by Roland Allnach
A world conqueror besieges the castle of the lady of the Thousandfold Gossamer Veils. What place is there for mortal love in the supernaturals’ titanic struggle?
What then is there to say when the moment comes, that moment when allusions and the mortal world collide, and like so many winged Espers they must come crashing to the ground, for is it not the fate of mortals in their sorely limited breadth upon the world that they must seek to quench all around them, even as they must be quenched themselves, for they will not suffer the presence of those who, unlike their works of undying stone for their own memories, unwittingly remind them of that which they fear most, their inevitable death and decay?
Such is the way of things on the next night, as Kyto sits on his mount, his life stilled in his heart, as his Lord rallies the captains of the great host. To him the Lord summons foremost the captains of the Orders of the Mantis and the Jackal, two companies of the host dreaded for their pitiless cunning and savage warcraft. With the twilight of day fading and the Espers marshalling upon the heights of her bastion, the time has come, the time when the Lord will work the venom of his tangled soul against her children, to draw her to him in her sorrow and rage.
But for Kyto the words are nothing, they are lost to him, they are mindless chatter on the smoke-laden breeze washing about the camp and its endless barrage of flaming projectiles. Yet at some unknown, unheard call his gaze lifts, and there upon the crenellated stoneworks of her bastion the Espers appear in the gleaming lengths of their shifting veils, and at their center he finds her for whom he longs, Lady Luna, silver-haired moon sister of the star-laden night.
And he, Kyto, sacker of a thousand cities, stirs to that which he has not known in his life: it is the sudden thunder of his heart, not for the joy of victory, but for the dread of agony soon to come, and for the fear of something lost that no conquest of a thousand worlds can replace. It is the very thing that in its absence has given him such terrible force in battle — it is pity, it is sympathy, it is lament for those who would be his foes, and these three as one rise and rage within him just as the winds rise and rage along the inhospitable crags of a stony cliff beneath a warming sun.
“You cannot stop this thing that will happen,” the Lord says from behind Kyto’s shoulder, surprising him.
Kyto turns wide eyes on his master, but says nothing.
The Lord urges his mount forward to take his place beside Kyto, tipping his chin toward her bastion. “You cannot hide from me what you feel, for I am not like mortal men that walk and are bound to the world. I am more like her that awaits me, and this you have known in some part of your soul, known it as long as I have known you. I am older than time, Kyto, old as she is old, born in the Time Before Time, when the world moved in ways that are impenetrable mysteries to the men that walk in these times.”
Kyto studies his Lord, for he knows of what his Lord speaks, having heard the tales and myths passed from the ancients to the elders.
“The elders know nothing,” the Lord counters, laying a knowing, penetrating gaze upon Kyto. “The tales of the ancients are lies. They would let men believe that creatures such as the Espers, such as She of the Thousandfold Gossamer Veils, such as myself, walk this world to make fools of men and the things men would have — power, fame, and love.”
Only then does Kyto begin to understand, and his heart sinks, for he feels the march of their many campaigns as a delirious weight upon his shoulders. Yet at the same moment he understands something else, the curious will of his Lord to have him present for the parley with Lady Luna. “You have come to join her,” he whispers in disbelief.
“You have seen all that she and I once made in the Time Before Time, for you have conquered it at my behest,” the Lord explains. “And now that the conquest has ended, this too must end in the only way I know to end it.
“You see, Kyto, as you know from Lady Luna, so too you know between her that waits and I. I offer her the world, but the more I offer, the more I distance her, and yet the more I distance her, the more she will resist me, for she too cannot do that but which will harden my heart.
“Such was the decree levied on us by our Master, for we defied the rules upon us, and created the world as ours to enjoy, and so for our blasphemy, we have been doomed to destroy that which we love, and all that we love that we created, until we destroy each other. Only then can the world be free of our sorrow.”
Kyto listens, but his heart has stopped. His eyes dart to Lady Luna, and then back to his Lord. “Such things, we must not let them pass!”
But the Lord has no reply. He gives Kyto a solemn stare, and nothing more, before he turns away.
And Kyto, the sacker of a thousand cities, sits as the boy who once looked out his door, powerless and distraught, as the men of his village felled the grove of cherry trees that were the refuge of his dreams. Only then does he understand in full what is to come.
The Espers take their place about their Lady Luna, ascending her bastion, and the Orders of Jackal and Mantis set to their beastly task, and their eyes gleam frigid and pitiless like the blades of so many sharpened axes.
Now upon the crenellated stoneworks the Espers gather, as is their wont, and from their ivory bows loose a storm of silvery shafts like vengeful moonbeams to impale the tender innards of the host. And when their gleaming sapphire eyes can no longer hold back the battle fury brewing within, the Espers take to their flight to descend from her bastion in the gleaming comet trails of their shifting veils. Down, down upon the host they come in the confidence of their lady’s power within them, their blades whistling in the air on the channels of the Four Winds they command.
Yet it is not to be as it has been on so many nights before, no, for as they descend for their strike upon the host, the host parts to reveal the Orders of the Mantis and the Jackal, and it is they who seize the moment and loose a torrent of their own.
For at the command of the Lord they have woven sturdy nets of silk, and having secured these nets with stakes, they in turn crafted combine crossbows of devious complexity to shoot the nets aloft. And so they loose this trap upon the unknowing Espers, and in surprise Lady Luna shouts as the nets open and seek to ensnare the moon-sister sprits of the air. But the nets are many, and although the Espers are quick and keen-eyed, so too the Mantis and Jackal hordes are persistent and ruthless.
And then the moment comes when one of the Espers is doubly enmeshed, and try as she might she cannot cut free, and the men of the Mantis pull upon the trailing lines to deny the buoying Four Winds to send her crashing to the Earth. There she writhes, struggling for her sword on the ground outside her reach. She calls in anguish to her sisters, to her Lady Luna, but to all the Espers her hope is denied in a storm of nets unleashed as the Mantis ranks close upon her.
From their midst a great foreboding figure appears. He is their captain, and in rage he hefts over his head a wicked double-bladed battle-axe, and with a roar buries it in the chest of the bound and defenseless Esper. But she does not scream long, nor does she bleed, for she is made of things not of this world, and her corporeal form is not as the bodies of worldly life. She shatters in a blaze of light, a comet fallen to the ground and broken in a shower of fading embers.
The host howls in its victory, and it is not alone, for their assault is tireless, and three more Espers have already fallen, even though Lady Luna and her sisters struggle to cut the lines and slash the nets.
And Kyto watches as a man dumb with horror, for in the wake of the death-light of the first Esper his sight has been changed, and he sees the host not as he had before, but now as he knows the Espers surely see them, and he learns in a heartbeat their disgust for this seething multitude before the bastion.
For Kyto no longer sees the men he knows, but instead within their helmed heads he espies snarling countenances twisted and grotesque, as their reckless rape of the world has made them. They are monsters, and he is adrift among them, and he sees his Lord then as a thing to both fear and loathe, the diametric of the Espers in their grace and beauty.
Yet as he ponders these things his eyes widen, for in his gaze he beholds that which freezes his blood within his very heart and sends it as crystalline shards tearing through every vessel of his body in anguish, for as he sits ethereal Lady Luna is snared in one net, then two, and then two more, far from the help of her Esper sisters.
To be continued...
Copyright © 2012 by Roland Allnach