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The End of All Things
By Charles Lane Roberts
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Charles Lane Roberts
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Chapter OneThe Beginning of the End
As the noon sun towered in the empty blue sky, the Kingdom of Usia bristled with uneasiness. Multitudes of curious citizens overcrowded the streets, vying for a peek of a criminal being led to the gallows. Whispers permeated the air as waves of quiet anticipation flowed through the uncommonly large throng of spectators. The man to be hanged was no ordinary criminal but one whose wicked transgressions had wholly captured their interest. He was a petty thief known as Aseapia who had secretly studied mythical dark enchantment. When his secret was discovered, the elite political and religious figures spearheaded by King Garland Lacessit acted swiftly and convicted him of heresy without a proper trial. Aseapia was publicly flogged by the Church of Usia and humiliated and beaten by fanatic zealots. But the severe punishment did not kill him. King Lacessit then promptly ordered for his battered body to be restrained and dragged off by horse into the sinister Dark Woods of Nonentity. Aseapia was to die alone of starvation and be forgotten.
The people of Usia were glad to be rid of a wicked fool. When the memory of Aseapia began to fade he seemingly returned from the dead and butchered several unattended children who carelessly played together. He covered himself in their blood and was captured at the gruesome scene without resistance. He was harshly and publicly escorted to prison by Usian soldiers, which caused word of his terrible deed to spread rapidly. A public execution was immediately ordered by King Lacessit at noon the next day. By sunrise, nearly all of the Usian populace had gathered around the gallows to compete for the best vantage points. The daily commerce of Usia was halted entirely by the time it was noon.
The Kingdom of Usia boasted a large religious population that fiercely believed in their faith. The return of Aseapia stoked the fires within their zealous hearts. He had been close to death when he was sent into the dark woods. Everyone believed without a doubt he had perished. Though here he stood on the gallows as an ominous severity emanated from his presence. It further unnerved the people that his body was neither broken nor bruised but flawless. He appeared healthier and stronger than before his initial punishment. His bloody garb had been mysteriously replaced with a pristine and elegant wrap of gold and white. This caused the masses to wonder how he had survived and recovered so well from his severe beatings and exile in the dark woods. The notion that he accomplished this rejuvenation with dark enchantment was never discussed but the concept existed in their subconscious. The myth of dark enchantment had survived ages of uncounted years. Though most people believed it was nothing more than fool's play. Still it was taught to children that trying to invoke dark enchantment would instigate the wrath of god and eternal damnation. They wished for nothing less than this upon the petty thief turned murderer.
Aseapia stood on the gallows disturbingly relaxed despite his apparent doom. The noose around his neck was visibly tight. Then the moment came for King Garland Lacessit to address the crowd and a hush fell. He was lavishly dressed and seemed out of place. The king stepped before his awaiting subjects and took a deep breath.
"People of Usia, I stand before you in sadness and in anger, mourning the loss of the young and innocent as I eagerly wait to deliver a harsh vengeance against the twisted soul who ended their lives prematurely. A twisted soul who defied God once already by worshiping a false power, a fictional dark power, and who was banished to the southern woods to die for his treason against God and the Church. Yet by some wickedness he stands before us condemned to die again for defying God once more," King Lacessit bellowed as the silent masses listened intently. "Now we suffer the loss of children, the worst fear of any mother and father. I wish I could restore the lives of those poor children back to their parents, but I cannot. Though I can grant them solace in the form of closure by ensuring we will never suffer this fool a third time!" The king said melodramatically and hypnotized the people with his emotional conviction.
The people of Usia had come together and mourned collectively for the murdered children. It was a poignant display and bolstered their strength mutually during this time of sadness. Two such people who were greatly saddened were a young man named Lea and his only sister, Amora. Lea was nearing his twenty-third birthday but exhibited a much older aura. Amora was ten years older and a strong willed woman. She was to be an only child but Lea came late in their parents' lifetimes. She was widely considered beautiful with sandy blonde hair and blue eyes. She resembled her mother very much physically and emotionally. She had no desire to wed and was known to many as an old maid with gray having imperceptibly intruded into her hair.
Lea strongly resembled his father with a tall, strong body, but carried the same overwhelming love of life as Amora and their late mother. He had a square face with smooth features, dark brown eyes and hair. He had a stoic nature that never failed to disarm people. After Lea's first birthday, their parents Adele and Arthur passed away from a terrible sickness that struck Usia and killed thousands of others. The eleven year old Amora was forced to become her brother's guardian. Together they lived a hard life and struggled to survive while always making an honest living. The bond between their souls was tempered beyond breaking.
Far back from the gallows Lea and Amora watched with certain disgust. They were quite satisfied with their distant vantage point. Neither of them wholly desired to be at the execution but their curiosity was stronger than their disgust. Amora nervously held on to Lea as they keenly listened to King Lacessit.
"Heed my warning, wavering from your faith in the slightest will always betray you and you will most undoubtedly meet this same fate," King Lacessit had gained momentum with his message and further captivated the people. "Honor thy God and the words he bestowed to us within the Holy Scriptures, and if you fail in your devotion." The king looked at the resolute Aseapia to prove his point.
Lea and Amora cynically listened to the principles spoken by King Lacessit. They had never been blind disciples like so many of the people before them. Lea questioned whether the Church of Usia had been justified in initially exiling the petty thief. His supposed crime against the church was merely a victimless choice of practicing his desired beliefs. But Aseapia miraculously survived his first death sentence and returned to validate their evil accusations by brutally murdering innocent children.
"I wonder what will happen to his soul." Lea whispered to Amora.
"If he has not repented, then he deserves to suffer a terrible fate."
"What fate does he deserve?"
"To be thrown into the void forever, for to end the life of another without remorse is of the highest offense, especially the life of a child." Amora said in a strange tone Lea had never heard before. He nodded in agreement and thought nothing more on her odd tone. It then seemed she was overtaken by sadness.
"If you wish to leave, I will oblige." Lea said but Amora was silent, her stoked hatred having dried her tears of sadness for the dead children. Lea knew she had always regretted never having children and that she was afraid her childbearing years were wasting away. He imagined his sister having children and how she would have loved them. He thought of her dealing with the impossible pain of losing them to a cruel end. He was certain she had pondered these very same thoughts which evoked within her the terrible scorn of a woman. Amora had already stated she wanted this murderer to die as did much of the people with Lea sharing the sentiment. They all thought it would ease their suffering and bring them closure by witnessing the execution.
"This all could have been possibly prevented, he was no killer before. He was severely persecuted for no other reason than ignorant prejudice against his beliefs, and he retaliated with all that he had left, hatred. Those children could have been spared if he would have been allowed the freedom of religion as he so desired. Though maybe the urge to kill was always in his heart and it was only a matter of time before he did so. But what is done is done and now he must pay for his deadly choice."
"I am sorry. What did you say?" Amora asked dazedly.
"I said those poor children could have been spared if only Aseapia had been allowed the freedom of choice." Lea responded, without heeding her dazed manner.
"Yes I agree ... King Lacessit and the Church were wrong in banishing him to die for believing in a harmless myth. Though now he is a killer and deserves this punishment."
"The kingdom has become too manipulative. They wish to control our freedoms and choices, all in the name of protecting the people they claim. I say it is to keep the hierarchy of power as it is, this is more than an execution, it is a fortuitous event to further create fear and obedience to our king and the church."
"Do you really think that is their ultimate goal?"
"Yes I do, they wanted to make an example out of someone to instill obedience from fear. Aseapia was the unfortunate soul they chose, but it failed in the king's favor. Now he is reveling in this second chance to cast down his scheming fear over an even larger audience. It may sound unforgiving, but I would wager King Lacessit probably thinks the children who died were a fair price to pay so he could tighten his grip on Usia."
"Such times we live in." Amora said and leaned against Lea in melancholy. They both then returned their attention to King Lacessit who had been speaking the entire time.
"Now let us bring an end to this fool!" King Lacessit said and exited the stage. He motioned for the executioner to begin the final preparations. Lea watched his king arrogantly sit next to his young and beautiful wife, Queen Nomia. Lea had long come to admire the young queen's beauty and allowed his gaze to linger on her. She wore an expression of blank disgust. He studied her and saw a young girl shut off from the world. Her solemn demeanor profoundly contrasted against the barbaric event taking place. Lea returned his concentration back to the unyielding Aseapia.
The silence created by King Lacessit promptly dissolved into a religious fervor. The fanatic crowd screamed and taunted Aseapia but his disturbingly relaxed demeanor never wavered. Zealots tossed rocks and manure at him but he made no effort to dodge the onslaught. His manner exuded the attitude of a mountain shunning the assault of a storm.
"Oh brother, I don't want to watch." Amora hid her face.
"I know, neither do I, but I have to watch this man die," Lea said, strongly. "It is our duty to watch him suffer for his transgressions."
"Why do these people enjoy this display of death?"
"They don't know any better." Lea said as the executioner readied his deadly mechanism.
"Do you have any last words before we end your life?" King Lacessit yelled as the crowd continued to show their rage. A grin broke upon the face of Aseapia and further enraged the crowd into a chaotic frenzy.
"SILENCE!" Aseapia yelled in a deafening voice that instantly squelched the roar of the crowd and startled everyone. Lea thought of how he had never known this man or ever heard his voice before today. Though now he was about to watch him die.
"Forgive my weakness." Amora said as she fearfully stood behind Lea.
"I AM THE MESSENGER AND THE DESTROYER, BEHOLD THE END OF ALL THINGS!" Aseapia's deafening voice reverberated throughout all of Usia.
"Kill him!" King Lacessit screamed. Then the gate opened and Aseapia fell below the enclosed gallows with a sharp twang of the rope that just as quickly began to swing loosely. A dead silence strangled the hate ridden crowd. They waited for the executioner to inspect the body and announce that Aseapia was dead. Many hoped the loose rope meant that his head had been ripped off. Murmurs of shock and amusement gradually grew louder while the executioner peered down into the opening.
The mass of fanatical people directly in front of the gallows lingered with a childlike restlessness. They waited for the moment when they could erupt into celebration. The executioner lifted up the empty noose as he stared down with a curious bewilderment that suddenly turned into unbridled fear. The top of the gallows then exploded and caused everyone to react defensively. The bloody and severed remains of the executioner rained down as the crowd panicked. Then the side of the gallows exploded.
"What is happening?" Amora screamed.
"I don't know!" Lea said, protecting her. "We have to go! Now!" Lea desperately tried to move his fear stricken sister as hordes of people rushed past them. He quickly glanced at the ruined gallows and what he saw brought forth a wild terror over him.
A massive black sword appeared and slashed through the crowd with an unnatural speed, instantly killing tens of people. The wielder of the terrifying sword that emerged from the damaged gallows was a gigantic black knight. Its armor was crafted into flowing curves with intricate designs of an organic nature. Its helmet had three long spikes with one jutting down from the chin as the other two started from the sides and reached far back behind its head. Lea was ever more shocked to realize the black knight was without a face. Only smooth black armor existed where a visor should have been. But Lea was most astonished at the sheer size of the towering knight. It was twice the height of a tall man and the width of five men. The crowd frantically trampled one another to escape the fatal blows of its massive sword.
Lea lifted up the terrified Amora to flee but was momentarily frozen again when an identical black knight emerged from the destroyed gallows. The colossal swords that each black knight wielded were swung with an unbelievable velocity and killed hordes of people with each attack. Lea's last vision of the scene was a nightmarish brutality of fleeing people being massacred. Lea carried his fear struck sister and ran for their lives as thousands shrieked in the background.
Chapter TwoEscape into Lorianent
Sunset approached as Lea and Amora hastily traveled away from Usia. The wits they had left behind in the frantic scene eight hours before were now beginning to return. They had mounted and desperately escaped on the first horse they came upon while regiments of the Usian Army sprinted past them. They sped away northeast to the woods of Lorianent as thousands of citizens fled into the surrounding lands and woods. When they had reached the first trees of Lorianent, fire exploded and rained down over Usia. The heat from the flames was felt deep into the woods. The screams of the dying were heard for miles. They traveled very far into Lorianent but Lea knew the forest well. He had spent a great deal of his life hunting there and it had been a safe haven for him for years. He knew it would be the same for his sister on this night.
"Lea, we must stop, I have no strength." Amora said, finally exhausted by their furious escape. Lea stopped, believing they were far from harm.
"We shall stop for a while. The horse needs to rest as well." Lea dismounted and tied the weary horse to a knobby tree root and helped Amora down. Sunset was near and faint orange hues played with the lush colors of the forest. The summer months had been humid and the forest had grown thick with overgrowth. The canopy completely hid the sky and would provide the darkness needed for rest and cover.
"Lea ... what happened?" Amora asked in shock.
"Did you see anything that will stay with you?" Lea asked and allowed his exhausted body to go limp on the ground.
"No, I turned away."
"I am glad. You were spared the visions of cruel deaths."
"What did you see? Tell me everything." Lea waited a moment and sat up distressed.
Excerpted from The End of All Things by Charles Lane Roberts Copyright © 2011 by Charles Lane Roberts. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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