ANGEL OF DESTRUCTION
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He was sure that he had a name, but no matter how hard he thought he could not bring it to the front of his mind. Is that not always the way? He thought to himself. When you try too hard to remember something it eludes you, but when your mind is pointed in a different direction, the thought creeps back up to you, tries to catch you unawares, then you can snatch it up and remember. When you try too hard, the thought knows this and stays far enough away that you cannot grasp it fully, it is still there but more like a shadow, a ghost of a memory that you once knew.
He stood looking out the window at the vast crater in the ground below the city, but then turned back to what brought him here. The room was bare apart from two wooden chairs. The walls made of large stone blocks. Looking at them he wondered how much magic was needed to keep them in place so high from the ground. The floor was smooth stone and sat in the middle on one of the two chairs, was a stout man with thinning black hair and a thick set face. He was a pale creature, but his current predicament had him bright red in the face and sweating profusely. It was not a good day to be him.
“It matters not who I am. You are one of the Voices and I need information.” Said the Man in White as he looked down at the sweating figure of a man.
“But please, if you untie me, then I can think better and I can help you. I want to help you,” pleaded the man. “If someone wanted me dead, then I would be. I would not have seen your face. So, that means I can help you find what you are looking for. If you would untie me then we can come to an accord and both go about our business.”
The Man in White moved back to the window looking out again at the marvellous city. He sometimes wished he could have a normal life, be like the people in the city and enjoy simple things, maybe if he could remember his name he could be a different person. No, that was not his destiny that lay on a different path to the one he was walking. A path he would be walking alone.
“All I want to know is the name of the Angel that frequents this world. You are a voice of Angels, you speak with them and are respected by them, so you will know of the one I speak. Give me his name and then I will be on my way,” The Man in White said in a dreamy voice as he looked longingly at the world around him.
“I will need to consult with the others. I am not sure who the one you are looking for is,” the stout man was beginning to panic.
When he awoke that morning, it had been like any other day. He had turned to find see his maid in the bed next to him, dried blood on the pillow from when he had hit her during his moment of ecstasy. Now, barely time for supper and he was tied to a chair in a room high up in one of the castles. He knew the futility of trying to call for help, for this part of the castle was no longer used. His only chance was to try and negotiate with the assassin. He was still alive because he had information that was useful. How long he would live after giving away that information was not something he wanted to consider and a shiver ran down his spine.
“From what I have heard about your kind, you already know which Angel I seek, so delaying will not help you. From here it looks like you only have two options. The first is to give me the name of the one I seek and the second is not to give me the name. The choice is yours.”
“What sort of a choice is that,” the stout man cried.
“What is your name?”
“My name is Aram and I am a Voice to the Angels.” Aram replied, trying to puff out his chest. It was useless, he had been tied here for over an hour and he was starting to feel hungry. For someone of his stature, being tied to a chair and refused any food, it was unheard of, a sacrilege and it was clearly a situation he had never found himself before.
“Aram, I require this information from you, but you are not obliged to give it. If you wish to be loyal to the Angels, then I will find another Voice who is willing to betray the one Angel that I want,” the Man in White said as he sat in the only other chair in the room.
They faced each other, Aram trying not to look into those deep black eyes. They just did not seem real, but there was a depth to them and he almost felt like he were drowning. After a few moments, the Man in White stood and moved back over to the window.
There was something about Elysia that had always enchanted him. While he had heard stories about the city before, no story could capture the magic of the place itself. The only way to truly appreciate the city was to visit it.
Forgetting about Aram for the moment, he stood staring out at the city again. One story he had heard told of a group of magicians that were full of self-importance and believed there was no one greater than themselves. Wanting to be physically as well as mental superior to all, they had raised the city from the land and using all their power combined created an invisible barrier between the ground and the now floating city. For all time Elysia would belong in the skies above the peasants, a testament to the inhabitants social standing in the world.
Looking down from the city, one could still see the large crater that had been left when it had risen to a higher standing and it was a good days walk around to get to the other side and it was far too deep for anyone to try and climb down.
He liked this story, the very idea that a group of people who thought that they were the best that not only society had to offer, but the best the world had to offer. While all cities and countries had people like this, noble aristocrats with wealth beyond imagination, these magicians had gone a step further than building a palace away from the poorer areas. They had built a city away from everyone and the only way to enter the city was with by proving your worth.
While he stared out at the marvel that was Elysia, he realised his mind was wandering again. It had been doing this more and more lately. Was he becoming something different? Was he becoming more human? He dismissed these as flights of fancy and turned back to Aram, who looked like he was going to pass out. Picking up his bag from below the window, he took out a small flask and unstoppered it, offering it up to Aram who gulped it down like he had never tasted water before.
“I know what you Aram, I know your perversions, I’ve seen the results on the faces of the woman you force into bed,” the Man in White began, holding up his hand preventing Aram from defending himself. “You cannot deny what I know. I have now feelings towards what you do, but I do know that no one will miss you if something were to happen to you.”
“Please, please… I will help you, let me help you?” Aram cried. “I just need a couple of hours to find the one you want.”
Normally he would not let his prey go, but something outside was calling to him and he wanted to answer that call. While this went against everything he knew and had been trained for, he decided to release Aram and see what the little man was going to do. Even though he knew this was not the best thing to do, it would lead to a fatal mistake for Aram.
“I will give you two hours to find the name of the one I seek, do not try and hide because I will find you.”
The Man in White picked up his bag, took out his knife and cut the rope binding Aram’s hands and then left the room. Aram sat there rubbing the burns on his wrists before finding the strength to get up and walk slowly and quietly to the door. All the doors in the castle were made from a dark solid wood that was so heavy it took Aram a moment to pull the door open. As it opened, the hinge creaked a little and he shrank back into the room, fearing the assassin was waiting for him outside.
When he was sure there was no one stalking the hallway outside the room, Aram quickly stepped through the door and made his way for the spiral staircase that led down to the main part of the castle.
Aram made his way straight to his rooms, of which there were many. Being a Voice to the Angels meant that not only was he a magician, but he had the added prestige of being born with the ability to speak with the Angels. This extra level of arrogance afforded him luxuries others could only dream of and it put him above the law in Elysia, a fact that he took great pleasure in.
His rooms where in the south wing of the castle he held been held captive in and it took too long for him to get there, but once he arrived there, Kravoll and the Elysian guards came running over to him.
“Sir, we have been looking everywhere for you,” the guard said as he caught up to Aram.
“Covel heard a commotion. He tried shoutin’ yer name, but nothing. By the time he broke door, yer were gone,” Kravoll said in a gruff voice.
Aram ordered the guard to get more men, to fill the corridor leading to his rooms with men if he had to, but under no circumstances was anyone to get into his rooms. When he had first moved here, he had purposefully chosen this apartment suite for the simple fact there was only one main door. While each of the eight rooms inside, anyone wanting to enter had to first go through this door and passed the guards. Once he was satisfied there would be enough men, he opened the door which led to his lavishly decorated audience chamber where he received his guests.
“We have a problem Kravoll,” Aram said as he ushered Kravoll into the room and then made his way to his throne while Kravoll locked the door. While he was not of royal blood, Aram’s position was akin to a King’s and like everything else, he indulged. His throne was made from an ancient metal from a land that had been long lost to legend. No one knew where he got the methir from to make the throne and the fact he refused to tell anyone added to the mystery surrounding him and made some people see him as something more than he was.
“What sort of trouble?”
“There is an assassin loose in Elysia and he seems fixated on me. He thinks that I will betray an Angel and has given me two hours to find the one he wants.”
“You are right, we do have a problem, I will call for my men,” said Kravoll as he opened the door to the room. Leaning out, he whispered to one of the guards who immediately put his weapon down and went running down the corridor.
Aram was of a sadistic nature and gained great pleasure from the torture of others. While he was above the law of the city, there were still those who wanted to see him punished even executed. For this reason and this reason alone, he had hired The Untamed. Normally Kravoll and his kind would not be allowed near Elysium and would be killed if they laid a foot on its sacred ground, but Aram was above the law and he paid officials not to pursue the matter.
Kravoll was a master at what he did, killing, he and his men were all several hands taller than Aram and almost as wide, but Aram indulged too much and gained weight, The Untamed fought and killed, honing both their muscles and their skills. Their heads were all shaven apart from a small knot of hair on the top, which was bound with cord. The same cord was wrapped tightly around their biceps accentuating their muscles.
Just looking at them repulsed Aram, but his life was more important to him and most of the time he could ignore them. They were being paid handsomely to be where he needed them, but not to interfere with his life. This had been how the Man in White he caught him.
Aram had just visited one of the many women he deemed worthy of his body. When he was feeding his impulses, his urges, he refused to have anyone else in the room and so, this had given the assassin the opportunity to capture him. He had been taken by surprise, while he was vulnerable and his hands had been tied and a cloth forced into his mouth. This had prevented him from defending himself using magic and he had been taken from the room to where he was being interrogated by the assassin.
He sat in his throne drinking a glass of wine while he waited for more of Kravoll’s men to arrive. While he sat there, he thought about everything that had happened and of the implications. Why was there an assassin looking for an Angel? What would happen if he betrayed the Angels? He dismissed this last idea almost instantly, he knew what would happen. The price for betrayal was the same in any realm, death.
“I hope your men are up to the task Kravoll?” Aram asked as he took another sip of the sweet wine. “I need to tell the Angels what has happened here, but before I do that we need to resolve the problem.”
“There’ll be ten more of The Untamed here shortly. It matters not how good he is, he will not be able to kill me and ten of my best men. When he comes for you we will be ready.”
After leaving Aram in sat in the chair, but no longer bound, the Man in White made his way to the end of the hallway outside the room and into another empty room. In here it was much the same as the one he had just left, no furniture and nothing adorning any of the walls. The floor was the same solid rock and the walls were the same large square blocks of solid stone.
There was no window in this room, so when the door closed he struggled to see clearly, still, he knew exactly where he was going. The Man in White walked over to the far wall and reached out his right hand. He lightly traced the stone blocks with his fingers until he found what he was looking for. Pushing against the rock, there was a small click and part of the wall swung inwards on hidden hinges revealing a dark musty passageway.
Holding his palm out in front of him, the air around him stilled, the breeze that was coming through the passage stopped and a pin prick of a light appeared in the air several inches above his hand. It was a soft white light and even though it was only small, the strength he needed to create it was evident on his face. The light grew into a small ball not much bigger than his fist, more than enough light to see by and he extended out his hand, the orb of light floating out in front of him to guide the way.
While he was not a magician, he had found that he could control the energy around him to a small extent. Everything in the world moves, they move because they have energy. By tapping into this energy he could absorb it and convert it into another form of energy such as light or heat. While it was a relatively simple procedure, he was not a magician and the sweat was running down the side of his face, but he knew he had to move quickly.
Wiping the sweat from his brow, he willed the light to move down the tunnel and the door closed behind him causing a rush of air to pass his neck, the hairs standing on end. He quickly walked down the stairs following the light and before long, he was at a dead end. A stone wall stood in front of him blocking the way. Closing his eyes, he absorbed the energy from the orb of light and then let it diffuse, the air around him warming slightly.
Holding his hand out in front of him so he didn’t walk into the wall and make a noise, he guided himself closer and as before, his fingers scanned the wall in front of him until he found a small metal ring about head height.
Pulling the ring, I small cylindrical piece of rock slid out and he could see into the room on the other side of the wall. As he thought, there was no on in the room, so he put the piece of rock back, blocking the hole while the fingers on his left hand searched the rock that would unlock the hidden door.
When he was inside the room, his gaze swept the room mentally taking a picture of where everything was. Near to the wall on his right was a methir throne. While he had never seen anything made from methir before, he did not have time admire the craftsmanship. Behind the throne was a thick curtain hiding a door that led to Aram’s bedroom, knowing that Aram would now be afraid and not want to be separated from his men, he slipped behind the curtain and into the room.
Aram never let another in this room, this was his sacred place and looking around, he realised that in private, away from the eyes of others, Aram appeared to be a modest man with only small ornaments decorating the two tables in the room and only one tapestry on the wall depicting a battle from a popular legend. Keeping his ear to the door, the Man in White patiently waited for Aram to return to his rooms.
“I am not going to give in to this madman, I want him dead when he comes for the information, is that clear Kravoll? Where are your men anyway?” Aram asked fidgeting on the throne.
“They will be here shortly, it won’t take the guard long to find them and then they will come straight here. They are out looking for you as no one knew where you went.”
“Well, I’m here now and I need your men here for when he comes.”
The Man in White was listening to the conversation from the other room. He had been correct, Aram would not let anyone in his room and because he was too shaken from his recent ordeal, he wanted to be with Kravoll and his men until they had dealt with the situation.
Taking out a small tin of oil from his bag, he poured some on the door hinges to prevent them making any noise when the door opened. When he was satisfied, he pulled the door slowly not wanting to cause a draft and disturb the curtain behind the throne. Luck was on his side today, the curtain was made from a thick cloth and would not have moved even if the door had been opened quickly. Also, Aram was sat in his throne with his back to the curtain and as he opened the door, Kravoll turned to pour himself a drink.
The door now fully open, the Man in White slipped a knife from the leather belt around his waist that contained several such throwing knives and in his left hand he held a small wooden club.
Stepping from around the curtain, he quickly moved up close behind Aram and hit him hard across the back of the head cracking his skull and rendering him unconscious. Hearing the disturbance, Kravoll turned, his sword already in his hand, but it was too late. The knife was buried deep in his head before he could register anything and his lifeless body fell to the floor with a thump.
Moving quickly, the Man in White retrieved his knife, cleaning it on Kravoll’s tunic and opened the hidden door way and dragged Aram into the tunnel and up the stairs. Away from the room below, leaving only Kravoll’s body lying in a pool of blood, he dropped Aram’s body on the stone floor and kicked him in the ribs, breaking more than a few, but having the desired effect of waking Aram.
Before he could cry out in pain, the Man in White stuffed a cloth in his mouth and leant close to Aram’s ear so he could hear everything he had to say.
“I know you will not betray your precious Angels, but I will give you one last chance to do what I ask. What is the name of the one I seek?”
“I… I cannot… tell you. They will… burn… my soul… if I betray them,” Aram stammered as he tried to focus his eyes.
“I will find him with or without your help, so will you die for nothing?”
“It matters not… when they have… my soul… I will be… rewarded for not… betraying them.”
“Well, you can pass on a message to your protectors, tell them I am coming.”
The Man in White forced the cloth back into Aram’s mouth as he tried to free himself, but he was still dazed from the blow to the head, so he was no match for the brutal strength of the Man in White. Aram’s eyes widened as he could see his reflection in the silver blade, but he was helpless and could not match the strength of the assassin.
Slowly and deliberately, the Man in White pushed the knife into Aram’s neck just below his jaw and in a smooth, single movement, drew the knife along Aram’s throat. Watching the life drain from his prey’s eyes, he could also feel the warm blood running down his hand and soak into his white jacket and his white pants, his uniform was slowly turning red from the blood of Aram. Still staring into his eyes, he felt nothing. No joy at seeing Aram die, no pleasure at killing someone so vile, but he had done this hundreds of times before and each time was no different to the previous. It was something he had been trained to do, but he hoped when he found the one he sought, there would be a feeling, no matter what it was.