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Badlands II: God of Wrath
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

This contribution is part of a series:-
1. Badlands (5-Jun-2014)
A knight and a demon, on a mission to save a town from an unknown danger.
2. Badlands II: God of Wrath (16-Jul-2014)
Revisiting an old love, the knight finds her missing. Only the demon can help find her - and, if possible, to rescue her from where she is.
3. Badlands III: Boat on the River (3-Dec-2014)
Something strange is happening to the world and the knight and the demon must solve the problem if they are to survive.
4. Badlands IV: The Beginning (3-Jan-2015)
Where it all began - The demon, the knight and the beast meet each other for the first time.
5. Badlands V: The Hatching (8-Feb-2015)
About a mountain slope on a winter night, a lost girl, a meeting with an entity, and how something was created, immortal and dangerous.
6. Badlands VI, VII & VIII (7-Sep-2015)
Three new parts to the series.
7. Badlands IX: The Mountain God (31-Jul-2016)
An erupting volcano, a cult which lives on its slopes, and the knight, the beast and the demon must attempt a rescue mission.

Page 1

All day he had toiled up the pass, the beast’s horned head nodding heavily as it trod the stones. But now at last he was over the top of it, and had begun the long descent into the valley.

He had been here before. How many years that had been, he could not tell. But then the valley had been lush and green with vegetation and the river that ran through it had sparkled like molten silver in the sun.

There was no woodland, and no river, now. The dry brown bed was bare, the rocks sinking into the dust, and the earth of the banks was cracked like the hide of an ancient monster, too gigantic to move the weight of its body. On the far side of the valley, the mountains that had once been capped with snow were desiccated humps of stone.

"Demon," he said, "why did you bring me back here?"

He had expected no answer, and received none. He hadn’t seen the demon in days, hadn’t even sensed her around. At times he wondered if she had finally left him for good, and then he’d wondered if he should be happy or sad about that.

"Demon," he still asked, aloud into the silence. "What happened here? Why is it so badly changed?"

Nothing came back except the noise of the beast’s hooves on the track.

Somewhere down in the valley, he knew, he had once found a home for a while. The memories of that time had become so hazy that he had a hard time remembering, but he had faint memories of a woman who had lived there, who had taken him in and loved him for a little time. She had wanted him to remain forever, and he would have been glad to, for she was warm and human and had slaked for a bit his thirst for company. But then he had been forced to move on, and had left her standing at the door to her hut, weeping.

Try as he might, he could not even remember her face, let alone her name.

Dusk lay thick on the valley when he finally reached the river bank. In the near darkness, the way was treacherous, each step into shadow so deep that it would be impossible to know what lay beneath. But the beast went on without a pause, not even bending its head to look where its hooves were falling. He let it have its way; long experience had taught him that when he did not know where he was going, the beast knew.

Sitting on the creature’s back, he let himself doze. And he dreamed.

In his dream it was high noon. The sun shone down on the valley, which was thick with flower and fruit, and the water of the river was as clear as the air. And the woman was there, running beside him through the grass, racing until both of them collapsed helpless with laughter, holding on to each other till suddenly the laughter drained away. So they kissed and held each other, and made gentle love until the sun went behind a cloud and the grass withered away, the trees vanished and the water of the river turned the colour of blood. And he lay there with a skeleton in his arms.

He started awake, shivering. The beast had halted. The light of the stars outlined something angular and artificial, and he knew he had come to the hut.

Only it was no longer a hut, but a roofless ruin.

Stiffly, he dropped from the creature’s back to the ground. The hut was smaller than he remembered, the broken walls lower, the windows gaping holes letting in the darkness. When he stepped up to the door, the starlight glimmered faintly on rubble scattered across the floor.

Suddenly, with a shock like physical pain, he remembered where everything had been. In this corner, below the window, she had had a small table at which she’d done sewing during the afternoons and sat by candlelight reading from the tattered scrolls she had found in the hills. On the far side, there had been the pallet where they had slept together, limbs tangled, in the warmth that came after love. And there, on the far wall, there had been her shelves, full of bottles and tiny pots filled with unguents and potions, which she made from crushed herbs and perfumed oils. It had been a lovely little place, once, filled with life for all that it had been so far away from everywhere.

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Information
Genre:General Horror
Type:Short story
Rating:7.38 / 10
Rated By:17 users
Comments: 1 user
Total Hits:17089

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