Mixed screams echoed off the cavern walls. Erupting from the pit, three huge black, feathered creatures clawed at the sulphurous air with smoking wings causing the chanting worshipers to stumble backwards. Many of them tripped on their robes causing them to collapse and scrabble away from the smoldering hole where previously had been solid ground. The three vrocks landed with dull thuds and observed the fleeing humans with amused hatred. A man directly in front of the largest one stood and pulled open his robes to reveal the demonic symbol seared in his flesh identifying him as a servant of Griselbrand. Cocking its huge bird-like head, the creature chirped with recognition and then, in one quick swipe and a rainbow of blood and viscera, tore the man in two with its talons. Stifling more screams, the remaining people pushed against the wall hoping to avoid the rage of beasts they had just called from beyond. Breaking the tense silence, the beasts pushed their way out of the cave entrance, their folded wings bringing down rubble and dust. Two of the hooded figures ran to the opening to see the three clawing into the sky toward the looming mountains above as dawn was beginning to break.
The taller of the two clutched at the sleeve of his shorter female counterpart. Her gaze found his from beneath her deep hood. She was still visibly shaken.
“There will be no better time” he whispered and produced the thin, jagged bone dagger from the hidden pocket in his sleeve.
She nodded and took down the hood of her rough-spun robe. Magda Kavlov had a soft, round face that had sagged over the years and gave her the look of a kindly jack-o-lantern left too long in the sun. Her gray hair shot through with jet-black was held back in a neat bun and her bright green eyes flashed with cunning that was at odds with the rest of her appearance as a doting, elderly shop-keep.
The rest of the cultists appeared to have found their wits and began regrouping over what remained of their late high priest. Luckily they had chosen to stand close together with their backs to the entrance, probably in fear of more creatures emerging from the abyss. She grasped the piece of iron that sat in her pocket and began to chant. She made a twisting motion with her arms as the iron began to grow hot in her wrinkled hand. Ahead, finely wrought chains of hot iron formed around each of the five robed figures. Just as they noticed the bindings, the chains constricted and cooled instantly, immobilizing each of them from heels to shoulders. The figures splayed out in a clumsy semi-circle and was shouting at the couple to release them.
“You treacherous dogs!” a large bald man with a gray beard and red eyes spat as he writhed, struggling to free himself.
Although he was nearly 70 years of age, Otto Kavlov still retained his shock of oily black hair and youthful blue eyes. He chuckled as he approached the first bound person, bone dagger in hand. The woman looked terrified but Otto did not hesitate. He plunged the dagger through a gap in the chains where he knew her heart lay. Her scream drowned out the abyssal incantation he uttered as her life’s blood coursed over his knuckles. He withdrew the blade and as he did, the blood on it disappeared into the ruins that were gouged into it.
“What did you expect Rothgar?” mocked Otto. “You thought we would take this journey together and share our rewards from the Dark One as equals? Such naiveté deserves naught but death.”
He stalked to his next victim who was trying wriggle away on his stomach. He stayed the man by placing his foot on the back of his knees, knelt on his back, and with a practiced flourish, slashed the man’s throat. His scream became a gurgle as the blade drank deep. Rothgar, now propping himself against a boulder, resumed his protestation.
“High Priestess Vess will know of your betrayal. She knows-“
“Fool!” Otto interrupted. “Do you think I have any doubt about her true purpose here on Innistrad? I know why she seeks to open the Helvault. She has come to destroy Griselbrand, not free him! We are merely taking steps to ensure she does not succeed.”
Putting the hilt of the dagger near his mouth, Otto whispered to the blade, and as if it heeded his command, it reformed itself into a magnificent longsword. He walked menacingly toward Rothgar who didn’t shy away from his stare. Otto turned from Rothgar and made a murderous downward thrust through both of the cowering men who were now piled at his feet. The older man had been trying to protect his son, whom Otto knew was persuaded to join the Order of Skirsdag by his father. They died together and the fuller of the sword seemed to defy gravity as it pulled the blood from the wounds. He once again locked his eyes on Rothgar.
“Magda, release him” Otto said after a pause.
Otto turned to his wife, who was deep in concentration on the spell that constricted the last man. Her stare on the bound man quavered slightly.
“I want him to die struggling with all his insignificant might to protect his soul from the power of Withengar who is caged within this artifact.” He gestured to the sword in his hand.
She dropped her hands and her face relaxed. The chains around Rothgar turned to dust and he gave an audible gasp of relief. Otto turned to face him but he was ready. He tossed a hand full of sand into Otto’s eyes and sprinted past him as he staggered, clutching his face. As Magda brought her hands up, Rothgar aimed his palm at her chest and shouted the incantation. The white bolts of energy struck her in the chest and blew her against the far wall. Running hard for the cave entrance, Rothgar readied another spell that would seal the vile couple inside the cave. As he felt the light of day hit his face, he stopped and turned to bring the boulders down over the opening. The spear hit him squarely in the chest with a sickening thwack.
Rothgar looked down where the spear had pierced him to see the shaft of black wood reforming in to the rough handle of a bone dagger. His ears rang with his fading, irregular heartbeat and his breaths were rasping through the seep of blood now leaving his mouth. Otto and Magda stood over him now, although he didn’t remember falling.
“Go with him, brother Rothgar” Magda cooed. “Give your soul to bolster his strength.”
The last thing he felt was a crushing grasp of cold air envelop him and, as the world went black, a rumbling voice echoed in his ears.
“I am Withengar, the Unholy, the Slayer of Saint Traft. The souls on Innistrad are the first on my path to revenge. They will know pain beyond bound.”