‘He killed the other reaper,’ said Garovel. ‘You’d better get up, Hector. Karkash may be gone, but this fight isn’t over yet.’
Hector stood. ‘What do you mean?’
But Garovel didn’t have to answer. Through the settling dust, Hector saw the other man appear. It was Stoker, and yet, perhaps not so.
Stoker was on his feet again and fully regenerated, but his shoulders were slumped forward, his arms hanging limp in front of him. His mouth was half-open, his eyes half-drawn, and his head twitched from moment to moment, looking one direction, then another, as if searching for something.
Hector edged in front of Garovel. ‘What the fuck is wrong with him?’
‘This is what happens when the reaper dies while the servant still lives. His body works just fine, but his consciousness is broken.’
‘Be extremely careful. It will die on its own within the next hour, but if we just let it go, then it will seek out people to kill.’
‘But... why? If he’s mindless, then why would he...?’
‘It’s only driven by a sense of self-preservation now. Its soul is destroyed, so it will try to take someone else’s in order to repair it. Which won’t work. But that won’t stop it from trying.’
‘Isn’t there, uh... I mean, there’s no way to help him?’
‘No. Listen to me, Hector. It’s not even “him” anymore. That thing is a monster now. And if you don’t destroy its brain, it’s going to go over to that town and slaughter dozens of people.’
Hector gave a painful frown as he watched the man. ‘But he’s just... standing there... I can’t just kill him.’
‘Then watch it closely, and you’ll see.’
Stoker’s breathing was increasingly erratic. His body flexed, small chunks converting into hydrogen gas and leaving bloody gashes behind, which soon regenerated. He looked toward the town, then toward Hector and Garovel.
‘Oh right,’ said Garovel. ‘We’re a lot closer to it than the town is, aren’t we? It’ll want to kill us first.’
Hector’s brow lowered. ‘Exactly how dangerous is this thing?’