Fiction Snippet: “Though the World Perish”

As a bonus, here’s a singleton scene I wrote a little while back, set close to 1,000 years after “The First Sacrifice”. (If you’ve read “The First Sacrifice”, you’ll recognise one character who appears here.) One day, I hope to expand this, but for now, enjoy the snippet!

 

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Fiat justitia et pereat mundus. – Let there be justice, though the world perish.

 

The Vermilion Empire has endured for hundreds of years.

But now, the conquered nations grow restive.

The emperor lies dying. He has no heir.

There is but one man, Grand Duke Koh, acceptable to all.

If anything should happen to him…

Conjuring up Nemesis: The Scholar Tian Kizo

 

Tian Kizo met the spirit in a desert, under a blazing hot sun. The ruins of battle surrounded the two men: swords and bows and guns, discarded shirts of mail glittering so brightly they hurt his eyes. Though he still reeled from the vision he’d seen, it was the other man’s words that were his focus now.

 

“You’ve seen my story,” the spirit — Artorius, that was his name — spoke. “Your turn. What do you want of me?”

 

“Justice.” For all Kizo’s rehearsal, all his careful thought, the words came tumbling out. “My son is dead. Murdered. I’m no warrior — but you are.”

 

“You have no magistrates in your empire?”

 

“Hah!” It was a short, bitter laugh. “None who would arrest the greatest lord in the land.”

 

“Ah.” That was all Artorius said. He folded one arm across his chest, the fingers of the other tapping on the hilt of his sword.

 

“Please. Help me.” Kizo could hear the desperation in his voice. “You ended your mortal days when you were betrayed. Murdered. Your wife, too. You must know how I feel. Don’t you want to deliver justice?”

 

“Justice.” Artorius stretched out the word. “At what price? The world is not a fairy tale.”

 

“If it were, my son would still be alive!”

 

Artorius held up a hand. “Listen to me. What will happen if I kill your empire’s greatest lord?”

 

Kizo breathed deeply. He had to stay calm, convince the spirit with his logic. “I have a plan. With your help, I can summon another spirit — the Phoenix Prince, the founder of the empire. No matter if one lord dies — the people can rally to the Prince.”

 

Instead of replying, Artorius gazed off into the distance. Kizo felt sick. He could not tell what Artorius was thinking, not under that hard veteran’s mask. This was by far his best chance for justice…

 

“The world is not a fairy tale,” Artorius repeated. “I’ll be damned if I make it worse. All right, I’ll help you. And the name of this man I should kill?”

 

Let Kizo never again look forward so much to another man’s death… “Grand Duke Koh.”

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