Shadow Dagger Ch. 18byaustin_erotica©
"I need you," Sophina said. A voice in the back of her mind was yelling at her to stop but she ignored it. "We can't do this without you."
Marcus was silent for several long moments. The cup was all but forgotten in his hands. "You would think I wouldn't fear death," he finally said, his voice barely a whisper. "I'm a True-born, why would I fear death?"
"Everybody fears death," Sophina said gently. Something in his voice was breaking her heart.
Marcus shook his head. "I'm not human; how can I fear death? Do you know what leading researchers said about the True-born when we started to rampage? They studied the ones who weren't yet mad and concluded we don't have souls."
"What?" Sophina asked angrily. "How can they say that!"
"I always thought they were right," Marcus said, shaking his head. "I never felt the things other people said they felt. That would explain why we decided to destroy everything. We simply didn't care."
"I refuse to believe that," Sophina said, standing up. "You have a soul, Marcus."
"Is that why I fear death?" Marcus said, looking up at her. His eyes looked lost and confused. "I started thinking, if I fear death, does that mean I have a soul?"
"Do you think you're going to die, Marcus?" Sophina said, as she sat back down on the bed.
"I don't know. The God said he could give my life a purpose if I were to become his Oracle. I've always had the dreams since I was a child but he gave me focus and a purpose so that I could make sense of them."
"What purpose was that?"
Marcus ran his thumb around the edge of his cup and didn't speak for a while. "We still have a chance to win this," he said finally. "If I truly have a soul, we have a chance. It's something I tried not to think about over the years, as I hoped it would never be needed. But I'm scared. What if I don't have a soul?"
"You do," Sophina said. She reached over and squeezed his hand. "I don't know what you mean, but if it depends on you having a soul, then we'll be ok."
Marcus looked over at her and smiled. "Thanks, Sophina. I need to be alone for a while. I have a lot to think about."
"Sure," Sophina said, standing up. She walked to the door and thought about what Marcus had just said. Was he worried that without a soul he couldn't fight off the madness? If having a soul would help fight that off, then they really would have a chance. Marcus could lay waste to the entire city if he chose to.
It wasn't until she shut the door that she realized Marcus didn't drink the medicine. She turned back and stopped. If Jon had faith in him, then so would she. Marcus would do what was right.
Oh God, Jon, hurry back already!
Sanje idly cleaned his fingernails with his Shadow Dagger as he sat watching Raynolt's unconscious body. Once again, as he had for the past week, he contemplated simply shoving his dagger into Raynolt's chest and chalking it up as a win.
It wasn't the plan that stopped him. My father...I feel nothing for him. He never once cared about me. He only used me to get inside the Magi Victus. So why can't I kill him?
The flood of childhood memories attempted to sweep him away. He was more than use to blocking those off. His childhood and his eventual introduction into the Magi Victus were so far past that he barely remembered it.
He just wished he had known his mother. It was an idle thought, one he occasionally allowed himself. Raynolt had purposefully impregnated a non-Magi woman just so he could infiltrate the Magi Victus.
Sanje's happiest memory was the day he had defied Raynolt. He had agreed to the plan, of course, but the secrets of the Magi Victus stayed with him. He smiled as he remembered Raynolt's anger. Raynolt appeared ready to kill him but Sanje knew he still needed him.
His thoughts were interrupted as Raynolt suddenly twitched from his cot on the floor. His eyes fluttered for a few seconds before slowly opening.
"You just won't die, will you?" Sanje said.
Raynolt blinked. "What...where..." His voice was hoarse.
Sanje grabbed the leather water bottle next to him and put it into Raynolt's hand. "Drink."
Raynolt finally opened the water bottle on his third try and lifted it to his mouth with shaking hands. Sanje smirked as most of the water poured down the sides of Raynolt's mouth.
Raynolt's head collapsed back to the cot as if it weighed a ton. "Where am I?" he gasped, his voice less raspy than before.
"In a safe place," Sanje said vaguely.
Raynolt closed his eyes and sighed. "What happened? I thought I was dead for sure."
"I saved your life," Sanje said, as if it was of no importance.
"That was you?" Raynolt asked. His eyes fluttered open and located Sanje. "I thought I saw somebody drop down behind Sereph. Did you kill that little bastard?"
"Not quite," Sanje said. The memory still irritated him. "That man was more resourceful than I anticipated. I drove him off, though. You were convulsing from the poison Sereph gave you."
"Poison," Raynolt muttered. He raised his shaky hands and rubbed his face. "That little bastard. What poison was it?"
"It was a concoction made mostly from the venom of a scorpion most commonly found in Raves. Lucky for you, my work as an assassin requires me to know the various poisons and their antidotes. By the time I got you back here and administered the antidote I thought you were dead. You've been unconscious for a week."
Raynolt struggled for several minutes before finally sitting up. "A week? What's been happening since I've been unconscious?"
"The Emporium sustained a lot of damage but it still stands. Reynar's Magi control it now. They elected a woman named Sura to replace you as Grand Master."
"Damn that woman," Raynolt muttered. He looked up and seemed to finally notice the dank walls surrounding him. "Where in the nine hells am I?"
"The sewers," Sanje said, smirking.
A look of great distaste cross Raynolt's face. "Lovely."
"It's the only safe place to hide," Sanje said, shrugging.
"My loyal Magi are here as well?"
"What's left of them," Sanje replied. "We have around seventy five Magi compared to Reynar's three hundred."
"What of Lenard?" Raynolt asked.
"We never found him. Some of your Magi are out looking for him at the moment. As well as doing other tasks."
"What do you mean, out?" Raynolt asked, frowning.
Sanje sighed. "We can't just stay idly in the sewers. If Reynar's men never found us, they would have to conclude that we're hiding here. A few select Magi are running through the city and getting into fights. That way, Reynar's men think we're still up in the city, hiding."
Raynolt dropped his head in his hands. "My plans are ruined. How the hell did Reynar catch wind of our plans?"
"There's a few possibilities," Sanje said slowly. "Either one of your men or one of Sophina's men talked."
Raynolt looked up sharply. "I noticed you didn't include your men in that."
"Not a possibility," Sanje said, his voice daring Raynolt to disagree.
Raynolt snorted. "Have it your way. I suppose a hunt for the spy is pointless at this juncture. The spy probably switched sides already."
Raynolt looked around the room, apparently looking for something to say. "What's the plan now?"
"Am I in charge now?" Sanje said, raising his eyebrows in mock surprise.
"I've been unconscious for a week," Raynolt said, irritably. "I hope you haven't been sitting on your ass for all that time."
"Hardly," Sanje sneered. "I've met up with Sophina. We can still coordinate something. We just need to figure out how to get everyone together and find out what's the biggest weakness in Reynar's armor."
"I see a lot of problems with that," Raynolt said dryly.
"There's a few. First, while your were napping, Reynar called all of the army back to the city. We currently have over three thousand soldiers patrolling the city and guarding the palace and city walls."
Raynolt shook his head and said nothing. Sanje continued. "Secondly, we need to figure out a way to sneak in Peron's mercenary army. After that, we have to figure out the best method of attacking the palace. After that, we have to figure out how the hell we kill Reynar. Other than that, it should be a piece of cake."
"Funny," Raynolt spat. "I fail to see the humor in this. After all these years we've spent planning, our plans lie in near ruin. The Magi Victus will fall and I with them."
"Did anyone ever tell you," Sanje said, turning toward the door, "what a complainer you are?"
Sanje heard Raynolt growl under his breath. Smirking, Sanje whistled happily as he splashed through the sewer.
When he came to an intersecting tunnel, one of his men moved out of the shadows cast by a flickering torch and walked quickly toward him.
"Master Victus," he greeted Sanje, bowing.
"What is it?" Sanje asked, feeling his good mood evaporating.
"It's Merrion," the man said simply.
Sanje sucked in his breath. "Is it time?" he asked quickly.
The man nodded. "Heric just brought the woman down. It looks like it will happen any minute now."
Sanje cursed and took off running down the tunnel. Since he became Master Victus, he swore an oath to himself that he would always witness the most sacred and significant event of every Magi Victus' life.
He would never miss the making of a new Shadow Dagger.
"Where do you think you're taking him?" Jocelyn asked, one eyebrow raised scornfully.
Jon felt Mathus' hand shiver nervously on his arm. Ignoring the pain in his back as best as he could, Jon pushed Mathus away and straightened up.
"Hello...Jocelyn," he gasped. The drug continued to blur his vision and his back continued to throb waves of pain.
Jocelyn cocked her head to the side, a slight smile twisting her handsome features into something sinister.
"Look at you, Jon. A once great warrior struggling to stay on his feet." She shook her head sadly. "You could've been so much more...but you spat in my face."
"Watch your tongue, witch!" Mathus growled, stepping in front of Jon. Jon tried to push him away but his arms wouldn't respond.
Jocelyn's face tightened in anger. "This is between adults, child. I suggest you shut your mouth."
Mathus raised his hand. Runes began to glow in front of him. "Mathus...no..." Jon croaked. Black dots swam across his vision.
Jocelyn laughed. "Is this child trying to threaten me? Me?" Jocelyn's voice went as hard as steel on the last word. "Me, the daughter of a goddess?"
"A goddess?" Jon asked, his rising anger granting him temporary strength. "Is that what you think you are?"
Jocelyn's eyes narrowed. Mathus continued to hold his hand out, his runes flashing dangerously in the air.
"You've never understood that, Jon," Jocelyn hissed. "Our parents are gone. The Order of 12 are gone. We are the gods now, not these weak children like the one I see before me. I will never bend my knee to them, Jon. Never."
Mathus' hand tightened but Jon grabbed his arm, stopping him. "How did I not see what you truly were from the beginning?"
Jon could see he had hurt her with that. Murderous rage shone from her eyes. "Maybe because you could never see past that bitch of yours," she spat. "You spurned me and look what happened. She betrayed you! Betrayed you like I would've never done!"
"I would've never loved a power-hungry, soulless bitch like you," Jon said.
Jocelyn's eyes flashed silver. She screamed dementedly and flung her hand out. Mathus swung his arm and runes flashed on the ceiling. Several tons of stone came crashing down between them.
"Move!" Jon cried, grabbing Mathus' arm.
Mathus put Jon's arm around his shoulders and quickly dragged him down a side hallway. They could hear more demented screams and crashing rocks.
"She's coming!" Mathus said, fear creeping into his voice for the first time.
"Leave...me," Jon gasped, his strength once again ebbing under the influence of pain and drugs. "I will hold...her off...give you...time to escape."
"She will not have you!" Marcus said angrily. He shouldered a door open and shoved Jon inside. He shut the door behind him.
They were in a private room, it's occupants evidently fleeing the destruction. Mathus led Jon to a chair and gently set him down.
"Listen, father, I have something--"
"I know where you are Jon!" Jocelyn laughed, her voice muffled by the closed door. "You can't hide from me! I need to finish the work of art I started on your back!"
"That bitch," Mathus growled, his head swinging toward the door. "We don't have much time."
"Leave," Jon repeated. He couldn't bear the thought of watching his son die. He knew that's exactly what Jocelyn would make him witness. If only he had his strength back.
"I told you, father, it's too late. I was trying to tell you earlier. I know my destiny now. Jocelyn taunted me with the knowledge she found out from you."
"What do...you mean?" Jon asked. He felt his heart flutter in his chest.
Mathus looked fiercely into Jon's eyes. "I know about your Shadow Dagger. I know how it's suppose to work. Yours is different, more powerful than the rest. And I know why...and I'm ready."
Jon felt his world slip away from him as Mathus removed something from behind his belt. It was covered in black cloth. Mathus' hands shook as he slowly unwrapped it. Jon wanted to look away, wanted to die, but he knew he was powerless to stop it.
Jon's unfinished Shadow Dagger lay in Mathus' hands. The runes didn't shine silver; they were merely marks chiseled into the dark metal. Lifeless.
Mathus looked up, his eyes meeting Jon's. There was no fear in them. "I'm ready," he said, quietly, reverently.
"NOOO!" Jon roared.
"Jon! What is it? What's wrong?"
Jon sat, his chest heaving rapidly, as he realized it was just a nightmare. No, not a nightmare; a memory more nightmarish than anything found in the nine hells.
"What is it?" Ashford called urgently as he ran into the room.
Jon rubbed his face. "It's nothing...a nightmare," he said, feeling distinctly embarrassed.
Ashford stopped in his tracks. "Oh, thank the God," he breathed. "I thought it was an assassin."
"Did anybody else hear?" Jon asked, looking around the small bedroom.
Ashford shook his head. "No, the men are outside feasting. I just happened to come by to see if you needed anything."
Jon swung his feet over the bed and tried his best to forget about that nightmare. If he closed his eyes, he could probably still see Mathus' face. He never wanted to remember that night.
"Jon, is everything alright?" Ashford asked hesitantly.
"Yeah," Jon sighed. "You know I've been having these nightmares lately."
"You need to talk about them, Jon," Ashford said, his eyes searching Jon's face for a reaction. "These memories of yours are eating you up inside. You need to let them out."
Jon grabbed his shirt from the bedpost and slipped it on. He dressed slowly to give himself time to think.
"Jon," Ashford said, once Jon fell silent.
Jon felt something inside him break at the moment. Ashford was right; it was time to trust somebody. It was what Sarah wanted. He was starting to think that's why she and Berrick had haunted his dreams.
"I need to tell you something first before I tell you about this memory."
Jon could see the eagerness in Ashford's face, though he tried his best to hide it. "What?"
Jon walked to the bag he had packed in Astuari and rummaged inside of it. He felt what he was looking for. He turned toward Ashford and held up his Shadow Dagger.
Ashford hissed. "Be careful! Somebody could walk in here and see that!"
"It's necessary," Jon said, staring down at his dagger. The memory tugged at the corners of his mind. He didn't acknowledge it. Not yet.
"Why? What were you going to tell me?"
"I need to tell you a secret I have guarded for too many years before I tell you about my memory. I think I'm suppose to. No...I know suppose to. This knowledge may hold the key to our salvation."
"What knowledge?" Ashford asked nervously.
Jon held up the Shadow Dagger to his face. He looked past it and met Ashford's eyes. "I need to tell you the secret of the Shadow Dagger."
Sanje hurried up the metal ladder and pushed up the trapdoor. He hoisted himself out and set the trapdoor back in place. The building he found himself in was dark and abandoned. He didn't need to see, though. He had been here many times before.
He made his way through the dark and quickly found the door leading out. He squinted his eyes as the expected light nearly blinded him as he walked out. The hallway was well lit with torches.
"Master Victus," Waller said, greeting him with a bow.
"Where is he?" Sanje asked Waller. Waller guarded the entrance into this building and would know exactly who Sanje was asking about.
"He's already in the room," Waller said, his voice quiet and serious.
Sanje nodded and took off at a brisk trot. He still had time. He passed more Magi Victus as he made his way through one of their many secret hideouts. This place, however, held a certain honor.
This was where Magi Victus were bone.
He turned a corner and found the door he was looking for. He pulled it open and stepped inside.
Lauden stepped forward and greeted him with a bow. "Master Victus, you're just in time."
Sanje patted Lauden on the shoulder and stepped past him. A man with short brown hair was walking nervously back and forth in front of a closed, solid wooden door. Sanje couldn't help but remember how he had felt at this exact moment. The fear, the excitement, the longing...
"Calm yourself, Merrion," Sanje said soothingly. He grabbed the man by the arms and held him still.
Merrion looked up at him with wide eyes. "I can't do this," he whispered.
Sanje smiled. "Everybody who has stood here has said the same thing. Right, Lauden?"
"I was nearly pissing my pants," Lauden said, his voice full of amusement and wistfulness.
Merrion laughed nervously. "Really?"
"Yes," Sanje said, with as much conviction as he could muster. "It's the sacrifice we all must pay just to be who we are. You've spent years preparing for this moment. Remember everything we've taught you."
Merrion nodded and let out a shaky breath. "Ok, you're right. I can do this."
"Remember," Sanje said, pulling up Merrion's head so he could look into his eyes. "The faster you do it, the better. Wait too long and you will lose your nerve. Just close your eyes and trust your heart."
Merrion's eyes glistened but no tears fell down his cheek. "I've never seen it before. It sounds so terrifying. Will I be ok?"
Sanje hugged the man to his shoulder so he wouldn't see the lie in his eyes. "Yes," he whispered, his voice hoarse. "You'll be fine."
Just then, the heavy wooden door swung open. A giant Magi Victus, his face covered in a thick black beard, poked his head out of the door. "She's almost ready to burst," he said simply.
Sanje pushed Merrion to the door. "Go ahead, I'll be right behind you."
Merrion stumbled drunkenly toward the door. Sanje felt a pain in his heart at how lost and helpless he looked. The giant, Heric by name, grabbed Merrion gently by the arm and pulled him into the room.
Lauden stepped up next to Sanje and watched as the door swung shut behind them. "You don't have to do this," he said.
Sanje shook his head. "I have to. I made a promise to witness this, to be reminded of the sacrifice we must make just to survive. It's my duty as Master Victus."
"I've known two Master Victus' before you and neither one of them ever watched this."
"I'm not them," Sanje said, stepping toward the door and grabbing the handle. He turned his head back to look at Lauden. "I'm better than them."
He opened the door and shut it firmly behind him. As soon as he did, noise assaulted his ears.