Gregor was taken to a small room where the only furniture was a cheap table and a pair of folding metal chairs. He was thrust into one of the latter, then the man with the sickle plopped into the other. Gregor seemed to remember his name being Nestor. The man had never struck Gregor as anything other than another of Silva’s henchmen before, but now, after seeing him decapitate Silva without hesitation, he was terrified. He hadn’t been expecting to survive this, but now that death was looking him directly in the face, he wanted to cry.
Plus, he hadn’t been able to complete his mission. He didn’t really want to die, and he certainly didn’t want his death to be for nothing. He knew he was about to be questioned and he had no idea what he should say. If he claimed to not be loyal to Silva, there would be questions about why he’d come warn him. If he was loyal to Silva, he’d likely meet the same fate.
Nestor stared at him while he thought, obviously enjoying the terror that was dripping off Gregor. After a few minutes of letting his prisoner stew, he spoke. “So what are we to do with you?”
Gregor gulped. “I had no love for Silva. If I could’ve killed him for putting that beast in my town, I would happily have done so. I only came up here because those beasts from the south fed my cousin to that same monster.”
“So it was just a case of better the devil you know, eh?”
Gregor nodded. “I hated Silva for what he did to my town, but I hate the others for what they did to my family. The only member of my family that Silva killed was Yuri’s brother, and he brought that upon himself. I am glad that Silva is dead.”
Nestor sat for a moment, considering the words. “I’d like to believe you Gregor, but I happen to know a little something about the daemon knights that are coming to visit us, especially their sensei. See, that’s where Silva screwed up again and again. He believed a little too much in his own strength and not at all in research. I have always been of the school of ‘know your enemy’ and I can’t see any possible scenario where Angus Campbell, first year teacher at the Hikari school would ever have fed your cousin to the wolf.”
Gregor’s heart stopped. Obviously Nestor was very different to Silva, who had believed him without question. He was right. Angus would never have done that. “Yuri resisted him, shot one of his students in the leg during the fight. He was angry.”
Nestor stared into Gregor’s eyes. “Now you’re just making it worse. I also tend to keep tabs on those who work for us. Yuri would never have shot a kid, even in the leg. In fact, Yuri was much like his brother Kirill. I don’t know what happened in Selenduma, but the fact that you have Andrei’s train means that he is dead, probably Vitaly as well, which is a shame because he owed me money.”
Nestor stood and began to pace as he spoke. “After you arrived, I sent men down to Temnik and Selenduma and I found the strangest of things. First, when the men got to Temnik, they couldn’t find the bodies. You said they were on the platform and that the invaders had already left. Who moved them? After my men left there and headed south, they haven’t reported in. Why would that be?”
Gregor was shaking. “I don’t know.”
“See, I think you do. I think you and Yuri are aiding the invaders, just as Kirill did before we killed him. Here’s an interesting fact for you. Did you know that it was me that locked Kirill in the room with the beast and turned the machine on?”
“I did not.”
“Well it’s true. When he was alive, Silva had a great appreciation of my ability to cause pain and prove points. In fact it seems that perhaps he trusted me a little too much.” Nestor raised his sickle, putting it inches in front of Gregor’s nose. “Now, you, I, and mister sickle here are going to have a long conversation about the real reason you came up here when you did. I’m going to ask the questions, you are going to answer them, and mister sickle is going to ensure that you keep your answers brief and honest. Shall we begin?”
Gregor let out a small squeal as Nestor made his first incision on his forearm.
* * * * *
Angus and the team had made it to the compound before nightfall and had hidden themselves nearby. It was dangerous to get too close while the sun was still hanging in the sky, but once night had fallen, it would be more difficult to get a good lay of the land. He wanted to know everything he could before they made their assault and under normal circumstances he’d prefer to case a place like this for at least a week before making an attempt like this, but every second they spent preparing, was time for Silva to check into Gregor’s story.
There was a bit of a disturbance a few hours into their vigil, once the sky had begun to darken, but from where they were, they couldn’t tell what was going on, and it didn’t last very long anyway. Angus hoped that Gregor was okay, but there would be no way to find out without blowing their cover and going in. For now, they would just have to wait.
“So what do we do with these?” Prolier asked, holding up a bundle of weapons. As they had felled enemies, they had collected their arms to ensure they didn’t fall into the hands of normal people.
“We will take them back to Hikari to be studied. If they are suitably bound, they will be given to the people who won them to do with as they see fit. If the binding isn’t up to Hikari standards, they will be destroyed.”
“That seems like a waste,” Marnie said. “Surely they can be rebound and used by new students or something. We don’t even know what their gifts are. What if one of them has something powerful like Lethen’s daemon. It would be a shame to just throw something like that away.”
Angus shrugged. “Binding isn’t an easy process. Unbinding even less so, plus it’s difficult to discover a daemon’s power without using it for a time. The other problem comes from the damage an improper bind can do to a daemon’s psyche. Look at Lethen’s daemon for example. It’s binding is weak and it’s probably going to drive it insane eventually.”
Lethen looked at the sensei. “So you’re telling me that this daemon isn’t going to get better?”
Angus sighed. “Probably not. Every daemon is different, just like every person is different. Some can handle it and some can’t. A binding is like putting an animal in a cage. A wild one will rail against it, whereas a tame one will accept it. That’s why we break them before we bind them. Now imagine that same wild animal in a cage that allows it a view of the outside world, maybe even a hole almost big enough to get through. It will fight until it’s either free or kills itself trying to escape. That’s also the problem with rebinding. Now that the animal knows what a cage looks like, it will fight twice as hard to avoid one in the future.”
Lethen looked at his weapon. “But he doesn’t fight me as much anymore. If he’s not getting better, why doesn’t he keep trying to escape?”
“I’ve been wondering that myself, and I don’t like any of the answers I’ve come up with. Daemon’s aren’t stupid. It’s possible he biding his time, waiting for the right moment to break the binding and kill us all. It’s also possible that he’s planning to take over your body once you’ve accumulated enough powers. Twice now he’s taken control and if he can do so permanently once you’ve drained other daemon weapon users, he will have a body that can do a lot more than just the earth swimming.”
Lethen looked at Renala. She was pale.
Angus noticed the exchange. “You’re concerned about the plan your daemon was talking about when you fought the wolf. I can’t say I haven’t considered it. I don’t like the idea that your daemon has a plan for you, but until we can work out what it is, we should just be happy that he’s not fighting against you any more. If his plan is to take over your body, we have to pray that he’s greedy and with every new power you acquire, he decides to wait for one more. The good news is that if he’s planning, it shows that the partial binding isn’t driving him insane. Anything with sanity can be reasoned with.”
Lethen wasn’t hopeful. The daemon may not be actively fighting against him on a daily basis, but he could still feel the raw rage flowing from the weapon. He was trying not to let it affect him, but he couldn’t fully deny it. When he’d buried the man alive in Selenduma, part of him enjoyed it. There had been occasions when he’d snapped at his teammates over petty things and that wasn’t the person he wanted to be. He still wasn’t sleeping well either. Ever since the day he got the shovel, his dreams had been of two varieties. The first were filled with terrors he couldn’t comprehend. The others were worse. In them, he was the terror and took great pleasure in the pain he was causing. The daemon may not be insane in terms of reasoning ability, but it certainly wasn’t the most stable of creatures.
“I know it’s not easy,” Lethen said, “but shouldn’t my daemon be rebound if it’s to be with my forever?”
“I suppose it will have to be at some point, but I know I wouldn’t want the job. Rebinding a tame daemon is tough. Rebinding that thing will be damn near impossible. I’ve even seen times when a daemon will kill itself rather than be imprisoned again. There are exceptions though. For example, I would bet heavily that Renala’s daemon has been bound twice.”
“Mine?” Renala asked.
“Yeah. About the only time a daemon is rebound is by it’s own choice. If a daemon begins to understand the good that it does by being bound to a human, it will choose that life. That is the ultimate test of the link between human and daemon. It is also the only perfect binding. Very few daemon knights attempt it, as it can be very dangerous and can mean losing your weapon, but every so often a daemon knight will release the bonds and allow the daemon to choose for itself.”
“And if the daemon chooses freedom?” Angel asked.
“Then there is usually a fight that the daemon knight rarely wins since they’re no longer armed.”
There was silence as they considered this, but it was broken by shouting from the compound. At first they couldn’t understand it, but then the speaker switched to English.
“We know you’re out there. Why wait til tomorrow when we can all get together now? Oh, and we have something of yours. Come and get it.”
Angus got to where he could see over the wall. Gregor was tied to a tree and was bleeding from just about everywhere. Just above his head was another mounted on a spike. It was Silva’s.
* * * * *