The ground had the texture of melting chocolate, rain mixing with the dusty topsoil to create a mushy platform of slippery mud.
Lightening rent the sky, a sharp contrast to the soft rain that fell on the field. It came in waves, hurried along by the driving whip of the sharp northeasterly wind that tore through clothes and cut to bone.
Pools of turgid water formed in the broken earth where rushing feet and hooves had fallen. Scarlet blood now flowed into those pools, reflecting the maelstrom that was the sky.
A deep sadness seemed to well up in me, trying to pull me into the darkness, the blessedly sweet oblivion that called to me in the voices of all the sirens.
Still, I resisted.
It wasn’t always like this, lying in a field, watching my life’s blood flow into the earth. I used to be a bike mechanic and my only worries in life consisted of where the next party would be. Sure there were the everyday realities of rent and food and the telephone bill, or what would be on the television after I finished my twelve hour shift. But I was content if not always happy.
Life had never been a walk in the park for me, but then, I had learned a long time ago that complaining didn’t help all that much either.
I grew up in Miller’s Rest, a quiet little town, right at the foothills of a mountain range that was apparently as old as man. Maybe that was one of the reasons why the place grated my nerves so much…
Anyway, as I was saying, Miller’s Rest, the quiet little town, filled with quiet little people that went about their boring lives day in and day out. It was enough to sicken me.
Of course I wanted to leave, but…well…you’ll see later on why I couldn’t.
My momma left us when I was only seven. At that time I couldn’t understand why but as I continued living with my daddy the reasons became all too apparent.
The only things my daddy taught us were the usefulness of a tough attitude, how to make a ‘real’ hamburger and how to pour a double, straight up.
This of course meant that my two brothers and I were left pretty much to ourselves. We lived in a big house up the side of the mountain, overlooking the town and quite close to the river that fed the townsfolk.
We ran and played and strutted through our very own forest, creating worlds out of our imaginations, populating them with our fantasies and eventually crushing them ultimately with our worries and fears.
For five years all went well, my dad being who he was and the townsfolk being who they were, but at the ripe old age of twelve
years I committed my first petty crime.
Some days it got so hot there that you could swear you were melting, the sun beating your back like some drunkard farmer beating his mules. The smell of new grass and flowers would fill the side of the mountain, the water in the river a cool, clean cold that swept your breath away.
We used to swim and run on those days, often leaving school behind to pursue fun instead of receiving the education that a strict taskmistress forced upon us. We were young and we were free.
All that changed pretty quickly however. It
wasn’t the plea of a young man that needed the love and respect of his father, it wasn’t the cries for attention children sometimes uttered, in fact it was a lot simpler than that.
It was to impress a girl.
Helen McBride, with her soft golden hair and her deep green eyes, well she also had legs that seemed to stretch forever and a day, so I think you could understand at least in part why I did that.
I stole a ring she had her eye on, a garish thing with a big red stone. She saw it in the window of the pawnshop in the center of town. Unfortunately, the clerk saw me and in a short time I spent a night behind bars in the town’s sheriff department.
Sheriff Valentti had been quite forthcoming, having a long talk with me and then driving up to my daddy’s place to tell him his son was in prison.
My daddy didn’t take the news at all well, but the only visible scars I carry are all on my back and the swelling in my eye wore off after a few days. Well, the rebel in me was born that day, as you can well imagine.
Shoplifting started off as a show of my will, but it became a game after a while, and as is the nature of games I grew weary of it.
Next on the agenda was stealing cars for joyrides, listening to the heaviest music I could steal or swipe or cheat someone out of. Years of running and swimming and wrestling with my brothers accumulated in a good physique that helped me to outrun the sheriff and angry store employees quite a few times. Alas, the town was never big enough to hide in so I got caught more often than not.
By age fifteen I had spent more time in the cells and under the not so gentle remonstrations of my daddy, than I had spent in school. With time I grew and so did the town, especially after they found a sizable platinum deposit in the hills. My daddy sold his house for a whole lot of money and decided to move to the city, taking my brothers with him.
I decided to stay, drop out of school and started working at the mechanic’s shop in town.
I would guess most of my troubles started not too long after that.
One late evening, after I had gotten home from a long day of carrying tires and jacking cars, I got a call from my brother David. I can still remember it as if it was yesterday…
The room had been dark, the flickering lights of the television the only illumination in my cheap apartment, and I guess in my life.
Somewhat surprised at the fact that someone was actually phoning me I answered hesitantly.
Sheriff Valentti had taken an active interest in me, as had the local preacher, so I generally tried to avoid all contact with them and basically everyone else in town. David’s voice crackled over the line.
“Jonathan, is that you?” he asked, traces of stress clear in his voice.
“Of course it’s me, who else would it be?” I teased him, forcing a laugh.
“Oh shut up.” He replied taking a deep breath, “Saul’s in trouble…”
I felt a heavy hand grip my heart at the revelation. We had been close, my brothers and I, living our lives more for each other than anyone else. I was nineteen at the time, David a skeptical seventeen and Saul the baby at a mere fifteen.
“What happened?” was all I asked, dreading the answer more than I had ever dreaded my father’s beatings.
“He ran into some trouble with a bunch of drug dealers that operate near here. Primary school stuff, but he got…involved…with the girl of one of the gang members.”
I can remember thinking that my brother wasn’t telling me everything. I can also remember thinking that I needed to get there as soon as possible. It all sounded like one of those movies they used to play on the television over weekends, only this was real. All too real.
As you may have noticed by now my momma was a great believer in the Bible. We were all named after the people in the book of Kings, her motivation being we were her little kings.
Since it was a Friday night, I decided to leave early the next morning, making use of ’67 Chevy Impala that two ‘environmental inspectors’ had brought in for a tune up.
I arrived at their house gawking like some fool at the sights and sounds of a real city. David smiled weakly when he saw me looking at the giant buildings with something that bordered on superstitious awe.
“Pretty amazing isn’t it?” He asked handing me a beer.
“Yeah…it’s so big.” Was the greatly intellectual response my shocked brain came up with.
He chuckled softly, dragging his long fingers through blonde hair. Grey eyes looked at me, pleadingly.
“Where is he?” I asked, looking around the neat apartment.
“In his room. He doesn’t get up from in front the television at all if he can help it.” David replied, his gaze falling to his shoes.
I nodded, swallowing heavily at the bitter beer in my mouth. Obviously my father would never change. Fucker.
David and Saul had always been blessed with the good looks. David was an attractive guy and had great charm, though where he got it from none of us knew. Saul wasn’t bad looking either, but brainy. He had always been the smart, cautious one in the family.
I, of course, was the muscle in the outfit. Not bad looking I suppose, but definitely no Ryan Reynolds.
Big, strong and quiet, that was me…considered slow and stupid by most people. That thought alone was enough to bring a smile to my face or at least it used to.
But I’m drifting…darkness...
David and I sat and talked and he told me the whole sordid tale of how my brother had fallen for a cliche like this biker chick. I couldn’t believe it, but at least Saul was trying to get her away from her boyfriend, helping her to get out of the drug and gang scene which she claimed to be an unwilling victim of.
Now, the boyfriend wanted nothing of the kind for his princess and resented Saul's involvement. Consequently he wanted a 'chat' with my little bro, the kind that left you bleeding permanently on the ground.
That night we went over to a bar we knew they would be, Saul deciding to come along no matter how many times we tried to dissuade him.
It was a filthy place, even by my standards which weren’t exactly the Michelin benchmark, with crowds of bikers and pimps hanging about. So we sat in the car, watched the object of our interest step into the bar and waited. Two hours after midnight, he came out, swaying slightly, accompanied by two of his scummy friends. That’s when his girlfriend came out as well, swaying, with the bloodshot eyes of someone very much cashed in on Speed. Saul erupted from his seat charging across the asphalt like some god out of myth, out to unleash his righteous anger on the object of his wrath.
David and I followed, myself cursing at the very top of my lungs. Saul reached the boyfriend first, hitting him with all his might, but a seventeen-year old kid who enjoyed a good book more than an action movie didn’t really have a chance. He struck Saul down, screaming about kids trying to mess around with him.
That's when I reached him, David going for one of the friends. All I saw of Saul was a kid clutching his face and moaning softly. And a lot of blood.
Now let me straighten this out first, no one and I do mean no one messes with my family. Yeah I know we aren’t exactly the greatest example of the suburban perfection, but I do love my brothers in my own way and no punk ass idiot is going to ruin the brains in the outfit’s life if I can help it.
My fist smashed into his face, crushing his nose, blood bursting from the ruined appendage. He screamed and tried to fist me back, but I avoided his clumsy punch and smashed my knee into his groin, bringing him to his knees.
One thing about working in a workshop, jacking up cars manually (it really was a small workshop) and carrying parts, one builds a fair amount of physical strength. The jerk on the ground felt the brunt of that strength as my foot connected with first his face and then his ribs. A certain haze seemed to fall over my eyes shadowing my vision as I let the pure rage take over. Only when it was all over and done with did I realize the full extent of my anger.
The punk lay at my feet, his body arched into a small ball, cradling his head in the fetal position.
Blood spread out from him, blending with the dark tar he was lying on. In the flickering light of the streetlamps it was a dark black on darker black. The haze left me slowly, leaving me dazed and disorientated. David was on his knees next to Saul, holding our silliest brother upright and pressing a wad of paper tissue against his nose while the fucking girl stood screaming at us. The other guys had run off apparently, but the sirens approaching quickly were a clear indication that they hadn’t gone too far. Then came the first real choice I ever made.
I was charged with murder, under extenuating circumstances or something like that. The guy I had beaten to death on a dark, grimy street had led a dark, grimy life and had been in trouble with the law once or twice before. He had also violated his parole and was wanted by the police. So, in light of this fact, I wasn’t treated too badly and my sentence would be ‘amended
accordingly’. Unfortunately my record had caught up with me too, but the choice had never been in any dispute. Saul and David had gotten away free, with perfect alibis.
I made sure that they didn’t try anything heroic. Heroes in my humble opinion are overrated. I mean really, a guy with bulging muscles, the vocabulary of a small child and a haircut that would leave your wife weeping? Not for me thanks.
Besides, heroes had a nasty habit of dying at crucial moments in situations any intelligent person would try running from. So I told them a big fat lie. The girlfriend backed me up ironically, saying her boyfriend had beaten her again and I ‘happened’ past and came to her rescue. First time in years she was off the bad stuff so...
That meant that I spent two years in a correctional facility, or if you prefer – hell.
I don't mind telling you but that was the two hardest and longest years of my life. There was a time when suicide seemed to be a greatly appealing idea. Day in and day out of the same mind numbing routines, of being pursued, intimidated and bullied by the roving bands of thugs that ruled the prison, of bribing guards and defending myself in fights, finally caught up with me.
All I wanted was the release of death, but every time I really considered it, my brothers would come to visit me and everything would be better for a while longer.
That was the first time they appeared.
It had been one of those long, endless days. The days when the routine started getting to you, every minute of your day agonizingly slow.
I was sitting on my bunk, my ‘roommate’ fast asleep, reading a letter from my brothers. A soft white light started to permeate the room, filling the cell with an ambient glow normally found on the other end of a joint. It was the kind of moment that made you use words like 'ambient' and 'permeate'.
I was scared shitless I’ll tell you that much, but where could I go? I was stuck in a room no more than six feet by six feet. The
light coalesced into two vaguely human forms. Considering some of the inmates I shared the comforts of the prison with, they classified closer to human than the animals that roamed the halls of this particular hell.
Slender, with long fingered hands and sharp bone structures, they had the look of elves to them.
‘Elves?’ I hear you say…well they looked like elves to me. They
appeared to be a male and female, the guy having a beard and the girl breasts, so it was pretty easy up to that point. The
guy seemed to be very old with a long white, Santa Clause type of beard and a regal bearing, like an anchorman or game show host. The woman was beautiful in an ethereal kind of way. The way you remember your mom when you were a kid.
The cliché’s were just piling up, but my shocked brain didn’t recognize any of that.
“You are the chosen one…” the Santa Clone said.
Dumbstruck I sat on my bed, finally managing a rather undignified, “Huh?”
I know…not quite my finest hour.
“You are the one.” The woman repeated smiling beatifically at me, her adoring worshipper.
“The time is not right, but it will be.” Santa cleared it up for me.
After a few minutes where I sat trying to determine whether or not it was my turn to say anything, they just floated there in the air, looking at me. The woman seemed to reach a decision.
“The time will come, be ready for us.”
And then they vanished.
Time ticked along as it had a habit of doing, but even so I was slightly surprised to hear the morning bell hours later. I rose, got dressed and went about my day on the unsteady legs of a newborn foal, trying to keep my wits about me.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have done quite a few things in my time. One of which includes Acid, but this was no flashback trip that happened. This was real and it was scaring me…
Two months later I was released into my own custody. Saul and David came to pick me up and we drove all the way to Miller’s Rest in near silence. As we sat in the car, the tarmac streaming past I got my first anxiety attack. Two years of living in the confines of a prison, used to the routine that came with it made
the desert we were driving through seem an endless abyss.
But, I kept it to myself, as I did my midnight visitors.
I was now twenty-one years old and had already served two long years of hard prison life. It was not something that I wanted to experience again.
The parole board had organized that I get my old job back at the garage. While on the inside, I had worked in the machine shop and there I had learned quite a few new things. First and foremost of which was the appreciation of my paycheck. So
there I was sitting in my old apartment, looking at the walls that had been painted a light blue. Saul and David had not only kept my place neat, but they had also fixed it up quite a ways from the dump I used to live in.
My job back at the garage was going pretty smooth. Word had spread of why I had been locked up in the first place. Let’s face it, no matter how long you’ve known someone, once they kill a person they change in your eyes. It’s all a matter of perspective. To the older people in the town I was either a rogue scoundrel or a sweet boy that had turned bad so suddenly. Especially after his mother left…
The middle-aged people seemed to either ignore me, or use me as an example to their teenage children. The kids themselves on the other hand seemed to think I was a movie star or something. They basically worshipped the ground I walked on and quite a few of the richer ones brought their sports cars to the garage to get fixed by Jonathan, King of Mayhem, I think they called me.
It used to make me decide between retching and laughing, at least up to a point. After that it just got old like so many things in this small town.
Certain other people enjoyed the danger I seemed to represent. Jennifer McBride was one such a person. To her I was someone that had seen the city, lived in it, smelled it, breathed it
in. Those were her exact words by the way. Of course, being an ex-con seemed to fuel things in her twenty-one year old body.
Remember I told you earlier about her legs? Well they had grown too as little Jen had.
Pretty soon we were caught up in a desperate fling. She was desperate for the life she wanted that I represented to her, I was desperate for her to love me for whom I was.
See, I had been in love with this blonde girl nearly all my life. All she had wanted before was for us to be friends, and now she wanted me to be her ‘savior’ or something. It was ironic and pathetic, but I took hold of it with both hands.
Now please don’t assume that I was some pathetic, softy sentimental guy. Believe me I wasn’t. The naïve in me had been beaten out years before and I for one knew the hardness that life seemed to throw at you whenever you got on your feet again.
Life, in my humble opinion, was the big bouncer that kept kicking after you had fallen to the ground. I was never a great believer in the greater good, but sometimes the greater good believes in you.
One late night I stumbled from a rather rough night of binge drinking, Jen had left me for an auditor of all things, and I needed to drown my sorrows in the good wine.
The alley reeked of human refuse and rats scurried in the darkest places. It was here that I saw them again, only this time more substantial and real, no matter how many shots of tequila I had had.
The man did most of the speaking this time, and even though it was two years since my last vision, neither the man, nor the woman’s dress seemed to have changed. Also there was a strange ethereal agelessness to them, almost palpable in the flickering, neon illumination of the bar sign.
I stumbled to a halt and peered at them through bloodshot eyes. “It is almost time, Chosen One.” He said softly, while her eyes fixed on mine, peering into the depths of my soul.
“The time has almost come. Be ready and wary.” The man said, his face beaming with a sort of peaceful authority. I fell to my knees then, hoping above hope that I was hallucinating. The
alternative was only a lot worse.
After that night I quit drinking. In fact I quit quite a few things, most of which was bad for me anyway.
Saul and David came to visit me a few times. I enjoyed those visits as we sat in diners or walked in the streets of the town. It didn’t matter as long as the three of us were together.
Then, too soon, we were torn apart…
It was a late spring day, the sun beating down on my head as I walked in the forests that covered the hills above the town like fur. The trees in that particular part of the woods were old, older than anyone in the town, older than the town itself. They
towered up into the air, spreading limbs toward the life giving sun, digging roots deep into the earth.
They were magnificent but also they carried a malevolence toward anyone that came into those woods for the first time. I remember how scared my brothers and I had been that first day, the towering trees seemingly frowning down on us. David
swears to this day that he saw faces on the barks of the trees, and no matter what you say he’ll always believe that. But after a while the trees had grown used to me as I had to them.
As I walked through them that day I wondered how right my brother had been. It did in fact feel as if someone was watching me, something that was not human. The rays of the sun had difficulty cutting through the canopy of branches and leaves
that covered the forest, so the interior of the wood was murky and gloomy. It had the feel of that time just before the sun sinks away and you are left in utter darkness. Not twilight, something darker, yet with more light. Did I mention I'm not good with words?
There was a quietness in the air, with my boots making the only noise among the trees. The sharp crack of twigs under my feet and my harsh breathing, mingled with the sound of the wind to create an eerie sound that reverberated and was amplified
off the trunks of the trees. An
oppressive feeling seemed to fill the air, you know, like the feeling you get just before your ears pop. There was expectation under those trees that day. If only I had known what they were waiting for…well…I would have run like no man has run before.
I came down a slight incline, watching my feet and on the lookout for snakes when I heard a sharp sound to my right. To
this day I will never be able to explain exactly what it had sounded like, it was almost like an eagle’s screech mixed with the roar of a lion, filled with the growl of a bass guitar through a monster amp. And it was everywhere at once. The
forest shook with the sound and the power of it, the raw intensity with which it was filled.
The shockwave that followed threw me to the ground and knocked the wind right out of me. In that moment I huddled together fearing that my life was ending. A primal creature hiding from the almighty power of nature that I could neither control, nor comprehend. I couldn’t think at first as I struggled to force oxygen into my lungs, forced myself to breathe. The ground shook and heaved, dislodging rock and tree alike. Some of the weaker trees crashed to ground with a crash that was lost in the unholy sound that raced through the forest.
My first coherent thought was that the platinum mine had collapsed or exploded.
It’s strange how we sometimes, when faced with the unnatural, try to convince ourselves that there would be a logical explanation for something that could not be.
As I raised my head, shaking dirt and rocks and leaves from my hair, I did just that.
Ahead of me it looked as if some gigantic hand had reached down from heaven and tore the earth up. There were trees ripped from the ground everywhere. It looked as if the trees had been trying to flee the hand that had done this to them. A smoking crater sat in the middle of this maelstrom of chaos. In its epicenter, the true eye of the storm, there stood shimmering in the air a blue and silver portal.
say portal because it looked like one. There was a stone doorway around the shimmering entrance and large steps led up to it. I was almost sure that it had never been there before the explosion, but vines grew over the steps and a pillar leaned drunkenly away from the entrance. Smoldering rocks lay close by, large chunks of what had been oak spread out from the portal and there was a smell of charred flesh in the air.
The only thing that had saved me was that I had been on the right side of a small incline when the explosion had occurred. Most of the debris had either hit the little hill or passed right over. Even
so I slowly became aware of blood trickling down my face from a cut I had received courtesy of a sharp rock.
Slowly I rose and started making my way down toward the crater. Even through the soles of my boots could I feel the heat rising from the ground and pretty soon I was sweating from the sharp downward climb. High above hawks had started circling
on the updraft, looking for small creatures that were fleeing from the forest. Their cries were the only sounds in the all too still air.
Now I have to tell you that I was not a big
believer in fantasy or science fiction. Elves and trolls and giants were all very well and good in fairytales, but in real life monsters had a different look to them. In most cases they were family members that were cruel, or someone that did something really bad to you, simply because they could. This however was like
something out of a movie they normally showed after the kids had all gone to sleep. I considered myself to be a down to earth person, fully in touch with reality.
Reality however seemed to have gotten a facelift in the space of one heartbeat.
It was all so surreal, so unlike anything I could have been prepared for, now matter how hard I used my imagination. Suddenly, the portal seemed to glimmer and shake, solidifying, as I stood there watching – dumbstruck.
The silvery blue light flickered and intensified, becoming so bright that I had to avert my eyes. I was so overawed by the beauty of the light that I didn’t even try to hide or protect myself. As soon as it had begun the light started waning and as I opened my eyes I gasped in shocked surprise. On the dais stood the woman I had seen in my visions as real as the ground I stood on. She looked over at me and smiled.
“Chosen One, the time has come.” She said softly, holding out a long fingered and slender hand.
My hand moved of its own volition, stretching toward hers. I tried to gather my thoughts, tried to get my bearings as the world I had known and lived in came to a sudden and abrupt end.
“Time for what?” I asked as I inched closer to her with faltering steps.
“The time for you to stand in the ordained place, to face the challenges set to you eons ago.” Came the cryptic reply.
My hand touched hers and I marveled at her smooth skin. There was a sense of coldness to it, a sense of “not human” that made the hairs in the nape of my neck rise.
“Do not be afraid. I have not come to harm you, but to guide you to your destiny.” Her eyes seemed to glow with a hidden azure fire as she smiled at me.
I gripped her hand tight and as I did so, the world fell out from under me. I lost myself, spinning into a dark chasm of magic that gripped my soul and wrenched it from the safe confines of my world. Colors and sounds exploded in stark relief against my already bruised senses. I was lost, dead, and yet not. The endless pit I was falling through seemed to consume my being, ripping soul away from flesh, and mind from spirit.
I remember thinking fleetingly that this might have been what Alice was thinking when she went down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. What I awoke to was indeed a Wonderland.
I first became aware of the soft grass I was lying on. The smell of new growth was almost overwhelming as I lay on the ground, trying to sort out which part of me hurt the least. Opening my eyes took a gargantuan effort and I almost wished I were rather dead. Unfortunately reality would have none of that and pretty soon I was helped upright. The hands I gripped to get to my feet were old and gnarled, but with the strength of a youthful man. It turned out to be the guy from the visions.
“Welcome to Ka’arell, Chosen One.” He said bowing low to me and then gesturing to the city behind him. For a long time I could do little else but stare at the magnificent sight ahead of me. At the crest of a gentle, rolling hill stood a city the like of which I had
never seen before. Sweeping columns stretched between graceful buildings that towered into the air. Onion shaped domes in a myriad of colors stretched over buildings that sprawled over
entire hills. Between the buildings, hundreds of feet in the air I could just make out walkways that stretched and connected buildings all over the city. The air was filled with strange vehicles that glided noiselessly through the air, dipping their wings in the air currents that floated over the city.
Through it all I became aware of the noise of the place. Millions of beings living together in such splendor created quite a stir. The noise sounded like that of a hive of angry bees, all going about their business. It took me some time to see the camp near the city walls, a camp that spread almost as far and wide as the city near which it sprawled. Throughout the camp I could see men and
horses, the flash of metal catching the light of the sinking suns.
Yeah, I know…two suns. That was what brought me out of my stunned admiration for the place.
“Whe…where am I?” I asked shakily, gladly taking a proffered waterskin and draining the contents.
“You stand on the Al’daroth Plain overlooking the Imperial City of Ka’arell.” The old man said again, bowing to me as if I was the king.
A nagging suspicion started dawning in my head, but I couldn’t place it, so I ignored it.
“…er…” I managed, staring at them both.
The woman had appeared from behind a mirror image of the portal.
“We understand that this must be a great shock for you, but it is time.” She said simply sweeping her hand out toward the amassed army that looked ready to go to war any minute.
“Time for what?” I croaked, repeating myself and slowly losing patience.
“Time to lead the armies of K’arell against the Neverborn.” She said, blue eyes glowing with an ambient light.
“What?! You expect me to lead an army?” I laughed out loud. “You are the Chosen One.” Stated the old man again.
“Chosen for what? If you think I’m leading anything your wits have gone soft old man.” I retorted, really losing my temper.
He chuckled softly, stoking my flaring temper.
“Look, I’m a mechanic. I fix bikes at a second rate shop in a boring town in the country. I’ve never led anything or anyone and I certainly do not intend to start now.” At this stage anger was still winning, but stark terror was chasing it all the way.
“You have been Chosen, decreed by prophecy to be the guiding light and sword of the human armies against a foe so evil that speaking its true name brings ill luck.” The old man sat down, and made himself comfortable on the grass, looking up at me.
“Okay…” I said edging toward the gate that had brought me here. Mentally I promised myself never to touch anything alcoholic or banned again in my life. Something wrapped around my body, lifting me a few inches into the air. I was too afraid to scream, or believe me I would have.
The dawning suspicion of earlier crashed home.
These beings were wielding something that had the distinct unpleasant feeling of magic. It was all too much, so my body took over and I blacked out. I know…not very heroic…
I awoke what seemed like moments later, ripped from the blessed unconsciousness where thought hid behind a veil of darkness.
I was in a room, though room might have been a bit degrading considering two or three of my apartments could fit in it. The ceiling was vaulted and high above me, painted in the likeness of a summer sky with white clouds covering the sky. I also lay in the biggest bed I had ever seen, covered in a soft blanket and totally naked. A flush came to my cheeks, especially when I realized that I was not alone in the chamber. The most beautiful woman I had ever seen sat regarding me over steeped fingers. She had hair as dark as midnight, with high sweeping cheekbones and hard green
eyes. A fine nose hooked ever so slightly over full red lips. She was dressed in a dark blue dress that set of her dark complexion beautifully. On her head nestled a plain silver circlet, bedecked with small rubies. She leaned back in her stare, frankly appraising me as I sat and studied her. Over her knees lay a sword of very fine craftsmanship. Some of Saul’s fantasy-love
had rubbed off on me and I could tell when a sword was of good quality or not. I assumed.
She had a regal bearing to her and I didn’t really need the crown or the fine clothes to know that she was a powerful woman. It seemed to vibrate in the air around her with almost touchable electricity. Her eyes flared momentarily as I sat there, not saying a word, and I realized that upsetting her would be a grave mistake.
“So you are the one…” She said simply, her eyes telling me that she wasn’t too sure about that.
So impressive was her bearing and looks that I failed to see my ‘guides’ and two guards standing some way off. I sat there like a court fool, staring back at her, painfully aware that her voice had a blend of pure power and sultry smoothness to it. I nodded dumbly, my mouth failing to make the necessary connections with my addled brain, which didn't offer any explanations for how we could understand each other. I gathered the satin sheets to me, pulling up my knees to my chest.
“You do not appear to be much of anything to me…” She said slowly, leaning forward. I was about to agree with her wholeheartedly, but she threw another of her looks on me and continued.
“But, the Magi say you are the One that will lead us to victory against the Horde.” She seemed to be fighting something in her own head. I sighed softly, shaking my head.
Here I was. Six foot something, blue eyes and a mop of unruly black hair. Rough features and a three-day growth of beard, and these bloody people would not listen to me. I was no hero! Hell I didn’t even look like a hero, or carry a suspicious looking birthmark. In fact I was pretty much as ordinary as dirt. I rose slowly from the bed, her eyes following me, the Magi staring and the guards at the doors edging away.
“Now, you listen to me. I am no bloody ‘Chosen One’. In fact I’m a regular guy that has been kidnapped by a guy that resembles a psychotic Santa Claus and a woman that does little else but smile secretively and beautifully all the while trying to convince me that I will lead you lot to a bloody war?! Please, I mean really, what the hell is going on here?” I stopped, out of breath and panting,
my face flushed and my hands clenched into fists. For
some reason the guards seemed to be trying to blend into the stonework, eyes wide with fear and awe. The ‘Magi’ were smiling slightly, looking as pleased as cats with a pitcher full of cream.
I had no time to think of that though.
Quicker than thought, the finely wrought sword was at my throat and I became painfully aware that I was wearing only my skin. New flashes of red flooded to my face and neck. Her
voice was reverent, yet cool. As I looked down into that perfect oval face, I grew aware that there was very little in the way of human emotions on her face. She even smelled cold, though how I knew that I could not explain to this day.
“It is good to see that you do have some back-bone. Beware that it grows not too hard.” She said softly, cold anger in her eyes.
I nodded very, very slowly and sat back down.
Time passed quicker than I thought possible.
The people of Ka’arell were a stately and very prim group of beings. Well educated, civilized and above all petty types of conflict. In other words: as boring as paint drying. Needless
to say, I was a very interesting addition to their world. Human emotions…the power of human anger, the reek of human fear and cold passionate human hate. It was what set me apart and what drew them to me. They needed a warrior, a leader, someone that would be able to force them into a bloody struggle for their home.
Someone that could be lost in his emotions.
The wind swept over the field, wrestling with the flowing grasslands that flowed in its whispery grasp. Color assailed my weary senses in brief flashes that ebbed and flowed in the struggle before me. I grasped a sword in my left hand and the banner of the Ka’arell people in my right.
I was a terrible vision to behold, even to the demons that were being routed on this piece of land that would carry a million names before time unraveled.
My golden armor was torn and bloodied, my hair disheveled and my face would be scarred before the end of the year.
I still felt exultant though, filled with my own power and glory and greatness. What a joke I must have been to them.
Chosen One indeed.
I can remember their faces, filled with mocking pity and fear as they told me that there had never been a prophecy. There was no Chosen One to come and lead them to victory. No great and all-powerful warrior that would pull their bacon from the fire. I
was a fabrication, a lie and a symbol. Something for their people to believe in and focus their hope and strength upon. A
young man, down on his luck and in a deserted place all on his own.
Apparently the female Magi had liked the oil stains on my hands and the beard. Said I had a certain ruggedness to me. I never saw her again though her co-conspirator had hung around for a long time. The Queen has also bestowed all things good and great on me. Always with the same calculating look as she saw her people take to me like a duck to water.
Somehow that managed to piss me off further.
So I led the Ka’arell warriors onto the battlefield, in the dead of night. The Magi gave us light and we swept down on the sleeping ‘demons’.
They very nearly fled in that moment, but their general turned them around. It was long and hard and bloody and sweaty and hot, but we did it. The soldiers were mine in all but name. A kinship had grown, fueled by shared hardships and death’s presence that never seemed to leave us. I came to love those bastards.
Their culture was stagnating, their whole way of life needed a refresh button and I felt the spurs of destiny dig into me to be that one.
And then I was needed no more, yet with the hearts of all the Ka’arell in my hands.
So they decided that I should be a martyr. A fallen hero for the people…by the people.
The rain isn’t as cold anymore and the light seems to be waning as the clouds gather. I know I have to get up, but rest is so much better and besides I have finally done something that means something.
The rain makes little splashes as it hits the mud, splattering dirt against my face. When did I fall down?
The fire that had been the arrow in my back was gone now, replaced by a great calm as I feel my spirit slowly separating from my body.
Joy wars with sadness in my breast as I leave behind this world for another without being able to say goodbye to my brothers.
I hope someone will look after them.
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