Just outside the village of Detva in a small thatched roof cottage, we discuss our next move against the Devil’s Mistress. After a hearty breakfast we will set out to reconnoiter the castle nearby. We bid farewell to our hosts and mount our trusty steeds. I gently stroke Peppermint’s mane as the sun glistens like the amber of a mature campfire. She seems tense as if she senses the danger that waits in the castle of the Mistress. We trot along two by two as I take in sweet smell of morning pines that linger along our path. A short time later we spot the castle in the shadow of the rugged mountains. We move off the path staying in the wood line, but close enough to observe the activity around the castle. Upon my suggestion an invisible Boris strides across the open field in search of any other less obvious ways to enter the fortress. While Boris is sneaking around in search of concealed doors the remainder of us notice typical comings and goings at the front entrance. After only about 10 minutes Boris returns with a look of frustration and explains that he is convinced of the lack of alternate entrances. He offers details about how heavily fortified and well guarded the castle is. The guards seem to be completing a typical search of each wagon or cart that arrives. We hatch a plan to smuggle ourselves inside a wagon that is delivering goods. The group makes our way to a place where we can observe the business travelers as they approach the castle. Fernando makes a suggestion to put a horse to sleep in the roadway, but I point out that that would consume too much of my talents.
We wait roadside for a wagon that offers an area to hide all of us as part of its cargo. 45 minutes later Franz spies a wagon approaching that fits our criteria. Franz hails the driver as “friend”. The driver halts the horse team with a confused response of “friend??” Franz explains our request to become stowaways among his cargo. The driver looks his way with a nervous stare. After some debate among the Crusaders, Franz decides that a fee of 10 pounds should be enough to smuggle us into the castle. This proprietor explains his willingness to accept the money, but points out that he is not keen on being caught crossing the Mistress. He suggests that we take the wagon along with his goods and make our way to the front gate of the castle. He suggests his withdraw to a safe distance from the castle and us. Franz completes the transaction with the driver and his assistant departs with a great swiftness. Fernando removes his armor to help give the appearance of being a linen salesman and takes note of his point of contact. Fernando keeps his dagger just in case he is in dire straits. He is to deliver his wagon load of blankets to Velma.
We move out aimed at our objective not far in the distance. Fernando driving the wagon and team of horses while the remaining Crusaders hid beneath the tarp that protects the blankets from the occasional thunderstorm. We arrive in front of the large gatehouse safeguarded by four soldiers loyal to the Devil’s Mistress. I use my talent to make those of us covered by the tarp invisible. One of the soldiers declares in a repetitive tone, “State your business”. Fernando quickly returns, “Delivery.” “Delivery of?” responses the soldier. “Blankets.” states Fernando. “For!?” quips the guard. The newly ordained salesman declares, “Velma.” The remaining three circle the wagon glancing under the tarp as the inquiring soldier barks, “Be quick about it!” Fernando says, “I will.” The soldier ends the conversation with, “You had better not delay or you will find yourself in the dungeon!” Fernando enters a sizable courtyard asking random people, “Where’s Velma?!” A citizen responses, “Velma is the Mistress’ stewardess.” Fernando says, “I need to make this delivery!” Two soldiers move to a location near the wagon ordering, “So make your delivery!” Nearly at once both soldiers point to the main entrance and proclaim “You will find her in the main hallway.” I wipe some sweat from my brow and consider our options. If we can’t be part of a delivery inside the main hall then we will have to make our way inside in a rapid movement. Fernando’s footsteps begin to fade away and with that I make a suggestion. In a whisper I say, “Since Fernando has headed in the direction of the great hall why don’t we try to move into the hallway?” Esteban attempts to roll out of the wagon while still invisible. Boris and I roll out with some sense of success and shortly afterward we hear a clang near the wagon. It must have been Franz since he lacks the ability to move about very quietly. Not knowing the positions of the remaining Crusaders I take advantage of my invisibility striding in the direction of the great hall. A pair of guards stop their march and glance over in the direction of the wagon. Both look at each other with a confused and puzzled expression, deciding to walk toward the wagon. The pair arrives at the wagons location and one states, “Maybe the horse kicked…or some…thing?” Then they see Fernando and the other soldiers demands, “Hey…you!” “Me??” Fernando responds. “Yeah you!..What it up with your cart?” the soldier retorts. Fernando: "What do you mean what is up with my cart? The guard answers, “I don’t know..its making weird noises.” Fernando returns to his cart and in a raised voice says, “What the f*ck did you do to my cart?” “Those blankets are for the mistress!” Fernando blurts, “Don’t just stand there….pick them up!” One soldier just looks wearily at him and says, “How come you’re not done with what you are supposed to be done with?” Fernando answers, “I am looking for Velma….sirs.” “I am tryin to delivery these blankets and was told not to dilly or dally.” Somewhat irritated the shorter soldier says, “Alright, just hurry up…your presence is annoying me…brown man!” They continue, “Just stay here I will get Velma.” The portly guard walks to a door just inside the great hall showing Fernando the way inside. Fernando walking in saying, “Velma? Velma?” Her office being small looks up from a desk blurting, “What is the problem?” Fernando responds, “I was told to delivery these blankets to you.” She shoots back, “Not TO me!” Fernando claims, “I have the blankets in the wagon just outside your office.” I am close enough to their conversation to hear the breathing of Fernando. Velma in a frustrated tone replies, “Just delivery them to the usual place.” Fernando continues his insistence, “I was told to bring them to you so just tell me where to put them.” Velma instructs Fernando to stack the blankets. Esteban and I devise a plan to start a fire in Velma’s office as a diversion of sorts. We move inside her office and begin to use the flint and steel on some documents that lie on Velma’s desk. Fernando barks(referring to the portly guard), “You heard her….start stackin those blankets!” “She wasn’t talkin to me sh*thead!” guard responds. Fernando insists, “Yes she was!” Guard returns, “She said you!” Sheepishly Fernando says, “No she didn’t.” Walking in the direction of her office and at a distance of only 15 feet from the door Velma asks, “What’s that smell?” Just then I notice we are now visible! Velma yells, “Fire!!” Fernando quickly grabs the double doors and they creak to a close. Velma starts running deeper inside the castle to the hallway to the left yelling, “Fire brigade!!!” I notice two guards with weapons drawn next to Franz so I try and put them into a deep slumber, but only one of the guards falls onto his back asleep. Fernando retreats to one of the statues removing a long sword along with a medium shield and readies himself for combat. Esteban leaps into the fray and slits the sleeping guard’s throat. I enhance the fighting abilities of all my allies in preparation for a prolonged battle. Franz steps backward from the force of a second attack from the guard. Fernando springs at the soldier and strikes him in the gut causing him to collapse into the fetal position. The group hastily moves into the right hallway noticing numerous doors. We continue moving swiftly all the while observing all doors with the hopes of finding a significant entrance to the castles throne room. I can hear soldiers nearby conducting a cautious search. Half way down the hall Fernando abruptly halts and points saying, “There is a door over here and it is different than the rest.” Fernando exclaims, “We gotta take this door!” Fernando opens the concealed door and I notice only darkness from my vantage point. The crusaders begin to descend the stairs while I fire up the hooded lantern. Fernando leads us into a dark and dank dungeon. I train the glow of the lantern along the far wall to reveal two iron maidens. The left most maiden having dark red liquid oozing from a hole in its base into a metal bowl. A stunningly beautiful woman with long black hair that contrasts her porcelain skin is positioned next to the oozing maiden lovingly stroking it. The mistress in an amused voice states, “Visitors how nice.” I become aware of a dozen cells lining each side of the large dungeon some seem to contain half naked young maidens. She follows up her statement saying, “What brings you gentlemen here?” In a serious voice Fernando remarks, “I am delivering blankets.” He continues, “I heard it’s kind of chilly down here.” Esteban quips, “Have you seen Velma?” “Yeah…we have a delivery for her…they are finely woven.” Esteban includes, “We come on quest from Kane.” The mistress looks in my direction and says, “Ummm…a man will make a nice change to my master’s diet.” “Let him taste the maiden’s kiss!” She gestures to the iron maiden, “Put him in the maiden.” as two guards step out of the shadows. Franz yells, “Not my Cadamus!” Fernando responds, “Today is not my day to meet the devil.” Fernando immediately runs full speed charging, leaping and then planting his sword into the mistress’ shoulder. She glares back at Fernando and swings a mace nearly hitting Fernando in the face. Boris steps into the fray striking a guard in the forearm. Franz raises his large shield and parries the great sword of a guard. Esteban fires wide sending a ball glancing off the right iron maiden. The Mistress tries to bring her mace down on Fernando’s head but his quick reflexes allow him to deflect the blow with his newly acquired shield. Boris connects again striking the guard a second time. A well placed strike hits Franz in the upper thigh causing blood to drip down his leg. I cause myself to disappear planning to protect my teammates. In succession Boris and Esteban strike the Mistress drawing her blackish blood onto the floor. Franz angered by the blood on his leg slices into the guard killing him. The Devil’s Mistress yells, “Master we are in need of thee!” She swings and hits Fernando with her mace ripping a chunk of his armor off. Esteban connects with his scimitar drawing more of her blood and casting off some onto the wall. Ganging up on her Fernando, Boris and Franz all attack causing her demise and she stumbles and falls to the cold stone floor. We then hear a rumbling wall to our right as I notice a large pool of blood. Boris saws the Mistress’ head off with his silver dagger. Appearing from behind the shifting wall is the Master….a huge sack of puss and pulsating jelly of mixed colors. At closer inspection the Master has a mass of long putrid tentacles flailing about. Fernando engages the master and finds it easy to hit because the thing is so large. Boris stabs the massive thing plunging deep into it’s flesh. Esteban swings his scimitar and cuts into the mass of blubber. Extended tentacles swing wildly striking Franz and he loses coloring in his face may be from a poison. Franz strikes back hitting the massive creature in the neck causing a pulsating gush of blood. The hellish beast slowly halts the thrash tentacles and ceases breathing. Franz emerges from the battle only mildly sickened by the tentacle. I rush over to the iron maiden only to find that the young maiden had expired. We manage to free the remaining maidens from their captivity many half-naked we clothe them with our wagon of blankets. We load our wagon and head to the cottage of Klaus. In our travels to the cottage we observe numerous lynchings, beatings and killings of the Mitress’ soldiers. The local people once learning of their freedom from the Mistress begin the vengeance the soldiers so richly deserve. A weary bunch we sit by the fire eating a hearty meal offering Klaus details on todays events. I stoke the dwindling fire and turn in for the evening with the others bedding down shortly after. I am violently shaken awake early in the dawn hour by concerned looking Fernando. My friend or so I thought had run out on us in the overnight. Not only had Boris escaped with our wagon along with some of the looted Msitress’ treasure, but our collection of two torn pages of manuscript. I had failing to recognize his deceit before hand as he must have caused us to go into a very deep sleep. I must remain fully aligned with Kane and trust only those who follow him.