Sadly, for people who are actually reading this, this is the last chapter I've completed. There may be more chapters later but nothing is for certain. Nothing ever is.
There is a new character in this chapter that I think a few of you may be able to relate to. Just remember the main character is a creation of my mind and closely reflects my viewpoints, though his personality is warped to be more cruel and curious than I am.
Enjoy the show.
A middle-aged woman paced worriedly through the kitchen of a noble house on the high streets. Her black hair was matted, as she had not washed in days. Two children came running down the stairs, one with an equally worried look on his face. This boy, maybe eleven or twelve years old, asked her, "Mom, are we really being pushed back? If we start losing the war what will happen to dad?" His hair was as black as his mother's but not quite as long. His eyes were a deep, sorrowful blue as tears welled up in them.
The other boy, maybe eight years old, stood still at the bottom of the stairs with no emotion in his eyes. "Our father is the strongest man alive. You shouldn't say such things. You'll kill him with your words." The black haired boy was hurt, "How could you say such a thing? I would never hurt dad..."
The woman forced up her courage and pulled them both in tight. "Now boys, you're both so young I couldn't expect you to understand. But whatever happens to your father you should know that he'll never leave you. Just remember that..." The black haired boy broke into sobs while the blonde one stood silently in his mother's grasp. No tears left his eyes and no emotion filled them. He just stared...
I was awakened by a scratching noise above my head. I discovered a squirrel in the rafters. 'Damn animal...' It was still dark outside, but the room I was in was illuminated. I had something in my hand.
As I stared at it's glow, these words continuously flowed through my head, 'Never leave you... Never leave you...' It meant nothing to me. 'I must still be tired...' But further sleep wouldn't benefit me at all. I decided to gather some wood and test out the stove downstairs. Aside from sleep I hadn't eaten in days either, and a stove had more uses than one.
I started to think of hunting, and quickly removed the idea of squirrel meat. It wasn't uncommon to find wild animals loose in the streets. After all, society was but a scattered mass of people too afraid of their own shadows to worry about hunting dangerous animals. 'Never leave you...' There it was again, "SHUT UP!" I threw the sword across the room and it stuck into the wall. 'Great, now I'm going insane. I'll never sleep again.'
I gathered the rest of my swords and strapped them on, followed by my shoulder plates and cloak. I still had wire mesh wrapped around my arms so all I had to do was secure it by snapping on my clawed gauntlets. It was a strange cloth, woven of steel wire and wool. For impact it did nothing, but no blade could cut through it. It paid for itself for how many times it had worked.
It wasn't until the sun was rising that I found a family of deer grazing on weeds that had burst through the road. I saw the one I wanted... eight-point buck. 'If I salt it after I'm done this could last me a while. But first...' I hadn't brought a gun or bow, even if I had, I wasn't very good with either. I would have to try and get the jump on them. 'This is the part I hate...'
I had one hand on my swords to make sure they wouldn't clang against each other, and the other hand held a long sword, the best sword for the job considering its reach and light weight. 'Damn, they're all facing different directions.' As if God had heard me, the buck turned around to devour a new patch of grass, leaving an open spot for me to sneak up to it. I said nothing, but was thankful. 'Thankful to God? Why would God help one like me? The buck just wanted more food.' I thought it, but I didn't believe it. Whatever it was I had to use it or my meal would escape.
As discreetly as I could, I walked one step every four seconds. I couldn't make the slightest sound or their sensitive ears would pick up the disturbance in the air. It was painfully slow as I proceeded down the street, mainly because my boots weren't meant to be stealthy. They were heavy, black leather with steel toes. A difficult find in this barren wasteland, I traded half of my last kill for them. It was worth it.
I was almost close enough. I took extra care as I neared the animal. Swinging the sword without alerting it was going to be the hardest part. 'Three feet away... one more step.' I lifted my foot and started my swing as I brought it down. 'Never leave you...'
The deer were running away. I had almost been kicked in the stomach as the buck fled. I threw the sword and missed. I was too angry to aim. I missed twice more but finally impaled the buck's head with my short sword. I looked up at the sky. 'Thanks. I guess...' Had it not been divine intervention I would have surely missed again. But the questions of faith were difficult to answer in a world where any “god” would have to be a twisted tyrant who likes to see humans in torture. This place, what was left of Earth... It was nothing but rock.
I retrieved my swords from the road and headed toward my kill. I would get no money for it, and no satisfaction for killing something that hadn’t had a chance to give me a reason to. I just needed food.
The creature still stirred. I hadn’t killed it, but its spine had been severed, making it jerk sometimes, but controlled motion was beyond its grasp. ‘If you hadn’t run it would have been quick.’ I remembered then that it was not human who has a free will, but an animal that ran on instinct. It had no choice, instinct said, “Run,” so it ran. A human can choose to ignore instinct and make decisions, though most don’t. That’s why I hate people. ‘I guess you’re off the hook.’ I slit the creature’s throat and removed both swords from its neck. It was now still and silent.
Most people saw death as the absence of life, something to be feared. The way I see it... Death is peace. At least for a moment, then you’re in Hell.
This world offered few forms of entertainment. I found mine in books, particularly the Bible. Even though it still appeared as a story, it held me like no other book could. Any book with this much truth could have only come from God. But this book says there is a way to Heaven, so not everyone goes to Hell... ‘Just the ones like me.’
I placed my mind back into focus and tried to think of a way to get this monster back to the forge. It easily outweighed me, and I was already carrying fifty-plus pounds on my back. I had brought rope. ‘I’ll have to drag it.’
The stove was built to heat metal, so even when dampened it gave the deer meat a black outside. It was good nonetheless; almost anyone in this age would literally kill to have a meal like this. I looked over at the hanging buck with its guts spilled on a tarp. ‘I still need salt, otherwise this won’t last more than a day.’ I would have to go to the center of the city and find a trader. Salt was one of the things we had plenty of. The other? Ammunition.
The building were much taller here than where I had last stayed, and prevented me from seeing where the business center was. It was hard enough to find it at night following the lights, but in the middle of the day, even with a good guess, you’d be lucky to find it. I was going to try anyway.
The world spun before me, how many did I order? “Stop moving around so I can count you.” The bottles on the counter were doing a circular dance to prevent me from doing a head count. “Servus, what are you doing?” Someone was talking to me. “Who is it? Quit wobbling so I can see you...” She laughed, “You’ve had way too many. Do you want me to find you a bed?” Sleep didn’t sound too good. I didn’t like swimming in a sea of sheets while trying to keep my head still.
“I think I need coffee. I can’t remember how many fingers I have.” Her three heads nodded at me and she went behind the counter. “Black?” I smiled stupidly, “Yep. That’s my name.” She didn’t laugh that time. “I meant your coffee you drunk idiot.” I still had the stupid look on my face, “I’d rather be a drunk idiot than a bitchy bartender.” She glared at me with six fuzzy eyes. ‘That wasn’t very nice. Be a gentleman.’ “Uh... yes please.”
Something else blurry slid up next to me at the bar. “Hey Servus, have you thought about what I said?” Who was that? I hadn’t been thinking anything for the last hour or two... “Uh... sure. What do you think about it?” An annoying giggle filled my ears. ‘Oh, her again.’ Coffee appeared in front of me in the form of three dancing identical mugs. ‘Sweet redemption.’ I gulped down the entire cup and let the burn run down my throat and into my stomach. A tear forced its way out of my eye as I savored the pain.
“Whoo! Instant sober... That shit hurts. Anyway,” I then remembered who was sitting next to me, and turned back to the bartender, “Vodka please.” She didn’t want that, “You still haven’t told me what you think about it.” About what? Why did she have to keep screwing with me? I didn’t want to tell her I had no idea what she was talking about, so I said, “I’m not ready yet.” She gasped.
‘Aw crap, I didn’t want it to sound like that...’
She stood up immediately and yelled, “Not ready yet!? I can’t believe I ever asked you to marry me!” ‘Oh... now I remember.’ “I’m leaving! You can just stay here with your floozies and drink till you explode!” I HAD thought about it, and then tried to drink it away. The drinking didn’t help, but now it was going away. “Will do, have a good day.” She slapped me and walked out the front door. ‘I guess I deserved it.’
As if on cue, two more women filled her spot, “Does this mean you’re available?” This was not going to be a good day. I didn’t want to lie to them though. “I guess. And you are?” She leaned in closer and said, “Interested,” as if it was supposed to be clever. They both giggled and I tried to fake a laugh to entertain them. ‘Just let me be.’ The other one followed up with a question as equally stupid as her friend’s answer. “That’s a nice sword. What’s its name?”
‘Are you serious?’ I looked at the black scabbard that hung at my waist. The sword had a hilt of silver and a handle wrapped in black wire. The jewel that hung from a chain at the end of the handle was blood red, and shaped almost like a tear, matching the one set in the hilt that merged with the sword’s blade. It was a deathly creepy looking sword, but I wasn’t one to argue. I lifted it to eye level out of courtesy.
“You mean this?” I had a stupid thought. “I call him Bob.” They laughed hysterically as if I was the funniest thing alive. ‘And I thought I was drunk.’ Two glasses of vodka were placed in front of me. I looked at my sword, “You want a drink Bob?” They laughed again. What a headache. As I lifted the shot glass I said quietly, “Me too.”
I downed the first glass and looked back at Bob, “Sorry Bob, you don’t have a mouth,” and downed the other one. That was just enough to make my head swim. At least the alcohol drowned out the stupidity around me a little bit.
They chattered on for a while with me completely oblivious to anything that was being said, until the bell at the door rang and a giant walked in. He had ragged blonde hair and eerie pale green eyes. ‘He looks... bah, you’re drunk.’ He had heavy armor on his shoulders and waist. I could see that his shirt, though it was red, was splattered with blood stains. He walked up to address the bartender; he wanted directions to the business center. ‘Just another lost traveler.’ I paid him no more mind until one of the girls said something that immediately sparked my interest. “Hey Servus, that guy has a sword that looks a lot like yours.”
My attention immediately shot back to this person. He had too many swords, ‘Which one?’ I was losing my faith until I saw a black scabbard hanging from his belt. The hilt of the sword was gold. The handle was wrapped with white leather and a chain on the end led to a diamond shaped sapphire; one that resembled the one set in the hilt. ‘No fucking way...’
He was leaving. ‘Uh... what do I do? Ah, think...’ The bell dinged, ‘Ah crap. I have to do something...’ I watched the door close. “Excuse me ladies, I have to be leaving.” They whined and begged for me to stay, but all I could think about was how I would greet him after sixteen years apart. ‘Has he been looking for me too?’ I left the door and it slammed behind me. He was still there, I wasn’t drunk enough to be hallucinating. “Hey, wait!” That sucked. ‘That’s the best you could come up with?’
He turned menacingly, his maroon cloak swept the ground and kicked up a small cloud of dust. He glared at me for a second while I stared in a stupor. ‘That look... It HAS to be him.’ He spoke in a dark voice, “Did you want something, or would you rather just stand there in your drunken stupor and waste my time?” I had to think of something, but my brain didn’t want to work. I had just been dead drunk five minutes ago, ripped out of it, then eased back in by way of a couple shots. “That sword...” ‘That’s a start.’ “Where did you get it?” ‘Maybe this will work.’
“Be specific, I have six of them.”
‘Ah jeeze...’ “The one on your belt, the... shiny one. Can I see it?” He glanced at it then looked back at me with the same blank expression. “I’m a mercenary, not a merchant. If you want a weapon, find a dealer.” He started to leave again. ‘Damn it! I don’t want to lose him... you’ll have to challenge him. Sword mercs love duels. Yeah... but, I’m so drunk.’ I had no other choice. “CYRUS!”
‘Cyrus? I haven’t heard that in... That’s my name. Cyrus Black. How could I not know my own name? Who..?’ I turned around to face the drunk. I didn’t recognize him. He was wearing a deep navy blue trail duster that had a black inner lining and a black poncho over the shoulders. His shirt and pants were also black, matching his past shoulder length hair. ‘What a freak.’ I looked at his pendant, which stood out on the field of black. A red jewel was set in a silver lightning bolt shape. It closely resembled mine, which was gold, with a sapphire set in it.
He spoke again, with an ‘I-want-to-die-early’ tone in his voice, “I want to see that sword...” He drew his sword, which, like the pendant, looked strikingly similar to mine. ‘Great, he’s a wannabe.’ After finding his balance he spoke again, “So I’ll fight you if I have to, just draw your sword.”
Instead of doing what he asked, I drew my hand-and-a-half sword and said, “You obviously know me, and that’s a rather good replica, but one thing you can’t match is my skill.” I saw him shake a little, but that was probably just the booze. I waited for him to make the first move, but aside from the drunken swaying, he stood still.
I found an opening in his stance and ran for it. I had almost reached him when he raised his arm and pointed the palm of his hand at me. The sword in my hand shot out of my grip and buried itself in the ground. I stopped. ‘What the hell..?’ He started talking again, “No,” all of the swords on my back shot out of the scabbard and buried themselves. “I want you to use that one...” He was pointing at the shining sword. Had he done that?
I asked him, “Who the hell are you?” He was focused now; his eyes almost looked solid black. “Draw your sword Cyrus. I want to see you use it.” I cautiously reached for the handle. It did nothing when I touched it. I warned myself, ‘Don’t let go of this one. You don’t want to have to fight him with your claws.’ I drew it and brought it around to defend. His eyes widened when he saw it, and that’s when I really saw his eyes. Where white was supposed to be, there was black, and where your retinas and pupils are supposed to be, there was white. ‘What kind of a person is this?’
He lowered his guard, and while still staring at the sword he asked, “Cyrus, do you know who I am?” I had no idea. He knew me, and bore items that resembled mine. And the powers he had... They made me think of the things I could do. “Afraid I don’t, but if you wish to introduce yourself, go ahead.” His eyes reverted back to human blue, and he stared at me. “Try to remember...”
I had seen someone that looked a lot like him, but where? ‘I know it’s there somewhere... is he?’ I found nothing. ‘It’s useless.’ “Maybe a name would help.”
Why I was still talking to this drunk I had no idea. Something held me captive. He stood up straight and smiled. “My name is Servus Black,” the dream flashed by my head in an instant, “I’m your brother Cyrus...”
I took a step back, “I have no family.” He scoffed and stepped forward, “But the evidence is right in your face! The sword, the pendant... I mean, we look nothing alike, but you remind me so much of dad!” I stepped back again bringing up my sword, “I have no family! No brother! No father! You’re just an insane drunk trying to get his hands on my sword...” He stepped forward again and I swung at him, but my sword stopped in the air in front of his outstretched hand. His eyes flashed back to black and white and he yelled, “Listen to me!”
I sunk into the ground knee deep, almost in an instant. As I panicked he took the sword from me and threw it into the street. “Call it back.” What? This guy was completely nuts. ‘Call it back?’ “Do it, call your sword back, warp out of the ground, stop time. Do something.” I couldn’t hold it in any more, “Are you fucking insane!? What the hell are you talking about??? My sword isn’t a dog and I’m not a fucking magician, so if you’re gonna kill me just do it!” I sank further into the ground, up to my waist.
“I know you’ve done it before. I can see it in your eyes. You’ve established a connection with the Ultimus Light and used its power.” He was starting to sound like he had stepped out of a sci-fi novel. “Have you ever ended up somewhere and not known how you got there?” I had. On the train, twice. And the numerous times I was walking to town. But how did it happen? It was out of my control. More important was how this guy knew I could do these things. I had never to my recollection stopped time, but that sword continuously found its way into my hand. Maybe he was my brother... ‘I have no family.’
“Just kill me.” I sank in further, up to my chest. My arms were still free. “Believe me, I’m getting there.” I stared up at him. It felt as if the black and white eyes could see into my mind. “You have it in you, fight back. You’re the strong one, not me.” Was he saying he wasn’t powerful? People don’t commonly sink up to their ribs in dry cement. “I don’t know what you want from me. Just finish me off.” I sank in up to my neck; only my armor and face remained above ground. “Damn it Cyrus, do you want me to bury you alive!? Just use what you’re blessed with and save yourself!” That was too much. “I have no blessings, only a curse. If you want to bring it out of me then you’re not just a stupid drunk, you’re a fool.”
He tried his best to put on an emotionless face like mine, but I could see the pain in his expression. “You haven’t changed. Always the one to judge. I’ll be waiting for you up here. I want you to kill me.” He was insane. Just as I was about to retort I sunk completely under the earth and darkness engulfed me. Then the human emotions rose. The panic, the fear, ‘I don’t want to die yet! Get me out of here!’ I couldn’t move at all, I was in a custom fit grave. My lungs began to crave oxygen. ‘I’m going to Hell.’
The emotions rushed through my head and my head sent power through my body. The earth surrounding me fled, forming a large sphere for me to stand in. The light from the pendant illuminated the grave. ‘There’s still no oxygen in here. Got to get out somehow...’ I closed my eyes and thought of escape. ‘I need a weapon!’ I reached for my shining sword and felt nothing. At first I felt nothing... then a flash of light erupted behind me and the sword handle rested itself in the palm of my hand. ‘This is completely crazy. How am I doing this?’ I was losing breath. ‘Still have to get out of here...’
The ground stirred where he was buried. He had released a fraction of his power. ‘Come on Cyrus, I don’t want to kill you. Get out of there...’ The sword was no longer lying in the street. ‘Good job little brother. Now get your ass out here!’ The ground crumbled and caved in. “Oh shit. Cyrus!” I screamed for him in the hole, but I heard him speak from behind me. “You...” I turned to face him. He was floating off the ground and had an eerie blue steam around him. His eyes were a burning solid white, ‘Just like dad...’ He was breathing heavily as he said, “You... have... to die...”