Silas came to slowly, while his head exploded from the pain. The back and top of his head pulsed. He tried to rub his temples, but his hands were tied at his back. He was drooling, face down in the dirt, next to his mule.
He tried to open his eyes, but a bright burst of light stabbed them and made his head hurt even worse. He shut his eyes tight and moaned.
“Where am I?”
“Ah,” Silas could hear the smooth round tones of his captor. “The prisoner is awake.
As the man came closer to him, Silas’ nose was overwhelmed with the smell of rotten eggs. Silas dry-gagged.
“The bonds were to protect you,” his captor said. He sliced the bonds and pulled Silas to his feet. Silas tried to open his eyes again and this time he squinted.
His captor was tall and dark. His eyes were a dark black with no irises. Silas shivered just a little. If his captor had had normal eyes, he would have been a handsome man. Silas looked down at his feet instead of facing his captor.
“Why am I here?” Silas mumbled. He was still weak and could barely get his mouth to move. His hands and feet started prickling and he almost missed the answer.
“My prince,” said the man. “I’ve been looking for you for too long.”
The shock of being called a prince made Silas stand straighter and look into the man’s face. The man had no wrinkles. There was no life experience etched into his face. Silas felt his heart drop to his stomach. He had been captured by a demon. He tried to stop the shivers, but his body had other ideas.
The man-shaped demon smiled, showing sharp teeth that could rend flesh. Silas shook harder.
Abruptly the man-shaped demon frowned at him. “I have no time to play with you prince. Quit acting like prey.”
Silas took a deep breath and let it out.
“I am Rhali,” said the man-demon. For a moment Silas had hope. If he had the demon’s real name he would be able to free himself.
The demon, Rhali, picked him up and threw him over the mule, then tied him down. The mule should have run from the demon. Animals were more afraid of these things than humans. Humans made deals with these creatures.
The mule was docile though. Rhali must have some type of magical hold on the animal.
Silas tried to wiggle out of his bounds. Maybe if he rolled off the mule, he could hide in the forest. His bounds were tight, but not too tight.
Rhali lead the mule and talked and talked and talked. His voice must have been spelled because Silas relaxed and finally heard the words.
“You’ll make a suitable sacrifice, prince,” murmured Rhali. “You are bound to me. If I die, then you die. If you die, I then will die but I will live on in another body.” He laughed. The sound echoed and hurt the trees around him. He was unnatural
“If I die, then you will die. If you die, then I will die.”
There was no escape.
It may have been hours or days because Silas had lost track of time, when Rhali stopped the mule in a small clearing near a small creek, a tributary of the Snake river that flowed through the heart of Corsindor.
Rhali dragged him off the mule and dropped him on the hard dirt. He did a little gesture with his hand and Silas was lifted in the air and thrown on a branch of the tree. The rope was thrown over him and wound around him like a huge snake.
It happened so quickly that Silas was snug against the branch before he could struggle. It was like Rhali was stashing him like food for the next day. There was a burning next to his heart where he assumed was where he was bound to this evil creature.
“Why?” asked Silas as if he would get a different answer.
“Don’t look down,” Rhali warned, ignoring his question.
Silas felt rather than saw Rhali leave. The tree bark scratched his cheek. The whirling sound of grasshoppers and other insects soothed him. In the distance he could hear the howl of a night hunter. He was too tired and still hurt too badly to be scared of it.
The moon rose as beautiful as a young girl in a spring gown. It’s glow made the clearing from his viewpoint made the grasses lining the banks of the creek almost ethereal.
As the moon rays touched him, his neck became itchy. His hands were bound so tightly to the branch that he couldn’t scratch. He slide his hands, scraping them until they bled. His fingernails had become claws and were covered in fur.
He finally knew what the demon meant. He was bound body and soul to the demon. Every night Silas would experienced the nocturnal turning with him.
At this realization, Silas screamed as he tried to struggle, but he was bound too tightly to move. He felt his body crack and change. It was too much horror. He blacked out.
The sun had already risen when Silas woke up to a violent headache. He was still trussed to the tree, but the rope had loosened enough during the night that he could wiggle out of it.
Next to the grazing mule was a horse. He didn’t know why he was surprised that Rhali had a horse—a nice gelding at that. A note was pinned to the saddle bags.
“Meet me at Hound’s Quarry.”
Silas had no options except obedience. If he showed up at his village with his furry problem, they would shoot him first and ask questions later. He sighed.
He led the horse to the creek so it could get a good drink. Next was the mule’s turn. He but the saddle bags on the mule, tied the mule to the saddle, and then mounted the gelding. He wasn’t used to riding something so fine. In the village he was considered odd because the blacksmith made sure he could read and ride. Only nobles rode.
It would take a few days to get to Hound’s Quarry. He had a fuzzy idea that it was in that direction. He could feel a line stretch from himself to Rhali. Yep, that direction.
Maybe he would come up with an escape plan before then. He nudged the horse.