Author: Boomerkid PM
An infamous rogue swordsman yearns for vengeance, and a colorblind princess-cum-magus seeks a purpose. Within Serra they are caught amid factions of an empire at war, where a dawning age of enlightenment could signify an end to the current era. Traversing two distinct routes, both of them chance upon parentless children, before the intersection. Graphic violence. Sexual themes.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 12 - Words: 55,426 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 5 - Updated: 05-08-13 - Published: 04-25-12 - id: 3016695
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Recommended for ages 15 and over. Graphic violence. Infrequent sexual themes, which include non-explicit physical interactions of sexual nature.
Under the Heavens
Beneath a drizzling crimson sunset, an adolescent boy stands still at the center of a quiet, ruined city. Heaps of debris and rubble encircle his lean figure of moderate stature, his chin lowered in silence.
His body is drenched with the rain, his feet numb amid the light haze. A fetid stench pervades the ruin, a stench akin to rotting human flesh.
Multitudes of corpses fill his vision, sprawled across the dirt and cracked cobbled streets slick entirely with blood. His lips stay lined as he beholds the mounds of bodies, a fleeting memory of a bustling populace, carts and horses roaming about overlapping his view.
Now before his eyes, flocks of ravens frolic together as they crowd around the carcasses. Their cries as their beaks rip into human flesh resound throughout the streetscape.
A dribble of blood stains his blotchy, pale skin. Droplets of rain trickle down his thin face.
The drizzle resounds clearer in his ears. A banner of the Imperial Wolfgang Empire lies beside his feet, bearing the crest of a wolf's head now torn in half.
Invincible Under the Heavens.
His eyes, the rays of the sunset shine upon his gaze.
His unmoving, cold gaze, as he looks upon the city of crimson.
A small breeze whiffs against him, and he ambles forward across the cobblestone.
He traverses a short distance, and shuffles softly to a halt. His right arm extends, and his hand reaches out for a sword sunk into the torso of a man lying inanimate before him.
With his arm not trembling in the slightest, he mechanically raises the blade now within his grasp.
Stained with blood from tip to hilt.
And he glides the sword back into a sheath in his opposite hand. The proper resting place for the single-edged blade.
A weapon of lethal proficiency.
Under the somber rain, his feet stand firm as his fingers curl atop the sheath of black lacquer. His eyes are drawn toward a sole cut across the corpse's neck.
Weapon of war.
He lifts his gaze forward. A recollection, of the roars and shrieks of people as they were cut by his sword flickers in his mind, faint and fleeting like a sole raindrop amidst the drizzle.
He tucks the sheathed sword underneath his tattered belt, and resumes his stroll. Pikes, blades, pole-arms and arrows sunk into the mass of carcasses fill his sight.
And he strides forward past it all, his eyes looking only forward. A whiff of gunpowder catches his nose as he passes a couple of matchlock arquebuses lying before two bodies, both infested with feeding ravens.
A cool breeze brushes against his thin face, and his eyes close in silence. He inhales slowly, and breathes out with his senses sinking into calm, his footsteps loosening.
He opens his eyes in view of the serene crimson sky, and beholds the sole path designated for him beyond the radiant sunset.
The cotton scarf donned around his neck flutters with the autumn wind. His feet trudge toward the horizon, droves of ravens crying loudly under the heavens.
He continues forward, forward through the haze of gunpowder.
A low, whispery voice of a girl strokes his ear.
His head turns around ever so slightly, and he catches a glimpse of a dove fluttering up into the clouds.
Just another simple everyday.
Along an empty dirt path framed by the dusk sky, I continue forward with my steed, belongings strapped to its sides. In front of us, a city seemingly ruined in the far distance, not as bad as ones years before. Beside, long grass and overgrown trees, swaying lightly.
Invincible Under the Heavens. A title, I know not his name. Invincible.
South. Where I could find him. This path leads south.
A quiet breeze, sounds of rustling trees, as my hand slips to the scabbards underneath my cloak. Lose myself, knuckles tightening slightly. I play the way of the sword in my head, him as my opponent.
Wrong. His overhead cut preempts my upward sweep to his wrists. Wrong. He steps back from my sword draw. Wrong. I evade, but he closes the range of his sword. Wrong. My second strike after the overhand cut he deflected, preempted.
Result, blood on the ground, mine.
"A sword is not meant to stop other swords. The only practical application of a bladed weapon, is murder."
A breath leaves my nose, as his voice plays within my mind.
"Think only of cutting. Every maneuver of the way of the sword is a means to one, sole purpose.
My head shakes, and I look down upon a cluster of ants crawling along the dirt.
That is why, loneliness is an illusion. Just because we don't see others of our own kind, we forget other life amid us. Insects so miniature, often unnoticed, they pass our field of vision.
But they are here, moving forward together.
I have no right to call myself lonely, when life thrives wherever I look.
My gaze is drawn to the sky, and there a falcon swoops down from high above. Its talons pierce into the neck of a pigeon gliding below, and a pair of wings flap as they both descend to the ground.
The falcon is victorious, and its beak rips the feathers off its squirming prey atop the grass. My steed passes them, the falcon fluttering its wings as it feasts on the pigeon.
An everyday occurrence. Nature gives birth to life, and life eventually comes to an end either on its own, external factors, or by destroying one another.
"A sword is created to bring its victims unto death." My forefinger squeezes on my thumb, as I remember his voice.
If predation were truly the basis for every killing, think how different humanity would be. Seeing the world even through society's confines, it was easy for me to understand.
Survival is not the only reason life destroys one another.
My lips compress, and I turn my eyes back forward. Buildings in the horizon, torn and neglected. Above, clouds of gray with sounds of distant thunder.
I'm still alive, seeing this world.
I'll practice later. My gaze drifts toward the scabbards at my waist. Later. I'll practice later.
I will meet him.
I will cut him.
March 24, year 2418 of the Serran Calendar.
Lightning cracks from the night sky above, as a boy dashes headlong across an empty cobbled street. The heavy rain showers upon his small person whole, and he pants as his scrawny legs push quicker against the ground, water splashing beneath his feet.
Droplets streak down his lowered face, his chest heaving with his messy forelocks drooping over his brows. The rain soaks his ragged shirt and shorts, his slippers flimsy and worn.
Mom… He shuts his eyes as thunder echoes. And his heart throbs, as clatters of footsteps in the distance grow louder with each passing second.
He clenches his teeth, as he recalls vile armored men in arms infiltrating his small and decrepit home. The men rampaged into the shabby houses of his neighbors as well, brandishing their spears and poleaxes as their voices blared for food and valuables.
He remembers the wailing and screaming, amidst the grotesque sounds of spikes skewering into human flesh.
And the sight of his young mother's body crumpling to the ground, lying motionless in her own blood. Her face covered by her disheveled hair lied right in front of him, as he froze before the foul grimaces of the armed men.
Mommy. His limbs tighten as he continues to dash under the storm.
A yelp leaves his throat, a jolt flinging his body forward. His feet lift from the ground, the headwind blowing against his face with buildings passing his vision.
A thump and crack sounds as he lands hard on his side, and he wails as his body lurches into a curl with his right knee against his chest. Shorter bursts of groans escape him as he clutches his throbbing right ankle with both hands, his body weltering from side to side.
He presses a palm against the ground and strains as he pushes his body up, but his ankle quakes with him crashing back down onto his side. His hands clutch onto the pain as a weak scream leaves his throat, and his curled body lies still atop the cobblestone.
His head shifts faintly, and he gazes upon the dim surroundings behind him. Amidst the darkness, he catches sight of a huge crack along the path he had traversed… as well as a stringed, dirt brown leather pouch resting just beside his body.
Tears form at the corners of his eyes, as he stares upon the pouch.
An image of his mother's soft smile clouds his vision. His lips quiver, as he recalls quiet times while they basked under the evening sun. The times they played tops together, the nights when he listened to her stories before going to bed, memories like these play in his mind as he lies in silence.
He remembers the soft touch of her slim fingers stroking his hair. He took a nap with his head resting atop her lap then, her soft chuckles caressing his ears as he looked up into her eyes with a smile.
Then, it was Mom lying atop a bed with her skin haggard and pale. His fingers curl, as he remembers the faint warmth of her hand he clasped gently, a weak smile on her thin face as she patted his head.
He shuts his eyes tight as he remembers, his lips trembling.
His gaze widens, his ears tingling at a woman's gentle voice. "… eh?" He runs a fist along his eyes and darts his gaze in all directions, but only sees the emptiness of the weathered city.
"… hmm? Ah, you can hear me? Aha, that's great."
Hearing her voice, a soft warmth prickles at his heart.
"I'm here with you," the voice says softly, "I can help. If you'd, like power that is." Her intonation lowers.
The boy's lips part as he pushes his palms against the ground. "Power?"
"Yes. You should kind of see it by now. There's no one else who can pick you up, but yourself."
A sting pierces his chest at the woman's calm voice.
A gasp leaves him as his mind and vision clouds. Another memory of his mother plays. She smiled weakly as she looked upon him with downcast eyes. "The Empire had left us long before you were born. That's why, we have to be strong by ourselves." She nodded solemnly, looking upon her fingers.
"Ah, it's up to you though. I'm merely a contractor presenting an offer. The decision belongs solely to you."
His vision fades into white.
The sensation of his own being weakens as a gasp escapes his lips. And he envisions himself, standing at the center of bloodshed under the night sky.
Visions of the vile armored men sprawled motionless on the ground smother his mind, and heat courses through his limbs as he beholds his mother's murderers convulsing with flames erupting across their bodies. The amber flames hiss as they tower over the cityscape, the men's wails and cries ringing in his ears.
Images like these continue to play in his mind. His mouth gapes as his chest lightens, a gush assailing his abdomen.
"Just form a contract with me, and all of it will be yours, at your will." Her soft voice plays in his ears.
But amidst the rain, clattering of footsteps sound louder with each passing second.
"Hurry, you only have one chance."
His body curls farther on the ground, and his lips part silently as lightning flickers above him. His throat moves, air passes through his vocal chords–
His body stiffens.
Gradually his vision clears. The dark cobblestone presents itself beneath him, pain in his right ankle returning to his senses.
He drags his head up from the ground, and his limbs shiver cold.
For right before his eyes, the sight of a man's looming shadow dawns upon him whole.
The boy stares upon the long silhouette on the cobblestone, sweat forming on his shivering palms. The woman's voice no longer reaches his ears. Coldness envelops his skin.
His body shakes as heaviness encases his heart. His teeth clench as he shuts his eyes tight.
The boy jolts at the raspy voice of a man. His head snaps up, and his throat tightens as he swallows.
He inhales, registering only the sounds of heavy raindrops with no more clatters of footsteps. Swallowing, he timidly shuffles his body around.
His head tilts upward, and his eyes magnify.
For his gaze settles upon a cloaked man in black, standing straight and still with his back toward him.
The long, tattered black cloak of the man flaps with the whistling wind.
A thump beats within the boy's heart, his elbows propping his body up on his knees. His limbs tense up, as he looks upon shades of amber light flickering in front of the cloaked man.
"Stay right there!"
The boy's shoulders jerk, his eyes darting toward the wielder of that same strained, raspy voice.
Around fifteen paces in front of the black-cloaked figure, he spots around half a dozen, seven, no, eight men armored in leather and chain mail standing straight with spears and poleaxes in hand. They all glare as they hold their weapons in imperfect verticals, the rear of their shafts planted to the ground and resting beside each man's right.
A few of them hold oil lanterns in their opposite hands, the small and still flames of gentle amber.
"You," the soldier with the same husky voice says in a strained tone, and plods forward.
The boy freezes in place. He lifts his chin higher, and stiffens as he stares at a low, nicked sakkat resting on the cloaked man's head. He looks upon the top of the man's cloak covering the entirety of his neck and back of his hair, and darts his gaze toward an oil lantern held firmly in the advancing soldier's left hand.
The soldier stops and plants the rear of his poleaxe onto the ground, facing the cloaked man. "Put your stuff on the ground, then raise your hands overhead and keep them raised, now," he says in a low voice, and points his poleaxe up towards the cloaked man's neck. The rest of the squad slide their feet forward, some shifting in their places as they keep their gazes keen on the black figure.
The boy shuffles his knees back, and the man shielding him remains silent with not even a flinch of his body.
Seconds pass slowly, only rain sounding throughout the street.
"Your dough, coins or whatever. Now."
The boy's breath shivers at the soldier's rough voice, and the cloaked man stays silent as the wind calms.
A cold shudder throbs within the boy's chest and gut, and he timidly crawls forward with shuffling knees.
He stops beside the cloaked man's boots, and lifts his gaze toward the man's thin cheekbones. "Please, just do what they say and– and get away," he says softly with his hands trembling on the ground, "because– they will–"
"Hey! There's the brat!"
A stamp draws the boy's gaze back towards the squad, and he freezes as a soldier closes in on him with dry lips in a grimace. With both his hands, the soldier raises the long shaft of his spear above his right shoulder, his weapon sloping down as he points it straight at the boy's head.
The boy beholds the sharp tip of the spear magnifying in his vision. His lips shiver, as he looks up at the soldier baring his crooked yellow teeth.
The spearman's knees jolt, and his feet shuffles to an abrupt halt with his eyes shooting wide.
In front of the boy, the black-cloaked man sidesteps and stands in front of him once more. The eight armored men jolt from their positions, some shifting their feet forward and raising their weapons from the ground.
"Hey." The soldier's hands shake as he scowls with clenched teeth, and he shifts his spear's aim toward the cloaked man while gliding a foot back.
"Men, weapons down," a firm voice says from the squad of soldiers, and a pair of footsteps sound from the back of the group.
The boy darts his eyes in front, and his shoulders rise as he gazes upon a sole advancing soldier. His hands grasp at his shorts, as he looks upon the tall and bulky man clad in metal armor covering the entirety of his body.
The two soldiers with spears outstretched promptly lower them and withdraw, one of them growling. They and the rest of the soldiers stand straight with weapons vertical on the ground, parted from the middle where the man in full armor strides forward, a long poleaxe in his right hand.
"I'll take care of this."
The boy creeps back with shaking knees, as he looks up at the soldier plodding towards the cloaked man.
The fully-armored soldier halts his stride, and stands straight with shoulders back. He towers over the cloaked man by more than a head, only his eyes and mouth showing under his barbute helmet.
He sets the rear of his weapon to the ground. "We are the warriors of the Suman Empire. This city here is henceforth under our jurisdiction.
"If you so decide to display resistance, I shall personally see to it that you finish the day as a carcass. Along with the runt."
Shivers run through the boy's limbs, the soldier pointing his poleaxe up towards the cloaked man's head. "No, Mister, please just do what they say and-"
"Is that it?"
A cold, monotone voice escapes the cloaked man's lips. The boy's hands curl as his chest shakes and thumps.
The soldiers all take prompt steps back, some having their weapons jolting in their hands. The shrieking wind picks up, and the cloaked man remains still with his back straight.
Heat seeps into the boy's face, his gaze locked upon the man's back.
"What are you doing, kid? Go take cover."
His head bobs at the sound of his voice. "But, my leg-"
"Use your arms then."
The boy's back snaps upright. He quickly picks up his leather pouch from the ground, turns away from the cloaked man on all fours, and scurries away on his bruised hands and shuffling knees.
Making his way into an alleyway, the boy cringes as his ankle stings. He shields himself behind a cracked and dirty wall, and peers at the scene with his gaze creeping up beside the structure.
The fully-armored soldier clenches his gloves into fists, and stamps forward. "Move over." He turns his feet and strides forward in a path away from the cloaked man, straight towards the alley the boy is in.
The cloaked man sidesteps left and back, and stands in the path of the soldier once more. The armored man halts with a bob of his head, both standing fewer paces away from one another.
"You." The soldier dips his chin as he raises his poleaxe in one hand, pointing it up for the cloaked man's neck. "Get out of the way."
Still, the cloaked man remains quiet with feet firm on the ground. The boy clutches the hem of his shirt as he watches.
The soldier stays silent, but the figure clad in black would not budge. A gust blows as the showers intensify, and the soldier inhales and puffs with his chest heaving, throwing his poleaxe hard across his side.
"I warned you." The poleaxe clanks against a wall, and the soldier reaches his right hand behind him.
He pulls out a sheath from behind his back, and briskly unsheathes the longsword within using his right hand. The boy blinks and jerks his head back as the soldier flails his left arm, hurling his longsword's sheath down toward the ground.
A snap rings as the sheath crashes hard against the cobblestone. A crack sounds, low rattling noises follow, and a nick presents itself on the metallic tip of the now stationary scabbard on the ground.
The cloaked man's head bobs at the sight. He dips his chin, and the lips beneath his sakkat open. "That is not a very nice thing to do.
"A swordsman should never discard his scabbard."
"Enough." With both hands, the soldier readies the hilt of his longsword in front of his groin, the blade sloping upward straight for the cloaked man's head. The pauldrons on his shoulders rise and fall, his chin and torso rising as he intakes a heavy inhale. "You dare lecture a knight on swordsmanship?"
The boy gasps as the knight's left foot passes in front of his right, and the soldier dashes straight for the cloaked man with clacking thumps of his boots.
Eleven, nine, seven paces and closing, the knight hauls his sword back over his right shoulder and perpendicularly behind his head. He roars as he winds both of his arms, and his left foot pushes hard against the ground as he continues straight for the cloaked man.
The knight reaches within striking distance of the unmoving man in black. A swish of a blade resounds, the air rushing to one side as raindrops slope with the wind.
The heads of the soldiers watching on jolt up.
The boy's eyes widen, hands clutching tight against the wall.
Blood spews onto the street beneath where the cloaked man stands.
And in front of him, blood spurts out from a gap between the knight's helmet and breastplate, right at the area minutely exposing his neck.
The armored men freeze still, the knight tumbling forward and crashing headfirst against the ground. His body convulses as it lies beside the cloaked man's left foot.
His longsword clatters against the cobblestone, and a grotesque snap rings as the tip of a slim, curved blade sinks into the back of his neck.
Blood trickles out of the wound as the knight lies inanimate, the fluid diluting with the rain and spreading throughout the cobblestone.
The boy's hands tremble as he watches. His chest tightens, his gaze shifting toward the sword embedded into the knight's neck.
A slender blade, single-edged and curved. Not even a nick could be seen on the cutting edge of the sword, faintly lit by the light of the oil lanterns.
Its long handle accommodates a two-handed grip, but the boy spots only a sole left hand gripping the handle just above the underside of the weapon's round guard.
A… katana? The boy stares upon the blade, fingers curling as he inhales.
He looks at the silver guard once more, and a breath leaves his lips as he lifts his gaze.
In silence, the cloaked man stands straight before the carcass, his left hand gripping onto the katana's handle.
The boy stiffens as he looks upon something on the hilt of the katana… a thin vermilion red ribbon tied to the sword's guard.
The slim ribbon sways with the wind. And the remaining armored men all shuffle back, some having their hands on their weapons shaking, others whimpering.
He… killed– Something warm stirs within the boy's heart.