Cyanide Scene 6

Human Wreckage

As he swirled in the darkness Cyan believed he was getting the hang of this. The twists and turns he endured might have destabilized a lesser man’s stomach, but the retainer grit his teeth and came out of the portal only a slight bit dizzy. Despite all that, Cyan had no love of that method of travel. Even riding on the unsteady Falcon had been easier.

Standing up, the retainer brushed off some dust from his greaves and glanced up to see Doma Castle. His heart skipped a beat as it always did when viewing the fortress. And so the journey’s destination is its own starting point. Cyan chuckled softly at that. It was just as the letter noted—home held the answers.

The fortress seemed deserted. Cyan had half-expected Elayne or Owain or someone he knew to pop up. No one walked in the courtyard of stone. Not even a single bird. The splashes his boots made in the puddles of water sounded loud in his ears, as if he were a grave-robber in a tomb.

A tomb…Yes, for Doma had become exactly that. The resting place of thousands. Yet, as the retainer reached the steps to the castle he noted none of the bodies he’d seen earlier with his friends. In some way, that comforted him. The sight of their bodies was almost more than Cyan could take. Yet, their absence indicated something to be very wrong.

Would Gareth himself even be there? Yesterday, he hadn’t. Gareth, Cyan mused the name in his head, recalling images of the loyal, dignified sentry. The man ranked several stations below Cyan so that the two rarely conversed. They had connected when their beautiful kingdom was poisoned, however, sharing the same agony at losing their loved ones.

Come. To the throneroom. At last we shall meet again.

Nodding, the retainer hurried down the hallway. His mind barely registered the lop-sided paintings and the fallen statues. Since departing Doma, Cyan pondered the fate of the sentry from time to time. Upon receiving the letter in Thamasa from a traveler the retainer had considered the proposal in it for many days and many nights. After much consideration, he’d gone to his friends.

And what had become of them? Were they within the castle still? Cyan shook his head; he would learn that in due time. At last, the retainer came before door of the throneroom. His left hand tightened around his right wrist. There within he might put an end to the pain that had plagued him for years. Forcing his hands apart, Cyan laid them upon the door and slowly pushed.

Light sprang out as the doors caved in. Upon the throne sat a young man that birthed a memory in the retainer. With it came a sea of raging emotions. Cyan swallowed against the tide, keeping his gaze steady. The letter seemed to burn a hole in his pocket at the sight of the sentry. At long, long last, he’d made it.

“Sir Gareth?”

“Sir Cyan!” Gareth abandoned the throne and the divan. His presence at either was against protocol but the retainer was so pleased to see another Doman he dismissed it. “I’m glad you’ve come. For a while there I’d figured you’d never make it through. But here you are. I never should have doubted you.”

The retainer smiled. “I am here. Now, let us have it. What is your plan to bring back the glory of our kingdom?”

Gareth pushed a goblet into the retainer’s hand, then grabbed one for himself. “Later. Have a drink with me. We should toast to our homeland.” His glass sparkled violet in the candlelight as he lifted it.

Though longing to learn Gareth’s plan, the retainer relented, clanging his goblet against Gareth’s. The answer was upon him now; he could be gracious and wait a moment. After the sentry whispered the Ode to Doma, with Cyan echoing, he gulped his drink down. His deep green eyes stared expectedly into the retainer’s.

Cyan bought the cup to his lips, drinking slowly. Sweet yet sour, the liquid burned his throat and left him light-headed. It also sparked a memories…The memory of Elayne smiling as she took a sip…Of Owain laughing as he drained his cup eagerly…Of the King downing his in a single shot…

Of them all falling down….

As Cyan spoke he could scarcely believe the words pouring from his mouth. “This—This is poison!”

“Drink,” was all the sentry said.

“But—Why—No!” His hands shook as the retainer tossed the goblet to the marble floor. It didn’t stain the carpet, the purple shade refusing to mix with the same color of the carpet. His hand made a grab for a napkin on the table but a blade slapped onto it, halting him. Cyan sprang back, shocked to note the man who held that blade.

“If you wish to see your loved ones again you will obey me.” The sentry’s voice was cold, like the hands of the dead. Or perhaps like the bone-hands that clutched at him in the blue corridor. “You asked me how you could aide our kingdom.” His blade indicated the thrown goblet. “There is your answer.”

“The answer to madness!” Cyan shouted, anger momentarily overriding fear. Already he could feel the liquid burn in his veins. “Why do you wish me dead?” His hands sought for his swords but Gareth swung up with his’, placing the blade directly in line with Cyan’s throat. The fear came raging back and the fury intensified like a fed fire. “What treachery is this?”

“I seek to save you, not kill you!”

“Come again?”

The blade nicked his neck, drawing the barest hint of blood. Those droplets fell into the pool of poison. This time the liquid merged almost perfectly; the poison devouring the life-fluid almost within a heartbeat. Cyan backed off and before Gareth could reposition his sword the retainer’s blades whipped out. Smiling, the sentry followed.

“You suffer. I know it. I see it in your eyes. It is needless—I have a way to end the pain.”

Cyan’s eyes darted around the throneroom, wondering if he might find something in which to incapacitate Gareth. He knew naught what malady had seized the sentry’s mind but Cyan longed not to slay him if at all possible. He choked as he spoke, “My pain is a part of me. I will not rid myself of it in such a shameful manner. There is no honor in taking one’s own life.”

“You liar!” Ignited to action by his own cry, Gareth swung with his sword. Taken off guard, the retainer barely had time to dodge. Gareth kept on coming, whirling and cutting like a madman. “You have no courage to die swiftly so you kill yourself a bit each day.”

At Cyan’s questioning look, the sentry slammed his sword hard against Tempest, then whispered. “I know of your bleedings in the dark. Death is still dying, Cyan, even if you’re too cowardly to end it now rather than later.” The sentry drew a dagger to parry a thrust from Murasame. The metal screeched as it connected.

The retainer winced, though not from the sound. His chest felt on fire. “Sometimes I can not handle the pain. The grief drives me to hurt myself, yes…But I cut myself to feel, not to die!”

Snarling, the sentry broke the blade-lock and rushed for one of the statues. He gave it a mighty kick and sent the statue into Cyan’s path. The retainer twirled on a heel to dodge and, not wanting to waste the maneuver, dropped into a forward roll. He suspected that that was Gareth’s plan—to force him into a defensive posture therefore making him easy to eliminate.

“I only wanted to make your passing a peaceful one.” Gareth came on strong now, his blades a storm of swirling swords. They met with Murasame and Tempest sending rivulets of shock down Cyan’s arms. He had not anticipated the force and staggered back a step. Certainly, Gareth had never been this powerful in the past.

How did the poison not hamper the sentry’s senses as surely it did his?

Cyan decided to bait the sentry into expending his energy. His blades darted in ineffectual stabs meant to draw out Gareth, invite him to overextend himself. The sentry seemed all too eager to comply, slashing out hard. “Whether by a sword in my gut or the poison in my veins death is still death. I choose neither; I choose life.”

“But you mustn’t!” Gareth ceased his wild attacking. His voice dropped to a whisper. “After you left, I fell into despair. I spent weeks roaming the world: Tzen, Maranda, Thamasa…” He lowered his blades and Cyan followed suit, hoping to end this dispute without bloodshed. “One night as I napped in Doma’s inn, a voice spoke inside my head. It was my wife, asking me to join her. There was only one way.”

Calmly the sentry drew back his tunic. Cyan, who’d witnessed many an awful sight in days of war, was still horrified to lay eyes on the gash across the man’s chest. Those eyes drifted up to meet Gareth’s. The man stared back lazily. “I think you can imagine the rest. I tried to poison you to ease your passing. Join me. Join them.”

For the briefest of moments, Cyan considered exactly that. His eyes squeezed shut. How often had he dreamed of being permanently reunited with his family? Sometimes the retainer would awake in the middle of the night and stumble to his knees, shouting in grief and outrage. Was Gareth right? Was he killing himself slowly with the cutting because he had not the heart to plunge all the way?

Papa, papa! Be strong!

My love, never give up hope…

“Cyan, wake up!”

“Get up, Cyan!”

“Now’s not the time for a nap, my friend!”

Like the sun coming over the horizon slowly Cyan’s eyes slid open. They gleamed with purpose. “My family lives inside of me. I can hear their voices, the voices of the dead that need me to be strong. I hear the voices of the living telling me to hold on. Death is not the answer to life and I choose to live!”

At that last word Cyan hurled a tapestry the sentry’s way, thinking to distract him. He erred—Gareth was not as weakened as he’d supposed. In a move that should have been impossible to execute, the sentry whipped out with the dagger to shred the cloth. Simultaneously, his sword swung to pierce the retainer’s shoulder.

The blade felt as fire tearing in and as ice tearing out. Cyan slumped against the wall, blood pouring down his chest. The pain was so intense the retainer couldn’t even scream, hardly even managed a gasp. Next time, Cyan swore he’d reserve the magicite power for the utmost of need. If there was a next time…

Gareth did a heavy downward cut and the retainer barely blocked with Murasame. Again and again the sentry slammed his sword down. Each time, pain jolted through Cyan, nearly blinding him. Or was it the poison stealing away his sight? Whichever, this could not go on forever. Something would soon give.

And something did: Murasame. She shattered in two, dropping loudly to the marble floor. Cyan’s expression was that of one betrayed. Murasame had never even chipped before. Swiftly, the retainer snapped up Tempest to deflect a blow that surely would have cleaved him. Maybe the choice of either life or death was no longer in his hands…

“This is folly, Cyan. I can’t die—but you most certainly can. And sooner or later that will happen.” As the words left his mouth, blood came out with it. Gareth’s face twisted, shocked and pained. His eyes slowly drifted down to see Tempest lodged in his gut. In the sentry’s moment of triumph, and thus distraction, the retainer had darted forward in a daring maneuver.

“Later, then, I guess,” gasped the retainer. He watched as his former friend crumbled to the carpet, blood and poison mixing with his brown hair. Cyan shook his head. “And here I thought you couldn’t die. Just one more lie from a demon-possessed friend.” His words were bitter, saddened.

Then a wave of dizziness swept the retainer. Life was pouring out his veins and poison was running in. If he didn’t find a way to treat both, he might die. Or worse. Cyan knew naught the conditions of his bizarre dream-like state and nor was he interested in finding out. That was not up to him, however, as pain and exhaustion drowned him in a sea of darkness.

It was so peaceful there.

Scene 7

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