The name is Dalton Fairbairns, and I am an average nobody who currently lives in a world filled with greed, dread, and deceit.
Welcome to the kingdom of Hassertonia, where my 18 years of life stuck and suffered within this rodent-filling, corpses-normalize, scream-and-cry-regulated kingdom… or, specifically, a town, Aetheron. Nothing is more painful than simply being alive in this god-forsaken hell hole.
As all kinds of illicit, malevolent low-end life forms roamed freely across these lands. You named it thieves, bandits, kidnappers, rapists, cutthroats, assassins… and thats why you always have to be vigilant despite the distances of travel being minute. As laws turned into myths, or instead artifacts, that is lost since the former Aetheron authority had perished.
This vicious town was once a haven for hundreds and thousands of sinless souls, simply a utopia to the wanderers and fugitives. And It was named after the once mightiest champion, Aetheron, who exchanged his life for the sake of this town.
He and his companions once fended off thousand of unholy aberrations while wielding his unmatched mighty great sword with his colossal grips. ”Desiár ” is the name they granted for his sword, also known as ”hope ” in their tongue.
This long-lasted war between Aetheron and the aberrations lasted for at least five winters and was eventually over; Aetheron and his companions stood tall during these darkest hours, granting the townspeople the peace they deserved. The town celebrated its peace and serenity, which lasted from one winter to another until its hard-earned peace ceased as it fell under the vanquishment of Kingdom Hasserttonia.
Kingdom of Hasserttonia. A kingdom where the king was nothing but a sham, where the true power of Hasserttonia was borne by a Baron, Alfrid is his name, a greedy and wicked mastermind. He was widely known as the puppeteer, veiled behind his self-assigned king, manipulating and corrupting every system of Hasserttonias politics, economics, and laws. Where the criminals roamed free and ruled the streets as the laws and decrees perished.
The capital of Kingdom Hasserttonia, also designated Hasserttonia, was built on the outskirt of a desert, the ”Green Paradise ” they called, where the nobles, royalties, and the Baron himself housed, the place where the rich get richer, the wealthy get wealthier.
Whereas the commonality like us, Aetheron suited best, one grimiest and crappiest region of Hasserttonia. Aetheron was constructed in the yellow region or a desert precisely. It was accompanied by multiple provinces, Lurook, Anderlinn, and Jaiden, respectively built at the yellow, the etween, and the green. Since the domain of Hasserttonia was rooted at the border between the yellows and the greens. And thus was made as a toll, collecting taxes from any advance made by travelers or merchants if desired to cross the route prepared by Hasserttonia.
The Kingdom was also segregated into three different turfs under three prominent and formidable factions that conquered the south, northeast, and northwest compounds: the Hound, Dark Moon, and the Fallen Tears. Despite the streets controlled by these three notoriously violent factions, they were nothing but farces conceived by Baron Alfrid as a bunch of vicious tax collectors.
As for folks like us, each day is like surviving a hell filled with dreads and tribulations, acting as prey for those sharpened fang devils, the thugs. These inevitable calamities led many residents to give up on their morality and integrity. Some seek to join one of the ”big three, ” and some form their private malicious parties. Cultivating more devils on the case.
While me? I stayed as the guy who sustained my morality but defied the participation, where I would never lend my help to the one abused to preserve my life it is.
On each morning, my routine kicked in; departing from my lodging was what I did first. And thereafter, once every day, I will traverse through markets to gratify my needs. And once my foot stomped out of the concrete, all I ever encountered were the screams of robbed victims or the cries of raped victims. Where the kids waves of laughter are nothing but a myth, these dreadful sounds came to me like an ordinary routine that no longer stressed my thoughts.
Today was indifferent from any other day, as the sun boiled the surface, cooking sweats from the last of us and I on one of my daily strolls across the markets, repeating whats been done for the last few winters, feeding myself it is.
The number of thugs Id been passing by was immeasurable, although the steps undergone from my house were brief. Those menacing and sick displays of theirs constantly reminded me not to trust anyone aside from me. Those cackled they had while pointing knives at the others throats. What a bunch of double-crossers.
Some corpses lay cold at the side of the street. The ”losers ” is what they are called by the residents, just the Aetheron Ive known, a place without morality and placidity.
On the spur of the moment, a wave of sudden cries stumbled across my ears…
Although these heart-wrenching wails came to me like a pebble on the road, since my keenness to react was no longer acting out after continuous exposure to these appalling settings, I yet checked it out. Only to realize a cage of abducted children, 6 in precise, and deemed to be sold as slaves. Marks of whips, paints in bruises, traces of dried tears.
”Poor child… ” was supposed to be the sole reaction I hogged. And from the senses of a common bystander, such concerns shouldn be pried, and neither do I.
*Sigh* but you know what? When the dice of fate landed on the skull, the heroism kicked in like a dose of an adrenaline junkie, and I had become a hero that day as I dug myself a grave… In hindsight, oh… Im such a dunce. Divine, please have mercy on me…
*Panting* *Panting* *Panting*
”Stop running, you pigf***ker! ” he yelped.
”You just signed yourself a death warrant! Get him! ” the ”owner ” of the abducted children bawled with a bruise on his left eye. He seemed to enrage with a wimp that was cowardly escaping after pulling a fast one. And how ironic that was me after I acted in such a gratuitous way and ran away thereafter. Well… I guess ”stupidity ” is a perfect way to describe myself…
I raced all across the town till the open paths were depleted. I was cornered between the tall walls of the dead end. And before I could devise another escape plan, that group of thugs eventually caught up. An ignorant smile was what they offered upon our meeting. What a bunch of impolite scums.
”No way to run now, huh? Punk! ” they taunted me after recuperating from the marathon we had. Then they approached me menacingly. I panicked and stuttered,
”Hey… hey… slow down now, big guys! ” Then deferred in a frivolous tone,
”Im just kidding, guys! Come on, don tell me you guys don even have a sense of humour! ”
I gradually exploited the last few steps of retreat and pinned myself before the dead end, grasping the last breath of hope, wishing for an unrealistic path to appear.
”How about I skin that hideous body of yours and hang it ”butt-naked ” at the main square?! Wait… no… ” the thug who spoken paused for a moment, then added in a mockery tone,
”How about ”Skinned-naked ” ?! ”
They burst out in laughter, but a familiar voice suddenly interrupted and halted their laugh halfway.
”Then I shall bring a big laugh to all the people in the main square! By hanging that hideous corpse of yours! ” as the ”owner, ” the dwarf I assaulted squeezed through his henchmen while ranting,
”Wait… listen here… I don think people in the town would find it humorous, don you think? And they will be most likely to find it as a… Hold on for a sec!… Oh, right, churlish! ” I responded.
”Haha, veeeeryyyyy funny… you
e a street jester or what? ” the dwarf added.
”I thought you were just being sarcastic… ” I tittered.
There are five of them: two orcs, two humans, and a dwarf, the ”owner ” or the ”boss ” of the group, also the one who received my senseless blow on the left eye. From what I understand, theres nothing much I can do to save my bloody skin. Im no trained fighter or an arcane master. What I only can do is submit myself to the consequences of acting foolishly without logically considering the prospective outcome. What a perfect ending for a man who merely believes in conscience and justice while disregarding the practical reckoning.
”Whats with the mute, tough guy? Aren ya trying to pull some hero drivel sh*t? Something like beating us to a pulp without dropping a sweat? ” the entire group guffawed at me and then casually reached for their sheathed weapons, and theres where my life was a step closer to the gate of the afterlife.
For any logical reason, screams for help might drive the best bargain to dissolve this dilemma, or I guess maybe not. Heres a reminder of this stingy town, receiving help from strangers is nothing like a myth of a living angel.
”End of the line, tough guy! ” the thug hollered.
My rear had reached an end. No further pathway I could retreat to. As I clenched my teeth, cold sweats slid down my neck, slowly accepting my inevitable end.
As the range was closing, he raised his right arm and…
In a split second, a mace walloped to my skull. The skull was bashed; the blood spewed like an open hose, and my consciousness packed their farewell as my knees dropped instantly, accompanied by the body immobilized soon after. As my senses slowly withered away, the blood dripped down from my forehead, painting my eyesight red. In the meantime, these blood-tainted eyesights of mine watched them stomp on my incapacitated body while everything got darker each second. My pain tolerance eventually no longer functioned; despite being constantly stomped and kicked by those thugs, I sensed nothing. And I was drawn to the conclusion that my life had reached its terminal point and where… I… ceased…
”Boss, I think hes dead! ” one thug spouted.
”Check his pulse, Jamal! Make sure hes dead. I don want another self-appointed vigilante roaming these streets again, hindering the expand of my business! ”
Jamal kneeled before my bleached flesh and pressed his finger against the pulse of my neck.
”Dead! ” he responded,
”Huddling out, people, we
e returning! We have to return to the carriage before another one of these vigilantes appears and releases MY products! So, if neither of you want to lose that precious head of your, lets hope that none of my products are escaped! ” the dwarf bellowed.
”Yes, boss! ” as they dashed back, while my body was left behind in this dim and cold alley,
”Who was guarding the products, Jamal? ” the dwarf asked.
”It was Jared and Minter, boss. ”
”Then lets hasten our pace before the business is racked and ruined! ”
”Yes, boss! ”
Upon their return, the corpses of both Jared and Minter and an empty carriage with the gates swung agape were the only things they witnessed.
”NO, NO, NO! The products have escaped! ” the dwarf panicked.
”You scum spread out! Strip the town if you can! Bring them back at all costs! ” the dwarf bellowed as he pummeled the empty carriage with his right fist.
The henchmen scattered before the response could fully forge, attempting to recapture the escaped children before it was too late.
”Jamal, you… *pants* you… *pants* ” the dwarf was trying to regain his breath after the eruption of his formidable furies.
”Stay…! Ransack this mess… *pants* and find… *pants* who did this! ” the dwarf was concluding his demand and soon flopped on the sidewalk to catch his breath.
”Yes, boss! ” Jamal responded and soon hauled the bodies to a more vivid spot, which was to allow himself to execute the investigation regarding the root of their demise.
”A fastidious clean kill, no sign of struggles… Could it be poison? But how…? ”
Jamal uttered as he was stuck in his puzzling thought while unraveling the last string that led to the closure of the case.
”So? Got anything? ” the dwarf asked.
”It seems like there were no face-up conflicts, rather than an unresponsive slaughter. ”
”Meanings? ” the dwarf unintelligible questioned,
”Both of them were killed without even acknowledging they were attacked. ”
”More like an execution through stealth, work of a professional or professionals… ”
”Then how did they die? And why is there no one stepped in to stop them? ”
”Boss, I meant no disrespect, but we are currently in Aetheron. No one here gives a damn about what we do or why we do it. ” Jamal posited,
”Then what about that puny scum we just killed? ”
”He exceptional, I presume, or maybe a distraction to separate us from the others? Creating a loophole between us, and strike when its exposed. ”
”That explained why he never flinched a bit, even though we tried to kill him. ” the dwarf amused.
”For a guy like him to outplay me? Huh, I guess we really can judge someone by its cover. For someone with a look of a drifter actually being crafty, it really intrigued me. ” the dwarf laughed,
Such a gallant assumption from them. At least my death doesn resolve in a negative depiction, even though the truth of what they said is contrary to my genuine intent.
”BOSS! I found them! ” one henchman returned and alleged in a beaten tone,
”I just saw them enter one of the abandoned buildings inside the ghost town, ” he added.
”So, shall we throw a chit-chat party, then? ” the dwarf grunted,
”No, boss. ”
”Then? Whats with the holdup? Lets go! ” without further procrastination, they darted off to the specified location.
Moment of traverse later…
They arrived at the ghost town, and the entire platoon had already rallied outside the specified abandoned building, which seemed to have a tall history.
Creaking windows, cracks, and holes outline the body structure, while the webs thrive within its core. Perfect hideout for secret operations since its also sited at the towns outcast, where no lives dwelled, except rodents, of course.
The abandonment of this town remained a mystery; as the legend told, this town once bore the gateway to the Gaian Abyss, also noted as the core nest of the ungodly creatures. So humanity resolved this obscure predicament by forgoing this unholy ground for existential circumspection…
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