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My blood flows steadily out of my chest like a river made of rubies. The sand is coarse under my naked feet. The sword I wield, black as coal, turns heavier by the second. The sun falls languidly, as if it were scared of the horizon, casting long shadows on the dunes and turning the sand dancing in the desert wind visible. It swirls and coils upon itself in the breeze, an eternal and infinite pattern of copper-golden particles. Suddenly and starkly, the realization that this is where I'm going to die hits me.

It is beautiful.

"Tired enough, knight?" The man stands a few steps ahead. The sun behind him, slowly bleeding to red like me, shines a little to to his right, casting his body in angular shadows. He holds no weapon. His right eye, a shining oasis on his otherwise darkened face, stares at me without blinking. For a moment, a brief moment, I'd forgotten about him. Foolish.

I close my eyes and hold my breath, my ears to the wind. It whispers melancholy. After a few beating seconds I can hear her, a constant rhythm of impacts upon the sand, growing weaker and weaker the further away she moves. However, I can still hear her. Not far enough.

I will my body to move forward but it won't listen to me. My arms are columns of rusting metal, my legs crumbling pillars crisscrossed with fractures. I feel that I remain standing as if by some miracle of long-forgotten architecture. The man in front of me, my attacker, waits patiently. He doesn't move. I wonder if time has stopped, or maybe I'm already dead and my spirit is trapped in punishment, eternally frozen in the moment of death, the last failure in a long line. My attacker sighs with his whole body, somehow, and the spell is gone.

He starts to walk toward me slowly, inexorably, like the falling of the sun behind him. I feel my whole body subconsciously tremble in fear. He is 10 steps away. I try to find some hidden strength, untapped still. I fail. He is 5 steps away. I pray to the uncaring gods for power, power not for me or my survival but instead to protect the smalls steps that even now run away from this place. He is 2 steps away now, within my range, and something primal awakens within me. With an unnatural below, I swing my sword savagely in a wide arc. Suddenly, the sword springs to life in my hands and I feel it lighten, spry and nimble and weightless as a wooden stick. It lights up as it moves and the blade glows a fierce pale blue Pillar-like light, my eyes closing instinctively to shield themselves from the burning star I wield. The sword moves through the air swiftly and I feel no resistance vibrate through the handle.

Aside from the eternal wind, there is no sound.

The moment of energy passes. The beast inside me disappears as quickly as it emerged. My arm is now crossed in front of my chest, the tip of my sword barely buried in the sand in front of my feet, the blade dark as night again. I open my eyes. He's still there, and he bleeds. Stuck in position, with his left hand at chest height as if he tried to block my attack but thought better of it, my attacker bleeds.

The cut runs from the left of his collarbone, across his chest, all the way to his right hip. His clothes are dark but now they turn even darker around the wound. Close as he is now, I can just barely make out his face. He doesn't cry out in pain. He doesn't gasp for breath. His unblinking eye looks up at me, his expression undecipherable, as he places a small hand on my chest and pushes lightly. I fall, like a cut puppet, soundly; my back on the sand, my blade drawn diagonally across my knees, my eyes up to the starless sky above. The sky is a dark purple, bordered with dying orange, yellow and red closest to where the sun slowly falls.

I hear another thump on the sand. My attacker sits at my feet. Fuck, he whispers.

"This is bullshit." He says, louder now. I do not know what a "bull" is. "All of it, the rings, the mission, the Kingdom, all one big pile of shit." I can't help but agree.

"We come into this world and we kill and we fight and we die for naught." Again, agreement. "There's no sense to it, no point, no nothing!" I try to speak and instead cough, bloody specks falling onto my face. Somehow I can tell he is now looking at me, where before he wasn't.

"And you, good sir, are the worst of them all." The way he says "good sir" makes it sound worst than most insults I've heard. The sand beneath me is alarmingly warm and, in some places, wet. "Had to be a knight, and while you were at it, the first wandering knight in who knows how long. The first fucker who cares for justice and the weak in this god-forsaken place since good Eitry got himself and his dear family eaten on the Pillar of Disgrace." Again, that name does not ring a bell. On the uppermost-right corner of my vision there is a dune. Small footprints run up its length, disappearing over the upper edge. The golden sunlight is also crawling its way up, the dusk dark blue sand of twilight slowly flooding upward after the light, as the sun inches closer to the horizon.

After a moment and another sigh, my opponent begins to drag himself upon the sand. He shifts and pulls until he sits at my right side, his face hovering over mine for a second before disappearing again, a shadow surrounded by locks of dirtier hanging darkness. He lies down next to me, shoulder to shoulder. I feel the fingers of his left hand briefly graze the back of my right hand. Like mine, they're wet with blood and I feel as if I'm falling and they're wet with blood and I'm wet with blood and...

They're wet with blood and suddenly I'm a child again, running carelessly through the green fields of my father's state. They're wet with blood and I'm a boy that just moved to the capital, shunned by the other kids, confined to the lonely halls of the ancestral bloodline home.
They're wet with blood and I'm a youth, standing awkwardly in formation with the other young nobles inside the Armory's main courtyard, under the piercing gaze of the King and the Lord Commander.
They're wet with blood and I'm nearly a man, sparring with Keon and Andrew, laughing, my arm strong, my heart even stronger.
They're wet with blood and I'm becoming a man, facing the darkness of the Pillar's entrails, finding the light within, emerging victorious and clad in shining blue armor.
They're wet with blood and I'm in love and it is a secret. We meet in the hard shadows of the scarce lightless nights and we love each other when and where nobody sees.
They're wet with blood and I'm discovered. She is brought before my father and then before the King. I plead and I explain and I beg. The Third Prince smiles behind his father.
They're wet with blood and I'm dripping blood. In the dark room my armor shines blurred, as the royal blood slides off its plates. I let out a cry, the pain does not leave even now that I've done it.
They're wet with blood and I'm outside of everything, the sound of closing gates fresh in my ears, armorless, exiled.
They're wet with blood and I'm covered in sand, surrounded by wretches that sneer at me as they pass, my arms feeble, my mind addled by insect spawn.
They're wet with blood and there's something. A child, no, a young girl. She pleads, she explains, she begs. I remember a young man, a long time ago now. I listen. I follow.
They're wet with blood and we are running. Crimson shadows pursue us, the girl barely a weight on my arms as we cross the sand.
They're wet with blood and we're cornered. She hands me something, her soul. It is sharp, and when she holds it it glows like my armor did. It is the solution to all of our problems. It is not for me to wield.
They're wet with blood and I'm facing down immortal invisible death itself, the stuff of legends. She runs, leaving her soul behind with me. I stay behind, buying time. I stand resolute. I stand no chance.
They're wet with blood and, strangely, I see myself laying on the sand. My face looks older than I've ever looked, grizzled, covered by hair and scars I do not recognize. I'm bleeding from ragged wounds that a blade could never cause. I look beaten. I look tired.

They're wet with blood and, suddenly, the sky.

The young man who lies shoulder to shoulder next to me chuckles, a surprisingly deep and rumbling sound.

"The stuff of legends, huh? Piss poor legends you people have." I turn my head to look at him, grunting. In the twilight light of the sun's last minutes I can see his form crystal clear. He is surprisingly young. He looks like a peasant youth: black hair and a brown, tanned face with angular features darkened by long hours of working under the sun. He would be beautiful if his nose weren't crooked, if he didn't have that long pale scar running from his neck, over his left eye, and all the way to his scalp. He locks eyes with me and he isn't menacing or angry. He just seems tired. He speaks now, softly.

"Adrian, you failed your father." I grunt. He knows my name, somehow.

"Your king." I grunt, again.

"Your country and your blood." I grunt and there's a sharp spike of pain in my chest. I realize I can't feel my feet.

He looks up at me, as if waiting for something. "Will you also fail her?

"N-No..." My voice is merely a growl.

"What are you, Adrian?"

"I... Am... A..." The words don't come easily. A traitor, a coward, a weakling. The upper edge of the dune is a golden crown slowly thinning into a circlet of golden light. The sun is almost gone. "... A knight."

"And what do knights do, Adrian?" His voice is almost a whisper in my ear.

I know the answer. I've known it all my life. The one time I didn't know the answer I was exiled. The one time I did the exact opposite of what a knight is supposed to do. My mouth is open, my tongue is dry, there is no sound. I don't know what to do, how to say it with a straight face. The man laying next to me helps.

"Raise your sword, knight." My fingers are numb. My arm jerks upward but the sword slips out of my grip. Then there is a gripping feeling, another hand grasping mine, keeping the sword safely against my palm. My arm rises aided by my enemy's. The sword points to the sky and the dying sunlight plays on its very tip for a fraction of a second.

The sky turns completely dark. The light disappears from the dune above our heads. There are no Pillars nearby. Darkness falls upon us like a heavy mantle.

In the dark, a voice: "Will you fail again, knight of no kingdom? Will you?"

Next to me. "What will you do, Adrian?"

From somewhere and nowhere in the darkness, in the past and now and forever, me.

"I... I will protect!"

And suddenly there's light and I scream the words again and the sword is blazing blue in my hands, in our hands, as he screams in affirmation with me. The sword shines, cuts through the night, as if a Pillar was being born right then and there. The light is all and is good and is her and is me and I am gone.

I am gone.

I am gone.

The light inside the sword envelops me. I am gone. A last thought in light. I am gone. I didn't fail her. I didn't fail. I did not fail.

I am gone. Oh, Father, brother, and King, I am no more.

.
.
.

==================================================================

In a small valley between the ever-shifting dunes of the Outer Ring, a young-looking old man stands up. His shirt is in tatters and dark with blood. His wound is gone. At his feet, a corpse. In his hands, a sword.

Some two or three miles to the north, another old girl runs. The sand rises around her like a ghost, smothers her. It blocks her airways, she faints. It grabs her and pulls her back, carrying her back to the corpse.

The sand stops near the young man and puts the fainted girl down. It raises and coalesces into the shape of a tall back man, covered in dirty rags, and he kneels. He asks. The bloodied young man answers and says no. It is no longer necessary.

They take the girl by the hands and feet and, carefully, set her down shoulder to shoulder with the corpse. The young man turns to speak a single sentence and the tall black man nods, turns into sand again, floats away in the wind, one with the desert.

Then, the young man kneels on one knee, broken nose hovering over the girl and the corpse.

"Had to prove me wrong, didn't you, you stubborn idiot?" He smiles, the first in a long time. "You can rest now, Wandering Knight. You saved your damsel. In the end, you didn't fail." He looks to the girl and his smile disappears.

"I'm sorry." Also the first in a long time.

He stands up. There is a sound like a small explosion.

In a small valley between the ever-shifting dunes of the Outer Ring, a old girl sleeps alone, next to a corpse.

Texto agregado el 19-02-2019, y leído por 30 visitantes. (0 votos)


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