II.

Shalot was editing his scripts when someone gently rapped against his door. He overcame the urge to ignore it and set down his pen, got up from his desk, and made his way grudgingly to the visitor.

He saw that it was a boy, small and winded from hurry, “General Shalot, a note for you!” The messenger clearly didn’t know him to think that he would be happy to be reminded of that title.

As he took the note from the boy and bought him off with humble thanks and a few coins, he studied the envelope. Ah, his sister. As he ripped it open, the coarse paper caught his index finger and drew a line across it.

“Ugh…” Red welled up at the cut to form tears that fell upon the earthen floor, and he cringed as the dull color spoke of a battle he wanted to forget.

Shalot raised his arms as though that would stop the fire arrows the Sardis reinforcement sent into the air.

“Take formation, men,” How could one be so calm in the sea of enemies? How could one be so gallant, summoning his life to push the entire cloud of arrows away from his men with so powerful an enchantment? So that was Shalot’s commander, the one that rushed before his men into hell to make it a lesser hell for all, the one that seemed to value himself so lowly to lift lowly ones like Shalot from the blood-soaked earth.

Ah, he digressed. The note. He inspected the contents and found that it was merely a commendation for his manuscripts. It had been nearly two long decades since the Amzran and Sardisian Invasion, and for the past five years he had enough and retired his sword for a pen. Little did he know until now that the pen was almost, if not more lethal than his previous instrument. He started writing about the invasion, the battles, first for himself than published after a fellow survivor of the event read it and urged him to. He didn’t know that certain orators would spin tales out of it. He didn’t know that there would even be a play based on it.

He didn’t know that the plainly stated truths would gain so much spark as to start a fire.

By no means was he the author of the rebellion, but he certainly fed it with the pages of his memoirs. Voices began to harmonize, forces began to organize: the villain, the Emperor, the fallen one…wasn’t he all one of the same?

At this point, his house was intruded for the second time of the day, though this knocking was with much more urgency. He dragged himself to the door once again, saw through the curtains and paused with his heart.

What on earth were the Emperor’s elite guards doing at the door of his shack?

Shalot lost no time to bolt his door, sprinting to the back for his steed only to find its limp body stretched upon the earth, its snout bleeding. They found him.

“General Shalot!” The rapping doubled with summons. “Open the door at once.”

The rapping deteriorated into pounds to force an entrance. He rushed to rekindle enough flames in the hearth to erase his manuscripts and correspondences with the rebellion, with just enough time to seize his sword and take temporary shelter within a cabinet.

The door gave away and the guards poured in, finding a warm hearth fed by secrets, “Search the place.” The order was complied, and Shalot watched through a crack without breathing. “Clearly, he was not in the town, so he must be here.”

How could they be so sure that I was not in town…Shalot felt cold crawling across his spine. Unless…oh it could not be.

A shadow passed by the cracked cabinet, and it paused. Ah, he was done for. He silently unsheathed his sword and waited as the clueless soldier approached, leaning down to peer into the slit of cracked wood. Without a hesitation Shalot buried his blade through the crack, and the poor guard screamed about the loss of a good eye. What an untrained fool.

The fellow’s friends rushed at the cabinet then, and Shalot kicked the door down against an incoming soldier, gutting another before making for the door. “After him!” It had been too long and his senses was dulled as his blade by age; distracted in deflecting a spear, he allowed a blade to glance across his side. “Gah…” He made it past the door, his hand clamped against the bleeding as he ran for his life towards the town, and he did not even need to see the edge of it to confirm his fears.

Crackles of dying flames transformed the town into a pit of embers, charred bodies a strangely prepared meal for vultures. Shalot fell upon his knees at the sight, weakened by blood loss and guilt…had they assumed the villagers hid him? Just because of him they all…

“Enough of this, General Shalot, just tell us who your leader is,” The captain of the guards had caught up; Shalot could feel blade drawn against him, ready to lop off his head should he run.

Somehow he still could not stop himself from laughing, “So this is it…your example to the world?” He read the trail of dark red he left behind a painful epitaph, indifferentiable in his blurry vision.

“I need a name, Shalot, you are a madman.”

“A name, you said?” He didn’t know what force pulled him upon his feet and turned him around to face the wrathful captain; still he smiled. “Can a madman name a nameless rebellion? Does the author always…know the words he created…?”

“Shalot, you–”

Before the Captain and his soldiers could stop him, the former general raised his sword one last time and sank the metal into a broken heart, drawing a period upon the epitaph of a charcoal tombstone.

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