Order of the Spirits: Initiation - Prologue
No sun graced the red skies. It rarely does this far north.
Ifcarus scoffed at himself. No one would’ve understood his observation. Others couldn’t see the way he could, but the Sight led him to the truth. It was because of the Sight that he ended up surrounded by the beasts he had so long thought his worst enemy.
I was as blind as the rest. So many of them… can I really help them?
“Keep moving, Snoweyes,” his captor growled in a rough imitation of his language. “Stare at the skies some other time, blind one.”
“Will there be another time, Frehlig?” Ifcarus calmly asked the rhagg and continued walking. The harsh path beneath his feet was marked by the blood of those who walked in front of him, though his skin had grown strong and durable. Travelling barefooted for so long had finally paid off for the greying human.
“Shut up and walk,” Frehlig said bluntly.
“No harm in words, my furry friend,” Ifcarus said. His bold tongue made the other captives turn pale.
“Silence,” the beast snarled and made a step closer. “I will flay your furless hide.”
“What, with my hands bound?” Ifcarus kept the conversation going to the growing terror of the men around him. “I think not, Frehlig. Striking down a defenseless foe—a prisoner no less—well, that’s just degrading for a rhagg of your station.”
For the second time that day, Ifcarus stopped walking. Those tied to him used the chance to rest, but they cowered before Frehlig to signal their disapproval of the blind man’s rebellion. Ifcarus ignore them and turned his spiteful gaze at the rhagg.
“You’re here only to breathe down our necks, you oversized hairball,” Ifcarus said to the wolf-like beast.
Frehlig grabbed him by the arm and pulled him off the dirt road with ease. Tied to the same rope as Ifcarus, four men were also forced off the path, but only Ifcarus maintained his balance and didn’t kiss the ground.
“If you want a fight,” the blind man challenged the rhagg, “you’ll have to do it accordingly. Release me of these bonds and face me as a proper warrior!”
Frehlig snarled. “You’re not worthy. You are here because you already proved inferior, human.”
“Not to you,” Ifcarus insisted. He opened his mouth to provoke the beast further, but a roar from up ahead interrupted him.
“What’s the meaning of this?” the captain of the rhagg demanded in a barely comprehensible language of his kind. Ifcarus understood it, though. He understood it perfectly.
“Honored one.” Frehlig bowed his head and raised his clawed hand to his forehead. “This one’s making trouble. He demeans my reputation by challenging me. Allow me to kill him, captain, so we can continue untroubled to Ragern.”
A smile spread across Ifcarus’ dry lips. So that’s where they’re taking the prisoners. But why the mountain? Why Ragern?
“Hey,” one of the captives tied to Ifcarus whispered to him. “I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but stop. They’ll kill us all.”
“Relax,” Ifcarus whispered back as the beasts discussed whether to end his desperate journey right there. “In a minute they’ll cut me free and let me face the pup.”
“Pup?” another man threw in. “You’re insane.”
“I’ve heard that before. Yet, here I am—about to be set free once again.”
“Kill him,” the captain said loud and clear, using the human tongue so that all the prisoners within earshot could understand.
“You were saying?” the man behind Ifcarus asked smugly.
Ifcarus rolled his white eyes. “It usually doesn’t take this long to convince them, I swear.”
Frehlig approached. His claws played with the wind and his tail waved in excitement behind him.
“Your honor means so little you would strike a helpless captive, tied and blind!” Ifcarus surprised the rhagg by using their own tongue. It was rough on his throat, but he was growing accustomed to it. “I’m beginning to think I degraded myself by challenging you.”
“Hold,” the captain ordered Frehlig and studied Ifcarus for a moment. Wind unsettled the dust around them, it was the only thing to make a sound. “Indulge him,” the big rhagg broke the silence. “Cut him loose.”
Frehlig frowned as menacingly as only a rhagg could but did as commanded.
“The battle is that of tooth and claw,” the captain declared, his dark fur standing out against the crimson skies.
Ifcarus took his position some distance away from the human prisoners and stood opposite Frehlig. “Will we set the terms of my victory now, or after I prove my worth?” he asked.
“You will not win,” his opponent growled. “Death by my hand will be more than the likes of you deserve.”
“If that’s your final opinion on the matter, I’m afraid you’ll die in shame, Frehlig.” All humor abandoned Ifcarus as he took up a battle stance. With his feet wide and knees bent, he narrowed his blind eyes and allowed a firm belief to guide his hands in front of his face.
The wolf-like beast charged.
The human redirected the claw-arm of his enemy and evaded the following strike with fierce precision and admirable agility for someone his age. The creature paused, astonished and confused.
“You’re not blinded, Snoweyes,” Frehlig roared.
“Afraid?” Ifcarus provoked, immediately gaining a rushed strike from his opponent. Detecting the motion with senses no other man possessed, Ifcarus leaned back to dodge the incoming blow, then took hold of Frehlig claw-arm with both hands.
The beast’s strength was superior to any man, but Ifcarus didn’t worry. He used his weight to twist the enemy arm at the wrist and bring himself upright while pulling the rhagg down. Still holding the claw-arm, Ifcarus locked it at just the right angle for the forearm to break under pressure, then brought his knee down without missing a beat.
The creature roared in pain as bone snapped, but Ifcarus didn’t stop there. He pushed further, pressing his weight against the broken arm until bone pierced flesh and fur. The large beast dropped to its knees and roared, but not all howls came from agony.
Ifcarus released him and straightened his back. Frehlig didn’t try to get back up. All fight, all fury had left the rhagg in an instant. The sight of him defeated drew out a look of sympathy from the blind man.
“I’m sorry for this, warrior,” Ifcarus said. “But I must make them see.”
He kneeled next to Frehlig and, finding no resistance, twisted his ravaged left arm. “You fought well,” he told him, took a solemn breath, then dug the sharp claws deep in Frehlig’s throat.
Blood flowed, coloring crimson the dust and the sand of the barren land. Soon after, Frehlig fell.
Ifcarus stood up. He kept his gaze grounded but saw the amazement of everyone around him—including the rhagg captain.
“You gave him a warrior’s end,” the beast said.
“He deserved no less,” Ifcarus replied.
“You know of our ways,” the captain rumbled quietly.
“I’m of a mind to learn more. Allow me to travel in front of the column, next to you.”
“You will not ask for freedom?” The rhagg’s pointy ears raised in surprise.
“No, honored one,” Ifcarus responded. “I believe it would be best to stay near you.”
“Traitor!” One of the human captives recognized his words. “Would that the beast had killed you. Aligning yourself with these animals.” The man spat on the ground through cracked lips.
Ifcarus faced the man and gave him a prolonged look. He frowned. “This coming from a deserter? Do you still hear your brother’s screams in your dreams?”
The man grew pale. Silently he retreated and stared at the ground, a sudden numbness taking hold of his eyes.
“Your reward is granted, human,” the captain said to Ifcarus, sounding curious. “Follow.”
With his hands unbound, Ifcarus paced after the beast, careful not to collide with his waving tail.
“That word,” the rhagg spoke silently, as silently as his vocal cords allowed. “What does it mean?”
Ifcarus sped up his stride so he could walk next to the rhagg. “Traitor? It means to change sides. To betray your kind.”
“Hmph.” The beast considered the concept. He is listening. Ifcarus’ white eyes grew wide. I found you. I finally found you!
“That was a worthy display of skill,” the captain idly said as they approached the front of the line. “You of the Elite?”
“The Elite is dead,” Ifcarus said truthfully, his chest heaving with excitement.
But you’ll help me resurrect it.