“Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies on to make its every move.”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
***Kingdom Newerth, Capital City***
They really went and did it! I intended it as a joke, but they really queued up to settle their issues with Moonray. The general rule was that everyone has half an hour. And I had to get in line too...
At first I thought that I wouldn't have to trouble myself with doing my part. It didn't even seem likely that Moonray would survive until it's my turn. Hell, Doreen did her best to silence him permanently! But being a phoenix makes him a really tough bastard. He managed it halfway through Doreen's turn without saying a word. Then he started spilling his guts. Metaphorically and physically.
When it was Tisha's turn, Moonray probably already had given us all the information he had. But the scary woman made a point of hurting him until the shredded skin on his body looked like a torn piece of bloody cloth.
And then the others had their turn.
According to Moonray, he and his men succeeded with their plan. They managed to arrive in Moonray's realm. That's when their plans went to hell. What Moonray remembered as a paradise was turned into a twisted version of Dedessia, barren and overrun by spirits. The natives of his realm lost their battle against the invaders at some point during Moonray's absence. He had no idea that all his carefully crafted plans were in vain.
Moonray tried to open the gate again, but with just his men at his side he didn't have enough resources to succeed. In his desperation he tried to open an uncontrolled gate in order to escape, only to draw the spirit's attention. Moonray and his men were caught, overwhelmed, and brought in front of the person who they call the 'Great One'. Then they had to swear fealty to their new overlord.
If he didn't manage to lie during several hours of interrogation, then even Moonray doesn't know who the One is. He only knows that the person in question paid irregular visits to the pyramid. Sometimes months went by without a word from their master. Then he would suddenly appear and give instructions to attack certain realms or to relocate the base.
It was clear that the pyramid's crew was just there to provide a controlling element to the otherwise fully automatic pyramid. The huge artefact would automatically deploy spirits to every location where it detected a portal. In addition, the pyramid functioned as a base of operation for the One's trusted agents. They came and went through personal portals to update the pyramid on their progress.
And while the agents always gave updates about their missions, the One never stayed for long enough for anyone to learn anything about him. He was always dressed in his dark cloak and a golden mask, always whispering as if even his voice is a big secret.
“Go on! I can't wait to have my turn. Or are you too squeamish to take your revenge?” Ishaan grumbles from behind me, entirely too close. He is violating my comfort zone and his chilly aura causes the hairs on my neck to stand, but I don't dare to turn around and face him. There is no way that I'll start a fight with Seria's grandpa in front of the whole family.
My eyes stay stuck on the naked, sobbing mess on the floor. Shade somehow managed to preserve Moonray's outrageous healing ability while blocking all his other powers. That results in the fact that his body looks completely fine, even though I know that he has been through hell and back. Somehow I feel pity for him. I know. One could argue that he had a part in what happened to my people. Thousands are dead, no, more. The pyramid launched attacks all over the multiverse. There is no way to ever count the loss of life.
Nonetheless, he didn't do anything to me or mine directly. He was just a part of the machine like so many others. Wouldn't it be petty of me to punish him any differently than the other prisoners? They are just sitting in their cells while Moonray is here. I know that he is a scumbag who definitely deserved what he got today. But while everyone else in this room has one or the other reason to hurt him, I have no personal feud with him. Just joining them for the sake of being part of the group would be wrong and not any different than what Moonray ended up doing.
“He burned me with that fire of his. It hurt, you know?” Seria breaks the silence with her melodious voice.
Before I know it, I've summoned an axe and hacked off Moonray's foot, severing it at the ankle. Then I shove it down his screaming throat, silencing his squeals as I use a summoned hammer to force the severed limb further down. Moonray stops struggling soon afterwards, dying because of the lack of blood and air. Soon afterwards his regeneration ability kicks in and he goes up in flames. It already happened several times while I watched the others at work. The flames don't actually burn anything, but they leave a completely healthy and regenerated Moonray behind.
Only then I realize that I just threw all my moral considerations over board. And all it took was my wife mentioning that he hurt her, whatever the circumstance.
Ishaan pats my shoulder with one of his huge hands. “Now you are a part of the clan. The method was crude, but the execution was fine, even if it took you a while to get going.”
“Thanks, Sir?” Damn! Was this a test? Some kind of initiation ritual? And my words came out like a question. I step back from Moonray, making way for Ishaan. “He is all yours. My quarrel with him doesn't lie as deep as yours.” Holding my breath, I pray to all the gods that I found the right words for Ishaan. Somehow the fellow is even more intimidating than Shade.
Shade can be pretty scary when he wants to. But there is a definite difference between him and his father. When Shade looks at you, you feel like a bug in front of his foot. When Ishaan looks at you, you can feel the malevolence he is harbouring. You simply know that you are unwelcome. It's like a finely tuned skill which he trained for years.
Ishaan grabs the much weaker looking Moonray and lifts him like a doll, which doesn't mean that Moonray looks weak. He has an athletic built which is similar to mine, much like a swimmer. Ishaan on the other hand is one of those Norse guys who look like they started bench pressing their Moms at the age of nine. And he is huge.
The ice titan tilts Moonray on his back and brings him down on his knee, which is accompanied by the resounding crack of a spine-bone. I look away, more for my own sake as for anything else. I don't want to see any more twisted joints today... and from the sound of it that's exactly what Ishaan is doing to Moonray right now.
Seria hooks arms with me, smiling. “That wasn't so bad, was it? And we learned a lot. I am sure that my father will find the other pyramids. Their operation was large, but there have to be other similar installations.”
I take her hand and intertwine my fingers with hers. “Yeah. How about hiding somewhere to...” I decide to leave the rest to her imagination. A little distraction would be very welcome right now.
She grins, but instead of steering me towards the door, she makes a short stop at Elona's side, whispering, “Do you think it would be possible to search this for any DNA other than Dad's and mine?” Seria reaches into her pocket and gives a piece of black cloth to her mother. It's wrapped in plastic now, but I recognize it as the piece of material which Shade ripped out of the One's cloak.
Elona takes the presented item and raises an eyebrow. “This is?”
“It's a piece from the One's cloak. Dad ripped it off when he chased him. Depending on the result, we might have to decide on a different approach.” Seria looks at her mother, conveying something with her eyes which eludes me.
“I understand.” Elona lets the piece of cloth disappear in her sleeve.
Then Seria pulls me onwards towards the door and I decide to ask her about what is going on. “What was that about?”
She smiles. “You'll probably learn sooner than you want to. Let's just savour the day before it's gone.”