“Just keep moving along, girlie,” O.M.E.G.A. murmured into the young Cleric’s ear.
One arm was wrapped around the girl’s slender throat, the crook of his elbow pressuring just enough to keep her in his grasp. The other hand was capped across her mouth to be sure his escape went unheard.
She was terrified. Every inch of her body radiated the emotion.
Her feet stumbled in fear as he forced her to indicate the fastest method of retreat out of the winding tunnels of the dungeon. After all, if she had been the one to lead Golbez’s party down into the fortress, she was a good pick for a guide to lead the way out.
Besides, if Golbez and company decide to come after me, I want a bargaining chip. This little flower is as good as any.
“Now, now…” Kip told her as she gave a muffled whimper. His voice grew soothing. “What did I tell you earlier? If you cooperate, you won’t get hurt. It’s as simple as that.”
A bubble of thought appeared in the girl’s mind. He could sense each one as they rose, adding to the air-pocket of panic in her head.
“No,” he answered her unspoken question. “I have no interest in taking a prisoner back with me. Not even one of the Clerics of Troia. I leave that sort of stuff to Pren.”
A sharp hiss of air escaped her nose. Maybe it was reaction to his answer. Or maybe it was her realization that the O.M.E.G.A. had read her thoughts.
Kip pulled her to a stop at the appearance of a long, dim hallway that stretched to the right and left of them. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of battle still filtered down through the open window high above their head. It was fully day now – harder to make an unnoticed escape… but that’s where his mind magery came into play.
“Which way?” he asked her.
The Cleric motioned faintly to the left. With his mind senses locked upon her every action and reaction, O.M.E.G.A. knew that she was telling the truth.
“Left it is,” he gave a soft quip, moving them into the shadows of the hall.
More unspoken questions began to fill her mind. Where he came from and why he was doing what he was. These things Kip left unanswered – it was just better that way. Finally, after a long while of walking in silence and thought, the O.M.E.G.A. spoke.
“Everything I said to Golbez was true, you know,” Kip murmured. Even though the last part of his conversation with the Master Wizard had been internal dialogue, it had been the most important. The seed of self-doubt had been planted in Golbez’s mind.
And once doubt wheedles its way into your self-perception, things start to become tricky. Real tricky.
“Do you actually think you can trust Golbez? Any more than you can trust someone like me?” O.M.E.G.A. gave a sharp barking laugh. “We are two of the same mold. Don’t you see? We were created from the same darkness to serve the same Master. Don’t let his ways fool you. He’s just as much a monster as I am..”
And moreso. I am surprised that Zeromus never achieved an Awakening from the boy. Benjamin still hasn’t discovered Sygnus yet…
Kip knew this for sure. The first thing he had sought to discover was if Sygnus was going to be an issue he’d have to face. But not even a trickle of awareness of the creature’s existence surfaced in the Half Lunar’s mind as they had battled.
Though, even without Sygnus, he has grown so much more powerful than I would have thought. Much more so than the last I saw him…
The sound of motion in the halls made the O.M.E.G.A. pull up sharp, pressing his back to a crevice in the wall. Armored footsteps echoed on the stone floor as troops – human troops – began to rush into the corridor.
Mmm… this is going to get more complicated, I see.
The Cleric began to shiver, obviously afraid of what O.M.E.G.A. would do to her should they be discovered. For as long as they went undetected, he had no need to use her as a shield. But the moment they were threatened…
“Don’t move,” he told her, his own body falling absolutely still. Still as stone. Sill as the cold rock against his back
-You don’t see anything. There is no one standing here.-
Twisting tendrils of mind-though wove around them as the soldiers approached. The girl fought hard to stay still, though a reflexive shivering still took her limbs from time to time. As O.M.E.G.A. wove the cloak of control, the human troops passed a mere four feet in front of them. They carried the smell of blood and armor, determined faces contrasting the tattered look of clothes and gear.
-Nothing is here…-
Not a single one so much as glanced their way.
-Keep walking, now. Keep walking and do not return back this way… this hall is clear.-
Finally, the last of the soldiers vanished around the far corner, leaving them to silence. The girl gave a choked sound under the flat of his hand, caught somewhere in the middle of dismay and awe of the mind mage’s manipulations.
“Come on. Admit it. You liked that,” Kip chuckled at her stricken look.
She shook her head, adamantly.
“Not even the least bit impressive?”
She shook her head again, looking unhappy at how easily he could laugh at her expense.
“Alright… alright. Sheesh,” Kip muttered. “Tough audience.”
He poked his head into the corridor to see if it was clear. Then he nudged his captive forward, the way that the troops had come from.
“I don’t like this any more than you do. I promise,” he told her. “If it were up to me, this would have been over with back there.”
But it wasn’t. Golbez was still alive. And O.M.E.G.A.’s illusionary creature had been dispelled.
The boy’s smart… he’s still got his grandfather’s wit about him even if he lost out on everything else. He played on every advantage he had back there…
Kip gave a grumbling snort at the thought of the encounter.
No one told me he was immune to poisons! Light, Zemus! If you’re gonna set me up to kill someone, at least give me all the information I need to do it!
Not that Zemus ever had any reserve in seeing O.M.E.G.A. get himself killed. But still.
Shove a bladed staff into his back, leave a gouge half a foot wide and he doesn’t so much as flinch! What in Shiva’s name did they do to that kid in Zot? Even I feel it when I get sliced up… despite all my metal plates.
O.M.E.G.A. gave one long, self-miserable sigh.
Damn Lugae! Turning us all into monsters…
The Cleric suddenly pulled up to a sharp stop, almost stepping on his toes. They collided about for a moment, his own form standing firm against her light weight. But it was enough to stop him from walking forward.
“What is it?” Kip frowned, dragged out of the depths of his thoughts.
His eye turned to glance in the direction that the girl was staring. That was when he realized that main arch of the castle of Troia stood off to one side – the girl had successfully led him to the exit. However, the Cleric’s eyes were not fixed on the gate.
Battle must have raged long and hard right there at the bridge into the castle. Mangled bodies of both Daear and humans lay strewn in various poses of death upon the stone courtyard. Blood ran in thick streams, staining the cracks of the cobbles in pools of dark crimson. The daylight sun seemed hazy in battle-cloud, the air still and heavy with the feeling of lingering death.
The girl gave a strangled sound, fighting to turn her head from the vision. Releasing his hold on her somewhat, O.M.E.G.A. allowed the Cleric room to grieve.
“Mmmm…” the sound that came from Kip’s throat was one of sympathy to the girl’s reaction. He couldn’t help it – sometimes he still had the mind mage reflexes that were ingrained into him by the teaching of his first, real Master.
He pulled the girl’s slumping form away from the gristly vision, settling her against a wall around the corner. Though she was no longer bound by his hold, neither did she have the strength to run away.
“Nations rise and fall,” he told her in a heavy voice. The ghosts of his own past were just as gristly. “People live and die by the orders of their rulers. I have seen a world devoured from within by the greed of those who controlled it. You cover your eyes from it, here and now. But you’d do well not to forget, Cleric of Troia.”
She lifted her startled violet eyes to search his face. What she saw there in that moment, he didn’t know. Nor did he really want to.
O.M.E.G.A. rose to his feet. “I am here to carry out my final mission… to destroy the Darkstar that has brought this second plague down upon the Blue Planet. And when that is done, I, too, will disappear… taking with me the last of Zeromus’ taint on this world.”
The girl squinted at him with furrowed brows. Then lowered her face to shake her head.
I know you don’t understand this. It’s okay… I don’t expect you to. No one else does either.
“Whelp, I’ve got a rift to catch,” Kip leaned back, taking a deep breath in. The scent of blood and battle filled his nose – certainly not a pleasant thing. He gazed down at her for a moment before he began to walk away, “You watch your back, kid.”
O.M.E.G.A. felt the soft violet eyes on his back a moment before he turned the corner, making his way towards the gates of the ruins of the Troian fortress. Closing his mind to the feeling, he forced the trickle of unwanted sympathy out of his system.
Sympathy should not exist. Nothing but battle awaited him – battle and death.
There is no escaping what we’ve become, Golbez. Until we meet again…