A Little Piece of Home

Forgotten Glory, 1

Senada

The city roars behind you for a quick death, while ahead the army advances on you and your small band of brethren, pushing forward through the blood-churned mud and the bodies of those that have fallen already. You stand ready, to fight until there are none others standing.

“Traitors!” you scream into the wind, fast and razor-sharp as Adrian at her fall. “Blood traitors!” The army doesn’t falter, though, and your pitiful hand of defenders behind you grip their weapons nervously, staring out into their death.

Yes, they will probably die. It’s a shame, considering how long it took you to train them. Good Dragon-bloods, real Dragon-bloods, are hard to find these days, what with the blasphemous mixing of their blood with the lesser mortals they governed in your stead.

That was the first problem. When this battle is over, the first thing you’re doing is putting all the Dragon-bloods to the sword. They’ll understand, of course – their job is to lay down their lives for the betterment of the Solar God-Kings, right?

Right?

Arrows rain down from the sky; you swat them aside with a flick of your hand and turn them back on their attackers. Hundreds die in burst of green and white, red and blue. You frown.

This is boring.

A squad rushes you, armed with long spears tipped in jade. You spin in an effortless circle and take their heads in a single swoop, flicking them up to land on their own spears. “Boring,” you mutter, turning toward the next squad.

It goes on like this for what feels like hours, though you’re certain it took only a few seconds. “Boring!” you shout as you liberate the heart from a Dragon-blood traitor and burn it to ash. “BORING!” you scream as you flare your anima, becoming a towering pillar of glorious light that scatters the army like child’s toys. You have a momentary thought of your youngest child, safe within Carcosa’s whispering walls. You’ll have to bring him a souvenir of the battle. Now, what would he like?

Tassels from a hundred footmen? No, that’s far too banal for a son of a Solar.

Oh, the eyes of the sorcerer-priest you just ran through! Truthfully, they’re the only salvagable piece of him left. But no, eyes are too dangerous for such a young thing. Windows to the soul, as you know.

Yes, you have it! The spear from the general of this army of blasphemies, your once-trusted advisor and lieutenant! It’s large, yes, but a little practice and he’ll be ready to ride out beside you!

No, wait. He already has one of these. And the general died a little too easily, scrambling to protect his body from your inevitable strikes. Wouldn’t want the man’s cowardice infecting the boy – something like that is worse than death.

The battlefield is quiet as you look around, your anima still lapping at the bloodstained mud hungrily. What remains of the army is scattered, fighting in twos or threes against your own well-trained troops. You bound back toward the city gates, exultant in victory, where your three closest Dragon-blooded lieutenants wait, raised up after the rebellion claimed most of your officers, though battle or treachery.

“Not much of a fight,” you say, laughing aloud at the Dragon-bloods harried looks. They are bloodstained and filthy; the oldest, Paavel, limps on one foot, the other a ragged stump. The other two, Marlin and Pale Flower, exchange glances as Marlin fingers a long dagger of black jade and moonsilver. “Spent most of my Essence, though,” you say, turning around to survey the field once again. “I should have expected as much from lesser Exalts.”

“Lesser?” Marlin scoffs behind you. “We are Chosen, as you were.”

“Hah.” You roll your eyes – it’s the same argument, all over again. When will they learn? Perhaps Marlin will be the first to die when you begin the purge. He would serve as an excellent example of the differences between a Dragon-blood and a Solar. “We are all Chosen, but some are made to rule, and others to serve. Which one are you?” You turn back to flash a smile at your underlings, but a sudden sharp coldness pierces your back, and you see Marlin standing, his hands on the hilt of his dagger as it plunges into your back. The tip emerges out from your stomach in a gut-wrenching burst of blood and pain – surely it wasn’t that long to start with? The blade whispers as you feel it latch on to your soul and pull – it pulls the golden Essence from you and from the air and drinks it into the black blade, which you see now is not black jade at all.

Where did Marlin get a soulsteel blade?

There is more pain than you can bear as the blade shifts, widening to slice through your bones and bring you to your knees. Your vision wavers – you cannot be dying, that’s ridiculous! Killed by Dragon-bloods?

In what world does this make sense?

You slump to the side, unable to stand on nerveless legs and weakening as the blade drinks in what remains of your energy. Your anima fizzles and dies, falling dark as the faces of your three lieutenants look down at you. Paavel looks away, frowning; Pale Flower has tears in her eyes. Only Marlin watches as the light goes out from your eyes, his expression a mask until you see no more.

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