Fantasy. Edward formally becomes the Duke of Solaris and confers with Alain and his party, Alain sees a sign of an ancient evil awakening in the world, and Salak the Dark Elf demonstrates that he is just as dangerous as ever. With fellow Triond author Jack Shepherd.

“So keep talking, man. What got this guy into jail in the first place?”

“Well, remember, this was all a very long time ago, so maybe not every detail’s right, but it has to be close. He was a hunter like no other in his clan; he killed his first animal at age ten. Then at age thirteen he and the eldest son went fishing with bow and arrow. The eldest had no luck and Salak caught a fish, a big one. The eldest thought it would bring shame if his half-breed half-brother would come back with a kill and not he. So when Salak wasn’t looking he took the fish and refused to give it back. He was bigger and thought he could bully the boy that way. Well, as the eldest walked away laughing, an arrow struck him in his back and killed him. Salak smiled, walked calmly over to his dying brother, and took his fish and bent down to whisper in his ear: ‘Never turn you back on death.’ Then young Salak walked away with no remorse or regret, no tears, nothing.”

“But who witnessed all that and brought him to justice?”

“There was only one who could witness it, see, even from afar, and that was the Herald. Right out of nowhere he popped in front of Salak and told him he’d seen and heard everything that had gone on, that he was going to arrest Salek and testify against him, and that there was nothing he could do about it so he might as well give up. Salak fought him anyway, and lost. The story goes that the Herald didn’t even have to draw blade against him, that his ring stopped Salak’s arrows cold in midair. Salak’s elven magic was no good against the Herald’s either; the Herald’s was much higher, much stronger. Salak tried to run, but he was caught and subdued. One thing led to another, Salak’s family heard the whole story and saw Salak’s arrow in the back of his half-brother, and Salak freely admitted everything he’d done and what the Herald had done against him. What the Herald said was put down in writing that day; nobody ever got a worse scoring with words than Salak did. I read what he said, one night while waiting for someone else to be released; the warden has a copy. He would’ve dismembered the half-breed before destroying him, had he been allowed, and he said so; the gods only know what stopped him. Salak still showed no remorse, but he vowed, with a look and a voice as cold as ice, that he would get his own back from the Herald and anybody he tried to protect, one way or another. They took him to the jail, with about as many guards as there are now, and there he’s been until today.”

The first man looked disturbed by his story. “I’ve seen evil men but even the worst of them has a soul, shows fear… something. A creature such as this… he scares me. If even the Herald couldn’t spook him, from all that I’ve heard about him, then I have no idea what could.”

“I know you, man. You don’t scare easily. Now you’ve got me scared.”

“Listen to your fellow human, for if I get my hands on you… you will beg me for death.” Salak smiled. His eyes were insane, and worse than insane, like those of the walking dead. The second man gulped.

“We’re safe, right? Those chains will keep us safe.”

Salak held up his unchained hands. “You are never safe from death…”

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