Legion of the Sands
Part Nine – Revenants
They entered the barracks, Vasara Fal and what remained of his force, along with Nhaqosa and Lakach. In the heart of the main barracks block, they were taken to a chamber, and there Vasra Fal ushered them in.
On a rough cot of the type used by the Legions lay a young man. His skin was pale against his dark hair and his face drawn in obvious pain and discomfort. A heavy bandage was wrapped around his chest while a blanket covered his legs.
His eyes flickered open as they entered the room. “Ah, Vasra, I see we have guests.” He spoke in a weak voice, and they could hear the pain in it.
“Majesty, these helped us drive off an attack by the desert men, an advanced guard from the enemy army no doubt pursuing you.
A wan smile crossed the man’s pale face. “Another attack.”
“Another attack, Majesty.”
The young Emperor wearily raised a hand and made a tired wave with it. “I would speak with them alone, Knight-Centurion.”
Vasra Fal came to attention, slamming a clenched fist to his armoured chest above his heart. “As you command, Majesty.”
“You are hurt,” Nhaqosa rumbled after Vasra Fal had departed the room.
“It is nothing. Less than nothing.”
“How is it that in the years that have gone by since the Red Day that none knew of your survival?”
“I have been here a day and yet many a year, all at once.”
The answer in some ways made no sense and yet perfect sense as far as Nhaqosa could see. The flow of time, of events, seemed askew in Hasfrata. “How is that possible?”
“I have had long days to mull over just that question. We did not, I think, survive the sandstorm, and yet for whatever reason we lingered on. The Legion Men are not ones to admit to defeat as easily as that. Their duty and loyalty brought us here, but we could go no further, and thus here we remain, locked in a perpetual day, unable to escape, unable to move on.” The young Emperor slowly shook his head. “There is only one way that this can be ended.”
“You must die, in truth,” Lakach noted.
“Yes. As long as I linger here, the Legion Men will not know peace, and all of us remain trapped in this shadowy existence.”
“If that is all that is required, then why has it not been done already?”
“I do not have the means to do it myself, and I could not ask the men. They swore to protect me, and furthermore, they would not understand. Deep down I think they are aware that things are not quite entirely right, but they are uncertain as to what is behind it. One of you must release me. Release us.”
Nhaqosa shook his head. “That can not be. It would be wrong. Surely there must be another way.” The very concept appalled Nhaqosa.
“You would have made a grand knight,” the young Emperor said weakly, “Never one to admit defeat, and always looking for ways to save others. In this case there is no other way. We are revenants denied our rest, dead already, shadows in a troubled existence. You would be freeing us. You can not save us, much as I see you wish you could, as we are beyond that.”
There was a steely scrape as a blade came free of its sheath Lakach had drawn a knife, one honed to a razor edge. He flipped it and offered the hilt to the young man on the cot. “I have been a killer,” he said, “Yet those days are behind me. All I can offer you is this.”
A peaceful smile of acceptance came across the young Emperor’s face as he took the blade. “I thank you.” He closed his eyes and lay back on the cot. “The pain is no more,” he announced as with a quick motion he drew the blade across his wrist.
Nhaqosa expected blood to flow freely from the wound. Instead a gust of wind swirled into the chamber and before their eyes the young man fell apart into dust and sand, a mound growing until it poured from the cot to the floor, stirred by the wind.
A short moment of stunned silence followed.
“That was not what I expected,” Lakach said finally, recovering his knife from among the sand that piled on the cot.
“There has been little about this whole thing that went as expected,” Nhaqosa replied, brow furrowed. He gave a sigh and tossed his head. “Come, we had best find the others.”
They left the now empty room and headed back through the barracks. The building was deathly quiet, and as they passed through the common room, they found it empty as well. Of the men of the Legion, there was no sign, merely mounds of sand and dust that were disturbed by the wind that blew in through the building.
“They are at rest now,” Nhaqosa observed.
The rest of the way they walked in silence, out of the barracks compound and into the city. The sandstorm had disappeared as fast as it had arrived. It was not long before they found the others, Abasan leading them back towards the barracks.
“We saw what remained of the desert men fleeing into the night,” Abasan told them, passing the pendant back to Nhaqosa. As he took it, the minotaur could feel once again the old familiar tug. “They were no longer a threat so we decided to come find what had become of you.”
“We survived,” Nhaqosa told him simply
“What now, Kwaza?”
“We move on,” Nhaqosa said. “There is nothing for us in this place any more.”
“The Legion?” Abasan asked, “What of them?”
Nhaqosa gave a brief shake of his head. “They are no more,” he said. He shouldered his maul and looked out across the city, towards the deserts which were dappled beneath the rising moon. “They have returned to their brothers, out there among the sands where they fell long ago, brave to the end.”