Dragonthief: Chapter One Part 1
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The servant shuddered as he passed through the doorway, feeling as if a dozen spiders were crawling down his back. He hated this part of the castle; it reeked of Dark Magic. This room, however, seemed worse than usual. He could almost see the writhing tendrils reaching toward him like grasping fingers. He cringed inwardly, trying to convince himself that it was nothing. His wife always said his head was too often in the clouds. Just last night, he reminded himself, he had claimed to see a spirit, and it had ended up being his cloak, hanging on the back of the door. So, clearly, his judgment was not the best in these areas. Still, better safe
than sorry, he told himself as he curved his hand into a claw over his heart, the universal ward against evil.
After a few seconds, his body unfroze long enough for him to continue on into the room. He glanced warily around the room, heart thudding in his chest. This room was a walking death trap. The things hanging on the wall had only one thing in common; they were all weapons. The purposes of most were immediately obvious; swords, axes and daggers cluttered most of the wall space. Some, however, had a more deadly, but less palpable purpose. At first, they appeared perfectly normal; out of place, perhaps, on walls lined with shields and daggers, but utterly harmless. When he glimpsed them out of the corner of his eyes, however, they began to play tricks on him. A dagger became a writhing snake, and a necklace
dripped what appeared suspiciously to be blood. A mirror reflected things that weren't there, or a face emerged from a coat of arms. However, when he snapped his head around, nothing at all seemed out of the ordinary. It was enough to make him wonder, each time he entered, whether he was going crazy.
He turned his head away from the mirror, intending to look for the room's occupant, but a necklace caught his eye. At first, he thought it simple, barely more than a small stone on a silver chain. The longer he looked, however, the more entranced he became. How could he have thought it simple? The stone was small, but he felt like, if he so desired, he could swim in its depths. He felt as if he could spend an eternity wrapped in its folds, listening to the lure of his soul harmonizing with the stone's siren.
A voice tore his gaze from the stone, and for a brief instant he felt an irrational urge do yank the necklace from the wall. He came back to himself a moment later, and turned toward the voice. It came from a man who looked out of place in his surroundings. He looked as if he should be filling ink wells and stamping books in a library somewhere. When he spoke, however, the Darkness seeping from his voice melded perfectly with the room. He said, "I see you've found one of my treasures. It's called the Looking Glass, and it happens to be one of my personal favorites. It is said that if one looks
hard enough, they could see the shape of the world, the past…the future…if the Shadows don't devour them first." The man cackled softly at the servant's discomfort. The servant shuddered, tearing his eyes again from the stone, instead bowing to the man, a shiver crawling down his spine.
The man to whom the voice belonged looked out of place in the macabre surroundings. He looked as if he should instead be sitting in a library, stamping books and filling ink wells. When he spoke again, however, the darkness seeping from his voice fit in with the surroundings perfectly. "Would you like to gaze into the Looking Glass? Are you brave enough to risk your soul?" His voice quieted at the end, to the barest of whispers, and a shudder slid down the servant's back as he felt a compulsion overcome him. It was small, nearly unnoticeable. He found his gaze being drawn back to the stone, and an urge to touch the stone, to caress the shadows writhing on the surface until he became one of them. He fought it down, and a cruel laugh from the man dispelled the final urges. He turned back to the man, his apprehension plain on his face.
"I thought not." The man said, the cruel humor fading from his face, to be replaced with a sour expression. "Not many have had the luxury of its wisdom." He was silent for a moment, and the servant thought that he looked rather as if he'd been listening to a voice that only he could hear. He shook his head, telling himself not to be a fool. The motion seemed to startle the man, as if he had just been reminded of the servant's presence. He blinked, then said, "Ah, yes. Do you know where one might find Lord Durian at this hour?" The servant paused for a moment, thinking.
"Yes, I…I believe he went to his chambers, Master Cyrus." He fidgeted slightly, hoping that Master Cyrus was not going to do what he thought he was.
"Fetch him for me. And make haste, the matter is urgent." He shifted his weight to his other foot, hearing his heartbeat begin to speed up.
"M-Master Cyrus, I'm sorry, but Lord Durian specifically asked not to be disturbed until morning light. He was very adamant…" A frown crossed Master Cyrus's face, and the servant cringed. Bad things happened to people who incurred his displeasure. The last man went home addled. However, even worse was rumored to have been inflicted on the few stupid enough to disobey Lord Durian.
After a few seconds Master Cyrus seemed to bring his anger back under control and said, "I understand his instructions, but the situation has changed. Go fetch him for me, and make haste. Tell him we've made a breakthrough."
The servant bowed, inwardly praying to Eos, and backed out of the room. Once he was gone, Master Cyrus stood up, walking over to a large bookshelf tucked into a corner. He scanned the spines carefully, pulling out a large, well-worn book from its shelves and placing it gingerly, almost tenderly, on his desk. Then, he pulled out a scroll from the drawer beneath his desk. He held it delicately, touching it only with the very tips of his fingers, and set it gently down next to the book. Then, he waited.
It took several minutes, but soon a knock on the door announced their arrival. After a few seconds the door opened and the servant walked in, followed by a tall man with an imposing presence. The servant told himself that he didn't see a shadowy presence surrounding the man, a resonant of the Dark Magic he practiced daily. His long black hair hung nearly to his waist and, at the moment, was hastily braided. Runes glimmered in the knots, seen only through half closed eyes and daydreams. The servant could not see them; even Master Cyrus, trained to spot them, could barely make them out. Master Cyrus filed that information away for later use. It seemed that Lord Durian was nervous, if he'd taken to weaving several spells of protection around himself. It might be something he could exploit at a later time.
Lord Durian had not been happy to be awakened. He did not sleep; after all, none of the Brotherhood needed to endure it, but he had long ago perfected his meditations, which allowed him to see things otherwise closed to him, and he hated to be interrupted…especially by a man like Cyrus. He had several important meetings the next morning and had been looking forward to his respite.
When he'd entered, Master Cyrus had made a show of standing. However, he did it in such a way that, while Lord Durian could not claim disrespect, it was all but evident in his body language. In response, Lord Durian took his time in acknowledging the overdone bow that Master Cyrus had deigned to fake. He smiled as he watched Cyrus's discomfort before he nodded in response, allowing the petty man to sink into his seat. He himself took a seat as well, perching on the chair like a hawk.
Then he said, in a voice that seemed only at first glance to be casual, "Cyrus…I trust you have a good reason for summoning me at this time of the night…Surely even you know the consequences for disobeying my orders…" Master Cyrus took a moment to take in Lord Durian's appearance, fixing it in his memory for the future. He didn't bother to hide his amusement; at the moment, he held the upper hand in their relationship, whether Lord Durian knew it yet or not.
"You will be pleased to have been…summoned, I assure you." A smile danced on the corner of his lips and he leaned back slightly. He paused. He rather enjoyed seeing Lord Durian flustered; it was rare for Lord Durian to be forced to lean on others.. For once, he had the power in their relationship. He took a moment to ponder this before leaning forward again. He'd planned on delivering his news slowly, to enjoy, for once, having the upper hand, but after a moment he noticed the darkness growing in Lord Durian's eyes.
Realizing he may have pushed things just a hair too far, he backpedaled furiously, his voice dripping with servility as he said, "It will be much worth the interruption."
Lord Durian cleared his throat, saying, "I highly doubt it. But if you called me here for the pleasure of my company, I'm afraid I'll have to pass. Some of us actually have work to do." He twitched his wrist slightly, itching to clasp the hilt of his sword.
Cyrus noticed the motion and resisted the urge to again flaunt his power. Much as he may hate to admit it, Lord Durian was not a man to be trifled with. Cyrus gingerly picked the scroll up off of his desk, holding it carefully, and said, "My Lord, do you know what this is?" He passed it over, wincing as Lord Durian yanked it carelessly from his grasp. He itched to take it back, but forced himself to remain seated.
Lord Durian unrolled it with a sneer, staring at the faded glyphs on the page, squinting in an attempt to read the obscure language. Then, he tossed it on the table, watching with muted pleasure as Cyrus jerked reflexively, an expression of horror glued on his face as he carefully picked up the scroll. Then, he said, "You had better not have called me here to look at a bunch of unreadable scribbles, or I swear to Tyre--"
Cyrus interrupted him, a sheen of sweat breaking out on his forehead at the mention of Tyre's name. He ignored it, allowing a hint of scorn to color his voice as he said, "Surely even you have heard of the Illumini Codex…The set of scrolls that contains instructions on awakening Tyre?" He covered his anger at the careless treatment of the scroll with his amusement as he watched the emotions roll across Lord Durian's face.
Lord Durian quickly covered his shock. "And this is it?"
Cyprus fidgeted slightly below the desk. "Not…exactly." Lord Durian's eyes narrowed and Cyrus hurried to explain. "This scroll is titled The Indexus. It gives us instructions to finding the first scroll of the Illumini Codex."
Durian frowned for a moment, then said, "Can it be translated?" His voice was eager, his eyes glittering at the idea. Cyrus nodded, reaching into a drawer and pulling out a parchment.
As he unrolled it, he said "It has been an arduous process but, finally, I have managed it. You are looking at the sole copy of the translated text." He passed the parchment to Lord Durian, who scanned it feverishly, an idea growing in his mind.
"Really? The only copy?" Cyrus read his thoughts on his face and broke out into a smile.
"Yes. But, much as you might hate to admit it, you need me. I'm the one person in the world that you can't afford to lay a finger on." He smiled ruthlessly.
"I'd love to know how you came to that conclusion." Lord Durian muttered.
"You haven't read that scroll yet. The Illumini Codex was broken into three parts and hidden across the world, and I'm the only person who can translate it."
Anger flashed across Lord Durian's face but was replaced after a few seconds by a more practical emotion. He would simply have to postpone his plans on that matter. For the moment, however, he could get to work on other things.
The first thing, however, was the most important. There were two types of people in the world. The first would not understand what he was trying to accomplish, and would attempt, in their misguided beliefs, to thwart his plans. That could not be allowed to happen. The second kind of person was the one that shared his goal. They would seek to beat him in his goal, garnering Tyre's support for themselves. This too must be prevented. If his plans were to come to fruition, he would need to ensure that the plans of the Brotherhood remained secret.
Cyrus came to the same conclusion. He turned to the servant, who was pale and shaking near the door. He had heard their plans. He would need to be eliminated, for the safety of the Brotherhood. Lord Durian said, "Kill him. And, to be safe, get rid of his family as well." Then, he left the room. The servant made to run as Cyrus approached him, but Cyrus grabbed his arm, forcing him to look in a small mirror he held in his hand. Instantly, the man calmed, sinking into a deep trance.
Cyrus began to speak, his voice low and calming. He said, "Walk to the wall and take the dagger. Yes, that one right there. Very good. Now, slip it into your pocket, just like that…I want you to walk home, just as you always do. When you walk inside, I want you to take that dagger and plunge it into the hearts of every living thing in your household. When you're done, take it and plunge it into your heart. Do you understand?" The servant nodded blankly.
Cyrus went to turn away, then turned back, a malicious grin on his pasty face. "Oh, and one last thing…Do it with a smile."
A few candlemarks later, a neighbor went to borrow a cup of milk from the servant's wife. The woman was frequently forgetting to purchase one thing or another; she had a memory worse than a tree stump, so it was common for her to be seen standing on their porch knocking, a cup in one hand, and an embarrassed smile on her face. The servant's wife had once jokingly claimed they were going to buy a statue of the woman and have it placed there permanently, since she was there so much already. Normally, the door would open immediately and she would be ushered inside, where she would be greeted by half a dozen little feet racing around her, laughter bouncing off the walls and the sound of an exasperated sigh leaking out of their mother. Today, however, was not a normal day.
Today she stood on their porch knocking, but no sound came from inside. The door did not open. Children did not rush outside to greet her. No mother sighed behind them. She began to grow worried, so she pushed open the door, peering inside and calling, "Hello?"
She did not hear an answer, so she stepped further inside. After a moment, she saw the first body. It was a little boy of eight years old. The second was an even younger girl, her blonde hair spread like wings around her shoulders, her eyes closed in the peaceful silence of death. The third was yet an even younger girl, barely out of diapers. The fourth body was the mother's, tear streaks staining her face. The last was the servant. A smile still rested on his lips, a crazed smile that seemed out of place on his face. The neighbor screamed.