Gottschalk searched the town center, though he was unsure how far he should go. On the one hand, he didn’t want the damn cultist to get away; on the other, he didn’t trust this place either.
It was Monjaksen, after all.
Laurissa Austral and Ramzeus soon realized what he was doing, though Gorm thought Gottschalk was still upset about Lights Out and tried to console him.
“Silly Gott-chalk: it happen...” Gorm held up his large fingers as he tried to count, before he finally gave up “...long time ago! You want talk about it?”
Ignoring the barbarian, the three had to decide whether to go in search of the cultist or to remain here. Who knows where he could have gone? Of course, splitting up might allow them to find him faster, but then would leave them each isolated as a result
After a few more minutes of quiet debate, the decision seemed to be made for them. A sound of voices began to come from inside the large building in front of them, the one they took to be the Town Hall. The sun had risen to high noon, though it strangely cast little light on this place, even though the clouds had cleared.
The windows of the Hall and of the other gothic buildings around them were dark, black as pitch in fact despite even the strange, mid-day light. A freezing wind then seemed to blow, though it brought no touch of breeze, only a quick reduction in temperature, an odd whistling-sound, and the fell odor of turpentine.
Sufficiently unnerved, the four ventured inside, weapons ready. The ‘VOTE MCBRAIN’ poster that they had noticed before seemed to stare at them now; its eyes looked almost like they were following them. Gorm, being a barbarian, pointed at it in challenge- one never knew when even pictures might attack! When the poster showed no sign of backing down, he dealt with it the only way he could: by hacking it with his great axe, tearing it asunder, and then beginning to chew it.
There were certainly worse ways to deal with what scared you.
Ramzeus and Laurissa grew increasingly disturbed by Gorm as he continued to quietly debate the poster during his breaks from mastication, even though it seemed to be just made of paper. At least it distracted them from the rest of this place.
Inside appeared Ancient- some sort of holdover from centuries before, back to when that society had failed. The ceiling, walls, and flooring all likely had to be redone since then, because the Ancients apparently didn’t make many of their things to last. Still, the sizing of the rooms and corridors, as well as even the direction of the windows was made by those who obviously had no concern for the angles of the sun or of the changing of the seasons.
At least that’s what they hoped: it was so cold in here and dark. Things seemed to keep moving out of the corner of their eyes. They could also hear the sound of the voices, louder now.
The four kept their wits about them though and finally, after a few more minutes of exploration, came upon a set of double doors. Strange, lime-green carpet covered the floor from one wall to another in a most unnatural way. The doors themselves too were Ancient, made of some flimsy form of wood that, unlike the rest of the Town Hall, had never been refinished or replaced and remained in all their corroded glory. There was something sickly and green about them too, perhaps a reflection of the carpet. At the center of each were etched the symbol of some great beast with large horns on its nose.
They could now tell that the voices were coming from inside. The doors stood before them. What horrors did they hold?
Before they could decide how to proceed, Gorm took the last quarter of the McBrain poster out of his mouth for a moment and thrust them open.
Inside were a large number of people on benches, perhaps around 50. Beyond were four strange men sitting on fancy chairs on a stage. Like the audience, they appeared human, but upon closer examination, something seemed very off about them. It was almost as if they were as desiccated, corroded, and macabre as the doors through which the party had come.
“And now, as Honored Public Lord McBrain has offered, we move to end the motion that would hold Captain Salpinx in Contempt for being a Maurian Agent- he seems to be coming around...”
The other strange men on stage nodded in agreement with the one who had spoken.
Another, who could be McBrain since he looked much like the one from the poster that Gorm had nearly finished chewing, responded, “Thank you, Speaker All Dyin. Now, if Master Twitch McCorpsal and Sir Living Groanham don’t have anything else to offer, I would also like to put forward the motion declaring Any and All Acts, or Even Attempts of Human Sovereignty, including Speech, Assembly, Association, Suggestion, Statue Protection, et al., to be the Absolute Evil!”
“Here! Here!” they said, though their voices almost sounded like groans now. “Human Sovereignty IS the Absolute Evil!”
“What about the wall, Public Lords?” shouted a member of the audience, a young woman with dark hair. “You promised to protect us from the invading goblins intent on rape, murder, and pillage!”
“And condemning the cultists!” added another, this one a young man with short hair and a blond beard. “They attacked my uncle in Caelum Mount, claiming he was an Amaranthinist! They even support those who hang children in effigy! Why haven’t you denounced them?”
“Friends.... friends!” groaned All Dyin, who had to pause briefly as McBrain’s jaw fell out onto the stage, allowing some rotten innards to escape. “We are a Community of Settlers, and it just wouldn’t do to keep other Settlers out, even if they are, as you say, ‘goblins intent on rape, murder, and pillage’. Is a wall really what you want? Will that help us get brai... I mean, er, help our shopkeeps or even our Great Lord, Geedeepee?”
It was now Twitch McCorpsal who spoke. “And the ‘cultists’ as you say aren’t really the problem, now are they? It’s the AMARANTHINISTS! As if humans should ever be allowed to advocate for themselves? Ha! That would be Hateful!”
Groanham and McBrain clapped their hands in agreement at that, but Groanham’s fell off; McBrain had only just reattached his jaw.
The dark-haired woman was standing now and spoke again. “But we ELECTED you to build the wall- to protect our borders! Why aren’t you DOING it?”
The blond-bearded man had arisen too. “And the cultists are BEATING those who voted for you, Public Lords! Why won’t you do anything about THAT?”
Laurissa and Ramzeus moved up to join the debate with the men on stage. It seemed that roughly half the crowd, generally the younger ones, were siding with the two speakers and the rest, those older, wanted to keep giving the decrepit men respect for some reason.
This situation was shaking out to be just what Ramzeus had been warning them of before, a true horror like those zombies on stage- Demoncracy: elected officials betraying the very ones who voted for them in order to destroy the very land that they were supposed to protect. Gottschalk looked for the exit and hoped that Gorm would follow.
He then turned back and realized, to his horror, that Gorm was approaching the stage too.
And he had just finished eating the McBrain poster.
Next week: The Hacks of Gorm, Part XXIX!