I am sorry everyone that it has taken so long for me to update. Real life came crashing down hard on me. But, things are better now, I have a laptop, and will be able to continue to write. Thank you for all your kind reviews. They really make my day.
-X- is just a way for the paragraphs to be separated. Sorry, it would not accept anything else.
Things get dark for Mozes. Sorry, no Xerxes quite yet; Mozes had a bigger story to tell than I thought. I do promise to try to get the next chapter done quickly (it's half written now), with Xerxes. At some point, we will also get back to Iago and company.
Chapter 3 - A Most Unusual Upbringing
"Who are you, boy, that can command my sands to respond to your will?"
And with one question, so seemingly simple and at once so infinitely complex, a new beginning came upon Mozes, new adventures and knowledge and horrors, stretching out in front of him like the endless desert itself.
Destane, scrutinizing the boy in front of him, demanded an answer, and when the boy, tongue-tied, had not provided it, he reached out and smacked him hard upside the head. The boy fell to the sand and remained still, but continued to stare defiantly at him.
Destane wanted answers, and he was not inclined to wait until the boy felt comfortable speaking. Destane knew several languages, and tried most of them on the boy. He did not respond. Either he was deaf, or stupid.
Destane made a wave with his hand, and the Mamluks began shuffling up the hill. He was sure that when the boy saw his shuffling corpse army, he would be so terrified that he would either die of fright, or spill his guts and tell him everything he wanted to know. He'd better, or Destane would spill his guts for him, right there on the sand.
The boy, who had been just watching him, had become distracted when Destane had waved his hand and had looked over the sand dune. Destane stayed where he was, deciding to watch the boys face. The look on a persons face when they first saw the Mamluks always brought a smile to his face.
The first of the Mamluk came over the hill, illuminated in the moonlight. The boys face showed a range of emotion, from curiosity to apprehension, then to terror, then shock, mouth hanging open as slackly as the Mamluks themselves, then to a look of fierce determination, hands clenched at his sides as he went to a crouching position. The Mamluks came to the top of the dune and stopped, waiting for Destane's next order.
Destane had a feeling the boy was getting ready to bolt, and raised his hand again. The sand surged around the prostrate boy, holding him to the ground like a gritty black fist. He would answer the question, or he would die. The sand may not actually be willing to hurt him, but there were many ways to die. He ignored the urchins' demands to release him, slightly amused by the arrogance in the boys' voice. The fool did not seem to realize the danger he was in, and he was making demands?
As far as Destane was aware, none could control the power of the black sands save the lord of the realm, which was he. But the boy was not controlling it, not really. He had seemed to simply be wishing it to not swallow him, which was perfectly understandable. He was sure that the entire encampment down below the surface had been wishing the same thing, for all the good it did them.
But strangely, the boy had seemed to have been intrigued by their screams and cries, amused at their vain attempts to battle the sand as it crawled and sucked at their bodies. Perhaps the boy had a bit of a bloodthirsty nature.
The boy had to be a slave; that much was obvious. A dirty, amazingly sunburned child dressed in rags, bruised anywhere he could see, and chasing a camel from a camp in the middle of the night could be nothing else. The child was so filthy and peeling from his severe case of sunburn that Destane was reminded of a badly decomposed Mamluk. He supposed that a slave, bitter about his lot in life, would enjoy seeing his oppressors dying a slow death.
But, the more important issue; how would a filthy slave know even rudimentary magic, let alone enough to stop the sands from consuming him?
The boy could be a wizard's son, but that was highly unlikely. No wizard would allow his offspring to become a slave. At least if he knew about him. So it could be possible.
The boy could just be one of the lucky few that were born magical. It did not happen off, but it did happen. But, the child did not seem particularly magical; he felt no real power coming from him. The child didn't even seem particularly intelligent. But, if the child had no formal training in magic, that would not be a surprising.
Destane had many enemies, but not many would dare to come into his land and try to surprise him, so the boy could not have been sent. Who would be foolish enough to send a boy, and not a very intimidating one at that, into his realm to challenge him?
What an intriguing riddle. How very fortunate that these silly Romans had decided to camp in his land tonight. Not many were brave enough to camp in the land of the black sands.
Then again, with the sand golden, a few breezes and the small refreshing oasis that Destane had graciously provided them in the middle of the oppressive heat, they probably thought that they had found the Promised Land.
They had died in exquisite agony for him, and had given him quite an enjoyable show. He could pull the bodies up at his leisure for Mamluk parts. And, best of all, wrapped up like a gift at his feet was a new challenge, a grungy slave boy who apparently had some sort of magical ability.
All in all, it had been a simply delightful evening.
Mozes was not sure what was going to happen to him, but nothing good could come of this. He had been grabbed by the strangers walking corpses before he had totally overcome his shock and could run. He had tried to fight, and had succeeded in kicking one of the things heads' off before being beaten down, still clawing at his decomposing attackers. After that, he was, somehow, transported here, to some sort of stronghold. He was unaware how he got here; one minute he was in the desert in the middle of a walking graveyard, pinned by the black sand which had suddenly sprung back to life again, the next he was in a dungeon, with his head spinning, being thrown against a wall and shackled. And here he had been so proud and pleased with himself for escaping the sand burial, albeit inadvertently.
The man had been demanding an answer to his question. "Who are you, boy, that can command my sands to respond to your will?" While Mozes had no answer, he had to admit it was a damn good question. He had not commanded the sand to follow his will; he simply wanted not to die. It certainly was not his fault if the sand decided that he would not make a good meal.
Did the man think he was some wizard, come to steal his land? He had to be crazy. Just a look at his traveling companions had told Mozes that. Going through the desert with the undead? Burying people alive in sand? The man needed to get out more, find a hobby.
While Mozes was hardly sorry to see his oppressors who had made his life a hell dead, in as cruel a way possible, he had to admit it was a hell of a show, very impressive. But, he had to get out of here, before the man decided to do something worse to him besides lock him up in his slimy dungeon.
Mozes looked at his wrists. The man had his creepy servants chain him to a wall, slick with mold and blood and other things that were probably best not thought of. He could feel it soaking through his clothing, dripping in his hair and running down his back. It was sticking to his sunburned skin, and the rough wall was snagging the peeling patches, ripping the dead skin off.
The chains, thick iron manacles, also slimy, held him so securely that he could not even move his wrists. Below, his ankles were in the same condition. The only thing he could move was his head. Not that it helped much, it was almost pitch black down there, with one lone torch further down the wall outside his cell, giving off the briefest hint of light.
As he listened to the screams and howls of a man from further down in the dungeons, Mozes had a terrible, gut-wrenching feeling that before this was all over, he may well be wishing that he had been buried in the sand after all.
Destane, glass of wine in still in hand from dinner, walked into his throne room and sat, reclining into the plush chair, and began to contemplate the new riddle that was now being housed beneath his citadel. Who was this boy? What should he do with him? Where did he come from? Did he have family that would be looking for him?
Despite himself, Destane was intrigued. The boy, abused slave or not, should have been horrified by the destruction of the Roman camp, the subsequent appearance of Destane himself trying to kill him, and the appearance of his Mamluks. Instead, the boy, while obviously scared, seemed as curious as frightened. Almost everyone who ever ran into a Mamluk was so stiffened by fright that they could not move, which made killing them extremely easy, but not very much fun for a hunt. He supposed the boy could have just been trying to put on a good show, but still, he should have detected some look of fear. Other than a couple brief flashes of terror, the boy had been defiant. And he was damned mouthy as well. Despite himself, Destane was impressed. It was unusual to find such bravery, or stupidity, in one so young.
Destane thought briefly about going down to the dungeons to try to question the boy. Even without the aid of torture, most people had a more willing tongue after spending some time in the dungeons. But, why should he travel to the dungeons? It was rather disgusting down there, he had to say; housekeeping in the dungeons was nonexistent. Since Destane was feeling particularly magnanimous toward this fascinating stranger, he would have the boy brought up to his throne room and question him here.
Destane's throne room was opulent. Polished marble floors gleamed below, while high above were numerous painted frescos. The walls were decorated with arrases, which entrapped the eyes with their patterns. Leading up to his throne, lining the entire hall, was a thick crimson runner. Against the polished black marble floors, it was a striking image.
Perhaps this would impress the boy as well, and make him more willing to talk. Most people, especially slaves, while not comfortable in the dungeons, considering their lives were nothing but one big hell anyway, would be more awed by the wealth and power of the throne room.
Well, if he were going to bring the child up there, he should probably have him hosed off. He did not want the urchin dripping filth and slime in his clean citadel; if nothing else, he had lice and stunk. He signaled his two jailers, Abdullah and Yasir, to clean the boy and bring him to the throne room. And may all the deities help them if they actually rape the boy. He was tired of losing prisoners to those two's rough handling.
Mozes was still trying, in vain it appeared, to figure a way out of his predicament. Not being able to move his hands and feet were definitely working against him. He saw the shadow of some figure walking down the corridor towards his cell, and he stopped, waiting to see what this new horror was.
A man, an actual living human being, appeared with a torch. Even in the weak torchlight, Mozes could tell that the man was older, grossly fat, extremely dirty, and had a very unfriendly look on his face. He was dressed in rather rough looking clothing, but what really caught his eye was a long leather whip hanging from his hip. From the look of the liquid shine on the end, it was covered in fresh blood. Which would explain the screams from earlier.
"You, boy, what are you doing?" The fat jailer demanded, double chin quivering with each syllable out of his mouth.
Mozes, who had thought up a quip about just hanging around, looked at the whip again and decided to let that die on his lips. Who knew what that other man was being whipped for? Uneducated he may be, but he was far from stupid. It would be impossible to escape if half his lifeblood was running from his body in huge gashes. Better to err on the side of caution for now and stay respectful. Even if he did feel like spitting in the mans face.
"The Lord Destane wishes to speak with you. You will come with me now to prepare." The jailer began to unlock the door to his cell.
Mozes had no wish to go speak with Lord Destane, whom he was guessing was the man he had met in the desert. He also had no wish to stay hanging in the dank dungeon. Supposing he had no choice in the matter regardless, he didn't fight as the man lumbered in the cell, unlocked his hands, then began to run his hands down his body, lingering in places that did not need to be unlocked, until he finally reached his feet. He then led Mozes like a dog from the cell and into the corridor. Mozes decided then he also had no real desire to stay with the lumbering jailer; he did not like the look the man was giving him.
Trailing behind the man down the corridor, Mozes was led into a small, dimly lit stone room. He was told to stand against the wall, which he did. He looked around beside him, and saw chains and locks on the wall and floor. Getting an uneasy feeling, he looked up as he was ordered to undress.
Mozes, stunned, didn't move, and was summarily knocked face first to the floor. As his head hit the floor, he saw stars, and was too dazed to fight as he was picked up and stripped. The rags, already fragile with use and age, were torn from his body and thrown out of his sight. He gagged as a dirty white rag was shoved into his mouth, and then tied with another one around his head.
Naked and shivering with cold and fright, his manacles were connected to the chains on the wall and floor, and then locked. He was positioned with his face to the wall, spread-eagled, and unable to see what was happening behind him. He could hear water sloshing around, and the sound of another person entering the room. The fat man and the unknown man began talking in a language he could not understand.
Mozes gasped as a sudden bucket of ice cold water was dumped on him. Another came directly after, and then he groaned as he felt a rough brush against his back begin scrubbing, the bristles tearing at his raw and blistered skin. The men, laughing, began to lather him with a rough soap, still talking in the unknown language. He began to struggle and pull, and was slapped hard on his buttocks, then across his head. He decided to be silent and let them do as they willed. No sense in asking for a beating.
Repulsed by feeling their hands on every section of his body and the pain they were causing with their less than gentle touch, Mozes tried to think about anything else but this situation and the unknown fate in store for him. One of the men began to lather his hair, letting the harsh soap drip into his eyes. He closed them against the pain and embarrassment, and hoped this would be over soon.
As he felt the soapy finger of the other man enter him, he moaned into his gag, flinched and mentally added these two to the growing list of people he would someday get his revenge on.
When they were finally done giving him their humiliating bath, they left him manacled to the wall, still shivering. Wondering how long he would be left there, he turned to see if he could make out who the second man was, but it was to dim to make out features. He could only tell that the man was not the mysterious Lord Destane, as he was dressed in the same common clothing as the fat jailer, and not as tall. Rodent-like came to his mind to describe him.
Finally, the smaller man came back to the wall, and began to undo the locks holding him there. Mozes began to struggle, and was slapped across his face, and told that if he continued to fight, he would become intimately acquainted with the whip the fat one was now holding.
Standing in front of the door into this pit, the smaller man threw a rag, almost as bad as his last bit of clothing, and barely big enough to cover what it should, at Mozes and told him to get dressed quickly, Lord Destane was waiting for him. Mozes looked at the rag, decided it was better not to ask what the stains on it were, and quickly set about getting dressed, all while under the watchful leers of the two men. They did finally undo the knot and took the gag off him, which was a relief, as it had slowly been working down his throat.
When he was more or less covered, the men reconnected the manacles by a chain. The fat one brought in a hobble that they connected. Weighed down by all the iron, they began to lead him out of the bath, down the hall, and up several staircases, until they were in the main hall.
Quiet as a tomb, and almost as dark, they continued to lead him, half dragging him, down the corridor, past paintings and glass display cases, rooms containing odd bits of equipment, books, and several closed doors. Most were too dark to see into well, and Mozes, already weary from the last days activities, was beginning to get frantic with worry and an overactive imagination. But, as he suspected, the manacles and hobble were locked tight; he was going nowhere.
They finally came to a stop outside a large door. Stopping, the two guards adjusted their clothing, pushed down hair in a futile attempt to look presentable, and knocked on the door. Pushing it open they began to walk down the crimson runner, toward the throne, dragging Mozes in their wake.
Mozes stumbled along behind them, feeling the plush crimson carpet underneath his feet, and looked about in wonder. The high vaulted ceiling was painted with beautiful, if violent paintings of angels, demons, gruesome fights and executions. Lush tapestries lined the wall. On either side of the crimson runner were shining black marble tile, stretching to the walls.
And directly in front of him, reclining in his throne and sipping a glass of ruby colored wine, was Lord Destane, who continued to gaze at him and the two jailers as if they were an interesting display in a marketplace.
The fat jailer slapped Mozes to the floor, saying something about bowing to the Lord of the realm, but he didn't quite catch all he said, as his ears were ringing. He saw the two jailers go to one knee to show their respects, then had his head shoved roughly to the carpet, his nose digging into the plush pile. He did not see Lord Destane wave the two guards away, see the two guards exchange pleased looks with each other, and leave the throne room, closing the doors loudly behind them.
Mozes heard a loud slam and looked up. He and Lord Destane were alone.
Lord Destane looked at the child, now clean, bowing, nose to the floor. He watched as the child started and looked up, and, not seeing the jailers there, give a wary eye back to himself. Good. If the child was intimidated, he may readily answer his questions. If not, he was sure Abdullah and Yasir would like to have permission to have a round or two with him.
The child was pretty, or would be if he had not been scrubbed raw, with patches of skin still peeling from him. The boy was obviously very pale to burn from the sun so badly. Black hair, with an almost blue sheen, fell into the boys' wide dark eyes, and a slender body, a little too slender actually. Apparently the Romans fed him some, just not enough. Even from the distance that Destane was sitting, he could see the boys' ribs; count the vertebrae in his back. He had not hit puberty yet, but would soon. He had the potential to be very pretty.
The boy continued to watch him, making no effort to speak. Destane decided that at least introductions were in order. The boy deserved to know who was going to kill him, after all. He had shown that much courage anyway.
"Boy, what is your name?"
No response. Well, that was easily fixed.
"Boy, tell me your name, or I will assume you are deaf. In which case, you won't mind when I call Abdullah and Yasir back to cut off your ears."
The boy looked at him, horrified.
"Mozes, sire." he mumbled. Well, it was a start.
"Very good. See how easy that was?" Destane received a glare. This boy certainly had spirit. Not much sense, but very spirited. Well, he enjoyed breaking spirits. "Now, Mozes, I am Lord Destane, ruler of The Land of the Black Sand. I wish you to answer some questions now, before I decide what to do with you."
"Decide what - Now look, what did I do? I was chasing a camel! Then you and your walking dead came along, killed the entire camp, and then attacked me! I did nothing wrong!"
Slightly surprised by the boys' outburst, Destane waited until he stopped ranting long enough to draw a breath, then silenced him with a gesture of his hand. He thought the boy had a bit more sense. The boy would do well to control his emotions.
"Silence, young Mozes. As to your crime, you were trespassing on my lands, and I -"
"Not my choice." the boy mumbled.
"Child, I do not usually allow people to interrupt me while I am speaking. Greater men then you have done so, and have had their tongues cut out as a result. You are a slave. Don't look so surprised, boy; do you think me so stupid that I cannot figure that a slave would be the one to chase a rogue camel in the middle of the night? Slaves do not interrupt their betters. You will be silent until I give you leave to speak. Now, as to the reason you are still alive at this moment. What power do you possess?"
A look of incomprehension from the child. "I possess none."
"I find that unlikely. Most people would not be able to keep the sand from swallowing them. You did. I ask you again; what power do you possess?"
Mozes decided the man was mad. "Sire, I posses no power. I am no wizard. As you said, I am a slave. Slaves do not have power."
"I do not believe you, boy, and I do not enjoy being lied to. Tell me of your power, or I shall have Abdullah and Yasir come back in to wash out your mouth with soap, and I will not ask them to be so gentle this time."
"Sire, I am not sure what I should tell you. I have no power!"
Destane stared at the boy. Unsurprisingly now, the boy stared back. Did he really think he was going to win a challenge against Destane?
But was it possible? Was the boy telling the truth? Did he not posses any power? Was it just a lucky thing that the sand refused to obey? No, that was ludicrous. The boy had some power, even if it was limited and he was unaware of it. This was a slave child, albeit an unusually talented one. Then again, remembering several irritating immortals he had run into in the past, and knowing the way they liked to play games, he decided to test to be sure.
Never one to take to many chances, Destane stretched his hand out, aiming at the boy, still bowing and looking at him, and thought. The boy suddenly started twitching, writhing on the floor as much as possible in his chains. After several seconds, he gasped, and then began screaming as every nerve ending exploded in agony. He was trying to form words, but his voice was cracking with the blinding pain.
Destane watched, engrossed in the boys' torment. He was actually surprised that it had taken him so long to begin screaming; most men started almost instantly. While he himself had never been under this particular spell, he understood it was excruciating.
Destane watched for an additional few seconds, relishing the Mozes' agony, until he determined that the child could not possibly be an immortal in disguise; even an immortal would have disappeared or fought back against the pain. This child, magical or not, was human.
He cut the power to his spell before he killed him, or caused irreparable brain damage. The child could not answer questions or be of any use if he was nothing but a drooling fool.
Mozes was lying on the ground, looking smaller than he was in his heavy chains. The scrap of a rag that Abdullah and Yasir had given him to wear had been thrown off in his throes of agony, and he was still twitching and panting. And yet the slave-boy still turned to glare at him, eyes glazed with pain, but with the light of intelligence. What an interesting child.
Destane sat back in his throne, watching a trickle of blood run from the corner of the boys' mouth. Stroking his chin thoughtfully, he thought about how best he could use this child, who had a surprising inner strength, and enough power to protect him against Destane himself. Destane never let an opportunity for power or revenge pass unused. For now, the boy should be brought back to the dungeons. If he was still conscious, he would be in no condition for conversation now, and Destane desired to think about this further.
Abdullah and Yasir entered the throne room as his signal, and dragged the boy, half conscious and naked, off to his cell. Destane, still in a generous, albeit thoughtful mood, said they did not have to re-chain him to the wall in the cell. The manacles and hobble would be enough.
"Excuse me, lord?"
"I asked you what your plans are."
Mozes looked at Destane as if he had gone as crazy as he had believed he was. The man had tortured him, kept him locked in a dungeon for the past two days, feeding him nothing but rancid meat, old bread, and stale water, the top layer thick with an unrecognizable slime, and at the tender mercies of his two jailers, who had yet to rape him, but he had a horrid feeling that it was only a matter of time. They had come close enough already. What did he think his plans were?
"Well, sir, if I am able to leave your dungeons, I suppose I would head to Thamud, maybe even Agrabah, some place not under Roman control, try to find work."
"Do not lie to me boy. You would not work; you would steal what you could to survive, until you got caught."
Since that had been what Mozes had been intending to do, with the exception of the getting caught part, he did not bother to deny it.
"I have a proposition for you, boy."
"A, a what sir?"
"By Allah boy, don't you know the basic words of your own language? A proposition, a proposal, a deal if you will."
"Now, while you claim you have no magical abilities boy, I know better. I knew it the night I met you out in the desert."
"Then why did you attack me?"
"What did I say about interrupting me boy? Do you enjoy my dungeons?"
"No my lord, sorry."
"Now, as I was saying. I know you have some magical talent. I wish to harness that power. I might be interested in taking you on as an apprentice. I am the most powerful sorcerer of the age. Most aspiring wizards would likely kill to study with me. You could do no better."
"Why what boy?" By all the Gods and Demons, was the boy simple?
"Why would you be interested in taking me on as an apprentice?"
"As I told you boy, I wish to help you develop your magical abilities. I desire an apprentice, a protégé, to pass my legacy and lands onto. I could use an assistant to help me; it does get so lonely around here. I could use the, uh, company." He stressed the word, wondering if the boy got the implications. From the look on his face, probably not. He would learn. "Or do you like being a slave? I always have need of more of them, for work in the citadel, in my village, or as ''volunteers'' in other projects. I can't imagine you enjoy being someone's lackey; underneath all the grime, you seem like you have a backbone. You would have real power boy, do what you want. No more serving and groveling at others feet; they would be at yours. Anything you desire boy. Think of the implications. Surely there are things you want or desire in your limited mind."
"Yes sir."" Mozes looked like he was thinking hard, still kneeling in front of Destane's throne. Then he cut his eyes to Destane, knowing one question to ask, having learned it long ago with the Romans. "What would be the price of all this power be?"
"Ah yes, you do have some sense boy. Always find out the price. Make sure you are able and willing to pay. Remember boy; no one does something for nothing. Well, I of course, would consent to your education, provide for your living arrangements, food, clothing, that sort of mundane thing. You would answer to me. As my apprentice, you have the duty to respect me. You would do what I say, when I say, how I say, no matter what it is I have asked. You would obey me unconditionally. Remember, I provide all, and I can take all. If you remember that, we will do fine. And it will not be easy; becoming a sorcerer takes intelligence, dedication, and hard work, as does most anything worth having. Well, don't linger boy, what do you say?"
Mozes looked at the man, and began to think about what he said and offered. Real power. To do as he pleased. No more begging and scrimping, taking orders, being a filthy and uneducated slave. This man said he would take care of him. Oh, not in the way a parent would, with attention and love, Mozes was too old and cynical to worry about that any longer. No one had ever cared before, his mother, his Roman owner, any of the other slaves. Why should that change now?
But to have the basics - food, clothing, shelter. Hopefully better than what he had received the last few days. An education. To no longer be a slave, beaten, abused, scorned and ridiculed. To make his own rules.
Lord Destane was right, he could do no worse. And if he ever didn't like it, he could leave. Apprentices were not kept under lock and key like slaves or prisoners. It would be easy to escape if he wanted to.
And if things worked out, he would have enough power to go back and make those bastards on Gauis pay for what they had done to him.
Destane watched the boy, still in his manacles and hobble, struggle with the offer. Surely the boy was not thinking of rejecting the idea? Food, clothing, shelter, an education, and power? To a slave? What did the boy want, godhood?
Well, if he did not accept, Destane certainly had ways to make sure that he changed his mind about his most generous offer. Destane had not begun to torture the boy, despite what he may think.
Destane was certain that the boy had more power than he realized, more so now because he could not even detect any power, despite all his probes. The boy might be powerful indeed if he was able to hide it, even subconsciously.
He believed that the boy had a few bits of sense, though he was sure that he was so ignorant that he probably could not even read. Well, he could teach him easily enough. Destane had very effective methods.
The child could be a powerful instrument. Destane had worked hard to conquer The Land of the Black Sands years ago. When his time to walk the Earth finally came, he wanted it passed on to a wizard, hand picked and groomed by himself, when he chose, not when it was taken from him. There were certain items scattered about the world that a younger man or even a child, would have an easier time getting to. No more worrying about hiring and paying someone to get it for him, or attempting to get it himself.
And there was the added bonus of having a new 'playmate'. He believed that this child would be very pretty, once he grew some, and had been fattened up a bit. While the boy still looked wretched, no doubt due to Abdullah and Yasir's less than gentle treatment, the traces of a blossoming beauty shone through. He would do.
Destane looked up as the boy spoke.
With Moses' two little words, his life changed forever as he knew it. It was not all unpleasant, especially at first.
He was fed well, and his body, long denied the essential nutrients, greedily ate them and demanded more, so like a flower long denied the life giving sun, he blossomed to become healthy. His skin, constantly scarlet and peeling from the long hours in the hot sun as he was forced to scurry and work for the Romans, finally reverted back to its lily-white pallor, the bruises fading over time. His hair grew, curly and luxurious and blue-black, down past his shoulders.
His long fingers, always calloused and bleeding from the hard work of polishing and scraping and fetching, went back to being soft and sensitive. No longer rough, he could touch a fine piece of silk without it dragging on his fingers. He was able to distinguish each individual hair on a rat as he gutted it to pull the entrails out for whatever particular potion or spell he was completing.
Destane taught him much; spells, potions, hexes, curses. He learned how to read, and spent countless hours memorizing every book and scroll that Destane let him have access to. He learned his numbers and spent many hours counting, whether it was the tiles in the floor as he bowed to Destane, or counting the lashes striping his back when Destane was displeased with his actions or the rate he was learning. Destane taught him several languages; Arabic, Roman, Persian, Latin; to ensure he learned the languages, he would frequently tell him some horror story about what he was going to do, whether it was an attack spell, or some torture method. If Mozes was not able to respond or protect himself, he suffered whatever Destane had foretold.
Destane's methods, while not pleasant, were very effective.
He was taught how to read the stars, follow the course of the moon, to be able to tell Anise from Yarrow. He learned how to ointments and tonics, lotions and teas, so he could cure a sickness, or cause lingering death. He was taught scrying, and how to read everything from a cup of tealeaves to a pile of bones thrown over his shoulder, so he could have some insight into the future. Magic was not always about putting on an extravagant show; even something as mundane as watching a scorpion walking across the desert sands could have a greater meaning.
He learned all about the gods, from Allah to Shaitan, all the known pantheons from all the different regions. He was taught about the ghuls and spirits and the demons, and how to summon and control them. He learned all about the animals, whether they be ones who crawl, walk, burrow, swim or fly, which ones were good familiars, which were poor, their uses, strengths and weaknesses, the bond between man and animal with the earth. Destane said he found familiars more of a pain then help, but did admit that many wizards had success with them, looking ill at the thought of admitting that there was something that he himself did not excel at.
Destane tutored him on speaking, grooming, and manners. Destane seemed almost proud to have an apprentice, and when he did have guest, previously invited wizards of course, he encouraged the boy to talk to the other wizards and learn their strengths and weaknesses. He learned much from these dinner conversations, whether Court gossip, or new spells and ideas, and about the world in general.
Few of these wizards returned for a second meal, most looking apprehensive of being in the presence of Destane in the first place. One thin wizard, some low ranking advisor from a neighboring kingdom, left before the final course, which was a shame. He was actually interesting, and had some fascinating ideas. Destane, however, had just advised him that his new familiar, a parrot of all creatures, was an excellent choice. Destane especially liked them when rolled in poppy seeds and lightly fried in olive oil. Mozes was unsure what the man was so worried about; he had heard that parrot meat was notoriously greasy, and he didn't even have the damn bird with him. But he silently made up his mind to never look at a bird familiar.
He learned how to conjure, starting with a goblet of water, and progressing up to bigger and more complex items, so that soon he was able to conjure whole meals. If nothing else, he would never be hungry again. Destane taught him how to conceal himself, whether from the common folk or from other wizards, so that none could sense his presence. Mozes was taught how to distance his mind from his surroundings, to take a critical eye so that he may think clearly and coolly in any situation, whether it was from an annoying conversation, a spell backfiring, or from torture.
When he learned these lessons, and understood the theory behind the magic, Destane then began showing Mozes the theory of how to use the demons to animate the corpses to become Mamluks, and how to keep them under control with the briefest of effort. Destane even let Mozes experience minor possession, controlled by Destane of course, of a few very minor demons, so he could at least have some idea from a different viewpoint, of what happened during that time.
He learned how to transcend time and space to travel where he wanted to go, starting from going from the other side of the room. When Destane made a trip, whether it was to the edge of the Land of the Black Sands, or to the far off continents that had yet to be discovered or even named by the modern world, he would frequently bring Mozes along, so he saw all sorts of worlds, whether it was the snowy lands of Tibet, the lush green of the Celtic countries, or the rough, unnamed continent across the great waters, where dark skinned men in woman in soft leathers prayed to the rain and thunder god and offered him sweet corn from their hide covered, triangular homes. Fascinated by these proud people, he talked for hours to their head wizard, called a medicine man, and was able to learn much from him.
Destane, once Mozes had proven to be competent and a quick learner began teaching Mozes the inner and outer workings of the human and animal body. Assisting Destane in his laboratory, he learned anatomy, starting with dissecting animals, and progressing up to the human body. Once he saw and understood how things worked, he was able to understand how to heal or hurt, why some medicines or forms of torture worked better than others in certain situations. Destane had many strange experiments in progress, bonding parts of humans to parts of animals, then back again, but many never came to fruitarian. The ones who survived, poor pathetic creatures that they were, were usually thrown out into the desert, to feed the ghuls and other demons that wandered the land.
Destane, while by no means a pleasant man, did not act unnaturally cruel at first either, or at least to Mozes, which is all that really mattered to him. He made sure that Mozes was adequately clothed, and Mozes had to admit, Destane had excellent taste. He made sure that Mozes was dressed in the finest linens, silks, and cottons to be found, in deep reds and emerald greens, colors he himself favored.
Destane's methods of teaching were a bit unorthodox, but Mozes did not realize it much, having never been taught much before anyway. And what little he did realize was not the usual method, he didn't care, realizing that for the first time in his life, he was assured of a future. If his methods were a bit unorthodox, what did it matter? It just ensured that Mozes learned more. What was the harm in that?
Destane set Mozes in a room, down the hall from his own quarters. While not opulent, they were spacious and clean, and a damn site better than anything he ever had in his life. His one room was bigger than the entire hovel he had spent the first seven years of his life in. They were drafty, but his bed had curtains that he could close to keep some of the chill out, and a thick, if a bit worn, duvet to curl into. He had his own writing desk, and he sat there for hours reading each night, as if to make up for the lost time.
Mozes, while not exactly liking Destane, grew to trust him a great deal, and wondered how he found such favor with the gods to enable him to train under this powerful sorcerer. He just eventually accepted it as a return for the hardship the first years of his life had been.
Destane even gave him some freedom, and he was allowed to visit the village of Aswad. Aswad was located close, less than a mile, from Destane's Citadel. Under his rule, these people, slaves really, were the workers for Destane's Realm. Kidnapped from other villages during raids, or members of some unlucky caravan that wandered into the lands, these people lived in poverty and fear of the wizard. Destane chose these particular slaves, because they were simple, hardworking, illeriate, and fearful; there was very little chance that they would try to rise up against him. In the off chance they tried, they had the threat of having the Mamluks and ghuls being set loose on the village to devour them alive, or even worse; being subjected to some of Destane's experiments. Once in, no one ever left the Land of the Black Sands.
Most of Destane's kingdom was desolate black sand dotted with a few bones. Except this village. In this village, there were a few trees and grass and a bit of fertile land, almost undoubtedly enhanced by Destane and his magic. It was able to grow enough crops to supply Destane with an ample amount of food, the grass being able to feed the sheep and goats, and the few horses that Destane possessed. Destane had said that he preferred the crops fresh grown, rather than magically conjured. What was left over, Destane would allow the village to have, so that they were almost self-sufficient.
This village housed the people who tended the land and animals, wove the cloth, made the clothing, and brewed the wine. Destane's few human servants in the citadel came from this village, such as Abdullah and Yasir. They trekked from the village daily to serve Destane. Destane preferred having his and his guests meals served by living humans; if tended to make the guests uncomfortable when their serving maid was dripping half her flesh in the main course.
Anyone who tried to leave was subject to some form of torture and death, whether it was at the hands of the Mamluks, the ghuls who wandered Destane's land as a sort of home guard, or at Destane's hands themselves, becoming "volunteers" in his latest experiment. Not many tried to escape; a life of hell was better than submitting yourself to the Lords hands. On a few rare occasions, Abdullah and Yasir were given permission to leave the village, to go to a town or city for some item or another that Destane wanted or needed and simply did not feel like going himself. Magic could not create everything.
Mozes would go to the village, sometimes in Destane's company, to watch this pitiful crowd of humanity, slave all, most stolen in raids and invasions down on nearby cities or towns, and taken back here. Destane kept a careful watch on the village, and would grab men, woman, or both, depending on what was needed in his village at the time, or if he needed a particular sex for a new experiment.
Most at first thought they were lucky to be spared, especially when they saw the walking dead who attacked them, or saw Destane himself. Many soon discovered that being spared for Aswad was not an altogether blessed thing. It usually just meant they had avoided the cold grip of death for a few months or years longer, only to have the threat of a more horrible, lingering death later, if they committed some error, real or imagined, that displeased Destane.
While Mozes did not realize it yet, Destane had many uses for this village, whether it was fulfilling his basic needs, sexual partners, or if simply felt like a bit of torturing and there had been no unwary caravans for some time. Some lucky few were even chosen as sacrificial lambs; to be offered to Ahriman or any of the other deities that Destane would ask things of every now and then. When he was done with torturing or his experiments, whatever was left of the poor wretch was thrown to the ghuls, never to be spoken of again.
Destane had no qualms about choosing a test subject; man or woman, child or elderly, farmer or baker. He could always find a test subject – someone always had done something wrong. An offense such as looking at the Lord wrong could sentence a person to be a new volunteer in the Lord's laboratory. They were all the same to him.
Mozes, following his lead, was doing the same thing, looking at the people as nothing more than a means to an end. He was a scholar, doing a job, and could not be expected to learn without these people. Destane praised his critical eye and sharp mind, and Mozes swelled with pride under his approval.
Things continued on for almost four years in this manner, with Mozes learning all he could, and Destane continuing the almost friendly tutoring of the boy. Other than the occasional beating, Mozes flourished.
Mozes had turned out to be a stunningly pretty boy, growing tall and slender as he approached and then entered puberty. The villagers, always fearful when Destane appeared, learned to fear him as well when he appeared in the village.
Mozes, enjoying the first taste of power he had ever had in his young life, began appearing in the village, simply to see the people watch him warily, relishing the sensation of these people, bowing and scraping to him, anxious to get away, but not to quickly, least they inadvertently offend him and become the next missing villager. Soon though, he began to attract different attention, and it was wholly returned.
Some of the girls, and a few of the boys, had also noticed the young apprentice, and while fearing him, also noticed his growing frame, long legs, flowing locks, fair skin, and full lips. Mozes usually smirked, noticing the extra attention among the youth of the village, but soon wiped the smirk off his face when he began to notice one in particular.
Her name was Kamilah, and she was as beautiful and perfect as her name claimed she was. Petite, with long, waist length black hair that shined in the sun, a creamy coffee complexion, and laughing black eyes, so unusual in this desolate wasteland………… Mozes was entranced the moment he saw her, walking down the small dirty street with a pail of water to bring back to her home.
Her father, Ulima, was the wise man of the tiny village, having been given that title by the other villagers, mostly because the wise man was also the person who spoke to Destane the most, and all feared that job. Ulima was also the head of the stables, and spent long hours grooming, feeding, shoveling stalls, and directing the other stable hands when not dispensing advice to the villagers.
While not educated, Ulima had unusually good common sense, and most of the citizens came to Ulima for his excellent advice. Destane disliked the man, thinking him rather to intelligent for a common slave and therefore dangerous, but at least the man did not stutter in fear at him, and kept the village running smoothly, and was wise enough not to mention the odd missing villager. Mozes always tried to give the man the respect he deserved. He rather liked him, appreciating a fine mind even if the man was an uneducated slave. After all, wasn't he one too, not to long ago? Not to mention, he was Kamilah's father; for that alone, he would be polite to the man, even though he knew that if he went to Destane with his wishes, the girl would probably be delivered to the citadel immediately, probably right to his bed chamber if he wished it.
But Mozes had more on his mind then carnal thoughts; he generally liked the girl, and wanted to bring some small bit of joy to her dreary life. He realized that he would be in training for many more years to come, as his power continued to grow and he continued to learn, and would be unable to commit to a real relationship, but this was his first real friendship with a person, male or female, and he could not be dissuaded, even when Destane warned of growing to close to her, disliking the soft image that Mozes was presenting.
Mozes had tried bringing her cloth, food, and other goods from the citadel for presents, especially when he saw the deplorable way her family lived. As the wise man of the village, Ulima and his family should be able to eat and dress decently. Most of the gifts were refused as too personal and inappropriate, and Mozes racked his brain for the perfect gift to give her, to show his respect to her family, and his devotion to her.
When Mozes discovered that Kamilah could not read, he remembered how he felt when he learned, the joy of knowing the letters and words on a scroll, the sheer thrill when he was able to accept that he had gone from ignorant to one of learning. Thinking of this, he offered the gift of reading as a present. When it was accepted, with a mix of excitement and hesitation, he began to come to the village a few days a week to start teaching her.
Her father, while not happy his daughter was spending even more time with the protégé wizard, could not fault his technique. A bright girl, she picked up the basics quickly, and brought her little sister, Adaira, with her to her tutoring lessons. Soon, her mother, Drelania, and Ulima began to show an interest, and in time, they were all able to read the simple stories on the scrolls that Mozes brought down with him to from the citadel. Now the only person to be able to read in the village, Ulima's standing as a wise and now learned man grew. There was nothing really to read in the village of course, but still, it was nice to have the knowledge.
Mozes, thrilled that his teaching technique was working, began to teach them numbers as well, and Mozes began to wonder, silently of course, if he could learn so well without the threat of beatings and torture that Destane used as his penalty. Oh the other hand, why wonder over much? He could not change the situation, and Mozes had learned long ago if you could not change your situation, make the best of it until you had the opportunity to do something.
Ulima was leery of the dark young man from the citadel, who came with the lord periodically to snatch away citizens from the village for their foul experiments, but saw no way to discourage the attention without bringing down both Mozes and Destane's wrath. He realized that the Lord Destane was grooming this young man to be his successor, and did not wish to anger the man that would one day have sway over his and his families' lives. Ulima knew that there was no way that anyone could escape this village. All who had tried were killed, and Abdullah and Yasir made no secret if that happened. All were forbidden to speak the names of the ones who had been lost. Perhaps this young man would be different. Perhaps he would be a more lenient master to the enslaved citizens of the village. Perhaps, but doubtful, if he was being raised and trained by a madman.
So Ulima stayed silent and watched as Kamilah fell in love with Mozes, praying to Allah that he would keep her safe. In the months that followed, Mozes began to visit with Kamilah, always in her family's presence, and in time, they grew to, if not like, at least not hate and fear the apprentice as much. The villagers also became used to seeing the pale boy from the citadel, coming down the rocky slope to the village of Aswad to visit with Ulima's family, and learned to not fear him, as much.
But her father was uneasy. Trying to talk to Kamilah was no use; she was also infatuated, and walked around humming, dreaming of her dark young man who would become a famous sorcerer, who may one day free this dark land from the cloud that hung over it. She refused all requests from the other men in the village for her hand, stating she would wait for Mozes to be finished with his training, no matter how long; her heart belonged to him.
Mozes, who had a sharp eye and an even sharper brain, somehow missed the looks that Destane was beginning to give him, mostly because he spent more of his time now dreaming of Kamilah and less time on his studies. Destane found out about the tutoring sessions in the village with Kamilah's family, and became furious, demanding of Mozes why was he wasting his time teaching Mozes? So he could in turn waste his time teaching those dirt-poor peasants how to read? Hadn't he warned him of spending too much time with that girl? When Mozes foolishly admitted that he liked, and may even love Kamilah and, perhaps may one day wish to wed her, Destane had flown into a rage. He screamed at Mozes; spit flying from his mouth like rain as he railed at the boy. He had Mozes beaten, condemned to the dungeon for a week, and forbid Mozes to see the girl any longer, with dire consequences if he should disobey.
Mozes could hardly believe that Destane was this angry because he had been teaching a peasant girl to read. Did it matter so much? She and her family were still his slaves; they were going nowhere. So they read a few legends and fairy tales from some scrolls that Mozes had found. But seeing the look on Destane's face made Mozes hold his tongue and suffer through the beating and banishment to the dungeons, which incapacitated him for more than a week. Destane did not tolerate disrespect well, and anything Mozes said right now would be considered disrespectful. He was obviously in that kind of mood.
At last Abdullah and Yasir were in heaven; Mozes, woozy as he was, could have sworn that he witnessed them actually licking a few of his wounds, sucking at the hot blood like a baby at a mother's breast. Well, one day he would kill them; he had already promised himself that, if they managed not to drain him dry of course.
On the outside, Destane gave off the air of a disappointed master, having to chastise his errant apprentice. But inside, Destane was jealous, and worried about the long term. Love was for the weak and foolish, and damned if he was going to jeopardize all the long hours, expense, and hard work he invested in Mozes so he could become the savor of the squalid village. The village served a purpose, nothing more, and Mozes had damned well better remember that. He had more important things to accomplish with his life.
Not to mention that allowing Ulima and his whole damn family access to reading materials, no matter how innocent, could have a disastrous effect on the village. He didn't want them to start thinking; for heavens sake, they could start demanding schools or something next. Even begin planning their escape. That damned Ulima was clever enough to do that. Destane was certainly not worried about an uprising against himself per say, a smile tugging at his lips at the mere thought. He would simply have them all killed. But it would be a tedious task to raid more lands to supply his village again.
He had been too lenient. Well, he would worry about getting rid of Ulima later. The man had too many ideas already; he would have to go. And Mozes would do well to see this lesson; he must always remember that around here, Destane's word was law. He had warned the boy about growing close to that girl.
While Destane's eyes revealed nothing when Mozes was looking, when his head was turned now, Destane's eyes filled with lust. If Mozes was already noticing the girls in the village, he could make his move. While Destane loved raping the men and woman of the village, taking pleasure in the feeble attempts to fight him, loving the horror and disgust they showed, he also wished to have someone who would see to his pleasure, sick or perverted it may be. The boy was hooked; on his new life now, his newfound power which was growing by the day, and now, the girl in the village. All valuable things to hold over the boy.
The boy would obey him, of that he was certain. It was time to collect on some of his time and effort he had put into the boy. But first, he would have to keep a better watch on him, he was also certain that the boy would continue to see the girl, and if so, all the better. He could get rid of the whole damn family, put the fear of their lord in not only the village, but in Mozes himself.
If Yasir, who he knew was almost as infatuated with the boy as Destane himself was, served him well, he might even be kind enough to let him watch.
Mozes stretched, and looked at his timepiece. It was getting late, so he decided to retire. He got up from his desk and neatly stacked his books and scrolls, so he could continue in the morning. He had disobeyed Destane and continued to visit the village, on the pretext of going for a walk to clear his head or to observe some facet of nature. He had actually gone to the village, and snuck down to meet Kamilah behind one of the barns, and had arrived back later than expected. He had intended to stay up the night to study, for Destane wished to quiz him on some of the more painful curses he had learned, and Destane looked unfavorably on wrong answers. But, he was exhausted, and could no longer concentrate. He would get up early, break his fast, and get back to the scrolls to study before his session with Destane.
He removed his vest and shirt, and sat on the bed, beginning to remove his boots when there came a knock at the door. Curious, for no one disturbed him once he was in his chamber, and Destane had made it explicitly clear he was not to leave his chamber in the evening some time ago, he opened the door to see Yasir standing there with peculiar look on his skinny, rat-like face.
Every time he had run into either Yasir or his grotesque friend Abdullah, they had usually leered at him, practically licking their lips. Mozes always had an uneasy feeling around them, remembering his days in the dungeons with them. Even when he closed his eyes to get his sleep at night, he could see their faces above him: dirty, leering, smirking, staring at and touching his body.
When Destane had ordered Mozes beaten for teaching Kamilah, Yasir and Abdullah had practically been frothing at the mouth as they did their worst, practically flaying the skin from his body. He flinched as he remembered hazy memories of them lapping at his blood like dogs. Mozes hoped to one day be able to return the favor, but was smart enough to realize that happy day would not come for some time. He would bite his tongue, but one day…
Mozes, no innocent, knew exactly what they wanted, but since he was under the protection of Destane, he had little worry that they would try anything. He had always been a little curious about why they had not tried more while he was actually at their mercy in the dungeon, but he chalked that up to good luck, the same way he chalked up not having been raped by one or more of the Romans while still a slave, and left it at that. Mozes had no desire to dwell on any of that part of his past. The present was what was more important.
Seeing how the disgusting little ferret of a man was just going to leer at him all night, since he had as of yet made no indication that he intended to speak, Mozes decided to get the conversation going.
"Yes Yasir, what is it? I was about to retire to my bed for the evening."
"Yes Mozes, you will be retiring to bed for the evening. Please come with me now, the Lord wishes to speak to you."
Having missed the implications in Yasir's tone and statement, and wondering what on earth Destane would want with him at this time of night, Mozes blew out the candles in his room and followed Yasir, who was simpering and grinning like the fool he was. He hoped that Destane had not found out he was continuing to visit Kamilah; it would not only bring the wrath of Destane down on her and her family, but on himself as well. He knew he could survive another beating of course, but he simply wished not to go through that again. As it was, Mozes knew there were several scars on his back and legs that would never be completely gone from this last beating.
They arrived at Destane's chambers, and Yasir knocked on the large polished door, waiting for the call to enter. When he received it, he opened the door, and held it for Mozes to enter.
Mozes had never been in Destane's chambers, and his eyes practically bugged out when he first stepped into the room. A thick carpet, as red as the blood that Destane had running in rivers in the dungeon when he had the populace whipped on some pretext, real or imagined, covered the floor. Large tables of cherry wood carved with birds, fish, and other animals brought in from some far off port were placed along the walls, covered in books, statues, and other articles. Along one wall was a large wardrobe with a door opened, so that he could see all the capes and other articles of clothing that Destane possessed spilling out in a rainbow of hues. A large circular bed was situated in the center of the room, scattered in pillows of gold and black. In the air Mozes could make out the hint of sandalwood.
Along the back wall was a fireplace, with a roaring fire going. In front were two armchairs, in a crimson color that actually clashed with the carpeting. In between the chairs was another table, with a decanter of wine and a small variety of food, including khobz and fateer, upon it on a silver platter. Sitting in the one to the left was Destane, in a dressing robe, opened at the chest, in a deep green. He had a glass of wine in his hand, and was watching Mozes with a curious look on his face that he had never seen before.
Mozes, still in just his trousers and boots, bowed low to Destane and began to speak.
"Yes Master? How may I serve you this evening?"
"Come my child, have a drink and tell me of your day."
Thinking this was an odd conversation to be having this late in the evening, and slightly worried at what Destane was hinting at, Mozes crossed the room and began to sit in the chair across from his master, until Destane stopped him.
"No, my boy, sit here, with me."
"I apologize master, but there is not - "
Before Mozes could even finish the sentence, Destane had grabbed his wrist and gently pulled him toward him, down to his lap.
Perched on Destane's lap like a doll, Mozes' mind was reeling. This could not be happening. He felt Destane pull him, gently but firmly, toward his chest, and Mozes was leaning back on Destane, straddling his left leg. Mozes began to protest, but Destane silenced him by turning his head and placing his lips Mozes'. Mozes closed his eyes and fervently hoped that this was a nightmare he would wake from as he felt Destane's arm curl around his waist and his hand slip lower on his body.
It had never occurred to Mozes that Destane was grooming him to become something more than an apprentice.
Destane had finally released Mozes to return to his quarters, and Mozes, nauseated, had practically sprinted from the room. When he opened the door, he found Yasir there, snickering and sneering in his usual way. To distraught to even wonder how much the man had heard, Mozes had silently followed the man back to his own quarters.
He barely heard Yasir's snidely whispered "Sweet Dreams", and dismissed him almost instantly as he went straight to his chamber pot and emptied the contents of his stomach. He sat down, back against the wall, in the corner, to clear his head and try to sort out the myriad of thoughts and feelings that were now coursing through him.
Running his tongue over his teeth, he could still taste all the different flavors: bile, wine, semen, and sweat. The thought of those tastes, separately and combined made his stomach lurch again, and he rolled back over to heave, dry this time, into the pot.
Sitting in the corner, with the smell from the pot wafting around him, Mozes decided he should at least move to the bed, where he could at least try to be comfortable as he attempted to contemplate what the hell just happened. He rose, leaning his back on the wall for support, and walked on shaky legs to his bed to lie down, forgoing undressing, unable to even tolerate his own hands on his own body right now. He reclined back on his bed, looking at the ceiling.
What on earth was he supposed to do? He replayed the night's activities in his head, revolted, but remembering Destane's own word's - Remember boy, no one does something for nothing.
During the groping session on Destane's lap, Mozes had tried to get away, thinking perhaps that Destane was confused, as he had smelled strongly of wine. Destane had become more firm then, asking Mozes if he liked living there, having enough to eat, getting an education, having decent clothing to wear, and being able to visit the tart in the village?
Destane claimed that he had invested a lot of time, money, and energy into Mozes; it was time Mozes showed a little more gratitude. He left the implication open that if Mozes failed to comply, he could expect Destane's kindness to dry up like a well in a drought, and Mozes would find himself back in the dungeons, very probably with Kamilah and her family, without Destane's protection.
When Destane had finished rubbing on Mozes, he had forced Mozes to his knees to give him some pleasure. Mozes, degraded and disgusted with himself, complied. Destane was pleased with his 'performance' and had actually praised him, telling him he was a natural. Mozes snorted when he thought about how proud he was, only a couple days ago, when Destane had praised him for being accurately able to list, then identify and describe, all the ingredients needed for the summing and creation of a Mamluk.
Mozes, stomach still spinning, wondered what he should do now. He rested an arm across his head, and began to think, weighing his options.
While he had learned much from Destane, he still had a long, long way to go. He could hardly be expected to defend himself against a fully-grown wizard, and a powerful one at that. Destane would likely just take what he wanted, and then blow him to dust.
He could expect to receive no help from anyone in Aswad; everyone there was either to loyal, or to frightened of, Destane to give Mozes any assistance, and Mozes did not like asking anything of anyone, especially slaves. Not to mention that he could hardly command the respect of the slaves if they knew he was Destane's newest boy toy. They probably already thought it, but no use in confirming it. No, this was better dealt with by himself.
He would be humiliated if Kamilah, or her family, ever heard of this, reddening as he remembered practically begging Destane to not do what he was doing. That embarrassment would have to be avoided at all costs.
He had no family, or at least no family worth a damn, to speak of outside these lands, to seek assistance from. Mozes quickly came to the realization that he was alone with this dilemma.
Think damnit! Mozes thought to himself, pounding a fist on his bed. Destane obviously saw something in you years ago besides a bedmate. Use your damn brain to help you get out of this mess.
Racking his brain for anything he could think, and exhausted by the events of the night, he drifted into an uneasy slumber.
Mozes awoke the next morning and the events of the night before came crashing down around him. He desperately hoped it was just a horrible nightmare brought on by too much study, but then tasted the effects of last night. He felt his stomach jump, and he quickly pushed it down. Now was not time to deal with this.
He concentrated hard, and was able to conjure up a goblet of water, a fairly easy spell, and one that Destane had shown him years ago, when he had finally learned how to read and write, and was able to understand the fundamentals of magic. He drank deeply of the water, grateful that it was washing the taste out of his mouth.
Looking down at his crumbled trousers, he figured that he should order a bath and change. Maybe in fresh clothes, he would not feel so, dirty. Perhaps things would be clearer at breakfast. Perhaps Destane had realized he made a horrible, horrible mistake, and this would all be swept under the rug, never to be mentioned again. Perhaps then, in time, he would not feel so filthy.
Mozes was amazed when he showed up at his session that Destane acted so normal, like he had just not molested him last night. Sure, it was only some petting and a couple of blow-jobs, but Destane had left no doubt last night that things would progress farther from there. The message was clear; comply and continue your life as you know it, or I will take what I want anyway, and you will find yourself in the dungeons, with your friend's family, and without any of my protection that you had in the past.
Mozes stomach turned at the very thought of going back to Destane's chambers, but even more so at the thought of going to the dungeons himself. He also did not like the vision of seeing Kamilah, tortured, raped, beaten, hanging next to him. Or her little sister and mother, who had been kind but respectful and hesitant of him, going through abuse, and of Ulima, being posted in the hot sun, to die of thirst and exposure, or to be eaten alive by the buzzards and beasts or, most horribly, the ghuls.
Chewing on his lower lip, Mozes thought hard, wondering what he should do. Submit? Having been born in a Roman-conquered land, he was well aware that men and boys shared sexual relations. Hell, he had witnessed it enough on his little yearlong hike with the Romans. The gender was not what was important; the beauty of the specimen was what was considered. And despite his lack of vitamins, nutrients, and general care that he had as a small child, Mozes knew he had grown to be a handsome youth. Having the young of the village, and a few of the older men, and plenty of Destane's dinner guests, watching him told him that much. While he certainly was not looking to be Destane's newest sexual partner, he would not have minded so much if not for the fact that Destane neither asked, nor was particularly gentle about the entire act. He expected more from his master.
Destane had seemed more excited when Mozes had protested. Perhaps if he simply submitted Destane would grow tired of this new direction that his tutoring had taken?
He was knocked out of his musings when he felt a sharp tearing at his flesh near his ankle. Looking down, he saw a dark object rushing toward his face that inserted sharp fangs into his cheek. Growling and holding a hand to his bleeding face, he looked down at a snake, and seeing its coffin-shaped head, realized it was a black mamba. Wonderful, now Destane knew of his wandering mind.
Staggering to the wall, using his other hand to steady himself, he turned around, planning to blast Destane's newest pet into oblivion before his muscles stiffened in paralysis, when he noticed the snake had disappeared, and Destane, standing in the middle of the room, clucking his tongue and shaking his head with disapproval.
"No woolgathering, Mozes. Never turn your back on an enemy. If that had been a real mamba, I would be doing nothing but sitting back and watching as you slipped further into paralysis. As it is, your muscles of respiration are probably stiffing up and shutting down as I speak. Well, it's a good lesson, yes? Be happy it was only an illusion, but the effects you feel from the bite will seem real. Perhaps, when I feel the lesson has been learned, I will release you from the spell, and we can continue with the instruction."
As soon as the session was over, Mozes had limped out of the room that Destane had set aside as a practice area. With his mind foggy with lack of oxygen at first, then occupied with other events of the last day and a half, Mozes had not been able to concentrate and defend himself, and Destane had wiped the walls with him. Literally. His back was nothing but one large bruise. Destane had seemed more amused then angry with his pupil, and told him to go compose himself in his room; he would have dinner sent up to him and he could rest; he would see him later tonight. The implications of those words made Mozes blood run cold.
Mozes, heart in his stomach, had been edgy, jumping at every sound. When Yasir had knocked on his door and told him to come because the lord was waiting for him, Mozes had forgot his earlier thoughts of just submitting for now and had snapped, fighting back using every bit of strength and power he possessed to fight off the man and try to escape. He had escaped Yasir and streaked down the hall, heart pounding, wanting nothing more than to escape this hell and hide forever, when out of no where, Abdullah had appeared. He had tackled the boy to the ground, and both of them together had been able to subdue Mozes and drag him, still kicking and screaming, to Destane's chambers.
By the time they had reached Destane's chambers, Mozes was exhausted, both physically and magically, and had been unable to fight as he was stripped and placed on the bed. He was even more humiliated when he realized that Yasir and Abdullah had no intention of leaving; they simply stayed at the side of the bed and watched, even offering some coaching as Destane smiled at Mozes and loomed over him.
Crying and bleeding, Mozes was escorted back to his room, where he once again emptied his stomach into the chamber pot. Mortified beyond belief, he staggered to his bed and sat, and, in a rush, gave vent to his tears of rage and frustration. It was bad enough that Destane had turned from a tutor into a rapist, but to allow Yasir and Abdullah, (them of all people!) to actually watch was intolerable. Not to mention that he had begun mewling like a newborn brat when Destane had finally entered him.
His head still ringing from the multiple blows he took before he was subdued, he lay back on the bed and wondered how he was going to escape this hell. He finally stopped crying, telling himself that tears were not going to solve this. Destane had seemed delighted with his tears. Mozes had visibly flinched when he felt the soft touch of Destane's lips on his face, kissing the tears off, whispering about how he loved to see Mozes suffering for him. When he realized that Destane was getting more excited by his tears, Mozes had struggled to control them. No sense in giving the man more pleasure.
He replayed the conversations from last night, both the one with Destane, and the one he had with himself later, still trying to find a solution to this dilemma.
Mozes had been unable to think of anything else. He wondered if he could escape. He thought about the horses in the stables in Aswad; there were not many horses, but he only needed one. He could ride the beast to another city, try to blend in and hide. But it would be impossible to escape tonight; Yasir and Abdullah had escorted him back to his room, no doubt they were still there in the citadel, discussing the events of the night over a bottle of wine.
It really wasn't much of an idea, but the best he had at the moment. Perhaps, Destane would grow bored with compliance. If not, perhaps he would be gentler about the entire matter. Destane was, if nothing else, a reasonably attractive man, he could ask for worse in a first time lover he supposed. At the very least, he could get rid of Yasir and Abdullah; it was even worse with them there, watching and cheering on like he was an attraction at a festival.
Mozes buried his head in his hands, exhausted.
Things continued on in this way for a couple of months, with tutoring sessions during the day, with Destane shooting Mozes sly, knowing looks. The raping sessions continued at random at night, so that Mozes never knew when it would happen, or at what time, and he constantly was on edge. He had lost his appetite, was having problems sleeping, and with his being exhausted, his study sessions had turned into nothing more than excuse for Destane to find fault with him.
Both the tutoring and raping began to take a more cruel and perverted turn, as if that had even been possible, and Mozes made his decision to leave. He had promised himself when he agreed to become Destane's apprentice that he would leave if ever disliked it, and he had crossed that line long ago.
Mozes, who had looked forward to his visits to the village and the opportunity to see Kamilah, finally decided to stop it after the fist couple of rapes. It was to exhausting mentally to try to act normal. He had enough to deal with at the moment. She had cried, demanded, and pleaded for an explanation, but he simply told her that he wanted to dedicate more time to his studies, and would not be swayed.
Mozes knew he had hurt her badly, and that she was confused, but he hoped Kamilah was smart enough to overcome her grief and move on; there were several boys in the town who were interested in her. Though why they should wish to marry and procreate and bring innocent lives into this misery, Mozes could not guess.
But, he still actually liked the girl, and was slightly worried about her safety. Destane had already hinted strongly that future compliance would ensure her continued well being. If she had half as much sense as he had given her credit for, she would begin to think seriously about the other young men in the village. Not that there was a lot to chose from, but really, she was a slave; her lot was not going to improve, she would do well to accept this and move on with her life.
Mozes had also gone to Ulima to explain that it was not his daughter he was rejecting; it was that this time in his life it would not be fair to give her unreasonable expectations. Ulima saw through the lame excuses of Mozes, and while not sure exactly what was happening at the citadel, he realized that something evil was afoot, and was happy that at least his daughter would not be further involved.
He told Mozes he understood, and wished him well. While he felt bad slightly bad for the boy, he was not family; he had his own children to look after, which was hard enough in this cursed land. Whatever hold he had on his daughter was broken, and he must go to Kamilah and help her pick up the pieces of her shattered heart. He watched him walk off, shoulders stiff, toward the citadel. Allah willing, Kamilah would never see that boy again.
Mozes retreated into himself, burying himself in his studies during the day, and visiting Destane's chambers at night. Soon, Destane was not happy simply violating Mozes himself, and let Yasir and Abdullah join in the fun, while he watched. Mozes, having remembered one of his first lessons about deep breathing, and trying to distance himself from his surroundings to keep the pain at bay so that he could make wise decisions, retreated into himself, mentally reciting spells, pages from the scrolls he read, thinking of unusually cruel torture methods he would love to use on Yasir and Abdullah, hell, even his life with the Romans, anything except what was happening to him. If nothing else, it was excellent practice in distancing himself from his surroundings.
Kamilah, the fool, had come to the citadel a few times, looking to talk to him, unable to accept that Mozes would just drop a relationship, even a friendship, with her. Patience already thin and his nerves at the breaking point, he had screamed at her, telling her to get away from him. When she ran away, weeping, he turned to see Destane smiling serenely at him. Mozes walked silently past him, head held high.
Mozes, degraded, humiliated, in pain, and angry, began to plan his escape. He realized that there was no hope they were going to get bored with him anytime soon. At meals, he secreted away food that would hold on a journey, hoping that after he was away from here, his appetite would be back, to worried about trying to conjure while out in the desert. The Land of the Black Sand was immense, it would take him awhile to cross, and if he tried to conjure food out there, he risked Destane being able to track him. He studied every scroll, book, and scrap of parchment he could lay his hands on for defense spells against demons and ghuls.
He began to walk longer, further out, studying the layout of the land, the location of the stables, the horses, which was were quickest, strongest, had the most stamina. He wandered the citadel as much as he was allowed, finding key entrance and exit points, and where he could slip out the easiest.
He watched Yasir and Abdullah, their comings and goings, where they went, how long they stayed, who they were with, how they acted, anything and everything his quick mind could come up with to help and fortify him on this escape.
And two weeks later, he was ready.
Back in his room, stomach still heaving, Mozes held onto the wall for support. Tonight had been especially rough, and bloody. Destane was in a particularly vindictive mood tonight; he had been unable to obtain some magical item he had desired, and had blamed Mozes, because he was too young and not powerful enough and skilled enough to obtain it for him. Mozes didn't bother to point out how flawed Destane's thinking was.
He should make his move now. Cleaning his body up as best he could, he got dressed in black trousers, boots, shirt, and a black traveling cloak. His bag was packed with food, clothing, notes, and what little bit of gold he had bee able to scrounge up around the citadel. Destane cared little for the acquiring of wealth, having vaults of it, but what he did possess he kept locked up tight. Destane, hopefully, would be asleep, Yasir and Abdullah hopefully gone back to the village. Steeling his nerves, he opened his door slowly, wincing at the low creaking sound, and inwardly cursing himself for not having the sense to see that it was oiled before now, and looked outside. Both sides of the hall were black, and he crept out, shutting his door behind him. He crept down the darkened hallway toward the entrance hall, silent as a wraith. Staying close to the walls, he went on memory and his sense of touch, trying not to use any magical ability, especially while still in the citadel, least he alert Destane.
He bypassed the entrance hall; it was to large, dark, and who knows what was creeping around in there at night, not to mention that huge door; it probably creaked more then his bedroom door. He had already decided to go out a door he found near the kitchen.
He continued down the darkened hall, entered the kitchen, and seeing nothing alive or dead, slowly opened the door. Closing it silently behind him, he began the trek down the rocky spiral that the citadel was perched upon, and arrived at the outbuildings.
The village, while gloomy during the day, was absolutely dreary at night. It was easy to imagine that all the people were gone, and just these buildings, these empty shells, were all that remained. Ratty curtains hung in the empty windows; sand danced in the street from the wind that howled through. He could not see a single light.
Suppressing a shudder, he continued on to the stables, trying to stick to the shadows. Finally arriving, he crept in, noticing that the stable door was slightly open, which came as a bit of a surprise to him. Ulima was in charge of the stables, and was the last to leave at night. The doors were always shut to prevent the horses from wandering. But, it helped him, the less creaky doors to open the better.
He slipped into the stables, and seeing how dark it was, decided he had no choice; he needed a light. He closed the door securely, and holding his hands together and concentrating, produced a small glowing ball of light. He balanced the ball on the top of the stall, and began to gather what he would need: harness, blanket, and saddle.
He had read about the theory and idea of horseback riding, and had certainly seen it enough when he was still a slave with the Romans, but he had never been on the back of any horse, and was unsure of what to do. Most wizards, at least the ones with decent abilities, would just transport themselves where they needed to go, cutting through the fabric of time and space. But Mozes was to young and inexperienced to even consider that; most wizards did not have their powers under sufficient control to do so until around their twenty-fifth year, some even longer. It was extremely difficult.
Mozes experienced some regret that he would be unable to continue to study and learn how to do the more advanced magic; he had proven to be a more than adequate scholar, and had been enjoying his studies. But he doubted that he would be able to find a sorcerer who was looking for an apprentice, especially one who had run off, betraying his Master. Respect and loyalty were key traits with wizards he had found; no matter how depraved the Master was, it was considered bad form to leave, and no wizard would touch him. And if Destane ever found out where he was... No, his training days were over. At least he was in much better condition then when he first came here. Able to read, write, count, speak several languages, healthy for the most part, and with some magical training. He could be worse off, but was worried about the future, wrinkling his nose at the thought of having to do simple spells to entertain simple peasants to earn a few coins in some dusty bazaar.
With a small sigh, he threw the blanket and saddle over the animal, familiar with that anyway. He had to do it enough for the centurion. His owner. At least he had never raped him, and rarely beat him.
Leery, he looked at the beast. Grasping the saddle and halter, took a deep breath, and leaped into the saddle, almost propelling himself across the other side. Catching himself, he sat for a moment, trying to get used to the feel of the animal between his legs, and pushed down the feelings of sickness when he remembered what was last between his legs. The horse began to move when he pressed his heels into its side, and they walked slowly out, grabbing the ball of light and extinguishing it on the way out.
He rode the horse, awkwardly, around the back of the darkened town, hoping that he had not made any noise, and that he would not run into any ghuls or Mamluks. When he felt he was far enough away, he touched his heels to the horses flanks, and broke into a trot, holding on to the saddle and trying to ignore the jarring he was being subjected to.
He continued on, going farther than he had ever ranged on foot, nervously looking in all directions, expecting a ghul or Mamluk to spring out of the sand at any moment. Everything was clear: the sand motionless, the moon lighting up the night sky, and a chill in the air. Everything was normal, and that made him as nervous as a whole troop of Mamluks would have.
He had ridden an hour, guessing from the moon and stars travels through the sky. He would never have guessed that The Land of the Black Sands was so immense. He had barely started to relax, when his nose picked up a foul odor. Like rotten meat, carrion. He felt the wind begin to pick up. It had begun blowing some time ago, just barely, like Kamilah's whisper in his ear. Now, it was howling, blowing the sand into his face, stinging his skin, and panicking the horse, which began prancing nervously. And if Mozes had learned one thing, it was to watch the animals, which could sense magic and danger before any human, even a wizard.
Destane had found him.
Trying not to panic, Mozes kicked his heels into the horse. The horse, frantic, jumped, and with a scream, bounded forward, almost losing his passenger. Mozes struggled to hold on for dear life, or to at least not break his neck in the fall; Destane was not going to be happy when he got a hold of him, perhaps the broken neck would be preferable.
The horse, foaming in terror, ran through the sand as hands, some still fresh looking, some rotten with the flesh draping off in huge bloody globs and splattering on the sand, and some nothing more than bones, began to reach out of the sand. The Mamluks. Mozes thought Destane only had about thirty; that was all he had ever seen in his entire time in the citadel. Destane must have had others out here, waiting, scattered about just in case of an invasion, or one lone escaping apprentice. Mozes was not sure where Destane had found the bodies, especially the fresh ones; but imagined that more foolhardy people than he had imagined had tried to cross these lands, or Destane had taken up grave robbing. Either way, he was not waiting around to ask.
The smell of carrion was becoming overpowering. Not only was he having to worry about rogue Mamluks, he was pretty sure that he was going to have to deal with ghuls now as well.
The horse was trying to sidestep the hands as they grabbed at his hooves. They slowed him down, but not considerably. The horse cleared the hands and continued running. Mozes, while hoping that this was the only obstacle in his way, knew he should be on the lookout for more hazards. Destane was not the type to give up easily.
While trying to stay atop of the rampaging beast and still looking out for more surprises, he suddenly felt a buck, pushing him up. The next thing he knew, he was lying on the ground with a terrific headache. He heard shrill screams, the horse. Looking up, a hand to his aching head, he saw the horse, lying on its side. A broken leg.
And that was not its worse problem. Three ghuls were swarming on the animal. The hyena headed demons were in a blood-fueled orgy. Long, skinny brown bodies ended in a spiked tail. With their leather like wings, they were flapping in the air around the dying animal, their long clawed arms tearing at the flesh and swallowing it in ragged chunks as the horse screamed, continuing to struggle to regain its feet, and take flight.
Mozes, looking on, sat dazedly in the sand for a full minute before a ghul, during its feeding frenzy, spotted him. It began to swim in the air toward him, with a bloody, toothy grin, hands curved into claws. Mozes wasted no time in regaining his feet and trying to center his mind, prepared to battle. He would be no meal.
He raised his eyes to meet the ghuls', which was now in front of him. He could see his own reflection in its black, pupil less orbs. He raised his right hand, flat and palm down, and placed the forefinger of his left hand in-between the other fingers. He brought his left forefinger down quickly in a slashing motion. The hand movements for the vanish spell; ghuls were unable to hear. The trick for the spell to work on a ghul was for it to actually see the hand movements. They were not particularly smart demons, mostly a lower ranking annoyance, but he still needed to get rid of them and get moving. It was going to be even slower now, but the horse was certainly in no condition to take him anywhere.
The ghul let out a ghastly scream, engulfed in light, and disappeared. The two other ghuls, noticing him and their now missing companion, quickly left the carcass of the horse and came toward him. They preferred the flesh of humans, fresh if possible. They were slightly smarter than their friend, and looked slightly to the side of Mozes, trying to avoid seeing his hands and the spell. They were obviously going to work together as well; one was attempting to circle around, to attack from behind. Easily solved.
The spell worked even if he was not facing the ghul, and he repeated the movement by putting his hands behind his back. He heard the scream and saw the reflection of the light shining around him. Two down, one to go.
The third ghul, obviously worried now, had stopped and was simply flapping in the air, still looking to his side, trying to figure out how it was going to feed without getting destroyed itself. Suddenly, it let out a scream, and sank into the ground, the sand opening up a pit and the ghul falling into it.
Mozes, now truly worried, was almost too afraid to turn around. Only one person could control the black sand like that…
"Hello Mozes. Going somewhere?"
Mozes turned, knowing he was cornered. When he had been busy with the ghuls, Mamluks had circled him. Destane had brought about twenty by the looks of it; he could see the decaying yellow eyes glowing in the darkness. Whether he brought that may because he was trying to scare Mozes, or if he was truly worried about fighting Mozes he was not sure, but somehow suspected it was the former. And there was Destane, right in the middle, levitating above the ground with a rather pleased look on his face. Mozes was reminded of a cat that had finally cornered the canary.
"If you desired riding lessons Mozes, you could have asked. I'm so glad that our round earlier did not tire you out overmuch. But tell me, where is my horse?" Destane asked snidely. "Oh, I see, you risked your life and destroyed one of the few decent pieces of horse flesh that I possess." Destane grinned evilly and walked toward Mozes. "I've invested much in you fool, which I expect payment for. And I believe, long ago, that I said something that you should have remembered: You would obey me unconditionally. I provide all, and I can take all. You have taken something of value from me; I shall do likewise with you."
Mozes had been holding his ground, staring at his Master, wondering what else he could take from him. He had already taken his pride and dignity. Mozes did not know if Destane could take his power. He most definitely could take his life. He had no time to wonder; the Mamluks surged forward with a wave of Destane's hand to grab Mozes. Rotten half-dead corpses or not, they were strong, and Mozes, while putting up a good fight magically and physically, was not strong enough or skilled enough yet to fight them all.
Pinned by the Mamluks, Mozes watched as Destane transported them back to Aswad. And he saw exactly what Destane had been talking about.
Everyone in the town was gathered in the streets, still in night clothes, holding candles and lamps, looking confused and terrified, having been herded there by Abdullah and Yasir. Destane was a cruel and terrifying master, but he had never pulled any of them from their beds.
On a large platform erected in the center of the street were Kamilah, Ulima, Adaira and Drelania. Gagged and tied to poles, they were struggling to free themselves. Yasir and Abdullah stood on either side of the platform, looking as if they were to perform.
"Citizens of Aswad. I have called you from your beds, for a most heinous crime has been committed. Your town leader, Ulima, has betrayed me! Betrayed all of you! He helped my treacherous protégé, Mozes, steal from me. Me! His master, his protector, his teacher!"
"Don't listen! Lies! Destane, you dirty, sick – " Mozes screamed at Destane, for the first time slipping and calling him by name, but was cut off. He never would have thought that Destane would result to lying to the ignorant populace; how low would this man go? While he had no idea what Destane planned on doing, he had a feeling it was at least going to result in Kamilah's death, along with the rest of her family. If they were lucky, it would be a quick death. Unfortunately, he did not have the same high hopes for himself. The village people were whispering among themselves, unsure what to do.
"Silence." With one word, a Mamluk came forward, covering Mozes' mouth. Unable to talk or to move his hands, he was unable to cast a spell to save himself, let alone Kamilah. He had yet to learn how to cast a spell by thinking; that took considerable more power and maturity than Mozes had at his age. In fact, if he had not decided to try this foolhardy escape, he was supposed to begin learning the theories of it next week. He tried to hold his breath and fight down his revulsion at having the Mamluks' hand over his mouth, the rotting smell gagging him. This was one in particularly bad shape; he could see the maggots writhing with the drooping tendons and bone.
"As I was saying – Ulima and his family betrayed me, and all of you. Not only did they assist my student in trying to run away with my horse, Ulima has also been stealing scrolls, valuable spells that could cause harm to everyone in this village." Mozes paused in his attempts to continue screaming when he saw Yasir begin waving the scrolls he had tutored the family with. Of course the village people would think they were spells, considering where they came from, and that none of them could read them anyway.
"I do not ask much of you, do I? I ask for obedience and respect. In return, I spared your lives during my raids. I provide fertile land; goods and supplies so that you may make wine, weave clothing, care for your families and children. I keep the ghuls and Mamluks and other creatures of the desert out of the village, insuring your safety. Well, my people, this man and his family here have jeopardized your very lives by their actions. Ulima assisted in the theft of the horse, having left the door open. His daughter not only assisted with the theft of the scrolls, she has been having carnal relations with my apprentice. As you all know, the teachings of Allah forbid a woman having relations with any man before they have been wed."
The village people could not deny this, and began to talk among themselves again.
Mozes had stopped trying to scream at Destane around the Mamluks hand, he had already felt something crawl in his mouth.
He was amazed that Destane did not begin blasting the villagers one by one as they continued to talk louder and louder; if it was one thing he learned early on, it was that Destane hated to be interrupted while talking. But he also could see the villagers begin to turn on their unofficial leader, casting nasty and suspicious looks at the trapped family. Where they all frightened sheep?
"In betraying me, they have betrayed all of you as well. But, I am a forgiving master. I will leave it up to you to decide their fates, my people. What should be done with the guilty from the house of Ulima, they who betrayed not only their master, but their village as well?"
The murmurings of the villagers rose to shouts. The villagers, fearful of Destane's wrath and what would happen to themselves and their families, shouted agreements, then ideas on how best to punish the betrayers of their village. Ulima was a wise man, and a hard worker, but if it was to be them or the unfortunate family, there was only one choice. This is what they deserved for trying to help the younger dark sorcerer anyway.
Destane listened to the shouted ideas with glee; Ulima was out of the way, or would soon be, along with his thrice-damned daughter. The villagers were fearful and respectful, as they well should be, and some of them had some very creative ideas for the execution of the family. He may very well use a few of them sometime.
And Mozes was back where he belonged. Sure, he would be angry for a while, but the boy should know that life was hard, and sacrifices needed to be made if you were to survive, a lesson he should have been taught long ago. Mozes would be punished, and then asked to make a decision, only then he could continue his training. That would hopefully teach the whelp that he should never, ever try to escape. He was being lenient actually; he could take Mozes' own life as well.
Four years later
Mozes moaned and rolled over on his bed, exhausted from the day's activities. Destane had been driving him hard to make sure he was prepared for the quest they, or rather, Mozes, was to undertake in two days time. Destane had been chatting non-stop about the cliffs near the city of Shiraz, the legend of the battle between Ahriman and Ahura-Mazda and the legendary Gauntlet of Ahriman, rumored to bring extraordinary power to its possessor, though how on earth a glove was supposed to do all this was something that Mozes had not discovered, and cared naught about at the time. Destane had paid an ungodly amount of gold to some sorcerer they had met while in the city of Getzistan.
To old and lazy to go after it himself, he was once again sending his personal errand boy Mozes to muddle through the dirty work, and then take the item when all danger was past. And Mozes had long since grown weary of hearing Destane's ranting on how with this glove; kingdoms would tremble before his might. His first step, as Mozes understood it, was to conquer Agrabah, but why on earth stop there? Mozes personally had his eye on the entire region of the seven deserts, but that was just him. For all his power and experience, Destane thought small.
Not that Mozes could blame him. If he had someone as intelligent as himself to do the dirty work, he would do the same thing. It was just hard to be to understanding when it was him standing waist deep in filth, spiders crawling through his hair, cobwebs stuck to his ears and eyelashes, tired and bloody and bruised from fighting spirits, wraiths, demons and all manner of traps for not so much as a thank you or excellent job.
Deciding a bath would improve his disposition; he pushed out with his mind, summoning his personal servants, his own personal Mamluks that Destane had 'graciously' provided for Mozes' own use. He heard them appear in his chamber, and ordered them to bring heated water and his bath items, not even looking at them. He hated them, and when, not if, he overthrew Destane, he would have them destroyed.
He briefly reflected back on the days he had created the four of them. After Destane had captured Mozes after his disastrous attempt at escape, Mozes was beaten and tortured so badly that he was unable to stand on his own. Destane had then bound him, still naked and bleeding, in the center of the village, so that all may come to see him in this state, sending a clear message – if I am able to do this to my own apprentice, imagine what I could do to you if you cross me.
Most of the villagers had ignored him at first, even more frightened of the boy who was responsible for the punishment of the family of Ulimar. Then they were encouraged by Abdullah and Yasir to do the Masters bidding and punish him. The villagers had not given him a moment's peace after that, and he had come close to dying from his injuries. Mozes had been amazed at the cruelty the villagers had subjected him too; Destane could actually take lessons from a few of them. And there he was left to linger, day and night in the sweltering sun and cold night air, kept alive by magic, willpower, and luck. Two people, the elderly baker and his wife, tried to ease his suffering at times by sneaking him water, muttering soothing words, and attempting to clean his infected wounds when not being observed.
To his complete shock, Yasir came one day to the village, just as night was falling, and released him. He was taken straight back to the Citadel, Yasir half dragging, half carrying him. Deposited in his old room, he noticed that clothing was laid out on his bed, and a tub of steaming water was already there, complete with scented oils and warmed towels stacked on a small table to the side. He was told to clean himself and dress appropriately; the Lord wished to speak to him, and Yasir left with a small bow, the most respectful the little rat had ever been to him.
Mozes, leery of this new turn of events, did as he was bid, wondering if Destane planned on killing him, and why he would insist that he be clean when he did it. But, all thoughts of his impending death vanished as he crawled into the warm water, wincing as it touched bruised skin and seeped into still oozing lacerations.
Sniffing at one of the unfamiliar tubes of oils, he detected Marigold, Clove, and St. John's Wart, all extremely rare, expensive, and known as healing aids for deep cuts and bruising. Was some mind game of Destane's? To heal him and then kill him? Shrugging, he dumped the contents into the water, saving a fraction of the draught. He may need it again soon. He leaned back in the tub, letting the plants oil work their magic.
He had delayed the inevitable; but now he must leave the tub and go to Destane. Feeling much better after his soak, he left the tub, noticing that he was able to move freely, and the majority of his wounds appeared to have taken a large step toward being fully healed. Ah, the gifts of nature's bounty.
He dressed, and checking his appearance in the looking glass, he began walking towards the throne room. He wondered what had happened to Kamilah and the rest of her family. Destane's lies had turned the village against them. Against him too, but he had never really counted the villagers as close personal friends. Of course, almost all of them would eventually experience his wrath; he could have tolerated some abuse, after all, Destane was watching. But what some of them had done; well, it does not bode well to anger the future lord of the realm. But, worry about those pathetic souls later, if there was a later.
When he arrived in the throne room, Mozes was left to wait, on his knees, for several uncomfortable minutes until Destane had designed to address him. Destane announced that Mozes blood and pain had been sufficient apology for his breech of etiquette, and he sincerely hoped there was no future behavior problem. It was time to continue his training, if Mozes made the right choice. Mozes, leery of this uncharacteristic forgiveness, discovered what he was to do. While a nightmarish experience, he had to admit, smiling to himself, he had actually learned quite a bit. Ah well, every garden has a weed.
Destane, seeing how the villagers were so eager to please him and direct his wrath off of them, had ordered the family buried up to their necks in the sand, on the outskirts of the village. He had extended his wards so that the ghuls and other creatures would not attack them, and had ordered that someone from the village go once a day to bring them food and water, and woe betide the villagers if any of them died. There Kamilah and her family lingered, drying out in the sun, on the brink of death but unable to cross, until Mozes was able to function again on his own, and then he was told exactly what he was to do.
The Mamluks had pulled the family from the sand and dragged them to the Citadel, right to Destane's workshop. As was to be expected, they looked horrible. While the villagers had seen that the family had not died, they had not done so graciously, and all four were parched, covered with bites from insects and bruises from whatever the villagers had done to them. Their motor skills were gone, since they had been unable to move and ataxia had set in. And their living hell was only just beginning.
With Destane's assistance, Mozes was going to learn how to pull a soul, advanced magic, and move it to a different item, so that it may be stored until a later time that it may be needed. Then, he was going to actually summon and insert his very first ifrits into the bodies.
Mozes was hardly horrified at what he was being forced to do; any other time he would have been delighted. Having been studying the theories and ideas for years, he had been anxious to try it on his own. He had even come up with some improvements that he wanted to try when he was able to actually do the complicated magic on his own. Indeed, he had been looking forward to not just assisting Destane in the creation, but of actually doing it by himself. He was stunned at who he was going to be learning on. But as Destane pointed out, Mozes had a choice – continue his training, using his friends, or become a Mamluk himself. While hard, there really was no choice, really.
But first, before the creation of the Mamluk, the soul had to be released from the body, to make room for the ifrit. And Destane was not content to just release the soul, killing the body and going on about the lesson. Destane liked to do things with flair, and using every opportunity to teach a lesson, he instructed Mozes in pulling the souls, one by one, out of Kamilah, Ulima, Adaira, and Drelania. On any other person, Mozes would have been exhilarated by the mere thought of what he was going to do. Well, Destane had always had an odd sense of humor.
Handing Mozes a pendant, a long glass tube with a filigree top, strung on a silken cord, he ordered that Mozes transfer the souls into it. Struggling against rebelling, Mozes did as he was instructed. While horrified at what he was being asked to do, he complied. After all, there was no helping them, where it by his hand or another's, their fate was sealed. He might as well help himself. And having the soul pulled forcefully out of a still living body was a hellish ordeal. Kamilah's screams as the soul was wretched from her body permeated his nightmares for days…
Of course the raping had not stopped. They had slackened off considerably now, especially since Mozes was well past puberty, and close to the point that he could actually fight back. The abuse, mental and physical, had not stopped of course. He had grown rather used to all of it eventually, rather like he got used to being a slave for the centurion, and a destitute street child before that. Mozes was nothing if not adaptive.
Even Abdullah and Yasir had finally left him alone, especially when he had cursed a rot onto both of their members. Putrid green and leaking yellow ooze, both of them had decided that the teenager was simply not worth the pain. Every now and then, Destane had taken to giving Mozes to one of his dinner guests as a welcome present. Thankfully, he knew enough healing magic, and could take care of most of the injuries. And he was still given to the villagers to abuse if Destane grew displeased with him.
By now, he simply looked at the whole situation, as distasteful as it was, as a form of payment. Destane was giving him invaluable knowledge; he was paying with his body. Rather a bit like his mother. He briefly wondered if she was alive, and what he would do or say to her if he ever saw her, then shrugged it off. He would go back to Gaius one day, he would find out sooner or later, and have some vengeance.
Thinking about the last few years, his hand briefly went to his neck, and touched the pendant, holding the souls of the family that had had the misfortune of angering Destane, however unintentionally, simply by being kind to him. Destane had given the pendant to Mozes as a gift, to wear around his neck at all times, even enchanting it so that Mozes could not take it off on his own. Well, one day Mozes would be able to find a counter spell for it and remove the damn thing. He might even free the imprisoned souls if he were in a particularly good mood. From what he understood, Destane had created quite a tortuous existence in the pendant. Amazing what magic could do. And still so much to learn. But he was young, he had time.
The damn necklace also had some sort of locating spell on it. If Mozes ever managed to get away from Destane, (which could be possible now, as he was now able to slip through time and space to go greater distances from the Citadel), he would be able to easily track, locate, and subsequently punish the wandering sorcerer. After his last attempt at escape, he had never tried again. He decided to do as he had originally planned; let events run their course, and, like a hawk on a mouse, strike when the time was right. He had waited this long; he could wait a little longer.
It really irked him that Destane had this pendant about his neck, with four humans, well, former humans anyway, in it. But that was not what really bothered him; they had to be sacrificed in order to save himself. Kill or be killed really. Thinking back, he could barely remember what any of them looked like anymore. But to have the damn locating spell on it, like he was an animal, and not to be trusted. Of course he had tried to escape once, but still, after four years of never fighting back once to him, he would think that he had proven himself. It was as bad as the Halusis Collar, except that the bond was not for eternity. Not if he had any say in it.
He heard his Mamluks return with his bathing items, and leave again. Luckily for his own sanity, these four Mamluks hardly resembled the four persons they had been. He had hated looking at them for the first year he had created them, until they began to require repair. While he was excellent at it now, his first very attempts, while very good, especially at his age, had hardly been with an experienced hand, and it had been hard on the decaying bodies. Well, that had been a learning experience. Ironically, Destane's lesson, while hard learned, had ended up being fascinating.
Mozes began to strip, feeling the pendant pumping against his chest, and throwing his clothes on the floor for the Mamluks, angrily stepped one foot into the tub. He could have magically cleansed the clothing, just as he could have conjured the tub and bathing water, but why should he bother? It would be nothing but a waste of his power, and he was almost drained anyway from Destane's late afternoon training session. Not to mention, the Mamluks were just standing around, not doing anything. He did, after all, create them. Might as well use them.
As he was posed to step all the way into the warm water, he looked up and caught a glimpse of himself in his looking glass. Frowning at all the scars on his body, he sat in the water, cursing Destane and his harsh training methods. Destane claimed that he was taught this way as well and that he was acting like a child, but Mozes didn't see any scars decorating his body.
The man was a sadist, pure and simple. Mozes sighed, swearing that when he was finally able to get away from this lunatic, the first thing he would do would be to actually buy clothes in colors he liked, that covered him in a way he felt comfortable with, and swore he would get some sort of headdress. Destane was too fond of running his hand through the silky black locks, and it was grating on his nerves. Not to mention that it would keep the hair out of his eyes while he was working. He had tried cutting his hair once, but not only had Destane flown into such a rage that Mozes thought that he would begin foaming at the mouth, Mozes quickly found that he looked like an egg with his bald head and his long face.
Ducking his head under the water, he stopped his reminiscing and tried to relax, to concentrate on the task at hand. Tomorrow was going to be extremely dangerous, a true test of what he had learned, and may all the gods help him if he failed to retrieve this item for Destane.
Grunting, Mozes pulled himself up the rock wall, already exhausted and the real work had not even begun. Sitting inside this cave, he was sweating profusely, and grabbed his canteen to take a long swallow of water, mentally flinching at the stale taste. He would have conjured it himself, but no sense depleting his magic until he knew what he was going to be up against.
He wished Destane would send him after magical artifacts that did not require so much physical labor. So much for Destane's preaching of something not worked for is not worth having. Mozes was a firm believer in that; everything he had he worked for. Destane should be out here getting his damn gauntlet if he wanted it that bad. Sure, Destane said Mozes was his protégé, and that someday he would be passing the land and title and all the other goodies of absolute power down to him, so this was benefiting him as well.
Mozes, however, wanted the power now, and would love nothing better than to overthrow Destane, much like Destane had done to his master so many years ago. But Mozes was wise enough to know that even now, he was not strong enough magically to overthrow Destane; it would likely take several more years for his magic to have matured enough for that happy day.
But of course, Destane was back at the citadel, relaxing and awaiting Mozes' return. Mozes could even now feel the cool glass tube slowly warming; Destane was obviously impatient for this one. Destane's locating spell would heat when activated. Destane's way of telling him to hurry up and keep moving. Well, he would just have to wait. Mozes was tired, and he was certainly not going to break his neck because Destane didn't feel he could wait a few hours.
Deciding that his little rest was sufficient, Mozes stood, and thinking, conjured a small glowing ball, watching the particles of dust dance in the light, and began walking down the cavern, keeping an eye out for any hazards. As he walked, the most he saw was an abundance of rats, and the occasional snake. All were wary of the approach of the young sorcerer and scattered into their holes and crevices, hiding until this new, unknown danger passed. All the other items that Destane had sent him after in the past had been guarded by incubus or other malignant spirits, monsters or ghuls, not to mention the usual traps that he had to think his way through, relying on his powers and ready mind. So far, this had been the easiest of the quests. What a refreshing change.
A sudden shaking of the earth snapped him out of reverie, and, thinking quickly, threw himself to the floor of the cavern, extinguishing the light and throwing the bulk of his traveling cloak over his face, mumbling a spell. A glowing dome appeared over his prostrate body, and he waited until the rumbling stopped, then several more minutes, until the air was beginning to run out in his covering. Cautiously, he removed the dome, watching it fade away into nothingness, and then stood.
He relit his ball of light, and turned his head. Now he was trapped, blocked on both sides. The way out was blocked; the rock walls had collapsed, caving him in. He could not go out the way he came, and the rocks were large enough that he would not be able to move them physically, and would seriously deplete his power if he tried to move them away with magic. Still a novice when it came to actually teleporting himself any distance longer than across a room, he was reluctant to attempt this in unfamiliar territory. Destane had actually transported him here, his only contribution to this little quest. With his luck, he would misjudge and teleport himself right of the edge of some hidden chasm in this place. Not to mention Destane would be most displeased if he did not retrieve this item for him.
Well. Nothing to do but go forward. After all, that was the plan. But the way forward was blocked as well. Now what to do? The way was blocked, from floor to ceiling, with millions of little rocks and pebbles. Trying to move all those little rocks to make an opening that he could go into would deplete his power more than moving several of the larger boulders. This was not turning out to be so easy after all.
Sighing, he set about moving the dust and stones by hand.
Hours later, dusty and nursing a ragged cut on his right hand and a large bruise on his temple, Mozes finally made an opening in his makeshift tomb. As he crawled thru the hole, he stopped when he heard a low, deep growl. Pausing, he pushed out with his mind, trying to sense the presence of whatever creature it was. He sincerely hoped that if he could not see it, it could not see him either.
He sensed the presence almost as it lunged at him. Stunned at the attack, he gathered his will and threw a bolt of energy at the creature. With a yelp, he heard it thump onto the floor of the cavern, sending a shower of dust and rock at Mozes. Muttering and wiping at his eyes, he staggered up to his feet, creating a small ball of light as he did so. He wanted to see what had attacked him.
A jackal. Disgusting animals, especially this example. Scrawny and stinking, this one had obviously been wounded previously, from the looks of her. She had no doubt been chased off by her pack. His energy bolt had almost killed her; she was wheezing and whimpering softly. Feeling some pity for the creature, and wanting to get on with this little jaunt, he finished her off with a blow to the head, snatching his hand back as she snapped at him.
Finished, he stood to continue on his way, when he heard another sound. A quiet whine coming from the corner. Ball of light still following above his head, he cautiously made his way toward the sound, still searching with his mind.
A cub. Frowning, Mozes made his way to the animal. The jackal that had attacked him had been a mother; he disliked killing mother animals. The beast had simply been scared and trying to protect her young. Mozes noticed a few other pups around, crushed under the rubble of the cave-in. This was the only survivor.
At a bit of a crossroads, Mozes paused, trying to decide what to do. Hardened as his heart was, he respected nature and all her creatures, as any decent wizard should. Their very powers and knowledge were drawn from the world around them. Even when using animals in experiments, he only took what was required and no more. There was a delicate balance that needed to be preserved. And as hideous as the jackal was, it was needed in the circle of nature, remembering what the old medicine man told him years ago on one of his many trips with Destane to the old mans lodge.
It would be beyond cruel to leave this pup. It would starve to death if left here, if it didn't become lunch for something else first. It was simply too young to care for itself.
He debated simply bashing its head in as he had done its mother, which would be kinder than just leaving it. He wanted to get going, get this damn glove, and return to the Citadel. Of course, he would not be having this discussion with himself if he had not killed its mother. He could have sent a lesser bolt out to simply stun her, or done as he should have and actually sent his thoughts out to see if anything was around the other side of the rocks. In a way, this was his fault.
The cub gave another whine, and then bit his boot with its long skinny snout. Spunky little thing. Sighing, knowing that Destane was getting impatient, he removed his cloak. Concentrating, he conjured a bowl of warm broth and placed it in front of the animal. The pup, confused, looked at the bowl, looked at Mozes, then staggered toward Mozes, snapping and yapping, and latched onto his injured hand with it's short baby teeth.
"Stupid bastard, I'm trying to help you!" Mozes snapped, sending a small shock into the animal and freeing his hand. Angrily, he grabbed the ugly pup by the short spiky fur on the scruff of its neck, and pushed its snout into the broth, almost carelessly noticing it was a male.
Surprised, the pup inhaled the broth and came out sneezing and wheezing. After a moment, the pup began licking his face, tasting the broth. Curious, he crept toward the bowl of steaming broth, and hesitantly stuck his tongue into the brew. Liking the taste, he began lapping at the broth quickly, keeping an eye on Mozes, as if afraid the mixture would disappear. The runt of this litter, he was used to never getting quite enough to eat, and was determined to finish this off as quickly as possible.
Mozes, meanwhile, was watching the pup, hoping the stupid creature didn't make himself sick eating so quickly. He seemed healthy, if a bit starved. Probably the runt, he thought. Pushed around, half ignored by his mother in favor of the bigger pups, never getting enough to eat, always ignored. Rather like him at a young age. A survivor.
He thought back on his studies and was trying to decide if a jackal would make a good familiar. He liked the idea of having an animal assistant. While jackals were in general nasty animals, they were favored by Anubis. Quick and cunning, they would certainly have the intelligence to become a familiar, if a rather unusual one.
Well, he would worry about a familiar later. Right now, on with the quest so he could get out of this cave, find the damned glove, and get back to the Citadel to tend to his injured hand and soak in a nice long bath before he listened to Destane talk about how great an idea this had been, and how all of Destane's hard work in acquiring this glove was going to pay off.
The pup was now finishing off the broth, pushing the bowl across the dirt floor in an attempt to get every last drop. Finished, he sat back on his haunches, panting and lolling his tongue out of his mouth, scratching at a multitude of fleas.
Mozes watched the pup, then shrugging, began to walk away to continue his search, curious to see if the animal would follow him. He heard the pup come up behind him, nipping at his heels and running a few feet away, only to come up and do the same thing again. Chuckling at the antics of the pup, he crouched down, holding his hand out to the jackal, making soft noises to lure him. The pup crept toward him, got distracted by his tail for a moment, then came toward him to lick his hand, which still had the scent of broth on it. He sat for a moment as Mozes scratched at his spiky fur, getting into places that he had problems reaching.
Mozes scratched the pup for a few minutes, taking in what was going on around him, and pushing out with his mind, searching for other creatures, of this world or another, and for any sign of the damned gauntlet. Snakes, spiders, scorpions, a hyena creeping around very far away, and a ghoul were the only things he could determine. Nothing out of the ordinary, with the exception of the ghoul. The only reason a ghoul would be in this cave would be to guard something. This gauntlet must not be much, if there was only one ghoul on it.
Mozes began to head toward the ghoul. A simple banishment spell, much like the one used for a ghul, would take care of it. Hopefully, the gauntlet would be there.
The pup was still following him, but was falling behind. Mozes, still carrying his cloak, called softly to the pup, and he came over willingly. Mozes scooped the surprised pup up into the cloak so he could carry him, and hopefully not get bitten by the pup or to many of his fleas. The pup growled, than began to chew on the end of the cloak. No matter, this cloak was ruined anyway. Thankfully, it was not one of his favorites, a garish thing having been given to him by Destane after a particularly vigorous performance.
He continued walking, avoiding most of the creatures in his path, glad for a chance to have a breather before having to battle the ghoul and goodness knows what else. Looking down, he noticed that the pup was asleep.
After roughly a mile or so, he came to an opening deep within the cave. A chilling wind was sweeping out of the hole, moaning like a dying man with his last breath. The ghoul. Peering into the darkness, he tried to make out which direction that the moan was coming from. Ghouls were a step down from a ghul; if a ghul could outsmart you, you were hurting in the brains area.
He conjured a small ball of light, and began to maneuver it in front of him into the cave, hoping that the ghoul would come over; he could perform the banishment spell, and be rid of it. After several minutes, he added some strength to the light, surprised that the ghoul had not come over. Either this one was seriously stupid, or he was doing something wrong. Could he have made a mistake, thought he sensed a ghoul when in reality it was something stronger?
Tensing, he slowly began to creep inside the opening, trying to push his senses to their limits without overtaxing his powers. The pup was still asleep, cradled in his left arm, while his right hand was held aloft, ready to begin throwing spells, curses or banishment hexes at whatever was in there. He was more confused now; he didn't even sense the ghoul, and they were certainly not powerful enough to hide their presence from a peasant, let alone a wizard, even one as young as he was. Something bad was going to happen here.
His booted foot kicked something, which clattered around the cavern a moment before silence came again. Looking at the floor, he gasped and involuntarily stepped back. The floor of the cavern was littered with dozens of skeletons, all human. Skulls grinned at him from the dirt. Some of them had been there for years, from the look of the weapons and the scraps of cloth that had been clothing. Any with flesh still on their faces had looks of horror on their faces, hands at their throats, neck muscles bulging. But from the looks of the cavern he could not detect any sign of a struggle or fight. What could have done this?
Worried, Mozes pulled the jackal cub close, happy that he had the little pile of mangy fur with him, and began to edge closer toward the opening that he had come through. Whatever had done this was powerful, and he did not want to meet it. Let Destane get his own damn gauntlet; he was willing to face Destane's wrath for once.
The second he turned toward the opening, a flash of light, so bright that he actually thought his retinas might be destroyed, filled the opening. Mozes put his hand out, and stumbled backwards, blinded, holding the jackal pup so tight that he awoke and yelped. What madness was happening?
Frightened that he was going to be food for whatever this new horror was, Mozes was determined he would at least make a good showing of himself, and began shooting flames from his free hand, hoping that he at least hit it before he went down, and wondered if Destane would actually call him back from the afterworld to somehow punish his soul as he felt the light grow hotter and begin to surge toward him with a pounding sound.