After I don’t know how long I open my eyes to the sound of women’s laughter. I push myself up from the floor and find Sarin and Jezebel standing where I had left them. Mother and daughter are talking very adamantly about something. Jezebel sees me first and nods to her mother.
“Feeling better, Abraham?” Sarin asks casually.
“What happened?” I slur like drunken sailor.
“You’ve been given the Scourge. Pure evil. It will be your weapon against the Master. He won’t expect it and it will overwhelm his defenses.”
“I don’t see how pure evil will destroy him,” I reply, my head still swimming.
“The Master has a certain way of looking at things,” Sarin hums. “Things need to be his way, all else is chaos, and he hates chaos. Pure evil is pure chaos, but it feeds upon itself. It will go until everything is burned up.”
“I don’t need your help. There has to be another way. The armies of humanity have stood before the Master. It will do so again.”
“And who is going to lead them on this fool’s errand?” Sarin asks, putting her hand on her hip.
Before I can speak, the clouds from the hall above leak down the shaft and flood the room. The bank of clouds swirls and changes. Once again I am at the Battle of Siddim. Corpses of my men and the enemy lay strewn across a landscape broken and bloodied by the machine of war.
As I gaze out on the killing fields I watched as the enemy soldiers, in various uniforms and all manner of dress, stand and start to march back toward the setting sun. I look at one as he walks by. Sunken and gaunt, dressed in an ancient style armour I’ve never seen, the dead man looks at me. His eyes are gone. In those empty sockets is an inescapable forlornness. He marches away into the setting sun.
Soon, my own fallen men rise, plucking out their eyes, gather their scattered weapons and equipment, and join the lonely procession of soldiers. I grab a young private’s hands and try to keep him from tearing out his eyes. “Stop, what are you doing?” I cry, but he ignores me.
“He is no longer yours to command, Abraham,” said Sarin solemnly. “He belongs to the Army of the Sacrificed now.”
“Sacrificed? To who? They died defeating the army of the Master’s.”
“Your men were sacrificed to try and stop the Master. When they died they became his and joined his ranks. All those who fall to the Army of the Sacrificed join them–be they man, woman, or child.”
My heart remained undeterred. I had the Ultimate Invincibility. I would be victorious. “The number of men has grown to the greatest number in our history. When the time comes, we will defeat the Army of the Sacrificed.”
Sarin roared with laughter. “You do not even know what it is you face. The Army of the Sacrificed stretches from horizon to horizon, ten thousand men deep. What you faced at Siddim was just the first wave. You will face the entirety of their army this time.”
In the clouds I watched as the Earth grew smaller and countless bodies filled all I could see.
My heart sank into despair. How can one defeat so many?
“Don’t fret, King Abraham,” coos Sarin. “There is not one grand army in the realms, but four. The Army of the Sacrificed belongs to the Master, the Army of the Living belongs to you. You met and fought the last three battles between yourselves, but this time the remaining two will join, if you can convince them.”
“Who are these two armies?” I ask, my heart rising in my chest.
“Deafonous, my brother, has the Army of the Dead. It is vast, greater than the Army of the Sacrificed, but weaker. You need to go to him and convince him to commit his forces on your side.”
“How am I to do that?”
“He will not let his army be sacrificed in vain. Show him you can be the great general his forces need. Tell him of your scheme and convince him you are the secret to defeating the Master.”
“I am no general or commander,” I blurt out before I can stay my tongue.
“You used to be,” Jezebel scoffs. “The great and cunning King Abraham! Never defeated in battle, until you met me.”
“Jezebel, enough,” orders Sarin. Jezebel sneers, but stays silent. “It has been a while, I understand, but I have something that will remind you.”
The clouds swirl in the center of the room. Soon, a wind harsher than any gale blows. I fight to keep purchase on the marble floor, but the immense force pushes me back, slamming me to the wall. At last the winds relent and drop me to the floor. Sarin and Jezebel walk over to me, looking as if nothing happened. They pick me up with ease, and put me back on my feet.
Sarin motions with her head and I look in that direction. In the center of the room a stand made of bone holds an executioner’s ax. The three foot black blade was forged of steel with an edge of obsidian. The charred haft’s length is near as I stood tall and ends in a chipped obsidian point.
“You don’t expect me to wield that, do you?” I gasp. The thing reeks of evil.
“It was forged for the child king Meozitex before the first destruction of Earth by the Master,” replies Sarin. “The wielder need not know how to use it; they must merely listen and obey. Warmache can only be wielded by a soul that is both good and evil.” She walks over to the ax and ran her hand down the haft. The blade began to glow a bright red for a few seconds. “I have bestowed the blade the Souldrinker ability. Every time you slay an opponent you will grow stronger for a short while afterward. The blade has three more such secrets, unlocked by others like me. Find them, and you will have a weapon capable of slaying the Master.”
“There can’t be any good in that thing,” I protest, summoning my courage.
“What? Do you think we have pure black hearts bent solely on the propagation of evil? That all we do is sit here and plot evil schemes?” Jezebel snarls. “That we are incapable of loving and caring for someone besides ourselves? That morality is black and white?”
“Enough, Jezebel,” Sarin commands. “It will take him time to overcome what he has been taught. Wise kings rule from the center, Abraham. Remember that. Come; let me show you what will balance the scales.”
Sarin walks to the wall and touches it. The stone recedes, revealing a balcony under the island. The billowing clouds stretch out in all directions. She motions Jezebel to a large ram’s horn on a stone pillar. The woman puts her lips to the horn and blows. A deep resonating sound reverberates off the rocky island and into the clouds.
After several minutes, humanoid shapes begin to appear through the clouds. Some clearly have wings on their backs; others are dressed in the uniforms of different nations. One such raven-winged being flies down out of the clouds and lands on our balcony.
She knelt before Sarin. “You have called, Mistress?” she asks in lovely alto voice.
I look her over. Her black wings could easily stretch twenty five feet, a pair of swords sheathed between them. Knee length honey blonde hair pools around her as she kneels. The black leather armour she wears shows scars of previous battles. When her blue eyes flicker in my direction, it is as if she pierces my heart.
“Rise,” Sarin commands to the angel. “King Abraham, this is Revan. She commands my army.”
“You have an army?” I reply in disbelief.
Sarin waves her hand behind her. Tens of thousands of humans, angels, and other winged creatures appear from inside of the clouds and stand on their edges as the lightning crashes all around them, lighting them up for display.
“This is the last grand army, King Abraham,” announces Sarin proudly. “It is my army, built with a single purpose of battling the Master. It is small in number, but each has shown great valor and is worth a thousand men. They have spent eternity training for the moment they are called upon to go into battle. This is the Army of the Damned.”
A deafening, “Howrah” leaps from the throat of the army and I feel the stone shake under my feet. I walk to the edge of the rail-less balcony and stand in awe of the sight of so many dedicated warriors in one place. Sarin steps up next to me. Though I still doubt Sarin’s motivations and words, her actions so far show promise to my cause.
I turn to speak to Sarin, when out of the corner of my eye a big black shape swoops down and plucks the woman from the balcony. It dives down toward the clouds, dragging Sarin with it.
“Mother!” Jezebel cries as she dashes to the edge and falls to her knees looking down into the bank of clouds while Revan jumps off the edge and tucked her wings in, giving chase.
I drop to my knees beside her and look down. Far below the thieving winged reptile pulls up and drops Sarin into the clouds. Revan collides with the reptile and the pair also disappear into the clouds.
Next: Chapter 12, part three, “Warmache”