As the sun set, Lachdanan was arguing with one of the high priests outside Lazarus's chambers. The priest steadfastly refused to grant the Captain an audience with the Archbishop.
That was no obstacle to Glorianna in her current state, nor were the heavy oak doors. She followed Mr. Duke though the dark, book-lined halls to Lazarus's study. Cold ashes rested in the fireplace, and The Wisdom of Zakarum lay open on Lazarus's desk. Next to it sat a half-empty cup of tea that was busy growing a healthy culture of blue-green mold.
In the center of the study floated a glowing oval the size of a doorway. Glorianna had once seen a Horadrim Portal cast when Farmer Lester had wanted some goods delivered to Tristram in a hurry. That Horadrim Portal had been blue. This one was red and made Glorianna feel instinctively uneasy. Nonetheless, having nowhere else to go, she followed Mr. Duke through it.
They emerged in a torchlit stone room with a single door at the far end. It was almost long and narrow enough to be considered a corridor. In one corner, there was a wooden cot with a rotting mattress that crawled with multi-legged life. The pile of empty sacks across the room from it was soaking wet, stank worse, and may have harbored even larger life forms. Near the middle of the room was a long table and a single broken chair. Rotting food, bones and rat droppings covered the table.
Glorianna had been here before.
But she had been in the company of Jade and Scarlett and had seen it through the feverish haze of Lust Frenzy. The cot had been a gigantic bed with silk and satin sheets and the moldy bags had been beautiful soft pillows covered with the finest fur. The table had been set with a feast fit for a king. She had eaten and eaten. Each bite had been pure ecstasy.
On the table, the author of at least some of the rat droppings had expired and lay on its back, its tiny paws clutched at its bloated stomach. For her part, Glorianna was glad that she no longer had a stomach.
On the cot, two huge black widow spiders seemed to be sharing a smaller helpless insect between them. The spiders were sleek and black like polished obsidian. They were at once terrifying and repulsive and fascinating and beautiful. They passed the tiny insect back and forth between them, taking turns tasting it and caressing it with their long limbs. The insect, groggy from the spiders' poison, allowed the two to do as they pleased.
Then the spiders' movements became more frenzied. They passed their prey back and forth faster and faster until finally she was pinned between them. The spiders' long legs intertwined as they groped and bit at each other. The two spiders were trying to kill one another and their trapped prey struggled in terror.
Glorianna remembered that, unlike the doomed little bug on the bed, she had been slick with perspiration or oil or blood or something and had been able to slip free. She had glanced back at Scarlett and Jade and saw them in their true forms as Red Vex and Black Jade. Black Jade had her hands around Red Vex's throat while Red Vex had her thumb sunk into Black Jade's eye up to the knuckle.
Then, as now, Glorianna backed away from the bed in horror and ran for the door. Mr. Duke followed silently.
The night she had run from Black Jade and Red Vex, Glorianna had passed cages holding drained old men who stared at her, glassy eyed. A few days previous, they had been young men, but now all that was left of them was skin, bones, and a terrible all-consuming lust. Glorianna ran and ran until she almost crashed into the Archbishop Lazarus.
"There is no need to fear, my child," Lazarus had said.
"Please, Prince Albrecht said you would help me," Glorianna had begged. Trembling, she let the holy man hold her in his arms and soothe her. "I don't know where to turn or who to trust anymore."
"Then trust in Zakarum, my child," Lazarus counseled. "The Lighted Path will guide you.
"What must I do?"
"You must give of yourself," said Lazarus. "Give of your heart. Give of your soul. But most of all, you must..."
"...Give me a little sugar!" leered Lazarus grabbing her bottom and waggling his tongue lewdly. Glorianna had screamed and pushed away from him. When she looked up at him, she saw that the face of Tristram's spiritual leader was twisted into a gargoyle grin. He barely looked human. He reached down for her, hunger in his glowing red eyes.
Glorianna snapped back into the present and found herself staring up, this time, at King Leoric. He was much taller than she remembered him and the lines of his face showed pain. Something roiled behind his eyes.
Leoric looked directly at her. "You should not be here," he rasped.
Glorianna gasped and backed away as the King Leoric turned and staggered up the hall.
"Wh-what's the King doing here?" Glorianna asked.
"Let's just say that the good king is playin' host to a very special guest," answered Mr. Duke. The look on his face was naked evil.
"There you are, Your Majesty." It was Lazarus's voice. "It's dangerous to wander off like that down here. Let me help you."
Lazarus was accompanied by two nuns in red habits. Lazarus took one of the King's hands and one of the nuns took the other, and they led him away.
"Wll nt sbmt," muttered Leoric.
The other nun paused and looked back at Glorianna and Mr. Duke, and Glorianna got a good look at her face in the torchlight. It was Black Jade. She winked at Glorianna and licked her lips.
"I WILL NOT SUBMIT!" shouted Leoric in the distance.
The King's proclamation was met by peals of inhuman laughter.
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