The Devil's Dominion

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Chapter 10: Landfall

“Grathen Harbour in sight, Captain.”

Elgred Varga wandered up to the bow to stare at the low coast and the city rising out of it. “Aye, and we be two days behind schedule. Those bloody Drogs. These are nay their waters anymore. They have no right to be searching our ships as they please.” “They were looking for a criminal, they said.”

“They were looking for the boy. Did they find ’im?”

“No sir.”

“Where did he stash ’imself, I wonder. Carde’s men are nothing if not relentless. I reckon they would ’ave torn the Rider apart if they ’ad been alone.” “He cut one of the boats loose, and hid himself in one of the tobacco bundles.”

“Resourceful lad, then. Good. Maybe I should offer to keep ’im on.”

“I don’t think he would take it sir.”

“Maybe not, maybe not.” Just then, the boy walked up. “Well, lad, Grathen Harbour, as promised. I do nay suppose I could convince ye to stay on, could I? After all, because of ye, I need to buy a new longboat.” “No sir. I need to be going as soon as I can. I thank you for not betraying me.”

“Why did they want ye so bad?”

“I honestly have no idea sir.”

Varga looked at the boy with a calculating stare. “I think ye do, but I ’ave no more business with them or ye, so fair weather to ye lad.” “And to you, sir.”

As the lad was walking down the main street of Grathen Harbour, doors started slamming shut. People who passed him in the street stared at him in wonder as they walked by, and then made the sign of the circle as soon as they were past as they stepped into doors that were locked behind them. He stopped in the middle of the street, looking for anyone to explain what was going on, but no one would get within ten feet of him. ‘Do these people already know what I plan to do? But they can’t.’ His thoughts followed this line until one old sailor stopped right in front of him. The man was old, with a thick grey beard and long scraggly grey hair. He used a cane to walk, but he still looked strong and confident of his legs. The boy wondered what the old man wanted, but found out as the cane jabbed him hard in the stomach.

“Well, whatever other strange things are happening these days, you’re not one of them.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I heard you were dead. Everyone heard you were dead.” The old man shook his head and pulled out a flask. “You should give an old man some warning before you go turning up after being dead for two years, Reg.” “I think you have me mistaken for someone else.”

“You hear that, everybody? Reg thinks we have no idea who he is. But he’s flesh and blood. I made sure of that. You can all come out now.” Slowly, doors all along the main street opened up as curious people poked their heads out. Suddenly, they slammed shut again. Loud horns were blown, badly to the boy’s ear, north of the town, but they were coming closer. “Someone, get him inside. Can’t let him be caught out here by Deshik scum. They still remember Reg, I don’t doubt.” A lady that the boy could tell was from his own islands ran out and pulled him into a tavern called the Mermaid’s Rock. “Now, you go into the back, past the bar. If they search here, which I doubt they will, they won’t look back there.” “Why are you hiding me?”

“If the Deshika find you, you won’t live out the day.”

“Who do you think I am?”

“You’re Regath Encarthian, or the image of him. And they have hanged men for less. Now, into the back, quickly. Beinra, show him the way. Don’t stay with him. If they don’t see you working, they’ll know something’s wrong. Hurry.” The barmaid pushed him along in front of her, telling him to keep moving. Finally, they reached the very back of the tavern and she opened a small trapdoor.

“You have to go down there. I need to put a barrel on top so that the door is hidden. Don’t make any noise, or they will find you.”

“Wait. Before you go, do you really believe that I am who they say I am.”

“The old man who poked you with his stick, he was once a Mordak Rider. He served with Regath Encarthian at Emin-Tal. He would know if that was you.” “I’m not Regath Encarthian.”

This took the girl by surprise. “Then why are you hiding?”

“Because everyone seems to think that I am him.”

“Then stay hidden, because the Deshika keep coming back, always looking for Regath Encarthian. No one knew why, until today. Now, get down there. I think I hear something.” Four Deshika broke through the back door. An Armandan man walked in behind them. “You did.” He smiled at the girl, then slapped her hard, the ruby of his Ring cutting deeply into her cheek. He pointed at Regath, still standing in the hole.

Two of the Deshika grabbed Regath and pulled him out. They pushed him through the tavern. Another grabbed Beinra and dragged her along. Outside, the Armandan in charge yelled to has commander. “Sir, we found him.” A tall man dismounted from a black horse and walked over. His knee-high boots were polished to perfection, and his black armour shone like a mirror in the morning sun. He was clean shaven and pale skinned, making his black hair and attire look even darker. Regath Encarthian the Second had never seen one of the Seven Devils before, but despite that, he knew that that was what he looked on. When he spoke, the voice of Vorteez was deep and rich and powerful, a born speaker. He sounded like he was standing in a great hall, addressing lords of equal stature, not in a street of mud and dirt speaking to a prisoner. “So, Regath Encarthian, you did indeed survive. How, after my lord crushed you, I am not sure, but I will find out. You will not survive me, I assure you.” He walked over to the Deshika who held Beinra. He put his hand under her chin and forced her to look up at him. He caressed the cut on her cheek with his thumb, gentle and soft, drying the small trail of blood with a muttered word. His words came out almost as if he was speaking to a lover, but Regath could hear the poison behind them. “What a pretty young thing you are. Such a shame, but examples must be made … So intent on hiding him for whom I searched so hard. You will be charged with High Treason against this new order we are establishing. I wonder how long you will survive in my dungeons. Or maybe I can find some other uses. The dungeons would be such a waste.” “Wait!”

Vorteez turned on Regath. “Did you just try to tell me to do something, slime?” Regath hung his head. “That is much better. Accept your fate, and it will not bother you so much.” “But…”

“Again? You must have something of importance to say.” Regath went silent. “Well, what is it?” He drew a long sword from his side and held the point to the girl’s neck. “Tell me, or she dies now. Not the way I prefer to do things, of course, but you Morschen are so hasty.” “I am not Regath Encarthian.” This took Vorteez back. “I’m his son.”

Vorteez’s face broke into a gruesome smile. “Take him.”

“But …”

“My word is law here, boy. You are the son of a very dangerous man. Your fate shall be the same as your father’s.”

“I can help you.” Regath tried to back away a step, but the Deshika had closed in on him and he couldn’t move far in any direction.

Vorteez walked over to him with a slow, measured pace, but the menace in his eyes and voice made him seem as though he was stalking the young Drog islander. “You will help me anyway. Learn this well, boy. You will not die until I am done with you, no matter how much you beg. Your gods have no power to help you while you are in my keeping.” He swung his sword towards Regath and the barmaid Beinra. “Bring them both.” The old man with the cane wasted no more time. He drew a sword and threw aside Distorting Depths. The unleashing of the magic caused a bright flare, but it soon passed, and eight Deshika and their Armandan Captain were dead in the road. The man was not old. He was young, and strong, and his blade coated with Deshik blood.

“What have we here? A Ringlord?” Vorteez laughed, oblivious to the death around him. “No matter. You too shall understand the true meaning of pain.” The man just laughed. “There are not enough Deshika in the world to take me alive, Rishtckal.”

“We shall see.” Deshika from all across Grathen Harbour began to move towards the man. One by one, he cut down each one that came too close. But their fear of Vorteez was greater than their fear of any Drog, and no other Morschen would stand with him. “I want him alive,” was Vorteez’s oft-repeated statement. The Deshika though, had another problem. It was obvious that whatever their master’s wish, they could not take him. He was too fast. He kept moving so that the bodies could not trap him. His sword was too well trained. He was too disciplined to waste either time or energy on any one opponent, dispatching each one with only a few short strokes. They were fighting an Arms Master, and the Deshika knew it. Finally, Vorteez hefted his own sword and waded through the growing number of bodies to join the fray.

“Ah yes, it is you I want, Rishtckal.”

“I will take great pleasure in your screams, mortal.” But the Drog was not listening. He drove at Vorteez with deadly ability. Finally, Vorteez made a critical mistake. Misunderstanding his enemy, he spoke. “How does it feel to have failed?” “You are the one who failed.” With that, the man threw himself forward, running himself through on Vorteez’s sword. Vorteez stared in shock that someone would end their own life so pointlessly. Every Morschen stared in disbelief. They had not known that a Morschledu had been walking among them. And now, it was too late. He was dead.

Vorteez pulled his blade out of the dead Ringlord, staring apathetically down at the man. “Burn the body, but bring me his Ring.” Deshika rushed to carry out his order. “Bring this one and the girl. They will make good sport.” …

It was not until the Deshika had left the city far behind that Regath dared to speak again. “You’re wasting time.”

“Time spent on something one enjoys is never wasted. And I will savour your screams for mercy. To me, they are a delicacy of the highest order; one which only a select few appetites are worthy of sampling.” Regath tried to steady his voice, pretending strength of will he knew he lacked. “You seem to think that torture can break me.”

Vorteez laughed, but did not look down at him. “I have broken stronger mortals than you, boy. I consider it a pity that my Lord and brother killed your father. I have no doubt that what he could say would have meant something. He would have been a prisoner worth torturing.” Vorteez did look down at Regath then. “You, though, are barely an exercise for the most undisciplined of my dungeon masters. Be honoured that I choose to take such an interest in your existence.” Regath cowed, staring at his feet. “What is it you want from me?”

“Besides your screams? I want information.”

“You won’t have to torture me for that.”

That was the first thing to surprise Vorteez in many thousands of years. “Interesting. A willing traitor. You don’t care for your own kind, do you.” Vorteez rubbed his hands together. “What will you tell me?” “Release her, and I’ll tell you everything I know.”

The devil laughed again. “You will tell me everything anyways. The only difference will be that once in my dungeon, you will be begging to speak.” “You can have that information here and now, from a willing traitor. I only want one thing. All you have to do is let her go.”

“Why do you want her released?”

“She thought that she was hiding someone who could help her and her people. She was hiding me instead. Harm will come to her anyway because of this.” “So why should it not be by my hand?”

“It will be.”

Vorteez stroked his chin. “Bring the girl up here.” He turned to face Regath. “You will tell me what I want to know, and I will release her. If you do not, then she will be tortured, and you will know that it is your failure that causes her pain.” “So be it.”

Beinra was dragged up beside Vorteez, and the whole group stopped. “Now, what will you tell me first?”

“I know where the Drog Imperial Navy is hiding.”

“Do you? That is most interesting.”

“I have another price for this information, though.”

“For this great a treachery, I would expect so.”

“When you have destroyed the Drogs, your armies will leave the place behind.”

Vorteez slapped Regath across the mouth, dislodging a tooth. “I did not give you permission to name your extra price.” Vorteez snapped and one of his Deshika picked up the tooth. “However, it is a small enough price for the destruction of so great an enemy. Where do their ships hide?” Regath looked around him. He saw Beinra’s face. She shook her head, like she wanted to tell him to die with the knowledge he had, rather than give it to Vorteez. But he could feel Vorteez’s power, ready and willing to crush the location out of him. He hung his head. “El Redro Delshoi. Cantora Island. The Dreshnas are harboured in the deep coves on the northern shore.” “Captain. Send word to my brother in An-Aniath. I am preparing my forces. We have found the Drogs and their little boats. I expect his cooperation along the shore.” “Our bargain?”

“Will be honoured.”

“Let her go.”

“Very well.” Vorteez laughed and then he licked his lips. He drew his sword, and in one smooth, practiced motion, drove it through Beinra. She looked at Regath as she slid off of the polished steel blade and crumpled to the ground. “Release the whelp and give him a horse. He is slowing us down in those chains.” “You said you would release her!”

“And I did.”

“You murdered her!”

“What did she matter to you?”

“I …I don’t know.”

“Then do not question me again, boy. You are mine now.”

“But, you said …”

Vorteez grabbed Regath’s throat and lifted him several feet into the air with no discernable effort. “I know what I said boy. And I did release her. This way, she is not caught up in the suffering of her people that your betrayal will bring. If you beg for my mercy, do not complain when I give it to you. I think she would find death preferable to what awaited her in my castle. I did what you wanted, and I took what I require of you – for now.” Vorteez dropped him. “Now, you will sail with a Deshik army to El Redro Delshoi, and you will lay waste to the Drog Navy that is hidden along those treacherous shores.”

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