Over A Dead Body

"I've found him!"

Will heard Bundle calling and came running. They had all split up to search the empty fortress for any sign of the Order's presence. Clearly, Bundle had found Gormund, the person he had asked them all to look for exclusively.

And he was dead.

Will finished climbing the stairs to see his body sprawled in the middle of the tower floor, crimson lines of blood irrigating the cracks between the flagstones.

"Was he the possessor of the Bow?" said Will.

"Wolfram must have killed him to acquire it," said Bundle. His voice thrummed with rage. "Gormund didn't betray us after all. Wolfram's had no more than a hero's burial for this!"

"But the Seven aren't in jeopardy anymore!" said Will triumphantly. "If Wolfram's dead and no-one else knows about them, then they can be hidden away - no-one need know about -"

"Don't you understand?" said Bundle, his hands shaking. "The less people that know about the Seven, the more dangerous they are! The less people fighting to obtain them means more people that can start gaining three, four, five of his weapons! The Order have grown complacent - in not following the proper procedures most of the members have ended up dead. I am the only one left who knows the Order's code - I, and Odium, if we can just find him."

"So you're going to have to start recruiting for the Order again?"

"That's not an option. The induction process takes weeks, months, so we can carry out the tests to ensure the applicant is trustworthy. That was what Gormund would have done for you here had you still been alive. Unfortunately, we have no more options. We have one extra weapon - someone has to carry it. Ax can't as he already -"

"I thought you said the Shield wasn't one of the Seven?"

"It's a grey area, I wouldn't want to risk it. It's why I denied him an extra item of Belendar's when we first met. From what Wolfram said he clearly thought it to be so, and I was so sure he would be concealing another of the Seven on his person that the Shield suddenly seemed just any other artefact, but all we got out of Wolfram were the dozen or so Gifts he stole from others ... maybe Wolfram was right. I don't know any more. It's why we must get to the Oracle as quickly as possible ... her servants can be trusted to safeguard the Seven so they do not build up on one person."

Bundle got up slowly. "We'll have to bury Gormund later, there's too much to discuss."

"Does that mean ... does that mean I'll inherit all the Gifts that Wolfram stole?"

Bundle stopped walking.

"I don't know. I hope not, for your sanity's sake."

"But I'm a Paladin. For some reason Wolfram was jealous of me, from what he sounded like on that drawbridge."

"According to ancient lore, Paladins were supposed to be Guardians of the Gifts. Able to possess many Gifts at a time without suffering dementia, and possessing the ability to quell others' abilities, they were allegedly the peacekeepers of old. I've never believed anyone can possess more than three Gifts without going insane - Wolfram is no exception - but time will tell. You are the true owner of the Sword now, Will. If it was you who truly stole the Gifts from Wolfram with its powers it will undoubtedly bestow them on you. If so, let's hope that ancient lore holds firm. You've certainly got more chance of looking after them than I have."

Bundle stooped over Gormund's body and dipped a finger in his blood. Will was about to make an exclamation, beefore he saw Bundle smear the blood on Gormund's forehead, drawing a simple but powerful ensign. The geometric emblem of Belendar - a mighty hammer striking an anvil.

"Li nar fressa un grevus ver nus athalfied."

May you pass with ease into the afterlife.

The End

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