The Bond of Devils

by Chadrick Neal

\"Victory for the Demon King!\" cried out a drunken soldier as he and his fellow soldiers stumbled through the near deserted streets. The people of Bainnesport had known peace for so long and the Paladins of the Scion had been no match for the ferocity and madness of the dread force that had fallen on them like some black steel tidal wave. The ships had been put to the torch, as had the livestock, the Imperial officials and Scion Knights. The townsfolk peered from their homes in terror; when the great Horn sounded everyone fled for the safety of their caches. Bainnesport was no stranger to pirates and their periodic raids, some who lacked the desire to fight had built chambers beneath their homes. These cozy little spaces had saved most of their lives when the Demon's Army had simply appeared on the horizon.

(At the docks)

\"This is fucking madness,\" spat Teppei, the islander was a short, barrel chested man. Tattoos ran up his meaty arms and across his shoulders, only to flare up and end on his neck. On his hands he wore brass rings across all ten fingers. They had pulled into port and Edmond had told them to stay with the ship. Their fearless captain had said he had \"business to attend to\". \"Blackstorm's out there, no doubt dead at the hands of that demon bastard.\"

As if she had heard him, the Obsidian Wave seemed to groan as it bobbed in the water, it's anchor dropped and the pirate galley rooted in place.

\"Mind your wits, Teppy,\" quipped Egan, he had dyed his hair blood red and always the joker. No one had ever seen the thief frown nor did they know him to be angry. He simply always seemed in control. Tall, thin, with pale skin, Egan had a knack for whores, knives, and gambling. And he was Edmond's second captain. \"Worst comes to worst, we'll raise anchor and drink to his memory.\"

This sent another uneasy murmur across the deck of the ship. Teppei stalked back and forth, his brow furrowed predatorily as he watched for the return of his captain. An olive skinned beauty, black curls cascading from her head down to her shoulders, slowly stalked up from the midship cabins; her leather breeches hung loose off her swaying hips and the woman yawned as she stepped into the dying daylight.

\"Still no return, eh?\" her voice was smooth and gentle, intoxicating to anyone she spoke to, she had a love of men and women. She cast a quick glance at the shoreline, the roofs of the wooden makeshift buildings that made Bainnesport, and beyond them all the great Imperial Courthall with its flawless columns reaching skyward, it's dome looking alien against the poverty surrounding it. \"Egan, wanna go for drinks? Whoring?\"

\"No one leaves the Wave, Des,\" rumbled a deep voice. Horgath was a half giant. The lithe creature let out a disappointed whimper and set off away from the sullen men. His mother had been violated by a raiding party of Orcmen and he was the result. His birth had brought the exile of he and his mother. He retained no physical trait of his monstrous fathering, only the size and strength. He had been blessed with his mother's look. \"You know that. We all know that.\"

The four captains stood on the ship's deck, Teppei now clinched his warhammer tightly as if the feel of the entwood haft were all that kept his fury in check. Egan swung a lazy leg over one side of the ship, a coy smirk on his face as he juggled a dagger in one hand. Desuma had pulled her hair back and tied it into place with a strip of leather, ordering deckhands around out of boredom more than necessity. Horgath merely stood at the wooden plank that bridged ship and land. His arms had crossed over his massive chest and his own irritation had begun to boil over.

(In the Imperial Courthall)

The once pristine marble stonework had become a butchery. Soldiers clad in black steel armor stood at either side of the High Council seat. Drakon laughed raucously, his plated boot resting firm upon the head of an Imperial official.\"Bring me more mead! You, bring me that girl!\" the Warlord had gone mad with power; his conquest had only just begun and he had found the secret to immortality...or it had been found for him. The young girl was forcefully brought to him; the bodice of her linen dress had been ripped; her budding breasts bruised from the past two days of abuse, her lips were cracked and scabbed over, her eyes held no light of life. She dared not raise her head and stare at anything, she had seen too many women die for that alone.Drakon rested his chin in his metal clad fist; the soldier who presented the girl pounded his chest, abruptly turned and marched away. His eyes, black as the Pit, danced with a morbid light.

\"Do you know who I am, girl?\"

She jumped when he spoke, as if he had made to strike her. Her lip quivered. \"Y-you are--you are Drakon the Black Dread. King of Demons. You are evil.\"

Crazed laughter erupted from the tyrant, he began to pound his fist on the arm of the stone seat. The guards that stood next to him began to pound the hafts of their spears on the floor. The child backed away, fear twisting her features as she tried to drown out the terrible sound. She bumped into someone; leather armor, the strong scent of the sea, sweat of battle and age. A gentle hand rested on her shoulder and she soon realized that the dread beat had stopped as if killed.

Silence prevailed and she looked up at her savior. His skin was the color of freshly turned earth, he was taller than her father had been by maybe a head, but not as big. One of his eyes had a long scar across it, the iris now a milky white and the other eye was nearly as dark as his tattooed skin.\"Run away, girl,\" his voice was deep and soothing. \"You won't be harmed. I swear on the Wave.\"

She dared not look at the Demon on the throne, but her savior she gazed at like some God come down to save her. She turned and began to sprint towards the door, a spear embedded itself into the column off to her right just as she broke into the coming dusk. Drakon stood, his body rigid and fury palpable, he pointed an armored finger at his new audience.

\"You,\" he hissed as he stepped off the platform. His stoic guards watched carefully, ready to strike if need be. \"You have no right here, Edmond Blackstorm! Go back to your Sea! Our deal is done!\"

\"Our deal is never done, Drakon,\" the pirate captain slung a corpse out of a high backed wooden chair and sat himself down, picking up an ornate goblet and sniffing its contents. \"Good wine..\" Drakon's twisted blade smashed the table into two halves, his face had contorted as his senses left him.

\"I could have you killed! I could have your entrails for my banner!\" Edmond sat calmly, letting his old comrade throw his tantrum.

\"Aye, you could. But that would mean that you would die, too, does it not?\"

A furious roar escaped the Demon King. He stomped towards one of his guardsmen, gripped the man by his shoulder and plunged his sword into the man's gut. Edmond sucked at his teeth in mock.

\"Leave Bainnesport, Drakon. The coast and the sea are mine. The lands are yours,\" another guard fell over as Edmond continued. \"We both are cursed. We both ate the Heart of Djun, the dragon that destroyed Blackmarsh...if I remember correctly, it was me that saved you.\"

\"AND IT WAS ME THAT BROUGHT THIS GOD-BLASTED LAND TO HEEL!\" bellowed the frenzied man as he murdered yet another guard. Two men remained in Drakon's elite guard, their murdered comrades lay in welling pools of dark blood. Their eyes never deviating from their fixed gaze, they stared at the pirate hatefully.

\"At this rate, Drako, you're going to kill off all your men, old friend,\" Edmond chuckled and rose to his feet, the wooden chair screeched as its legs slid across the stone floor. \"Leave Bainnesport, Drakon.\"

(On the Deck of the Obsidian Wave)

Egan, Teppei, Horgath and Desuma all stood a silent vigil, worry set lines across all their faces. They had watched the Demon Legion withdraw, had watched the crimson banner flap away in the wind, and still no sign of their captain.

\"Alright, I've had just about e-fucking-nough. I'm goin'ta get'im.\" Teppei huffed and stomped down the gangplank. Horgath's massive hand clamped down on the burly shoulder of the stout master-at-arms and (as easily as you or I might pick up a loaf of bread) lifted Teppei off the ground.\"You half-giant bastard! You set me down'er I'm'a bust yer head open!\" he shouted. Teppei's legs kicked wildly in the air.

Desuma snickered quietly and Egan merely sighed, as if he had gotten bored. His orange hued eyes scanned the horizon and he grunted. \"Set him down, Horgath. Here comes our fearless leader..\"

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