The Roads to Megiddo, Canto One
By Patrick M. Tracy
Harkalivad drove his black-shrouded blade through the witch’s chest. She bucked and shuddered against the weapon’s cruel edge—something she’d failed to do when they’d lain together, moments before. Naked, soaked with sweat, he yet needed, his hunger appeased not at all. Neither he nor the witch had been satiated.
The awareness left her eyes. The awful noise of the blade as it feasted upon her blood was familiar now. Like the dying screams of all the departed innocent ones and the callous laughter of a petty and uncaring god together, the blade emitted its noise as the witch’s body shriveled and turned to ash. It, at least, had its fill. The satisfied coo that arose from the shrouded sword sounded like his daughter’s voice. He could no longer see her in his mind, but he could hear her voice. The blade’s first victim, the one it would taunt him with until he could at last be rid of it. How easily it had torn her small form asunder…
He turned as he heard the demoness land, a flourish of her leathery wings before she tucked them away and made them fade from existence. She stood, her polished armor gleaming under the half-light of evening, her every feature perfect, and perfectly cruel. Her eyes flicked down, taking in his frustration and enjoying it. She smiled, exposing him to the true horror of her beauty.
“Another unsatisfactory interlude, Harkalivad?” Her voice existed on ten pitches at once, shaking him like close thunder. He clenched. Everywhere.
“The shrouded blade is fed. That is the only important thing.” He turned away from her, driving the blade into a nearby tree. It started to die, the leaves crumbling to ash, the trunk eaten away by an unseen wind. He could hardly bend to pick up his clothes, the clenching at his midsection so strong he had to hunch around it.
“Is that why you killed her? Or was it that frigid hell within you, so that no woman shivers but for the chill of your touch? Is it because no spending of your seed can remove the deep ache in your loins?” Her sharp teeth gleamed in the dusk. She stepped nearer to him, ready to deepen the taunt. In her armor, she didn’t feel fear, even of the shrouded blade.
“What does it matter?” Harkalivad drew the blade from the tree and cut her down with a single movement. Driving the sword into her forehead stopped the agonized, ten-pitch shriek of her death throws. Her black blood stained the ground, killing the grass in a moment with its acid.
She would return. When she did, he would tell her. He would show her the awful emptiness, the thing that would make anyone beg to die, of the fate that even immortal princesses of the night could not bear.
The blade, happy as a fool in slumber, slid easily into its sheath. Harkalivad finished dressing and walked to the road. The wagon still waited there. The dark shape beneath the cloak turned its empty eye sockets down to him from the driver’s bench.
“Whither goest thou?” it rattled, its voice naught but a grinding whisper.
“Where I’ve always been going. To Megiddo, and the ending of the world.”