“In Stone They Wait” | Novella | Written by Scott Moore | 3 - Mishmashers Mishmashers

“In Stone They Wait” | Novella | Written by Scott Moore | 3

The man looked up again. “Death,” Tin brought his hand to his forehead and wiped the sweat from his brow. The fight had not been his, but he had sweated all the same.

“Do you have a name?”

The man hung his head again. This time it was moments before he spoke. “I used to. Now it does not matter.”

Tin was ready to stand and turn away. The conversation was gaining him no ground. He was trying to compute what he had seen, but the man’s answers only complicated his mind further.

“They called us the guardians.” Tin stopped his motion to leave.

“Who called you that?” Those eyes were intent and gripping.

“The gods of men,” Tin did not think the man was lying, but it was farfetched.

Though ten minutes prior men throwing light was farfetched as well. “Why do they not call you this still?”

The man’s intensity faded, and he shifted his eyes back downward again. “The gods are dead.”

Tin heard the intake of breath by those around him. He realized that he had been holding his and slowly let it escape into the tube running from his mouth. “Dead,” Tin tried it as a question, but it had no conviction coming off his lips.

The shaking in his limbs told the story of fear. He had known the world was dying. He had seen the rubble, the rust, the decay, but even with it all; even with everything around him dying, he had known there would be an after. A place where the dead would go and be free from worry and destruction; now that hope was being pulled from him, NO!

“They cannot be dead!” The mask of the man did not hide his tears as they moistened the front of the cloth. The anger left Tin. It was true he could see it in those eyes.

He felt the hand of Ducaul on his shoulder. “I think we need rest, sire.” Tin did not want to rest. He wanted to scream. Anything he had dreamed of ever being true; it was dying before him. He had failed as a king of Ancarth and now, and now… He was the King to oversee the death of the gods. Ducual’s grip tightened on his shoulder. Tin felt dizzy; as if he had been spinning in circles.

“What do we do?” He was the King and yet he waited for the answer.

The man continued to avoid eye contact. “We die,” he said.

Tin shook his head. There was something else. There had to be something else. “No! This cannot be our only choice.” The strength in those words riled him. “We will not lie and die. There is more. When the trees died, we took breath another way.” He shoved his arm forward showing the tube to the man. “When the water dried and turned to an acid, we made our own.” His hands fumbled with the pack upon his lower back. “We do not sit by!” Tin was shaking uncontrollably now. Ducaul tried to keep him calm, but his words meant nothing to Tin.

“We will not die! Not now. Not without a fight.” His voice cracked as the words escaped his throat. The tubes for breathing were not meant for fits of rage. He took several moments to restart his breathing.

The man had turned. “You are already dead. What do you wish to fight for?” Tin didn’t know.

If the man had asked him a day ago, he would have tried to avoid the answer, but today knowing this was all he had left he felt something inside him awaken. A passion, a flame, something burned inside him.

“Life, the trees, the water, the sun, we will find a way. We always find a way.”

The man in white nodded. “Then we will fight. Victory will not come easily.”

Tin tried to control his shaking. He was on edge. “Nothing ever is,” he said.

“This is true,” said the man.

Tin took a slow breath. His lungs had stopped burning.

“We will start on what you know. Many things you know are not true.” Tin felt his body swaying. How much oxygen had he lost? The man continued to talk.

“The world…” Then the world was black for Tin.

His eyes opened slowly. Little floaters danced across his vision. He closed his eyes again. His head still felt light. “You’re awake, thank goodness.” He knew the voice of Tierney anywhere. Her hand caressed his head. Pushing the hair from his brow, he squeezed his eyes shut tighter.

“How long?” her fingers were soft. They had never seen labor in her short life.

“Not long. Only a few hours,” Tin opened his eyes.

“No, I mean how long will I still be alive?”

Her hand stopped moving. “Well, I hope for quite a long time, Tin.”

He pushed her hand away and rose. The world spun for a brief moment, and then he touched his feet to the solid ground. “Not if the man is right.”

Tierney shook her head. “Ah, yes the mystery masked man.” Her tone did not sound so charming.

“Where is he?”

She moved away from the bed. “They took him to the library.”

Tin stood and wobbled. Tierney moved quickly to him. “You should rest.”

He placed his hand on her shoulder to stable his weight. “I will later, I promise.”

She grabbed him around the waist. “We can’t lose you.”

He patted her back. “I am not going anywhere.”

Her fingers locked behind his back. Her eyes pleaded for him to stay. “I need you…” It was something he could not take.

He could not hear those words. He pulled her arms apart gently. “Ducaul will protect you.”

She looked down at her feet. “What if I don’t want him to?”

Tin started to walk away. “It is not our choice anymore.” He opened the door and headed into the hall.

That was the second time he had to avoid her words. He hated to do it. It tore him in ways that she would never understand, but he could not take her away. He was not her knight; he was the king, but even he had his boundaries.

Plus, he had bigger things on his plate. The death of gods, the end of the world, and two men throwing magic from their hands; he turned the final corner towards the library. The doors were large and oak. It seemed a sad waste of a tree, but it was made far before his time.

The hinges opened without a creak. Inside, the velvet colored carpet stood out amongst the gray stone of the walls. Over twenty thousand books scattered along the walls. The last testaments to trees, a church for all that was dead. The books held pictures and descriptions of things their eyes would never behold. He moved into the room. The musty smell of paper hit his nose. The man sat at the front table. He had opened no books. Instead, he sat staring into the air. As Tin shut the doors behind him, the man’s head tilted, his eyes were sharp, and in the light of the room they almost looked like the pictures of snow.

“Do you wish for anything?” Tin called over a servant with a tray.

They did not employ many. Most men were left to their own accord. But the library was a special place. The tray did not hold food or water. It held the catalog of books. The man sat the tray down. “I do not come here to read.”

Tin pushed the tray aside. “I sometimes sit in here and long for the beauties of another time.”

The man turned towards him fully now. “There was never a peaceful time. The man you saw today has made sure of that. War is but the custom while he lives.”

Tin could see the fury. He could feel it in the man’s tone. “Who is he?”

The man in white sighed. “I have told you once before. He is Death. Maybe you know him better as The Reaper.”

Tin scooted his chair back. “The Reaper? You mean Death himself?”

The man rested his chin upon his hands. “The very same,” Tin tried to stay calm.

There would be no use repeating the afternoon events. “Who are you?”

The man shrugged. “I am just me. A guardian; a keeper of life,”

Tin had already run out of things to say. He was in over his head. Just a day before he had not even wanted to be king, now he had come to realize; it didn’t really matter if he pretended to be king or not; the man continued to speak. “There are things about the world you could not have known.” Tin listened without interruption. “The world is not dead. It is dying, but not dead. You can save it. If you but destroy a bit of his magic; then the world could breathe again. Just a sliver and the light would shine. Bring his death and the birds will sing.”

Tin dreamed of the flowers. The smell of clean air, it was only a dream. You could not harm the Reaper. “It is impossible.”

The guardian did not relent on his words. “Maybe, and yet maybe not as impossible as you think; your passion today has shown me humans still have a will to live. They will not stop fighting.”

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