Guardians of the Herald – Issue #82

Rabdos felt the joyous surge of energy dance across his body as he entered the flesh of Robert Dante.  An electric tingle made the pores of his stony skin pucker as though a cool breeze blew over him.  He always like this part best, fleeting though it may be, and then it passed.  The resistance tugging on his axe suddenly released and he knew his pursuers had succumbed to their first transition.

His vision cleared quickly as he expected, having entered this domain many, many times.  Rabdos stood on an open plain of hard packed, dusty ground, barren of anything resembling life save for the impossibly tall, weathered castle walls and drawbridge rising up out of the desolation before him.  The chains of the bridge protested loudly as they lowered their burden rapidly.  He looked over his shoulder and saw both women on the ground dry heaving.  He had time.  Rabdos rested his axe on the ground as he admired his handy work a moment longer.  Then, when the bridge reached the ground before his feet, he hefted his axe over his shoulder and strolled across the drawbridge like a father coming home after a hard day’s work.

The bridge began to rise of its own accord just as he reached the other side.  The larger of the two women raised her head long enough to lock him with her gaze.  He knew that look of loathing, that look that envied his gender.  He smiled, took hold of himself, and jiggled his parts in taunting defiance.  He’d dealt with her base-desires before.  She’d be easy to manipulate, already had been, drawing them both into this realm where he held all the power.  They’d learn their folly soon enough, but time for some fun first.

“Welcome home,” the booming voice of Robert Dante hesitated before adding, “Master Rabdos.”  The voice echoed about the courtyard as Rabdos moved toward a set of stairs running up the inner wall.  He noted the hesitation in his charge’s voice.

“We mustn’t hesitate Robert, not today.  We have guests,” he said.

“They’re so powerful.  How will you beat them?”  Rabdos could taste the doubt in the question, which was usually helpful to his cause, but not today.

“We, Robert.  We will defeat them, and we will do so because I know their kind well and you will make me strong,” Rabdos said, reassuring his charge.

“How?”  A simple question that prompted a complex answer.

“We’ve seen both their kinds before, Robert,” he reminded.

“But the big one is so strong in the power,” the voice of Dante countered.

“Yes, but simple to manipulate, to dominate.”  Rabdos reached the top of the wall and looked down.  The two women had recovered and were now surveying the dried moat surrounding the castle.  The larger of the two boldly slid down the far bank and began scrambling up the other side.  She’d start assaulting the drawbridge as soon as she scampered out of the moat.  The smaller woman would be the bigger problem though.  She still remained on the far side of the moat surveying the castle walls.  Her gaze drifted to Rabdos and she stopped to stare at him.

“She’s going to tear down the gate.  She’ll be inside!” Dante’s voice began to take on a note of panic.  Rabdos closed his eyes as he shook his head and sighed.

“How many times must we go over this?  I am the power here.  I built those gates for you.  They will not fall unless I wish them to do so.”  Frustration began to creep into his voice and he mentally steadied himself.  He needed to reinforce confidence through explaining the unknown.  Lord Malphas harped on keeping as much in the realm of the unknown as possible thus stoking fear, but he also cautioned knowing when to reveal the enigma or risk damaging a charge.  He judged a revelation was in order.

“Look, the larger woman isn’t the real threat.  Even you can manipulate her once you know her base instincts and desires,” he said, adopting the teaching tone Lord Malphas said instilled calm.  “She ascribes all her failures to others, never taking responsibility for her own choices.  The thing she longs for most is something impossible to attain or change, and she ascribes that lack to having been created wrong in the first place.  As long as she blames our adversary for making her wrong we cannot lose.”

His response drew appropriate silence, as Dante contemplated this new piece of understanding.  The doubt in the air began to recede.  Good.  A huge woosh of fire danced across the castle walls and drawbridge.  Perfect timing.

“You see, her power cannot even set the wood of the bridge ablaze.”  Rabdos knew the bridge would never be set ablaze by her or any of these modern men and women of valor, though he had to admit he hadn’t been expecting to see so many in this modern age, at least not yet.  The time was coming when the final battle would be joined and then they’d reveal themselves.  He knew that time was fast approaching, but he hadn’t expected it quite this soon.  He also hadn’t expected them to discover Dante’s mother just yet either.  He’d been very careful to instruct Dante in the creation of her persona as a sister, but she’d long ago ended her usefulness when she descended into the memory devouring disease.

“What of the other woman?” Dante’s voice asked.

“We simply destroy her,” he said offhand as he watched the larger woman try to redouble her efforts to burn through the gate.

“How?”  There it was again, that simple question requiring a complicated answer.  He started to form the response in his head and then had a better idea.

“Watch.”    First he’d toy with them, then he’d let them try to defeat him before he choked the life out of them with his bare hands.  That would teach Dante who ruled this realm once and for all.  Rabdos gripped his axe, charged it with hellfire, and launched a lance of flame larger than anything he could ever create anywhere else.

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Guardians of the Herald is a weekly serial published and copyright by The Cavalier, Mark Malcolm.  To catch up on the first 45 issues you can either read them for free on the web site or purchase the compilation, Guardians of the Herald Issues 1-45: Angels and Demons for the Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Guardians-Herald-Issues-1-45-Angels-ebook/dp/B00IJIFXSY.

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