Chapter 29 – The Return
Achmed's senses rankled. The scent of the F'dor was no where near its normal potency, like it would have been back in his own world, but it was enough to rouse the deep-seated despise of his kind within him. His mind started frantically searching for a plan, a course of action. How could he get a hold of the demon and the time traveler at the same time…and then figure out how to work the damned device on top of that? His fingers twitched and his skin itched. The fire-pitted room was stifling and the cloths around his face and neck were not helping. And the F'dor was right there….and there was nothing he could do!
The Duke stood there for a moment, eyes glinting maliciously and a smirk tugging at the edge of his lips. While the two stood there, glaring at one another, six of the Duke's thuggish minions filed into the room, with the bent old man limping in behind them.
"Well, then," said the Duke, "I think the Dhracian should go first." The thugs began closing in on the Three companions, who took out their weapons and stood their ground, despite one having just suffered a massive concussion, another nearly being strangled to death, and the third dangling above a bottomless pit of fire.
Achmed started going through the plan in his head as the burly men came toward them. First, they would dispatch the Duke's brutes, and then they would somehow hold the demon down and grab the old man and his time traveler. But…what was in the decrepit little old man's hand and what was he doing with it?
"Hold on…there...Duchy," rasped the dead, grating voice of the wraithlike unnamed woman. She staggered determinedly by Achmed and Rhapsody, to stand between them and the Duke and his minions.
The Duke scowled. "You really have turned out to be much more trouble than you are worth," he growled. "I am disappointed," he said, turning to the graying old man next to him, who ducked his head and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Get out of the way," Duke Eli told the undead woman. She slammed herself up against a wall. "Please do try to kill the Sindarians, boys, while the Doctor and I try to deal with this unruly creature," he went on. His thugs continued their approach, swords and other weapons drawn as they backed the Three closer and closer to the fiery pit in the center of the room.
The woman stared at the old, cracked stones of the castle's chamber. Stay there said the voice that wasn't hers. No, her own mind growled back. However, her body was more inclined to obey the former rather than the latter.
The demon-possessed Duke was only a few steps away, and the little old man two steps behind him…that wretched, lying, scheming, damned little old man, whose fault all of this was…everything...everything…
Achmed cursed. They had to take care of these dumb oafs in front of him quickly, before the F'dor had a chance to escape or the woman had the chance to kill the old man with the time traveler. He fired three discs into the eyes of the duke's servants, and unlike the woman he'd shot oh so long ago in the darkness of his bedroom chamber back in Ylorc, these men dropped dead in their footsteps. The remaining men charged, much to Grunthor's satisfaction.
She threw herself at him. It would end. Now. The old man yelped as she landed on top of him, pinning him to the floor with the fingers of her remaining hand wrapped around his throat. She ignored the frantic, insistent orderings of the voice in her head, screaming let him go, damn you, release him! She didn't even feel the arms trying to pull her away. The rough, tearing hands could only further rip apart her disintegrating flesh, as she watched the panic stricken eyes of the old man grow wider, as in one who has realized he is staring his own death in the face.
"You took every dear thing I had from me," the woman whispered like a ghost as she began to crush the man's windpipe. "And then you took away my death, the most precious thing left to me; the only thing left. So now…I am going to take what is most precious to you…" The old man sputtered and choked, and began flailing in his death throws. And then he went still, and the eyes went blank.
"No!" screeched the F'dor in the desperate, lost shriek of a demon. Achmed looked up from his recently deceased opponent to see the dark, dead woman taking her hand away from the throat of the still old man. He was dead.
Bloody hrekin! he cursed.
The F'dor was so enraged he was at a loss as to what to do with himself. That damned corpse had killed his alchemist, magician…his most crucial asset! And then he looked over to where the Three had been battling with his own men just as Grunthor chucked the last of them into the fire pit. His plan had not gone quite as he anticipated. He would have to regroup later, right now, he would have to run.
Achmed would not let the demon escape, not when they were so close. He saw the duke begin to sprint for the doorway, and gave chase. The F'dor, in his panic, had forgotten about the living dead woman, who was sprawled out on the floor convulsing again. In a remarkable feat of stupidity, even for the Duke Eli, he tripped over one of her twitching legs and went flying into the floor.
Achmed was on the F'dor in an instant.
"Achmed!" Rhapsody screamed.
Grunthor soon joined the melee of arms and legs, hits and kicks. Rhapsody, in a fit of brilliance and despite the fact that it greatly disturbed her, went over to the body of the dead old man and searched it for the time traveler. There were bits and pieces of old roots, parchment, and, curiously, a little black notebook, but nothing that could pass as the time traveler.
She didn't hear her name being called until the untitled woman screeched, "I've got the damned thing, you dumb-as-fuck Singer!"
Rhapsody spun around and upon seeing the corpse woman hauling her unruly, semi-decomposed body into some semblance of a sitting position, the Namer went over to her. "Here," she croaked, shoving the little black device into Rhapsody's hand. It was circular in nature, of a hard, cold substance, with three sets of numbers etched around its perimeter. Just below each set of numbers was a miniscule dial. A little red light glowed in the center.
"Get…your…others…" the dark woman sputtered. "Then….press…your finger…to…the light…" she made a terrible rattling noise with her next intake of breath and then dragged herself away from the Lirin woman; moving in desperation, trying to escape the pain by movement, by distracting her mind…
"Rhapsody!" Achmed called. He and Grunthor had the Duke contained between the two of them now, and the dhracian was beckoning to the Lirin to come over, and take them back to Ylorc.
Rhapsody cast a glance at the pathetic, decrepit body of the woman without a name. Achmed knew immediately what was going through her mind and cut it off. "No," he rasped definitively.
"Achmed, look at her! We can't just leave her here! She needs help….she's…." the Singer trailed off.
"What? Dying?" Achmed spat back sarcastically. "Now, Rhapsody, let's go!"
"She needs our help, Achmed," Rhapsody insisted. "She helped us. She brought us here, lead us to the demon, looked after us…"
"She also 'ad 'er 'and wrapped around yer neck, crushin' yer windpipe about a minute ago, Oi believe," Grunthor interjected.
"She was possessed! It wasn't her fault! She deserves peace, too! She deserves to know who and where she is…"
She was doing it yet again, Achmed thought. Feeling pity, the incomprehensible desire to help the woman find her 'self' again, or whatever it was. The dhracian did not have time for the Namer's obsessions with identity, humanitarianism or philanthropy. And it was quite clear to him that that broken shell of a being was ruined, useless, and beyond any healing whatsoever, no matter what Rhapsody believed.
"She's ruined, Rhapsody!" Achmed hissed. "Hopeless, now let's go!"
The Duke F'dor, despite his dismal position, began chuckling. "You want to help that?" he scoffed. "Do you know what that is, little Lirin Singer?" he asked, the red rimmed eyes blazing. "That is a murderer, the most perfect kind of killer; the kind that can kill forever without being killed itself."
"Quiet, you!" Rhapsody spat venomously. The demon laughed again.
"Do you honestly not know? Ha! She was a killer even before the old man there turned her into the violent puppet she is now. Did he not tell you what she is? Did she never tell you what she is?" He smiled with malicious glee. Rhapsody met his gaze intently.
"You will desist with your poisonous lies," she said.
"Oh, yes, lies," he smirked. "Too bad she killed the magician, he could have told you the whole story, he was there for most of it. In fact he could explain it much better than anyone else; he's the one who made her, gave her the demented sort of life she has now."
"Oy, you, shut up," Grunthor grunted, knocking the Duke across the head, dazing him.
Achmed and Grunthor than dragged the disoriented Duke with them over to Rhapsody. The dhracian seized the time traveler from the Lirin woman while Grunthor grabbed hold of her other arm. Achmed then pressed his finger to the glowing light in the middle of the stone-like disk, and all at once they were jerked back into nothingness and were flying through the vortex of time and space.