CHAVIAS - Recruiting Simon Worthington
Meadowbrook, Grier Country
Chavias watched the blonde boy, Simon Worthington, waking. He heard the scratching over the floor furs. That’s what he notices. Not me crouched in a tree outside his window, watching.
The boy leaned up to glimpse a cat sized silhouette creeping the edge of the room. Red ringed orange eyes blinked at the boy from under his round table.
An unbearable prolonged stare. Chavias knew from experience.
At length, it shuffled closer. Claws rasping as it neared the foot of his bed.
“What are you?” Leaning over the edge of the four-poster, Worthington stared, horrified. Scrambling up by the headboard to retreat. He fumbled for the expensive cane displayed on his dressing table. He gripped it. Looking back to see the thing sitting on the blanket next to him, he yelped and jumped from the bed, twisting to escape the covers.
Cocking its triangular head, the thing tracked his movements.
A scratch at the bedroom door spooked it. Hissing like a viper, its long, spiked tail swished over the edge of the bed as it disappeared from sight.
“Maxine. Quiet.” Worthington commanded. Eying where the thing had vanished.
Whimpering softly, Maxine dug at the hall carpeting.
“Not until I know what this is.” Wetting his lips, he lifted the strip of wood higher. Tightening his grip to swing, he lifted the edge of his bed ruffle and peered beneath.
The creature’s eyes glowed in the dark as it bared yellow teeth and spit on his fur rug.
“Ew! No.” Jerking his makeshift weapon over his head threateningly, his eyes moved from the soggy white mass ejected onto his floor and back to the black creature staring at him patiently.
“Surely, you don’t wish me to take that!” He eyed it.
It blinked huge orange eyes.
But trying to wait it out was futile. It was prepared to sit there forever.
Finally lurching forward, he grabbed the slimy white bit. It crinkled in his hand. Parchment. Coated in wax and soggy with brown saliva.
Swearing, Worthington threw it to the floor. He flinted a candle and walked backward enough to put distance between himself and the ugly little beast cowering under his bed.
It scurried out in a blur, hissing as it escaped to the darker shadows to sit. Calmly staring at him through discolored eyes. Baring wicked teeth in a snarl.
“What are you?” He demanded.
It sat there.
A Noni. Hideous rodent. Chavias grunted.
Worthington pinched the wrinkled parchment between two fingers and skirted the room to be as far from the black rodent as possible.
Wise decision. They like to nip.
Cane aloft and prepared to smash it, if it lurched toward him, Worthington looked ready to vomit as he set the scrap on the small table. Moving it open with his knuckles. Grimacing as he touched slimy parchment. He stared at darkly scrawled ink.
Chavias knew what it said. The same as it always does.
Words offering power, immortality…And a location. The caves of Stone Peak in the Black Mountains. Radix’s lair.
“What?” Shaking his head, he tossed it in the trash next to the table.
Scurrying from under his bed the black thing slid out his window. Tail flicking as it vanished over the stone ledge and into Chavias’ waiting hand in the dark. It’s whipping tail curling around his forearm like a snake as it ran over his shoulder and down his back and down from the tree.
Worthington opened the door to let the pale hound, Maxine, in. Entering quickly, she lapped happily at his palm.
Kneeling to pet her ears he reassured. “I’m okay girl.”
She gave him a disbelieving stare with soulful brown eyes.
He rose to wear a path over the brown fur near the fire.
Maxine watching him. Ears perked; head cocked.
Half an hour later he was muttering to his pet.
Don’t do it. Chavias hoped. Be different from the rest.
“Immortality Maxine…” He gnawed his lip. “Forever!” His dark eyes began to glitter.
Chavias was sickened. Knowing what’d come. I’ve seen it before. Countless times.
“I’ve never seen a creature like that.” Worthington paced wildly. “Maybe it is possible. You saw how that thing moved.” He gestured toward the window. Talking to the dog who sat watching him quietly.
Worthington squatted to rifle through the trash.
Fool. Chavias shook his head. There goes your soul.
Worthington fingered the burnt edges. Massaging the texture.
Yes, it doesn’t feel right. It’s human skin. Chavias’ jaw hardened.
Tracing the roughened side, Worthington licked his lips. Darker blotches lower on the page looked like seared fingerprints.
Chavias felt the ripple of the boy’s excitement.
Worthington launched to his feet and ripped open his bedroom door.
You’re lost. Shaking his head, Chavias turned and dropped from the tree. Strolling the bleak night as though made of it. His dual silver handles shining on his back.
Worthington found Maxine waiting by the door. Wagging her stub tail excitedly as she stared up at him. Shifting on the tile floor.
“You don’t like the woods at night, Girl.” He knelt to rub between her ears.
Giving him a long look, he took as understanding, he straightened and collected his fur lined cloak. She watched him head out the door.
Worthington called for his fine coach. Checking his pocket watch, he found it nearly midnight. He hollered for the Coachman to take him to Stone Peak.
The driver, Old Bob Langley, gave a yawn as he reined the horses. “Stone Peak? There’s nothing up there. Why in Ardae would you want to go there?”
“Because I said so.” Worthington settled in for several nights’ ride.