Story 3: Creature of the Skin

Just as he crossed the first hill into the forest of Dam he was beset by a bestial man. The man wore a cloak around him that looked like sheathes of flesh. It was as if the man’s clothes were grown from his very body.

The beast bellowed, “Who are you, and why are you in the land of Nod?”

Laz replied as his hand tensed around the hilt of his chain-sword, “I am Laz of Leonus. I seek the Key of Binding. I offer you no harm, and wish none from you. Go in peace, that we may be friends, lest we be enemies.”

The man stepped forward and jingled with the sound of internal metals. He thrust open his cloak and an array of knives sent showers of photons against Laz’s profile. The bravery Laz had learned in countless trials eluded him. His weakness in spirit stretched out into his viscera, and he allowed himself one tremble, who’s shadow would not exit his mind.

The man-thing spoke, “You are now but dirt under my foot, soon to be behind me lest you prove yourself in skill. Know not what you do, and die. Show me your power.”

Laz cleft a nearby tree, three feet in thickness, with one blow.

“This is not what I asked for,” cried the demon, “I said, ‘Show me your power.'”

Laz stopped a moment to think. The demand may not require potency of strength. He drew out an equation for the counting of layers in tetrahedrally packed spheres, and traced a diagram.

It shuffled forward to peer at the formula. Looking disappointed, it mumbled, “Show me your power. Or I’ll slay you. This is your last chance.”

Laz wondered if the thing was trying to distract him, he looked around for archers in the forest. Seeing only shadows, he decided to stall a bit. He asked the creature, “What is your name creature? If you have one.”

“I am Seth, Keeper of Skin, of Aludria,” he hissed. Adding curtly, “Do not stall!”

This game might be unwinnable Laz thought. He could not risk waiting any longer. Perhaps the simple state of men would satisfy. He posited, “Seth, Keeper of Skin. You thwart me in my endeavor and test me to frustration. My power lies in your conception. For you, I have no power if you refuse to acknowledge it as such.”

“You have fundamental power indeed. A clean perception is the root of power.” The flesh cloak slothed from his arms and shoulders and the creature was now solely a man. “Forgive my current familiarity and prior threats, but there have been few of late who have withstood my expectations. You are welcome in this forest. Dine with me at my abode.”

Resting his sword, but not letting go it, Laz bowed and walked forward with Seth in the darkling.

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