Dead Man

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Dead Man

Postby Mark » Mon Mar 14, 2011 9:57 pm

Below, he could hear the sounds. Below was the sound of laughter, the smells of fresh food, and the aura of the living; where only moments before there had been screams of terror, the scent of blood, and death. So much death. Death that seemed unending, unceasing. A river without end that spread into infinity, where each body falling within soiled the soul with another blemish that would never be clean.

Outside, the rain patted against the window pane, rare flashes of lightning brightening the room for less than a heartbeat. That practiced moment in time that was all too familiar to Kasim. In those heartbeats of the storm, where sky met earth, Kasim could see his darkened room. On the bed stand beside him, soiled dirty brown linens lay wrapped around a ceramic bowl, the waters tainted with what remained of the battle from mere hours before. A single chair sat opposite the Bedine, and while nobody sat the presence of so many ghosts lurked in the throne of dead pine. And blood. The scent of blood overwhelmed the food left behind the door. The scent of blood was beyond place, beyond time.

"You have not long born my burden, sahibi," Kasim said, blue eye turning from the streaked glass down to the bundle across his lap. "But you are of me, my blood, my soul, as was Khamseen before you. So too, will you come to know the reason you were created, and the weight you too shall bear in the steel of your own soul."

With each word, the lines of Kasim's face deepened, etching deep crevasses into flesh, telling tales of events seen under the sun best left forgotten. Dead best left buried. But ghosts never seemed to wish to rest, and they were always there with each breath.

"You never should have been, sahibi, shalafi," he whispered, almost tenderly, as his fingers slid across the flawless steel, bits of dried blood crusting from the tips and following in it's trail. "For this is a day I should have never seen. Each breath conflicts Fate, and each day more suffering follows, and for each day, At'ar shall judge."

As so too would the ghosts. For Kasim looked up, across that room filled with darkness and lightning, of the blood of the dead and his own, and in that chair were the ghosts.

Every face stared back at Kasim, not through his eye that saw the present, but the eye that had already seen his own Fate. The eye that had seen the future. And through that eye, he saw all those whose blood soaked his own hands. The faces of the Damned, men and women deserving death, whom none would miss and each day their lost memories would go without recognition. The faces of the valiant, whose wills and blades met with Kasim's on the the field of battle. The faces of comrades, long since slain. And all the butchered lambs, the men, the women, the children, who died without valor, without honor, without mercy at the end of his blade.

They all stared back at Kasim ibn Al-Rashid. Kasim of Anarouch. The Bladestorm. The Steel Sands. Death's Touch.

Mercenary. Defender. Murderer. Butcher.

But the faces blurred. So many Kasim knew as well as he knew his own. Others were mere glimpses, causing him to question if they were even his ghosts. The dogs and the men were all the same, however, and each Kasim would see when it came time for him to die.

If he could.

Amongst the ghosts of the past, seen with a dead eye, witnessed by a man who had long outlived his last breath, was the one who had been fated to kill the only living man in the room. There, in the chair, his ghost say, staring at Kasim, his youth a startling contrast to the age and weariness of the Bedine. In his own lap was a familiar blade. Heavier than Kasim's own, and forged of Western steel, with Western hands, and meant to remove the head of the Bedine. Kasim knew it, it's weight, it's chill, it's bite. And Kasim knew that blade was the one to be the one to end him.

For one walking the way of the sword won all battles but on. And in that one, he dies. He slays all enemies but one, the one who slays him. He honors each precious breath and beauty of the foe, until he is then breathes his last.

And that one. That singular man Kasim had challenged. That singular man Kasim had taken his blade to, not for honor, nor duty, nor grudge, but simple coin, had beaten him. His soul, Khamseen, shattered beneath the sun that day, Kasim recalled as his hands tightened along his new blade, his reforged soul. And yet, his life was spared.

Corvis Kelnarath had denied Kasim his Fate. He had stood against the onslaught of what was to pass. And Kasim knew he was to die at his hand.

A death that would never come. Corvis was dead. Despite all his works, all his attempts, all his words, insults, pleads and demands, Corvis never ended Kasim's life. And for that, he too was crushed by Fate.

"Then," Kasim said to the ghosts as they stood around him, "Which of you shall slay me to face me before At'ar, to place my sins at the feet of the Merciless? Who shall set Fate right?"

The ghosts answered with silence.

"Am I to walk each day in denial of Fate, a man taking the place of one who should still yet breathe the air and feel the sun's heat? Is such the price of Fate's vengeance?"

There is no Fate, but that which we are given.

Kasim knew the words in his head, and he pushed himself off the bed. Beneath him, the sheets of his bed squished from the blood that had been leaking from his wounds throughout the night. The blood he should not have. The opportunity to die that had once again not come.

For the man to kill him was dead.

Pushing through the ghosts of his mind, each fading away, he reached the window. Each joint creaked, and from each knitting wound more blood streamed its way into his desert wear. Outside, the rain continued to cover the earth, falling through flesh and soaking his soul. It cleansed the earth, and washed the dead clean. But the blade in Kasim's hand, for the first time in years, felt heavy. His spirit grew still.

For he was a man searching for death, but one that was not fated to come. His life had been exchanged before Fate.

And now, he was the man who would not know death.

And in that still, in that moment, in that realization, Kasim knew the cruel price of denying what was to be.

But perhaps death awaited below. There, below, in Undermountain, where his foe had fled, could he find death.

He was a dead man. A man who should have died. A man who was ready to die. A man fated to die.

But a man unable to. Doomed by Fate. Doomed by the sword he carried.

Doomed to live.
I move the stars for no one. You've run so long you've run so far. Your eyes can be so cruel.  Just as I can be so cruel.
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