Auron stood away from the altar. He could only watch his two companions approach it in abject silence. He’d noticed Davon’s change gradually as they made their way back from Morvac. He was emotionless, lending only blank, uncaring stares as they traversed the wooded areas to the spire. Matthiu was more beside himself. The unending call for the dagger – the way he described it – was the insatiable need told through far-off whispers that slipped like bells tolling.
He could see that it had taken every ounce of strength just to keep Matthiu from plunging himself on to the white blade. The inscribed letters that were carved into the fuller glistened a magnificent blue as it hung from Davon’s belt.
Davon pressed a button on the panel. The gentle whir of machinery crackled to life. The building almost seemed to sigh around them. Lights of green and red flickered along the walls above the stairway. He kept his back to him as he worked. Matthiu looked over the priest’s shoulder and frowned. In some regards, both he and Auron weren’t pleased with how things had turned out. The trip was anything than standard; the only real revelations that should have been made were that they could actually work with each other.
Matthiu, barely hanging on to his urges, moved away from Davon and approached Auron. The warrior rested his hand on the pommel of his blade and frowned. The disheveled man, with scraggly brown hair looked like death warmed over. His blue eyes, once vibrant during the trip had now dulled and began to cloud.
Auron lifted an eyebrow, but couldn’t answer back. He wanted to, but knew that no amount of protest would be heard. He’d tried when they spoke with the Craftsman. There has to be another way!, his thoughts screamed. He bit his lip to keep from uttering his words out loud. His eyes lingered over toward Davon who was now looking at a screen above him. Auron looked at the green hued monitor flickering. A trickle of toned beeps burbled from every direction. They echoed off the walls, invaded his ears and sunk deeply into his gut as faces started rolling across the screen. Some he had no idea who they were, the text a defunct language of a bygone era. More familiar faces stared back at him, the previous Siege Breakers and their Wardens.
“Hey!” Matthiu yelled.
Auron’s eyes finally looked back to the man in front of him. “I -.”
Matthiu placed his hand on the young warrior’s shoulder and smiled. Auron was taken aback by the bleeding gums and blackening teeth that resided in the man’s mouth. The putrid smell of rot and decay lingered on his breath as Matthiu chuckled at Auron’s stunned look. Every muscle trembled on the ghoulish man’s body. He quaked and jerked as his head began to fall forward.
“We don’t have time for this,” Matthiu said. He patted Auron’s shoulder and lifted his head to meet Auron’s eyes. “That promise you made to Davon about his daughter? You remember it?” Auron nodded slowly. “Would you – I mean – just, please? Take care of my son as well?” Auron’s lips parted to speak, but Matthiu’s eyes shimmered. A small trickle of black liquid down his cheek. “He deserves better than what he got in a father.” Matthiu turned to Davon and shuddered. “Let him know I did this for him.”
“It’s time,” Davon said. He didn’t bother looking at either of them. His tone was lost among the emotionless quagmire he’d been afflicted with. It was careless, flippant. “Now.”
Auron looked down on his friend and muttered, “I will.” He rested his hands on the withered man’s shoulders and squeezed. Matthiu let out a wheezing chuckle. Auron didn’t want to let him go. His grip grew tighter. He knew that Matthiu would give in to the urge the moment the blade was in hand.
Before anything more could be said between them, the blade protruded through Matthiu’s chest. Davon glared over the wounded man’s shoulder at Auron. Long spindly fingers gripped Matthiu’s arm and pulled him from Auron’s grasp. Matthiu didn’t let out a sound. Auron’s face grew pale as the frail figure of his friend was tossed across the room. The crack of bones as Matthiu hit the face of the altar overcame all the mechanisms in the room. Black fluid trickled from Matthiu’s face.
Auron reached for his blade, but stayed his hand as Matthiu raised a hand to stop him. Davon was on him in a flash and snatched the raised limb above Matthiu’s head. Auron took a step backward and found himself resting against the bumpy wall. Lights brightly illuminated the room and then Auron saw them: faces contorted into looks of horror, encased in the metal walls. He jumped back and saw Matthiu now on the altar. Davon began to scream, the words coming out were gibberish to him. The cadence those of a raving lunatic, chanting during a god forsaken ritual. Davon raised the blade above his head, the inscription now a corrosive black color glowed faintly.
The warrior grabbed his sword and yelled for Davon to stop, but like everything else, they fell on deaf ears. Matthiu let out a shriek and grabbed Davon’s arm and pulled the blade into him. Bones cracked, blood trickled down the altar. The chanting filled the room. It was like the drums of the Hunt. Auron remembered them deeply at his initiation into the Siege Hunters. His head began to swirl with the visions and sounds of a world falling into chaos. He saw people moving around him, ignoring him as they went about their day. They approached the altar and watched as Davon grew more quiet.
“Davon, sir!” Auron said. Davon slowly turned to Auron, his hands and face slicked with blood and fell to his knees. He stared down at his hands resting in his drenched robe. He was silent. His ghost white complexion reflected the lights around them. “Davon!” Auron yelled it louder. He ran to the man and knelt before him. The ghosts looked down at him, coal black eyes stared at him. “We have to go now, sir!” He grabbed the shoulder of Davon’s robe and pulled, but the priest refused to move.
“No,” Davon murmured.
One by one, the ghosts turned toward them and began to approach. Auron glanced down at Davon, a flush of red crossed his friend’s face. A low hiss escaped the throng of people looming over them. Tears began to streak the priest’s face. He choked and sobbed uncontrollably as he was flooded with emotions. Everything he’d given up was now thrust upon him.
Auron released Davon from his grasp and scrambled to his feet. Davon swayed and lifted his eyes to his guardian. They were now just as black as those that bore witness.
“Oh, Emali,” Davon breathed. “My dearest, Emali. I’m so glad you will not see what I have become!” He closed his eyes and shuddered. “Auron. You must go. You must see what I will not be able to.”
As Auron nodded, the hands of the dead grabbed Davon and a blinding light surged through the room. He felt himself flying through the air and the nothingness that became darkness and the cold stone beneath him. The only sound came from his breathing and the violent rumble of thunder overhead. His eyes fluttered open. His vision was slow to return to him. His head throbbed and his face was slick with liquid. It stung his eyes and he forced himself up.
He shook off the pain and gripped his face. Warm fluid trickled between his fingers and down his arm. He looked to the heavens, a familiar and terrifying sight beheld him: black velvet night with not a star to be seen. Even they seemed to be ashamed of what they were beholden to.
It’s over, he thought as he gazed into the void. He looked towards the faint halo of light cascading over the mountains from Lustria. He knew that the celebrations would be taking place and that the populace would not know what was lost this day, that a child would be waiting for a father that would never return and a boy who would grow up never knowing that his father did right by him in the end. He turned his attention to Morvac and the tower – now sealed from anyone entering – and growled.
No. It’s not over.