Between Sun & Moon




Act. 1 Sublime

Ch. 1 Nothingness.

If you want to read it properly, it is very hard to format it on this site, reading it on docs is better:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17W3wA2xTX8HIHGYRH-aBSh25bEKUQwxo6lra7rmrJPA/edit?usp=sharing


“Would they even struggle to survive, if they knew what was to come?”

A light piercing through a tiny hole in the ceiling is all he could see, for where he is or when he is, is unknown. He doesn't even know what he is. Is he even alive? He only feels elevated, his being lifted up and off the ground.

He can know time using nothing but that ray, although it started to slowly dim, painfully drained of its life-force without remorse, until it disappeared completely. He hopes his eyes would adjust to this newfound darkness but it is just pure, black, endless void.


It is surprisingly warm, yet he feels as if he is drowning. Drowning in his thoughts perhaps? He can barely even think, his memory seems blocked, clouded by fog. A feminine voice startles him further to his right, “You’re awake.” A gentle, soothing voice whispers in joy, before fading into nothingness.


That ray which brought hope, was the only way to tell the passage of time, long gone from his sight, a while goes by until the silence is broken suddenly, a metal gate had loudly opened in the distance, or that's what it sounded like at least. Then, the sound of about four men displacing the sand under their feet catches his left ear. It draws nearer and nearer, the footsteps are heavy.


He hears loud chattering coming from the men, although they are speaking in a foreign language unable to understand what they are saying. It definitely doesn't sound like his native language.


"Wait... what even is my native language?" He speaks in his native tongue.

They may be talking about him, perhaps? No, he shouldn't be that optimistic. For all he knows he could just be a levitating blob of nothingness. His senses are present but his soul does not exist. That feminine voice must’ve been his imagination. This might be what death feels like, it certainly feels li-, his thoughts interrupted by a metal door furiously slamming open against the wall of the... chamber?

"Was it always there?" he wonders as he opens his eyes in panic.

"The ray of light is still there... it was always there, it was only gone because I closed my eyes. No… I must've been asleep.".


Three men emerge from the door, his estimate was close enough. Wind coming from the door's location blows with rage, the sand-filled air flooding his face at mild speeds hurts more than it should, each and every grain of sand putting him in agony.

He attempts to move his arm to cover his face from it but he is chained to the wall tightly, through his arms and legs like a floating starfish. He struggles and attempts to break through the chains but it is no use.

A scorching blaze came with the gale as if a freshly heated oven door had opened on his right. It felt too uncomfortable, like he isn't adapted to heat whatsoever.

The door finally closed and yet, he couldn't help but feel a bit of gloom. Even if it was uncomfortable and painful, even if it hurt him. Those few moments that the door was open, he was also open. The strong blowing gale carrying the sand that collided with his dry, rough, battle-scarred skin, and the heat almost burning him alive... yes, that's it, he felt alive.


One of the three men ignites a torch. A figureless light in this endless void. It's blurry but he appreciates the light. Although it makes the chamber even warmer.

As the men get closer the torch reveals his body, he seems to have bandages all over him, "Someone was taking care of... me?" he wondered. His sight is but a disarrayed mix of colors, yet he could still make out their facial structure. Two of the men seemed like twins yet greatly different, their presence, forgettable. The other man seems to stand out from the other two, he looks powerful, his aura is heart trembling, battle scars all over the only parts he showed of his skin, the rest was covered in a cloth which looked of unique design, it seemed to protect against the sand and wind. They were all covered in that cloth, and they all looked tan and dark-skinned.

That man he... he felt ominous, an instinct kicked in like he was some kind of nemesis, he spoke of the same tongue as the rest, but one of the twins seemed to be there to translate.

Ch. 2 The Throne.


The man speaks, his voice is harsh and arrogant. “This was who you were struggling against? For a man who killed this many of my men, I expected better.” The translator relays.

He does not reply, he only spits at the man.

“How dare you attempt to insult General Ghazi! This is unacceptable!” The translator speaks out of place

“I don’t recall permitting you to speak. You are only here to translate. I will deal with this man myself.”
“I apologize sir.”

“I admire your spirit, you are chained to these walls yet you have the guts to spit at me. You really do live up to your name.. a renowned yet cold warrior you are.” The translator continues to relay what Ghazi is saying, “I will allow you to die by my hands an honorable death in a duel before the throne. You should be thankful.”
Ghazi waits for a reply, he receives silence. So he leaves in silence. The figureless light in the endless void gets further and further, the sensation of the outside as the metal door slides open once again arrives at him for a few moments, and then, they lock it, the sound echoes through the chamber for a few more moments before it returns back to deafening silence. He takes some time to process what had just happened. This encounter proves that he is not dead, nor is he a blob of nothingness, he is a breathing, living, conscious being! A human had just spoken to him mere minutes ago!

Happiness overwhelms him for but seconds until he realizes he is still stuck in this wretched place. He can now also explain the feeling of elevation, and that he is not a levitating blob or soul, he is simply chained to the wall, it makes him uneasy, he desperately wants freedom from these chains, a duel before the throne? What even is that? Heh, he should get some rest.

After they left the holding cell of this war prisoner, the translator says: “With all due respect General, how are you so sure that his majesty King Bariq will allow this duel to occur, especially in his presence? Your decision seemed too hasty sir.”
“I have my ways to convince Bariq. And I have my reasons for urgently needing to duel this man. You mustn't question who you serve.” Ghazi replies.

Hours pass, suddenly his deafening silence is interrupted yet again by a creeping light from the metal door, it was blinding. It disturbs his peaceful meditation. It was Ghazi, followed by four others who seem to be under his command.

They suddenly start to unchain him. “Is this the freedom I wished for?” he wondered. His stomach growls as the men take heed in removing his chains, as the chains fall onto the sand and so does he, they immediately secure him with force as Ghazi puts on a new binding. Shackles on his arms. The weight of the shackles felt even heavier than the chains since he was given a hope of freedom for a few seconds, he genuinely believed that he could be free, then they stole the hope away from him vigorously.



They walk towards what looks like a grand palace, almost blocking the sun. Halfway there, he feels an odd connection towards the grounds on his right, spoils of war littered the blood-stained sand. A battleground.

They keep on walking until they meet with the palace, it is surrounded by a barrier, heavily fortified. A metal gate noticeably interrupts the barrier’s pattern. “General Ghazi!” Guards around the gate exclaim with obvious joy in their voices.
“What brings you to the palace this late?”

“I do not need to clarify to you what I am doing. Open the gate.”
“Yes sir.”
They do as he commands. One of the guards rushes to inform King Bariq of Ghazi’s arrival
“Huf… Huf…Your Majesty King Bariq… General Ghazi Zulfiqar of the elites has arrived.” The guard lacks breath from sprinting all this way, but he does not dare look at the King, he does not dare lose his composure, he keeps his head facing the ground.
“Your thoughtfulness is admirable, but I already acknowledge his arrival, you may leave.”


The first thing he sees when the outer palace doors open is beautiful greenery, a panoply of exquisite flowers from the farthest reaches of the lands. Amongst the flowers, one speaks to him, it was crystal clear, contrasting to the rest of the area It felt safe. With traces of white reaching out to him. It certainly stands out from the rest, like a piece of diamond amidst gold, he feels the cold embrace of home.
“Return to your true self… Struggler.” The flower whispers. His heart quivers from those words. It sends a chill down his spine. An odd sensation for him, and truly memorable.

The interior gates of the palace open, slowly revealing the elegance behind them, all he could notice was the extensive amount of rooms, pillars, and exotic designs on each and every one of them, and the luxuriously decorated crimson carpets. But there was no time for a tour, Ghazi rushed them to a long corridor. His men leave

approach

They both finally arrive, Ghazi gently knocks in respect, then pushes the heavy door open. The room it reveals is vast, intensely warm, and wreaked with an otherworldly aura. The King rests on a high pedestal in sovereignty, the sunshine through the large windows abnormally targets him, enlightening him tremendously. And yet he can not gaze at the bright King as much as he yearns to. The King is mighty, he is untouchable, nothing but domination radiates from him. His power is immense. He can feel the King’s gaze yet he can’t return one. His majesty is surrounded by three horrific, humanoid creatures, each one has different characteristics like they have their own roles to fulfill yet, all three of them have one clear goal. Protect. The. King.

Ghazi and the King start chattering in their language, it sounds like a negotiation to him but he can never be sure.


“Your majesty!” Ghazi bows,
“Who is this pest that you have brought here to my sacred chambers?” The King spoke, his voice wise and calming, yet strict and powerful.
“This is him, your majesty, he may look different… weak, but this pest you speak of is in fact Aaron of the High Mountains.”
“I see.”
“I have a proposition for you, your majesty. I have brought him here because he slaughtered hundreds of my elite force. I wish to have an honorable duel with him so my men’s deaths will not be in vain. A duel right here, before the throne.”
“This man is powerful indeed, I know of him. Why wouldn’t you recruit him into your unit? He would make a great elite.”
“I do not mean to disagree with your authority, your majesty. But he would also make a great threat to my men.”
”Ghazi, how did you seize him if he can overpower the forces of the Arabian elites? This news entices me to demote you to a mere soldier and let Prince Tokhy command that fierce unit. He is much more capable than you are if what you say is true, even one of my daughters could do better as general.”
“I apologize, your majesty. We resorted to the arts of sorcery that you forbid us of. It was the only way to capture him.”
“If you can prove to me that he is truly worthy of those sacred arts, that the unit you command hasn’t simply grown weak because of you, that this man is worthy to meet his end at your precious blade, I will approve of this duel you speak of, otherwise, both you and him will meet their ends by my gracious Safaheen.”
“Yes, your majesty. I offer two of my bravest soldiers to fight him at the forefront of your mighty eyes as an example of his capability.”
“You speak of honoring your men, yet you offer them for the lightest reasons without hesitation, where is this honor you speak of? Fame and glory are your only aspirations, the title of Ghazi, Slayer of Aaron of the High Mountains is what you desire. Do not attempt to deceive me Ghazi, I, Bariq the merciful, will let your discrepancy go unnoticed. You may duel him against our unrecruitable prisoners, not your elites.”
“I sincerely apologize, your majesty. I shan’t sacrifice my elites so easily, I will personally choose the prisoners that Aaron shall duel against.”
“Very well then, you have until the sun rises to make him look more… presentable.” King Bariq explains as he gestures his


Ghazi looks visibly frustrated as both of them leave the chambers, Aaron does not know what conversation occurred between Ghazi and the King, he can only guess. He does not even know his own name, even though they had just spoken of it. His stomach still bothers him, hunger gripping him. What a strange yet vital sensation, he feels his insides twisting into a hole,

begging him for sustenance, nutrition, food… He feels weaker the more he walks down the corridor yet he pushes forward with strong resolve.

“Stop acting so pathetic.” Ghazi exclaims in frustration.
“My life, position, and pride are at stake because of you, how on earth can anybody make you look presentable, filthy creature.”
Aaron still can not understand a single word, but he can perceive the tone of frustration. So he simply stays quiet, he can somehow sympathize with the frustration yet he can’t help but think of Ghazi as an enemy, deep inside he knows that Ghazi deserves to die by his hands in cold blood, almost as if he is commanded to do so. He notices that Ghazi is not exiting the palace, but navigating into a room in one of the palace’s corners, he knocks on the door and says something loudly, a woman inside the room replies in denial.

Ch. 3 The Princess’ Quarters.



Ghazi knocks on the door and says “Samara?”
“Stop treating me like an equal Ghazi, I am still his majesty King Bariq’s daughter”
“It is only by Bariq’s grace that you have any claim to your power. Know your true place.”
“.”


No further remark comes from the woman. Minutes pass until she finally opens her door hesitantly. A blue-eyed woman, skin similar to that of Aaron, dressed in a white robe with golden accents of linen, emerges from the door. She does not have the same coverage as the rest of the people here.

She notices Aaron.
“Why did you bring him here again, Ghazi?”
“He urges for a meal. You may take care of him once more.”
“My soul’s kindness is the only reason I am agreeing to this, not the power that you hold so highly.”
“You lie to me Princess, your heart gravitates towards him, for he is of the same nation.”
“You accuse me of lying? Unshackle him and leave, I will take care of Aaron once again.”

"He is a threatening individual, he must stay shackled, I'm concerned for your safety Samara."

"I order you to unshackle him and leave at once."



Ghazi does as she commands, then leaves, seemingly satisfied. Aaron still did not understand a single word from this interaction, just happy that he is finally free… for now. He is then taken into the Princess’ quarters and sits down on the edge of her oversized, luxurious bed.

The place emits an odor as noble as hers. “Wait here, I will bring you a meal.” She switches to a gentle and soothing tone of speech, she speaks in her native tongue, Aissuri. Did she just speak his language? He is astonished, yet overwhelmed with happiness, he can't help but smile, the thought of someone else speaking his language other than that annoying translator? It baffles him, excitement fills him since she could tell him all about his nation.


His attention shifts towards the room's design, it was elegantly made, with clear effort put into the symbolization on the walls. In contrast to the throne room and pretty much the rest of the palace it is much less warm inside here.

Cold.

The Princess returns with a basket of berries in her pale hands and white nails, she gently offers them to Aaron.

“Here, these are berries from Anamorlav,”
“What is Anamorlav?”
“Strange that you don’t know… Anamorlav is the metropolis of Aissur, north of here.”
“Aissur?”
“This does not sound like Aaron of the High Mountains. Who are you?”
“Who is this Aaron you speak of?”
“Take off your tattered rags.”
“What.”
“If you were him, you should be branded on your back, take off your tattered rags and reveal your back to me. It is an order.”
“Whatever.”


“You are Aaron of the high mountains, the one we used to tell stories about, were they just fairy tales? Is this what you have become? What happened?”

“I would tell you if I knew, my memory is long gone.”

She gets a little closer and puts her arms around his shoulders.

“Don’t lie to a Princess, you can tell me.”

“Get away from me, I do not


A pause in the conversation lingers a little too long.

"Are you not going to eat, Aaron? Ghazi said you urged for a meal. Those berries are deceptively good and they have been lying there a while."

"I simply forgot to do so because of this encounter's absurdity."

"Go on Aaron, as long as I'm here you can stay comfortable, nobody messes with a Princess."
“Can I put my shirt back on?”
“You may not, I will bring you better than those tattered rags you were wearing when the time comes.”


Aaron takes one of the yellow berries, half of which are just under bite-sized, He studies the berry in his pale hand. He sniffs it cautiously, it smells faintly sweet. He pokes it. Tender, probably succulent. Then he licks the outside. He then finally tastes it, he is hit with an immense bitterness immediately, although he seems used to that taste, then the juices dissolve into his mouth's saliva, the taste becomes sweet, delicious, a minty taste is then revealed and lingers in his taste buds eternally. That sensation is creepily familiar.
“I told you they are good, eat them all if you need to.”
Aaron calmly eats the rest of the berries in silence.
“You need to sleep before fighting at sunrise." She says in concern.

"Fight? Who?"

"Did you not understand what Ghazi proposed to the King?"

"I do not understand this country's native language. They were using it I assume."

"Yes, they were speaking in Arabic." Samara then goes on to explain the situation to Aaron.


"I understand what I need to do, but why are you helping me? Are you not of royal blood?"

"Is it not obvious that I am from Aissur? The same icy paradise you were born in. "

"Then how come you are a Princess of this nation?"

"No further inquiries, you must rest."

Silence overwhelms the room.


"Where do I rest?"

"On this here bed."

"Then where will you rest?"

"On this here bed."

"Get me more food Princess. Those berries were not enough, I am still starving."


She gets up, heads outside the room, and locks the door behind her. Aaron stands, as his sight attends to an armor stand in the corner of the room, it was badly hidden, almost rushed. He moves it to the moonlight and finds a very light armor, it would definitely allow the user swift movement. There seems to be a necklace of great importance on the stand, an emblem of a mountain's peak hangs off its string, it is an amulet clearly.




"I have brought you Aissurian attire instead of those tattered rags, and traditional Arabic food."

"I am grateful for your kindness Princess."

"I see you have found your old armor, does it bring back any sort of memory?"

"I feel connected to this amulet, what is it, Princess?"

"We found it on you and it seemed important."

"Well, can I wear my armor?"

"You have not asked me my own name yet you request your armor returned to you? You are still our war prisoner, don't get ahead of yourself Aaron. You may keep the amulet and nothing else."

"I understand. May I ask your name then?"

"I am Samara, daughter of the great and prosperous General Yulian Genrikh of Aissur, the adoptive daughter of King Bariq Tal’at. I was taken by Ghazi from my home after he murdered my father Yulian in cold blood, and I was brought before the King." She speaks with great emotion in her voice, tears appear in her eyes, Aaron is the one who gets closer this time, he pulls her close to his chest on an equal level with the amulet and guides his hand across her head in an attempt to comfort her.

"It's okay to cry, Samara." He continues for a short while.

After she calms down she blushes a little and says:

"I apologize for losing my composure, you may change into your new attire and I will too, and then we may rest together."

Aaron wears his attire first, it is a perfect fit. As white as a Snowdrop with light blue accents on the sides, it covers fewer parts of his body than many other attires to allow for movement and yet, it is more practical than most. Although it seems like it was meant to be worn as under armor, it will do just fine as normal wear.
The Princess brought a gift alongside the outfit, a flower. Similar to the one that spoke to him in the gardens of this palace, Cassiope mertensiana is what it’s called. The White Mountain Heather.

"If my armor and amulet are here on this stand, and this is most definitely a version of my under armor. Where is my weapon? Is it a longsword? A rapier perhaps?" Aaron asks.

"A pair of daggers were your weapon of choice, a very special kind of daggers."

"A pair of daggers? That sounds very impractical." Aaron is filled with confusion.

"The pair is hidden away in a place only the King and his eldest prince know. I am afraid even I can not bring them to you if I wanted to."

"I do not choose daggers as my weapon of choice either way, it sounds too foolish.”

"Who knows, maybe there is a good reason you used those daggers back then, don't jump to conclusions." She replies as she picks an outfit that looks comfortable to sleep in.
“Samara, if you know so much about me, why don’t you tell me all about it? I wish to know who I was.”

“Even I can not personally know you, it is all fairy tales. I am sorry Aaron, your journey is within yourself.”
A long pause creeps in.

"Are you going to keep staring like that? I am about to change clothes, Avert your gaze." Samara says.



“I have finished changing, you may sleep after your meal. Sleep is indeed not for the weak, but for the blessed.” He hears Samara say so behind him in an unusual tone. He continues to eat, then lays on the bed after he is done, it is more comfortable than anything he had ever experienced yet the presence of another ruins the comfort. He sleeps, facing opposite Samara’s direction, yet she still stares at him. A child who had known only hate confuses it for love, for he is a hero of her nation, and she wants him for herself.


Ch. 4 King’s Gaze.




“Aaron, look what you’ve become.” A voice from above whispers.
“I have become what I must be.”
“Your form is so confining, you could be infinite.”
“I am enough.”

“You made yourself a weapon so you do not have to feel, you are not a weapon, you are my brother.”
“And I will not become the monster you want me to be, just to defeat one.”


The clouds are beneath me. I stand atop the mountain’s peak in dominion, the sound waves can not travel without air, for this is all but void and empty space, it creates a soothing, deafening silence, it calms me. Suddenly, an otherworldly eye disturbs me, it wreaks of the same endless void, its veins are white, the rest is darker than the void itself, it's as massive as the mountain I stand on, it floats in the void, almost like it is swimming in it using the flagella it possesses. Its gaze trembles any mortal soul and yet, I stand powerful, calm.
In an instant, it is in front of me, within my grasp.

“You are not invincible in this form. You lack discipline in this form. You will never know true strength until you are unleashed from this form.” The eye speaks without a mouth.


I realize I am in the rift between life and death, the thin divide between breath and grave.
“Are you my nightmare? Or am I yours? Xipetotec.” I transcend my mind to it in Aissuri, the eye looks shocked, it understands, it slips from my arm's reach fleeing back into the void.

Aaron wakes up, the sun has not risen for now. Samara is deep asleep, Aaron tries to exit but the door is locked. “I must find a key.” he thinks as he frantically searches the nightstands on both sides of the bed. “She must’ve kept it somewhere in this room”. As he is searching the bedsides someone knocks on the door then, silence. He stops his search. They knock louder then, silence. The lock moves and the door opens, they jump at Aaron before he could even attempt to recognize who they are. Samara wakes up in shock.


“You dare storm a royal room without knocking nor permission?! Leave at once!” Samara yells.
“We knocked Samara, for you were deep asleep, and this prisoner was loose. It is now time for him to prove he is worthy.” Aaron recognizes that voice, it is Ghazi and his men, they shackle him and take him away, they briefly move along the corridors, swiftly pass through the garden for the flower had no time to whisper. They exit the palace and head towards what looks to be training grounds. Samara following their footsteps in the sand. The sun starts to rise, King Bariq has arrived at the training grounds, he sits on a seat made just for him, it is not a throne, yet not a normal seat, it is a recliner made of steel and gold of some sort with what seems like ancient Arabic hand-carved on it, his majesty still retains that dreaded, otherworldly domination. Those three… beings, guarding him wherever he goes, one is slender and tall, his arms as long as his legs, it wields a shortsword, the other is short and chubby with abnormally narrow eyes, it wields a poison tipped dagger, the one behind both of them is massive, he menacingly holds a mace as big as Aaron.

“Bring me water, I am thirsty.” Aaron says, Samara



“Leave me alone Ghazi.”

“Ah, I see what this is about, well, do they know who killed your father? Or do they still blame me?”

“...”


He is given a dull sword from the armory after being unshackled once again, knowing it is still not his freedom. He then walks onto the sand amidst the crowd’s attention, but they are nothing compared to the King’s gaze, he tries not to think about it too much for it will distract him. Another war prisoner of the same nation as him is unshackled and given a dull blade, “My name is Evin 

Dabroslavof


The fight begins.
Two swords clash, the swords almost break, they are not used to the sword’s grip clearly, it is sloppy bladework. Aaron slashes Evin’s chest and barely avoids a sword swung at his forehead, Evin is injured, on the verge of begging for mercy yet Aaron is merciless, he jumps at Evin at the first vulnerability and accidentally drives the sword through his intestines, whilst trying to instinctively aim for the arteries, it still works. Evin is dead.

“I have killed a man, I have just ruthlessly murdered one of my kind, and yet, why do I feel… nothing.” he thinks.

“This is the man you want to duel, Ghazi? How low can you stoop for glory! His bladework is pathetic, he does not deserve to even witness your precious blade.”

“Perhaps if we give him his daggers my King.”
“Are you fearless? Or just a lunatic? We can not give him those daggers, don't be so senseless, you may give him an Arabian dagger from the armory, nothing more, nothing less.”

“I understand.”

“This is your last chance to prove his worth before your soul is handed to the sun by my Safaheen.”

“Yes, your highness.”


They replace the dull sword Aaron was given with a dull Arabian dagger. Then he steps back onto the sands to fight once more. Now he stands opposite a pale man with narrow eyes, he seems more powerful than Evin but he does not speak the same language, so he can never know his name.

The man wields an exceptionally long, curved sword. His stance has been undeniably mastered but, it felt weak, this man he… he was starving, urging for a meal, he could barely stand.



Aaron readies his dagger in his right hand, he feels a familiar sensation, so he pulls the dagger close to his chest in a reverse grip, his left hand itches for the hold of another dagger, so he moves his left arm behind his back and raises the heel of his right foot forward, it is a stance, an Aissurian dagger stance.



The King’s eyes are glowing white, Aaron can not move, he is paralyzed as long as the King chants. The mortal guards snatch the dagger from his blood soaked hand.

They shackle him and the King finally stops chanting.

The Kingsguard have not moved a single muscle in this incident, for they still only have one goal: Protect. The. King. Nothing else is worthy of their interest. Aaron is then stripped of all his belongings and swiftly taken back into his holding chamber, passing by those familiar battlegrounds again, he also passes by what looks like an oasis but he is unsure, he is then taken back inside that lonely chamber and chained like a starfish once more. He knew it was never his freedom when he was unshackled in the first place, unsurprising.


“Ghazi, I will travel to a faraway land at sunset, for three days and three nights. I shall witness your duel when I return at the royal training grounds, for my entertainment. It will be interesting to say the least.”

“I am humbly grateful for your kindness, high sorcerer King Bariq.”

“Although Aaron must be punished for his actions. He is to be lashed 99 times with the scourge until his tears are crimson, then drenched in 10 rusted buckets of cold, minty lemon water to make his wounds scream even louder. My daughter, Princess Samara, must whip Aaron personally, you may oversee this operation, Ghazi.”
“I understand.” Ghazi bows and heads towards the preparation room. The King rides on his mount, a majestic camel, then departs. The crowd scatters with excitement, yet terror in their movement, due to the inhuman monster that was unleashed when Aaron got hold of a dagger. They return to their sandstone homes with dread, they had just engrossed in horror.


Ghazi enters the preparation room to make sure nothing has been stolen, Prince Tokhy and his guards seem to have protected the equipment from the crowd and the loose prisoner.

“Beware him, beware a man with nothing to lose, he fights like a demon. Ghazi, you might not win the duel as easily as you think, your ego surpasses you.” Prince Tokhy speaks to Ghazi arrogantly, although he may be right, Ghazi brushes it off with respect to the Prince, he only nods in agreement.


Aaron has not gotten enough sleep before the fights, and for now, it is all he could do,
“Sleep is indeed not for the weak, it is for the blessed.”
Those words echo through him, “I am not blessed, nor weak, and yet, I sleep.” so he closes his eyes, the light piercing through the ceiling dims to disappearance, and he finally rests in solitude.


Ch. 5 Eye In The Abyss.


The earth is beneath me. It is ghost-quiet. Everything is null and void.

I stand atop the mountain’s peak, fog preventing me from looking down, I feel no temperature at all in this world. And so, I stand still.

Suddenly, powerful black lightning, followed by thunder, strikes the bottom of the mountain, the fog flees from the thunder, the lightning creates a hole as deep as the mountain I stand upon, I look at the abyss below me, in my mind I have already dominated this mountain’s peak. And so, I must descend.


"Aaron! Look what you've become."

"I have become what I must be."

"Your form is so confining, you could be legendary."

"I am enough."

"Become the monster you always were, that way you can defeat him along with me Aaron, come, absorb me into you, we can be together, we can be one eternally."

"I will not become a monster in the process of defeating one."


The mighty mountain that I had just descended has vanished into thin air behind me the moment I looked down into the abyss.

There is an otherworldly eye gazing at me in frustration at the bottom of this bottomless pit, its veins are white and the rest is darker than the abyss it inhabits, its stare would intimidate any mortal soul and yet here I stand, calm, powerful.


The eye transcends its thoughts to me, for there is no need for sound in this world. "Your form imprisons you, you will never know true strength until you are free from your form."


I realize I am in the rift between life and death, the thin divide between breath and grave.

"Are you my nightmare? Or am I yours? Xipetotec." I reply in Aissuri without sound. The eye looks frustrated, it shakes the ground beneath me with godly power until everything in my sight shatters into pieces, everything crumbles down like building blocks crumble before a toddler's tantrum, now only my presence and this void remain in this world. After I comprehend what just happened, I feel at peace, all the burdens have been lifted off my shoulders. I am weightless, formless, I do not care what anybody thinks of me, there is nobody to judge me. I am me, eternally in this empty space. I am in bliss, I am in absolute tranquility. Is this what death feels like? I must be in heaven then.


Aaron awakens from a deep sleep to the palace doors loudly closing in the distance, he has indeed confirmed that it is the same metal gate he heard back then, the light piercing through the ceiling tells him that it is around midday due to how bright it is, the chamber's metal door slides open in a struggle and the sun's rays creep onto the sand from it.

He recognizes that face in an instant, it is Samara, he is relieved until he notices that she seems to have one of those otherworldly Kingsguard walking by her side for… protection?


After her, Ghazi and about 7 of his men emerge from behind her, they seem to have some equipment with them, a rusty bucket filled to the brim with colorless, fresh, liquid is put on the sand in front of Aaron, an even bigger one is put behind it, it is larger tenfold than the first bucket, that is no bucket, it is a storage tank behind it, a wire-like tool is also brought, it looks as if a piece of hair as big as a grown man had its tip cut a thousand cuts, and then hardened in fire without burning it, making it sturdy and powerful enough to be sharpened. The guards give that tool to Ghazi, and he hands it over to Samara, she takes it with obvious uncertainty and hesitation, now that Aaron focuses his sight on her expressions, she is in obvious distress, tears running down her cheeks, he is oblivious to what is about to occur.


"You may start now Samara." Ghazi speaks in Arabic, in a tone so soft that it almost embarrasses him.

"Leave me be you vicious murderer! I do not need your order nor your comfort!" Samara replies, Ghazi sighs in displease yet understanding. They remove any clothes that seem to protect him and prepare him for punishment.


Samara lashes the scourge at Aaron and starts counting in an ancient language as if she is chanting "Aist… Bist… Dist…" Aaron does not flinch, he is determined to be strong, stay strong, tolerate it. This is but an exercise to strengthen him. "Dikt… Tikt… Qikt…" She doesn't stop chanting, she seems to take guilty pleasure in torturing her own kind, Aaron bleeds, glowing blue blood comes out of his wounds, it is an inhuman sight, "Qwe… Pwe… Swe…" She keeps on chanting, her eyes start subtly glowing, Aaron tries to stay emotionless but the wounds burn in pain, the filthy sand starts attaching to the blue blood it hurts him even more, a tear escapes his eye.

Although what hurts most is that the only one he knows who is of his nation in this confusing world is torturing him without remorse, each lash is stronger than the one before it, and each lash creates what feels like a thousand wounds on his already scarred body. “Sint… Hint… Nint…”. It hurts him so much, unbearable injuries sting like salt on a wound,

like he got stabbed with a sharp knife, it gets stuck in his body, so twisted by one who once cared for him, then pulled away vigorously, a thousand times repeated. He begs Samara to end the misery and kill him already, but she does not stop, she continues chanting whilst whipping harder and harder, he screams in agony but she does not react, she looks lifeless, deaf to any sound, her eyes glow white, she whips faster in hostility, it is cruel. He wishes his screams would drown out the pain but it doesn’t, it only nullifies it slightly.


After a long agonizing while, she finally stops torturing him, the wall behind him has been dyed in his abundant blood, a horrific sight to witness.

A long sigh of relief and guilt escapes Samara, she then exits the room in tears as the Kingsguard escorts her out, Ghazi also lets out a sigh, his eyes follow where Samara is headed, he then redirects his attention back and commands his men to do… Something. One of his stronger men picks up the fresh liquid and pours it on Aaron. It seems like it is an ice cold mixture of lemon and mint in water, meant to hurt his wounds even more, but something strange occurs, Aaron feels… no sting at all, in fact, it's the opposite, he feels as if this ice-cold water is healing him. It is changing him.

The men finish refilling the bucket from the storage tank and splash him with the water even harder, Aaron subtly enjoys it, but his face stays emotionless, they refill a third and a fourth and throw it at him as if they are trying to drown him, the sand on his wounds is washed away and the sand below him turns into mud, they refill a fifth and drench him in it, the lemon in the water seems to be purifying his wounds, closing them. The men have given up, Ghazi orders them to continue in an uncertain tone, sixth, seventh, eighth bucket, Aaron finally feels cold, happiness overwhelms him, it is an embrace of home, his heart glows, he shivers, he goosebumps, it sends quivers down his spine and throughout his whole body, this is better than feeling alive, the cold awakens something inside him, a catharsis. Ghazi picks up the rusty bucket and refills it personally, then splashes it at Aaron as hard as he can, the water mixed with rust and a forceful splash creates another wound on Aaron's obliques, it stings, yet his face still conveys no emotion "A thousand scars, what is one more?" he thinks. They throw a tenth like they just wanted to get it over with, Aaron's hair turns straight from all the water drenching it, most of his wounds have closed, he feels better at the end of the punishment than before it, as if he has just been born anew, his face now lacking emotion like he is a ghoul, but his mind feels otherwise, it is full of emotion, ecstasy, happiness, satisfaction… Peace.


Ghazi's men put Aaron's shirt back on him and leave, surprisingly they seem satisfied, not disappointed, they have an ominous look on their faces.

Aaron tries to get back to sleeping but he can't, he wonders what they were thinking whilst leaving through that metal door. Or maybe he just slept enough that’s why he’s unable to rest, all he could do is wait and think, all he could do is drown in his thoughts, drift away and daydream, for he can only dream in the day, at night, it is only nightmares.

He takes this time to try and remember anything about his past, it results in only disappointment, so he just stares at the mud below him turning back into sand, the piercing light slowly turning orange, then red, it gets fainter and fainter. Aaron is lost in his thoughts for some time, he tries to locate the light again but it had disappeared already, he feels downhearted that he missed out on watching the light slowly fade away, now, only darkness remains. His stomach feels empty, hunger begins to engulf him, he starts to feel weak, tired, all the energy he had left in his body is gone, all he could do is let his hunger grow stronger, but he has also grown stronger, he will not let the hunger affect his mentality, for he will stay a stoic after what’s been done to him.


Ch. 6 Thorns.


The metal door reopens, it is midnight, there is no moonlight, a figure enters the chamber, Ghazi has returned, with the two twins behind him, one of which is indeed the translator, although the translator seems nervous for some reason. Unlike last time, Ghazi has his greatsword on his back, its details aren’t clear in this intense darkness, all he could determine is the sheer size of it, it is as big as Ghazi himself, and that it enlightens the room with warming fire, pulsing like a heartbeat.

“Do you wish to fulfill your hunger first? Or your thirst? Pest.” The translator relays as Ghazi speaks.

Aaron does not reply, he is indeed exceedingly hungry and devilishly thirsty, but he will still not stoop so low as to ask Ghazi for sustenance.

Ghazi lights a torch and hands it to the translator’s twin, the warm light emitting from the torch does not compare to what is coming from the greatsword, although it reveals a bowl of cactus-like thorns, and one of the twins holding a large cup of boiling water, the water evaporating into the air, creating clouds of steam due to how hot it is.

“Because I am so kind, you may fulfill both of your needs.”

Aaron refuses to eat or drink any of that, it will harm his already torn body. Ghazi unsheathes his greatsword, it looks divine… its edges burn with inextinguishable flames, its waves of heat disarrange the air around them, the heat reaches Aaron and makes him uncomfortable already.

“This is a sunforged greatsword, named and forged by the sun itself,

This sword is the most precious blade in all four lands, the sun called it Ignatius. Now, you may choose between the sustenance I offer you, or Ignatius inside your wounds.”

Aaron stays silent in defiance, so Ghazi slices Aaron's shirt off and ruthlessly presses the greatsword’s tip against the recovering injury in Aaron’s obliques, it is severely painful but Aaron stays emotionless, Ghazi thrusts the blade harder, Aaron is emotionless,

his skin melts then solidifies around the blade, Ghazi looks visibly frustrated, Ignatius pulses faster, the heat feels more intense, he pushes Ignatius even deeper into the wound until it almost reaches Aaron’s back, he then twists it, it undeniably hurts Aaron. But he is determined to stay emotionless, the heat is the worst part.


“Sir Ghazi, I do not mean to defy with your ways but is this not fatal to our prisoner?” The other twin exclaims in concern.

“Shut up Salman, I have already scolded your brother multiple times about speaking out of place, besides, I am proficient with what is vital to our prisoner’s survival and what is not, you may leave if you don’t like it.”

“I will leave, for now, it has been a pleasure serving you alongside my brother, General Ghazi. I shall meet you tomorrow after resting.” Salman puts the large cup down, gives the torch to his brother, and leaves.

While they were conversing, Aaron was still in burning pain,

"Heh, this will definitely leave a scar on my body.” Aaron thinks to himself.


“Your quietness, stubbornness, it is not a show of power, it shows how pathetic you are, weakling, I will surely win the duel with ease.” The translator seems affected by the absence of his twin brother, but he still continues to do his job.

“Nobody plans a murder out loud.” The translator hesitantly relays Aaron's reply.

"BURN! LET MY HELLFIRE CONSUME YOU!" Ghazi is enraged, Ignatius is throbbing intensely, almost as if it's connected to Ghazi's emotions, he thrusts Ignatius with such great power that it pierces through Aaron completely, luckily it doesn't damage any vitals, it only slams against the blood-stained wall behind Aaron, he tries to resist, but instead he screams in true agony, a scream of pain heard across aeons, the heat is intolerable, he feels weak, helpless. The fire darkens the skin around the wound as if a chunk of the sun’s essence is inside Ignatius. All three of them are drenching in sweat, even Aaron is losing what little water he has left in his body through sweat, unbearable heat, the translator runs away with terror in his eyes, it is a gruesome sight indeed, he drops the torch along with him, and only the bright pulsing light coming from Ignatius remains, it's pulsing quickly like a running heart, lighting up the room with each beat, then dimming back into darkness. Ghazi then forces the cactus-like thorns into Aaron’s mouth, they cut his dry lips open, blood escapes his mouth like a blocked waterfall, his tongue senses only misery, his salivary glands begin to produce saliva excessively with the last drops of water he has in his body, in a desperate attempt to break down the thorns but, it’s far too late, it descends through his throat as if he swallowed a hundred needles, each needle furiously scratching the insides of his throat, it is so excruciating that he can’t even speak if he wanted to, he evidently tries to weep but, it is in vain, his throat is now intensely damaged and stinging with grievous pain, he produces only a helpless dry moan, his sanity is bygone, his voice could no longer make itself heard. Meanwhile, Ghazi is still twisting and turning Ignatius inside the wound, fueling the fire, Aaron's body feels like a pile of ashes that can only sense suffering,

he vomits blood uncontrollably, it hurts so much he can't even cry, he can't waste the last drops of water in his system on tears.



Magma peeling

sheathes

Ignatius’ light reveals Ghazi’s face more closely, those aren’t battle scars… Those are burn marks. Ghazi throws the bowl and cup on the ground, and leaves with pride, without looking back.


Salman had heard the first scream of agony coming from Aaron, so he went to check what is going on, he opened the metal door slightly, unnoticed, he witnessed Ghazi torturing Aaron mercilessly, he stood there silently and watched mindlessly, it was horrific, a traumatizing sight, he almost passed out from watching, it seemed endless, when Ghazi pulled out the greatsword from the wound, Salman realized that Aaron needs immediate medical attention, he rushed to his humble house and picked up a gauze, he made sure that Ghazi left the chamber, then Salman snuck past and entered the chamber:


Aaron can't see this figure that had just entered in this faint light, the figure comes closer, inspects the wound, and starts wrapping gauze around Aaron's abdomen with only the dim moonlight to guide him, he finishes wrapping and says in Arabic: "Stay strong legend, your time will come." Aaron recognizes the voice but he can’t understand, it's the translator's twin brother. Aaron attempts to beg him for water but his voice is too dry, it hurts to speak, it hurts to breathe, it is only a hissing sound when he attempts to.

The twin brother leaves with caution and closes the metal door behind him, now only darkness and agony remain, now the only thing Aaron can do is close his eyes and sleep.



Ch. 7 Azure Skies.


The azure skies are above me, layered elegantly on top of one another, seven layers, two-hundred years away from each other, its beauty disturbed by an otherworldly eye amidst them, gazing into my soul from above, its gaze radiating sympathy, pity. Its veins are white, the rest is as black as the ground I stand on, I reach out for the sky, for the heavens above me, I call upon them to help me, but I am only met with rejection, so I tuck myself in and weep, for it is all I could do in this lonely world.

Indeed, I am silently suffering, alone, without a single soul to comfort me. But so is everyone in this world.


The eye begins to swim toward the sun, it darkens the azure skies the closer it gets to it, the brightest of lights is dimming at an uncomfortable speed, the sun flickers as the eye approaches it, it reaches its destination, the sun’s light blocked by the eye, darkness. It slowly turns itself in my direction and gazes at me, I feel its gaze and yet I can’t return one, just like the sun, it looks at you as long as the day lasts, but you can never look at it.


Even though the eye is as big as the sun, it still stares precisely at my heart, it stares deeply, judging me. All is null and void. All is lonely fog. All is lost, even the glimmer I had in my eyes as I looked upon the heavens has perished, not even light remains, only darkness, sorrow, and this eye prevail. I tuck myself in and weep again, for it is all I could do in this lonely world.


A light knock on metal, then another knock, and another. The noise awakens Aaron from his slumber, the ray of light is not there. Whoever knocked on the door twists the deadlock and slides the door open with a lit torch in hand, it is Samara in a beautiful greyish-black cloak camouflaging with the midnight, so Aaron slept so long that it is already the next night? It seems that his body attempted to recover through sleep, yet he only feels slightly less agonized.


Samara slowly walks the sand until she reaches a good conversation distance with Aaron, she is standing on what was mud the day before, it has already turned to sand. She holds the amulet in her hand, the emblem of the Sun & Moon in an orbit around the High Mountain, Aaron is drawn to it, but he yearns for an explanation as to why she tortured him more than the amulet. "Her friendliness was probably just an act so that whatever torture they had in store for me would also hurt mentally. Cruel." He thinks. Rage starts ramping up inside him as he thinks about what she did to him, his blood boils, his teeth collide, he attempts to shout at her in anger but his voice does not cooperate, it produces not a single whisper of sound, it simply aches when he tries to speak. He can no longer express any emotions through sound, only facial expression.


"I'm sorry Aaron, King Bariq ordered me to lash you, it was absolute, I was unable to defy him, torturing a hero like you hurt me too, please, forgive me." Samara says in a soft, guilt-ridden voice.

“I may be a hero in your eyes, but I am a villain in everyone else’s.” Aaron’s thoughts are personal to him.

He is skeptical at first if she is lying or if it is the truth, then he thinks of the King’s gaze, it sends a chill down his spine, he understands that his decision is absolute. Besides, that punishment didn't kill him, it only made him stronger, but he can not express his forgiveness, his understanding, for he does not have a voice. Seeing one of his kind so emotionally torn apart with nothing he could do hurts him too.

“Your silence is understandable, I hope you forgive me someday. Salman had come and informed me about what Ghazi did to you, simply hearing him describe it was poignant. It was unjust, I am willing to help you defeat that vicious murderer. Fortunately, I retrieved your amulet and got hold of the moonlit mask, cloak, and shoulder guards you used to wear on the battlefield, I do not expect you to forgive me even after the effort I went through to get these, but here, you may have them, but please promise me that you won’t take your revenge on me when I remove these chains that hold you like you are a villain.” Samara says in a soothing, gentle voice. Aaron weakly nods in agreement with the last bits of energy he has.

She notices the large gauze on his abdomen, and hovers her hand over it in concern, “It wasn’t me who put this on you this time.” She peels off the gauze to check, a massive black wound without skin is revealed, like he had been stabbed by the sun, a wound that pierces through him. The pierce had damaged the sun in the brand on his back, she is horrified, and puts the gauze back on cautiously. She starts to hesitantly unchain him, his right arm is free, the temptation to end it all is immense, but he barely holds on to the thin veil of life. His left arm is free, his back bends, he has no energy to use his abdominis muscles to stay upright. His right leg is free, he feels the sand particles under him with his bare foot. His left leg is free, he falls on the sand in defeat, he can not stand, he is in too much need for sustenance, too weak. Samara looks at him for seconds, then leaves the chamber and locks the door behind her, Aaron notices that she left the equipment on the ground, he desperately reaches out to his precious emblem, it is such a simple task yet the effort it takes him is monumental, his vision becomes blurry, his legs feel like a pair of noodles, crawling to his precious amulet, the light that the torch on the wall emits is so dim that he can barely see the necklace. He feels weak, pale, his stomach eating itself alive, twisting into a black hole. His lips are no longer soft, they are coarse, rough solid. His vision weakens even more, the amulet is dancing just out of reach, within his undying grasp, yet he can't get a hold of it. Everything dims, everything darkens, everything disappearing then, void, endless void, nothingness.


"Aaron? Aaron! Wake up please, I have food for you!" A voice echoed through his being, such a distant voice, yet so close.

"Brother?" Aaron attempts to speak forgetting he is mute, he hopes it is temporary.

He opens his eyes slowly, his eyelids sticking together, holding onto each other dearly, like they wanted to stay closed.




Ch. 8 Life & Death.


I am given a choice, between life and death, a path divided in two, breath and grave, the mountain, and the abyss, I gravitate towards the bottomless pit, so I walk down it's path, each step as if I am carrying the weight of the world's woe on my shoulders, each step pressures me down into seeing this void spin and twist around me, each step I take feels like a thousand, and a thousand feel like a million. I'm slowly getting closer, yet I feel further away than ever before. Suddenly, I arrive at its edge, I look down the abyss, the bottomless pit, the otherworldly eye is down there waiting for me to jump down, let go of all my earthly tethers, all my burdens, and descend. It is as simple as taking a step forward, yet the mental effort it takes me is monumental, I finally decide, I will jump down the abyss, I move a single nerve of mine and suddenly, a voice from the mountain yells at me, "Endure, for you will be legend."

In the blink of an eye, the mountain is before me, I look at its peak, in my mind I have already fallen, and so, I must climb, with the weight of the world on my shoulders, a challenge, I find my limit a thousand times and yet I still press further.

“You do not know burden, until you’ve seen armies, swarms of men, hanging on your very word, endure, Aaron. For you will take more lives with your words than by blade.”

I persevere, I endure like my brother told me to, I climb with unwavering will, each step burdens me more, yet the burden is still light compared to what I have to carry when I walk the earth. I ascend up the mountain, unshakeable, immovable, I am powerful and invincible, even though I carry the world's woe up the mountain. I knew this would not be easy, the way forward written in toil, in heaps of corpses, I endure.


“Guilt clings to you Aaron, forget the past, it only clouds the future.”


The fog is beneath me, I stand atop the mountain in dominion. it's snowing… the peak's stone covered in milky-white foam, and yet, there is no cold, nor hot.



My pursuit is disturbed by an otherworldly eye before me, staring deep into my soul, its veins are white and the rest is darker than the void itself, it is as big as the mountain I stand upon, I realize I am in the rift between life and death, the thin divide between breath and grave.

"Are you my nightmare? Or am I yours? Xipetotec." The eye disintegrates into nothingness as I transcend those words to it in Aissuri, even immortal demons tremble before my power.

I close my eyes, and continue my pursuit, in meditation and tranquility.


A bright morning light piercing through a tiny hole in the ceiling, it takes him time to realize he had just woken up, he looks to his right, a dent of a human in the sand not so long ago, someone had slept next to him, they seem to have left him some food, he lays a little longer until he realizes how in dire need of food and drink he is, so he gets up and takes a bite, then another, then viciously consumes the bowl, like slurping a seedless watermelon on a hot day without a single slice going to waste.

A simple Arabian meal, yet so precious to him. At some point in his life he would’ve thrown this away, and now he savors the smallest drop of water.

His agility returns to him, he has the energy to walk, to run, but he still can’t speak, he clings to the last bit of hope that someone, something might heal his voice. He saw the royal bloodline use sorcery, maybe they have the ability to rescue his voice, just maybe magic could be his remedy.


He lays there after the meal, staring at the ceiling, drowning in his thoughts, letting his stomach digest for about an hour. The light brightens, he pays close attention to the chattering voices right outside the chamber, maybe he can pick up a word or two from their language. Light footsteps get closer to the metal door, Aaron sits up in attentiveness and caution, if authority sees him unchained or eating any food, it will be difficult to deal with, but he has the energy to fight whoever comes through that door. The deadlock twists and the metal door slides open producing a sound of friction against the concrete, he recognizes that face immediately, it is Samara, he stays emotionless, even though his mind wanted him to smile.

But she has joy written all over her face, yet she stares at the ground in guilt and respect.



Aaron simply nods.

"Unfortunately I can't help heal your voice, but fortunately, I've gathered useful information for you. I have found books telling tales of how you got your equipment, to summarize, you got your sunforged dagger, chestplate, and leggings by talking to the sun, it deemed you worthy, and by talking to the moon you obtained the moonlit dagger, cloak, and mask, he deemed you worthy. You were once named Warrior of the Sun & Moon, Protector of Aissur, you are Aaron, you are a hero, a legend."

"That legend is not me, for I am that man no longer." He thinks.

"As you know this nation is built around an oasis, a very special oasis, it is the shrine to the sun, it is where you first interacted with it, and got your sunforged equipment. If you were already worthy, you may be able to talk to the sun once more, if it was willing to help you once, then it is probably willing to do it again, the sun is kind, it may be able to return your voice too.

Sadly you can not go to the moon until it is full, and the last full moon was thirteen nights ago. But… you may meet the sun any day as long as it is midday, when the stick in the sand has no shadow. Wear your moonlit cloak and mask, they will keep you disguised as you traverse this nation’s grounds into the oasis. Don’t worry about this chamber, I’ve got it covered.”

He understands, and holds the beautiful moonlit cloak in admiration, it seems like it could transform into anything, he stares at the cloak, like he is looking at


greyish

He attempts to also put on the amulet but Samara stops him.

"This amulet breaks your disguise, and so do the shoulderguards. There are many people outside when the sun is at its brightest, please be cautious. You will know what to do when you arrive at the shrine." Samara takes him outside and points at the shrine, it is not too far away, she escorts him outside of the war prisoner holding grounds.

Right before releasing him into the crowd, she hands him a keychain containing precisely 5 keys without telling him what it’s for.


He is bumping into the hundreds of people going about with their daily lives, this is the first time he has been alone since he awakened in that prison. As he is walking towards the shrine he thinks about how he could simply leave this nation now, how he could just run away, but, he has nowhere to go, nowhere to live, every where he looks is just desert and dunes, sands shifting with the wind on a whim, the dunes have a way of sneaking around in every potential escape route, besides, he needs to teach Ghazi a lesson before he leaves, wait… when is the duel?


The swarms of people decrease the closer he gets to the oasis, there are so little people near the shrine that he can count them on his fingers, the shrine is on a tiny island amidst the oasis.

He crosses the bridge over the crystal clear water, and the beautiful palm trees. He stands before the shrine, the stick in the ground still has a miniscule shadow, he sits down crossing his legs whilst observing the shrine' details. Tick, tick, tick. It is getting closer to midday, he admires the detailed handwork on the shrine, ancient Arabic carving similar to that of what follows the King wherever he goes. It is red with rich gold accents and a curved roof. Tick, tick, tick. He is sweating excessively, the blazing sun directly above him, staring deeply into his soul, keeping his attention is hard in this heat. Tick, tick, tick. It feels like the sun has abandoned him, the stick has no shadow, yet the sun has not met him, he starts to lose hope, his mask and cloak heat him even more. He thinks about giving up and leaving, as it was probably just a fairy tale.

 

Suddenly his eyes glow white involuntarily, the same sensation as vomiting uncontrollably. He starts chanting words that he doesn't understand himself, ancient Arabic it seems.

 

The carvings glow white, his eyes glow bright, his soul takes flight, then travels faster than light, he has arrived at the sun's path without contrite.


Ch. 9 The Sun.



"Yes young soul, you may speak in this realm." The sun's voice is powerful, yet surprisingly gentle.

"Ah, dear sun, you haven't abandoned me, now I remember you, please I need your assistance once more!"

A radiant, levitating being slowly emerges from the sun, The Golden Man. Aaron feels blessed, a chance that happens once in a lifetime, has happened to him twice, to gaze upon such a divine being, his face is unimaginably beautiful, his physique is too perfect for a human, his bright yellow cloak trails behind him in dominion, his white dreamy hair touching his shoulders, he is pale with golden, glimmering eyes. Wearing golden sunforged armor, white golden accents and elegantly designed engravings, the epitome of elegance, the personification of the sun. Aaron forgot any sorrow, any burdens he ever had when he put his sight upon him, such bliss he is in whilst gazing upon such an alluring being, Aaron is speechless.


The man floats towards Aaron in grace, and spreads his arms, then twists his wrists upwards, his cloak turns into wide, blazing, heavenly wings, he looks down at Aaron and says.


be legend." The man speaks, Aaron can not pay attention to what has just been said because of how stunning the voice is, it is too powerful.


"Please sun, let me stay, I don't want to fall back down to earth." Aaron pleads.


"I am no sun, I am but a placeholder, my master is well past his zenith, I am nothing but a fragment of his personification. My weapons, they do not have names, they have ambitions. Those mortals down on earth worship us, they name our weapons and say we named them! Liars they are! They do not worship the god who created us, creator of the Sun & Moon, The Seven Skies, and everything in between. Knower of the unseen, other than whom there is no deity. The sovereign. The pure. The exalted. The mighty. The compeller. The superior. The inventor. The shaper. He alone has the most beautiful names. Fools they are! You will teach them Aaron. Now descend, go back to your physical body with your dagger. You will know what to do, with fate."


"Please, I want to stay in this heavenly place! I don’t want to go back to earth."


"Your wishes are insignificant, you have no time, descend immediately, it is almost nightfall for your physical body. Fate will guide you."


The man spreads his wings, then flaps them once. A single flap producing a scorching blaze with the heat of a thousand suns, sending Aaron’s soul back down to earth. The last thing he glimpsed was the man’s flaring golden eyes, gazing back at Aaron with trust and anticipation.


A cricket whistling the sun away, the stars are bright and clear tonight, a cold breeze comes through. There are no people, it is ghost-quiet with nothing but that cricket, chirping, in set, natural intervals. He hears the sound of sand crackling in front of him, the smell of burning, he looks down, it is a bright dagger, turning the sand under it black, he tries to hold the dagger, but it cinders his skin, turning his right palm dark, not as severe as the wound on his abdomen, but enough to sting. It gives off the same type of heat as Ignatius. He takes a closer look at it, it is the Sunforged dagger that The Golden Man was holding. Aaron brainstorms about how he's supposed to use it, or even transport it, if even the slightest touch burns his hand.

He has an idea, he holds the tip of his moonlit cloak, and tries to order it to be cold through his mind, it obeys, he wraps the cold cloak around his right hand and holds the dagger with it in caution to transport it back to the chamber.


He makes his way through this ghost town, entering the war prisoner holding grounds, and scouts for his holding chamber, his is easily distinguished, it is different from the rest.

He finds it, and attempts to slide open the metal door. It is locked, he attempts again but with force before realizing he might wake someone up with the metal clashing dins in this sleeping town. He thinks, and thinks, please Aaron think, this situation could be fatal. Ah, Samara gave him a keychain with five keys before releasing him into the crowd, maybe one of them is for this deadlock. He puts the dagger down, burning the sand under it yet again.

He looks for the keychain in his cloak, nothing. He might’ve lost it at the shrine. The cloak understands, and points to where the keychain supposedly is, it leads Aaron back to the town, the place that used to be swarming with people midday, now nobody.

The keychain fell from him amidst the crowd, luckily no one took it, he picks it up and navigates back to his chamber, only to find that the dagger is gone, his heart starts to beat rapidly, has he lost the sun’s gift? He panics, but he tries to stay calm and think straight, there is a clear burn mark where the dagger was, so he inspects it, he feels beating heat coming from the mark, so he looks at it closely, the dagger had dug down with its heat and made a hole in the sand, Aaron is relieved.

The hole it dug is about half an arm deep, so he puts the cloak back on his hand and reaches for the dagger, it takes some effort but he pulls it out of the trap it made for itself, a sigh of solace escapes him, he will try to be more careful with the dagger from now on.


Hoping that one of these keys is for the chamber, he puts one into the deadlock and twists it, but it doesn't work. He tries the other side of the same key, but it doesn't work. He tries the second key in the keychain, first side, doesn’t work, second side, doesn’t work. He tries the third key, first side, doesn’t work, second side, it works! The deadlock twists and the metal door slides open. it is pitch black, he cannot see anything, he uses the dagger as a torch, it brightens up the room and reveals a human, feminine figure, chained on the wall like a starfish through her arms and legs, he gets closer to her, he could barely recognize her. It’s Samara, taking Aaron’s place as war prisoner, there is a bowl of thorns and water under her. She opens her eyes, joy overwhelms her, she almost tears up in delight.

“Aaron… I thought you had abandoned me, I thought you had betrayed me and left for good, but you came back!” Her voice in jubilation, yet tired and curious, her eyes glimmer, a smile drawn on her face like carvings on stone.

"I heard someone moving across the sands, shifting the metal door, I was wishing dearly that it would be you. I am so grateful!"


“Ah the rest of the keys must be for the chains.” He thinks.

First he goes back and locks the metal door, and puts the dagger down on the concrete side of the chamber. Then he takes him some time to figure out which keys are for which chainlock, but eventually he unchains her. She drops down onto sand, and holds herself up with four limbs before trying her best to stand straight and maintain her composure

“I'm quite embarrassed that you had to see me in this misery. But I would not ask of anyone what I would not do myself.” Aaron stays emotionless, he shows his gratitude through a simple nod, he leads her towards the dagger, though his guidance is unneeded since the dagger fills the room with heat and light. She examines it with awe and fascination. Wonder fills her eyes. She moves the palm of her hand closer to it to experience its heat, as if it’s a campfire. It brightens up the room as much as it brightens up her blue eyes in golden glow. The quality is divine, it has engravings of beautiful Arabic verses, similarly to Ignatius, the only other blade that could match it.


Aaron wants to ask her how he's supposed to engage in combat with it, how can he even hold it when the slightest touch burns his hand? But he can't speak, he needs to get creative with his gestures. He taps on her shoulders twice for her to redirect her attention to him, he then touches the dagger and over-exaggerates pain in his palm, then makes a confused gesture with his hands.

"You… can't hold the dagger?" She asks.

Aaron nods.

"Then how will you fight with it?"

Aaron nods in perplexity.

Samara sighs and says: "I don't know Aaron, you can figure it out later, I need to get back to the palace immediately. You will duel Ghazi tomorrow, at sunset. That's when his majesty returns. Get some rest for now."

Aaron takes off his mask, and subsequently acts out that he is eating and drinking, then rubs his growling stomach.

“I will bring you food as soon as possible, please rest for now.”

She takes the keychain from Aaron, reopens the metal door just to lock it again from the outside, and rushes back to the palace.


Aaron sits near the dagger, he stares at it through his mask, like it’s a slice from heaven’s warmth, as if it’s a cozy campfire, a hearth for an exhausted adventurer, mesmerized by it he stays by its side, it had enchanted him with it’s elegance.



Ch. 10 Sunless Lands.


A sleepless night, Aaron had been staring at the dagger in admiration for hours. He hears a person’s footsteps lightly traverse the sand, it breaks his gaze at the dagger. He stands up in attentiveness and caution, he puts on his mask and faces the door in anticipation. The deadlock twists and the metal door slides open against the concrete once again. Samara enters the chamber with food, water and the keychain on her waist. Aaron isn't too surprised, the only two people that visit him are Ghazi and Samara, and those footsteps definitely didn't sound like Ghazi.


"You haven't slept yet?" She whispers in quiet concern. She puts the meal down then locks the door behind her only to pick the meal back up.



Samara sets the meal on the ground and two cups of water on both sides of the meal.

She starts eating first, so Aaron proceeds to do so as well. The meal was bland, uncomfortably silent between the two, a most forgettable one indeed.


"Aaron, the sunset is imminent, since the men will come take you to the royal training grounds for the duel before then, you must be chained to avoid any suspicions, and stripped of your belongings for now. There is no need to worry, I will return them to you once it is all over."


Aaron understands her justification, he nods. Then points to the amulet and holds it dearly, as a gesture that he wishes to keep it.


"I suppose the amulet won't do you any harm if you wear it."




Abundant lightning, followed by raging thunder.


"Are you my nightmare? Or am I yours? Xipetotec."


Birds chirping, the ray of light is brightening by the second. He hears men outside, moving across the sand in excitement. They are marching towards the chamber.

They shock the door open, then they start to unchain Aaron cautiously.




They finish unchaining Aaron then immediately shackle his arms. The moment he was unchained their movements became tense and showed clear terror.


They walk through the sunless nation, for it is blocked by the towering palace. As they are walking through the beautiful gardens, the same flower speaks to him, Cassiope mertensiana. “Struggler… You will be legend.” Its voice is more divine than he remembers. If it talked to him thrice, then it is definitely no hallucination nor coincidence.


The palace’s inner gate opens in splendour, its magnificence dazzles him once again. Behold the nobility of this palace. He looks at it much closer than last time, the imperial memories sunk into each carving found on the pillars, perspicuous effort was clearly put into them. Red majestic carpets covering each pathway outlined with golden silk. The architect must've been a renowned one, for the design of this grandeur place is genius.


They walk down the hallway that leads to the throne room. The room seems to get further away the more they walk the corridor. The heavy door opens slowly.

A ray of sunlight illuminating Ghazi, hands behind his back, staring at the throne room's elegant door, waiting for Aaron.

The King sits on his throne in dominion, with the three Kingsguard behind him, he refers to them as the Safaheen. Eerie creatures they still are. Just as he remembers.


The men push Aaron into the throne room and leave. Loudly closing the door behind them, His hands chained in a room with only the King, his Kingsguard, and Ghazi. No translators. No spectators.

Ghazi swiftly walks towards Aaron. And comes to a halt in front of him, unsheathes Ignatius, then stares at him.

Aaron is not intimidated by the stare, nor the greatsword. He simply stands still, and stares back in sovereignty. In an instant, Ignatius cuts the shackles down, untying Aaron. Ghazi had expected a reaction of involuntary panic from Aaron, a reaction of spontaneous shock perhaps. But Aaron stands calm and powerful, he is uninfluenced by the sudden action. He stays emotionless. Ignatius is beating abnormally fast.

Aaron's cold stare makes even General Ghazi tremble.


Ghazi resheathes Ignatius and escorts Aaron outside the corridor. Instead of exiting through the same door, they head towards and through a strange door at the back of the palace.

He recognizes that it's royal swordsmanship grounds. For noble guards perhaps. Maybe training for princes.

Wooden stands with all sorts of rebated weapons stacked neatly scattered all over the grounds. Along with spectator seats surrounding the central grounds which are filled with dust and sand. The sand is not dyed in blood, it is naturally reddish in color.

One of the seats is built upon a high pedestal, decorated with the same Arabic carvings that the King usually sits on. That seat is probably tailored just for him.

They walk towards a wooden hut, found behind the spectator seats. It seems to be where they keep the real weapons. They enter through the cracked, frail wooden door, Aaron narrowly avoids a splinter in his arm because of it.



"You may start preparing him for the duel Samara. I shall do the same."

"Very well, but before you leave, Ghazi. Three days ago you accused someone else of murdering my father, who is it then if you're truthful?"

"I will tell you after I win this duel. The truth would hurt you."



She hands him his mask and points at the shoulderguards and cloak. He puts on the mask and wears the cloak. He attempts to put on the curved shoulderguards, but he's unable to, it's a confusing process to put on, so she gets closer and helps him with it. Her face doesn't look lively anymore, she is in utter focus. Suddenly the shoulderguards are on

they're stable, she did it so quickly and without thinking like she's proficient in it, like she did this many times before. Aaron briefly searches through all the weapons for a dagger or anything similar, he finds a fine pair of daggers, so he sets his mind on using those for the duel.


They both sit down and wait patiently for someone to inform them that Ghazi is also ready. Someone knocks, Samara says something, then he opens the door. It's just a guard, talking to Samara.

"He will escort you to the dueling grounds, be well." Samara says after she finishes conversing with the guard in Arabic.

As they walk towards the red sand, they pass by the King's mount, a majestic camel tied behind his mighty pedestal. The crowd cheering, their rowdy chatters drown his thoughts as he walks the sand. They look at him and see only the mask.

The guard stops guiding him through. Aaron is on his own now.


Ch. 11 Duel Before The Throne.


Aaron steps onto the stretch of sunlight that covers the scarlet sand beneath the two duelists.

Ghazi's feet grip the sand, his hair is fierce, he stands in tawdry armor, burn marks all over his rage-filled face. His confidence blinds him, motivated by anger without purpose, why would Ghazi be this angry in the first place?



Aaron stands opposite of Ghazi, he feels connected to the daggers by nature, so he pulls his right hand dagger close to the amulet in a reverse grip, he feels his left hand dagger, and moves it behind his back, he moves his right foot forward and lifts its heel. The Aissurian dagger stance, performed by he who is worthy of all titles, Warrior of the Sun & Moon, Protector of Aissur, Aaron of the High Mountains.

And there he stands, a legend reborn. Unchallenged by any star or moon, invincible under the scorching sun, unbeatable otherworldly domination, his aura felt throughout the nation, throughout eons.

His black armor absorbing sunlight without reflection, showing only his agonized throat, his cold, magnificent cloak covering the rest of his body. He stares through the mask into his opponent’s eyes, directly into his soul like a hawk haunting its prey before hunting it mercilessly.

He looks down on Ghazi like he is nothing but an insect in his path, an insect who has accepted its fate, about to be crushed. Death is the only punishment awaiting anyone who stands in his way. He knows he has already won this duel.


Ghazi trembles in fear, he can not gaze at the dreadful man in front of him, he is aware that he is about to lose, yet he does not regret letting him live when he was chained and helpless, he does not regret choosing to duel this man instead, he must avenge his fallen comrade honorably.


Ghazi lifts Ignatius majestically, as if he is reaching out to the sun, then charges at Aaron with incredible speed for the weight he carries, his pulsing greatsword trailing behind him, Aaron does not react, he stands still, calm and powerful.

"YULIANNN!!" Ghazi yells out, his voice on the verge of tears, yet he swings Ignatius with such mighty power that even the ground beneath them shakes, it creates a cloud of red sand and dust everywhere, concentrated at where the strike landed.

None of the spectators can see anything through the smoke, not even the King saw what had just happened.


A crackling sound, the smell of burning sand, its scarlet red color darkens, most likely because of heat.

Ignatius has hit the ground, and Aaron stands atop it like it's a mountain's peak, staring down at Ghazi. Aaron's cloak still moves, and so does his amulet, nobody knows what had just happened, he might've dodged it then jumped on Ignatius?

Everybody anxiously waiting for what happens now. Ghazi stands on a thread between life and death, a thread as frail and thin as a butterfly’s wings, his life dancing in Aaron's cold, pale hands, between his coarse fingers. He is holding the two daggers criss-cross at Ghazi's arteries, so he pulls back both daggers in a flash, it slashes Ghazi's arteries open, blood flowing onto the scarlet red sand like a waterfall, turning it crimson red. Ghazi stares at Aaron one last time with his dying breath, he seems satisfied with this death. He falls on the ground in a struggle and drops Ignatius.

Ignatius stops beating, it turns gray instead of sunny yellow, his sword died with him, the crowd doesn't cheer, loquacious no more, they are now anxiously silent.


His Majesty stands up from his seat, walks down the stairs, and closely inspects Ghazi's lifeless face. "You can tell their fates by gazing upon their soulless faces. He chose the wolf" The King says in Aissurian so nobody but Samara and Aaron can understand. Those words trigger bloodlust inside Aaron, his vision turns blood red, he sees the King as nothing but a crimson black figure, waiting to be stabbed right there and then.

Aaron dashes at the King with inhuman speed, but so does the tall and slender Kingsguard, it blocks Aaron's attempted stab with its shortsword, the King slowly turns to Aaron's direction whilst looking at the ground, then he raises his hand and chants in Arabic.

"Ikhtafi, ikhtifaa."

"ikhtafi, ikhtifaa" Aaron feels the nerves inside his right hand disappearing with extreme inner heat, the hand he attempted to stab the King with. The chanting scares him, It slowly creeps up his arm into his finger tips, the sensation numbs everything it touches, the seconds which should have flown like water felt as if they had been frozen like a river in the Aissurian winter. It finally exits his hand, and conducts to the dagger he holds, turning it black, then disintegrating it into nothingness.


The King shoves the Kingsguard aside, so Aaron attempts to stab the supposedly unprotected King with his other hand, it is no use, Aaron's entire body is paralyzed. Suddenly his vision becomes clear as the King lifts his head up and gazes into Aaron's eyes, into his soul in frustration. The King has a sharp beard, and looks abnormally young, even though he reigned before Aaron was a fetus. He is dressed in a sublime white and gold robe, also catching glance of a golden royal insignia on the robe right before the King exaggerates his gaze. The veins in his eyes are white, and the rest is as black as the void itself, it feels as if his eyes are getting closer, yet they are getting further away, it feels like a familiar nightmare, a preposterous lucid dream.

Suddenly, Aaron fathoms the situation, he is in the rift of life, yet he stands on the thread of death, he is in the thin divide between breath and grave, he calms down.


"You are no match for me, I have killed more men with my gaze than by blade. You will either die, or leave this nation immediately." The King transcends his mind to Aaron in Aissuri.

"Are you my nightmare? Or am I yours? Xipetotec." Aaron's hawk eyes get sharper, he frees himself, and stares the King down, that's how he learned to transcend those words directly into the King's mind.

The King predicted that Aaron was going to threaten him with those words, the King's true name. Yet the King still trembles in absolute terror, the thought of a mortal knowing a demon's true name. His face expresses the look of a doomed man.

"I wi- I shall respect your victory in this duel Aaron and let you go, you may leave this nation without causing any harm to my people." The mighty King tries to maintain his composure and power, but his voice wreaks of terror. This might be the first time a mortal has looked down on him. Aaron fears not a demon born a king; he fears a man who became a king.


"Kill them all… enemies they are." Something divine speaks to Aaron, he recognizes that voice, it's the Cassiope mertensiana. His vision suddenly turns back crimson red, he sees nothing but movement, he smells nothing but blood, he hears nothing but cries and screams, he feels nothing but the grip of death on every figure he sees, he hears sands shifting behind him, a blood red figure approaching him at rapid speeds with a heat emitting weapon in its hand, Aaron feels threatened by it, his mind is in a heightened state, so he darts at the figure and stabs its heart. And that's where his bloodthirst ends, his vision becomes clear again, he looks into his victim's beautiful blue eyes, Samara on the verge of death, she stares into Aaron's eyes in clear surprise, shocked that her nation's savior, would stab her in the heart, while her own eyes flicker and struggle. She gulps as her last breath escapes her.

The last remaining sparkle in her eyes flees, he now holds nothing but an empty vessel.


Aaron has just murdered the only one who cared for him, the only one he knows from his nation, as he holds her lifeless corpse between his arms he sees a vision of her soul as it absconds from her body:

"She held her father's hand as he died, hoping he would drag her with him. A large dark-skinned figure looks down on her, he lifts her up and wipes her tears, then takes her away from Yulian's soulless body, and away from her home."


He takes the sunforged dagger with his right hand, the one that the King had numbed permanently. Surprisingly it doesn't feel too hot for the rest of his body, it's only slightly warm, even when this heat can melt the sturdiest of metals.

He feels nothing whatsoever on his right arm. His right palm is turning black, so he takes off his gauze and wraps it around his palm and dagger all the way up to his forehand, intertwining the dagger with his hand so that he may never lose it. For his right arm can no longer feel.

He looks at Samara's corpse one last time before realizing that the King is onto him, his mind tells him to fight the demon, but his body scrams into the scorching desert.


Ch. 12 Moon’s Gaze.


The King slowly walks towards his daughter's cadaver, and stares into her dead eyes.

"And she, chose the lamb.''

He closes her eyes with the palm of his hand and stands up. "A calculated risk is no risk at all.".

He calls upon his three Kingsguard, his three Safaheen.


wraps

"Yes… master." The eldest, most slender of them bows down, then they disappear into the sands behind Aaron.


The sand in the gale sways his cloak, amulet and himself this way and that in the center of the dust path, seeming more like a ghoul than a living man, hunger grips him. He can barely see his hands. So he squints his eyes and looks closer, an Arabian dagger in his left hand, and the precious sunforged dagger intertwined with gauze in his nerveless right hand.


The torrid heat confines him, sucking up all his energy as he walks across the sand like a vagrant vagabond, cluelessly without direction through the storm.

His black armor, shoulderguards, mask and cloak protect him from the sand particles, but it also emphasizes the heat, resulting in him sweating and losing precious water. He decides to sit down and close his eyes to conserve energy, waiting for the sandstorm to pass, waiting for the moon to rise.

He meditates amidst the wind that carries the sand, even with these circumstances, he sits calmly, cross-legged, and meditates in peace. He feels the world moving around him, at first he felt only sand, then he thought of the skies, the clouds, the birds, the tiniest creatures unavailable to the naked eye living on these very grounds, he realizes it's not all sand, it's so much more. He remembers he had just killed one of his own in cold blood not so long ago, he reminisces her lifeless face and yet he does not feel any pity nor regret. He barely remembers what she looked like. He does not need redemption.


The hours pass like seconds as he meditates. A once raging sandstorm is now as calm as him. He opens his eyes, a crescent moon rising, a vast, cold, lonely desert. This desolate wasteland drenched in an alluring midnight blue, caused by an ivory orb of night amidst the black sky. The dark sands shifting with the breeze on a whim, and the inked dunes prowling around him, almost like they are in a unified hymn. Their dim color buries their grim.

He meditates for just a little longer, then gets up, and continues to walk through this now serene desert without a destination, he can only hope that he is walking towards his homeland.

The night is cold, it only draws him home, he keeps going, all he knows is that he is walking forward, leaving his past behind.


He’s been walking sleeplessly for what feels like days, and yet the sun still hasn’t risen, the moon is still high amidst the night sky, gazing at his misery in sympathy. But this time, he can look at the moon too. He comes to a halt, lifts his face up, and returns the moon’s mystical gaze, an unfaltering satellite for the earth, a white snowflake illuminating the heavens, and a worn out vagabond, glaring at each other in curiosity. A whisper to the shadows of Aaron’s soul

“I am always with you.”

Aaron looks at the moon more closely, untold dark scars fill it, yet it still lasts, since the beginning it withstands.

“The moon… it has scars too, and yet it endures, so I will too.”


Aaron redirects his gaze beyond the desert, and walks onwards with newfound motivation. He focuses on his steps to pass time, and kicks the sand every now and then to distract himself from hunger and distress.


A small figure appears in the distance, ambling towards Aaron. It’s getting closer, it looks short and chubby, almost dwarf-like. It has the same covering as the people of the nation Aaron had just fled from, but there is no other choice, Aaron simply hopes that it is friendly.


The once black figure is now not too far from Aaron, it moves a little faster, it is a stubby, wrinkly old man with white hair, dark skin and abnormally narrow eyes. He seems to be in a weakened state, a thread-like strap wrapped tightly around his neck, almost merging with his skin, barely scraping suffocation. He may be looking for Aaron's help. He walks within arm’s reach of Aaron.


“Young one, Hello. You are lost?” The man speaks in imperfect Aissurian.

Aaron is cynical, but he has nothing other than this old man to converse with, so he simply nods.


Aaron does not obey the old man, for this could be a dangerous stranger, with a weapon hiding in his baggy covering perhaps. He moves his head back and forth in defiance.

The old man looks back and says:


need cure."

Aaron does not move a muscle.

"Ah, I get it, here. Please eat."

The old man reaches out for an opening in his clothing and takes out about seven yellow berries, the same Aissurian berries that had been served to him the first time he met Samara in the palace. He then hands them over to Aaron and gestures him to eat.


Aaron takes a berry and smells it, it doesn't seem poisonous, besides, he has nothing else to eat, and he is starving. He takes an even smaller bite off the already bite-sized berry, and he is hit with the same bitterness and sour, then sweet juices afterwards, and a minty taste lingering in his mouth. So he eats the rest.


"You like yes? Now come. I have more."

The old man abruptly turns with his long covering spinning with him, and starts to walk back to where he came from. Aaron has no choice but to follow the man, so he does.


As they walk silently, Aaron sees a distant campfire, with three cocoon-like mattresses around it. It crackles as they get closer to it, shining brightly in contrast to the black night, warming in contrast to the cold darkness, contrary to the moon, a potential threat.

“Come warm, near fire, cold night…” The old man attempts at a comforting voice, yet Acorn is still skeptical.

The old man pats the sand where he wants Aaron to sit, so Aaron does. Then he goes to one of the mattresses and takes out a staked viper, with horns still on its head, it seems recently killed. The pointy stick drives through its tail and out its mouth in grief, splitting its dual tongue in two, its deadly fangs revealed.

The old man walks back to Aaron with the staked viper in hand, and starts rotating it gently above the crackling campfire.


Kha’leth wants Aaron to draw his name on the sand, for he can not speak it. Aaron does not know how to spell his own name, yet he still draws it with the tip of his index. Λ Я Ө П.


Aaron nods.


berry.”


The viper’s amber horns fall from the heat, its once pale yellow skin turns golden, so Kha’leth stops heating it and places it onto the sand in front of Aaron, and tears it to shreds with his hands, disposing of parts that may cause harm, and leaving the safely edible ones for Aaron to consume.


"Eat." Kha'leth says after extracting all the poison. Aaron trusts him and eats, he needs protein after all, it tastes bitter yet nutritious.

"Sleep" Kha'leth says whilst pointing at one of the cocoon-like mattresses, they are sleeping bags of some sort. Aaron nods and walks towards the sleeping bag, he doesn't cover himself in its blue blanket, because there is already enough heat.


He gives his back to the campfire, and lets his face gaze upon the desolate space, it seems to extend endlessly with nothing beyond. Only the sand, moonlight, and black sky. He thinks about tomorrow, how he may ask Kha’leth about Aissur, hope creeps into his heart, he may be able to return to his homeland, and remember his past. He clings persistently to that hope, for it is all he has.

He sweats, moves, and struggles, he can not find a comfortable position to rest.


Ch. 13 Venom.


Moonlight still shines upon Aaron. Once magnificent stars, falling down to earth in chaos.

"Escape the nightmare while you still can." A whisper to Aaron's resting shadow.


A viper's dead soul crawling on his back, texture like a jellyfish, strength of a demon.

It goes under his skin and out onto his chest, slithering over his dear amulet and arriving at his neck.

It starts wrapping around his throat slowly, its slimy, cold feel opening Aaron's eyes.

It suddenly tightens the grip and starts choking him, he cannot breathe. His face turns red then purple, his eyes barely keeping up, barely staying inside their sockets. But… he can see someone standing over him, so he attempts to scream for help, further damaging his throat.

Kha'leth on the brink of death by suffocation, a thread encasing his throat firmly, he hovers over Aaron with a poison tipped dagger in hand, his eyes merciless without guilt. He stabs Aaron in the heart with it. Simultaneously, the viper thrusts its deadly fangs into Aaron's throat, puncturing two sharp, clean holes of bane.

Sweat slides down his forehead dodging his eyebrow, and into his eyes, his skin turns yellow. The nightmare viper releases its grip.

Aaron feels the venom traveling from his throat through his arteries and veins, like water flowing into his thighs, and his brain. Toxins overflow his body, and trap his heart, his eyelids have already met. He falls unconscious like it was all a hallucination. He feels nothing but null and void.


Kha’leth’s eyes glow white, and so do the runes on his thread, it loosens without falling.

“It is done.” He says in Arabic, whilst looking down at Aaron’s body, expecting a corpse.


“You did not even require our help.” The massive one says.

“King Bariq told us to be vigilant, notice how the threads haven’t fallen yet.” The slender one says.

“Yes, observant as always Ha’kim… patience, the poison is deadly, but it takes time.” Kha’leth says.

“You mustn’t underestimate him, stab him now.” The slender one, Ha’kim, replies.

“My nightmare is in him.” Kha’leth answers.

“I see.” Ha’kim understands, he closes his eyes, crosses his arms, and sinks back into the sand.


“I mustn’t mourn, for this is but an assassin’s binding.” Kha’leth’s thoughts are personal to him, he does not let his weakness leak, yet he sits near Aaron, watching as his body erodes, sinking beneath the sands, fading into darkness.


Ch. 14 Everlasting Night.


I see only a dark starry sky… The full moon amidst it.

I feel only a sharp pain in my back. I realize I'm laying on rocks. Rough, sharp, cold boulders. Draining all my warmth and energy, I try to get up, but a terrible pain like a knife’s edge slashing my chest stops me from doing so. My ribs seem fractured, I can barely breathe, each breath hurts, I feel as if I’m breathing ice. I shiver as the last bits of warmth leave my body, my skin turns even paler.


“It is the heart from which the darkest water flows.”


Suddenly I feel warmth in my back, relief, like the rocks are attempting to comfort me with a hot spring, but soon I understand that it is just my warm blood, escaping my body through my wounded back, though the wounds bring no pain.

I will die in a warm pool of my own blood, more like a hot bath really... at least I visit death’s visage in relief.


“Only cowards fear death, the strong wield it.”


I’ve been backstabbed. My thoughts repelled, and my screams for help from the heavens drowned in eternal darkness.


“Triumph is soaked in blood.”


A familiar mountain emerges in front of me, snow and hail start falling from the sky, I shiver even more, it is too cold, even for one such as I. I feel powerless, helpless. It is as cold as the grip of death

Lightning strikes the bottom of the mountain, creating a familiar abyss.

An otherworldly eye stares at me from atop the mountain, looking down on me in relief and satisfaction. Its veins are white and the rest is darker than the rocks I’m dying on.

It is that demon King, the high sorcerer, Xipetotec.


“It is not yet your time, wake up. You will be legend.” The Moon is above me, whispering to the shadows of my soul. Even when the moon is new, it is still there, "I am always with you."


The moonlight brightens to such an extent that it becomes a white ray of hope piercing the black sky, I see nothing but the Moon’s ray, it shines so bright that It turns the ground black, dark pillars emerge in order, darting into the sky graciously, extending beyond infinity. Suddenly an emblem of the Sun & Moon cycling in an orbit around the high mountain appears in front of me, it has been created of light, and in the blink of an eye it sparks then implodes. Flowing into my chest, and flooding my heart.

The moon’s boon.

I stand up, my moonlit gear is returned to me. Without the sun’s gift, for this is a sunless land, My body turns ethereal, my wounds heal. I become an indigo epitome of power. I hear a threatening sound, so I ready my stance.

Xipetotec flees from atop the mountain, the abyss heals itself, and the mountain disappears.


















Silence.


Bodies and corpses of long gone warriors suddenly hold onto my legs desperately, they reach out to me in anguish and despair, their dying swords do the same to them. For I no longer answer their muffled cries. Here I stand amidst their torment, an ethereal, otherworldly being, my moonlit cloak turns into heavenly gray wings, here I stand with only my moonlit dagger in hand, with nothing but the shining moonlight to guide me amidst the pillars and chaos. Here I stand, amidst the suffering souls of soulless corpses screaming at me in agony, they crave vengeance.

I hear what they call me, what a waste of their final words.

Here I stand, in dominion. This is my carnage. This is my past.


“Hear the silence of annihilation.”

Act. 2 Bloodlust

Ch. 15 Awaken.

“Wear a mask long enough, and you forget… the face beneath.”


"Where- where am I..?" Is what he wanted to say, forgetting he is mute. His jaw had felt as if stopped by an unstoppable force.

His breath feels heavy. An eerie sense of impending doom lingers in his blood, flaying his soul.


He opens his eyes, letting the sunlight from the windows in, there's all sorts of greenery outside.

It feels like he is laying on a bed, unable to move. He hears feminine speech across the room, yet he can't turn his face to see who it is.


“It’s just a rotting corpse with a lockjaw, why did you bring him here? Stop trying to save a doomed man.”

“He must live, it is none of your concern.”

They converse in a foreign language, it doesn’t seem to be Arabic.

“Ah, you’re awake!” One of them walks over to Aaron’s body and inspects him. “You are indeed conscious.”

Aaron does not move, not because he doesn’t want to, it’s because he can’t.

“The venom doesn’t pose a problem, but the tetanus growing from the rust wound on your obliques does.”

He has many questions to ask, but his jaw is barred, he can't even attempt to use his shattered voice anymore, though he doesn't think of crying, for Aaron doesn't believe in tears.


“You shouldn’t be here… Aaron, what happened to you.” The lady says to him in Aissurian, for tears are slowly sliding across her cheeks.
“Does your… does your family know that you’re still alive Aaron?”

“I have a family?” He wonders. “How come I’ve never thought of that! Of course! I had to have been born from something.” Aaron thinks.

“You need more time to recover here before you set off to Aissur I assume, preferably in secret. It shouldn’t take long, just a couple more days.”


The lady then takes some items and leaves, letting Aaron’s mind wander off to all sorts of things, some bad, some good, some sad, some crude.

The sun setting, the light from the windows turns orange, then red, then fades away, darkening the room completely. The only glow now is the faint moon plastered upon the midnight sky.

A creaking sound as the room’s wooden door opens.

"Aaron? Are you awake?" The same lady gently whispers.

Aaron weakly lifts his arm to point at the crescent moon in the window, then a failed attempt to hold it as his arm also fails him.



Aaron closes his eyes slowly, resting and relaxing his body as if he is floating on water. and sleeps.

Ch. 16 Curse Of Kings.


I see… something, someone, it’s… suffering. There is a nightmare viper looping around its neck, wrapping it in venom, attempting to suffocate it, it’s crying, it can barely breathe, so I move closer to see what it is.


It’s a person, he’s still crying a pool of venom as it drips from his eyes. I hear thunder so I look to my right, lightning strikes the black ground angrily.


“I’m sorry.” I hear the person say, I get dangerously close to the person’s pool of venom tears.

It’s Kha’leth, the one who was nice to me in the desert, he was one of the Kingsguard. I feel betrayed, but I must assess the situation first.

I look at his face, it’s excessively pale.

I look into his eyes, guilt, sweat, tears.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…. I’m sorry…” He repeats. A white crown suddenly falls from the sky, into the venom, splashing it everywhere. I feel the cold it emits, so I approach it to inspect. The moment I step into the venom and extend my hand, Kha’leth jumps at me, he looks deep into my eyes, and shouts: “I’M SORRY AARON!!!”


Aaron wakes up frantically to the shining sun. Sweat all over his pale face. He calms down upon looking at the waxing gibbous moon through the window, knowing it is always with him. It shines through the foliage, filling him with peace.

He no longer feels hungry.


“Your father too, used to have those nightmares, every, single, night.” The same lady says, her gentle, whispery voice, heard from across the room.

“Don’t worry, it is in the bloodline, further proving that you are the real Aaron, it is simply a curse of Kings.”


“Curse of Kings huh… who exactly was I back then…” He wonders.

“Also, you can walk now, if you hadn’t already noticed.” She sounds bewildered.


Aaron stares at his legs for a slightly concerning amount of time, then stands up effortlessly, and starts looking for his gear straight away, without hesitation or delay he agitatedly searches the drawers and hangers, below the bed, on the shelf, even under the pillow, wherever they could be. All the while the lady simply sits there on her umber chair, watching in admiration, as the dusky moonlight dimly lights the cold room, shining upon Aaron.

“Does he not feel cold without a shirt?” She wonders, then lets out a little chuckle.


“If you’re looking for your gear, it’s not here.”