Voldo/Vercci. The merchant Vercci likes to collect pretty things.
The merchant Vercci stands at the top of a twisting path that leads into shadow.
"What do you think of it, Voldo?" he asks.
Voldo steps forward, his slim frame clad in the rich colours his master favours. The vault is newly constructed, and yet there is already the stink of death upon the place. Down in the depths, Voldo knows the bodies of men worked beyond exhaustion rot where they have fallen. Lives and labor are cheap to a man like Vercci.
"Thieves will come," Voldo says. His low reply echoes in the cavernous space.
"Let them," Vercci says. He lifts a handkerchief to his nose and sniffs disdainfully. "They will find their deaths here."
Vercci is not a short man, but Voldo stands a good head taller. He looks down at his master, his bearing alone asking how the merchant can be so certain.
Vercci hides a cruel smile behind the bit of perfumed lace in his hand. "Because," he says, and turns on his heel to leave, "you will kill them."
Faithfully, Voldo takes up his new post on the topmost tier of the chamber.
The hall is empty save for his four guards and a young boy.
"Pretty thing, aren't you," Vercci says.
The boy is shoved forward. Unsteady on thin legs, his bare feet slipping on the tile, he stumbles to the base of Vercci's thronelike chair. Vercci leans forward and takes hold of his chin. He turns the boy's face first to the left, and then the right. He pushes a finger under the boy's lip and checks his teeth, examining him as one might a dog.
The child is pale of skin, and fine strands of dark brown hair fall across his sweet face. His eyes are closed, wetness gleaming beneath the trap of thick lashes. The stench of the cages still cling to him, and Vercci makes a mental note to have the boy's clothes burned as he wipes his finger on his thigh.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" Vercci asks. "Are they equally as pleasing to the eye?"
"Yes," comes a quiet reply. "Four brothers. And I think you would delight to take your pleasure with them."
"Oh?" Vercci caresses the boy's cheek and wonders if he was born in a house of ill repute. "And why is that?"
The child's shining eyes open. They are as cold and beautiful as midnight. "Because my brothers are now as rotten and worm-eaten as your soul."
Vercci holds up a hand to stay the swords of his men and settles back in his gilded chair. With one elbow on the cushioned armrest, he leans to the side and props his fingers at his lips. From Palermo or thereabouts, he guesses. Where his army had met the most resistance. He hums a thoughtful sound under his breath.
"Take the boy and see that he is properly cleaned and dressed," he says.
Voldo's lip curls as he tastes a whisper of air that doesn't belong. He raises his head slowly. What remains of his hair whispers against his shoulders. It has been years since the last intruder dared to enter his master's tomb. Years since he has painted the tiles of the pit with fresh, warm blood.
He listens past the roar and creak of the waterwheels. The thief has been smart enough to time his entrance with the tide, and Voldo grips Manas and Ayas tighter in his fists.
The katars scream and spark along the patterned stone as he drags his body to his feet. They are as hungry for battle as he is.
"Come," he calls to his unseen enemy. The harsh ruins of his voice echo off the walls of the pit, bouncing and fading until they are nothing but rough whispers in the darkness. "Come and die for me."
"Come and dance for me," Vercci says, picking up his tambourine. A glass of wine occupies his other hand, and he takes an occasional sip as Voldo moves to do his bidding.
He eyes Voldo's long legs as the boy moves to the center of the large mosaic spiraling in the center of the floor. His servant is getting taller by the hour; it's costing Vercci a veritable fortune to keep him in well-fitting attire.
The boy puts one hand to his breast and executes a sweeping, graceful bow. He bends so very low that the curling queue of his fine brown hair slips over his shoulder to brush the floor.
Vercci taps the tambourine against his thigh in a slow beat and Voldo begins to perform, twisting and curving his slender body with the grace of a serpent. The muscles of his calves bunch pleasingly through the rich purple of his hose. Vercci smiles into his cup. A veritable fortune, yes, but one that is gladly paid.
Voldo has been here for so long that he can hardly recall anything else. With what senses are left to him, he inspects the body of a thief. Having stepped in one of the traps on the bridges above, the man had fallen screaming to his death. His limbs are a mess of strange angles, and blood pools from his open mouth, slick under Voldo's questing touch.
A gurgling moan passes from the man's wet lips, and Voldo hisses, skitters away. It's surprising the thief survived the fall, but Voldo is saved the trouble of dispatching him; one more wet, strangled sound comes from his broken body, and then nothing more.
Creeping forward again, Voldo's long limbs stretch out before him, fingertips scraping along the stone until they find the slippery warmth of the man's blood again. With great care, he rolls the body towards the edge of the platform, sending it down, limbs flapping, to rot with the others.
Voldo bares his teeth and fills his lungs with the smell of death.
Vercci is pleasuring himself in Voldo's flesh when the door to his bedchamber bursts open. Death has come calling, and he scrambles back, dick slapping wet against his thigh as he watches his chamber guards fall one by one.
Voldo twists his long neck to look back at Vercci, and the merchant wonders if the young man has finally gotten his wish. Time seems to slow as Voldo shifts into a crouch and lunges towards him. "Master," he says, voice tight with fear as he rips a pair of katar off the wall and whirls like a demon to face the assassins.
He fights like he dances, body lithe and limber as his arms thrust out, drive steel through flesh, spill blood and entrails across the sheets.
When Voldo kneels breathless before him, Vercci cups his face with both hands, strokes his thumb lovingly against moon-pale cheeks spattered with flecks of crimson gore. "My jewel, my treasure," he says. "What is it that you desire? Name something."
"I desire nothing more than to please you," Voldo answers.
Surprisingly, Vercci believes that might be true.
"Surrender to me, and I will give you fame, wealth, eternal life... The entire world will lay itself down at your feet..." the blade sings to him.
Voldo ignores it. He desires only one thing.
He has fought his battles through sound and smell and touch; listening for the skid of a foot on stone, relishing the stink of rising fear, and waiting patiently for the inevitable soft push of air that heralds a wide swing and an opportunity to deal death.
The Soul Edge is heavy in his hand as he walks the spiraling path downwards. He can feel the malevolent power in the blade trying to burrow into his soul. And its frustration when it fails.
Voldo wraps spidery fingers tighter around the hilt. He has won. Truly won. And he will soon hear his master's voice once more.
The demonic eye on the Soul Edge glows crimson, rolls furiously in its fleshy socket. The blade hums angrily, sending bits of rock and dust skittering down the walls.
Arriving at last before a marble sarcophagus gilded with gold and gems, Voldo prostrates himself before it. He does his best to sound his master's name, and rises to force open the heavy stone. He places the Soul Edge into a blackened hand.
Voldo steps back to wait.
"Pretty thing, aren't you," Vercci rasps.