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The Hymn of Identity
My name is Athel Pathy.
In a past life, my memories are immaculate. I was many things.
An innocent kid, a conduit for just about anything. Through me things happened, I was the cause and effect and makeshift of a different variety of fortune.
In another past life, I had two identities. One that detached himself from everything and everyone, held immense sorrow, disappointment, and a deeper resentment for himself as whole. The other was a seeker of purpose not yet found to the end of his very short life. As if it were predetermined, that purposeless shell, seen as a nobody, was deemed essential as well as invaluable in reconstituting order to the torn deviant.
In my most recent endeavors and past life I was a man of great charity as well as chastity. Some delusional hyper-awareness made me believe or triggered my conscious empathy of all living things. To know and feel everything they underwent, endured, and did everything within my power to eliminate that which hindered them. At what cost, the greater it was, the more accomplished I felt. Yet in self-realization I was about as blind to my own self as ever. Delusions of grandeur are what we often call these.
So I resolved.
I guess you could say, it was the first time I listened to myself and not others. I melded those lives into the name I used at the start of this confirmation of identity. My conscious existence is gone, but I occupy a body and linger outside of events that even escape the astral. I never answered the question of my purpose. When you haven't quite met or grasped infinity, you'll find when you shouldn't exist, don't, but walk around as a paradox to the rule, people notice. So I made my existence valid, unconsciously valid that is.
I sovereign unconscious unreality.
Truly as I have come to grow from my experience, pain and suffering were even better teachers than the mentors I adore. It unravels as something of an epidemic that infects your very soul. I've only been touched by those that cared, but have never found concrete confidence in anything material. To suffer in the shafts of my own isolation, where madness once bled through me, now only a numbing and bitter indifference remain. Where I roam, where I remain, no one can longer see, because I selfishly refuse to allow it. When they've hurt as I have, when they've endured the collection of a life of atonement; my grief and regret have painted the reality that it was never meant to be another more exponential that what was already there to begin with.
Until she became what I gravely dreaded.
Dear sweet Relantz...I know you to be the only one to accept that which I have become. Here you are, before me as i embrace the hole left in my breast where the key now resides. The fated Valkyrie that should decide the battle between those like us, and the sentinels we'd long thought forgotten. Make no mistake how much pain that I endured...as Galforge nearly crushed your skull beneath the firm weight of his iron boot. Emotions that I displaced since forever ago, almost to destroy me before my end drew nearer still. When we spoke to the existence that was Orsa, our pleas were genuine and filled with a hope that only our kind could produce. We'd averted a war, and you'd given you're life in the process to see this through.
My heart petrified. I had been overwhelmed with an urge to contemplate suicide, but I know that isn't what you'd want of me and to think little would only meet an even more unkempt end. Even still, it was as if what remained that made me human had been extinguished with when your light finally went out. Sanity gave way beneath my own consciousness and as my heart began to petrify the rest of my body, the will to exist any further had gradually began to grip a hold of me and as my life began to evaporate my body began to harden until I had become a statue.
I dont know...I don't remember much after that, I just know that whatever happened to my consciousness afterwards, slowly but surely, I found peace, I followed her into the next horizon.
My name isn't important, but tell my story to those that will listen. This is how I became a legend.
He stood silently at the gate, his eyes set upon the western horizon, his hand rested on the hilt of his blade. Bodies laid to his left and to his right, the tall grass around the fort painted a bright crimson. The night had been long, and the approaching dawn brought nought but death, the massive clouds appearing as a juggernaut set to crush the grassland. As the sun peeked across the horizon, it painted the sky a great picture of orange and red--adding a bloody hue to the hulking storm clouds in the west, and it lifted the shadow of night from the fort; and it revealed the man to be alone.
They had come in the night, striking with an army of well over ten thousand, easily outnumbering the small force of a sparse five hundred. The force was outnumbered, overpowered, and overran, and they broke through wall and rank with overwhelming ease. The gate across the river would have fallen that night, had they not withdrawn for unknown reasons. Truly, the goddess must have intervened that night.
But now they were returning, and this time, the fort would surely be taken. Those who did not fall the night before, fled during the light reprieve--all, except the lone soilder who stood at the gate. He would guard the gate--the most direct route to the empire's capital--with his last breath. It was his duty, it was his honor, to do so.
He was alone, but he would not falter.
The sound of footfalls and the slow, steady beat of drums filled the air. It echoed across sight's expanse, the drumbeat twisting into a heavy, dark tone one might expect on their walk to the gallows. The first line crossed the horizon and spilled down toward the river, covering the grassland in a sea of black armor and crimson banners. Like ants from their hill, the army flowed outward. Soon, the entirety of the army stood before him, their flanks roaring with cries of war.
He was alone, but he would not flee.
He drew his blade from its sheath and stood at the ready, knowing full well his life was at its end. He would die that day to their blade, but would do so defending his home even against impossible odds.
As the sun rose above the horizon, the man ran to meet the army in the field. Tears flowed from his eyes as he let lose a battle cry and rang out the empire's name.
He was alone, and he would die.
But the clash of metal made that morning rang across the grasslands, even back to the seat of the empire, and though the man did indeed die, his voice never faltered. It continued to ring loud and clear--a rallier for the armies of the empire, who fended off the advancing army and forced their retreat. It was his last cry--his last stand--and he was alone.
He sat calmly on the blue cushion set for him in the grand pavilion, dressed in its ornate purple cloth, suited for the weather of the Red Waste. The plain, age-old working clothes he wore had the all the brown and red tones of the desert that stretched for thousands of miles in all directions, save the east. The various trappings that adorned his clothes denoted his age and craft - he was the eldest - for instance, a strip of leather riddled with knots, one for each year; a belt of well-tanned leather, the buckle forged of dark steel - though only those who knew him would recognize the ancient smith by it.
The hood that was attached to his working clothes hung limp slightly behind his neck, the black and red scarf that wrapped around his neck - he pulled it over his mouth as a dustveil when outside - and it served well to conceal his now-graying beard, though spots of red still showed. His hair was cut short at the sides, and well-kept in a short ponytail at the nape of his neck - it too was a peppering of gray and red.
Outside he could hear the men and boys toiling in the heat, as they sang in time with one another, both to give morale, as well as keep them distracted from the scorching heat of the Red Waste.
Wash the spears while the sun climbs high.
Wash the spears while the sun falls low.
Wash the spears - Who fears to die?
Wash the spears - No one I know!
He carried no weapon; the old edict forbade him swords, though he was allowed to forge them, as was his station. I have never needed a weapon, save Rie'jenn. And I always have the Song. He only toted a waterskin.
The rustle of leather and smell of scented sweat reached the old smith's senses as the Imperial Brigadier entered the pavilion. The man's head was kept shaved, though he wore a number of earrings on his left ear, to denote his station - a Slavemaster of Erul. The Slavemaster's sorrowful blue-eyed gaze met the ancient smith's pale green, and the smith rose from the cushion, towering over the man with his height and strong chest.
All of those who once would have known him just by the footsteps made in his sturdy boots were dead; they had left the world after joining in a circle, attempting to use the combined power of their voices through song, to cure a madman's ravings. They had failed, and he was alone, left to guard the pass to his village should they fail. My hand was forced, and I killed him. Jor'mandar, once you were a good man - and the Slavemasters turned you insane! I weep for the men you slew in your madness, the women and children, whose lives had yet to bloom!
It was then that the Slavemasters found him, with their lumbering hordes of soldiers, slaves, and carts. Only him, alone. More than a month had passed since that baleful day, and here he sat, finally being granted audience, after days of toil and sweat in the sun amongst the damned and the deceased.
Wash the spears while life holds true!
Wash the spears until life ends!
Wash the spears - Life is a dream!
Wash the spears - All dreams must end!
"You are the smith they call Petra Kokaya? Dawnsmith of Várond?" the Slavemaster spoke curtly, lacking the slurring of words that most of the other Slavemasters had. At his side hung a plain sword, though Petra knew he could stop this creature before it ever had a chance to draw the accursed weapon.
"I am, Slavemaster." Petra replied in his deep, booming voice, pale green eyes calmly assessing the smaller man over a slightly hooked nose. "What would you request of me, köle'kadin? Master Bethal will not liken me to lose time that could be spent working, even if it is for a Slavemaster."
"You will address me as Paxus Drex, slave. Just because I bear my father's title does not deem me worthy of his glorious achievements. I am simply a soldier decent with a blade that dabbles in ridding the world of my rivals; the Maker crafted me for no other purpose." Drex spat onto the rug, bearing little care for either it, or his position of power, save for the fact that both kept him from the hot sand.
Paxus sat in the chair set aside for him, and began munching on a bowl of grapes that were brought by a servant in white and black robes. Petra remained standing before the lord; he had sat waiting for long enough. "Again, köle'kadin - your wishes?" Petra folded his hands behind his back.
Wash the spears till shade is gone!
Wash the spears till water turns dry.
Wash the spears - How long from home?
Wash the spears - Until I die!
"I want you to go out and find one whom you can trust, though you and I know trust is a rare thing here in the Red Waste, let alone among the Slavemasters of Erul. Return here with that one fellow slave at dusk."
"For what purpose, Paxus Drex? I refuse to endanger others for one man's schemes and riddles." And your dream will be ended should you bring harm.
"I will purchase you from your Masters. If I do anything with my inheritance, it will be to acquire the finest among the fleshpool that is here. What I do with you will be as I wish, not yours. Now go."
Once again Petra was relegated to the subservient, despoiled status of a slave. Again he felt the rage against the Slavemasters, the sorrow of his fellow peoples' deaths at the hand of a single man who wielded the arcane arts. He felt so small, despite being easily able to crush this Paxus Drex's skull. "Of course, Paxus Drex; I am only here to serve."
Kokaya only bowed as most did, and left the tent, raising up his red and black dustveil over his bearded face, as well as pulling up his hood, securing both in the sun's blinding radiance.
Wash the spears till sun grows cold!
Wash the spears till water runs free!
Wash the spears!
Wash the spears while I breathe!
Wash the spears my steel is bright!
Petra walked past the shoveling workers and the cart-runners, the smiths and children who carried water to those who most needed it; though they were known for their individual cruelties, all of the Slavemasters took care of their 'property.'
One of the older boys perked up on sight of the ancient smith, babbling on as he usually did, keeping pace with the steady-stepping large desert nomad via quick footing. "Another shipment arrived today, from somewhere over the mountains. Just got in - Jerahn thinks you might want to have a look; he was by there earlier."
"Of course, Gellert." Petra tapped the boy gently on his shoulder, and turned him towards the eating tables, and continued on to the point of interest, beginning to hum softly to himself, though it did not remove his lingering lonely thoughts - it only gentled them.
Wash the spears...
The officer in charge of the newly-enslaved pens only leered up at him as he always did when Petra arrived to where a small group of 'new slaves' were waiting to be picked by either the Slavemasters, or by proxy of their slaves. The Lords of Erul did not suffer uncooperative workers.
"Pickings from the lands of all that is green and plump, Ah'yeal. Mellar wants at least half of this lot, so you get only one today. Two if you can bribe his Lordship Mellar with a new ki'rhal board; his last gallébű burned it with a fire spell on accident. Bloody magicians, what good are they, hm?"
"Indeed." Petra inspected the recent delivery, pacing about the bunch of them, noting only somber faces, bereft of hope. They were the remainder of a remainder; he could feel their shattered peace as once he had felt.
So alone, were I to take them all back to their land! And yet I know my true purpose is here! Why else would I be offered so ludicrous an offer by a Slavemaster?
It was then that he heard the strangled cry of anguish, and Petra noticed two guards holding down a wretched young boy, as they forced some sort of foul-smelling liquid down the child's throat. He was blindfolded by a bloodied strip of cloth, and yet still struggled against his captors. As with all new slaves, his head had been shaved, and the boy wore whatever ragged clothes he had been captured in.
"Him - I heard from Felkan that the boy gave them a magical hell on the way here, so he did the boy a favor, and spared him the sight of our grand paradise, Ah'yeal." The officer on duty remarked, shrugging nonchalantly.
Perhaps this boy can be trusted. Perhaps.
"I'll take him." Petra replied to the officer, who only leaned against the broken column behind him, allowing the ancient smith to do as he wished. The unwritten law of the Slavemasters was simple - if you wanted a new slave from the pens, you fought for it. Only the strongest were allowed to survive.
Petra's right hand reached out towards the air, and Rie'jenn appeared in its grip. The pure white hammer glowed with the warmth of the sun, as he began to finally embrace the Song, causing the sand about him to grow grass, sprout flowers, remember what water had felt like when it ran through the ground here once, centuries ago. I must remember those who are lost to me, now. This boy shall not be added to that weighty list.
"Wash the spears while the sun climbs high!
Wash the spears while the sun falls low!"
The two soldiers dropped the boy and cursed as they drew their curved blades, moving to their practiced attack positions. "Come now, Ah'yeal! Let's settle this the smart way!" shouted one of them, but Petra felt no pity for them. Pity is for those who deserve it, Erul scum. Pity those who dared to save Jor'mandar, the man you drove mad, and let loose, like a raving dog.
"Wash the spears - Who fears to die?
Wash the spears - No one I know!"
Rie'jenn struck once, crushing the first man; the second followed a few tense, dodging moments later. These warriors had underestimated his agility due to his size. Just as they take for advantage the loyalty of their prisoners. Soon enough, the Slavemasters will do something all these wretched souls, and even I, will abhor equally, and that will be their end.
Willing the Dawn-forged hammer away, and ending the Song, he strode over to the blindfolded boy. A feeble hand made as if to push him back, but the boy was too weak. Petra lifted up the lithe child, not astonished by how light he was. The old smith began to leave the pens, and the boy's dried lips parted.
"Who-who are you?" It came out less than a whisper.
"I am a friend," Petra replied," but you may call me Petra. And might I ask your name, little wizard? I was told you were quite the upstart on the way here."
The boy tried to struggle once more at Petra's mention, but he gave up after a few moments. "M-Mirkhan. That is what my father called me. But-they killed him! And mother - they will pay! All of them! They blinded me after I helped the others escape! I miss the trees and the birds, Petra! You'll help me kill them, won't you?" the dry, cracked torrent of unbridled rage was heard only by the ancient smith, who smiled.
"Of course, Mirkhan. I am only here to serve." And perhaps, I am not so alone after all.