It was as if the tumblers to the mental locks in his mind were finally falling free. Locke sat there outside a small hut, his mind spilling reason into the once carefree corners of his consciousness. How small minded has he been, his attention for all of those years has been on becoming a great wordsmith, to be as powerful as his father. Now that the threat of losing his soul was present he abandoned the thing that kept him proud for so many years. But it took this moment, sitting outside of the shaman’s home, feeling completely helpless to pull himself from his selfish thoughts. His friend Drill is inside the small structure, screaming, fighting one of the demons of Malahaak as cleansing herbs and smoke billow from the top of it, it is now that Locke feels himself waking up to his mindless existence.
Locke feels the sun pressing higher up, his body is aching for rest, but Locke refuses to move, awaiting word on his only friend. Virrus emerges from a small tent, springing to his feet with a renewed vigor. Stretching he let out a long yawn, casually looking over the Forest Tribe women as they began weaving the long leaves from the trees nearby into shields for the possible upcoming battle. “Ya never think somethin as simple as leaves could stop an arrow, that is till ya take a shot at one of em.”
Locke who was nearly frozen since the arrival of the shaman and the cleansing ritual, takes a breath and twists his head to look at Virrus. “Why do they hate you?”
“Aye, I see yer going straight to the point, ah won’t hold ya back then. Long time ago there was ah kidnapping, now the man who was taken was no saint, but his father was a very rich man. I’ve changed ah whole lot since those days, but back then I’d burn a city down fer the right price.” Locke unknowingly wore his shock all over his face, Virrus couldn’t keep his eyes on him when he saw his expression. “Ya know I’m no longer that man, ah left the death and the anger and greed far in me shadows, deep in me past. When I lost me magic I found myself with ah lot of time to see me inner demons.”
A sudden scream brought Locke into a tense position and Virrus to straighten up, those nearby who were guarding the area readied their bows, eyes towards the hut. The flap of dear hide that was acting as a door began to rustle, small bits of smoke wafting out from the gaps. Then there was an old man, his hands shaking as he pulls himself out, his body’s coated with mud and plants, old designs hidden within scars that cover nearly every inch of his face and neck. His eyes fall on Locke, his old body trembling as the fresh air clears his lungs. Locke stands up, grabbing the old man by his elbow. The shaman turns his head to Locke, but it was clear to the both Virrus and Locke that he could not see either one of them, his pupils still dilated from the spiritual journey, his mind still recovering from the burning herbs inside.
It took a few minutes before the shaman could speak, “Your friend is strong.” Locke looks to Virrus who nods his agreement, “I went into his head, but he was no longer there, his passenger had taken the reins.” Locke sat back down, his face twisting into rage as Virrus places a hand on Locke’s shoulder. “But,” Locke and Virrus turn back to the shaman, “like I said, your friend is strong. I traveled down the spiritual path, deep into the realm of the gods—the dark territory. I found your friend Drill standing at the gates to the afterlife, his hands locked with one of those named Malahaak, his fingers interlocked with the demon, fighting. Just a few minutes is like a day or two, I don’t know how long he has been there wrestling with the demon. Your friend is a strong one. I whispered a word, something Wolsgret has shown me the night before. It was a word of power, it took from the demon his strength and gave Drill the advantage to break the demon, to lift him and drive him into the ground. I showed him the way back, he dragged the demon with him.”
Locke was confused, “But why? Why bring the demon into his body again?”
A voice came from inside the hut, “Because now that I’ve got him under control, he owes me for the years he lived inside.” Drill came out, half his head bound by black cloth, a symbol drawn over the cloth covering his right eye. “He’ll help with the fight to come.”
Locke shot up, his arms opening and before he could contain himself, his hold was around his friend. “I didn’t know if you were coming back. I thought you were going to die.”
Drill laughed, “I can’t die yet, we have wolves to kill. Not to mention, we have friends to avenge.” Drill pats his friend Locke, who coughs on impact and lets go of his hug.
“Not going to lie, it’s weird hearing you say more than one word.”
“Really?” Locke stares at his friend waiting, Drill smiles and the two began laughing. Virrus moves to the shaman and clears his throat, drawing the old mans attention, waving him over. Drill and Locke continue to talk and Virrus whispers to the shaman.
“Ya say he’s alright but that ward is to seal ah demon. Why’s it on his head?”
The shaman grabs the back of Virrus’s neck and pulls him closer, “He has willingly taken a god into himself, no…he has beaten a god and now holds him hostage inside his flesh. The other pieces, those demons of Malahaak will search for their brethren. The eyes of the gods will be on the hunt, that seal is the only way to hide him,” the old man took a step back letting Virrus go, “now you travel with an imprisoned god, there will be no peaceful rest, you will never find safe haven.”
“What have ya done? Did ya weaken the demon so he’d drag him back?” Virrus felt his stomach twisting, “ya did, didn’t ya. Ya put some sorta wild thought in his head that he could control the demon.”
The side of the shaman’s mouth began to twist upward. “You, Virrus, you will get your army to take back the city for you stone dwellers. But the demon, I told him that if he ever got free, that he should speak to Wolsgret. Since he’s housing a demon his passenger will know you, he will remember your scent and your name,” Virrus felt the wolf inside him growling for freedom, hungry for a bite of the shaman. “If that demon slips loose, Wolsgret will find you, Malahaak will see to that. I’m sure Malahaak will trade a hundred souls to finally get his fangs into you. Do you think we forgot old friend? All those you killed for a rich man’s son, for a monster. The years we lived in shame that one greedy wordsmith nearly destroyed all of our people for his weight in gold. Well now your demons have come back and you’ll have to keep them in line, your friend has to stay alive and you have to make sure his passenger never breaks free, or your soul is as good as gone.”
End of Part IV