The Massacre of Byria
Ambrosio lay in bed unable to sleep. The screams and rumble of crumbling stone could be heard in the distance. Eternal had returned. Salina had fallen, and Ambrosio knew he would come here next. There was nothing he could do, their defenders had left as soon as they had heard fighting. The only people left here were civilians, and they were doomed. They could try to evacuate but it would be useless, he would hunt them down. Ambrosio thought to himself that he never should have joined the rebellion. They had been desperate for aid, but by entering the war he had put everyone here at risk. But they were happy, the young men picked up swords and started fighting as soon as possible, the workers happily took the pay cut if it meant helping this cause. Ambrosio knew that the moment he stepped foot in Basiluzzo he was dead. This act of insubordination would not be taken lightly from Eternal. He did what he had to do. Eternal left them with no source of income and the myrmidon’s golem making empire left them starving. Ambrosio went on his own to meet the Basiluzzite rebellion and begged them for help. They agreed, and kept the town warm and fed, but occupied by their soldiers. Byria was the perfect place to assault Salina from after all. Now Eternal was coming to collect their debt.
Suddenly from the dead of night, a bright light illuminated the room. A purple flame slithered across the floor threatening to burn Ambrosio in his bed. He jumped up and ran to the door, the fire slithering around to make a perfect path for his escape. He ran out in the cold and as he escaped the flames he came face to face with his father. The Vassilias looked less like a man and more like a demon, a dark shadow in the unrelenting hunger of the violet glow. Ambrosio glanced behind, seeing his house entirely covered in purple flames. He didn’t give a second look to his father, attempting to run to the elevator to warn his people to escape. Flames blocked his path. Eternal wanted a word with him. Ambrosio, trapped like a rat, was forced to turn back and look his father straight in the eyes. With no choice, Ambrosio dropped to his knees and begged.
“Please. Punish me all you wish, but let them go.” It was a hopeless plea but he had no path left but to try and reason with this monster.
“I had hoped you would be better,” Eternal said in a velvety voice. “I gave you this village in hopes you would rise to the occasion and become great.” He let out a deep sigh and looked into the amethyst flames now creeping towards the other dwellings. “But you couldn’t without betraying me.” The people inside one small cottage attempted to escape but never had a chance. The lower reaches of Byria began to burn voraciously. Some were able to escape their homes only to be greeted by the hungry fires surrounding them. The people above in the upper level had been awoken by the bright lights and yelling. Caitlin, the girl whose family had taken Ambrosio in when the Bassiluzzites took over his home, was beginning to round up the people. But Eternal had already begun burning the bridge out of town.
His gaze now fixated back onto Ambrosio’s eyes, peering deep into his being. Ambrosio broke the stare and looked down terrified. Eternal, with a flick of his wrist, brought a sliver of fire across the ground towards Ambrosio, where it contacted his bare feet. The fire begun expanding, feeding on the flesh of Ambrosio’s soles while leaving the grass in the cobblestones untouched. His scream as he fell to the ground was disturbingly loud in the once quiet night air. Eternal looked down upon him. “For what it's worth, I’m sorry you weren’t enough.” And Eternal walked away, turning his attention to the rest of the hamlet. He began methodically spreading the flames from building to building. Abruptly, the iron golem that had been appointed to guard the village by the Vassilias himself appeared behind Eternal. Eternal didn't even look behind him, and said: “Golem, go to my cart and wait.”
The golem swung, his long metal arm hitting Eternal and sending him several meters through the air and to the ground, snapping several of his ribs as he skidded.
“I do not obey you. You are not my master.” spoke the golem in a voice that sang of tortured and mangled metal. Stunned Eternal gazed at the iron monstrosity, the hulking figure silhouetted by the dark flames rising all around, licking hungrily. The golem wore a helm, heavily pointed at the front almost like a blade. Behind the slits in the helm shone two bright, gold-tinted lights. This golem had gone mad, but had not been destroyed. Even in the danger this threat now posed, Eternal couldn’t help but examine the beast. If allowed to rage, perhaps the maddened could be tamed…
He was interrupted by the golem charging, tired by the staring contest. Eternal attempted to scramble out of the way before the golem swung, but was forced to bring up a crackling shield of violet energy to stop the might of the metal arm. A thunderous clang rings out as the iron limb reverberated off the magic, the golem reeling back but recovering to swing another blow.
At that moment, the amethyst inferno that engulfed the hamlet flickered, and began to die down. As Eternal’s concentration shifted from maintaining the immolation of the inhabitants to the threat of the golem, the flames begin sputtered and died.
Caitlin knelt beside Ambrosio, cradling his head in her arms. Barely awake, Ambrosio looked blankly up at the sky, the burns across his body clearly fatal. Tears fell from the girl’s face, the one he had hoped to spend much of his life seeing. Alas, such things were not to be.
“Cailin,” he croaked from his broken throat. “Ge… get them out. Lead them-” The pain became excruciating and Ambrosio couldn’t help a groan of pain. Caitlin continued to cry, shushing him, telling him it would be alright.
“Take them away from here.” The words were rushing, he had to get them out. “Lead them to a new land.” Desperately he searched for her eyes to confirm that she heard, but his vision was already fading. A softly whispered, “I will,” gave him the peace he needed. Ambrosio’s eyes closed for the last time.
The other golem that Eternal had appointed to guard the village appeared behind the girl. It was a rotund thing, made for hauling freight, but in its bright eyes a deep sorrow could be seen. The golem picked Ambrosio’s body from the ground as one would a feather. Caitlin rose to her feet. Screaming at the remaining villagers to follow her. Frail old Barabal, the golem, and the survivors ran from the ruins of their home, into the great unknown.
Eternal’s brow began to sweat under the strain of constantly dodging the metal arms of the golem. It was fast, far faster than he had anticipated, and was allowing him no opportunity to retaliate. He had to put distance between himself and the monstrosity. The golem continued to swing its arms, yellow sparks flying as it clashed against the purple shield of force. Eternal released the ward, rolling to the right as he let the golem crash down, putting it slightly off balance. His opening. Eternal rose to his feet quickly, preparing to shove the golem with a wall of force, but the golem had been expecting it. Its torso twisted around, turning almost a full circle, smashing its extended limb into the raised left arm of Eternal, then continuing the arc into his body. Eternal was flung once again through the air, tumbling over the ground before coming to a sudden stop to the side of the entrance to the mine. Ribs shattered again in his chest, this time from behind, and for the first time in centuries, Eternal screamed out in anguish. His arm was broken, the shattered bone sticking slightly out of his skin. He spat blood as he saw the golem across the small path, its glowing eyes peering into his. It walked towards him, sensing victory, but still wary of the wizard. Eternal’s eyes flitted about, looking for something, anything, to defeat this monster that he had created. Lightning would do almost nothing to the beast, and its vulnerable gourd was protected by that gods-forsaken helm. His eyes at last settled on the village. The entrance to the golem creation pits was weakened, almost falling forward from the hillside it was embedded in. Just a little touch…
The golem was almost in front of the building now, its eyes fixed upon him, watching for any trickery. Through the haze of pain, Eternal raised his functional hand. The golem halted, waiting to intercept the inevitable strike. It never came. Lightning flew from his palm, striking the burned supports of the pit entrance, toppling it. The golem turned too late, the mass of stone blocks crashing onto it, the heft of the stone crushing both the helmet and the gourd beneath.
Eternal gasped his relief, letting the throbbing aching pain take him as he breathed out the tension. When at last he had recovered, he gazed at the burnt husk of the village. Some corpses stayed where they had fallen, but many had escaped. No matter.
He attempted to stand, but his lungs felt as if they were aflame. Gritting his teeth, through muffled screams, the Vassilias stood, and began to limp his way back to Salina, his useless arm hanging at his side.
Caitlin stood aboard the deck of the Basiluzzite longship. It was one of their wooden galleys, left behind for a crew that would never return. As the shoreline of Aiolia left her sight, she turned to new horizons. She had a promise to keep, and a people to protect.
And special thanks to Ioka for the help.