Phantom Host

Karin: What Breaks A Man?

”You three should take a break, Ill send for you before I establish the communication link, ” Vala said before rushing out of the tent.

”Thank the Holy Xpecs, ” Saga said leaving a sigh of relief. ”Ive been starving. And I need more drinks! Idun, you coming? ”

”Might as vell, ” Idun said. ”Relaxation opportunities in var are scarce and should be utilized vhen availavle. ”

Saga left to join Mark and the others accompanied by Idun.

They turned when they saw Lynch was not following them.

”Lynch, will you be joining us? ” Saga asked.

”Thank you, Saga, ” Lynchs eyes were gazing out through the tents opening flap, ”but Ive had my fill. ”

Lynch left the tent in a hurry.

”Is it me, or is that man getting stranger by the day? ” Saga said with their eyes fixed on the fluttering flap where Lynch had disappeared.

”You vould like to know, yes? ” Idun said while readjusting his pince-nez spectacles.

”Oh, shut up! ” Saga snapped, yet a rosiness appeared in their azure cheeks.


Karin grew impatient waiting for her maestro or pops to exit the marshals tent. But half an hour passed with none of them showing any signs of exiting the tent any time soon. Hunger began announcing its presence inside her belly too.

There was a grub station at a stones throw from the marshals tent. Soldier marchers on break happily lunched around it. The strong aroma from the grub tent tempted Karin, and she decided to give in.

Karin brought her plate over to where medium-sized wooden crates were kept piled on the ground. She chose two small boxes stacked on top of one another to sit down and snack on. She would still be within eyeshot of the marshals tent. She was the ward of Mark-al-din and a gloom prentice of Lynch. She was ordered by them to always remain in either of their shadows when out on marcher duty. Now that both of them were busy with the marshal, and she had no authority to go inside and join them, she had no choice but to wait for them to come out.

Karin sat with her legs crossed on the boxes and began enjoying her bowl of noodles heavily garnished with spices and prepared with pieces of sorbiux, the meat of a crab-like creature of the ocean. The wind came from the south and was on its way to the north, carrying all kinds of unsavory smells away from the eating Karin. Smells; the scent of blood, the metallic smell of bright burning or the sweet flowery fragrance of gloom spending, and the stink of piss and shit that dropped involuntarily from the bodies of the interrogated out of severe agony or fright. There was nothing else to do but to watch the folks of Amaryllis as she ate her lunch. They cried and screamed and cursed the entum marchers for working their magic on them: flaying them, scorching them, giving them poisons that made them feel as if they were being chewed alive by a pack of biteflies when not a single hair on their body was harmed.

Entum marchers. Karin knew that the word ”entum ” meant ”to extract ”. There were about a hundred cross stands and small platforms in the city square. And each member of the squad of the entum marchers was in charge of at least one important person from this city who wasn killed in battle. The entum marchers wore long and red hooded robes with crimson glass covering their faces. The crimson glass kept their identity hidden from not only the victims but even other marchers. They worked with finesse and without a drop of pity, their torturing hands completely unshaken even when their victims let out the eeriest of screams and writhed like fishes out of the ocean while being chained up and splayed out and butt naked on cross stands.

Karin felt curious about the entum marchers. How did they manage to do what seemed impossible for a navarian with a heart? Did they cut it out of their chest? What sort of people would she find inside those rose-red robes with the veils of crimson glass? What kind of a navarian would choose to perfect a skill that could do nothing but make a poor fool have the worst day of their life?

When Karin saw the marshal storming out of her tent looking as though she had just been named to be the emperors successor, Karin had only gone halfway through her meal. When Karin saw her maestro, Lynch, coming out of the tent and following the slim opening into the jungle of torture stands in the square where the marshal had slipped through earlier, looking as if hed just been replaced by the marshal from the succession to the throne, Karin flung off her plate and dashed after Lynch.

Karin entered the jungle of cross stands through the same small opening. And the moment she did, the heavy and combined smell of all things revolting assaulted her nose like one of pops punches. The wind couldn aid her inside the jungle. Her bowels lurched and threatened to spill what was consumed. She wedged her nose and mouth into her elbows crease and tried her best to not throw up. The sound of their scream was ten times stronger in here, and it was deafening to her ears. Drops of navarian blood from the stands began staining her already tarnished dress. She followed the thin trail. The red shredded cape of her maestro was at the end of that trail.

When she exited the trail, she found herself on a spacious opening where a long rectangular platform with a length of about thirty feet was situated in the middle. Ten of the entum marchers stood motionless surrounding the entire platform with long battle spears in their grasps, guarding. There were four cross stands in the shape of an ”X ” lined up on the platform along its length with one chair in the middle. All figures tied to the crosses had been flayed, and their blue navarian skins were left bunched up on the platform in front of the man on the chair. The man was kept tied with chains and missing all limbs. A mixture of bright and gloom swirled in the wounds on his shoulder and waist that prevented any loss of blood, keeping him alive and functioning well. Though the man had one of those dead expressions on his face, staring blankly the way a statue of stone does.

Marshal Vala was hopping over to Major Fioz. Lynch was following her hastily. There was a man in black robes who stood conversing with Fioz. His face was hidden behind a plain veil of black glass. Karin knew him to be the officer in charge of the entum squad.

Fioz and the entum captain turned when they noticed Vala and Lynch approaching them. The captain bowed shortly at the marshal.

”I understand there has been new development? ” Vala said as she hastily moved to their side.

Fioz gazed at Vala with his black eyes beneath a browless forehead and a head full of honey-blond hair. He was about six foot tall, with a fairly muscular build.

”Thats right, ” Fioz said, ”I had ordered to bring that ”development to me. And its coming here as we speak. ”

”Thats promising, ” Vala said. ”We need to get some info as soon as we can. ”

”Did he not utter a word? ” Lynch said, then gestured towards the flayed on the platform, ”Even after all this? ”

Karin moved closer to the conversing group and quietly stood behind her maestro.

”What can I say? ” Fioz said. ”The motherlover probably knew that spilling his guts wouldn have improved his or his companions fate at all. ”

”I imagine this is his way of getting at us, ” Lynch said. ”However minuscule this attempt may be. This almost makes me suspect that he has hope… ”

”I have no idea what you
e talking about, ” Fioz grunted at Lynch. ”And I don like the sound of that in the slightest. ”

”Troublesome bastard, ” Vala said. ”Took out eleven of my best captains and an entire squad of marchers in the blink of an eye with that vile thread singularis of his. Hard to believe that the rebellion still has bright and gloom users this powerful. ”

”Don forget the spear-using **er who took the life of my precious boy, ” Fioz said pressing his teeth. ”My child was strong. He wouldn have fallen by some random cocksucker. ”

”Which one was it? ” Vala asked.

”That one over there, Marshal, ” replied the entum captain, their voice sounded false through the veil of dark glass, slow-paced, rough but with a calming quality to it, like the voice of an articulated old man. Theyd pointed to a flayed brawny body chained up on a cross stand on the far right from the limbless man. ”His name is Brodin Omrion, the eldest son of the Amaryllis city chief, a skilled bright maestro and spear fighter. ”

”Will never forget that name, ” Fioz said. ”Brodin **ing Omrion. ”

”Well, looks like youve got your justice, ” Vala said, and Karin had to agree seeing the skinned man helplessly tied to the cross stand.

”For now, ” Fioz said darkly, ”Id visit hell just to hunt him down once more. ”

”Well, can let you off to hell just yet, old friend, ” Vala said. ”I plan to work you a bit more. ”

”Noooo! ”

The conversation was interrupted by the sudden scream of the limbless man.

They all looked left to see what made the chained-up man cry out. Karin saw from the corner of her eyes a smile was blooming on the marshal Valas face seeing two soldier marchers dragging out a small girl in a pink dress through the other opening in the jungle.

”No! No! Noooo! ” the chained-up man jerked in his seat, even limbless he made the chains rattle and clank as if they were imprisoning a wild beast. ”Not her! No! Let her go! ”

The mans roaring cry soared above the agonized air of the place and made the girl stop resisting in the marchers arms and stare up at him with pure disbelief.

”Father! ” the girl shirked.

”Axinaaaa! Noooo! ” the man cried again; his dead face was turning red angry.

The two marchers brought the girl, who was apparently named ”Axina ”, and threw her on the ground in front of the platform.

Axina groaned in pain, but she got to her feet right away and stared at the platform again.

”Fa- father…? ” Axinas voice died out.

Karin watched Axinas terrified little face gaping when she finally took in the shocking sight of what was put on display over the platform.

”Fa- father? Wh- where
e your arms and le- legs? Father? ” Axina asked in a timid voice, her hands clutching the fabric on her chest, her little body frozen in place.

Tears were running down the limbless mans face now, profusely.

He said, sobbing, ”Why? Why are you here, Axina? You
e not supposed to be here! I sent you away! Why are you here? ”

”Father, Im so sorry! ” Axina said in her tiny scared voice, sounding as if this was all her fault, and she was making excuses. ”I slipped away from the group and hid in the storage room in grandpas house. I wanted to help you fight, father! I couldn just run away leaving you and mother behind! ”

”Why? Why are you here? ” the man repeated while sobbing as if hed heard nothing from the girl, ”You
e not supposed to be here… ”

”Father… ” Karin saw the girl Axina pause suddenly, and stare at the skinned bodies on the cross stands on both sides of the limbless man on the chair. ”Father? Wh- who are they? ”

”Nobodies! ” the limbless man shouted all of a sudden, rather sternly, at the girl. ”They
e nobodies! Shut your damn eyes, girl! Thats an order! ”

Karin saw Axinas eyes dropping from the flayed bodies onto the pile of navarian skin in front of the limbless man. Something with the shape of a face with holes for eyes, nose, and mouth was visible on the pile of atrocity, even Karin could recognize a mans face in it.

”Father? ” Axinas voice grew quieter and alarmed, she pointed at the face on the pile of skin and said, ”Father, why does this thing look like uncle Brodin? ”

”I told you to shut your damn eyes, you cursed brat! ” howled the limbless man while desperately trying to shake himself free from chains. ”For once in your life, stop disobeying me! ”

The flayed body on the far left of the limbless man coughed out of the blue. It sounded like a womans voice.

The girl looked up at the last body on the left while the sobbing limbless man bit into his lower lip until it bled.

He kept repeating the words, ”Why are you here, Axina? Why? ”

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