The clouds curdled thick and gray in the sky; somewhere, a patch of brilliant blue shone.
“You’ve been corrupted by the forces you seek to control,” he shouted hoarsely at the back of the figure atop the rise ahead of him, who in turn stared out across the city below and sky above.
“Nonsense, brother,” the figure called back over his shoulder, wrapping his black robes around him against the chaotic pull of the winds that tore at the barren knob of stone and dirt.
Thomas drew the dagger with its serpentine blade from the broad sleeve of his robes, its bloody jewel glinting wicked in the gray light as it passed from shadow into light. He hesitated, staring at the pattern of the finely brushed metal of the blade while his brother’s back beckoned…
Swimming down to the bottom of the shallow lake, he spied her there in the gloom, pale blue face hiding in the shadows, a temptress ghost with a blood-red mouth of sharp-fangs. He needed air — his vision tunneled in upon her, black, she swimming towards him, a lithe seductress slipping through the dark water — he didn’t care, for she was there.
Something grabbed him and hauled him up towards air and light, away from the darkness and seductive beauty.
He coughed, he choked, he kicked and spat at the sunlight. “Brother,” the name was spoken as a command as he fought whomever grappled him from behind, and his senses came back to him.
“The water demon almost had you,” his brother released him, “Up on the raft, Thomas.” The commanding voice, sure and certain, unquestionable. The seductive spell lingered in his brain, but he was too tired to fight the stronger impulse from his brother.
They crawled together onto the square of pale, warm wood floating in the midst of the dark blue lake, both breathing heavily, and stretched out under the sun.
“Thanks,” Thomas said, simply, eventually. The sun drove the remnants of the spell away like it drove the chill from the water.
“We’ll un-snag the anchor later,” his brother said. Later, they swam to shore. Much later, a storm raged and dredged the demons from the depths as black-robed figures paced the wind-swept shoreline with hungry, glinting daggers in their hands, blades sparking with every flash of lightning.
They were an old family with old secrets, and they knew much of demons, steeped in their lore and in binding and banishing them. The dark had no hold on them, though they stared into its maw and knew its mad secrets. More, they knew what terrible secrets they were, and that alone saved each of them. All the children had, at one time or another, been tempted by the dark power of the art, as children will be confused and misled. But the family knew what it was doing, and none had ever fallen to its promises.
They were the inheritors of sorcerous lore from a young age, dedicated to fighting the invisible darkness of the demon-haunted world, the eaters of souls and bodies…and not well-loved for it. Warriors and occultists, striding unknown dimensions that were not of flesh, well schooled in knowledge of the strange creatures of the hellish realms beyond the plane of Earth, knowing secret words that lived in the fabric of creation or that were antithesis to the same.
Thomas moved up the hill towards his oblivious older brother, who stood calmly reveling in the growing storm. He reached his brother and paused, shaking, remembering, loving…then thrust deep, quickly, before he could change his mind.
His brother screamed and jerked forward. The dagger slipped out, clean! Thomas dropped it to the ground and grasped his brother’s dark robes in both hands, tearing them wide around the puncture. A writhing, black fluid that was not blood seeped and grasped with tiny pseudopods upon the pale flesh around the wound.
Thomas stumbled back a step. The grimace of pain faded as his brother hung his head, the black liquid curling and swarming around his revealed flesh unlike the quiet red blood that should have flowed in his veins.
“It was the only way,” he said sadly, lifting only his eyes to look at his brother, and Thomas understood.
“Strike at my heart, then, brother, for the demon will perish,” he drew back the dark edges of the robes, edges embroidered in glittering gold runes and hidden sigils of power, to reveal a pale patch of skin amid the black folds, bony ribs standing in relief beneath the flesh.
His heart was presented to the dagger.
A long pause as the wind tore at them. “It is the only way to save me, Thomas,” his brother added quietly. Thomas reached down and picked up the fallen dagger, its blade flashed as a stroke of lightning wound between heaven and earth…
Copyright (c)2007 Raven Daegmorgan