The wave of slaughter had reached its peak and crested. Few of the soldiers still offered resistance to the armored monstrosity. Some fled, some still fought for their lives to no avail. The blood of the slain drenched the demonic form of the figure’s armor. It ran in rivulets down the smooth, solid mask of the helm, sank into the engraved runes of its bronze scales, and dripped freely from the spear-sword weapon that the mighty warrior still brandished. As the young magician made his way toward the scene of carnage, he was forced to step on ground sodden to mud with the hot, scarlet fluids of the fallen.
The monster still hunted. After slaying a man, it slung the lifeless bodies effortlessly through the air into the pile with the others, to land with sickening thuds. It raised a mound of cadavers, as an ancient army might do after a battlefield victory. If it noticed Quintain, it did not respond.
The teenage mystic planted his feet in front of the hulking, steaming figure. The armor it wore gave off intense heat—whether a kind of etheric force or physical energy, Quintain could not tell. Finally, it ceased its labor and faced the young magician. Whosoever remained of the enemy ran and did not look back.
Quintain knew instantly that the spirit possessing Harrow was an ancient and exceedingly powerful one. Had he tried himself to call this being forth from its extra dimensional abode to act as a servant, to extend his personal power and execute his will on earth, he might have found the task beyond him. Even treating with this entity carried enormous risk. Losing vigilance for a moment would subject Quintain to the spirit’s wiles. Despite his preparation, the young magus knew that he could be possessed, obsessed, or even destroyed by its power.
Quintain determined that the spirit was of infernal variety. It related to the subconscious stratum of the human psyche. Spirits inhabiting these regions would be personifications of powers or energies buried in the subconscious mind—qualities of human consciousness that had been disowned as too potent or terrible for waking thought.
Before he could try to convince the spirit to leave peacefully, it spoke. Its voice boomed with metallic quality, backed by the sounds of thunder and fire, in a dialect beyond Quintain. It demanded something. Quintain held fast.
Fluent in the tongue of angels and spirits, the teenager tried this. It was a guttural, almost barbarous-sounding language, communicated from the stomach in a force akin to shouts. “Dooain ils, Gah,” he spoke. Name thyself, Spirit.
“Ol Anhur, t umd Onuris,” the figure roared. Its voice was as pressurized, superheated gases escaping a metal vessel. I am Anhur, also called Onuris.
Continuing in the angelic tongue, he told the spirit, “I have deemed your task complete, Onuris. Return now from whence you came.”
Onuris took a step forward but was stopped in its tracks as the multicolored pentagrams flared to life at the four cardinal points around Quintain. “You may not compel me,” it intoned with the sound of groaning metal. “I am Slayer-of-Enemies. My pact is eternal.”
“And so it shall remain. This battle is over. Be gone to rest in your realm, and return when you are needed once more.”
“You do not command me.” The spirit sounded aggressive, offended and hostile.
“Not yet. But I shall discover your sigil. Do not force me to banish you now, for if I do, I shall summon you myself, in chains, and subject you to punishment.”
The spirit laughed a horrible sound. “My sigil is carved in metal and stone and shall last ten thousand years. You cannot threaten it. The one who bound me to this pact rewarded my service in advance.”
Quintain fought the urge to frown. “If the one whom you possess dies, your pact ends.”
The spirit paused to consider this. “I care not for this one’s life.”
“If he dies, you may never be summoned to battle again. Leave now or I shall find your sigil and deface it. I shall strike it from the face of the earth forever.” Quintain meant his threat with every fiber of his being.
The spirit growled in frustration. The sound struck even at Quintain’s magically armored heart with daggers of fear, and the vibration resembled a quaking of the earth. Finally, it relented. “Very well, young one, I will depart. But, under the terms of my pact, I shall return.”
Where the armored warrior-spirit stood, Harrow appeared, and immediately crashed to the ground. His clothes and hair smoked as he pitched face first into the bloody mud. He clutched his dagger KA-BAR in a death grip within his right fist.
Smoke billowed from the back of Harrow’s skull. Quintain blinked once, but quickly pulled himself together and fell to his knees next to the wounded Outlander. He wrestled with Harrow’s limp form to flip him over onto his back. Then, with a palm on his forehead, he pressed the rear of the warrior’s skull into the cold earth. Steam hissed.
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