“Ah, there you are!” Robert exclaimed drunkenly, tipping back his chair as Stephen came into the tavern and walked towards him. “I wondered that maybe you had gotten lost or something. I’m afraid that I’m one up on you now, so you’ll have to get that girl to bring you two to match me! Here now, sit down,” he spoke, waving his arm at the vacant chair beside him, somewhat annoyed as Stephen remained standing. Seeing the cold, determined look in Stephen’s eyes, and thinking that he was mad at him for letting the girl go, Robert quickly stood up, knocking his chair over in the process as he reached out to pat Stephen’s back. “Don’t worry,” he said with a smile, “I’m sure that she’ll stay around after she brings your drinks. Hey, you there!” he yelled for the wench, “Bring my friend here more drink and your company as well!”
“There’s no need for that, Robert,” Stephen said briskly as he grabbed the upraised arm that had signaled the girl. “We haven’t time to do any more drinking. It’s growing dark outside, and we have to get back to the ship. We still have time to get there before the others, since it’s not far.”
“The ship?” Robert asked, turning to gaze at Stephen, his mind fogged and his legs unsteady as he weaved before him. “Oh yeah, the ship! We have to get back before dark to be safe, and I must remain safe if I am to be with my Leigha again! You are such a good friend, Stephen. What would I have done without you?”
“You probably would have remained alive,” Stephen thought and chuckled as they passed the serving girl on their way out of the tavern into the dusky gloom of the evening.
Robert walked unsteadily out of the building, leaning heavily upon Stephen at first for support. He was so intent on carefully placing one foot in front of the other that he did not notice the three hulking men that came out of the shadows and walked slowly, noiselessly behind them. Suddenly, Stephen lurched against Robert, toppling him into the alley like crevice between two old buildings. Unable to keep his balance, Robert landed with a loud thud, his head reeling and his thoughts confused as he looked up at Stephen.
“Wha’ did you do that for?” he asked thickly, rubbing his arm where it had been bruised by the fall. “You drunker than me?”
“No, Robert, I’m as sober as the day I was born!” Stephen answered, grinning evilly down into his questioning face. “Now you are where I want you, and there is no one around to save your hide. As a matter of fact, I have some friends here that want to help me make certain that you never return to the ship to tell of what is about to happen!”
“Aw, come on, Stephen, this isn’t funny,” Robert said nervously as he tried to get back up on his feet. “Enough is ‘nough, les’ go.”
“You’re not going anywhere ‘old friend’,” Stephen growled at him and then signaled for the waiting men he had hired to come forward. “Now, give me the amulet!”
“You can’t have that! You know that it’s needed to buy Leigha back!” Robert said loudly and shook his head, still unaware of what was happening. “Send these men away. We don’t need their help.”
“Oh, but I do.” Stephen smiled wickedly, then reached out and shoved at Robert as he tried to stand up, knocking him full force back to the ground.
Stephen seized the chain bearing the amulet, which hung about Robert’s neck as its owner’s head hit the hard packed earth with a sickening crunch. The heavy links of the chain broke loose from the strain and drew a trail of blood on Robert’s flesh where it had laid only moments before. Shoving the amulet deep into his pocket, Stephen laughed down at Robert who sat shaking his head, blinking in an attempt to focus on Stephen’s evil face.
“Now it is finally mine!” Stephen exclaimed and laughed deeply at the shocked and now sober knowing expression on Robert’s face. “You were right to fear this after all, for it has cast an evil spell upon you that will now cause your death!”
“Stephen!” Robert screamed, lunging towards the retreating man, only to be blocked by the three men that stood in his path. “I’ll see you dead for this!”
“Ah, that would be fine if you succeed in getting past my friends here though I doubt that you can do that!” Stephen laughed viciously and then turned to leave, calling over his shoulder to his henchmen as he ran. “See to it that he doesn’t make it back. I’ve paid you well for this, now do your job. I don’t want to see this man again this side of hell!”
“You damned son of a bitch!” Robert screamed after him as Stephen’s footsteps echoed down the street. “You won’t get away with this! They’ll know! They’ll—Ugh!”
Robert’s screams were cut short as a huge fist buried itself explosively into his stomach, making him double over in agony and lose its contents as other fists drove time and again into his body. He felt the sharp, burning blade of a knife rip into his flesh and instinctively began fighting back for his life. The alcohol had burned quickly from his system, and his mind was now cleared by the pain the hired men were inflicting upon him. Robert screamed in rage and dove into them with the strength of a beast, surprising them with his fury. Laughing, the men continued to beat upon him, lunging in and out with their deadly blades, certain that their combined strength could not be defeated. Robert’s mind detached itself from his maniacal body, and he began to return their violence in greater measure than their own. Snatching a knife from one of the attacker’s and bellowing Stephen’s name, he raged like a mad animal, charging time and again at the now frightened men, his savage and brutal defense soon driving his assassins away from him. Exhausted, Robert leaned against the building and watched them run away. In moments, his anger and fear began to subside, and without its defense, he was soon overcome with the pain of his many wounds. Slumping down upon the cold ground, he envisioned Leigha standing beautiful and loving before him as he began to lose consciousness. Feeling that he might never open his eyes again, he held fast to his vision and trembled as his body stretched full upon the earth that was dampened by his blood, unconscious now in its harsh grasp.
Virginia Lee ~ “Dagon’s Blood” excerpt ~ Kindle Edition