This is just a story I've been working on. It is in no way related to Warhammer, or anything pertaining to Games Workshop. Please R&R, all comments are welcome.
Through all boundaries, beyond all barriers does love endure. Through darkest night, beyond the veil of death. Through most trying grief, through greatest strife.
-Of Love Through Death; Act I
Silence. There was nothing in existence at that moment; not a thing stirred in the darkness of night, nor broke the quiet of the void as stillness settled upon the town. That was all there was to its citizens, the town. Of course they knew of the outside world, knew of the fealty they gave to their king who lived a million miles and a thousand years away, yet to the simple people of the town that was the world. As far as they were concerned nothing existed beyond the walls of brick and gates of stone; the world of mountains and oceans, of kings and queens, of war and plague, was a fanciful dream.
No one had ever left the town, it was said. Not one soul to have lived within the town had ever left, and the people liked it that way. Their world was one of peace, of tranquility. Their world was growing crops in the gardens suspended over the town square, it was tending to the animals that lived in the tall, arching buildings that towered over the markets of the plazas.
Many who had walked past the town had called it a city - a grand city- yet cities were places of thieves, places of politicking and bribery, places of corruption and crime, places where cultures mixed; this was not the town. The word city was known to the people of the town but its nature was as alien to them as the waters of the sea to the people of the desert.
While no one left the town and family records were meticulously kept, no one knew how the town was built. The town's history had long been forgotten by it's people; no one knew from whence the beautiful, lustrous stone of the homes had come, no one knew who had built their homes or why they had each been constructed uniquely while being all too familiar, no one knew how the buildings stood or why they were placed where they were. The town simply was. The town had ever been, the town ever would be, the town was.
The town was what some called self-sufficient. The townspeople grew their own food, raised their own crop, and made their own cloth. The townspeople forged their tools from the reused metal of the old, the wells were ever full and they wrote. Oh, how they wrote! They wrote poetry to move the soul, books to sharpen the mind. Never had anyone left their world for that of which they read and sang, yet they knew of history and the sciences and the arts. They learned of the wars that ravaged the land they were allegedly a part of, of the benevolent and tyrannical leaders that spotted the past. They learned of the other lands in the far off world of nations and alliances. They learned, and they studied. Of all of this did they write, did they talk.
All had its place in the town, all found their way. The Growers raised the plants, and supplied the Herders who in turn supplied all the peoples. All was for free, yet all was not. All within the town was born of barter and trade. There was no money, only exchange. An excellent Herder could live as wealthy as an Educator, or an unskilled Forger could be worse off than a Grower. The town was simple, yet complex. To those very rare few who entered the town the workings of the people were as hard to penetrate as a fortress yet to the people themselves it was simple.
A man's wealth was judged by how well his family lived. The more children a man had would reduce his comparable wealth, unless he could give them all as they needed in which case he was considered wealthier than someone with less children. However, if a man had fewer children, yet they were more skilled at their chosen task, then that man is richer than a man with more children. A man with no children was considered poor, as his family did not contribute to the town, but once a child was born their wealth would improve or reduce accordingly. A man who was unmarried was considered in the lowest class once he was of twenty years of age, yet an unmarried woman was considered as rich as her father or mother and could retain the status of her house. Of the Houses themselves there were many, and there were many smaller divisions of a house.
When a man married, he became a member of his wife's house, yet her social status within the town and within her house was lowered until they proved themselves to contribute to the town's functioning. How wealthy someone was dictated if someone could govern the town. An unmarried woman, who retained the wealth and status of her house, might serve in the role of a councilor in the town center, if her parents were of high enough status - a man and his wife were considered of equal status, which was dictated by wealth - to be on the council themselves. An unmarried man was not allowed to lead until he married and had children. The mayors who presided over the council were the wealthiest man and woman in the town at the end of each year, as whoever was wealthiest proven themselves to be able to contribute to the town and had proven that they were of the highest merit.
Marriages were another matter. A marriage could only be instigated by an unmarried woman of at least age twenty-three, a man had only the right to deny or accept. As an unmarried man was considered of the lowest social class, power or family held no sway; to attract the attentions of a woman of status and in doing so raise his own status, a man had to prove his value by doing well at the profession he had followed. Now, many who heard the few accurate relations of social class in the town often remarked 'Then Writers must always be the first to marry, as women love poetry and the arts. Why would any seek another profession?' Yet this is the ideology of those who live in the world of kings and queens, and war and plague. Women sought not only those who wrote the most moving pieces, they sought those who excelled at whatever they had Chosen, as it was their responsibility to Choose. Many a skilled Weaver had been chosen over an average Writer. Yet, it is with a Writer and a marriage that this tale begins, as his tale ends; and so as the sun sets in the sky shall darkness engulf the town yet who may say that light will again be shed?
The void was broken as a form shattered the false peace of night. From shadow to shadow the form went, long cloak blowing behind it in the light breeze that chilled the air with winter's nearing embrace. On silent feet this form, wearing upon it a cloak of shade, crept amidst the darkness cast by the large structures of the town, uttering unheard whispers of darkness and despair into the dark with each muffled step, with each swish of its cloak. It leapt onto a windowsill, carved with the bodies of angels and clouds, and began to ascend with remarkable talent the side of a near-seamless wall bearing little in way of fault or mortar with which it could find purchase. Hand over hand this specter scaled the side of the abode exuding an aura of lethality unheard of in the town, where violence was rare, if not non-existent. The cold stone caused its hands to ache, yet still it climbed. As it scrambled over the edge of the roof it took its bearings. The next building over was where it sought, and it was determined to attain what it desired. Hastening to accomplish its task it ran and leapt onto the next building over, calmly reaching out and gripping a slight ledge off of which it could propel itself through and open window.
As it landed with deadly precision it gazed around. The inside of the home was lavishly decorated, silk drapes of the richest crimson adorned the room, reflecting the warm light given off by the roaring blaze within the fireplace. Plush armchairs sat elegantly before the marble mantle upon which were stacks of scripts and poems the likes of which were unknown to those beyond the town. The armchairs were of velvet and mahogany, seeming to promise security and comfort as they sat undisturbed by the intruder before a finely woven carpet depicting birds in flight. The tiles of radiant obsidian underfoot gave stark contrast to the pure white of the walls and the ornate furnishings. On the whole the room gave a sense of welcome and peace; of security, however false.
The form, which still clung to the shadows as if to flee the light, paced across the room to an opulent doorway emblazoned with a scene of paradise, wherein lied a man and a woman. The man was a tall, slender person with a pinched look about him. His eyes seemed, even in sleep, to perpetually squint like one accustomed to wearing spectacles or one who has written by candlelight for much of his life. His hands, which clung to his sheet with a white-knuckled grip, were very slight with extremely skinny, agile fingers. His wife, who lay next to him with a look of contentment upon her visage, was fair to beggar belief. All of this it witnessed in the blink of an eye, yet it merely shook its head in disillusionment as it drew the envenomed knife from its hidden sheath. As though subconsciously detecting his imminent death Mayor Veese Clarus-Scirripsi opened his eyes to see the glint of metal bare inches from his throat before attempting to scream; which he did so in vain as all he could mutter was a wet gargling sound as his airway filled with his blood. Then, it set about removing the rest of the family…
* * *
Fredeli Menes-Angrepet opened his eyes to let in the light of the day, gazing beyond his sheltered bed to take in the world beyond. The sky outside was dark and overcast, the sun desperately seeking to pierce the shaded pall. Not one bird flew upon the chill breezes of autumn, and not a sound was heard. Reaching one arm sluggishly upward to grip the wooden bedpost so that he might escape the small niche he had carved for himself amidst the myriad quilts and pillows of his midnight sanctuary, Fredeli cast a radiant smile to the world. Today was the day he married and earned his status within the town. Today he was to become Fredeli Clarus-Scirripsi, wedded to the most flawless woman he had ever laid eyes upon. Vakera Clarus-Scirripsi was the very image of beauty, with flowing hair as if of woven silk and beautiful, intelligent eyes.
He, just arisen to the world of the living, staggered to his cabinet to gather his clothing. He reached for a brocaded suede tunic, imprinted with a pattern of gold thread. It was his best garment, given to him as exchange for his script Of Love Through Death. He smiled fondly as he remembered the portly Weaver he had traded it with, running home to show his children and wife the manuscript so that they could share it. Truthfully, Fredeli believed that he had received the lower end of the bargain, as he could have easily gotten better for his writing; however, it did not truly matter as until he married his status would remain beneath the poorest Grower, so he would take what he could. Next he gathered the rest of his attire and began to undress; it was possibly the most important day of his life so far so he should be as clean as possible. Slipping out of his smallclothes, he made for the copper bath within the chamber adjoining his own when there was a knock on the door and the sound of voices. He heard his sister Kaneska speak out.
"Brother? Brother 'tis I, I must tell you something!" the handle on the door turned and the mahogany barrier began to swing closer, creating an ungodly -not to mention uncommon- squeal to issue from the visibly clean, well-oiled hinges.
Fredeli yelped and turned to bolt for the tub, but by then the door was nearly open, so he instead reached for the nearest drape and pulled it close about him. "Sister! Might that you await my consent before entering my chambers! Pray tell, sister, what is of such import that you need impose upon me at this early hour?"
At this point did his sister enter the room. She was slight of build, like their mother, standing barely at Fredeli's shoulders; her stature seemed even more diminutive as he was half again her weight. Unlike some of the women in the town Kaneska dressed plainly in a simple, modestly-cut blue dress and leather shoes; she did not see the purpose in flaunting her high status to others of lower standing. Kaneska cringed and looked away until she noticed that Fredeli was covered. She was visibly relieved at this, until her brow creased with worry and stress. "Brother, the Clarus-Scirripsis -specifically the Vedtos¹- were found murdered within their home." She said, with a breathy tone in her normally angelic voice. She looked at him with an expression of unease plastered upon her face.
It took several moments for his sister's words to truly reach his head. As he comprehended what he was hearing his blood ran cold and suddenly he felt hollow, as if something inside of him was gone. His voice came out strangled by the sudden sadness that overtook him upon realization "Then, Vakera is…" His sisters nodded her head sorrowfully, respectful of how horrible she knew Fredeli felt. Then another thought came to him "Never has a murder been committed in the town, who could have done this?" he said, the sorrow in his voice replaced by anger and frustration.
Kaneska shook her head. "The Council has not the slightest idea, and without anyone to guide them they cannot settle upon a course of action. Everyone is scared, brother… None of us have ever dealt with anything like this; no one in town ever has!"
Fredeli saw the plain horror in his sister's eyes. He had never seen her before as scared as she was at this moment. Her eyes glistened, as if on the verge of tears; if the tears not simply from how frightened she was, it could just as easily be that she felt a margin of the sorrow which left him empty as she and Vakera had been friends to some extent. He made to comfort her, but thought better of it as he felt the drape covering him start to pull away. "Sister, let me dress and we might speak some more." he said, gesturing toward the doorway.
Once his sister was out of sight he put on the clothes he had prepared, not bothering to bathe. As he dressed, he went from resignedly going through the monotonous motions of lacing together his tunic, to vigorously doing the same. He shifted between feelings of intense sorrow, the world seeming a dim place devoid of meaning, to feelings of fierce indignation toward whoever had the gall to have taken his beloved away from him. Eventually, however, sorrow won out and he just let his arms hang limply by his side while he gazed at the glazed tiles beneath his feet.
As he stood, now fully clothed in his quarters he slowly closed his eyes thought of Vakera. He leaned resignedly against the wall behind him, morosely sagging to the cold marble tiles beneath his feet. Tears welled in his eyes. Vakera -his Vakera! - was gone. Never again would he hear that laugh which had brightened his darkest days, nor would he see her ever-smiling face which made his heart beat faster whenever he saw it. He thought of all the time they had spent together, of the times she had sang the beautiful songs she wrote for him and him alone, of the times they had sat by the gardens and watched the setting sun. His tears flowed freely now, and his shoulders were wracked by sobs he couldn't contain. She had been everything to him; she had given him reason to get up upon the morn, and given him peace as he settled into the night. 'How could this happen!' he wanted to scream. 'Why is my Vakera taken from me!' he noiselessly yelled.
After several minutes and a millennium did he stand up, thinking that Kaneska must be worried about him by now. Dragging his feet he walked out to greet his sister. Lost in grief, he simply nodded his head in acknowledgement of her presence. After a while he croaked "I wish to see her." Kaneska cocked her head to one side, as though not understanding. He repeated, "I wish to see her."
His sister was suddenly concerned, and it showed in her voice. "Brother, are you sure that you wish to see the body? It may grant you comfort and peace, but it could just as easily make this harder than it has to be."
He nodded the affirmative before making to leave. Tossing her shoulder-length blonde hair to one side Kaneska matched him step for step. He walked into the main hall, past his watching father and mother. His parents looked at him in grief, feeling sorry for their favored son's loss. His father seemed especially distraught of the two, and he imagined that he mirrored his appearance. He and his father looked remarkably alike, they both were of over five and a half feet in height, and they both were slightly larger than was average. They both wore their dark brown hair tightly cropped, and both had hard, chiseled jaws. However, where his father had dark eyes, Fredeli had eyes of brightest blue which at times appeared gray. His father seemed to understand what Fredeli was about, and merely watched in sorrow.
Continuing upon his march, Fredeli strode forcefully through the masterfully carved main hall of his home. He remembered all of the times he and Vakera had sat here together, when the weather was poor or she just wanted to lounge around and talk. His gaze wandered over the tall, white arch of the doorway which was carved with vines and vegetation. His grinned despondently as he recalled the time Vakera had dared him to scale the archway, which stood well over twenty feet in height. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and went out into the town at large.
He had used to think the sight beautiful. Every time he exited his home he was greeted to the sight of the rising sun, lighting up the tall, stately mansions, the twisting spires, the crystalline monument that stood in the town center which caught the light in just the right way to seemingly glow and beautify the town with its radiance. He saw the multi-tiered gardens of the Growers in the Eastern and Western squares suspended one above the other, many bearing food, some bearing flowers of every hue. He saw the enormous arches that served as entrances to the Northern and Southern squares, and he could vaguely make out the forms of the livestock as they milled about within their pens through the many windows that were evenly spaced across the massive buildings. He saw the town hall, with its graceful peaks and towers, the large bronze clock upon its façade indicating it to be no earlier than six o'clock. He had used to think the sight beautiful, but now the entire world seemed devoid of beauty.
The streets were bustling with activity, much more so than was usual for this hour. It seemed for every stone that was laid in the roadway there was a person striding across it. Everyone was jostling everyone else to get to their destination, which Fredeli needn't bother to guess; all were heading toward either the home of the deceased family, or to the town square to hear how the council planned to react. As if sensing his presence a few heads within the crowd turned to look at him, followed by more, then more, until most everyone walking past was looking at him. Most who noticed him parted to the sides of the street, shaking their heads solemnly at the pain they knew he felt. He gave them all brief nods of acknowledgement, silent thanks for their compassion.
Kaneska talked to him quietly as they headed to the home of the now-deceased mayor and his family, "Brother, you are assured of this plan? Would that you at least speak, for I know you, brother, and ever have you been one to hide your emotions." She reached over and lightly touched his upper arm, something she always did when she was worried for him.
Placing a reassuring hand on his sister's arm, Fredeli put on the most soothing voice he could muster. "My sister, you needn't worry about me! While grief holds my heart with a grip of iron, I shall not burden you with my woes! Heavy upon your mind are the burdens upon us all, and who would I be to add to them? Be at peace, sister, and know that I seek my own counsel in this matter, and that I shall overcome my distress in due time." He cast her a heartening smile, praying that she didn't notice the lie in his words.
His deceit worked, as she leaned in closer and embraced him, "'Tis wondrous to hear you say as such, my dearest brother, and I am glad to see that you are able to forge past this atrocity."
They trudged the rest of the way in silence, neither raising voice in inquiry or comment, merely remaining alongside one another. It was comforting, in his grief, to know that his sister was still with him through everything. Were he to lose his sister he would truly know the world as he knew it ended. Eventually they reached their destination, and despite his adamancy before that he desired to see the body of his love once more, apprehension seized him now as he looked dazedly at the marble columns he had strode through many times before. What if his sister had been right and it would be better to just try and move on, to not have come here. Yet as he stood there he thought about the last time he had been here, merely one day hence. She had sat on the edge of the nearest column, that wide grin which always melted his heart near splitting her face in two. 'Until tomorrow, my love' she had said, kissing him goodbye for the last time before they were wed; or as fate would have it for simply the last time. That was what made up his mind; he would never forgive himself if he did not see her once more. Clearing his head he took a bold step beyond the threshold and into the dwelling proper.
Fredeli was overcome with emotion as he entered the home. He thought of the first time he had done as such, of how he had shyly greeted Vakera -more beautiful than the finest statue of bronze or stone- as she walked down the sweeping obsidian staircases. He thought of the times he had stolen a kiss as they parted on the very place he now stood. His eyes stung as tears clouded his vision but he fought them down; he had to put on a strong front for his sister's sake. His eyes morosely wandered over the beautiful rugs and tapestries that adorned the main hall, each was another memory of his Vakera; each brought him pain the likes of which he had never before felt. He tried to look away, to look at something which would not make him think of her, yet it was to no avail. The stinging in his eyes returned and this time he did not even try to suppress it. Tears began to flow freely across his cheeks, and his throat tightened convulsively. Kaneska placed a worried hand on his, not sure of how to comfort him.
She spoke to him in the voice she had used when he was frightened as a child or when he had hurt himself, "Brother, brother, it is well that you weep. It is merely human to do so. Everyone must let out their hurts, know that I am here for you." She continued to whisper soothingly to him as he wept on her shoulder.
He tried to speak through the sobs, "Why? Why did this happen to her? We were to be wed; we were to live happily together! Why must the only murder in the history of this town happen to the woman I cherished more than life itself? Why?"
Kaneska cradled his head, smoothing his hair lovingly as she spoke, "I cannot say brother, I cannot say. Hush, now, everything will be okay. Are you sure that you still wish to follow through with this?"
Fredeli lifted his head, sniffling and wiping away the abundant moisture on his face, and nodded. "I must see her body for myself, sister. It is not a matter of whether I wish it to be so, I must see her."
Kaneska seemed to understand, and delicately fell into step behind him as he began to ascend to the top level of the building. He hollowly placed one foot before the other, rising one stair at a time. Each footfall rang emptily in his ears; his grief had drained him of feeling. One foot before the other, on and on until the stone beneath him became level. Fredeli walked along the path that he would ever remember to the family living quarters. He paused before the door to Vakera's room, unsure and afraid of what might lie beyond the door. He had completely neglected to inspect the bodies of the mayor and Vakera's brothers and mother; he had not come to see them. He took a deep breath and placed his hand upon the doorknob. Mustering his courage he threw open the door.
There in the bed lay the lady in question. She looked utterly peaceful, her eyes closed and her lips trapped eternally in the smile which had set his blood on fire. He walked over to her body, running a hand along her cold, pallid flesh. Her hair lay spread across her pillows, her blankets were pulled near up to her shoulders. He had to search to notice the thin gash along the front of her throat, which had a slight amount of dried blood around it and a patina of sickening, diseased-looking excretion.
Fredeli hunched over her body, his eyes gulping in the sight of her as a parched man gulps water. He ran his hand through her flowing black hair, feeling himself drain away. He was contented with the knowledge that she had not died in pain, but his heart still ached as he gazed at her loving features for possibly the last time. The world seemed a dimmer place for her loss.
Fredeli examined the wound again. As well as learning to write he had studied the working of the body somewhat, and he knew that whoever had done this had been very careful. They must have found some way to stem the bleeding, and judging by the look of the cut they had used poison. He was disgusted, he wished to weep for his lost love as he was in horrible pain; yet he was also intrigued.
He looked back to his sister, who had for some reason stayed outside the room. "Sister, come look at this. Whoever did this knew a way to both keep the vast majority of blood from being spilt. What's more, they used poison! No one in the town could have possibly done this!"
Kaneska gazed at him skeptically "Are you implying that someone outside the town came in over the walls to murder the mayor? What would they hope to achieve?"
"What would someone in town hope to achieve?" He returned.
Kaneska retained her doubtful visage "You could approach the Council with this if you wish it, or if you think that it could prove helpful. But, brother, what possible reason could an outsider have to murder the most powerful family in town? No one has ever left the town, as you full well know, and no one from the outside has come in well over a decade. Who could possibly have quarrel with us?"
Well her logic was sound, Fredeli had a nagging suspicion that no one within the town had done this. "No matter, I would still wish to bring this to their attention."
Kaneska still pressed, "Brother, maybe your grief is clouding your better judgment; you could surely not have so quickly gotten past the pain of seeing her. Think hard about what you are saying."
Fredeli thought on this. Maybe he wasn't thinking clearly. Why would someone from beyond the walls ever attack the town? They could not seek revenge, and they had no real value to the outside world. Maybe that last was not true, as he had no true experience outside as a frame of reference. Regardless she was right, it would be absurd to bring this before the council wouldn't it? He conceded the point, "Of course, as ever you are right, dear sister. I still would know what the Council plans to do about this, and more so I would know what would lead a townsperson to do this."
So... yeah. That's it. I'm not done revising, so it will probably be a little bit longer, but that's how the story stands so far.