“An hour has passed, since the Neric asked for reinforcements,” Rose stated, with a worried look.
A poisonous layer of the steamy dome surrounded the rebels’ house. The reinforcements could not go anywhere near.
The knights formed tents near the exterior of the dome in the middle of the woods.
“We’re working on an antidote. But it might just take a few more hours,” Lance sighed.
Around 10 tents were built, and a troop of 50 knights was on stand-by. The head in charge was Rose and her assistant Lance.
A soldier rushed near Lance and Rose.
“Ser Lance, someone with blood-red eyes entered inside the Dome.”
“What” Lance flinched.
Rose’s eye lit up, “Red eyes. A royal is here. Tell me, is it Keth, is it Droid? Don’t tell me, I would get to meet with one of them in person” Her cheeks reddened.
The soldier hesitated, “Actually, it was Elias. Elias Aazumuth. Alone”
Hearing the soldier’s remark, both of their faces turned pale.
“No way, right….if he gets killed…..if a Royal gets killed…” Rose trembled
“Why didn’t you stop him? He cannot even fight. The poison alone would kill him” Lance clenched his fist
The soldier looked down and avoided eye contact, “What could we do? He said he wanted to see the dome. No one could refuse an Aazumuth. And no one thought, he would enter inside.”
“Why did you let him go in?” Elaine asked
“I received an order,” Silas answered. He was one of the butlers assigned to Elias. “Sir, told me, not to interfere if Elias tried something like this”
“Why?” Elaine sounded sceptical
“He said, the last time he saw him, the look in his eyes had changed.”
Eliane shook off Silas’s statement with a smile, “The look in his eyes won’t prevent him from getting poisoned. And if he survives the poison. The Rebel would kill him. Looks like we would finally get freed from this job.”
Silas looked at the dome with a solemn gaze, “Maybe. But I have a feeling, something unexpected might just happen.”
Neric fell on his knees. Blood poured through his eyelids. His skin turned pale and bluish. Nerves bulged throughout his body.
“This,” The Rebel breathed harshly, “This is the end of your path,” The Rebel remarked.
His name was Uriel. During the battle, he lost one of his eyes, and his white skin turned grey.
Neric, with little life in his eyes, struggled to stand.
Uriel scowled seeing such a site,
“Stop with the meaningless struggle. Had you retreated the moment you noticed the poison in the air, regrouped, and attacked?” His fist clenched, “You knights, and your honor.”
Uriel got closer and stretched his hand arm. “Now Die”
The wooden floor shook. Uriel flinched,
Parts of the wooden floor evaporated, “What.”
Both Uriel and the knight crash-landed loudly on the floor. Dust spread abruptly
Uriel coughed and screamed as he felt intense pain in his right leg. “Shit! It’s twisted.”
Looking in front, Uriel’s eyes met with red-blood eyes.
His face frowned, “How, in the hell did you get through the dome?!” Then, as the dust cleared, Uriel noticed an aroma. The aroma came from the cierge beside the man.
Uriel’s eyes enlarged, “How did you figure it out?”
“I didn’t.” Elias showed the black book he carried in his hands. Uriel clenched his teeth as he saw the book in Elias’s hand. “It was all mentioned on this note, about the woods being enchanted to evaporate on contact with a certain type of fume.”
Uriel listened in shock, but soon he quickly linked the pieces.
Some of the knights entrapped inside the dome found his escape route. And the items he packed for his escape. However, the traps he laid killed those knights. The book was one of the items he packed.
Uriel smiled, “You bastard, you walked right past their corpses.” He tried to stand, but his twisted angle screamed with pain every time he tried.
Elias moved closer.
As the poison inside the house was transparent and near-invisible compared to the steamy poison near the boundary, Uriel clearly saw the man’s face once the dust from the crash cleared.
“But how, you should not have the immunity to resist the poison?” He asked in awe
“You must be glad. Keth or Droid? Who did you think I was when you first saw my eyes” Elias walked closer, “Not that I care.” Elias crouched, matching Uriel’s eyesight, “What I do care, is the location of other black books and the information your organization collected on my family.”
“Unwise choice” Elias stood up.
“Oh, I disagree. I have heard the rumors. The infamous Elias Aazumuth. One basic spell and you would be dead. Alone you can do nothing. Go on cry and beg your butlers for their help.”
Elias chuckled, “You know, I thought the butlers would be here by now. It seems they don’t plan on interfering. But, with your skin turned fully grey. You cannot perform any spells.”
His arm swiftly covered his mouth as he coughed blood. The black gloves Elias wore got drenched by his own blood.
Uriel, upon seeing the site, noticed Elias’s pale skin and stab wounds around his shoulders. Uriel flexed his facial muscles and brewed a smile, “You. You’re poisoned, and you aren’t completely immune” He laughed, “You fell for the traps!” He laughed further, “You’re no different than that knight. The poison in the air, combined with poison you got from the arrows.” He gave a sinister look, “Every inch of your body must be crying in pain. I don’t know you avoided the paralyzing effects, but soon, your nerves would swell, your vision would fade, you would lose all sense of time—” Elias interrupted, “—But I won’t die. And I assure you, I will get what I want.” Elias turned back and left the room.
“tsk,” Uriel cursed. He could stand, so he tried to escape by crawling.
“Get, to the basement,” He murmured, “the escape route” he crawled as his skin got sorer and sorer.
On the way, he saw the dead corpse of the knight who he previously fought. The corpse lied there with its eyes open. Even though his body was highly weakened, he used the little energy he had to gently close the corpse’s eyes. Thus, he started crawling again.
“Not like this” “It cannot end like this,” he whispered. The image of his little sister flashed through his mind. “Not like this” He crawled out of the room and near to the stairway to the basement. “Not like this” With a weak body, he fell when he tried to crawl down the stair. And rolled down the stairs.
“Arghhhhh,” He cried in pain.
“So, you got here by yourself.”
Uriel turned his head. There he was, Elias. Walking closer to him.
“Why, you” Uriel scowled.
Elias gripped the collar of Uriel’s cloak and dragged him.
“I just came down, for preparations. You just saved me some time by crawling here.”
Elias threw Uriel inside the room in the basement.
Uriel cried in pain
The room was bristled, with laboratory tools such as boiling flasks, burners, funnels, branding irons, fire grates, along chemicals collected by Uriel. Some corpses of the knights also rested there, who died from poisoning.
“If my brothers had found you. They would have instantly killed you. But alas, I found you. And I lean more towards my sister’s side.” Elias took out one of the branding irons from the room. He kept the iron over the fire grate. “Tell, me, ever experienced how it feels to have your skin boiled or burnt,” He asked as he heated the branding iron in front of Uriel.
“You bastard” Uriel rested on the ground, unable to move. “Unlike, you Royals, we don’t bite the hands that feed us.”
Elias's expression slightly changed when he heard the statement.
“By maintaining a facade of offering help, they take away your freedom. By giving the illusion of choice, they make you walk a path profitable for them. Those on the higher chain, benefit from this cycle. Meanwhile, those on the bottom, end up like you.”
“You know nothing,” Uriel winced, “My purpose..is..no..tri..” He coughed, unable to speak. On his chest, he rested on the ground struggling to stand.
“Maybe I don’t. But I do understand human nature.” He took the branding iron out from the fire. The circular part on the bottom of the iron shone radiant with heat. “After this incident, settles, rumors would spread. I risked my freedom coming here. So, don’t take it personally, if you find this too cruel.”
Elias stomped his leg on Uriel’s neck, holding him down.
Right below the neck, on Uriel’s back, Elias placed the scorching branding iron.
Uriel cried in pain as the fabric on his cloak melted, then the scorching iron met his skin.
Uriel’s muscles trembled, his limbs made rapid moments, but Elias held him down with his feet.
Before the iron could penetrate further, Elias pulled it back.
The iron left a circular mark. His skin turned reddish and liquidy. The melted fibre from the cloth started to get attached to Uriel's skin.
Right, after Elias pulled back the iron, he again placed the scorching iron right below the first mark. Uriel’s screams got louder, echoing throughout the house. Finally, however, by the third mark. Drained of all energy, Uriel could neither cry nor struggle.
After creating the third mark, Elias threw the iron to the side.
He crouched down and whispered. “Now, tell me where the books are”
Uriel rested there with his pale face and dead eyes.
“Go…to..hell,” said Uriel.
Elias stood back up, “You know, along with the black book, I also found a diary and a picture.” Uriel’s eyes flinched, “You’re loyal. But understand where that loyalty stems from. There’re many unfortunate like you. In the beginning, you must have felt grateful. The kingdom abandoned your family. But the Rebels provided you with shelter. They promised education for your sister. They provided your life meaning.” Elias moved near the drawers. “But, now, when you’re just steps away from death,” He took a syringe and filled it with a transparent liquid. “You must realize. You feel indebted not because of gratefulness but fear of what would happen if you don’t follow them. You fear what they would do to your sister if you betray them. That is why you endure such pain.”
Uriel remained silent.
Elias penetrated the nerves on his shoulders with the syringe. And passed down the liquid.
After passing the fluid, he returned near Uriel’s body and crouched.
“The fabrics from your cloak, have attached themselves with your skin” He grabbed Uriel’s collar, “If I rip out your cloak, you would feel the pain of the fibers detaching from three marks, all at once,” Elias blinked, “Considering your body’s state. You won’t be able to endure the pain.” After a hold, Elias continued, “You would die”
Uriel thought back on his life. A final regret lingered in his heart. ‘Only if I could see her one last time,’ he wished. But with a light smile on his face, Uriel exclaimed, “See..you ..in hell.”
Elias sighed, “Rest well” He ripped out the cloak.
“The dome. It disappeared!” The knights waiting outside exclaimed.
The moment Rose saw the dome disappear, she rushed.
“Don’t rush…damn that girl” Lance followed behind. The rest of the knight also followed soon.
As Rose entered inside the house. She barged into the first room, where she saw a corpse on the ground. Her jaws trembled, and her eyes got watery. “No…brother..” She whispered.
Lance also barged in. He realized what happened when he saw the tearful expression on Rose’s face. But feeling the Rebel might be still alive, he left the room and found the stairs. Then, sensing the presence of a person in the basement, Lance headed down.
His face turned pale in horror when he saw the sight in the room.
He noticed marks on the Rebel’s back. And a branding iron still scorching on the ground. And at the end of the room. Elias.