She had watched him pay the price, too. Scruffy, Theodoros’ man and bodyguard, had carried the black hammer Pergale had given him into battle against the undead. She had seen the look in his eyes as the power of Danzig’s hammer had blasted the reanimated fiends to flinders, had seen the way he had become driven and determined with it in hand, the zealotry with which he had joined Humphrey at the front lines against the ungodly manifestation of Death, and how he had gripped it tighter and been unwilling to relinquish it after the vampires had perished. Pergale had paid the price willingly, but Scruffy had unwittingly paid his price to the Winds of Magic as they fed upon his weak will and sanity. “Would I have fared better in his stead? Was I meant to carry this burden levied by Danzig, himself knowing I would not pay the price so dearly, or did he think to bend my mind in the same way? Did you want me to take this, Danzig, perhaps hoping it would curb me from the path you think all with the Gift take? Save the witch so you don’t have to send an angry mob to stone and burn her?”
Scruffy had been her unwitting dupe, too, however, and Pergale knew it. She didn’t trust Danzig’s motivations, and she saw the lies he told himself to keep his purse full and his conscience clear, but had she made just as horrible a compromise to keep from having to wield the power he had granted her compatriots. “Theo’s man is a possessed zealot because of my choice. Was it the right one? Perhaps only time will tell. I will have to watch him now, too. More foes, now, stalking in the shadows and masquerading as friends. I hope his faith means he will use it to do right. I will not follow that path to insanity and Chaos that we saw today, and I will fight it tooth and claw to the last. I hope you see that, too.”
“In the meantime, I must protect these people and help them the best I can. I have sacrificed much, and will sacrifice more, as is the way of those that bear the Gift, but I cannot lose myself in the interim. Gramama taught me better than that, and I will not take the Dark Path in order burn myself to nothing or it will all be for naught,” Pergale thought as she surveyed the ruins of the old library, once the killing had been done, once her compatriots had been dug up out of the fallen stone, and once Scruffy and her had done the terrible deed of restraining the male vampire and beaten iron spikes into its eyes and joints. It had killed so many that she had seen, and so many more in the eons it had lived before that, that Pergale found it hard not to lose herself in the vengeful work. Her burning, hurt, heart wanted to see the thing suffer more at the hands of the witch hunter, as was bound to happen, but she knew that to even want to be present for that meant giving over to the grim temptations of that sour, disgusting, corrupt man. “I’ll not be part of that, no matter how much I want to hear this thing scream even more. That witch hunter has made enough compromises for a lifetime and I cannot be part of what he wants.”
There were other pressing matters to take care of now, though. The buried library was a wealth of knowledge and dark, powerful things. Books, artifacts, and wealth to be taken, much of it to keep out of the wrong hands, and it helped that she had friends in a noble house and a powerful litigant to call on. The city guard would take what they could get out of this and rake a tidy profit into corrupt pockets without even knowing what they were handling, and likely peddle more corrupt magic into the hands of those willing to sacrifice their souls to get an edge. And, after this morning’s terrifying brush with them, Pergale relished the idea of shutting down the guard’s, and by proxy Harlaan Kejaan’s, little power trip. “Let’s see how they like having their porridge pissed in by the little witch girl they felt like persecuting this morning; especially when I rally the same noble house, litigant, and now the witch hunter’s writ from the Prince to officially sanction my actions.”
Pergale watched in subtle glee as Theodoros had rolled over the guard sergeant just the same as earlier in the day, and when Danzig had showed them the writ. Then a little bribe handled and legal roundabout done, and off the guard went. It was just a matter of Hearty Headie’s trade guild porters to just crate everything up and move it next door to House Alsinor’s storage rooms to be sorted. It would cost a pretty penny to do, but it would cost less than to have the things that were found in the wrong hands, and what could be sold would bring a much greater profit. Pergale would gladly spend the rest of her day supervising the safe handling of the vampire’s cache. “Surely there’s more hidden in other places, too. Lossenthel had reported seeing them in an entirely different Noble’s house. There is certainly more to investigate in the meantime, at least. That may bear seeing.”
While watching over the proceedings of the next day and a half, however, Pergale also saw two that had been forgotten by most during the proceedings. The terrified steward the vampires had taken had lost all of his memories while under their control, and now was not much more than confused ex-gardner that wanted to go home; and, in the morning the next day, Rika came to sit at the edge of Pergale’s crater to see the work being done and to think. Pergale offered the poor gardner a night in the Alsinor estate, with Lord Humphrey’s approval, and to find his family in the morning, but the fates would find a new twist for the poor man. He had been in their care so long that he perished in the night, and dried to dust and bone by the time the servants found him in the morning. “Another victim of these terrible things, and another family destroyed, however long ago, by their horrific thirsts. Likely more horrid things to handle now that he’s passed, too. I may still be able to find his family and lay him to rest, perhaps.”
Rika had, also, become one of the vampire’s victims. In the short time she had been their captor they had done horrible things to her, and she had seen a whole new kind of fear and suffering at their hands. ‘Violated’ was the only word that Pergale could think of seeing the once proud highwaywoman so broken. They had defeated her soundly and fed upon her, done untold other things to her, locked her naked in a cage under their floors, and left her in the dark; likely to become their new play thing until they were bored with her. The apparition of Death the was their slave had come then, and had terrified Rike and whispered terrible things to her; drinking her fear and pain like fine wine and raping her soul as the vampires had her body. Rika had lost all faith in that short time, and her pride and belief in the witch hunter had been hollowed out. Pergale had seen that kind of loss in other women before but Rika knew a torment, now, that only few could possibly imagine, and she had been fed to this fate by the one person she trusted; Danzig. Pergale could do little more for her but be her friend and offer her companionship and love in the face of her pain. “Rika will be broken for a long time, if for the rest of her life. All that she knows now is betrayal at every turn, and her strength is gone, but she will re-grow with care and, perhaps one day, she will be return to the woman she was. For now, she sees Danzig’s betrayal and greed, and she understands that things are not as they seemed. She has lost everything, and needs the strength of another for now. She will blossom again, I hope,” Pergale thought as she held the broken woman by the side of the pit and consoled her.
Pergale had much to do this upcoming week, many things to take care of, and so many hurt friends to look after; some her fault and some not, and she wept as she changed Gerolf and Sylri’s bandages. “I’m sorry my friends. You, too, have paid the price for all of this. I can only hope that I can make this up to you.”
The Winds of Magic had taken so many tolls these last days, and it hold only begun to. Pergale could see the webs of fate forming and her predictions come to pass. There was a long, hard road ahead, and her dreams still nagged at her. Something was coming soon and she could sense it.