The sound of the bursting dome shattered the silence of the tabernacle. Stone and plaster plummeted onto the stone floor, sending plumes of dust into the air to form a fine white cloud.
Abbot Ammon’s heart raced in anticipation. As the dust settled, his worst suspicions were realised. From within the white cloud, a giant red figure with outstretched black wings emerged. It had the body of a man, wings of a bat and a large demonic head. With immense trepidation, the abbot watched as the man-beast approach. The eight-foot-high monstrous figure exuded intimidating strength. The demon's muscular red torso rippled with each step forward. A heavy-boned humanoid head with protruding forehead supported a pair of elongated horns that twisted upwards in a spiral. Most confronting of all was the demonic gaze from its yellow-slitted, blood-red eyes.
Ammon steeled himself against the mental onslaught of pure malevolence. Few could resist the will of a ShahKharon. Even with all his skills and majiks, he struggled to stay focused.
“What do you call yourself?” Ammon challenged in a show of defiance. As the abbot said these words, he cross-referenced the grid lines on the bench in front of him.
In acknowledgement of Ammon’s resistance, the ShahKharon flashed its fangs in a sneer. “You may know your executioner as Genges of the Geshstrom,” the demon lord growled while taking a cautious step closer. “So, the Abbot is a student of the Kublans?” Genges probed.
“You don’t become Abbot by excelling in one discipline. Yes, I’m a scholar of the Kublan antiquities,” Ammon said, deliberately glancing to the Book of Rites. He needed just a moment’s distraction to make his move.
The demon lord couldn’t resist the temptation to follow Ammon’s line of sight and gaze avariciously upon the object of desire. Genges then noticed how the pages were spread out on the stone bench. This unexpected sight caused the demon to look an instant longer. At once, Ammon pulled the lever behind the bench.
From several hidden locations, a dozen heavy sharp-tipped bolts sped towards their target.
Genges just had time to drop his wings in a defensive posture. This protected the demons back but didn’t prevent four bolts spearing into its legs and torso. Genges roared like an enraged bull as black blood oozed from the bolt’s entry points.
Incredibly, none of the hits were mortal. Horrified by what his eyes were telling him, Ammon realised things were about to turn grim. “What does it take to kill this demon?” He cursed.
One by one, Genges prized the bolts from his chest and legs. With each removal, he gave the abbot an evil grimace. The sight of the black blood welling from the wounds and trickling down red marbled flesh revolted Ammon.
Upon removing the last bolt, Genges produced a smug sneer. “How does the Abbot choose to die; for I have something special in mind?”
“Not by your hand,” Ammon was quick to reply. “First, I deny you what you came for.”
Ammon magically set fire to the ancient tome. The ShahKharon screamed in outrage and lunged forward to recover the burning pages. Genges now realised why the pages were spread out. As per the plan, the abbot pulled another lever. More heavy bolts sped to intercept the point directly in front of the burning book. Three more bolts speared their target, and the man-beast bellowed in a fury.
Incredibly, Genges didn’t fall. The abbot couldn’t believe the beast’s capacity to absorb punishment. Three clean hits and still you stand! Why can’t you die?
Genges refocused on the abbot with crazed blood-red eyes that burned with murderous intent. “Soon you’ll be mine and will atone for this treachery.”
Ammon’s heart sunk. He was no match in close-quarter combat. With grim defiance, he pulled the final lever. This time the abbot fired on his station. He couldn’t let the ShahKharon get him alive. That would be a fate far worse than death.
The angels of death found their target. Mortally wounded, Ammon slumped to the floor. In a last desperate act, he began to write in his blood, Genges at Gesh...
Before he could finish, a giant arm snatched him from behind the stone bench and propelled him up into the air. Held three feet above the floor, he found himself peering at the hideous, red skin face of the ShahKharon.
Genges laughed cruelly at the abbot’s demise.
Although he recoiled from the flesh-tearing incisors, it was the yellow-slit blood-red eyes the abbot feared the most. Ammon cringed inwardly, as these predatory orbs drank in his vision. It felt as if they peered into his soul, hungering for an appetising taste.
This was the very situation Ammon wanted to avoid. For pity’s sake, merciful release, please! He desperately prayed, petrified of what was to come next.