To Prove Immortality
Worthington glared at the orange-eyed thing now backing into his leg. The old man wore a threadbare gray cloak reaching to his ankles over a moth-eaten wool tunic, and brown pants. His beard hung from chin to waistband.
“Who are you?” Worthington demanded. Pulling a handkerchief to hold it to his nose. “You smell of a peasant!”
“Worthington!” Radix greeted with a broad gesture and a smile exposing teeth so rotted, Worthington took a step back in quiet revulsion.
“Milord Worthington.” Worthington corrected.
“Come in.” Radix black eyes narrowed. And his voice hardened at the slight.
“How do you know me?” Worthington stepped warily closer.
“They call me Radix Malorum.” He said thoughtfully, glancing to the black shadows where Chavias watched through steel gray eyes. Radix walked to the fire, pausing. “It’s fitting…You may call me that.”
“How do you know my name?”
Ignoring Worthington’s haughtily raised brow he continued. “Let me tell you about my enemy.”
Radix lifted a staying hand commanding silence. He moved to warm his hands near the fire. “Those wretched children of man, the Forever Knights, have plagued me for centuries. As immortal as I, they’re set on defying me! Aren’t they Chavias?”
He looked at the black corner of the cave again.
“Centuries? Immortal?” Worthington interjected in disbelief, his eyes sliding from the empty darkness. “You?”
Radix cleared his throat. Annoyed at the interruption. “No matter how I present logic and try reasoning with them, they retain their position.” Pausing to emit a snarling sound, he added. “I’ve yearned to destroy them for so long. Now you,” Radix reached up to squeeze Worthington’s shoulder. “May help me with that.”
The hell he will. Chavias thought. Not if I kill him first. But Radix’s gaze kept sliding back to him as if waiting for such a move.
That’s why I’m here. This is one of his games. Something worse will happen if I do.
Worthington shrugged off his grip. “Why would I do anything for you?”
Because you’re damn daft.
“Do you think I offer immortality for nothing?”
No. The cost of your soul.
“What are you?” Worthington queried. Greed lighting his eyes. “Immortality?”
Foolish boy. Chavias changed his earlier assessment.
“Powerful.” Radix clarified.
Worthington gave him a skeptical look.
Lips tightening Radix tossed his head toward the fire.
Radix summoned the flames, making them radiate impossibly high. They froze at their peak, illuminating the cave. Still as a statue. Only the sparks from below still flashed in dancing fountains. Radix gave a sweeping gesture toward the ground.
Gray stone dissolved into fine black dirt at his feet. Rocks crumbled to dust. The bleak touch spread out to the cave walls. Climbing like black moss it coated everything. Encompassing the stone flames and disintegrating them until there was only black ash in the grate. It spread so close to Worthington, he backed up, trailing shocked fingertips over the black wall. Retracting them to find them smudged. Rubbing his thumb and index together he discovered its powdery texture.
“None of this proves you can offer immortality.” Worthington commented to hide he was impressed…And a little afraid.
And filled with greed.
Frowning, Radix waved to a darker part of the cave. “Chavias. Come.”
The mammoth of a man lurched from the stone wall, making stones grate under his leather boots as he strode from the darkness.
Worthington was startled. “I didn’t know anyone was there.”
Chavias wore a gray hood the same shade as his hollow eyes. Scars crossed what was visible of his face in the meager light. His eyes were hard. Like dark stones.
When Radix tossed his head toward him, Chavias twisted the broach on the cloak and shrugged it from his shoulders. Revealing he was even bigger than Worthington had first thought.
Worthington gasped and retreated a step at the towering size of the man.
Chavias’ entire body was sinewed muscle. Rippling as he moved. Handles peered above each thick shoulder. A leather strap crossed under his collar, linking the sheaths at his back. The only thing covering his bare torso. His movements eerily silent. As his gaze set on Worthington.
“Is he human?” Worthington asked Radix, uneasily.
You think me a Dread? Chavias took a step closer to Worthington. The old demon vanished behind him.
Chavias quieted inside. Knowing the pain that would come. He’s going to use me as an example of his power.
“Worthington this is Chavias. My warlord. The most powerful of my minions.” Radix’s voice rose from behind the formidable stranger. A pale wrinkled hand emerged to grip the curved dagger from Chavias’ hip sheath. He drew it behind Chavias.
Large and well-muscled, Chavias had a hollow look in his eyes that sent chills up Worthington’s spine. In faded firelight that gaze looked black.
The dagger erupted from Chavias’ bared stomach. Abdominal muscles shredded and drops of blood flew onto Worthington’s embroidered tunic and overcoat.
Worthington made a choking sound. Expostulating, “Holy shit!” Retreating a step, Worthington stared at the blood-coated metal blade jutting from the warlord’s torso. Horrified, he tried not to gag. Covering his mouth.
Only the merest wince, and the tightening of Chavias’ jaw revealed his agony. His muscled chest flexed, and he leaned forward minutely as the dagger drug slowly back through him. Fists clenched he ignored blood pouring from his wound and trickling over his stomach, beyond his leather belt, to saturate his black pants.
When it all stopped, Worthington’s jaw hurt from clenching his teeth. Hypnotized he watched tiny strands of skin rise over the wound to interweave, making a small bulge that tightened together. Smoothing into a thin white scar.
In moments even that faded and flattened. Face tight Chavias drug a hand over his stomach wiping away the red coating and showing he no longer bled at all.
He implies to this boy he has the power to make us heal. Truth is that is my gift. His power is in keeping me his slave. It made Chavias want to rage. To grab the boy’s throat and shake him for being so easily fooled.
Radix roughly returned the blade to the sheath on Chavias’ hip, leather groaning. Rounding his warlord, he aimed for Worthington.