By Jesse Edwardson
Charred black by the lightning thrown from Imbah's hands, the soldier's body crumpled in a heap. Blackened bodies peppered the floor all around Imbah as he paused to catch his breath.
The battle though the castle had been long and bloody. At least seventy warriors have fallen before him. Each one a worthy foe. All masters in hand to hand combat, blades and bows. They all fought bravely and earned Imbah's respect, he would pray for their souls before he rested.
His chest, arms and legs were coated in his blood and his enemy's blood. Stab wounds were scattered over his flesh like stars in strange constellations. Two arrows protruded from his right bicep and left thigh like new appendages. Imbah felt no pain, only pulsing energy from his center, his chi.
“Just one more.” he whispered. “Just one more and this is all over.”
Imbah stood before the door to the inner sanctum. A great oak door banded in iron. Beyond this ancient barrier stood his goal, Kyreel. The warlord, murderer of tens of thousands of innocents.
No one alive has ever laid eyes upon the great monster. He commands his army like a coward. He never leaves the keep, he never leaves his private chambers. Legend is that Kyreel has not see the sun in one hundred years.
Kyreel is attended to by a hoard of servants and to serve Kyreel is to sacrifice one's sight. All of his personal slaves are blinded with white hot spikes driven into their eye sockets. To serve Kyreel is also a death sentence. No one who serves him leaves the keep alive.
Here Imbah stood, his mighty hand on the great brass handle of the ancient door, ready to face his final foe. He paused a moment to offer a prayer to his fallen sister and mother, victims of the great warlord's greed.
“Beautiful ones, I will not fail you. Your vengeance is my vengeance. One more enemy must fall and my work is done. You will finally rest peacefully, as will I.
Imbah pulled the mighty door open and stepped into the cold and dim room.
The scented smoke that filled the room assaulted his senses. The room smelled of burning incense, strong and cloying, thick with lavender and clove. Imbah expected a large hall of a room but was surprised to find himself in small room, no bigger than a sleeping chamber.
In the center of the room stood a group of white cloaked slave girls, bathed in rich moonlight coming down on them from the open roof above. They stood in a circle facing outward, their heads were lowered as if in prayer.
Imbah froze in place, he would be required to cut through more innocent souls, he took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. He was prepared to do what was necessary. He clenched his fist and the lightning crackled around his left hand and forearm yet again.
When he took a step forward he heard a voice, rich and powerful, inside his head.
“Just one more. Is that what you said to yourself out there in the hall? Just one more? HA HA HA HA HA... Fear not warrior. Your soul, what is left of it, will remain intact. You will not need to cut these sweet ones down. I will do it for you!”
All of the slaves raised their heads at once, revealing their dead eyes. From the sockets flowed blood, fresh and hot like heart broken tears. All the faces were twisted in agony, their mouths agape in silent screams. Their bodies shook in pain and torment for long moments and then fell to the floor. Their days as slaves were done.
Revealed by the fallen slave girls stood a baby's bassinet. It glowed bright white in the light of the full moon. From above it's edge Imbah saw a tiny hand waving him forward.
“Come warrior, claim your quarry.” Said the voice that filled his head. The voice had the tone of someone who was bored.
“This can not be...” Imbah whispered.
“Oh, it CAN be! Come warrior, be the first man to see me since my father at my birth, and the second to perish upon sight of me.”
Imbah approached the small crib slowly and warily. His sword hung loosely in his right hand. The lightning was gone from his left.
Inside the crib lay a sweet baby swaddled in the finest linens. He sucked his thumb contentedly. His skin was perfect and unblemished, pink and soft. His eyes though were benevolent and wise and ancient.
“This can not be Kyreel!” Imbah said to the baby. “This is a trick!”
“Oh, no warrior, this is no trick. I am eternal and all powerful! Greatness is not measured in stature, but power! You saw what I did to my servants. Now, raise your sword and be done with me or die where you stand!”
With these last words the beast Kyreel pulled his thumb from his mouth with a 'POP' and bored his gaze into Imbah's eyes. Their eyes locked. Kyreels eyes filled with fire, red and raging. Imbah's eyes were filled with the faces of his mother and sister.
Imbah's sword began to slip from his hand. He could not kill a baby. He thought to himself, “Can this truly be Kyreel? This small child? Is this some kind of trick? If it is a trick, I can not fall for it. I must do what I came to do.” At that moment, when his grip would have given up and let the blade fall to the stone floor, his fist found the strength to close on the handle of the sword, tight and powerful.
The blade came up and down as quick as lightning. The infants eyes opened wide in surprise. Imbah impaled the infant through the heart, the sword nearly cut the baby in half as it cut through the thin mattress and struck the floor beneath. Kyreel's scream filled Imbah's head, full and wailing, nearly driving him insane.
The bassinet filled with thick black blood, soaking the pure white linens. It ran down the blade of the sword and pooled on the floor. The baby's face twisted in torment and then became still. The screaming in Imbah's head ceased. The warrior dropped to his knees, his enemy slain.
Imbah's head was finally silent again, and his heavy breathing was the only sound in the room. A moment passed and Imbah heard a faint cry in the back of his mind. Kyreel's final whisper. 'Mother...'
Imbah looked up, quickly scanning the room, and from a far corner Imbah saw movement in the shadows and heard a blood curdling scream. This scream was in his ears and not his mind, at least not yet.
“Just one more...” Imbah vowed.