Max smiled as he stood at the edge of the small hill watching smoke rise from various rooftops in the town below. He stood for a few minutes longer until his attention turned to his own surroundings. He walked from tree to tree. Finding one to his liking he removed his hat, sat down, and leaned on the trunk of the big pine. He closed his eyes and waited for the moment - the call - when he would hear from the Master and begin his journey into the town below.
His rest was interrupted by a foul but familiar smell. Immediately his senses went into overdrive. Standing up, he singled out a specific part of the woods behind him and directed his voice in that direction.
"I can feel your foul presence from here, Lucius."
The trees made a rustling sound as they swayed back and forth. Max walked a few feet to his left and stopped. He stood firm at his position, and waited.
Suddenly, the trees stopped their motion and a man appeared right in front of Max. He wore a black, 'long-rider' coat that fell to the ground. His eyes were dark and set back into his face, making them almost impossible to see. When he smiled, it was more of a sneer. At first glance he did not look friendly, not friendly at all.
The two stood face-to-face, waiting for the other to move and give up position. Max would not budge, and finally the dark man - called Lucius - gave way, grinning as he did so.
He walked to the edge of the hill and looked down at the town of Clearville below. Finally, he spoke. His voice was harsh, rough...callous.
"You are here to save one of these, Mahanaim?"
Max smiled. "I only come to do what the Master requires."
Lucius turned and looked at Max. "The Master?" The emphasis on the word master was full of sarcasm. "This so called Master, who would allow one such as me to take part in this little game?" He grinned. "Seems to me he's not much of a Master at all."
Max walked over to the edge of the hill, knocking into Lucius' shoulder as he did so. He took a long look at the town below before he spoke. "You think you will be victorious, Lucius?" He paused. Then. "You may win a battle or two, that is for the Master to decide." He turned again to Lucius. "But know this, you will only go as far as He permits. No further."
Lucius backed away from Max. "Be that as it may, Mahan..." He stopped. "Ah yes, these creatures refer to you as Max, do they not?" He almost spit out the next word. "Quaint." Then he continued. "Be that as it may, Max. But if I could take down just one, it would indeed be a victory, would it not? For...how is it said? 'It is not his will that one of these little ones should perish?'"
Max suddenly got right into Lucius' face. He leaned in so close they were almost touching. "How dare you quote the sacred words." A bright light begin to shine around Max, and Lucius cowered away from it as Max continued to speak. The volume of Max's words rose with each syllable. "You think you will wiN THIS BATTLE, DEMON?" He was towering over Lucius. "YOU WILL GO ONLY AS FAR AS THE MASTER ALLOWS! NO FURTHER! IS THIS UNDERSTOOD?"
Max's demeanor and appearance quickly returned to 'normal,' and as it did, Lucius' confidence and cockiness returned. "Say what you will." He began to take a step down the hill, in the direction of the town below. "But I will have my day." His voice trailed off and his physical appearance faded with every word. "This time around...I will have my day..."
And he was gone.
Max continued to stare at the sight where Lucius had been, and then he slowly walked over to the tree where he'd been resting. He sat down again and leaned against the trunk, holding his hat in his lap. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and thought of the days ahead...