Setting his feet onto the cold stone brick, Marcus cursed his old age. When he was younger this sort of trek would have been nothing to him. Now, he questions whether he truly had the physical acuity to endure the entire pilgrimage he was being commanded to take.
Biting wind blew at his face, lessened only by the cotton scarf he’d wrapped around his head for warmth. His tunic and chain mail were insulated with an elastic material that contoured to his skin. A small crystal glowed red amidst the tiny flakes of snow that amassed so quickly they blotted out the valley beyond the mountain ridge.
Though this was not his first time ascending a mountain ruin, it was his first time doing so at the behest of a voice in his head. A brick path led him winding up and around the cliff face. Small walkways that would normally be slippery were no challenge to the spikes on his boots.
“Why on earth did you do this once, let alone multiple times?!”
An image of a brown man clad in ornate golden royal armor appeared in his minds eye. Followed by a tan woman with eyes that shone with ferocity. Lastly, the image of a brutish pale man smirking. That was Aric.
If you’re going to harness my power, I need to know that you’re capable of handling it. This pilgrimage was designed to test your wits, your endurance, and your tenacity. Strength and brutality may have been Aric’s benefits, but you’re much more well rounded. I like knowing you’re willing to play my game to prove you’re capable of my presence.
Shaking his head, Marcus couldn’t believe it for a second. Marcus had met the Blademaster when he was just thirteen in Aric’s tomb. There’s no way he would keep this pilgrimage until now for no reason.
“I call bullshit. I peaked out my body long ago. I feel like you would’a had me do this rigmarole then unless you needed something on the other end of it. What’s your angle?”
A moment passed in silence as the image of Aric disappeared. Marcus knew he very well could be working towards losing what little bit of control he had over this wretched demon inside his head.
This is what I like about you Marcus. You refuse to play the victim when you have any say in the matter.
A force gripped Marcus’ mind like never before. He knew this supposed partnership would end in possession eventually. He just didn’t know when. Or what to do when it happened. He kept walking the trail the same as he had been without missing a beat. The Blademaster knew how to mimic him perfectly.
But let me make it very clear to you: You don’t have a say in the matter. At all. I play along with you living your life because I’ve had many lives. Why not give you your free will and see what you can do with it?
He felt the otherworldly grip on his mind loosen and he was his own man again. Clenching his fists, he punched the wall next to him and shouted at the top of his lungs.
“I WILL NOT BE YOUR TOY!”
His voice echoed and boomed with magical energy, sending a concussive shock wave that could be heard for miles around.
Are you mad?! You could-
Marcus wouldn’t allow him to finish.
“Start an avalanche? Yeah. They’d never find my body. Which means your royal pawn is no more and where would your agenda be then, eh?”
Moving his feet forward, he heard the rumbling of snow falling above him. An avalanche had indeed been triggered.
What now, boy?
Chuckling to himself, Marcus motioned to the wall next to him and drew a door with his hand. Glowing red, an outline appeared and the rocky cliff side was replaced with a stone door. Turning the handle, Marcus walked nonchalantly inside an open room carved cleanly from the rock inside the mountain. In the middle of the room lay a glowing white quartz to illuminate the freshly formed shelter.
“Wait it out in relative safety. Play nice, boyo. Don’t think I don’t know you have a reason to be here.”
Marcus felt a pang of anger. He had successfully shown the Blademaster they were on a relatively even playing field. For now.