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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1. Tristan Torath IV

            Tris watched the flames spread across the dry plain. They were moving rapidly with the wind, blowing in leaps and bounds. Already a great swath of the Torath plains were blackened, the life-saving grass burned to ash. And still the fire spread.

            That was the danger of a wildfire here on the plains. Any unlucky spark which hit the dry earth would ignite and spread. It took only minutes for one careless action to cost the lives of hundreds. And then, after the fires burned themselves out, more would die when their animals could find no pasture.

            Of course, that was with a wildfire. When the city-dwellers set the fire, the damage was magnified tenfold. Tris knew he couldn’t outrun it. Neither could the others, standing or sitting a’ horse, watching their deaths climb steadily nearer. The whole band would burn.

            When Tris turned away, he heard the snickers. They were always there, when others thought he couldn’t hear them. Children shied away or stared, while their parents refused to even look at him. But it was the youths, those just learning to fight and new to the war, whose gasps and jokes were hardest to bear.

            “Mount up,” Tris shouted, pulling his painted mask over his face. It was easier to look at them that way.

            “Why? We’re going to die anyways, so what’s the point.” It was one of the newest warriors, apparently brave in the face of their coming deaths. Emboldened by the crowd and Tris’ silence, the boy continued. “Can you stop the wind? Or tell the fire to die? You may be good in a fight, but even you can’t save us now. Your High-”

            There was a collective intake of breath as Tris pulled his sword from the man’s chest. He knew he really shouldn’t have killed him, especially when every sword was so valuable, but he just couldn’t help it. Tris wouldn’t hear it again.

            They called him “the broken prince.” It was a mockery both of his bloodline and of Tris personally. He was one of the last descendants of Benzol Torath himself, whose journey across these same plains had given his brother the time to gather resistance. When Benzol returned to his kingdom, he found Alexander Ra’Ziel waiting with an army.

            Of course, that was only part of the reason. The rest was something that nothing could fix. His scar, extending from just above his right eyebrow to left side of his throat, ought to have been a source of pride for Tris. But the mark disfigured him, cutting across his nose and just below his left eye, warping his features, so what should have been a sign of bravery and honor instead made him an outcast.

            “Any more objections, or are you all just going to wait to burn?” After that, his small band of cavalry mounted as swiftly as only the nomads of Torath could. Tris felt an instant of satisfaction. No one would dare mention his scar again, at least for a few days. After that, who knew? He could always just kill another one, and another, until he killed them all.

            They headed southeast, cutting a line diagonal to the raging inferno. As they drew closer, Tris’ mood soured further. The fire was moving too fast and they weren’t going to get free. Tris let himself sulk, his face carefully hidden behind his war mask. If he was to die here, then so be it. At least his sword had tasted some blood today, albeit not that of his enemies, but it was a start.

            The fire grew louder as they approached. And hotter. When they were about one hundred feet off, the others pulled their masks on. All nomads wore them when they fought. All nomads wore them when they died. To die without a mask was to risk the wrath of Hell, for what the King of the Damned saw, he owned.

            It was unbearably hot. Tris thought his lungs would burn with every breath. The smoke choked him, and his coughing rang hollowly against the roar of the flames. But he didn’t stop, or let Dragon falter. He charged for the wall of heat, just at the corner, where it was thinnest. Tris didn’t look back, but he knew his men were following hard on his heels.

            For an instant, Tris thought he wouldn’t make it. He had misjudged the leap, and the wall of death was thicker than he thought. He felt his hair and clothes start to burn, his skin blister, his blood evaporate. And then he was through.

            Tris charged up the next hill, and then the next, and down into a small valley. There was a stream here, meandering slowly though a rocky gully. Grass grew everywhere, green and alive. Alive. The word had never sounded so good before.

            Throwing himself down, Tris ripped off his mask and plunged his arms into the cool water, splashing his face and head. The cold liquid felt good on his scar, soothing the ache. It hadn’t healed properly, so it still hurt now and then. The others arrived, pale and breathless, and joined him.

            “You’re mad, you know that? By all rights we should be dead, cooked to a cinder.” Jasper was smiling, but that haunted look was still there. Tris looked at his friend in surprise. Jasper never cared about danger, or pain, or even the risk of death. He took it all as a challenge.

            “Who did we lose?”

            “Carter, Neil, a few others. Some of the younglings too.” Tris nodded. It was reasonable to assume that there would be some casualties in any war. But losing Carter was hard. The three of them had been close as kids.

            No. This was war. There were no friends, only pieces to be played. He walled his emotions off, cementing them behind an iron resolve. The murderers would pay. He would win the war and take his rightful place as king. And then no one – no one – would laugh again.

            A broken boy for a broken throne. The people will never love you. You will die alone, unloved. Alone. The shaman’s words echoed through his head. Tris shuddered and pushed them away.

            The wind blew the fire away from them, but they could still see and hear it. Some of the boys looked back as they rode away. Back toward the winter pastures, back toward safety. Back toward the friends they had left behind, now little more than piles of ash. Back home.

            No, Tris thought, it’s time for us to go home. Time to go back to the war. Time to wash out their guilt with blood. Time to win my throne.

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