“I’ll tell you guys straight out, you can have the afternoon off,” Fang shoutedover the heads of hos tired-looking troops. “I know you’ve been working hard lately and I think you all deserve a bit of a break.”
“We can’t take time off,” one of the soldiers called. “Jen’ll get mad at us and give us extra work or throw us into more trees. I don’t want that.”
“I’m *not* Jen, I’m Fang, and Jen no longer has the authority to regulate your off-hours unless I desegate that purpose to her.” Fang glared down at the soldier. “D’ya get that?”
“Yessir.” The soldier closed his eyes for a moment. “But can you give us the morning instead so we can recharge?” Fang looked at the soldier’s Orange medallion. It was totally devoid of energy.
“You been using it to keep yourself awake all this time?” Fang asked, a touch of concern creeping into his voice.
“Yessir.” The soldier’s eyes sparkled with something Fang knew he’d seen before. Fang looked closer at the soldier and any concern he’d felt vanished. It was Sting.
“Right,” he said shortly, addressing the soldiers assembled before him. “I’ve changed my mind. All working troops—well, all of you—are relieved from duty for today. Toon and platoon leaders report here at 1900 hours or seven in the evening for you dummies. Dismissed!” he stalked away, muttering.
Fang stopped muttering and cursed loudly when a throwing knife lodged itself in his left shoulder. “Who’s there?” he snarled, whirling around.
“Only me.” It was Falon.
“Falon! What in the name of Hell are you doing here? And what was that knife for? It hit my bad shoulder!”
“I wasn’t *planning* on hitting you with a throwing knife when I came after you,” Falon snapped. “But you didn’t answer when I called your name… *five times*… and you didn’t seem to notice the rocks I threw at you, so I was kind of out of ideas.” He shrugged. “I *am* sorry about the shoulder, though. I was aiming for your arm.”
“That really helps me,” Fang growled. “With my luck they’ll put Jen in charge of my troops again. She half killed ’em before, who knows what she’ll do this time?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Falon’s medallion glowed briefly and the energy seeped into Fang’s arm. “Give it some of your Lavender energy to boost that and you’ll be fine by this evening.”
“I suppose I should thank you.” Fang glared at Falon.
“Not really.” Falon shrugged again. “The knife was my fault really so it’s only right that I patch you up. Besides, you hate me anyway, so what’s the point?”
Fang smiled grimly. “I’m so glad you understand.”
“Every now and then I do get something right.”
“Why are you here, Falon?”
“Why are you so pissed at Sting?”
“I don’t know, Falon…” Fang sighed. “I don’t get it. He doesn’t even deserve to exist. He’s an irresponsible, unintelligent slacker. He’s got no ambition. The only thing he sports is a horribly irritating personality. I just… I don’t know.”
“I can sort of understand that. You’ve got to give him a chance. Æseri’s a brat, but he’s got potential. You need to try to see Sting in that same kind of light. Okay?”
“Sting has no potential or ambition. Æseri’s a brat, all right, but he’ll have a chance at being likeable if he stops acting so stupid. Sting has no chance.” Fang sighed. “I can make up all of these excuses, but I don’t know why. I don’t know at all.”
“Give it some thought, Fang.”
Æseri stopped, gasping with a futile attempt to catch his breath. “Keep going,” he rasped, trying to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. “Gotta… huh… keep… going… heh…”
“DON’T SLACK!” Jen’s voice bellowed in his ear. “You’re training for the Special Service you work under me! Get back to running!”
“Can’t move…” Æseri wheezed.
“What did I tell you?” Jen smirked. “You aren’t ready to be a specialized fighter.
“You’re too ambitious for your own good and too arrogant for the good of the Devils! Now get out of here, and don’t come back until you’re ready to act like the man you’re pretending to be!” Jen punched Æseri in the jaw and walked away.
Æseri’s head lolled to one side as if it were attached to a broken neck. “I must be going insane…” he muttered. “I suppose it’s back to the infirmary for little ol’ me…” he pulled himself up and began to walk slowly away from the training area.
“Hurry up!” Jen shouted after him as a Big Blue (running very fast) nearly missed trampling him into the ground. “I’ll tell you once, I’ll tell you a hundred times. Get your act together or get out of here. And do it fast!”
As a matter of fact, he ran into a Zilla.
“D… WHA?!” Æseri spluttered. “Who are you?”
“What do you want and why are you here?”
“I want to join the Blue Devils.”
“But I thought it was only for people with Tiger blood!”
Staunt glared at Æseri. “I’m blue, aren’t I? And who are you, boy?”
“Very well then, Æseri, I hate to admit it, but I’m going to ask you to help me. Can you do that?” Staunt glared at him in a baleful way.
“I don’t believe this was in the job description of a Blue Devil.”
“I’m asking you to help me, Æseri. Is that so difficult, or are you just hopelessly incompetent? Seriously, though. You shouldn’t be ashamed to admit that you’re an idiot, really.” Staunt smiled, knowing that he’d hit Æseri’s weak spot.
“All right, all right, I’ll help you. But it’ll be a long, rocky road, and I don’t think the others’ll accept you quickly.”
“I’m not asking to be accepted. I’m asking to join.” Staunt glared. “I’ve been alone all my life, I don’t need to stop now.” His eyes softened for a moment. “Nobody’s ever liked me, and I’m not asking anyone to like me… that includes you, Æseri.”
“Why doesn’t anybody like you? Besides the obvious, that is,” Æseri smirked.
Staunt grabbed Æseri by the throat and lifted him up to eye level. “You aren’t as clever as you think you are, Æseri. Don’t push your luck.”
“Having a pleasant conversation, Æseri?” Jen strolled over. She turned to Staunt. “And what can I do for you? Oh, and do be a dear and put Æseri down. He’s no use to any of us dead.”
“I want to join the Blue Devils.”
“Why do you want to join the Devils?”
“I’m a killing machine. I’ve killed eighteen humans, and none of them deserved it. I figured that here I’d be able to harness my energy and put it to good use.”
“Hmm… well Staunt, I like your resumé, but you don’t have any Tiger blood in you.”
“I’m blue, aren’t I?”
“Okay, you’re in. Here.” Jen handed Staunt a White medallion. “Welcome to the Blue Devils. There’s energy stored in those pendants, if you can figure it out then you deserve to use it. Now I’ll get back to training, but I like the look of you, Staunt.”
“Thanks. And who are you?”
“Maybe I’ll end up in your troops, Jen.”
“Maybe.” Staunt grinned and jogged off.
Æseri kicked his spear target. “So *what* if Jen’s taken a liking to Staunt? So *what* if Staunt’s nicer, funnier and more polite than me? I don’t care that Jen likes Staunt better than me, because I am *not* jealous.
“Jealous, old son?” Fang walked up to him.
“The old man begs to differ.” Fang laughed. “You’re as jealous as I was at your age, old son.”
“What’s with the ‘old son’ all of a sudden?”
“I dunno. It just suits you.” Fang shrugged. “Try to put up with Staunt, Æseri. He’s a good man, and he could be a valuable ally in the future. I won’t always be so sweet and understanding with you.”
“When will you stop?”
“Right about the time you learn to take care of youself.”
“In other words, just about never.”
“I’m not so sure of that anymore.”
“You’re getting used to being a Devil. Getting better, learning the ropes… you can go the distance if anyone can.”
“Even moreso than Staunt?”
“Staunt’s likely to peak in five years and retire form the Devils before he reaches Gray.”
“You think so?”
“I’ve seen a great many youngsters who seem great taper off into nothingness. On the other hand, I also Magnate Oliver through his training to become ruler of the entire Bloodrain Territory.”
“A Blue Kato. Wears Gold now, if my memory serves me correctly.”
“And at the beginning he was as much of a failure and a pain in the ass as you.”
“Really?” Æseri started to grin.
“No kidding. So who knows where you might end up?” Fang laughed quietly. “But get out of here, boy. I don’t want to end up fond of you when you’re dead.”
“I’m not going to die.” Æseri straightened.
“Don’t count on it,” Fang replied with every bit of coolness he could muster. “Death may be the exception, but nonetheless…”
Æseri shrugged and jogged off.
“Æseri! Can’t you at least *try* to get used to the idea? You *aren’t* that great, you know!” Staunt ran after Æseri, Yellow pendant bouncing off his chest and flying back and forth. “I’m not that great either!”
“I noticed!” Æseri snapped. “And I’m so glad *you* did as well! Why are you such an ass?”
“I’m not an ass!” Staunt snarled. “Would you at least give me a chance? You said you’d help me!”
“Well, mister I-think-I’ll-just-suck-up-and-make-Jen-think-I’m-the-greatest, I don’t think you need any more help! You’re just fine on your own!” Æseri snaled back at Staunt, firing an Energy Shots attack at him.
Staunt dodged the Energy Shots easily and countered with a Fist Missile, knocking Æseri down and breaking his left foreleg and right arm. “It won’t do you well to fight with me, Æseri,” he said coolly. “Before I joined the Devils I was a Rank-S tournament fighter. You have nothing on me.”
Æseri just stared at him. “A Rank-S tournament fighter? Why did you leave the biz? You were probably famous!”
“I was famous. It went to my head and in all honesty I ended up depressed. I just couldn’t take any of it anymore. But you don’t really get it, do you?”
“No. I don’t.”
“Maybe some day you’ll get it through your thick head that being famous isn’t about fun and games.”
“I sincerely doubt that will ever happen.” Æseri grinned slightly. “But if you’re a Rank-S tournament fighter, then what does that leave for Jen and Fang and Oliver and the Triat?”
“Major 4…” Staunt shrugged. “Knowing Lucifer, probably the Legend Cup as well. He’s one tough old man.”
“I’ll say…” Æseri tried to sit up but collapsed as pain shot through his whole body. “D’ya think we could go to the infirmary on the way to the mess hall? I’m in a tiny, tiny bit of intense extreme agony…”
Staunt grinned and lifted Æseri gently from the ground. “I guess this means we’re not biting each other any more?”
“What do ya mean by that?”
“Well, I think calling us friends would be a bit over the top. Knowing you.” Staunt shrugged. “I can’t really consider you to be a friend if you think I’m an ass.”
“Okay. Works for me. You’re probably right anyway.” Æseri sighed. “Let’s go, okay?”
“Let’s.” Staunt jogged off to the infirmary, carrying Æseri in one of his oversized hands. “Don’t fall apart before we get there.”
“Mmmf,” Æseri mumbled. “Just go.”
“Why is he here again?” Falon asked Staunt coldly. “He’s already been here this week. Come back on Monday if you have to have him here.”
“It’s my fault,” Staunt said miserably. “I lost my temper and attacked him. I must really be cracking up, I’m looking to you for sympathy. Oh well. Lord Falon, I’m afraid that if you don’t admit Æseri to the infirmary, I’ll lose my temper and attack you the way I did him.”
“I’m not afraid of your empty threats, boy,” Falon snapped.
“He’s got a broken leg, a nearly shattered arm and who knows how many other injuries. I was a Rank-S tournament fighter before I joined the Devils, Lord Falon. Do you really want me as an enemy? I don’t think that wearing the Amber will protect you for long.” Staunt grinned. “What do you think, Lord Falon? Will you patch up good old Æseri for us?” he laughed and put Æseri down on the nearest bed. “You’d better.”
“Fine, fine,” Falon muttered. “I suppose I’d better fix him up anyway.”
“Oh, and by the way,” Staunt called from the next room, “If Jen tries to bribe you into killing him, tell her to talk to me. She isn’t too fond of our centaurian friend, I dare say.” Then there was nothing. He was gone.
“I guess we’d best patch you up,” Falon grumbled. “I hate this job, you know.”
Æseri sighed softly. “I would too. Is it really as thankless a task as I think?”
“It’s even worse.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
It was Falon’s turn to sigh. “Don’t be sorry. I asked for the job and I got it. Besides, I do it better than anyone else.”
“I’m so sure of that.” Æseri laughed. “You aren’t too bad, but with the training, my little brother could do a better job than you. At least, it seems like that sometimes. No offense, of course. It’s just that he’s used to thankless tasks.”
“So am I…” Falon sighed again.
“You’re sighing too much,” Æseri said sharply. “It can’t be good for you.”
“Oh, shut up!” Falon snapped. He splashed a couple of drops of chloroform on a handkerchief and dropped in on Æseri’s face.
Æseri’s vision swam around him. Colors ran into each other, bleeding like colors in newly dyed cloth. Shapes bled in and out of focus. Inanimate objects moved about. Rocks danced and Æseri’s spear writhed like a snake as he tried desparately to get some help from the others… but they couldn’t understand what he was telling them.
Æseri shook his head, trying to figure out just what was happening and to try to clear his head a little. It felt totally stuffed up, like it was going to burst or something. Æseri felt confused—he didn’t recall getting stoned on hallucinogens any time recently. But here he was, in the middle of a horrible fantasy world.
Something was walking toward him. Something tall and thin and almost humanoid-ish. He looked closer. It was a tall, spindly thing, about eight feet in height, with long curved talons growing from its wrists instead of hands. It seemed poised almost precariously on its two legs, which were overly thin like the rest of it. Its feet were like three-pronged forks and left no prints in the moist earth.
Everyone around them had disappeared from the area. It was just Æseri and the… demon. If that was indeed what the thing was. It walked toward Æseri, its arms outstretched, long curved talons extending, its flat face with its triangular ears, slit mouth and empty gold eyes expressionless. The gray skin seemed to resonate with some sort of sound just beyond Æseri’s spectrum of hearing.
And Æseri looked into the blank eyes. For a second he saw nothing, then in the back of his mind he saw a single, huge eye. Almost not there, but painfully obvious and clear, like something sick, twisted and totally unshakable… like the end of the world or something. The eye glowed a baleleful red, pulsating sickly as though to pop right out of its socket. The center was an even sicker and brighter red than the rest of the eye, spinning into its own oblivion…
His head pounded. His vision swam even more than it had been before, then became painfully clear. The red eye burned itself into his mind, forcing through the gaps in his mental barriers. He couldn’t see anything but it… couldn’t run… couldn’t hide…
Then he was sitting on the grass eating lunch. He wasn’t even sure what he was eating, but whatever it was, it was delicious. The sun cast warm rays of light over Æseri and his company—he was sitting with Staunt, Fang, Jen and Falon. Jen wasn’t throwing anyone around, and that in itself made the whole scene seem quiet.
A bird flew into Æseri’s face, fell and hit the ground. Æseri picked it up and set it on his shoulder. The bird chriped happily and grabbed a bite of his sandwich. Æseri grinned and patted the bird on the head.
Jen arched an eyebrow. “Pet bird? I never saw you as a bird person, Æseri.”
Æseri shrugged. “I don’t care. He’s kind of cute, you know. Who brought the food? It’s great.” He grinned and stuffed the rest of his sandwich in his mouth.
Fang rolled his eyes. “You did. Did you forget already?”
Æseri felt his face heat up. “Uh, I guess. I’m glad I can’t blush. Don’t hold this against me, okay?”
“Fine, fine.” Jen turned back to her sandwich. “I have to admit, this is good. What did you use?”
Æseri rolled his eyes. “Worm liver.”
Jen laughed. “Seriously, though.”
“Just a little of everything I could find. Well, everything worth eating, that is.” He grinned. “I don’t know if this was a lucky fluke, or if I have a talent for the culinary. But pray for the latter, maybe I’ll be your chef.”
“I’ll think about it.” Jen scratched Æseri’s pet bird’s head. “What are you going to name your bird?”
“Raul.” Æseri never found out what Jen thought of the name, because at that moment a girl came charging down the hillside. She was about average height and of lean build, with brown hair tied behind her head and glasses nearly falling off her face as she ran. “KIIIIIIILIIIIIIIIIIIIIMAAAAAAAAANJAAAAAAAAAAAAROOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”
Æseri walked through a fake wall and into his old bedroom at home. Everything was exactly as it was when he’d left so long ago. He looked through everything he owned… the old books, the toys he’d played with as a baby and never gotten rid of, the huge masses of training equipment that never worked… he felt a nostalgic smile creep across his face.
“I can’t believe I’m back home already,” he whispered. “I never thought I’d see this place again. Well, not alive anyway.”
“And you never will again,” said a cold voice from behind him. “You left us, Æseri. Abandoned all of us when you knew that your paycheck was the only way we could eat properly, with Mom sick and Dad unemployed. I had to take your job… and couldn’t do it. I got fired yesterday, Æseri. And now we have no livelihood.” His brother glared at him. “For all you care, I could join the circus as a rare monster. What would you care?”
“I was too young for that job. So were you. And you’d have been able to eat and take care of Mom if Dad weren’t such a slacker and drunkard. You know that.” Æseri glared back. “I always thought you were the mature one, Lanciro. Your rare blood makes you think you’re so great now, is that what it is?”
“I never asked to be a Blue Thunder. And I never asked to have a brother like you. Descendants of Thor… huh.” Lanciro’s glare grew frosty. “If that were true, I’d tell you to KISS. MY. SKINNY. ASS. You’re an idiot and you know it. Get out of my home.”
“Join the Blue Devils if you’re looking for a job. They’d take you.”
“If they took you, big brother, they’ll take anyone.” Lanciro spat on the ground. “So kindly keep your abnormally large nose out of my business. Now get out of here.”
Æseri turned and walked out of the room, tears beginning to trickle down his face. How had everything gone so wrong? He’d wanted to help his family, not toss them even further into poverty…
“It’s not my fault!” he said aloud.
“Yes, it is,” Lanciro’s voice came from the room. “It is and you know it. Go *home*, Æseri. Nobody wants you here.”
“So what exactly are you trying to tell me? What kind of a point are you trying to make? Do you actually think I would drug Æseri? I’m not that dumb.” Jen sighed. “I’m not the only person around here who doesn’t like him.”
“I’m not saying you’re the only suspect here,” Falon said tightly. “It could have been anyone. I’m just asking if you know and if not if you have any idea. That’s it. Really. That’s all I want from you.”
“For some reason, I’m surprised.” Jen rolled her eyes. “You’re an ass, Falon. You have no proof that it wasn’t you.”
“Professional pride,” Falon said as tightly as before. “I wouldn’t drug a patient. Outside of the infirmary I might do that to Æseri, but when he’s in my care it’s important to me that he’s kept safe.” He pulled himself up, trying—and failing—to look self-important, proud, arrogant and maybe even a little bit dangerous. Whatever he tried, he only succeeded in looking like an idiot.
“Do you expect me to believe that?” Jen glared at him, a very specific glare that signified—among other things—anger and very, very strong disapproval. “Because if you do, then I’m afraid—”
“Do I think that you should believe me? Absolutely. You know I’m telling you the truth, so be a good girl and take your medicine. You won’t be pinning this one on me, Miss Jen.” Falon smiled widely and arrogantly. “I’m the winner this time.”
“I can prove anything I want to prove, my dear Falon. I also am the one who won. It would do you well to remember that. Okay?” Jen sighed, blasted Falon with lightning bolstered by her Gray strength and walked out of the room.
Æseri still couldn’t make head or tail out of anything that was happening to him. He felt vaguely aware of something… *somewhere* in the deep recesses of his mind, but he didn’t know a thing. It made him angry. He tried to get angry, to struggle, but there was nothing to get angry at and nothing to struggle against but himself…
It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair. Not that anything was, but that was beside the point in this case. It wasn’t just unfair. Everything felt just… so *wrong* somehow… too wrong to even be wrong enough…
“So what is all this I’ve heard about Æseri drugged?” Staunt asked Jen in an overly casual tone.
Jen glared at him. “What about it?”
“Do you know who did it?”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Even any idea what happened?”
“No, Staunt. So stop asking.” Jen glared at him. “I don’t like Æseri at all, and I won’t pretend I do, but I wouldn’t drug him. Okay? Can somebody believe me for a change?” she sighed. “I don’t care at all about him. I won’t lie and say that I think anything—meaning anything at all, even in briefest recollection of thoughts—positive about him, but I wouldn’t do that to someone. I’m just not that stupid.”
“Define ‘stupid’ when used in this context.”
“Maybe it’s not even stupid.” Jen groaned and gave Staunt an exasperated look. “I’m ambitious, and trying to dispose of Æseri in such an extravagant manner would be impractical, not just irritating. It is a dumb idea and I’d be Prime Suspect number one. If I wanted him dead I’d kill him straight out. I’m more than capable of doing so. You should know that.”
“I suppose I should. And I suppose that at least on some level I am perfectly aware of your ability to dispose of the little pain in the ass. But maybe I don’t. I’m not a particularly smart man. I’ve never been known for being smart. I’ve been known for being able to crush things and kill things… little monsters who were stupid enough to go up against me.” Staunt sat on the ground, enveloped for the moment in the misery of his memories.
“Everyone has weaknesses.” Jen sat next to him. “You can’t blame yourself for that. Nobody can. It’s all right, really.”
“I know,” Staunt said miserably, “That’s what makes it so bad.”
“Why does that make it worse?”
“It just does.”
Jen stood and began to walk away. “I don’t understand you, Staunt. Maybe someday I’ll be able to, but until then…” she left.
The tall, thin demon was back. Its empty gold eyes narrowed and slanted upward, and its flat face twisted into a horrible grin, its lipless mouth poening to show countless tiny silver-white teeth. Its claws—if indeed they were claws—spread and lengthened, ending in points too narrow to see, sharp and shiny and silver-white as the teeth. It grew taller and broader, its skin a darkening blue, cut by slashes of white… its grin narrowed and its eyes shrunk until Æseri found himself looking into Lanciro’s savage, twisted face…
And the great red eye opened again in the back of his mind, larger and more terrible than ever before… the whole eye glowed even redder, more baleful and terrifying, pulsating like a great corrupt heart, red like fresh blood…
The pupil in the center darkened to an empty black, dropping away for a sort of eternity… then it seemed to open; blinding, searing emptiness, tearing into his heart, his soul… baring everything he had hidden, everything he had tried to hide, things he’d forgotten… things he’d tried so hard to forget.
He heard himself scream, but it was detached from him, a totally meaningless sound, as though it were coming from elsewhere. With his heart, mind and soul bared, body screaming from some pain so foreign he didn’t even know what it was or even what it was… he faced the demon, the terrible demon, the demon with the face of his brother…
And he knew that it was real… the demon was there, hating as much as it appeared to be hating. It had to be real, the pain, the rage, everything. There was just no way that his own mind could ever, would ever betray him like this, so horribly… his mind could not create such a horrendous vision of pain and terror… no way at all, the possibility of it was too tiny and even what possibility there *was* was illogical and twisted…
The demon advanced on him, grinning horribly, empty gold eyes growing larger again, the face reverting to its original emotionless flatness. The body lost its stocky, powerful shape, reverting to the almost frail thinness… the skin lost the deep blue and bright white coloring it and faded again into the blind, colorless gray.
Then there was nothing but blackness… blackness and the horrible, baleful eye… pulsating like a heart again, dying… the swirling oblivion of the dark pupil seeming to spin faster, spinning out, little tendrils of nothingness, cruelty, hate and pain… among other things.
Æseri heard himself scream again, but like before it was groundless and meaningless… he didn’t even feel the pain that caused it, there was no real feeling, no understanding… his heart hammered in his chest, pounding almost like thunder, in sync with the rhythm of the great eye, faster and faster… then every bit of the oblivion spilled from the eye.
And then there was nothing.
Somewhere, far from Kul, a scream tore across the barren wasteland… a scream full of pain and rage and terror… and primal brutality. The creature whirled on its attacker, leaping from its crouch like a streamlined, coiled spring. It screamed again; angry terrified and thirsty for the blood running through the veins of its attacker. The angry creature’s teeth snapped shut.
The blow never met the targeted flesh. Lanciro parried the young Cabalos’s strike neatly. The teeth hung on to the shaft of his spear as he tried to wrench it free. Realizing that it was uselss to play tug-of-war, he released the spear and whirled around, kicking back with his hind leg to smash his enemy’s jaw.
The Cabalos screamed and released the spear, blood dripping from its crushed muzzle. “Is that the best you can do?” Lanciro sneered. “I’ve seen so much better from your kind… why are you so weak? Why do you fight like a child? …though you are little more. You know that you won’t be able to hold out much longer against me, and yet you still won’t run? Why is that?”
The Cabalos muttered something under its breath.
“Speak louder!” Lanciro snapped. “I can’t hear you!”
“I said…” the words came out of the crushed mouth malformed but understandable. “I said that you will never understand. You are a fool to think that you could. Take your stupid lineage somewhere else. We don’t belive that the likes of you could really be the desecndants of Thor. You, of all people!” it coughed and spat blood and several teeth on to the ground. “You cannot understand…
“I can’t retreat in a fight. It is not my way, or my fate. They sent me to fight you, and if I run I will be nothing… once nothing for lack of my teeth, twice nothing for running away. They sent me to die at your hand, Thor’s son, and that is what I will do. You have helped to keep us strong. You live in our legends, and will forever… as the weak man.” It laughed weakly and fell again. “Would you kill me honorably, Thor’s son, or would you leave me to die?”
“I will let you live,” Lanciro said decisively.
“For how long?” the Cabalos asked him bitterly. “It is only a matter of minutes now, or hours at most. Leave me, Thor’s son. There is nothing left for you.”
“Who are you?” Lanciro bent over his victim, his eyes growing bright with so many tears he had never shed.
“I… what? I can’t hear you…”
“Who ARE you?” Lanciro whispered fircely. “Tell me!”
“Jamai,” the Cabalos wheezed, spitting out more blood.
“I can help you, Jamai,” Lanciro said softly. “If you’ll let me. Do you know who I am?”
Jamai grinned at Lanciro with what was left of his teeth. “You are Lanciro, son of Kela and Pajmat. Brother of Æseri. And you are dead.” He reseased a blast of lightning, channeling all of what was left of his strength into the attack that would kill Lanciro. Or so he hoped.