The Lady’s Hand: The End of an Epic – Alexander Rahl
22
November, 1999
The Lady’s Hand: The End of an Epic – Alexander Rahl

–==Official Submission==–
FROM: First Sergeant Alexander Rahl
RE: The Lady”s Hand: The End of an Epic

It took Alexander, a fighting man in peak physical
condition, over four hours to reach the top of the
Pinnacle. He looked down over the battlements and through
the fog to the bustle of Tablenhelm and its thirty thousand
odd inhabitants, all a blur from the height. He removed
the five tomes from his person and reverently laid them out
in front of him on the stone. All was ready. All was in
place. Now was the time to end his life here.

“Alexander?” Her voice reached him through the intense
winds that blew across the top of the Pinnacle, but it was
soft, nearly forlorn. The Lady’s Hand turned to the
stairwell in time to see her emerge, her gossamer robe
billowing in the wind. He took a long moment to admire
her, her hair, her lips, her breasts and her thighs as she
stood naked against the backdrop of the island sunset; and
for a moment, he almost cast away his plan. He finally met
her eyes.

Kishara, The Lady of Night, Terror of the Uncounted Lands,
was crying.

Alexander balanced on a precarious ledge then, on one side
lay compassion for his lover and a life of power, glory,
and song. On the other side lay redemption from his shame:
empty and cold but proving to himself and the world that
the will of Alexander Rahl was unshakable.
When the moment passed he felt nothing but cold. He had
made his decision. She saw it as well; as if the Lady, his
mistress for nearly two decades, could feel the warrior’s
heart beating in his chest go still.

“Please…” She beseeched, holding out her hand to him.

Alexander rose slowly and responded with a featureless
gaze. He raised his hand to his ear, activating the tiny
crystal within, and spoke one word:

“Now.”

Far below, three men of the House of Turon’s ever-loyal
deathwatch, now completely in the thrall of the Ringwielder
of Spirit, sprang into action from where they were
concealed. The first, standing in the middle of a
warehouse full of barrels of the black powder, tossed a
torch into a pile of the stuff that he had spilled onto the
floor. The second, positioned next to the mighty CS-722
Waygate, shattered the magical seal that kept the immense
powers of the gate contained. And the third stepped out of
a hastily constructed, shabbily built Waygate into an
underground archaeological dig, his two companions blinking
at him in surprise, and opened the lid on a small silver
box he was carrying.
The Lady’s Pinnacle shook with the force of the explosion
of the warehouse deep within its foundation. The Great
Circle of Waygates, the most magnificent magical
achievement since the dawn of man, was washed away by the
reality-twisting force of the CS-722 gate’s destruction.
The town of Northwood shook ever-so-slightly as a small
network of underground tunnels and their dozen or so loyal
but secretive occupants, were destroyed absolutely by the
magical firebomb.

Kishara fell to her knees, her flowing black hair being
whipped around by the updrafts created by the explosions.

“Alexander, PLEASE!” She screeched, “NOOOO!!!”

Alexander kneeled down before the five tomes and opened the
first. Within it’s pages were the names – hundreds per
page, of the men, women, and children who had been
sacrificed by the Priests – sacrificed by the Stranglers –
to build the tally of a million souls to free their
mistress.

He laid his hand on the cover of the first book, and the
Ring of Earth on his finger sprang to life.
“I am Alexander Rahl,” he shouted, “Ringwielder of Earth,
General of the Trembling Firmament. I release you!”
The tome crumbled to dust before his eyes.

He laid his hand on the cover of the next book, and the
Ring of Fire on his finger sprang to life.
“I am Alexander Rahl, Ringwielder of Fire, General of the
Fiery Blade. I release you!”
The tome crumbled to dust before his eyes.

“…Ringwielder of Water, General of the Ocean’s Deep…”
“…Ringwielder of Air, General of the Stormbound Night…”

He took a moment to gaze at the final book before him,
easily the thickest of them all, containing over half of
the names used to free Kishara from her chains. He looked
back at her to make sure she wasn’t trying anything, but
she slumped on the ground, sobbing violently. She had been
defeated, not by cunning, not by might, but by the only man
since the dawn of time that she couldn’t bring herself to
destroy.
Alexander opened the last tome and flipped through its
pages idly until he found names that he recognized:

”˜Kironius Mengst’
”˜Delayne Muerdetta’
”˜Adulphus Turon’
”˜Myca Vodyanoy’

He slammed the book shut, and pressed his hand to it, the
Ring of Spirit flaring to life.
“I am Alexander Rahl,” he said quietly, almost
reverently, “Ringwielder of Spirit, General of The
Sackcloth Rose.” He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.

“I release you.”

And the tome crumbled to dust before his eyes, the last of
the Great Tally destroyed; the last of the million souls
freed.
Kishara, whose terrifying beauty had haunted men since
before time, now naked and weeping, took one long, last
look at her lover, laid her head down on her arm, closed
her eyes…

…and died.

The earth shook and the skies darkened, the soldiers and
commoners of Tablenhelm all looked to the Pinnacle in fear.

Alexander stood slowly, never tossing a glance at the
woman’s body behind him. He raised his left hand and its
five rings above his head as far as he could reach.

“It ends. Now.”

As one, the rings lit up, creating a multi-hued starburst
at the top of the Pinnacle that sent the people of
Tablenhelm running for cover. A wall of black fire
exploded from Alexander, stretching outward from the
pinnacle in a deadly wave that destroyed everything in its
path. He could hear the screams from far below, and he
smile grimly. Another wave shot out from his body,
expanding ever outward to destroy every thing that lived on
the island of Tablenhelm. When the power and noise had
subsided, he opened his eyes and saw the five rings had
released all of their power, and only ash remained. He
placed his hand before his lips and blew the ash into the
wind.

–====–
It took Alexander several hours to climb down the endless
stairs to the ground floor, and hours more to claw through
the wreckage of the smithies to the outside air. At one
point he came across young Salmnow, burned and broken, with
a scream of sheer terror twisting his lifeless face.

“Sorry kid. Get some rest.” was Salmnow’s only eulogy.

He emerged from the tower and strode across the fields of
bodies without breaking stride. The smell of burnt flesh
would have overwhelmed anyone who stopped to gaze at the
carnage, and Alexander didn’t much care; he had other
things on his mind. An hour later he reached the shoreline
and still did not break stride until the water forced him
to begin swimming. Shortly after, he came across the two
columns reaching out of the water – the last Waygate, and
swam through.

–====–

Somewhere, in the middle of the Britannian oceans, Old
Floggar jumped up and down with glee. His nets had
suddenly caught what must be a whole school of fish, and he
pulled the nets in eagerly awaiting his prize and the small
fortune he would earn at market. But instead of fish, a
man sprung out of the water, dagger in hand. The dagger
pierced his larynx before he could cry out and went on to
sever his brain-stem before he could react. Alexander
leaped fluidly into the boat, lowering the corpse to the
deck. He quickly and efficiently used his dagger to crack
the man’s chest cavity with a loud crunch, and hauled him
over the side, letting the corpse fill with water and sink
to the bottom of the ocean. Without pause, he moved to the
rigging, taking a glance at the stars to get is bearing,
and got the small fishing sloop on its way towards the
mainland.
He took a moment to look at the stars, for he had seen none
for nearly half of his lifetime, and when he looked back,
there was a spirit perched on the bow of the boat looking
at him.

“You came back,” Kironius Mengst said quietly.

“And you,” replied Alexander harshly, “certainly wasted no
time getting all the way out here to state the obvious.”

Mengst took a long look at the man before him, trying to
find the boy that was there when last they had been
together. He saw the black flecks in Alexander’s eyes,
swirling around like some sort of fluid.

“Teravandriel Tahl-Mearis, Lord Spirit, even after
millennia of serving the Lady, never showed physical signs
of her taint.”

“Are you my conscience now?” Alexander growled.

“You appear to need one.”

“Listen-,” said Alexander, formulating a harsh protest, but
when he blinked, the spirit was gone.

The boat continued on silently through the night.

–====–

Alexander’s senses were assaulted by the reek of herbs and
rot and piss as he entered his father’s bedchambers,
dragging the corpse of the pageboy on duty behind him and
dropping the child unceremoniously on the floor. The Old
Man, now terrifyingly old, lay in his bed, weak and
shriveled, his eyes white with cataracts. Alexander
lurched into the shadows by the door, wrapping his arm
around the neck of the purple-cloaked assassin who hid
there and rolling over the man’s back, snapping his neck.
He straightened his tunic and walked to his father’s
bedside, trying to keep his eyes averted from the wreck
that lay before him.

“You’re back,” came the raspy voice from the husk that was
once Debinani Rahl. “How long were you there?”

“Over fifteen years,” Alexander replied quietly, darkly.

“If…I wish I could see you…to see the man you’ve become…
maybe see some of your mother there…”

“You don’t want to see me, and I don’t look at all like my
mother.”

The Old Man offered a weak, toothless grin. “I’m proud of
you son…. I felt her die.”

“Don’t be proud. You sent me to Her,” Alexander said, his
voice rising in intensity but not volume, “I rotted in her
prisons, I felt the Strangler’s tortures for a year. A
year!” He cut himself off, grinding his teeth together in
rage.

His father had fallen asleep. Asleep!

Alexander drew his dagger from its sheath and held it
inches from the man’s neck.

“You weak-willed sot…you disgust me,” he growled, and moved
to slit his father’s throat.

“Ehrm…It’s not supposed to be like this…” mumbled his
father in his sleep, “A bed’s no place for a warrior to
die….”

Alexander stayed his hand and looked at his father for
several minutes, trying to decide if this was some wiley
ploy to save his own life; but he was forced to conclude
that the man was truly asleep.

“No,” said Alexander quietly, remembering his many battles
and slowly sheathing his dagger, “No it’s not. I’ll give
you one more chance, father. One and only one. Use it.”

Alexander laid his hand over his father’s wrinkled and
leathery face and closed his eyes, feeling out the taint
that had been aggravated by Ehrlich’s foul concoctions.
Once he had a mental picture of every last bit of Kishara’s
presence in his soul, he drew it, all of it, into himself.
The black flecks in his eyes multiplied, swirling and
dancing across his vision until everything was black. It
cleared slowly, and when his vision had returned fully he
saw that his father already looked years younger.

“I will not let her steal your life away, as you allowed
her to steal mine,” he said quietly.

The iron doors of the headquarters of The Black Rose
Society flew open, and Alexander Rahl strode out into the
world, quickly fading into the pre-dawn fog of the north
woods.

Finis

And thus ended another age of man. A war that began with
the rise of Kishara and the forging of her Five Rings
before history itself, ended with a single act of a single
man who refused to live with shame. History will not
remember Alexander Rahl, Slayer of Kishara; it will
remember the Chosen One who fell and betrayed the world.
History will remember Her.
Water Sleeps, after all.
The future is always murky, like the pre-dawn fog of the
north woods. One can never tell what will happen next, for
time, with it’s endless twists and turns and its veil of
fate, is incomprehensible. The soldiers of The Black Rose
Society do not remember a lot of their history, but for
five thousand years they have lived and died because of
it. What they’ll do now, now that the Great Tally has been
destroyed, is anybody’s guess.

But one thing is certain:

History rarely lets her Champions rest.

Thus Ends the Chronicles of The Five Rings

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