Alexandros: Ch. 02-03byJoeBarnosky©
We were successful in the defeat of all but one of the Spartan warriors my lord. The Greater Demon, Malanatohiel knelt cowering before his master. Fear kept the demon obeying and fear kept him loyal. The demon feared his failure would ultimately bring forth his destruction.
You let him escape? The Ifrit, Amnischnell stood over him with a gaze that felt like it could bore through the toughest metal. Amnischnell was not known for his patience or his forgiveness. And failure was unaccepted.
Of course not, my master. He proved to be exceptionally strong for a human. He is also the one that killed your son. Malanatohiel was counting on the latter to be his saving grace. Amnischnell would either blame him for his son's death or the Spartan. The Ifrit seethed with anger. Children, especially children resurrected into demons were not easy to come by.
You would know this human if you saw him again? The Ifrit questioned.
Malanatohiel hid his moment of triumph from his master. He only needed to play this game a little longer then death wouldn't be looming over his shoulder any longer. I can and finding him will not be very hard at all. He smiled to enforce his confidence in finding the human. He would find the Spartan and destroy him gaining him favor with Amnischnell. Like every Greater Demon, Malanatohiel sought power through rank and importance. His power was forever limited because of the type of demon he was, but position is where the real power was.
Excellent. You will take me to him and I shall make him suffer.
A look of shock rolled over the Greater Demon's face. He tried to find words to respond, but Amnischnell was quicker.
Playing games with me will not win you the advancement you so desire. You will only succeed in pissing me off more than I currently am. You will also be wise to realize I am your master for a reason and trying to play your games on me will only result in your ultimate demise.
Malanatohiel was shocked. He did well to hide the fact of it too. He scrambled for something to say to justify his actions but Amnischnell just turned away from him and looked toward the back of the cave.
I can still lead you to him master. Forgive me for my pathetic attempts and let me prove to you my worth.
Amnischnell quickly turned and backhanded the Greater Demon. He flew backward and landed on his back. Daring not to move he starred up at his master with a look of confusion crossing his face. That is for allowing my son to die at the hands of a mere mortal and for your failure. He moved to his chair seated at the back of the cave. Sitting down he gestured for Malanatohiel to get up and stand before him. We have to move fast now. Vectivus has found the Demon Gate that he has been searching for and has called for us. Our training here is at an end. I will give you two days to find this human. If you fail me then I will returned with news of your death and why it came to a sudden halt. Do not fail me again.
Malanatohiel bowed deeply. I will not fail you my master.
Alexandros Manuscript Page 21
I returned from the Krypteia to Sparta not long after the death of Nikator. Surprisingly, I was one of a few that did return. Even though I was concerned about this, my superiors weren't. When a warrior is sent out to the Krypteia it is common for him to not return since the purpose is to root out warriors worthy of leadership roles. I didn't argue the subject but rather kept it to myself. I thought it was better to see my father and discuss what happened out there in the wilderness and get his insight on what happened.
My father. He raised me until my seventh birthday when I was taken into the Agoge. I remember the daily training sessions. He thought me to be strong, but he also thought me compassion. He always said 'To lead takes compassion and strength. Through compassion, men will look to you. Through strength, men will follow'.
Because of the skills he taught me I was able to prove myself worthy of the Krypteia. Because of his teaching I was able to survive it and return to Sparta. My superiors gave me leadership over my own battalion. My other fellow Spartans that returned were given the same treatment as I. But in some ways I felt that I didn't earn the responsibility. I failed to protect my friend and fellow warrior. Because of that I felt I didn't deserve to lead.
I took my post regardless how I felt. I spent the next few days getting settled in to my new quarters. As a soldier we were required to live in the barracks until the age of thirty regardless if we married or not. At thirty we would leave active duty and move into active reserve. After settling in and finding free time during times when I wasn't training my own soldiers I made my way home to see my mother and father.
Home wasn't much different from what I remembered. My mother still had a garden which I was quite positive she still tended to. She was never one to use helots to do the common tasks of the house.
"Alexandros!" The shout came from the direction of the garden as I approached the house. I knew right away my mother was definitely tending her garden.
"Mother!" I said with my arms outstretched when she appeared from the side of the house.
She embraced me, holding me for what seemed like a lifetime. Though I haven't seen her in over ten years I never forgot her embrace.
"Where is father?" I asked when she finally released me.
"He's has a new group of soldiers he's training today. He'll be glad to see you again," she said smiling.
"It's been a long time," I remarked.
"Too long. Come; sit in the garden with me."
I followed her to the garden. Memories of my childhood came flooding back. I thought I had forgotten about being a child. In the Agoge you had to forget you were a child and focus on being a warrior.
"When you had to leave I thought I was prepared, but that wasn't the case. Your father and I discussed having more children after you left, but I couldn't bear to go through something like that more than once."
I remained silent deciding it best to let my mother speak and I just listen. Just to hear her voice again was soothing. I remembered going to sleep at the lullabies she would sing to me at night. It was those memories that helped on those nights in the Agoge when I was unable to quell my mind. We walked through the garden headed toward a small belvedere.
"Your father was able to inquire about you throughout the years though. When you were accepted for the Krypteia we were so proud for you." She sat down and patted the seat next to her. "Sit down and relax."
I did so and looked out to the garden. We sat there for a few moments, absorbing the beauty of garden and each other's company.
"I remember your friend Nikator. He was just as adventurous as you were. When he went into the Agoge with you, I was glad you had someone there you knew. How is he doing now?" I didn't answer right away. I wasn't sure how much I wanted to reveal about the events that took place at the time of his death. I myself was not fully sure I understood what I saw or heard. "Alexandros? Are you alright my child?" she asked placing her hand on my arm. She had a look of not only concern but sympathy. I don't know if she knew what my life was like since leaving home, but I'm sure she had an idea.
"Yes mother, I'm fine," I replied a little more harshly than I intended. I quickly apologized for the outburst. "I'm sorry."
"It's understandable," she said as she squeezed my arm. "If it's not something you'd care to talk about, I--"
"No it's fine," I said cutting her off. After all this time I nearly forgot how to interact with someone other than my fellow soldiers. "He was accepted for the Krypteia along with me and we decided to do it together. He survived the trials with me until the last few days. We were attacked by strange beasts and he died in the fight against them. I avenged him and gave him the honorable burial he deserved."
"I'm sorry to hear that. He was always a good child and I knew his mother well. I haven't spoken to her in many years though." She faded off as if lost in a thought. I took the opportunity to change the subject.
"Are you still teaching?" I asked wanting to turn the conversation from me to her.
She looked at me at first like she didn't hear the question before responding. "Yes and it has been invigorating still after all these years."
"I'm glad to hear that."
"Ah. Your father is home," she said casting her gaze to the front of the house.
I followed her gaze and spotted my father just as he recognized me.
"Alexandros!" he yelled. I jumped from the belvedere and ran to meet him half way. We embraced with him crushing me in hug. "How have you been son?" he asked enthusiastically.
"You should know father, you've had your eye on me all these years."
"She told you about that," he said grinning.
"That she did," I replied laughing.
He grinned for a moment before laughing himself. "Good job with your command position."
"I had a great teacher," I replied.
"As did I when I was your age."
"I have heard you had concerns with your experience in the Krypteia."
"How did you—" I began to ask, but quickly realize I'm not concerned how he knows. I'm just glad he is willing to listen. "I understand that the trial is a test for the select few but I also understand that there are supposed to be more of us that are to return."
"That is true and it was rather strange that so few returned to us this time. There have never really been any numbers this low in ages." He walked over to the bench my mother and I were occupying. I followed him not speaking until he did. He appeared to be lost in thought and it was not my place to interrupt him.
"I've got some things to do in the garden, I'll leave you two alone," my mother said excusing herself.
I nodded to her then returned my attention back to my father. "Tell me what happened to you and Nikator," he said looking straight at me.
"I don't know how to describe what we fought," I began. "They weren't human, but rather some kind of beasts. When Nikator fell under attack I was helpless in trying to aid him. Some force kept me pinned down. I tried to fight against it without effect."
I squeezed my eyes shut not wanting to relive the battle in my head. Images of Nikator being struck down flashed before me. The pain and anguish I felt then bubbled up and I once more experienced those feelings. I felt as if I was back in the battle reliving the entire thing over.
My father shook me bringing me out of my nightmare. I opened my eyes not fully recognizing where I was. I jumped up into a defensive stance ready to strike. "Alexandros! It's me your father. Control yourself!" he yelled.
I shook my head clearing the thoughts from it. I looked to my hands and quickly unclenched my fists. I could feel my face redden from the sudden embarrassment I felt. My father must have noticed it as well.
"It's ok son," he said calmly as he touch my shoulder.
"I'm sorry for my outburst father. I..." I could not think of the right apology to use for this situation. Thankfully I didn't need to.
"It's fine Alexandros. Sometimes warriors have nightmares of battles especially where a friend or loved one is concerned. When I was your age I had a few too. It's normal and part of the learning process." His smile was comforting and helped to put my mind to ease. He was a tough man when he needed to be whether it was in my training as a child or as a warrior on the battlefield. "It's getting late and you must return to the barracks. Tomorrow we shall go to your commanding officer and sit down with your story."
"You believe me?" I asked curiously.
"Of course son. Believe me when I say I have seen some strange things and usually strange means something bad."
Everything is suddenly quiet," Nikator remarked stopping and drawing his sword.
"I know. I believe something bad is going to happen," I said drawing my own sword.
"It is something the gods have chosen for us to face!" he yelled. "Come show yourselves and fall before our blades!"
We stood back to back with our swords at the ready for a few minutes. The strange feeling I had didn't subside but had intensified.
Then the attack came. Three creatures. One from the south, the leader. The other two, from the east and west.
"Remember our training," I said through gritted teeth.
"Of course we're a team," he replied. "Come! I thirst to spill your blood!" He yelled banging his sword against his shield.
The leader stopped short of its attack yet the other two continued their attacks. I turned my attention to the attack beast just as a claw swiped, slamming into my head. I lost consciousness as I fell to the ground. When my vision cleared one of the beasts was lying on the ground with its blood spilled upon the ground. Nikator stood over it yelling for me to stand.
With his attention drawn to me, he never saw the other beast's attack. A hand ripped out through the front of his chest. Blood spurted outward in every direction. Nikator's heart steadily beat in the beast's hand drawing my friend's attention to it.
"Help me," he mouthed. He couldn't scream, he couldn't talk.
I bolted to my feet, lifting my spear. As I started to leap forward something caught my arm and slung me backward. I landed hard and slid across the rocking ground. When I finally came to a stop I felt the ground give way and a cool breeze whip past me. I turned to look and saw an endless fall.
When I turned back the beast responsible for Nikator's death leapt at me. I scrambled to find my spear. I found and raised it just as the beast landed on top of me. It howled out in pain and I felt the warmth of its black blood gushing over me. I lay back, releasing my grip on the spear and trying to focus. For some reason my body pulsed with a strange feeling I never felt before. It was an almost tingling feeling that ran its course throughout my entire body. My mind was obscured by this feeling making it difficult to concentrate.
Suddenly the crushing weight of the beast's body was lifted away. Standing before me was the leader of the pack. It wore an awful grin that spread the entire width of its hideous face. Wings extended from its back blocking the rays of the sun allowing me to fully see the beast.
Revulsion crept into my stomach leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. The beast reached down, clamping its hand around my throat. It lifted me easily not showing a hint of strain. I clawed at its hands trying to tear the grasp from my throat. The only effect my efforts had on the beast was to cause it to laugh at my feeble attempts.
It lifted me over the edge of the cliff starring into my eyes as if looking into my soul. Foolish human. You think you can kill one of us and not face the consequences? Amnischnell will seek you out and exact his punishment onto you. You should be thankful you have not incurred the wrath of Vectivus.
I tried to respond but found myself not able to. Before I knew it, the beast's grip was released from my neck and I found myself falling to the depths of the unknown.
I woke up in a cold sweat. Looking around I found myself lying on the floor. I had fallen from my bed not knowing why. Then the dream began to slowly creep its way into the recesses on my mind. I knew it was only a dream but the ache in my throat and the tightness of my muscles said otherwise. We were trained to not fear, but I did feel fear. It was deep in my bones and it shook me to my core. I didn't know who Vectivus or Amnischnell was, but I was prepared to meet either of the bastards head on.