Hex Immortal: Between Revolution’s Wings (Book 1, Part 1)
Chapter the First: A Journey in the Key of Death
CHAPTER THE FIRST:
A JOURNEY IN THE KEY OF DEATH
Year of our Lord: Eighteen ninety
Time: Four o’ clock in the afternoon
A deceptive noise traveled through the air. It appeared to only sound like thumping, but there was actually more to it than that. It was the footsteps of six people walking side by side on an old dirt road. They were dressed in black clothes and cloaks with hoods attached to them. The hoods were covering their heads and most of their faces right now. A concealed sword and sheath rested at each of their sides. To the left and right of them was a forest of mighty oak trees. They were playgrounds for one’s imagination as to what could have been lurking inside them.
It was late in the afternoon, so the sun was beginning to set. It still managed to bestow its bounty of light upon the world nonetheless. A few clouds in the sky quietly watched them with an almost obsessive interest. There was also the faint sound of a stream, which was somewhere deep within the forest. As they were walking, one of them noticed something on the right side of the road. He stopped to look at it while the other kept on moving. He whistled to the others and then they headed over to where he was. Once they got close enough, they looked at the carving too. It was some words and they said “In nature there are predators…and there is prey.”
They scrunched their eyebrows a little and looked at each other. Then they looked around for more carvings but couldn’t find any. They figured it wasn’t important anyway, so they headed back to the road and continued on their way.
Not long after, a man stepped out from the left side of the woods. He walked onto the road and then turned to face them. He was stout, had a rugged appearance, and his clothes were tattered. There was also this unsettling twinkle in his eyes. The group of men could see him, but they were too far away to make out any of his details.
“Why, hello there,” said the man as he clapped his hands together. “I noticed you read my message. As you may already know, predators and prey can come in many forms. In this case you’re the latter.”
He then removed his sword from his sheath and pointed it at them.
“I know this because I’m your predator,” he said. “Oh excuse me, I mean I’m one of your predators.”
He snapped his fingers and seven more men emerged from the woods. They were all different shapes and sizes, but looked like rejects from the lowest pits of Hell. Their clothes were battered and they looked homely. The most interesting thing about them though was their grimaces. They removed their swords from their sheaths as they walked.
“I’d like to introduce you all to my men,” he said. “We’ve been together for quite some time now. I’d say…two years. During our time together, we’ve killed and robbed our fair share of people. We wish we could tell you the exact number, but we’ve lost track. I guess you could say we have some experience in this particular ‘industry’.”
The six people didn’t say anything. They just stared at their opponents.
“What?” asked the man. “Don’t any of you have something to say? You’re about to be killed.”
They didn’t respond.
“Are you six mute,” he asked, “or are you just being stubborn?”
The six men still didn’t respond.
“Whatever,” he said. “The reason doesn’t matter. In case you don’t know this, dead men remain silent forever.”
A slight breeze blew through the area and made the cloaks of the six men flutter gently. It also kicked up some dirt and dust from the ground. Then they started to walk back over to the tree with the carving on it. One of them pulled out a throwing knife and began to carve something else into it. The rest of them took turns watching their associate work and keeping an eye on the other group of men. Once he finished, he put his knife away and the six of them went back onto the road.
“Hmm,” said the man as he scratched his chin. “I wasn’t expecting that, but I’m flattered. Now let’s see what you did.”
He started to walk to the tree and gestured for his men to meet him there. When they reached it, they took turns looking at the carving and watching their targets. It now said: “In nature there are predators…and there is prey. Right now, you can either fuck off or we can fuck you up. Pick one.”
The robbers shared a hardy laugh for a while. After a few seconds, their leader spoke.
“You honestly think you can stop us?” he asked. “Don’t be foolish and try to fight us. Just let us make your deaths as quick and painless as possible. That’s the best option you have in this situation. I highly suggest you choose it.”
They then headed back to the road. They positioned themselves side by side, except for the leader. He took his place in front of them and laid his eyes upon them.
“So,” he asked, “are you ready to tear our victims limb from limb?”
“Yes!” they yelled in unison.
The six warriors just gazed at them without any expressions on their faces. They just emitted thousand-yard stares. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a little stone. He held it up so they could see it.
“I’d like to introduce you all to the item,” he said, “that’ll start your destruction. I’m going to throw this skyward and when it comes back to the ground, you’re going to die. Do you understand?”
Again, they said nothing. They shook their heads up and down to show compliance instead.
“Good,” he said, “you’re fast learners. I also must commend you all on how nonchalant you’re being about this. It’s almost as if you don’t care you’re going to die. Are you ready? Your demises begin…”
He lowered his arm and then flung it high into the sky. Everybody watched it with immense anticipation. It wasn’t that sunny outside, so they could see it rather easily. Time was now appearing to crawl at an unbearably slow pace. After a few seconds, it started its decent. As their eyes stayed fixated on it, it hit the ground and bounced around a little before stopping. Then they looked at each other in a void of silence.
“…now!” yelled the man.
One of them charged one of the six warriors with his sword. The thirst for blood was strong within him. When he got within a couple of feet of his target, he raised his sword and swung it down. The warrior stepped to the side and evaded the vicious attack. He then removed his sword from his sheath and plunged it right into the mugger’s chest. It went into his heart and then out the other side of his body. The man wiggled around on the sword for a few seconds, but then went limp. The warrior tried to pull it out, but to no avail. He then lifted his leg and pushed the corpse off it. The body hit the ground and blood started to ooze out of the wound.
“Shit!” yelled the leader of the muggers. “I’ll see you rot in Hell for this!”
He then looked around at his men.
“I want their bodies unrecognizable!” he screamed.
All the muggers ran towards the six warriors in one fantastical charge. The six warriors just stood there watching them get closer. They were so focused on their opponents they appeared to be running in slow motion. Once the hellhounds got within proximity, the rest of them drew their swords for battle.
One of the muggers flung his sword down at one of them. The warrior blocked his attack with a horizontal slash. Then they kept their weapons locked and pushed on each other’s to break their stance. The will to hold their ground was evident in their eyes as they looked at each other. Then the warrior quickly cocked his head back and thrust it right into the mugger’s face. The bone in his nose made a horrid sound as it cracked in half.
“Ahhhh!” he yelled as he stumbled backward with blood gushing from it.
The warrior positioned the tip of his sword at the man’s neck. With a mighty thrust, he sent it through the area until it came out the other end. The man’s spine was severed so he died instantly. Then the warrior pulled his sword out of him and he fell to the ground on his stomach. Blood continued to leak out of his nose and neck wounds.
During this, another one of the six warriors was fighting another one of the muggers. Their adrenaline was rising higher with every passing second. This made their attacks harder and faster.
“Come on and die already!” yelled the mugger.
He did a horizontal slash but the warrior ducked under it. He stood back up and then circled behind him. He pulled out his sheath and horizontally swung it at a spot right below the man’s neck. It connected and broke his spine in two. The mugger died instantly and toppled over onto the ground like a ragdoll.
Another mugger tripped over the body of the second mugger who was killed. He fell onto his left side. All of a sudden, one of the warriors shoved his sword right through his neck and into the ground. A stream of blood began to flow out of his mouth like a red waterfall. He then pulled it out. The mugger’s head moved up with it until the sword came out. Then it fell back to the ground with a small thud.
“These guys are really good,” the leader thought. “I underestimated them.”
He looked around at the remainder of his men.
“Keep on fighting!” he yelled. “We can defeat them!”
Somebody crashed into his back from out of nowhere. It knocked him down onto his side. He then looked at the person who collided with him. It was the lifeless body of one of his men with a wound on the front and back of his head. A few seconds later, he shifted his eyes towards the fighter who disposed of him. He was standing a couple of feet away from the body, looking at him as well.
“Damn you!” screamed the leader. “Damn you all to Hell!”
He stood up and tried to impale the warrior with his sword. He stepped to his right side and slammed his sword down onto the leader’s one. It went into the ground. Then the warrior raised his leg and did a forward kick at the leader’s chest. It knocked him back a little.
“Now you’re just playing with me,” he said.
He then lunged at him.
While this was going on, another mugger was engaging another one of the six warriors.
“You’re so dead you asshole,” said the mugger as he was swinging his sword at him.
He was easily evading the random slashes of the mugger’s sword. In between one of his attacks, he pulled out his sheath and smashed it into his face.
“Ahhh!” he yelled in pain as he spun around.
When he finally turned all the way around, the warrior put his sword right up to his neck. Then with a confident grin, he dragged it horizontally across it. Blood began to pour out of his wound, so he put his hands over it as he fell to his knees. Not long after, he fell to the ground on his stomach like a stone.
Meanwhile, the leader kept swinging his sword like a madman at the warrior. The warrior was able to block every one of his attacks though.
The leader paused after one of his swings, so the warrior went for a decapitation strike. However, he rolled underneath it and stood back up.
“Fall back!” he yelled to the last remaining member of his group.
They ran the other way as dust shot into the air. Once they were far enough away from their opponents, they came to a halt.
“Should we just get the fuck out of here?” asked the man.
“No,” said the leader. “We have to accomplish our mission. We also have to avenge our fallen comrades.”
The other man thought about this for a moment.
“You’re right,” he said. “So, how do you plan on doing this?”
“Okay,” said the leader as he looked right into his eyes, “this is what we’re going to do. You…”
A sword flew right through the man’s head. Blood exploded out of the exit wound onto the leader’s face. There was also some brain matter on the tip of the sword. The leader just looked at him with a horrified expression on his face. Just seconds ago his comrade exhibited the flame of life…and now it was gone. It had been extinguished without mercy. The mugger fell backward onto the ground and then the leader wiped the blood off his face. He took at it before flicking it off. With fire in his eyes now, he laid them upon the warriors.
“You killed all my men!” he screamed.
They just stood there silently and looked at him without any expressions on their faces. There was no need for them to say anything because their actions said it all.
“Even if I can’t kill one of you,” he screamed, “I’ll sure as hell try!”
He grabbed the sword in his comrade’s head and pulled it out.
One of the warriors then flew at him with impeccable speed. The warrior swung his sword at him, but he crossed his two swords together and blocked it. The warrior then lifted his leg and kicked his knee.
“Crap!” he yelled as he lowered his swords and fell onto his other one.
The warrior raised his sword and flung it down to cut his head in half. However, the leader blocked it with his swords. The warrior then hit him in the head with his knee. The leader yelled in pain as he dropped his swords and flew onto his back. The warrior went up to him and put his foot on his throat. Then he pressed down on it. Once again the leader yelled in pain.
“I don’t know who in the hell you guys are or where you come from,” said the leader as he looked at him, “but I do know this. I won’t die this easily. You’re going to have to do much better than this.”
He grabbed the warrior’s foot and pushed it upward with all of his force. He jumped back to prevent himself from losing his balance. The leader quickly grabbed one of the swords and sat up. Then he tried to stab him with it. The warrior parried the attack and then cut off the leader’s hand. The dismembered body part fell to the ground along with the sword.
“Ahhh!” yelled the leader as he looked at his injured arm.
The warrior then took his sword and decapitated him. However, he did it so fast the leader’s head remained on his body for a few moments. Then it fell off and hit the ground. Next, his body fell over and it landed on his head. Blood started to flow from his wounds like how a fine wine starts to flow after its bottle has been opened.
The warrior who threw his sword through the mugger’s head went up to the leader’s body and reclaimed it. Then the six warriors walked off the road and went into the woods to find the stream. Once they found it, they rinsed the blood off themselves and their weapons. Then they went back onto the road and cleared the bodies off it. This was one of those times where they thought being courteous to others was the right thing to do. Afterwards, they basked in their newfound victory while resuming their trek to the city of Vallone.
POEM THE FIRST:
THE ROAD OF DEATH
On the road of death they walked
With ears paying close attention, no one talked
Then men of evil entered my friend
All of them did meet their end
Chapter the Second: Set the Stage on Fire
CHAPTER THE SECOND:
SET THE STAGE ON FIRE
Eventually they reached the main entrance to the city. The sun was now a little lower in the sky, but there was still enough light for them to see. They left the forest a while back and were in a mostly open area now. It was a nice change of pace from the claustrophobic feeling of the previous landscape.
When they reached the entrance to the city, they noticed something. They walked up to it to get a better look. It was a wooden sign nailed into a wooden post, and it was sticking out of the ground. The name of the city was written in calligraphy using black ink. The person responsible for it was an exceptional calligraphist because its beauty was beyond words. They admired it for a moment and then started walking again.
“We finally made it to Vallone,” said the first who crossed the threshold.
He pulled down his hood so his whole head was revealed. The disappearing sun’s rays beat down on his wavy light blonde hair. Everyone else did the same.
“This looks like a quaint little town,” said another one of them.
“So,” asked one of them, “how are we going to start looking for the Tablet of Omainu? We don’t know its exact location. All we know is it’s somewhere in this city.”
“Yeah,” said another one.
“We’re just going to have to ask people if they know where it is,” said the first one who stepped into the city. “We’ll split up so we can cover more ground. After an hour, we’ll meet back here. It’s our only choice.”
Unknown to them, an elderly man and woman were watching them from a distance. Then they began to talk amongst themselves.
“They have swords,” said the woman. “They can’t have those here. Should we tell them that?”
“No,” said the man. “They could be some of ‘them’. It’d be best to just leave them alone.”
“I don’t know,” said the woman. “They don’t look familiar.”
“They could be new,” said the man. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”
They quietly walked away from them.
The group of men agreed to this plan and then headed in separate directions. As they walked through it, they took in the scenery.
The city was mid-sized and had an old-world charm to it. It was a melting pot of rural and urban architecture. They found the style very intriguing.
In the middle of it were apartments and various stores with space in between them. This gave the citizens a sense of privacy they cherished. They all seemed to be made out of wood and plain to the eye. Only some of them were painted and the colors were faded. This made it hard for the group of men to tell one building from the next. They also noticed other people having the same problem.
Then they turned their attention to the outskirts of the city. They saw some plain looking townhouses with wooden sidewalks in front. There were also fields stuffed with crops next to some of them.
School and work were over with for the day, so a lot of people were roaming around now. The kids ran and played with each other while the adults talked with each other. The whole scene was like a living painting created by God.
As one of them was walking down a sidewalk, he noticed two attractive women talking to each other in front of a store. He casually strolled up to them. They saw him coming, but they didn’t see his sword because his cloak was covering it. Therefore, they didn’t think he had one so they acted accordingly.
“Well, hello there handsome,” said one of the women as they noticed him coming their way.
“What can we do for you?” asked the other one.
“I have a question,” he said. “Maybe you two can answer it for me, if you’ll be so kind.”
“Why sure,” said the first one. “What is it?”
“I was wondering if you know anything about an object called the ‘Tablet of Omainu’?” he asked.
Another one of the six was walking past a store on his right side. He noticed a ladder up against the wall with an older looking man on it. He was repainting a spot next to a window. As he did this, he accidentally dropped the brush.
“Damn it,” he said. “I’m too old for this crap.”
He then turned around and looked down at ground. After a moment, he found it. However, the ladder started to tip backward because he put it too close to the wall.
“Oh shit!” he exclaimed.
He turned back around and grabbed the ladder as tightly as he could. There was nothing else he could do. Acting quickly, the man on the ground ran up to it and pushed it back against the wall. The man on the ladder looked down at his savior. He saw something on the man’s waist for a second before he draped his cloak over it. It looked like a sword handle to him, but he quickly ignored such a thought. Since swords were banned in the city, the chances of it being one were low. He figured it was just his eyes playing a trick on him.
“Thank you,” he said. “If you didn’t help me, I could have ended up in bad shape.”
“You’re welcome,” he said.
“If there’s anything I can do to repay you,” he said, “please tell me. I’d be glad to do it.”
“Normally I don’t seek rewards for things like this,” he said, “but in this case, I will. I was wondering if you could answer a question for me.”
“Are you sure that’s all you want?” he asked.
The man on the ground nodded his head.
“Okay then,” he said. “What do you want to know?”
“Have you heard of the Tablet of Omainu?” he asked. “And if you have, do you know its whereabouts?”
After an hour of asking around about the tablet, they started to come back to the city’s entrance. One by one, they showed up until they all were there. They were filled with anticipation about what information the others had gathered.
“So,” asked the first one who stepped into the city, “did any of you get anything on the tablet?”
“Some of the people I asked knew it was real,” said another one, “but didn’t know where it was. However, most of them just thought it was a legend.”
Everyone else said similar things. It seemed their intelligence gathering had been a failure.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” said the first one who entered the city. “It’s not a very well known artifact. I guess we’ll just continue the search tomorrow. We’ve been traveling for quite some time, so I think we should find a place to rest for a bit. We can use it as our base of operations too. Did any of you see any inns while we were scouring for information earlier?”
“No,” they answered.
“Then we need to find somebody who does,” said the same person. “This is a city so there should be one around here somewhere.”
“Yeah,” said another one, “and if it’s far away, we’ll probably want a ride there too. I don’t think any of us wants to walk anymore.”
“Then I’m your man gents,” said a voice.
They looked at each other for a moment and then turned around. Behind them was a horse drawn carriage with two brown horses connected to the front of it. There was also a burly looking man sitting on a perch behind them. Tightly in his hands were some reins.
“I know one and it has a good reputation,” he said. “I can get you there with no problem. Climb aboard.”
“Thanks,” said one of them.
They walked around to the back of the coach and climbed into the back. There was a wooden bench on each side of the interior. Each of them plopped down on one. Normally, these seats wouldn’t feel comfortable to them. But at this moment in time, they did. After any kind of physical labor, being able to relax in any manner was a divine pleasure they greatly cherished.
“And we’re off,” said the driver as he snapped the reins.
They started to head east. It was a rickety ride because the roads weren’t paved that well. The men jostled around in their seats.
“This is like having sex,” said one of them to another, “except without the woman, or in your case, the man.”
“Do you want me to stick my foot so far up your ass,” he quipped, “I’ll be able to use your head as a shoe?”
“That wouldn’t even work,” he said. “My head would be too big.”
“You’re wrong,” said a third one. “It’d be too small. You don’t need much room for what you’re carrying in there.”
Everybody laughed again.
“Calm down,” said the one the insult was directed at. “It wasn’t that funny. It was only mildly humorous.”
“No it wasn’t,” said another one. “It was absolutely hilarious.”
“Fine,” said the one the insult was directed at. “It was sidesplitting, but can we just move on?”
A couple minutes later they came up to a magnificent fountain on the left side of them. They gazed at it with great curiosity and wonder as they passed it. Then they moved their attention to the statue of a man in the center of it. None of them recognized him though. He was standing on a circular platform with holes around it. Crystal clear water was shooting out of them into a marble pool below. There was a sense of elegance about it, but also a sense of power.
“Excuse me driver,” said one of them. “How close are we to the inn?”
“I reckon about a half-a-block or so,” he said.
“Can we get off here?” he asked.
“Sure,” he said.
He stopped the carriage.
“Here you go,” he said.
“What do we owe you?” he asked.
“Uh…five griveers,” he said.
“I’m curious,” he said. “How do you figure out how much a passenger owes you?”
“To be honest,” said the driver, “I just make an educated guess, that’s all.”
Then he noticed the sword resting at his side. Suddenly he took a deep breath.
“Actually,” he said. “You don’t owe me anything. It’s on me.”
“Are you sure?” he asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. Now off you go.”
The six of them climbed out the back of the coach. The driver then snapped the reins and they watched him as he rode off.
“Good thing I caught myself,” he thought. “That could have been a trap. If it was and I fell for it, who knows what could have happened to me.”
Meanwhile, the six men were still standing around.
“That was really strange,” said one of them.
“Yeah,” said another one, “tell me about it.”
“Okay,” said a third one, “let’s get a closer look at that statue.”
They began to walk towards it.
“I wonder who the statue represents,” said one of them.
“Me too,” said another one. “I hope there’s something on it that’ll tell us.”
They finally reached it and then looked for something that would tell them that information. They looked all over but couldn’t find anything. However, they did find something else. It was an engraving at the base of the platform and it said: “I am everything. You are nothing.”
“That’s a very interesting saying,” said one of them.
“Okay,” said the first one who entered the city, “that’s enough sightseeing. Let’s continue to the inn.”
They started to walk in the direction of it. On the way there, one of them noticed a store.
It was a small building that stood in between two others. It was made out of gray round stones and had a cedar wooden door right in its center. There was a small bell above the door and a sign above that. It said “The Dark Zethen” written crudely in black ink. On each side of the door was a small window that showcased obscure and exotic items.
“Hey guys,” he said. “Wait a minute.”
Everyone stopped walking.
“We should inquire about the tablet here,” he said as he pointed at the shop. “It looks like it sells those kinds of items.”
“Okay,” said the one who entered the city first, “but this is going to be our last stop before the inn. We have to get some rest.”
The person who led this trip went up to the door and opened it. As the door swung outward, the bell rang. He then went inside, while the others followed suit.
They walked around the rectangular room and scanned all the shelves. One rested against each wall and there were also some in the middle. They saw a wide assortment of wonders from across the land sitting on them. There were trinkets and knickknacks just to name a few. Each of them yearned for a home, but the ominous vibe of the store made that impossible. Then they noticed that the light grew dimmer as it traveled to the back of the shop. They thought about the surprises that could be waiting for them in this pocket of darkness.
“Welcome strangers,” said a man’s voice.
The six of them shifted their eyes to the back of the room. They saw an old man sitting on a wooden stool with three lit candles on a counter in front of him. He was not much taller than the stool he sat upon. The flames next to him danced around in a hypnotic state like they were possessed by spirits.
“My name is Potav,” he said. “I’m the proprietor of this fine establishment.”
Then he saw their swords and took a big gulp. A painful memory began to flood his mind, but he quickly cast it aside. He continued to act as if he didn’t know they had them.
“The name of your little shop is pretty mysterious sounding,” said one of the men as he was looking at a stone figurine on a shelf. “Is the word ‘zethen’ a real word, or is it a made up one?”
“It’s made up,” said Potav. “I wanted to come up with a word that sounded mysterious. Now, at the risk of sounding arrogant, I think I accomplished that. Would you agree?”
“Yes,” he said. “By the way, does it have a meaning?”
“Not at all,” said Potav. “It’s just a word and nothing more.”
His small narrow eyes shifted from him to another one. This man was holding a necklace up to his face. He was studying it intensely.
The first one into the city began to walk up to Potav. He did this slowly, but with great power and confidence.
“We come with a question,” he said.
Potav moved his eyes to him and stared. It was as if he was looking right through him and at something else. After a few seconds, the person stopped walking.
“We were wondering if you knew anything about a little object called the ‘Tablet of Omainu’,” he said.
The other five warriors stopped what they were doing and went up behind him.
“The Tablet of Omainu?” asked Potav. “I know what that is, but could you please tell me why you’re asking me about it.”
“So,” he asked, “you have heard of it? To answer your question, we noticed your shop and saw it sold items similar in nature. We just figured we’d have better luck getting information about it from somebody who worked here.”
“You have good reasoning,” said Potav. “I commend that.”
“Thanks,” he said. “Now I have another question for you. Do you believe the Tablet of Omainu is real or just a myth?”
“Of course I believe it’s real,” said Potav. “In fact, I know it is. I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. But who are you six and why are you interested in something like that?”
“I am Tearthis,” said the first one.
“I am Dragus,” said the second one.
“I am Artain,” said the third one.
“I am Mondren,” said the fourth one as he scratched his reddish brown dreadlocks with his right hand.
“I am Nios,” said the fifth one.
“And I am Rykarn,” said the sixth one.
“Those are our names as individuals,” said Tearthis. “As a team, we’re called Hex Immortal. Our pasts as individuals wanting to do what’s right have brought us together in the present to amplify that ideal. Hopefully our future, or futures, will tread on similar tides.”
“Yeah,” muttered Rykarn as he rolled his eyes, “let’s end on a note of uncertainty. That’s comforting.”
“How very interesting,” said Potav as he rubbed his chin. “However, that doesn’t answer my second question.”
“We’ve heard about it,” said Mondren, “and our mission is to get it in our possession so nobody can use its evil power. We don’t want to see this world come to an end.”
“That’s an extremely noble thing of you to do,” said Potav. “There are a lot of people out there who wouldn’t even think of taking on a task this dangerous. You’re a very special breed, aren’t you?”
“Thank you,” responded Mondren. “We’re just very idealistic individuals; that’s all.”
“And modest too,” said Potav. “Modesty is a good quality to have.”
He lifted his left hand up to his mouth and coughed.
“I suppose you should be told where it is then,” he said.
“Yeah,” said Dragus, “and it seems like you know where it is. Am I correct?”
“Yes,” he said, “but may I ask how you figured that out?”
“I could tell by the way you said your statement about telling us its location,” said Dragus.
“I could never keep information from others,” said Potav. “I always end up giving it away somehow. It’s one of my traits I’m not proud of.”
He slowly took his feet off the rungs on his stool and put them on the ground.
“The Tablet of Omainu,” he said as he slowly stood up, “currently rests in the hands of our government.”
He’d been sitting for so long it was a delight for him to be standing again.
“Why would your government have it?” asked Tearthis as his gray eyes froze in their place.
“Because it isn’t too fond of freedom,” said Potav. “You see, it’s a dictatorship and the person at the helm of it is Contanis. He and his followers want to use it in their quest for power. Six years ago, they appeared in our town without warning. For awhile they just acted normally like everybody else. Then one day they overthrew our government with a swift act of violence. After that, they went after our police force and completely obliterated that as well. No one from either of those groups was spared. Then they replaced everybody in those groups with themselves so there wasn’t any opposition. I have no idea how long they were here before they attacked us. This however I do know. Ever since that day, our lives have been an absolute nightmare.”
The flames of the candles next to him no longer gave the impression of dancing. Now they gave the impression of crying. It was as if they could feel his pain.
“They control this city with an iron grasp,” he continued. “One of the first things they did was confiscate all our weapons. They didn’t want us to be able to defend ourselves anymore. Either they were destroyed or kept by them. However, they allow us have tools we need for work. They also outlawed all religions. The idea of people believing in anything above them doesn’t suit them. They see themselves as the supreme rulers of us with Contanis at the top. I swear sometimes they really believe they’re gods.”
Hex Immortal just looked at him, listening attentively while trying to comprehend the situation he described in the back of their minds. They never liked to get involved in something they didn’t fully understand. Doing so could cause them very serious problems.
“Not only that, they impose a great number of heavy taxes on us,” he said. “They see the money we earn as their property. Then they use it to fund their totalitarian endeavors. There’s still more though. They impose food quotas on us. At specific times they come and demand particular amounts of certain foods. If any one of us is caught not following the rules, we’ll suffer ghastly consequences. It doesn’t matter why we did it; all that matters is we did it.”
“It sounds like we’re dealing with some despotic fucks,” said Dragus.
“Damn right,” said Potav. “After they settled in and explained to us how our city was going to operate from then on, they discovered my shop. Then Contanis and Kotlor, his second in command, asked me about the tablet like you guys. But instead of asking where it was, they wanted to know how to activate it. You see, they already had it. I can’t tell you when though because I don’t know. Anyway, they demanded I tell them how to do it or they’d force it out of me. I was honest with them and said I didn’t know how, but they didn’t believe me.”
Then he turned away with a disgusted look on his face. It was like he wouldn’t be able to tell them the rest of his tale. However, he overcame his sensitivity a couple of seconds later and turned back to face them.
“Therefore, they tried to beat it out of me,” he continued. “They did it in this very room, and some my merchandise was destroyed in the process. After a few hours, they finally decided I wasn’t lying and stopped. Then they just left in disgust. Luckily I didn’t suffer any permanent damage. Well, some of the townspeople were kind enough to help me fix up my shop. They also gave me some money and items to sell. God bless them.”
Then Rykarn had a realization.
“I have a question,” he said. “We saw a fountain in the city earlier today and there was a statue in the center of it. Is the statue of Contanis?”
“You’re correct,” said Potav. “He hired a sculptor from another village to make it for him five years ago. However, I never learned what his name was or even where he came from. Anyway, it’s a testament to our oppression.”
“Haven’t you ever tried to take him and his minions down?” asked Nios.
“We did once,” said Potav, “but failed miserably. A year after our city was taken over, a bunch of villagers banded together and tried to stage a coup d’état against them. They used weapons they hid from them as well as tools. However, Contanis and his followers killed them all. They either died in battle or were captured and executed. Even those who were connected to it in other ways were sentenced to death.”
A bird then flew over the store and interrupted Potav with a couple chirps. It was almost as if it was letting the town below know it wasn’t bound to the nightmare it was. Whether it was mocking them or not, no one knew.
“We’ve officially named that day ‘The Day of the Great Contention’,” he continued. “Now on every anniversary of it, we mourn those who tried to free this city from the stranglehold of this government. We have to do it in secrecy though because Contanis banned it. Anything that honors something that defies him and his régime isn’t allowed. If anybody is caught acknowledging it, they’ll face the same consequences. Someday we’d like to build a memorial in their honor, if that’s ever possible. Now that I think about it the anniversary is tomorrow.”
“Where’s the compound located?” asked Tearthis.
“It’s on the outskirts of the city next to the river,” said Potav. “It’s to the east of this location.”
Tearthis took a deep breath. He, along with his friends, now had all the information they needed.
“Could you excuse us for a second?” he asked. “My friends and I need to discuss something.”
“Go right ahead,” said Potav. “I don’t mind.”
The others walked over to Tearthis and then they got into circle.
“Ah, a circular formation,” thought Potav. “This is just like how people of years past would discuss important matters.”
They then began to speak softly to one another.
Potav could hear them, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Nonetheless he watched them vigilantly. This whole situation intrigued him. In fact, it actually intrigued him more than his own merchandise. It made him feel odd because that never happened before. After a few more seconds, the room became silent again. Tearthis then looked at him.
“We’ve discussed your city’s predicament thoroughly,” he said, “and we’ve come to a decision. We’ll take down your government and get the Tablet of Omainu. Your government is already too powerful. The last thing you need is for it to have even more power.”
Potav couldn’t believe what he had just heard.
“So that’s what they were talking about,” he thought.
Then he began to think about a how a ragtag group of six men could bring down Contanis. He wanted to know if such a thing was possible. After a few seconds, he eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t. This whole situation just got even more bizarre than it already was. Nevertheless he agreed with them.
“I’m happy you all feel that way,” he said, “but how are you going to do that? You’re just six men. Destroying them would be damn near impossible. They’re a highly skilled group of fighters. If you attack them, they’ll slaughter you. It’s suicide.”
“We’ll do our best,” said Tearthis. “Thanks for the information.”
They turned around and walked out of the shop in single file.
“I wish you God’s speed Hex Immortal,” said Potav to himself. “The future of our city as well as the world depends on you.”
Then he walked over to a shelf near the left wall. He pulled a rag out of his right pocket and began to clean it.
At interim, another event was taking place. A man was dragging a woman by her long brown hair on an old dirt road. Since she was being dragged on her back, her white long sleeve shirt and brown pants became dirtier by the moment. She was also able to peer into the sky. Even though she was afraid right now, she was still able to admire its true beauty. He was taking her to the government’s compound. Since they were close to it, nobody else was around. Everybody in the city liked to keep their distance from it.
“Stop!” she yelled. “Let me go!”
“Shut up you stupid cunt!” he yelled back.
He was much stronger than her, so her chances of escaping were earth shatteringly low. As he pulled her across the ground, she continued to scream. Then she grabbed his right ankle just as he was about to move that foot. He tripped and fell onto the ground. This also made him left go of her hair. She climbed back onto her feet and started to run away.
“Damn it,” he said.
He climbed back onto his feet as well and turned around.
“It’s useless!” he yelled. “You won’t get away!”
He started to chase after her with all the strength he had. Catching and subduing her as fast as possible was his top priority now.
“Help!” she yelled as she ran. “Please help me!”
Her cries went unanswered because they were the only people in the area. Even if there were others around, it wouldn’t have done any good. People certainly would have heard her, but they would have been too scared to do anything.
As for the man, he quickly caught up to her. Once he got close enough he grabbed the back of her shirt. She struggled to break free but it was no use.
“How dare you make me look like a fool, you little bitch,” he said.
He was really pissed. He hated it when his plans didn’t go smoothly.
“Let me go you bastard!” she yelled.
“Compliments will get you nowhere,” he said.
Then he turned her around and did a right hook to her face. She instantly fell to the ground, but was still conscious. She was just a little stunned.
“I told you, you wouldn’t get away,” he said. “Now listen to me very carefully. If you try to escape one more time, I’ll make this whole situation worse for you. Yes, you heard me right. I can make this situation worse. Now let’s get going, you little slut. You’ve wasted enough of my time.”
He bent down and grabbed her hair again. Then he started to drag her just like before. A few minutes later, they reached the front of the rectangular stone wall for the compound. In the center of it was an oak door. A few seconds later, a small piece of wood on it slid to the left. A man’s face was behind it and he looked agitated.
“What’s with all the noise?” he asked as he looked around.
Then he saw who was by the door.
“Oh, it’s you Kotlor,” said the man.
“Greetings Balaz,” said Kotlor.
Balaz closed the opening. All of a sudden, the door opened from the inside. He walked in while still dragging the woman by her hair. She continued to scream.
“What’s with the broad?” asked Balaz.
“There’s a small incident that must be attended to,” said Kotlor.
“What happened?” asked Balaz.
He explained the situation to him. Then Balaz kicked her in the back and she screamed again.
“Thank you for the thoughtful gesture,” said Kotlor.
He started to drag her again while Balaz closed the door and locked it. They went through the courtyard to the main building. When they reached it, he took her up to the fourth floor and into the throne room. He let go of her and she continued to lie on the ground. Now she was sobbing and it echoed softly throughout the room.
This room was one of the biggest in the building. All its light came in through the six windows stationed on the right wall. Kotlor enjoyed looking out of them because they allowed him to view his empire. There were also brass torches along the walls. However, they weren’t lit because there was still enough sunlight coming in. This would change in the next couple hours though.
“Kotlor, “asked a man’s voice, “what brings you here?”
He was sitting upon a huge marble throne. Each armrest had a sword lying on it, while a dragon’s head rested at the top of it. It was carved so exquisitely a glance at it would give the impression it was real. It was as if the dragon’s head was there to protect him from any danger that may arise.
Kotlor then kicked her in the stomach.
“Ah!” she yelped in pain.
“Overlord Contanis,” he said, “this wench has been hiding food from us. I discovered a secret stash under the floorboards in her house. Here it is.”
He dropped a bag onto the ground. Inside it were rice balls, meat, and vegetables.
“Woman,” asked Contanis, “is what Kotlor says the truth? Have you been withholding food from us?”
Even though he asked her these questions, he knew Kotlor was telling the truth because he was extremely loyal to him. He just asked them because he was interested in what she had to say about it.
The woman knew if she told him Kotlor lied, he wouldn’t believe her and kill her. She also knew if she told him it was true, he’d still kill her. Therefore, she decided her best option was to try and get sympathy from him. Then she would try to strike a deal with him. She felt if she could do at least one of those two things, he might let her live. This was certainly better than falling prey to the cold hands of death.
“Yes,” she whimpered as she continued to lie on the ground, “but I needed it for me and my children. The amount we’re allowed to keep is barely enough. If you spare me, I’ll give you the food I owe you now along with the food I’ll owe you next time. That way you’ll get everything you’re supposed to get. I’ll also throw in some money to make up for the trouble I’ve caused you. I promise to never do it again. I swear.”
“That’s a pretty tempting offer,” said Contanis as he leaned back on his throne. “However, you must be made an example of to the other villagers. That way we can reinforce an important idea: if you fuck us, we’ll fuck you right back.”
“No!” she yelled as she looked up at him. “I beg you! Please don’t!”
“Kotlor,” said Contanis as he stood up from his throne, “get her back onto her feet.”
He grabbed her shirt and yanked her up to her feet. He continued to hold onto her shirt so she couldn’t escape. Unknown to him though, this wasn’t necessary. She was so frightened she couldn’t move, let alone escape. In fact, she was so scared, she didn’t even know if she could continue standing.
“Now strip her of her clothes,” said Contanis as he removed the sword from the right armrest.
He pulled her shirt off and then flung it to the side.
“Stop it!” she yelled.
He then did the same to her white brassiere.
“Okay,” said Koltor. “We’re halfway there.”
He threw her to the ground. Then he grabbed her pants and took them off.
“Please have mercy!” she yelled.
Next he took her underwear off. Now she was fully exposed. Even though he didn’t rape her, she still thought of it as such. He just raped her dignity instead of her body. To her, it was just splitting hairs.
“Good,” said Kotlor. “You’re now ready for your punishment.”
He grabbed her right arm and got her on her feet again. Then he put his right arm across her throat and pressed her back against him. His grasp was so tight she couldn’t move or make any sounds. All she could do was look straight ahead into doom.
Contanis descended the steps of his throne and walked up to them. Then he gazed into her sky blue eyes. He could see the fear in them. This brought him a feeling of excitement.
“I can’t guarantee much in this world,” he said to her, “but I can guarantee this: what I’m about to do to you will hurt…a lot. It’s really quite a shame though because you’re a very attractive woman.”
He gently caressed her left cheek. She could sense coldness, but it wasn’t coming from his hand. Then he shifted his eyes to Kotlor.
“Turn her around,” he said, “and lift her off her feet.”
Kotlor followed his orders.
“Listen you whore,” said Contanis. “Let this teach you that you shouldn’t defy the will of your government.”
He raised his sword and pointed its tip at her hindquarters. Then he brought it back before thrusting it into her opening. Her eyes looked like they were about to bulge right out of her head. She screamed louder than she ever had before. The sword cut through her insides, causing massive internal bleeding. Blood began to drip out of her mouth and the opening of her posterior.
Kotlor dropped her to the floor. She was still alive, so he began to gasp as she made some subtle motions with her arms and legs. Then she coughed up a small amount of blood onto the floor.
“Tomorrow Kotlor,” said Contanis, “we can stick her carcass on a spear in the center of the city. It’ll inform the others what their fate will be if they choose to challenge us.”
“I agree,” said Kotlor. “That’ll definitely scare them into submission. Fear is our most valuable weapon.”
Contanis then bent down and pulled the sword out of her. She screamed again in agony. He put it up to his face and examined it. There was blood and excrement on it.
“Kotlor,” he said, “bring me a towel so I can clean this off.”
He walked out of the throne room and came back with a towel a few seconds later.
“Here you are my overlord,” he said as he handed it to him.
“You’re a good soldier,” he said as he began to wipe off his sword with it. “You’re very loyal to me. I can always trust you to do what’s necessary.”
“Well,” he said, “you know what you’re doing. You opened up a whole new realm to me, which turned out to be true. You saved me from myself. If you didn’t do that, I could have been this very person on the ground right now. I’m proud to call you my overlord.”
Contanis finished cleaning his sword and handed the towel back to him. He then walked up to his throne.
“I appreciate that,” he said as he put the sword back in the armrest. “I really do. My duties get stressful sometimes, so it’s nice to have a comrade nearby to help.”
“Well,” asked Kotlor, “what do we do now?”
“It’s like I always say,” he said as he walked back down to him, “pleasure after business. Let’s retire to my chamber for a game of chess.”
They left the throne room.
“You know,” said Kotlor as they walked, “I’ve always wondered why you’re so fond of chess. You seem to play it quite often.”
“Chess is a lot like my life,” Contanis. “I used to be a pawn. I was controlled by all the other pieces. Then one day I said ‘no more’ and rose to the king I am today. Now I control all the other pieces, and it’s only a matter of time and maneuvers before I declare checkmate. How I yearn for that declaration. That moment’s beauty is unimaginable to me.”
A couple minutes later they reached the arched cedar doors to his room. Before they entered, he slid his left hand across the steel capital letters of his name on them.
“I never get tired of seeing my name here,” he said. “Not only does it look magnificent, but it also fills me with…great pride.”
Once he was done, he opened the right one. In the middle of it was a polished steel lock. According to him, no god would be able to penetrate them if there were any. This lair was meant for only one ruler: him.
They walked inside and Kotlor closed the behind him. Privacy was something they strongly encouraged.
Kotlor spotted a wooden table off to the right and went over for a closer look. There were some unlit candles and a chess set on it. All the wooden pieces were in their proper places on the chessboard. On one side they were all painted black while on the other they were painted white. He fixed his eyes on the chess set and lost himself in their handcrafted artistry. This made it hard for anyone to play with them. It was also the reason why they permanently sat out on the table. They deserved nothing less.
Meanwhile, Contanis patrolled his room to make sure everything was in order. There were unlit candles along the walls and two closets in the left corner of the room. The right one held his clothes while the other housed his weapons. On the right side of the room was a fireplace with some remnants of burnt wood in it. At the back of the room was a four-post bed that rested above the floor. Next to it was a cedar table with an unlit candle and knife on top of it.
Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary, so he went over to the table Kotlor was standing next to. He pulled a matchbook from his right pocket. Then he removed a match from it and lit the candles on it.
“Take a seat,” he said. “This is all the light I want. I like the presence of a small amount of light in a dark room. You see, it’s trying to light up the whole room but to no avail. It’s a losing battle. No matter how hard it tries, it can never win.”
“Ah,” said Kotlor, “it’s a fine example of futility. I can appreciate that.”
He sat down and then Contanis did the same.
Now Contanis pulled out a silver steel cigarette holder and a matchbook from his left pocket. After lighting the match, he lit a cigarette. He put the holder away and then the match caught his attention.
“Huh,” he said as he looked at it. “This match is similar to that girl we just dealt with.”
“How so?” asked Kotlor.
“Let me show you,” he said.
He blew on the flame until it went out.
“Do you understand?” he asked as he continued to hold it.
Kotlor just stared at it as the smoke rose from it. After a few seconds, he had the answer.
“You snuffed out the flame, just like how you snuffed out her life,” he said.
“Not bad, but that’s not the whole answer,” he said. “We don’t know if she’s dead or not. If she is, she’s identical to it. If she isn’t, she will be shortly.”
He placed the cigarette in his mouth and sucked in the intoxicating fumes. Then he took it out and blew them into the air.
“I still don’t understand why you smoke,” said Kotlor. “It’s bad for your health.”
“A lot of enjoyable things are,” said Contanis. “Even the ones that don’t seem bad for you can be if you do them enough. Life is about making choices and accepting their consequences. Let’s begin our game now, shall we? You can be white and I can be black.”
“That suits me just fine,” said Kotlor.
While they enjoyed their tainted game, Hex Immortal made their way to the inn. Just like in the eye of a tropical cyclone, they were in the downtime between two battles…and they were going to cherish it.”
“This place better be decent,” said Rykarn as they walked. “I don’t want to stay in some dilapidated piece of crap.”
“Well,” said Tearthis, “the carriage driver said it was good. All we can do is hope he told us the truth.”
“Man,” said Rykarn as he punched his right fist into the palm of his left hand, “I’m going to be pissed off if he didn’t.”
Then Dragus noticed the inn. It was a couple buildings ahead.
“There it is,” he said as he pointed to it.
“Good,” said Artain. “Now we’ll get our answer. If it turns out he lied, at least we can look forward to Rykarn’s meltdown.”
They walked across the main road towards the entrance of the elm two-story building. Above it was a gemstone sign that said “Tranquility Inn”. On the left side of the door was a row of windows with another one above that. Hex Immortal wasn’t able to see inside them though because the blinds were closed. However, they had a hunch they belonged to the rooms people rented.
“So far, this looks nice,” said Mondren. “I hope the inside is as well.”
“Well,” said Artain, “whatever it looks like, it doesn’t matter. We just need a place to stay.”
Dragus started to walk towards the door.
“Hold it,” said Tearthis.
He stopped and turned around.
“What?” he asked.
“I just want to remind you all,” said Tearthis, “there’s no timeframe for how long we’re going to be here. We’ll be here as long as it takes to get the Tablet of Omainu. We’ll also share one room to conserve money because we don’t have that much left. This means we should keep our eyes open for opportunities to makes some more. Of course, we’ll only do that if we have the time. God only knows what’s going to happen while we’re here. Okay, that’s it.”
Dragus turned back around and walked up to the door. He opened it and to their surprise, they were greeted by a pleasant light jingle. They looked up to find a small bell hanging above it. They then walked inside.
The room they entered had a humble interior. They didn’t see any paintings or statues around, but it wasn’t a big deal. All they wanted was a place to sleep, much like the other guests. A gentle warm feeling washed over them and made its way outside. They imagined this intoxicating feeling would also lure all sorts of others into its quarters.
They also noticed the faded blue carpeting on the floor. A musty odor was coming from it, but it only added to the hominess of the inn. On the left side of the room was a counter with rows of hooks and keys hanging on them behind it. However, they weren’t without company.
“Welcome gentlemen,” said a lovely looking woman with warm brown eyes. “My name is Yi and I’m the owner of this hotel.”
This was when she saw the handle of his sword. She started to become nervous.
“Nice to meet you,” said Artain. “We’re weary travelers and we’d like to rent a room for the night. Would you be able to accommodate us?”
She didn’t respond. Her attention was still focused on his sword.
“Miss,” said Artain. “I asked you if we could have a room for tonight. Can you help us?”
Finally she calmed down and shifted her attention back to him.
“Are you okay?” asked Artain.
“Yes,” said Yi. “I’m sorry about that. I’m just tired, that’s all.”
“That’s good to hear,” said Artain. “Now, how about that room?”
“Yes, we can accommodate you,” said Yi. “Are you planning on staying one night or more?”
“Well,” said Tearthis, “to be honest, we’re not sure. We have some business we need to take care of and we don’t know how long it’s going to take. I’m sorry we can’t give you an exact number.”
“That’s quite all right,” said Yi. “I can honestly say I’ve never heard that answer before. Okay, I need just one more piece of information from you. How many rooms would you like?”
“Just one,” said Tearthis.
“Are you sure?” asked Yi. “It’ll be very cramped with six people.”
“Yes,” said Tearthis. “We need to conserve our money.”
“That’s understandable,” said Yi. “Okay, let’s discuss your payment plan now. I have an idea. You could just pay me thirty griveers right now, and then pay the rest when you’re ready to leave. What do you think about that?”
“Good,” said Tearthis. “That works for us.”
He pulled out the money and handed it to her.
“You guys can sign in now,” she said, “and while you’re doing that, I’ll get your room key.”
She turned around and looked at the wall of keys behind her. Each key hung on a hook under the number of the room it belonged to.
“I wouldn’t mind her grabbing my key,” said Mondren under his breath.
Tearthis turned around and gave him a dirty look. His eyes pierced his flesh and went right into his soul. The sharpness of them was unmistakable.
“Just sign in Mondren,” he said forcefully.
He pulled the quill pen out of the ink jar and signed the guestbook. Then one by one the rest of them did the same. While Dragus was waiting for his turn, he found a small silver bell on the counter and picked it up.
“The length of your attention span is embarrassing,” said Nios. “Just be careful with it and don’t make too much noise.”
“Yes ‘Mom’,” said Dragus.
When it was his turn, he put it back.
As this was going on, Yi found the key she was looking for. She grabbed it and turned around.
“Okay,” she said. “You’ll be staying in room thirteen. Since it only has two beds, I’ll bring up some more pillows and blankets for you.”
“That sounds great,” said Artain.
She then handed him the key.
Meanwhile, Nios was signing his name in the book. He was the last one.
After he finished, they headed to the staircase in the right corner of the room. Above it hung an old wooden railing. On the steps were carpeting just like the floor, and the color of it was the same. Unfortunately the odor was too.
“After Yi welcomed us,” said Artain as they walked, “I noticed her eyes drifted away from me to something else. I’m not sure what it was though.”
“She was probably looking at me,” said Dragus sarcastically. “You know I’m quite the stud.”
“You mean ‘dud’,” said Nios sarcastically. “There’s no way a woman as fine as her would be interested in a man as ugly as you.”
“Hey,” said Dragus sarcastically. “I find that offensive.”
“I’m sorry…I can’t help you with that,” said Nios sarcastically. “It’s not offensive to me.”
When they reached the top, they walked through the hallway to find their room. After a while they found it in the corner. Artain went up to the door and unlocked it with the key.
“I wish we could afford more than one room,” said Dragus as they walked into it. “Yi was right about it being cramped in here.”
“I don’t like it either,” said Tearthis, “but like I said before, we don’t have a choice.”
Atrain walked straight ahead to the window and peered down at the ground below. He felt it brought some wonderment from the outside world into a room where it was lacking.
“The view isn’t too bad,” he said. “There isn’t anything blocking it.”
Nios went over to the dresser next to the right bed and touched the clock on it. It reminded him time stops for no man, regardless of where they were. Then he laid his hands on the candles. They reminded him light is the cornerstone of all life. Without light it couldn’t exist.
“Hey,” said Dragus as removed his sword and sheath, “how come you can touch the candles, but I get in trouble for touching the bell?”
He then placed them on the left bed.
“That’s simple,” he said. “My chances of breaking something are a lot lower than yours.”
“That’s a lie,” said Dragus as he sat down next to his sword. “I rarely break things.”
“Sorry Dragus,” said Tearthis as he stood by the closet door, “but Nios is right. You’re not very careful with things.”
He opened the door and looked inside.
“Is there anything in it?” asked Rykarn as he took off his bag.
“No,” said Tearthis.
“Damn,” said Rykarn as put it on the left bed. “I was hoping the previous people who stayed forgot some things.”
Tearthis closed the door. Then Mondren walked up to the right bed and removed his sword and sheath. He placed them next to the wall and then lay down on the bed.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asked Nios.
“I’m lying down on my bed,” said Mondren.
“Why do you think it’s your bed?” asked Nios. “It could be my bed for all you know.”
“No it’s not,” said Mondren. “It’s my bed and I’ll tell you why. It’s mine because I said so.”
“Wrong answer,” said Nios. “You better get off that right now or Dragus and I will make you get off.”
“Okay,” said Mondren. “If you two do get me off, which one of you gets it?”
Nios looked up at the ceiling for a few moments and shifted his eyes around. Then he looked back at Mondren.
“I don’t know because I didn’t think that far ahead,” he said. “Let me get back to you on that.”
“Okay,” said Mondren. “Have fun.”
“It’s nobody’s bed right now,” said Tearthis as he walked up to them. “I’ll determine the sleeping arrangements a little later.”
“This sucks,” said Mondren. “Why do you get to make that decision?”
“Because somebody has to,” said Tearthis.
“Even though your excuse blows,” said Mondren, “I’m not going to fight with you. If I do, you’ll just drag it out until I give up anyway. It’s a waste of time and energy.”
“Thank you,” said Tearthis.
“Knock, knock,” said Yi as she walked up to the open door. “We have your accommodations.”
Then she walked inside with another woman following her. This woman matched Yi in terms of beauty, but her dark brown eyes showed there can be different kinds of it. Just before they came up stairs, Yi told her they were carrying weapons. Even though she wouldn’t be shocked by them now, she was still alarmed by them.
“This is Talez,” said Yi. “She’s my personal assistant. She helps with the housekeeping and various other things around here.”
“Hello,” she said.
They then put the items on the closest bed to them.
“Is there anything else you guys need?” asked Yi.
“Actually there is one more thing,” said Artain. “Where’s the bathroom?”
“We have an outhouse,” said Talez, “and it’s located behind the building.”
“Thank you,” said Artain.
“Now,” asked Yi, “with that question answered, do you have anymore?”
“No,” said Tearthis. “We’re good to go.”
“Splendid,” said Yi, “but if you do come up with anything else, don’t hesitate to ask anybody who works here. We’re here to make our guests’ stays the best we can.”
“We won’t,” said Artain.
“I thank you for choosing our inn and I hope you enjoy your stay,” said Yi.
“I hope you have a wonderful time here too,” said Talez. “Goodbye.”
The two of them began to leave the room.
Before they walked out the door, Artain had a revelation. He now realized what Yi was looking at when he asked her about the room earlier. It also occurred to him this might have had something do with them not being charged for their carriage ride. This was a misunderstanding he wanted to clear up and fast.
“Wait,” he said. “There’s one more thing I’d like to address.”
Both of them stopped and looked at him.
“Okay,” said Talez. “What is it?”
“Yi,” said Artain, “I know what you were staring at when I was talking to you at the counter. It was my katana.”
“Oh,” she said as she lowered her head.
“It’s okay,” said Artain. “We’re not any of Contanis’s men, nor are we criminals. We’re on your side. You have our word.”
She looked at him again.
“That’s a relief,” she said, “but this means you know about our city’s dark secret then. It always embarrasses me when people learn about it.”
“You shouldn’t be,” said Artain. “You have no control over it.”
“Please be careful,” she said. “If they find out you have weapons, they’ll kill you.”
“Don’t worry about us,” said Artain. “We’ll be fine.”
“When visitors come here,” said Talez, “we pray they don’t learn out about what our government is like during their stay. Not knowing that makes their time here more enjoyable.”
“It’s the age old saying of ‘Ignorance is bliss’,” said Tearthis.
“Yes,” said Yi. “Well, we’ll be going now.”
She left the room first. Then Talez did and closed the door behind her.
“I could have a wonderful time with her,” said Mondren under his breath.
“Shut the hell up Mondren,” said Rykarn. “One of these days someone is going to hear your comments, and then you’re going to have to pee out of your mouth because that’s where your dick will be.”
“Fine,” he said, “but what’d you think of my remark?”
“What can I say?” asked Rykarn. “When you’re right, you’re right.”
Mondren then had a revelation.
“If Talez is Yi’s personal assistant,” he said, “then that makes her, her bitch, right?”
“Yes,” said Dragus, “figuratively, and literally, I might add.”
“Can we stop the mindless social commentary?” asked Rykarn. “I love it as much as you guys do, minus Tearthis, but we have to figure out the sleeping arrangements. Who’s going to get the beds and who’s going to get the ground?”
“I was just going to discuss that,” said Tearthis.
Then he turned his attention towards everybody.
“We’ll alternate nightly,” he said. “Artain and I will get the beds tonight while Dragus and Mondren will get them tomorrow. That means Nios and Rykarn will get them on the third day. After that, we’ll start over.”
“Well,” said Rykarn, “I guess that plan is as good as any.”
Everyone else agreed except for Dragus. He took a quick look at the two beds before briefly looking at Tearthis.
“Hold on a minute,” he said. “Tearthis, I don’t think you’re going to fit in either of the beds. You’re too tall. And even if you do, I can’t believe you’d be comfortable. Why don’t you just sleep on the floor the whole time instead of rotating with the rest of us? It’ll be easier on you that way.”
“Nice try,” said Tearthis, “but I can see through your thinly veiled concern about me. You just want one less person in the rotation schedule so you can sleep in one of the beds more.”
“Even if he doesn’t mean it,” said Mondren, “he may be right about the bed being too small. Why do you have to do this all the time?”
“I’ll be fine,” said Tearthis. “I’m used to things not accommodating me that well.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt,” said Nios, “but I think we should eat now. I’m starving and I’m sure you guys are too. I mean, the last time we ate was this morning.”
Everyone agreed with him without hesitation and took their seats. Tearthis and Rykarn went and sat on the right bed. Nios and Mondren sat on the left one. As for Artain and Dragus, they reluctantly sat on the floor. Then they went into their strapped canvas bags for some food and beverages. All they had were some pieces of dried beef and a round tin canteen filled with some water.
“We’ll have to go shopping sometime tomorrow,” said Nios as he pulled a piece out of his bag. “I don’t have much left and I think it’s the same for you guys too.”
The rest of them just kind of nodded and muttered to themselves.
“I think we should discuss what our next move will be,” said Tearthis. “Obviously, it’ll be taking down their government. I believe it’s in our best interest, as well at the city’s, to do it as soon as possible. However, we should get some sleep first. We’ll get up at 11:30 tonight and hopefully begin the attack by midnight. We should be able to get to the compound within a half-hour. Now I know if that doesn’t give us a lot of time, but I think it’s the best thing to do.”
“I agree,” said Artain. “There should be a better chance of us doing it without them knowing. The longer we wait the better chance they’ll have of figuring it out.”
“Why are we going to do this at midnight?” asked Dragus.
“Because it’s the beginning of a new day,” said Tearthis, “just like how it’s the beginning of a new life for the city. Also, it’ll be The Day of the Great Contention. Hopefully, we’ll be able to accomplish what the townspeople couldn’t five years ago. There’s no better way to honor their attempt at the freeing the city then by trying to do it again.”
“How are we going to get up?” asked Nios as he pulled his canteen out of his bag.
“If the clock can be set to ring at a specific time,” said Tearthis, “we’ll do that. If it can’t, the first person who wakes up will have to wake the others. Hopefully he’ll wake up before midnight.”
“I don’t know if that should be our backup plan,” said Dragus, “because it’s not foolproof. It’d be too easy for us to oversleep.”
“I know,” said Tearthis, “but it’s all we have.”
“We should have asked Yi and Talez if the clock could be set to ring at a specific time,” said Artain as he shook his head.
“That would have been nice,” said Tearthis, “but it’s too late now. When we’re done eating, go check it out. If we can’t figure it out, we’ll just have to go find one of them then.”
After a few more minutes, they finished eating. Then Artain got off the ground and went over to the clock. He opened up the back of it and looked inside.
“Yeah,” he said. “It can be set to ring at a specific time.”
“Good,” said Tearthis. “Set it.”
He picked it up and stuck his left hand inside. Then he played with it for a couple of moments before putting it back on the table.
“It’s ready to go,” he said.
“Good,” said Tearthis.
Then he turned his attention towards everybody.
“Let’s get some sleep now,” he said. “We’re sure as hell going to need it.”
Everybody followed the sleeping arrangements Tearthis laid out earlier. By the time 9:00 PM came around, everyone was asleep.
A few minutes later, Mondren had to go to the bathroom. As quietly as he could, he got off the floor and made his way towards the door. On the way he saw Dragus out of the corner of his left eye. He was sitting next to a lit candle and looking at something. Mondren couldn’t tell what it was though. He decided to go over to him and see what was going on.
“Hey,” he whispered as he sat down on the ground beside him, “what are you doing? You should be getting rest for the attack tonight.”
Dragus didn’t look at him. He continued to look down as his straight black hair hung over the front of his shoulders.
“I know,” he whispered. “I was just looking at the strange engraving on my sword. I’d like to know what it means.”
His sword was a katana. However, it wasn’t an ordinary one. What made it different was there was an identical engraving on each side of the blade. In fact, all Hex Immortal’s swords were like that. Each one had a different engraving on it though.
“We all wonder what they mean,” whispered Mondren, “but we’ve been through this before. Any person we’ve asked about them hasn’t been able to read them. It must be some language nobody, or very few for that matter, can understand anymore. Besides, don’t worry about what’s on your sword right now. Just worry about what you’re going to do with it in the next couple hours, okay?”
“Okay,” he whispered, “but before I go to bed, I want to know why you’re up.”
“Because,” whispered Mondren, “I don’t feel like using my bed as a bathroom.”
“I see,” he whispered. “Do you need any help with that?”
“No,” said Mondren, “I don’t need any help going to the bathroom. Now go to sleep you pervert.”
He stood back up and left for the bathroom.
Dragus put his sword back into his sheath and blew out the candle. Then he climbed back into bed. Soon he drifted off to sleep.
For the next couple hours, they were at peace with their surroundings. It was the calm before the storm. Then at 11:30 PM, the alarm went off and woke Tearthis up. He sat up and looked around. Everybody else was still sleeping.
“How come I was the only one who woke up?” he asked himself.
Then he noticed the alarm’s sound was muffled. He looked at the table and saw there was a cloak draped over the clock.
“Uh,” said Tearthis as he shook his head, “is it too much to ask for people to be extra careful when the situation is critical? Thank God I was close enough to hear it.”
He climbed out of bed and turned it off. Then he went over to Nios and shook him from his slumber. When he opened his eyes, he saw Tearthis kneeling before him.
“It’s time,” said Tearthis with a stern expression on his face.
Nios grinned at him while the ends of his long mustache dangled in the air.
POEM THE SECOND:
TOWN OF OPPRESSION
A town they did come to
With little knowledge about it they knew
Controlled with a steel grasp
An evil that they could not let pass