Manifestation of Force

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.

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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!

20 thoughts on “Manifestation of Force

  1. Love the interplay Abe. You trust me but I don’t trust you kind of thing a military mind in command might well play with without thinking. Not quite sure who’s in control here either haha.

    Mind you I’m not sure either of these two do! Both want something from the other and neither seems to want to be the underdog taking orders. Throw in the probability of one sided mind reading and it’s a recipe for command infrastructure damage. Who’s to say this demon is not a double agent keeping his “kith” one step ahead.

    If you can’t leash a demon why would you trust it?

    Seems to me there must be a payback owed on its “use” at some point. Not sure I’d like to be Boreas when that comes round.

    I mean, do these demons hand around solo or are they all networked psychically? An army holds a lot of souls maybe?

    Great stuff though. One off or part of the world build?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, and yes, this is an addition to the Malach and Cadwalader story universe, whose dynamic is quite different from that of Boreas and Fercos! Neither of these two can be trusted. As for your question about do the ‘demons’ work solo or networked, the answer is a bit complicated. I’ve alluded they’ve been around for ages, have extensive lifespans, and despise humanity – so you could say they tend to work solo toward a united cause.

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      • Thought so. I di love rich worlds too. The demon thing is a good foil too. So many ways to interpret how they might function. Its why I asked! Mind you, as per Joshua’s aliens there’s a lot to ponder about how humans are mucking things up. I guess disliking us could be a reasonable assumption at first contact

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! Although I might have to warn you that your thinking may be as twisted as mine since you picked up on the cooked goose insinuation. 🙂 The swirling cutlery was a fun description to write.

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  2. This is a part of Malach’s world? Oh, how deliciously fascinating! I’m on pins and needles for more.

    I found it funny how Boreas thinks that his deference to a demon is temporary. I think humans lie to themselves about that all the time (demons can be many things).

    ‘Goonre’ is an interesting name for a place. *chuckles* I wonder if that’s a hint or just a random name.

    The ending in which you reveal the possibility of limited distance for mind investigation answered 2 questions throughout the story. 1. How can Boreas not know that Fercos knows about his plans to leash him? Does he want to get killed? 2. Why does the demon need the general for simple information? I’m intrigued.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you – and yes, we humans are very good at lying to ourselves! The name ‘Goonree’ is a phonetic spelling of general Welsh pronunciation, and is meant as a hint (or reminder) of where these characters are lurking. As always, there’s a chance any of them can turn up again in a future prompt.

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  3. What a great opening line!

    It’s great to delve back into your writing once more, A.E.

    I love the description of the brute’s deformities and claws and how he eats. You give us just enough information to get the imagination spinning. He’s nicely shrouded in mystery! Also, the description of his sneer as something like a soldier with a captured woman was deeply unsettling—perfect imagery for a monster.

    I vaguely remember your story with a demon and a young boy, but I forget the details. Is this part of that same universe?

    Excellent as ever, A.E.!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, and yes, this is part of that story universe you vaguely remember. These are actually some of the ‘bad guys’ those two characters you recall will have to contend with someday. I’m not methodical with it as I was with the Deuce the IMP stories, but occasionally this story line provides some fodder for some of the prompts!

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  4. A world I am mostly new to.😀
    I like the demonic atmosphere redolent with menace and power throughout most of the narrative, but what I truly applaud is the twist at the end; Boreas may be mortal and Fercos may have the whip hand when they are close, but he has obviously underestimated ‘this mortal’.
    A reminder that ‘we’ are a dangerous and tricky species. The story leaves you feeling that Fercos might rue his choice of tool.

    Liked by 1 person

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