Victor (y)

“The race is not given to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but (S)he that endures until the end.
Had a spiritual awakening. Met PFC Ruffin (my former self 22yrs prior to this date; AIT/Ft. Jackson, SC) midway the trail. She represents the most pure and innocent aspect of my adult life. I envied her. She was enamored with me, believing that I embodied a finished work; successfully navigating emotional and physical trauma.
I was proud to tell her one day we would love life on our own terms, and it would not break us.
I can endure. I AM SHE THE VICTOR

Temple of Ruin

As the troops climbed the tall stone stairs leading up to the shrine, Keinah quickly called for them to pause.
“STOP,” she warned.
Suddenly, a spray of spears came spiraling at them. The troops instantly put up all their shields to block the attack. After three hours passed, the spears ceased to fire as none had successfully penetrated through the shields. In dead silence, the troops lowered their shields to see Lord Enzo at the top of the shrine with one Necromancer. He remained in his Celestial form as a Sapphire cloud draped in a black cape-like the Necromancer’s attire.
“Is that all the tenacity you have left since your army is gone, Lord Enzo?” Lord Chimique called out towards him.
“You are outnumbered! You may as well surrender,” Aysha chimed.
Lord Enzo remained silent.
“You should be ashamed of your failures and even more embarrassed that you became accustomed to using underhanded trickery to make advances. It is no wonder that you remain the pathetic lower-ranking Lord reviled by all who speak your name,” Lord Bilal asserted.
Lord Enzo cackled wildly. “High Chief Lord Bilal, you are one to jest! You dare stand in the presence of the great and well-revered Lord Chimique knowing full well that you did not receive your acclaimed rank on the same honorable merit?!” He huffed.
“You needn’t indulge in grand delusions over any petty rumors. It is common practice to bribe an official for rank, as not everyone has twelve centuries to gain the experience to qualify.” Lord Bilal scoffed.
Lord Enzo cackled wildly again. “If only that were the case, I would have nothing more to say.” He said.
“Enough of this rubbish talk! It is time for your surrender,” Lord Bilal said as he launched an attack on Lord Enzo.
The Necromancer quietly chanted a spell, causing crystalized asphalt to grow from the ground and attach itself to Lord Bilal’s ankles. He fell to his knees in anguish as the minerals seeped into his being. The camp waited with bated breath, trying to make sense of the altercation.
“True to tale, I embarked on a mission for supreme dominancy over all our territories. Lord Bilal bribed the Officials for his rank. The devilish missing detail is that he threatened to end their existence with shards of a crystallization sword!” Lord Enzo tauntingly revealed.
The troops gasped in horror, as Vadiim lunged towards Lord Bilal to confront him. “This cannot be,” he said in disbelief.
Lord Bilal lowered his head in disgrace. “Lord Enzo, you are the epitome of evil. To put it mildly, you possess the spirit of total deprivation. It has always been your practice to take everything, without regard to those around. What I did was a necessary evil, because it was for the good of my kinsmen and the Emerald Kingdom,” he said bitterly.
“Lord Bilal, we are pot and kettle who needn’t call each other black! Centuries ago, you had no qualms about being at my side when we mined for crystallized minerals. We secretly traveled as a pair so powerful; no one could stop us. That is of course, until you abruptly decided to part ways to make a name for yourself in the Emerald kingdom.” Lord Enzo fired back.
Lord Chimique and Aysha rushed to where Lord Bilal knelt to attack him.
“You treasonous bastard,” Lord Chimique raged.
Aysha put a dagger to his throat, but Vadiim blocked her with his sword.Lord Bilal felt a hint of relief that he had been saved.”General Vadiiamonial, it should be clear that hell is what you go through to keep heaven intact,” he pleaded.
Vadiim pondered the notion for a moment, then turned towards Lord Enzo.
“We will deal with Lord Bilal’s treachery in due time. We will not allow ourselves to become distracted from our conviction that you, Lord Enzo, must be dealt with promptly,” Vadiim declared as he began his pursuit.
Just as he Vadiim launched his attack, Lord Enzo hurled a crystalized spear, which pierced through his chest and directly into Lord Bilal’s mouth. Immediately, Lord Bilal turned to stone. Though the spear held Vadiim stuck to Lord Bilal, he remained unharmed from the minerals. Aysha signaled for the troops to attack in full force.

The Far Side of Hereafter, Ch. 24

The Fiery Priestess

By midday, the enchantment upon the camp had finally lifted. As Breonas slowly opened his eyes, he could hardly believe that Keinah was standing before him. Her whole body radiated brilliantly in the sun’s light. He clumsily rose to his feet, trembling.
“Your Majesty, is that you?” he asked.
Keinah chuckled as she leaned over to grab one of his paws. She gently stroked his forehead without speaking. Her eyes were no longer the deepest brown, but now a crisp golden hue.
“Chieftain Breonas, please do not fear. I am your Princess, Keinah, though I am not the same as you once knew me. I have been granted permission from a Heavenly Host to remain by your side,” she said with enthusiastic resolve.
Breonas smiled whole-heartedly with awe and ease. The pair shared a long embrace, as the Celestial soldiers came to see for themselves what was happening. The Lords and Aysha went into the fold of the onlookers to dismantle the commotion. They nearly doubled over when they saw Keinah and Breonas together.
“How can this be?” Aysha asked in an unsteady tone that shocked all the soldiers.
“What is the meaning of this?” Lord Bilal demanded.
“The Emerald Princess is of a sorceress,” Lord Chimique answered in disbelief.
Ignoring the crowd, Keinah continued her dialog with Breonas.
“Where is my husband? Take me to him at once,” she said.
Straightaway, Breonas led her to Vadiim’s chamber as the throng followed in quickstep behind them. There Vadiim laid, resting peacefully. He no longer looked like he was in anguish, though his leg remained with the stone-like infection. Keinah kissed his lips, but he did not stir. She removed her robe to reveal her transformation that took place with the angel Mikleua. Though she stood naked before her audience, it was her enormous flame engulfed crimson wings that spread throughout the room that left them in complete astonishment. Keinah placed her hands on Vadiim’s injured leg and chanted in another one of her unknown tongues. She draped herself over Vadiim and folded her wings around. A blinding light struck the entire chamber as a wave of heat followed.
“General Vadiiamonial of the Emerald Clan Legionnaires, arise,” she commanded.
Vadiim immediately opened his eyes and sat upon his cot. The infection disappeared from his leg.
Breonas was so moved by all that had transpired; he bowed on one knee in reverence of the moment.
“All hail the Emerald Princess Keinah, for she is now our Fiery Priestess,” he proclaimed.
The entire camp followed suit without hesitation, and chanted in excitement, “All hail Princess Keinah! All hail the Fiery Priestess!”
Vadiim made a full recovery from being struck with a crystallization sword, which was unheard of in the Celestial realm. No one could comprehend what they had witnessed, but they were encouraged to win the war against the Sapphire clan, with Keinah as a secret weapon. It was understood that Vadiim did not want to put Keinah on the front line, and would only call upon her if their mission was direly unsuccessful. Within a few days, Vadiim and Aysha began dynamically rehearsing attack strategies to strengthen and reinvigorate the soldiers.
“Are you certain that Princess Keinah should be in attendance at this fiasco? We nearly lost her once. Even though she displays an unexplainable massive amount of power and finesse, how can you be so calm about her heading into this deadly war?” Aysha asked.
“What I want is of little consequence. Keinah is not from this realm. I have no control over her destiny. Who am I to deny her the right to become what she was meant to be?” Vadiim said with resolve.
“Still, this must be hard for you to watch her practically fly out of your reach. I admire your conviction to let things be.” Aysha said, as she dodged the brunt of his sword.Vadiim spun away from Aysha’s counter-attack and said, “What is to be admired is the fact that Keinah has forgone the Heavenly realm once and for all to remain in our domain. Her dedication to our kinsmen is parallel to my own. I could not ask for a greater gift. She is my eternal mate. I am content with that alone.”

The Far Side of Hereafter, Ch. 23

Dream Denied

The Emerald Princess laid in repose dressed in a long hunter green colored robe on a golden altar. Her brilliant illumination was gone, but her fragrant scent lingered all around. Breonas wept as he vowed to keep watch and guard her outside the tent. The herbalists tended to Vadiim and noted that the infection from the crystalized minerals remained only where he was struck. Ordinarily, even the slightest scratch would cause a Celestial to instantly and entirely turn to stone. They marveled Vadiim was still alive, though he could not be roused.
Vadiim laid in a catatonic state for days. He awoke to find himself sitting on a white sanded beach surrounded by an endless ocean of the bluest water he had ever seen. A small chubby ebony-skinned boy with silvery coiled hair and piercing emerald eyes approached him. The boy seemed to be familiar with Vadiim. He stood over Vadiim with a half-smile and an intense glare before leaning in to press their foreheads together. After a brief pause, the boy grasped Vadiim’s face into his tiny palms.
“That is alright, Papa; we can tell everyone that you caught all the fish in my net,” the boy said tenderly.
This startled Vadiim, but the boy’s embrace melted his heart. Then the boy eagerly grabbed Vadiim’s hands, and urgently tugged for him to stand. They both ran to the shoreline to retrieve the batch of fish caught in the boy’s net. The boy struggled to pull the net out of the water. Vadiim placed him on his shoulders and dragged the net out to carry with ease. The boy gleefully laughed and clapped his hands.
“Shall we go?” Vadiim asked.
The boy nodded, and they made their way towards a town. Vadiim seemed to instinctively know where they were headed, though the town was unfamiliar. Before long, the duo came upon a modest cottage with a lush petunia garden. The boy requested to be placed on the ground and then enthusiastically bolted through the front door. The house was quaint, with simple antique furniture, decorative trinkets on the walls and shelves, and a cozy fire blazing in the fireplace.
As Vadiim entered the kitchen area with the fishnet, he noticed a beautiful smaller girl sitting in a highchair. She whimsically played with her doll and hummed along. Her resemblance to the boy was uncanny. Vadiim nearly lost his breath when he saw Keinah standing at the stove, stirring a large black metal pot. The boy clung to the hem of her dress to gain her attention. She turned around with an annoyed sigh. When her eyes met with Vadiim’s, her face relaxed with a smile. Their trance was broken after she fixed her eyes on the fishnet.
“It seems that Papa lost his net and replaced it with yours,” she chuckled.
The boy bashfully placed a finger over his mouth to signal for Vadiim to remain quiet. “Come on, Papa, let’s show them all the fish you caught,” he exclaimed.
As the boy helped Vadiim dump the fish on the kitchen table, Keinah removed her apron. Vadiim nearly doubled over at the sight of her swollen belly. She walked over to him and waved her hand directly in front of his face as he stood in a daze.
“Hello? Is there anyone home?” she jested.
This scenario amused the little girl, and her jolly laughter caused Keinah and the boy to laugh as well. Vadiim, still half-dazed, slowly laughed with them. He hugged Keinah, then placed his hand on her stomach.
Celestial beings often slept but never dreamt. No Celestial dared to desire to become a human. Vadiim took stock of the unfolded events and realized all that could be gained if he were human. He also thought of everything Keinah was denied in both life and death.
Meanwhile, Breonas and the rest of the camp fell into a deep sleep. A presence draped in a luxurious, silky blue hooded cloak crept into Keinah’s chambers. It hovered over her until she slowly opened her eyes. She did not speak or move.
“Arise, my child,” It commanded her in a thunderous voice.
“Who are you?” she asked in a fit of terror.
The presence removed the hood of its robe to reveal a glowing, angelic face.
“I am an angel from the Heavenly realm. I am called Mikleua,” It declared.
Keinah took a breath and sat up straight on the altar.
“Why have you come here?” she inquired in a trembling voice.
It chuckled for a moment; then its eyes turned to a crimson fire. Earnestly, it asserted, “When The Reaper did not successfully deliver you to the Blessed Heavenly realm, your grandmother sent me to look for you. My search seemed endless and futile until this very moment that I have found you.”
This news struck Keinah to her core as she sprung herself off the altar.
“Grandmother has been looking for me all this while?” she asked in astonishment.
Mikleua quickly and firmly grabbed her by the hands.
“All is well, but we mustn’t tarry any longer,” It said and removed her robe.
As she stood naked, the Emerald clan insignia that was tattooed beneath her breast glowed as it was revealed.
Mikleua withdrew in disgust and furiously rebuked her.
“My child, what has become of you?” It asked.
Keinah felt insulted by this response.
“I am the daughter of the Emerald Queen. I dwell here with my husband and kinsman. No doubt, I have become who I was always meant to be,” she replied indignantly.
Mikleua crossly grabbed Keinah by the shoulders.
“Do you not understand? You cannot ever enter the Heavenly realm, for your soul has been corrupted,” It scowled.
Keinah defiantly snatched away from the angel.
“Then, so be it. Whatever my appointment in Heaven was, I am certain that it is being fulfilled in this realm. Grandmother taught me to pray for others more than I pray for myself. My new kinfolks are in danger of becoming extinct if there is no divine intervention. I am most needed here. This domain is where I choose to remain,” she said.
Mikleua relaxed and soothingly changed tone.
“You have spoken the truth. Your devotion to those you care about is overwhelming. To think that one such as you who held a lowly status in life would forgo all the riches in the Heavenly realm to protect your newly claimed kindred is remarkable. You truly walk in your calling. Everything that you are now is everything that you were meant to become,” It marveled.
Mikleua removed his cloak and spread majestic, massive pearly wings that spanned throughout the entire space of the room. This time, Keinah warmly accepted their embrace.
She looked up at him with teary eyes and said, “Tell my grandmother that I miss her and I love her. Please assure her that all is well with my soul.”
Mikleua gently kissed her on the forehead and said, “As you have said, so shall it be!” The angel’s massive wings folded around her, and the room was lit as bright as the sun.

The Far Side of Hereafter, Ch. 22


Place of Hurt

The following evening, several hundred Celestial soldiers waited outside the briefing room. Many of them were in shock and disbelief that the great Emerald Clan Legionnaire General Vadiiamonial had been struck down in battle. They scoffed at the idea that the “foreign” Emerald Princess was in attendance of this war, and “outrageous” demand of the Emerald Queen that all Celestials assume human form whenever in parameter of Princess Keinah. A barrage of cursing was flung around, mocking the clumsily restricted human bodies that are ill-suited for combat.
The group was so enthralled in their complaint session that they did not notice General Aysha was in their midst.
“If the lot of you sorry mutts were any half-good of a fighter, it would not matter one way or the other whether you posed as a human or remained in your natural Celestial state!” She barked at them. The soldiers shuttered in terror as they turned their attention towards the Diamond clan Valkyrie.
“You came with no heart to this fight! How do you honor your homeland and the Emerald Queen when you have allowed ruin to come to her daughter? You dare to classify her as a foreigner when she risked herself to slay countless goblins and cast a spell to save us all from expiration,” she furiously continued. 
“Forgive us, great General, but was it not because of the human girl’s demise that your fellow General Vadiiamonial became distracted enough to be assaulted with a crystallization sword?” a Diamond soldier interjected.
Breonas came from nowhere with fire in his eyes.
“Did you not witness her excellency in actions?! Were it not for Princess Keinah’s tenacity and determination as our comrade-in-arms, many of you would not have been healed after the ambush at Luab nor would you be standing here today badmouthing her efforts,” he contested. 
The soldiers murmured among themselves as if to ignore Breonas. It was apparent they were unmoved by his testimony.
Breonas stood on top of a broken pillar and angrily wept as he continued to yell at them.
“She outmatched the dark sorcery of the necromancers. It is only because of Princess Keinah’s magical prowess we still have General Vadiiamonial. Though he is still clinging to his life, he has not been turned to stone. He may have a chance yet to make a recovery of sorts,” he said.
General Aysha was filled with a renewed sense of determination after hearing Breonas speak. She abruptly brushed through the congregation to stand beside the weeping Breonas.
“This young pup has more guts and loyalty in his tiny little body than any of you dogs! You should be ashamed and put to the crystallization sword for your incompetence. No one can contest that Princess Keinah’s contributions are the very cause of any success that we have had. From here on, you must check yourselves, tuck your yellow tails in, and return your respect to those who have paid with their lives for your honor,” she proclaimed.
The murmuring ceased and was replaced with valiant cheers to support General Aysha and Breonas. The party departed and set out to begin in combat exercises.
Inside the briefing room, Lords Bilal and Chimique observed as the Celestial guards interrogated the captured Sapphire soldier. When the Lords were satisfied with the briefing, they signaled for him to be taken back to the holding chamber. In the mere minutes that the Sapphire soldier had one arm loosened, he quickly ingested a jagged piece of his crystalized sword. The group watched with delighted terror as he shrieked in agony. After shriveling up, all that remained was solid stone.
Lord Chimique signaled for the guards to wheel the stone away in a barrel.
“The savagery of the Sapphire clan knows no end! Those pathetic vermin must be destroyed, or none of our territories will reside in peace,” Lord Bilal said in disgust as he struck the stone with his giant mallet.
Upon impact, the stone shattered into millions of tiny pieces. The guards frowned as they were instructed to remove all the particles swiftly.
“This is the handy work of the unscrupulous Lord Enzo, whose insanity and utter incompetence has long hindered him from gaining the rank of High Chief. He has had an ax to grind with the world for centuries. It is no wonder that the once highly revered Sapphire clan is now reviled as nothing more than bandits and goons,” Lord Chimique said as he gazed through the curtain panels to watch the guards remove the rubbish from the briefing room.
“It was King Dorrel’s inept leadership that contributed to their demise as well. Countless territories fell victim to Lord Enzo’s cruelty, and King Dorrel did nothing to stop it,” Lord Bilal huffed.
“If the Sapphire King had not become so heavily infatuated with Lord Enzo and shamelessly begging that they should be eternal mates, perhaps he would not have been so easily seduced. On the eve that Lord Enzo was expected to be banished from their Kingdom of Moncruis by the Officials, he tricked King Dorrel by insisting they run away together. No one had any way of knowing Lord Enzo’s madness drove him to unearth the toxic minerals of the crystallization sword. To be assassinated by your lover is one of the saddest and oldest deceits in the books,” Lord Chimique reminisced.
Lord Bilal chuckled. “You have told the truth. Without hesitation, Lord Enzo turned King Dorrel into stone and pitched him into the deep of the Tymanes ocean, just like the debris removed from here.”
“Lord Enzo has carelessly reduced the number of his kinsman to support his ridiculous endeavors; it is no wonder that he has had the gall to enlist the likes of lowly scum goblins, ogres, and toads. The necromancers have made him feel invincible by gifting him with the ability to handle those minerals without fear of turning to stone. If only General Vadiiamonial had that type of protective covering,” Lord Chimique said.Lord Bilal interjected rashly, “My General has never wanted to be tempted by the crystals. With his strength and keen wisdom, he believed he would eventually break and surrender to the desire to have absolute power. He has never wanted to wield his dominance over his kinsman or anyone else!”
“I meant no offense. I just have been searching for a clear answer how we proceed forward in this time of tribulation. Without the Great General of the Emerald clan and his betrothed Princess, our impending doom seems inevitable.”Lord Chimique stated coolly.
“In their present state, neither is much use to us now. We will have to depend heavily on General Aysha and our men at arms.” Lord Bilal retorted.
Lord Chimique paused, then noted, “Aysha is wounded in spirit over what transpired at PreLuab. If she has the will to carry us forward, she will avenge the offense caused to your General and the Emerald Princess. At least you will bring good tidings to Queen Ordessa over the loss of her beloved daughter.”
“I am certain the Emerald Queen will be much more at ease to know that her Kingdom and provinces are secure if we successfully conquer Lord Enzo. She will suffer from a newly learned grief over the death of Princess Keinah, just as we will inherently suffer from the loss of General Vadiiamonial. These are the spoils of war,” Lord Bilal replied with conviction in his voice.

The Far Side of Hereafter, Ch. 21


Perils of War

Once all was ready, the Diamond, Emerald, and remaining Honey Badger clans were prepared for battle. The journey to Preluab proved to be a hardship, as the realm laid nestled between icy, snow-covered mountains in a woodland area. The surveyors estimated the opposing army comprised 28,000 Sapphire clan members, including the (Ogres, Goblins, and Poisonous Yellow Toads). It was understood that the enemy camp would have the advantage of knowing the terrain since the Ogres originated from that region. They finally reached the peak of Mount Stelave.
Vadiim sent the command for the Diamond and Honey Badger clans to break formation and flank around each side of the mountain. Suddenly, the ogres came barreling out to battle, shrieking and cursing loudly. Aysha signaled for the troops to charge directly at the ogres. Both opposing and defensive parties sprang into action, violently assailing each other. With reckless abandonment, Keinah and her squad archers advanced by rapidly firing a barrage of charmed cross-bow arrows she prepared for the fight.
The team of archers swiftly blazed a clear path by plowing through the legion of ogres. Their first line of defense was disabled, which gave an opening for Lords Bilal and Chimique to head their troops directly over to the Goblin battalion. The harsh sounds of metal to metal rang loudly as Celestial swords crashed and shattered the goblin shields. The goblins were shredded to pieces one by one and left to die slow antagonizing deaths on the snowfield mountain. There was no mercy allotted towards the enemy camp.
As Vadiim and Aysha’s teams pressed forward to pursue the Sapphire clan, there was a thick mystical fog that descended, reducing their visibility. Without knowledge of their physical whereabouts, they inadvertently rode their horses straight into a deep pit. They found themselves trapped and unable to move as the ditch was coated from the bottom up with a gooey tar-like substance. The weight of their weapons and gear caused them to sink. The soldiers cried out in anguish over their impending defeat.
Though Keinah had become fatigued from her exertions in the battle, she mustered enough strength to climb up on the highest cliff overlooking a ravine. She lit a small fire from where she stood and whispered a chant. Her uttering became more fervent and thunderous. Light snow fell from the sky, and the density of the fog lifted. The snow drifted inside the tar pit, releasing the soldiers from being trapped. When the tar had completely dissolved, the soldiers quickly regained composure to fulfill their mission.
The light snow transitioned into a forceful blizzard that concealed Vadiim and Aysha’s teams. They made swift advancements towards the Sapphire clan, driving them as far back as their campsite headquarters. Though the blizzard proved to be an adequate cover, Keinah’s breathtaking illumination revealed her precise location. A Yellow Toad presumed she was the root of the sudden turn of events. He positioned himself near enough to shoot a poisonous dart that struck her directly in the throat.
Vadiim and Aysha witnessed Keinah’s demise. In a flash, Vadiim transformed into his celestial form to catch her before she fell off the cliff. He resumed his human form to brace her up. While gasping for breath, Keinah frantically tried to warn Vadiim that he was about to be assaulted by a Sapphire clan member. With Keinah in tow, Vadiim made a pivot to counter the attack. He was struck on his left leg with a sword embedded crystallization stones.
From the wound, his leg immediately turned into stone. The pain was excruciating and caused him to go blind. Vadiim clinched Keinah tightly as they plummeted several hundreds of feet off the cliff and were swept away by an icy river. Aysha rushed over to aid her comrades in a fury of rage. Ruthlessly, she beheaded the Yellow Toad and chased the Sapphire soldier until Lords Bilal and Chimique cornered and captured him.
Vadiim and Keinah were violently rushed to the bottom of the river bed. Vadiim treaded the icy water for three hours as he slowly succumbed to his injury. By the time Breonas and his squad found them, they were both in a coma. The Honey Badgers retrieved their lifeless bodies out of the water. It took Breonas and 9 of his men to pry Keinah out of Vadiim’s arms, as he would not turn her loose. The entire entourage somberly returned to their headquarters to camp.

The Far Side of Hereafter, Ch. 20