by Slawomir Rapala
At length, Alejandro looked up and gazed across the Plains of Izdihar where the army of the Dark had gathered the previous day and where they were now launching their attack. His gaze was better than the hawk’s and it penetrated the dark-stained souls of the wretches charging at him with abandon, stupefied by the drug of the Dark Lord’s religion and the venom that his forked tongue had seeped — and Alejandro’s gaze reached depths unknown to many of them.
He felt pity for them.
Though they screamed and hollered as they urged each other on, spitting and foaming at their snouts, he saw the good in the beasts. Their jaundiced eyes could hide nothing from his peaceful gaze, as deep as the Lakes of Jinan, the most sacred of sanctuaries, known to all living creatures, whether they were in the service of the Light or the Dark.
His soul was bright and so he could forgive them all now, pawns of the Dark Lord, even as the earth trembled beneath their heavy-booted feet as they raced across the deserted wasteland to meet their destiny. To meet his sword.
Thousands of them and all destined to die on this pitiful day, on this plain where nothing had blossomed for a millennium, on this day, this sorrowful day, the end of which would come too soon for too many of these lost, wicked souls.
Alejandro was only one man — or he looked like a man to the eyes of those who gazed upon him. He was only one, and there were many lost souls closing the gap with each moment, the Plain of Izdahar rolling away at their sides, a barren wasteland destined to witness one more bloodshed. He was only one man, and he had only one blade. No arrows or other skills to boast of save sword-handling, and even that, mediocre at best.
But there was destiny to unfold and there was blood to be spilled, the last, the final. And after this there was to be silence and there was to be no more. Such was the promise.
There was no fear in his heart when the dark line advanced, as quickly as it came, spilling across the dark plains in a crescent-shape fashion, leaping towards him with a speed only the hungry knew, for they hungered for his flesh and the blood, cursed as it was, that flowed through his veins.
Alejandro’s heart quivered but not in fear. Instead, it trembled at the thought of killing so many of the beasts, no matter how wretched they were, because they were all of the Weaver’s design; and though they had strayed, his deep-reaching gaze saw a spark of Light in many of them and knew them now to be only confused children, led off-course by a mind much more powerful than theirs.
The Dark Lord rewarded those who flocked to swell his ranks, but the desires he granted and the wishes he answered were short-lived; and they soon faded, while the price the poor wretches were paying was to be a heavy burden.
One that lasted for a lifetime.
On they raced, their fangs naked and dripping with venomous spit, snarls and growls escaping their heavy chests locked into steel that gave them a false sense of security. He was one man after all! What could he possibly do against a thousand?
Oh, but he was Haidar, the Lion, and his fame stretched through all the worlds and his thread was present in all the weavings. Though cursed, his soul dazzled, and it shone with an intensity that could only be blinded by a darkness that was greater than that of the deed he had done to earn the curse. And that, Alejandro knew, was never to come because his was the greatest of sins.
And so they rained on him like a plague and it was dusk and by the light of the fires they had lit they soon found out just how much he could do. For even though he felt sorry for many of them, Alejandro never lost sight of the goal and the promise he was given, and even though his blade was heavy with tears, it was soon heavier with the weight of blood dripping from it, because he did not hold back.
Not for a moment.
For if they were like a furious ocean then he was the rock against which the ocean waves beat in vain, a shiny speck of light amidst a dark horde unlike any other, trained to kill anything in service of the Light.
The Dark Lord had unleashed them onto the world, choosing Erushalayim as the first target, for it was the city at the centre of the Earth and the most holy to many of the factions that divided mankind. It was a city scarred by history and fate, a tragic scrap of dry, inhospitable land where millions had cried and bled and died, and all for nothing because they fought over symbols.
But the Dark Lord, in his scheming mind, knew the symbols to be just as real as anything else, if not more so. To tear down a symbol often meant to cripple a nation and to win a war.
Alejandro was to protect Erushalayim and this was the only thing he was tasked with on this day. And he had spread his great black wings when he had received the call, the full span of them, and their tips had reached across the globe, for he was an angel like no other.
Born of man and god, he held within him the strength and resilience of man, and the power and might of a deity. But he was his own: nothing and no one had ever claimed him, save the curse and the promise. His battles were his to choose, and with each task he was given a choice, and this one he had decided to take because of a woman who lived in Erushalayim nine hundred years ago and whose name was Fahima.
And she was an angel of the people, unlike him, who was of the Weaver’s choosing, but of the people. She had saved hundreds from hunger and disease and other forms of death, suffering alongside them just the same.
Her courage brought forth Alejandro in the hour of her doom and he had promised her when her eyes had rested on his face, because the dying can see the angels, that he would protect her city and everyone in it from the Darkness that was coming almost a millennium from then.
A blink of an eye. Haidar was unleashed a thousand times in a thousand different worlds. Black, raven wings blotting out the sun and sending worlds into a darkness from which there was no hope of release. Alejandro, the angel of death, the cursed demon in service of the Light when the Light had to turn away from the atrocities needed to be done to preserve the balance.
A sword raised and lowered, a strike, a fountain of black blood. A scream, an echo, Fahima’s blue eyes fading and darkness entering into their still pools, staining them with the fear of the unknown.
Alejandro had taken her hand then and had led her through the gates into the halls in which she was to reign as few others were meant to. And today she watched her city, his sword, the blood seeping into the thirsty desert earth broken by the will of the gods and forsaken by them. Her mouth opened in a voiceless scream at the sight of the carnage she had unleashed nine hundred years ago.
Alejandro, the demon. Alejandro, her angel.
And when it was done, even the Dark Lord had turned away, because such was the destruction, such was the magnitude of the evil this one man, half-bred and forsaken an eon ago for taking a life, because of what this one bright angel with a dazzling soul and raven wings had done. He ran deep through the history of the worlds, was as old as the world, and he had been there before man first opened his mouth to speak, to even articulate a thought.
* * *
The hammer was brought to him in haste and he had taken it, his fingers wrapping around the wooden shaft with impatience, for this was something he thought he would enjoy. A criminal, a man sprawled out on the cross before him. Naked, bloodied, and bruised. His eyes opened and then Alejandro saw an infinity of peace in them, and he loved this man. And he had changed then, and wished he could will his hand to release the hammer.
But he had been tasked to carry out something terrible, and from this he could not turn away, for that was his destiny, that was his thread, as dark as it was. A choice, yes, but this was a task, a thread to be broken because of consequences others could not see. The Weaver’s eye reached farther down the path, down to its end, however distant and however twisted the road.
The sun reflected off the hammer-head as he raised it high, both hands on the shaft. The crowd shouted, but he heard it not. He heard nothing because the world was still, the balance hanging in the air, the shuttling of the loom silenced because everything was being decided. Again.
And then he struck and the man below him cried out in pain.
And the Weaver resumed His work, and the worlds continued: this world and every world. Two more nails, long nails, through the hand and then through the legs. Cries of pain. A mother’s tears. Long nails stained with the blood of a man.
Dusk came too soon, and with it a death. And Alejandro was doomed.
* * *
Space opened up before him in all of its glory and the colours were more beautiful than anything he had ever seen with his immortal eyes, in all the worlds, in all the weavings. Breathless for the first time, Alejandro — the cursed angel whose soul was the brightest of stars in the starry sky but whose wings were as black as the weavings of the Dark Lord — Alejandro felt an ease of sorts, and he felt himself free.
For someone whose wings were long enough to span the globe, this was a new feeling, but this was the first time Alejandro had left the world behind and watched the planet disappear behind him until it was nothing more than a blue dot amidst the spinning stars, the planets and their many moons.
He was rendered speechless by the beauty of this new world, unknown before now, tucked away amidst a thousand others, a single thread amidst the great design of the Weaver.
There was a quiet chuckle and Alejandro glanced at the man sitting across from him.
“You’re pretty pale,” the man remarked as he glanced at his companion. The man then resumed checking the gauges and flicking on a series of different switches. Alejandro looked at the panel before them and realized that he knew nothing of the lights illuminating the signs. The letters and numbers were foreign.
“Have you never flown before?” the pilot asked matter-of-factly. And by doing so he had sealed his fate, though he did not yet know it. He checked the small screen before him and then said, “We’re on course to Alpha Centauri, Jerusalem II, Dock 1E. We’ll be there in four hours. Bring your party hat, ’cause that place will be rockin’ tonight!”
A giant claw ripped the man’s throat open and Alejandro stared indifferently at the lifeless body as it crumpled to the floor, bloodied hands sliding down the panels and leaving behind crimson streaks.
Fahima watched from the golden halls high above and her eyes went still for the second time like two frozen pools tainted with sadness and darkness. Alejandro closed his heart to her silent pleadings and his gaze ventured out into the space before him.
There was a task to be done. Again.
The stars were whipping by as he raced on at hyper-speed, and they were stringing together into solid lines that sped away and were left behind in his wake. Alejandro shifted uncomfortably in the chair, for he could never get used to the small frames he had to sometimes suffer when carrying out the things he was tasked with.
He felt pity for how small men were created and how much they had to endure. Pity was the only thing he had left. Even now, in this last hour, this last task, this last thread that needed to be broken.
And then release. Black wings turned white again.
The hammer was forgiven, and the nails. The dusk that brought a death too soon. A task tainted with sin for which he had to pay for millennia in many worlds, in many guises and through many histories. Haidar was to be put to rest and not to be unleashed again, for this was the last betrayal, the last stain on his bright soul. That was the promise.
Tears rolled down Fahima’s cheeks, for she knew the truth.
Alejandro’s eyes narrowed and his face, an unfamiliar face that could barely contain his true features, the face of a mediocre man lit up with a smile. He was on course and Jerusalem II was near. Hundreds of families had already flocked there to escape the war raging on their home planet. More ships were arriving each day, bringing joy and reuniting people, fathers and children, wives and husbands, bridging gaps between nations and allowing new choices.
And then a flash of light as a ship out of control struck the station at hyper-speed. It exploded into a dazzling display of colours and rained death upon the people, and it triggered more explosions as Jerusalem II, designed and engineered to bring people together, tipped sideways in space, off its spherical course, out of the gravitational field of the star it circled, and then exploded amidst the screams of the fathers and the wives, and their children...
A split second that changed the history of mankind and plunged the world into a war of terror that was previously unheard of except in other weavings...
* * *
Blink. Eyes opened.
A whisper, a task. A promise.
Fahima’s tears, for she knew the truth.
Copyright © 2010 by Slawomir Rapala