The Heart Demands (Sci-Fi)

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The green carapaced creature flew from Jin’s fist into the stone wall. He swept through the finishing movement of Crashes the Mountain and turned to survey the courtyard. All of the creatures that had been guarding the entrance lay strewn about the doorway. Overhead their many clawed ship soared above the castle from where it clung to the central tower. He jerked his sword free of a body near the doorway and rushed inside.

The once grand entrance of the lord’s tower was no longer as he remembered it from years past. Each of the beautiful paintings had been torn from the walls. Shattered chunks of the statues and vases that usually rimmed the polished floor lay everywhere. At the far end of the room the statue of the lord himself had been replaced with the now familiar form of the invader’s twisted deity.

They placed the statues everywhere to mark their sacrifices to its multiarmed multiheaded visage. As before this one had been adorned with their “gifts”. Blood still ran from the heads held by the statue’s hands. The entrails looped around its necks still glistened. If Jin’s training had not been so strong he might have wept. Instead he gripped his sword tighter and rushed up the stairs to the tower’s next floor.

Two more of the creatures stood at the top of the stairs. He cut them both down. Another stood in the hallway. Sparrow on the Bough removed the arm it reached toward him and he ran on. He was almost there now.

The next flight of stairs led to the top floor. One of the huge horned beasts stood before the doors to the throne room. Jin paused on the top step, gathering himself. A great roar poured from the thing’s dripping maw as it caught sight of him. It raised a huge bladed hand but Jin was already moving. Air shivered as the claws swept down but Jin was on the wall, the ceiling. He fell upon the beast, his sword piercing the creature’s one blazing eye. It fell.

Smoking ichor ran from the slim blade as he pulled his sword free. He shook the gore away and shouldered open the doors to the throne room. He’d expected ranks of guards, but she was alone on the dias. Her eyes were dark and cold as he entered.

Cold fire burned through his chest. Their presence was thick upon her. Dark gleaming lines traced her forehead and cheeks and ran down her neck and arms. Cobalt lights shimmered and moved beneath her skin. A glittering dark kimono swirled around her thin form.

Long years had passed since they had taken her from him. All of the destruction, all of the lives lost because of her since then and yet it was still her. Still her face, still her eyes. Still her voice when she spoke.

“Welcome, Jin. The others doubted but I knew you would make it this far.”

“I’ll never stop. They should know that by now,” he replied.

He approached the platform cautiously, his eyes darting to the shadowed corners of the room. They were ever treacherous.

“We are alone, my love. I sent them away for your arrival.”

The words drew hot jagged lines through his core. He wanted nothing more than to cast his sword aside at that moment and take her in his arms. But that was before, that was who she was before. Now he had a duty to perform. He stepped up onto the platform.

“You should have kept them here. They might have saved you.” He tried to keep his voice grim so it wouldn’t crack.

“I am in danger from you, my love? I’ve hoped for so long that you would come. We can be together again.” Her voice was the gentlest touch of silk on his mind.

He kept his hand tight upon the hilt of his sword lest his body betray him.

“You’re not Lian,” he said to himself, then louder, “You’re not my wife. Not any more. I must end this before any others die because of you.” He forced his sword up in both hands.

She cowered away. Fear blossomed in her eyes.

“My Jin’toh, you would kill me?”

His insides were coming apart. Blood pounded through his chest. His hands shook.

“I must,” he whispered.

“I see,” she said and her eyes changed. Fear fell before raw power.

He saw it blossom in her eyes. It was the most beautiful and terrible sight he had ever seen.

His instincts brought the sword down as black lances exploded from the dark void of her chest. His sword sheared through some of them, but not enough. Cold pain seared through his body as he was pierced in a dozen places. He hung there, impaled, blood already pouring from his wounds. Her eyes were rage and disdain. His soul shattered before them.

The black spears ripped free and he collapsed to the floor, broken to his very bones. She loomed above him, dark and horrible.

He felt fear, and then she paused. He felt the moment for the deathstroke teeter, slide past. Her eyes changed above him, there was a light in their inky depths. A light he knew.

“Lian,” he whispered. The light pulsed, a candle guttering in a storm.

Footsteps pounded behind him. The dark heavy footfalls of the creatures returning to their queen. He glanced back. They were already pouring into the room.

Her face was rigid, her eyes wide and straining when he looked back up. He smiled a sad smile of thanks and ignoring the screams of his body, forced himself back to his feet.

The beasts let out a roar. He ran.

Past the dark figure of his wife. Past the ancient throne. To the window beyond.

With the last of his strength he threw himself through it into the night.

He fell through darkness, the kingdom burning around him, and with it his heart.

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