Buena Tierra- Chapter 1: Acheron, the Red and Grey Town

Full Disclosure: This chapter was written nearly a year or so ago. It is fairly rusty as far as actual writing goes, but I am publishing this as a means to motivate myself to actually start writing this novel that I’ve been planning for many years now. I will rewrite this chapter as the novel progresses, but in the meantime, know that the style will change with the next chapter. Until then, enjoy! ~

The decrepit township, flailing saloon doors flapping quietly in empty doors and boarded windows staring blankly into the windswept street of grainy tears, held within its numbing melancholy a virtue. There, when the sun of a strange foreign world oppressed anything that breathed, whether it was the breaths of life or the shiver of ghosts, and the wind only served to shove the sand, the golden remains of essence, into your eyes, was still a clinging gasp of hope held ever so tightly to the fearful tongue of man. It drudged forth through the colorless palate of broken buildings and white skeletons, the darkness of their eyeholes reaching towards where once they held cherished memories, like a last gaze of yearning. Yet, the looming eyes of the forgotten homes and the skulls, gourds of the hallowed hollowness of the town, all seemed, for but a moment and in a certain light, to dart their glance to the virtue: to the vagrant man carrying his defeated body further into the realm of a cruel sun and dead occupants. The rooftops, however, were adorned in crimson and perched atop each building were the impaled, crucified bodies of the unfortunate souls who couldn’t survive the nightmare of famine. Their emptied eyes screamed with the terror of their deaths, a show playing out within each abyss and each one told of a different folly.

One in particular, the small corpse perched atop the saloon, slowly withering in the blistering heat, wore a particularly cheery sundress, splashed with a lively shade of yellow that screamed youth. Save, of course, where the blood stained the stomach and oozed down from the pelvis in its twisted sickness, violating not only the sanctity of the child, but also those who were devastated in witnessing such an atrocity. It swayed, disturbed and eerie, back and forth in the blinding wind that filled the eyes with sand and darkened the whole world to it. The face was veiled in shame of itself by its own hair, the roots pierced into its mind rejecting the lovely face it once possessed. The man glanced at it, in memorial of innocence, and held it than in his sight with a hidden outrage, his face being too tired to express his emotion. The body was posted higher the rest of the corpses, as though its tribute to the heavens was of a higher degree than all the others.

The traveler, having paid his respects, turned again into the vicious river of sand, winding into the furnace of his doom, and pressed forth into its endless path. He was adamant in his journey and stoic in his agony, the brutal cuts and scars never hindering his march into the whispers of the desert beyond the township. His brazen chest gleamed in the ruthless sunlight, scars of violence and stains of blood scattered along his bare body. His pants, tattered and splattered with red, were white as the clouds that blissfully roamed above him, always looking forward in optimism. His eyes were a vivacious green, growing with the untamed forests of his spirit and youth. In contrast to his appearance, he carried a great burden upon his body, but the powerful shoulders never slumped and what seemed to be a smirk recovered from melancholy, so the desert whimpered with a gust of wind.

The gale rattled the doors and windows of the decrepit buildings, throttled the impaled sacrifices, and humored the traveler with its clamor, summoned out of fear. The river wasn’t yet ready to carry down this man into oblivion, to the nightmares of which awaited him inland. This river of blistering heat and laid down by the remains of forgotten souls that winded through its entrance at the township, a reminder of earthly dearth, and into the expansive wasteland before it, a path into the continent. It was bordered by the bones of those who had failed in surviving the perilous passage. That however, was all there were, merely the unwanted bones of travelers, for anything of value had been taken by the captain of the river’s ferry, a dreaded vessel of grain and malice.

Now, the winds had summoned their master, the guide of the damned on their journey into the netherworld of their existence; into a world marred by violence and darkness of men’s hearts, where those who led did so with a daunting rage or cool deceit. One of which was the ferry master, the keeper of the river, a man of incredible size and muscles bulging throughout his body from a lifetime of hardship and discipline. He emerged from the sand before the last building leaving into the desert, an old prison where the bars had stayed to their duty still. About a foot taller than the traveler, the ferry captain glanced downwards when he approached, his red eyes glaring from out the darkness of the visor in his head-enshrouding turban, and met the traveler’s green eyes. His vest, sleeveless and unbuttoned, was a maddening burgundy color that seeped with bloodlust and fury, save the golden flower attached to the right breast pocket, glittering in the sun. Sheathed on his backside into a cloth scabbard was a mighty scythe; a crooked and gnarled wooden pole emerging from his right shoulder until the sickle, toothed and reddened, hung in the sky, piercing it mercilessly.

The traveler, unimpeded in his determination to continue, met the eyes of the bulbous-headed assailant, smirked despite the harbinger of death before him, and asked his guide, “What do you want, my friend?” The ferry captain didn’t answer, so the traveler prodded him again for some information as to the purpose of his interference. “How about your name, then? I’ll tell you mine. It’s Gegolai, it’s spelled with an ‘A’ and an ‘I’, but you still pronounce it with the ‘I’ sound, so that it sounds like ‘gehg-ohl-ie’. Just so you know in case you ever needed to spell it or something.” Gegolai chuckled, but the ferry captain only continued in his piercing stare, uninterested in Gegolai’s amusement. He looked up onto the roofs, a small murmur could be heard from under the turban, but Gegolai didn’t pay any attention to the ferry captain’s distraction. “If either we fight or not, I must know your name, as to properly respect your wishes.”

The ferry captain glanced downward again, a spark of malice mingling with the humor his eyes now had. He spoke in a gravelly, rough voice that suggested a great physical toll on his body, “Respect my wishes? Oh when the time comes you will not want to respect them. Abide by them, yes. Respect them, only a masochist would. My name is Alfairse, I am the guide to this trail. The one you will be journeying down with me, to your fate. As mandated.”

“To my fate?” inquired Gegolai, truly humored by Alfairse and his ominous promises. “Do you mean to say that you have some wonderful divine being who wishes me dead in some fashion, to appease him? Perhaps my fate is to end up here with your beautiful menagerie of sacrifices? Perhaps my fate is to end up mutilated and violated like that little girl over on that building,” he said looking back to the tainted yellow dress of the highest sacrifice. His face broke its humor as it devolved into a violent paroxysm of cold severity, “Or, perhaps, just perhaps, there is no fate for me, but what I allow myself to do and what I am capable of doing. If I kill you here, is it still my fate to travel with you down that path and end up like her? You better hope my fate is real, if that’s the case.”

Alfairse, glaring once more, signaled Gegolai to look behind him, and as he did so, his face paled into a and mortified grayness the controlled breathing he before had collapsed into strained breaths as it dawned on him how much he truly was capable of. As he turned, he witnessed a congregation of more warriors, dressed like Alfairse save that their vest was black and had no flower, perched all along the rooftops with longbows ready to shred Gegolai to pieces; a murder of crows ready to enshroud the hapless traveler in darkness. They were all elegantly positioned, not a single move would save Gegolai from the retribution exacted by the people of a vengeful deity, and being struck into the roof above the tavern was another stake, this one suited with the mocking title, ‘Savior of Humanity’ along its side.

Gegolai demanded, confounded  and powerless, “W-w-what is that you have written on my coffin?”

Alfairse, walking beside him in delight as Gegolai studied his funeral in shock, replied, “Why, that is the creed of the Crusaders, isn’t it? Or at least your arrogant decree to the world. That your little organization of runaway rebels can save humanity. Fool, you cannot save humanity from itself, but only a decisive, all-knowing, all-powerful ruler. A deity, that is our only savior, and when you assume his role, you deserve the full penalty of death. You cannot usurp our ruler. He frowns from the sky upon your pathetic Crusaders and their futile attempt to rewrite the carving on the wall.” Alfairse lifted his clenched hand, the other strangling Gegolai softly, and began the countdown, each finger slowly arising to impart its loathing on the world.

Gegolai watched the archers, not the hourglass fingers sinking him deeper and deeper into darkness, and with caught breaths that chocked him, watched them unload a strand of vengeance from their quivers, place it onto their string and slowly tug back. Then, with a sudden delirium, Gegolai swallowed his fear, passing like coarse stones, and found meaning again to resurrect his smirk, scorning the archers in their very own faces as they threatened to rain Hell upon him rather than have him venture into it. They would be saving him a wretched journey, merely killing him here, saving him from the true agony that was his mission and the horrors that waited within the labyrinth of human’s slow decaying corpse, hidden beyond the desert, at the end of the river Acheron. They knew it, Alfairse knew it, and surprisingly enough, Gegolai knew better than any of them what truly was to befall him once the river of heat and bones gave out and turned its gruesome serpentine tail to the world that spawned it.

It was for that reason that Gegolai smirked, for he hadn’t yet achieved what had yet needed to be done, and he was confident, despite overwhelming doubt by his executioners, that a few bandits from the desert wouldn’t deter him. He declared his arrogance for the whole township to hear, louder so that maybe even the frowning deity may hear him and the lost souls of those corpses could follow the light of his voice back to their wretched bodies. “Hear me once! For I will not repeat it! I won’t die here today. Nor will I be scratched up today and die tomorrow from the wounds. Nay. I will kill you all here today and you can be saved this awful ‘fate’, if you only drop down your weapons and leave this place, and leave me to my journey. I am Gegolai Zeno; you cannot stop me from doing what must be done! I will go through hell and back, and do not think I will die at the entrance! Shoot and see what happens! You, your entire army, and your leader will feel my wrath!”

The archers, perturbed by the madness of a doomed man, faltered in the face of such courageous foolishness and lowered their bows for a moment, until Alfairse, crushing Gegolai’s throat, exploded with rage, “Imbeciles! Look at him! There’s no possible way he can kill one of you, let alone all of you. Ignore him, he’s simply mad. On my command, we will fire into his mouth; let him eat his own words.” So, they assumed their positions, the customary rite of murder, and stared, uneasy but still immaculate in their form, down the blasphemous gullet of their target. The few barked commands couldn’t do away with the unnerving atmosphere as the wind died down and the silence disturbed even familiar ears. And ultimately, they couldn’t shake their target’s irritating foolishness, his inanity in dire straits of peril, and they were compelled to keep a vigil on his mouth, for it watched them with a slanted persuasion, titillated.

Alfairse again resumed his countdown, slowly bowing all his fingers until he came to the final barrier between Gegolai and absolute death, and he savored the final finger as he wagged it before Gegolai’s nose, a dog shoved into his wretched transgression. Gegolai immediately seized his opportunity and ensnared the finger into his vicious teeth and crashed his foot into Alfairse’s, sending him plummeting before Gegolai. Shielded by Alfairse, Gegolai glared upon every archer with his smirk, a harbinger of wrath, and snapped his fingers, echoing throughout the hollow shells of the township, creating a paranoid rumbling for the frightened archers.

The rumbling subsided, the archers returned to their positions, trembling in an impatient fear to massacre this man who stood above Alfairse’s grumbling body, and Gegolai remained. Alfairse struck Gegolai in the stomach and watched him collapse onto his knees as he rose above him once more, smearing his coarse leather boot into Gegolai’s face before kicking him. He moved out of the way, and dropped the finger, slicing through the air like a guillotine blade and smashing into his palm like a hammer, and watched Gegolai’s writhing shoulder lift his head to face the torrent. But, as always, he had the most outrageous smirk on his face and this time darted his eyes towards the saloon.

The archers failed to follow commands, and they as well glanced towards the saloon. And behold, from its flapping doors emerged a behemoth of jade metal plating, and two gyrating conflagrations of roaring metals sprayed across the landscape. The metal shrapnel emerging from the hypnotizing twisters smashed through the weak architecture of the buildings, wood and other debris raining onto the sand below them in dissemination. The archers returned fire, launching hordes of screaming arrows to meet their fully plated opponent, the machines on his arms only intensifying their roar with each passing second as he twirled as to encompass everyone in his stinging reckoning. The arrows snapped pathetically when they met the behemoth’s invulnerable body, but the archers weren’t as fortunate as the screeching bullets ripped through their fabric, skin, tissue, and organs and back into the air with the ease of tearing through cheap textiles. Blood painted the rooftops as the violently vibrating corpses were flung about by the whim of their tiny killers. Rooftops collapsed under their own weight, plunging dozens at a time into their own dooms. The impaled bodies, however, were only riddled with more wounds onto themselves, a casualty of insult to the damned, but no blood gushed from them, for it was all harnessed from them already by the cruel desert to keep flourishing its malevolence.

As the metallic behemoth shredded through the primitive archers, Alfairse drew his scythe, fully prepared to eradicate all interferences of his goal. Slowly marching upon war, Alfairse was consumed with a bitter contempt for his own failures, disappointed in his inability to prevent such chaos from occurring, and each moment of thought further envenomed his anger. Cooling his weapons, the behemoth turned to face Alfairse, and as the debris finished collapsing and the sand settled back into its place, Alfairse could make out the heathen. Before Alfairse stood a mountainous man, slightly taller than Alfairse, rigged with destructive muscles and had a powerful shape that filled the metallic suit, enveloping his whole body in heavy green plates coiled tightly around his body, and a barbut helmet, the area surrounding the small inlet of metal dropping to his nose was a red glassy material. The armor was riddled with inscriptions and vents where the excess gases were released.

“Well,” asked Alfairse, irritated, “you’re quite the surprise, aren’t you? I didn’t figure our friend Gegolai here had companions traveling with him. I’ll be sure to make myself wary of that next time, after I’m done killing you, of course.”  Alfairse jolted into the attack, launching his scythe into a spiraling frenzy towards the behemoth. Each time the metal touched the ground, a fiery scar would be left and a bloodthirsty scrape of metal would sting the behemoth’s ears. But, before the behemoth, wary and focused, could counteract, Alfairse erected is arms behind him, palms facing the earth behind his feet and rocketing from his hands was the sand itself. He used the sand to propel himself forward, with a speed that almost blinded both Gegolai and the behemoth, and before the scythe reached within a couple feet of the stunned metal man, Alfairse grasped the handle as the blade sliced the earth again. He used the momentum of the blade to flip himself over the pole and thrust himself into the metal man, no longer an overwhelming behemoth. His feet smashed and shattered the glass guarding the face, and to finish his attack, his divine retribution, he struck the cold jagged flash of metal into the man’s shoulder, piercing both metal and flesh in one.

As quickly as he plunged the searing metal into the man’s shoulder, Alfairse heaved the scythe from the metal man’s shoulder, back-flipped off his chest and reaped a great gash along his torso, ripping ravaged metal onto the ground. Bleeding profusely, the metal man, the once unstoppable bastion of technological power, faltered and collapsed onto his back, gasping for breath, receiving only the sun’s clout on his wound. Alfairse felt empowered once more, confident in his ability to carry out his duties. He felt capable again to impose the law of his people on all those who blaspheme in their treasonous minds, cursing the order of convention that Akbar and his efforts have worked so hard to establish. Walking forth to claim the metal man’s life for the skies and the body for the ground, so that he may forever decay in spirit and body, Alfairse’s footsteps shook the earth below him, the hardened road of a withered town, of a dying land, and the metal man felt it in his chest. His heart violently pounded against his ribcage, seeking escape from the bloodthirsty atonement perched above his body in ecstasy.

In one desperate maneuver, the metal man released a hissing steam from his shooting appendage before a quick cocking sound was heard. Raising his arm, a daunting gun with 12 barrels rotating amongst the rim of the silver plating where the hand would be glared Alfairse in the eyes, daring him to make his move first. Alfairse chuckled and with a swift flick of his arm a vine of sand wrapped itself around both his arms, tugging back strongly on both of them. “On the river Acheron, there’s a ferry that transports the souls of the deceased across into the Underworld. It’s always interesting to think of this road as such a river. Into Hell. And the families would place into the mouth of the deceased a coin, to pay for the ferry, and if they can’t afford it, then the spirit and body remains, never to enter the afterlife. What is your payment of which you leave on your dying corpse? Material wealth? A virtuous life? Servitude? Or is it nothing? Metal man, you come here and ravage my entire army, to save an infidel no less, to revel in blasphemy. You find solace in the false idols of your mechanical vanities, but you have nothing of real substance to offer. You have no coin, so you stay here to wither away. You are but a deluded heathen, and for that I cast you into the torment of your sin, to await judgment.”

The metal man began to turn red on the clear remnants of his bloodied face, huffing and puffing to escape his confines, in no way wanting to die. No man ever wants to die, but, as the metal man soon came to realize, there are consequences for the actions of men, even in the most compassionate of intentions, for someone’s path is always obstructed in doing so. Alfairse had called the trail adjourned the minute the metal man razed his fellow soldiers in a fury of bullets and devastation, and found him guilty of killing fathers, brothers, sons, and husbands without provocation. He condemned his act of aggression, not in words, but in his glare, which screamed a saddened rage. Alfairse dared not return his glance to the littered corpses of men, for those fine men he had made great acquaintance with were, in a way, his family, and he couldn’t look back at them until vengeance had been exacted.

The metal man tilted his head to see Gegolai, watching the gruesome scene from where he had laid. Panicked, the metal man cried out to him, “You have to save me! I saved you. I saved you.” There was a vehemence of sadness as he spoke, of fear, trying to reclaim what he had so easily taken from others.

“No, I don’t.” The metal man became belligerent, shouting to the point of exhaustion, demanding justification. “You see, we could’ve gotten away from all of this unscathed, you and I and those men on the rooftops. Alfairse would’ve gotten badly beaten and we would move on down the trail, along with our lives. But. But no. You came in and massacred everyone, you didn’t even know the situation and you get yourself stuck into this situation, because of your brashness, because of your stupidity, and because of your selfishness. Now, I have to let Alfairse administer justice for people who didn’t need to die. For fathers…”

“I’m a father! I have a son!”

“Yeah, so did they. And you should’ve thought more about him before charging in here, then. Hard to believe you actually care for him doing what you do. They aren’t bad people, either, just deluded, scared. Alfairse is going to kill you, and I’m going to let him, then we will settle out what was originally our dispute, not yours. Above all else, I think you know very well why I can’t save you. You’re no longer a man in my eyes. Alfairse!”

Alfairse glanced back, the hateful glare in his eyes still lingering, and nodded, the metal man still cringing in fear and misery on the floor, bawling for his wife and son, damning the name of a man called Lewellen. Gegolai nodded back at Alfairse, signifying the termination of the metal man and that he would not intervene, so Alfairse lifted his scythe into the sky, the scorching heat of the sun envenoming the blade’s wrath. He looked down upon the metal man, whimpering for his life, praying in the darkest corner of his mind that perhaps something, or someone, would save him from his circumstance. No one did. There was an agonizing yell that echoed throughout the desert, rattled the windows and flapped the swinging doors of the saloon. Then there was silence.

Blood dropped from the blade in droplets, dripping silently, but their presence oppressed Gegolai’s mind much heavier than his fatigue or the sun’s unforgiving heat. Then, Alfairse looked back at Gegolai, standing confidently, but disturbed. “Well, ferryman, what now?”

Alfairse absorbed the devastation of the township, a decrepit memorial to a world without justice, where only the strongest persevered. And, he saw that as the fearful eyes of his brethren looked up from their debris tombs, beckoning to their guardian to save them, but didn’t. Their blood drenched the ground, it stalked along the edges of the wood, it splattered color on the lifeless walls, but the canvas of a lawless world uttered in horror its madness. This was only the beginning, however. As Gegolai and Alfairse both met each other’s gaze, a realization dawned on Gegolai, which despite his sorrow, there was coldness to Alfairse. There was a certain desensitization to the red and gray town, as though it were common found, or at least expected. “I suppose,” Alfairse finally replied, “that we settle our original business. You still have no right in venturing forth, into the land of my King. You cannot enter, I’m afraid. My brothers will ride the ferry back to their homes, where we will ascend them into paradise. I have to kill you.”

Gegolai sighed, disappointed and regretfully, and replied, “Well, if that’s the case, I’ll have to kill you just to pass, won’t I?” Alfairse nodded, twisting his fingers into ritualistic shapes, a low murmur of chants heard underneath his coverings. “But, before I do, may I know what exactly the ferry is?” Alfairse stopped, his hand clutched above his head, trembling with effort, and from behind Gegolai, in the desert, emerged a mighty golden vessel, dripping from its deck the grainy material that built it. A frigate of sand, towering above the men. It was a spectacle to behold. “There are no sails; do you use your powers to move it?” Alfairse nodded. “Are you the only one who has such abilities?” Alfairse shook his head, approaching Gegolai, scythe posed to gut him.

Then, as suddenly as he had done with the metal man, Alfairse launched the scythe into a spiraling frenzy, charging to end Gegolai and display him upon the remaining rooftops, a grim reminder of what becomes of blasphemers to Akbar’s glorious kingdom. It drew closer and closer, its screeching slice growing more and more painful, but Gegolai, despite the sharp throbbing of his ears, stood his ground, waiting the final twirl of death’s scythe.

And, as it came upon the final spin, a knife threatening to sever the string that held Gegolai to the world, Gegolai’s hands flashed into his sheaths, hanging from his pants pockets, and drew a pair of blinding blades. They were masterfully crafted, hammered to perfection, razor blades with a slight curvature and a dazzling reflection of the sun’s light, straight into Alfairse’s eyes. Unable to see, Alfairse worked himself into a raging fury, great walls of sand crashing into the buildings beside him, splattering their contents amongst the desert wasteland. All the while, Gegolai tossed his blades into the air, above the scythe, as he, at the exact moment as the vicious metal dared to kiss his lips with the bitter taste of death, caught it in-between his palms. Having stopped the gnarled demon, Gegolai grasped the wooden pole and returned it to Alfairse in similar fashion.

The blades descended and Gegolai caught them squarely in his hands, the humble hilts comfortably resting upon his fist. Alfairse, able to see again, barely stopped his own weapon with a sudden hand of sand from the floor before him. He glared, the charging Gegolai, terrifying in his panic-inducing rush, meeting his glare with a similar stare. Alfairse’s hands danced once again, an awe-inspiring duet as his fingers waltzed amongst each other, but it was no union to be celebrated by his opponent, for it was a catastrophic engagement of power. An explosion occurred. From beneath Gegolai, an explosion of golden fire, coarse and unforgiving, consumed his legs, searing them, and lifted him into the realm of deities, to be judged. Gegolai launched his first blade, the curvature allowing it to perfectly gyrate towards Alfairse, distracted by his hand gestures, and deal him a punishing blow. Alfairse staggered backwards, and Gegolai plummeted back into the township, the cursed sacrifices watching with tilted glances.

The blood gushed violently from Alfairse’s wound, spilling all overt the ground, all over his clothing, and all over his pride. Gegolai, unfazed by his predicament, launched the second one just as he collapsed through a decrepit roof, cushioning his fall, and it glided right past Alfairse. Glancing back to see what had so dangerously darted past his head, Alfairse lowered his guard to a wild bull rush from behind. They fell on the floor, swapping blows to each other’s weakened bodies, using what was left of their strength to survive. Alfairse pounded the sand beside him and a rocket of sand pummeled Gegolai into the air, where immediately, Alfairse summoned another strand to whip Gegolai back into the ground with a brutal crack. Alfairse struggled to walk to Gegolai, wheezing with his remaining energy, and he looked down upon his scarred back, brutalized with tributaries of horrendous cuts and violence, and he laughed at his own attack, blood draining forth from it to flood Gegolai’s back.

Suddenly, Gegolai snapped forth, executing a perfect windmill kick that tripped Alfairse, and as he landed on his feet he flipped above him, landing with both legs firing into Alfairse’s chest. The dust eventually settled from the impact, and Alfairse’s red eyes shot open, crazed and abandoned to anger. A serpentine strand of sand snatched Gegolai’s left hand, then as he rushed to save it, his other arm was ensnared, and he was lifted into the air once again, dangling from his arms. A wave of sand returned the scythe to Alfairse’s hand, the beheading blade to the executioner, and Gegolai awaited his fate, helplessly hanging from the confines of predestination, smiling. Alfairse, shocked to say the least, responded as to the origin of Gegolai’s arrogant smile, “You are much more courageous than that other man in the face of death. Does that mean you have lived your life more fully than he has?”

Gegolai laughed, loudly enough so that Alfairse could absorb his influence, his spirit, “No. We have all lived miserable lives. We’ve all done things we weren’t proud of. Still aren’t. But I’m not laughing because I’m going to die. I’m laughing because of what you said earlier, about fate killing me here. Tell me, was it fated that all those men there, behind you, your brothers, that they too would die here, with me? But before your answer, ask yourself, do you really know what it is that’s fated for us? And then ask yourself again, who are you to demand to know what your fate is? By what measures do you even know if there is fate, if you can’t even validate if it’s in your favor? The only thing that’s telling that I might die is what’s happening right now, and the knowledge that if you tear my organs open, that they will fail, and so will my body, then I’ll lose consciousness, and then die. I’m laughing because, somehow, with a little wishful thinking, and maybe some arrogance, you were kinda right, but at what a cost, huh? So go ahead and kill me. Fulfill, as you call, my fate.”

Alfairse, stricken in offense and amazement, lurched backwards, taken into a gripping emotional state as he took in Gegolai’s last words, his laugh. Alfairse returned his glance to his fallen comrades, their ambitions, their lives, a life dedicated to the preservation of their King, and he brought himself almost to curse fate. But, with a sudden conviction of fear, he stopped himself from shedding any tears and returned to Gegolai, still smiling upon his opponent. It was clear that he didn’t hate Alfairse, or anyone, despite their intentions and hatred for him. But, he had a duty, a conviction in fear, a conviction that drove the stake through each of those bodies on the roof, a conviction that ripped bullets through close to a hundred men, and a conviction that made the town grey and red, morose and bloody. He returned to Gegolai, and he prepared his scythe to leave Gegolai’s smile in the sand, where it would be buried in the horrors of the world.  He looked into Gegolai’s eyes, and he declared, “It’s a shame you have to die. You are a fascinating man.”

He threw the scythe and it hummed like an angel as it flew: a merciful destroyer.


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