The Last One

Set thousands of years in the future, the human race is all but eliminated and exchanged for races born of the elements. A small and unlikely group of humans take on the kingdom in effort to set their kind free.

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1. The Beginning

The city of Usal crowned the top of the hill in the kingdom of Saldova like a sparkling jewel. The great walls that lined the inner part of the city met with the sharp drop into the large ocean and reflected the water and the moon in welcome to anyone who traveled this deep into the night, and the city slept with great anticipation for the next day. 

Ribbons of deep purple and silver shimmered in the late breeze and banners proclaiming the Naming day hung from every stone shop  that happened to be stacked 4 and 5 shops tall announcing the festivities to come. The very air shimmered with excitement; children dreamed of sweets and celebration while their parents of various other merriment and the shop keepers dreamed of the money to be made. The Naming day was the best holiday to celebrate- especially as it only came once every 5 years. 

The human children, nestled into a compound that they and their mothers inhabited just behind the castle, slept blissfully. The entire hall was filled with the sweet and gentle beat of breathing. It seemed as if, in all the city of Usal, that there were only two awake- mothers sitting in their watch and discussing the day to come.

"What did Doriyan say when they told her?" One mother asked in a soft and sharp accent. The other mother, who fiddled with her fingernails, smiled at the memory.

"She asked who she would be paired with." She responded, and they both laughed. 

"I can hardly believe another 5 years has gone by." The first whispered. Her silver hair shone in the moonlight and the wrinkles on her face shifted into a smile as she studied the younger mother.

"I can hardly believe I have been here for 3 years!" Said the younger. Her gentle brown eyes studied the older woman with affection as she recalled the anxiety she had felt when she had been sent from her home in the valley to join her and take care of the human children in the City. She had been excited by the prospect of seeing the world for the first time out from under the thumb of the fathers and mothers in the valley. It wasn't until she had arrived and her escort said goodbye that she felt her first pang of fear. The older mother met her in the great hall along with a few friendly and fat guards and she welcomed the girl, freshly 19, to her new home.

The older mother had been profoundly grateful that the girl had arrived those few years ago. Her joints had long began to ache with use and she could no longer fully keep up with the happy and screaming children despite the assistance provided by the older children. She had lived a wonderful and full life but was ready to train her replacement and to take her leave.

After a few more moments of smiling and wondering about how Doriyan and Astin would lead as the new human king and queen for the next 5 years, the older mother slowly stood to retire to her bed. 

"Would you like help, mother?" The younger asked kindly. The older shook her off with a wave of the hand. 

"I'm not helpless quite yet." She joked. They both smiled but knew inside that the time wouldn't be long before she would be. 

"I need to go rest these weary bones. There is always so much to do on Naming Day!" She proclaimed with a happy but exhausted sigh. The younger nodded and also stood to make way for the bed that called to her from across the room. The older always took post with the young men on their side, and the younger took post with the young ladies. The young mother said goodnight and made her way into the short passage that led to the room filled with a few dozen beds that lined the wall. Currently they had 13 girls inhabiting, soon to be 14 as rumor from the Human homes had it. The mother quietly viewed each girl of various ages and paused over Doriyan to admire her 20 year old and youthful glow much like her own. For a moment she wondered what it must be like to know that she would never be alone again, but banished the thought from her mind just as quickly and moved to her bed where she fell asleep in an instant.

Although it seemed as if it had been hours, in reality it had been merely 43 minutes before a small hand pushed the young mother's face until she groggily opened and allowed her eyes to adjust to the dark ceiling of stone painted with the stars. She turned her face to the side and smiled a little at the tiny face that stood and looked at her with shockingly large and grey eyes.

"Lova, what are you doing up?" Used to the 3 year old coming to sleep with her if she had a bad dream. Lova began to cry a little and pointed to her nightgown that had a seeping wet spot.

"Oh dear, that's okay, but shhhh" The young mother said as she quickly ushered the girl into the stream room to keep her from waking the others and began to wash and change her.

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The night was still so dark that aside from the bright stars, not much could be seen without a torch unless your eyes were well adjusted. The dark was like a palpable thing that absorbed sound as much as gave it with the croaking of toads in the gutters and flapping of fabric. No one would notice the small group of cloaked figures that walked along a careful route of alleys specifically to avoid detection. 

Their cloaks were so dark that anyone who would have looked upon them (if anyone were awake aside from the occasional guard) they would have called them black. The figures themselves were nothing but silhouettes against the moon as they moved almost silently. They each concealed a small dagger in the depths of their cloak and most gripped it tightly. One man, the one behind the leader of the group of 7, wrestled with his inner demons. His chest tightened with nerves as he once again told himself that what they were doing was right. They were doing what they had to to save his family. 

When they reached the high walls that surrounded the castle and shone in the night, he faltered slightly, almost unable to force himself further. A small hand shoved him forward. "Move it, Barreth" the woman whispered sharply. And although she would never admit to the weakness, she experienced a flicker of doubt. The leader slipped into the waterway that led under the castle wall to where their insiders had weakened and eventually opened an area for them before he turned around in the small space and looked at them wrathfully.

"If you think I relish this, you are mistaken. But this has to be done." He said, his brows joined in anger that they were dealing with this again. Now. He searched each of their hooded faces before landing on Barreth's for a beat, who swallowed the guilt and said nothing. 

"For humanity." The leader whispered. 

"For humanity." They replied. 

There was not another word spoken as they slipped between the widened bars and one by one stood along the inside of the wall, waiting for one another. Barreth's heart pounded wildly in his chest as he waited for a guard to catch them and put them all to death. Although the wall was a good distance from the well lit and open front walkway of the castle, he felt as if a spotlight shone brightly on him as he froze at the wall to wait for his leader and best friend, Vyctor. For a brief moment a vision of Barreth's wife, Giyana, with her long and golden hair and warm smile penetrated his thoughts at the fear that he would never see her again. But his thoughts were immediately called to attention as the first step of their attack came to a close. 

The next step, although not as physically demanding as crawling into a tunnel and squeezing through thick and unyielding bars, was far more dangerous. They had been receiving intel for months about the castle and its' vast layout. After each letter arrived they went to the artist room to add to what they already knew, but even after designing a map and devising a strategy there was no real way to be sure that the directions they had were correct. Barreth had argued against this course of action, but Vyctor was filled with passion to protect his people and would not be told no. Someone had to go with him as the voice of reason.

They had practiced memorizing the path to take for the past 2 weeks so that if any were fallen, at least 1 could finish the task. To their village's shock they discovered that where they were going was hardly protected and assumed safe from merely a large wall. They traveled silently along the outside of the wall, passing a large fountain and waterway, a maze, and a few servants' quarters as they came up to their first obstacle. The menagerie was made of glass and filled with all manner of exotic creatures. It was nearly the size of their entire village and the likeliness of being heard and found out seemed high. This was why one of the men had traveled with them.

After years of wandering through fierce jungle and across one desert so wide that lesser men simply gave up to die, Colrin had faced far too much to let simple elements defeat him.  His muscular frame was tall and painted with tattoos from every other group he had ever lived with. He had a special gift for care of animals and trained every animal that the village had put to use. This man stepped forward quickly along the outside of the menagerie to the ornately decorated entryway and gave the symbol of honor and peace against his chest to the remaining few. Although he would have gone to help his leader no matter what he requested, he had a great desire to see animals that he had not yet encountered and his heart was filled with the heat of excitement. 

The rest of the group waited quietly as there was a minor commotion from some of the animals but it died down quickly, replaced by some happy low hums. They, glad for the distraction, continued on to their destination. 

Barreth repeated their path in his head for the hundredth time that night as they reached the back corner of the well manicured grounds and headed to the backside of the castle where a large building stood. It was rounded and decorated with symbols of the ages and of the faith that Usal stood for. When they came to the front equally ornately carved entry, they were stopped short by whispering and Barreth's heart froze in his chest as they strained to hear who would be their death. Vyctor motioned for them to stay as he moved slightly forward but still among the few decorative trees as he listened to two women, one old and one young discuss the next day in whispers. For a moment he debated the merit of killing them now, but the noise would be noticeable and his desire was to bring his men back.

Vyctor came back in frustration and mouthed "Two mothers awake. We will wait." And they did. They stood behind trees, one person per tree, for what seemed like an eternity. Many of them trying not to let their nerves get to them and repeated the plan in their heads as a mantra to give them peace. Barreth fought hard to control his thoughts away from his and his wife's son who was barely 3. He argued inwardly that they were protecting them. That this is the way it had to be. When he was finally called to attention he snapped back from the far away home he had to the immediate task. Everyone inwardly strengthened their resolve as they made their way to where the mothers sat chatting not an hour before. Vyctor motioned for 4 to go to the left, and 4 to the right with Barreth leading the second group. He held his breath as he entered a hall that was decorated for at least a dozen little girls who were breathing softly. 

He ignored the sweet smell of perfumes that they used to soften their skin. He ignored the bedding that was stitched with happy looking meadow flowers to bring about thoughts of love and the future. He ignored the slight snore from the girl he was poised over as his group poised over their girls. But he could not ignore the look of horror from the the eyes of this girl who was just blossoming into womanhood as the blade he held slipped easily into her heart then across her neck. Tears and blood bubbled and trailed down as her life drifted away and Barreth hurried to another girl to finish this horrible and grisly task- this time a very young girl. His hands shook terribly as he watched the life fall away in the room and horror filled his mind. The others finished the job that he couldn't and they wiped off their blades and went quickly from the room to meet up with Vyctor who was doing the same to the boys. The woman, who had gone with Barreth, angrily hurried him out of the room. "Hurry, they won't be far behind!" She said, wisely noting that they wouldn't have long before their act was discovered. Barreth, whose hands were still shaking from the experience, followed but was barely aware of what was going on. 

No one, it seemed, noticed the stirred yet empty sheets of one small and large bed in the back of the room. Filled with anxiety to get out of the kingdom, the group of assassins failed to finish their quest. And because of this oversight the most important person in centuries survived.  

 

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Critiques and Comments welcome! 

 

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