The rim of the chalice splinters, leaving a fissure of cracks leading towards the stem, and my body quakes with the impact. I’m trying to protect it, to protect myself, but I can’t seem to stop the damage being done to either as my thoughts begin to run together in a jumble of unrelated ideas. Blood has rushed to my head, blurring my vision, and I feel the familiar pounding of its rhythm as a pain between the eyes. Shards of broken crystal pieces lie at my feet to create a shimmering mass of my own reflections, but I can’t meet their gaze.
They know what I’ve done.
On Saetan’s mark, his supporters charge forward, and I can feel the roar of their approach as it shakes the earth beneath my feet. I stand upon high ground and watch as the dark cloud of their dirt encrusted bodies surge forward in waves of soldiers eager to follow their comrades into battle and have their taste of blood. My grip tightens around the familiar weight of my blade, its leather handle worn smooth by the oils of my hands and its steel tip sharpened until it cuts through skin like a knife to paper. Saetan’s eyes dull with purpose, as if challenging me to lead my own vanguard, but I remain behind to watch the first clash of armor, the first kill. His men fight like animals for a cause they don’t understand, and so they will die like animals, slaughtered and left where they fall in a twisted mass of broken limbs on the ground.
No one is to be left alive.
Unconsciously I shift my foot to the left, crushing more of the shards with the slightest of movements, and a burning sensation creeps up the length of my arm. The battle against Saetan races through my mind again as a result of my connection to the chalice, only this time I can see where events are missing, where the broken pieces used to fit. What will happen when it all falls apart? What happens when the crystal becomes too fragile to hold together? I can only hope to be forgiven my mistakes, but I expect that I will be denied the privilege.
It’s what I deserve.
Men and women line the walls of the throne room, their shouts increasing in volume as they vie for the attention of their regent king. Perched on the uncomfortable seat of my father’s iron studded throne, I absorb their chorus of demands. But with Saetan’s forces gaining a foothold in the northern mountains, the army waits on my command; I have no time for complaints of trampled crops or pilfered fowls. My emotionless eyes scan the room again, taking in the dirt streaked faces my subjects, but death is all I know.
Their situation is beyond my knowledge.
My present setting is devoid of all but the chalice and so I have only my own conscience for company. As I sort through my past, I am reminded of the subjects I ignored, of the men I sent to their deaths in battle, and the kingdom I let down as regent. For each mistake, a dart slices through my chest to pierce my heart where I’m most vulnerable, allowing more of the chalice to shatter. The sound of twinkling crystal pieces as they hit the ground echoes in the empty room.
I won’t survive their loss.
Silk curtains of red and gold drape the bed, a king’s colors to shield him from more of Saetan’s spies as his prone form lies motionless. He’s been dead a while now, but the gash the assassin’s dagger left in his chest is still bleeding, soaking his shirt through with red as if his heart hasn’t yet realized it’s fatal wound. My father’s hand grows colder under mine as the body’s heat leaves the lifeless corpse. He fought hard in his youth and ruled with indisputable authority, but in the end honorable intentions weren’t enough to spare his life.
No one is immortal.
Heedless of the broken crystal, my knees give out and my body collapses to the floor as a fresh wave of grief overtakes me. A shiver runs the length of my spine and I watch as blood trickles down my legs and pools about my feet while the tears begin streaming down my face. I don’t reach up to wipe them away as I might have done before; here there is no one to see. Resting near my foot is the undamaged stem of the chalice, the largest piece to remain whole and intact, and I grasp it carefully within my hands. The sickly pallor of my skin and the haunted look of my eyes reflect back at me from within its depths, providing evidence of my enduring shame.
So little yet remains.