So this is something I wrote while I was preparing/experimenting with stuff for my novel. idk if this will be included in there or if it will even go anywhere, since it's kinda cringy imo. But still, I want the opinions of the internet. If it seems interesting, I may fix it up and include it. (*treat this as a prologue to a story*) warning its kinda long Spoiler: prologue Rooted with massive stone walls, ruined roads, and the foul stench of blood and dung, a city that had long since lost its valour burned under the hot desert sun and the blowing winds of the Land of Fire. In the corner of each street, behind the walls of each house, and the green palm trees of the desert, lay piles of rotting corpses, their miens frozen with time and fear. A drought had left the ground paved with cracks and dry blood, as creatures of all mirth crawled out from under the rocks in search of water. If one were to listen closely, turn their ears in, and close their eyes, one would hear the echoes of crying wails, either of the dead or the living, sorrowful and lamenting, all mumbles or screams, hungering for a future unseen. Atop piling corpses, fetid and foul, lay women ravaged and withered, their bosoms still and fallen, silent praises of hell erupting from their bruised lips. The sand kissed, embraced, and poured love to the small bodies scattered over the city, the babes pure in heart and soul, who sang only for the dead now, and took them in, burying them in the red earth. The Land of Fire had turned them away, danced upon their ashes like wildfire, and in the chilling nights of the desert, war had raged on, leaving a trail of hot blood and fire in its course. Cairo felt his breath steer as looked at his beloved, now dead, and the scorched bodies of his children. When was the next battle? He could not tell, he did not know when he found his way back to his dead family, or why he did so. They were rotting and dead, flesh falling off and burning away in the heat yet Cairo could not bury them. Not yet. His beloved sang even while dead, and he longed to hear her voice once more. He needed to hear it once more. Yes, though she was dead, she was still there. He could feel it deep in his bones. Cairo turned his head, under the shade of the wilted palm tree, and gazed back at his wife’s dead face. She was still there. She had to be. “Oh?” Bamsi bent down and motioned to the scorched and feeble body slumped against the tree. “Hey, Rhisto. This one’s still alive.” Cairo sat still and looked at the two strange men in front of him, one tall and staunch, and the other younger, perhaps in his twenties with a short brown beard. Their cheeks seemed full, and eyes bright despite the death around them. “Ask him which way the capital is.” The younger man spoke in a low voice, rough and listless. That had been the day, in which the Land of Fire would change, brought forth like a raging storm, sowing it together, piece by piece, slowly stumbling towards a unseen future. Cairo had not known of it at the time, but the dead had noticed, and a sweet tune rung out in the air, unnoticed by all. Cairo coughed, red dust on the tip of his tongue, and raised his dazed eyes to question the men. “Two alone men won’t do anything but die at the capital. Don’t you hear the dead singing? The capital will kill you, and burn you out alive. It’s no place for man.” Though his mind was hazy and teaming with the though of his wife’s song, but he knew, by the countess battles he had fought and survived, that the capital would do nothing but herald death. It was a fortified fortress, a crucial point in the war, and it belonged to the dogs of the land, who had scoured and burned all their way for the sake of their own belly and endless greed. Hundreds of thousands had died in its wake. Bamsi gave a callous laugh, “The dead singing? Looks like this one is goner.” He tapped at Cairo’s cheek as if to mock him, smiling like a brute as he spoke. “We are not afraid of the Capital.” “The dead tell no lies.” Cairo glowered at them and pointed his finger westward. “A days walk West. If you desire to walk into the pits of hell then so be it. I will not stop you.” A loud horn rung, and pangs of drumming, the clashing of metal, and screams burst forth from the distance. The two men jerked their heads towards the sound of war, and from the horizon, a wave of enemy resurgents loomed, their banners raised, bright red flames induced on them. From the other side appeared another army, though much smaller in numbers, less organized, and the ranks dispersed into black dots into the distance. “A battle!” Cairo jumped up, looking around in a panic and picked up two corpses from the ground. He dragged the two smaller ones into a nearby house, and ran out, in frenzied haste, as he raised a woman, her skin melted and rotten. “I still need your voice my dear Lia!” Cairo panted, his breath uneven and pulled the corpse by her feet towards the same house. The sound of the battle approached, and Cairo grasped a chipped sword in his hand, running towards the other direction. “What’s wrong with him?” “I don’t know.” Rhisto turned his head away from Cairo’s disapearing figure and pointed towards the red army. “We can go around the army but it’ll take longer to get to the Capital that way. Or we can keep going straight and just go through the army. What do you want to do?” “Is that even a question?” “I guess not.” Eager for a kiss from a scarlet-colored beauty, Rhisto drew his keen blade, sharp and silver, gently grasped its handle, and as though it were a part of his soul, he pointed it towards the rising sun in the distance, hot and burning. As waves of soldiers descended upon the city, Bamsi gleamed at the sight of their fiery red banners, and pulled his feet back, red sand gathering at the soles of his feet, he charged forward, straight into the pit of feverish human bodies and spears. “Sir! There’s a lone man-” It was chaotic, hardly what anyone could call a proper battle, as their ranks fell part in mere seconds and death ensued like a bloody hound. Panic surged through their minds, and before they could even begin to retaliate, a ferocious might, one they could not fathom, struck them down, blood and flesh dyeing the cracked desert ground with its crimson aura. Bamsi laughed, and ducked his head, heaving forth a rogue spear towards a plethora of men, impalling them. Men screamed, scrambled for their lives, and the some brave ones charged forward, rage and revenge thick, hacking away at the sea of blood before them to reach the laughing man. He looked as though he were playing with children, his black hair laced with gore, and his savage grin. “For Estevo!” They screamed, and like puppets whose strings had been cut, they fell to the floor, their rage still stuck in their throats, and their miens unsuspecting of their sudden death. There was only the sound of a sharp wind, as though it had been cut by something inhuman, and there Rhisto stood, his blade clean of not even a drop of blood, a frown on his face as he wiped at his short beard. “You got blood on me.” Their heads rolled, crushed under the hooves of horses and panicked men, and Rhisto took up his blade again, against the onslaught of soldiers and the hot desert air. Cairo and the rebels, or as they called themselves, the last living sons of the Land of Fire, stood gaping their rusty and chipped swords still in their hands. Sweat dripped down their chins, and their breaths quick, they stood before a sea of blood, soaking the trampled fiery red banners of the Land of Fire in a beautiful crimson red like nothing they had seen before. They stood frozen in their stance, the mangled bodies of the soldiers piling up like flies in the drowning in the wine of hell. “This …” Cairo swallowed his saliva down his parched throat and glanced at the untouched house where his beloved lay. “Was it them?” Who are they? *** Estevo was a short and stout man, barely reaching his son’s shoulders, and as the sole sovereign over the Land of Fire, when the news of his entire army being eliminated, by the hands of two men, raged boiled to and fro inside him as he slammed down his golden cup on the table, glaring at the young boy standing before him. “You say all of them are dead?” “Yes Father.” “And what of those damned rebels?” “They are unscathed.” The man kicked at the table before him, and pulled his son’s face close to him, grabbing him by the collar, “Explain yourself!” “I presume the ones responsible for this are Travelers. They are the only ones capable of doing such deeds.” Estevo threw his son to the floor, his face stiff with anger. “Then bribe them! Those mongrels are just a bunch of barbarians. Give them what they want and get them out of here.” The young man cast his eyes down, either blue or grey, and spoke in a calm and solemn voice. “I have sent out several messengers but none of them have returned. They seem to have no interest in whatever we have to offer.” Estevo paused for a moment, his face red from anger or perhaps from the heat, “If they do not want anything, and go as far as destroying my armies, they must be here for some reason. Are they perhaps from the Union … ?” “Such is also my presumption Father. If they are truly from the Union and are against us, we have no means to defend against them. The Travelers we hired left after their ten months were over, and since then, we have not been able to find any suitable Travelers to employ.” “So what do you suggest?” The boy stood silent. Estevo’s veins bulged in anger, at the sight of his son standing meakly at the thought of those outsiders, made his face redden in anger. He motioned for a servant, and pulled a thin blade. “Come here.” The boy looked up, startled and walked forward on silent feet. “Yes, Father.” Blood splurted, and as the boy screamed loudly, a pale ear fell to the floor, red and fresh. “Argh!” “You fool. We are the Land of Fire. We shall not lose to those outsiders, and even if we are to die, we shall die while fighting to our last breath.” Estevo turned his head, threw his knife on the floor and wiped his bloodied hand on a piece of white cloth. “They would’ve came one day or another. We are the children of fire. Don’t you forget that.” The boy got up on his knees, blood soaking his hand red, and bowed his head. “Yes, Father.” *** Under the red sand of the desert, the figures of two men whittled, stirring dust along the way. “How many messengers has he sent already?” “That was the eleventh one.” Bamsi laughed, “ That boy, he puts on a good show.” “He’s betraying his father after all.” Rhisto stopped, his feet drawing up a cloud a red dust. “We’re here.” Covered in green flora and thick red brick walls, it was a grandiose structure, built around a mountain, donning a strange geometric shape. There were perhaps thousands of soldiers manned at the top, each brimming with confidence as waves of drums and churning chants entered their ears. From the center of the fortress, stuck out a fiery red banner, of ferocious writing, ‘Land of Fire’. The ground itself seemed to shake thunderously with each breath they took, and with each hit of the drum, the slammed their spears on the ground of the fortress, all moving in a strange and terrifying rhythm. It was clear why the war had lasted for so long, why the land had been dyed with a deep and dark blood. The Capital was a monster in itself, of burning fires from the pits of hell for the last living sons of the Land of Fire. Bamsi whistled, his hands over his eyes to block the harsh rays of the desert sun. “No wonder they’re so afraid the Capital.” Rhisto took out a piece of paper from his pocket and spread it out along the ridges of a nearby rock. “This here, is where we’ll attack from. That boy should’ve left this spot with fewer soldiers.” His tanned fingers moved along the paper, “After we get in, we’ll travel along the south road and meet the guide there. He’ll guide us to the castle and from there, we take Estevo’s life.” A wild wind gathered at the southern side of the Capital. “Th-They’re here!” “Do not fear them! We are children of fire!” Their hearts set on fire with their will to fight and die in honor, they took their spears up, arrows readied, and poured a onslaught of burning oil over the walls. “And shoot!” Arrows flew like a violent storm, accompanied by their fervent chants, and Rhisto whipped his blade, cutting through the their onslaught. He ran up to the wall, kicking off the ground, and jumped up the wall, his fingers grasping tight on the red rock. They poured oil over him, and he flung his body to the side, his body arching, and launched himself to the top of the cliff in a short moment. The oil felt to the floor, melting the sand beneath it. “Captain!” A young boy stumbled forward, his hand trembling and his eyes in a fervent shake. He drew his breath in a long stroke, and raised his blade above his head. His face was red, perhaps from the desert heat or his spirit, as he moved forward for a brave attack. “For Estevo!” “I commend your spirit boy.” Blood danced in the air, and without even being able understand his death, the boy dropped to the floor, his body crushed along the steps of the other soldiers rushing forward in a steep panic. Rhisto did not turn back to look at the fallen boy, but instead twisted his head to side as a warhammer came at him from behind. He swung his sword, drawing blood on his silver blade. “Bamsi! You go ahead first!” Bamsi had already made towards the edge of the wall, and as soldiers ran to stop his assault, Rhisto’s sword rang out from behind them, whetting his blade in their silent screams. As Bamsi jumped down the wall and made his way down the southern road, several soldiers who had attempted to follow him from the other sides of the wall rained down on him like moths attracted to fire. “You damn outsider!” He kicked his legs against the ground, and leapt up to the rooftops of the mud buildings, jumping from roof to roof. He laughed and looked down at the soldiers screaming and running after him. “Too slow!” He ducked his head, and jumped down from a rooftop, pushing his body through a narrow alleyway. Their screams had faded off into the distant, echoing across the city in a jumbled mess. “Over here!” A young girl, half her face scarred and burned motioned over to Bamsi with her thin hand. “You must be the Traveler.” She craned her neck and looked behind the towering man. “Where’s the other one? There’s supposed to be two of you.” Bamsi blinked his eyes, startled and pointed to girl, “You’re the guide?” “Yeah I am. Is there a problem with that?” Bamsi laughed and shook his head, twisting his body out of the narrow alley. “No, there isn’t.” The girl moved with certainty, her body twisting and turning at each corner, careful to avoid watchful eyes. They moved silently, and as soldiers ran by the corner, the girl pressed herself against the wall, her eyes following their movement. In the darkness of the city, they moved, and with the sound of drums and death around them, they raised their eyes to look at the castle nestled in the center of hundreds of wary soldiers. “Is that it?” The girl nodded and moved her body to the side, her figure disappearing in the darkness of another alley. “Yea. It’s all up to you now mister.” *** Banners flew the next day, the war had been won. The war which had plagued for many years had been solved at the drop of a hat. The capital had fallen. The scene which he had seen in front of his eyes was something he’d never forget. The stench of his family, his beloved, and the sight of hundreds of soldiers being slain by the two strange men. They had left just like that, nameless shadows in his mind, the blood they had shed already being washed away by the raging rain. They were Travelers, outsiders with nothing to their name, called money mongers, killers, and invaders, hated and abhorred, yet it was they who controlled the chaos of the world, doomed to travel the endless world until their last breath. “Oh, my beloved Lia. Forgive me.” Cairo sat down under a tall willow tree and sifted the dirt through his fingers. “The war is over. The ones responsible for your death are long gone now.” Aysop buried his head deep in his arms, a loud wail erupting. “Oh, my lovely Lia … ugh …” His voice cracked like a young boys, and his shoulder shook with each breath he took. Blood wept, and with each cry that sounded, her final pleas for his life in exchange for her own tore at him like a raging beast. “Cairo!” She had cried, her eyes on only him, their savage hands wrenching around her neck, and reached out towards him, her fingers only inches away from his face. “Look away.” Her voice low and quiet, her body torn and scarlet, they took to her, vile delight dancing in each breath they took. “Lia!” They swept him up, and raised his head, their voices ringing in his ears. “She’s beautiful.” The wind carried their eager laughter, and in a single stroke, they pulled open her mouth, and stuck the cold metal against her tongue, cutting it off. She screamed as her body convulsed, and as blood pooled in her throat, the wind wept, blowing the dying cries of his beloved over Aysop’s ears like a cruel tune from hell. They ravaged her empty husk, and then threw her body atop the corpses of her dead children. Their limbs were torn, ripped apart, nothing but a pile of bone and flesh, their faces frozen with time. “We promised to let you live. Go on.” Those soldiers had died the next day by a rebel legion. Cairo had not been there to see it. His children, Lia, his family, his village, they had all died. Cairo alone had survived. There was a young girl standing across him, half her face burnt and scorched, a silent and solemn expression on her face. In her hand was a shovel, three graves, and an empty hole. She too, was a survivor of the war. She looked at the wailing man, “Are you sure about this?” “Yes. I have no reason to live. The war is over, my enemies are dead, my children are dead, and even Lia has left me.” “I see. What type of flowers did your wife like?” “Anemones.” Cairo looked at the three graves, and then to the empty grave. He smiled, his eyes weary and tired. “Thank you for this.” The girl dipped her head, and placed her hand over her left breast. “Farewell.” Cairo slid a dagger out and held the cold metal close to his skin, the sensation chilling him to the bone. His breath escaped him in a long hiss, his cheeks stained with tears, and he closed his eyes. “Forgive me, my dear Lia. You gave your life for me but it seems I was a coward to the very end.” Under the willow tree of fate, where their love had first blossomed, red and hot with the days of peace and youth, was now their cradle and sole reprieve. hopefully its not too cringy. I contemplated making it more drawn out, like with scenes where the father dies and everything, but I figured it was gonna be too long (and I got kinda lazy). Should I have left in the scenes where the father dies? Would you wanna read that? I'd appreciate some feedback.