Domination: Part Three
I turned slowly, my vision drifting downward to land upon the unmoving body of the White Grarrl. I stared at him expressionlessly, blinking once or twice, though feeling no real remorse toward the loss. The skunk Lupe, who had been marching with the Grarrl, clapped a paw down upon my shoulder. “C’mon, mate. You don’t want to be the one stuck dealing with this rotten mess. You seem pretty new ‘round here. Me an’ good old Vonex can show you the place,” he proclaimed, slapping me brightly on the back before ushering me in the direction of his gold Kyrii companion. I let my spear and shield drop to the ground by me feet as I was urged forward.
The Kyrii, Vonex, arched a brow as we trekked over to him. “Oi, Fenno, who’s this?” he quizzed, crossing his arms over his chest. “Huh, little bit of a scrawny one, don’t you think?”
The skunk Lupe, dubbed as Fenno, shrugged slightly. “I don’t know . . . He’s a little underfed, I suppose, but he’s not too scrawny. Seems like a more sensible sort than old Bhanne, though, eh?” he mused, turning and heading toward the fortress.
Vonex winked at me before following along behind Fenno. “Aye, you just stick with us and you won’t be steered wrong,” he agreed, though I highly doubted that, if their carelessness toward the loss of their comrade Bhanne was to be any judge of character for the two.
“Assuming you two do know the entire layout of this place, I take it you know the location of everything, correct? So, you know all the secret food cellars, the rooms, where Xuukku sleeps, where the dungeon guard sleeps, everything?” I questioned, brushing a few strands of fur out of my vision.
Fenno nodded knowingly, glancing over his shoulder and shooting me a crooked little smirk. “Yep. I know every nook and cranny of this place. I know my way around here better than I know the back of my left paw,” he bragged proudly, raising his paw to emphasize his point. “Anything you need to know, just ask me, mate, and I can tell you,” he added before yanking the rear entrance to the fortress open and slinking inside, Vonex close behind.
I padded silently after the two of them, my gaze sweeping over everything within the range of my vision. The soft warmth of the carpet beneath my paws soon dropped away to the dull grey stones of the floor, cold to the touch, sending chills shooting up my legs and into every inch of my body. As Fenno blazed a trail deeper into the many stone corridors of the fortress, the air adopted a cool chill and the stone underfoot became more and more icy to the touch.
“So . . . Uh . . . Where exactly are we going?” I asked, taking note of how much shabbier the things around us were getting, no longer bright and lustrous, but drab and joyless.
“Soldiers quarters,” Fenno responded drearily, sounding as though he were completely sapped of energy.
I gazed back over my shoulder every so often, taking stock of where the skunk Lupe was leading me. Vonex remained silent throughout most of the walk, beginning to sink into the same despondent state that Fenno had been swallowed by. “Why do we sleep so far away from Lord Xuukku?” I queried, tilting my head to the side slightly.
Fenno gave a careless shrug. “Who knows? He’s a strange one, to be sure . . .” He stated indifferently before nodding toward the stone ceiling overhead. “Xuukku’s chamber is the only one on the upper-level. It’s at the far end of the fortress from where we all get stuck sleeping.”
Nodding, I lapsed into silence, allowing my mind to reel through questions and plans. If I can get to Xuukku . . . I can end it . . . I mused internally as Fenno jerked open a large wooden door and slunk inside, accompanied by Vonex, who motioned for me to follow. I shot one final glance down the corridor before following the two soldiers. Inside was a rather spacious sleeping quarters, lined with numerous bunks, some occupied by snoring forms, others lying empty.
“Pick a bunk, shut your gob, and go to sleep,” Vonex conducted as he clambered into a bunk and flopped down lazily. Fenno followed suit, rolling onto his side with his back toward the door. I stared at the two in blank silence for a few long moments before doing as directed and hauling myself into an abandoned bunk.
The flat, uncomfortable pillow reeked of sweat and filth, and I couldn’t help imagining what foul soldier had occupied the bunk prior to my arrival. Shuddering at the thought, I let my eyelids slip closed wearily, allowing one last thought to drift through my mind before sleep engulfed my consciousness, Just an hour of sleep . . . And then it’ll be time . . .
My eyelids flickered open slowly and I lay still for a few moments, listening to the snoring of the soldiers who lay asleep in the nearby bunks, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Slowly, everything came into focus and I gazed about, taking note of how many of the formerly empty bunks now contained a foul smelling occupant.
I slipped slowly to the floor, keeping as close to silence as possible to avoid rousing those around me. Checking to be sure that the floor around my feet was clear to read upon, I slunk rapidly toward the door, subconsciously holding my breath to avoid being heard. Padding silently across the freezing stone underfoot, I slithered out the door and hurried down the corridor. “I need a weapon . . . A spear . . . A sword . . . Something . . . Anything!” I hissed aloud to myself.
As though in answer to my call, a loud humming blazed through my mind, tugging me forward strongly. I followed the sound, completely entranced with its ring, my mind swirling rapidly, ideas swarming in and out before I could grab hold of them. I continued blankly down the corridor, turning down numerous halls until I found myself passing the main entrance and heading into a nearby room. My paw clasped the doorknob, turning it slowly and easing the door open before I slowly crept inside.
The room was rather empty. There was a wooden bench to one side, and across the room, against the opposite wall, sat a tall, rather old looking wardrobe. Directly across from the door rested a large oak-wood table, pressed tightly to the wall, looking as though it had always been in that same spot. Upon its surface, lay a large object, almost as long as I was tall, wrapped tightly in a red silken cloth. I strode forward, halting before the large table and slowly beginning to unwrap the silk.
A masterpiece of a sword lay uncovered once I had finished. My eyes drifted along it, a sharp double-edged obsidian blade, glistening brightly as though it had been awaiting my arrival. A three-quarter blood channel raced along the blade, halting before it could reach the neatly pointed tip. The word Harbinger was etched into the strong black glass. The crosspiece curved sharply upward where it met with the marvellous blade. It was perfectly balanced at the hilt, which was tightly bound with a thick, black leather.
Carefully, I grasped the hilt and raised the sword above my head, swinging it experimentally before slowly turning back to the door, my eyes gleaming with carefully measured amusement. “The perfect weapon . . . ”
Your perfect weapon, a voice cooed in my ear. I smiled slightly, heading forward with almost practised ease, and exited the room. I slunk slowly toward the staircase which lead to the upper-level, and the unsuspecting Xuukku. My feet glided over the stone flooring silently, my shadow sliding against the wall alongside me. I quickened my pace as the final door came into view, gripping the doorknob tightly and thrusting the door inward.
Against the far wall was an over-sized bed, flowing red blankets tumbling over the edges to reach the floor. The sleeping form of Xuukku lay beneath the covers. I paced forward slowly, raising the blade above my head and stabbing it downward into the mass of blankets before tearing it free and ripping back the sheets. The bed lay empty aside from two large pillows, both of which now contained large holes through which the feathery filling seeped out.
“Think you can get rid of me that easily?” a voice howled from behind me. I whirled on my heel in time to drive Harbinger upward, blocking the surprise attack Xuukku had made with his scimitar. “Thought you could escape from my dungeons and take over so easily, did you?” Xuukku demanded, thrusting me backward with surprising strength before jabbing his scimitar at my throat. Behind Xuukku, his Angelpuss flittered back and forth, watching the battle with both intrigue and dismay in his eyes.
I jerked back, awkwardly parrying the attack, swinging upward, and stabbing at Xuukku, driving him back a few paces. “Well, yes, that’s what I was hoping,” I panted, ducking another attack before sweeping Harbinger downward.
The Xweetok warlord darted out of the way with astounding agility, landing a blow to my right side. I let out a gasp of pain, clutching at my side with my left hand before swinging Harbinger at Xuukku’s feet. He leaped over the blade, landing neatly upon the ground before stabbing at me rapidly, his jabs far too quick for me to parry. I stumbled backward as he advanced, occasionally managing to block a swing with my own blade.
With each swing, Xuukku’s movements seemed to slow as exhaustion crept into his limbs. He slashed upward, taking a moment to prepare for his next swing, and I saw my chance. Thrusting Harbinger toward Xuukku’s middle, the Xweetok made an awkward block. I swung with as much strength as I could muster, knocking the scimitar from Xuukku’s grasp and sending it sliding across the room.
I pointed my blade at his throat, narrowing my eyes slightly. “Get down on the floor, scum,” I growled, my tone commanding. The Xweetok fixed me with a hateful stare before slowly dropping to the ground on his stomach. I grabbed his paws, jerking them roughly behind his back, keeping the deadly tip of Harbinger pressed against his spine. Hauling him to his feet, I dragged the defeated warlord slowly down the stairs and across the entryway, trekking downward into the dungeons.
I lead Xuukku to an empty cell, shoving him roughly inside. His Angelpuss fluttered in behind him, and I slammed the cell door shut tightly. “You lose,” I hissed, smirking coyly to myself as I turned and sauntered back up the stairs.
You blink rapidly as Tasslio finishes his tale. He gazes at you for a few short moments before gripping the hilt of the sword, jerking it free of the soil and turning, strolling leisurely away from you. “Good luck,” he calls over his shoulder.
Watching him take his leave, you blink rapidly a few times before shaking your head. “Strange Zafara,” you murmur aloud to yourself, rising to your feet and heading into the surrounding forest, shaking the numbness from your stiff limbs.