Home > Allegiance

Author: Kilian Grey




Faust coughed, heaving. His chest hurt.

He raised his head, blinking away his weariness, grateful to see he was alone. He must have passed out during Relan’s interrogation.

Faust took the lull to gather his thoughts. Incense wafted through the small canvas tent making it difficult to concentrate. He tested his limbs and winced. The metal chains cut into his wrists and ankles, leaving them raw and cracked.

Faust had lost count how much time had passed since the battle in Shar. Relan had beaten him to get him to talk, but he refused. He would not be the reason anyone else died.

A small growl broke the silence.

A wolf lay chained not too far from Faust. Its teeth were sharp, and saliva dripped from its open jaw. If Faust made one wrong move, it would maul him. Relan had trained it well. It’d come close a few times.

He tested his mobility, not surprised chains still bound him to the heavy metal stakes behind him. He tugged, but the chains only allowed him to crouch on his knees. Not exactly comfortable.

The cold nipped at his skin, and his breath billowed out in a small cloud. It was growing colder each day.

“Aris,” Faust mumbled. He needed to get to his deity. This weather was a sign Aris wasn’t fairing any better than himself. He reached out with his magic, gliding upon the wind in search of Aris, but his chest burned with a sharp jab.

Faust flinched and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from crying out. He hunched, the chains groaning under the pressure he applied. He blew out a shaky gasp. The pain didn’t allow him to concentrate long enough to find Aris. Aris must have been too far away, but the wind roared in Faust’s ears. Something was wrong.

The flap of the tent moved back.

Faust steeled himself for more pain. Not even Lathil treated him this way.

Lathil’s Blessed, Relan Shaw, stepped inside the tent. “Finally you’re awake.”

Faust kept his silence, something he knew Relan hated.

The Blessed growled and prowled closer. Relan tipped Faust’s chin up with his boot. “You will break at some point, Your Majesty.”

Faust took a shallow breath, dizzy. His chest ached and the wind would not be quiet. It howled in his ears in a deafening roar. “Never,” he wheezed.

Relan kicked Faust hard in the head.

Faust let out a sharp grunt and slumped against his chains, the metal digging into his skin. Blood trickled down his wrist, and he tasted the iron in his mouth. He hacked and eyed the red soaking into the ground through blurry vision. His head throbbed. Relan had a weaker hit than Lathil at least. He bruised for weeks whenever Lathil had hit him, but the deity rarely hit him in the head.

“You’ve done well to hold out, but you will tell us today,” Relan said.

Faust glared.

Relan kicked the king in the chest.

Faust jerked with a gasp.

The Blessed continued to kick and smack Faust. Each hit forced the shackles into his skin, cutting deeper and deeper. He whimpered as a hit landed on his bruised side.

Relan jerked Faust’s head back by his hair, grabbing a small blade from his belt.

A haggard cough fell from Faust’s lips, panic rising. He jerked his metal cuffs in an attempt to create some distance.

Relan held him fast. “I heard some interesting information from my men recently, High King. Ignas seemed to like your hair. It was also a sign of your status in the castle, was it not? You were well loved for your looks.”

Faust gritted his teeth.

Relan sliced Faust’s long locks in a jagged swipe.

Faust closed his eyes tight. His hair touched the back of his neck. It was even shorter than when he was Lord Arcus. It was one thing for his hairstyle to be short for his disguise but to have it hacked like this was humiliating.

The Blessed pulled Faust’s head up again. “Not bad with short hair,” he said. “I doubt anyone will recognize you now. A couple scars on your face would help that too.” Relan moved the blade closer to Faust’s face and danced it along the king’s cheek.

Faust’s hands shook. He tried to remain still but his heart raced, and sweat trickled down the side of his face.

Relan smirked. “But then you wouldn’t be presentable to the people. Can’t have that. We still need you to give us power. Information travels fast when it concerns your well-being.” The Blessed put the blade back in its holster, letting Faust’s head drop.

Faust took a ragged breath, doing his best to calm his breathing.

“I should do much worse to you.” Relan tipped Faust’s chin. “But I think this next option will get you talking.” Relan snapped his fingers.

The flap of the tent opened, and a young knight handed Relan a gold-and-green bottle of incense.

Alarm crawled over Faust’s skin, goosebumps rising in response. He recognized the glass bottle. It was the same incense Emoris’s servant, Joel, tried to kill him with back in Limorous.

Relan shooed the young knight from the tent. “I know you know what this is, Your Majesty.” The Blessed pulled out a cloth, tied it around his face, and popped the cork of the bottle. “I’ll give you a few hours,” he said. “You will tell us about the deities, your family, and your new role as High King. If you do not wish to die that is.” Relan chuckled and set the glass bottle just out of Faust’s reach.

Faust’s heart pounded in his chest. He could destroy the bottle, but he wouldn’t have the strength to get away. Relan beat him to ensure he couldn’t get far. He would either divulge what little he knew or die. Neither was appealing.

“Windilum will rise again and reclaim what is rightfully ours. Roltan will be next. They will fall once we have Alios. I will give you one hour to think it over. By then the incense will have run its course, and you will need to decide.” Relan waved a small vial in his hand. “If you cooperate, I’ll give you the antidote. If you do not, then I’ll deliver your dead body to His Excellency Lathil as a warning.” Relan shoved the vial into a bag at his hip.

Relan unhooked the heavy metal chain around the wolf’s post.

The wolf snarled at Faust.

Faust flinched and adjusted backward until his hands met the stake.

Relan slackened the chain on the wolf with a grin. “You could talk now, Your Majesty.”

The wolf lunged with a mighty growl. Its jaw snapped, sending saliva into the air and onto Faust’s face.

An involuntary whine slipped from Faust’s lips.

The Blessed let the wolf go a little more.

Faust shook, but he kept his mouth shut.

Relan yanked the wolf back, but the animal dug its paws into the dirt with a yelp. The Blessed gave a sharp snap of his fingers and a hiss. The wolf stilled and returned to his side. “I will see you again soon.”

Relan closed the flap of the tent, leaving Faust in the dim light of candles. His heart thudded against his ribcage, demanding freedom. He would not survive this. He needed to use magic, but with his fatigue, Faust needed someone to run to or he’d risk capture again.

The incense drifted and mixed into the air in swirls of clouds.

Faust eyed the incense lazily. He didn’t know more than the journals told him and they only established the deities had a different pecking order. Even if Relan managed to kill Emoris and Lathil, Aris would take him out. Red tapped at his mind. No. The Commandant would.

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