There was a boy standing over the previously inhabited clothes of Valerius. He was probably younger than I was, dressed in very simple and mostly non-protective clothing. Just cloth with some dark leather straps, offering some protection on the shoulders. The rest about him was very humble, in many ways. Including his face and stance. But the interesting thing was the dagger in his hand.
First of all, it was clean. That shiny new kind of clean that you'd only get by putting a lot of effort into cleaning it. The kind of clean that had servants using oil and wet-stones to make it nice, sharp and good looking. Something not often seen on a dagger outside that didn't hang on display in some castle.
Secondly, there were gems set in it, but not on the handle. They were set in the blade itself. Six small crystals lined the center of the blade from the tip to the Most interesting was the fact that they appeared to alternate between light and dark crystals. It was not easy to see the exact tint of all of them, but it was a reasonable guess that there were three of each.
Thirdly, the knife was held almost exactly where Valerius had stood. It looked exactly like the boy had stabbed him, but there was nothing on it. Not even a piece of cloth or anything else. The boy did manage to hold it almost completely still...
Until he almost fell over.
The boy staggered, visibly drained by what he'd done. Though I wasn't exactly sure how he had done it. Maybe he'd weakened the body, then called fire on many small scales. Or maybe upset the balance of elements in his body. How would I know. All I knew that it was very, very dangerous to be hit by that knife. For both physical and magical reasons.
Deirdre spoke softly. "Dissolved."
This broke the fragile tension that ruled the past ten seconds. Francisco ordered the guards to attack Derrek, but they had already been stabbed and left for dead on the ground. As he himself had no weapons on him to speak of, he turned back to Derrek and screamed.
"You can't kill me and get away with it!"
Derrek just smiled. "I don't have to."
And he was right. Valerius had disappeared in the forest. There was only one group that would get all the blame. The Spirits. No matter what we would tell the people. Unless we showed them what happened, the rumors would be that the Forest Spirits kidnapped two important council members.
Maeve, of all people, intervened. "Derrek, what is it you want?" She was subtly using charm to aid her in getting an answer. I hoped Derrek or the others wouldn't notice.
"War. People in unrest will need us to lead them."
So simple, yet so complex an answer. War, it wasn't something I would aspire to achieve. Quite the opposite. All I had done was with the intention of avoiding war. I wonder if I'd failed.
"You're mad." Deidre spoke calmly, making it sound all the more scary.
"Not quite. Though you are starting to annoy me."
Francisco looked up, afraid, insecure. "What do you want with me?"
Derrek looked at him with disdain. "Nothing. Just stand still." He held Francisco's shoulders and prevented him from walking away.
So the boy could stab again.
Though not completely recovered, I could now see he stabbed him in the base of his spine. I was too surprised to do anything. Deirdre moved forward to hit Derrek, but he got her by the wrist. Francisco was already paralyzed by fear and the strange sensations it must have given him.
The same as before.
Light, soft and subtle, grew inside of him and consumed him. But it didn't feel like fire. No burning involved. Rather he dissolved into base elements that just evaporated on the air. The scariest thing of it all was no sound. All sound came from Deirdre who tried to resist Derrek's hand but just wasn't strong enough.
Part of me knew that she was as surprised as I was by all of this.
It was hardly a second or two later when Francisco was gone as well, only clothes proving his earlier presence. I wondered why they hadn't done this to the guards, but then I understood. This looked like they were 'taken' and the guards were killed.
This was bad.