(Book 2 of the Icor Tales)
North of the Splintered Isles
The beast is coming.
Yurkin could hear the heavy shuffling footsteps. He could see the sudden cowed looks on the crew and he could sense their complete abasement.
He stood on the foredeck as far from the beast’s quarters as he could get, shivering from the cold and the fear. The beast had reached the main deck.
Yurkin felt the stones on his necklace; there were seven of them now. He wanted to rip the necklace off and cast it in the ocean, but just like every other time he had tried, it would not come off. He could not pry even one stone away from his skin.
There will be pain, thought Yurkin. Now would be the time to jump. I may never get the chance again. I would sink into the frigid depths and never feel pain again.
He felt a tingling sensation, he was on the precipice, his body could sense the honed edge of the tipping point.
He had made his decision. He would embrace cold death, rather than face the beast again. Just then, the beast spoke.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Bestich said with a hint of a chuckle. “Go on then. Show me how brave you are boy.”
Yurkin closed his eyes and jumped. It was a strange feeling. He braced for the impact of the water, but it never came. Opening his eyes he could see the familiar white mist of the icor wrapped around him lifting him up in the air and bringing him down to the main deck. Bestich’s magic won’t let me die. Bestich grunted and turned his back on Yurkin and walked towards his cabin. The icor carried Yurkin behind him.
Bestich entered the cabin and sat at his table. The icor gently placed Yurkin at the only other seat at the table.
Since losing his campaign against the Southern Ceniacs, Bestich had become even fatter, he had grown an unkempt beard and he had taken to drinking. He smelled of red wine, pork, and something dire… something dead. Before his loss, Bestich had always looked neat, confident and playful. He had applied perfumes every day, and bathed within his tent every evening. Even when he was committing atrocities, he wore a smile and a velvet red cummerbund. But his great cause had been dealt a serious blow. Now he wore a scowl and his atrocities had no purpose. He would mutter to himself and on occasion his internal anger would be released in a stream of fire directed at some innocent bystander. He had killed a cook, a boatswain, a powder monkey and the chief gunner.
“Well, it is understandable that you wish to escape your plight boy,” said Bestich in a slurred patronizing tone. I know life’s been hard for you. I know you call me the beast…” Bestich paused, as if unsure what he had planned to say next. “I’m really not that bad you know. I’m an absolute delight, in the right circumstances.” His eyes lost focus for a moment and he made a slight snarl. “I was supposed to be a god by now, and I would have been if it hadn’t been for one silly girl.”
Am I supposed to say something? Am I supposed to sympathize with this beast that killed my brother?
“I need to sends a message to my wizards,” Bestich said.
A sudden miserable fear gripped Yurkin. This would require a lot of power and that would cause pain. He felt tears welling up. His lower lip began to quiver, despite his efforts to suppress it.
“Am I supposed to sympathize with you?” sneered Bestich. “You should be thankful. You get to live in luxury. You can have any comfort you desire…” He cocked his head at Yurkin. “Girls… you should have girls in your cabin. You’re a teenage boy, obviously you want girls right?”
Yurkin gave Bestich a look of befuddlement. You’ve killed my brother, you torture me daily, and you think forcing a girl into my cabin will make it all good? Like I am the sort of creature to inflict myself on some unwilling victim like that?
“No?” said Bestich confused. “Perhaps boys?”
Yurkin’s mouth dropped open.
“No?” Bestich chuckled. “Sheep? I know you Northmen love your livestock. Ha ha ha!”
A sudden anger gripped Yurkin and it bypassed his fear and without a moment for his intellect to intercede he threw a punch at Bestich’s face. It bounced of the icor shield. A ball of flame appeared in Bestich’s right hand and he brought it forward to within a foot of Yurkin’s face.
“That’s what I get for trying to be nice,” Bestich snarled. “You are so ungrateful.”
The orange flame turned blue as he brought it closer to Yurkin’s face. Yurkin could feel the heat on his face and also heat on his chest from the power being drawn from the power stones. He could see the white mist of the icor flowing from his necklace towards Bestich.
Bestich’s smiled, and his eyes gleamed with blue light reflected from the flame. Yurkin had never seen the beast exhibit such sadistic pleasure. Usually his acts of violence had been a means to an end or a sudden burst of anger, but Yurkin could tell that Bestich was enjoying seeing him suffer.
The white icor turned red.
Yurkin tried pulling away as he saw the red icor flowing from his chest. Bestich’s expression changed from sadistic glee to curiosity.
The blue flame subsided, but the red mist grew and the pain from Yurkin’s chest remained. Yurkin gritted his teeth trying to bear the pain.
“Interesting,” said Bestich, looking at the red mist with fascination. “I have never seen it do this before.”
Yurkin felt the power stones heat more as Bestich drew more of the icor from it, but now the red mist was not being absorbed by Bestich, instead it formed a cloud. Bestich released Yurkin who fell to the floor in agony.
Goddess stop this pain, thought Yurkin, and immediately the pain stopped. Bestich was no longer drawing power from him. Yurkin scuttled backwards towards the cabin wall as he watched a head manifest from the red mist. He recognized it. It was Unmind, the dead Northern warlord. Yurkin had seen Unmind die.
Bestich’s mouth opened in an expression of genuine surprise.
“Unmind?” said Bestich. “Is that you, my old friend?”
“He who knows himself knows everything,” replied Unmind.
Bestich appeared confused. “What?”
“We have work to do,” Unmind said. “You recently completed your campaign in Alafay and ordered them to join the remnants of your Ceniac forces to reinvade the South.”
“Yes,” said Bestich. “We will invade and I will take the sickening, the council, the golden key…”
“No,” said Unmind. “The icor on the Ceniac island is too strong, and has sided with the old woman and her boy.”
“So it is true then, the icor has decided against me?” Bestich looked down in an expression of defeat.
“The icor has not decided, it has divided. There is the white icor that believes humanity has a chance at freedom and happiness, and there is red icor which understands humanity’s true purpose divined from its creator. Life without pain has no meaning.”
Bestich smiled. “It is as I have always said. Humanity’s purpose is to be a slave race, to suffer… under me, it’s ruler, it’s god.”
“The red icor you see is called Siva and it will grant you the status of god. The power you have experienced with Yuang’s white icor is insignificant compared with Siva’s red icor. I will teach you how to magnify your power by channeling suffering into Siva, then you reach out as you commune with your wizards and you will teach them. Then we will unleash an army of crimson wizards upon the world.”
Yurkin looked on this exchange with horror. They will bring even more suffering upon the world. Is there no end?
“What about my invasion forces?” asked Bestich.
“Send them against the Eastern Isles. Yuang has no Sickening on the Eastern Isles which makes her weak there. But you do not need a Sickening, because you can power Siva with suffering. Bring suffering to the Eastern Isles and then you will have the power you need to invade the Ceniac Island and I shall have my vengeance, not just upon the South, but also the North who have joined with their oppressors.”
Bestich’s wore an uneven smile. It looked like the grin of a mischievous child. “What of the icor’s rules? Do they not bind Siva?”
Unmind nodded. “Siva is bound, which is why I give you a quest.”
“Take a small force to the Ceniac Sickening. Siva will grant you access to the hall of the council and to the hall of the ancients. From there you must wake the creator’s partner, Ethan, who can be persuaded to rid Siva of the rules constraining her.”
Yurkin looked from Unmind to Bestich. Bestich looked down at Yurkin with a big grin.
“Oh Yurkin, we’re going home!”