A maelstrom of hellfire rained down from the heavens. A malicious gift from the Gods. An inflamed sanguine sky, the colour of savagery. Cries rang out from every direction. Friends, lovers, sisters, fathers, all bonds broken in one swift motion. Those who were left found no solace in the sparing of their lives. Good fortune was a shadow.
It was a beginning to an end.
A tall, strong man on horseback watched the earth crumble beneath his feet. The messenger of death. Cast into this madness, it was their reward. Cruelty was their fate.
He scowled at the poor soul. Middle-aged, torn apart, left in the dust with only horrifying memories. A dead wife, slaughtered children. Pity was not nearly enough, but even this they would not give him.
In the new world no one had chosen.
Facedown, his body was dragged in a manner befitting a corpse. His visage was just as lifeless. But there was no death in his future. He had been irrefutably spared. Purity feeding the sacrifice of the Gods. Enslaved in forgotten rites. Stumbling.
Mercilessly, the warrior of unspoken wars thrust the shattered man at a young woman's feet. A young woman who was not lost, who did not fear. Seemingly immutable. She took one glance at the man laid before her feet. Her face softened. A lifetime flickered, if only for a moment. She drank in his torture and his pain. She made him hers.
Moving to her knees, she pulled the man up from the unforgiving ground as he studied her with uncertainty and wonder. She looked to the soldier.
"Take care of him." An order, likened to a request. Four definite words to a mere mortal. But none would call such a blessing.
She nodded imperceptibly and was answered by the retreat of the horse's footsteps. A call to duty. Never rested, no longer bound by peace.
And they were alone.
She cupped the man's cheek with her hand, grazing the bruises and scars that gently marked his face. A tenderness so unknown and unfamiliar. Tracing him as if it was a forgotten ritual she had practiced through each darkened night.
Her voice trapped beneath the weight of its own yearning, the memories frozen in time. In this world, her saga of waking dreams, she could not see torment. Nothing stood between them here; she would not be denied. If she were to reach out she could taste his tears.
She whispered her vulnerabilities. "Close your eyes, dear."
Her fevered passion sparked him to subdue his silence.
"Who are you?" His words meaningful and mystified. What stood before him, a guiltless angel, or the harbinger of his ruin?
Her face transformed from kind to distraught. A gift and a curse. Torture, but no recognition. The painless portrait pried from her pitying hands. Fallen through the single splintered crack.
She smiled sadly, overcome with a grief that could only follow unbridled bliss. "I am a…friend."
It was the end of the world.