one thing I have promised not to destroy. I review the preceding twelve hours.
“My Goethe! It that you?”
I stand in the Grulios warehouse in the Miritanza, its nature revealed as a front for Murk’s summoning circle. Shadow beasts dispersed by cloudkill, and warehouse guard dispersed by shadow beasts, two survivors cower before us. Liamond Almus, a worthless functionary & Hily Keelta, a diabolist of some measure lie beaten on the floor. The summoning circle, tied to Dis, was destroyed beyond repair; another way to bring about Kavarkatrilv would be needed. Yet, the aged warehouse ledger proved fruitful. Its first entry dated only weeks after the death of Aroden a century ago, during the last pakthryxl. The entries continue for months before stopping abruptly. Curious initials mark the ledger, L.V.. Lorenz and I share a look. We shall continue this later.
“Is it truly you, my son!? How wonderful to see you after so long!” Father spreads his arms wide. The somatics suggest evocation.
My rage at these impudent serfs grows to boiling, as they refuse to yield to their superiors. I reveal myself as their rightful lord and master. At last, their eyes show amenity, and fear. Slate had passed through a mere two weeks prior. The Aspis Consortium knows little of Grulios dealings in the city. They want to live. It is decided they should board the ship, as crew members, or prisoners. They may yet be useful, Keelta perhaps moreso. I teleport them back. Tebrilith takes them to the brig.
“It’s been a long time, father.”, my teeth clench. It’s not evocation. Perhaps he can still his gestures, I prepare my will against enchantment. I promised Lorenz I would delay my vengeance until our ends by Apsu have been achieved. He cannot die yet, we still need information, but father closed. What is he doing?
Almus and Keelta are taken belowdecks, Keelta’s gaze follows me as Peril drags them below. What is that look in her eyes? Hexa bursts from the shadows, “What’s happening?! Did you see father yet? Where did that blood come from?”
I tell her we will meet with father tomorrow morning, one way or another. “I’m coming with you,” she commands. The encounter would require all my faculties; I could afford no headaches. I acquiese immediately. Her incredulous delight was almost enjoyable, if saccharine. Her good mood might prove useful with father. We return to the warehouse to rest, and plan. A straightforward approach is agreed upon.
I’ve moments left; he is three feet distant. Disintegrate? No, he cannot die yet. Two feet distant. This must be stilled enchantment. I will not submit to you, father, not again. I will resist you, then subdue you. His gaunt arms wrap around my body, gently. “My Goethe.”
“I will subjugate my father, he will know my power, fear it, yield to it, and he will be our means to end the Infernal Line,” I inform the others. The group reacts as they often do. No matter. They will see. We portage through much of the Regicona, landing finally at Vira Grulios. It is in utter disrepair. How could father allow our noble Villa to come to such a state? When he is dead and I am lord, I will bring our estate to the level consummate with our quality. “Who goes there?!,” a voice from behind bellows from beneath its Condotarri helm.
His words flow like tepid poison on my neck, he is still taller than me. “Please, come, sit, we’ve much to discuss…,” he smiles, releasing me back into the darkness of his study. I shudder with rage, and confusion. What in the Hell is this?!
Lorenz and I subdue the Condotarri’s insolence, but he remains steadfast. My guise as Goethe Grulios the human, remains unpierced as the guard allows us passage to inspect the perimeter, the front entryway proving futile. The rear harbor was in acceptable condition, boasting all equipment necessary to bring even greater dragons below the villa for infernal-binding. I grow impatient, foolish. The harbor rocks prove perilous, my instincts proved false, and the teleport trap proved useful. A tall figure sits behind a massive desk, papers laid high in unkempt piles. I ready myself for blood. “My Goethe! It that you?”
“What is this, father?”, I ask, calming my blood. The room is filled with books, floor to ceiling on three sides. Little light pierces through a window high above.
“Whatever do you mean, my son?”, he asks. That smile never leaves his face. Where is that cold, iron mask of contempt? Where is the face of ridicule?!
“Where was this warmth decades ago, father? What is this embrace at my return? Do you forget my years imprisoned, caged? Am I not some animal for your amusement?”, I demand.
“My son, surely you know why. You can’t be that blind, can you? You know the exact reason for it,” his voice maintains that genial tenor I’d never heard before today, “It was necessary, for you and your sister, especially with the ways things are here in Westcrown.”
“Shall I show you my whipscars, father? I am your firstborn, your…”
Asad Grulios’ tone drops for a moment, “Life is cruel for the hellborn, my son. It must be.”, before becoming sanguine once again. “Look at you right now, what a sight! Would you be the man you are today had your childhood been, shall we say, sweeter? Would a coddled childhood in the lap of luxury gift you with such…motivation?”
His words burn like acid in my chest. I understand. Strength is born of hate, and hate born of pain. I know pain. It has fueled me, disciplined me, focused me, given me purpose. It has brought me here. “No, I doubt I would be father."But what of Amon? He did not recieve such treatment.”
“Oh Amon, yes, well. I think we can both agree he is more suited to life in Egorian. He is best kept with the rest of the nobles of Thrune. You and I, yes, you and I are better suited to handling to true affairs of House Grulios, wouldn’t you agree? Oh yes! I imagine you are here for your inheritance, aren’t you? We must see to that too, musn’t we?”
“That is one reason for my return.” Father seems actually… elated to see me. This is troubling. I must reassess. “Did you know Hexa is here as well?”, a calculated risk.
“She is?!” Father conjures himself away, returning moments later, swinging Hexa around like a loved child. She giggles, laughs, and smiles in father’s embrace. “Oh, my sweet daughter, look at how you’ve grown, and look at the blades you’ve got! I bet you’ve done your share of dancing with those, haven’t you, my dear?”, he winks.
I ignore father’s inane banter, “My inheritance, father. As firstborn, I am your rightful heir. You’ve disguised your appearance from all of Westcrown for all this time, so can I. It is time.”
“What in the world is your brother talking about, Hexa?”
“Idiot Goethe thinks you’re a half-fiend, dad. He always jumps to dumb conclusions.”
“Ha! Really, Goethe, my dear boy. You’ve missed the forest for the trees!”, father pulls apart his collar, revealing an enormous scar across his chest. “This is where your and Hexa’s little eccentricities come from!”, he laughs.
I should have known; binding devils into dragons, binding devils into men. I almost weep. “I see it now, father, but on to business. Tell me of yours. I know it is binding devils like your own into dragons, to wake them from this pakthryxl. I understand you’re working with a Murk Kavarkatrilv.”
“Yes, my Goethe. It is. We have much to discuss, indeed. How did you come here, by the way? Please, tell me of your travels. I want to hear it all.” Dangerous.
“We came by ship, some aboard call it “Gradon’s Folly.”, the less father knows of our party’s purpose, the better. “I found the jou…”
“Oh! We have intruders. I love intruders! Just a minute, my children!”, he interrupts.
Dammnit, the others found their way in, “I came with companions, father. The ones you must have seen collecting Hexa. I would not have them harmed.”
“…Well, anything for you, Goethe. Now where we were? Yes, your inheritance, both of yours! It is time for you to take up your rightful place in our house, and your true purpose. You will have the full power and wealth of house Grulios at your command, my Goethe!”
The power and wealth of Grulios, my house, in my hands…no. Follow the gold. “You’ve been taking in hoards of wealth to bind devils to dragons for some time now, father. This is no place to stow such a stockpile.”, I gesture around to the basement we must be in.
“My Goethe, you’re exactly right! It’s in the Lethe of course, right where we do the bindings!” father exclaims, “We’ll go there soon. But first, I think we need to have one bound for you, as well. A Phistophilus I think, that should suit you perfectly!”
The hoard wealth is kept in the Lethe, in the second layer of Hell, Dis. “Perhaps, father, but let us further discuss your operations…” ….Phistophilus have substantial power. One bound to me would…
“Oh Goethe. You don’t know the power you’ll have! Look! Do you see an withered old man before you, or power that does as it will?”, the devil-bound man boasted. “All the power and wealth you’ve always deserved, here, now, just for you, my son. Time to rejoin the family.”