III – The Priest’s Absolve
Ethan fell back onto the floor, slamming onto the hard marble floor as the approaching brute climbed the steps in two long strides and he raised his hands before him, thinking of anything to say and though his lips moved, nothing came out and the giant tensed his body as he lifted the war hammer above him and he went the swing.
He closed his eyes, his arms above his head as he cowered in fear and he saw each one of his family flash before his eyes as he heard the ‘whoosh’ of the hammer and he let out a cry.
Ethan opened his eyes as he heard another swing of the war hammer but realized he was not hurt and he moved down his arms from his head to see the brute swinging his war hammer, destroying the statue, pieces of the statue flying around the temple, dust falling into a pile at their feet.
“NO!” he yelled, jumping up and holding onto one of the huge arms to stop another swing “What do you think you’re doing?”
“Stay out of this old man and get out of here, for for your own good” said the giant brute.
“No, stop, stop” said Ethan as he struggled against the brute, holding his arm back as he struggled to hold back the mammoth strength this man seemed to hold.
With one jerk of the arm, the giant sent the elderly priest tumbling across the floor, colliding down the steps, bumping his head, knees and elbows before ending up in a bundle at the bottom of the steps.
His bones ached and he felt his breath leave him as he watched the desecration of the statue, the idol his worship for the past decade being reduced into rubble. Just as his family and his family’s name had been destroyed in a few simple blows.
Tears filled his eyes as he could barely breath from the shock and he felt his body scream in pain. Never in his old age had he felt so weak and it was a crushing realisation for until today, he had always imagined himself as the man he once had been, not the man he was. If only he had been thirty, no twenty years younger, even ten years younger, he would have never let such bandits push him around like this.
“Please…please” he said as he pushed himself up against the stone bench when one of the figures, the slimmest and who’s robes seemed to hug against their figure seemed to teleport across the room and knelt down right in front of him and he saw underneath the darkness of the hood, green eyes looking down at him, high cheekbones and tattoos of strange symbols across one side of the woman’s face.
“Who are you people? Why are you doing this?” he yelled up to the woman.
“You should have listened” she said “No one was supposed to be here, come, I’m going to get you out of here, you’ll…”
“Silence” said the smallest figure, raising their right arm into the air and at once the giant man halted his destruction of the idol and all eyes in the temple turned towards him.
“Do you hear that?” he whispered, though his voice echoed around the temple, asking the question repeatedly and at first Ethan could hear nothing except his heavy breathing when all of a sudden he could hear it. And feel it.
A vibration that seemed to be rocking the very foundations of the shrine and he looked about him in fear as he saw the statues alongside the wall fall and smash into hundreds of piece on the floor as clicking filled the temple and he covered his ears as he felt his eardrums about to burst when the candles in one instant were all extinguished.
Lights light up one by one and they blinded Ethan as he saw the four figures before him glow a dark red, as if the light came from inside of them and surrounded them in a strange aura.
He felt incredibly weak all of a sudden and looked down to see a large stone from one of the statues had somehow fallen onto him and had crushed the lower half of his body.
He writhed in pain and groaned as he tried to lift it off of him, the figures distracted, looking about them as the clicking grew louder.
‘Great’ he thought to himself, laughing in desperation at how cruel life had been once again ‘Ten years of dedication to each one of those statues and they’re the ones who do me in.’
“Behind you” yelled a foreign man’s voice from under the hood of the figure who had remained silent until now and they leaped out the way as a roar filled the temple which shook Ethan to the very bone and he caught a glimpse of something huge moving in the dark.
‘What the hell was that thing’ he thought to himself as he could only see the hooded figures run around the temple, otherwise all he could hear was scrambling and snarling in the darkness and he tried with all his remaining strength to lift the stone off of him.
The woman had ran to the eastern wall and had sprung up a crossbow from somewhere firing quick rounds, before leaping behind the pillars, which were split in half by an invisible force and he heard the roof above shake violently.
The foreign man had leapt up onto the walls of the temple, running horizontally across them, slinging blades that shone in the darkness and he heard a thunderous roar before the wall erupted in a cloud of dust.
“Ramu” yelled the woman in distress as the brute with the war hammer went charging into the only to be flung like a rag doll across the temple, smashing against the walls.
“It’s too strong” yelled the woman leaping out of the way just in time, as another impact came swinging, bricks shot out like bullets and all that remained was a hole 2 meters deep in the wall.
“Stand back” yelled the short figure who ran up the aisle and he yelled three words in a strange tongue Ethan couldn’t understand before clenching his left hand in a fist and smacked it onto his open palm of his right hand.
At that moment, Ethan saw it.
A purple light illuminated the temple, bursting from the figure and although brief, he saw it although he couldn’t believe it.
A spiders head, with two long sabre teeth was sat upon a furry ape like body with eight long legs, four on the ground, four in the air and it’s tail was a screwdriver shaped blade that was covered in a scale skin just like a lizards.
The creature was standing upright before the small figure swinging four arms to squash the small man.
He didn’t know why but Ethan cried out for him to get out the way when a burst of black light erupted from out of the figure’s hands and a wave of heat engulfed the temple.
Ethan covered his eyes but he peeked through to see the creature scream out as it was flooded in the black light and like the ash of a burning wood, it’s body started shedding into flakes which fluttered about the temple before a white light burst, blinding Ethan.
Once he dared open his eyes again, he realised they were back in the shrine, the statues and the damage had somehow been repaired and glancing towards the altar, all the candles still burned. He looked about him, there was no sign of that…that thing.
‘H…How?” he thought to himself as he saw the small figure collapse to his knees and fell into the arms of the woman, who had in a matter of a second, darted from one end of the room to his side, catching him in her arms.
“You should have left it to us” she said as she helped him back up to his feet. The figure was slightly swaying and their was deep concern on her face as she stood him up onto both of his legs, an arm resting on her shoulder for support.
“You know you need to keep your energy” she said “What if you’d missed or what if it’d struck you down, what then? You’re not ready to fight yet, you know that, that’s why you’ve got us.”
“I had to do something. All your strength combined unfortunately was still not enough to take it down. Don’t mind me, I’ll be fine” said the figure in a weak voice before he turned round.
“Onazi. Ramu. Are you okay?” he called out and a figure emerged from behind one of the pillars, his hood had fallen off his head and a young man, bronze skinned with tattoos across his face and sleek black hair combed back, climbed out and walked up to the pair. So did the brute, rubbing his head, deep with a gash as he pushed himself against the wall and onto his feet.
“Yeah, we’re okay” said Ramu “But…Master. We could have handled the situation, you just had to give us a little more time…”
“I don’t doubt your abilities, all of yours” said the hooded figure “but don’t take this the wrong way, I doubted the strength of our opponent, which is far superior to all of yours, combined, that was my mistake. Soon enough though, that won’t be a problem, hopefully.”
They kept talking but Ethan couldn’t follow them, his vision was blurring and the voices grew further away. He was dying.
“What about him?” spoke the woman’s voice echoing around his skull and he saw blurred figures approach him and kneel down before him.
“He’s as good as dead” said the man called Ramu, looking down at him “With a wound such as his, he’ll be dead any minute now. I say finish him, it would be a kindness.”
“He will die, it’s true, nothing can save him now” said the hooded figure in a soft voice.
‘No, no, save me, I don’t want to die’ thought Ethan to himself as his vision focused and he saw the short hood figure before him, his head shrouded in darkness and Ramu and the woman looking down at him, their faces smooth and free of tattoos.
‘Wait…’ he thought to himself
“If you hadn’t been here old man, this could have been avoided” said the hooded figure.
“What is your name?” asked the figure but Ethan couldn’t answer.
“Ethan. Ethan Dassixe, a soldier of Omion, son, brother, husband, father and grandfather” he spoke with his failing strength and he felt an instant of warmth as pride filled his chest. It felt good saying his name out loud. When was the last time he had said his own name out loud he thought to himself. Ironic that it would also be the very last time.
“If you had to chose, would you chose life, or death?”
Ethan tried to process what he had been asked.
“I want to live, of course, I want to live, I..I don’t want to die” he blurted out before he started feeling his body shake uncontrollably, he wasn’t sure whether it was from fear or whether he could hear the reaper’s bones rattling as he came to claim his soul.
The figure let out a sigh and turned to the others, giving them a long stare before turning back to Ethan and he quickly put his fingertips onto Ethan’s forehead. Ethan felt a coldness fill his body and a powerful stench filled his nose and his eyes welled up as he looked into the hood of the figure.
“I’m sorry old man” were the last words Ethan heard before he slipped into darkness.