Christopher: Let’s continue where we left off last Monday. How far have you gotten on your mission; you, Ariadne, Faith, and Varwyth?
Rhodry: Not very far. Faith and I do end up raising Lord Caerac himself from the dead to ask him a few things, only to discover he’s already been resurrected.
Christopher: I wonder who did that?
Rhodry: The same person who’s been raising skeletons and other undead around Caerac Keep. Everyone thinks vampires can’t be far behind, especially when so many people are falling ill with puncture wounds on their neck. (He rubs his own neck.)
Christopher: Specifically Lord Corwyth.
Rhodry: Did I mention he was Serpent Spawn, too? I’ve seen pictures of him. He looks like he could be related to Daeric and myself.
Christopher: What happened to Corwyth, according to the legends?
Rhodry: Some say he lies in wait within Corwyth Keep, others that he’s trapped there behind a barrier his former companion, Gwyneth erected. Others say that Caerac and Gwyneth staked him, trapping Corwyth within a crypt which remains hidden. Vampires are immortal and very hard to kill, so he may well be still around.
Christopher: He could have risen from wherever he’s been lying in wait.
Rhodry: It’s possible, but Lord William Caerac doesn’t believe it. The rumours about Lord Corwyth rising is one of the things he wants to disprove. He doesn’t want everyone in Caerac Keep living in fear of vampire attacks.
Christopher: You said you didn’t believe it was him either, judging from what you’ve read.
Rhodry: I’ve, um, also had a lot of dreams about Corwyth. (He blushes again.) Much of what I’ve been dreaming has turned out to be true. Like what I dreamed about Alexi and Ariadne, or Faith.
Christopher: Who do you think is behind the disappearances?
Rhodry: Someone who knows necromancy. Someone who wants us to think it’s vampires. Someone who is trying to get us to look in the wrong direction.
Christopher: What’s the right direction?
Rhodry: I’m not sure, but I’m afraid the enemy is a lot closer than any of us realize or want to realize.
Christopher: Are your dreams hinting at this?
Rhodry: My dreams and a feeling that we’re overlooking something vital.
Christopher: Where are you looking?
Rhodry: Around Lord Corwyth’s estate, Daeric’s tower, the docks. We find monsters, we find people who’s gone missing, but we don’t find Daeric, Alexi, or Hope. (He frowns, his forehead puckering.) There’s not many people who could have taken Daeric. Alexi was a magic-user in training. Hope had clerical powers. This means it was someone very strong or…
Rhodry: Someone they trusted, that they thought was a friend or an ally. Someone who could catch them unawares.
Christopher: It sounds like you do suspect someone.
Rhodry: The Dark Circle.
Christopher: What’s the Dark Circle?
Rhodry: It’s a ring of stone to the south not far from Gwyneth Keep. Once it was a Dragon Temple, but now it’s overrun by monsters, organized and dominated by the Spider Xylanthe, once an Aethryrian leader.
Christopher: This sounds like something Ariadne…and Alexi…might know something about.
Rhodry: It is. The Dark Circle is said to have agents in every land once part of the Jasior Empire, including Rowenda. Nor are its members allies of the Vampire Corwyth.
Christopher: Meaning they might be plotting trouble and trying to point the finger at Corwyth as the source?
Rhodry: And away from themselves and whoever their agent is here in Caerac Keep. Undead aren’t the only monsters we’ve found while investigating, holding something of the missing people prisoner.
Christopher: What about the victims themselves? What did they say?
Rhodry: They’re convinced they were intended as food or soldiers for the Vampire Corwyth’s army, but they seem a little too convinced.
Christopher: Like someone tried to convince them of this? Perhaps magically?
Rhodry: That’s what it looks like to me. Faith is only too willing to believe it’s vampires, but so is the Lady Ylynessa Caerac.
Christopher: Lady Ylynessa Caerac?
Rhodry: Lord William Caerac’s sister. Faith is a favourite of hers. She gives a lot of her time and support to the Unicorn temple. A huge nonhuman activist, yet the lady doesn’t feel any of this sympathy for the undead.
Christopher: There’s a lot of that particular double-standard going around.
Rhodry: Yes, there is. Almost like someone is trying to reinforce it.
Christopher: Do you really think so?
Rhodry: I’m still trying to figure out what I think.
Christopher: Good luck.
Rhodry: Thank you.