Fires of Industry

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Commercial Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A former Engineer in the Empire loses his family to his former masters and sets out on a journey of revenge to topple the government he once served

A peaceful afternoon. The sun sets ever lower in the sky, casting golden rays over the rolling hills and vast plains of the Country. A gentle, fresh breeze weaving through the long grasses, accompanied by the sounds of grazing cattle. A cluster of mud houses, bordered by a river and surrounded by crops growing various forms of produce. There is a large group of people working the fields, even this late in the day. A regular farming hamlet, undisturbed. It rests in the shade of a hill, facing east, which the hamlet’s dwellers say is perfect for waking up early to tend to the fields and cattle. Rycan, unofficial elder of the hamlet, sits on a mat on the floor of his house, mending his son’s torn tunic. He breathes in the smell of freshly baked bread and sighs with contentment. A loving smile spreads across his face as he sees his wife, Dimelia, walk into the hut carrying a basket of fish. Their children, Hila and Margun, are outside playing with the family cat, Lyon. Their shouts and giggles are heard across the hamlet as the rest of its people go about their business, whether packing carts for trade, butchering and preparing meat, or sorting produce. 

 

Then suddenly, a cloud of dust is seen creeping over the hills, accompanied by the rhythmic thundering of footsteps. Tens of thousands of footsteps. A black sea of imperial soldiers appears from the north, accompanied by their war machines and battle mounts. Their armour is pitch black, every suit made to order for each soldier. The higher ranking soldiers have embezzlements and trophies carved into their breastplates, fixed to their helmets or hanging from their belts. The standard bearers, clad in grey armour, carry banners on long pikes, the flags emblazoned with the sigil of the Empire. The soldiers march in step, disciplined and single-minded in their devotion to the war effort. There is, however, a certain oddness to the procession. The joints of the machines appear stiff, their chassis’ chipped and worn down. Cracked glass obscures the vision of some of the pilots. Armour is cracked, spears not properly maintained, swords and daggers not properly sharpened. 

At the head of the martial procession rides General Kaibellus, veteran of almost forty years of war, a terrifying presence on the battlefield. Red accents his gleaming armour, in battle blending with the crimson blood that so often splatters against his massive frame. His eyes, one scarred almost shut, scan the landscape, resting on the hamlet not a kilometre away. A small smirk forms on his face, and he urges his war bull forward, leaving the bulk of the army behind. 

 

Rycan steps out of his house, heart pounding, not for himself, but for the sake of his family. His wife beckons to their children, and they run to her and the fragile safety of the house. Lyon mewls in Hila’s grasp, not taking heed of his owner’s evident distress. Rycan steps forward, locking eyes with the General as he rides through the gates of the hamlet, his black armour catching the day’s last few rays of sunlight. 

“Master Engineer, it has been a long time,” Kaibellus says, his deep and gravelly voice sending tremors through all present. But Rycan stands firm, his face unmoving.

“General,” Rycan greets, eyes never moving. “Why are you here?”

The General laughs softly, swinging his leg off his mount and dropping to the dirt. Small clouds of dust erupt around his boots. He walks closer to Rycan, placing his hand lightly on the other man’s shoulder.

“Your skills are needed, my old friend. The war effort has declined terribly since you left our service. I’m sure you heard the machines creaking ten kilometres away!” The General chuckles, half to himself.

“I left ten years ago, when your men slaughtered an entire village all for stealing a cart of food to feed their families. Your war effort means less to me than the manure your soldiers most likely stepped in,” Rycan snarls, barely contained. He slowly lifts the General’s hand off his shoulder, as if removing a particularly pungent bit of rubbish.

Kaibellus chuckles, steps back and begins pacing in front of Rycan with hands clasped behind his back.

“Well well, the years certainly have not dulled your spirit. I remember the marvels you were able to create as Master Engineer of the Empire. How your weapons, armour and siege engines secured us victories in places where we had only known defeat. You helped us quell resistance movements all over the continent with precision, never once stopping to do something so weak as considering those that we trampled to achieve such unfettered power" He stops pacing, looking around the hamlet. "I cannot fathom the resolve it took to defy the Empire and scuttle away to this…place,” Kaibellus says, gesturing with contempt he doesn’t care to mask.

“You could have all that back,” he continues, fervour now manifesting on his face and in his voice. “You could have a life where you never have to toil in fields again, where your children could get the education they need instead of playing in the dirt like mongrel pups. Your wife would have the power to match her beauty,” he stares lecherously at Dimelia, who recoils in disgust.

“And you would once again be known as the great visionary you were born to be,” the General concludes his speech, stopping once again to face Rycan. The two men stare at each other, neither one budging an inch. Then, the General chuckles, shaking his head. Rycan has not said a single word, and yet the General already knows he will refuse.

“Perhaps I should converse with your family, and they can tell you why it is never a good idea to defy the Empire,” Kaibellus says, his voice dripping with malice. A ringing echoes through the hamlet as a spear materialises, seemingly out of thin air, in Rycan’s hands. The tip stops at Kaibelllus’ throat, vibrating from the force of its emergence. 

“You will take your paltry offers and meaningless threats, you will take your beast, you will take your pathetic army of slaves and mercenaries, and you will leave my family and our village alone,” Rycan responds, barely audible. Kaibellus’ eyes dart back and forth between Rycan and the spear at his throat. His demeanour hasn’t changed, but Rycan knows the anticipation that grips him now. After all, it was he who took the General’s eye many years before. The General turns on his heel and remounts. He digs his heels into his steed’s sides and steers it to the gate, its hooves throwing up dirt as it wheels around. 

“Have a good life, Master Engineer,” Kaibellus shouts over his shoulder. “I wish you well in your endeavours.” The air vibrates, still thick with tension, as Rycan’s spear folds back into the bracelet on his wrist. He turns to his family with a strained smile on his face. 

“Come, it’s time for dinner.”

 

The soldiers are silent, as they are trained to be. Their regiment is one tasked with covert operations, the darker side of an already dark war. These men are those tasked with assassination, sowing seeds of discord. They are singled out young, having exhibited an almost inhuman capacity for violence, and trained to be deadly, unnoticeable, and efficient. Blades glinting in the moonlight, they steal ever closer to Rycan’s house. Quietly pulling away the curtains, they climb into the house, practically shaking with excitement at their grim task. The leader of the squad, marked by the gold wreath glinting beneath his dark hair, moves into the main room, where the elders of the house lay asleep. He grins in sick glee as his knife, sharp and deadly, slides across Dimelia’s throat. Her eyes snap open and she retches, splattering her husband’s face in her blood.

“Dimelia?!” Rycan shouts, not believing the sight before him. He tears his eyes away from his wife to focus on the squad leader. His knife dripping with Dimelia's blood, the leader grins in sick glee. Rycan roars in rage and pain, lunging at the man brandishing his wife's blood like a depraved trophy. His weight slams the leader into the wall, his hands swat away the knife, barely registering the gash it opens on his arm, and his fingers tighten around the leader’s throat. Whether by his own strength or the righteous anger of a man wronged, Rycan snaps the man’s neck and throws his corpse to the floor. Screams ring through the house, followed by sickening splattering noises, and the other three men emerge from Rycan’s children’s room, their blades dripping with Hila and Margun’s essence. Rycan’s anguish threatens to cripple him, his anger resisting and resenting the thought of anything but vengeance. But his anguish triumphs, and he falls to his knees. Tears cut through the blood stains on his face, blank with the incalculable weight of his loss. The soldiers surround him, laughing maliciously and lazily brandishing their knives

“You shouldn’t have defied the Empire, old man,” one of the soldiers jeers, his comrades snickering behind him.

“The General was kind enough to offer you your old station, but you refused,” one of the others pipes up, stepping forward and pressing his blade into Rycan’s cheek. A small trickle of fresh blood runs down his face, mixing with his wife’s. 

 “Now look at what you’ve brought upon your family, all because you were too stupid to recognize an act of charity,” the last of the three chimes in, his blade running down Rycan’s back, opening a colossal wound almost exposing Rycan’s spine. 

“Charity would be letting me die with my family,” Rycan whispers. “But I don’t need your charity. I’d rather have your heads.”

The three soldiers laugh, kicking and spitting on Rycan. 

“You think you’re going to kill us?” the first soldier asks between kicks. His answer comes swiftly, as Rycan grabs his foot and twists it almost completely around. The soldier shrieks in pain and surprise, dropping to the floor. His knife falls next to Rycan, who picks it up and slices clean through the joint of the second soldier’s knee. He topples over with a piercing scream of pain as Rycan stands to face the final soldier. He turns to run, but finds his Achilles tendons cut. Rycan leaves him to crawl as he returns to the first and second soldiers. 

“I’m going to kill you all now,” Rycan says, face fixed and voice monotone. The physical pain dulled to almost nothing by the crippling loss of his family, Rycan steps towards the soldiers. 

“Wait! Don’t you want to know who ordered this mission?” the now one-legged soldier splutters, his stump gushing blood. 

“The General. Who else would be so spineless as to punish defiance by slaughtering a man’s wife and children?” Rycan replies, bending over to slowly shove his blade into the soldier’s eye. His screams rise in pitch, then suddenly stop as Rycan pushes the tip of the blade out through the back of his skull. The first soldier, foot mangled, whimpers in the corner as Rycan turns his attention to him. Wrenching the knife out of the head of the second soldier, he walks, as if drunk, closer and closer. 

“Please. Let me go,” the soldier begs. 

“You didn’t let my family go,” Rycan says, stepping on the soldier’s broken foot. A howl of pain echoes through the house, followed by a crunch. Two. Three. Rycan straightens up after smashing the soldier’s head into the wall, leaving fragments of bone and pieces of brain stuck to the hardened clay structure. He hears grunts and whimpers behind him, and turns to see the final soldier leaving a trail of his own blood like a slug would leave mucous. He grabs one of the soldier’s feet and pulls him closer. A squelch and a squeal echo through the house as the soldier’s foot comes clean off in Rycan’s hand. The soldier convulses on the floor, a silent scream of agony twisting his face. 

“You’re the last one, it seems,” Rycan whispers, more to himself than the soldier.

"Put down like rabid dogs by the man you were sent to kill. Ironic," Rycan muses as his hands pry open the soldier's mouth. The soldier screams as Rycan slowly forces his mouth wider and wider, his cheeks tearing. The soldier's jaw dislocates, and Rycan grabs the severed foot. The soldier, wide-eyed in realisation, shakes his head and tries to push Rycan away, but to no avail. He splutters as Rycan forces him to choke on his own foot, a gruesome parody and a message to his superiors. 


 

Rycan steps into the cold night air, barely registering the crowd gathered outside his house. His hands and face still dripping with blood, he falls to his knees and lets out a wail heard across the plain. Sheer agony and despair melding to create a sound that no man should make, his throat raw from the strain. Finally, his energy spent, he slumps over and the villagers rush to his side to carry him to the doctor’s house. 

Rycan awakens, hours later, body aching and stitches stinging. He tries to sit, but finds his hands and feet tied to the bed. 





 


Submitted: June 23, 2022

© Copyright 2022 Dale Craig. All rights reserved.

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