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When the Bough Breaks

POSTED: 14 Apr 2013

Once he'd began reading, Alex found he couldn't stop. It wasn't that he enjoyed what he was reading, every page had some new revelation that made his stomach knot in different ways. So much had happened, and he hadn't been aware of any of it. They hadn't told him one single detail, and now it felt like he knew too many. He sat on the edge of his bed, back to the door as he frantically turned and scanned each page's details. He'd re-read entire sections, trying to understand some of the more confusing pieces. When his mother's memory dropped off was the most difficult to follow, but she was always thorough enough with her descriptions Alex could figure it out.

It was the last page that made Alex pause. He blinked, and squinted and held the page up closer to the light, as if the words might change. But no, they said the same thing. The same horrible little words stared up at him, black ink unchanging.

The book slipped from his hands and hit the floor.

No, his mother was just confused. She hadn't known was she was writing. Her own words said her memory couldn't be relied on. It was was just a mistake.

Alex shot out of the room with speed he didn't know he possessed. He'd go to her room, and she would be there, perhaps a little worried at his concern but she'd be there. When there was no guard Alex felt his breath catch in his throat. He placed his hand on the door and he paused. His hand was shaking as he pushed the door open, his breath held tightly in the back of his throat. The room looked as if it had been torn apart. Furniture was upturned, objects had been flung across the room, but Tuya was not here.

He staggered forward into the chaos then stumbled onto his knees. He tried to stand upright, but the room spun beneath him and he fell again. He scrambled backwards until he his back hit a wall. He couldn't stop staring at the mess in front of him, where she'd spent her last minutes before being...being Ardeth had-

A sob choked it's way out of Alex's throat, and he knew he couldn't hold it back anymore. He dragged his knees to his chest and cried. He cried for the loss of his friend and for the loss of a hero as well. He cried like a child, and couldn't make it stop.

They were supposed to be the good guys....

Everything had changed, it had all changed too fast and Alex could no longer believe in his heroes. The entire concept was a joke, that someone could be that brave or noble. It was a story book concept, one that was long over due to be forgotten. The idea of the white knight or fearless captain, they seemed to far away now. Stories from childhood. nothing more.

Alex whipped his face with the palm of his hand. He blinked away the remaining blur of tears, then spotted the small folded paper. Alex leaned forward and grabbed it with the tips of his fingers. He slowly unfolded it, frowning as he saw the writing. It must have been hers, her last thoughts perhaps. Alex's understanding of Arabic was still rudimentary at best, but he knew given enough time he could translate it in full. For now he scanned the pages, looking for the words he could easily decipher to English. His lips moved as he wracked his brain, trying to remember all the lessons his mother had given him.

Husband... with child.... dearest...

Alex leaned his head back and let it hit the wall. It just didn't end, did it?

The room was suddenly too hot, the air too thick. Alex needed to get outside. He pushed himself up and ran. He didn't stop until he burst out the back doors of the Clover Inn and into the cool outside air. He breathed in huge gulping breaths. It wasn't any use, even out here he felt like he was going to fall over at any second. He reached out to the side, trying to catch something to lean on. His hand hit a small box, balanced on top of a crate. He slipped, knocking the box over as he fell to the ground, followed quickly by the box. A rotting smell hit his nose, rancid and sour. He shook his head and blinked at the darkness. The box lay at his feet, it's contents of rotting body parts scattered over the ground and his legs.

Alex kicked his legs, trying to get the rotting bits of meats off his body. He screamed as he pushed himself back from the mess. He made it about three feet before he had to turn around and throw up.

He coughed, then spat several times to remove the taste from his mouth. But the smell was still overwhelming, and Alex pushed himself back into the hotel. He flew through the lobby, spotting several Medjai heading out the way he came in, probably drawn by his scream. He would have been ashamed, if he wasn't so furious. He ran back up the stairs, into his parents room. He strode to the bedside table where he'd spotted the gun earlier and took in. He shoved it into the back of his pants before rushing out to another room, and began pounding on the door.

"Ardeth!" Alex shouted. "Ardeth, I know you're in there. Let me in or I swear to God..." He really didn't have a follow up to that. "ARDETH!"

POSTED: 29 Apr 2013

It had been one day.

One day since that horrendous, life-destroying box of death had found its way into the cramped inn the Medjai had deigned their sanctuary in a foreign land, since he dragged Junayd’s orphaned blade across Tuya’s throat (and by proxy, her unborn child’s) and bled her like a lamb, since everything he had ever known split and shattered around his feet in a matter of seconds.

The inn had been still, so still in the aftermath of the Djedian arrival that it made him want to scream, if only to hear something that wasn’t Tuya shrieking before her precious lifeblood painted the staircase an alarming shade of red, or the desperate cries of his people pleading for their lives before Marenaser – the jinn, the scourge upon this very earth, the slave of Shaitan Himself – razed them and doused the flames with their blood just as he promised, or the agonizing wails of his surviving men deploring God for His abandonment.

Ardeth was sure he would hear it in death.

The whole of the Medjai people might as well have been dead by his hand – had he not condemned them to death by stealing his enemy’s – enemy would never be accurate enough for what Marenaser was to him, now – wife and leaving him to rot, barely clinging to life, in the sand? And to what end? To wage war and brutally murder her? Marenaser’s sword or not, Ardeth had slaughtered them all. And he would pay for it in Hell.

He hid his own sword away so he couldn’t see it. Out of sight, out of mind, he’d once heard the westerners say. But no one had dared wrest it from him, yet. Ardeth wasn’t sure if it was because they were frightened of him, or because they were shut away in their rooms lamenting their immense and irreparable losses. Perhaps even a combination of both. In any case, no one had spoken to him since he all but erupted in Rick’s face. No one had even bothered to lock him in his room. At this point, however, he was no serious threat to anyone but himself. Tired. So tired. His eyes lost their brave and hardy fire and dulled instead. His body felt hollow and his thobe sagged from his bones. He couldn’t – and wouldn’t – eat. He hadn’t even the energy to move from his fixed spot before the window, staring into oblivion. He couldn’t even bring himself to cry.

He was as dead as his people.

Alone, in his room, Ardeth stopped desperately wishing that he’d wake up and all of this would be gone. Nothing would ever be the same. He knew that, now. He’d known it all along; he’d known it since his eyes read that wicked letter and dropped it to the floor. Some might argue he knew it since he left the Red Lands with his victim in tow.


Somewhere, Ardeth vaguely registered that someone was calling his name, but he’d heard so much screaming over the past two days – both in his head and in the outside world – that he wasn’t even sure what was real, anymore. It wasn’t until the second, louder and more threatening scream that he pulled his eyes away from the window and opened his door for the first time in almost two days.

The first thing he saw was an empty corridor.

The second was, rooms down, someone was beating the door and shrieking. Ardeth didn’t even bother to recognize who exactly it was. Just someone who lusted after his blood, he supposed. Blood for blood. If death would make this all go away, then so be it.

So be it.

Slowly, haggardly, he stepped out into the hallway as if to say, “here I am.”
Ardeth Bey

POSTED: 30 Apr 2013

Alex barely feels his limbs as he steps back from the door. The world focuses again, and he sees the reason for his ire standing two doors down the hall. Alex dumbly looks from the door to Ardeth, as if shocked by the other man's ability to teleport. His feet carry him before he recognizes what he's doing. His hand is already clenched in a fist and he swings it, hard across the other man's jaw.

He sees red, he feels red, like the colour is flooding his system and hitting every nerve. It's not until he feels something pricking his knuckles that he even realizes he's thrown multiple punches. Alex is breathing hard when he regains the feeling of his body.

Pain. Radiating through his bones as they collide with something solid.

There's blood on his knuckles and he doesn't know if its his or someone else's. His other hand is gripping something so tightly he can hear the ripping of fabric. His fingers loosen from the fabric and he takes a step back, his entire body shaking with adrenaline and false bravado.

"Sh-sh-she didn't hurt anyone." He says between shaking breaths. "We're supposed to-You're supposed to be better than them."

Alex took an unstable step back and reached a hand out to grasp the wall for balance. He felt utterly empty and heavy at the same time, like an eggshell trying to hold up a building. The truth had hallowed him out, utterly and completely. He felt beaten and afraid and so so so useless. There was nothing he could have done to stop it, nothing he could do to fix it. He could only demand more blood...

So much blood.

He reaches back with his right and hand and pulls out the gun he'd retrieved. It's one of his father's Chamelot-Delvigne revolvers, the twin to the one he'd taken with him out to dinner, apparently thinking the other would be safe in the drawer. Alex holds it in a shaking hand and points it at Ardeth.

Don't point a gun at anyone unless you're sure you can pull the trigger.

"What would happen if I pulled the trigger? Would your men kill me? Or my mother? Or would you wipe out my entire family, make no room for error, no chance of retaliation." The tears flowed freely down his face, wet lines on his enraged face.

"Tell me!" He shouts, taking a step forward when Ardeth doesn't answer right away. "You're the leader, the paragon at the top of this warrior tribe. So what would your men do to avenge you?"

POSTED: 27 May 2013

Ardeth wasn’t even sure if he was awake. Time had all but stopped like it did in his nightmares as the nameless body turned and faced him. Every moment dragged into hours he thought he’d be spending in Hell shortly, and it was only until he blinked that he registered the face shrieking for his blood all those feet down the corridor was approaching him at an inhuman speed. The Creature, was it? If it hadn’t been such a Herculean task, Ardeth could’ve laughed. The irony was not lost on him.

When he opened his eyes, he was sprawled out on the floor and the face was upon him in a fury of fists and he wasn’t sure where the time went in between. What should have been exquisite, white-hot pain ripping at his face was only a dull disconnect. If there was pain, it wasn’t his. It was a separate entity happening to someone else. Not him.

Each time he blinked, the face screaming into his own was someone else – it was Sutekh, it was Tuya, it was Junayd, it was the Creature, it was countless Djedian warriors he’d killed in battle though he did not know their names, it was his father, it was the skeletons clattering in and escaping from his closet. It was everyone in his short-lived life that he had ever wronged, or maimed, or killed. It was everyone in his life he could never save, and everyone in his life could never protect.

They would be waiting. Every single one of them.

The punches at his face sounded like the dull thunk of someone hitting metal, but he knew bones were shattering and crunching and skin was splitting and bleeding and muscles were ripping and tearing and he didn’t care, he didn’t care, he didn’t care. As far as he was concerned, this was only a taste of what he would be facing on the other side of this life, and if he waited long enough, maybe his attacker would tear him into blessed oblivion.

Suicide was too grave a sin for him to commit on his own, after all.

And then, he thought disjointedly that perhaps his death wish was not enough as the blows stopped and suddenly he was left mangled and vulnerable on the floor. No, finish it, he tried to say, but he only coughed and spit up blood, instead. In the meantime, it seemed as though his attacker was indeed granting his death wish – it took him more than a few beats to realize that by the time he had recovered from his fit, there was a gun pointed at him. Had he been in any other position, the thought might have been at least alarming. But he did not fear. He welcomed it.

Through swollen eyelids and narrow slits, drunkenly, he attempted to peer into the face of the one that would finally end it all. To thank them. Thank you, he thought with a desperate sort of gratitude, for doing what I cannot.

Ardeth tried desperately to understand the speech that was as fuzzy and ethereal as white noise. It was angry in contrast to the merciful deed its speaker was committing and he didn’t know why. The moments ticked away, and he struggled to comprehend what was being said, as well as what he might say in turn. After what was an eternity to him, Ardeth replied, hoarsely: “My men would live.” It was the truth. The truth was the least he could tell before his impending death.

“Do it,” he bleated, his dulled and hollowed eyes caught on the barrel of the revolver. “I deserve no less.”

Honorable Ardeth, splayed lewdly before his attacker, begging for death. He would die just as his people did – he would die like them.

Come, Creature, destroy.
Ardeth Bey

POSTED: 27 May 2013

There are cuts on his knuckles where bone has scraped flesh, where friction has peeled off the delicate layers, but all Alex see's is someone else's blood. A lot of blood...Alex never thought he had that kind of strength, nor that kind of cruelty to ever bring out so much of it from one person. He's scraped his knuckles before, or knocked his head, but his mother had always been there with a bandage and a kiss and the pain and fear had gone away.

But this shook Alex to his bones. He could barely hear the world, his ears were muffled by the sound of his own blood pumping across his skull. It strained his abilities just to keep his eyes focused on his target, and yet Alex also doubted his ability to look away. The best he could hope for was that it would all fade to blackness and he'd wake up cold and alone in his room.

His brow creases as Ardeth speaks, and Alex barely recognizes it as words above the sloppy sounds of someone gagging on their own fluids. He opens his mouth to respond but no sound comes out, and he repeats the action several times before managing a weak stutter. His eyes blur the image with tears, and fast little blinks.


You'd be saving him.

I'm not a killer. You'd be a murderer.

It would be a mercy.
Like killing a lame horse.

He feels cold but at the same time Alex can't stop sweating. The barrel of the gun sways and shakes in his grip, and he's still to afraid to touch the trigger, to squeeze it with a soft touch like a child gripping their mother's hand. His breaths are small shallow things, his body shuddering as if the air in his lungs is inflicting small agonizing blows with each inhale.

The gun is heavy in his hand, like a stone he'd been holding too long and he wants to be rid of it. But the gun is necessary, a necessary power. He needs it like a warrior needs a sword, this is the implement of his destruction. It is divine retribution, a life for a life to restore the balance. He could set things right and all he had to do was squeeze his finger back a few desperate millimeters.

Kill the killer.
He's useless like this anyways.

Slaughtering animals, that's all it is.

Alex's face loses expression and for a moment he is lost in himself. He takes a slow breath and the world focuses once more into an image. Before him a murderer is begging for death, and he can do nothing but obey. His arm aches and there is only one way to relieve it.


The silence takes over the room. There is no bang, no spray of blood, just a crying child holding an empty gun.

The sound of the gun clattering to the floor awakens Alex and he jumps as is startled. "Oh god." He whispers, taking in the full horror of the scenery in front of him. "No." He shakes his head, eyes wide and frightened. "Nonononononono." He repeats over and over again, grabbing the sides of his head as he shakes his head. He screams, a horrible wail of fear and agonizing pressure.

"I'm sorry." He says, dropping to his knees in front of Ardeth. "I'm sorry, I'm so so sorry. Please, I'm sorry. Ardeth...Ardeth be alright. I'm sorry! Please, I don't-You can't just-PLEASE!" He begs through sobs, trying to pull Ardeth up, as if he can fix this like he can fix knocking over a vase. He bows his head, hand clinging to Ardeth's collar. "Please, I'm just a kid...I'm just a kid."

POSTED: 01 Jun 2013

In his final moments, Ardeth’s face was devoid of emotion.

No fear, no apathy, no relief. Just abject resignation in an empty shell of a human. Not even human, Ardeth corrected himself; no one human would do what he did.

His face was bloated and discolored. Blood spilled like wine from his lips, his lips that had gone white as a sheet stained brilliantly red and he was a pitiful thing. The bag of skin and bones defeated on the floor was such a far cry from the chieftain thrust into leadership following his father’s death, The Keeper of This World, The Guardian of the Medjai Peoples, The Slayer of Anubis’s Army, The Ardeth Bey. They were gone, someone else, someone he wasn’t sure would ever exist again.

Now he was just a carcass.

Prayers of penance dribbled from his swollen and bloody mouth as he locked eyes with the revolver, locked eyes with Death itself. There was no screaming, no crying, no pleading – just the minute turn of his lips while Death hurled itself at him using gunpowder as its ferry.


It was unloaded.

The world went black, and for a moment, Ardeth swore he saw himself crumpled almost vegetatively on the floor – but there was no pool of blood spilling from his body, or brain matter splashed against the wall like grotesque art, or the unrecognizable remnants of what used to be a face. Just a boy and a man (who was who, he didn’t know) shattered in their own ways. No one left to pick up the pieces.

From somewhere far away, fingers clutched at every inch of him, pleading, begging for something he couldn’t make himself understand, but he couldn’t amass the energy to respond. He was so tired. He was supposed to die, he was supposed to die and then he could sleep and escape his responsibilities and this would all be over and he could join the dead and unleash this back-breaking burden on someone else, on Akeem, on the O’Connells, on someone that wasn’t him.

But here he was: still alive, still responsible.

When he came back to himself again, after so much lost time, he found himself grappling with his attacker, screaming high and savagely, fingers gripping flesh like iron claws, vision so red all he could see was blood. If it was his blood, his peoples’ blood, or Marenaser’s blood, he didn’t know.

Below him, his victim was still, eyes bulging with the kind of fear he saw in his bled lamb no more than two days ago. He was so weak, so vulnerable, belly up, rolled over like a submissive dog. Ardeth could feel himself dropping off the edge as he screamed “you were supposed to kill me!” again and again and again.

The last thing he remembered that night was great hands peeling him off of his kill, their panicked words unintelligible and scrambled and overlapping like a code he was not privy to.

The sun smelled too loud and he was gone, gone into the night, chased by a thousand demons.
Ardeth Bey
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