The Slave loved Blackgan city. The salt in the air, the grizzled fishermen and the feeling of the point of a dagger on his back. He balanced his life on the edge of cliffs, lived on the business end of a greatsword, walking the shadowy streets of the Free City of Blackgan Lake. This was the perfect place for him.
His position of prominence among the Free Cities of Xanthar made him a target of jealousy. Everyone wanted what he had; to have all the Wayward Slaves ready at a moment’s notice is serious power.
He turned a corner into a deserted part of town. A few blocks down, a wooden structure had collapsed into itself. There were shards of wood sticking out at awkward angles: the rotting corpse of a building of prominence. He pushed apart some of the wood and made his way into the ruins. He was in the inside of a destroyed tavern. There were tables and chairs in various stages of disarray. There was a bar, behind which several bottles lay shattered along the ground.
The Slave bent his knees a little and hopped onto the bar with no effort. He barely made a sound. He stepped off it, a smile dancing across his lips. Absent-mindedly, he picked up a shard of glass. That might be useful.
He stepped past the glass and around the remnants of a wine shelf. He felt around the mud a little and found a depression. Smirking, he took a step forward and jumped. This time, he made a sound, deliberately. Three times, he jumped, making loud noises, and then he stepped away. A moment later, the ground shifted and opened before him like a trap door.
A large man stepped out of it. He was bald, and he was muscular. He seemed overtly strong, as though he had deliberately built his body to show his strength. But his poised step and his perfect posture gave away a nimbleness that excited the Slave. It would be fun to tangle with this guy. So much fun.
His advisors’ words cut through his mind, At least try to negotiate first. That was useless. Who negotiates in Xanthar?
“Slave,” the big man nodded. His voice was deep, booming.
“You seem fun.” The Slave smirked.
“Hands out, please.”
“Oh, c’mon!” The Slave feigned a whine. The big man stared right back. “I’m sorry I called you fun.” He held his hands out by his sides.
The big man found the knives, obviously, but to the Slave’s chagrin, he also found the shard of glass. He was thorough. A bit annoyed, the Slave made his way into the trapdoor.
The room smelt distinctly of wine. A musty odour that indicated age, a sense that this place had been around far longer than the ruins of the tavern above it. Inside sat a table with four people around it. Three of them just looked like grunts: big muscles, hard faces, no shirts. It was the man at the head of the table that excited the Slave.
He had a large scar going down his wrinkled face, through one eye and a crooked lip. There was no eyepatch, no eyelids. The mutilated corpse of an eye was on full display. Pure white, leaking from the sides, so much that the man had to take a handkerchief and wipe the pus off from time to time. The Slave initially thought the man had a thin upper lip, but soon realized that the lip was simply missing, and instead, there was jagged flesh. An ordinary man would start pissing his pants at such a sight. The Slave, however, was no ordinary man, and could feel a slight bulge where an ordinary man’s piss would be.
He bowed deeply. Sarcasm, not respect.
“Lord Morrison,” he said. “What an honour. I must say I am a huge fan.”
Lord Morrison made no response. A slight grunt was all.
The Slave looked around, found a chair, and sat.
“The Lord didn’t say you could sit,” said a grunt, suddenly standing.
The Slave spread his legs in his chair and sized the grunt up. To his disappointment, there was no nimbleness in this one. All brute strength. Pathetic.
“Well, it seems I can! So, now you know.”
Fire took the barbarian’s eyes, and he reached for his side, where the Slave saw a glint of steel. Before anything could happen, though, Lord Morrison held his hand out and opened his mouth.
The Slave counted three teeth, but there could have been more amongst the shambles that was his mouth. His voice came out like a sword being scraped across wood: almost a hiss, with a grizzled husk. The words came out slow, calculated, confident. Arrogant. “No need for that, my dear chap.”
The Slave threw his mouth open, “That’s no fair, why does he get toys? The big mean man took all mine away!”
“Because you,” and Lord Morrison looked straight at him, “have infringed upon my grounds.” Every word came out carefully, each syllable enunciated. “There are few with the courage to do such a dastardly thing, and it must be applauded. But you must understand, you cannot be allowed to continue.”
“My mummy always told me that sharing is caring. Didn’t yours?”
It was hard to tell, but the Slave could have sworn Lord Morrison smiled at that. “Unfortunately, I had to cut my mummy’s life short. It is not the most comfortable of topics, so let us focus solely on your… insolence.” Lord Morrison looked over at the grunt to his left. “Edward, here, has been stuck with me for two weeks, unable to exact his vengeance upon the fools who destroyed the caravan that left two days ago from Myxhal. Some of those items were of supreme importance to Edward. He doesn’t like you very much.” He looked back over to the Slave, wiping pus from his leaking eye. “If you surrender now, he will only take three fingers from your left hand.” Edward smiled hungrily.
The Slave leaned forward. “I thought this was going to be a truce meeting.”
“What in the world gave you that idea, boy?”
“Must I remind you, my lord, that Eddie’s caravan was not the only one we took.”
“Six caravans were raided, and twenty of my men are dead.”
“The Slaves did all that. If I’m not mistaken, and please correct me if I am… that’s every shipment from Myxhal for two months. You have no product in Blackgan at all. I thought we deserved a little more respect than this bullshit.”
The grunt went for his sword again, advancing around the table this time. The Slave didn’t move. Lord Morrison held his hand up ever so slightly. “Archie, come now.”
“Listen here, you little shit,” the grunt was now towering over The Slave, his shadow completely engulfing the Slave. “That’s Lord Nestor fucking Morrison over there. Show some fucking respect or I’ll eat–“
“Archie!” said Morrison’s rasping voice, shutting Archie up at once.
The Slave, still in his chair, looked straight up at him, and his eyes turned just a little red. Archie’s head momentarily retreated. “Yeah,” There was a tang to the Slave’s voice. Metallic, like a sword, scraped across armour. “Archie.”
Archie snarled, and then backed away. The Slave could taste his fear. His mouth began to water. Oh, he was so happy that Morrison was threatening him.
“You know, Nestor,” said The Slave, feigning annoyance. The tension in the room seemed to rise the minute he said ‘Nestor.’ Archie definitely didn’t like it. “I really don’t appreciate all this,” he gestured vaguely at the room. “This isn’t really a comfortable environment for me. I don’t need this.”
Lord Morrison’s half-face curled in a snarl. “You don’t know what you’re fucking with, boy.” The pretence in his words was gone. There was an undertone in his voice, as though something was amplifying it. “You sit,” blood poured from his bad eye, and the good one glowed a dark red, “when I tell you to.” This was almost a hiss, and The Slave felt his muscles seizing. He felt his windpipe close. He couldn’t breathe. For a small moment, panic took him, his heart jumping, a sharp pain in his chest. He closed his eyes and concentrated only on the taste of Archie’s fear. It melted in his mouth, almost bringing tears to his eyes, going straight from his tongue to his brain, and exploding there. His windpipe opened.
He gasped air and regained control of his muscles. He was standing now.
His lips stretched into a smile. “Thank every god in the heavens you did that.” The room had become delicious. Every person in it tasted of a cake dripping in chocolate sauce. He had to gulp back some spit to stop himself from drooling. “I promised my girlfriend I wouldn’t fight until I was provoked.”
He threw the chair into Archie and lunged at the Lord, biting into his neck. There was an explosion of flavour as he ripped the Lord’s throat out with his teeth. Black smoke billowed from the hole he left there. The Slave breathed it in, the fragrance of a meadow of poppies filling his sinuses. His blood rushed through his body, and his limbs began to move at the speed of light.
The next few minutes were only flashes. The big man who had his daggers. Archie’s crimson guts. The other grunts cowering in fear. The taste of their terror. Black smoke filling the room. Sweet. Smoke. Blood.
To the others, the Slave was no longer a man. His eyes burst into fire, the flames licking at his brows. Every time they cut into him, he seemed to get stronger. The four grunts were no match for him, as Lord Morrison lay screaming on the ground, clutching the half of his neck that was no longer there.
When they all were dead, and his daggers lay dripping with their blood, the smoke billowing from their wounds found their way into The Slave’s nostrils. As he breathed out, his eyes flashed pure black for a second, and then returned to their usual green. Sheathing one dagger, he sauntered over to Lord Morrison, barely alive, thrashing on the ground like a fish out of water. He was trying to say something, but his throat was in tatters.
“I was hoping you’d do something like that.” The Slave pressed his knees on Lord Morrison’s hands, stopping him from casting any spells. “It seems you didn’t do your homework. You didn’t ask your men what they saw when the Slaves descended upon them. You should have, Nestor.” The Slave’s dagger sank in the exposed part of the Lord’s throat. Blood gurgled in the back of Morrison’s throat in spurts, getting more and more sparse. The good eye was engulfed in fear. Fear it was not accustomed to. Pure, unbridled terror. The Slave felt intoxicated, giddy, nauseous, almost.
“Oh, well,” said The Slave, as smoke once more began to escape Lord Nestor’s throat. “I guess you know now.”