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|Welcome to the twisted, ugly world of Kedemar.|
This is the latest thing my muse threw at me and demanded me to write. If this continues, I plan to tackle all the things that really leave me floundering - first person perspective, some stirring dialogue, dynamic characters, increased vocabulary, some big plot twists / revelations, and as always, leaving things hidden for the reader to discover. I'm also going to broach ever so slightly into sci-fi, however it is still grounded firmly in the world of fantasy.
A word of warning. This is not a pretty story. It is vastly different from the rest of my pieces. There will be blood, death, politics and religion - though not all in this one chapter. If you don't mind that, then please keep reading.
Depending on the reaction, I might or might not keep posting chapters up.
Chance is the illusion named by those who believe themselves to be in control of their own lives.
Deacon of the Church of the Damned
Picking up the rag nearby, I wiped the raven quill gently, careful lest stray drops be spilt over the drying manuscript. It had been some twenty years in the making, each steady stroke, splash of colour and crisp rune, sketched and charcoaled before the final wash was applied with the same maternal care one has for an innocent babe. It had progressed slowly, oftentimes to the point that an observer would have been hard pressed to notice any difference one night to the next, so often were my lines reworked to ensure utter perfection.
With considerable sorrow, as I stretched out the expensive fibres to dry evenly, I realised that this would only be added to my growing collection clustered around the room. For all the years of dedication, it would only be added to the rolls sticking out from beneath the bed, lying against my small cooking apparatus or piled together in the various boxes spread out across the floor. None would grace my walls; they were dedicated solely to the icons of my religion, though there were few practitioners of it now.
Besides my inks and brushes which kept my crowded mind in working order, the only non-utilitarian object in my room was a small scrying stone, set into the stone walls. Made of the purest glass set over rubies, it could, once activated by my hands, transverse both the temporal and the empyrean with ease. It had been with me from the beginning.
My brushes returned to their home, nestled in the various nooks designated for them. My eyes caught hold of one name amongst the papers amassed on the desk: Reahyn.
The wheels of my mind clicked, spinning around, unlocking doors and opening pathways till a memory surfaced, then memories and finally the entire story. It took me significantly longer to find the diaries which documented the time I had kept watch over, and communicated with, him, yet find I did amongst the dusty shelves and papers that I’d invested the fall of empires in.
Rarely does intuition fail to serve well, even rarer does it fail me. Only once in my memory, long before now and even the time of Reahyn, but that is long past and irreversible, much as I may wish it were not. Thus, with no reason to doubt instinct, when my attention was drawn to the regions of Skaa, long forgotten beneath the murky haze of deceit, danger and death, my concentration drew thither.
He moved quickly, hiding in the shadows of that malignant and grotesque city Skaa, shadows that pervaded regardless of the highest peak of noon…
~ * ~
Beneath the twisted, metallic buildings, even more decrepit on the outskirts than the suburbs were, he moved silently. Down here, even the sun failed to pierce the smog that spewed out from the countless factories that daily swallowed workers. Through this environment he crept, quickly, stealthily, lethally. The only mark of his passage, that of the disturbance of the faint, bluish wisps of fumes that coiled out of the clogged drains and hung in the air like bloated, ethereal tumours.
In his hand was a wicked knife. It’s jagged edges glinted dimly in the occasional glow of nearby neon signs, pulsing lights pushing the wares that only the depraved sought for.
Ahead, he heard once again the jingle of coins. He could almost taste the sharp tang of the metal that signalled his next sustenance. As his lithe body hugged the desolated walls, he crept forward, eager to reach his target, but equally careful to keep to the ever present shadows and maintain the element of surprise. Only the foolish went unarmed through Skaa, especially her border regions and the foolish did not last.
Around one more corner and he glimpsed the man’s outline, his gargantuan body moving easily through the cloying air, parting it as a ship would rocky waters. Though hard to see through the fumes and rising steam, he seemed a formidable threat.
Wiry arms pulled themselves silently up to the rusting metal walkways that criss-crossed between buildings and over streets too sunk in sewage to be traversed by foot. Skaa was as dangerous from above and beneath as it was from attack from the rear or sides.
Overhead, the dull drone of mechanical constructs slugged through the air. Beneath lay the body of some horned lesser demon, summoned by a rogue mage and summarily destroyed by the militia. It’s carcass was half eaten by the carnivorous vermin that crawled through all of Skaa.
His gut lurched and he instinctually stopped, frozen in place. He spied another shadow stalking his mark. Cording groaned as he gripped his knife tighter; spoils were rarely shared.
Hunter turned hunted as his attention changed to the shadow. Why tackle the seven-foot giant himself when he could safely remain unobserved and then return the posthumous favour?
A lifetime on the streets had taught him many things. Fleetness and silence of foot and knowledge of weapons granted, but most importantly, patience.
Still, he did not have to wait. A burst of speed, a flash of a blade, a blow to head with its handle, and it was all over. Grimy fingers groped for a pulse as others searched pockets. Their sleave opened revealing the oblique red and black tattoo of the zealous Church of the New Light. Standing almost directly above the crouched fanatic, he nearly snorted.
The creak of straining metal was the only advance warning he gave as he dropped off the walkway. In a fluid movement, he pressed his knife against the meaty flesh of the their throat and grasped their knife hand, bringing it forward to rest with its point against their heaving stomach.
“Give me the bag.” He kept both points of agonising, promised death on his victim as he glanced around the street. His was a dangerous game of cat and mouse.
“What are you talking about?” To his credit, the captive had remained perfectly still, but the quaver in his voice betrayed him.
“Give it to me or you die now.”
“And you shall spend eternity in hell.” His words echoed with that which was impressed upon zealots, yet he gave the words a life beyond what was intoned daily.
He laughed, a dangerous, low, guttural laugh. “Look around.” He tilted the knife’s blade, forcing his captive to turn their head. “We already in hell. Now give me the purse. Slow like.”
His one free hand slipped behind, holding the moneybag out for the taking. “Come to the Light. We can promise you freedom from this hell, as you call it. Freedom in eternity.”
“Drop it, on the ground.”
“The Light can return your feet to the true path. And for converters, we offer regular meals and board. It is but one step along the road to eternal salvation.” The purse clinked heavily when it hit the oil-covered ground, diffracting the rainbow patterns that ran across the contaminated liquid.
“Shut up. I’m gonna’ offer you one piece of advice. Breathe in the air around you, that choking, poisonous air. That’s the world we live in. It’s all we’ll ever live in. God,” with a rough gesture he indicated all around, “would not force this on anyone.”
“This world is merely a stepping stone for a better life to come. Come to the Light, we bear no grudges. Mention my name, Uthal…” the blade at his throat suddenly pressed further inwards, cutting of air to his lungs.
“I told you to shut up. When I let you go, don’t look back, just keep moving.” He dug the blade in a little deeper, it’s rusted edges drawing blood, but not enough to kill. He shoved him roughly, pushing him into the darkened recesses of a nearby alleyway. He disappeared into the city of death, clutching his throat to stop the bleeding. That any religion survived in this place of all places was testimony to the necessity of humanity to believe in a better life.
~ * ~
Not for the first time, I wondered why I was drawn to this man, Reahyn as I knew without a doubt, despite the fact that he had yet to voice his name. It was more than possible that he, himself knew not his name, and yet once more did I wonder at why I was drawn to him. However, for all his ruthlessness, callousness and depravity, those very characteristics that went against everything I believe in, fought for and lived by, my attention and thoughts were compelled towards him.
~ * ~
Kneeling swiftly to pick up the purse, his newly acquisitioned blade finished off the job the fanatic had started. Bludgeoned men held grievances. Dead ones cared for nothing. They, instead, followed whatever path eternity offered them.
Tomb for a King
|Forbidden Hearts, Part 2|
|Of Humans and Elves, 11||The Song of the Elves (poem)|
|Of Humans and Elves, Part 12||Of Humans and Elves, part 3|