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Chapter II: Crippled Fate and Dark Blood – Part II

“Where is the boy?”

The question hung in the midair and spread, reeking of repercussions.

The small council of Vennklan Valley was not less surprised than if the Praetor’s emissary took the mayor’s cat and told them he was the ruler of the town now. But, of course, everyone knew about what boy he was talking about. It was not a mystery that Tiyan Markon was cursed. But none of them wanted to be the one who put the young man into shackles on the way to the capital. Maybe he was touched by evil, but he wasn’t evil himself. They disliked his curse but didn’t want his death. And even the most prejudiced council member didn’t want to see him burning and screaming. They were not cruel. Maybe scared and haunted by changes, but definitely, they weren’t murderers.

“Whoever brought you here, had the wrong information,” the mayor said through clenched teeth. “No one in Vennklan Valley uses magic, forbidden or not.”

A soldier who so far stood behind the emissary hissed and stepped forth, only to be halted by his lord.

“Nothing happened, the mayor only isn’t aware of what position and name I possess” he smiled kindly and leaned forth with a predatory gaze fixed on the town’s nobles. “You will speak to me ‘your grace’ next time. And nothing bad will happen to anyone in this room.”

One of the council members scoffed and shook his head. The soldier again wanted to deal with it, but the iniquisitor only put his gloved hand on his arm and shook his head. Then, he turned to the man who didn’t agree with calling him with the royal title. The tattoos on his face seemed to dance as he grinned.

“I think I heard an opinion, but I am not sure what it was supposed to mean” his voice like oil, his eyes like daggers.

“That meant that only the king can be called ‘your grace’” said the older noble, withstanding the darting gaze of the emissary. “You are too prideful, too full of yourself.”

The grin of the inquisitor became wider, but his lips twitched. Possibly not many people dared to oppose him, more even refused his will. One could see easily that anger boils in him like in the closed kettle. But the man who spoke before continued.

“You are not “grace” and you are not our lord. The king never approved of the methods of the Praetor and you… you won’t put your hand on any townsmen here until I live.”

“Ah,” that was the only thing that escaped the emissary’s mouth. The silence was prolonged, two sides looked at each other in tension so thick that could be sliced with a knife. The kind smile that was present on Praetor’s lord’s face while he was entering the town on horseback, returned, to pull the sun from behind the battered curtains.

“How unfortunate,” he said, gesturing with his hand. “The boy is dangerous. His magic was given to him by lower forces, by the enemies of humankind. Maybe the king never gave us official orders, but we all must work in the name of… greater good.”

“Greater good in other words can mean lesser evil” The mayor narrowed his thin brows. “And I won’t take any evil deed on my back.”

“You are not afraid of his curse? Of the abominations he attracts? Tell me kindly, how many times have you seen him wandering off the valley?”

“He is a hunter. He is the one who helps to feed the families that lost their fathers and husbands in the war. He needs to go outside.”

“Ah yes, and how many times he goes back without prey, with hazy eyes and absent expression?” drilled the inquisitor.

A whisper came through the group of men. The mayor stood firmly and didn’t join them.

“I don’t think the lack of prey in this valley speaks against the boy. These lands are infertile, the animals go into the terrains that lack the fog coming off the mountains. You want his demise in the name of the “greater good”. And that is not even lesser evil. It’s just wrong. Do you really believe in it? YOU-” he turned to the council behind. “- you believe HIM?”

“No,” said the man who spoke before. “Tiyan Markon is ours. The son of Gravir Markon. As I said, you will take him over my dead body.”

“That can be arranged, if you continue to stop my hand from doing justice. But we all know that you want him away. You want freedom from the fear and from the demons he attracts” The inquisitor was in his element. He had to do such speeches many times before receptive crowds and the mayor was aware of that. He was too old to buy it. “Think of your families, your women, your sons and daughters.”

Again a scoff. Laughter in the back. Some nods and some heads shake in disagreement.

“Listen, ‘your grace’” the mayor said with a heavy sigh. “You have soldiers and your sword and we have hundreds of people and our tools of trade. Sometimes very sharp, sometimes very heavy. And until you bring an order from the king himself, the boy stays with us. Think about it, when you return to the capital, to give a report to your lord. He may rethink his actions too.”

While he was speaking, the tattoos on the face of the emissary started to move. At first slightly, as lazily. As awaiting orders. They swirled and danced, a slow caress over his skin, a touch of questioning pressure.

And then, they spread, the ink leaving the skin on the emissary, reaching with sharp talons to the mayor. It looked like a mass of black spikes left the skin and biting through the town’s leader’s flesh, pierced him, pinning him to the wall.

The small council watched in horror, how slurping blackness slowly drilled through the limbs of the screaming and tossing mayor, swallowing him and soon leaving the bare, bloodied bones.

The spikes returned on inquisitor’s skin, again looking like tattoos. The emissary grinned, a bubble of blood slipping from his mouth and falling on his vest with big droplets. He licked his lips like he didn’t want to lose even a small portion of his victim.

“Any more questions?”

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Forest is where I belong. My gods live there.