Myth: of Men and Monsters. Part 1: Echos. S3b
The end of the first chapter. This is a pretty long one.
A darkened arm burst from the edge of the fountain and grabbed Jax by the hair. The child had only an instant before he was jerked backwards.
Kayle’s body reacted before his mind. He drew his sword and shot into a run. He powered down the street. As he found his way to the edge of the fountain, so did he find his way to his knees. He sent his hand deep into the liquid. There was no time between the start of the search and the finding of a small arm. Kayle gripped tightly and up but there was so much weight. Whatever was holding him was strong.
The frightened father screamed as he pulled harder, bringing the body up to the surface. He threw his weapon behind him. He pulled harder with both hands. The arm came into the air, covered in a hundred black marks. Kayle couldn’t stop to think about why or how the scars had appeared. He couldn’t pause to contemplate the stings of pain, the nails digging into his hand. He could only grip tighter on his son.
He pressed down on the ground, forcing himself to stand and drag his son from the murk, too dark to be water. The opposing grip gave through. The small body splashed upwards. Kayle blinked. He stood for an instant before his own arms shook. The shivering spread through his body and to his core.
It was the same size as Jax, similar in age and height but this boy, this thing wasn’t his. It wasn’t Aelphi, it couldn’t be alive. It wasn’t possible.
The mighty general fell. He scurried backwards, away from the form dripping red and standing on its own. He couldn’t stop shaking. He knew this thing. He knew this child. He recognized the creature, lifting its leg to exit the fountain. Kayle saw the gold and stone crack and crumble to nothing beneath its foot. Invisible, immense weight broke through the edge of the basin. Viscous carmine torrents came at the fallen soldier.
Not only blood, coagulating on the ground were pieces and parts of what once could have been the Eastern Guards. Arms, legs, heads and innumerable other parts that were to small to be identified floated and collided along the red waves. Kayle recognized the armor. The city’s first line defense was gone. They had fallen before they had a chance.
The beast pressed on. It was very much like an Aelphi but thinner. It was covered in the black marks that should have given it away. Black hair, wet and sticking, covered a porcelain and perfectly formed face. All of this could have been overlooked, none of it would have brought Yarthiss any credibility had it not been for those damned eyes.
Kayle couldn’t keep from staring into them. The two glistening black orbs seemed to float in the shadows created by the bowed head of the boy. They were somehow distinct from the utter blackness by being even darker than pitch.
The thing gave no emotion, barring a simple determination. With each impossibly heavy step, Kayle could feel his will. It was their talent, exuding their determination into force, it held him by the chest, it stomped his breath with each inhalation.
Ripping his gaze from that glare, Kayle searched. He saw a quivering, retching boy crawling away from the fountain’s flotsam. The father breathed deep, realizing that his son had flowed out with the blood.
He reached out with his hand, finding the handle that he threw away. He wracked his memory, searching for some weakness in this thing he could exploit. He decided to make one.
He picked himself off the ground.
“I’ve killed your kind before, boy.”
Still the small monster kept walking.
Kayle gripped the handle with both palms. He felt the tingle, the energy circulating through his body. His adrenaline spiked and a beam of searing energy shot from the tip of the blade. Sparks flew and skin burned. The blast hit its mark, cutting into the boy’s chest.
But still, it kept walking.
The wound was small and closing. Kayle saw smoldering flesh regenerate faster than he could think. His mind raced, synapses faltering. The blast took a lot out of him. He hadn’t had much to give, hadn’t prepared himself as he would if this were a real battle.
He held his weapon at the ready and watched this creature’s slow approach. There wasn’t much he could do. He went through his training. It was true, he and his men had fought these things before but they were armored and heavily geared.
The boy was walking slowly. Kayle spat at him with his mind, with all that speed why not use it? He couldn’t make sense of it. This wasn’t an all out attack, it wasn’t that simple.
Kayle’s hands frosted as his mental gears ground to the resolution.
This was different. It was malicious, planned.
Kayle threw himself forward without warning. The tip of his blade lowered and thrust into the front of the boy’s neck. Its path went downward and past its scapula. Kayle felt the familiar obstacles created by the hard, bony structures jutting from the spine. He sent it further through the soft tissues and twisted it. The soft curve of the blade widened the wound and send blood exploding from the severed arteries.
The boy stopped. His stiffly structured stance holding up even under this great damage.
The blood began to oxidize. A low fog of white disintegration began to rise. It brought a thick stench to Kayle’s nose. He smiled, breathing it in. He’d learned to enjoy it long ago.
“I know who you are… Prince!”
The title was spat as the general gave a roar and sent all the strength he had into forcing the edge of the blade downward. He meant to open it up, spilling everything vital that he could. He felt the skin and organs sever and his hope flew again.
A small hand zipped up. It grabbed the sharpened crystal. The boy’s eyes became slits behind narrowing lids. There were no words, no sound beside’s Kayle’s own quickening pulse. A ripple of power sent the smoke escaping away from the pair. Dense muscles became tense and taut. Kayle could hear his prized possession becoming little more than shards and dust. The child gripped tighter, sending heat and pain through the air. Kayle stumbled back, let lose by the lack of tension that once was. He held the handle of his once great sword.
The menacing youth ripped the rest of the blade from his body and sent a splash of eroding liquid onto Kayle’s face.
Burning and stinging forced the man’s eyes to close. His hands began to paw at his face. He fell to his knees, feeling his own life-giving essence flow from the deepening holes and mixing with that of his enemy. His hand swung wildly, stabbing and slicing with the impotent stump at whatever could be in front of him. He backed away, trying to lose ground and lead the creature away from his still hacking son.
Something struck. His arm stopped cold as a hard grip took his wrist. Kayle’s mind didn’t register the pain before he heard the sound of his own elbow shattering into nothing. His stomach churned. The nightmarish grasp of the demonic child still held tight. It pinned his wrist to his shoulder.
Another small hand, tightened into a fist, shot forward at the exposed joint. The scream which erupted from Kayle’s mouth was drowned out by the splintering and shattering of every bone in his arm.
Kayle fell to the sounds of his son’s suppressed cries. His son, trying to be brave in the face of something he couldn’t possibly grasp.
Such a good boy.
He fell to the rising motion of the strengthening wing. He fell hard, impacting the stone ground, shoulder first. The pain was all he could feel. He heard the crunches of his enemy moving to some unseen place. The pain in his eyes was worse but he had to see. He had to know what this creature was doing. There was too much at stake.
The pride was raging against the doom he knew. He still had hope of getting away with his life. With a strain, his lid separated. With vision made red by the tearing of his fused skin, he saw the world on it’s side. The rain had come. It was an inattentive maid, washing the blood, turning the streets to their usual monochrome but leaving the limbs and pieces behind.
Kayle forced himself up with his good arm. He took the chance and looked around. He saw the fountain. He saw his son, still alone, still breathing. But there was no creature. Worse yet, there was no sword. Even a stunted blade was better than nothing.
He took each step as its own challenge. He tried to stand against the now torrential storm. He came to know the limits of his sight in the squall.
He took a breath, waiting for the next attack, hoping to be caught on guard.
He counted his heartbeats. He never took his eyes off of Jax. If something threatened to come close, he was ready to intercept.
He took a step and then another. He began to walk slowly.
“Jax. You are a wonderful soldier, son. Tell me you’re alright.”
With another cough the tears came with destructive power, obstructing his speach.
“I… I’m ok. Is he gone? Is he gone?”
Kayle couldn’t answer him. He helped his son to stand. He had to rest his weight against the young but sturdy shoulders. He kept asking the question.
Is he gone?
His father shook his head and pushed him along the street but the boy kept on.
“W-why? Why did he do that?”
They kept moving and Kayle kept quiet. He needed to find the central offices. He needed to inform the on-hand captains of the attack on the city.
An attack on Hartour, this wasn’t possible.
He felt his son struggle to keep up. Even as injured as he was, Kayle was as fit as a man his age could be.
Wails and cries flew past them as the gale winds created audible shadows.
He tugged on his son’s arm. It wasn’t far from where they were. He could see the lights. The beacons of the office cut through the sheets of moving translucence falling from the sky. His breath caught. Tears came to his eyes.
He didn’t remember the way taking so long but it wasn’t a matter anymore. His run slowed to a trying trot. His legs burned. His chest was beyond pain, so much so that he couldn’t tell if he was breathing at all except the fact that he was still alive. He just watched the lights, those guiding orbs bringing him through the rain.
Jax was louder this time, screaming the Aelphi tongue at the height of his voice. It was mandatory for those in the city to learn and speak the words of the native people but this young one would sometimes break into his old speech when upset or afraid. It was the tone he had when he’d dream of terrible things.
Kayle slid to a stop and turned to the child. He watched the boy stare at the offices. His little hand raised and pointed at the building. He watched his son’s body shake with such a force that the water couldn’t get a hold on him.
Kayle turned back to his redemption. Through the darkness and the fog, under the same tempest which blew its chill through them, stood a small shadowed form. Its head cocked to the side, staring at them like a wondering animal. It’s arms extended outward to it’s sides. Long, bladed claws extended from spread fingers like a welcoming death. The creature looked up at the buildings around them.
Kayle’s eyes followed. The windows were all broken. Some held strange masses, bodies with limbs pointed to the street, cast by death in their attempts to escape into the open.
They knew, lining the street were all the housing quarters of the dead and dying of Hartour. There was no attack. There was no battle. This was a genocide. This was a show and the once valiant General and his son had been made into chased rodents. He could only imagine how many were dead. He forced himself to accept that everyone could have been taken.
The boy, the dark one, the Althrian turned to one of the lights. In the glow from the other, they could see him pull the pole out of the ground. Through the stone of the street and the metal beneath it, he ripped out the wires and the darkness that came without them. The second beacon came as well, screeching against it’s demise as the first had.
With the lights gone, so was the boy. Kayle stared at the last place he had spied it’s movement. He looked for anything that could betray a move or shudder. He had no plan, no goal greater than survival. He simply kept staring
The wind gusted again, hitting against them with such force that he was fooled.
He threw Jax into a close alley and ran further into the wide street. He stood there, hoping to draw it’s attention.
Despite his father’s panicked order, Jax couldn’t move. Kayle could see him watching in the stillness and the cover of the enclosed corridor wedged between two death-filled buildings. He saw this from a sideways glance. He wouldn’t betray him. The boy was gone or was supposed to be. The less this creature knew of his whereabouts, the better.
He heard his son stifle a cry.
They both heard it, like a weapon firing rapidly against the pebbled ground, like a thousand thunderclaps. It was rattling off quickly and getting louder, closer.
Kayle turned to see its source. The boy, the Althrian, was running at full speed from the opposite end of the street. It had somehow circled around them.
Through his back came the broken blade of his own weapon. It pierced his abdomen with the full force of the child’s acceleration. He was thrown forward, toppling and skimming against the stone street with little clue of what had happened.
Jax ran, ignoring everything. He flung himself upon this small juggernaut. He never planned to win. He only thought to distract him, to somehow make everything ok again. He reached his hand back to strike but never grabbed the chance. Without a look and with only a single swipe of his open hand, the hunter sent Jax reeling back into the standing water.
Kayle struggled to rise but the creature was one him impossibly fast. It stepped on the handle of the sword jutting from his back. Kayle couldn’t scream. He saw his son pull himself up out of the muck and fluid collecting on the ground. He tried to speak, to tell him to leave.
His blood mixed with the water, creating a thin pink shroud growing larger around him. It glistened with some strange light. A moon reflected on his life. Those clouds. Those impenetrable clouds had parted for the first time since he had come to this world.
He twisted, turning his head to see it for himself. It seemed important. As the cold and the pain drained, leaving a gracious neutrality, this light, this glorious light was everything.
Something was holding him down. The blade pinned him, it kept him from the clear sky. It kept him from finding the Aelphi star. To Kayle, nothing of his past self, it was keeping him from going home.
Jax saw it in a swirl of double vision. He watched the dark-clothed boy stepping around his father. It seemed unreal, this monster making his paces, until the leg raised slowly over the man’s head. Jax bolted upright, ignoring the pain of his sprained leg. He saw the boot slowly descend until the sole was touching the struggling skull. The weight held the roving searcher down.
Kayle heard his son cry out but couldn’t possibly see the little legs scrambling across the way.
Jax ran, slamming into the Althrian as if he were a wall. He might as well hav been, there was no movement, only the slow fall of the leg.
Jax grabbed the calf, trying to dig deep inside himself to find the strength he needed. His father made a small confused noise when the cracking sounds started.
“Stop! NO! YOU BASTARD!”
Kayle’s eyes focused on his boy. He smiled against the dull pressure and slow tinting of red.
“Jax. You’re such a good boy.”
Jax screamed and pulled but the sickeningly absolute kept on.
“Such a good…”
The final crash of liquids and solids came. The boot touched the ground, unimpeded. Kayle, the great general of the Golden Guard, became nothing but a body.
Jax’s small fists banged against the creature’s leg but it seemed that his sorrow was the only part with strength left.
“Why?! Why are you doing this?!”
Fingers gripped his hair, the same fingers he’d felt before at the fountain. They lifted him from the ground and tilted his head back at a forceful, painful angle. Jax stared through tear filed eyes at the cold, unchanging face of the one he thought didn’t exist. Jax continued to whimper, trying so hard to rage.
“What… what do you want?”
Movement was his answer. The demon leaned down and wrenched the blade from Kayle’s corpse. Their eyes met again. The Althrian stood. The world stopped with a swift thrust.
Jax thought he saw a smile before everything faded to red. He let out one last word. One last plea for reason.