48 | Of Red-Eyed Sinners

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"Where ya headed?"

Annoyed, the Sin of Pride lifted his eyes from the battered map sprawled on the table to glare at the burly local. The man had to be six and half feet in height and weighed down by a hundred pounds of well-earned muscle. He was a mountain of a man, made to live in mountainous town.

If Darius had been a mortal man, he should've been intimidated by the local. As it was, he wasn't mortal and couldn't care less.

"Hell," Darius answered, allowing the barest sliver of energy to enter and charge his irises. "Want a free trip there?"

The man backed away from the table and left the Sin to his map and untouched ale. The rundown tavern was heavily populated, considering how tiny and remote the Scandinavian village was. The fires roaring in the hearths pumped exorbitant heat into the main floor area. Darius breathed in the scent of sweat, ozone, and the strange precipitation that preludes a blizzard. The whole settlement rested upon the slope of a gray, snowcapped mountain with glaciers crawling at its feet.

Alone in his dark corner, Darius flexed his hand and pushed just an ember of power into his fingertips. He pressed down upon the map and drew a line of soot from one red 'x' to the next. The area he'd covered today was vast, but had proved unfruitful. There had been nothing but frozen tundra and lands of ice. Nothing.

Her voice persisted in the back of his thoughts. There isn't a weapon! You're chasing shadows, willing them to take form, but they never will!

"Idiot," he grunted as he leaned on his fist and smoothed the map's surface. Aside from the sections he'd burnt off, the map was soft from being taken in and out of his jacket pocket so often. "She somehow still manages to irritate me from hundreds of miles away."

The scarf he'd taken from some traveling woodsman days earlier was swaddled about his face and neck. His breath poured into the knitting, warming his cheeks and skin against the ravages of the frigid temperature. The cold held little sway over the Sin typically, but his exposed skin easily succumbed to frostbite in the subzero chill of this clime. Continuously healing the dead flesh was a waste of energy.

The Sin charred off another section of the map before glancing out the window. What was visible of the world through the swirls of frost was dark and unwelcoming. The mortals inside had their backs turned to the waiting night, their shoulders dusted with fat white flakes, their gloved hands curved about steaming mugs of stout and lager.

Darius stared into the blackness of the coming storm. His entire body was beleaguered by exhaustion—but the Sin knew he couldn't linger through the night. He needed to continue the search. He had somewhere he needed to be.

He dropped a few krones he'd managed to steal from another village on the table before getting up. Some of the locals slanted wary looks in Darius's direction as he carefully folded the deteriorating map and replaced it in his pocket. The Sin sneered as he resituated the scarf and strolled from the tavern.

The wind instantly sliced through his attire with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel, but Darius only squared his shoulders and ignored the unrelenting cold. His breath issued from between the scarf's fold in white plumes that were caught and shredded by the turbulent air. Darius blinked to clear the ice building on his lashes and finally resorted to filling his eyes with power, letting the residual energy heat and melt the accumulating frost.

The storm had barely begun to unleash its rage. There were still spots of visibility to be had, air to be stolen from between the blustering howls of the arctic cold. Darius sank ankle deep in the snow and continued to the edge of the precarious town he never learned the name of. He had his eyes set on the steely mountains before him and what may lay in one of the many valleys carved between the range's numerous footholds.

Bereft: Demise (Book 2, the Bereft Series)Where stories live. Discover now