The Implock – Chapter 89 – “Fathers”
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∼ Fathers ∼

Chapter - 089

Walking down the damp cobbled stairway into what reminded Eric of his first - and very bloody - meeting with the man now fatherly speaking with him, their voices carrying down the dank halls. Torchlight flickered across glistening stones and the few guards stationed down here, standing still as if gargoyles in black leather armor. It invoked those memories clear in his head. Eric could feel the sweat bead at his palms as his fists tightened ever so slightly, the leather of his gloves creaking silently.

Looking down, Crowley noticed and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. Squeezing a little. "Dinna fash, son. Those are times past." He smiled. "Yer family now." Eric wasn't sure what it was, but those words made him calm almost as if Aria had spoken them. As cruel, ruthless, and cunning as Crowley was, and as much as Eric hated to admit it; he was getting used to it...

"I trust, they've done ye well?" Crowley said, snapping Eric out of his troubling musings.

Realizing that Crowley was talking about the rune-forged gloves on his hands, he sputtered a little, having had completely forgotten he had them on. In what little time he had gotten to use them, they had become like a second skin to him. He even slept with them on, with him and his men being on guard at all times since the ambush. He simply now barely even felt their presence on his hands with so accustomed he had become to their assuring weight. "I'm sorry, sir. I forgot that I even-" Eric tried but Crowley cut him off with a slow shake of his head. "They're yers. I've no use for them."

"But..." Eric grumbled confusedly. Whilst the inexperienced and unlearned Eric knew not fully of the value of the world and its possessions, he did understand that these gloves alone were fortunes more than he had ever laid eyes on. Even lowborn nobles could only dream of wielding such craftsmanship. Not only were they dwarven-made, but they were also enchanted in their ancient art of rune-forging. They alone boosted Eric's fighting capabilities more than twice over, and would only prove more useful as he continued to tap into their latent power, his current state still far from able to realize their full might. As he grew, so would they.

"Son, as I said, those words back there that wasnae for yer ears. I have other plans for you. Just y'wait." He smiled, clapping Eric on the back affectionately. However, Crowley's face turned a little more serious after that, looking forward as they continued to trod down the dungeon underneath the Hightower. "On that note, there's something else I wanted to talk about." He said gravely. "As I mentioned, I heard ye did very well in the battle. But-"

Eric looked at the stocky man, feeling suddenly uneasy.

"-you also took no life."

His step slowed, letting Crowley pull ahead - Eric now positively wary.

He continued to stroll forward unhurriedly. "Calm boy, I knew from the second that that man's throat was slit in front of you that ye've never taken a life yerself. It's in yer eyes, the way y'hold herself - yer every step. Unbloodied, like a pup." He turned his head to look back at Eric. "Something I seek to ratify..."

At that moment, they finally stopped in front of one of many cells they had passed - this one a barred, open-faced chamber. As Crowley turned to face the cage, Eric slowly caught up in his hesitance and he too turned to see what was inside. What he saw made his legs weak...

A figure, barely identifiable as a human anymore, laid on the cold cobbled stone of the cell in something that couldn't even be called rags anymore. His whole body was horrifically marred - bathed in grime, waste, and dried blood - the smell of death on the wretched creature that somehow miraculously still drew breath.

However, what truly had Eric petrified wasn't as much the state of the creature - but rather - who this creature was.

"Dinna fash, 'tis be no innocent man," Crowley said from the side, scowling down at the thing. But Eric already knew that more than Crowley ever could. His words simply did not register.

For who in this cell laid - was his father...

"Here, this is what I ask of you," Crowley said, handing Eric his very own knife, the black sleekness of the blade matching the trademark of The Stained Tooth. "-Do what must be done." As Eric shuffled stiffly inside, the knife held in a weak, uncertain grip. His mind was incapable of proper thought, fear repeating the same thing over and over. "His secret was about to be laid bare, and it would all be over."

The man once his father - stirred, roused by the shuffling intrusion of Eric. However, when the wretched man who he had once cursed with all his hatred looked up to his bastard son, he saw - no recognition... In those broken, lifeless eyes, Eric saw only fear - one equally measured as both their eyes mirrored one another - father and son. Once kin. If ever...

In that moment, a certain weight was lifted from Eric.

As the pitiful creature tried to scurry away on arms and legs that did not respond, Eric realized that Baron Joseph did not recognize him. The one person he hated more than anything in the world, a shell of what once was. Watching, he almost... felt pity for the man. Despite all the atrocities he had suffered by his hand.

Yet, Eric remained unmoving.

He truly had killed no man. It was the one line he had never crossed. As untempered, rage-inclined he was - he feared what permeant damage it would do. What he would become. For once he crossed that boundary, there would be no turning back. Not for someone as damaged as him...

"This be yer chance, son. Because I promise you, next time you stand in this situation, you will far more regret what you must do. What you will do." Crowley spoke, seeing Eric's hesitation. "Best be over with it swift. With some dignity  - while you still have it."

Eric shook, the blade now in a firm but strained grip. Still, his rage screamed for him to do it. To enact what little cruelty he could upon this man of what he had suffered all those years.

"-Do it, son. This one deserves it, and worse." Crowley said with an uncharacteristic venom in his voice, one the distraught Eric couldn't pick up on. "A useless wretch that has caused nothing but suffering to those around him. Death is the only mercy he is allowed. The only kindness - a man unkind can receive."

Eric's heart throbbed in his head, Crowley's words barely even reaching him anymore as memories of cruelty flashed by his mind. Beatings. Abandonment. Hunger. Left to fend forever himself, yet never free. Friends killed. Acquaintances shunned. His first love brutalized - and his unborn infant drowned in the river for the fish to devour. But a few nightmares amongst a lifetime's worth more.

Long forgotten imagines of a black-haired woman that had nursed him to adolescence, the kind face of his first beloved, and the freckled face of an innocent elf girl. The only ones that had been able to temper what was otherwise irrepressible. Eric didn't know when he had started crying, but the tears fell down his dirtied face as he slowly lifted the blade, towering over the source of his trauma and poised to strike. A decision away from revenge. Only for that man to irrevocably change him into something else, yet again...

Eric fell to his knees, the blade clattering against the cobbled stone of the cell as he sobbed. Broken. Like a boy lost. A display finally befitting of his actual age. He couldn't do it. He could not allow that man to scar him any more than he already had.

Picking up the dropped blade, Crowley slowly approached the wretch. Without as much as the slightest hesitation, he swiftly ended the wretch's life, a weak groan before the man once known as Joseph, died.

Before Eric knew it, big comforting arms wrapped around him. "Shh-shh," Crowley consoled as he let the boy cry. On his face was neither anger nor disappointment. He merely held Eric as his walls broke down, all the pent-up emotions allowed relief. "It's okay, I’m here, son. I’m here." He consoled him - offering a presence that Eric had never had the privilege to experience before.

That of a father.

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