All was still except for the tinkle of whiskey against the gold rimmed glass. Hades swirled the glass as he added his favourite ingredient from the small black vial he kept on his person at all times. The strong metallic taste of the blood complemented the whiskey as he sipped it slowly and felt the rich warmth caress his body. He leaned back on his throne chair, his eyes closed, a small smile on his sculptured lips, and waved a nonchalant hand wherein a small transparent pouch appeared in his palm. Moonshine. The sparkling silver crystals that shimmered in the light. The pouch loosened the ribbon around its neck and a small crystal floated upwards. King Hades held the crystal between his fingers as it transformed into a smooth, velvety powder, and drew a powdery line up from his forehead to his hairline, where the powder melted into his skin.
The king could hardly contain himself, only managing to keep his posture by clutching the glass in one hand and clutching the arm of his throne with the other. A small moan escaped his lips as he exhaled slowly and leaned his head back, trying to control the spasm of electricity and energy that rushed through his blood and bones and skin, screaming at him for blood blood blood, kill kill kill. Exhaling sharply, he screamed in ecstasy, as he pushed himself forward and ran the point of his dagger through his thigh. He threw his head back and laughed this time, feeling the pure intoxication of pain and moonshine flood his body with power and ecstasy he could never reach without. His eyes flung open, wide, insane, shimmering red pupils with specks of gold in them, as he uttered another soft moan and removed the dagger from his thigh. It was wet with darkness and slowly the King swept each side of the dagger with his cloak, and placed it back on the table next to the empty bottle of whiskey.
As if only now realising he had stabbed himself, King Hades ran a finger down his wound. It was already closed and healed, with no indication of what had happened and the torn cloth of his garment was already being stitched back up. He leaned back again, the pouch of Moonshine now gone and took another slow sip of his whiskey. Now he could concentrate on the scene in front of him.
He had entered the throne room only to witness his guards stumbled in a heap, some headless, some armless, but very much dead. Even their decapitated body parts were crushed or further decapitated, preventing him from using them to manufacture more of his special forces. Blood everywhere on the walls, on the floor. His boots were wet and heavy with the pool of blood he had waded through to reach his throne chair, but what else was new.
“No doubt the work of the Wolf,” he said aloud to the heads that were lined on his table. He hadn’t been able to recognise his advisor, his Right Arm, until just now due to the empty sockets for eyes and the smile that had been carved on his face. “Only in death do you smile, Valeck,” the king laughed. It’s a pity, he thought, he had planned just the way to kill Valeck and his guards only yesterday and had dreamt about the feast he was going to have prepared. He had smiled as he watched Valeck work, imagining his screams as he ripped off his skin inch by inch. But Wolf had beaten him to it.
He had also grown so incessantly tired of his so called guards. They were adamant on “protecting” him, but he guessed that they were spies, working for Wolf. He was going to hang then upside down and whip them till their skin fell off and when all the blood was in their head, decapitate them and shower in the waterfall of blood. But he had guessed wrong, and Wolf had managed to take that from him as well.
Wolf. The man who wore a hollowed out head of a Blood Wolf as a mask, a master assassin, a traitor, a rebel. He had kidnapped and tortured countless of King Hades’ informants, helped escape thousands of prisoners, protected Q and her precious school and had stolen vital information. Time and time again, he had fled before the Kings arrival. But not anymore, now he was here, in the King’s Palace. The king smiled at the irony and watched his reflection on the settling golden whiskey. His sharp jawline, his narrow eyes, his sculptured features, he was perfection. Just as his father had intended him to be. And now Wolf was here to challenge him, to challenge perfection.
Sometimes he liked to pretend that he didn’t know the fact that lay behind that mask, but it had been impossible not to know. In fact, the King was certain that Wolf was well aware that the King knew. They were both just bidding their time, waiting and watching, curious to see who would make the first step. Hades had made a decision to stand by idly. When he was ready, Wolf would appear. And then he would fall onto his knees and die before the King. And now was that time, apparently.
The king threw his head back and gulped down the last burning drops of whiskey. His hands did not tremble and his eyes did not flutter. He could sense the shadow behind him. King Hades smiled softly as he placed the decapitated heads around his empty glass as if forming a protective barrier around it. It reminded him suddenly of how he used to play with his toys, stacking stuffed animals around certain objects as if to protect them. He picked his dagger and tucked it away in his sleeve, and ran his pale fingers through his silky black hair. The hair reached the floor when he stood, and although it appeared to be cumbersome, it moved with a life of its own, swaying behind the King, protecting him like the stuffed toys had once protected whatever it was that he put in the middle.
“Well then,” King Hades whispered softly, as he ran his hands along the surface of the smooth oaky table, “Aren’t you going to come out?” He spun around and faced the nothingness behind him. With an air of calm, the King leaned against the table and crossed his arms, his eyes watching a spot in the far corner. No matter how powerful Wolf may appear, he still could not escape the eyes of the King. Slowly, a dark figure materialised in the corner, a large looming figure, broad and tough, with a head of a mangled Blood Wolf, its enormous yellow teeth snarling at its predators. The eyes of the Blood Wolf were a scarlet that was so deep and so dark that it seemed to swallow the world around it and turn it into red. The head was dead, but the eyes still burned with the passion to pounce and kill. Even in its last moments, the Blood Wolf fought.
Wolf stepped closer, and the air grew thicker with an eerie sense of doom. His footsteps were soundless. Even the King’s own breath seemed to have silenced itself, as if fearful of the encounter. Outside, the trees bent with sorrow while others crumpled in fear, the few remaining animals had long fled and the blackened streams were at a standstill. Dark clouds tumbled across the sky, but no thunder came. The world was waiting, waiting and waching.