Episode Two: The Cleansing
Lázaro pulled himself from the
invisible barrier separating him from his loyal servant. He followed
the seemingly interminable succession of alcoves imprisoning the
people of his village. Weary of the inexplicable catastrophe, he
soldiered on, resisting a strange lethargy taking hold in his mind.
am Lázaro of the Santa
Hermandad,” he repeated
to keep himself awake. “And I will not be denied my revenge.”
He spun his sword with a whoosh, slicing through the lingering mist.
The author of his predicament was out there, and he wanted to find
alcoves and stairs followed as the young man struggled with his
fatigue. “Lázaro. . . Santa Hermandad!” he cried again.
last few steps led to an empty recess. His eyes focused on his name
engraved inside. A number of other symbols followed, somewhat
similar to others he’d once seen in old ruins.
flash he found himself standing within, looking out. He hammered
against the invisible barrier with the pommel of his sword. The
sound belied the sturdiness of his prison. Almost passing out for
reasons he could not fathom, he hollered again.
. .azaro. . . erman. . .”
limbs felt as stone, and soon he sank into a dreaming state, reliving
his existence in reverse: finding the garrison’s commander, flying
though the storm, remembering the village the day he disembarked, his
journey across the ocean, his escape, his judgement. It all became a
confused jumble of thoughts, his and those of others creeping in.
. .Azar. . .” he whispered one last time.
eternity later, the sound of approaching voices stirred his mind.
Indistinct at first, two voices came through: one a female’s, dark
and razor-sharp, the other deep and drawn out like a rumbling
one is of interest,” said the latter in a long, heaving breath.
“Strong, brave, and devout. He was the last to arrive.”
seems young. He’ll have to be taught.”
could be tested, O Dark One.”
If he survives, keep his essence and erase the rest. What of the
of no consequence. They will be sold as one.”
voices faded away as the young man’s thoughts drifted into a maze
of confused sensations. Feeling slowly returned to his fingers. He
concentrated his willpower on his hands. Lázaro could still sense
the sword’s hilt still locked in his grasp. He focused on it like
on a light at the end of a tunnel. He keenly understood the weapon’s
uses, but didn’t know why.
word kept surfacing in his mind. It sounded oddly familiar. Azar.
. . His name? Yes, it
must have been. He could not remember anything else, but he
perceived there was more, buried somewhere in his head, just past the
edge of consciousness. There had to be more. He felt naked and
lost, as if his very soul had been scoured of its identity.
his limbs regained the softness of life, the young man collapsed.
The invisible barrier had vanished, and he fell forward. As he lay
on the cold, stone floor, he focused on what seemed real: his flesh
and bones, the heart beating in his chest, the sword in his hand, his
burning desire to rip through the shrouds of mystery suppressing his
memories. A purpose. He needed a purpose to give a sense to this
. .” he whispered again, as if it were a steady rock in the middle
of a sea.
low growl responded in the fog, not far from him. Something lurked
out there, just out of sight, and the young man knew it was coming
for him. He staggered to his feet and inched forward, his senses
exacerbated by fear. There it was, his purpose, the simplest of
things: one’s survival instinct. Kill or be killed.
swirls of mist, a beast not unlike a huge six-legged leopard in
shades of white and gray, stared back at him with white eyes.
Mottles clouding her fur shifted, and the beast vanished into the
mist. Snarls told the young man the predator was moving, but he
couldn’t tell where exactly.
beast reappeared behind him, her enormous snout and fangs inches
behind the young man’s head, her breath chilling him to his bones.
As he spun round, his sword swished through emptiness. She had
vanished once more. She was playing a deadly game. He’d have to
took a few more steps. A soft growl rose from his left. In a leap
of faith, he lunged to his right instead, into the fog. The beast
reappeared there, a hair away from his blade, roared, and faded away.
Just missed. He was beginning to understand his foe’s tactic. He
knew she would also be more cautious now.
snarl. Another lunge. But her paw struck him in the back, tearing
through his rags and his skin. He rolled out of the way, got back to
his feet, ready to fight, but she’d faded back into the mist. He
felt blood drenching his back and legs. Frustrated and in pain, he
tried another trick.
of despair and defiance, he bellowed his name as he remembered it.
He ran screaming in a straight line, spinning his sword and expecting
the beast to react as predators do when a wounded pray bolts.
he stopped, turned around, and lunged. The steel bit into thick hide
and flesh as the beast reappeared. His blade sank through her paw as
she pounced on him. Her powerful jaws locked on his left forearm,
slicing through muscle and crushing his bones. Her wounded paw
snapped the blade in half, like a twig. But she was hurting now and
off-balance. Seizing the instant, nearly blind with pain, he rolled
under his mangled arm, bringing the beast’s head closer, and
stabbed her eye with the remains of his sword. It sank in to its
beast jumped back, but too late. It twitched, hissed, and fell.
The young man remained prone, pain
from his lacerated back and torn left arm overwhelming him. Life was
escaping his body once more, blood pooling beneath him on the floor.
A last thought crossed his mind to pray for help and salvation, but
he felt at a loss to remember whom he once honored. With his last
breath he simply cried out, “Azar!”
be continued. . .
short story was written in connection with the upcoming
Kickstarter campaign for the new World
Others will follow on different forums and blogs during the coming
and have fun!
Huge thanks to Bruce Heard for including the Tavern in the roll out of Calidar. Looks to be a fun ride for all - Erik Tenkar