The Red Hand PArt 38
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Thirty Eight The Sound of Drums
The warship hovers, tethered to a tall building overlooking Hagen’s Tower. I stand on the roof. My hands are in chains, Hagen leading me along. The sounds of construction that once filled the air here are no more. The silence gives me chills. Hagen makes a grand sweeping gesture as he talks about his great accomplishment. Obviously pleased with it and full of himself at the same time. The early morning sun gleams off the crystals embedded in the tower. This big event he has planned. What does that entail? Virgin sacrifices? Burning incenses? Some kind of chant?
Then what? Cats and Dogs living together maybe?
He talks for a while, but I’m busy thinking about what the end will be like. My end. Is Hagen going to kill me? When he activates this giant tuning fork tower, what happens? Does everyone die? Maybe everybody’s head is gonna explode with this supposed enlightenment.
I’ve never believed in an “afterlife.” As tempting as it is to imagine seeing my father again in some other plane of existence. Heaven. Nirvana. Or whatever. I’ve always figured dead is dead. Nothingness. If there is something after, let it be like the most peaceful afternoon nap ever. If there’s such a thing as Hell, I’m not worried about it. All the things that have happened to me here, that I’ve seen. I think I’ve paid my dues for any sins I’ve committed.
A slim, muscular blue lizard in a gold tunic and red sash approaches us. “Finally. Your back.” The blue lizard looks at me. “What is this doing here?”
“Still your tongue girl.” Hagen snaps. “She’s a guest.”
I listen as Red Sash Guy, Elon, Hagen calls him, bitches about his schedule. About needing the warriors here on the war front, and how Hagen is taking too long to finish the tower. Sounds like my boss. Always hurrying me to get done.
I let my eyes wander the roof top. Bored with Elon’s bitching. I notice a couple blue warriors disembarking the ship behind us. Sliding down the cable holding the ship here. What catches my eye is something attached to one of their belts.
My ax! What’s this damn blue asshole doing with it?
He passes by us, with some of the warriors. “Hey! Yeah you.” I blurt out. “That’s mine!”
Hagen and Elon stop talking, turning to look at me. The warrior with my ax stops. He signals the others with him to go on.
“It belongs to me now.” He takes the ax from his belt. “I’ve claimed it for myself. If you want it, come and take it.”
I hold up my chained hands. “Take these off and I’ll take it! Take it and jam it right up your-”
“Enough!” Elon commands. “This is why we need to get rid of this thing.” Elon eyes shift from me to Hagen. “They bring trouble with them.”
In a huff, Hagen grabs the chain hanging between my arms. “Come along.”
He pulls me away from the bastard with my ax and Elon. So, this Elon dude isn’t a big fan of Hagen. Well at least we have that in common.
Inside, we descend a few floors. This building has makeshift stairs. They look fairly new. Probably built for Hagen. Can’t see him wanting to be carried around on some lizard’s back like I was all the time. The thought of him makes me smile.
Hagen takes me to a large room. A very big wood table dominates it. Two red skinned warriors stand by the table seated there in front of them is a slumped female figure. She appears to be sleeping or unconscious.
The woman raises her head. A tired, hazy expression on her face. Maebh!
Her face lights up as she sees me.
“Serena.” Her voice in my head. Something I thought I’d never hear again.
I push past Hagen, my chains clanking as I rush over. The red warriors move to intercept me. Hagen raises his hand and they back off.
Maebh feels feeble as I hug her. “Never thought I’d see you.” I whisper in her ear. “What did they do to you?”
She sighs. “It’s of no matter.” She pushes away from me. “You shouldn’t have come looking for me.”
“It’s touching to see how much you care for each other.” Hagen says. “Too bad the old woman never showed me as much kindness.”
“I showed you every kindness.” Her voice stings my mind. Anger and regret reverberating in her words. “But, in the end I was unable to be what you needed.”
“It’s too late now.” He sighs. “No matter.” He turns on his heel, walking out of the room. He stops in the doorway. “I have much to do. Why don’t you two catch up over breakfast. Don’t think about trying to pull any of your antics girl. My two friends here aren’t like those fools on the ship.”
He goes, leaving us alone with our babysitters. He’s right about one thing: These two don’t look like the ones we left locked in our cell. Their gaze is locked on the both of us. One hand hovering over the hilt of their swords at all times.
We sat there for a bit, talking. Mostly me asking Maebh if she was okay and her chastising me for being here. I tell her about how after we left the cave ruins Tenth and I tried to get to the Red Hand before Hagen. The Hand’s new-found identity. How we got captured. Our escape. Of course, leaving out any mention of my special pee technique, and how I pushed Tenth out the window. Staying behind to try and kill Hagen. I feel a tear race down my right cheek. Telling her all this. How I failed. It all sinks in. Unable to get the Red Hand first. Unable to kill Hagen. I’ve doomed everyone.
Maebh smiles and puts her hand on my shoulder. “You were brave to attempt such a thing. Brave but foolish.”
We’re brought a large loaf of black bread. Stuffed with meat and vegetables. Our last meal.
I chew on a piece of the bread. “What did he mean? About showing him kindness?”
“Hagen had a hard time adjusting to the world, being different as we are. It was more difficult for some of us compared to others of our kind. We are more sensitive to others emotions. You give them off in strong waves. It takes us much control and discipline to filter them out. Stop them from influencing us. As I said Hagen had a more difficult time of it. I tried to help him learn to control his abilities. But sadly, I wasn’t a very patient teacher back then. I think it took its toll on him.”
I take another piece of bread. “Yeah, he’s kind of loony tunes.”
“I blame myself for not taking the time with him. I was too caught up in my own pursuits. I thought if I was kind to him it would be enough.”
“Maybe there was nothing you could have done for him in the first place. You changed me for the better. I know that much. Would have never made it this far if you hadn’t taken me in.”
“Thank you.” She gives me a weary smile, taking my hand. “I’m glad I’ve had the privilege of being your friend.”
We finish our breakfast. Our guards keeping watch over us. The steady beat of drums slowly rising in the background. Coming from outside, somewhere in the distance.
I look at our babysitters. Not sure if I want to say anything in front of them about Hagen’s plans. Then I figure screw it.
“Why would these guys go along with Hagen’s plans?”
Maebh furrows her brow. “I’m sure he’s made the promises of using the tower as a great weapon. I fear they’ve greatly underestimated him in regards to meeting the creator.”
I look up at the two warriors. “You guys like taking orders from Hagen.”
They don’t answer. They simply stare back at me, betraying no visible emotion.
“Don’t you think he’s crazy?”
An orange skinned lizard enters. “It’s time. He wants both of them for the ceremony.”
I stand, helping Maebh up. Taking her hand, letting her lean on me as we walk. “Ceremony? That sounds fun.”
She squeezes my hand. “I’m glad we don’t have to face it alone.”
Outside, the main street is lined by red and blue warriors on both sides. Behind them atop large stone stands are the drummers. Beating a rhythmic sound of impending doom. Holding hands Maebh and I are lead down the street towards the ancient pyramid at the city’s center. Hagen’s tuning fork tower reaching up into the warm noon sky.
Maebh starts to hum a comforting tune. I’ve never heard her actually use her voice before. It’s quite beautiful.
There’s nowhere for us to go. No way to run away. We’re surround by the enemy. As we pass one of the red skinned warriors, he nods towards Maebh. She responds in kind. Does she know this one? Then a second later we pass a blue warrior and the same thing happens.
We reach the temple steps. Maebh is still humming her tune. In my mind, I hear her voice. “Don’t worry child.”
I take a deep breath as we’re ushered up the steps. Above us I can see Hagen waiting at the base of the tower. A small man-shaped blot against the sun.
He starts talking as we ascend. His voice booming unnaturally. “There is a sickness that seeps through all reality. Apathy. We have lost our way. Our indifference to one another, to the majesty of creation that surrounds us, this has led us down a dark path.”
As he continues his speech, we keep climbing up. I can feel the air thinning. Sweat dripping down my brow. My heart feels heavy. My knees weak.
As we approach a landing about halfway up, I see Elon and a few other important looking lizards there. The one with my ax is among them. Our escorts stop us here. We stand among the lizard VIP’s. A front row seat to Hagen’s madness.
Hagen raises his arms. “Today will be the ending to the apathy. And a new beginning. Today we will look on the face of creation.”
Somewhere in the city there’s an explosion. Cutting off Hagen’s speech. There’s frenzied panic around us. The blue guy with my ax rushes towards us. Ready to kill us. I step in front of Maebh. Trying my best to protect her.
Another explosion goes off in the city.
“Put out your hands!” He screams over the din.
I tense up. How am I gonna fight this guy with my hands chained. I feel a hand squeeze my shoulder.
“He’s a friend.” Maebh reassures me.
I look at him. A familiar pin on his tunic. Realizing he’s one of the guardians. I feel a bit embarrassed now for picking a fight with him before.
“Hold still girl.” He says.
I hold out my hands. Holding them wide apart as I can. The chain spread out between them. With one swing, he lops the chain in two, freeing me.
He nods to Maebh before flipping the ax around and offering it to me.
“Thanks.” I say.
“Can you fight?” He pulls a dagger from his tunic.
“Good. We have quite a battle before us. To the last of us.” He looks at the old woman. “We’re ready Maebh.”
“Thank you, Des.” She replies. “You have done so much already.”
Realizing what’s happening, Elon and the others attack us. Des and I step in front of Maebh. Our backs to the edge of the landing.
I risk a quick look at the street below us. Down a small group of the guardians are holding off the enemy. Cutting off the temple steps. Then I realize what our goal is. Get to the top. Get to the tower. Kill Hagen or die trying.
back to Fantasy