Vrin Ten Mortal Gods(8)

By: John Michael Hileman

It nodded happily.

“Then what should I call you?”

It appeared to go into deep thought then rubbed its head hard against my palm.

“You want to be called palm?” I smiled.

It shook no madly.

“I don’t know, poke, itch, rub, scratch?”

The last one got a response. It began to wiggle around happily.

“You want to be called Scratch?”

The little creature nodded.

“O-kay. Scratch it is.”

My tiny new friend seemed satisfied but the exertion must have tuckered him out, because he began to slow down.

“You okay?”

He nodded once, then slowly wiggled over to my pinkie and wrapped himself around it. His skin became hard and it was once again, a tiny gold ring.

I pulled the ring off my pinkie and examined it. I never would have known there was anything special about it; it looked just like a regular old ring. As I replaced it on my finger the two women strolled back out onto the balcony.

I stood politely and Kitaya addressed me first. “I am sorry, Sam, I mean, Jason. I should have introduced you. This is my friend Corel. She has been away for awhile. She likes to travel.”

“Good to meet you.” I offered my hand. “I’m the new guy on the block.” I took note that Corel wore a similar ring, and that Kitaya, did not.

“Good to meet you as well.” Corel shook my hand firmly. “Kit has informed me of Gaza’s plan. I find it to be very disturbing.”

“I would have to agree with you.”

“She says you want to try to find Humphrey. I doubt he’ll be very helpful. If you do manage to find him, there’s a good chance he won’t even talk to you. He is very stubborn.”

“In light of the alternative, don’t you think he would at least give us some information?”

“I doubt it.” She looked thoughtful. “I think we need to speak with Armadon. No one knows Rath’s movements better than he.”

“But isn’t he as dangerous as Rath?” I asked.

“He can be but he is a strategist at heart. I’m sure he will at least listen to what we have to say. He understands that information is the strongest weapon.”

“Then let us waste no time,” I asserted.

Corel looked at Kitaya then to me. “We’ll have to join hands.”

As she grasped my hand I felt her power bleed into my body and mingle with my own. With a burst of blue energy we rose in a flash, high above our surroundings, until the world was nothing more than a wire globe far beneath us. The sphere turned until our destination was visible, then, as quickly as we had departed we were once again standing firm footed.

Before us stood a magnificent castle, the architecture unique in its design. The outside was encased not in stone, but in a smooth flawless metal which shone in the mid-day sun. It hurt my eyes to look directly at it. Corel stepped up. “Shall we knock and see if he’s home?” she said smartly.

A deep wide chasm filled with thick mist surrounded the castle. I stared down into the darkness but could not see the bottom. Corel touched something near the edge of the pit and the ground shook as a bridge of land pushed its way across. In no time the way was passable.

We continued on toward the towering entrance and as we approached, there came a voice from the battlement. “Open the gate!” The massive barrier made a tremendous noise as its iron structure slowly lifted to allow us passage. A man scurried out to greet us. I guessed he was from the royal court as he was wearing an outfit of ruby red with bands of gold metal. His head was cocked to the side and he appeared to be talking into his wrist. “Corel, Kitaya, and an unknown sir.”

Corel spoke with authority. “We wish a meeting with your lord.”

The man bowed slightly. “It is my esteemed honor to welcome you, Lady Corel. The Holy One awaits you in his throne room.”

“Thank you. Lead the way please.”

He turned and we followed him through the massive gates. Several soldiers moved about performing various tasks, but I saw no civilians. We traveled up an immense set of black slate stairs and through an enormous set of doors. Cracks between the large stone floor tiles let off a yellow glow, filling the room with a mystical ambiance. To the rear was a magnificent throne like nothing I’d ever seen or imagined. Exotic jewels embedded in its design glimmered brightly in the soft lighting. --I was impressed.

The figure upon the throne was no less impressive, an intimidating hulk of a man, at least nine feet of solid iron muscle. His face was like chiseled stone. Deep dark sockets encased burning blue eyes. Now this guy looked like a god!

As our party approached, Armadon’s voice boomed out. “WHY do you disturb me?”

Displaying cool confidence, Corel explained. “There is a matter of great importance developing. We wish to trade information.”

“Are you in league with children?” he asked deeply.

“We are not.”

“Then continue.”

“We have news of a great darkness which is about to befall Vrin. Gaza is not the angel of peace described in the Marathil. He plans to destroy Vrin.”

“WHAT!” bellowed Armadon, his voice filling the room.

“He is looking for something and has chosen Rath to help him. He told Rath he would send us back to the void if he does not find what he seeks. We have come to you because you know Rath better than any.”

“Yes. I do. And your words explain much.” Armadon brooded. “I thought Rath was a fool for dividing his resources, but it seems he had no choice. My informants tell me he is looking for a woman and a girl child.”

“An exact match?” I blurted.

Corel shot me a warning glance as if to say I should not speak out of turn.

“Yes,” said Armadon.

“Can you guess why he would go to Rath only, excluding the rest of us from the search?” Corel asked.

Armadon shifted in his throne. “He might not want us to know, should we decide to resist his efforts-- but that would mean his efforts are worthy of resistance.” He brought his massive hand to his chin. “I do not see what harm a woman or girl child could do.”

“Will you join with us against him,” Corel asked boldly, “should we be forced to act?”

“Yes. But first we must find out what he is planning. It isn’t wise to go against an opponent unprepared. We need to be careful and move without his knowing.”

“He already knows.” Kitaya stepped forward.

Armadon leveled his gaze at her. “And how do you know this?”

“I witnessed his conversation with Rath in an event cell-- and he saw me.”

“What?” Armadon stood up. “That’s not possible!”

“He saw me. I am sure of it. The question is, did he see me six months ago when the event took place, or twelve hours ago when I was in the event cell?”

Before anyone could comment, a loud siren filled the air. Armadon’s head cocked to the side. He jumped up and he bolted past us. “We are under attack!”

“May we join you?” Corel called after him.

Armadon was almost to the door. “If you wish!”

We had to race to keep up with him, through broad corridors, across enormous chambers, up immense stone stairways. Eventually we emerged onto the battlement overlooking the castle grounds. We joined Armadon at the edge of the wall. Far below several ghost-like beings were ramming one by one into the massive gate of the castle. Their actions were systematic, void of thought or reason.

“What are those?” I found myself saying.

Looking down on the eerie scene Armadon seemed genuinely puzzled. “I’ve never seen anything like them. I doubt they are agents of Rath. He has never come against me with anything but mundane troops.”

The dark figures tore at the metal gate with phantom teeth. Sparks ignited around them at each impact. In the flurry, I tried to make a count. It looked like six, maybe seven. With a hideous scraping noise one of the creatures broke through.

I bolted to the other side of the battlement and peered down into the courtyard. Like a snake the ghastly specter weaved in and out of men and architecture. Its eyes glaring back and forth. Seeking its prey. Its tail trailing behind like a gossamer cloth.

It chewed into its first victim and my stomach wretched as the man let out an awful scream. I brought up the web and attempted to pull at the demon’s threads. --But they wouldn't move! In desperation I created a hole beneath the man. He fell and I sealed the hole with a flat piece of metal. The creature bit wildly at the barrier. I had prevailed for the moment but this was a small victory. More demons had broken through.

Kitaya reinforced the front gate while Armadon, Corel, and I fought hard to isolate the specters from the soldiers. After much effort they were finally contained. Three were trapped in the center of the courtyard, four outside the gate. They wailed and bit but the barriers stood.

“Why don’t they just fly over?” I wondered aloud.

Armadon answered. “They seem to be hovering by air propulsion. See the sand below them pushing away? It must not be strong enough to lift them any higher.”

Troops moved into position above the courtyard with crossbows at the ready. The tips were set on fire and they waited. I looked at Armadon.

His face tightened. “Fire!”

A volley of burning wood descended into the trap. The demons’ wailing pierced my eardrums and increased in pitch until I found myself covering my ears-- yet the others seemed unaffected. Then it dawned on me, earplugs! I made some and quickly and stuffed them in. Unfortunately the humans did not have the same luxury. Screaming in pain, delirious from the excruciating noise, two soldiers fell to the ground from the battlements.