Kesh’marra in the desert of Tanzadar. Magnus’ memory stirred. How old was he in this memory? He couldn’t remember. All he could recall was Kesh’marra. That’s where he was going now. He could feel the mask burning through his pack, enticing him, as always, to wear it. Azzy, his friend for years, giggled. “I like blood.” He said, while Magnus doused a rag with water and wrapped it around his hot head.
“Oh Azzy, there’s nothing like that here!” Magnus replied cheerfully. There was, in fact, a trail of corpses, twisted and broken, right in Magnus’ path. But Magnus was busy following a dying memory.
He was only a boy, chasing a cricket down the clean stone steps of the Monastry wall when he spotted them through a window. It was just a glimpse. The group of monks summoning something. Chanting words that sounded ugly and made Magnus feel afraid and sick. He could see the mask at the centre, the eyes were glowing but it was laid carefully on the stone floor. Nobody wore it.
“So many dead… how pretty!” Azzy said to Magnus, jolting him back to the present.
The memory of a pool of blood by the mask faded.
“Now, now Azzy, they’re not dead, they’re asleep!” Replied the cheery monk. Magnus poked the body of a warrior who had lain like this in the heat of the desert for a few hours. “Oh! Azzy! Maybe you are right, this one seems dead!”
There was a grunt from somewhere behind Magnus. At first he thought it was Azzy agreeing. His right arm tensed and molten gold travelled from elbow to finger tips. His golden arm swiftly rose up, stopping a huge club from cracking over his skull and Azzy giggled in glee. Slowly, Magnus turned his body, keeping his arm straight up, holding the club at bay. He was face to face with an Orc raider and his peripheral vision counted at least a dozen more coming closer.
“Let’s make friends…” Magnus heard. The mask covered his face now. He lost himself in the frenzy of the fight.
Magnus flicked the blood from his golden arm. Fat droplets of the crimson liquid splattered along the sand, thudding like rain.
“More will come.” Azzy said. “More WILL come.” Magnus frowned. “More will COME!” Azzy was insistant and Magnus felt his thoughts become confused and fragmented again.
Magnus lifted the mask from his face and took stock of what was around him.
He saw the mangled corpses of dozens, hundreds of different peoples orcs, humans, some dwarves… Some had the tell-tale mark of his fist through their torsos, or bashed over skulls. Some were barely recognisable, bloody pulps. An uneasy calm rested over Azzy and Magnus stepped away from the killing fields towards Kesh’marra itself.
As he approached the city, a throng of people were watching in silent terror at the carnage. They nervously shuffled away from Magnus.
“Hello, I’m here to help! Are there more attackers?” Magnus declared, a big grin on his young face.
“You killed them all. Theirs and Ours.” An ancient looking man stepped forward. He wore a chain around his neck with a desert lilly pendant dangling from the end.
Magnus’ eyes caught the necklace glinting in the dying light of the sun.
She was there, her pendant dull and stained with blood. A gift from her grandfather, her grandfather who lived in Kesh’Marra. Her eyes stared up at the ceiling, all their glimmer and joy gone. The mask lay beside her. Her blood mingled with the dust on the floor. The chanting grew louder. Magnus was too small. He was too weak. But he was quick. Despite the terror he felt, he dashed forwards and reached for the cursed mask…
“Begone young one. Your type of help is not needed.” The old man said. Azzy giggled in the background.
“They do not want you here – KILL THEM!”
“Oh Azzy, they’re our friends! Why would I kill them?” Magnus said. The crowd recoiled, gasps and shudders coming from the survivors.
“Begone. This is your final warning.” The old man lifted his staff. It crackled with magic.
Azzy was screaming now. “KILL THEM! KILL THEM!” Magnus sighed. When Azzy got like this, there was no talking him down. He tore himself away from Kesh’Marra and began to walk away. The further into the carnage he walked, the quieter Azzy became. With his back turned, Magnus waved goodbye to the crowd.
Nobody waved back.