Stifling the fear in his heart, Braen knew he had to jump—jump on a dangerous creature that probably had an equally dangerous monstrosity lurking inside of it. Lucky him, right? He had been closer to the giant creature’s head now that he was hanging off the chamber’s walls, and ideally, it would have been a perfect position to aim his weapon at its vitals, only…he only had one arm. How was he supposed to keep holding himself up and aim at the same time? When he started climbing, he didn’t think it through. In fact, at first, he figured he’s found a flat platform, only to realize there wasn’t any.
There was only one choice now. He had to get right on the creature and kill it at an even closer range.
He took a breath and exhaled, letting the influx of oxygen aid in calming his nerves. There were no alternatives. There was a job to do.
And then he fell.
Yes, he fell, legs slightly apart.
It felt as if his heart went up higher in his chest. His mind automatically counting the seconds.
In a normal state, two seconds sounded like nothing, but when you are falling, it feels like forever. Braen’s stomach lurched and his heart quivered.
He smashed right onto the giant…and slipped.
He quickly aimed to grab something, but his hands seemed to catch a slick, oily substance and he slid right off.
In a quick decision, he pulled out the gun from his waist and aimed. He took a breath, and as he rolled off the creature’s back, he fired. Again and again, until the gun kept clicking—his bullets gone.
One, two… Braen slammed into a flat rock platform. The air within his chest rushed from his lungs; his vision went black.
It was only a second thought.
He couldn’t move. He knew that if he hadn’t slipped off the creature and instead fell straight down, he would be dead.
He looked up, his vision slowly crawling from a blur to see the creature thrashing about. He couldn’t hear anything. It felt as if all his senses were in shock—he was in shock.
But he had done it. He had somehow hit the creature’s eye, blinding it.
He saw the half-man go at it from there, it was as if there was a new lease on life and he saw the man charged, his sword moving so swift, it was as if they were flashes of light.
I’ve done my part, Old man. Now, do yours.
The lid of Braen’s eyes drooped. He sighed and felt himself drift.
And a nothingness took hold.
A cool breeze blew, sifting through his hair. Braen smiled. He stretched until his body just felt good.
He could hear the chatter around him, the moms and dads, the children running about. There was a big event today. He could feel the excitement all around him.
“Wow, everyone’s so excited. I can’t remember the last time I went to-” He stopped. “Huh, what event was this?” he wondered.
“It’s your first time being part of the Day of Inheritance, my son…” said a father to his child as he passed by.
“Ha!” Braen Chuckled to himself. “Day of Inheritance. Wow, I must be off today. How could I have forgotten?”
Red and gold banners flew with the wind, the black symbol of Rau sewn into the fabric. The closer you looked towards the capital, the more banners there were. The building just grew taller and taller, and a few leagues away was an enormous city wall which leads to a place filled with the higher classes of modern society.
Everyone was heading towards the center of the city.
Today was the Day of Inheritance.
“I have to hurry or I’ll be late!”
Braen turned and walked with the crowd. The further he went, the more congested the streets became.
He looked at the rooftops of the buildings. Some were two stories and others even three stories high. The building just grew taller further in. Can’t climb and hop like in a town on the far reaches.
He just had to pick up his pace. He was alone, so it was simple for him to sift through the crowd to get ahead. The farther he went, the louder everything was, but he couldn’t help feel some sense of closeness to it all. It felt foreign yet familiar all the same.
Of course, it feels familiar, I’ve gone to this plenty of times.
“I should hurry. Need to be home before the event.”
Suddenly, a voice called out to him.
“Apples for sale, sir?”
Braen turned and looked to his right.
Standing next to him was a little girl. She looked pitiful with her dress patched up and her hair slightly unkempt as if she brushed it with her fingers.
But as his eyes glanced at her, he did not pause and kept going.
“Please, sir. Please buy an apple. I haven’t sold any, and if my father finds out, I won’t be able to go to the capital.”
At that Braen stopped.
“Everyone should be able to enjoy the Inheritance…” he thought for a moment, and then took an apple. “I’ll take this apple.”
“Sir, payment? It’s two coppers.”
“I said I’d take an apple, not pay for one. Pay for it yourself. I’ve done half the work of helping you by eating this.”
And at that, he took off.
He brushed the apple against his cloak, and as he bit down, he paused again.
He looked at his arm, the same arm he grabbed the apple with—the same one he had lost, it was now cloaked in a metallic black sheen. He turned to the sky. The very blue sky that was gentle and the dawning sun was warm.
And hovering above his head was a sphere—metallic and dark.
He had seen that sphere before.
And he had definitely not been in this place, been near that capital, and did not know what the Day of Inheritance was.
And as his thoughts began to churn, everything went quiet. The streets were no longer crowded; the banners were gone.
All that remained was an empty city.
And that blue sky.
“Sir, my two coppers? Please? I don’t have any money. My father will beat me if he finds out!” came the small voice from before.
Braen’s eyes opened wide as he turned around slowly.
Skin a murky thin layer, transparent till where blue and green veins could be seen pulsing underneath. It’s arms dangled at its side, and it stood up on two legs, it’s head completely missing.
Whatever it was, it stood before him, unmoving but the rise and fall of its torso as it breathed.
Green blood dripped from the creatures hand, where a small finger was missing.
Braen was frozen in fear. He suddenly felt a hot viscous liquid drip on his arm. It took him a moment before he pried his eyes away from the creature to what he held.
His mouth felt sticky and hot—his insides burning.
Braen opened his eyes. They flickered as he felt something hot and wet fall on his face. He looked up and went still.
Leaning over him, the half-man stood. He had this sad smile touched upon his lips.
“So, you were alive, boy?” he grunted. “Good.”
“Old man, you…” Braen shivered. He looked at the looming figure behind the half-man. The creature had pierced an enormous hole from his back and out his gut.
“I don’t know what it is, but there is something strange about you…but no time for that now…as you can tell, I’m gonna die,” he stated and his smile widened. “It’s a strange thing, dying in a place like this…and I didn’t mean to save you, you know…but my body…kid, will you do me a favor?”
Braen gulped. His mind was a mess. What is going on?
“Ha! Forget a favor. A kid like you would not move unless it benefited you, even if I did save your life.”
Braen felt as if a shock went through his body. He could somehow piece together what happened. Given the stillness of the creature, it was most likely dead. In the last moments of its life, it had lunged for him, and the half-man put himself between them. “Why did you save me. We don’t owe each other anything.”
“I guess…maybe it’s because no matter what happens I can’t escape. But you…you have a chance. Find my son, boy. Find him; save him. And in return, you will find the power you seek.”
The half-man’s smile withered and his eyes became listless. “I can see it in your eyes, boy. Like the rest of them. You crave for more, and only more alone will appease you.”
“J-just who are you?”
But at that, the half-man no longer spoke.
The water level rose even higher.
Braen inched his way from underneath the man.
He was on a flat platform, and the giant creature still had itself lodged into the half-man’s back, but it too, did not move.
Suddenly, he heard screeches. Miniature spider-like creatures squirmed and moved within the boiling water.
The torrents gushing from the mechanisms seemed to come out even faster. There was nowhere to go.
Braen looked over at the platform and into the water. The giant creature’s lower body was half sunk in and its entire abdomen was torn open, thin skin fibers spattered and drooping everywhere.
Just how strong was that guy?
But that wasn’t all that caught his attention. In the water was more than small spider-creatures and skin. There, he could see another swimming within. Something much, much bigger—darker.
“Aah! I’m so dead!”
Taking a moment as if to confirm his decision, he took the sword from the half-man’s body, cut a long and wide sheet out of the remains of the creature’s skin. And gambling everything, he wrapped himself in, forming a pill, where he closed it off by bunching the skin from the inside. And there he waited—waited for the water to take him.
And in moments, it did.