Under the Shadow of Night

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Chapter 12

Kira’thaz surveyed Infel Latha from one of the Throne Room’s parallel balconies with his hands folded behind him, his right thumb spinning the ring of bone and metal on his ring finger of its own accord. The city had grown quiet of late. Even the violence had died down from angry mobs screaming in the streets to lowlifes quietly slitting each other’s throats in alleys. Everyone was waiting for the final plunge into chaos that none of them wanted to admit they knew was coming and could do nothing about.

Kira’thaz sighed in contentment. Patience, everyone. You’ll be free soon enough.

“Sir,” one of the palace guards said, kneeling behind Kira’thaz, “Lirak the Summoner has come with his report.”

Kira’thaz faced the guards positioned throughout the chamber, the light from the heart of Solis Umbra reflecting off their polished armor. “Leave.”

The guards hesitated before complying, and once the last one had left, Lirak entered. He was a spindly demon who floated several feet off the ground, the light breeze shifting his dark ceremonial garb to reveal his amputated legs. From beneath his black hood, Lirak’s eagerness was betrayed by the expression of his empty sockets, in each of which burned motes of crimson flame.

“Sire,” Lirak rasped. “Xanenax is assembling the Left Hand. Although I did not corroborate their stories-

“Yes, you summoned them to their alibis, and thought it better to avoid being seen with them, lest Xanenax grow suspicious.”

Lirak’s manner fell from the thrill of collusion to one of subservience. “Yes, my lord.”

“Xanenax is always suspicious,” Kira’thaz replied. “It’s what makes him so easy to distract. But no matter. If the others are half as intelligent as they think they are, they will manage. How are the experiments?”

“Unsuccessful, my lord. We still haven’t had one last more than a few days, and are still unable to fully control any of them.”

Kira’thaz then turned towards Lirak and walked up to the sorcerer. “That is unacceptable. You continue to fail me on what is almost most crucial.”

“We are close, sire. The subjects often die before we can establish full control. Their bodies and minds disintegrate after too much exposure.”

Pinching the bridge of his nose, Kira’thaz sighed. Idiocy. “You must be sensitive to them individually. Everyone has a weakness. A flaw that you can infect which will act as a bridge to the rest of their being. You cannot simply overload their minds. You must have precision.”

“It is difficult to discern that when all they can manage are screams and curses, sire.”

Kira’thaz bit back a retort. He had found long ago that it was better to stroke demons’ egos if he wished them to do something. “Was I mistaken in thinking you were skilled enough to be entrusted with this vital task?”

“Of course, not, sire. But, I require more time.”

“Very well. I will give you one week. No more. If you fail, I will ensure you join the tests, personally.”

Lirak bowed his head. “Thank you, sire.”

Kira’thaz returned to the balcony and gazed upon the decrepit city, fondly remembering how magnificent it had looked when he first saw it. He felt himself swell with pride in how low he had single-handedly brought it. “And the prisoner?”

“Continues to resist us, my lord. She is even more strong-willed than our kin. Given her condition, I am surprised she is even still alive.”

“That is precisely what makes her invaluable,” Kira’thaz replied. “She has an indomitable will, and will not let us use humanity’s birthright through her willingly. But she will break.” Everyone does, eventually. Then, a thought occurred to him. “Have you tried using meridium on her?”

“My lord, demons are much more resilient than humans, and they have all perished. I don’t see how she could survive.”

“She doesn’t have to survive. She must become compliant, if only for a short while. It won’t matter what happens to her afterward.”

“I… will do my best. But sire, why did we not take more humans as a precaution? Surely some of the specimens would have been suitable, even if not equally so.”

Kira’thaz scoffed. “Hardly. No other human alive since the Rending has achieved her level of power, and even she is paltry for the task before us. The rest were nothing but refuse, not even worthy of amusement. They served their purpose as fuel for the soldiers. Now return to your work. Do not disappoint me.”

“Er, sire, about the scrolls you promised me...”

Irritation began to curdle in Kira’thaz’s stomach. “Once you have fully proven your dedication to me, I will give you one. Most were burned beyond salvaging, and I myself have not finished studying the few that remain. Rest assured, however, you will be the first to inherit them.”

“...Are they as powerful as we had hoped?”

Kira’thaz couldn’t help but chuckle as a maniacal smile spread across his face and turned toward Lirak to emphasize his point. “You have no idea. With this power, we could end all of Creation, if we so wished.”

“That is astounding to hear, your grace,” Lirak said, bowing deeply. “I am honored to be entrusted by you with such knowledge. But… I thought that form of magick was intended to preserve Creation, not destroy it.”

David Rauenzahn

Edited: 29.07.2019

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