|The Last Revolution
Author: Quicksilver Ink PM
The struggle between Dharma and Chaos come to a close, extinguishing the Stars of Destiny. But at the end of the world, the Soul Eater waits with its grim inventory... Chapter 1: Ghosts in the Silent WorldRated: Fiction K+ - English - Chapters: 2 - Words: 3,983 - Reviews: 3 - Updated: 04-13-08 - Published: 04-02-08 - id: 4173464
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 0: The boy from the burned village.
10 AS (Antesolis) - ten years before the establishment of Harmonia's Solar Calendar
The ruins of the village were still smoldering when the boy and I emerged from the celler we'd hidden in
The ruins of the village were still smoldering when the boy and I emerged from the cellar he'd hidden in. He was covered in soot; the burning trapdoor had finally fallen in and filled the small root cellar with smoke. Flat against the ground he'd remained, choking on the smoke until my gentle prodding finally drove him to seek cleaner air.
Air currents fanned the embers, and the boy choked again as he inhaled windborne ash. The smells – wood smoke and charred flesh and something else the boy couldn't identify – were actually an improvement over the noisome of rot that had filled the air that morning. Thirteen and weak with hunger and grief, there was no way he would have been able to bury all of the dead villagers alone. The shallow graves for his own family had driven him past exhaustion, even with what strength I'd granted him. I'd withdrawn my aid once he'd finished those – there was no point in encouraging him in an impossible task.
So the rest remained where they'd died – in beds, at bedsides, praying in the shrine, and even in doorways and the street. Vile rot began its work not too long after. Baked putrid in the sun, the boils from the plague that'd killed them popped and oozed like rotten tomatoes. All manner of the short-lived foul creatures came, defiling the bodies further, changing them, polluting them with their foul ever-changing existence. Offensively, traces of each of these remained as they did their work – egg and worm and cocoon and adult. The carrion crows, who also bow to my opposite, stayed away after the first few days. The boy had seen a few small, black-feathered heaps in the streets earlier; Chaos was destroying its own messengers.
The boy began wandering down the streets, seeing more in his mind's eye than in his real ones. It seemed impossible to him that there were no longer walls, windows, or doors, that a chair no longer stood in the sun, holding an old woman as it had done not two months ago, that the forge no longer rang with the blows of the smith who hammered crude weapons from bronze for the Aronians.
Together we progressed through the town that was no more, hearing and seeing what was no more. The still water of the village well was black with debris. Memories of houses lined streets delineated by ash and charcoal, and the ghost of the shrine stood nestled in scarred heaps of blackened wood.
Off a ways from the main spread of wreckage, the village commons remained largely untouched by the destruction. The cows and goats owned by the villagers had wandered off with no one to watch them; if they hadn't, the Aronian soldiers who had torched the village would have taken them for themselves.
But it still stood in the near corner of the grassy field.
The standard of iron, already flaking with rust, remained standing as it had for the past three months. It was taller than a man, and towered over the boy as we approached. The post was as thick as his upper arm – I felt him mentally comparing the two. Then his gaze traveled up, to the symbol at the top, and I howled as I had when the soldiers had first brought it to the quiet village.
How long I'd slept since the birth of the world, I do not know; time does the bulk of its work for chaos. Sleeping, I watched over the small town and shrine that housed me. The people there desired nothing more than to live as their ancestors had done, and I ensured this. The village never grew more than a few houses beyond the size it had been when I first came to the humble shrine; the wood greyed with age but scarcely rotted. Beyond the steady rhythm of the seasons and the generations, nothing changed. Time was kept at bay, and it was as perfect a place as possible in a world where Sword's children remained unbound.
But unbound they were. And so it was that barbarians, their hair raven-black and armor in bronze and iron, came to the village. My people were peaceful; they knew how to shield themselves from the elements or wild beasts, but made nothing so crass as weapons. And so they did not fight, but acquiesced to the demands of the strange men. What did it matter if they bowed to one king they never saw over another? The barbarians demanded goods, taxes, services, but these were easily met, and none of my people saw reason to object to the vile iron standard. To them it was nothing more than a pole topped with a quartered circle.
I knew not if the Aronians adopted my opposite's symbol out of chance, or if he was actually guiding them. But I awoke the moment the iron tore the ground of my village, and howled my rage.
The boy came to pray at the shrine nearly every day, surreptitiously, as boys his age were wont to do. Their requests were generally identical – make me strong, make me a man, make me clever, make her notice me. These were foolish requests of children; I ignored them without effort.
His petition of me, on the day they planted the standard of Aronia in my village, was different. Make them go away, he begged me. They scare me, with their swords and dark eyes and hair. Keep things the way they were.
Even if I had not been already wakened, his entreaty would have reached me, for it spoke of a connection between us forged by Dharma in the void before Darkness cried. I chose him as my bearer then and there; child of Shield or Sword, there is only so much we may do without a vassal, a vessel for our power.
The plague came not long after. A barbarian was left in the village by his companions to recover from a mysterious bulge on his neck; he lasted two days. This embodiment of chaos spread quickly to the other villagers, to my fury, but with so young and naïve a bearer, I was impotent. The disease brought a death as black as the barbarians' hair – in their last hours, any touch a victim was given shattered veins under their skin, spreading black bruises. As my bearer the boy was safe from it, and I tried to make him understand that he need not fear, but still he sobbed every time another succumbed.
Three months later we stood alone in a village silent save for the buzzing of the cursed insects. A short time later the Aronians returned; from their words I gathered the plague had hit to other villages, and in hopes of stemming its spread, they were burning down those afflicted.
The boy was locked in a house; he hollered and beat against the door and I screamed in rage as they put torch to wood; I could feel every house, every shingle, every beam as it caught fire and blazed. The flames were chaos embodied, pure destruction profaning the place of peace I'd protected. Unknown to the Aronians, the house has a cellar. As I railed impotently against the sacrilege, self-preservation drove the boy underground. And so we hid until the flames spent themselves and the choking smoke drove us from hiding.
And now we stood in the clear air, on the edge of a befouled, ruined lost paradise, gazing at the symbol of that force which had wrought the destruction. I screamed with grief for what I had lost, roared my anger at he who had sullied the most pure place on this earth.
The boy howled with me, slamming his body against the standard until the base came loose in the earth and it fell to the ground. Sobbing, he hammered his fists against that hideous thing, skin bruising and breaking against the rough metal. His right hand struck it again and again, and with each blow I weakened it, cracked it, until it fell to pieces.
Finally, his rage drained away, he collapsed panting on top of it. I let him rest, although my own fury still burned.
Eventually he sat up, eyes staring blankly at the sky. It was dusk now, the still-hovering smoke clouds turned bloody the setting sun.
"Why did everything have to change?" he whispered. "Why couldn't they just have left us alone? Why couldn't it just have stayed the same forever?" The wind tousled his greasy, sooty hair, blond-brown locks blowing into his face, but he didn't care. "I wish everything would go back to the way it was."
It's strange how such a fragile creature can hold so much power. My rage evaporated at the strength of his wish, filled with renewed purpose.
It can, I promised him, and as proof showed him the vision of the perfect world that Shield had granted all her children as we fell to the earth. A world where everything that ever held worth stood whole and pure again, untouched by destruction and time, unwarped by change. We stared a while at this most perfect future, the holy place we would and could create.
"Can we really bring the village back? But how?" he asked me in a horse voice. "It seems impossible."
By binding Sword's children, I told him. But first we must halt those who brought it to ruin. Gather others who have seen the evil wrought by the Aronians; together we shall forge a kingdom dedicated to what is good-
"No, not a kingdom. No more kings. I hate kings. They have a king."
An empire then. A holy empire that will endure and protect against the tides of chaos. An empire to lead the world to that absolute form we both desire.
He nodded, then stood, lifting the iron pole. I had not destroyed the wretched thing as thoroughly as I'd thought; the cross at the center of the circle remained in fragments on the ground, and at the bottom a length had snapped off, but the rest was intact. Rust fell away and the iron gleamed new again. It was my, our, standard now, the unbroken circle at the top to match the mark on the boy's hand.
Above, the stars began to dot the darkening sky. The first one to appear, twinkling above the boy and the desecrated village, spoke the boy's name to me. It knew him, for it had presided over his birth.
Hefting the standard in his right hand, Hikusaak and I started down the long road towards the promised future.