Shadow Dagger Ch. 18

byaustin_erotica©

A woman was lying on top of a black stone table. She had her legs spread with her skirt bunched around her waist. Her head was thrown back and she was screaming.

She was giving birth.

Merrion was standing between her legs, looking completely lost. "What do I do?" he asked hysterically.

Heric was wiping the woman's forehead with a calm patience that made it plain he had done this many times before. "When you see the baby crown, just hold it and help guide it out. She will do all the pushing."

"I can't do this!" he cried.

Sanje walked to him and patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. "I'm here. I'll help."

Merrion almost sagged in relief. "Thanks, Master Victus."

Sanje squeezed his shoulder once and walked around the stone table. He grabbed the woman's hand and squeezed it. She turned her face toward him. She was red and slick with sweat.

"What's your name, child?" Sanje asked softly.

Despite her exertions, she managed a smile. "Child? I think I'm older than you," she wheezed.

Sanje almost forgot that he wasn't wearing his cloak. He rarely let his face be seen, as was necessary when one worked as an assassin. "Right you are. So what do I call you?"

She moaned suddenly, her teeth clenching and her hand almost crushing Sanje's. "Just push," Heric told her, his voice eternally calm and patient.

She collapsed back to the table. "Selene," she gasped.

Sanje squatted down to be on eye level with her. "Selene, that's a nice name." He squeezed her hand again and tried his best to keep the pain out of his voice. "Do you know what happens next?"

She turned to look at him, her face suddenly relaxed and calm, despite the redness. "I made this decision of my own free will. I know the stakes. My family will be taken care of, right?" Her voice cracked on the last part.

Sanje closed his eyes and nodded. "Yes," he whispered. "They will never want for anything again."

"Then I will fulfill my bargain," she said, with quiet conviction. She gave another mighty push and screamed.

"I...I see something!" Merrion yelled. "What...what do I do?"

Sanje stepped up beside him. "Put your hands out. When she pushes, help guide the child out."

Merrion ducked between her legs and put shaky hands toward the crowning child.

"Push," Heric said. "One more big push."

Selene sat up suddenly and screamed louder than she had before. Her face was redder than the setting sun as she gave her biggest push yet.

"Oh dear God!" Merrion cried out.

His hands were dripping with blood.

***

"It's a heavy price we pay," Jon said heavily.

Jon and Ashford were sitting on the floor facing each other. Jon set his Shadow Dagger down on the ground between them. He had never seen Ashford look so eager as he leaned in to look at it.

"I've never seen one up close," he whispered in awe. He leaned in closer. "The runes are so intricate."

"They're designed to hold in great magical energies. See the first rune near the hilt?"

Ashford leaned in even closer and nodded. "That represents a level of power," Jon explained. "That rune can't absorb anything more than a spell of the 1st Tier."

"I'm familiar with that," Ashford said, nodding. "Magi Victus have different levels on power on their Shadow Daggers. I never understood why that is."

"I will explain that in a moment. But first, notice how there are ten runes. This forms the basis of how the Magi are organized."

Ashford looked up at Jon in amazement. "Are you saying the Magi organized themselves into ten tiers because of the Magi Victus?"

"The Magi have based much of their structure because of us," Jon replied. "It was a way to measure their power. They knew just how powerful a spell had to be to overcome a particular rune on a Shadow Dagger."

"I heard yours is the only one that stops 10th Tier spells," Ashford said. "Magi were scared to death of you."

"My dagger is different," Jon said quietly.

I love you, Mathus...

Jon shook his head. He couldn't dwell on his pain. He needed to get through this. Ashford looked at him, his head cocked in confusion. "Why is yours different?"

"Have you ever wondered why all Magi Victus are male?" Jon asked instead.

Ashford blinked. "They are?"

"Have you ever seen or heard of a female Magi Victus?"

Ashford frowned, his forehead burrowed in deep thought. "No," he said finally, as though he couldn't believe the words he was speaking. "I never even thought about that. I've never heard of a female Magi Victus." He shook his head in wonder.

"Do you remember how I told you that the Magi Victus were cursed?"

"Of course," Ashford replied. "You said that ten Magi of your generation came together and sought to alter the fabric of reality. They wanted to make it so that a child wouldn't be born of a non-Magi and Magi union."

The thought still made Jon's blood boil. The arrogance! I wish I could kill them all over again!

"Yes, in their foolishness and pride, they sought to alter what the God had created. They were like children, waving a sword and thinking it was a toy. Their experiment had unintended consequences."

"They created the Magi Victus," Ashford said. "They created that which would be their ultimate destruction. It serves them right," he finished fiercely.

"Yes, but the spell worked well enough for their purposes. The children of those unions could not actively use magic. They were comfortable with the result."

"So why are all Magi Victus male?" Ashford asked.

"Most likely, it was probably how they worded the spell and how they altered the runes of creation," Jon replied. "My guess is that they ended up altering reality by saying something like 'The sons of a Magi and non-Magi union shall never use magic.' Our society was very male-oriented back then. They probably never even realized their mistake."

"They had no idea what they were doing," Ashford said, shaking his head in disgust.

"They thought too much of themselves," Jon said bitterly. He could still hear Jocelyn proclaiming herself as a goddess.

"And so the Magi Victus can't use magic," Ashford continued for him. "But at least they can alter the magic already in them. I bet they never anticipated that."

"That's where the story begins," Jon said, pointing down at his Shadow Dagger. "The Magi Victus couldn't access their magic. At all."

"At all?" Ashford asked, slowly. "I don't understand."

Jon stared down at his dagger and summoned up the courage necessary to finally finish the story.

I hope you're right, Sarah. I hope this knowledge helps.

"The Magi Victus were completely cut off from their magic. They couldn't even use it to manipulate their speed as they do now."

"But..." Ashford said, running his hand over the stubble on his head. "How can they do that now?"

"Because of the Shadow Dagger." Jon took a deep breath. One more sentence and there would be no turning back. His Shadow Dagger loomed large in his vision. He stared down at it and felt the large wound on his heart start to bleed.

"Because it contains a part of their soul."

***

"Oh dear God!" Merrion called out. "There's so much blood! What's wrong? Somebody help me!"

Sanje closed his heart to Merrion's pain. It was necessary. If only he could believe it.

"It's ok," Sanje told him. He stood by him. "Just get ready."

"But she's bleeding so much!" he screamed. He was shaking violently.

"Here it comes!" Sanje said, hoping to distract him. "Remember what you have to do! For the love you bore his mother, don't hesitate!"

Selene screamed one last time and fell back against the table. She was as white as new fallen snow.

She was dead.

A terrible sound filled the room. A sound so terrible that Sanje turned away, hiding his tears as the sound tore at his heart.

The sound of a child crying.

Silver light filled the room. Sanje opened his eyes and squinted. Merrion held in his hands a ball of silver light.

"He cries like the thunder!" Merrion screamed, a scream torn from the depths of his soul. "He burns like the sun! Oh God! My son!"

"Do it!" Sanje screamed, his voice barely rising over the wailing of the child. He could dimly see the outline of the baby in the middle of the silver light. He could see the umbilical cord still stretching to his dead mother.

Merrion cried out as he held the child in one hand and reached to his side and unsheathed the Shadow Dagger that had been hanging there.

Sanje could hear the giant Heric weeping as they watched. Merrion was openly sobbing, his shoulders shaking in great heaves. He raised his dagger in the air and stopped.

"Don't hesitate! Just do it!" Sanje screamed, as the baby cried even louder, making his ears bleed.

"I can't! It's my son! My son!"

"The child is dead, regardless! End it now! Don't let it suffer!"

"AAAAAHHHHH!" Merrion screamed. The sound would had made the God weep. The dagger hung poised in the air.

Sanje noticed the light in the room dimming. He could see the child more clearly now, see the cracks in it's flesh leaking silver light. There wasn't much time left.

"Remember what you were taught! Do it! DO IT!"

Merrion screamed one last time; the scream of a soul tearing to pieces. The knife plunged down. Sanje looked away.

And the silver light vanished.

When Sanje turned back around, Merrion was kneeling, his shoulders shaking with grief beyond measure. He still held his hands out, as if they held something.

But only the Shadow Dagger was in his hands. It glowed up to the 6th rune. Merrion had waited too long, too much power had leaked away before he ended it. That the body was pure energy and, therefore was absorbed, was a small mercy.

Having a powerful Shadow Dagger wasn't a point of pride among the Magi Victus. Sanje felt almost ashamed to have a 9th Tier dagger. Was he so cold-hearted as to not waste time to plunge his dagger into the chest of his child? His own soul?"

Sanje patted Merrion and then quietly left him to his grief. Sanje went somewhere private to give into his.

***

"A child?" Ashford asked. He looked like he had just been punched in the stomach. His face was white. "A Magi Victus has to kill their own son?"

Jon felt a heavy weight sink down into his stomach. He felt sick just to tell Ashford the details.

"It's not really their son," Jon said, though he didn't offer it as a defense. "It's a portion of their own soul made manifest. It's another unintended part of the curse."

"How does that possibly allow them to use their magic?" Ashford looked angry, really angry.

"The Shadow Dagger is a link. Or maybe I should say a conduit. It's the perfect metal to absorb the power of a soul. Because of the unintended consequences of the curse, a Magi Victus is able to impregnate a woman just once."

"What really happens is they combine a part of their soul with organic material. The result is a 'baby' that holds the part of their soul that contains their magic. If they don't take action quickly, the power will quickly fade."

Ashford shook his head. "That's too much information for me to process! A conduit? A child of energy? I just don't get it."

"You will...in time," Jon said gently. "It takes time to fully understand it."

"What is the Shadow Dagger?" Ashford asked. He was clearly trying to hang on to any piece of information he could understand. "What do you mean that it's the perfect metal?"

"Well, you know how Magi can create powerful objects by investing it with their life energy?"

"Like the Magi swords you have," Ashford said. "Is that the same thing?"

"It's related, but not quite the same thing," Jon replied. "A Magi has to give his life to invest the object with power. And they use steel or iron, which are poor conduits of magical energy. Imagine how powerful Sophina's sword would be if it was made from the same metal as a Shadow Dagger."

"Well, where the hell did that metal come from?"

"From a far distance land," Jon said evasively. "I traveled far after receiving the summons from the God. I returned years later with a large mound of earth that the Shadow Dagger is made from. That was part of my orders."

"A far distance land," Ashford repeated. "Where they have magical dirt it seems."

"You no idea," Jon said. "The wonders you would find there..." He shook his head. "It doesn't matter; what matters is the Shadow Dagger. Now you know everything."

"Not everything," Ashford said, casting Jon a stern look. "I still don't know why your dagger is special or what memory haunts your dream."

Jon sighed. "I guess I did promise that. The memory deals with my son."

***

Mathus looked up, his eyes meeting Jon's. There was no fear in them. "I'm ready," he said, quietly, reverently.

"No!" Jon roared. The pain left his back and his vision cleared as anger filled his veins. "Never this! Never!"

"It has to be done, father. I know the God commanded it. I can help you in death in a way I couldn't in life."

Jon hands shot up and grabbed Mathus' face. "You will not ask this of me! The God and the world can burn for all I care!"

Mathus looked into Jon's eyes without flinching. Tears swam in his eyes and he smiled. "Thank you, for saying that. It...meant a lot to me."

Jocelyn's voice boomed nearby. She was getting closer. "Come out, come out, oh brave warrior! Won't you face me, Jon? Or are you hiding behind your weakling son?"

Mathus forced the Shadow Dagger into Jon's weak and shaky hand. "There's no time to lose, father! Take my life and it will heal your wounds! Kill that bitch and make this world a better place!"

"I would rather die!" Jon said fiercely.

Marcus closed his eyes. Tears leaked out from his eyelids and snaked slowly down his cheek. "Father, either way I'm dead. This way, you have a chance to live. And I will live on, always a part of you. I will protect you from harm as long as you wield the dagger. Please, father, please..."

Jon looked down at the dagger in his hand. He could barely see it through the blur of tears in his eyes. "I can't," he whispered.

The door boomed on it's hinges. Jocelyn was here. The sound of splintering wood filled the room as Mathus' fist closed tight around Jon's hand.

"I'm sorry about Mother." Mathus' voice quivered like a child's.

"Oh, son, that wasn't your fault," Jon said, choking on a sob in his throat. The door burst inward, showering wood over the room.

"I love you," Mathus said, as he leaned his forehead against Jon's.

Jon didn't stop him as Mathus jerked Jon's hand toward his chest. The dagger slid into his chest and straight into his heart. In some ways, the important ways, it slid straight into Jon's heart as well.

Silver light flooded the room. Jocelyn's surprised voice could be heard reverberating from the walls. Jon kept his eyes closed as he felt the energy surge into the Shadow Dagger.

His son, a fully trained and powerful Magi, whose blood ran through Jon's veins, collapsed against his chest as the silver light slowly faded from the room. Jon carefully slid the dagger out of his son's chest, not even caring that the runes on the dagger glowed all the way to the tip.

"What...what is this? What's happening?" For once, fear was plain in Jocelyn's voice.

Jon stood up. The pain was gone from his back. His vision was no longer clouded. Power he had never felt before coursed through his veins. The silver glow faded from the dagger in his hands.

But it only continued to glow brighter in his eyes. The same terrible eyes that turned to Jocelyn.

Jocelyn backpedaled until she bumped against the wall. "Jon? I...what just happened?"

Jon said nothing. He just continued to stare at her, his eyes blazing in fury and grief. "Jocelyn," he rasped, and in his voice trembled the power of the God.


***

Ashford held back a sob as Jon trailed away. He rubbed quickly at his eyes while Jon was staring at the floor.

"Well, what did you do to her?"

"I let her live," Jon said bitterly.

Ashford gasped. "What? Why?"

Jon waved his hand. "Foolish reasons. She was the last, Ashford. The last of my generation. The last person who knew my wife and my son. If I killed her, I would be the only one who remembered them. Would they have truly existed then?"

"Jon..." Ashford said, not knowing what to say.

"I know it was foolish. And I may come to regret it. But it came so soon on the heels of my son's death. I just couldn't do it, no matter how vengeful I felt at the moment. So I told her to leave the country and never return. If she did, I would kill her slowly and painfully. She knew I wasn't bluffing. I never saw her again."

"I know now why you kept all this a secret," Ashford said, hoping it would offer him some comfort.

"Thanks," Jon said. He glanced down at his Shadow Dagger and spun it around idly.

"Jon, if you don't mind me asking, what happened with your Shadow Dagger? It wasn't your own soul."

Jon nodded. "I don't completely understand it myself. My guess is that Mathus was my son and shared my blood. I think I'm right because I don't fully have a link with it."

"What do you mean? Aren't all Magi Victus linked with their dagger?"

"Yes. Because of the curse, not even the dagger allows them full access to their magic. But it allows them to manipulate magic within their own bodies. They just can't use it externally. As long as they have it on their possession, they have that much access."

"That's why we could never get our hands on one," Ashford said, musingly. "But what about your dagger? You said the link isn't perfect?"

Jon nodded. "I can't access the magic stored in there. Ever since my son died and his energy healed my wounds, the access to his magical power is locked from me. It does, however, protect me from very powerful spells. In fact, I've never had a spell defeat the dagger."

"And it's so powerful because he wasn't some being of energy that was quickly fading; he was a fully trained Magi," Ashford said. It was starting to make sense.

"Yes," Jon said. He spun the dagger around on the floor again. The dagger stopped with the bottom of the dagger pointing at Ashford.

Ashford blinked and then looked again. "What's that rune on the bottom of the handle?" Ashford said, pointing.

Jon picked it up and looked at it. "I don't know. The God told me to carve that on there. The rest of the Shadow Daggers don't have it. I've never been able to figure out what it is."

Ashford fell silent as he tried to process everything Jon just told him. He never pitied a man more in his life than he did Jon.

"So, is that what Jocelyn tortured you for?" he asked, after several minutes of silence.

"Yes."

"And she knows all these secrets, too?"

"All but one. Do you know how I stayed sane during the torture? I focused on one small detail that I refused to tell Jocelyn. One secret that I would keep. And she never knew."

"What was it?"

Jon grinned.

Note: Don't forget to vote!

Chapter 19 - Jon meets the goddess, Sophina and Peron attempt to bring in some help, and Evelyn starts to wonder...

Only 2 more chapters to go!

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