Cyril rode until the mid-afternoon sun vanished behind the dark grey storm heads that had been threatening since morning. The road from Kansas City had been swift, and he fixated upon his task with all available focus and vigor. There was little doubt in his mind his master would indeed reward him for completing the work he had begun so long ago. For as far as Cyril knew, the master's dawn had finally arisen. But Galen Altos was now standing in the way.
Cyril tried suppress the frustration over his inability to kill Altos all those years ago during the war—oftentimes within arm’s reach of each other. He attempted to forget the times he could have easily killed Galen, but had been prevented by the one he served.
And during the war—during those opportunities—Cyril remained perplexed. That time waiting, according to the master, was time dedicated to observation—to see how strong Galen’s powers truly were. But during all that time, Cyril had not once seen a single hint that Galen had any powers whatsoever. It was only after Dunburton's surprise correspondence that Cyril realized Galen had somehow survived the church’s conflagration in Juarez. Cyril now realized he had made a grave mistake by underestimating Altos and letting him get away.
Cyril shuddered at the thought of what the master would do to him if he found out Altos was still alive—though it seemed highly unlikely he didn’t already know, for the master knew plenty about Galen.
But why wouldn’t he have said something? Cyril wondered.
Altos’ survival was worrisome. Though Cyril had successfully hunted down and dispatched several men and women at the behest of his master—never once questioning his orders—it was this single failure he feared would keep him from his final reward, but lead to facing unspeakable and merciless retribution at his master's own hands. This mere thought was enough to make Cyril remount his horse to continue pushing forward despite the storm.
Within an hour, the feeling he’d sought since Kansas City had begun to operate—like a compass needle finding its bearing. There was no doubt; he was definitely on Galen's trail once more. He could sense it. As Cyril came down the road toward an abandoned farmhouse, he felt Galen growing closer with each foot.
The moment he entered the long-abandoned structure, Cyril knew Galen had been here shortly after fleeing from Kansas City. The scene he could see in his mind was clear as day: Altos had spent the night here huddled in front of the hearth trying to keep warm.
No, Cyril thought. That wasn't it. He held his hands out, trying to further divine what the room was attempting to tell him.
Galen's imprint by the hearth was indeed quite strong. With his bare hand, Cyril fished through the cold ash in the hearth unsure of what he was looking, but confident he would find it. When his fingers closed around a hard orb, daggers of ice stabbed through his body. Cyril removed the object and, upon seeing it, immediately began to tremble.
There in his hand was the petrified eye—the same one Cyril knew had come from an ancient creature that roamed the earth long before himself.
As Cyril's gaze fell into the unavoidable pull of the eye's milky iris, he became aware of the other connection this horrid object shared with Galen Altos and Major Dunburton.
That old fool, thought Cyril. It pained him to think Dunburton was ignorant of the true cursed nature of the eye. Like most mortal men who had heard of it and attempted to possess it, the major had no real idea of its province.
Quickly, Cyril saw someone he could only identify as a Gypsy. Though it seemed highly unlikely, she had knowledge of Galen. Seeing her actions now, Cyril was certain this old woman somehow understood exactly what Galen was.
And then as he saw how Galen crudely killed her, Cyril was dumbstruck; it became obvious Galen himself was still completely oblivious to his own identity.
Which would explain certain things, Cyril finally reckoned. Especially why the master himself doubted whether Altos was even a threat.
How could the master be deceived? Cyril puzzled. Before he could pry his gaze from the eye, it began to show him something—a flash of what could only be an event in the future. It sent a wave of terror through Cyril's body. From his shaking hand fell the eye, where it hit the floor and stopped without a single bounce. Without hesitation, Cyril left the abandoned house—and the eye—behind as quickly as his feet could carry him.
He was no more than a few yards out the front door when, from behind him, came a voice.
“You disappoint me,” it said coldly.
Cyril turned slowly, as to not provoke. There, standing in the house's ramshackle doorway, was Miles Lawton. And though the appearance he always took in front of Cyril was that of a young boy, the Coyote was no less dangerous now than in his natural form.
Cyril didn’t dare hesitate in his submission to the boy; he lowered his eyes as Miles Lawton approached.
“The way you held that wretched thing,” the boy said with an air of disgust. “You stood there trembling like a scared girl.”
Cyril made a great deal of effort to choose his words very carefully. “The eye is cursed. It's a fool's toy of madness and folly.”
The boy stooped down to pick up a small stone that he rolled in his hand. “They've said similar things about that petrified relic for—” his voice momentarily trailed off. “For longer than you can imagine,” he finished. The boy arced his arm back and threw the small stone away from the house. “Tell me, Cyril, what exactly did you see in the eye? What truths did it reveal to you?”
“I saw Altos,” answered Cyril. He focused his mind on the part of the vision he dared talk about and tried, at least for now, to block out what he'd seen concerning the boy who stood in front of him. He told Miles about the Gypsy's fatal encounter with Galen and of his suspicion that Altos seemingly still had little idea of who he was or where he'd come from.
“Of course not,” hissed miles. “Which is why we must find him before he finally wakes up to the truth.”
That would be easier said than done, thought Cyril. Galen had a several week head start.
“Why did you not tell me that Altos was still alive?” asked the boy.
Cyril began to answer, but realized any answer would appear as just an excuse—a sign of weakness. “Because I didn't know,” he finally said. It was an admission he believed would draw the least of the master's ire.
“I'm pretty certain I can track him from here,” Cyril added quickly. “If my gut tells me correctly, Altos is headed to Mexico. He's got a soft spot for those people.”
“I would say that's a pretty good guess,” Miles responded. “Because not too long ago a man was hanged in a small Texas town who fits the description of the man you are looking for.”
“But he's not dead?”
“What do you think?” barked the boy. He picked up another small stone and tossed it against the side of the house. “The town was dealt with.”
“He's gone east. Now you must find him.”
“Follow him,” said Miles, losing patience. “You'll get instructions on how to deal with him later.”
Cyril nodded, trying his best to hide his uncertainty. He had served solely at the boy's pleasure, hunting down the enemies of the Coyote and taking care of them. Many times, his duties included extracting information using methods suggested by Miles himself—methods using sharp tools and fire on soft flesh. These tasks he found himself quite good at, due to his ability to tune out the screams.
Before the war, and at Miles’s request, he had personally taken a family away at gunpoint for interrogation. He took the mother and father, both bound and gagged, and forced them to watch as he dispatched their two young daughters, his knife cutting into the young girls' flesh slowly and methodically. Afterwards, the couple willingly gave up their secrets before suffering the same surgically precise fate as their children.
They were but one example of the tool of evil that Cyril had become in the name of the Coyote—a task he had taken on with the hope that his loyalty and service would ultimately win him release.
Despite this loyalty, Cyril could not help but question this strange treatment of Galen Altos. During the war, it had only been after Galen fled that he'd been given Miles' blessing to hunt him down with whatever force necessary. Though now, it occurred to Cyril that it was possible the boy had only done so to test both of them.
At first, Cyril had thought the boy was simply being cautious of an unknown enemy, but now with the news that Miles had taken vengeance on the townsfolk who had hanged Altos, it seemed like the boy had other interests in Galen.
Cyril’s unwavering belief in the boy beast was not the same as it once was.
“Altos was delayed for three weeks in that wretched town while awaiting his execution. He then spent the next month on foot. With a stout horse you can catch up to him in a week's time,” Miles said assuredly. “He is headed east.”
Cyril felt a familiar shudder.
“He is headed to Shadow Falls—where he will meet his destiny,” Miles declared, turning and walking away from the house.
Cyril mounted his horse and rode south. He’d head to Texas, to this small town where the Coyote had brought his own brand of death. There he’d one again pick up Galen’s trail; and if Miles had been correct that Altos was on foot, he would quickly catch up to him.
Cyril had blindly followed the master ever since Miles had resurrected his forgotten bones from the woods—bones that, on some cold nights, could still feel the gnawing teeth of those yellow-eyed beasts.
He will never release you, Cyril’s mind told him. It was true he had begun to question the master. He thought of the eye—now hidden in his saddlebag—and the apparent truth of what the cursed object had revealed to him.
He is headed to Shadow Falls—where he will meet his destiny, he heard Miles’s voice echo in his head.
And apparently, boy, Cyril thought to himself, where you will meet yours.