We unworthy few are left.
Humanity is a terrible burden to bear that I am glad to be rid of. People disappeared out of thin air, the world cracked open, and hell shitted on what was left. Humans, once the great conquerors go out with a whimper.
The air is laced with smoke, but it goes well with the scorched ground, and grey cracked sky. A rumbling dust cloud comes through the opened iron gate. Smoothing down my rebellious fly away curls; the black truck comes to a blaring stop.
“Waiting for me?” he called out.
“It’s my shift.”
That I traded my last styling product for.
He has one hand tucked behind his back as he approached. It must be a gift. His smirk always gives him away, even in poker. He’s not much taller than me, but his big personality is enough to bring even the biggest man to his knees, Daniel, the Nomad.
“Right. A day early but happy blood moon.” Daniel said with a smile.
He extended a blood-colored flower to me, a rare beauty worth a month’s salary if he sold it to the right person. James would never buy me one. Its sweet smell was still fresh, the petals soft and delicate.
“Thank you. Need help unloading the truck?” I asked.
“If you don’t mind. We lost some good men on the road.”
“No. Let’s hope the leaders can come to an agreement before the blood moon sets,” he said.
We finished up in a few hours and sat on the back of the truck. Daniel had the best stories of the new world, he told only of the places that still held beauty. Each one more breathtaking than the last. Things we use to take for granted are now almost non-existent.
“I’ll be taking off again soon. I won’t be back for a few months,” Daniel said.
“Do you have room for one more?” I asked.
“Who? Joe? I didn’t peg him for a traveling type.” he laughed.
“No, me. Joe loves his status and Allexis too much to leave.” I said, punching his shoulder.
He swings one back, but I’m able to spring down in time. We exchange strikes each of us blocking in succession. He grabs my ax kick just before contact with a quick kick to my planted foot, bringing me to the ground.
“What about your duties? You’re what? The Doe this year?” he said with a raised brow.
“I just need to get into the city and I’ll be back in time to wow the crowd,” I said.
“As long as he gives me the ok. I don’t mind,” he said, squatting down, dragging me closer by my ankle.
My heart races, I’m not sure if it’s from the sparring or his tone. His brown eyes had that same look as the first day we met. The look that made me want to see this godforsaken world in a different light.
“This is off the books,”
“You’ve been going a lot since that day. If you ever want to talk about what happened, we can,” he said.
“I swear you all gossip like old ladies. I just need some time to myself to think,”
I place my hand over the large vertical scar hiding beneath my shirt.
He nods, “Be ready to jump in, same time,”
“Ahem. James wants to see you.” a guard said.
Every damn time.
It took all my might not to roll my eyes. Daniel pulls me up and places my gift in my hair. He closes up the back of his truck and pulls out the gate. My heart drops to my stomach as I make my way to my James’ study. If it were good news for me, the guard would’ve just relayed the message. As I turn the corner, I hear a stifled moan and giggle. My curiosity won when I passed his door in search of the brave souls.
“Quiet down,” the man said, wearing a cape with the holy symbol.
“Your talents are wasted in the Priest Guard,” she said, swinging her arm around his neck, revealing a gold bangle with a jade jewel tucked inside.
“I suppose you would have me just wait on your every whim,” he said with a chuckle.
“Not all just one,” she said.
For fucks sake!
I headed back to James’ study before someone stumbles upon me peeking. That will not play well for the face of humanity as he would put it. A few deep breaths calm my nerves before I knock on his door.
“Enter,” his voice pierced the door with ease.
His office is cloudy, but it carries a scent of sweet herbs. Ana sits in her chair as she always has, knitting the troubles away. It’s the only thing that keeps her calm. “Another scarf? It looks wonderful, you’re gonna give Mrs.Lewis a run for her title.” I said with a smile.
She doesn’t look up, her fingers keep their feverish pace.
“It’s a bad day. She’ll be herself after the medicine,” he said without looking up from his papers.
“I’ve been feeling ill myself lately but I assure you I will complete my duties.”
“Will you do it from the city? Give that flower back to Daniel neither one of us will be paying for it,” he said, peering over his glasses.
“I don’t know what you mean and it was a gift,” I said, casting my gaze over to a table.
“Nothing in this world is free and nothing stays secret within these walls,” he said.
He sits back in his chair and takes a long inhale from his cigar.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
He’s more irritable than normal. His eyes are heavy with bags and dark circles. The smoke escapes his nose like a dragon.
“You will demonstrate your abilities for the Underworld leaders. We leave in a few hours, ” he said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Daniel will be coming with us to transport the gifts for our hosts. Don’t forget our arrangement,” he said.
That sneaky clause that says he can transfer my service when he sees fit. To anyone he sees fit.
“I’m waiting for the punchline,” I said.
“You will do your job for once. Pack your things,” James said.
“I know this last year has been tough but we can work through this,” I said.
“They’re traditional, take that into consideration when making your selections,”
My stomach begins to turn. Blowing off my responsibilities and even punishments just caught up with me. He probably thinks I’m more trouble than what I’m worth at this point.
He returns to his paperwork. The air is harder to breathe. I look over to Ana, hoping she would say something. She knows better than anyone what happens to people like us. The clicking from her needles becomes deafening. I couldn’t leave fast enough.
“Are you mute? Speak, what did you see?” I asked.
“They’re near the mountain,” he clenches his new stub, “purifying every being that crosses their path.”
Damn it. We need more time.
The injured scout wastes no time leaving the room. Jax and Rico glance in my direction. They won’t accept no, not this time. No windows. Who thought that was a good idea? Spent centuries in the dark wishing for light and now we willingly sit in it.
I would rather shove my head in the grinder. A human’s resolve is like sand, but no matter how we look at we can’t penetrate the Golden Gates, not in these bodies.
“It’s the only way,” Rico said.
“Think with your cock much?”
“This has to happen, or do you prefer our heads to be cut off?” he said.
A bunch of puppets tempted by the simplest things. Wasn’t for the damn priests we would have enough bodies. The followers won’t last long at this rate, and the captains are growing restless.
“Would you trust a human by your side?” I asked.
“On a good day, no but Archangels are on our doorstep. We’re willing to try.” Jax said.
“The captains are on board with this?”
He nods. I never thought I would see the day when they agreed on something. Even they know how dire our situation has become. If we don’t take action soon, mutiny and rebellion is sure to follow. We won’t have a chance in creation to overthrow them if that happens. Stepping out into the hallway; they’re close behind. I peered out over the courtyard, the new followers lineup to receive the gift from their masters.
“Have the preparations begun?” I asked.
“The rooms are done, and dinner should be by the time they arrive,” Jax said.
Our condition is worsening, it’s beyond even my healing power. A Lieutenant bared witness to a miracle healing in the Human territory. If his information turns out to be true, I will give him his wish.
“I’m not interested in repeating mistakes. I will cut down whatever gets in the way of the goal. Stay focused.” I said.
“Don’t worry, brother. I remember like it was yesterday.” Rico said.
“We all do,” Jax said.
“Forgive me. We just can’t forget that this is the last battle. There is nowhere for them to banish us this time.” I said.
They each placed a hand on my shoulder. Always by my side, they were the first to follow me even in exile. We have a promise to keep.
“Have we received their files?” Jax asked.
“Yes. If it’s true, we can progress a lot faster.” Rico said.
We look out together as the human leaders arrive in their vehicles. I hope everything goes as planned. I would hate to do it, but this is war. We’ve waited long enough, they’ve had millennials to do something about their fate. Instead, they’ve wasted it on trivial concerns fighting among themselves and killing their home.
The blood moon casts a faded glow. The inner keep hums with life. Many moving with a speedy purpose. The small crowd rumbles with nervousness as we wait by the giant door. They blend in well, but I’m not fooled. I can feel them, the cold coiling around my body. Two men make their way through to the front of the crowd. Their eyes burn like flames.
“Welcome, your bags will be taken to your rooms. ” one said, pushing the giant doors open.
“Gentlemen, the king will see you now in the war room.” the other said.
James and the other leaders follow him up the stairs. James stops and glances at Ana and me before continuing on. The black horn banners line the walls of the hallway. The dim candles work hard together to light our view.
“I will take you all to your rooms to rest and prepare for the feast,” he said.
We head down another dim-lit hallway with paintings depicting cloaked beasts; their eyes glow gold and wielded swords of flames. Making my scar burn in response.
“Choose any room you like here. In the great hall, entertainment has been prepared. Please enjoy yourselves until the meeting concludes.” he said, leading us through another set of giant doors.
Rooms line each side to the end. The wives and eldest daughters of the other families wasted no time. A tight grip takes my hand. Ana smiles, leading us to the first available room.
“You look tired. Get some rest before tonight,” Ana said.
“I will, but you should too,” I said.
“No, I’ve been resting too much. I’ll come and get you once the feast starts,” Ana said.
Her hand shook as she pushed back the stray hairs. I guess that time is near. Enjoying the last few go-rounds. She should, consequences are no more.
“Where’s Allexis?” I asked.
“She’ll be along soon. Rest,” she said, closing the door behind her.
Everything looks as if it was dipped in ink; a graveyard maybe. I wipe my brow and crack open the window. Daniel and his crew work at a feverish pace to unload all our things. He takes a seat on the back of the truck and looks up at the sky. His face undisturbed and still as water.
I peek out the door into the hall. A man from James’ personal guard stands watch. Heading back the way we came, I find the Great Hall bustling with excitement. A melody of strings plays a welcoming tune. Many dance and drink. The guard follows a few paces behind me.
“Will you be enjoying the festivities ma’am?” he asked.
“No. I think I’ll go out for some fresh air.” I said.
As we reach the entrance, Daniel comes up, dropping off the last trunk. He gives a quick smile before heading back off. He glances over his shoulder for a moment.
“Could you wait here, please?” I asked.
“I’m supposed to stay by your side. I’m sorry,” the guard said.
“We’re supposed to be spirited away, but yet we’re here. Isn’t there something you want to do? Somewhere you rather be? Don’t waste it because I won’t.” I said.
His hand tightens on the hilt of his blade as he exhales loudly.
“I guess we’re about to become closer. Stay out of sight.” I said.
I head over to the trucks as they finish up. Daniel uses the dusty corner of his shirt to wipe his square jaw. I lean against the vehicle as the other men file inside to get ready for the feast. Daniel puts away some tools and closes up the back of the truck.
“Not going to the feast?” he asked, closing the distance between us.
“Maybe later. Are you?”
“No. Preparing for our departure, we leave at first light,” he said, taking my hands into his.
Stinging in my chest erupts. My breath races from my lungs. A light thump vibrates from Daniel’s hands.
“I can’t give you lovely things like this,” he said, stroking the ring on my left thumb. Rough as fine-grained sandpaper.
“Things aren’t what I’m after. Though I did forget something in your truck. Do you mind helping look for it?” I asked, making the space between us non-existent.
He smiles and nods as he opens the back door for me. I climb in shifting the seats around for an imaginary item. He follows suit, managing to meet in the middle.
“I don’t see anything. Are you sure you left it here?” Daniel asked, lifting up the console, moving papers and tools around.
My hand shakes as I lifted his face to meet mine. Eyes of Mahogany, bright and full of life. His brows crease but soften as I lean in. His breath heavy like mine as we both wait on the edge. My heart would make Thor proud. I take a leap.
“Wait, we shouldn’t, at least not yet,” he said, leaning back.
“I’ve pictured this, and we’re in the north under the Jeweled Throne. I can only give you moments. I won’t spoil any of them,” he said.
Ana walks out, standing on the steps, then the guard knocks on the dark glass. Like that, everything returns to as it had been.
Back to reality.