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Most demons are by no means endowed with intelligence. Few can speak and of those that do, most are capable only of the guttural grunts and cries that constitute their language. Even then they prefer use of their varied assortment of claws, talons, and other devices of persuasion for communication purposes. Leaving a group of lower demons unattended will often result in brutal destruction from the combination of their diminished brain power and their enlarged physical and magical power. However, what they lack in intelligence, demons make up for in cleverness, craftiness, and an inherited predatory instinct distinguishing them as extremely effective killers.
These qualities are what allowed the demons to enter Horsekick’s Tavern unopposed. Under their human guise, the demons would be easily confused at a quick glance with regular members of the palace guard. A more experienced eye could have caught the sharpened teeth lying just behind their crimson lips, the way they relied on their acute sense of smell to determine their next course of action, and the pale flecks of red streaking through their enlarged irises when they almost lost control. But the most reliable way to identify them was the animalistic way they moved, with their silent, slinking stalk that was more catlike in nature than human.
Though they were hungry, the demons dared not touch the easy prey of the few remaining drunkards who littered the main room. The charred remains of the last of their brothers to harm a human had served its purpose in discouraging any questionable behavior. Their master had made his intentions well known: unprovoked conflict with humans was strictly forbidden. It was unfortunate, as the plump specimen snoring by the fire would have made a fine appetizer for the three of them, and might have even given them a slight buzz from the alcohol in his blood.
The lead demon paused in the center of the room, casting his head left and right before inhaling a swift, deep breath. He could taste the blood in the air, the same blood from the streets, blood that had led them to the tavern itself. Immediately he spotted the dried, crimson drops that led across the room to a small door in the back of the tavern. As they approached, the smell grew stronger, until he was certain that his prey lay just behind.
Earlier that night, when they found their brothers lying still outside the wall, they had made quick work finishing off their corpses. Those gifted with fire had a smoky taste to them which still lingered on their breaths. Typically they would not have been concerned with their deaths, but again the master had again made himself clear on this point. “If anyone harms you, or stands in your way, they die. They die quietly, secretly, and immediately, and then you may feast upon the marrow in their bones.”
And behind the three demons, three more similar, dark shapes materialized in the tavern’s doorway.
“Ah,” said Dyrius, “I see we can now begin.” His face was solemn and his eyes gleamed in the candlelight. Rearden had already informed Cinis of Dyrius’ blindness, but Cinis found it strange that the eyes did not share the same milky quality he had seen on other blind men. Rather they seemed alive and knowing, not dead and unseeing.
Rearden stood up to speak. “Cinis, Dyrius is an old friend of mine. Very old, from before you were born and I came to this city. He brings news to you from outside the wall.”
“But I’ve never really been outside,” objected Cinis. The farthest away he had been from Querkus was to the loading docks by the river Tryst, which carried goods to the sea and to the harbor city Crinum, but those were only a few miles away from the Wall.
“What I’m about to tell you concerns events from beyond your knowledge and before your time. I must warn you that what I have to say will cause great change. You will not be able to go back to your ordinary life. So it is only proper that you hear it under your consent. Hear me, and your life will change forever. What is heard cannot be unheard and what is seen cannot be unseen. May I go forward?”
Under Rearden’s stern gaze, Cinis hesitated. Quiet though it was, he had a good life in the tavern. What type of changes, he wondered. Would he have to leave the city? He doubted life would change much, and the events outside the Wall did not concern him. Perhaps Dyrius was trying to recruit him for some kingdom’s army.
He knew though, that he would never forgive himself if he did not hear those words. There was something strange in the old man’s voice, something that drew out his curiosity in a way similar to the singing voice in the underground city. Without further pause, he gave a curt nod.
“He consents,” said Rearden with a sigh, and Dyrius pressed his hands together before speaking.
“I still owe you a proper introduction. I am Dyrius of the Myrian Seers, a guild from the water city Rymenia.
Cinis, we seers do not see with our eyes, but that does not make us blind. We perceive in ways that others can only dream, sensing the forces around us, seeing the actions and reactions of the energies that drive our world. It is a gift that grants us knowledge otherwise beyond the grasp of common men, and even some of the most extraordinary men, for that matter.”
Then Dyrius paused and cleared his throat, his blind eyes managing to stare directly into Cinis’ despite his condition.
“And it is most fortunate, young man, that you have decided to hear me out. For I have stared into the waters, and have come to know what lies ahead. I have seen your death three weeks from this very day.”
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