Prelude Part 3

Thief of Souls

By Melusine

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well
If were done quickly; if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success. . .
-- William Shakespeare "Macbeth"


Thanatos watched the young sorceress carefully as she whispered the soul-binding spell and transferred it to the contract. He had kept her in thrall since she was sixteen years old by telling her that he had killed her father, the Archmage Cain. That, however, was only a partial truth. In fact, he had, along with seven or eight more sorcerers and sorceresses, paralyzed the Archmage with spells and stabbed him in the heart. All of his companions had been killed as Cain died, for he had released a final shredding blast of magical energy just before his pierced heart stopped beating. Thanatos had absorbed some of the amazingly harsh magic and became more powerful because of it, to the level of the Archmage and beyond. He drew the knife that had slain Fanha's father, noting the few flecks of dried blood that remained after ten years. The sorceress stared at the rusting blade with fear in her eyes and quickly finished the spell. Amazing, Thanatos thought. She's nearly as powerful as her father, but is scared to death of a rusty dagger and a half-truth story.

"You can go now," he said to her, and Fanha nodded and walked quickly out of the room. Thanatos could hear her running as soon as she had left his sight. A low, liquid growling rumbled behind him and Thanatos whirled around to face Sheex in his true form. Damn her, the sorcerer thought. Why couldn't she have picked a normal demon for a familiar instead one of these walking sets of jaws? The Aegagrophilon loomed over him seconds longer before stumping out of exit the sorceress had taken, walk ungainly in the small spaces in the castle.

Glad that the beast was gone, Thanatos rolled up the ensorceled paper and stuck it into his robe. "Now for the prince," he said to himself.


"We need help with the Fortress," Thanatos told Vandole as he unrolled the contract onto a table. "Would you be interested in helping us?"

"In helping you with the Mana Fortress?" the young man could hardly believe his ears. "The one from the stories and legends?"

"The very same," Thanatos smiled, a serpent charming a bird.

"I would," Vandole said eagerly.

"Sign here to bind the contract," Thanatos handed Vandole the contract and produced a quill pen. "Here," he said and gave Prince Vandole the quill, making sure that the sharp writing point scraped his hand, drawing a small amount of blood. After dipping the quill into a small pot of ink on the table, Vandole signed his name in an elegant, flowing script. There was a flash of light and a moment of sickening pain as soon as the signature was completed. Vandole felt a sudden emptiness in himself, as if something was missing.

Thanatos bowed. "You are now part of the cause, Emperor Vandole."

"But I'm not Emperor," Vandole said.

"You are now," Geshtar held up a bloody sword.

"You killed my father?!" Vandole gasped. He knew what he was supposed to feel saddened, even devestated, but nothing seemed to remain. Nothing, that is, but rage. "You murdered him while he slept, unable to fight back?!"

"You wanted to rule and you wanted the Fortress," Thanatos said simply. "And now you have what you wanted." With those words the sorcerer and assassin vanished.

Yin rushed into the room. "Your father is dead," she sobbed and embraced him. "They murdered him. I can't believe they did that. I'm so sorry."

Gritting his teeth, Vandole looked down at the dark elf. It wasn't even her father that was killed, he thought angrily and tore himself from her embrace. "It was you that sent for them!" Vandole shouted at her. "This all your fault!" Yin shrank back, afraid.

"No," she whimpered as she backed away, hands held out defensively. "You sent for them. . . I didn't know that they were evil. . ."

"There's a lot you don't know, isn't there?" Vandole grabbed her wrists. "Nothing more than a pretty face and a slender form, aye? You little bitch, you stupid little barren bitch!"

Yin recoiled as if she had been struck. He had never spoken to her like that before and had never before treated her this way. She wanted to tell him that, after four years, she was pregnant, but fear paralyzed her. Yin felt like her tongue was dead in her mouth, making it unable for her to form words.

"You're useless!" he threw her to the ground. "A failure at your one duty as royal wife!"

Yin looked up at him, tears streaming down her face. Vandole met her gaze and felt a tug at his heart. He felt horrible for what he had done, but that feeling was soon swallowed up by the emptiness. She couldn't stay, he thought. She would only get in the way of his plans. "Go," he growled.

"And take the demon with you," Thanatos said, suddenly in the room with his three assistants. "The lady needs protection, doesn't she?"

"Yes, she does," Vandole agreed.

"But," Fanha began to protest. "Just Sheex? I could go as well."

"You're too useful as a sorceress to let you leave," the sorcerer told her and cast a spell. A wave of darkness surrounded Sheex and Yin before both disappeared. "Now with that messy little matter taken care of, why don't we plan our attack with the Mana Fortress and the destruction of the Mana Knight Serin who wishes to stop us."


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