Calen Furl looked through blurry eyes at his tormentor. The Knight-Interrogator of Elyssa bore down on him with a fanatical gleam in his eyes; a militant, a murdering bastard who would happily burn his way through entire villages and execute folk as heretics in his search for ‘demons’.
Calen sat bound to a chair as the Knight pounded his gauntlet encased fists into his face. He could taste the foul unwashed leather of those fists and the blood that flooded into his mouth to add a metallic flavour to his palate. He coughed blood, spittle and teeth onto his chest. It had seemed noble at first, staying true in the face of suffering, fighting against the evil his people did not know was upon them.
He had been clubbed around the head on the outskirts of his village, Petra’s Meadow, and brought here to this place he did not recognise. The wooden walls about him were dark with rot, suggesting some sort of abandoned shack.
“I know you are lying, heretic. I know what goes on in Petra’s Meadow. I want to know when and where they next meet,” the Interrogator growled.
Calen did not bother to deny it; he was too exhausted. “Plough yourself,” he croaked.
The torturer gripped Calen’s tunic by the collar, the chair lifting onto its front legs with protest as the Interrogator’s menacing and predatory features drew closer to Calen’s face, eyes burning from an unfathomable hatred. “You know what I am, don’t you?” His voice was a menacing, low tone like the rumbling of a far off storm that promised havoc. “We both know that you will tell me what I want. Do you think they care about you? That they have even realised that you are gone? Damn it boy, you don’t even realise what you are being dragged into.”
He released his grip leaving Calen rocking back and forth precariously on the chair, eyes wide with fear.
The Interrogator stood with his back to Calen and for a moment the boy admired the man’s worn coat of boiled and patched leather, sewn together on the inside with tiny links of steel. Despite the obvious signs of wear, it was worth more than anyone in Petra’s Meadow could afford.
The Interrogator rounded on Calen again. “This thing you plan to invite into the world belongs to the deepest, blackest evil realm. It will bring destruction and ruin. Its very footsteps will destroy the life where it treads, do you understand? It will not bring you fortune. It will show no favour to those who summon it. It will consume and destroy with immeasurable cruelty.”
“You are wrong!” the boy cried. “Arachorg is the God of Harvest.”
“You know the demon’s name?” He glared at Calen with a look more frightening than any demon the boy could imagine, but there was fear in that look also. “It has already taken one of those poor souls…” he said to himself, before turning once more to Calen. “Who is it, boy? Who speaks with the demon’s voice?”
Calen was frightened. He did not know for sure if Arachorg was a god or indeed a demon. Was this man the enemy? He hesitated, struggling with the confusion within him.
“Tell me!” the Interrogator said, getting anxious. “Before it is too late! You must see reason.”
Knight-Interrogator Xander Vessin pleaded with the boy, seeming desperate in his concern, which was true, though it was also a measured act. He saw the confusion in this boy with no more than sixteen summers behind him, saw the struggle within him.
It was all Vessin needed. He gathered his will and focused his psyche energy to delve into the boy’s surface thoughts, knowing that he would not have hidden them deeper where it was far more treacherous to enter. Reading another’s thoughts was not something to be done lightly, however, for if the boy carried the taint of the demon it would be possible to trap Vessin’s consciousness there.
Vessin was cautious, combing the boy’s secrets from the surface as his thoughts railed over the right or wrong of his false god, never truly entering the mind. The Interrogator stood looking thoughtfully at Calen, who had no idea he had betrayed himself in that moment. The demon worshippers were to meet at a clearing in the meadow where they would attempt to summon their god. A man in the village had been possessed by the demon, a ‘prophet’ to Calen’s mind.
Vessin allowed himself a moment to focus on reality, feeling slightly disorientated from the use of his psyche powers. He drew his sword, a masterpiece forged in the great fortress of Elyssa and blessed with the very essence of the legend himself during ancient times. The process had involved infusing the powers of psyche magic as the steel was forged, but all efforts to replicate this in recent memory had failed, the secrets of old long since forgotten. The blade was one of the very few weapons that could inflict harm on demon-kind.
“No! No please,” Calen pleaded, as the smooth steel glimmered in the faint light, seeming to pulse with a faintly glowing life of its own. It terrified him. “Please, Sir, I didn’t know!” he sobbed.
“No-one ever does,” Xander Vessin stated, as his blessed sword whistled through neck muscle and cartilage like air. Calen’s body stiffened for a brief moment before falling limp, his head striking the earth with a resounding thud.
Vessin walked from the abandoned hunting shack turned torture chamber with his head slumped. He sat heavily on an old and partially rotten log that had been worn down by hunters over many years. He looked to his two fellow Interrogators across the flame dancing over the old fire pit.
Hwelgar Xenis stoked the fire they had lit in his absence, turning his fierce eyes to Vessin. “You killed the heretic?” His voice was emotionless. Hwelgar was built like a spear, tall, lean and deadly.
Xander Vessin raised his head and gave a slight nod in answer. He tried to distance himself from the revulsion he felt at taking such a young life. He tried to justify it. He knew it was duty, knew that the Order did not suffer demon collaborators but it still left a sour taste in his mouth. Is it not our sacred duty to serve? To protect? he thought, though he would not voice such personal doubts, not even with sworn brothers. It was weakness and he knew it.
The other Interrogator in their group, Lugo Varhen, turned to Vessin, his normally quick smile and laugh a distant memory as they discussed grim business. “What did you learn, Xander?”
In the dusk, firelight danced across Vessin’s face. “Most of Petra’s Meadow is tainted with belief in a false god. They call it Arachorg. I believe this is the true name of the demon and that it has possessed a member of the village and manipulated them.”
Hwelgar Xenis spat, “Kill the host and have done.”
Vessin shook his head and spoke quietly, “There is a convergence upon us.” They all fell silent.
A convergence was something of which there was barely any knowledge and many theories, the most accepted of which was, in the simplest terms, that the demon realm was dangerously close to the world of men. During a convergence, a normally impassable wall became weaker and thinner so that if a path was made and a demon invited, it could cross over in its true form. Usually the knights dealt with possessed humans or creatures corrupted by demon magic, and these alone were terrifyingly powerful. A demon in true form was something to be prevented, not fought. In true form, the demon would be near unstoppable.
Lugo’s eyes widened. “The last known convergence was-”
“Nearly two decades past,” Vessin finished. “The losses crippled the Order for years. If we kill the host, there is every chance the demon will take another. Normally we could hunt it in this way but if we fail…”
Hwelgar Xenis scowled. “You want me to go for aid,” he said, his distaste clear.
Vessin sighed. “My friend, Lugo and I were trained to fight demons. I wish you were at my side but the Order must know of this. If the three of us fail, then our brothers will not be prepared.” The knowledge of Interrogators did indeed cross over, but Hwelgar’s expertise was in monsters, corrupted beasts, and he knew it. All Knight-Interrogators underwent a basic training in all things demonic, branching out to become experts in demon-kind specifically or the various beasts and twisted monstrosities that rose as the result of their corruption through direct or indirect exposure to demonic essence. If this was a corrupted wolf or, as the populace would dub it, a werewolf or some similar beast, then Hwelgar would indeed have been more suited to the task than Vessin or Lugo.
“So, two will succeed where three cannot,” Hwelgar hissed. He breathed deeply and stood. “I am sorry, brothers. I know what must be done but it galls me not to stand with you.”
Vessin rose and clasped his brother’s forearm. “If we do not succeed, avenge us, brother.”
Hwelgar nodded, stooping to pick up his saddle. Lugo Varhen clapped him on the shoulder and said, smiling, “That miserable git Vessin may plan on being avenged but I think living is better. Safe journey, brother.” Hwelgar Xenis grunted as he walked over to his horse, saddled it and rode into the night.
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