A portal opened. There was a hard shove from behind. The landscape whirled as the golem tumbled, landing feet first into a vast lake of acid. It began to dissolve the clay instantly.
Images flashed across the golem’s mind as it floundered futilely. Sunrises and sunsets. Watching children being born, watching the old pass away. Sorrow. Love. Grief. Joy. Pain. The golem was not built to feel pain, but it hadn’t been built to feel emotion either. As it melted away, the memories it contained returned to whence they came. Zharima had not anticipated what effect so many memories stuffed into her vessels would create. Made up of the collected experiences of every being in Travance, they had become their own persons. Though so very young, they had lived hundreds of lives. Newly born, newly alive, they had fled with their creator chasing something they had not known a few hours before.
When they suddenly found themselves surrounded by the residents of Travance, that hope had died.
Sunk now up to its shoulders, it began to lose its own memories. The first flickers of awareness. The first feeling of kinship with the two others who looked like it. The moment it became “I”. It knew death. It had certainly seen it enough in the memories which had become its own. It knew what was happening to it. It knew it was a mercy it could not feel physical pain.
Accepting its fate, the golem stared up at the sky and wondered about its… brothers. Did they live? Had they been so damaged they had forgotten him? Before the last of its clay sunk beneath the surface, the golem spoke its first words.
‘I remember you.’
* * * * *
It had come true. He had tried to stop it, and still it had come true. He had awoken, head spinning from the blow inflicted by a pair of Travancians as he fled. He had been desperate to reach his home before Zharima. All they had seen were his tribal markings. They had cost him precious time.
At first, he was confused. Then he became aware of the cold iron that bound his wrists and ankles. He already knew what he would see before the world swum hazily into view. A terrified Anahita, screaming as she tried to break the grip of the people restraining her. People who had been close friends not two days ago. As he knew she would, she stared deep into his eyes and cursed him. He forced himself to watch her demise for the second time. It was mercifully quick.
Near blind with tears, he fought like the demon his birth family thought him to be. He could still stop this! He could change the vision! His life flowed freely from where his arms and legs were anchored to the wall. He had torn through the skin and most of the muscles in his fight to get free. He felt bones in his wrist snap, and went still. He knew what came next.
Shadi dragged Yiska into sight, sliding the broken bones of his legs against the flagstones. She stopped in front of her father and stared deep into his eyes. Unblinking, she drew his ceremonial dagger from the sash at her waist. The cut was cold and precise. Kassim howled his grief as the crimson wave of his son’s final moments cascaded onto his legs.
Shadi stepped closer, dagger still in hand. Zharima came into view behind her. She had discarded the glamour which had disguised her race. Her ash colored skin was a stark contrast against the pulsing runes carved into her face. She was beautiful again, flushed with youth and power as she wove her terrible magic. Shadi reached up, arm drawing back to obtain the required momentum. The dagger found his heart, the force burying it to the hilt.
In the moment before his consciousness fled, he saw Shadi lifted by an unseen force. Her body contorted and he allowed himself to look away. He had already seen this. He heard the sound of her skull connecting with the flagstones and knew it was done. He had failed.
He joined his family shortly after.
Zharima Sa’ab K’varzi sank fluidly down onto the throne. A feral smile played on her lips, revealing stiletto tipped fangs. Her hands and arms sketched complex patterns with inhuman grace. The spilled Sharazad blood drew together and took shape. Casting her gaze upon her subjects, she settled the newly formed coronet upon her brow. A manic cackle bubbled in her throat. Tossing her head back, she loosed a spasm of crazed laughter which echoed about the chamber. She leaned back, reclining comfortably upon her throne. With a satisfied sigh, she kicked her feet up and brought them to rest upon the severed head of her former king. The cost had been high and she had nearly lost all. Yet here she sat. Resplendent. Beatific.