Chapter 1.1: A Murder By The Sea: Daxfoss
I walked in the middle of the black road, lit only by torches and the sunlight that the ash clouds let through when they parted. I navigated the darkness they brought when the fire sand clouds came together. I clung to my small pouch filled with gold that I swiped from unsuspecting pockets. There was only enough to get me to Esior and keep me fed for a week, I hoped that I could find a job, maybe even a place to stay by then. I doubted that dream but I hoped nonetheless. I look up at the black sky, for what I thought would be the last time. The upper levels of Skotash lined and marked the view of its the sky with its black and red walkways. My gaze drifted down to the entrances, winding stairs that lead to the dark city in the sky.
The sunlight hit the ground only in the way that it would hit the borders, with a force so powerful, so brilliant, a part of me worried that I would be blinded by the time that I reached it. I saw my freedom and a smile spread across my face. I was going to the prosperous, green and bountiful land of Esior. I wasn’t going to be hunted for the mark I never chose to have, as hope swells in my gut, my smile quickly disappears when I see guards taking people into alleyways, I knew they were looking for me. They were always looking for me, I was the evil creature, chosen by the God of Ash, Flames and Death to destroy their world, in their eyes at least.
The guards wore helmets with their faces exposed, they wore no cloaks and they carried a sword in their hand and daggers on their waistbands. I hear the complaints of the people that have to wait for a guard to take them into a dark corner, make them strip and search them for The Mark, my mark. “For fuck sake, how haven’t they found that evil little cunt already?” the man in front of me asked the rhetorical question. If looks could kill then his scowl would make birds fall out of the sky, well that was if they weren’t already doing that already when they fly near the ash clouds, “Like honestly, they didn’t make these soldiers as they used to it took them a week to find the one with the Mark of The Fire God when Summer came, it’s August now”, the man had blue eyes, I think, being under a ceiling of darkness does limit one’s vision, probably pale and blonde, like most of the native populace. “If they’re so shit at their jobs maybe you could contribute instead of bitching” the man next to him retorted.
“I wasn’t talking to you” the man with the annoyed look retorted
“Who were you talking to?” with that blue-eyed man stayed silent. I tried to repress my laughter.
I considered leaving, I didn’t want to, I didn’t want to give up on my dream, being in the sun, working in the fields, a wife, and a family free from persecution. I didn’t want to leave that. I start to turn, my sight grew foggy with tears. The darkness once again became intense and all-consuming marred with orange blemishes that the torches made. I walked away from my one chance at happiness, forcing myself to accept the fact that an opportunity like that might never come again, I might actually die here.
I wanted to scream, I, in an attempt to hold it inside I bit the inside of my mouth until I felt the flesh tear and blood pool in it. I clench my fists feeling the pain of my long uncut fingernails press into my palm, I clench harder. The darkness grows larger as it welcomes me back inside pierced by gaps in the clouds and glowing orange fires. I start sobbing, I try to hide the noises. I consider letting the guards take me to end all of this but something in me didn’t want to die.
“Hey! Boy, come here” someone shouts, I keep walking “Hey!! Boy” I turn and see the guard look at me. My mind doesn’t register what’s happening until my feet are rushing me down the street. Despair morphs into barely conscious instinct. I keep running, the guard was chasing me. The guard is gaining on me. “Running from a Blood Warrior is punishable by whipping!” he threatened. I paid him no mind. I still kept running, the guard was getting closer. I turn and run down the alleyway. The winding staircase comes into view. I turn around and kick the man down the steps. He gets up and keeps chasing me. He’s a few steps back.
I get to the first stage of Upper Skotash. I twist, wind and turn on the skyward corridors. The roads of the sky city wrap around the homes and businesses that were stacked on top of each other to create pillars. Flames lit up the paths. The clouds didn’t part for me anymore. Fatigue drained me. My legs weakened and threatened to collapse beneath me. The wind blew ashes into my face. I start to slow down, I keep making attempts to push on, spitting the ashes out of my mouth. I see another stairway I go up the stairs and the paths become narrow. I keep running taking any twist and turn that I notice making an effort to avoid going in circles.
I saw a number of buildings grow sparse except for one, its roof was level with me. I see the guard gaining on me fast. I didn’t have time to think. I jumped. I look back to be pushed to the ground. I was not dying today. I manage to wriggle out from under him after he scratched me. He charges for another attack. I panic and kick him, he falls off the roof screaming, I couldn’t see much, but I could still hear. I heard one crack and then another and more faint one. I start running, I jump off the pillared building, I collapse onto my knees, when I land my hand dances over the edge I recoil instantly regaining balance, successfully avoiding the same fate as the Blood Warrior.
I get up and walk down the stairs, I walk the twists and turns of the walkways, so when I get to the ground, I end up as far away as possible. I walk away, through the broken darkness to my home. The Black Forest, the rumoured home of the monsters, from what I knew it was only a rumour. There weren’t many torches deep in the forest and the clouds left few gaps. I stole one and started walking, I walked the brown and black, worn, familiar paths which were speckled with dead grass and ash. I ran my hand along the trees as I walked, letting the black dust stain my fingers. I continued walking until I found a pile of sticks, the ones I left and luckily there were a few freshly dead birds as well, the poor things flew into the dark likely from Esior only to collapse and die and be used as food.
I put the torch to the bundle of sticks as I look for more. After grabbing some extra sticks I throw them into the fire. I lay down next to it and it hits me, I just killed someone, I didn’t even think about it, I just kicked a man to his death, thoughts of the number of people who now lost someone because of me. Tears stream down my face, I make no effort to wipe them away, I killed someone, I, killed, someone. Am I the monster everybody thinks I am? Maybe I should send myself to them. Save the world and all. No. No goddess who loves her people would let an innocent child be marked forcing him to leave his parents, his sister, forcing him to hurt someone to survive. A long time ago I had opted to not believe that I deserved to die and I couldn’t start believing that now.