By Samuel Sebbowa Bunnya, Uganda
You are a mad man. The rumors of the master’s ruthlessness were well founded. Rohorg clapped his hand over his mouth so as not to scream. The master held up the beating organ to the light of the candle near where the other man’s body had collapsed. He mumbled a few words and a cold wind filled the space between the flaps of the tent. He tossed the heart on the ground and turned his eyes back to Rohorg.
“All the paladins know that they are sacrifices in this great war against the protectors of Anil’s steeds.”
“Master,” Rohorg said. He had no other words afraid of turning into his friend. His eyes darted between the lifeless body of the man who had been his friend for the three months he had spent in the order and the frail master. Hash-shas was the only man to have taken pity on him and the master had taken him without a care in the world.
“Let me tell you something about our brotherhood child,” the master said. His aura had taken on a different sinister and ugly shade. It frightened Rohorg. “We serve one god. He is the king of all the dead gods.”
“I know master,” Rohorg said.
“No you do not,” the master said. “You are too young to know the truths of our order and faith.”
But I have heard the whispers of our birth. “I am still new in the order.”
“And you have potential.” The old man cleaned his hand with a silk cloth. “Brother Hash-shas knew his duty to our god. He knew what he had to do and he knew he would die. Whether in battle against those foul men or in his bed, he knew it was his fate to die. Our great god taught us that we have to die. Orhóvihir taught this to us when he cast his great father down from the throne of the heavens. Do you understand your fate?”
I must die but I do not wish to die by your hand. “I will die but not today.”
“It could be today child.”
Rohorg saw the dark intent in the master’s eyes. “Please master. I am still but a babe in this world.”
“For one that has seen so much death and destruction, that means nothing. Do you know how many years our great master blessed me with?” the old man sunk onto the cushion opposite Rohorg. “Do you have any ideas as to what we are capable of?” Rohorg shook his head and lowered his eyes from the grand master. “Look at me boy.”
I do not wish to share the same fate as him. Rohorg’s eyes stole to the dead body of Hash-shas before meeting the dark eyes of the master. His fear made him braver than he would have been. He saw the tale of a thousand years in the man’s face. He was intrigued more than frightened by this. He was not as frightened as he thought he would be being so close to the man.
“Ah…you can see it too.” The master laughed. It was a low and evil cackle.
“I do not understand,” Rohorg stuttered.
“You are too young to understand,” the master said. His ancient face burned with an evil that Rohorg had never seen. The dark lines seemed to take on a shade of deeper malevolence than they had before. “But for the first time in years, there is finally one with the power to be a master as much as I am.” The man air around the man became musty and tense grabbing Rohorg by the shoulders.
The master was in his face; their noses almost touching. He could smell the acrid and wasteful breath of the ancient man. He could see all the lines and dots on his haggard skin. Rohorg was confused. He had not seen the man move. He looked round but there was nothing but the cushions he had been sitting on. How did I move here? He looked into the dark pools of malice and disregard. The master did not even flinch as the air round them got mustier.
“You see child,” the gods that rule the Varyyin are evil creatures. They have no sense of loyalty to their children. They know nothing of true power and only seem to want to keep us tamed and powerless.” The old man’s brow darkened. “I have seen how evil they can be if they so chose. It is these gods that destroyed our master for trying to evolve.”
“How would you know?” Rohorg asked. He could feel the fear creeping back into him. There was something sinister about the man before him. “You do not know their gods as much as they do not know of our great god.”
The old man stretched his bony hand and for the first time the dark marks on his skin became visible. He saw the flattering marking of a creature that Rohorg had only seen once in the skirmish against their enemies. He saw the face of an enemy he had seen through the gap in his visor as they rode against the armies of the Varyyin. Were you one of them? He looked into the master’s malicious eyes.
“I was once one of the Varyyin.” The master looked at him as a strange fire circled them. “I was there from the start. I was one of their sons and I was the one who saw the folly of the Varyyin in siding with the gods long forgotten.”
“Please, I do not know the meaning of this.”
“Let me tell you a story young master Rohorg,” the master said. The flame and musty air disappeared with one snap of the master’s fingers. Rohorg found his ass on the cushions it has been on a few moments ago. His fear of the old man intensified. “Wouldn’t you like that?”
“I would master.” He looked straight at the master. “I have only heard rumors.”
“Are they lies?” the master asked.
“I do not know.” Rohorg could not tear his eyes away from the man. Something made him try to look deeper into the man’s soul. He could see nothing but he could feel it flaring inside the man’s chest.
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