Richard's right hand shook violently and he squeezed the remains of his fingers into a tight ball and pushed it into his leg to steady it. The harsh, frigid winds of Dagger Isle added a new level of torment to him than he was used to merely by the means of Baerron Jael. This was Lord Soth's domain, and it bit into him like a rabid wolf. The red voice crept into his ear. "The Wizard of Paws is proving quite useful to our cause, but we must determine precisely the sort of man that he is." Richard did not understand. He cast his dark, sunken eyes to the jars, urns, vases, and boxes containing various organs and limbs harvested from those that the daemon murdered. The daemon did not collect from every victim, and only chose specific parts from specific people, but Richard did not know the reason behind it. "There is one way to determine what sort of man he is... There is one way to get him to reveal his thoughts to us." The voice continued in his mind. Black ichor oozing from the growing pustule on the side of his face froze in the biting wind. "Send the revenant, tell him to meet us in Covetous." The revenant was the creation of the daemon, the culmination of his mastery over the thread of death. It was a slow, unintelligent corpse that was reliable to deliver a message. The revenant's skin was ghostly pale, having no blood to circulate. Its eyes were dark and lifeless. There did not appear to be a trace of hair anywhere in its face or head. Richard relayed the message to the revenant and it steadfastly set about bringing the Wizard of Paws to Covetous. "What do you mean to do if he even comes?" Richard asked aloud to the cold indifferent gales. "Oh, he will come... There are several things he simply will not resist, and the challenge of pawns is one of them. The candle of Ragar is the other. He will agree to the game and it will reveal to us his inner thinking, his tactics and strategies..." Richard was beginning to understand. The crimson hell began to bleed into his eyes and he once more felt submerged under a pool of boiling blood and filth. Baerron Jael rose to the top of his conscious mind. To Covetous! As the daemon expected, the Wizard not only showed up, but agreed to a game of pawns, with the candle (and metaphorical honor) of Ragar Truesword as the stakes claimed by the winner. Richard could feel the daemon's amusement, something that does not occur very often at all. Quite quickly, the game began. After the opening moves and several turns, Jupiter began to reveal his strategy of sacrificing pawns in defensive maneuvers to protect higher-ranked pieces. After losing many pieces to Baerron Jael, Jupiter did not change strategy. The daemon was beyond amused. The Wizard not only sacrifices pawns for mere defense, but sacrifices all but the highest ranking pieces to save himself. He is not a man of offensive capabilities, and is more than willing to throw numerous bodies to their doom in his own short-term defense. For a man so vested in the light and the virtues, his strategy was one of cowardice and fear, the daemon mused; fear of losing the two highest pieces on the board, which ultimately proved to be his undoing. The coup-de-gras came, sealing Jupiter's defeat in the game of pawns. The candle of Ragar would remain with Baerron Jael, and the Wizard revealed a great deal about himself in the process. "If only he knew how much he was helping us..." the voice echoed in the caverns of Richard's mind. This was the most fun the daemon had since the centuries spent in the Stygian Abyss. Richard blinked. The red faded slightly and the hypothermic tundra of Dagger Isle rose up around him. Frost bite quickly set into the remainder of his skin hanging off of his arms. He was numb, for once. The revenant stood motionless in the snow drift, staring straight ahead. Richard... no, the daemon, could sense what passed for a semblance of thought within the revenant. After Jupiter's defeat in Covetous, he was preparing to do something... The thoughts were difficult to discern amid a jumble of memories from the revenant's former life. Jupiter was hiring a great deal of mercenaries and gathering people together to escort... what? Ahh... the essence of the Sapphire Maiden... The daemon struggled to piece together further thoughts and memories of the revenant. Where was the essence going? A scout was sent out... a man named Aragorn, to see if opposition stood in the way on the road to... Yew! Baerron Jael would not take that bait and reveal himself. Jupiter was gathering his pawns to protect the two highest ranking pieces on the board: himself and the Sapphire Maiden. In the game of pawns, he was quick to discard the lesser lives for the sake of the 'greater good', but would he truly do that with lives he proclaims to care about? Baerron Jael grinned wide, something that always burned Richard deep in the back of his mind. The daemon was going to find out. Before setting out to intercept Jupiter's escort, Baerron Jael sensed something... familiar... in the nearby tundra. A man of ignoble repute and tainted with more than a small amount of daemonic corruption himself... Xi was a willing volunteer to spearhead the vanguard into the escort. The crimson hell washed over Richard rapidly, the thudding beat of his decaying heart filled his ears and at once the sizzle and burn of magic and death followed. The ambush was fierce and rapid, followed by multiple skirmishes en-route to Yew. It was difficult to get an exact count, but Jupiter's escort consisted of about four free people of Paws, one or two poor conscripts from who-knows-where, and about ten to twelve hired mercenaries and four pack horses. The mercenaries fell, most of the freefolk of Paws fell, all of the horses fell. As Baerron Jael thought, Jupiter gladly sacrificed all of his pawns and high ranking pieces. Baerron Jael learned all that he needed to know for the moment, and collected a great deal of body parts that would be greatly useful thanks to the wasteful nature of Jupiter's strategems. He spent several moments dismembering the bodies of the fallen. Somewhere south of Yew the daemon broke off his attack. He had a small amount of the Sapphire Maiden's essence clutched in his rotting, boil-covered hand, but it was not what he sought. He watched the remains of Jupiter's group from afar. After their stunning losses, the group decided upon drinking their sorrows away. The daemon was too amused to simply let this be and wanted to observe closer. The daemon nearly gave himself away in his mirth when the human known to him as Dun Scaith took a newlywed couple upstairs and murdered them in cold blood. Baerron Jael sensed a darkness lingering deep within that one... He might carry the light of Paws on the surface, but it cast a great shadow. The daemon could sense this was not the first time Dun Scaith murdered. Upon Jupiter's arrival, the daemon revealed himself for his own self amusement. Richard dropped the essence of the Sapphire Maiden on the counter top. All that trouble to transport it, all those lives lost, and it did not occur to them that the location of the Sapphire Maiden was of no real consequence. She had a very specific aura to her, something that Baerron Jael could sense half a world away. He could find her wherever she might hide, if he ever had need to do so, but he would prefer to keep clear of her. Whereas the daemon had this finger pressed against the thread of death in the grand tapestry of all things, the Sapphire Maiden held close the thread of life. Taking the severed body parts of the fallen, the daemon cut them open and removed their livers. Richard never felt the daemon so content and amused. The hell voice of the fel beast wrapped around the inside of Richard's skull. "Keep sacrificing your pawns, Jupiter. You are giving us what we need."