Haunted Memories

They say there like they always had. Three elders just sitting on a park bench, in silence day after day. Mute testimony to endurance.

While children played around then frolicking about, they just sat there all day. Muted silence starring at the giant obsidion monument before them. One sat with both hands on his cane; one sat with a patch over her left eye; one sat proudly with horrible burn scars on his left side visage. Each wore an old nearly thread bare uniform jacket that barely fit the obesity of the caned one. On eachs’ left breast was a sky blue ribbon with red thread on the sides and a polished silver medal.

In muted silence the sat day in and day out in the park. The weather mattered not, cold or heat sun or rain they sat vigil daily. The arrived early and stayed late. Only break was when they are lunch, some laughter and words may occur.

Children avoided them, and adults gave them a wide birth. Occassionally one might think they were talking in hushed tones but silence feel when one approached.

Once a precocious child asked why they sit there. In turn spoke one word to her: Remembrance; Duty; Guilt. She further asked why and they looked at her smiled and stared off at the obsidion monument. Soon her mother hurried her away.

Yeah in and year out they kept their vigil, only missing one week per year around Remembrance Day. A day or two later they resumed their vigil. Everyone let them be and they kept watch.

One cold bitterly cold morn, a park attendant saw them and smiled to herself. As she approached, she noticed something off. They always looked at the monument but this day all three heads were slumped. She raced to them.

On arrival she saw there was no need to race all three were dead. She bowed her head in prayer and shed a tear.

“Be at peace, Elders” she spoke. She turned suddenly to sound of laughter and saw three youth, two men and a woman running out of the park. She started and watched them reveal in their freedom. The attendant smiled waved and whispered, “Safe journey home, heroes.”

Three youths raced.

Wandering scharfrichter

The rain pelted down on the public square. He looked out the window, and sighed. He had just finished cleaning himself after doing his allotted duty. Four times, three private on public, seems to be never ending. He sighed, as he pulled his hood up to walk into the rain.

Lovely, he smacked him in the face the biting rain and wind. He scoweled as he trudged along, past the square. He saw some stragglers still meandering about. Bunch of damn drunks he felt.

One called out to him,”Hey bub, ” not fully slurred but not great annunciation either. “You see the show today?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“We had a great view to see him bleed” the gaggle laughed and squealed as a bunch of pigs. He was repulsed by their vile attitude.

“To bad he didn’t cry, love it when the go chicken shit.” Another interjected. He felt his ire rising.

“He was still a human.” He responded as cool as possible.

“Filthy animal, murderer. He deserved to die.” The first said again, “You ain’t one of those whips who says no chop chops?”

He looked at him with utter disgust. “Hey, it’s easy to watch and laugh. “

“What are you saying, punk?”

“That you lot are cowards.”

The gang got rolled up to fight. “Let’s teach this bitch some manners” Another said.

“Listen boys,” he said fury in his eyes and voice, “until you swing the ax, you don’t know shit.” He pointed to the block, “See that block its that color from blood. Until you feel the blood fly on you, until you see the piss flow down the condemned’s legs, smell the shit as they die, see the last second of awarness in their eyes as you lift the head, the shock and fear, and finally until realize no matter how many fucking showers you take your hands remain blood stained, unti all that you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.” He turned and walked away.

He walked ten paces and turned to speak, “If any of you have the guts follow me, you can swing my ax next time.” He walked on, shook his head in dismay at the sad truth of people.

No one followed; his only companion was the rain and eternal blood stains.

Dying for inches

He felt his heart beat pounding in his chest, explosions wizzed by his head, groans of the wounded echoes, fires burnt giving the air an acrid quality. Fear? Rage? Bravery? Gah, he thought dead useless feelings this is pure hell and survival.

The cowards shirked long ago, the beserkers died long ago, the miles glorious died long ago, all remained were grim grizzled warriors. He looked at his tatterted uniform, he saw his rank primus centurian, first centurian of his brigade. Four years ago he, a newly minted centurian arrived part of Brigade XI, Rcyzer Legion of the Voorhies Host. He was proud promoted for bravery a battlefield commission, always carried the pride of place.

Now he looked and saw the tattered remains of his century, down to three and twenty. The rest dead, three cowards by his own hand, all after many replacements. Sure feels command does not care anymore.

This miserable rock is one of those inevitable locations in war. Neither side remembers why they are fighting for it, but damn it we are not yielding to those bastards. Qat Krysar is now just a meet grinder, only producing corpses. A play ground for fools who envision themselves as conquerors.

He felt tired worn out and useless, questioning why they still fought over this barren waste. Any value that Qat Krysar had long ago got blasted to bits.

He heard the sounds calling out and soon a barrage would begin and troops would swarm over to meet the damn lizards in battle. He signed just another work day, maybe today I will die, that be a break at least.

Even the call did not excite the “Bulls” anymore, when they go eh, you know its bad. Those young testosterone filled bulls oft driven by musth can be roused to furor Loxodonta but that is battle lust more than anything else.

Hard to tell with them they predominantly remain amongst themselves. He heard their trumpeting and calls, they were working into a rage. A bulls’ charge today, I see he thought.

Then another call, we go too on a suicide run for sure. He gripped and checked his plasma rifle. Ready to go. He looked at his three and twenty Spathoroi, “Alright, we are a go, you know the drill kill the lizards and don’t get killed.”

He lowered his rifle as the stormed up and over, guns blazzing. Days of subtlety and finesse long ago went away. He caught one lizard midchest and blasted him. That putrid smell of burnt and cauterized lizard meat hung in the air. He fired again dropped another. Spinning he dodged a shot dropped low behind a database or what was left. In that position he hurled a plasma grenade, “hellfire” over at an advancing squad of Krizd. The intense heat burnt them and they cried in pain. The lizards hated plasma as they hated fire for the symbolism of being a burnt offering. This naturally inspired humanity to be all the more determined to use it.

He had two shots left, no one’s rifle lasts long. Old worn beat, and we all shoot erratically, hell both sides do he thought. He took careful aim and sniped a Krizd officer, burnt his head clean off, and then shot his last shot at a charging Krizd blasted him right in the groin to a delicious scream of pain.

He knew his “bastards'” rifles were likely depleted. Now, comes the melee dance of death. “Spathoroi, spathoi” he called and they drew blades. Brute strength, or skill or determination would tell now.

He charged at some lizards with some following him. A formidable looking Krizd came at him. Their brutish nature could never be mistaken. The danced a sword duel dance of thrust party slash parry hack dodge swipe dodge, weapon on weapon crashing. They circled danced the Krizd landed a debilitating strike to his left arm. That was rendered useless. He backed up yielding ground making the Krizd more aggressive. His parties weakened, he backed more breathing heavy. He thought come on you bastard come for me, another power strike came and he blocked going down on one knee. The Krizd raised up to deliver a killing blow, suddenly with preceise control he drove his blade up and in with a sharp pull back. The surprised look on the Krizd face was priceless. Dumb lizard he spat.

He turned to look and saw another coming at him. Well my acting can only go so far. He knew he was in a world of pain and had nothing left, without his left arm he would never get his blade out. Well this is how it ends. He reached for his last grenade to take lizard with him.

A low rumble occurred as the Krizd suddenly looked at his chest rhat had a white tusk through it and he was off the ground. Instantly a trunk wrapped around and pulled off the lizards head hurling it like a ball.

The pull back sounded. Another futile day on Qat Krysar ended, for him and his seven and ten bastards.

Running from Rebels

He took a deep breath, and exhaled. As he sat on that rock in the cave huddled around the fire with eight others, he simply asked himself, how did it come to this? He saw his companions faces and saw the same question in their eyes. Some asked in rage, some fear, some sheer bewilderment.

Oliver could not stand it a moment longer and stood, one a youth stood and asked, “My Lord, are you alright?”

Oliver looked him over eighteen maybe twenty, a kid, but I am not much past that. “Do not stand on ceremony, boy those days are past. We are about survival now. I just need some air.”

The boy bowed his head, “Yes, My Lord”

Oliver thought, “Ah fuck it, you be you Temoth” He saw the fear in the boy and his need for some normalcy. Oliver walked away and stepped out of the cave mouth.

The blast of cold air hit his face, winter on this miserable rock of a planet. Chilly but not the glorious cold of home, Valhalla. That cold distilled one down to the truth, but this was just misery, rain and wind no snow or ice.

He reached in and pulled out a cigar and lighter one of the few luxuries that remained to him. He studied it for a second, then bit the end off and put it to his mouth to light. A deep inhale and then exhale ahhh better he thought.

A long way from home, a long way from my life. He remembered six months ago his father sent him and a cadre of troops, no raw recruits peasants mainly to this dung heap. All to help an ally hold onto a mineral rich rock. Only reason to be on Serla is to strip mine it dry.

Well that was prior to the thralls deciding they had enough and revolted. Sobekrim maybe barbarians, brutal and vicious little goblins but you throw in Krizd and well they become devils. Who thought it a good idea to import Krizd, that bastard set this rebellion in motion.

Despite lack of modern equipment they quickly overwhelmed the local chain holders, and turned mining equipment into crude but effective weapons.

The Aians quickly sent regular troops, but Nasim soldiers are not trained to fight real wars but a ritualized form of war between the various Houses. Alas, the rebels did not know the rules. We came to help and they slaughtered all of us at the battle, debacle actually. We broke and ran, they slaughtered all humans they could find.

More than ten thousand years of slavery will do that. From the rumours filtering around, it sounds like many thrall worlds have revolted thought the Imperium. Aliens are a dangerous lot, especially the thralled ones. Captured humans were burnt as offerings to their vile god. The Krizd could careless if they were adults or children straight to the flames. A veritible Moloch, funny demons seem to exist everywhere

Oliver studied the stars somewhere around one of those suns was his home. He wondered if he would ever see it again. He thought doubtful most likely they have declared the world lost. I wonder what is occurring up there. Could the entire Imperium be collapsing upon its vaunted self? Before coming here, he never thought possible but after seeing what crude rebels could do he was no longer sure.

He some how managed to rally some troops, people and others into a resistance band. About two hundred soldiers and another four hundred people back at the camp. He kept everyone moving so as not to be a juicy target.

Tonight he led a band to scout a new spot in which to move. Oliver was a skillful gurellia leader now. Movement meant more than anything. That is the camps single greatest defense. He knew keeping the people safe mattered most.

He sacrificed options to inflict damage the rebels. That galled his nature, he wanted to bleed them. To strike always was why he personally led the scout missions. The struck a party 9f Sobekrim and killed twenty, hardly a dent as they breed like roaches.

He took a deep puff of his cigar. He saw light in the night, movement. Rebels coming, he thought. His impulse was to move but something was different. He instead pulled his binoculars. The pale of night was intense.

What he saw stunned him; he shook his head and returned the binoculars to his eyes to be sure. No doubt, thank God, Spathoroi, sword bearers, Imperial Warriors. The Imperium had not forgotten them. A massed body for sure several hundred, and that unmistakable whirl Juggernauts Imperial Armor. They came in force and he knew hellbent in destruction and vengence.

For the first time in months, Oliver felt a lightness in his step. He went back into the cave to share the good news.

A Mother’s Pathos

As she sat watching the grand spectacle play out before her, one old question kept playing in her mind. Everytime she thought of it she felt her face flush and tears come to her eyes.

“Mama, why am I different?” All these many years later it always came back to that one question. He was but five when he asked, even then he knew his brother and sister were more normal. Even being the oldest, he did things differently no was just different.

The music and sounds resounding through the sacred place held little of her attention. How do you answer that question to a child? She wondered even all these years later. She grabbed him then and hugged him tight and said, “I love you, Lucius.” She squeezed him tight. She could swear that day was yesterday.

She knew he was different; being in his presence told one that. You look into those blue eyes that were closed. If eyes are windows to the soul, Lucius’ were drawn curtains. Ice blue deep but imperceptible those orbs stared out absorbing all giving nothing.

Then that tremendous nay terrifying brain behind them. She smiled, remembering talking to his father too about it. “Remus, he is different, he is right. I wish he were more normal.”

“Eleanor, I am glad he is not. He is a leviathian.”

“I simply feel bad for him his life is painful, he knows he is wierd.”

“Praise be.” He smiled. She admitted at times she did not understand him either. How could this magnificent solider, this captain of warriors relate to this vastly different child. Some how Remus and Lucius had this unshakable relationship, that his other son Linus did not have nor his daughter Julia.

This family is odd, but we are in a very odd business. All of us are so different yet that triokya is formidable. They fight horribly but come between them and iron unity occurs.

Still my poor baby boy, how I wish you had a normal childhood, and a normal life. Alas, you did not you should have been a scholar, you were so happy on that archeological dig years ago. You waxed so passionately about minutia of details and finds. Your father sat enthralled and you of him with his tales of battles. Neither of you ever joined the other even as you grew, and became a man, Lucius.

Saddly, you will not have that life, my precious boy, she thought. She could feel that the events around her were building to a crescendo yet her thoughts continued to drift.

She felt bad for him as he had no friends, a brother and sister do not count. Other kids recoiled from him for his difference, sure they were nice but from a distance.

Oh, Eleanor, you silly fool, no point grieving what could not be. He is who he is. My son, a man now. Oh, Remus you would be proud. We did well my love.

She heard the organ blare the fanfare. Everyone stood. She heard a clarion deep bellowing voice roar, “All Hail, the Imperator Lucius, Eleventh of that Ilk, Long may he reign!”

“Long may he reign!” The entire throng roared, Eleanor loudest of all.

Ursine Dreams

He shot up straight in bed, awoken from a terrible dream in a dead cold sweat. He felt his breathing and the cold air chilling the sweat more. He just breathed trying to still himself in the utter darkness of his room.

Slowly he calmed down, breathing becoming more regular. His eyes slowly adjusted to the dark. He loved the dark it was where he felt at home most comfortable. The majesty of night spoke to him. The fact most people prefered the light only made it more delicious.

He knew he was different his entire life. As a child he lived in the shadow of his “glorious brother.” The pride of his father, joy of his mother. Ahh, Rhomm. And he was just Karl, the spare who is there. He scoweled then laughed.

He wondered how Rhomm was way far away in that oubliette. Well, the fool did it to himself. The great Rhomm had a problem, he was a hedonist, one who only cares for his own pleasure. Blind and denying ma and pa never saw it

Oh, how they saw my faults. His thoughts began to race. Indeed, I am a sadist, calculating, cold but I am not evil. Pain and terror are tools to be used to achieve, and not ends in and of themselves. True, I enjoy them but why cannot one enjoy their work?

Ahh, but Rhomm was only about himself ever and not work or our family. Those fools who sired me forgot that fact. I was criticised and beat for my faults. Ironic when pa was so similar, well maybe not. He slightly chuckled.

Then Rhomm’ s lust got him in a bit of trouble. That fateful night at that debauched party that children of the high and mighty love so much. Fools and fops, the lot of them.

Oh, poor silly deluded Rhomm. He picked the wrong dance partner. A sweet lovely whore, he thought. Rhomm forgot the audience, these were not ladies of night. This whore had a very very powerful father. Opps. He fought to suppress a laugh.

That man did not take kindly Rhomm’s defilement of his daughter through violence. That fool had to resort to rape, so much for his prowess as a lover.

Thanks Rhomm best thing for me you ever did, you goddamn bully. Boy you got lucky that the father’s friend restrained him, you nearly faced the headsman. Instead you got exiled to a long forgotten wing of a forgotten monastery.

Ah how pa begged the father and friend, and paid a high wiergeld. How ma cried for her special boy. All that remained was little odd Karl, the unloved child to carry on the family name and duty.

Did the bearings stop no those two monsters beat me harder for not being Rhomm and for not being the one committed rape. I love people say I am wicked, but that is real wickedness, blaming and beating a bit for his brother’s crimes.

I got my vengence, as I knew I would the spare legally became the heir. They would not dare risk the family but they sure gave me sweet pain, and hatred.

In their grief induced rage the forgot one crucial fact. They needed me not I needed them. I waited to come of age. The day after I made sure they died. Bears get hungry you know.

I played the grieving pius child and dutifully burried my oh parents. All those bastards gave me were brusies and these ceaseless nightmares. I wish I could sleep normally, I hate sleep. They took my youth and innocence, I took their lives seems fair and terror of night are but a small price to pay.

He pulled himself out of bed and walked over to his balcony. He opened the door and felt the rush of cold air on his bare skin, a mmm came from deep within him. His feet felt the cold of the stone floor. He stretched his hands over the banister, looked out over the vast expanse before him. In the early hours he heard the calls and growls of his bears. Karl smiled, and he heard the flapping of the banner in the wind. He looked up to see it flying high, the vert field with the heraldic sable bear.

Ahh all mine, thanks to my dear foolish brother and dear loving parents. I am Karl Frohmann, Count of Bearbrooke, Imperial Chainmaster. All cause one hedonist could not patiently wait for dominion and fools inability to love a child. He could have had it all. Now the title, properties and thralls are mine to use and if I get to enjoy so much the better. It’s a good day to hunt. His faced betrayed a grin

Dancing with demons

He breathed heavily after the fight. The man looked around four dead aliens. Instinctively he spat upon them. Tremendous fighters, nay warriors they deserved that title, he thought. Krizd. The name, the very name conjured up extreme emotions amongst humanity and all Terran natives by extension.

These warrior elite of the Gaol of Sho’um, the mortal enemy of the Sacrum Catholicum Imperium Terrae, the Holy Universal Empire of Earth. He studied the corpses their hulking nature reptilianesque, cold blooded alien in the truest meaning of the word. Their sharp claws, and teeth, the muscular structure testified to vicious bursts of attack. A sense of admiration for their capacity, and innate cruelty overcame him.

Then he thought I just killed them, and he remembered the blade in his hand and saw it dripping with their black blood and the pungent odor of death. As the adrenaline rush began to subside his breath became more harried and shallow. A mixture of amazement and fear took hold of him as he continued to stare on those lifeless aliens. Thoughts raced in his head: I did this? I did this. The thought both terrified an exhilarated him. A perverse sense of triumph filled him, and a grim stasifacation.

He turned to see, an older man starring at him. He saw the man’s lined face and severe visage, that he knew all too well. A man who hereto rather scarred him. Now he saw that face for what it was for he was it too: a killer.

“Good work, lad.” That icy voice now sounded measured to subdue the intrinsic violence. He painted a bit more too seeing the man’s own blade covered in that dark blood.

“Thank you, uncle.” He heard his own voice now had that self same timbre. I am like he.

The uncle smiled wryly, “I see, you enjoyed it.”

“Yes, uncle Marcus. Though it scares me too.”

“Of course it does as it should. Being a killer is a dark thing but a necessary thing. Remember that.”

“I suppose,” he looked at corpses he killed and at the several more his uncle had. “I suppose it is best we have older brothers as we are killers.”

“You think it is?” Marcus huffed.

“What do you mean uncle?”

“Oh, poor Linus so much yet to learn” he threw his powerful arm around his nephew’s shoulder drawing him in close. “You think we are killers? Your dear dad, my brother is a far greater killer than either of us ever will be.”

“Dad is a solider.”

“Fancy way to say an institutional killer.”

Linus thought to argue but saw the truth if his uncle’s words. “Well, dear Lucius, my brother is definantly not.”

Marcus just raised an eyebrow. “Come on uncle, he is no solider nor violent, he only cares about his books. He is practically inept.”

“Marcus, outwardly and to all appearances you are right, but…”

“But what?”

“When I look into my eyes, I see skill and compitency, in yours precision and deftness. When I look in Remus’ I see the fire of the warrior. When I look into Lucius’ I see ancientness and a coldness. He is something, different.”

“Yeah, he is odd but devoid of any skill. Brilliant maybe but he is clueless.”

“Maybe” devoid of any conviction slipped Marcus’ lips. Before Linus could voice anything Marcus smiled a genuine smile, “Then it is best he has you. Remember that odd boy will one day be Emperor.” He hugged his newphew, “Now let’s go have some fun.” He released and charged off; Linus following.