Chapter 1: Black Honey
Bursting into a full run, Talib left the car far behind. Stepping up and over car after car was proving too slow. Sprinting off to the right, he took an inhuman leap to the top of the nearest building; centuries of physical conditioning and the advantage of immortality had allowed the impossible achievable. He ran with urgency towards the power source, leaping effortlessly from roof to roof drawing closer with amazing speed.
Reaching his destination, he skid to a stop, spraying pea gravel across the rooftop. Panting, he caught his breath, quelling the stinging in his lungs. He looked wearily towards the back of a black trench coat flapping in the wind. The man’s black hair gave way to the wind as he remained as motionless as a statue, not caring he was no longer alone. His chest ached from the frightening sensation urging him to flee.
The element of Death, Talib’s thoughts whispered, goosebumps forming across his skin.
Inside his mind flashed a lifetime’s worth of glimpses reflecting those same broad shoulders. He had seen this man before, and on more than one occasion. The full scale of those memories and where they came from were beyond Talib, far out of his reach. A nostalgic chaos of emotions inside his soul told him he had found the source of his brother’s sins, but it was a threat he had lost memory of somewhere during his lifetime. This was the man in black which plagued the deepest reaches of his own mind and the nightmares the current Hotan suffered.
“Stop!” The determination in Talib’s voice was startling even to him; standing tall, he was prepared to do anything necessary to stop the element of Death. “He is not who you think he is!”
“Who are you?” Standing motionless, the deep calm voice mused on, “I’ve never had anyone find me. Let alone brave enough to speak to me in that tone.”
“I am Talib. I am the brother of Hotan.” As his lips hit the last word, there was a change in the man’s power. Did his power just falter? Flinch, even?
“Brother of Hotan?” The man shifted to peer over his shoulder, revealing the dark pools of black, which glowered at Talib. “My, my, you definitely must be. No one carries the genetic coding for silver hair in today’s time. I guess I can call you Uncle then.”
“Uncle?” It all made perfect sense, the puzzle pieces falling together. How could I have been so blind? He is my brother’s son. He wanted Liora back, but instead he got this. “I am so sorry. My brother, your father, is gone. I cannot undo what crimes have been committed against you, but please understand, this boy isn’t who you think he is. The person within this building is someone who looks like him and holds his powers, but Hotan’s soul is gone. The boy knows nothing of my brother’s wrongdoings. If you wish, we could finish that business now, between the two of us.”
“Then a look-alike will suffice.” Sneering, he turned around to face him, his maniacal smile sending chills throughout Talib’s entire being. “And will you attempt to stop me?”
“Yes.” His body tensed. Talib would have to use the small revolver tucked at his back, the handle urging him to shoot. “You have no right to take innocent lives. So many were killed by your hand and had nothing to do with your endeavors to kill my brother. It has to end; I will not allow this slaughter to continue further.”
“Sorry, I guess I have a nasty habit of losing my temper.” A step forward, he gave a nonchalant shrugged, uncaring. “Do you even realize who or what you are facing, Uncle?”
“I do not care what or who you are.” He pulled the gun and black flames leapt off the man’s skin in response, crawling outward like snakes. “I will stop you here. I’m his protector and I owe that child my life for what my brother has done to him.”
“So be it, Uncle. Know that Iapetos, harbinger of Death itself, was the one who ended your life. Reborn from the cold womb of the dead and rejected by its own father.” The black irises became glassy as he continued his growling speech; another step closer sent Talib’s heart racing. “I won’t be satisfied until I have sucked the life from the soul that once was my father’s and devour it with my own. It will be mine.”
“It pains me to know such evil could be created by my own flesh and blood.” Talib’s fear mounted, causing him to take an involuntary step backward, the power against him resonating through him like bony fingers of ice, scratching at his soul. All of a sudden, an eerie calm washed over him.
BANG! He had squeezed the trigger.
The kickback from the revolver shook his arm, his aim impeccable, and ears left ringing. Gunpowder stung his nostrils as he sighed. A hole blossomed in the center of Iapetos’ forehead. His head had fallen back, still wearing the maddening grin. As quickly as it had come, Talib’s calm vanished, as laughter rose out from Iapetos, stirring from deep within and growing in volume. Tilting his head forward again, Iapetos’ stared him in the eyes again. His grin grew wider as his mouth opened, the lead rolling off his tongue to bounce at his feet.
Panicked, Talib emptied the revolver into the demon before him. There was no chance for further negotiation as Talib lost the patience to entertain mind games. He fired at the heart and neck, anywhere he deemed a vital or assured kill shot, praying it would do damage, or slow him down at the very least. The laughter grew hysterical as the small black holes showed no sign of blood.
How does one kill Death itself?
Talib’s gut tightened, but his resolution to stop Iapetos stood firm. Talib threw the empty gun to the ground in frustration. Swallowing down his fear, he ran towards his opponent. Pulling a hidden dagger from his shirt sleeve, he plunged the silver blade deep into the neck of the soul-eating beast. It was then he felt something demonic. He had only entertained the harbinger of Death. Before he could withdraw from his dire mistake, a firm hand had grasped Talib’s neck. Cold, like no other he had ever felt, snaked its way into his body and soul. His power had no sway here and he could feel his life seeping into Iapetos’ fingers.
I have failed again.
Talib could do nothing. The sensation of being flung away from his killer like a wet rag rattled his body. As he hit the ground, the last thing he saw was the rooftop door opening, revealing Hotan’s shocked face. His eyes rolled back, the darkness of death pulling him away from the present, muffling the shouts and numbing the grip of those rushing to his body.
Hotan, run away…