Ahnden Thanatos, son of the great Dark master Avernus Thanatos, continues his father's plan of killing those of both the Light and the Dark that stand in his way of domination.
Note: This is one of the stories that I will soon send off to a contest. I'm still in the midst of editing the three them, so what you'll see here isn't even as much as I have fixed. Anyway I'd like feedback while I'm still at the process, so I could possibly win (or at least get close) this time. Thanks in advance.
By R.M. Summerhill
Perish… they all must perish. That is what you taught me, Father. You staked your claim, our claim, on this galaxy. You foresaw that the name of Thanatos would be the most feared and most worshipped name in all existence, that we—from you to all those unborn that will bear your blood—should rule the galaxy with an iron fist. The generations that it will take to bring us there, you knew not, and neither do I. The work set before the Thanatos Dynasty is very great. The Dark Council, with their arrogant men and women, and the Samarites, the fools that follow the Light…. so many of both still stand in our way. But we will have what we desire… What we deserve…. You foresaw it in your greatness. We will not be denied. That is my promise.
Ahnden Thanatos awoke. He had been dreaming of his father Avernus every night since he had infiltrated the Dark Council’s compound on Abadonesh, and remembering where he was sent a shiver of disgust up his spine. The diseases of hatred and arrogance lay over the compound like a shroud. It was a welcome cover that only swelled his loathing for his ‘fellow’ Councilites.
His ‘fellow’ Councilites! Ahnden trembled at the thought, sickened. That he even had to be called a Councilite made his blood turn rancid, but this was for the best if he wanted to ensure the continuation of the Thanatos Dynasty. His patience would be nothing if not a hallmark of triumph for future generations.
And thus far his plot went undetected. The very walls of this dark place screamed with so much desire for power and want of death that who would be able to realize his true purpose?
Ahnden smirked a bit. Many wolves would be slaughtered, for the fumes of their bleak lusts had blinded them. This had been Avernus’s plan for his son, to falsely join the Dark Council—as if there was any loyalty when joining such an organization—and to strike as many death-blows as he could when the time was right.
Before dying, Avernus had promised to return to Ahnden in a dream, to order that death be wrought, and though so many dreams had come, there came no mandate, not yet. But soon, Ahnden wished, soon….
He contemplated perhaps returning to sleep. It was only three hours past midnight on the local standard clock. Ahnden thought a little sleep might be good for him if he could manage it, but suddenly the comm speaker by Ahnden’s bedside flared to life.
Damn it, he thought, before the person on the other side could speak.
“Sorry to call you at this hour, Ahnden, but Master Traydin would like to see us right away.”
The voice was not an unpleasant one to hear, even at this hour. The speaker was Gwyneth Corryn, a former member of the Samarites and the only Councilite that Ahnden might have any heart to spare. But he honestly couldn’t be pleased to hear her now, because she had mentioned Master Traydin. There was no other member of the Dark Council that Ahnden Thanatos hated more.
“To hell with Master Traydin,” he murmured fiercely.
“What was that?” said Gwyneth.
“Nothing. I’ll be down to his chambers in a couple of minutes,” Ahnden replied, barely sounding civil.
As he threw some fresh clothes on in his still dark room, he wished more fervently than ever that it was time to cast away this charade and get down to business…. and the pleasure of making Traydin his first victim.
Just under five minutes later, Ahnden entered the presence of his Councilite ‘Master’.
Traydin was there, hardly visible, for the spot where he stood was bathed in shadows. The Lord’s other two ‘devotees’ were also there, kneeling before him; Gwyneth was to Traydin’s right, and to his left was Yurim Viljau. Viljau, a Mersighdonian teenager, was quite like others of his race: tall, red-skinned, with a grid of black veins visible through his flesh.
Suddenly a slick, taunting voice reached out from the darkness. “I see you have taken your time in coming to me yet again, Melgrot.”
Melgrot was the surname that Ahnden used, of course, only because he had too. The name Thanatos was the mark of a traitor. Avernus had first been a Samarite and then a member of the Dark Council before setting his violence and wrath against both sides. Being known by his birth name would have always left Ahnden under suspicious eyes, and that wouldn’t have been tolerable.
His false identity was most like an albatross when it was spoken by the man he was forced to call Master, and though Ahnden had to steal up nearly all of his strength, he stalked toward his usual spot between the other two devotees and knelt before Traydin, his head bowed.
“I am sorry to have displeased you, Master,” Ahnden said, his voice dull and completely void of the crimson hatred that boiled within him.
“And I think you are lying,” Traydin replied, “But that is no matter now. Lord Nagis had bid me summon you all forth, to send you out on a mission. The Samarites of Terra Endelúz are on a nearby world, a small horde of them by the report.”
Viljau growled, the sound animalistic and full of bloody desire. “Lord Nagis will not be failed, nor will you, Master. The Samarites shall be slaughtered. Every last one of them.”
Master Traydin made a throaty noise, revealing his own pleasure. “Yes, Viljau. I knew you would take the news well.” Then Traydin sighed, his pleasure draining away. “It is a pity that your elder Siblings do not share your enthusiasm. The former Samarite fears to hurt old friends…” Traydin snorted. “Pathetic.”
The sudden slight against Gwyneth angered Ahnden, and he had to fight down a second blight of rage.
“And you, Melgrot,” the Master Councilite continued. “While you stand before me now, unclear and shadowy, I think that your real desire does not sit with slaying Samarites.”
Ahnden felt venomous words awaking in his mind. No, ‘Master’, I want to slay you! But he locked away the bitter words, though he wanted to scream them.
“Ah, well. Someone had to take you, and that lot was evidently mine since no one else could endure such a pitiful and powerless devotee.”
Rage assailed Ahnden even more, rattling his insides and wanting to escape.
You have no clue who you call powerless, Ahnden thought, while trying to calm himself.
There would be little comfort in killing so rashly, but still he wanted to peel out his father’s Black Saber, the weapon he was meant to wield, and not that vulgar, insignificant Councilite blade. But the time was not now, and besides who could count the times that Traydin had tried to goad Ahnden into attacking him?
Traydin’s veiled eyes scanned over the three devotees—what he called the Siblings, even though their was no blood relation between them.
“Perhaps I should seek Lord Nagis out and advise him to dispatch others more willing—true Councilites, who will relish the duty given.”
Ahnden leapt to his feet, as if ready to attack, but that was not his intension, although it still was his greatest desire.
“No, Master. We will accept the mandate. We will kill the Samarites, and don’t worry. We will do so with relish.”
Ahnden knew that there must be some kind of comment about disrespect filtering through his ‘Master’s’ mind, but amazingly Traydin kept that to himself. Instead he reached his dark, heavily scarred hand from the shadows and placed it on Ahnden’s shoulder.
“Then go immediately, and Melgrot, return with the head of every Samarite you slay. If the number is acceptable you might well become a worthy Councilite yet.”
The words were borderline complimentary, but rang like another insult in Ahnden’s ears.
Three days later, Traydin’s devotees arrived on Tenlaw, the reported haven of this mysterious horde of Samarites. It started to rain almost the moment they set down. It was not quite a downpour but drenching enough, not to mention freezing. But other than Gwyneth’s bleak remark about the nice weather, nothing else was said about it.
The darkly-clad trio stalked quietly from the Landing Center and into a labyrinth of streets that were of an ancient regal design. Courtyards of stone and tall archways surrounded them, almost like segments of a huge granite fist. A few trees sprang up here and there, ablaze with autumn in spite of the gloom.
Ahnden pressed on, slightly ahead of the others, for he had been the agreed leader, and found himself burning with excitement. After all, Samarites were on his ‘kill list’, and it would be foolish to merely concentrate only on the enemies right before him. All must perish…. that is what he had been taught, and he was far from uneasy about it.
The way Gwyneth was feeling was only thing that worked to dampen his urgency. Ahnden knew her well enough to realize that she was torn about what had to be done. She didn’t want to be a part of this slaughter, and yet her mind was dark, filled with whisperers that Ahnden was clearly in tune with.
Gwyneth was a part of the Dark Council. She had jumped into the abyss for similar reasons to Ahnden himself—to slaughter the group from within; he had known that from the moment he had laid eyes on her—but she had come with a Samarite’s intensions. Those were not ready to leave, but she had ensnared herself in the Dark Council’s doctrines, and those would surely remain forever.
Yet, as Ahnden was deep in thought, he suddenly became aware that some mal-intentioned creature was lurking behind them. It wasn’t a creature per se, only a human being, but a lowly stupid one--this was clear enough by his choice of prey. The human creature latched onto Gwyneth, taking her for being weak because of her gender. Ahnden knew what the thing that called itself a person must be planning… throttling, robbing, and raping.
None of which would happen, for just as Gwyneth tensed and twisted around, ready to defend herself, Ahnden grasped the thing’s throat. The would-be predator sputtered for breath, looking helpless as he dropped his double-edged knife into a growing puddle. Then suddenly, Ahnden twisted hard.
The thug’s neck snapped and the struggle was ended; his life vanished and his body plummeted into the puddle itself.
Gwyneth looked at Ahnden immediately. He was a frightening sight, pale and horrid like the Death Reaper himself, and the former Samarite didn’t know whether she should thank him or not. At least she knew she couldn’t have managed speaking.
“Idiot,” Ahnden said, giving the corpse a contemptuous look. Then he turned around, again proceeding toward the inn where the Samarites were rumored to be hiding.
To an ordinary weary traveler, the inn would have been a welcoming, pleasant sight. Quite a few of the guest were enjoying the roaring Common Room fire, either reading or talking, or just looking thoughtfully out a window, grateful that a pane of glass was between themselves
and the rain.
This air of relaxation was banished when the devotees entered. Every voice fell silent, and even some of the people right before the fire shivered; their eyes locked onto the fierce company.
Ahnden thought it unlikely that any Samarites were within the Common Room, and he began to feel that there were none in the entire inn or in the surrounding buildings, but there had been. He could almost smell that at least one enemy had been here.
After halting only for a moment, he pressed toward the meek-looking man behind the pay-counter. The man, who was likely the inn-keep, shuddered, and Ahnden knew that the other was fearful, wanting to run, but amazingly the man stayed put, quietly praying that nothing terrible would happen.
“Where are the Samarites?” Ahnden wasted no time in asking. He towered over the tunic-clad man, looking as if he might rip the other’s head off if an unacceptable answer came.
“You’ll tell us, or you’ll die,” Viljau growled before the innkeeper had a chance to reply, and Ahnden glared at the youngest devotee.
Oddly Ahnden almost pitied Viljau. For over a decade the Mersighdonian had been molded under the arrogant, torturing hand of Traydin. If fault were drawn back to the very core reason for Viljau’s pitiful existence, then one would have to blame Avernus Thanatos’s occupation of Mersigh.
Because of all that had happened there, the Mersighdonians had grown to revile and fear those amongst them that might have ‘occult powers’. Any that seemed to exhibit such tendencies had been burned alive since the occupation had ended, and Viljau’s mother had sent him off-world to be safe from the Massacres. That was what had led to Traydin’s discovery.
Of course, Ahnden didn’t blame his father. He blamed Traydin, as was just to his mind. Still, he had little patience concerning the teenager’s interjection.
The innkeeper spoke, his voice shaking. “N-no Samarites are here. I-I swear it.”
“Liar,” Viljau hissed, reaching his long fingers toward the man’s throat, as if planning to shove them right through.
The innkeeper took a step backward; Ahnden swatted Viljau’s hand away and was glared at. Ahnden paid the Mersighdonian’s furious look no mind; he merely rested his probing eyes on the innkeeper.
“But there were, and you know it,” Ahnden said, his voice deepening. Every eye in the place was upon him. “And don’t lie to me. If you do, I will allow my counterpart to tear you to pieces.”
“They were, but they’re gone. I…. I don’t know where they went.”
“Now, you are lying. I should kill you without another word,” Ahnden said, his voice monotone and completely serious.
“No…. please. My wife…. my children…. they need me.” The innkeeper bowed his head for a moment and nervously ran his fingers over his blond hair. Then he looked Ahnden in the eye, and only trembled a little as he asked, “If I tell you what you would know, would you spare me?”
Suddenly an inspired thought rushed into Ahnden’s brain and he could not suppress it. He nodded to the innkeeper and said, “If you are honest with me, I will spare you, but your honesty is not all I ask.”
Gwyneth and Viljau had no idea what Ahnden was planning, and they watched him with as much confusion and interest as the other onlookers.
“What do you ask of me, Sir?”
“First, tell me your name.”
The innkeeper’s brows knotted together. His expression held a dash of impatience, and also a great lack of comprehension. “I am Learian Sumrac, and you are…?”
Ahnden wanted to declare that he was the Son of Thanatos. It had as much to do with his pride as it did with the fact that his father had made the name legendary. Even a lowly Tenlite inn-keep would know and fear the name.
Yet the hour of such a declaration was still in the distance, so Ahnden replied, “I am Ahnden, and you may remember me as the First Heir because this is what I want of you. I want your service, and not just your own service. Your entire family line shall be indebted to serving mine.”
Sumrac’s expression tensed even more. “Why is this? And what if I refuse?”
“The why is not important. But if you refuse…. well, once I have extracted the information I want from you, you will die, and then my counterparts and I shall hunt down and kill everyone bearing your surname, and anyone who even looks like they might be related to you, closely or otherwise.”
“Ahnden!” Gwyneth cried.
The crackling of the fire and the raindrops pattering against the roof were the only audible sounds until Sumrac spoke.
“You are a devil come to tempt me, aren’t you?”
Ahnden was slightly amused but didn’t show it.
“Perhaps…. now what is your answer? Will you do everything I have asked?”
“I should not trust you,” the innkeeper said. “But I have no choice, do I? We will serve you and all that follow you if it will keep my family alive. You have my oath and I can only pray that you will not go against it.”
Ahnden had no intension of going against it, but didn’t say so. Instead he asked, “And what of the Samarites? Where have they gone?”
“They said they were heading to Falcrin, a planet not too far from here.”
Ahnden had to suppress his awe. Never in a thousand lifetimes would he have guessed that the Samarites would go there, and if that was where they had gone, he was furious. Falcrin was the planet where his father had built the fortress that the Thanatos Dynasty would reign from. Ahnden had lived there most of his life, when he was not traveling with Avernus, and he had only been there once since his father’s death.
It would be wondrous to return home, and the fact that Ahnden might slaughter many Samarites there made it even greater.
Ahnden pulled free of his thoughts and glanced briefly at Sumrac. “I must go now, but await my return, vigilantly, and do not change your mind for I will hold you to your oath.” Then his eyes swept toward Gwyneth and Viljau. “Let’s return to the Abyss. We’re going to Falcrin.”
It took another day and a half to arrive at Falcrin, and Ahnden was completely decided that they would set down by the monstrous fortress, but he wasn’t glad to see it as they pierced the planet’s atmosphere. Bitter thoughts were chewing at him, about what the Samarites might be doing, and he had an awful feeling that enemies were right within the palace.
“Why the castle?” Viljau asked, and not for the first time.
The Mersighdonian teen was sitting to Ahnden’s left. Ahnden himself was in the pilot’s seat, pulling the descent levers.
“The Samarites would hardly want to set foot in such a place. They’d fear corruption, would they not?”
Ahnden had to force himself to remain calm, to save his energy for the forthcoming task.
“They would want to search for whatever dark tools Avernus Thanatos might have stashed here. They would surely want to purge such things from existence. How many times to do I have to tell you?”
Viljau growled slightly. “That is an obvious guess, too obvious.”
“Maybe to you, but that’s where we’re going.”
There was little civility in Ahnden’s voice, but Viljau was an unneeded distraction. This was a crucial moment in his family’s destiny—for Ahnden was beyond sure why the Samarites had come to Falcrin, and he was furious. Their plundering could not be tolerated, and someone as insignificant as Viljau would hardly stand in his way.
The Mersighdonian leaned back in his seat. “Master Traydin is right. You are far too arrogant for your own good.”
The mere mention of Traydin caught Ahnden’s attention more than anything else had, and for the first time he glared at Viljau. The murderous, black shimmer in Ahnden’s eyes made Gwyneth uneasy.
“Well, Master Traydin would know all about arrogance, wouldn’t he? What would he live for if he could not be arrogant?”
“You filth. How dare you?” Viljau growled, like a predator on the verge of attack.
Ahnden was utterly glad that there were Samarites waiting below. He needed to release the fury that was blistering in his blood. If only the dream had come the last time he’d slept. Not that Ahnden wanted to be away from the compound when the dream came, but at the moment he almost would have relished it.
Instead of carrying on with the fierce conversation, Ahnden turned all his concentration back to landing. Viljau was taken aback, but he decided to let things subside as well. After all, he had long desired to slaughter Samarites above all else, and Gwyneth sighed, her relief only momentary.
The trio exited the Abyss, the castle’s menacing shadow lying upon them. Viljau’s arms sat tightly crossed over his chest, and his lips were pursed with anger.
Gwyneth shivered. The day was bleak and there was a hint of a breeze, but neither thing was to blame for her coldness. Even the towering black fortress was not responsible for her growing uneasiness. She wondered which of her old friends were within, and what she would do when she saw them.
Ahnden himself could not help being curious about how Gwyneth might react when the challenge set itself before her, but he pushed that thought from his mind, and all other desires save one.
“Let’s go. They’ve been spared too long,” Ahnden said, and the others obeyed.
With only a slight amount of difficulty they penetrated the black steel doors and they entered the imposing throne room, the sight of which sent a chill of desire rocketing up Ahnden’s spine. Yet he strove to control himself. It was hardly the time to lose himself in the magnificent archways and the still distant throne with all its grand intricacies, for even from this distance Ahnden could discern that the throne was not empty, as it should have been. What Samarite dared to pollute the throne of Thanatos?
That question was hard to answer for whoever sat there was swathed in red. No Samarite had ever worn such bloody and grand garments. Ahnden’s first thought was that perhaps this group of trespassing Samarites were those that had fled the Light, and while Gwyneth had had the same thought and been immensely relieved by it, Ahnden was no less enraged.
He blasted forward, his cohorts close behind him. All three had drawn their glittering Councilite blades. Ahnden, although desiring to use his inheritance, drew out the silvery menace instead; it would work well enough. Then suddenly, just as the throne was at hand, a realization hit Ahnden. He now knew a trap was closing in on him, but it was too late.
A cage burst from the floor, and almost faster than a ship traversing space, it closed around himself and Gwyneth, but not Viljau. Of course not Viljau! For the person polluting the Thanatos throne was Traydin, and there was no escaping this enclosure for Avernus had had it fashioned from impenetrable Falcrinian ore.
Ahnden cursed himself. He had been as blind as any Councilite! Just how long had Traydin known? Probably from the outset with Gwyneth, but with Ahnden Thanatos? It had to be more recent, for there would have been action before this.
“Ah, Melgrot…. or should I say Thanatos?” Traydin said, his thin, rouge lips twisting into a smile. “Even having known you and trained you, I thought you would have been smarter than this. I expected some trouble, and yet…. nothing….
“Now come to me, Viljau. Leave these traitors.”
Despite his clear confusion, Viljau obeyed and with a quick, yet courteous bow, he took his place at Traydin’s side.
Ahnden’s insides bubbled with wrath, both at Traydin and himself. Would Avernus’s plan die here, unfulfilled because his son has been stupid? It could not be. After all these years it seemed impossible, but….
Traydin arose from the throne and stalked toward his prisoners, his smile contorting into something even more hideous and frustrating, and when he reached the cage, he outstretch his scarred hand; it passed through the slats and he stroked Gwyneth’s check. The gesture seemed to be given for two reasons: firstly, to fill the former Samarite with both disgust and hopelessness, which worked well enough. The second was to goad Ahnden into some wrathful but insignificant action. This didn’t work as well, for Ahnden hardly registered it.
Once Traydin had wisely pulled his hand away, he said, “I also knew your father, boy. I knew him quite well, and indeed you could say I was the one that inspired all his delusions. Actually, they were turning out quite well until you destroyed everything and failed him.”
“I have not failed him!” Ahnden burst.
Traydin grunted a laugh. “You still think so?”
“Yes,” Ahnden hissed.
“Such a fool…” This statement angered Ahnden even more, but he kept quiet. “I wonder if Avernus ever told you about me. Perhaps he did, and that’s why you’ve always hated me most of all. But I doubt he did. Why should he have since I am the only one who had ever survived being hunted by him?”
“That’s a lie,” Ahnden stated, as if he had never been calmer.
“Well, your father wouldn’t have wanted you to know that his record wasn’t perfect, would he have? Countless Samarites, yes, they were easily slain. It is sad to admit but most of the Councilites he killed went down almost as easily. Such was his power, I’ll not deny it, and then add to that the unquenchable power of his black-bladed sword…. Ah, he was the greatest death machine ever to exist. How he ever begat such a weak fool I do not know.”
“How does it feel to know that you will be cut down by a weak fool?” Ahnden said, sneering.
“All bravado, Thanatos. You cannot even escape a little cage…. and speaking of escape, should I tell you how I escaped your father? No. You’d hardly believe it. Besides, there are other things I’d rather tell you. Have I not already told you that it was I who inspired all your father’s delusions? That’s not quite right, but close enough to the point. For your father would have died a lowly Samarite without my intervention.”
“Really?” Ahnden mocked.
Traydin sighed but hardly felt slighted. “Indeed, for your father was a devout Samarite and while he likely would have reached the highest ranks, we both know that such things make little difference to we who dwell in the Dark.
“I had been a Samarite as well, a friend of Avernus’s as fate would have it, but I hated their Order. Its restrictions, its self-righteous devotions, and so I left it and joining with the Dark Council I gained everything that was rightfully mine. I learned much, and I had visions which showed your father, not as a Samarite, but as one of the greatest Masters of the Dark ever to exist. What I saw could cast down the greatness of Din Sey and nearly all the mortal usurpers that followed. I was compelled by something I have never understood, to convert your father, to allow him to embrace his greatness, and that is what I did.
“Not only that, but think of the weapon you still hide, the ominous black blade of death. I knew things about such a saber’s construction. I knew some of the special materials and about some of the mysticism involved. I shared this knowledge before the Dark Council, as was commanded of me, and so Avernus learned of it. No other Councilite was able to learn the whole formula, not even to this day, but your father did and turned his back on the Council.
“This is how it came to pass, all of it, and I know you think yourself the true heir of this black-bladed weapon, but no, Thanatos, I am that heir. If not for me your father never could have made it.”
Finally, when the last echoes of Traydin’s story faded, silence reclaimed the throne room. Then Ahnden said, “I don’t believe you.”
“No, I didn’t think you would, but that does not make my words untrue .” A moment later Traydin turned his attention to Gwyneth. “And you, Samarite, what am I to do with you? I know that you also have a plot against the Council. I will admit that Thanatos was able to hide his plot from me awhile, but you…. you have been obvious since you entered my presence.
“But something can be done to spare your life. You can be easily converted. Always has the darkness reigned within your heart. All that is needed is a little persuasion and you will be consumed.”
“You leave her alone,” Ahnden demanded.
Traydin looked half-amused and half-angry, but he made no response. Instead he called out, “Meduii, Tanwor, Hadys!” Three Councilites immediately emerged from the chamber just beyond the throne.
Meduii, a sultry green-hair beauty with alabaster skin, and Tanwor, a deeply bronzed human, were two of Traydin’s former devotees. Hadys, whose fierce serpentine features were hidden beneath a heavy cowl, was Lord Nagis’s son.
“As you see, I have captured the traitors as I promised. You know what you are to do now.”
“Yes, Master Traydin,” Tanwor said.
The other two nodded, and hardly a second passed before Hadys stole forth and ripped both Gwyneth’s and Ahnden’s Councilite blades into his scaled hands. He put the acquisitions on his belt next to his own sword.
Hadys was quick in doing this, as he hoped to get the black-bladed weapon into his possession before anyone else--especially Traydin--could. But he was not quick enough. The first to get a hold on the coveted object was Meduii, but Traydin flew forward and wrenched it from Meduii, his fist like a vice.
“I am not easily betrayed, Meduii, or any of you others. You want this and I know why. The dark magics that Avernus Thanatos imbued this weapon with are more powerful than any in our legends, but understand me, I am the rightful owner and I will not give it up, even if I have to kill every last one of you. Is that clear?”
It was clear, and Meduii and the other true Councilites nodded but with no evident sincerity.
“Then go to your business. Meduii and Hadys, take Thanatos to the deepest cell. Tanwor, and you Viljau, take the Samarite and prepare her for torture.”
“You son of a…”
Whatever curse Ahnden had been planning died before exiting his mouth, for as the Councilites approached the prisoners, the cage slipped into the floor again, and with just as much speed, the two were shackled and bound tightly by their guards.
Ahnden wondered if there was any way out of this. There had to be, but finding that way didn’t look promising.
Several hours had passed in the cramped, black cell.
Ahnden’s soul raged with the bitterest hatred he had ever felt, and though a lot of it was reserved for Traydin and the other Councilites, he also had built up a well of self-hatred that was beginning to overflow. After another hour or so, when darkness had settled outside, Ahnden fell
asleep, and at the strangest and most unexpected time the long awaited dream finally came.
“My son, it is time,” Avernus Thanatos’s voice pierced the darkness, and at first Ahnden was unsure of what was going on.
Suddenly he knew, but the dream couldn’t be coming, not now when there was seemingly nothing he could do to fulfill it. If indeed the time had come, then Ahnden felt that he had little to worry about as far the Councilites were concerned. His father’s spirit would slay him for making such horrendous mistakes.
“No, Ahnden,” Avernus’s voice came again. “I do not seek to kill you. I understand that you have merely spent too much time in the presence of these Councilites and have started to inherit some of their bad habits. That will have to be remedied, of course, and it will be. You will escape this prison. There is no Councilite that can match the power of a Thanatos, none at all. Not even Traydin, who has taken our black blade for himself.”
Ahnden finally had the courage to look up at his father’s spirit. Avernus Thanatos looked the same as he had in life, with long pitch black hair and empty eyes. While he did seem to be disappointed, the disappointment was hardly complete.
“How am I to escape?”
“Do not worry about that, Ahnden. You will know what to do when the time comes. But I know that you have many questions about Traydin. I know he told you things that you have taken as falsehoods.”
Ahnden only nodded.
“He didn’t lie, but we have no debt to him. The black blade is yours, not his as he so wants to believe, and though he did escape me that one time, my son, he will not escape you. He underestimates you, the fool.”
“I will have no mercy on him, Father… or on any of them. They all will be slain, and then my hunt will begin.”
Ahnden spoke with both obedience and relish, but when he fell silent he began to think of Gwyneth. What of her? Should he even venture asking for her life? Yet the spirit knew of his fleshly desire.
“You want this former Samarite, who shares part of our goal. You want her terribly.”
“Yes, Father,” Ahnden said a bit reluctantly. “I do.”
“Then spare this woman, and only her. Do what you will with her, but trust her not. And do not underestimate her as I underestimated your mother. When death comes to you, make it glorious and befitting of a Thanatos. Succeed where I failed, Ahnden...”
Ahnden awoke, almost expecting to see his father still hovering over him. Instead he was alone, but not for long. A series of chimes sounded, the door slid away, and Viljau entered, holding a food tray and glowering down at Ahnden. The door closed but did not lock.
“Master Traydin was unusually gracious and asked me to bring you a bit to eat.” Viljau set the tray on the floor and kicked it toward Ahnden. Some of the chunky, putrid green soup splashed from the bowl. “Lick up the slop like an animal, traitor. It’ll likely be the last thing you ever eat… unless you take a liking to your own defecation.” Viljau managed a fierce smile, which only lasted until he realized that Ahnden wasn’t ‘licking it up’, or even eating normally. “You’re being allowed food, idiot. Have some.”
“I think I’d rather resort to eating my own defecation than anything Traydin sends my way. This ‘slop’ is probably poisoned.”
Viljau was about to say something, perhaps ‘suit yourself’, when Ahnden sprang to his feet, leapt over the tray, and forced the hardened bottom of his fist into the Mersighdonian’s nose. Viljau wailed as his dark blood splattered into evidence, and Ahnden, not even allowing a second for recovery, kicked the young Councilite in the gut and thieved Viljau’s weapon.
Ahnden quickly decapitated his enemy, and with that done he went to find the four remaining Councilites.
An agonized scream sounded beyond the door that Meduii, Tanwor, and Hadys were guarding. Within, Traydin was torturing the Samarite, clearly enjoying her anguish, but the three guards hardly paid attention as they talked amongst themselves.
“We will have the Black Saber for our own, even if we have to kill Traydin,” Meduii said, her voice deep, and her silvery eyes gleamed with all-consuming greed. “We have done more here than he has. He tortures some weak Samarite and doles out orders. He has no right to keep it, to my mind.”
“My only question is will you actually share it?” Tanwor said, knowing the answer. Meduii nodded, but neither of the men believed her.
“And I think that we shouldn’t keep it at all,” Hadys said, very unexpectedly, for both Meduii and Tanwor glared at him with shock and suspicion. “I mean that we should take it back to Abadonesh and give it to my father. He is our leader, after all.”
Meduii laughed. “You’re such a liar. You don’t want Lord Nagis to have anything that will bring him more power. You want to kill him and take his place, like we all do, whether he is your father or not!”
Hadys might have said something spiteful, because Meduii had hit the target’s center, but suddenly he thought he heard something. “Shh…. Someone’s coming.”
“It’s probably Viljau,” Meduii said, unconcernedly.
Tanwor might have been satisfied by that thought. After all Viljau was due back at any moment, but Hadys still felt extremely wary. Though the High Lord’s son couldn’t understand why, he felt that something was far from being as it should.
Hadys’s tenseness began to worry Tanwor.
“Do you think something has gone wrong…. with Thanatos?”
“I don’t know, but—”
Hadys could say no more, for at that moment Ahnden seemingly appeared from nowhere, and brought the stolen Councilite blade down into the serpentine man’s back.
After dispatching the last of those blocking his way, Ahnden hooked the Councilite blade upon his belt next to his other trophies. He opened the door and descended to meet the man that resided at the top of his ‘kill list’. He traversed the brief stairway quietly enough, and even if he had been a bit louder, Traydin would have not known that his defenses had been breached.
Upon reaching the torture room itself, Ahnden saw the Councilite Master bent over Gwyneth. She was terribly battered and unconscious, laying flat upon a stone table, but at least she wasn’t dead. Still, Traydin was working his evil upon her. Ahnden knew that his greatest enemy was using his dark powers to pump all sorts of sickening and terrorizing images into her brain. Yet suddenly this stopped.
Somehow Traydin had come back to himself enough to know that they were no longer alone, and he turned, only showing a little of his shock.
“So, Thanatos, it seems that I have underestimated you. You have killed the others and now you come to kill me and rescue your beloved. I can only wonder how you propose to fight the greatest living Councilite, unarmed."
Ahnden drew back his cloak, revealing his six trophies; three on each side.
“Hmm…. I should have expected that. But six blades…. I think you know that not even that many can defeat your father’s creation.”
Traydin pulled out the black-bladed sword.
The very sight of this prized weapon in such vile hands angered Ahnden, and he drew one of his trophies, before throwing himself at Traydin.
The sabers clashed with angry speed. Bleakness and fury drove every stroke. Both blades were raging and starving for blood, but not even the slightest bit of flesh ripped open. There was no denying that this was the most difficult and physically draining battle that Ahnden had ever fought. The Black Saber was practically too much for him in the hands of another, but he was determined to have it back.
For Traydin the battled seemed equally tiring. Perhaps his increasing age was catching up with him. He was practically eighty, after all. Then there was the fact that he was indeed facing a true Thanatos, who had all the strength of his father. If Traydin hadn’t had the black blade he would have surely been dead from the first blow.
Then, gripping the hilt of Thanatos’s blade as tightly as he could, calling all its wicked magic into his failing body, Traydin caught his second wind and was throttling Ahnden backward. There was now no doubt in his mind that the Heir of Thanatos would soon be with his father in whatever damnation awaited.
Ahnden let out a fierce howl. “Father! Help me!
Less than a second later the black sword rejected Traydin’s grip. Ahnden, knowing that his father’s spirit was answering his plea, latched onto his inheritance, and Traydin, who tried to make use of his own Councilite blade, was battle harshly until he fell. Traydin’s back was pressed against the table where Gwyneth lay.
“There is no escape, ‘Master’.”
Traydin looked weak and decrepit and he glanced up at Ahnden. He rasped, “Please…. have mercy, Thanatos. I will be no threat to you and what you plan to do if you let me live.”
“I show no mercy to liars.”
And Ahnden, who had accepted the mantle arrogance once again, did not act fast enough. Traydin knew death was imminent, he had accepted that, but he refused to be the only one to fall. In a rush, Traydin was on his feet, and he sunk his Councilite blade deep into Gwyneth’s heart.
Ahnden, in a fury of disbelief, took Traydin down, but when the Councilite was dead Ahnden also came to realize that Gwyneth was dead as well, just as Traydin had wanted. Ahnden wept upon her corpse, unable to hold back the weak flow, but when the tears stopped, his mind was again filled vengeance and lust for death.