One day before the fighting begins. Flame, Tamwyn, and I were all fighting hand to hand combat in the field we had always practiced in, where the grass was well worn down and the birds knew to avoid. The two boys had lasted a surprisingly long amount of time, much longer than usual, but I was beating them and they knew it. Silly boys. In human society, women have always been placed beneath men. But clearly, not here, where I reign supreme. A gift and a curse all rolled into one, my friends.
Next we got out the swords. Tamwyn sat out and read a book, while Flame and I jabbed and parried intent upon knocking the other’s sword out of their hand. This was the longest battle we had ever had, but I still won, sending his sword flying, and catching it no less, by the hilt. He looked quite irritated, but then raced me to the practice archery arena.
And he freaking beat me there too.
We marched. We knew that the outskirts of the Earth tribe were surrounded by nothing but open field, and we knew that that was where the battle would commence. And we were absolutely right. We met in the middle charging head on, and before anyone could blink we were winning. It was so fast, I couldn’t even recall the walk here, nor the planning (also know as the lack of planning), or seeing them on the horizon. We just fought, like the silly war this is, with no meaning or purpose.
I had a purpose, however. I couldn’t let my tribe fall, or the earth to fall to pieces because of this. I do not believe this justifies me killing many men. However, I’m already headed to Hell, might as well send me there with good intentions.
I killed man after man, Earth warriors falling at my feet, gasping and retching and begging for forgiveness, for a second chance. There are no second chances, I tell them, and then keep moving forward. The plan (yes, there was in fact minimal planning) was to get inside the city walls and then attempt to talk sense into the king. We knew that we would not be able to avoid a battle, so we did come prepared for that. Tamwyn had been fighting beside me, felling men almost as often as I did, cold fury on his features. But he did not look nearly as angry as Flame, whose face was the embodiment of cold, harsh anger. He killed too, and didn’t even look back at his victims. I knew why he was like this, of course. These were the men who had killed Eva. To him, every single one of them was responsible for her death. So every single man who came within three feet of his sword must have his life snuffed out quickly and efficiently, just like hers was. And so that was how it went, for a while. I do not look back on my comrades, for I knew I did not want to watch them die. They were all named, anyway, I made sure of that. Nothing to worry about, really.
We finally reached the wall, the remaining Earth warriors having fled into the woods. The huge iron gates were unlocked. They creaked loudly as I slowly pushed them open.
It was a ghost town. There was nothing there. I half expected tumbleweed to blow by. Nothing was crumbling, or falling apart, but plants needed weeding and watering, and there were rats poking out of one of the abandoned houses. There was no one there. It was as silent as a grave.
We walked on through the city, looking suspiciously around the whole time, not trusting the fact that everyone was gone. But it was true. Every shop deserted, every house empty, every animal and article of clothing missing, everything covered with a fine layer of dust. I couldn’t possibly wrap my head around why.
We finally reached the palace, and that too looked empty and abandoned. There were no guards at the gates, which we pushed open with ease. The courtyard had litter in it, and the palace birds appeared quite hungry. I threw one a pear from my pocket. They nearly tore each other apart for it. We opened the palace doors. I imagine that well kept, the palace would be magnificent, but it reminded me more of a haunted mansion, gloomy, dark, and oppressive. And almost scary.
We reached the throne room, and that’s when I realized that everyone truly was gone.
“You COWARDS!” I roared to nobody. “You spineless, heartless, fools! You cannot fight to the death to defend something you believe in? Or do you not believe it at all?! Do you not believe in your cause?!”
My words echoed eerily throughout the castle. “Your cause… your cause… your cause…” bounced back to us.
“We should go home now.” I spat. “Flushed with victory.”
Flame was breathing heavily, his nostrils flaring.
“NO!” he roared. “This is BULLSHIT! This is absolute BULLSHIT!”
And then he took out his dagger, and slashed an ‘F’ in the upholstery of the royal throne.
I knew I should scold him for such an insult to a king, but I was actually quite proud of him for trying to do something about it, even if it was quite unproductive. Unproductive to the extreme, in fact. But still, it’s something. And if they ever return, it will definitely send a message.
Suddenly, a foul stench reached us. This smell was immediately recognizable to me, and for the first time in a long time I felt the slightest twinge of fear.
It smelled of death, of decay, of a rotting corpse.
It also smelled like even though the Earth king was not here, he wanted to send a message too.
I opened the nearest door and gasped. I ran, actually ran, from the gruesome sight, for I could not bear it. I tried so hard to hold Flame back, but I knew that eventually I would have to let go, and he would have to see for himself. So I did just that, against my better judgment.
For there was Eva, nailed to a cross, not only sending us a message but mocking Flame’s upbringing. Her body was decaying and falling apart, and her features were almost unrecognizable, but I knew it was her, and so did Flame. He knelt on the floor, and wept, the rest of us standing there, transfixed on the horrific sight before us.
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