Beautiful Hell (Draft 1)

For almost one hundred years, a brutal and bloody struggle for dominance between the kingdom of Ra'Ziel and the plains of Torath has torn the world asunder, raining death and destruction upon the earth. But this war is coming to an end. With only a few descendants of both royal lines living, will there finally be peace? Alexandra Ra'Ziel wants nothing more than to end the feud that took her older brothers from her, but Tristan Torath has different plans. He wants - he needs - retribution for the wrongs he has suffered. And so their story begins. Because anyone can find vengeance, but only a rare few achieve true justice.

Ok yeah, so here's the thing. I'm rewriting this story, so anybody who wants to read the new chapters (as I edit and revise them) can find them on my page. The Movella is titled Beautiful Hell (Re-imagined). And yeah, it's way way way better than this one, but also way more graphic too.

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31. Epilogue: Tristan Torath IV

            Tris looked down at the small mound of dirt that used to be a girl. He could feel the pain building again, but for the first time in five years, he couldn’t really feel it. All he could feel was the emptiness, the loss. That hurt more than his old scar ever had.

            “I’m sorry, Ali. I’m so sorry. It should have been me.” The tears came again, and Tris fell to his knees. Tearing the mask from his face, he shoved it into the dirt beside the little grave, baring himself to the world. It didn’t matter now. Nikarae’s nose worked its way into his hand, and Tris pet the mare soothingly. After all, this was a piece of Ali, and so he would care for her as he had loved Dragon.

            Forcing himself back to his feet with the aid of the white’s side, Tris took one last look at the ruins that had been his home. His entire life could have been summed up in this clearing. This was where he’d been born and lived the first seven years of his life. This was where his mother Ravena had perished, where Jasper had found him, mad with grief. Where the brothers had made the pact that allowed Jasper to live as long as he had, allowed Tris to leave him alive when he killed his other brothers.

            This was where he’d finally convinced Ali to stop hating him. Where he’d acknowledged to himself that he loved her. And this was where, alongside Jasper and Ravena, she’d sleep for eternity.

            Tris released the desperate shriek of agony that had been building for days now. He let the pain and grief sink in for an instant, then pushed it away again. He had things to do, and, like it or not, they were more important than his grief. “Goodbye, Ali. Jasper, Mother, please… take care of her.”

            The nomads were awaiting his return less than a mile away. When he rode into the camp without his mask, his face blotchy and red from crying, he expected jeers and laughter. But it didn’t come. The nomads watched him ride by silently, their faces echoing his grief. They hadn’t known Ali, or approved of his relationship with her, but the grief of their lord was their grief as well. Besides, they knew they were now stuck being ruled by a madman.

            “Gather everyone, Malik. Bring them all to the clearing.” The young man nodded and hurried off. Tris vaguely heard him yelling as he went, but didn’t pay attention to the words. The people would obey.

            When everyone was standing silent and expectant, Tris stepped up onto Nikarae’s saddle. “My people, I know that you all want to know what happens now. What will we do now that there is peace? What is the purpose of our lives without the war?” Tris closed his eyes and bowed his head. What would you do, Ali? Help me, please. Guide me. “Well, I know what we will not do. We will not fight them. We will not fade into oblivion, forgotten on these plains. No! But I cannot be the one to lead you to your destiny. Mine is here, buried in the earth. The time of the Toraths is over. This time, you choose your lord.”

            Tris jumped down and almost fell when his leg buckled. He limped away, leaving the people struck to silence. There was one hard decision made. Time to go find the other.

            He waited to leave until things settled down and the people chose a leader, of course. Surprisingly, they chose Malik. Apparently, serving as Tris’ squire for a few days was close enough to leading them that they trusted him. Tris gave him the sword that he’d taken from his father’s body, and then rode Nikarae out into the grass.

            He traveled for hours at a steady pace, putting miles between him and anyone who might have followed. Then he stopped, dismounted, and removed Nikarae’s saddle. “You’re free. Go on, run with the wind.” Nikarae looked at him confused for a moment, then tossed her head and galloped away. It was strange how well the horses always understood Tris.

            “I’m coming, Ali. I’m coming.” The dagger was a familiar one. It had already tasted his blood once. He raised it high, steeling himself for the bite and the release of death. He didn’t care if he went to hell. Hell would be beautiful compared to the emptiness of living here alone. Besides, if hell really was a deep pit, Ali might stop by the top every once in a while, and he could watch her from a distance. He smiled at the thought.

            He was about to drive the blade into his chest when he saw the man. He was old and stooped, with a beard that brushed the earth. But why was he all the way out here? Tris lowered the knife and strode out toward him. He needed to be alone when he died. He didn’t want his body moved. He would lie here for eternity because he didn’t deserve a grave.

            “Who are you and what are you doing here?”

            “Just because they bear your name does not mean they are yours, young Torath.”

            His curiosity spiked, Tris went closer. Who was this man, and how did he know who Tris was? “Well, old man, this place is mine now. So I would appreciate it if you would just go back to whatever godforsaken hell-hole spawned you and leave me in peace.” Tris knew that if the man didn’t go, he would be forced to kill him. He hadn’t killed since he’d met Ali, and loathed to break that pact so close to his own demise.

            “There is no peace for the broken, didn’t you know that?” Suddenly, the old man stood up straight. He was a few inches taller than Tris, and when his beard fell to the earth, he looked suddenly young. And majestic. Tris had the strange desire to bow or kneel or perform some act of homage. Ridiculous.

            “Who are you?” Tris repeated angrily, and the man smiled.

            “I have many names, young Torath. But know this, I will give you a choice. Would you die here, alone, and leave your body for the elements and animals? Or would you come with me, and regain some of what was lost?”

            “You have no idea what I’ve lost, old man. And you never will. Now leave.” Tris’ knuckles were white from his grip on the dagger, and he was close to just throwing it. Instead, he pointed with the dagger, motioning for the man to go toward where the nomad camp was. The threat in the motion was implicit, but the man just smiled.

            “Unfortunately for us both, I cannot do that. My wife would love to see you die. After all, you ruined all her plans. So I guess maybe you really don’t get a choice, do you?”

            “I’m not going anywhere with you. I’ll die first, even if it does mean letting someone find my body.”

            The man smiled, and suddenly Tris had to turn away. There was a brightness in that smile. A light in the man’s eyes that pierced into his soul, reading his sins and failures. “Would you let her die in vain, Horse-Lord? Would you abandon her, even after the price she paid for your life?”

            The man seemed to know exactly what to say to touch Tris’ guilt. “What would you have me do? I am only a man! I cannot live like this!” Tris practically shouted it, but he still couldn’t look at the man. A large, warm hand rested on his arm, and Tris felt a breath of release as the pain and grief and guilt flooded out of him.

            “I ask, not that you live with your pain, but that you surrender it. Come with me.”

            Suddenly, all of Tris’ hesitation melted away. He wanted nothing more than to follow this man. The dagger clattered silently into the dry grass and Tris took the man’s outstretched hand. That light burned through him, scouring him clean from the inside. When he looked at the man, he really did glow now, not just in Tris’ mind but physically as well.

            “Well done, my son. Let it not be said that I abandon my children.” Suddenly, Tris’ scar burned with an agony like no other, and he clutched at his face as he screamed. But then the pain died, and Tris realized what the pain had hidden from him. For the first time in five years, he could feel unbroken, unscarred skin around his left eye. For the first time in five years, he was whole.

            “By the gods, what are you? Even Jasper couldn’t heal it,” he exclaimed, drawing away from the man.

            “I think you know who I am, Tristan. Now come.”

            And Tris realized that he did know who this man was, he just didn’t believe it. Who was he to attract the attention of the gods that he wasn’t even sure existed? But he took the hand again.

            This time nothing changed in Tris, but he felt the world around him warp. From behind a hill, a familiar black horse ran faster than should have been physically possible. Dragon stopped beside Tris, and he climbed onto the back of his friend, patting the chorded neck in wonder. “Where is this?” Tris asked, aware that he’d left the plains behind. The grass here was dark black, the dirt under it darker still. Even the air was dark, without any stars in the sky. But the man was shining brightly now, light radiating from his skin. Tris knew that a similar glow reflected from his body, as well as from Dragon.

            “You know where we are, Tris.” The voice was female, so familiar it hurt, and something Tris had thought he’d never hear again. Ali stepped out of the shadows. She was exactly as he remembered her, except her hair and eyes, which were now both a glowing silver.

            Tris felt the tears spill down his cheeks that thinking of Ali always brought, gasping in the raw pain of her death. Then he leapt down and grabbed her. Why shouldn’t he enjoy the delusion while it lasted?

            But Ali drew back and turned to the man. “Thank you. Thank you, my lord. Thank you.”

            “I care for my own, child. Let the world know that.” Phylos said, smiling. He reached out to touch Ali’s hair, and then he was gone.

            Tris grabbed Ali again, crushing her in his embrace, but she pulled back. Staring into her silver eyes, Tris thought he could drown in them. Then she brought her lips to his, and Tris knew that this was real.

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