MUDBLOOD, DRIED BLOOD…WHAT?
All the breath left Nixion’s chest as the reality of what the Grand Mage was saying, implying, hit him with full force like a powerful wave which quickly mounted to the power of a charging steam train. His eyes did not widen. His hands did not clench into unbreakable fists. His brow did not furrow. He did not speak. He did not move. He didn’t even blink. Nixion just stared at the old rusting sword half cast in shadows against the wall just a bit behind the Grand Mage, not really seeing it at all, but rather desperately trying to feel something again and break through the sudden numbness that had gripped him fiercely, the sudden ice that had surrounded his brain, preventing him from thinking. Nixion did not breathe.
His brain had literally stopped working, because what the Grand Mage had just said went against everything that Zathract Mist was to Nixion Strange: an annoying, though reliable and powerful, detective who had once saved his life, once almost taken it, and a good ally, now even some sort of a friend. But the Grand Mage was trying to take this all away.
“I think the traitor’s Mist.”
He had said it flat out. Plain. Straight. And to Nixion, incredibly brutal, despicably forced and harsh, intent on doing this to him.
“I think the traitor’s Mist.”
But what could he know…? What did the Grand Mage know about Mist that would cause him to think such an impossible thing?
“I think the traitor’s Mist?”
But what did Nixion know about Mist, after all? In just a few long days, Nixion felt as though he had known Mist for an age and had already begun to count him as a friend, something he had not done to anyone, even before his stage of torture. In truth, Nixion did not know a thing about Mist. He was a detective and seemingly hated evil.
That was all.
“I think Mist is the traitor. The traitor is Mist. I think.”
But you’re wrong. Nixion’s own voice rang out in the darkness, harsh and powerful, controlled and yet giving off a very clear message of rage. You. Are Wrong.
“I think Mist is the traitor.”
“I think Mist.” The voice of the Grand Mage in his head, replaying it over and over, the last thing Nixion had heard, the only thing that mattered now. “I think Mist. I think.”
You think Mist? You think? What do you think, what do you know? You know nothing. At all.
“I think….” It spoke. “I think Mist. I think…I think…I think…”
You think the wrong thing! The impossible!
“Mist. I think. I think Mist.”
“I think it’s Mist. Mist. It’s Mist. The traitor.”
Shut up! It’s not true, it can’t be!
“I think the traitor’s Mist.”
“No…” Nixion muttered, finally, the echoing roar of conflicting opinions still raging painfully through his head. His voice was weak, sounded weak, probably wasn’t even heard by the Grand Mage as he detected no movement in front of him. “Impossible.”
But was it? Nixion really didn’t know a thing about Mist. In all the time he had known him…Mist always had been secretive.
“Nixion,” the Grand Mage said softly, obviously having at least seen that he had said something, though whether or not he had actually heard Nixion’s words, he could not tell.
“No.” Nixion repeated, firmly, louder this time, anger rising to take charge and quickly pushed all forms of doubt from his mind. He would not believe it. Would not, could not, whatever. Mist was his friend, not a traitor and definitely not a Remaining, not one to kill Thomas, not now not ever. Never had been, never will be. The Grand Mage was wrong and was talking about the impossible. The plain truth was that he was wrong. Wrong. Incorrect. Mistaken. “You’re wrong.”
“Nixion, look at the evidence.” He said, continuing, preparing himself for what he could sense as a speech.
“No!” Nixion yelled this time, desperately trying to make himself sound larger than the Grand Mage with the only three words he seemed capable of saying at that moment. “You’re wrong! You’re wrong!”
The Grand Mage looked slightly disheartened at this, but made to speak again quickly.
“NO!” Nixion screeched, suddenly regaining control of his body and jerked his head up to glare ferociously at the Grand Mage. “YOU’RE WRONG!”
The Grand Mage steered to the right of Nixion’s line of vision and the door came in to replace him quickly. At first Nixion thought that the Grand Mage had spun him around to attack, but after Nixion became aware of his moving legs and the pain in his arm where he must have shoved the door open, he realized that he was storming away from the Grand Mage and the rusting, smelly room.
He was in a rage. Again. Another one. Another rage. Again. Nixion was in another rage once again. And this time it was absolutely uncontrollable. Because this rage had been caused, sparked, started, due to utter confusion, rather than something petty that had enraged him. Nixion had no idea what to do, where to turn, who to turn to, and what to say when he found this person. His immediate thought was Mist, but then Nixion remembered that this entire thing was about him, and he could hardly confine in him the matter of the question addressing whether or not he was a traitor to the group and working for The Remaining.
Confusion was knocking Nixion around, as much physically as it was mentally. His mind spun as did his world and Nixion was constantly staggering into walls and rebounding off them only to crash into another one just as quickly. And yet, he was still the numbest he had ever been, so even when one of the flaming torches smacked him across the forehead, Nixion did not feel it, did not slow and did not speak.
Mist. He could not believe the Grand Mage could think such a thing. Either that, or he was still having an awful amount of trouble comprehending the matter. It was impossible. Nixion had already straightened that out with himself; Mist was not a traitor. It made about as much sense as Nixion did himself. And yet the matter remained that Nixion knew virtually nothing about Mist.
Coming to a halt, backing up against the brick wall yet again and sliding down to the ground only half-consciously, Nixion thought back to when he had originally met Mist.
Back to his darker days again.
Nixion scowled at the small horde of zombies as they drew nearer. Not many of them had the muscles left to scowl back, but the ones that did certainly used them, abused them even. These zombies were disgustingly rotten, even more so than other ones, and Nixion vaguely suspected that they had been in use (or waiting to be put to use) for many years now. The stench was horrible. Anyone else would more than likely be hesitant or downright refusing to go anywhere near them, but Nixion had been through much worse, had murdered stronger people and dealt with corpses just about every day. And there was also the fact that he was still insane, thought his sanity was still slowly returning to him, strand by strand. Nixion leaped closer, tucking his machete close to his own rips and jabbed a finger into the skull of the nearest zombie. In one instant, Nixion felt an amazing power surge from the centre of his body, through his arm, into his finger and then transfer into the skull of the zombie which seemed to collapse immediately, sending tiny bits of brain flying outwards. Nixion guessed that the blood had all dried up by now if they had indeed been dead for such a long time. Nixion withdrew his hand fast enough to avoid getting dead skin, crumbling bone and bits of brain all over him and laughed when the zombie collapsed to the ground after it staggered around for a moment or two clumsily. Even insane and loving death, he grimaced. There was no fun in this. Things that did not feel pain? They didn’t scream. They didn’t care. They just attacked him. The ones that still had a head. They weren’t even afraid…this would not be fun at all. Nixion was disappointed.
But Nixion still fought. Most other people would have fallen by now, dead or living dead either way. Nixion slashed his machete through the air, in the attempt to cut a zombie in half. But it got caught half way, and as the zombie fell backwards; it took Nixion’s machete with it. Nixion reached for it, but his hand slick with blood couldn’t get a good enough grasp.
“Son of a…” he muttered as another thread of sanity wriggled back into Nixion’s mind.
Ignoring his machete, Nixion punched, kicked, and magicked his way out. And in this situation, magicked meant Nixion broke bones.
Nixion thought about this word. “Magicked.” He could not yet tell if it was a word. He figured it must be for some reason, but it just didn’t sound right to him, and Nixion attempted to think of some other way to put it. “He broked de bones.”
For some reason this made Nixion laugh.
Unfortunately, it also made him lose concentration. For a second he was standing, laughing as an army of the undead surrounded him. The next he was overwhelmed. He fell, his head smacking against the concrete, the mass of zombies trampling him underfoot. Just before he lost consciousness, he caught sight of someone drawing a dagger, running out from an alleyway and towards the zombies…
Zathract watched as the boy fell underneath the putrid things he knew to be zombies. This boy Zathract had been watching at a distance for the past hour now was a killer, and seemed to be a rather good one at that. Zathract had been assigned to bring him in under the charge of multiple, repetitive and intentional murder. Other than that, the Sanctuary knew nothing more of this child other than his appearance. Nothing on his name, no background whatsoever, not even an available assumption on his age (something that Zathract did not entirely understand). Something that had surprised him was that the boy also seemed to be rather good at evading capture. He was fast, but disorientated.
At first Zathract thought the boy might be smart, smart enough to kill and hardly leave any evidence that linked him to the murder, rather like Zathract himself had once been like. It soon became apparent, however, that this child was nothing like the killer Zathract had once been. This boy was just insane. There was absolutely no pattern to his technique, to his murders, to anything. There was no connection between anything he did. The only thing this boy seemed intent on doing was killing. Zathract could understand that; he had been in that position once before, but right now he hated this boy. He hated everyone like that, just like he hated his old self. Even so, this boy was still full of surprises to Zathract. Leaving a bloody trail of bodies wherever he went, though he did, Zathract found that this boy was almost impossible to track. That was one of the many things Zathract had yet to understand about this boy…
After searching, losing the trail a few times, and getting into many fights, Zathract had managed to catch up with the boy for the third time that day. Now it was night and now that Zathract had gotten used to seeing unmoving, bloody corpses in the wake of the boy, he had been taken by surprise when he peered around the alleyway to see the boy fighting zombies. He had just witnessed the boy laugh for what seemed to be no reason at all, then fall to the ground under the zombie attack. He was either more unstable than Zathract had originally thought, or had given up. He was currently assuming it was the former.
Zathract stepped forward, drawing the attention of the zombies. Wonderful, he thought bitterly. Though he was fighting zombies virtually every single day, Zathract was still no more pleased with their presence than he had been on his first encounter with them. Muttering darkly, he took another step closer to the zombies who seemed to have forgotten about Nixion for the time being. Zathract had heard of necromancers having a certain amount of control over zombies as they were powered by the death magic, but had never tried it before.
“Stop,” he said, surprising the zombies. They recognised a master telling them to stop, and an enemy saying something that did not matter at the same time. But these zombies were rotten and seemed to have their original commands hardwired into their rotting brains...One master had told them to attack this boy. Another was telling them to stop attacking the boy. But, between the orders of kill and don’t kill, a zombie will always go for the kill. This was not a hard fact to figure out, but Zathract had also seen it displayed many times before…
Zathract swore as half of them turned back around to kill the boy while the other half lurched weirdly towards Zathract. He pushed at the air, snapping his palm and flicking his wrist, and knocked back a zombie, which hit another, sending two clattering to the ground. Unfortunately for him, the zombies Zathract was used to battling always happened to be close together due to the sheer number of them. But this group of approximately fifteen zombies were spread out among themselves which meant that Zathract’s techniques were going to have to vary a bit more this time.
Summoning blade-like shadows to his side, Zathract hurled them like a spear towards to different zombies. One sliced through the first zombie, ripping it to shreds and sending it to the ground in a crumbling heap, but the second zombie moved just before the shadows tore it apart as well. Whether or not the movement had been triggered out of the knowledge that it would have been destroyed if it had not moved or simply because it had felt like it, Zathract could not be sure. It didn’t matter all that much, though, because another zombie had lumbered closer to him and was now about to throw a fist into his face. Easily, Zathract stepped to the side and the zombie ended up punching thin air and was thrown off course, stumbling again.
Zathract send a dancing fireball hurling in the direction of the zombie and it caught flame at once which sent it dancing around the streets, waving its decaying arms around and crashing into other zombies as it went. No screams escaped its rotting mouth, though, so Zathract assumed that its vocal chords had already rotted. He quickly spun around, seeing that there were no more zombies in front of him, and saw three of the rotting creatures bending over the boy, mouths opening towards his neck. Zathract cursed loudly and pushed his gloved hand forwards towards the zombies and a swarming wave of shadows burst from it, pelting full force towards the zombies. He saw the wave expand as it went and quickly consumed the zombies. But as it dissipated and revealed the rotting remains of the three zombies, it also became clear that the boy was no longer there either. Zathract immediately panicked. The wave of shadows he had sent slamming into the zombies was only powerful enough to destroy them, not a perfectly healthy human (physically, of course). But then he understood that the boy could not have been destroyed. There were no remains of him whatsoever for one thing.
Zathract took a glance to his left and saw the boy taking his machete out of the zombie’s chest before kicking the corpse back down again. The remaining four zombies slowly advanced on Zathract and Nixion from the right side of them and at once Zathract begun to feel slightly overwhelmed. The zombies he could handle, the boy probably as well, but he wasn’t so comfortable with four flesh eating creatures in front of him and an unstable, most probably insane, murderer boy holding a machete behind him, where Zathract could not see. But he need not have bothered. Because the next second the boy had blurred forwards to meet the zombies and the next the sliced remains of three of them were falling to the ground.
Stunned slightly at this attack that was as sudden as it was vicious, Zathract did not move and simply watched as the boy turned to the last zombie and whacked it sideways across the forehead as it leaped at him. The zombie hit the ground hard which sent a small cloud of dust puffing up into the cool night air and rolled quickly, coming up on its knees; arms outstretched in a provocative gesture, a snarl clear even on its rotting face. This must be the leader of the pack – Zathract thought. It seemed stronger than the rest, faster and even more intelligent. It seemed to know its way around a battle anyway. The boy seemed only too happy to succumb to the zombie’s provocation, though, as he hurled himself toward it, dropping the blood drenched machete, something that confused Zathract even further as there seemed to be no blood left in any of the zombies so far. Perhaps they had been turned earlier than he had thought after all. The boy reached the zombie in what seemed no time at all and brought his fist up again,, but the zombie seemed more intelligent than Zathract had thought, even with his knew assumption that it was smarter than the other ones. This zombie seemed to be trained in combat as well. It ducked under the boy’s fist and slammed itself into him, sending the boy stumbling back and tripped over, having lost his footing. The zombie launched itself forward, arms outstretched and mouth open. It landed on the boy who attempted to kick it off himself, but the zombie sent a fist slamming into his forehead which hit the ground hard and sent him spiralling back into unconsciousness. The zombie moved in for the bite to his neck, when Zathract moved forward in one swift motion. His kick sent the zombie flying backwards across the ground and when it came to a slow halt, the zombie waited a few moments before getting back to its feet, disorientated.
Its jaw had fallen off…
Zathract almost laughed when he saw that another fifty or so drones of the undead were now advancing on him from behind the last zombie. Cursing again, Zathract took a step backwards and drew his first dagger. Suddenly, the boy was beside him, temple bleeding heavily, eyes unfocused, yet displaying a fine example of pure fury.
With a simple gesture from the leader zombie, the new army darted forwards, this time much more crowded than the last fourteen. Good. Something Zathract was more accustomed to. He made a quick decision to deal with the boy after the zombies had been eliminated: after all, he didn’t seem to want to do much but get them out of the way either and he had not yet a single move towards Zathract, let alone attempt to attack him. So when the zombies got close enough, Zathract and the boy attacked in unison.
Zathract’s dagger came high, slicing the top off a zombie, taking half of its brain with it. It stood there for a moment looking dazed before collapsing in a heap before him. This pack of zombies was new. Fresh blood was still running through them for the time being and their skin, though most definitely dead, was not rotting as such.
The boy did not bother with his machete, which he had picked back up before joining Zathract. Instead, his hand blurred towards a zombie’s head and as it made contact, a deafening crack rang out from the skull of the zombie. Zathract saw bits of the skull stick out from the head of the zombie as brains went flying everywhere and it collapsed to the ground. So this boy was a bone breaker. That would explain rather a lot, actually…
The boy’s hand blurred again and tapped the side of a second zombie’s head. Zathract saw the zombie jerk away and the boy kicked it so it went flying backwards.
Zathract’s train of thought was interrupted by a zombie crashing into him. He pushed the air again and the zombie flew out of sight. He stood and looked at the chaos around him. The army, though defiantly lessened by this point, was enough to overwhelm him, even with the added assistance from the insane, wanted murderer bone-breaker boy. Zathract looked over at him. The boy was a whirlwind of energy, taking out every zombie that got too close to him. But as Zathract expected, he knew that it would only be a matter of time before either he or the boy fell again and then the other would surely be killed or turned by the zombie army. He was used to fighting zombies and armies even larger than this, but these zombies seemed to be just as strong as the leader of the last, much smaller horde. Stronger, faster, smarter. Hard to beat, harder to kill.
Zathract, looking regretfully at the boy and quickly made a rather difficult decision. He could tell now that this boy was insane, but he hoped, for both their sakes, that he had enough sense left in him to move out of the way.
Zathract summoned flame to his hand and hurled it into the crowd of zombies. One of the zombies was suddenly alight. Then the flame leaped onto the next zombie. And then the next. From one zombie to another, Zathract’s enhanced flame after years of advanced practice in the field leaped until the smell of burning, rotten flesh filled the air, and the crowd of zombies ended up looking like an oddly shaped fire-field.
Zathract couldn’t see if the boy had made it out in time or not. He concentrated on keeping the zombies burning until he was satisfied with the level of damage. He let go of the flames and let the zombies burn and burn until the ashes fell to the ground. But through the huge ground of ashes that was no in front of him, Zathract could see no sign of the boy. Yet, just like before, he didn’t see any remains of what could possibly have been living flesh either. Zathract turned around and there was the boy standing in front of him, holding the machete and looking back at him blankly. He couldn’t have even been a year younger than Zathract. He was wearing a cheap jumper and pants, with shoes that looked like they had been through a shredder. One arm of his jumper was burnt, showing his bare skin underneath. His brown hair was messy and untamed. It looked like he hadn’t washed or cut it in years. But it was his eyes that really showed everything.
They were dark brown, like his hair. They had lost that slightly unfocused look they had when the boy had woken. But they still looked weird enough. You could see pain, misery, anger, torment and untamed madness in those eyes. Zathract had a feeling that even if the boy was smiling, the eyes would not change.
The boy had a sheath for his machete which he promptly placed his weapon back into.
“You burnt me,” the boy said. He had a curious voice. It wavered at some points, getting higher and lower for no obvious reason.
“I did.” Zathract said steadily. He did not apologize. Something told him that this boy had no care for such I didn’t mean to”
The boy did not rpely.
“What’s your name?” Zathract asked.
The boy gave Zathract a curious look, like no one had ever asked him that before. Knowing what he had done, the chances were that no one actually had.
“Nixion Strange,” he said finally.
“Nixion Strange,” Zathract said firmly, attempting to use the amount of control sorcerers had over given names. “You are to come with me now.” He took a step backwards to see if the boy would follow, but when he didn’t, Zathract figured that he must have taken the name himself, or else forgotten his given name through his insanity.
“Zathract Mist.” He said to Nixion, taking a step backwards and pretended as if nothing had happened.
“Zath-rast…” the boy said, narrowing his eyes and speaking slowly, trying to understand. Zathract decided not to mention he had pronounced his name incorrectly. He nodded. “I call you Mist,” Nixion decided after a long pause. “Easier.” Then he thought deeply for a second. “Should I kill you?”
Mist was taken aback. Not only he wasn’t expecting that the boy would be so friendly, but he was actually asking Zathract for his opinion on the matter of his death. He was not accustomed to that. Everything or everyone that ever had wanted him dead simply attacked him.
“No.” he said, brow furrowed. “You shouldn’t kill me.”
The boy nodded, as if it was a wise move. Then he suddenly grinned. The change was so unexpected that Zathract almost too a step backwards again. But he was right. The boy’s eyes did not change.
“You help me kill?” he grinned madly.
Mists shook his head.
“No.” he said firmly. “Killing is wrong”
The boy stopped grinning.
“Oh,” he said, disappointed. Zathract could not yet tell whether this was because he wanted him to help Nixion or because he had just been told that the thing that may potentially be the only thing he knew how to do or the only thing he was good at was a bad thing.
“Do you want to come with me instead?” Zathract asked him, deciding to get back to his task of bringing the boy in to the Sanctuary. He was now having doubts of whether or not Nixion was entirely responsible for his actions. Surely there was some law that exempted the mentally unstable from charges of murder…?
The boy tilted his head. Then he shook it.
Mist nodded. Then he caused a shadow to hit the boy on the back of the head, where he had landed on the concrete. The boy didn’t even have time to look surprised or, the more likely, angry. He fell to the ground hard and Zathract dialled a number on his phone and waited for the response.
In that moment, Zathract Mist decided that he was going to do whatever he could to stop Nixion Strange from being prosecuted under charges of murder.