A Death Knight is Born

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Darren’s eyes grew hard as though he hadfocussed on something upon another plane. Kryan felt a shiver run down his spine; something was wrong. He summoned his own shaol and, as always, the link was there but tenuous. His shaol was warning him, but of what he could not say. Fear cascaded down his spine and he glanced uncertainly around the cave, trying to see into the hidden depths where evil might lurk like a plague about to be released upon the world.

Kryan was playing with proverbial fire; imps, demons and devils were not to be toyed with. One mistake and his soul could be rotting in hell for an eternity of damnation.

All at once Kryan felt his age and his own arrogance died. His wrinkled flesh on the back of the hand gripping the ornate knife suddenly reminded him of his own mortality. He was so afraid to die. The aches and pains of age were suddenly forgotten and he felt an overpowering love of life. Why did he feel so threatened?

Darren fell to his knees and turned his eyes up to look upon Kryan with a look of reverence that Kryan had never seen before. For a moment he feared that Darren was seeing his fear as a smile spread upon the youth’s face. Kryan tried to straighten his shoulders. He looked across at Gallan to see whether the other man had felt a similar premonition, but he might well have been looking at rock for all that Gallan’s expression betrayed. The other man’s broad features were impassive. His dark, shaggy eyebrows and long fringe all but hid his eyes. Kryan felt afraid, but knew he must continue, if not just to keep face amongst his peers.

Darren was now smiling in almost feral glee. Kryan fell back on his last resort when cornered by something he did not understand—bullying and tyranny.

“Here, take the knife,” he commanded proffering the weapon to the youth. Darren grasped the blade and, for a moment, the two men held the weapon as Kryan turned to Gallan. “Do you have the cloak, belt and scabbard?”

Gallan nodded and for once Kryan wished that he would say something.

Turning his attention back to Darren, he said, “You know what to do. Ryoch demands your soul.”

Kryan was shocked; always when he said these words there was horror in the eyes of the person he spoke to. Never had he witnessed the calm acceptance that he now saw. It was his hand that shook, and not Darren’s, as he passed the knife over. Once more he glanced at Gallan, but again it was like looking at stone.

“Ryoch,” Kryan shouted and, to his own ears, his voice trembled. “Ryoch, your servant kneels before you and offers you his life.” As required he felt his own shaol scream the name Drachar over and over. This time, though, he heard it clearly, rather than as though across a vast expanse of time. He again realised that something was wrong. This was going too well. Whereas they had always failed before, now doubt crept into his mind. He looked about the cavern as though expecting to see Drachar’s shade smiling down on him, an evil smile of the damned.

Darren had taken the weapon. He exposed his chest, unbuttoning the jerkin he wore and then the shirt beneath it. Still wearing the feral grin, he placed the point of the blade against his chest and then his eyes met Kryan’s in silent challenge. A brief instance of pain, a grimace, a low moan escaping dying lips and Darren sank slowly to the cavern floor before Kryan even saw the blade move. It was over and Kryan was suddenly enamoured by the power of his false god.

Shocked, Kryan watched the flow of crimson as Gallan came over with the cloak. “There is no need for that,” Kryansneered, his bravado returning as adrenalin coursed through his veins. But, Gallan did not stop. He placed the cloak about the air above the corpse, and, when he removed his hands, the cloak remained, suspended in mid air. Unseen hands adjusted the cloak, tying it about an invisible throat. The hood came up and it took all Kryan’s strength of will to remain standing.

Gallan looked at Kryan, his eyes dark and brooding. “You did not believe,” he accused. “You have never believed. It is your failure that this moment has taken so long to achieve.”

Gallan strapped the belt and scabbard about the ethereal form. The figure stooped, drawing the knife from the dead boy’s body. Kryan heard his shaol screaming repeated warnings and, too late, he turned, seeking an escape. Intense pain blossomed in his back, a pain like no other. It felt as though he had been kicked by a horse and, all at once, he could not breathe. He fell to his knees, his head turning and his eyes seeking the reason for his demise.

“I told you not to use that tone of voice with me,” a hollow voice said.

Kryan fell forward, his eyes darkening. He panted for breath but none came. He felt life leaving him. Behind him he heard Gallan issuing instructions to the abomination. What had he done? In his mind’s eye, a phantom took shape and, with the recognition, came terror. His master was calling and behind him was his creatures; all the demon’s of hell. His master opened his arms, welcoming Kryan to his domain. His failure was to be punished; a punishment lasting all eternity. Even long after he had died, his wail of remorse filled the cave.

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