Rabdos casually strolled along the water’s edge at the Lake of Fire, feeling the rough texture of the three stones he held as he went. The cloying scent of charred flesh filled his nostrils with each breath, working to soothe his worried mind. He cast a glance at the surface of the lake and smiled, watching the souls scrambling over each other to try and escape the burning touch of the lake’s surface. One soul, a man, seemed particularly skilled at standing atop his brethren in torment. Rabdos selected a stone, drew his arm back and flung the rock. The missile expertly struck the standing man in the head, knocking him back into the fiery depths.
“I see you’ve acquired a new mount, my student,” the familiar deep-bass voice of Lord Malphas said. Rabdos jumped, startled, and dropped his stones. Lord Malphas chuckled as he admired the hapless redheaded young man secured by his reigns to a large rock near the shoreline. “Quite a prize and so publically taken. Good for you, but I see you are quite lost in thought. That level of inattentiveness so close to the lake is unwise. We wouldn’t want you to be lost to something as simple as drowning under the weight of the damned, never to be seen again.”
“I did not hear you approach, master,” Rabdos intoned, bowing as he moved to keep both Lord Malphas and the lake in his vision. “Though I do admit to being preoccupied in thought.”
“I, too find the laments and supplications for help to be quite soothing when I’m working through a problem, though I’ll admit I prefer to enjoy them from the safety of my own chambers. Tell me, child, has it helped you as well?” Lord Malphas asked.
Rabdos made a series of quick decisions, resolving his dilemma, “It has, my master.”
“I must return to the principality of my domain and stable my prize before returning to Eden. The soul of Robert Dante is making excellent in-roads at the company known as Tech Evangelists. If he continues his progress, I should have interesting information very soon,” Rabdos answered.
“I will be happy to take your mount to your home for you,” Lord Malphas offered. Rabdos visibly hesitated.
“With regret my master, you instructed me early on to never grant anyone passage through my wards no matter who they were,” Rabdos replied without break in his voice.
“Do you not trust me?” Lord Malphas asked, recoiling from Rabdos as though he had been physically injured. Rabdos considered his response for a moment and opted for the unfamiliar honest one.
“No, my lord, I do not,” he said. Before Lord Malphas had a chance to respond he quickly added, “But as my lord and master all that I have I owe to you so if you wish my mount I make him a gift to you. As such you may do with him as you will. Should he be back in my stable when I return to my lands I will be grateful and if not assume you disposed of him at your pleasure.”
“An excellent recovery and response young one,” Lord Malphas said, smiling. “I shall let the fate of your fine stallion remain a mystery until you return then.”
“Before you go, tell me, young Rabdos did you plan to geld him or breed him?” Lord Malphas asked, waving a casual hand at the naked, redheaded boy cowering near the rock.
“I hadn’t decided. I have heard the gingers can be quite difficult to manage, but their offspring are highly prized,” Rabdos said, setting the end of his axe on the ground and preparing to travel to Eden.
“Yes, yes, quite. Usually it is the older ones that are harder to manage. This one is young enough to be broken and perhaps even sent back,” Lord Malphas said. Rabdos stopped his silent incantation and cocked his head.
“Sent back, My Lord? I do not understand,” he said.
“Oh yes. Let me explain.” Lord Malphas turned and walked toward the young man as Rabdos drew up alongside him, though he made sure to keep Lord Malphas between himself and the writhing mass of souls along the shoreline of the lake. “Properly broken to our purposes, you can return this soul to Eden, supplied with money, granted a honeyed tongue and station in life, he can frolic about sowing his seed with every covetous women he meets. The offspring of those unions, and many times the mothers themselves, often end up right back here. Done properly, you’ll know the time and place of their demise and can gather them in yourself.”
Rabdos thought about that a moment as the pair drew up to a halt near the young man. He strained at the reigns securing him to a shaped hole in the rock. “Yes, I can see how that could be profitable.”
“Then it’s settled. I’ll return him for you, and you will grant me first pick of the litter when his offspring begin arriving,” Lord Malphas said, untying the reigns and drawing the mount to him.
“I am still not granting you passage through my wards, my master,” Rabdos said.
“Pshaw, I do not need passage through your wards to return this mount to your stables,” Lord Malphas said, leading the mount away from the lake. “When you return you will find this mount back in your stable just as you left him. It will be a lesson for you to figure out how I did that, and thus close the final gap in the security of your domain.”
“There is a gap?” Rabdos asked, concerned.
“Indeed there is, though I’ll wager I am the only one who is aware of it,” Lord Malphas shouted over his shoulder as he moved off.
Rabdos paused and began running through the myriad list of things he’d done to ensure his home on the plain of Gehenna was safe. A moment later he shook his head to clear it and refocus on the task at hand. He needed to get the soul of Robert Dante about the business of discovering exactly what the enemy’s general, Paul Thomas, was all about at Tech Evangelist, LLC. He also needed more information about these new men of valor that had resurfaced. Satan himself would pay handsomely for that information alone. The combination might very well secure his place in Hell for all time if he played this out correctly.
A quickly spoken incantation and stamp of his axe on the ground called for the smoky black cloud, and Rabdos the Strangler left the realm of Hell to set upon his dual missions.
Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm. For more information about this story please join us on our Facebook page community at www.facebook.com/firstchevalierbooks.