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Chapter Three: Death’s Messengers
He was in a field; it stretched across the horizon, into eternity, burning such a bright white it scorched his eyes. Dark grass stalks, black as pitch, clustered at the base of the wooden pikes surrounding him.
Sweat poured down his face as fast as the blood gushed from the impaled, decaying bodies. Their skin was raw and stretched, peeling away slowly, revealing their dark innards. Blood gurgled from their stomachs, flies burrowing deep into the open wounds between the pikes. Fear and pain were gnarled into their faces, twisting their frozen joints into masks of agony.
They had been executed; impaled on pikes.
And he knew them, every single body, through the pus and flies he recognized them as his friends, his fellow soldiers. They were dead, all dead. What had happened to them?
“Jei…” his name fell across cold lips. He looked over his shoulder, at the speaker; its face was caved in and crawling with maggots, but he could still recognize it.
The corpse’s eyes snapped open; there was no color or life in those hollow orbs, only haze and death. It stared at him silently, its mouth set in a long frown; in its position, its face turned upward toward the sky, it looked like a sick grin.
“You killed me…Jei.” It hissed, it’s voice piercing through his ears.
“No,” he chocked out. “I would never hurt you. You’re my friend.” Red tears spilled from his eyes. “I would never do anything to—”
“You killed me Jei, you killed all of us,” its arms twitched, shakily pointing to the other corpses. “It’s your fault we’re dead.”
“No!” he screamed. “You’re not dead! You’re alive, all of you are still alive! When I left none of you were dead!”
“It’s your fault Jei,” another corpse moaned, the same high hiss as the other. “Your fault, your fault, your fault—” One by one the other corpses joined in, chanting over and over, their empty eyes set on him, the soulless voices always monotone, always nothing. But he knew their souls howled with hatred, and thirsted for revenge.
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Wake up!” a voice cut through the chanting. It was deep and course, nothing like the corpses. There was a soft pain on his cheek, and the voice was growing louder. “By the Mother wake up!”
His eyes seemed to open, pushing away the sight of the corpses. He focused on his new surroundings, taking in the crude wooden walls, and the middle-aged man with sandy-blonde hair. The man was shaking him by the shoulders, snapping his head back and forth painfully. He tried to speak, but found his lips stuck, too dry to part.
The man stopped shaking him; he reached out of his sight line for a moment, bringing back into it a black yorkire. The yorkire scqueled in fear, thrashing wildly in the man’s grip.
“Take a bite,” he insisted, pushing the rodent into his face. He obeyed, taking the squealing animal into his hands. It squirmed and jerked, gnawing at his fingers. But he didn’t let go. His body was numb; he couldn’t feel the sharp teeth ripping away his skin, or the blood slipping between his fingers.
He pulled the yorkire forward, his mouth widening, two long sharp fangs protruding from his mouth. The yorkire became more vicious, sensing its death, and bit harder and harder, but to no avail.
He could feel the yorkire’s course fur on his tongue. It tasted like dirt. He closed his mouth around the animal’s wriggling body, his fangs sinking into its flesh. Its movement slowed as the venom coating his fangs rushed through its bloodstream. The venom took effect immedietly; it became relaxed, content, feeling as happy and pleasurable as a beast of its status could. It abandoned its fight, and remained still, too absorbed in its pleasure to save its own life.
He removed his fangs from the yorkire but kept his mouth clamped tightly around it. Blood flowed freely down his dry throat, urged by his long tongue; lapping up whatever wasn’t clogged by thick fur. The venom ebbed the yorkire’s life away, making the blood run slower. He greedily sucked out as much of the warm liquid as he could before it ran still and the animal’s body grew stiff. The man pulled the lifeless rodent from his hands, and carelessly tossed it to the side.
“My name,” the man placed a hand on his chest. “Is Bosch. Do you know your name?”
“Jei…” he mumbled. He still had little energy, and didn’t wish to waste it talking to a stranger.
Bosch pouted; he looked nuisance. “That’s rude. The polite thing to do is give your full name.”
Jei glared at him, what use did peasants have of politness? “You didn’t give me your full name.”
Bosch grinned, showing a few missing teeth. “I’m not polite. But I do know your name: Jei Krieger Waldgrave-Dubbiel. Don’t look so shocked they got your wanted poster up all over the place. Though I think you’ve gotten thinner since they sketched it.”
Jei began shaking, mumbling his words. “I will not allow myself to be captured. Despite your hospitality of blood I will not hesitate to kill you if you try to take me back.” Already his hands were balling into fists, his shoulders tensing. He was ready for a fight
“I have no intention of taking you back. You’re just a deserter, the reward for you isn’t worth a voyage to Nobuhiro.”
Jei’s shaking stopped, but his words were still mumbled. “I’m not on Nobuhiro? What continent is this?”
“Natsuki, don’t you know where the hell you’re going.” Freaks. That’s all that came into his tavern. Freaks.
He shook his head violently. “I was at sea for six months…I…I only came to shore to get more supplies…I thought it was a beach, not a desert when I landed.” His face twisted in anger, words of berating falling across his lips, too low for Bosch to catch.
Bosch was starting to wonder if the young man’s mind had gone. Life was nothing more than survival of the fittest, Bosch had to watch out for himself, not some crazy. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to let him live.
“Kill him!” the crone screamed, making Bosch jump; he’d forgotten she was there.
“Shut up woman!” he growled. No, killing him would mean he stooped to their level, the level of those who had given up their hope. But at the same time, he didn’t want to be fostering a loon.
“Waldgrave, I’m going to ask you some questions, make sure you’re right in the head. Understand?” Jei nodded. “What are the six continents?”
“Nobuhiro, Hiromu, Natsuki, Kohta, Akira, and Daisuke.”
“What is your familiar’s name?”
“What year is it?”
Chapter title: Death’s Messengers is the fairy tale of a young man who helps Death after a giant beats him in a fight. Out of gratitude Death tells the man he will send his messengers to him before he dies, and will not come upon him by surprise. The young man is happy with this, and when he becomes sick he knows he won’t die because the messengers have not come. However after he gets better Death comes for him, saying sickness and sleep were his messengers telling the man of his coming death.
Krieger: German for’ warrior’. I used an online translator, so I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it’s the best I can do.
Waldgrave: A ruler or lord. In the original concept of AFW Jei was the general of an army; he was a rash and dominant person. That has, since then, all changed, but the name stuck.
Dubbiel: The bear deity. Dubbiel comes from the fallen angel who was once guardian angel of Persia. I chose the name for it’s meaning, a bear being a symbol of strength (in my eyes).
Continent names: The names of the continents come from the manga-ka of some of my favorite series of different genres. You may think that’s dumb, but I don’t care, I like themes. Nobuhiro: From Nobuhiro Watsuki, creator of Rurouni Kenshin. Hiromu: From Hiromu Arakawa, creator of Full Metal Alchemist. Natsuki: From Natsuki Takaya, the creator of Fruits Basket. Kohta: From Kohta Hirano, manga-ka of Hellsing. Akira: From Akira Toriyama, who created Dragonball and Dragonball Z. Daisuke:Daisuke Moriyama, manga-ka of Chrono Crusade.
Familiar: In the past, the familiar was the servant of a witch or some other person who had supernatural powers. They were usually considered to be in the form of animals (cats, dogs, toads, etc). I will not say how familiars play a role in this story just yet, or what form they take, but they do appear later on.