If you'd like to do some back reading on this story:
Chapter 1 - Ripped from the light
Chapter 2 - Leaves of Healing
Chapter 3 - Lexicons for Lionblood
Chapter 4 - On the Heels of Akilles
Chapter Five – Intimidation Tactics
Thomas pushed open the palatial door of Sgt. Akilles retreat and held the door open for Merle. The air in the room grew instantly stiff as the low rumble of Cyclops voices died in a breath. Sgt. Akilles looked quickly to his men and dismissed them all but one, who would remain by his side . . . It was obvious that Akilles knew two eyes were better than one when dealing with Merle.
Akilles’s titan sized hands clenched around his large mallet that he stomped in his hand from habit. He spit to the side and grumbled lowly. “So, I see the young wizard is back and you still have him on your leash. How’s that feel dog?”
Before Thomas could defend himself, which he was perfectly willing and able to do, Merle had tapped his staff onto the floor and spun it toward Akilles. A long, leathery strand of light snaked out from the tip of his staff and securely fastened itself around Akilles’ throat. Sparks flew and died in a moment to reveal that Merle had put a leash around Akilles’s neck. Merle took the end of the leash and handed it to a stunned Thomas. “You tell him how it feels, Private Akilles,” said Merle, extending the sting of the word “Private.”
Akilles appeared as completely stunned as Thomas at the old man’s bold actions.
Merle moved towards Akilles more briskly than anticipated, “Another taunt like that to the protector of Wizard City, and I’ll have you eating dog food next.” Akilles dropped his mallet and put his hand over his lips to guard his mouth. Akilles’s guard dropped his mallet and covered his mouth too, mimicking the actions of his leader.
Merle pulled up a chair to the table covered in fine fruit in front of Akilles, set his cane aside, and grabbed the nearest apple and took a bite. “Now that the intimidation part of this visit is over, let’s talk business.” Merle snapped his fingers and the leash and collar disappeared. “Pull up a chair, Akilles and Thomas.” Merle took another loud bite. “You know, they say that if you elongated the tone your mouth creates when you bite an apple for a period of 30 seconds, you’d completely lose your hearing.”
Both Thomas and Akilles lowered themselves slowly to their chairs around the table, still stunned and cautious.
“Yes,” continued Merle, “But there’s a kind of magic between the jaw and the ear that actually turns off the harshness of the sound when you bite so you don’t go deaf from your own eating. Now THAT’s magic my friends. That’s magic that every common beast has.” Merle pointed his mouth in the direction of Akilles’s guard and took another bite of the apple, and this time really crunched into it. A brisk wind picked up from the sound, and Akilles’ guard was blown back against the wall and knocked out.
“Did you really come here to talk about apples, Merle?” grunted Akilles. “Or did you . . .”
“No, I didn’t, “slopped Merle as he twirled the apple in his hand. “I came to talk about magic and to ask your advice.”
Akilles laughed. “After humiliating me time and time again, you think I’m going to give you advice?” Merle laughed along with Akilles. Thomas laughed nervously too. The air in the room was so uncomfortable that it felt like being elevated above a pit of scorpions.
Merle suddenly stopped laughing and said, “yes, and I think you’ll see why you will.” Merle pointed over to Thomas, “show him the card, Thomas.”
Thomas pulled out the broken card and turned its back toward Akillies. “Harold Argelston noted that your symbol is on the back of this damaged card of mine, which he also said appeared to be pre-titans work.”
Akillies pushed himself quickly from the table. “Oh no!” said Akillies, “It’s Tumok Gravelbeard!” Akilles grabbed his jaw as if trying to hold it up from falling on the ground. “Tumok has returned . . . Tumok has returned . . .” he whimpered in disbelief.
“Get a hold of yourself, please, Akilles,” demanded Thomas. “Who is Tumok?”
“Tumok is the keyholder of the Great Spyre,” backed Akillies, unable to contain his outward expression of fear.
“The Great Spyre?” asked Thomas. Merle put a finger to Thomas’s mouth. Akilles was starting to give them the information they needed, and Merle knew he could explain the location to Thomas later.
“Tumok is the punisher of all myth magic,” further backed Akillies “ . . . and Tumok was enslaved by Malistaire himself”
Merle stared at the staggering Cyclops and dropped the core of his apple to the table. “Tumok,” whispered Merle to Thomas. “I knew Malistaire was in trouble with his emotions, but this could mean the end of Wizard City for us all. We must take action.”
Thomas raised himself from the table and nodded at Merle. Merle blinked his eyes, and they were quickly teleported from Akilles’s sanctum.