The Sharpening IV (prelude)
The assassin shifted his grip on the hilt, ready to strike, stepped towards the Master. The cowled neck was within reach.
His breathing slowed, his mind raced.
The crimson figure did not flinch or retreat. It did not move at all.
Moment of hesitation: is this creature untouchable? Is it paralyzed with fear? Why does it not react?
The Master leered down at the assassin, thrusting that long neck forward.
“Decide,” the voice intoned.
Before even his eyes could betray him, the assassin whirled his blade in a hissing arc. Its edge devoured the space between, hit something hard, and slid through flesh. But it wasn’t the Master’s neck.
Faster than the Chimera himself a crimson arm had shot up in a bar against the Master’s head. The blade jarred against a hidden metal guard, slid along the smooth surface till it slipped past, biting into the soft tissues of a mortal forearm.
Immediately there was the twang of wires. Something slammed into the Chimera’s spine, and through his chest.
Suddenly his fingers couldn’t function, and his abilities as a Shaper tore away in a numb tangle. His spinal cord in tatters, his essence withdrew into a brain alone; trapped there choking in its own meat. He dropped to his knees, then crumpled, heavy bolts piercing his body.
What blood spilled from the Master’s wound was lost in crimson folds. The same could not be said for the would-be killer; red spurting from his broken body.
The Master pried the blade from unresponsive fingers, then bent and straddled the spasming heap of flesh.
Through distant senses the broken assassin became aware of steel pressed against his throat, but it was the flat of the blade, and it did not bite. Instead, the Master bowed its masked head to hover inches from the Chimera’s.
A thought, unbidden:
Black lips pressed to mine, sucking, teasing free my soul...
But the mask kept its distance, unmoving, until the assassin’s eyes glazed over and he no longer saw the black facade before him, beyond which hung only coals, and shadow lit on fire.
A revelation, far too late:
All is embers in deep dark...charred remnants; twisted ancient jungle vines, where something long ago survived, and smolders on in spite, a violation of emotion…
There was more.
But that was his last thought.