Not the story I have been thinking on, but something else that crept into my head.
Inri the Devil
Prologue: A Painful Scream
He didn't know exactly who they were. A middle-aged couple and their kids, Maam Shera and Sir Mendil Honnis found him passed out along the side of the road on the edge of their farm spent from exhaustion and dehydration. They had carried him up a flight of stairs in their home to a small corner room that doubled as tool storage- hoes, rakes, shears, mallets, and the like leaning up against or hanging from pegs on the wall giving the room the smell of earth, wood, and rust. If they expressed any shock over his sword they gave no notice of it.
The younger of their two boys, Billan, seemed curious about him. He was the one he had woken up to. Large brown eyes under blonde hair and fat cheeks, he seemed as excited by him as by the sword, jumping up and down on the wooden floor and clapping his hands whenever he so much as moved. It only took moments after hearing her sons stomping and squealing for Maam Honnis to appear and shoo the boy away giggling like a loon.
"That boy can irritate a rock if you let him." she clipped as she sat down on a stool beside the bed, fixing him with a smile a son could die for. Shera Honnis wasn't fat but she was thick and sturdy-looking, warm blue eyes as bright as summer peering out between strands of blonde hair haphazardly shoved up under a beige cap that matched her beige and white dress. She had a mothers beauty and charm that radiated from her. She seemed pleased enough that he awoke, telling him about how they brought him in from the sun and how she placed his sword in the closet to his right to keep her youngest from fooling around with it. She asked a few questions about him, but all he told her was that he was from the Eirdin Region to the north along the foothills of the Namsu Mountains. Her face darkened for a moment, clearly not buying any part of it, and a pang of guilt shot through him. She was being open and friendly as possible. She probably considered it an affront to her good nature. But she brightened quickly and told him dinner would be ready in about an hour before leaving with a parting smile.
After setting the meal, Shera had went outside the house to draw the last water of the day from the well and bring down the clothes drying across the lines. He never came down from the room, instead trying to recall events that were still a bit foggy foggy in his head. He knew he had to get to the harbor, though. That stuck out most of all. But for a moment he could see her face above his own, eyes twinkling and cold, before it faded with his name echoing off her lips. Inri.
Her husband, Sir Honnis and his sons were gathered by the table over a meal of stewed beef and bread. He heard them sit, smelling the meat and onions as if it had been under his nose. He also listened to their conversation, even to the part where one of the boys offered to come wake him up to share the meal, but Mendil Honnis stopped him.
"Let him sleep till he's ready."
The man was too charitable, taking in strangers like him.
It seemed only a few minutes passed before Inri suddenly heard the door crash open, Shera Honnis screaming, and the alarm of the rest of the family as he rose on instinct, bare-footed, and dove into the closet shutting the door with hand on sheath, chest heaving and eyes wide.
New, vulgar, aggressive voices filled the farm house. The firm clamp of heavy boots over wood echoed up the stairs. He heard bits of the exchange. Sir Honnis trying to negotiate with the intruders, nervous cries from the two boys...He heard knees hit the floor and a man pleading and trying not to cry at the same time. There was a rough, sardonic laugh, Sir Honnis's panicked, painful yell, and then the heavy thud of a body that must have been Shera hitting the floor with a sound that crashed deep inside him.
A roar of rage and pain ripped out of Sir Honnis and then there was chaos, boots thudding and scudding as curses, laughs, taunts, and screams pounded his ears. Furniture groaned and tumbles, dishes broke, and soon all the violence tapered down to a heavy, tension-filled silence.
"Search every where...Take everything."
It was Shera's smile that flashed in his mind this time, his lie echoing as his body tensed, palms sweaty and clamped around the hilt. He wasn't scared. Not really. His heart was beating. His hands were sweating. His eyes were wide, but he wasn't scared. Shocked...somewhat shaken, but not scared. The sound of boots came up the steps.
"Maybe they have a daughter" said one voice, the sound of an older, heavier man. A second voice giggled in reply, trailing in the direction of the pair of boots that moved somewhere farther down. The other pair came toward him, into his room.
They're going to find him. He knew they would. He firmed himself, reaching for clarity, emptying everything from his thoughts as a voice like falling rocks rumbled in from the past...
"People think that men with no feelings, no fear, and no compassion are terrifying. That is just their nature, if such men exist. You...It is because you are deeply caring, deeply fearing, deeply compassionate, and still able to kill indiscriminately...That is terrifying. That unstoppable will."
The boots came toward the closet, each step seeming to echo in his nerves. The man was probably tall...strong.
Impossible. He's going to kill me. He's going to kill me. He fought fought for control of his trembling body, breathing in and out deeply, sweat falling from his forehead as the boots came to a stop. Suddenly, a hard shove rocked the closet door, followed by a quick shuffle of boots backwards, and then silence. The man was testing. He was being cautious. His nerves were near bursting.
Boots crept softly again. Inri emptied everything. Everything. Nothing else existed except the immediacy of the present. As suddenly as before, the doors yanked open, light flooded in, and the heavy man jumped back with a large sword in hand, his face in a wolfish smile that froze in place and sank to terror at the thing that flew out at him.
Almost outside of his consciousness, Inri's body leapt out into the opening, his narrow sword streaking from it's sheath and arcing upward to meet the panicked, reflexive downward strike of the other man's blade. The weight of the man's blow was almost an afterthought as Inri's leg swung round from a crouch stance that swept the man's legs from under him. The man fell sideways to the ground with a thud and rolled over just in time to see Inri over his body in a frog leap, both fists clenched on the hilt of a sword pointed down at him and...
The man's body folded around the blade, a roar of pain and spittle flying from his mouth booming of the walls of the house. Inri rose up and pinned the man's body down with his foot to free the blade trying to wiggle his sword free. That voice ripped out, again...
"Avoid impaling. The body will tense and removing the blade becomes difficult. Don't let the dead take you down with them."
The sudden shocked silence of the intruders signaled their alert. The pair of boots in the other room came running just as Inri pushed his back up against the wall of the room by the side of the door and bent low to the ground. Boots scudded to a stop in front of the threshold and during the scud, he whipped around- point moving imperviously around the corner as the blade tip stuck itself in the stomach of the other man. This one had blonde hair and a mustache. He held a long, heavy knife in his hands that clattered to the ground. The blonde had been shocked by the writhing body of the first a second before the length of Inri's blade streaked around the corner. Inri rushed up through the doorway, pushing the man back into the hallway wall with his free hand, his other rearing back and struck like quicksilver- a red mist flying from the man's neck. He rushed back into the room as shouts of alarm came from down the stairs- men running halfway up before coming to a stop. They called out,
"Who the hell are you?"
He didn't reply. He just crouched, ready- breathing hard, hands on the hilt of his bloodied sword. The smell of blood was overpowering. The groans of the first man were loud and sickly. He could smell urine, too. He heard harsh whispering, then. A few expressions of anger and argument, and then he heard the boots slowly back down, cross the living area, and leave through the door.
Inri came down the stairs slowly to the carnage...the blood.
The first thing that will shock you are the screams of the dying. They will be like nothing you've heard. The second will be the blood. You will see a persons insides everywhere.
There was also a strange, morbid fascination with staring at the dead. Noticing the lifelessness and emptiness. What was once living object is no longer. Void, like spent coal. He was taught these things killed many men. That's why they had you kill during training.
Shera Honnis's body was in a heap three feet from the open door where her throat had been slit, her face to the floor hidden from sight. The rest of the family was probably killed here and there and the bodies were heaped by the wall a distance from Shera's. He walked over to the edge of the window, angling over slowly to see looked out the the men high-kicking over the grassy plain.
Bandits, he thought, but it could have been anyone. The whole land was filled with men like them. Had they seen how young he was, they might not have given up so easily. Since the last war, two of the nine kingdoms dissolved into anarchy- power being split and contested among a myriad of lords and strongmen whose only limit was what was affordable. Chaos on this scale could have been avoided by an intervention from the neighboring nations, but in this case the benefits far outweighed the dangers. A pound of flesh for a pillar of gold. It was an easy bargain when the flesh wasn't your own.
He turned back around and leaned down against a wall, his mind settling around the events that seemed to come back in a flash. He looked over the family one more time and then picked himself up, tore through two bowls of stew that were not knocked over, and checked the house for money. Finding 22 bi, he slipped into his sandals, looking out into the midsummer evening over the plain between him and the forest, and suddenly bolted towards it's western edge without stopping, legs streaking, air whipping his face, and the memory of that family already fading from mind.
Only two days left. He couldn't miss the boat.
* * * * *
Arienna Tovarne stood on the third floor of the five story Ivory Crown, watching the procession of thousands of candles flow northward toward the Circa ri Vitome, the broad plaza lying under the gates of Riegn's capitol palace. Resting her gloved white hands on the black and bronze balustrade crafted in the signature scroll-work of Viernon artisans over the Sea of Red, she let her eyes rise trying to trace the outline of Riegn's many dark towers that disappeared against the midnight sky. By daylight, Riegn's towers rose above the city like a cluster of ebony lances held straight towards the heavens. Balconies and colonnades could be seen from the ground and at the very tops would fly the banners of the cities most powerful Lords and wealthiest patrons.
Tonight, they bore witness to the March of Shadows, replaying the great sorrow that was felt all over the nine realms when a terrible plague swept up from the Lapian Sea along the mouth of the Beridin River. The plague killed so many the bodies were piled in heaps where they weren't left outside the doors of numerous houses to be carried to the great square and burned to ashes. However, after the plague subsided, the people had become distraught that they had no bodies with which to make peace with their loved ones. And so King Geofram, well aware that Riegn was the center of religious teachings and a cornerstone for the faithful, called for a March of Shadows to ease the minds of the suffering. She couldn't help but smile at the irony.
From behind her, a young boy with dark hair and eyes reached from the light-less hotel room onto the balcony to view the festival as quiet as a feather. Her eyes never turned from the city. They didn't need to. She could feel the boy's presence. His sheer power.
"Behold, Anin. The most wicked city in all the world." Her hand swept out to emphasize her words. Of course, he could not see anything but the procession, mostly of pilgrims from the world over come to pay their respects to the dead. That was the irony. So many foreigners came in with their abrasive cultures, thoughts, and habits that it offended and ultimately sent the locals who didn't have anything to sell into hiding during the period. The dead were mourned by strangers. Revelers.
Just out of sight, however, was a whole city of cut-throat thieves, merchants, Lords, and brigands. Men and women who would be laying in wait to strip these visitors of as much life or loot as possible.
The young boy never turned to acknowledge her, but continued his silent study of humanity. Among her many crafts, she had the ability to read a persons mind through the subtle movements of the body and eyes, but she could never read him and he knew it. For all her strength he could crush her unconsciously. He could read her thoughts, though. Her's and perhaps everyone's beneath them. She didn't know the range of his power and he never used more strength than he needed to. A hissing, wriggling snake couldn't have made her more wary than this boy did. A boy who once told her as a matter of fact, he would rule the world or break it to pieces.
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