Sword of Eternal Peace Chapter 3- Path of Penance
Updated: Aug 29, 2019
Chapter 3- The Path of Penance
The industrial district of Paroma was built within a hollow at the edge of town. In the cool morning hours, the perpetual smog that hung over the low-lying area had thickened to a yellow haze. The stench of sulfur burning in a few nearby forges tinged the morning air. It was a fitting hellish landscape for the beginning of Narena’s quest and the torment she endured to achieve it.
Narena faced the streets of Paroma with Hunger’s compulsion urging her on. Warm deadly desires flowed from the hilt into her hand. Settle old scores. Purge current tensions. Feed them all to Hunger. There were no thoughts or words in the blade’s insistence, merely a sequence of awakened emotions. Like the visions of past pain that danced in the steaming vapors of the forge, the feelings of those moments now appeared from within her with the same ephemeral inconstancy.
It was the language of the sword’s creation. The tears she shed were born of pure emotion. And buried amidst the grief was the rage at everyone who let this happen. Narena cried to kill a god, but in those vulnerable moments, she was unable to suppress her anger that she alone had to. Hunger absorbed it all and taunted her now with it to motivate bloodshed. No one stood up to defend her husband when he was chosen for sacrifice.
Most were simply relieved it wasn’t one of them. No one dared resist. So Narena stood alone in this endeavor. She hadn’t realized how deep of a wound it was until she felt the sword’s urge to kill them all and considered it.
The streets were fortunately empty. But that would only last a short while longer, and the closer Narena came to the heart of town, the less likely it would remain so. Time was drawing short. The longer she waited, the more people she would encounter along the way. She was unsure how she could manage after nearly killing her brother. But there was no other choice but to continue.
She passed the smithy of Old Kraglin, the thieving merchant who undercut everyone’s prices and used lackeys to taint rivals’ ore deliveries. She once told the old scoundrel she wished someone would slit his throat in his sleep. Hunger awoke those memories as she walked by, urging her to sneak upstairs and fulfill that lingering desire. The emotions the sword fed to her felt so real she began to question whether she meant it or not. Hunger assured her she had and insisted she end the underhanded dealings once and for all.
Narena kept going, focusing on the one single desire that mattered anymore. Breln must die. She put one foot in front of the other as she tried to ignore Hunger’s urgings. But one by one, the sword awoke her own past feelings to excuse slaughter, and those musings spoke enticingly to the hidden places in her soul such dark thoughts lingered.
Narena hastened her steps up the ramp to the town above. She knew the streets wouldn’t be as empty, and she was still unsure how to reach the god’s temple without killing anyone. But the longer the sword was in her hands whispering to her darkest whims, the closer she came to doing just that.
The haze of the smithy faded behind her, replaced by the smoky stench of Breln’s stranglehold over Paroma. The once peaceful town was a different place since the god’s arrival, and it was evident in every direction she looked. Nearly half the buildings lay in ashen ruins, the mark of Breln’s sycophants and their purges with holy fire. With no bodies to salvage, the town had become a vast graveyard with charred wreckage for tombstones. Many memorials were marked with flowers or offerings from mourners, who had no grave to pay their last respects.
Many of the houses that stood weren’t much better in Narena’s eyes. While the ruins marked the loss of lives, the buildings that remained revealed the death of humanity. Each had saved themselves by looking the other way as neighbors burned. Were they any less responsible than the zealots who carried the torches? And those were the people who busied themselves that morning up and down Market Street. Those were the lives Narena must keep from Hunger’s touch. Her task grew ever more daunting.
Narena’s presence was noted immediately. The first few darted down alleys hastily at the briefest glimpse of her tortured face. Others stood and stared, unsure how to accept the disheveled blacksmith’s wife marching through town with a nightmarish blade. Most seemed to accept it as an expression of her crushing grief and moved aside to avoid being caught in the path of her evident breakdown. No one moved to engage or stop her. They were the same useless people who stood aside as families were broken and innocents were purged. Narena doubted they would miraculously develop spines and a conscience now, especially with the aura of Hunger surrounding her.
Hunger encouraged Narena’s disdain, tempting her mind into action with the rationale of raw emotions. In the presence of so much life, the blade fought to lash out. No one drew close enough yet, but should anyone make such a mistake, Narena feared she would be unable to restrain it. The blade fought her hands constantly. Already, she was forced to brace her feet on the cobblestone to keep from advancing.
Briselle was a widow as well and had tried to console Narena after the loss of Arnin to no avail. She seemed to think her shared experience was needed now and began to approach. She was a kindly older lady, but she was far too willing to accept Breln’s darkness as inevitable. The pain of her past loss had mostly ruined her for the world. Seeing a mad god envelop it in shadow likely changed it very little in her eyes. And despite being well-intentioned, Briselle seemed set on bringing Narena over to the same defeatist view.
“Back up Briselle, I don’t want to hurt you,” she ordered as gently as she could, despite the strain of fighting the sword.
“Oh, dear, Narena.” The older woman took another step, closing the distance to certain death.
There was no time to think. The sword’s hunger was overwhelming. Its strength over her was growing by the second. She held Hunger firm now only because no one stood within its reach. Were Briselle or any other to draw close, she could do nothing to stop it; Hunger would feed.
Perhaps another time she would have acted purely to save the woman’s life, but Hunger’s urging left little room for that anymore. Her crazed plot was born from one need to see Breln destroyed. If the blade tasted Briselle’s blood, its power would be lost to her. That fact alone drove her to desperation. For Narena knew in her heart that were such restriction withdrawn, she would fell every life between her and the temple to see it done at last. The line between the sword’s hunger and her own was blurring.
“Come any closer, and I hurt myself,” Narena threatened as she raised her wounded arm where Hunger recently fed. She knew if she threatened violence to anyone else, they would never let her near their god, and she would have to fight her way through soldiers. But a plan was beginning to form.
Briselle stopped abruptly, her face draining of color. “My dear, what have you done? What would Arnin say about you hurting yourself?” She took another step. Two more and she would go to meet her husband. Narena’s plan solidified.
“He can tell me himself when I see him.” Narena did the only thing she could to stop Briselle. She drew the sword across her arm in a scarlet trail. Hunger emitted a hiss as it drank of its maker. The violence drove Briselle back several steps, and by feeding the sword, Narena prevented it from dragging her after. “I go to offer myself as sacrifice to our new god,” she declared as she cut herself once more. But too many people were gathering. She couldn’t risk one getting close. “I have been sanctified for his touch alone. Any who dare defile the god’s sacrifice must answer to Breln.” It had the desired effect, and the crowd withdrew.
Her neighbors’ eagerness to let her feed herself to a god made her want to strike them down even more. Another slice fed the blade’s desire, the pain it inflicted helping to stymy the darkness of her own. The small crowd of Market Street parted for Narena, opening a path for her. But it was too close by far. Hunger fueled her emotions, and every step was a struggle not to cut them all down.
Drevin, the banker, tried to take Arnin’s entire business when Paroma fell on hard times a few years back. Narena fed herself to the blade to pass.
Ungressa, the little harlot contended for Arnin’s heart when they were younger even after Narena had won. She didn’t deserve it. But Narena gouged her flesh and fed the blade to spare her life. The weight of a lifetime’s grudges and animosity fueled her rage but drop by drop she sacrificed of herself to pass them by. Orik, Ambril, Karlith, she let them all live. She hungered for one life alone, and she was willing to give every last drop of herself to feed her desire.
Narena never realized the burden of antipathy that she carried for those in her town. So many times, she passed them with a smile while her venomous thoughts were suppressed in the recesses of her mind. Hunger awoke them all. Each one required her to sacrifice a piece of herself to the blade’s need.
Narena’s skin grew pale, and her eyes sunken from the incessant feeding. Her strength was fading quickly from blood loss, but she was nearly to the temple. Her own need blazed as she looked upon the staircase ahead that led to her target. But the faithful waited for her.
“I come to sacrifice myself to your god,” she declared.
“Then drop your weapon,” one of the armed men blocking her path called.
“I cannot,” Narena confessed. “It is sanctified with my blood and can only be touched by the one who will take my life.” The man seemed ready to refuse, but Narena tore open the top buttons of her shirt and drew the blade enticingly in a line just below her collar bone. The sigh of the sword and her unflinching glare as it fed unsettled the man. “Would you deny your master the pleasure of this?” He never got a chance to respond.
“Let her through,” Breln’s godly voice reverberated from above. “I wish to see this assassin, who would dare bring low a god. Come, mortal child; I enjoy when your kind fights back so much more when I slaughter them.”
Read the fourth and final chapter here. Chapter 4- Eternal Peace
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