The Chroniclers of Death

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Magic returned to the World. The last wave of the plague planted the doubt in the people and made them turn their back to the Church. God was forsaking his children. The Vatican in its despair made a bold move and declared war against the servants of Satan, the witches who caused the epidemic with their filthy practices. What came next was unexpected. The witches, pagans, wizards and medicine-men stood up against them united. Practitioners of the old art came out to the light again and magic poured back into the world taking back quickly its old place.
The courtyards of Europe are filled with exotic rituals, candle lights and spicy incenses. Many started using and abusing magic. Noblemen are entertained and fooled by swindlers. Covens integrated to the underworld of many European cities and take their fair part from the crimes. Britannia founded the Royal Academy of Magic to control the new exotic bunch. In the background there is a plot in preparation that could change the future of Europe forever. And everyone focuses on Bristol and a young boy living there, called Henry who wears the marks of a thousand years old ancient tradition and knows nothing about it. Meanwhile the infamous assassin, the Witch Hunter roams the roofs of Bristol trying to make peace with his past but when he comes upon Henry, their faith becomes interwoven forever. With the most skilled magicians on his footsteps and in between many conflicts of interest the young boy has to find out who he really is and fulfil his task which involves revenge, forgiveness and creating a new order from the chaos of magic.

Submitted: January 27, 2014

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Submitted: January 27, 2014

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Bristol like a desert mirage despite its beauty only offered suffering and death to the tired travellers. The cobblestone streets tinkled from emptiness. Only a few pale light beams glimmered behind the windows of the old Victorian buildings. Scouts scoured the shadows searching out the sick while trying to avoid the rats swarming the dirty streets, spreading plague and feasting on the weak and dead. Private Ash snuck along the cities waterfront, keeping to the shadows for fear of being spotted by fellow guards of the City Watch, or worse. Groans of the infected echoed from the sewers below sending a shiver down Ash’s spine despite his elixir induced immunity. The air was thick with the scent of sewage, mixing with the heady stench of death brought a tear to his eye. The sick were roaming around desperately, shedding tears of blood, slowly bleeding through their pores and infecting anyone who got too close. Gates and military checkpoints where bored guards stood, protected Bristol’s scared aristocrats from the sick and poor. The rest of the city was run down by the plague and gave home to the sick and poor. The City Watch abandoned the slums, allowing the gangs to seize control. They were more than happy to keep the desperate poor from the upper classes ensuring the City Watch remained uninvolved. Ash moved along the big wall from shadow to shadow. Occasionally stopped to make sure nobody is watching. After a few hundred meters he reached the big gates, the only entrance to the fortified rich districts. The gates were enchanted by a horrific spell, called The Gate of Light, created by the Royal Academy of Magic. These entryways electrocuted and instantly disintegrated anyone who did not belong to the City Watch or Bristol’s bourgeois. Two guards were stationed at these points to keep an eye on the gate from both sides.

Private Ash was one of them. He returned to his jury-rigged guard cabin beside the wall. The once busy dock around him now stood abandoned, lifeless. Seagulls floated peacefully on the water and there was nothing to break the monotonous sound of the waves. As a Volunteer Guard, Ash was one of the lowest ranked soldiers of the City Watch. Usually they recruited them from prisons and the slums. They were given only a uniform and a sword. No armour, helmet or the fancy one-shot pistols that the rest of the City Guards had. Still, volunteering had it’s perks. Members of the City Watch were supplied a daily ration of Elixir. The potion staved off the effects of the rat plague, ensuring all the low life reprobates stayed loyal to the imperial government. The Elixir was precious currency nowadays and Ash did not know a better way to get it.

 

“Are you back boy?” the question came from the other side of the wall.

“Yes Sir. I’m back. Sorry if it took long” answered Ash.

“I don’t care boy as long as you don’t get killed by those crazy lepers or eaten up by a horde of rats.”

“They are just sick people.”

“They are out of their fucking mind boy. If you spot any around the gate you hit them on the head with the flat side of the sword. Rumours say even their blood is contagious. I don’t want to turn into a mindless blood drooling monster like them. Understand?”

“Yes Sir!” answered Ash with a sad look from the bitter taste of memories. He could never look at the infected ones like his superior did. His father died on a ship many years ago. His mother was a laundress. He had lived with her in a little house, just down the road from where he now stood. She had spent her life down at the river bank, standing knee high in the frigid waters beating the dirt out of strangers cloths.

The plague raged on as an oblivious Ash escaped into the pages of his sailing books. Only on his walks down to the harbour with his old Alsatian Blake did he notice the increasingly empty streets. He only realised what is happening on the day when his mother came home with a racking cough. Panicked as the reality of the situation suddenly hit him he did not know what to do. Those days, Guards were patrolling the streets already looking for the sick. He did not know what to do with the fragile woman and it was only a matter of time before he would catch the disease himself. Ash drove himself to despair as he weighed his chances. She gave him his life and now he had to betray her to keep it. He tried to convince his mother that her only chance was to go with the Guards. The government would help. She did not want to leave. It took hours of reasoning until she gave in. Her tiny frame shook with sobs as the Guards escorted her out. Her tears were already mixed with blood. Ash stood outside and through the curtain of tears watched her small figure disappear at the end of the street. He could not sleep that night. He dreamed about rats, big vessels on the river full of corpses and a dark figure in a skull shaped mask looking for him. He woke up drenched in sweat from the nightmares.

Two days later the dog ran off. Ash left the door open accidentally and a loud scream outside scared poor Blake. He finally returned late in the evening heavily wounded. Those days the rats scurried along the roads in hordes and had probably met the old Alsatian. Ash could not risk his life again. The dog could infect him as well. He tried to chase him out with a broomstick and lock the door. Blake first just stood there and did not understand him. He had to push him out with the stick. Slowly he was out on the street and Ash could shut the door. Blake barked again and again. Ash sat down on his bed and started to shout. Shout so loud that he could not hear the barks. “Leave! For fuck sake go away! You stupid dog! You want to kill me?” Not knowing how much time passed, hours or minutes he wiped off the tears that were coursing down his cheeks and silently sneaked to the door to peek outside. Everything was quiet. The animal just stood there looking at the door. Took him so long to leave.

As everything was lost to Ash the only reasonable place to go was the City Watch. Acting on a rumour circulating the slums that the City Watch gave their Guards a daily potion to protect against the disease, Ash volunteered. It wasn’t his dream job. Constant bully from the higher ranked Guards, the contempt of the people and the boring, long shifts. Yet it was still difficult to get in and it was thanks to his luck that the recruiting officer was a friend of his late father. Few weeks later got stationed at the Waterfront, so close to the old family house and the bitter memories.

“Sir!” Ash waited for the answer from behind the wall. The grunts and moans that came from the other side sounded like his superior just woke up.

“What again boy?”

“I’m going to check the pier. I heard some strange noise. Maybe some infected crawled out from the sewers.”

“All right kid. Just don’t run away! I don’t want to report you!” the City Guard laughed at his own joke. Ash did not find it funny. He walked to the end of the pier.

“Like there was anywhere to go” whispered to himself. He knew that the Guard reporting him would lead to his discharge and certain death. Without the Elixir supply there was not much chance to survive around here. But after spending a few months in the new world of decaying Bristol, he was not sure that Hell would be a much worse place.

He reached the end of the pier and stood there for a few minutes. Rested his eyes on the horizon. Ash loved the sea. It meant freedom to him. He remembered the days when his father took him out in a tiny boat. They were fishing together and his father told him all about his adventures on the ocean. He used to sail with big ships. He was a big man with long beard. His mother always told that Ash is like him, a dreamer, and the only adventure his father had was with the rum barrel but Ash did not believe her. He always wanted to be a sailor. Out on the open sea far from the madness of civilization.

A fat seagull landed on the pier. Her sharp squawk brought Ash back to the presence. He spat on the old stone floor. It was time to get back to the guard post. He stopped for a moment, groping under the dark green coat for something. His hand found the long crystal capsule, taking it out studied the small hatchment of the Royal Academy of Magic and the beautiful crimson liquid inside, the key to his survival. Ash gave it one last glance before quickly hiding it back in his coat. It meant everything. Not just to him but to many. He looked around and started walking back to his cabin.

 

Even if Ash had not been so fascinated with the Elixir, he probably wouldn’t have spotted the dark, swiftly moving figure, reflected on the crystal capsule. The figure landed high above him on top of a towering post watching him silently. Ash was in the middle of the pier when he caught movement to his right. It was a split second. He turned quickly sucking in a breath to yell but no sound left his lips. Only blood, as the cold bite of the dagger cut through the skin of his neck and crushed his larynx. Ash could just make out a skull masked figure behind him as his body went limp, the figure caught him laying him down gently. The horrified surprise froze to Ash’s face as he stared into the eyes of a dreadful skull mask. It even had the usual sinister grin of a skull carved in it. Ash remembered his dream but could not speak anymore just gasped in horror.

“Where is it?” asked the thug. Speaking through the mask gave his voice an unearthly timber. Ash feebly attempted to prevent him from stealing the elixir even as his life’s blood spurted from his wound. The assassin pulled out the potion and Ash used the last of his failing strength to grab his wrist. “I don’t need this you fool.” The man shook the boy's hand off and it landed in a puddle with a lifeless splash. He threw the potion behind him and continued his rummaging inside the coat. A few moments later he stood up having found what he was looking for. A medal. A round pendant, the size of his palm, hanging on a leather string. It had been a gift from his mother. She found it at the river, the current often washed up junk from the aristocrats’ district. Their junk was treasure to many. Ash was not too fond of it but kept it to please his mother. He eventually got used to it so it stuck with him. It had a few old runes on it. The assassin held it high and murmured the syllables as the old witch had taught him and the runes suddenly flared with a purple light.


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