Red enthusiastically held his right hand out like a zealous fanatic. “Thank you, Master Wizard, for giving me the honor of being first among us to join in your holy service to the Creator.”
“You’re quite welcome, Son. Take this dagger and cut along your palm in an angle like this.” Without hesitation, emotion or pain, Merik held his right hand out and sliced his palm open. The methodical motion of the cut angled diagonally, from the bottom of his first finger, down and across to the lower left pad of his right hand. He balled his right hand into a fist and held it in front of him, drops of blood falling to the stone floor.
He held the dagger out and directed the apprentice. “Now do to your hand as I have done to mine. When you’re finished, hand it to the others. Make sure everyone does it exactly as I’ve shown you.”
As Merik had demonstrated, Red took the dagger and sliced his palm open, silently wincing with obvious pain. He then handed it to the next individual in line, watching intently to see that the Master Wizard’s instructions were followed to the letter. When everyone was finished, he brought the knife back to Merik and returned to his place in line.
“Thank you Red. Now, I’m going to recite the terms of our blood pact. Just repeat each sentence after me.”
When the verbal agreement was finished, Merik stepped up to the young redhead. He took Red’s hand into his own, allowing their blood to intermix. As he did, he spoke a blessing upon the young man. He repeated this process of intermixing blood and speaking blessings with each of the remaining candidates.
When the blood pact was finished, a strange individual entered the room. He looked hollow and disheveled; his face was thin and pale. His gray-streaked hair was in dreadlocks and his blood-shot eyes held a distant, rather vacant gaze. He held a bundle of white cloth strips with one hand and a small bag of aromatic herbs and spices. He handed the items to Merik without a word.
Merik took the cloth bundle and the bag of herbs. “Allow me to introduce our twelfth apprentice, Dakmar Lancer. He’s already taken the same oath as the rest of you.”
Angelica wore a puzzled expression. “Dakmar Lancer? Isn’t that the name of the assassin responsible for the King’s death? I thought he was dead.”
The eleven new apprentices all looked at the newcomer in bewilderment. Dakmar’s vacant eyes returned their stare, looking through them as though they didn’t exist.
Merik nodded. “Yes, it is the same name. In fact, this is the same man. And, as you can plainly see, he’s very much alive.”