So this is the final section of the First Chapter of my friend Remy’s story, “Fourth Day”. If you want to catch up on everything from the beginning, just click HERE.
I’ll start up the Second Chapter today, so that I don’t kill anyone with suspense, and we can go on… I feel like I’ve delayed things a bit too much.
Okay then, enjoy.
The boy’s eyes were ochre yellow and self-pity; disgust and humiliation sat in them.
“He is a dignitary of sorts. He put on airs, but I put them down.”
In a voice that was older than most things living, he spoke, “I am Ashket, son of the King of the Earth-Giants. I will negotiate the terms of my release and…”
The Stranger walked up to Ashket and said, “Negotiate? Can you negotiate my mother back to life? Can you negotiate the people who have perished on your slave marches? Killing you would mean nothing at this point in time. This is already an act of war.”
“Nedeseh, I think we should wait for the Ndas to come and decide for themselves what must be done.”
“Waniko, can you not see lightning streaking outside? They are all dying out there. He’s causing them to hear their birth-names.”
The Long-Shadow king stepped forward and spoke with a level of wisdom that Nedeseh, as an observer, was only seeing glimpses of at his age.
“He is a prince. Even in death, he is deferred to…how much more when alive? I know his king and father. We must spare him. He knows what he will return to better than any of us.
“His request for release is a brave one. Let us honor it.”
Ashket raised a hand and the mountains subsided, like a troubled sea coming to rest. The figures crumbled beyond any recognizable form.
The Stranger hid awe from his face, his body language, but his next question betrayed his thoughts.
“I thought there were more of you.”
Ashket laughed as he shook his head and replied, “We’ve never had reason to gather more than one for these incursions. We’re trawling for slaves, not looking to make war. I was curious about your kind. Your stories ‘amused’ my father and king, so I asked if I could make this run. You’re not seen as threats to our kingdom.”
Ashket turned to the Long-Shadow king, “We have our own undead army. But we only bother with them if we want to end lines, not to capture ‘cattle’.”
The Stranger didn’t feel anger or resentment to his last statement. Not even a rise; just curiosity.
“It seems to me, young prince, that we are a better kept secret than even we knew.”
Ashket laughed again, “Must you assume I am a fool that you might salvage some pride from loss in victory?”
The Stranger looked at the Long-Shadow King who turned to Nda Waniko. They all shared a resigned look.
“Loss in victory? You’re poorly cultured not to recognize the situation you’re in. I will have you beg for your life at the hand of a ‘still-living’ king who dedicated himself to see that his father’s kingdom continues.” was Nda Waniko’s response.
The Long-Shadow king grabbed Ashket’s arm and the green fire began to burn without leaving visible marks on him.
“I don’t burn with a fire that you understand. This fire was started that I might ‘feed’ off life around me. As I touch the very air about me, things in that air age and die.
“You might be resilient, but you will age. If your pride doesn’t destroy you, you’ll beg for your life before you look as old as your father. It will be painful, irreversible and a more ugly scar than losing an eye, or a limb, or a lover.”
This was being said as the fire burned through him. Ashket was brave, and then he started to scream as his hair became white as it grew and swayed like tendrils in a strong water-current. His eyes began to form cataracts. His skin flaked and showered like a swarm of disoriented flies. His voice became hoarse. His breathing became laboured.
Nedeseh could hear Ashket’s joints drying up and popping in his body as he doubled over in old age.
His life was being drained out of him and the Long-Shadow king became more human in appearance.
Soon Ashket begged for his life. To his credit though, he did stand for about a minute before yielding.
Nedeseh came out of the vision. A moment had passed, but he had seen a secret that was generations old…and he understood that they were facing someone or something different. There were fewer people back then and Ashket had come out of curiosity. This time, they had come for business and they had a plan. They were not Ashket.
“Nda Waniko, we are not ready.”