The edge, p.45
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       The Edge, p.45

           Leslie Lee
 
our enemy because they would destroy all that is not of them. We are not of them. They will destroy us as we would step upon an insect. Without care, without remorse or guilt, without remembrance, they'd write the final chapter of our history with our blood. Then they would forget us. And it would be as if we had never existed. Our allies are few, our enemies have grown legion. Even here, their subtlety is infection. We know this storm, this Edge, would come. It was foretold. And we know that somebody, not of the Hellborne, will lead us. Lead us against them."

  Mak wondered whether that couple outside the hall would trade another scrap of clothing for one more gluckt. This class wasn't what he thought it would be. He'd heard this story before. It was deeply ingrained in the Hellborne. He grabbed his metal staff and got to his feet. One thing he knew for certain about the legend, myth, or prophecy: The new leader was a female.

  "This person," the professor said, looking at him. "This person is here today."

  He paused. This was going to be good. He knew the professor had a high opinion of himself but this was above and beyond. The professor in his outdoor lectures had referred to her as the Clarion. But she was myth. It would be as if Excalibur had been discovered. Attached to King Arthur. Finding the Clarion would make the professor the Reveal, a mythical creature in his own right. The way the Hellborne described the Reveal made it sound like a dragon. There were no dragons on Hellborne. The professor must be playing some elaborate prank.

  The gluckt could wait for a little while. He moved to sit back down.

  "Mak," the professor called, waving at him. "Please. Join me down here."

  He froze. Being part of the very physical humor the Hellborne practiced was a bad idea. He shook his head not trusting his language.

  The student next to him who was trying not to hold his nose said, "Go on! He's not going to finish this unless you're part of it. Then maybe we can at least get on to something important. This is all just mystical BS, right?"

  He stared into the black pits of the student, then back at the professor. Maybe the student wanted his odor down on the stage. That was as good a reason as any. Using the metal staff, he limped down to the podium. The professor had set up a folding chair for him to sit on. He looked closely at the chair. It was the same one the Hellborne who had cut the bars had used. Somebody was going to a lot of trouble for a joke. He sat.

  Looking up, he realized there were cameras at the back of the room. Who was watching and why? Then there was movement from one of the dark wings of the stage. Two Hellborne were leading somebody who was shrouded in a cloak out into the light. Everyone in the room suddenly stood. Mak kept his seat. He didn't know what his part was in this charade but sheer exhaustion kept him from jumping around.

  The cloaked figure walked stiffly forward, painfully it seemed, then turned so they all could see, especially Mak.

  He sprang up as fast as he could. His blood though first drained away from his face, then from his head. The room started to darken, then sway, and he fell.

  He woke feeling the metal bar of his cage pressing into his face. It had been a dream. Another of many plaguing him throughout his incarceration. They were always so real, as if he did walk in the mountains of Hellborne, or swim in the sea of D'ha'ren, or breathe the air of Earth. He sighed.

  He had come to realize something in this cage of his. Everyone he knew and cared about had died in that disaster. Thurber had bled to death in his arms, blood pumping out in globules that floated up and broke against his uniform. P'leh'run and Hasui had simply disappeared in the crush of people. He was alone. Again. But now he knew what loneliness really was. The two minutes of his life spent killing innocent people were absorbed into a greater memory of all the other people now gone, baked into his mind by the Hellborne sun, frozen in time by the twin moons. His dreams were no longer nightmares. Just like this one, they were journeys. Oddly, he couldn't remember the last time the nightmare of dying in the Bridge express had punished him. He missed it sometimes. But there didn't seem to be any way of forcing his sleeping self to conjure up those images and feelings. The ghosts, though rare, were still there, standing in front of his cage, sitting and chatting with each other but not including him. They were just wisps.

  This was the first time she had visited him though. Neither in dreams nor non-dreams. She floated above him so different from what he remembered.

  Her face was thinner, gaunt, the bones of her face thrusting forward beneath an almost transparent skin. Wrinkles furrowed between her brows, others delineated her mouth. Her eyes stared as if at some strange apparition herself, frightened and? And something else. Still pale, her sun hued face shone in the dim light. She pulled back her hood. He remembered her hair being much longer, almost reaching the middle of her back. This apparition's hair, jade tinged gold, looked as if it barely touched her shoulders. It fell about her, framing her, wafting softly in some invisible breeze.

  But just because a ghost aged, didn't mean that she was any less of a ghost. He gripped the cold bar of his cage, waiting for the image to waver, then fade away.

  She reached down with her small hands, and gripped the steel bar. He didn't want to let go clinging to it, his lifeline. She easily plucked it from his weakened grip, and it clanked loudly as she dropped it. He stared wildly around at the Hellborne. They stood, watched, and did nothing. Shadows. Only shadows.

  Then that hand, calloused, yet soft, touched his cheek. She looked at her fingertips, wet with tears.

  "No," he forced his mouth to whisper in the common language which his voice hadn't uttered in years. "This can't be."

  She pressed her lips together trying to suppress a slight tremor.

  "Please," he begged. "I can't stand it."

  She reached and enfolded one of his hands between her own, then placed it against her cheek.

  Her golden eyes focused deep into his, quelling, finally, the quaver in her lips. Then she murmured, "Stupid? Fat? Bitch?"

  He stopped trying to shove this impossibility away from him.

  "Uh..." he said. He tried to force his cracked lips into something resembling a smile. He tried to say something more. But then...

  Within him, deep and buried, a thick black hardness cracked. It shattered, splintered his heart and soul, burned his lungs and blood. Agony, his very bones vibrated with it. And he couldn't help himself, he wouldn't stop himself, a terrible sob ripped his throat. He sat up, engulfing Th'han'dra in his arms, and they clung together like no thing in the universe would ever part them.

  To be continued in the second book, "The Wound"

 

  ###

  About the Author:

  Leslie R. Lee writes fiction, takes photographs, and tries not to spend too much time on the Internet. You can contact him at:

  E-mail: LeslieRLee@me.com

  Twitter: https://twitter.com/lrlee

  Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeslieRLee

 
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