PART ONE: A WALK WITH THE EXECUTIONER
Two Left Feet
The Executioner walks a path of solitude. He hums a delightful tune before you see the quick end of your life by the tip of his blade. The sword slices through air so fast not a drop of blood touches the sacred metal. Dressed head to toe in black he is a monster in the shadows. The Executioner knows the dark like one of the creatures crawling out from the pits of hell. Only in hell would one find a fiend so gruesome. Sparing no one, he walks alone on his path. No one knows what has happened to him since the Alance massacre. What a sad day that was.
"Let me ask you a question Ronald, how do you know of all this if he left no survivors? You said it yourself, he spared no one. So how do people know of him? He should be a ghost."
"Yes, well people speak. If he wanted to be a ghost I'm sure he would be. But he wanted to live in legend, so he let the story spread. When the little birds are chirping they are spreading stories of the land. Only few can decipher what is really spoken."
"You're getting crazy in your old age."
"Perhaps, but you know, I believe the executioner will be visiting the capital today. The King wants to talk to him."
"Is that so? Hmmm, interesting..."
"Of what? There's nothing to be afraid of silly!"
"I don't know I guess."
"Yes you do!"
"Just promise me, promise me you won't go away."
"That is something that I can't promise, because we never know what will happen. But I'll stay here, I'll stay with you as long as I can."
"It's funny, I never wanted anything before you."
"I always dreamed of finding something like you. And we did, maybe it was destiny."
"Or maybe it was just luck."
"You would say that."
"Luck or destiny, it doesn't matter. I have you now, and that's all I care about."
Her smile was crooked, her eyes full of pain. Love stories always end in pain. That's how it always ends.
"Eaves dropping are we?" came the spirited voice of Cillia. Turning around to see the girl I saw several brown paper bags in her hands. "You know those stories are just crazy old rumors the old men make up when they're bored."
"I know, but still... I love to listen to them. They make me feel like a child again!" I exclaimed. I picked up my bags and started to walk down the street towards the stables. Our village was a thirty minute ride from town, we only came once a week for supplies.
Cillia bumped into me, pushing me with her shoulder. "Well why can't you just grow up? We are grown ups now. Or have you forgotten?"
I bent my face up to the sky. The warm sun beat down on my porcelain skin. "No. I haven't forgotten, I just wish I could go back. This life of work is just no fun."
Cillia laughed. "Julia, what am I going to do with you? You know what I think? I think you need a man, and quick. How long are you going to be living at your parent's house? You can't stay there forever and you won't be free until you move out!"
I sighed. "We will never really be free you know. Every month we are subject to the General's rule. And so we must work to fill the payment required."
"Yes, but still. We can live our own lives while we work. Maybe you should just take a vacation. We could go down to the beach sometime soon. Okay?"
"Okay," I replied smiling. The beach was fun. The water splashed up along the sandy shore just touching your toes. The salty sea air blew up from ocean; it lightly brushed against your face. "It sounds fun."
"It does," Cilla replied. Looking around the busy street I could see everyone else out and about for the day. Merchants and customers alike were bartering for goods. The market place was certainly colorful. Banners and tents scattered the sidewalks. "We should hurry, Jin might leave without us."
I rolled my eyes. "Jin would never leave us here to just rot. He needs us for entertainment and labor. Without us he would have to work three times as hard. Plus my parents would kill him." Cillia and I laughed lightly.
Walking into the stables we were able to see Jin sitting on a bench next to his two horses. Both horses were already hooked up to the wagon, the wagon full of crates. Jin looked up at us smiling. "Ah! You two are late! But I will forgive you both for a kiss," he said with hope. His short blond hair glistened in the light.
Cillia and I laughed. "Yeah right! You always try and we always say no. Why don't you just give up?" she asked jumping up on the front of the wagon. I was in back, we switched each time.
"Ah, one must always try," Jin tusked. He crawled up front next to Cillia. I crawled in the back sitting down next to the crakes. Looking through the holes I could see small chickens crammed inside.
"Why do you force two in a crate? It must be crowded," I said looking at the squawking birds.
Jin laughed. "They're fine. They will be much happier with me than their former owner. With me they will have an open field to live in. Before they were shoved into small cages." Jin snapped the reins and the horses started their trot.
The wagon bounced up and down. Pulling out a small pad of paper I began to work on a sketch of the chickens in the crates. It was hard with the bumps, but still I managed. Cillia and Jin were chatting away up front.
"My uncle is a very important man, and he wished for me to see you. So I have come here to listen," said the dark man in black armor before the King. The King wore robes of purple and gold. He sat on top his thrown, a golden scepter in his hands.
The King watched the man carefully. Guards surrounded him in case this man have a change of heart, and pierce his sword through his majesties chest. "I have called you here because I wish for you to join my army. I need a new commander. It is time for a change, our kingdom will soon be at war, and I need someone with strength."
"I fight for myself and only myself," replied the dark man. The Executioner stood there with a frown. "What is in it for me? Money is of no value to me, and I have power. What more can you give me?"
The King laughed. "My boy, youth is not eternal. Soon you will grow old, weak, and then what? I am giving you a chance to become immortal. Let the people whisper you name in fear for years to come."
"They already whisper my name in fear," replied the Executioner.
The King frowned. This was not going as easily as planned. He tapped his scepter to the floor. "Yet soon they will forget of you. They will throw puzzling looks to your name. Take this chance to become immortal, live forever in name!" The King was well known for his speeches. He seemed to have to power to convince anyone of anything.
The Executioner turned, spitting on the marble floors. "Couldn't I just find a vampire to turn me instead?" He gave the King a crooked smile.
The King still frowned. "I suppose, but then you would be a damned creature in this world. Do you really want that?"
"I have nothing that I want," replied the dark man. I look of pain filled his face.
The King laughed. "Well just give this a try! If you want nothing, then do this for nothing more than to slaughter the innocent men of war!"
The Executioner smiled. "I suppose, yet I will not take orders. I will follow them, but keep in mind that I do what I want. If I ever change my mind, I will leave and you will never see me again. Piss me off, well then, I suppose you won't see me, for I shall plunge my sword through your head." He gave the King a wicked smile. The King leaned back, away from the dark man.
"We have a deal then?" the King asked thrilled he would have the Executioner at his side fighting for his country.
The Executioner turned on his heals walking towards the exit. "Yes. I will return in five days. I have business elsewhere. Have a room prepared for me when I return. Also, I will need a strong horse. Gather some for me to pick from." And he walked out.
"That looks nice Julia," Cillia said as she helped me down from the wagon. I smiled and held the sketch to my chest so she couldn't see it any more. I was always so self conscious of my work. I did have talent; it was just that I was always afraid of what others may think. I suppose I'm contradicting myself, saying it's good, but then saying its bad. "Come on! I'm hungry! Let's go back to your house to see if your parents will make us something!" Cillia grabbed my arm and dragged me away. We both waved to Jin as we made our way through the small village.
"I had a nice day today," I commented. Usually it was such a burden to travel into the city, but today it felt different. I finally had a chance to escape that black cloud over my head. "I think it's going to rain." Looking up I did indeed see black clouds. How ironic.
Cillia nodded. "Yeah, it was nice. But now it's growing horrible! If it rains it will ruin my whole day!" She stopped suddenly causing me to run into her dead on. I backed up rubbing my head. "Why are those horses in front of your house?" Cillia asked suddenly frightened.
I peered over her shoulder to see several elegant horses tied up outside my house. "Do they belong to the General?" I asked in horror. I held onto Cillia's shoulders.
"I should go. You should go inside and check on your family. I wish you the best of luck," Cillia said with dread. I slightly nodded to her and took off to the house. Reaching the door I quickly dragged my feet on the mat, and opened the door slowly.
Sitting in the living room was my mother, she was crying. Her graying blond hair curled around her face, sticking to her damp cheeks. My father sat there besides her quietly patting her back. Janus and June were there, my sisters, matching my mother's face were identical tears. I ran over to my mother crouching down. Sitting across from my family was the General, and two of his men. He bore a wicked smile. "What's wrong mother?" I asked in a hushed tone.
She sobbed quietly. "We didn't get enough this month, he's taking June!" June was my baby sister, cursed to be beautiful at such a young age of sixteen. Yet how could I call her a baby, her being one year younger than I. "Oh my poor baby!"
The General was laughing. "Now now, this is your entire fault. If you would have fulfilled your payment for the month we wouldn't be having this little problem."
I closed my eyes. I wouldn't cry, I wasn't going to let him do that to me. I was strong. I opened my eyes with determination; I examined my mother's delicate face. Looking to my sisters I knew I couldn't bear loosing either one of them.
"Julia no!" my father said in an uproar. He was too late though. My mind was made up.
I turned and stood in front of the General. He was smirking at me. His face was ugly, it was old and wrinkled. There were odd colored spots placed all over his bald head, a mole with hair on it sat on his cheek. His cheeks were chubby, causing his eyes to be tiny slits. "General, please take me instead. My sister is young and weak. I would be far better a servant."
The General laughed rubbing his odd shaped chin. He looked over to one of his goons. "I suppose we could work something out. If it means so much to you. But I want more than a servant, and I would want her to be willing..." he trailed off in a suggestive manner.
I cringed at the thought. But looking to my sister's tear stained face I wasn't about to put her in that position. "Fine. But you must leave my family alone now!"
The General chuckled in a low tone. His chubby fingers gripped the arm rests pushing his fat little body up. "We will see. Hopefully next month they will fulfill the payment."
My mother jumped up wrapping her arms around me. My father was trying to pull her off of me. "Oh Julia! Don't go! You can't take her!" she screamed.
"Calm down Viera, she is strong, she will survive," my father whispered into my mothers ear. I almost started to cry when I saw her face. It tore me apart inside.
The General grabbed my arm. His pudgy fingers couldn't even wrap around my thin arm. He smelled awful up close. It was the scent of cigars and brandy. "Let's go girl. We should make it to my new home on the other side of the forest of Anwar. So there is no hope of you escaping, just to break your little hopes and dreams." My heart dropped and he pulled me outside. The General roughly threw me up on a horse. One of his goons had to help him up. The poor horse, I was surprised it was still standing with all the weight. The General grunted and whipped the horse sending it at a steady pace towards the ever entrancing forest. He held my hair tightly. I whimpered every time I bounced up and down, my hair pulling on my soft skin.
I was more afraid of what would happen once we entered the forest. Right now it just seemed to be growing in the horizon. Only fools and those seeking death enter the forest. But perhaps in the forest I would be able to make my escape. The darkness could hide me.
The horses ran with fierce strength, the thunder warned all of the great beasts approaching. Behind us there was a field of brown dust, and I could no longer see my precious home.
The General held me by my hair; there was no space to move. I was stuck. I was stuck on a horse with a fat smelly man. But the only thing I could think of was my mother's face. She seemed so sad; her world had been thrown apart. At least she had June, June made her happy. I was a lost cause, or a free spirit as my father says.
The forest was coming ever closer, and I stared deep into its dark eyes. The forest was more a monster, once it swallowed one there was no escape. So far it's my only savior; I just need to get this fiend's grimy little fingers out of my silky hair.
The sun disappeared as the horses made their was to the shade of the trees. A few more feet and there would be barely any sun, it only shinning through the leaves. I stared into the deep depths of the darkness, I would have to flee soon, too far in and I would never find a way out.
The General wrapped his arms around my stomach and released my hair. His scratchy beard rubbed against my soft neck sending shivers up my spine. "It would be stupid to escape now. Death will only come to you if you did so."
"What does lurk in the forest?" I asked in a whisper. Just being here sent dread down my spine, and I shivered with fear.
One of his lackey's laughed. "The monsters of hell. Demons, vampires, thieves, and sometimes things far worse."
"I don't believe in demons," I said shaking my head. Closing my eyes I tried to think of what I was up against, and my odds were shrinking quickly.
"Well fear not my dear, my men and I are some of the strongest men in the army. We can handle any of the foes that come upon us," said the General. His pride was clearly evident in his voice. He was just plain cocky.
The sword came crashing down ripping through the flesh of the wolves' neck. Blood splashed in his face, and he dabbed it off with the sleeve of his loose black shirt. "Petty creatures. They stand no chance yet they come at me head on. They obviously don't value their lives."
Looking up to the east he started walking through the forest once again. It would be a full day's hike through the uneven land. There was no path, he only followed his senses.
In the distance the howls of wolves echoed through the trees. He smiled. "Sounds like more fun."
"Did you hear that?" I asked in a panic. I shot up with fear. The General leaned back an let out a hefty laugh. "What is it?" My eyes scanned the area but I couldn't see anything in the depths of the forest.
"Wolves my dear, wolves." The General release me and I was finally sitting by myself. Wolves? Hopefully they were stupid. I could only hope and I threw my elbow back. It connected with a crack against the General's face. Blood dripped out of his nose. The General pulled back on the reins and the horse skidded to a stop sending me flying forward. I landed with a thump on the dusty trail.
Wasting no time I was back on my feet. Staying on the path would be too easy for the men, they would catch me in no time. Quickly I began to run into the dark wood. The trees reached out for me with their branches scratching my arms to the point of blood.
Glancing back I could see the General's men dashing after me. They seemed so swift. This would be a bad idea I could see, and death would be my punishment.
Another howl occurred and I came up with a plan. I turned and began to dash towards the sound. The wolves could scare the men, the wolves scared me. My only worry was if the wolves saw me first, then things would not end well. They would eat me alive. It was a frightening sight, but I saw my current situation as a lose, lose situation. Just maybe I would last a little longer with this plan.
I have to run faster, I have to get away from those monsters! Looking back I could see the two men still following me. The howls were getting louder, and more frequent. I had never seen a wolf before and now one might kill me. How tenacious!
My little feet pounded against the ground as I ran, there was no where to hide. I chose this fate, and suddenly I regretted everything. So what if my sister would have been living a horrible life? Mine would have been just fine. Panting I kept moving forward. Was I really this out of shape? How horrible!
"Come on girl? Are you trying to get yourself killed?" one of the men taunted. Paying no attention to their words I tried to stay focused on my main goal, the wolves. Catching the root of a large oak tree I soared forward through green ferns. Covering my head with my arms I was falling forward into the abyss.
Walking along I crept in the shadows, the wolves circling their prey before me. A deer and her fawn, few of the decent good creatures of the woods. Watching with curiosity the wolves jumped the harmless prey, and the wolves' teeth tore the flesh to pieces. It was sickening, but I seemed to grow wild at the sight, my sword grew hot, and I needed to kill something. Rage built up inside me.
I was about to plunge forward, surprising the weak beasts only to be stopped by the sound of man. They were yelling, but I didn't' hear what. Tossing the sword in the air I caught it by the handle. "Foolish men, wandering in places they should not."
I was about to move when a girl flew through the trees strait towards me. I caught her in my arms and pulled her up to her feet. She shook, tears filled her eyes. "Please help me," she whispered in fear. Staring into her eyes I pondering the thought of helping her. It would be no use to me, helping her. "Please," she whispered again.
"Girl! Come back now and we won't kill you right away!" called out the men who must have chased the poor girl.
She grabbed my black shirt tugging me down. "Stand behind me," I said quietly moving her small body behind me. I twirled the sword in my hand. For some odd reason I felt pity towards the girl. Her eyes reminded me that of a child, such innocence. Mine use to be like that.
The two men barreled through the ferns, they were covered in black armor. The stopped before me, their wicked smiles glistening in the warm glow of the sun that stretched past the leaves of the trees. "Well look what we have here brother, a boy with a sword."
The other man coward back, he saw that I was no boy. "Brother, I think we should run." He turned and began to retreat, but the wolves stopped him quickly. The snapping of his bones echoed throughout the area. A smile played on my lips.
His brother was shocked, drawing his own sword he plunged towards me, his aim for my chest. Just for a bit of fun I made it seem as if I narrowly escaped his clumsy blade. Using my free arm I pushed the girl out of the way, she screamed when seeing the blade flying towards her. I laughed and caught a questioning look on the ugly man's face as I did so. Taking my own sword I brought it through his cheep armor and he fell quickly to the dirt.
By now wolves were circling the girl and I. The girl still cowered in fear behind me. Pulling her tight I waited for the wolves to move. The beasts would be far more of a challenge than the ugly man had presented. As the wolves attacked me I threw my sword at their heads, taking each wolf down as I did so.
Setting the crying girl to the ground I cradled her in my arms. She was weeping, and somehow I felt comforted by her. She held me tightly, like a child in a parents arm.
"I must go," I said. Torn, I knew this girl would be no good, already I was softening to her innocent face. Standing up I went to leave, but she had a hold of my pant leg.
Tears built up in her eyes again. "You can't leave me here! I'll die! I have no clue where I am!" she cried.
He was going to say no, and I couldn't take that. His cold face eyed my carefully. I stayed silent as he was thinking.
"Don't get in my way. And if you disobey me I will feel no regret of slicing your throat," he said with no emotion. Wiping away the fallen tears that lay on my cheeks I stood and followed after my dark night. He never let go of that big sword of his.