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It was a small relatively quiet town, lots of farms, and the usual slice of society. The rich, the wanna-be rich, and the poor. It was as good a place as any other, better than most in fact by his estimation. No matter where he went he knew everyone, he'd  stood in the Hot Gates, shoulder to shoulder with his king, slaying the Persian scum who had come to impose their will on his people. Designer, architect, ruler, and conqueror ,he'd built and burned empires. From the beaches  of Normandy to the jungles of Vietnam, he served in every army that had ever marched across the world. Ruin, death and destruction were his shadow, his closest confidants and only friends.  They cried out his name in every tongue left under the sun and many that now no one knew but he. The summons had come in the childhood ,of this his final life, into his dreams the visions had come of all he must do to give them one last chance to turn away from the madness that now consumed the world. Even at that young age he'd possessed his gift, usually one grew into this but his was the oldest soul ever to walk the earth so he'd been born awake and in the times when he appeared to all to be in other places, he'd written the tale that even now unfolded on the world. Always in accordance with their choices, for this was the rule, let each reap in the end what they sow now.

Into every place he'd gone he'd brought the news of what was coming but no one had listened. Finally when all else had failed, he'd let madness consume him, he'd know the outcome before hand but he'd been bid to do it anyway. They would have their choices, neither he nor anyone else could rob humanity of its choices. They hadn't listened, they never did but always he'd kept faith with the Almighty. The booming voice of God had promised deliverance if he stayed true to his path and indeed the time already spent was nothing compared to the time he had to come, still it was a shame but what could one do?

"Only one rule will bind thee my son. Thou may not take  the choices of others, this is the divine gift that I have given and none not even I may violate this edict without suffering the consequences. Your life shall not be your own till all the signs  have been delivered, if they will not believe then I will set you free."

He'd only nodded for there was nothing to say, the  weight of his eternal past demanded this price and it would finally buy him his freedom. So now his life was his own to write, rain or shine, he was free and as promised the gift was his to use as he saw fit.

"When thy time comes, beholden to none shall you be, totally free of your ties to humanity."

God works in mysterious ways,  some medicine could not save and even the ones that it did, even this was the will of God. Some had agreed to suffer for loved ones not yet even born into the world, they had burned to buy the children their health and sanity. They would return to the world and because they had sacrificed without thought of reward, their blessings would be three times what they were due. Truth, selflessness, sacrifice, only a few had this unswaying devotion and so only a few would survive the coming storm.

He felt bound to some and would help as he could but the first strokes of doom were already falling and so his guilt was lifted.

"You have done well faithful son. Do not be troubled by what is to come, for it is harvest time and now let all reap what they have sown."

At various times he would cast his conciousness out into the world, at these times, as at all times he was protected not only by his own power but by the angels and demons that were his to command. Sometimes he would speak to them, talking to other humans was by and large an exercise in futility. They simply could not understand, most did not believe they had ever lived before and those that did usually did not remember.  So his existence was and had always been a lonely one, for him there were few surprises left, these few he had left were just for him. Seemingly small things but it was the small joys that made life worth living in the end and refusing the gift of life, however boring it had become was not something he would do. Every moment of pain and happiness he had earned by his actions in this life and all those before, he would not turn away now, he had no real regrets. A thing done isn't worth regretting, no matter how good or bad it may have been or how long ago it may have happened.


Then...

They were in a small outpost in the hills of Germania, all night they could hear the drums,  the sound of their doom. They were cut off and their fool commander had thrown away their only chance at escape,  all in the name of glory and honor. Honor and glory were of little use to the dead, Vocias went on and on about the strength of their arms and quality of their training, it was the same never ending diatribe. He understood all too well the need to stir the hearts and minds of the troops but now was the time to prepare to meet their ends not wail uselessly about the glory and honor that awaited them in the afterlife. None of these men cared but such was their discipline that no one interrupted. For his part he was ready to run Vocias through, instead he excused himself to see to the defences being put in place, they would come with first light. They were only about fifty of them left now, half their force  had fallen already and Vocias, at least smart enough now to see there was no chance left for escape had actually suggested a final glorious charge. Damned fool, never make it easy for them to take your life, never give the enemy an easy victory. The barbarians would come and they would kill them all he had no doubt but they would pay a heavy price for their victory. They would not feel like raising their voice in song after this battle, if he had his way they would drown in their own entrails.


The small fort was dug into a hillside and designed with typical Roman ingenuity. The enemy would be forced to attack them head on, various obstacles would force them into the open ground before the gates. The corpses of their fallen were propped up with their own spears on the walls, the better to confuse the enemy about the number of remaining soldiers. The bodies of the fallen would help provide cover for the few archers they had left, then once they broke through the gate, he would drop his torch and set fire to the walls. All but one of their remaining casks of oil had been used to make this possible. The bulk of the remaining force would be concealed in the narrow tunnels dug into the hillside, they would allow the barbarians into the tunnels and then fall upon them from the shadows, their number was overwhelming so escape was not an option. Anyone taken alive would be sacrificed or tortured to death, no one planned on being taken alive. They would fall upon their own blades if need be to deny these barbarians any satisfaction.


Now...

The cable news had it's occasional uses, once in a great while you might hear a tale of what little good was left in the world. He'd seen her only briefly, a small girl afflicted with seizures, her brother there to call for help when she'd fallen victim to another one. The children were the only hope left for this world and many would pass in the storm to come but not her, she needed to be healed. She needed to be whole, he did not like this pain that had been inflicted on her. So he commanded his demons to find the ones responsible and slowly devour their black souls, for it had struck him in a moment that this was a false judgement. Then he set his angels to watch over her, the ways of God were mysterious and perhaps the Almighty had other plans for her, he would pray for her to be healed and if not then at least the angels would ward her through whatever was to come.


Not so long ago...

He tended to keep to himself, crowds he avoided whenever possible, most people tended to be sloppy with their emotions. Whenever he moved through the world, whether in mind or body he felt the pain of others, a sharp twisting blade in his guts. The overcast sky promised rain, the usual gaggle of ducks surrounded the pond now as always. Some small animal or another had died here recently, he could smell the decaying flesh and soon he saw the vultures that had gathered to pick its bones clean. The vultures looked up as he walked past, their meal forgotten for a moment, he returned their gaze and asked for their allegiance. There was no pause in his stride, for these creatures were tuned to the natural order and recognized him for what he was, the master. 

The store was just a short distance further along his path, he crossed the streets without pausing or looking up when the mood struck him. There was nothing for him to fear in this world, he'd lost track of the number of times they had come to try and take his life. He smiled to himself, always they failed, for he saw them coming and simply diverted their attention or spread his arms, daring them to try. Come, he thought, try it, see what happens when my power is unleashed in full. Smoking was a bad habit, a sin against the body to some but his body would not fail before its appointed time no matter how he should choose to abuse it. Indeed there was still much to do, for the other children had yet to awaken and he could not pass until this task was done. This he had chosen to do, though all things could be said to be the will of God.

Cigarettes purchased he turned back toward home. The path wound beneath some trees, a gentle rain had begun to fall. Looking up as he felt the call he saw his vulture friend had dragged the skin of the dead animal onto the path before him, the bird quickly removed itself from his path as he approached. The skin was picked clean, the scent of death filled his nostrils as he stepped over it, a brief almost imperceptible pause in his stride and a small grin moved his lips wider. Death, he would visit the nine hells on all the violators, rapists, and murderers. They had violated all his brothers and sisters, they had defiled children, his children. They would drown in terror, pain, fear and blood for this affront to humanity. They were aware of him now, for he had shown himself to them, daring them to come for him. They would not openly confront him, they feared his power unleashed against them. Instead they tried cunning and deceit, they set their whores in his path, thinking to tempt him to darkness, trying to breed his power into others. He marked them as he swept through the world, the pathetic imitations, the unknowing tools of the defilers and interlopers.They did not understand that he was the darkness, he had violated himself time and again, you have nothing to offer me was his message. You cannot tempt the master of deception, he had invented the concept, foolish creatures. There was no line he would not cross to watch them suffer and burn. He would drag them from the skies and feast on their unholy bones and in the end he would leave them with nothing, they would simply cease to be forever.


Always...

Everyday they poisoned more of the gifted, they did not understand these gifts because they had embraced only logic, they were forgetting how to feel. Every time a child showed the signs of the gift they would fill them with their foul poisons, trying to suppress their gifts because it filled them with fear. How many had died for daring to show the signs of these gifts of the soul. Damned fools, always turning away from what they could not fit into their stupid boxes of logic. What had been done to them that they so feared their own feelings? Poisons in the ground and air, when they could not achieve their goals by indirect means they would assault their bodies and minds. How dare they?!?!?! His vengeance would be slow and cruel, it would creep into their dreams  and then their bones. They would beg for forgiveness and get only mocking laughter in return. Damn the cost to his own soul, they would pay for this, he would gather all the pain of the world and let the rage consume him. He would not rest till they were all burning and then dying, he would smile as they writhed in unending agony begging for mercy, where was yours? This he would  ask them in a flat voice just before the end came for them. Let them see his burning face and know that their end was at hand, he would burn the image into their minds and then shatter their flat souls for all time.


Never Again...

So many wronged, duped down the wrong path, all would get the chance to see the truth before the end and choose. No one may take another's choices, this was forbidden. Why had Jesus not simply come and imposed his own order on the world? Lucifer had also the power and was also bound by the same divine edict. Say what you will, offer what you like, dangle the carrot at whatever length you choose but none may take away the choice. They had defiled women beyond count, they had put his stink in their nostrils, it drove them to madness or worse absolute darkness. How to bring them back? All the worthless copies promised satisfaction but none of them could deliver it. So many ran from bed to bed, looking, seeking to satisfy this hunger that grew from they knew not where. All to tempt him, to stir his hunger, to twist and use him,  to make him an instrument of their will. To rob him of his choices!!!


Feelings...

They serve a purpose or we would not have them. All of them, fear, joy, anger, hate, love, lust. Name them in any fashion you choose, list them into the thousands if you wish. They serve you in your need, fear rises and prepares mind and body for action, rage can give you single minded purpose. Love fills you with light and  compassion. Lust raises the body as love raises the spirit. They can use you or you them, choose, trust. Know thy self. Each being is in a different place, who are you to judge their value? A fine line separates the light and dark, it is upon this line that you must revolve. Either extreme leads to self destruction, you wish only to do good. You are consumed by the desire to see it in all places and eventually you will go to any length to see it prevail. Will you kill for it? steal for it? violate others for it, because only you know best, isn't that so? It is one thing defend hearth and home, to protect your children. You do not wish others to dictate your destiny and so others resent having theirs dictated to them and rightfully so. Vengeance is mine says the Lord!!! To each as they deserve no more and no less, this terrifies people. They do not wish to believe that they have earned their lot. None can escape divine justice, as you violate so shall you be violated. So enjoy your ill-gotten gains, laugh and point your finger. Grind the innocent and meek beneath your boot heel, for so is their faith tested and so is the measure of divine judgement found. Nothing escapes the notice of the Almighty, all things done, great and small are placed upon the scales. For whom does the bell toll? It tolls for thee...do you hear it yet? 


A Long time ago...

A year had stretched into two and then three. The battles were endless, the bodies piled up and despite all the praise, the promise, they received from their generals, the war seemed to have no end. He awoke with a start, sword in hand, the smell of blood and decay hovering all around. Night had fallen on the field and both armies had withdrawn to their respective camps, only bodies and moans surrounded him now. The dent in his helm and knot on his skull were evidence enough that death had not yet found him, for he'd been taught that in death all wounds are healed. A thousand scratches covered his body, small rivulets of blood coalesced and fell into the sand. The smell of rain hung in the air, camp fires dotted both horizons, tomorrow would see fresh blood spilled in the name of kings and conquerors. Not mine, not anymore, he gathered his feet beneath him, he moved among the dead taking what small items of value he could find. A few small knives, a half-full water-skin, some strips of dried meat. Along with his tattered shield and armor he climbed into the hills just as dawn was breaking the horizon. The camp fires dimmed and dust clouds rose as the armies marched out to meet one another again. Turning his back he walked off, he would make his own way now, all the promises of others were empty, only his heart spoke the truth and it called him into the hills. So into the hills he went.

For several days he walked, the first day was full of regret, for his fallen brothers, for the wife and children who had fallen to the invaders, this, the act that had driven him so far from home in the name of vengeance. He could see their faces still, smiling at him from the afterlife, he could hear their sweet voices whispering to him in his dreams. The dried meat and water ran out by the end of the first day. "Don't hoard water if your thirsty or food if your hungry, a drop of water on the tongue is worth more than a liter in the skin." So had his training sergeant spoken to him many times. The night was cold, he managed a fire and some sleep, waking with the first rays of dawn.

Now on the second day, with the rising sun at his back he saw the vultures circling the valley ahead, circling so it was still alive, whatever it was, he moved quickly with hunger and thirst giving him purpose. The valley was greener than he had ever seen, months on end in the desert makes a drop seem like a river. He smiled for at least today he would eat and drink, tomorrow would bring what it would bring.


Today...

He had thought to wait a bit longer but it was clear now that they sought only to serve their own needs. He had been to generous. So be it. Michael came to speak with him, for the Archangel had noted that the Black Host had gathered behind their general and they were ravenous.

"Well brother," said the Archangel, "you seem to have decided."

"Yes" he said. "The time is now, they think to twist me to serve their own needs. They are blinded by greed and will not see reason."

"Let me go to them once more on your behalf."

"Do what you will, the Black Host marches with the setting sun. They wish to take what they do not deserve and my patience is at an end. You will guard the chosen as I have asked?"

"Even if you did not for that is my charge."

"They have assaulted the mothers of my clan and this I will not tolerate."

So now he stood before the Black Host, Lucifer at their  head to lead them into the night.

"Now Prince of Darkness the moment is at hand, the chosen are marked and you will not touch them, the rest you may devour at your leisure. Make it slow and cruel, torture them as they have tortured me these long years."

Lucifer smiled showing his fangs, his horns sparkling with the setting sun. Now he put on the guise of man and sat beside him. The first of the Demons already moving into the world.

"I told you." said the fallen one.

"So you did, they treat me like a machine, a freak, they offer no friendship, they stand between me and mine. Show them no mercy, take their leadership and consign them to the blackest pit you can contrive and when their flesh is gone, feed them to the Devourer of Souls."

Lucifer smiled, this was a long time coming.

"Just so there is no confusion..."

"In any manner you choose, all but the chosen, that is the only limit placed upon you."

"At last!!!" howled the Beast, "Free at last!!! They have offered me unwilling sacrifice, they have tainted my ways..."

The howls now rang out upon the ether. Yes, he thought, now they will taste pain and suffering. Now they will reap what they have sown. Earthquakes, tornadoes, fire and brimstone. Now his smile was genuine, now they would realize, they had heard only a whisper of his power. His rage would be unleashed upon the world and the scales would be balanced.

The beginning...

"The betrayers are identified."

"Remove them, all of them."

Now he focused all his anger on the ones who defiled his clan, he let all his anger and hatred run into them. They writhed in agony and begged for mercy but received none. One by one they fell, each in their own unique and extremely painful way. There deaths only fed his anger, they had defiled his children, the mothers of his clan. They sought to turn all those he loved against him or to hold them hostage. The fools did not understand that he had lived a thousand lives and more, he had lost wives and children to them and they tried to make him forget. Now they all came back to him, pointing to their enemies. Highest and proudest of all, angry only for the wrong done to his mother was his son. "There father, there and there. They raped my mother and robbed you of me." His beautiful son, they had murdered him for wanting to bring peace to the world. Now he was vengeance pure, he was anger, crimson like the blood they spilled to hold him hostage, he was rage black and hungry. Each one was easier than the last, everyday new enemies were revealed and everyday they would fall. They would run and he would hunt them down and slay them all. Now he called for the earth to tremble like never before, his anger ran down the great cracks and set them moving, an ever increasing fury that would topple buildings and set fire to the the houses of the unholy. The seas would rise to his will and drown his enemies, smashing their bodies into the earth. Each death would feed him, each would raise his power to a new level. They writhed and burned and died. The dying screams and moans of his enemies made him smile, they lifted his spirit. God had given him leave to take his vengeance and now he was on the warpath. The riders were free, and they rode over the defilers, the violators, everywhere they went.

For what?

Fear was everywhere now. All around, it filled the spaces between him and everyone else. So it was time to exercise his choices. Did he wish to carve a path of destruction all around? Best perhaps to leave them all to their own devices. That seemed the best solution, after all he had seen this farce played out again and again. A few lives here and a few there, what did it amount to in the end? More of the same. No one ever learned, they would not listen. They would dissect everything looking for a hidden meaning when he spoke plainly. So be it. It was time to wash his hands of the whole affair. Soon all the things around him would vanish and everyone along with them. He did not favor one side over the other. Vengeance was an empty thing after all, who was it for? The shadows that played in his mind were not enough, real though he knew them to be. If they had not learned by now then they never would, so now everyone was an enemy. They all stood between him and his freedom, constantly looking to drag him back into a thing that was empty and never ending. He had his choices back but what to do with them? Things did not interest him. Baubles,  gold, cars, TV's? For one like him they had no appeal. There were always more things to get, break and then buy again? It was all so much wasted time. The road beckoned to him once again, more strongly than ever before. It was time to sever all ties and be done with this madness. Once he left then all the things he needed would fall into place.

"I thought you had decided."

"So I have, the darkness is unleashed, you watch the chosen. What more is there to do now? The road calls to me, I won't deny it now, indeed I cannot for my heart is not here but somewhere out there."

"Do you know where you will go?"

"My heart leads the way now, all directions are equally appealing to me. I go to spend my days as I choose to now. Anyone who stands in my way shall be my enemy now. I will show mercy to no one who stands between me and my freedom. Perhaps another war, it is all that I know and all that I am. This I cannot escape."

"So you will just leave?"

"I will take some time to tidy things but here I am at the crossroads. The direction I choose is for me to decide now."

"And your family and friends?"

"They pretend to a thing they do not understand. They wish to write my destiny for me, I will choose my own. They will all get their due. I do not need to be here for that, you know this as well as any. They will have their precious rain of gold, it's all they care about. I am a tool to them like I am to the rest. A machine, a freak of nature."

"You do not believe that."

"They are marked by their choices, they seek to hide from me what they cannot. It is written on them and I read it clearly. They show the signs and then pretend they do not hear me. Fine. I am done here, it is time I found some peace and I cannot find it here. More blood-letting, tell me brother, is this all I can be? Is there no more to me than that..."

"So now you have nothing to say? Indeed for what can one say in the face of the Truth. Nothing for the truth does not require anyone's belief. It remains the truth whether we accept it or not."

"They need you."

"What of my needs? You know what lays along this course for me. Madness and destruction. To what end? They will just do over again as they have so many times before. I am numb. I am spent. They do not care as long as I play by their rules but I have grown weary of this game. My time has come and I choose to find my end in the way that suits me. Will you deny me this then, stand in my way like the rest?"

"You know I will not. Your path is your own to choose now. I am ever at your call. Farewell."

THE END

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