A/N: This story contains several dark themes, so reader discretion is advised. However, there aren't and won't be any lemons or mentions of any kind of sexual violence, so I left the rating as it is.
My heart numbed as the airship flew away from the burning city. The pilot spoke rapidly into his radio, distant bombs quaking through the air. The engine whirred angrily, pushed to its maximum. All I could see was the body in my arms, eyes open, mouth burned closed. I could barely see the resemblance between Amethyst and the body in front of me. My eyes caught on the dragon necklace still around the body's neck, the metal pendant and chain burned black from tarnished gold. I gripped the pendant in my hands, feeling its worn, familiar shape press against my palm. I blinked the wetness out of my eyes as I removed the necklace and put it on myself.
The plane, now far away from my lost home, crossed the channel to the other side of the bay. I looked away from the body, out the clouded window. My eyes caught on a passing clifftop far below. Suddenly, I was standing on the cliff, feet in the grass, Amethyst's smile beckoning me forwards. The untouched city of Mysten towered over the horizon. I reached for her hand, but the airship jolted and I plummeted back into the present. My gaze rested on the body lovingly and gently, I laid it on an empty seat. Taking a deep breath, I pushed myself up and staggered down the aisle to the pilot. My finger pointed at the cliff. "Land there."
He didn't spare me a glance. "I'm sorry sir, but we have to keep flying. It is not safe here."
I gripped his shoulders with trembling hands, shaking him roughly. "LAND..." His eyes met mine fearfully.
The co-pilot, my old friend Simeon Jacobs, gave me a nod, his blue eyes gentle. "Of course." The pilot, knowing he was outnumbered, spoke quickly into his radio and the airship began to descend toward the cliff.
The anger died as quickly as it came. I looked at the pilot, his hands quivering slightly on the controls. I withdrew my hands from his shoulders and stared at my palms. What had come over me? An apology escaped my lips as the machine landed quietly in the grass at the bottom of the cliff.
The pilot shoved a piece of burnt wood roughly into my arms. "This is the best marker I got for you. Make it quick," he muttered. I grunted in acknowledgement. Stepping out of the plane, I quickly found a good spot and began to dig with my hands.
Minutes passed, but they felt like eternities. Sweat gathered underneath my brow. Progress slowed to a halt. Resting momentarily, I removed the wet rag from around my face and used it to wipe my forehead. I looked upwards. Smoke billowed in the distance, hiding the world from a glimpse of the autumn sun. A few birds flew far above, their cries travelling across the water. The channel, bustling with activity only a few days before, was empty, the waters undisturbed. A rotting, smoky smell filled the air, all-consuming. I couldn't tell if the smell came from across the bay or—
A smile turned to ash. Mouth burnt shut. Eyes wide open, unseeing.
My hole was going nowhere. My fingers were caked with dirt, one fingernail broken in two. I sat on my knees, scanning my surroundings for ideas. My gaze landed on a pile of big stones, and my heart sunk somewhere beneath me.
A gust of wind blew in from the sea, blowing soot into my face and dying my brown hair black. Turning away, I walked down the cliff, towards the corpse. I picked up the body, feeling the familiar weight settle into my arms as I carried it back to the shallow hole. Slowly, I lowered it into the soil.
I stared at the familiar face, a strange feeling biting my soul. I wiped my eyes dry with my sleeve. Something dark and malignant began to fester inside of me, pushing sorrow to the side and dominating my mind. Harania would pay for they did to her, to my family, to my people, and to me. There was no atonement for the crime they had committed. There would be no mercy for the guilty. I would make sure of it. I would kill and kill and kill until there were no more guilty left to be killed. The Haranians. They did this. They were the monsters that needed to be purged from this world. Only then would justice be sated. Only then could there be peace. I lifted the first stone and began to bury the body.
Each individual stone felt like a mountain, but it didn't take many to cover it. My gaze rested on the finished grave. Without a marker, it could belong to anyone. I let out a deep breath I didn't know I had been holding. Her name deserved to be remembered.
I slid a small knife out from my pocket and began to carve into the wood the pilot had given me. I fumbled slightly, and the knife slipped and stuck itself in my finger. I stared down at my injury for a moment before yanking the blade out, barely feeling the pain. My blood soaked the dirt at the foot of the grave. Slowly, I continued to carve. I soon finished, and only then did I notice the countless stinging cuts on my hands. My fingers traced over my handiwork. Amethyst Parabellum, A.A.E. 4570 - 4588. The crudely carved words marked the the end of a life, a civilization, and an era. I shoved the stake into the loose soil at the head of the grave. It would have to do. There was nothing more I could do for her now, other than pursue the path of blood. I would tear apart this society in the name of justice for all those that were unjustly slain. Harania would learn to fear the vengeance of the last Prince of Mysten.
I felt my knees buckle beneath me under the weight of a thousand restless souls. The carving, so small looking down on it from above, now towered above me like a demon of war, beckoning for more. My father, a great blast of blue light tearing the family mansion to pieces. My brother, crying out in terror as the Haranian soldiers advanced on his broken form. Amethyst, lifeless in my arms, mouth burnt closed, eyes wide open. My hands trembled as I gripped her dragon necklace around my neck, the cool metal digging into my skin. Dragon, a creature of legend, a symbol from the stars. Strength, perseverance, brutality. I needed all three now. I felt my heart close over in ruthless steel as I forcibly pushed myself back to my feet. There was no time to mourn. There was only one path left for me. Destruction would be my name, and this world would crumble in my wake. There could be no rest for the weary while the guilty clinked glasses and conquered what was left.
I spun around and hurried down the cliff, into the airship that would escort me away from my past and into an unforgiving future. I strapped myself into the seat and gripped the armrest tightly as the engine whirred to life. The grass blew wildly in its wake, but the engraved wooden marker stayed firmly implanted in the dirt, like a castle standing tall against a massive, unrelenting army. The plane turned, tearing the grave and the smoke-filled sky from my field of view, shooting south towards war.
Slowly, the sound of slaughter faded from the air, only the soft humming of the airship breaking the silence that descended. Suddenly, Simeon got out of the co-pilot's chair and made his way over to where I was seated, situating himself on the cushion next to me. "The airship's in autopilot now that we've crossed into Kalaya. I'm not really needed up there anymore." His fingers trembled against his sides. "Thought I'd come and talk."
I tried to smile, but found my muscles wouldn't obey me. "I'm glad to hear it. I just want to land and get to work. Distract my mind." I remembered his family, his four younger sisters and his two parents the instant I gazed into his eyes. Behind the hard exterior I could see a tempest of emotions, a dam about to burst. I knew better than to ask. I put an arm around his shoulder, bringing him into a hug.
"Thanks," he whispered.
"Yeah." I muttered in reply. For what felt like an eon, we stayed quiet, staring out the window together. "Let's play chess together again. Talk about war strategy. Talk about whatever you want."
Simeon pulled out of the embrace, reaching into his pocket and grabbing his holo device. "That sounds good. I think I have the game installed on here somewhere." His fingers danced over the keys, and a board appeared in front of us, the hologram glowing bright blue. The computer assigned him the white pieces, and he wasted no time in moving the pawn in front of his king two spots forward. My turn.
"Kalaya's going to want me to sway Karkaris to its side. A war between Kalaya and Harania is assured, but as of now, Karkaris remains neutral." I spoke confidently as I slid my knight across the board, endangering his pawn.
"In all likelihood," he agreed, sliding his bishop across the diagonal to protect his pawn. "However, I doubt Karkaris will join Kalaya's side, due to Kalaya's history of brutality against their people, which means we should plan for a war fighting two countries instead of one."
I grimaced as I moved my second knight. "I don't like two to one odds. There's nothing Kalaya can really give Karkaris to sway them to their side, either. It's a tough situation. If Karkaris does end up fighting with the enemy, Kalaya needs to be aggressive. The second we allow them to be the ones attacking us, not the other way around, we lose."
Simeon's brows scrunched together as he mirrored my move. "Defenders always have the advantage. Attacking with a smaller force would surely be suicidal."
I slid my queen across the board, taking his knight in one fell swoop. "That's why the key will be speed and surprise. That, and we must sway the common folk to Kalaya's cause. Mysten's cause. If we achieve a symbolic victory, or take a prominent prisoner, the tides will shift in our favor."
My friend leaned back in his chair with a sigh. "I guess you're right. That is the only way to proceed." He looked away from the board, out through the front windshield and over the horizon. "I never wanted war. But here it is."
"Here it is," I murmured, feeling the mood turn dark once more. I felt the violence inside of me began to feast once more, bile rising in my throat. "Hey," I choked out, "You remember the first time we met?"
He chuckled. "Yeah. I still can't believe you managed to crash that jet while it was still inside the hangar."
My lips curved upwards. "Hey, I think calling it a crash is a bit of an overstatement. My wing just lightly scratched your hull."
Simeon rolled his eyes. "Yeah, 'twas just a scratch that prevented both of the aircrafts from flying ever again."
I shrugged. "Eh, it was worth it. I don't think I would've ever become a good pilot without your help. After that incident, you knew just how hopeless I would be on my own, so you took me under your wing and taught me everything you knew. Which happened to be a lot."
My friend groaned, rubbing his palms against his temples. "Ugh. Your jokes are horrible. Honestly, I was reluctant to teach you at first. You should really thank Ameth—" he cut himself off, but the damage had been done. The memory slipped out of my grasp, and all of a sudden I was on a cold, metal plane, speeding away from the destruction of the only home I had ever known with the blood of the woman I loved stained on the seat across from me. I stood abruptly.
He scrambled to his feet as well, hastily tucking away his holo device into his pocket and looking at me nervously. "I'm sorry—"
"It's fine," I interrupted shortly. I stepped past him and walked to the back of the aircraft, sitting myself in another seat and burying my head in my arms. When would this damn thing land? I needed to get out of here. I felt Simeon's arm wrap around me, and I felt tears brew in my eyes once more. This time, I didn't wipe them away.
The sun had just begun to sink below the horizon when we finally touched down in Aztlan, the capital of Kalaya. The engine's whirr faded into silence. Simeon stayed seated as I got up, giving me a parting look that was halfway between a smile and a grimace. "I'll see you later, Kendall." He hesitated. "Don't let yourself be consumed by revenge in the meantime, ok? Our people need peace, but peace will only come to pass if both sides are able to reach a compromise."
I nodded shortly, brushing aside his strange advice as I gathered my energy. "Ok." I turned away from him and walked over to the open door. As I stepped outside, I gave the pilot a polite salute. He didn't acknowledge my gesture, but I had already moved on, for just a few steps away was Queen Mariana of Kalaya with her armored entourage.
Mariana was a frail woman, resting her weight on a metal cane. Her hair was streaked with gray, despite the fact that her fortieth birthday had been only a few years before. A crooked golden crown rested atop her head, shining brightly in the fading light. She wore a black dress, not a wrinkle in sight. Her eyes glimmered with false sadness as I approached. I stopped in my tracks five feet in front of her, and she made no move to close the gap. "I'm glad to see you are alive, Kendall Atlantis. Don't worry, you are safe here. Your father was a dear friend of mine."
My father definitely was no friend of hers— none of the four nations had been on friendly terms since the time of the Anunnaki. I got along well with some of the younger members of her family, but the woman herself had always kept her distance from me. I despised fake niceties. "Thank you for your kind words and refuge."
She looked me up and down, frowning at what she saw. "You're injured." She snapped her fingers. "Guards, escort him to the royal hospital immediately."
I raised my hand in protest. "I'm fine for now. It's mostly scratches. I'd prefer to talk with you first. Only then will I rest." There was no way I would give her more time to gather information. The Fall had occurred less than 24 hours ago, and I needed to gain her favor before she obtained all the details. My intuition told me that my father had likely done something to provoke Harania's wrath.
The Kalayan Queen looked at me worryingly. "I must insist that we leave for the hospital immediately. However, we can speak more in the car ride there. Anyone could be listening to us out here."
I had no room to refuse her. She held all the cards in this situation, even though I was theoretically her equal. I would submit to her will for now, but no dragon would remain bowed forever. "That sounds agreeable," I smiled politely.
Mariana clapped her hands and matched my smile. "Perfect." A servant opened the door to her black limousine and I slid inside. She climbed in after me, and the servant shut the door behind us. The car's engine roared to life and as if on queue, she began to speak once more. "I want to let you know that my first priority is to obliterate Harania. Any country that is willing to commit such atrocities to Mystenian innocents deserves destruction."
I inclined my head. "Thank you. What about Karkaris?"
She gave me a pointed look. "The rebel state has cut themselves off completely from the outside world."
I thought for a moment. "As soon as I'm healed, send me to Karkaris. They will be willing to grant me an audience. They must know that they will not be able to maintain their isolation and neutrality. I don't want Queen Ryla to be tempted by whatever lies Harania puts forth." I paused. "I will sway Karkaris into entering an alliance with Kalaya."
Triumph glittered in Mariana's eyes but she hid it well with a look of surprise. "Does that mean Mysten has chosen a side?"
"I'm afraid Mysten's strength isn't what it used to be, but yes. Mysten is with Kalaya as long as it remains opposed to Harania." And as long as Mariana didn't betray me. I had no friends, no allies. Despite the friendships I had formed with her children, as well as her niece, I held no illusions as to what she would do to me the second I began to gain influence. However, if I could travel to Karkaris and somehow gain favor with Queen Ryla… that would give me a hand to play.
She knew that I had forced her into a corner. Mariana could not refuse my suggestion immediately after I had agreed to an alliance with her. "That sounds like a great idea. After that, though, I need you on the front lines. Alexander is already there. Your story and background will motivate the soldiers, and your military training could prove crucial in winning this war." Nervousness entered her voice. "My son is an intelligent boy, but he doesn't have the military training you do. You would be a fantastic advisor to him."
The Kalayan Queen was trying to limit my power by moving me as far away from people of influence as possible. She was counting on my youth to show and push potential allies, as well as Alexander, away from me. She underestimated my bond with her son. I smiled. I was fine with her little challenge. Even if I failed to gain influence and power, I would still get to slaughter the enemy, as well as be near my friend Alexander. "Happily. Nothing would give me greater joy than killing Haranians. I will do as you suggest as soon as the alliance with Karkaris is secure."
The car arrived at the hospital. The servant opened the door, and I stepped out into the cool night breeze. Mariana came out after me and offered her hand. "I will come and get you in the morning. It was good to see you again, Kendall Atlantis. You have shown true strength despite everything that has happened to you. You have my respect."
True strength. I saw my brother buried underneath burning wreckage, my arms failing me as the metal refused to budge. I saw enemy soldiers round the corner, my brother's cries echoing after me as I abandoned him. That wasn't true strength. "Thank you. It's good to see you too, Mariana. I'm happy to know I have an ally in this broken, chaotic world." I forced a final smile, and she climbed inside her limousine and departed.
Almost instantly, men and women in white robes surrounded me and escorted me into the hospital. After examining the wounds on my hands and my mild burn wounds from the Fall, they determined I was low priority. I was left alone in a small room at the top of the building, overlooking the city. An ominous, black smoke from the nearby factories rose in the air, obscuring any beauty that might have been out there. I looked away from the window.
A loud scream pierced through my door from the hallway, and I heard the sound of doctors running. "My legs won't move!" he sobbed, the sound echoing in my ears. "Why won't they move?" I closed my eyes, willing the man to be quiet. His cries didn't cease, and slowly, they consumed my existence. My brother… Amethyst… Father… all gone. Blood spilled across my vision, and I tumbled backwards onto the bed with a strangled cry.
I was in the passenger seat of the royal jet, laughing as my brother spun the plane in circles. The world twisted around me as we shot across the open ocean. "Jason, stop!" I spluttered, grinning from ear to ear. "You're going to make me sick!"
Jason shot me an mischievous grin. "Wait until you see what I do next." The airship then steadied momentarily before taking an abrupt nosedive towards the waves. I hung onto my seat for dear life. "Father is going to kill us!"
He looked at me slyly. "That's if he finds out." With a quick move, the jet leveled out a couple hundred feet above the water, shooting towards the golden capital of our father's nation, Mysten. "That being said, we should be getting back. Father will be out of his meeting soon."
I nodded in agreement, worry consuming my features.
We crossed over onto land, our home growing closer and closer. "We'll be fine," Jason grinned. "Don't worry too much. Look, we're almost— huh?"
A red dot appeared on the pilot's screen, growing closer to us. "What's this?" My brother asked fearfully before something slammed into the side of the airship, sending my world spiraling. Panic consumed my senses as I swiveled my head over my shoulder. The entire left wing was gone. Jason gripped the steering wheel and desperately jerked it upwards. The engine spluttered and didn't respond. Our eyes met in the final moment before the plane slammed into the dirt and my vision went black.
When I woke, the wreckage was still burning. I looked at myself, scanning for injuries. Blood trickled down my shins from where they slammed into the dashboard, but I was otherwise unharmed. I turned to Jason. "I guess we were lucky we were so close to the ground," I stopped my sentence short.
He was smashed against the dash, back bent at a horrible angle. A large tree had crumpled in the ceiling, pinning him forwards. His eyes met mine weakly, blood trickling out of his mouth. "Help me…"
Terrified, I put my hands against the tree pinning him and pushed sideways futilely. It refused to budge. Tears streaming across my cheeks, I pushed again. Still, it did not budge. I unbuckled myself from my seat and walked around to the other side of the wreckage and pushed again. And again. And again. It was impossible. "I'm going to call for help!" I cried, pulling out my phone. I dialed the royal guard. Holding it to my ear, I heard it ring seven times and then fade to silence. I looked at my phone in shock.
Jason moaned. "What did they say…"
"They didn't answer!" I shouted, panicking. "What's going on?!"
"Put your hands where I can see them." A new voice spoke. Petrified, I slowly turned around to see five Haranian soldiers just across the clearing, guns trained on my chest. Screaming, I ducked underneath a piece of wreckage, bullets flying over my head.
"Save me…" Jason cried out. "Get me out of here!"
"I'm sorry…" I whispered. I heard the soldier's footsteps drawing closer, and fear spiked in my gut. "There's nothing I can do… I'm sorry…"
"GET ME OUT OF HERE!" my brother screamed, his voice transforming from pain to anger. My world spun, and I was in the hospital again.
The cold floor pressed against my back. The ceiling fan rotated above me and several doctors looked at me in concern. "Get him onto the bed," one doctor instructed and I felt myself being picked up and then set down softly onto the blankets. I laid there numbly. I saw the doctors' mouths open and close, but no sound came out.
Suddenly, I was on the clifftop. Amethyst's ghost slowly rose out of her grave, arm extended. "Save me…" she whispered. "Save me…"
More ghosts floated across the bay, lining in row after row behind Amethyst, joining in the solemn chant. "Save me… Save me… Save me…"
I fell to my knees, hands covering my ears. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I can't. I'm only a boy!" I sobbed at them. "What am I supposed to do?"
The scene shifted. I stood in the streets of Mysten, watching the city burn around me, and I remembered my purpose. What I had promised to Amethyst. The ghosts rose around me, disappearing into the smoke above. "A hefty duty…" I whispered.
I pushed myself to my feet. Chaos reigned around me, but I remained untouched. I took one step forward, then another. "A hefty duty… but a man without anything to lose is the most dangerous of all." I stood on top a pile of Haranian corpses. Every last member of their government was guilty. I knew it in my heart. I dug my shoe into one of their faces, grinning in satisfaction as I broke in several of his teeth. The cold war had been played by all sides, but the innocents had paid the price. I would be the obliterator of all the guilty that remained, for in this world, justice would come by no other way.