|Douglas Muir 406|
Young Samuel Havelyn was always jealous of his older brother Thomas. Samuel was brilliant, charming, witty, cunning. Why should his dull, conscientious stick of a sibling get the title, the lands and the honor? Still, for a time he was able to content himself: their cousin, beautiful Bronwyn. She was always particularly kind to young Samuel. She listened! She understood! One day, one day --
And then the betrothal was announced.
In fact her kindness to young Samuel had been just that: sympathy for the younger brother, brilliant and frustrated, gentle consolation and a willing ear. But nothing more. Thomas -- not dull but honest and steadfast and good -- had her heart from the first.
But Samuel would never, ever let himself see that.
He turned to the Church, which met with wide approval: an altogether appropriate career for an ambitious younger son. He rose quickly. perhaps he hoped that prayer and hard work and success would soothe his pain. No. Always, always, jealousy gnawed and chewed at his soul.
And then one day, while researching the family history, he made an astonishing discovery: the Havelyns had not always been loyal servants of bright Mitra. They had converted from the worship of the devil-god Asmodeus. (Hence the family coat of arms. The hand thrusting through the mass of thorns... wisdom gained through great pain. for the conversion had not been easy, or without cost.)
At first it was just a matter of researching family history. But step by step, his feet found the downward path. The Church was full of hypocrites and inferior minds. the kingdom rewarded dullards, the servile and the weak. His Bronwyn was lost, lost! Why not explore a little further? And so the day came when Samuel Havelyn stood before a circle, knife dripping blood, and spoke certain words. And from the darkness within the circle, a sweet voice answered him. And they spoke together, long and long.
He prospered, for a time. A hidden servant of Asmodeus within the Church hierarchy: there was so much to do! But ever his mind turned back to her, to her.
And then one day he realized: his new master was a lord of trickery and deceit. So one day, while his brother was away on duty (always duty), he murmured softly, and gestured, and felt the thrill of the Dark Lord's power passing through him. And he looked in the mirror and saw his brother's face, his brother's pale blue eyes. And he left that place and went to the house where his brother lived with his beautiful, beautiful young wife.
And then, a little bit later, he slipped. How? who knows. Perhaps the satisfaction of desire so long deferred, at last fulfilled, made him careless. Whatever the reason, he was discovered. The evidence was found, or winkled out by magic. There was no question of his guilt. And no question of the sentence to be passed.
He burned. And after they burned him, they took his charred bones and interred them in the family crypt. Because for all his monstrous crimes, he was still a Havelyn, and the family took care of their own.
and when night fell, and the servants and gravediggers had long since departed (there were no mourners), and a thin crescent moon shone down on his tomb... he rose. For his hatred was stronger than death, and the Dark Lord had use for him.
and some months later, Lady Bronwyn died giving birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy.
* * * *
What was the Cardinal? -- a lich, the former Bishop Samuel Havelyn returned to walk the world as an undead abomination. That's why he always wore gloves: he has a lich's deadly touch. That's what he used on that Mitran monk up on the roof at the end of the battle. (It's also why the Arrow of Human Slaying did nothing to him.) Oh, and it's why he had a faint spicy smell around him: preservative spices, without them he gives off a faint unpleasant odor of burning flesh.
other clues? -- There were a few. The aveline / Havelyn. He planted an avenue of hazelnut trees outside his new lair, because he was used to them and liked to look at them. The family Scriptures found in his brother's apartment, with his name carefully scratched out. His familiarity with nobility and the Church. The name "Thorn" was a reference to the Havelyn family coat of arms. And of course the demonic dream sequences.
In fact, that's how Cardinal Thorn found Irin in the first place. The Cardinal constantly (one might almost say, obsessively) watches over Sir Richard, both by magical and other means. Why? Because Richard Havelyn's paternity is obscure. It's not certain which of the two brothers fathered him -- the late Sir Thomas, formerly of Balentyne Castle, or his younger brother in magical disguise. But deep in his black and shriveled heart, the Cardinal is sure that Sir Richard is *his* son. His! The only son he will ever have. So when young Sir Richard was about to kill Irin (he got lucky, BTW -- caught her by surprise and made a couple of tough saves -- and even so, she wiped out all the rest of his party), the Cardinal, who was watching intently, intervened at the last moment to rescue her. If the fight had been going the other way, he'd have killed Irin to save him. Nobody can kill Sir Richard. He can be hurt, knocked down, humiliated, whatever -- that's fine, it may shake loose some of his faith in his ridiculous sun-deity -- but his life is under the Cardinal's protection. One day, he will claim his son. and one day, his son will love him.
Of course, in the end this would bring the Cardinal down.
Because just as he watches his minions, Hell watches him. And Hell never sleeps. Already his diabolical patrons were sniffing a hint of weakness. Once they realized he was infected with sentiment -- with *love*, however twisted -- they would promptly begin searching for a suitable replacement. Or replacements. Some group ruthless and evil enough to take over the great scheme and complete it, toppling Talingarde screaming into Hell.
And so -- had we gotten that far -- your penultimate fight would be against Cardinal Thorn and his allies: the Ninth Knot versus the Cardinal, Sherkov, Sir Marcel, possibly Tiadora and Irin (or maybe not; there were subplots with both those, e.g. the whole thing with the pen), and others.