Friday, December 18, 2009

Paladin-Part 17

The infernalist cult boasted many champions. The warriors of the White Tower already faced a few of them, and defeated two of them in battle while forcing two other to quit the day. None of these four were Nathan, the lithe and sly slinker and dealer of death by short, slim blades- and the poisons so often upon those keen edged razors and poinards. No, cunning and devious and distrusting as he was, he wanted no part of an open battle. However, as yet held in thrall to the cult's master, he was indeed there and he did not hold any longer is seeing his master's will done- he merely wanted for an opportunity to reveal itself.

Day passed, night fell and soon he took up a position concealed even from the potent, unearthly eyes of the White Tower Initiate--Thomas--that granted the accomplished spy and backstabber a commanding view upon the White Tower camp. Therein he saw James and Thomas converse, over what he knew not, with what he now knew to be his counterpart- a boy, not truly a man in Nathan's eyes. This was Torquil, and Nathan knew that if his bid to slay his master's foes by stealth and treachery were to succeed then he would have to remove the one most likely to counter his scheme of murder.

He watched, but he could not discern what council went on in the camp he spied upon, and he grew frustrated. Knowing fully his master's mind, Nathan set himself to take the first foeman to drift from camp and rip from the fool what useful information he possessed. This, as Fate would have it (or so Nathan would think), was Torquil; not only did this boy have information that his master would want, he held the antique of a Old World firearm that his foolish (but friendly, very friendly) female friend used as a weapon of choice.

Without haste or hesitation, Nathan withdrew from his hiding spot and crept up from behind. He kept young Torquil, brazenly brandishing the baroque boom-maker in arms too young to've seen action meriting the glory heaped upon this youth, firmly fixed forward- not yet wishing to close for the kill. He cared not that Torquil moved far from the White Tower camp; this youth was a scout, and scouting paths and perimeters was commonplace duties, so the distance called out no warning to Nathan's nefarious mind. He never noticed that he wasn't in control of the moment, or that his actions were anticipated, but instead insisted to himself that tonight was no different from any other- and that this callow, untried little punk wouldn't so much as squeak when he shoved two blades into the boy's body and slammed them home straight to the hilts.

Nathan's business rested wholly upon deception, and when caught out from underneath its protective cover such men as he fared poorly in confrontations with firmer men; in this, as in all things in Nathan's life, when expectations go awry things usually fall quickly into ruin. This occasion did not disappoint, and it went wrong as soon as he had his blades in hand and made the final approach upon Torquil from behind.

Nathan went for the quick, silent rush and committed to the double-ended dagger kill that was his signature method of slaughter. Just as the blade were to slam home and discharge their deadly poison into Torquil's veins, Nathan froze- paralyzed. How he did not know; no magic struck him by force nor ensnared his mind, but yet he felt an irresistible force seize him solid and stop him utterly in an instant. Then Torquil turned around, and in the youth's eyes he beheld the true opponent- or, rather, the eyes thereof.

"FOOL!" yelled a womanly voice, yet Nathan truly saw no motion from the youth's lips.

Torquil, if it truly was merely him, turned wholly about and seized Nathan's blades out of his hands. Nathan saw, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled any sign of magic- but magic he must have to achieve this feat so effortlessly!

"Nathan of the Cult of Kogone, Master of Assassins, Manslayer and Poisoner- you are one of the six champions of Kogone arrayed against the People of the White Tower."

That voice, that womanly voice so chilled his blood with its cold steely tone, and in that moment Nathan realized--crudely, imperfectly, imprecisely--what he beheld; a being, dis-corporate perhaps, but distant nonetheless, joined with the youth's flesh and possessed him. So held, this womanly entity could act through its agent at will- just like the demons that he and his fellows trafficked with so regularly.

"What manner of demon so disrespects a champion of Kogone?" Nathan thought, for he could not speak, but lack of speech was no impediment to his assailant.

"No demon am I, but a being greater than any such flawed figure." came that voice, "It is time that my siblings and I intervened, and I do so by removing part of the rubble that obstructs the return of Man to Civilization."

Nathan saw Torquil work the action of the firearm, load a cartridge into the chamber, close the action and take aim at point-blank range upon Nathan's head.

"Unlike your lover, I shan't leave anything for your deluded ally to use to return you to live and stave off your judgement. You are guilty, demon-lover, and now you shall be punished."

One crack of the sound barrier later and Nathan fell over dead, his head half blown off, and by sunrise naught remained but ashes and gristle as dis-corporate Sybil used Torquil's body to annihilate the corpse- preventing Dezikon from resurrecting Nathan. Mercifully, Sybil insulated Torquil from the fullness of events; he saw, but distantly so, but her presence left its mark upon him permanently- for good and ill alike.

Torquil never smiled again.

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