Memories for sale (Part II)

Mailfus lay on the bare stone floor, curled into a tight ball. His eyes were screwed shut, spittle drooled from his mouth. A continuous moan filled the small cell, as he strove to free himself of the nightmares crowding his mind.

A former hire man, he’d reveled in intrigue and assassination, all paid for by his patron Lord Weavergold. But his last kill had proved his undoing and he’d succumbed to the memory disease. His past plagued and tormented him, replaying his past cruelties in vivid detail, causing his conscience to remind him day and night of his evil deeds.

He’d sought fresh memories to cleanse his mind and free his psyche, but the Memory Smith had tricked him, proffering a dose of what Mailfus now knew to be Memorius Catastrophe, a potion that enhanced his existing memories even more. It had literally driven him out of his senses and he’d been brought here to the town’s asylum, condemned to spend his days in darkness and filth.

Silas Idlefort, the Memory Smith and father of Mailfus’ last victim, was to blame.  Mailfus’ clouded eyes flicked open. He stared into the darkness, remembering the warrior maiden’s beauty – a beauty he had destroyed with his ever-ready blade, slitting her nose, notching her ears and leaving her destroyed corpse for the crows. Somehow her father had discovered who her killer was and taken his revenge.

Mercy had been offered in the form of a potion, left at the asylum gates by a “well wisher.” Mailfus stared at the tiny bottle. It was filled with a green slime – poison – a release from the hell he now dwelt in.  The guards would not care. One less mad man to watch.

He snatched the bottle up, tore the cork free with his teeth, then swallowed the contents in one gulp. It burned through him. contorting his skinny body into a knot of agony. He felt the warm release of urine from his bladder, adding to the stench that already filled the cell. Rage coursed through him and his hands clenched, the overlong nails digging into his palms. An unholy strength brought him to his feet. He staggered towards the window, seized hold of the bars and screamed out his anguish.

The bars bent and twisted beneath his insane grip. A smile of triumph stretched his dry lips, causing them to crack and bleed. He didn’t notice as he wrenched the bars free. Breath rasping in his throat, he clambered through the narrow opening, determined to seek out the Memory Smith.

Mailfus ghosted through the castle, unseen, unnoticed, until he reached the portcullis. He ran across the drawbridge, expecting an arrow in the back, but gained the town unscathed. People parted before him, as he continued at a staggering run towards the street of artificers. He would not stop, would not rest until he’d killed the Memory Smith and regained his sanity.

*

In his gloomy shop, Silas Idlefort gazed deep into the scrying crystal. Colours swirled within its glassy depths. He watched them for a second longer, then leaned back in his seat.

‘It’s worked,’ he said, glancing over his shoulder. ‘The potion has imbued him with the strength to escape and cloaked him from the eyes of those around him.’

A dark figure stood at the back of the room, silent and watchful.

Silas stroked his grey beard. ‘You were right, mortal imprisonment is not enough. One day death will release him from his bondage, he should not have even a glimmer of hope.’

The Memory Smith looked down at his thin, blue veined hands, stained by the various potions that were his stock in trade. A finger touched a bottle standing on the counter. It held the dregs of a black liquid that writhed into separate drops, then congealed back into a viscous whole.

The presence at the back of the shop let out a breath that filled the room with coldness. It raised an arm and light glinted off the sword it held. Again Silas glanced over his shoulder.

‘I did my best to avenge you, but it was not enough.’

Not enough.

The words echoed in Silas’s brain. He bowed his head, staring at the bottle. Aqua de mort or essence of death. It brought back those who had crossed over the border into the dark land. Behind him the sword blade rose and fell. The Memory Smith’s head rolled free of his neck and thudded to the floor. His eyes, fixed on the smoke-stained ceiling, held a far away look.

*

The figure stepped back and waited. Its breath hissed from between its decaying lips, as it watched the shop door. The bell above it jingled. Mailfus staggered in.

‘Idlefort, where are you!’

He glared around, then his gaze came to rest on the Memory Smith’s decapitated head. He started to stoop over it, but stopped when a figure moved into the light. He looked up into the face with its eyeless sockets and split nose. Its thinning hair was tucked behind ears that had been notched. The armour, in which the decaying body was clad, was pitted by rust.

He didn’t even have time to scream. The sword rose and fell and Mailfus too crossed into the dark lands and what lay waiting for him there.

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