Carpathia III: Episode 98: The Temptation of Jaze

Yseri, Desert Trail

Loathe to hang around an area populated by rabid razor bears, Quilyon urged the group on. Soon after, the trees abruptly ended and the road became a straight line through flat, featureless desert, which continued for days. It was now necessary to forage for sustenance rather than hunt, though Ryuu could catch small animals that lived underground, just as he did when he and Jaze made excursions into the desert.

Jaze's reunion with his friends was far more disappointing than he expected. Preoccupied with his own belief that Wishmaster was constantly looking over his shoulder, he remained aloof and distant, wary of recapturing the closeness he once had with his friends.

Disheartened, Jaze watched as Reuli and Wolfram played with Phobos and Deimos while Azrael kept a close watch on them. He observed from afar as Kaoru and Quilyon held hands and and gave each other loving gaze, wishing he could get to know his best friend's fiancé better. He watched as Adell and Artemis made playful, snarky banter with each other and wondered how they could possibly have gone from despising each other to becoming boyfriends. He watched Ryuu awkwardly flirt with Zet who, in turn, feigned indifference and wished he could tease them a little.

Earlier, Jaze had been ashamed of his actions. Now, he was part of something more terrifying than he could handle and he desperately wanted help. The last thing in the world that he wanted, however, was for anyone else to come under Wishmaster's influence. Kaoru, Adell, Artemis, and Ryuu each tried to sit down and make small talk with him during one of the many breaks they took while traveling, but Jaze always stared at the ground and revealed as little as possible.

All asked if he remembered what happened in his encounter with the razor bear. Though he responded that he didn't, this was a lie. He remembered every horrifying detail of what his superhuman strength had wrought. He remembered trying to fire his gun, though he'd forgotten about the safety catch. He remembered latching onto the bear's neck and receiving a vicious set of claws across his chest. He remembered twisting the bear's head and the sickening crack it made as its neck broke.

Each time his friends tried to speak with him, Jaze remained mostly silent and he could feel their disappointment piercing into his soul. After awhile, he started to think he would have been better off if he'd not run into everyone at all.

With Kagurain and Ryuu now safe with the others, it was now time for Jaze to plan for the time that he would slip away unnoticed. He would like to leave a note of apology for this as well, except that he didn't have any paper or a pen with which to write. With so many people around, stealing away into the desert would be difficult. His only hope was for either Quilyon or Azrael, who kept watch during the night, to fall asleep.

Jaze was not the only one waiting for this to happen.

Several nights after being reunified, Jaze fell into an uneasy sleep, when a figure emerged from the void and called to him.

Wishmaster: Jaze... Jaze...

Jaze knew that voice and frantically whipped his head around in the blackness to find where it was coming from.

Wishmaster: I have a job for you, Jaze.

After one final turn, Jaze suddenly found Wishmaster directly in front of him, looming over him menacingly. He puzzled on what Wishmaster could be planning this time.

Jaze: Job? I didn't agree to any job.

Wishmaster: You will. I have a little problem that I need you to fix for me.

If only there were somewhere he could run, Jaze thought. Alas, he had no choice but to listen to Wishmaster's next insane scheme.

Wishmaster: The King of Zhail has become infuriatingly incompetent as of late and his heir is even less promising. I want you to use your new strength to kill the King, the Prince, and anyone who gets in your way. You will then take the King's place.

Not expecting anything quite so direct or gruesome, Jaze could only stare at Wishmaster, wide-eyed and mouth agape.

Jaze: What?

Wishmaster continued calmly, as though he were reading a train schedule, and tilted his head from side to side as he made each of his demands.

Wishmaster: This is not a difficult concept. Kill the King, the Prince, and anyone else who gets in your way. Assume the King's place. It should be simple enough, with your power.

Wishmaster waited patiently, with a toothy, smug smirk on his face, for Jaze's answer. It was only then that Jaze understood that Wishmaster was deadly serious.

Jaze: Are you kidding? I will do no such thing!

Distressingly, Wishmaster seemed entirely nonplussed by Jaze's reaction, as though he expected it all along.

Wishmaster: That is a shame. If you refuse to follow my directives, I'm afraid I shall have to kill all of your friends.

Now, Jaze was genuinely starting to panic as Wishmaster slowly turned and began to walk away from him.

Jaze: No! You can't do that!

Wishmaster whipped around, facing Jaze once again. With one mighty stomp, he leaned in until his face was within an inch of Jaze's. Jaze backed away, but Wishmaster continued forward, maintaning the distance between them, speaking

Wishmaster: You wished for the ability to protect your friends and I will determine the manner in which they will be protected!

Wishmaster stood straight, emphasizing his considerable height, and glared down at Jaze menacingly with his arms folded across his chest. Now partially obscured by shadow, Wishmaster's eyes glowed severely as he delivered his next statement very slowly and deliberately.

Wishmaster: Last chance. Kill the King, the Prince, and anyone else who gets in your way. Take the King's place. Refuse and I will kill all of your friends right here and now.

Jaze was certain that Wishmaster would not stand for any more dawdling. It would probably take weeks for him to reach the palace, during which time he might be able to think of something, but for now, allowing his friends to die was out of the question. Holding his head low and near tears, he reluctantly agreed.

Jaze: I'll do it.

Still with his arms folded across his chest, Wishmaster leaned forward slightly.

Wishmaster: And what will you do? Say it!

Unable to hold back any longer, Jaze coughed and a torrent of tears ran down his cheeks as he struggled to follow Wishmaster's command.

Jaze: I will kill the King, the Prince, and anyone who gets in my way. I will take the King's place.

Seemingly satisfied, Wishmaster stepped backward into the shadows until he was nothing but a pair of glowing, yellow eyes.

Wishmaster: Very good. I look forward to positive results.

Suddenly, Jaze awoke in the campsite. He whipped his head around, looking for any sign of Wishmaster. Finding none, he now more carefully surveyed his surroundings. Everyone was asleep, including Quilyon, who was supposed to be keeping watch that night.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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