Was it possible to leash a demon? Boreas considered the likelihood as he strode to the command tent, but every idea crumbled under scrutiny. If there was, he hadn’t yet discovered the means.
There had to be some way to bend Fercos to his will.
He buried those considerations under other thoughts while hesitating before the closed flap. The brute inside claimed to provide council regarding the legion Boreas commanded in these wild lands far from the civilized city of Rome. It was vexing to permit Fercos this much influence over the soldiers, but sometimes seizing power required deference to a mightier strength … temporarily.
One of these days he would no longer request permission to enter his own tent. “Are you present?”
The voice from inside was low and gravelly. “Come inside.”
Boreas pushed past the flap into the dimmer interior. Only a couple of paces before him, Fercos sat upon a bearskin and grasped a roasted goose in clawed hands. At first glance the fiend appeared as a tall and brawny man, especially when he concealed his deformities, but it was his custom to remove his gloves while dining.
Other meats and some bread, with a few knives scattered in their midst, were arranged on a tanned pelt between them. Miscellaneous supplies, including spare armor and swords, were stored behind the brute.
Fercos bit into the breast of his fare with teeth like a wolf’s, and lowered the bird as his gaze locked on Boreas.
Those swirling pupils were too unsettling to gaze upon, so he focused instead on Fercos’s bearded chin. Months ago, when Boreas allowed this creature to gain access to his mind, he had to regard those otherworldly eyes. The experience had left him feeling drained.
But it would all be worth it in the end.
“We have intelligence on the traitor’s current location.” Boreas’s attention diverted to the half dozen wine flasks beside Fercos before darting back to his dark beard flecked with gray. “He’s struck up a trade with another backwoods village. They call it….” Local pronunciation annoyed him. “Goonree.”
“The lad is still with him?”
“Definitely. The mountainous region presents its usual challenges, but if I divide the troops so we can surround the village—”
“No.” Fercos set the cooked goose on the hide.
“But we can either detain him so you can kill the lad, or you can engage him and we’ll execute the upstart.”
“Fool.” Fercos leaned forward, and each following word proceeded with deliberation, his Latin accented by a language from yet some other far-flung region. “Have you forgotten the traitor is my kith? You will never hold him.”
Understanding this bizarre dynamic among demons was like seining for minnows with bare hands. “His companion is as vulnerable to our weapons as any man.”
“Do not underestimate the traitor as you underestimate me.”
Boreas almost met his gaze and a light tremor rippled through his core. Was Fercos aware of what he’d been thinking as he approached the tent? When he agreed to allow the creature access to his mind, he’d believed that entry would be limited to sharing information that would help reach their goal. Considering how Fercos had to initiate that action, Boreas hadn’t considered the link would make it this easy to spy upon him.
Could that communication work both ways?
Perhaps some flattery would play in his favor. “Considering your power, I thought you would be able to subdue the traitor. I confess, I still don’t understand why you don’t just mow down the local peasants and take control of these lands since you could do so with ease.”
Fercos seemed to study him, and his mouth twisted into a toothy smile that brought to mind the gleeful sneer of a soldier dragging a woman captured as booty into his tent.
“I take control? You know nothing of my kind, general, and you are incapable of learning. You do not desire to see me in power. You only plot how to bring glory to yourself through me, to place yourself in authority and live off the backs of others.”
“We have the same goals.”
“Only in your imagination.” Fercos’s hands clenched into fists.
The knives on the pelt sprang, spinning, into the air. And as Boreas stepped back, his sword flew from its scabbard. He reached for its grip, but the edge whipped toward him. His hand snatched back a second too late, and the point struck his smallest finger hard enough to draw blood.
The other swords stored behind Fercos flew into the air to join the knives and Boreas’s own weapon in a dancing whirlwind around him. They spun and jabbed as they whisked about, slicing the air with whooshing and clanging. He didn’t dare move lest some body part slip within range of their momentum, not even to pinch his bleeding digit.
“Let me make myself clear.” Fercos raised his hands and uncurled those clawed fingers. “You are here to serve me. I care not for the trifles you yearn for, and you can have them. But you will do as I tell you and spare me your pitiful strategies.”
“I thought you wanted the lad dead, and possibly the same for the traitor.”
“I will act upon my terms, not the traitor’s. All I require of you now is to keep me updated on his whereabouts. Do nothing unless I tell you. And banish the foolish notion you would ever be able to keep me on a leash.”
The chill that crept through Boreas accentuated his frozen stance. To be honest, he never really trusted this creature … and it was no surprise that distrust would be mutual.
“If that is what you wish.” The words seemed to hang in his throat.
“Then you may take your leave.” Fercos’s hands clenched again.
The knives slammed down to the pelt, and the spare swords hurled back to their sheaths. Boreas’s weapon shoved into its scabbard with a force that tugged on his belt.
Fercos picked up the goose and resumed eating.
Boreas bowed slightly as he grumbled, “Yes, sir.” He turned and left the tent.
He retreated at least forty strides before contemplating recent events. Infernal creature. It was apparent Fercos’s mind-reading ability was limited to a certain range, otherwise Boreas would never need to report to him. In the future he would be more wary of the fiend’s proximity when plotting how to best use Fercos to his advantage.
Despite his sneaky ally’s claim, Boreas would not submit completely. The stories he’d grown up, regaling him of deeds by gods and monsters, also admitted they were fraught with their own shortcomings. This bizarre fixation Fercos held for a traitor and his ward was further evidence these beings were not as fully powerful as they claimed, and one could take advantage of any weakness they tried to hide.
Demons or gods, it made no difference. After all, they weren’t so different from mankind.
Here is my submission to #BlogBattle, and the word this month is Dynamic. Don’t miss out – be sure to check out all the other contributions!