Chapter 4: The Heart of the Darkness
The violent boom of thunder overpowered all sounds. The sharp clacking of metal-soled boots on the hard stone floors cut through the thunder like a knife through paper. The boots belonged to a tall, pale skinned man with armour of darkened steel and a cape made of carrion birds’ feathers.
He turned a corner and his cape billowed behind him. He had stepped into a huge hall filled with many people, all wearing differing armour comparing with their rank within the fortress. All of the armour kept with the theme of jutting black metal despite their different designs. All had silver trim that added a level of sophistication to the practical steel. The larger figures of the demonic Forukks dotted the hall, crude weapons in hand, constantly ready to spill blood. As things went, they were a relatively new race but they were from good stock and served his ends well.
Purple tinted flames burned from torches positioned upon the near black stones that made up the imposing walls of the structure. In the far corner was a small rusted cage. Within it a man could be seen sitting, back bent, head drooped, no part of his body moving. The feather caped man strode through the crowd menacingly towards the cage. The men around him shifted to create a wide path that moved with him, forming a bubble of open space. He stopped in front of a smallish man in simple leather armour with a balding head and a stringy moustache.
“Did you get any information out of him?” asked the caped man. His deep voice was intriguing to all who heard it. Every word he spoke was embedded with power. The sound was like velvet to the ears.
“My lord. We learnt little from him. But what we did learn is very good.” The little man waited for the caped man to answer but when he did not he quickly went on. “Nobody knew that any of us survived,
et alone rebuilt our forces. Our attack will be a total surprise to them.”
A barrel chested man walked up to the prisoner. In his hands was a small tank of water. Inside the tank was a diminutive, strange looking fish, swimming slowly around the tank’s edge. Its crimson skin appeared to have hundreds of small holes across it, its mouth was like a sucker and its eyes were too big for its body and had a deathly look of malice in them.
“We are about to proceed in our last attempt to gain information from him, unless you have any objections, my lord.”
The caped man just stood staring at the prisoner in the cage, stroking his small beard. From this distance he could see it was a scout. He had long blond hair and blue eyes, one of which was scarred. His body was lean and his skin tanned by the sun. A small, barely visible grin of amusement set into the lord’s smooth face.
The little man spoke again, this time addressing the man with the tank. “Prepare the Basenci.”
The large man placed the tank on the floor, took a leather glove from his belt and picked the fish up. The second it was in his hand, needle like spikes shot up from the holes across its slimy body and punctured the bottom of the thick gloves. The man lowered the Basenci with deliberated slowness towards the scout’s stomach. With the man’s other hand he used a small iron knife to cut a square hole into the scout’s shirt. Instantly upon seeing the bare flesh the Basenci retracted its spikes back into its body and started to try and wriggle out of his hand and onto the scout’s stomach. The man placed it onto the flesh then stood back.
The Basenci put its mouth onto the scout’s skin then the scout started to move. The next second the Basenci had vanished under the skin, leaving behind a small, bloody wound. The scout started to scream and writhe in pain, tearing his own skin off in his desperate attempts to remove the Basenci from within him.
“Stop,” said the caped man suddenly, still stroking his silky beard while looking faintly amused.
“Yes my lord,” replied the large man. He mumbled some incomprehensible words and waited. A large lump appeared on the scout’s leg, then in a splatter of blood the Basenci erupted from the scout, spikes still covering its body. The handler quickly grabbed it and released it back into the water. The spikes retracted again and it swam back around, the water becoming murky with blood.
The scout was shaking violently. “T-thank you, t-thank y-you.”
The caped man clicked his fingers with the hand he was not stroking his beard with. The scout burst into flames before their eyes.
“Have you finished my machine yet?” the Lord asked the little man. He had not batted an eyelash as he murdered the man and no sooner had he turned away had the scout been forgotten.
“Yes, my Lord. Follow me.”
The smaller man led the way out of the hall and along the maze of cold stone corridors. The air felt like ice against the skin. The few windows that they passed were very narrow, simple slits in the wall that let in a dull, watered down light. The thunder dominated most sounds again and vivid streaks of lightning lit the walls with harsh white flashes.
After five minutes of walking, the little man pulled a slender key from deep inside his pocket and opened a thick wooden door to his right. It swung open with a loud creak to reveal a small room with only a strange wood and stone contraption stood against the back wall. The object made a whirring sound. Gears turned and complicated devices spun and bobbed in a strange parody of life.
The cloaked man walked up to it and closely examined the workings. “Does it work like I specified?”
“Yes, my Lord. As soon as the assault reaps its first victims it will start to toll.”
“Hmm. You may leave now,” the caped man said. The little man turned and walked back through the door. “And thank you Maqoig. Without you I wouldn’t be able to tell what’s going on outside of my lands.”
“You’re welcome, my Lord,” Maqoig replied joyously, stunned by his lord’s grateful words. With a deep bow he quickly left the room.
The Lord stared at the two stone panels mounted upon the wooden structure. Various stone shapes were positioned on the wood and bits of the construct glowed eerily in the dull room. Some very fine enchantments had been placed upon it. One of the stone panels groaned slightly as the number one appeared on its surface. The one was quickly replaced by a two, then within a microsecond three then four.
“The first of many deaths in my crusade. With the added slaves from this campaign I will be able to take over all of Farava, like my ancestors tried before me. I shall succeed where they failed though. It is my destiny to bring salvation to the land,” the man spoke aloud. He chuckled softly to himself but tears slid down his cheeks.
By now the number on the first panel was at thirty-two. On the second panel there was only the number one. His soldiers had killed over thirty of the enemy with only one loss. That was without adding the casualties of the catapult attack.“The naive people of Pastrino don’t stand a chance against me. They will never learn,” he laughed, the sound echoing through the hallways. The only sound he heard though was the dripping of his tears onto the machine below him.