A Setting Sun

By Jannah Walling

“The gods have chosen a successor, and it is not you.”

Myla glared at the giant of a beast in front of her. The blood, her blood, ran hot down the side of her face. She had never tasted a color before, but the bitter taste of crimson in her mouth was worse than any metal she could name.

“Pathetic. We should have killed you off long ago.” Her king—her brother loomed tall against the burning radiance of the setting sun. She squinted. He looked more shadow than man against the light that hit her eyes. The axe in his hand gleamed as blood glinted like water running down a rose as it oozed down the pale edge of the blade. It pooled lazily into the sacred ground of the monastery. Smoke rose high as the low-set hovels burned around them. Though, if anyone saw, no help had yet come. Only the truly stupid or insanely brave stood up to the mad king.

His men were watching. Some had smirks painted across their faces, yet others held solemnity in their downcast eyes. And even still, they all gave a wide berth to one woman. The one who had found her.

The witch held Lilith by her arms—whispering things in her ear that made her cringe as she struggled against her grip. Despite her daughter’s brazenness, Myla could see the fear beginning to well up into tears at the corners of her eyes. She felt her heart break. Her best hadn’t been enough to save the girl. In that moment, she wanted to call out and comfort her. She wanted run. To fight. To beg to the heavens. More than anything, she wanted to stop this.

“Why?” Her voice felt weak, but she held her head steady with all the grace she could muster. If she was going to die, it wouldn’t be without dignity. His expression never changed from the stone-cold glare beneath the monstrous helm that curved up and back in onyx.

“It is the only way, little sister.” He bent down in the now stained grass and pat her cheek with hands too soft for a tyrant to own. Myla tensed, wishing she hand the strength to push it away. This wasn’t the soft-hearted boy who would comfort and defend her from the harshness of court. That boy had vanished long ago.

She moved to speak—then there was power. It washed through her and burned as energy resonated like a ripple in the pond of her soul. Images of the future began playing in her mind. She saw loved ones, friends, and Lilith grown up. She saw pain but also love. She felt terror strike as she witnessed the rolling hills and dense forests of Faryn set aflame as lightning threatened to destroy the fabric of their existence.

“It’s impossible. What you want… You will fail, my brother,” Her voice was soft but sure against the wind that blew cool across her face. For a moment, she breathed a bit easier. “The gods have chosen a successor, and it is not you.”

His axe rose as she knew it would. She had seen this too. Slowly, too slowly, she turned her eyes back to Lilith. She relaxed—deciding to let herself believe in the vision of the world she had seen. Peace embraced her like an old friend. She closed her eyes and let herself listen to the whispers of the wind.

The axe rose and fell—leaving the sun to set on a world that began to turn in flame.

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