Rabdos passed the rest of the day at his tower personally overseeing the construction. True to his word, Lord Malphas had returned the red-headed soul to his corral. The man bore the mark of the whip on his back almost to the extreme, but that was to be expected. Rabdos planned to ride later that day to ensure the wounds were fresh underneath the saddle. At the moment he was inspecting the wards and stones for the rooftop layer of his tower, trying to find out how Lord Malphas had gotten past his security measures.
A soft chime and puff of sulfurous smoke announced the arrival of the document he’d been waiting for from Robert Dante. Suspended in the air a hand’s reach in front of Rabdos was a small scroll of rolled up parchment with a wax seal. The seal bore the name, Robert Dante.
Rabdos snatched the scroll from the air, broke the seal and unrolled it.
I think I know who you’re looking for, the message read. They’ve got some kind of super-secret test going on of a piece of technology they’re working on for the government. They’ve recruited an ex-military guy to be their guinea pig. I think this is what and whom you’re looking for. All the big land purchases and major capital outlays are tied to the account associated with the file I just saw, and I stole the man’s picture from the file. I took a long lunch and bought the lottery ticket too, just like you said. The list of allies and resources Rabdos sought followed Dante’s personal missive. It was woefully short and the list of adversaries overly long.
Rabdos snapped his fingers, creating parchment and pen in the air before him. He took the pen in hand and began to write his request for a private audience with Lord Malphas. He hinted that he’d obtained valuable information but remained intentionally vague as to the actual nature of the information.
“You there, Imp Cagrina. Come here,” Rabdos commanded. The female imp dutifully scrambled over.
“I live to serve, master Rabdos,” the imp groveled, bowing low.
“Take this missive to Lord Malphas and none other. Be rewarded with a full soul from my personal larder upon your successful return.” The imp took hold of the rolled up, sealed parchment but Rabdos did not release it. “Successful, return.”
“Successful, yes, master. I understand fully,” the imp said. Satisfied, Rabdos released the parchment and the imp immediately vanished down the stairs of the tower, enfolding the document under a loose flap of skin. Rabdos drew his axe and transported himself to Robert Dante’s location as Cagrina’s tail disappeared down the winding staircase.
To his credit Dante recoiled only slightly and didn’t cry out as Rabdos appeared before him. The man sat at a nightclub bar with a basket of something fried before him and a half consumed glass of beer.
Better, Robert Dante, better, Rabdos said. You have the picture for me?
Couldn’t you get a little warning bell announcing your arrival or something? Jesu─ Rabdos slapped the man’s cheek with his axe, hard, cutting off his exclamation.
We never speak that name. Ever, for any reason, Rabdos yelled. In vain or otherwise. I will burn you for all eternity as heat for the cadre barracks privy if you disobey me on this. Am I clear?
Dante nodded covering his bleeding cheek and looking around to see if anyone had taken notice. No one in the dim bar seemed any more or less interested in Robert Dante than they had been two seconds ago.
Give me the photograph, Rabdos repeated.
How do I give it to you? Dante asked. In silent response Rabdos snapped his fingers creating parchment and quill again. He laid the parchment on the bar before Robert Dante, though nothing appeared on the actual bar top. Dante looked around before pulling the picture out and laying it on the bar where Rabdos placed his parchment.
The man pictured was about thirtyish with brown hair cut in a short, military-style haircut leaving no hair over the ears or on the collar, gradually getting longer until there was just enough on top to part to the right. He neithe smiled nor frowned, in the usual style of pictures taken for utilitarian purposes such as military IDs. His chiseled jaw line and hard features hinted at a resolve that would be unshakable, but the eyes held Rabdos’ attention the most. The man’s eyes stared out of the photograph as though he could see the demon and knew he held his picture. Rabdos did not like the look of this man one bit.
Rabdos took the floating quill and drew an outline of the picture on the parchment. When he completed the perimeter of the rectangle, the quill animated and began scratching all over the surface of the picture at lightning speed. In short order the quill lifted from the photograph and vanished. Rabdos pulled the parchment from under the photograph revealing an exact copy of the picture reproduced in full color on the parchment.
This is the one? You are certain? Rabdos asked looking over the image.
They’ve labeled him as a ‘primary occupant’ for some kind of vehicle they’re testing for the military. I could only get a quick look at the file before I had to get out of Mr. Thomas’ office, but I think I can get more later. He’s a new hire, I met him the other day, Dante said draining his beer. To the bartender he said, “Can I get a gin and tonic please?”
Who is he? Rabdos asked.
His name is Cross, first name Thomas and he’s as stubborn as they come, Dante said, accepting the highball and taking a long pull of the clear liquid.
Tom Cross. So you are the one he seeks, the Evangelist, hmm? Rabdos held the picture and stared at it for a very long time.
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.