This is the first chapter of my story "Impurity." New chapters will be released regularly.
It was the first day of winter, and though the sun was bright without a cloud in the sky, a light wind with a cold nip whisked through the town. The children were playing in the field where the horses grazed, while the adults went about their daily business—cooking, building, training, watching.
It was the kids who saw them first. Off in the distance, at the fine line between land and horizon. An army’s worth of specks, barely visible, glints from hair-width swords and twig-like spears. They sprinted, crying, back to the village even before the first horns blew.
Chaos. People screaming, the clatter of villagers and guards alike either scrambling for weapons or their possessions. A called order over the storm of shouts- children to the cathedral. Children to the cathedral, lock the doors. Slowly, the guards managed to grab the children one by one, and lock them in the old oaken door. All but one. One little boy, one scared little boy, hardly four years of age, frozen with terror under his family’s porch. Then the arrows began to rain.
Whistling death from above, streaks of red light trailing smoke. Guards and villagers alike fell. And the little town on the outer fringes of the Empire, the town so small that most maps neglected it, began to burn. The raiders set the field aflame, then charged on horseback into the town. The boy, his vision inhibited by the porch, saw only shadows. One shade stabs another, a wave of darkness from their back. A silhouette dancing in the orange flames. And laughter. Cruel, sadistic glee in the form of a hyena’s bark. Then there was an intense heat, and the orange spread over the porch, branding the boy’s face with ashes and cinder. A scream, then darkness.
Several hours later the boy woke, covered in soot, and looked out at the burning rubble that had once been his home. Felt his own ruined face, and let out a screech of anguish that shook the very earth, shattered the sky, splintered the universe. And this is where our story begins, with a smoldering ruin on the outer fringes of the Empire, with a ruin so small that it was all but forgotten, with a scarred boy whose name was lost to history.
A lot can happen in twenty years, but our story continues in a small temple tucked away in the wilderness. The temple was hewn of thousands of small pebbles pasted together without a thought of symmetry. It had a doorframe, but if there had been a door inside it once, there was no sign of it now. Instead, a steel gate had been erected around the perimeter of the temple, concealing an overgrown garden threatening to overwhelm a small fountain in its midst. A statue stood proudly in the fountain, but years of rainfall had worn down on the figure’s once-grand features and made them unrecognisable. Two guards stood outside of the temple, both wrapped tightly in heavy wool cloaks to ward off the cold, yet both were shivering and held their pikes low.
Visitors were a rare commodity at the temple, so when the first guard initially noticed the figure he had to pull back his hood and rub his eyes to make sure he wasn’t simply seeing things in his exhaustion. But the figure remained, a cloaked person with their hood low, concealing their features. The guard quickly poked his companion, who started, then yawned widely. The first guard stabbed at the air in the direction of the figure with a gloved hand. The second raised an eyebrow at him dubiously, prompting him to look back towards the figure- or the empty space where it was. He muttered under his breath in confusion, while the second guard chuckled slightly and leaned back against the wall.
Then, a whirl of speed and a flash of two thin blades escaping their sheathes. The first arc of light met with the second guard, causing the light to gain a red tint. The guard dropped out of view, and the killer faced the remaining guard. A tall man, a black cloak pooling around him like a shadow, dark armor, and a royal blue mask bearing two small slits for eyes. Gauntleted talon-like hands wrapped around two silvery katanas, then a flick from one and an all-consuming darkness.
As the last guard dropped, the masked man flicked his blades around and returned them to their concealed scabbards. The man reached out to the gate and hovered his hand over it briefly, as if checking for something, then gave the bars a light push, then stood back as it swung back. He turned his head slightly, then strode into the garden. The plants seemed to recoil as he drew near, then returned to their initial position after his passage. He quickly reached the entrance to the temple and marched quietly in.
The interior of the temple was dark, lit only by the occasional dull torch. The man swept into the opening hall, twitching his head up to observe the room at the end of the hall. The room was fairly wide, to the point of which it must have taken up most of the temple. It had far more torches than the hall had, so only the corners of the room were in shadow. At the far end for the room was a doorway with stairs leading down, but the primary feature of the room was an enormous figure in the center, easily fifteen feet of height. It knelt on one knee, holding a majestic greatsword to the ground in a noble manner. Its body was composed of thick plates of steel, and its head was embedded partway into its torso with a knight’s visor covering any visible features. Most of its armor was rusted and old, and it appeared to have been where it was for a long time.
The man warily inched into the room, moving his hands behind his back. Closer… closer… and then there was a blur of motion, and a mighty shriek of rusted metal on rusted metal as the golem rose to its feet in slow motion, shaking off dust and ruin, and hefted its sword. With a flash, the man’s hands flew from behind his back, each armed with a blade. The monster made a great creak, and swung out with the back of its metal hand, connecting soundly with the man’s side and throwing him into a wall with enough force to crack it.
The man fell to his knees, then looked up and cracked his neck. As the creature slowly turned to face him, the man collected his blades and leapt forward. The metal man swung its sword towards him, but he brought his blades down upon the sword, propelling him onto the flat side of the blade. He sprinted across the sword and threw himself forward towards the head, dealing three quick blows to the visor, then landed on top of its head. The creature jerked forwards with unprecedented speed, throwing the man to the ground, sending his blades skittering across the floor.
The golem emitted a screeching noise, as if in triumph, lifted its foot, and brought it speeding down to the man. The man lifted his hands up, and stopped the metal boot inches from his chest. The man roared from the strain, as the monster, confused at the man’s resistance, applied more pressure. With a shout of effort, the man gave a mighty push, overturning the heavy giant’s balance and throwing it, with an earth shattering slam, to the ground. As the goliath slowly began getting up, the man hopped to his feet and stretched out his hand. One of the fallen katanas flew to his hand, and he soared into the air, sinking his sword between the bars of the golem’s visor. For a moment it seemed as if time had stopped, and both the metal man and the dark figure froze in action. One second- two seconds- and then time roared back to life. The giant creaked, then fell onto its back. The man slowly straightened, tore his sword from the downed golem’s visor, and sheathed his blades. Without another glance at the fallen titan, he stepped over its body and walked to the doorway.
The stairs led down into the deep, inky blackness, down and down and down until the man could smell the heavy, musky scent of earth that fills all underground passages. The man reached into a small compartment in his armor and pulled out a match, and flicked it with his thumb. A flash of flame emerged from the tiny stick, then receded until it was but a tiny point of light. By the time the man reached the bottom of the stairs, three matches had burned down until the flames licked at his fingers, but he felt nothing of the heat. Finally, he reached the bottom, and came across a large circular door. The man warily placed his hand on the door and pushed. The door opened with a creak.
Beyond the door was an enormous spherical room, with a narrow platform stretching out into the center. The room glimmered with lights, and the man saw that the room was full of thousands of fireflies, but instead of trying to escape when the door opened, the tiny insects continued flying in perfect double helix formation. In the middle of the room was a young woman facing the wall and meditating. The man stepped into the room, and spoke in a quiet, whispering voice. “You were expecting me.”
The woman’s head dipped slightly. Her voice was quiet as well, but less rasping than the man’s voice and more murmuring. “I had hoped that you wouldn’t come- but yes, I’ve been expecting you for longer than you know, Justice.”
The man’s hand involuntarily twitched towards his back. When he spoke again, there was an edge to his voice. “Then you’ll know why I’m here.”
The woman seemed either ignorant or uncaring of the man’s tone. “Unfortunately, I do. It’s not too late to turn back, you know-” the woman trailed off.
Silence. “Very well.” she breathed, and ever so slowly rose, then turned around. She was of a light build, and though she was tall, she still only came to about the man’s nose. She had fragile but elegant features, with sharp cheeks, a slightly hooked nose, and startling blue eyes. Her hair was long and dark, and though she looked young there were strains of gray in the black. She wore elegant robes, but here feet were bare.
Slowly the two began to circle, the man’s hands now behind his back, and the woman’s lax at her sides. Her eyes were locked on the slits of the man’s mask with an expression somewhere between sadness and pity, but the mask betrayed no emotion. Again and again they circled, slowly drawing nearer then backing away.
Finally, it was the man who made the first move: his hands flew out from behind his back, drawing two katanas and lurching forward. The woman stopped circling and swiveled to the side, causing the man to soar past her; and placed a hand on his back throwing him to the ground. She stepped back and waited. The man slowly got to his feet, then approached again, more wary this time.
At last, he swung with a katana, which she caught between the palms of her hands, and twisted causing the blade to clatter to the ground, but the man was already swinging his foot out towards her chest. She nimbly ducked away, then jabbed the man in the stomach, before punching him in the jaw.
He stumbled back, then threw his sword at her and charged forward. The woman leapt into the air over the sword, landing in front of the man, and slashed at his chest with a curled fist. The man blocked her swing with his forearm, only to take a blow to the face. The man stepped backward, then held out his hand, prompting his thrown sword to return to his hand. The woman heard the whistling behind her just in time to duck to the side, but the blade was faster. As the katana flew back to the man it sliced open the women's side; the blood met with a yelp from the woman.
The man grabbed the woman by the throat, held her up, then slammed her to the ground. Her body slapped against the platform with a crack, then she swept her feet out, knocking him to the ground. The man rolled away, and they both slowly got to their feet, and began circling again.
The man let out a growl of ire, spun his blade, and sprinted forward into a flurry of attacks and parries. Sword falls, knocked away. Fist to the mask, caught in gauntlet. Claws rake the air, head swings back. Foot to the knee, and hand to the chest. The man stumbles back, and the woman sped into the air, seemingly hovering like an angel for a moment, before falling like a devil. And both of her hands connected with his shoulders. Push. And the man fell from the platform, fell into darkness.
The woman slowly rose to her full height, clutching her side to stem the blood, and began limping towards the door. As her foot brushed the ground immediately in front of the door, she heard a rasping voice behind her. “You are convinced of your own superiority.”
She whirled around in shock to see the man, surrounded by a golden sphere and head down floating up from behind the platform. His head lifted, revealing the black slits of the mask burning with furious flames.
The man flung his hands outwards in rapid swings, throwing massive currents of energy from the orb at the woman. She crossed her arms before her, generating a shield of darker bronze energy.
The man slowly lifted further and further into the air, and with every lash of light he spoke. “But… you… are… out… dated.”
He swung out one arm, and as he caught the katana he said, “Now look at me.”
The man plummeted towards the woman, sword held forward like the prow of some terrible ship. Again, time seemed to slow, as the blade connected with the center of the woman's chest, and a wave of darkness from her back. “And see the future.”
Then, she slammed onto the platform, and the man released the katana binding the woman to the ground.
Slowly the man backed away, then turned to the center of the platform. He knelt, and extended his hand, allowing the last ripples of golden light to flow over the floor. At first, the light spread evenly, then began to pool around one space slightly to the left of the center. The light slowly formed into a circle, and the man closed his hands around the edges, pulling. Slowly, a cylindrical portion of the platform lifted, revealing an ebony gauntlet crafted from a thousand dark plates melded together with enormous, lethally sharp claws.
In the voracious silence, the soft ting of metal on metal sounded louder than a cannon. The man’s head fell slightly, and he rose to his feet. The woman had removed the katana from her chest, and now knelt on one knee, panting softly.
“Alive?,” said the man, grasping one of his gloves and tugging it off and flinging it aside, revealing a withered, blacken hand, and placing the gauntlet upon it. “Good.”
He strode over to her, white energy gathering around the gauntlet. “You would not believe how difficult it’s been to find the Claw Gauntlet.”
The talons closed around the woman’s throat and lifted her up. “So I think a test may be in order.”
The woman screamed as bronze light began flowing out of her and slowly turning her eyes, hair, and skin lighter and lighter. However, the woman slowly, as if every inch hurt her, moved her hands towards the gauntlet.
The man’s voice rang out through the bright flurry. “What are you doing?”
Her hands clasped the metal, and the contact, caused a spark of bronze light to travel through the metal, then through both combatants, and igniting the air.
Bronze, white and gold flames flew out of the gauntlet in all directions, then quickly turning red and orange. The inferno seemed to jump from firefly to firefly, eviscerating it in seconds then leaping to the next, until a double helix of fire swirled in the center of the room. The man was flung backwards, slamming onto the platform and skidding several feet before coming to a rest. The woman remained at the base of the inferno, slowly revolving in synchrony with it. Finally, the inferno collapsed in on itself, until all that was left were a thousand charred insects. The woman was gone.
The room was very dark with the absence of the flies, and as the man got to his feet, it seemed like the entire world had been drained of light. He glanced down at the gauntlet, recoiling slightly as he saw it. The once-black plates had turned to a dull gray, and all light was gone from it.
As Justice howled in rage, somewhere across the Empire a young girl named Orah woke from her daily nightmares.
Nihil potest manere aurum.
Note from writer: I got a lot of help in editing from a cool guy named Invictus, you can check out his work here. (https://www.wattpad.com/story/121181840-mine-always) Also, if you want faster updates and exclusive content, check out the Impurity site here. (http://impuritystory.blogspot.com/)