flASH fiction: Volume 4: The Gift of A City (30)

The Gift of a City
Jason Pere

Marx shook as he waited in the woodland clearing. He could still see the silhouette of Raywayd’s skyline matched against the setting sun. As dusk approached he found it a suitable metaphor for his own impending change. He knew that he had seen the last of the city’s finery and fanciful things. The next time he was inside of Rayward’s Gate the metropolis would not be the wondrous pleasure center that he had so swiftly grown fond of, nor would he be dressed in the trappings of a noble lord. A chill rand down Marx’s spine as he realized that he might be too presumptuous in his assumption that he would see the inside of Rayward one again or anything beyond the confines of this clearing for that matter. Like a solider with an old war wound, Marx found himself visited by a familiar sort of fear as he stood in the dying light. He had been playing a part for so long that he had nearly forgotten who he was, or who he served. To forget such a thing was an offence that surely carried the punishment of death. Though Marx was still adorned with silken robes, a bulging money purse and skin unmarred by sacrificial offerings, he reminded himself of his place and his worth, or rather the lack there of.

The false lord trembled once more but this time it was not from the chill brought one by the evening air. Marx sensed that he was not alone, more so that danger and potentially death was close by. There was a certain peace he found in knowing the source of his fear. He knew that it was not some lucking band of highway men or a hungry wild beast that was stalking him. Marx swallowed hard as the sound of breaking tree branches and heavy footfalls broke the tranquil ambiance of the wooded clearing.

“Make your offering,” Koin said as it entered the open ground. The mighty chimera beast stood tall and grand over it’s fearful servant. It leveled its dark black eyes on the cowering form of Marx and seared it’s hate into the man like a hot branding iron.

Marx threw himself on the earth, instantly muddying his beautiful robes. He pressed his face to the ground with enough force that he nearly split the skin on his brow. The submissive movements came back to him at the speed of instinct. He was his true self once again. “My master, I have returned to you with the news you wish,” said Marx as he knelt. His voice lost all the confidence and authority that he had projected during his time in Rayward and he was back to speaking each word as a quaking sniveling mess.

“You took your time, my time in fact. I have waited unfilled and been forced to watch as that miserable wall taunts me,” Koin snarled. The enormous chimera pointed a clawed hand irately at the shape of Rayward in the distance. “Tell me what you have learned. It had better be something worth my patience.”

“I met a woman in the city. She caters to exotic tastes and as such she needs to discreetly import goods and contraband. She showed me how she does it. A tunnel that leads all the way from the Bone Sea coast through the seal wall and into the city. It is unwatched and unguarded,” Marx said quickly. He raced to find his words and hoped that his information would be enough to sate Koin’s desires.

“That is hardly the key to storming the main gate that I asked you to bring me. I would see my army walk into the mouth of Rayward and cut out her heart not swim through brine and foam to strike at her underbelly,” Koin said with a quiet anger.

Marx could feel his blood scorching him from the inside out. He dare not look up to see the wrath of Koin as the monster unleased it’s displeasure upon him. The fire in his veins manifested as warm tears of self-pity began to streak down his face. Marx spent his final moments reliving the pleasure filled nights he spent in Rayward’s Golden Gate and enjoying Madam Florentine’s hospitality. He took comfort in knowing that before his end he had gotten to taste the best things that this word had to offer. The greatest comfort came in knowing that once Koin and the other chimera had taken hold of Argaia, such magnificent things would be erased for existence. He had gotten to experience joys bound for extinction. Marx relaxed his body and let out a deep breath as he prepared himself to meet his death. Several more horrified breaths followed and each one carried painful anticipation. Marx postulated that this must be what it felt like for someone falling to their death or waiting for the headsman to drop his blade. The ripping of flesh and breaking of bones that the man dreaded never came. Instead he was greeted with something all the more frightening, the sound of Koin laughing.

“Whether my cousins and I ram down Rayward’s mouth or gut her belly, I suppose it makes no difference. The end is still the same. I will stand in her ruins,” Koin said as it prowled back and forth exuding malevolent jubilance. “You may rise,” Koin ordered the frightened man.

Timidly Marx rose to his feet though he ensured that he did not dawdle in getting up. Though he was scared he was not so paralyzed with fear as to allow himself to make Koin wait on him a moment longer than was needed. He stood and consciously averted his eyes from Koin. Marx dare not look at the wicked creature.

“You have shown that you are worth something, as much as a human can be worth anything that is. I am not one to see an asset wasted, regardless of how small or trivial it may be. It is time for you to return to your proper place,” Koin said. The beast flicked one of it’s claws in Marx’s direction.

The gorgeous silken robes that Marx wore suddenly turned rank and sloughed off his body like rotten skin. The money purse tied to Marx’s hip glowed bright red before it burst into flames and enveloped the man in cruel green fire. He screamed as the emerald blaze washed over him. The pain was intense but not nearly as bad as the shock. A small fortune for Marx was that the terrible experience was short lived. The green fire extinguished itself as fast as it had appeared. The only thing left in the aftermath of the fire was the scarred and mutilated husk of a human being that Marx had been before his mission in Rayward.

“Thank you my master,” Marx said meekly.

“No follow me. We return to the rest of my host and make for the shore of the Bone Sea. That pathetic city will be mine soon enough,” said Koin as it turned and tromped off into the shadows that were fast filling the forest.

Marx took one final look out at the sunset and the majestic beacon that was Rayward. He offered a silent good bye to the city and the world of comfort and pleasant things that dwelled beyond her gates and wall. Lastly Marx took stock of his mangled body. He had almost forgotten that he was such a wretch during his time in the city. He wiped away the last of his tears and with them the remnants of his self-pity. He said one last farewell to the lie who was Lord Marx Roseway and then promptly hobbled after his master and overlord on his freshly returned broken and twisted feet.