Tin raised his hand towards the faces, but drew it back; something didn’t feel right about touching them. Almost as if the eyes could see. “No one else has seen them?”
The men answered by a nod of the head. “Just us, sire.”
Tin thought for a moment. He had to get his scientist here. If there was any chance of knowing what they were they had to look, but if he pulled them away from their duties for such trivial matters, what would the people think?
He stepped back, staring intently at the rocks. Those faces looked almost human. The shape of the nose, the curve of the jaw, the slant of the eyes; he turned to Ducaul. The man did not look interested. As a matter of fact, he looked away from the King as he noticed his stare. He would still be upset with the meeting earlier. “What do you think Ducaul?”
Ducaul shrugged his shoulders. “I told you already. I don’t find them nearly as fascinating.” Tin nodded. No use pressing the man.
What could he do? He found himself rocking on his heels and stopped. He was anxious. His knuckles popped under the pressure from his thumbs. The men stared at him awaiting an order. What to do? He moved around the rock again. Tracing the lines, did they mean anything? He wouldn’t know without the team. He made up his mind in that moment. Sometimes it paid to be King no matter how much you hated the fact.
“Bring the science team from the lab. Let them have a look at it.” The three men nodded.
Ducaul rounded his body towards Tin. “Your majesty, what do you plan to prove?”
Tin scratched his chin, more in thought than a need to itch. “We will see.”
Ducaul looked downright angry, but he did not speak another word of it. “Will you be seeing Tierney again?” His question hung in the air like a cloud. Tin tried to think of anything to say, but nothing came. He continued to walk away. He had just scoffed on his friend’s question, but he had seen what he had seen. What was Tin to say to erase it?
It was the following day before the team could pull away from their work, but now they stood scanning the rocks with their scrutiny.
“Look how intent they are.” Tierney had sneaked up behind Tin as he watched. She had caused him to jump, but he tried to play it off with a hand through his hair.
“Maybe it is something important, Tierney. Something that could help us,” her laugh was girlish. She was probably right to laugh. The world around them was hanging by its last leg.
“How is Ducaul?” The captain of his army had not spoken to him since the day before. Whereas on a normal night they would have shared dinner, last night, Ducaul conveyed the message he had taken ill.
Tierney looked out into the barren land around them. “He wasn’t really sick.”
Tin tried to act like he had not heard the proclamation. “I hope he gets better.” He tried to keep her from the sensitive ground. “He was faking, Tin.” Tin knew he was faking. He wasn’t a complete dunce.
He grimaced at the thought of Ducaul grimacing into Tierney’s ear. The berating she must have heard, and yet he could not bear to hear it from her. “He will get better in time.”
She let the motion pass. Instead, she treaded into deeper waters. “Why?” Tin turned to her with confusion apparent. “Why, don’t you just take me away?”
He laughed. Her face fell. He shouldn’t have laughed. He scrambled his mind for the words to fix it, but they wouldn’t come. “Do you think it is important?” He was staring at the rock again. She eyed him, but he tried to feign ignorance of her stare.
“Good day, Tin.” She turned before he could stop her, not that he had anything to say that would fix the damage. He put his head into his hands. It was unbefitting a King to scream into his hands, but Tin never claimed to be a good King.
The scientist looked up. He saw them from inside his hands. They were speaking the words upon the rock. He wasn’t sure how they had known them. He watched in awe. They walked around the stone towards the side he could not see from his vantage point atop the walls. He could barely make out any of the rabble they spoke, but he knew it was a foreign tongue. Soon they were all gone from his sight. Then, just as suddenly, the surrounding rock was glowing. At first, softly, then as he continued hearing their words, it grew brighter and brighter.
The first crack sounded like an explosion. He heard panic from the diggers. They looked to the sky for bombs. They looked around them for gunfire. The second crack was even louder, but they saw the source. They stopped their digging and stared. The King watched intently as well. A third crack sent sound waves echoing through the city. Tin was sure everyone would be on alert. He as King should go and soothe their worries, but he wasn’t even sure what was happening.
A fourth and a fifth, then a sixth crack. The scientist stopped rambling. They were back within his sight now. The glow almost hurt his eyes. He shielded them with his hand. Then a last crack sent a shiver down the entire length of both rocks. The sides fell away. A plume of smoke rose around them. Tin leaned forward, as far as the wall would allow without toppling him towards the ground.
Then he was thrown back. Light exploded around him. The wall shook with such a force he was sure it would crumble. Just another broken relic in his kingdom; he scrambled back to his feet and threw his body towards the railing. There below, in the plumes of smoke, light shot back and forth. As the smoke cleared, he saw two men standing in the position the rocks had stood just minutes before.
One man wore the black of the surrounding night. It flowed like a shadow in the fire. The other man wore the white of day. They both threw light from their hands. Neither stopped to notice the world around them, their faces were covered, but Tin could tell they were human. At least in appearance; he watched as the men fought with their light.
The man in white dodged a sudden ball of blue. Spinning and crouching to one knee, he threw a ball of yellow at the man clad in black. The man jumped higher than any human should be able to jump and landed like a feather. He rocked back on his heels, pulling light from the air and throwing it again. The man in white flattened to his belly. As he rose, the dust puffed from his robe front. He dodged a second ball coming for his face by rolling to his shoulder.
“Your Grace!” Tin turned and found Ducaul running the stairs behind him. “What do we do your Grace?” This man was the head of the army. He should have controlled them.
Tin did not want that on him. He bit his lip. But by the grace he was King, and kings were not always lucky enough to be born into poverty and obscurity.
“Surround them. Do not let them escape.”
Ducaul nodded. Any sign of sickness or anger was gone from him. That was now replaced with genuine fear. Tin turned his body again watching the fight. The men had moved but a scant inch. They were in constant motion, but neither ran. He was amazed by their actions. No fighter in his army or in any books had ever moved in such a way, and that light, he had never seen anything like it.
The man in white pulled another ball of yellow from the air and threw it forward. This time, merely missing by an inch; Tin heard the gates of stone opening below him. Ducaul would have already gotten the men together, and now they would follow the orders of the King. They filed out quickly, with guns in hand.
Tin watched them surround the two men. Neither of them batted an eyelash towards the oncoming army. It was as if they did not exist. The lights kept zooming past one another.
A scream took Tin by surprise. He looked at the men for injury, but neither showed signs of slowing. Another scream took him into the direction of the science team. Two men lay on the ground. Both men had holes bigger than their mid-sections through their bodies. Neither should have been alive, but they let out dying screams none the less. He watched two more men fall. Then he decided surrounding them was not enough. “Attack!” Tin scream.
Ducaul hesitated. The man in white tripped the man before him. He fell with a thud. The man in white was atop him in seconds. His hand was raised for the kill. Ducaul gained his wits and followed orders at that moment. He pulled the trigger on his gun and bullets whizzed past the man in white.
His head tilted to take in a new threat. Then a sudden blast of blue surrounded him. The light was blinding and then it was gone, and with it went the man clad in black. Ducaul and his men searched around the circle, but the man had vanished into thin air. Leaving only the man in white; who stood to his feet and dusted off his robes. Tin could not see the emotion on his covered face, but his hands worked around him, and suddenly he was encased in a yellow glowing orb. The bullets ricocheted off the encasing, and no matter how many bullets hit he moved forward.
Tin grew nervous. What had happened? What was this man? Would he be the end of humanity? Then the man stopped in front of Ducaul.
Tin could clearly hear the words as if the man spoke inside his mind. “You have made a grave mistake. You will not have long to fix it.” He looked around. “This world is dead, and now humanity will follow.” Tin watched as the man sat onto the ground. He did not move or speak. Tin turned towards the stairs and traveled down two at a time. As he reached the bottom of the wall, he made a sprint towards the stone doors. Soon after, he found his way into the digging yard; he eyed the rocks. They were nothing now but shatters, splinters, and shards. He moved passed them. The man in white looked up slowly. His shoulders did not move with breath.
“Who are you?” His eyes were crystal blue behind his mask. It was all that Tin could make out of his appearance.
The man blinked and then looked back down. “Dead, same as you,” he answered.
Tin crouched down by the man. He felt no fear. “Who was that?”