The Great Wall
L.V. sat atop the ruined Great Wall. Looking off into the distance as his cape fluttered and blew away behind him. He looked up into the darkened grey sky, and instantly his blood was chilled like the ‘Great winter of Le Aini Sofety’ where men froze in their beds and dined on children to survive.
The ground blew with dust and ash like a crazed whirlwind of a devil. It blasted against the lower levels of the wall, shaking it briefly but fiercely. The moans of its metal sounded like the dead calling out in their agony.
The twisted metal of the giant cumbersome wall brought up old memories.
He rose from his stupor as he heard Keva clambering up the partially destroyed spiral stairwell to the top of the wall. L.V. looked at her slowly, pondering her figure, a medium stature for a girl of nineteen, with black hair and a suit of armor to match his.
Through the slits upon his helmet and with his slow emotionless voice, darker and harder than the cracked dirt and ash upon its threshold he spoke to Keva, “Its time to go…”
The sun shone brilliantly for a brief second through the clouds and L.V. twisted his head around quickly enough to catch a brief glimpse of the forgotten sun, a Red Dwarf and yet still so brilliant.
The waterless clouds were a terrible reminder of the ashen world, and the now dead world of Valthera. It was all waste, and there was nothing left except for a few hundred thousand Kre’vator’ai, who were eating each other in order to remain alive.
None of it bothered L.V., the world was dying and all of the Vatheran upon its surface were dead or scattered in the universe.
L.V. turned his back almost immediately when the sun disappeared behind the massive bulks of blackened clouds and brushed past Keva as he made his way down the Wall.
A King of Ash.
Ne`kell would laugh, he knew, mock him for his stupidity, for his inability to rule over even the dead.
Sheets of metal hung from the wall and the forgotten machine turrets still sat in their manifolds, it had only been one year since the wall lay abandoned, the last defenders were of the Li’onis clan of Winter and Sand, along with a few remnants of the C’eza and Trebizond clans of the great eastern desert Wan’al’ay’ah.
A still glowing light flickered on and off as it had done for over a year.
The dim light of the clouds cast shadows across the plains as he walked down the long hallways of the Great Wall, the light cast an even larger shadow over his body, L.V. smiled briefly at the thought of his shadow.
It sent a thrill through his soul for a moment, and then it dissipated like a mist. It had been such a long time since he had noticed it.
He leaped down through a hole in the hallway to the floor below and felt his knees pop from the short drop. He would hate to see what would have happened if he fell from the top as he had done in his younger days.
He stepped casually over the skeleton and rusted armor of a Vatheran soldier who had not escaped the Fifth Siege of the Great Wall, he bore the sigil of a Lion with two cubs, it was the sigil of a lower clan of Li’onis, house Crux he believed.
A queer smell arose from the dead body, one of oil and fumes, which was merely the servomotors’ of the engine and the nanos still working to repair the dead.
A smile touched his lips again and he felt a blistering joy arise inside of himself… He had caused this. Over two years ago—he remembered it well, yet altogether it was something he did not enjoy to remember.
L.V. then turned his thoughts to the nano inside of his brain and began to think words. The words began to imprint themselves into a hidden document in his nano computer implanted inside of his helmet, and so… when and if he died, the text and scrolls of his story would be transferred to the library of La-vu, where it would be forever stored.
These are the words that he wrote—about men in the past, who ripped two worlds into pieces.
The Blood of a Lion
(Year: 1107.1) Two years in the Past
They marched for days, weeks, and just now those weeks had turned into a month.
Ail’liaro was one of the two sons of Air’ious the Second, the Gun Lord of the Li’onis.
Clouds of ash followed the army of Norse as 321,293 pairs of feet marched across the barren land from the Citadel of Valthera towards the Great Wall.
Everyone had heard of Novus’ stand that they had given there, and the army of one of the last remaining Norse’s marched to find survivors and to relieve Li’onis to the North-East if there were any at all. Everyone doubted, even Ail’liaro.
Miles they had crossed, deeper and deeper into the dead territory they marched. They passed deserted villages that with time only the rocks were distinguishable.
Ail’liaro breathed heavily as he clambered up and over a rock, his eyes a deep soggy grey from sleeplessness and hunger.
His hands shaking like two branches in a strong wind and his body though honed and bloodied, was thin and dying. He coughed into his hands feeling the heaviness in his chest, a warmness in his breath that he did not feel in his body, even with the environmental under-suit and the temperature regulator, his hands still shook.
The sky, a dry-rot grey with a molten red trying to seep through, but just not quite reaching the cold heartstrings of all the walking men, women and children that needed it most.
He looked out across the army of Valthera, reaching for a mile in two directions, and the cloud of ash reached for a mile in every direction.
Ail’liaro let a smile touch his lips, he would be seeing his father again. He dragged his hand over his hair which felt more like gritty paper than hair, but it was the only time his hands would think to stop shaking.
A woman, he picked up the smell almost immediately, but her hand found him before he could turn, it swiped around the rim of his ass and gripped through the mesh of his armor.
“Hello there sunshine, whats with the smile?”
Ail’liaro tensed, feeling the pressure on his hindquarters and a tensing in his stomach. “Tau-ajil.” His grin deepened, “Hello.”
Her hair a dark deep set brown with a golden aura to it, her skin an olive brown. She was Ne`kell’s woman... “You should come by later.” She released his flanks with a slight grip and walked on by with a stride that was not natural for a soldier.
Ail’liaro continued to smile until he realized what that meant, and he found his heart beating much faster and harder.
He dropped down from the rock and formed back into line with the soldiers where his protector walked at a much slower pace than the rest keeping a tab on his location.
Asune Li’onis followed in step behind Ail’liaro, “Don’t be having anything to do with that woman Ail’liaro, it will end badly.” Asune, an old Lion as the Norse called him, around since the time of Leoshire, 670 years ago.
“How so?” Ail’liaro said as he looked up at the slightly molten clouds.
“A woman of Norse remains a woman to the Norse, even after death, and you are a Lion. Ne`kell will kill you just for knowing you talked to her in such a fashion at De’tune.”
Ail’liaro’s smile faded from his lips and then returned just as vividly, “Will he?”
“You do not know them as I have known them, being used on the battlefield like tourniquets turns men sour.” Asune’s voice turned hard on the saying, but Ail’liaro knew this, at the beginnings of the war, when it officially started nine years ago, the Norse were placed on the front lines in every battle, even their children were placed on these battlefields being known as warriors even at the age of 12.
While the clan of Li’onis holed up in their mountains of Guidamar and Nor’shire, the Norse died at Veldimire, Le Jackal, Mount Jezre’l, De Vagen Courte, Le Aini Sofety, The Great Wall, and Caesarea. To name but just a few.
Ne`kell was considered a rarity, a Jun’ix’even of Vatheran.
And he was messing around with the man’s woman...
“Asune when have you ever known me to be reckless?” His grin widened as he turned around to face Asune with his sidelong glance.
Asune bristled as his face turned to a snarl.
He is still a lion after all...
They approached the middle of nowhere. Medias’Res.
A settlement of an old and ancient dwelling with rock built homes and mortar filled cracks. It was a rare beauty that dated even before Leoshire, before every village needed a defensible arrangement when civil war became common.
They tumbled in blankets made of reflective material, trapping their body heat against each other, not even their sweat would cool them down or make them pause.
Ail’liaro grinned with a fervor as he tasted her flesh and she of his, and for moments on end and for a deep and long passionate while, his power returned into him and he felt alive.
Until the tent flap opened.
Ail’liaro was brought out, naked into the cold ashen night and thrown into the dirt. The ash and dirt entered into his mouth and he spat it back up into a pool of drool.
I am Ail’liaro, the son of Air’ious the Second of Sonrisa.
It happened in moments that can be described as seconds, and yet it felt so much longer for the young maned lion.
Ail’liaro had no length of hair to pull his head back taut, so two fingers found the sockets of his eyes and pulled his head back tautly in this manner, his throat openly exposed.
Ail’liaro felt the tension in the back of his neck, a knee connected in between his shoulder blades as his head was brought back further and further until his jaw was forced open by the pressure.
Ne`kell, the one some called a Ruxin Kist, an Evil Soul, stood before Ail’liaro as a Lord at an execution.
A fire lit off to the side and a sword made ready, dug deep into its embers.
Ail’liaro could only gargle as the pressure built at the base of his neck and skull, he caught bare glimpses of Asune, standing to the side, his face graven, and his sadness glowed from the fire.
“My lord,” Asune was speaking with a weak voice, trembling with a quiet whimper, not a lion’s voice.
Ne`kell could not hear Asune, Ail’liaro could tell by his face, darkened but not by the night, and filled more by Ne`kell’s red albino eyes.
Ne`kell drew the fire seared blade from the fire as it glowed a light orange, and before Ail’liaro could even speak in defense, in his nakedness, the blade was shoved into his mouth, piercing through the tongue and bottom palate of his mouth.
Screams of anguish and pain echoed into the air, muffled by a glowing blade. Ne`kell stooped to his knees, looking into the eyes of Ail’liaro, not with anger, but sadness.
“Let me see you pleasure a girl with your tongue now.” Ne`kell reached into the mouth of Ail’liaro and pulled out his severed tongue. He howled mutely, sounding like a wounded animal.
Ail’liaro began to sob violently, tears drenching his face, “Kill me.” He tried to say with words that did not form without a tongue, and yet Ne`kell understood what he meant.
“No. You will fight, and you will die just like the rest of us.”
He didn’t know if he was shivering from cold or shock, his ribs pressing against the hard ashen dirt, and still he sobbed bitterly.
Asune came up carrying Ail’liaro’s armor, a fine metal with intricate carvings in detail along the rim of the chest piece that was more like mesh allowing for maneuverability.
Asune pulled Ail’liaro upwards, a caking of dust and ash falling from his forehead and sweat covered lips, his tongue having been cauterized, little blood filled his mouth. But the burning and the extreme swelling that was rising in his tongue was liable to choke him to death.
I am Ail’liaro... and I am a lion.