November, 707 CR
Kane crouched in the massive chamber lit only by the flickering blue-purple of the slowly swirling portal. Oh, it wasn't open yet, but the time was getting closer and closer. Soon the stars would be right, the One would be sacrificed, and Kane would get his dreams.
Bring me through and I will restore your humanity.
"My humanity—" Kane whispered to himself.
Closing his eyes he remembered. The Battle of the Three Gates. The spell coiling inside him, corrupting him, warping his human form into the twisted rabbit he was now cursed to be. The beast overpowering him, his flight to his family—
And his arrival there just in time to watch the lutin kill them all. Watch them kill his wife Mary and their newborn son. And he, he, trapped in this useless cursed thing could only cower and watch.
His body burned with hatred.
"Yes. My humanity."
Bring me The One. Bring her, give her unto me, and all you desire shall be yours.
And Kane desired so much. A return to humanity. The final destruction of Nasoj. The curing of so many that had been cursed. A redemption of his soul, of all their souls. A return of normality he could place at the feet of the Duke.
Oh, he wanted it—
I await. I hunger. Soon. Soon!
Oh, Kane was sure everything promised was a lie. But it was a useful lie. It could be true, but— but if it wasn't, well then the destruction of the world would take Nasoj down with it.
Destroy him. Avenge his family. And then die and join them as he should have.
He turned, his robe rustling behind him, and hopped along the wet stone to his lair. It wasn't much. A small tunnel, an old carpet, a witchlight hanging against the wall. But, it was all he needed. And, in it he felt safe. Safe—
Looking up from the lime-tainted water he'd been licking up from the wall, he answered, in his high pitched squeaky voice. "What?"
"We have the One!"
Blinking, Kane looked at Galia, now a child, facing him. Her robe was bloody, but her child's eyes glowed with fanaticism. "Alive?" Kane really didn't care which — The One had already cost him far too dearly to take any chances with. He'd sent the dagger she'd killed Graffon with as bait for the watch. He'd ordered other families killed to hide the cult. All because she'd proven herself so dangerous that he'd rather have her dead at anybody's hands, if that was what was necessary. There were barely ten of his followers left after what she'd done. And, the summoning could occur without her, it would just have to wait longer. But— "How many?"
Seven— And that left five more, plus himself. Six for the summoning, six for the final reward.
Six is enough.
They had trusted him, and now they were dead. Dead at the hands of the so-called One. He so, so wanted to kill her.
Sacrifice her to me.
"Is she conscious?" he asked.
"Daffyd is putting her into the cage. We stripped her naked, searched her to make sure she was hiding nothing."
"Search her again!"
"I— as you wish. And— the sword." With that Galia pulled the cursed blade out from beneath his robe and threw it onto the stone in front of the rabbit.
Kane could feel the blade's hatred. A snarl crept onto his lips as the thing screamed at him with a cacophony of mistuned strings. Picking it up, he held it so that he could see his lapine visage in the polished metal. "You will close the gate?"
The blade roared out a challenge of trumpets but that was it.
"So much for you." With that, Kane turned the blade and began beating it against the wet stone, beating the side of its blade on the cold and unyielding rock again and again. Beating the thing as he remembered all the damage the sword and the One had done to him. Beating the thing with all his hatred for Nasoj.
The sword screamed with each hit, screams of pain or defiance, or—
It didn't matter. Kane didn't care as the blade stubbornly refused to break even as it bent and its razor edge dulled. Beating it again and again, Kane screamed at it, the piteous scream of a child coming from a rabbit's twisted body. Screaming again and again until even the sounded faded to first a whimper, and then to silence. Silence but for the gasping of Kane's breath as he held the blade, its stubbornly unshattered tip resting on the stone.
"Take me to her."
Galia turned away, and Kane hopped after in short steps, the tips of his ears brushing against the wet ceiling.
With each bounce the cursed sword clanged onto the stone as he dragged it behind him.
The cage was made of twisted scraps of heavy rusted iron. There was no plan to it, no right angles. Just whatever the cult could get welded and bound together. Dafydd was hammering a twisted bar of metal around the door to seal it forever. And inside—
Kane stared. So, this was The One.
She didn't look like much. Her chest was covered in blood; her breath bubbled and wheezed from blood-splattered lips. The leather jacket she wore was torn, almost to shreds, hanging on only by its sleeves. Her pants were caked in mud and dirt. Clasped in her hands was a battered fedora, stained, muddy, but being held like Mary had held—
Screaming he hopped to the cage and swung the bent blade down towards her skull. Towards the still gleaming pearl of her alicorn.
She must be sacrificed to me!
Somehow Kane dragged his arm to the side so that the sword clanged against the stone.
Panting he glared at the cause of so much trouble. The light was a bit brighter, the patterns a bit more active, as the blue-purple flickered across her caked white fur. She looked scrawny. Limbs too long, sticks extending from a tiny body that was nothing but scar and bone. Her muzzle was thin, over long, stretched into a rictis around the bone of her skull. And the alicorn— He glared at it, and swore it was glaring back at him. A thing of twisted bone, pale white and sharp. Oh so very very sharp.
Galia walked over and dumped of bucket of muddy icy water on her. The creature's form shuddered, it coughed and gagged. As Kane watched the wounds slowly closed.
"You wanted to kill me."
"Cut the crap! You're conscious. I can smell it, and I can see it!"
With a moan, she raised her muzzle and looked at him. The blue of her eyes was deep, so deep, like Mar—
"Damn you! Damn you to all nine of the hells!"
As he watched, she slowly worked the fedora back into something approaching its proper shape, and then put it on her head, slipping a slot in the brim over her alicorn.
Holding out a hand, he felt Hani put his whip into his paw. It wasn't like the whip The One had carried, but a cruel thing tipped in glass and shards of metal. Kane took a step back and snapped the whip inches from the unicorn's ear.
"Face me, Eli damn you! Face me!"
She turned away.
Screaming, Kane slashed the whip across her arm, its edge digging into the fur, into the flesh, splattering her body with fresh crimson.
"Klepnos take you," she whispered.
Kane coiled the whip. "We have all the time in the world, you and I. All the time we can ever need." Holding the sword in one hand and the whip in the other, he struck her again and again. He could see the pain flicker through her eyes, but she refused to look at him, keeping her fists clenched.
He snapped the whip and knocked the fedora from her head.
Something glistened, and Kane stared. It was a gem, black in the distorted light, with a glittering metal chain.
"You said you'd searched her! Stripped her!"
Her hand snaked towards the gem but he was faster. His whip snapped, curling around the chain, yanking the necklace off and out of the cage, its chain snapping and tinkling against the rock floor. Tossing the sword far from her reach, hopping to the cage, he grabbed it before she could.
"But— we checked for magic—"
"You didn't check hard enough." Holding the gem up by one piece of its chain he looked at it.
Now she looked at him.
"You want this, don't you?"
A glob of spit splatted on the damp stone just before one of his large, scratched and bloody, rabbit paws.
"You've lost it. Like you've lost the game." Tying the chain together, he put it around his neck. "Do you know how much I hate you? Do you know?"
"Oh— I'll teach you. By Eli I'll teach you what hate really means." He raised his whip.
The leather weapon rose again and again, snapping across her body like the caresses of a lover. Enough to cause pain, so very much pain. But never ever enough to kill her.
And Kane had all the time in the world—
Days passed. Weeks. Kane didn't know, and he didn't care. He'd stopped to sleep, stopped to let the pain of her wounds speak to her. He'd doused her in brine, whipped the same point over and over again. Only stopping for her to eat the slop he wouldn't feed a lutin.
It is time.
Never had she said a word. Never!
Defiant. That's what she was. Defiant, and he'd teach her—
No! The time for the sacrifice is now. The time of my return is now
Yes! You want my gift? Or should I talk to another?
Kane spun around and glared at the gate. It was brighter now, a slowing swirling pool of bubbling blues and purples and reds. Sometimes a face could be seen. Beautific. Wondrous. Other times— Other times the snarling mindlessness of insanity.
He threw the whip away, screaming out the pain in his soul. Damn her. Damn her to every hell in the universe! Clenching his fists, he slowly straightened his water stained robe. "It is time. You know your places. Our salvation is at hand!"
Kane turned to face the gate, arms upraised. Three cultists forming on one side of him, two on the other. They all crouched down and prayed to their lord beyond the gate. And, as they prayed they chanted. The gate grew brighter, the colours rising to putrid pinks and oranges and yellows.