Hello, survivors and undertakers.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Or so they say. But is it really that simple? Do the ashes of aftermath really settle as softly as we’d like? Is it really so easy to wipe away the stains they leave? It’s time to see what ashes your disasters leave behind, because…
This week’s Writing Group prompt is:
RULES AND GUIDELINES BELOW!
Make sure you scroll down and read them if you haven’t! You may not be eligible if you don’t!
At first glance, a prompt like this might seem fairly simple. But when you really think about it, it’s not just about ashes in the physical sense. Sure, it can be physical. But if we look at it a little differently, it can be so much deeper than that.
It can be about the aftermath of something devastating and disastrous. A divorce finally tearing a family apart, leaving the children confused and nervous. It could be an office worker who lost her job after her work went up in smoke. Perhaps it could be the aftermath of a fight between two lovers when one finds out the other has been unfaithful. Or more innocently, it could be two kids dealing with the hurt feelings after fighting with each other.
The ashes could also be physical. Maybe it’s the ashes of a beloved pet who reached the end of their long and happy journey, and their humans have to pick up the pieces and cope with the loss. Perhaps it’s a home, the memories within burned mercilessly to the ground in a fire. It could be a village covered in ash like snow following the eruption of a volcano. Perhaps it’s the aftermath of a car wreck, in which the thing lost could simply be the car itself, or someone inside. Maybe even a vampire’s remains after they’re brought down by the sun. Or maybe it’s simply the ashes of a midnight cigarette.
Maybe these ashes don’t have to be about moving on, though. Maybe they can bring life instead. A phoenix reborn after it bursts into flame and dies. A druid bringing a golem of ashes to life in an attempt to prevent more of her forests being burned. Maybe it’s a power, born of great sacrifice and the wielder needing to come to terms with those consequences, always wondering if it was worth it.
Whatever tale ignites from within you, let it burn bright and wild.
Let us stain our fingers with the ashes it leaves behind.
Remember, this is part of our weekly Writing Group stream! Submit a little piece following the rules and guidelines below, and there’s a chance your entry will be read live on stream! In addition, we’ll discuss it for a minute and give you some feedback.
Tune into the stream this Friday at 7:00pm CST to see if you made the cut!
The whole purpose of this is to show off the creativity of the community, while also helping each other to become better writers. Lean into that spirit, and get ready to help each other improve their confidence in their writing, as well as their skill with their craft!
Rules and Guidelines
We read at least four stories during each stream, two of which come from the public post, and two of which come from the much smaller private post. Submissions are randomly selected by a bot, but likes on your post will improve your chances of selection, so be sure to share your submission on social media!
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What to Submit
- Keep submissions “safe-for-work”; be sparing with sexuality, violence, and profanity.
- Try to focus on making your submission a single meaningful moment rather than an entire story.
- Write something brand new (no re-submitting past entries or pieces written for other purposes
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Comments on this post that aren’t submissions will be deleted, except for replies/reviews left on existing submissions.
The conference room was full of urgent whispers, the flipping of pages, and tapping on phones. An agonized scream sounded faintly through the speakers and some looked up at the monitor taking up most of one wall, going pale as the scream petered out and another voice started crying. A renewed roaring of flames quickened the pace as people came and went.
The sound of crumbling rubble caused the occasional glance, and they tried to ignore the fading whimpers and cries. It was casual whistling coming over the speakers that caused them all to freeze, then slowly look up to the screen.
The screen displayed a room that was half ruined and filled with rubble, some of it burning. A great hole in the wall and ceiling opened into a massive crater. The whistling grew louder.
A man in a long coat appeared, stopped and looked inside. The right side of his face was normal, average, maybe even handsome, with gray-blue eyes and dark tousled hair. But the left was a solid covering of black scales, with some creeping onto the right, and the eye burned like white hot steel. He laughed, “Is that still working?”
He stepped into the room and shoved aside a rubble covered chair and corpse before leaning over the table and looking into the camera.
“I don’t know whose profoundly stupid idea this was. Maybe it was one of you. Maybe someone was desperately trying to explain themselves to you. But it doesn’t matter now. Everyone in this base is dead or dying. But I’m satisfied with that.”
He laughed, “And you should be grateful. Because I–” he chuckled and pressed his left palm against the right side of his face and rubbed the scales off, that fell like ash, revealing pristine skin underneath, “I’m fine. But if you–” he chuckled, then growled, “But you throw another goddamn nuke, or anything like it, at me…” he laughed again, “One base isn’t going to cut it. Not by a long shot.”
He turned, then disappeared in a blur, leaving only swirling ash behind.
Fire and Snow
Grey snow meandered through the sky, falling from what seemed to be an endless, dark abyss. The fires had been quenched by the cold weather, but not before the smoke could taint the white snow.
His eyes fluttered open and a shock of pain shrieked through his skull. Rubbing his head, Alonso sat up, surrounded by dark snow. In the distance, a town stood, black and smoldering, from the fire that once periled it.
“We did that, y’know,” a high voice piped in from behind Alonso.
“Huh? Wha—?” He turned his head, looking at a small rabbit. It almost blended into the dull snow around them.
“The fire. Half the town is gone,” the rabbit’s gaze shifted from the town to the injured mess in front of her. “You got knocked out really hard, Al.”
He stared at her, “Oh. It’s you.”
“Always have been!” the rabbit moved away from Alonso, and a flash of light blinded him. Rubbing his eyes, he adjusted to the sudden change, seeing a young girl stand where the rabbit once stood.
He glanced back to the fires. “Why didn’t you do anything? About the fire. You’re usually so sappy for the humans,” Alonso felt a headache coming on.
“I am not sappy! Anyways, Sir didn’t let us,” the girl pouted.
“Why wouldn’t he?” Alonso looked at her quizzically.
“He’s not as great as you think,” she mumbled.
Alonso glared at her. “You just don’t know how to listen!”
“I know how to listen better than you!”
Alonso stood up. “Shut up, Aura!” he snarled.
“Fine.” Aura crossed her arms.
Alonso turned and walked away. The snow slowed his pace, so Alonso did the only sensible thing: he shifted into a fox. Perfectly balanced on the snow, Alonso took off. Away from the burning town, away from Aura, away from everything that made him angry.
Aura stood there, and shifted her weight uncomfortably. The sky seemed to darken, and she felt as if something had died, the weight of its ashes pulling down on her.
“Burial” (If selected I give my slot to Tyler Desperado)
“Though we are but ashes and dust in the flesh, we are yet more in spirit,” the priest intoned “by the Mercy of the Holy Sacrifice.”
It was a cool winter’s day, as the village gathered at the burial site in the churchyard. The people were silent and solemn, dressed in grey.
“As we suffer now in grief,” continued the priest, “so too did the Merciful One, his flesh torn upon the thorns. The Maker of our world wept to see the Holy Sacrifice which called down divine Mercy. Death is the mountain pass through which we all must journey beyond the Mountains of Dreamless Night, but young Alissa does not make the journey alone. We walk with her in spirit, and the Merciful One walks with her too.”
The priest chanted in the ancient tongue her Final Rites, and looked heavenward saying, “Oh Merciful One, we lay to rest and commend to your care this young woman Alissa, and may she know your eternal peace.”
The heavy church bell tolled. The ropes creaked as the men lowered the narrow wooden platform holding the body of Alissa. Her burial dress and skin both a stark white against the dark earth beneath her as she was lowered into the grave. Her eyes pale and fogged were left open intentionally to stare up into the heavens, so she might look to them to the last moment of internment.
A small sob broke the silence for a moment, her family among the mournful huddled close together for solace. The priest lifted up the ceremonial ash and let it fall, drifting like white snow down upon Alissa’s form. The people of the village began to disperse, slowly solitarily or in small groups. The priest invited her family to join him in his home as an act of further comfort. They went there together, as the burial men began their work. Slowly the shovelfuls of dirt weighed down upon her till at last the heavens were shrouded from her sight.
All That is Left.
The agony didn’t end when the mace struck me into the void. It didn’t fade away when my senses returned. The smell of burnt hair and ash and the taste of blood in my mouth pulled me awake, but the horrors compelled me to move. Splintered wood stood in thresholds of loving homes, my neighbors’ belongings were either shredded to ribbons or tossed in the streets like irrelevant debris. Bodies were everywhere. Not moving; not breathing.
I wanted to scream. Scream at the indignity of it all. But my thoughts raced and screeched with such speed it became nothing but noise, a headache of activity. Speaking was far too much. I wanted to run, however my joints and muscles still ached from battle fatigue. They tensed and pulsed, more than on edge for another surprise attack that wasn’t going to come.
And yet either by morbid curiosity or by sheer autonomy, I found myself walking my usual patrol routes through my city going through its death rattle. The distant dull pain and the dull buzz rattling in my skull was disorienting, like I was a mere passenger in my own body. I passed by the tavern as it was still ablaze, the rich liquors engulfed and its patrons long gone. I tried taking comfort at the absence of scorched flesh in my nostrils, but it felt as comforting as a glass of warm milk to a drowning man.
The library and repository came next. The crumpled remains of copper drearies crinkled under my steps, the shredded thoughts of better men fluttered in the breeze. I saw a man clutching to a book as large as he was like it was his own child. He said nothing as I passed.
Across the street was the tea shop. I saw the elderly owner mindlessly sweeping the blasted remains of the entrance. Her hands were shaking, but she continued on, oblivious to her dress being pocked with holes.
I kept walking until I returned to my post. A post that no longer existed. So the patrol continued again. And again. And again.
Dream about Ashes
by Mehrunes Drejgon
– Swirling ashes, remnants of what once was. Big and small, countless ash flakes floating in the void.
However, even if they are only ashes, they are still a substitute for what they were, maybe just a substitute, but still …
– Wait a minute, wait a minute! It’s not fair to start from the end!
– Offf… why should i listen to you? Now there is no bigger sense in talking about that irreversible past.
– Maybe there isn’t bigger sense… but think, there is still any sense.
– So let there be. But still i must to start from the end.
Once before our times, before a world that we know today, other world had existed. The true one world.
Full of life, varied but real life. Builded of clear energy without any void. World like a living creature, like The GOD only one and true!
You know what i will say now. Don’t you? Yes you know and you probably know why you know this thing.
The world you know all your life is just ashes and your life is less than a miserable joke of what it should be.
What are you going to do when truth that even your stars on the night sky are fading embers of light were shown to you little flake?
– What caused it? What did something like this?
– You asking what created you little flake?
Curious little one you are still very young. Like your kind says “Curiosity can be a straight and fast way to the hell”. Hell… (laugh in the void) funny idea.
Don’t be so greedy i just offered a big gift… (you hear one more time a light sarcastic laugh in the void).
Last one thing, try to write your dreams if you are still curious. Flakes have very weak minds and like others you probably forget this talk. Maybe you will forget everything… but deep inside you will still know. Even “outer gods” can’t wipe off my touch.
Live well curious little one flake of ashes. If we ever meet again you will die and lost because like i said your minds are weak…
– (For a moment he saw the indescribable creature in the blackness of the void, chaotic and disgusting, and just as he was about to scream he saw sunlight outside the window)
“The Pigeon” by R J Chapman
Sticking the flyer to the lamppost, Henry looked down to see a pigeon dead at his feet. He had witnessed far more gruesome sights than this, yet it bothered him. Afterall, Mephistopheles specialised in the decapitation of birds. Sheila, a one-time acquaintance – and fulltime feline apologist – claimed that they did that because they couldn’t bear to look at the eyes; they were simply overwhelmed with guilt. Henry wondered why then Mephistopheles, wracked with murderous shame, would insist on decorating the corpse with the creature’s entrails? Sheila would have probably spun this as nothing more than ritualistic funereal garb. She was the sort of person that would die alone, her face eaten by her cat before the body was discovered.
This pigeon hadn’t been eviscerated though. It just laid there, dead, motionless. Next to it lay a discarded box of KFC, the detritus of someone’s drunken appetite. Had it choked on the remnants? He wondered whether that counted as some sort of cannibalism. Its onyx eyes looked no more dead than they would on a live pigeon. Poor thing, he thought, and moved on.
A few days later, the pigeon remained but looked dishevelled. Couldn’t the street cleaners have picked it up by now? The KFC box had disappeared. Did they only care about bird carcasses if they were deep-fried? To deteriorate with such little dignity, it infuriated him. Tomorrow, he would endeavour to bring a plastic bag to remove it.
The next day, however, its putrid flesh had been stripped to reveal a ribcage dancing with maggots. He gagged at the prospect of going near it. Its eyes remained, and so Henry looked up to avoid its gaze, instead capturing the attention of a much more sorrowful glare. Tears filled his eyes, and shame consumed his heart.
At home, Henry fingered the crumpled and tattered edges of the last remaining flyer. He had been at this for months, Facebook, Twitter, posters… there had been no sign of him. Striking a match, Henry burned the flyer before dropping it into the kitchen sink, weeping over the ashes. Mephistopheles wasn’t coming home.
Farewell to Son
by Claire Aslesen
The funeral pyre had long since crumbled into embers. The whisps of incense offerings intertwined with the fading pine smoke. Pale moonlight slowly drifted through the meadow before it disappeared within the early sun’s rays. The morning calls of songbirds seemed hollow. They lacked the hope they usually bring.
A giant stood alone before the pyre. He waited for something, anything, to prove that this was just a nightmare. But despite his yearning, he could not sway the truth.
His father, Omar the Wood-kin, was dead. An enemy ambush had taken his father’s party while they camped for the night. Only one hunter barely escaped, bearing the news before dying in his arms.
Though he had kept their composure, the news had shattered him. It was too soon. His father left him with incomplete knowledge of his duties and the world. Yet his teacher, his father, the last elder, was gone.
He hid his grief behind duty as he performed the hunter’s funeral. But now, alone with the ashes, it rose like the tide. He wept.
As the tears fell, his new name dawned. No longer was he Omarsan. He was Omar the Uprooted. The one whom fate had torn everything from in a single night: his father and the hunters, his family. All were slaughtered by the enemy.
His hands clenched into fists around a newfound will. This atrocity will not happen again. He looked up at the ever-present band of stars while he recited the ancient vow.
“I, Omar the Uprooted, shall protect these lands. I shall be the strength of the weak, the guide of the lost, the father…” The word withered on his lips. He faltered for a moment and continued, “The father of the abandoned. On the blood of Muik, the All-Mother, I swear this to thee.”
Then, with a silent prayer for their souls, he buried the embers of his past life.
Penance Before Rapture
by Lunabear (Private Repost)
A trail of soot followed Ashkin over a small hill. Beautiful, open flowers wilted and crumbled into particles. Green grass blades furled into themselves.
Heavy black puffs exited through his gray, cracked lips. His body behaved like curling smoke and appeared as falling, onyx flakes. However, his parts didn’t blow away in the sunlit breeze.
Ashkin refused to look back at the blighted village. The outlines of those petrified people. Their wheezing, tormented screams. Fitful, hacking coughs.
Some had passed away with eyes open. Others had faced away from the monster that he was. More still were dried out husks. All of them, nevertheless, had perished.
By his doing no less.
Ashkin arrived at a rushing river. There was no foreseeable way to cross. Elongating his body into an arch, he traversed the flowing current.
His soot specks swirled and danced in their usual macabre way, leaving temporary streaks of black through the air behind him. Relief hit him once he touched down on the other side.
Until he saw the floating, dead fish caused by his cast off ashes.
Casting his tired, crimson eyes heavenward, he croaked out an unsteady scream.
Birds flapped frantically into the distance. His wheezing breath and burbling water met his ears.
‘Why must I endure this hex?!’
His hideous form burned and trembled with rage.
He turned his reluctant sight to the accursed bright orb and wished it into extinction.
As if heeding his deepest desire, the sun sank slowly into slumber. Once it moved below the horizon, Ashkin sighed.
Then he roared out another agonized as the first curse transitioned into the second.
He felt burdened by gravity and haunted in the wake of his reforming limbs. The sickening crackle and pop of his bones and joints sang a disgustingly melodic harmony, and he bellowed throughout the process.
He crashed to his knees. Stubs and nubs formed. Appendages extended and split. Rending and ripping flesh decimated the peace that night would bring.
He was achingly whole once more. Bloodlust weakened him.
“Why not let the sun immolate me?”
The heavens had no answer.
And She Dreamed Eternal (A Bard and the Blade Story) (crosspost)
Colored glass crunched underfoot. These windows had been beautiful, once, made by the finest artisans and paid for from the Royal Treasury, no expense spared. The flawless slate, the engraved pillars, and the flameless lanterns in the rafters… it would have been a majestic sight, before.
Ithmeir stepped lightly. They were getting closer to the still-smoldering crater that had shattered this city’s center. The ground was unstable and violent swirls of magic hissed through the air; he had to pick his way through illusionary thorns and broken tile.
Whatever Sword wanted him to see was close. The quartz blade was tugging constantly now, humming frantically.
Ithmeir absently read a plaque, and stopped in his tracks.
“Here the Pure Sword of Starlight was Born, Within the Highest Minds Awakened a Living Soul of Steel—friend, was this the High Wizard’s tower? This was the capital?”
The sword flashed a couple times. (YES. NOT IMPORTANT.) It tugged him away from the gilded inscription, and into the lab beyond.
It was trashed.
Sweet rot burned his nose. Mysterious pink stains lingered in beakers and across what might have once been a table. Through the missing parts of the floor he could see the violet glow of the crater. When the explosion occurred, it must have destroyed something structural, causing a collapse. There was a mess of twisted metal and shattered crystal, and there was blood on the floor, under—
If Sword hadn’t had a grip on him, he would have dropped it in shock.
There was a person suspended in the massive lump of cracked and chipped crystal. She was well dressed, nobility or something close to it, and based on the shattered glass—
He could only assume she had been inside some giant test tube, mounted on the wall… perhaps even enshrined there.
“The Wizard Angela Dreams here, Eternal,” Ithmeir read off the wall. His hands shook. He looked at the blood-smeared crystal. “Sword—”
It flashed desperately. Ithmeir swallowed.
“There’s…” He shook his head, stepping back. “The crystal fell, it broke—”
He tried again. “She’s in two parts—”
He blinked, twice.
(Reposted From private)
Modulus of Rupture
It was the breeze that brought him back.
There shouldn’t have been a breeze.
Vitale opened his eyes.
Darkest pitch and shards of light.
His lungs pulled shallowly at the fresh air that shouldn’t have been, trying to breath around the ache in his back. His fingers crawled across the stone to grasp the leg of the medical cabinet. Prepare, his heartbeat thrummed, take the time you need.
Vitale sat up.
Pain jabbed him pointedly in the spine, but not as hard as he’d expected. More distressing was the way his vision swayed. He clung to the cabinet, scaled it hand over hand to fling himself on top.
The black tourmaline floor was littered with bits of glass, from the frames that had been thrown from the workspace wall. The glass had been meant to protect his specimens, but now it ravaged them, shredding insect wings and puncturing fur.
The mouse he’d started lay on the floor. The flesh on its underside was still peeled back, and he could see a deep crack had appeared in the clay he’d wrapped around its heart.
Beside it, crumpled on her belly, legs splayed, was Wedge. She didn’t stir when he approached, not even when he bent to stroke her tabby-stripped fur. There was a growing heat in her chest.
There was a hole.
A hole with a clean edge, like someone had taken a bread knife and cut a perfect slice of the earth. If he leaned out and looked up, he could see layers of dirt and stone, concrete and metal, everything that separated his work from the city above. And below, nothing but endless night sky.
Half his workspace was gone.
Along with his kiln.
The pop of shattered pottery, a flicker of flames, and the last embers of Wedge’s life floated from her. They hung there, drifting and curling around his outstretched hand, before a final breeze whisked them out into the stars.
Darkest pitch and shards of light.
“Hello End Times.” Vitale breathed. “You couldn’t have waited a week?”
The Drums of the Steppe
The giant boars roared and beat the ground as the village was stripped of any and all worthy treasures. The bodies of warriors were brought to the pyres that had been set up using the broken houses as kindling. The humans watched, huddled together in fear, as their livelihoods were ruined and despoiled.
The warlord sat atop his mighty steed. The boar had the longest and sharpest tusks out the entire herd. The warlord matched his steed in that regard, his own tusks protruding from his lower jaw like gnarled daggers. He watched his men raid with a carefully trained eye, ensuring that too much was not taken. Raiding was not some thumping chaos where everything is destroyed and nothing is left to grow. What was the point if one could not come back? There was none. And when there is no point, death soon follows.
The ash from the pyres began wafting into the sky. The warlord watched the ash swirl, seeing shifting shapes in the sky. This was a sight he was accustomed to. Not but a few sun cycles had his warband trampled across the lands of those humans with the shiny metal plates for clothes. The shamans said that the spirits of the recent dead could be seen in the dark haze. The warlord was never sure if he could, but he still stared into the ash anyways. For it was not just human bodies that burned, but those of the orcs as well.
He looked back down to the village as he heard a human child-bearer cry. Another human tried to comfort her as the orcs glared at her. The warlord shook his head. The grass could not grow with salty tears. It required bones and blood. The sky did not move at the behest of some weaklings scream. It moved because it chose to move on. Those that could not muster must hide or be left behind. For the next battle was never too far away. The next death is always close. The eternal steppe always on the horizon.
“Do you think they are tourists?” Mortoss snarled.
“Worse,” Slaugtan replied. “They look like salesmen.”
Mortoss spit on the ground. “Blasphemers! Those who care for nothing but the acquisition of coin.”
Slaugtan showed his gleaming white teeth. “Look at those bright colors they’re wearing. You could spot them leagues away. And they are not even carrying any weapons.”
The Grislaq, on the other hand, were dressed in dark corselets partially covered in brown fur capes. Their tinted red and brown beards hung down from their chins. Even the bleak pale sun failed to adequately illuminate the four-armed creatures. They blended into the shadows effortlessly. Slaugtan was proud of his troop, each one of them unique. Large misshapen heads. Some, like Mortoss, had only one eye. But every one of them had a face covered in a constellation of boils and mutilations. A terror to behold. Fearsome all. Each rode a valiant steed. On some worlds, these might have been called wolves, excepting the mandibles and the eight opal-black eyes.
They watch quietly from the illimitable forest around them. The silence was broken by the snort of Mortoss’ steed. Slaugtan drew his sword, and the other mail-clad forms followed suit. Sheens of silver glittered in the sunlight. They thundered down the hillside, shattering the ground as the horde made its approach.
Everett looked to the hillside. At the touch of a button, his clothes were transformed. They didn’t become armor in the conventional sense. They appeared more as if his entire body had turned to a thickly veined black marble. Solid head, chest, torso, and heavy legs. Dust fell as he moved. The mounted Grislaq barreled toward him. The first one bore down on him relentlessly.
Slaugtan’s sword bounced off uselessly from Everett’s smooth, rocky hide. Everett touched the Grislaq leader with the faintest of taps. The creature froze, turned dark, and then red. He dissolved in a shower of sparks like the roaring embers of a fire. In the end, he collapsed into a swirling cloud of ashes. As did the others who followed him.
By G.J. H.
Capitan Rodrigo and his men had been on their way to Harusa. The ruling council had offered double pay for all mercenaries who would protect the city. On the way they had seen a column of smoke and had gone to investigate its origin. Now Rodrigo stood at the top of a small hill locking down at the source of the smoke: A burned village.
He steered his horse down the incline towards the smouldering ruins, his men following. Every building had been put to the torch and the air was filled with thick, choking smoke. He smelled the reek of blood and death before he could see the bodies. Most lay scattered as if left to rot where they had fallen, three were mounted on large stakes and one poor soul had been tied to the Well and used as an archery target. The sheer savagery of it made Rodrigo stop dead in his tracks.
He had seen war. It could be cruel, but this… This was no conquest, no war
A girl emerged from behind the well, clothes torn and covered in ash and blood. She stared at him with empty eyes.
“Hush, little girl.”, he said while kneeling down besides her.
“We will not harm you. We’re not like them.”, she just continued to stare.
“What’s your name, little one?”
“You can come with us. We will keep you safe”
“Safe?”, the girl asked with a frail voice, then she collapsed.
Rodrigo caught her and gently rested her unconscious body against the well before turning to address his men.
“Take a good look men! This is the work of our enemies and seeing it, I cannot wait to make them pay! We ride to Harusa immediately. Pedro, you take the girl.”
The men’s faces showed grim determination as they marched up the incline toward Harusa. Rodrigo riding at the front. He had also been offered a contract from the Kalirian side and now he was glad he had rejected it.
By MysteryElement (also in private)
Heshe ran ahead of his mother excitedly. The town square was humming with activity as the sun crested midday. So many Incinere gathered in one place, their ashen skin flaking in the breeze, it was easy to understand why they called it the Dust Market.
“Don’t wander too far!” Heshe’s mother called out behind him, holding up her apron in a fist as she chased him.
She was panting by the time she reached him, practically heaving dust from her lips. Her grey cheeks flamed faintly with exertion and her short brittle hair fell askew across her eyes.
“I know you are excited, but you have to stay close to me.”
She held out her hand, and Heshe reluctantly took it. He wanted to explore, but he also had to listen to mama. Everything looked so bright and colorful in contrast to the grey crowd surrounding him! Glowing emberfruits both fresh in the stand and fermented, molten in their glass bottles. Bits of pottery, their glazed surface shining in the sun. Fresh golden loaves of smoky scented bread. It was all so enticing.
At the center of the square stood a statue, a larger than life Incinere holding a long charred staff and staring into the sky with bright silvery eyes. Heshe pointed excitedly at the figure.
“Mama. Mama, who is that?”
“Don’t point, Heshe.” His mother replied patiently, moving his hand back to his side. “That is Fenix, First and Maker. He was the first Incinere to be borne from ashes, and who, with his staff, created our people.” She waved her hand across the market dramatically, scattering ash to join the air as she gestured to the crowd. “Everyone here is descended from someone he made. Including us.” she added, hefting her son into her arms.
From his perch, he watched the ashes of the Dust Market dance around everyone. It seemed to surround them in a warm embrace, similar to his mother’s, and he liked how it looked.
Angel in the Ashes
By Trinity Knight
She saw swirling vultures in the grey sky overhead. Then her eyes started to bug. She saw flashes of color, then static, then nothing but cold empty darkness. Then light returned and her eyes switched back on. The sun poured in and flooded her vision. Her eyes adjusted. The vultures continued to circle overhead.
She tried to sit up. She lacked the strength. She tried to move her legs. She couldn’t feel them. A quick glance at the telemetry over her eyes revealed they were not there anymore. She was little more than a still functioning torso in a desert of white ash. Still the vultures circled, though they knew they’d find no satisfaction in her steel and silicone corpse.
She reached a hand up to heaven, to God. She didn’t know if there was such a thing. Synthetic tears filled her fading yellow eyes. Warnings and alerts continued to gently fade in and out overtop her view of the pale sky. At the very least she could breath.
With little power remaining, all she could do was watch and pray. She tried to cycle through her memory. An error arrived in its stead. The banks had been corrupted and damaged in the fall. There was nothing there, save for the sensation of the wind tearing her to shreds.
She tried to call out to someone, anyone. There was no one around for miles and miles. She tried to scream, but nothing came out. Even if there were someone to hear her, she couldn’t speak. An alert faded overtop her view of the sky. Vocal cords damaged. Please seek immediate assistance.
Blankly she stared up at the sky as the vultures began to feast on each other. She could not speak. She could not feel. She hungered nor thirsted not.
The emergency beacon activated of its own volition. Conditions for it had been met. A high frequency pinging emitted from her body. It hurt to hear the sound as it broadcasted from her plated chest. It was all she could do. Wait as the beacon sung out into the nothingness.
By RVMPLSTLSKN (A Tale from Hizkanamun’s Flesh)(Repost from private)
Nkunaxi had seen death aplenty–she’d lived through wars and crimes against the Flesh, though she didn’t know those unmade lives in this moment–but now it was her friend’s ashes she felt in her hand. Cremated remains would normally be left to the winds. She wanted something though. Perhaps it was nostalgia or refusal, but she felt she deserved more than this.
If we do not remember, can we truly be human? We remember the dead god afterall.
As they say, divine perspective came upon her. Here she stood on Hizkanamun’s dusty Flesh, ashen-handed and tear streaked, pondering the divinity of humankind. Truth, she knew more than she admitted. The stories they told themselves said that fire broke down the corpse to join the dead god Hizkanamun and, generation by generation, restore Him. The dead wouldn’t matter then, for all would be one and the One divine.
The people of this place likewise burned their dead and scattered the ashes into their fields. A family’s field had a pedigree, a roster of the dead tilled in as fertilizer. The dead fed the living. Some went back as many as twenty generations. They were an old culture and settled in their ways, proud and lacking innovative spirits.
Her father planned to peacefully conquer these people by use of technology and trade deals. Trade was the way of their clan. A settled life the promise they made themselves. Here they had found that life.
Nkunaxi remained an itinerant. She itched to move on. She would later blame her rebellious nature for this act that would make her a heretic too.
“Halli Abxuar Abnakra.” She named her dead. Halli, child of Xuar, child of the Nakran tribe. Nkunaxi was already in a field so she let the ashes fall from her fingers to join Hizkanamun’s Flesh.
She poured the god’s lifeblood from her waterskin to finish the joining. It was indulgent, selfish and a waste of good water. Nkunaxi, the ambitious daughter, the least favorite daughter, laughed to herself. This was her family’s field and would have a pedigree. They were settled, after all.
One Last Card
T’Kret looked out over the landscape at the crumbled buildings and skeletons of skyscrapers. He listened to the howling radioactive wind. It was supposed to be afternoon, but the thick clouds meant it was dusk in perpetuity. A word from his First Officer brought the captain of the Southern Winds back to the present, informing him they were ready to leave base camp. Ready to enter the tunnels and find the signal that led them here.
They had entered the planetary system with hope in their two hearts, but their initial survey from beyond the farthest dwarf planet brought terrible news. What had once been an oasis from afar had become what could only be described as a tomb world. Visions of warm winds replaced by swirling ashes. As they settled into orbit, it was clear as day. The people that lived here had been destroyed, leaving behind a legacy written in ash. They would roost no more.
A phantom appeared on their sensors momentarily. A faint reading on the EM spectrum. Something was still down there. Something was still alive! Perhaps these people had survived after all. Captain T’Kret ordered the reading analyzed and pinpointed. It took them days of watching the faint reading pulse at regular intervals before they knew where it was coming from. It was coming from underground.
So it was that they were now wandering through a maze of ancient and crumbling tunnels with nothing but their helmet lights to guide them. It had to be down here. This was the place. T’Kret just couldn’t put the mystery reading out of his mind. Had someone initially survived the destruction? Was it a fading fusion reactor breathing its last? Was it the desperate cry of a dying beacon? Or was it as T’Kret dared to hope, an attempt to preserve their knowledge and their species? This reading might just be their lasting legacy…
“Sir!” His First Officer squawked. “You better come take a look at this. We’ve found rows of active machines with a depiction of a bird made of fire.”
…and there it was.
Ash Like Snow
by NocteVesania (Public Group Repost)
“That way! It fell somewhere around there!”
Isaac tries to keep up as Darren leads them across grassy fields underneath cloudy skies.
“Over here!” Vivian calls out as she spots something shimmering among the grass.
Darren rushes up to Vivian. “What is it?”
“It looks like… a handle?”
Isaac leans over to inspect the object jutting from the ground. “It has the Imperial symbol. Maybe we shouldn’t…”
Darren puts his hands on it and tugs, but it doesn’t budge. “Help me out!”
The other two reluctantly grab on and, with a heave, the object yields and slides out of the earth. Darren is flung onto his back. As he regains composure, he finds an Imperial saber in his hands.
Darren lifts the sword. “Score!”
Isaac pipes up. “I really don’t think—”
Isaac’s words are cut off by a loud thud. Vivian shrieks as she spots the source of the sound, the mangled body of a uniformed man, unmoving, bones crushed, and chest crimson with blood.
Ashes start to fall from the sky like black snow. As Darren looks up, he drops the saber.
A loud metallic howl erupts.
Above them, clouds part as a massive burning airship falls through. Debris of wood and metal accompany the behemoth in its descent. The engines screech and howl like a dying beast.
“It’s coming for us!” Vivian cries out.
“Run!” Darren orders.
The children rush to safety. Darren looks back and finds Vivian, having tripped, struggling to stand. He runs back to help her up.
Isaac hesitates, watching Vivian limping as Darren holds her. He starts toward them but stops as debris crash all around. Tears roll down his cheek as he runs away. He ducks into a ditch, crying and trembling.
With a deafening blast, the earth rumbles and the trees sway violently. Isaac feels his heart pounding fast. As the turmoil dies down, Isaac hesitates to come out, afraid of what he might find. He peeks out, knees still shaking. He finds nothing but the charred remains of the colossal airship.
With a shaky voice, he calls out, “Vivian? Darren?”
By Alexander (BrokenEarth)
A harsh hiss broke the silence as Johnathan poured water over the smoldering fire pit.
“Grab the shovel so I can bury this. Nobody can know we were here.”
Lana, though still shocked, got up from her seat and got the rusty shovel out from the pile of bags and supplies. When she handed it to Johnathan, he took it roughly and set to work silently.
A minute or so later, he stomped the ground to flatten it out and gave Lana a nod. It was time to get walking, if they wanted to get anywhere before the sun set. Johnathan took most of the gear, being older and stronger, but Lana still had a lot of weight on her back.
It was only about half an hour in that Lana found the silence unbearable.
“Uncle Johnny, I…” She began, but Johnathan cut her off.
“I know.” He said.
“But you didn’t let me speak!”
“But you were going to say you were sorry. I could tell.”
Lana stopped. Johnathan and her had argued before, but he was never this rude to her this long afterwards. Something about what she’d said had struck a nerve.
Johnathan noticed that she was getting behind, and turned around.
“You need the bathroom or something? We don’t have all day.”
“You’re being mean, Uncle. I just wanted to make it better, but you won’t even let me!” Lana was on the verge of tears, with all the stress of the last two weeks pressing on the back of her eyes.
“Alright. Fine. You can say what you need to, but make it fast.”
Lana walked over to Johnathan. He looked more tired than angry, and Lana recalled her father, tired after work, coming home with a smile to hide his weariness. How he would bring her close and say how much he missed her.
Before she knew it, she had Johnathan in a gentle hug.
“I hope it gets better for us.” She said, as simply as she could.
She could’ve sworn she saw his eyes start to water.
And I saw my nation burn
Almost a shark
I looked into his eyes, and I saw fire. It was the flames that slowly licked up the sides of the walls around us, which mirrored by all the cities of the nation burning together this night.
I looked into his eyes, and I saw weariness. Even as I pressed my pistol to his temple, he didn’t so much as flinch. All I could read from his eyes was a readiness to be done, to have a life spent at one end of a gun finished on the other side.
I looked into his eyes, and I saw blood. Enough blood to feed a river for ten years and not even make a dent in your stores. The desperate desire to try and wipe the blood of loved ones from your hands using the blood of your enemies, and just coming away dirtier than before.
I looked into his eyes, and I saw regret. All the life spent scrambling to the top of a pill, clawing at throats, gouging eyes, and crushing throats, all to stand at the top were the air is fresh, but there’s never a moment to stop and love the view as everyone bellow you grabs and claws to pull you down to the bottom, were only corpses lye.
I looked into his eyes, and I saw defeat. I could see in his face the countless hour lying in bed, sleep elusive as peace, running through his mind a thousand ways to stop it all, to make brothers taught to hate find love. To stop children being torn from their mother’s breasts and being throw into the teeth of war. To try and find a cure to insanity, only to find madness.
I looked into his eyes, and I saw myself. I saw a young woman, so set on a path to kill Satan, that she thought there could be no evil that would not be forgiven, because what is evil if it is done in the name of peace?
I looked into his eyes, and I saw tears.
By: Preserves Roses
With every step, Ruth’s feet kicked up ashes that swirled in the light breeze. The ashes were everywhere: on her clothes, in her hair, in her mouth, and far as she could see in all directions. Even the sky seemed to be made of ashes, with a hazy cloud cover that turned the sky a uniform gray color.
She paused to catch her breath. Raising her hand in front of her she attempted to summon a bit of magic, to shoot a few sparks up into the atmosphere. Nothing! It was fear that had led her to jump into a magical portal without knowing where it went. Now she found herself in a world with no magic, little food, and one small canteen of water. Surrounded by an endless sea of gray ash.
She threw her voice out into the silence hoping to hear something, even the echo of her own voice. The silence descended on her again quickly, as if the ashes that surrounded her were swallowing any sounds, resisting any changes to the environment.
She had been walking for what felt like two days, with no change in the world around her. She looked around hoping to see some sign, some change to the endless gray to let her know which way she should go. Just off to her left she saw a hint of blue a few hundred feet away. She started to walk towards it keeping her eyes locked on it. As it grew closer she realized it was a door. A blue door standing in a gray frame. Somehow she found a bit of energy for a shuffling run.
She stood in front of the bright blue door standing alone in the sea of gray. Doors always lead somewhere right? Or was she starting to get delirious? Taking a ragged breath she grasped the door knob, turned and pushed stepping through the archway.
On the endless gray sea, the breeze strengthened a bit. Her footprints were filled in and smoothed over leaving no sign that anyone or anything had ever been there.
Do you remember the garden? Of course you do, that is were you spent most of your time. Even when your parents told you to focus more on your studies, you could not help but focus your attention on garden. It was a lovely garden, and we would grow different flowers through the seasons. I never thought I would be back to this cozy field of dancing petals.
Do you remember when I came – no crashed as you called it- into your garden? I was climbing a tree, one of those big oaks that had their branches lounging about in random directions, and I was so focused on climbing that I lost my footing and fell right onto a field of tulips you were tending. I remembered the look on your face. It was filled with so much worry. It was until a few minutes of relief of knowing that I was okay that you noticed the fate that befell your poor tulips. You were so devastated but tried so hard to play it cool, but I saw through that guise. Looking back, even now, you were always such a terrible liar. I promised you I’d that fix it, but you told me that there was no need and that this was now our garden.
I never knew why you trusted me so easily, and its likely I never know why. Even so, we spent years in that garden and we were practically inseparable. Even with all the time we had together, I wish I had more time with you. Remember when you told me you were sick? I felt the world crash down around me the moment you told me. I should have reacted better, and to that I am sorry. I only wish I could rewind time and tell that in person or to stop that whole conversation from happening. Why did that have to be our last conversation? Now all I have left of you is your, no, our garden.
Dad’s gone fishing
Blue skies. Wind calm. Boat softly rocking on the light chop.
“Slow down a bit. We’re close!” Mike said to his uncle Dave at the helm. “I believe it was to the left here.”
There it was. Dad’s favourite fishing spot. A nice wide bend in the morning shadow of the trees at the edge. Years ago, when he still had a boat of his own he used to take Mike there.
Dad was an interesting figure. As a child he had lost his father. It made him the man of the house. How would his life have been if he had found the help to get over that?
We know he had loved us, but he never quite knew how to show it. Everything had been a contest, and all about him. Oh, he had known how to care for others, but I think we were just too close.
Yet, when mum had gotten alzheimers, he had been there. He had looked after her until he could no more, and even then he had tried to keep going. It had been a long time since I had seen him care for someone like that.
“Yeah, this is it. The sun is in a different spot, but other than that it’s exactly as I remember.” Mike said as Dave moored the boat.
We opened the urn, and gently poured its content into the water. It fell through the water like a brick. It only swirled once it hit the ground.
A pile of ash, sitting in the water.
A chapter closed.
He’s not in pain anymore.
I’m good enough. He can’t tell me otherwise.
And when mum asks where dad is? We’ll just tell her he’s gone fishing.
The ground was muddy, the two men stumbled from time to time on it as they pushed their cart. Small piles of mud next to depressions filled with blood-soaked water collapsed as the cart rolled next to them. Crows circled over the grim procession, hoping to snatch some of the rotting flesh from the cart.
They found another one vaguely intact, the only thing missing was the hand, it was lying a couple of feet away, with the sword still in its grasp. They unceremoniously threw the corpse onto the cart, where armor clanged against those already on the cart. The helmet flew off, revealing a young pretty face, at least that half of it which wasn’t smashed to pieces by a mace.
The two made a u-turn, their cart full of corpses in various states of decay. Dodging weapons sticking out from the mud, the cart made its way towards a small camp. The two called for a doctor, and soon enough a towering figure clad in black cloth and beaked mask arrived near. The doctor made the final examinations of the corpses, confirming their death and damage inflicted, from time to time somebody asked to see a corpse, hoping that it may be a dead relative or child.
Corpses who were found by their families were given to the mourning to bury wherever they saw fit. The rest, those too disfigured to be identified were carted off again. Stripped off their armor and clothing, they were thrown onto a pile.
Upon dawn the doctor and the priest stood over them, the priest reciting prayers, eventually, the doctor intoned “ashes to ashes, dust to dust!” and threw a lit torch onto the pyre. Through the sound of the sizzling flesh and smell of burnt meat the onlookers could see as the corpses of the dead eroded slowly. The beautiful young man from before lying atop the pyre, the hair burnt, the flesh boiling off, revealing bones blackened by the inferno, crumbling to dust, and thus, beauty died once again, in the war and after it.
The Price of Necessity (Darkspell Universe, renamed from Armitage Universe)
By Alex Nightingale (aka Spectre)
She stood ankle deep in piles of ash. The hot wind blew several swirling flakes into her face, obscuring her vision. It was completely silent in the desolate remains of the market town. Charred remains of people, buildings and animals were lying around what had once been the town’s center.
Lilith Aerenhardt didn’t mind the heat. The golem stood among the destruction, her eyes fixed on the one person still alive. It was a young man, barely over 20, crouching between numerous dead bodies. His eyes were gleaming orange. The scent of burning birch emanated from him. He had done this; one lone demon had burned thousands alive. Lilith placed a hand on one of her twin pistols. One shot with one of these bullets and both the man and the entity possessing him would die.
She started to step closer. The man turned.
“Another one,” he snarled. “I thought I’d got you all.”
A blast of flame hit Lilith squarely in the face. She didn’t even feel it. The golem continued to approach. The demon shot another blast, then another and another.
Lilith continued unabated.
“Damned. Why won’t you burn!”
She reached him. He raised an arm, an orb of flame in his palm. Lilith quickly grabbed his hand, breaking his wrist. The man shrieked. She pulled out her pistol.
“Wait,” the man shouted. “Wait, please!”
He turned to face her. She saw the orange gleam in his eyes flicker and turn into a deep brown.
“Wait. Please, don’t shoot! I… I can fight him!”
His eyes flickered back and forth between brown an orange.
“I’ll burn him,” the demon shrieked. “Kill me and I swear, I’ll burn his soul before I die! There will be no afterlife for him, no reincarnation! Only fire! Only the Conflagration!”
Lilith cocked her pistol.
“I don’t want to die!” the man yelled, tears in his eyes. “I want to go home!”
The demon was too dangerous to live. It was necessary.
“I’ll mourn for you,” Lilith said. “Once I figure out how.”
She fired. The ashes continued to swirl in total silence.
The Journey Home
“Now you are sure you know where you are going? I wouldn’t want you to get lost and I’m worried for your mother.” My dad repeated for about the 10th time.
“Yes dad, I’m sure. Don’t worry! We’ll be okay.” He sighed looking down at the floor, his gaze looked distant and his brow furrowed.
“Dad.” He looked back to me, a warm smile spreading on his face with sad eyes still lingering. “We’ll be fine dad.” I smiled and left for the airport.
The plane ride over was nerve wracking. Mom was able to help me relax through some of the worst of the turbulence. I tried to crack jokes, tried to put on a brave face but she saw right through it; like she always does. We landed and grabbed a cab. The taxi driver was chatty but seeing us he was honestly far more nice than dad made them seem. He’d call them con artists with a driver’s license he did, mom always laughed at that.
After a gruelling 2 hour drive, and a lot of walking, we reached the cliff by mom’s hometown. She’d go on and on about how much time she spent there promising that we’d all go there as a family one day. It kept getting pushed off with more and more hospital bills to pay. She never stopped promising though. The day had finally come and as we had looked and stared across the stunning landscape I looked down at mom and smiled.
“You were right, this place is amazing, breathtaking even!” My voice cracked as my eyes started filling with tears. My hand started to tremble reaching for her. “I wish…God I wish…” My hand reached her and froze for a moment. “I only wish we’d have come here sooner.” Gathering my courage I opened the lid of the urn and before I could stop myself, emptied out the urn over the cliff. My tears fell and swirled with the ash. One last dance.
““We finally made it mom.”
By: MDC (Michael Case)
The air was heavy that morning when the homeowners were finally able to see what had been done. The ashes from their home laid before them, but the parents that stood there thinking that they didn’t lose their innocents that night.
It was either by ignorance, or through blind arrogance that these children gathered to summon a terror from beyond the good will of man. These children couldn’t have imagined the creature that would have consumed them all. All they had that might have called forth this creature was a single book. It was this book that in the end killed all the children, or was it the adults that were so bold as to even have this book in their home to begin with? We will never know.
No spells were cast by these children, no evil deeds of a demonic force had come for their little souls, but instead these children had gone into the attic of their home, circled around a book of pornographic images. These children had lit candles so that they could see the filth that amused the adults with much shame.
Carelessly, one of the children must have knocked over the candle and started the fire. In fear they seem to have tried to get down from the attic, but none of them were able to outrun the creature known as Fire.
The parents who owned the book, the cause for all this hell, had escaped the burning house thinking that the kids might have escaped as well. Only learning the truth when looking over the ashes and laughing while picking up the untouched book of pornographic images and noticed underneath it a single unburnt hand from one of their children.
As the wind blew that morning, the ashes exposed the sadness before the parents.
Scattered Over the Foundation (The Damocles Continuity)
By Fredrick H. (challeng3r22)
Mark sat in the back of car, Arianna sat across from him, his father sat between them. Well the urn containing his father at the very least.
They finally found him last week, he had been holed up in a cave workshop. Decomposition indicated that he had been dead for at least a week.
Mark felt metallic fingers brush up against his own.
“Are you in a stable mental condition?”
“You could just ask if I’m ok,” Mark replied cracking a smile in spite of himself.
“Well, the answer appears to be no, as smiling at such an event is considered unnatural.”
“The old fart was barely present for most of my childhood. It would be weirder if I were to sob about it.”
Giving her fingers a tight squeeze, he turned to face the window again only to see the foundations of the factory appearing in the distance.
Stepping up to the foundations, Mark cleared his throat and began the eulogy, “Well, Dad. I’d say you’d be missed, but that would require you to present in the first place. Mom’s doing fine in the mental ward in case you were wondering. I’ve got to thank you for Arianna, though. Having a robot maid is really handy. Not to mention some of your experimental technology is helping us build this factory. How you found about it to ask for it to be your final resting place is beyond me. But as you told me one of the few times you showed up for a holiday, ‘Life’s a bitch, then you die.'”
With his speech concluded, Mark unceremoniously opened up the urn and dumped it out. Despite his hardened heart, the realization of never seeing his father again set off something inside him.
“Arianna, go wait in the car.”
“Ju- Just do it, please.”
That stupid masculinity, won’t let him cry in front of a woman, if she is a machine.
“Dead End” (Sword Isles)
By Connor A.
Death watched as Marcos muttered a spell and placed the open urn in the center of the circle. The ashes emerged as a swirling cloud, then took the shape of the well-known image of a wizard— all beard and velvet robes with no muscles to speak of.
“Master Salaman,” Marcos spoke with little humor. “Tell us where the Sword of Nyx is.”
Salaman chewed on imaginary tobacco out of habit. When he spoke, it was slow enough to draw attention to his drawl, “You doomed the Isles when you let the chosen one die. Why the hell would I lead you to the only other thing that can save it?”
Marcos opened up his palm and showed Salaman the wind sigil. “I brought you here, and I can send you back.” He positioned his hand so that it could blow out the candles.
Death put a hand on Marcos’ shoulder before he could activate the spell. “Do not make rash decisions.”
Salaman paced in his confines. “I’m not gonna talk, you know. You’ll have to take my memories from me.”
“That can be arranged.” Death reached out across the circle and rested his hand on Salaman’s ash head. He did not speak at first, but then he drew his hand back. “You don’t know.”
Marcos’ eyes widened. “What?”
Salaman tested the edge of the circle and watched some of his ashes fall to the other side. “I made sure that I didn’t know for this exact reason.” He stared at Marcos. “Leave the sword alone, boy. Just like you did with Cecil.”
Marcos activated the wind sigil and blew out all the candles. As Salaman’s ashes settled, he felt the energy leave his body and would have collapsed if Death did not catch him.
“Course it was a dead end.” Marcos tried to support his own weight, but failed.
“Not exactly,” Death commented as he helped Marcos to the door, “Salaman’s memories gave me another lead, but he is… more difficult to reach.”
Death used his free hand to open the door. “Liamik.”
“Ah, the royal wizard. Great.”
One does not simply… anger Death
“What the Hell is going on?!” Mara exclaimed as the entire temple started shaking, the power buffeting down on them with overwhelming force.
Laila looked up fearfully, her glowing feathered wings drooping as she gasped, “…Heaven’s about to smite us…”
“What? HOW?” Mara roughly grabbed her angelic companion’s shoulders. “This place doesn’t even technically exist! How could they have even found us without… without… help…”
The third being in the room saw the two pairs of eyes turn to her and puffed her cheeks, petulantly crossing her arms in response. “I did what I had to…” Lynette said, pouting.
“Why…?” Laila asked the fairy, visibly hurt by the betrayal.
“A pathetic fallen angel. Demon filth.” Lynette spat out, glaring at the two. “He deserves better. Now he’ll have no choice. No choice but me.”
“They’ll kill him too!” Laila protested.
“They’ll try.” Lynette smirked. “Matt can survive anything.”
“We don’t KNOW that!”
“ENOUGH!” Mara interrupted, literally burning in fury as smoke rose from her clenched fists. She began to approach Lynette before Laila stopped her.
“We don’t have time for this!” Laila pleaded.
“Choose… a… side…” Mara growled.
Laila looked into the demon’s eyes before sighing in reservation and taking her place behind Mara, giving Lynette the solemnest of glances.
“Psh!” Lynette scoffed. “You think I’m scared of you? Make my day, bi-”
Mara interrupted Lynette’s insult with a scream. It echoed through the entire temple, momentarily drowning out the rumble of the incoming divine attack. An unfocused blend of hellfire and magic also spewed from Mara’s mouth, burning everything it touched. Before the echo had even faded, where once stood the fairy, Lynette, was now nothing but ash billowing about the room from the force of the attack. It was over that quickly.
Laila was about to reprimand Mara for such wanton destruction until she saw the tears.
“What if she’s wrong?” Mara sobbed. “What if this kills him?”
Laila’s lips curled into a forced reassuring smile as she embraced the demon. “We won’t let that happen.”
Mara nodded, spitting at the swirling ashes before leaving to find him.