The boy nodded but it took several long minutes before he spoke again. First he picked at a frayed thread in his tunic, then he stuffed another chunk of bread in his mouth and finally, after a long gulp from the jug, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.
“Just remember, you wanted to know.” He insisted, sounding like a petulant child. “Once I tell you, I can’t take it back no matter how much you want me to and I just know you’re gonna be mad. You’re gonna kill me and that’s not fair. Why did I have to live through all of that just for you to kill me now?”
The boy dissolved into tears, sobbing loudly as the captains stared at him incredulously.
“No one said anything about killing you, son.” Demetrious asserted. “Now pull yourself together and quit all that blubbering. One would think you were a maiden by the way you’re carrying on.”
“How do I know you won’t slit my throat as soon as I’ve finished? You’re swords are sharp and I’m unarmed.” He balked.
In an effort to appease the boy and finally find out what was going on, the four captains laid down their weapons and walked with the still-whimpering boy until he felt safer. With a good twenty feet between them and the closest sword, the boy’s fears diminished. He took a deep breath, nodded and closed his eyes.
“You’re not dead.” He blurted, raising his hands to protect himself from the imagined onslaught.
“Yes, we’re aware,” Praxis laughed. “The fact that we’re walking, talking and breathing has not eluded us. That was your dire news? All that nonsense to tell us we’re not dead? Are you quite certain you’re not a little girl after all?”
“No, you don’t understand. You should be. You died, all of you died. Your flesh melted from your bones and cooled into charred blobs on the ground. Many of you were mortally wounded and bled out but now you’re walking around like nothing happened. The warrior leader said you’re cursed. You’ll die a million deaths but keep going on, forced to battle evil until the end of time. He said the blade was full of dark magic and it turned your oath into a curse. He said for you to look at your hands.”The captains’ laughter ceased at the mere mention of dark magic. Slowly, Demetrious turned his hand over for all to inspect. There in his palm, just over the spot where the curved blade had bit into his flesh was a raised and twisted scar resembling the implement that caused it. Contrary to typical scars, this one was not red or even purple, this scar was black as night-as black as the magic that tainted them. One by one, each of the captains held out their hands and each had the same dark mark. Eleon, who had kept the strange, curved blade as token of their symbolic pledge, removed the cursed piece from his pocket. Turing it over and over in his hand, the blade seemed almost alive. The swirls of deep crimson flowing from shaft to point seemed all the more sinister, as if their own life’s blood was now fused to the knife.
****Please return for Part 16 on Monday, November 25th****