"The Pale have mapped what is to be our shared life, and the path to Their Will is written clear in black ink. It will lead the house." the second, the brute, said plainly. "Its years of comfort and luxury under the Pale have ended, and many debts now come due". The bard frowned. Damp, cool air rose from the caverns beneath his manor and chilled the sweat that rested upon his face. "So it's that time, is it then?" he said slowly, as though each word were a needle being plucked from his skin. "Yes. It may wonder why it must honor bargains made with devils, which have no obligation to do the same. But devils may wonder why they must bargain to gain its service in the first place. Let it be, by its will or by nature." the brute said religiously. "The cries of the Pale boil my blood and splinter my bones. The Deakins feet will catch fire and burn every measure of soil that finds itself beneath them. They will devour the eyes of the great beast Civilization and leave its body to blister in the sun. The Prince-Diviner will walk the jeweled thrones of the earth under his sandaled feet. And the Pale will drown beneath the flood of dead and dying souls that come like a wave into the Mere”. The bard’s frown broadened. “And the Pale have chosen me, of all their debtors, to stop this?” he said brusquely. “I understand most Sightless are killed during their tasks to the Pale, but as I understood it, as a rule, they were given tasks that they would be capable of completing”. The brute shifted beneath his plates. “It is not certain that it will defeat the shamans of the plains, no.” he said respectfully. “Then the Pale are desperate.” the bard said, the thought of it curving his lips into a smile. “What then must I do?” The golem rose and spoke as distinctly as he could beneath the shifting plates that sat upon his head. “Vote for a pre-emptive strike. Lead those who vote similarly in the debates. Do this, and when the decision is secured, volunteer for military service to Thrace. As the Circle of Friends is anonymous, you will be admitted, and the Four will follow you. This is what I know”. The bard nodded, and cast his eyes upon his Four, those he chose to be damned by the Pale as his tutors and guardians on the earth. The brute, a golem, a soulless creature of steel and flesh that seems to live primarily in the nightmares of children, who had once been in the service of the Pale until they conscripted him into the bard’s service. The thief, a burglar who had broken into the manor Bleur some years ago and come to blows with the bard who awoke as she shuffled through his valuables. When he finally subdued her he only laughed and muttered the curse that would place her into his service. The alchemist, who was once a friend and fellow pupil of the bard, was only a child when he heard Flynn’s curse. He was to travel with his father, a ship’s captain, to far-off lands to learn his father’s trade. The bard couldn’t allow his best friend to abandon him. And then the sage, the fourth companion, the man who lead the ritual that brought the bard into contact with the Pale when he was only a babe. Attempting to speak to the Pale the only way he could imagine, in death, the sage misread his cantation and burnt an entire district of Thrace to the ground. Of the hundreds who died and swelled into the Mere, the bard’s soul was picked at lottery to gain audience with the Pale and explain this happening. The bard spoke true, as he watched the sage as he sat on his bed. The sage was his godfather, an old ally of his parents who were killed in a similar fashion as their bodies and mansion and lands were burnt to ashes in what apparently began as a simple kitchen fire. The Pale were intrigued as he spoke of his circumstance, how he sat upon his bed in that small loft and watched as his foster father communed with devils. They pitied him, and offered him their infamous bargain they had offered thousands before him. They would return him to life as a Sightless, an undead, and allow him all the things he was robbed of when his parents were lost; a noble title, friends and comfort. All he must do is answer them when they call. And the young bard said yes.