Wayward: Chapter Nine

“This will not end quietly, it is not something that will go away independently, but must be quashed and done so violently. Your emotions, they will tell you no, just as they would deny it and demand their servants do so as well. It is why you are so vital why you must be a catalyst to all of these changes. You will be the one to vanquish this disease, this cancer growing at the core of everything. They do not know it; they can not even possibly perceive what it is that gnaws at the root of their very essences now and turns all it touches into something malignant and vicious and evil. With our powers joined nearly as one, amplified by the might of Shar-Ikell, you will be able to purify them, purge it from the source and give back the chance we so greatly need. The path you will have to walk will be one of broken bodies, shattered lives, betrayed trusts, and burnt bridges. But it is in you, Soul-breaker, that we put such faith; you will sacrifice it all to the greater good, I know it even if you do not,” the Horse’s voice felt like a distant memory now even though it hadn’t been more than a few days since she had gone off on that tangent. Equally removed, Razien could hear his own voice responding with questions, it all was so vague that it seemed to be a riddle at the time.

 Sareffin, of course, did her best to describe to him what was transpiring and what corrections needed to be made. In the simplest of terms, she informed him that it was his duty to slay with that immaculate blade, the other Lords of Verillia. With all of their might, the vast wealth of Erkinan, and the sum of their gifts with the miraculous substance, he could fulfill a destiny he had been oblivious to just a short time ago. The corruption of the Rh’euleen, the spread of the life devouring blight, and what would be the inevitable downturn of the worlds, all could be corrected by his actions. Even if it seemed a selfish thing, to destroy all of his peers until he was his own equal, Razien would still have to have the fortitude to go through with it. In the end, it would itself be the most selfless thing, to remove the invisible shackles that held those higher beings in bondage. To turn back the lifeless touch of their eternal enemy, and to crush the forces that would otherwise cause the eventual end of life itself. 

He had been in a trance of sorts, Razien wasn’t horribly well versed with the forests southeast of Roya but had somehow guided himself out onto an established road. As he halted momentarily, trying to get his bearings back, he realized suddenly where it was he stood. Something of a midpoint between the territories of Coyotes and Wolves lay the toppled remnants of what had been thought to be an Erkinan constructed monument. What it had been, according to Mishonrayel, was a spire of sorts that had been adapted into a habitable structure by political dissidents of Eren’s Field, or at least those not put to death. The towering Black Spire had fallen so many cycles ago it was quite a surprise to be able to locate the heap so clearly after all this time. Razien had been no more than a cub, a newborn when the tower fell, but the remains looked as though they had only laid there a few days. There had been a shine to the outer shell of the structure when it stood, it now was more coarse and lacked any such luster. Where moss should have begun to overwhelm it, the foliage poked through and grew around it, there was nothing of the sort. Something about the spire was not of the world in the same sense a log cabin or the trees such a cabin would be made of was of the world. Lingering a moment too long, several moments had Razien only known it, the Wolf found himself taken unawares by a distinct beast of prey.

Nearly luminescent orange eyes bound from the pitch that surrounded the Black Spire, shocking Razien to wakefulness in a way he rarely had been in all his life. A burst of thoughts pumped into the Wolf’s mind, foremost being how stupid he had been in his fruitless gawking. Not only had he wasted time and left himself open for an attack, but he had seen the two ember-like orbs hanging there in the black of night and done nothing about them. Razien’s mind worked to clear such personal gripes away as quick as possible so that he could attend to the threat at paw. The creature tossed him to the ground with ease before vanishing into the night, still lurking but now invisible once more. It could be only one person, Razien acknowledged as he pressed a paw to his chest to find an absents of blood. Were it a pet of the Goredrinker, they would not have relented until there was blood for them to draw on in one way or another. Covertly as possible, Razien slid the knife from his jacket, kept it in an underhand style, and held his ground looking about as fiercely as possible.

“Kovarlin. Sneaky old Kovarlin, I should have sensed your soul so close, but alas, you’re not the one I seek at the moment,” Razien chided, he would either provoke an attack or force the man into civility for a moment.

A deep throaty chuckle sounded from the dark all around him before the broken speech of the Cougar came from just behind him, “You t’ink, I be somewhere else when I’z been made t’come an find you? Na, I got much, much more to be doin’, but Cass do want ya an’ offerin’ a fine prize for whoever snatch you up.”

 “Pursuing that prize will come at a hefty cost for you or any of the others who try to collect on it. You would do best if you were on your way before too long. I’m sure the life of a privateer still courses through your blood as anything else ever has. Why not go back to it?” with the hunter so close, Razien began to direct the Erkinan internally for when things took a turn for the worse.

 Clicking his tongue in amusement, the Cougar rounded on the Wolf until they met eyes, “See, I be on my way an’ do jus’ that, but then I got to thinkin’. See I had a wantin’ to know what they be wantin’ that you got. They say you dangerous, say you got somethin’ you shouldn’t, said you was mad too. So wanna show me or we gonna have to start openin’ each other up?”

“If I show you now, Kovarlin, it will be the last thing anyone will have ever shown you, and I don’t just mean in the fur you wear now. I don’t have a great want to cut you down, not just yet, but if you’d like to be so insistent, then I will gladly work my wonders on you,” the edges of Razien’s mouth began to raise. If Kovarlin was standing before him, it would be a fair, if almost easy fight.

The well-muscled Cougar nodded slowly, a look of knowing but a faint smile that matched Razien’s own, plain on his muzzle. Stillness preceded the struggle that lasted only mere seconds but had its impact. No fool in combat, Kovarlin quickly went for the Wolf’s right paw, confident that a blade would be there. He wanted to keep it out of the fight or at least remove it temporarily as to even the playing field for himself. Razien gave up the paw freely, which Kovarlin didn’t realize until his finger glided over and empty paw pad. With a smirk, the Wolf interlocked his fingers with the other man and drew the paw away as he brought up his left. The serrations skipped through the fur on the Cougar’s neck, slicing free the longest of them before the blade left the area entirely. Setting a foot behind the man, subtly as he had brought up the knife, Razien freed his locked paw and shoved the Cougar back with his shoulder. Looking up at the Wolf, Kovarlin was given pause, he looked dumbfounded and dismayed at the man before letting loose a brief rasp of a laugh.

Righting himself on a knee, waiting only to see that Razien wasn’t going to strike regardless of his apparent victory, Kovarlin sighed, “I ain’t want to be losin’ this life jus’ as quick as be given it, you know? But I supposin’ you ain’t got nothin’ that I should be fearin’ jus’ yet, less you ’bout to let me have it in the worst way. I was curious though, had to see if it was worth what they say it was, you’d do it too, don’t be lyin’.”

 “You might be right in that. What did Casseda offer you? Better yet, what did she say I had, what did she tell you of it?” he affected a more mild tone, this could be his only chance to get real information from another Lord who had no need to guard their tongue.

With a shrug, the Cougar gave him what he could, “Not a whole lot, said it was Erkinan, real powerful thing. Some sorta weapon you’d be usin’ to do things you ain’t supposed to be able to do. Wouldn’t say much ’bout what we was lookin’ for though, so I came a-lookin’.”

“And if I had that weapon and you had killed me and taken it, what was she going to give you in return?” his gaze was sharp as arrowheads as he focused on Kovarlin.

All humor was gone from the Cougar as he solemnly answered, “I’d get it all back, e’rything they took from me. It woulda been sweet, but… all that couldn’t of lasted and I just be as mad as I was when it first done happened, simple as that.”

Every part of Razien wanted to go forward with his duty, he could easily have rammed Shar-Ikell through the Cougar and felt nothing for it, but he didn’t. Instead, Razien let Kovarlin go, for the time being, he would have to hunt him down in the end, but that time was not now. The man had seen nothing but hardship in his previous life, his heart slain, his body enslaved, his name besmirched, and his blood befouled by the Goredrinker. Yes, he would have to eliminate the Huntsmen sooner or later, but the Wolf decided it should be better left to later. Let the man have his joys, be they of drink or the sea or of the flesh because those joys would be ever fleeting. As they pressed their paws together, there seemed to be an awareness of this eventual fate in the Cougar. Still they went about the gesture of peace and good hope upon parting, if death would come Kovarlin would face it the same as if it were already there. Under the waning moon, they parted, Razien finally setting sights on Eren’s Field while Kovarlin’s rested somewhere beyond the coast.

 They were as two warships passing just as peacetime was ready to expire, and all-out war, a full-fledged battle of life and death, was nigh. It would be foolhardy to allow such an opportunity to sink a worthy adversary to slip one’s grasps. However, it was equally damningly unintelligible to pursue a fight that shouldn’t have to be. Kovarlin regarded the man one last time from a distance; he had sunk into the dark of night, even with his fur a sandy tan color rather than black, but he was certain only he could see Razien and not the other way around. Too used to the hindrances and differences of Karhan’ Dharian from the real world, the Cougar felt like he was seeing for the first time. The night was no more dampened by the darkness than the day by sun’s light; at least for his eyes, it was so. He watched a moment longer, the Wolf looked about beyond the hedge of trees he stood in before seeming to decide his path. The power of Erkinan sprung from the red-furred man as he began forward, his movements supremely fast but not quite that of Hexen’s own. In only moments, Razien was out of sight, his scent and the faintest whispers of his steps still there on the breeze, but Kovarlin would not follow. This gonna play out, one way or the other, no reason choosin’ sides yet. Someone will be comin’ to cut off the head, better it be someone I know can’t outdo me. And if it’s Razi, well, let’s hope he goin’ to it quick. 

Though he had answered the call that originated from the sword and silenced the demanding voice of Sareffin that lingered within, Razien could still hear her time after time. As she had put it, Sareffin could speak beyond that realm every so often, and if she were to do so too much, she would be left drained. To be left without her own power within that valley, she would quickly see her barriers fall, and the hordes of those vengeful spirits beyond the hills come pouring in. She spoke up as Kovarlin parted, her tone reproachful and plainly irritated by what had transpired. “Why did you let that one go? I know it was another of the Lords, I can feel the energy of their spirits even now. So why would you let one of them slip freely from you when that is your sole concern!?” she condemned as Razien began on his way away from the fallen spire.

 Focusing on not speaking aloud, not for fear of looking mad but to conserve his breath, he remarked, “Kova is an easy mark and one I would have easy access to, but what sparing him offers is far less easy to come by. He is a man of the sea when I must go to the homes of Neusthera and Orin, and that lot, I will need a trustworthy ship to ferry me across the ocean.” 

“The sooner you begin to take them, the sooner Casseda will demand they come at you with full arms and full force to stop us. Turning back and slaying him now would begin that effect and you wouldn’t need to travel the countryside all night long,” the Equine’s tone softened slightly, perhaps seeing the wisdom in this concept, but was still somewhat disdaining of the thought.

Solemnly, Razien returned, “Mishon will be the first of those stones to lay out our path, he and then Sirius. They are two with great followings in this land, their second coming will be herald as a new age, and their deaths will reach every tongue. If the Casseda does not begin to move the others into fighting form on behalf of those two, then nothing will.”

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