Part 1 : The Soldier

The metallic clang rang out in quickly decreasing tones. Blade and hilt and pommel striking the ground until settled. Only the echo of its descent left hanging in the air like feathers drifting in the sunlight.

He didn’t look amused. If anything, he looked bored. There upon his throne, his throne upon the dais. His sycophants to his left and right, glad handing his decisions.

“See him escorted to the exit,” the king said.

The crowd let out a flurry of whispers and gasps. Long sleeved hands held before faces to shield words offered by women. Few met his eyes with their own. Those that did looked away quickly enough.

He’d known the risk. He’d known it as well any.

Down long stretching corridors of white he was marched. They’d given him the courtesy of not having his hands bound. Besides, where was he to run?

Lights flickered along the aisles. Men and women veered away as if encountering a leper.

In a way, he supposed he was.

Others stood at their station, pretending that anything required their attention, as though much and most of life were not being handled with all the effort of breathing. Still, there would always need to be those who watched in case error did arise.

He found himself at the black door. Marked as such long before he’d been born. Marked to show the exit from these lands.

He heard the sound beyond, the terrible beast of oblivion. That thrumming roar that would devour any and all.

Like the hard exhalation of some mountain giant, the door opened and gave a rush of frigid air.

Crystalline growths clung to the wall like stalactites that showered the room in a kaleidoscope of hues that shivered from the motion of the world around them.

He was pushed unceremoniously forward by the men behind him. Their mail rattling against the plate of vambraces and pauldrons.

Behind him, the door closed. He felt the odd quiet surround him. The absence of anything behind being drowned out by that before. The beyond felt somehow soothing. Some strange and ferocious lullaby.

When the air pulled free and the darkness came rushing in, he barely had time to breathe. The force somehow pressed and pulled simultaneously. Weightlessness gripped him as intensely as the almost painful silence – the brutal and growing chill.

Drifting without, as his eyes froze and retinas fractured, he saw the massive realm he’d spent so long protecting. A massive structure of gray and white, marked in places by the impact of godly wounds from eras long since forgotten.

Stars twinkled in the terrible emptiness around him.

His final audience. Even so far away, they seemed to offer more warmth than the one that had come before it.


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