All content is (c) copyright 2006 Caryn LeMur

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THE LAST DAYS
OF A MAN
NAMED FIGHTER

A Chronicle
Of FadingEarth


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25.  UR~M

Dry Places.  Here, the wind blew, always.  The
wind picked up the heat from the endless sand of
the desert, and draped it in smothering caresses
across Fighter’s face.

Dry Places.  A land that Fighter had only heard of,
but now, due to his own incantation, he walked in
it.

His leather war-sandals protected his feet from the
heat that rose in waves, causing the distant dunes
to appear as if they were rippling reflections upon
water.  But in Dry Places, there was no water.  
Just sun.  Just sand.  Just wind.

Fighter walked on.

His mind was numb… unthinking.  His last dream-
dove was gone, perhaps forever.  And his mind
could not process that realization – instead, his
mind registered nothing because the shock was
too great.

Fighter’s feet moved him forward.

In Dry Places there is no night – the sun never
sets.  Indeed, it never moves from its high point in
the sky.  Fighter could feel the sun pushing waves
of light and warmth onto him like the hot-air wave
that strikes the baker’s face when he opens his
oven.  Unforgiving light… perceptible warmth that
was a weight upon his shoulders… pushing a man
down.

Fighter walked on.

Time lost its meaning to Fighter.  Here, in Dry
Places, there was time, but those that wandered
within such sands, soon have no need for time as
others see time.  To those that live ‘outside’, time is
a new day, a new hour, or a new hope.  When one
walks in Dry Places, there is no new day… there is
no new hour… there is no hope.

Fighter’s feet staggered, but he walked on.

The heat, so men have said, is inescapable in Dry
Places – it can make one become a madmen just by
the endless sweat that it causes to trickle on the
edge of your forehead.  But the dry wind pulls
away the beads of sweat, even before those
beads can slip down to cool the eyebrows.  In Dry
Places, many things begin, but nothing can ever
come to completion.

Fighter’s knees buckled… he fell to all fours.

How long Fighter remained in that position,
breathing deeply like a man that had nearly
drowned, did not matter.  It may have been
minutes… it may have been days.  But as he arose,
he reached over to his wrist guards, and twisted
them off – they simply fell to the ground.  Here in
Dry Places, it is said that there is no need to hide
your weaknesses – for in Dry Places, men drop
their guards not because they are strong or not
because they have friends, but because they no
longer care.

Fighter pushed himself up and walked on.

No greenery greeted his eyes, no plants appeared
anywhere near him.  Not even dead plants stood
nearby – they had all been erased by the wind and
sand when the Serpent breathed Dry Places into
existence.  It had been the Serpent’s hope to place
all mankind within its bounds, but the Lion and
Serpent had battled over ownership of this wasted
land until the Father had spoken deep words –
“Dry Places shall be.”

Thus, Dry Places was not owned by the Lion, nor
owned by the Serpent.  It was instead, traversed
by man.

Fighter crumpled -- he fell to his side and lay there.

Fighter’s lips were now cracked, and his tongue
had swollen from the lack of water.  He tried to
stand, but only managed to roll over to his stomach
and to push himself up, slowly, until he was on his
knees, using his hands upon each thigh to keep
himself from toppling.  

Then he reached up, to one shoulder, and
loosened the strap that held his breastplate.  He
reached to the other shoulder, and moved his sand-
covered fingers, until the entire breastplate fell to
the ground.  In Dry Places, it is said that men loose
all sense of truth, not because they wish to do evil,
but because they do not want to carry the weight
that truth always brings with it.

Fighter then struggled to his feet, and walked on.

Fighter noticed that footsteps – markings in the
sand – appeared near him.  These were not yet
fully erased by the wind.  The meandering
markings of another person did not intrigue
Fighter, but he followed them nonetheless.  It is
said that men follow in Dry Places, not by choice,
but because they are incapable of choosing.

The footsteps were soon joined by others.

Fighter struggled with the thought that perhaps he
wasn’t alone.  Perhaps others had gone before
him, down this very pathway.  Perhaps they knew
something, but what, he did not care.  Perhaps
they could share a smile, a look of concern, a
moment of laughter – the subject matter would be
of no importance, truth or lies would not matter,
but the comfort of another human would be all in
all… the everything that one could want… the
anything that he so desperately needed.  

He grasped his sweat-soaked tunic and pulled it
over his head, and then threw it aside.  It is said,
that in Dry Places, men do not choose their
company, but they choose whatever gives them a
drop of hope.

Fighter struggled to walk faster.  His trousers stuck
to his legs, heavy with sweat.  He halted and pulled
them off.  In near madness from the heat, he
untied his war-sandals, and threw them aside.  He
rose, sand clinging in patches to his sweaty skin,
dressed only in his loin cloth.  

And then he saw more footsteps in the shifting
sands!  Some old and nearly erased by the wind,
but some fairly new!  Fighter staggered forward
even faster!  

Fighter moved like a blind man on unfamiliar
ground -- he stumbled on every small rock and
tripped over even the smallest of sandy rises.  His
breath came in only short gasps.  Time again lost
its meaning, but somehow was measured by hot
dry breaths that scorched his throat.  

He stared at the sun until it nearly blinded him, but
did not speak a word to the heavens -- and then
stumbled forward again.  He rubbed his sandy
hands through his not-so-short-cropped blond hair
-- not aware that during this time in dry places, the
true brown color of his hair was now obviously
showing at the roots.  It is said, that in Dry Places,
men do not abandon purity, but the realization of
their humanness overwhelms them.

Fighter staggered forward!  Around the corner!  
But one more dune!  There, surely there, the
creators of the footprints would be found!

Fighter rounded the last corner by the dune,
moving like a drunken sailor hoping for one more
drink before the ship departs forever.  

But then, he stopped.

Before him were corpses, everywhere.  Dead
men…dead women…withered bodies.  The wind
blew sand upon some, and shook tattered clothing
into rags on others.

And before him was one man, kneeling in the sand,
with his back towards Fighter.

Fighter struggled forward and reached the man.  
He grasped the man's shoulder and then stood,
and watched, as the remains of what had been a
living man slowly toppled over to its side.  Fighter
stood and stared at what was before him.  

The body of the toppled man had been dead
perhaps for only a few hours – its face had not yet
fully withered into the dry shape of the other
corpses.  On his stiffened right forearm, was the
symbol of the sword and scales, and through his
chest was the prayer-sword that he had forced
himself to fall upon.

It is said that in Dry Places, men make choices.  
The corpse before Fighter had made a choice – to
kill himself.

Fighter looked about at the desolation; near the
scattered corpses were three large boulders.  On
the first was carved:  “All men serve their god –
who is your god?”  On the second was carved:  
“Does pain end when life ends?”  And on the third
was carved:  “Those that lead many to
righteousness will shine like the stars in the
heavens.”

Fighter numbly held out his hands and clapped
them together – his own prayer-sword appeared.  
He grasped the hilt.  He lowered himself to both
knees.  He placed the point of the sword against
his own chest.  He then leaned forward.

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26.  IND.

“I do not ask!” said the shadow, “I demand!”

The shape of the shadow was now enormous, like
a blackened storm cloud about to sweep apart the
villages of the mountains.

“Pity…” came the reply from a six-winged man.  
“How hard do you wish to play…?”

“To PLAY!” thundered the black shadow as his
lightning arced within himself.  “It is enough that
you, a deputy, should oppose me!  A mere
deputy!!  I once had more contact with the Lion in
a day than you do in a year!”  And then the cloud
thundered, “Step aside, or show your weapons!”

“I have no need of weapons, my war-cry is
enough,” replied the six winged man.  “And, as you
know, the deep words of the Father established
only one portal between all of our world and the
Dry Places eons ago.”  

The man glanced over his shoulder -- behind his
top wings shimmered the dull portal.  “It would
appear that this “mere deputy” is all that stands
between you and the Fighter you hope to deceive.”

“To deceive…?  Little one,” thundered the shadow,
“I do not come just to deceive, but to deceive a
man to the point that HE KILLS HIMSELF!”  

And at that, the shadow, in the form of blackened
thunder cloud, began to twist himself.  His lightning
arcs curved around and within himself, twisting
and tearing his own matter apart, until the spiritual
ether shook under the weight and terror of a
violent giant tornado.  

“My weapon,” howled out the shadow, now in the
shape of a blackened funnel, “is HATE!  Hate that
fills me!  Hate for all that the Lion dares to protect!  
Hate especially for those that are soon to be
invited to the eighth mountain!  Show your
weapon, deputy!  LET US ‘PLAY’!!”

At this challenge, the six-winged man stood and
faced the shadow-now-become-tornado.  He
raised his two hands towards the heavens and
swore, saying, “By him that lives forever, I am the
Deputy of the Rock!”

At his words, his skin glistened, and his shape
began to change:  his feet became like granite, and
adhered to the ground itself; his body became like
marble, and his eyes like purple amethyst; his
wings angled themselves sharply outward and
then turned into sheets of diamonds.

“To battle!” howled the shadow-tornado, and he
began to advance.  His lightening arced up and
over the top of his twisted black body and hurled
itself at the deputy.  It struck deeply into the chest
of the deputy, and thousands of volts sizzled the
air and crackled, but the deputy did not yield his
position.

Seeing the unmoving deputy, the shadow-tornado
howled out in a rage, and hurled the base of his
funnel shape right on top of the deputy’s form.  “I
shall tear you out of the way!” shouted the
shadow.  “Feel my hate!  Hate for all that have
even the smallest chance of touching the eighth
mountain!  Hate that will even destroy you!”  But
the deputy remained adhered to the ground and
unmoving.

The Deputy of the Rock slowly turned his marble
head and peered through the portal behind him.  
As the tornado raged upon him, he watched
Fighter through the portal.  He watched him for the
days, the minutes, the hours that Fighter walked
within the Dry Places – for to him, time was less
important than the life he had been given to
protect.  

He watched, and stood unmoving, until he saw
Fighter reach the place of corpses.  At the sight of
so many deceived into taking their own lives, he
could stand it no more.

“Shadow!” shouted the deputy, “Neither of us are
to interfere with this man called Fighter – the
Father has spoken.  And, until now, I would have
simply endured your foolishness, and permitted
you no entry!  But no longer!  The sight of so many
deceived into entering eternal life while there are
still others that have not heard of the Lion – such a
sight drives me to use my weapon!”

The shadow-tornado laughed back, his violent
winds carrying his words like stinging sleet, “That
one shall bear my mark!  That one shall be
deceived!  His corpse shall be my trophy!”  His
lightening raced like torn hopes and scared the
ground all around the deputy.

But the Deputy of the Rock looked straight before
himself, and spoke with authority into the wind,
saying:  “COUNSELOR!” and before him a link of
gold chain, pure as glass, and as large as a man’s
thigh, appeared.  

And then the deputy called out, “WONDERFUL!”,
and another link, interlaced with the first,
appeared.  The Deputy of the Rock then shouted
out, with a link appearing at each phrase, “THE
ALMIGHTY GOD… THE EVERLASTING FATHER …
PRINCE OF PEACE… LORD OF LORDS… KING OF
KINGS… THE PROMISED ONE… THE ANOINTED…
THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA!!”  And before him
stood a massive chain, unmoving, even in the midst
of the tornado winds.

The Deputy of the Rock took the golden chain and
began to swing it above his head, round and
round, until it created a humming sound as it cut
through the tornado winds – it was like the sound
of the silver battle horn used in ancient times!  
Times when the sacred assembly met to beseech
the Father!  

The wind howled!  The chain sang out!

The rocks near the portal broke apart from the
tornado!  The deputy stood unmoving!

And then the deputy released the chain, sending it
end-spinning-over-end into the center of the
tornado!

And suddenly, at the touch of the holy gold, the
shadow’s voice screamed out, “HE IS LORD!…”
and the tornado shrank to the size of a hill, then to
the size of a boulder, and then to the size of a
small twisted man-like figure having six disfigured
wings with four faces on one head wrapped in a
crisscrossed chain of pure gold.

The Deputy of the Rock looked upon the twisted
and disfigured one before him.  “So,” said the
Deputy, “I did not realize that you were once
indeed a senior to those of us that are now called
deputies.”

“I once,” coughed one of the faces of the shadow-
man, “spent endless days with the Lion… more
days than you shall ever know!”

“Pity, isn’t it?” replied the Deputy still within his
form of living rock, “That with all the time you
spent with the Lion, that you never decided to
serve him.”

“And now,” continued the Deputy, “In honor of
what you once were, I will allow you to watch
through the portal with me.  We shall both see
what becomes of the one named Fighter.  But no
matter what choice he makes, if any of those other
corpses entered Dry Places as the result of your
deceptions, I shall remove your wings with my own
bare hands.”

And at that, the one called Deputy of the Rock
reached out and lifted the twisted and chained
man-like figure up with a single arm, and dropped
him on his belly, facing the portal.  And each one,
Deputy and senior shadow, became silent and
peered through the portal.

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27.  ”~(R

Fighter could feel the end point of the sword
against his chest.  

His leaning forward had positioned the sword hilt
into the sand, and the blade so that it would slide
between his ribs and into his heart.

But Fighter did not feel the sword, as much as he
felt the weight of the loneliness against his heart.

He thought of the release that but a single prayer
for death would give to him – in a moment, it would
be over… just the shifting of his weight… a simple
fall forward… a moment of pain… and death would
come.

Fighter’s cracked lips began to move… his swollen
tongue formed stumbling words,

“I … am … nothing,” whispered Fighter.

But only the wind of Dry Places heard his words.

“I … do not … deserve … to keep…this life….”  

The moving of his lips caused fresh blood to appear
in the cracks.

“I… have… lost… all… my… dreams.”

Some sand shifted under his knees.

Fighter swallowed hard, but no moisture went
down his throat.

He could still imagine the corpse he had just found,
fallen on a sword.  For a moment, he imagined all
the release from life that the other man had
sought.

“Peace…”  Fighter whispered.

In delirium, Fighter’s body swayed.  The end point
of the sword crossed through the outer skin.  Red
drops of blood formed around the point of steel.  
Yet the drops scarcely moved, for Dry Places
absorbed their moisture and began to cause them
to congeal.

“Peace…” he whispered, “peace from death…
no… peace from God…”

He remembered the three stones with the three
carvings.

“Who is… my God?” he whispered.

He paused, his swollen tongue could barely move.

“My pain… is great… but death… will not … stop
my pain ….”  He could barely pronounce the words.

“And… by the Lion… I … still… want… to shine …
like a star….”  At that moment, he slowly
straightened his back, and the sword slipped to the
side and dropped into the sand.

“Lion…” he whispered in a small hoarse voice,
“forgive … me… have mercy…”

Fighter slumped forward onto the sand and closed
his eyes.

Immediately, portals opened.

Fighter did not see seven small flames appearing
by him.  He did not hear their foreign language or
feel the comfort web they laid upon his sunburned
flesh and scorched feet.

He did not hear the footsteps of the Lion
approaching and did not sense that it was the Lion’
s own body that stood over him and gave him
shade.

He did not hear the laughter of the child-like
Healer, as he trickled healing waters into his mouth.

He did not see the Deputy of the Rock examining
corpses near him, and finding a tornado-shaped
mark upon three of them.

Fighter perceived none of these things.

Yet, when he awoke from his deep sleep, he was
again all alone.  But by him, scratched into the sand
were these words, “Why do you seek the living
among the dead?”

Fighter chuckled.  And then, he laughed.  He stood
and looked at the corpses near him.

“Indeed,” he said, “What I am seeking is living!  It
will not be found among you that are dead….”  He
looked at the corpses, and then added, “may
justice be done to the one that deceived you to this
place….”

Fighter reached down to the ground to pick up the
hilt of his prayer-sword – but it, of course, had
vanished and the sand bore only an impression.  
Fighter shook his head at himself, and clapped his
hands.  The sword appeared and he pointed it
towards the heavens.

“By the Lion!” he shouted, “I will leave this place!  I
wish to be at the eighth mountain!  I wish to know
the name of the fourth tribe!  I will pay the price of
the mirror!  Hear me, O Lion!”

And the ground trembled under Fighter’s feet.  The
sands parted, and a deep crevice appeared directly
in front of Fighter.  A voice spoke, sounding like the
thunder of many rushing waters, “I call you now…
by the name of the fourth tribe…enter into the
eighth mountain!”

And the very substance of the air was ripped in
two, from as high as the eyes could see to the very
depth of the bottomless crevice that had
appeared.  Thunder and lightening and smoke
poured through an enormous portal that had
appeared – it was a gateway that was filled with
white light, and rounded like a giant pearl!  The
very holiness of the Father shone through the
portal like painful light!  And Fighter hurled himself
forward, into the portal, into the light, and was
gone.

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(c) copyright 2006 Caryn LeMur
The Last Days of a Man Named Fighter

Chapters 25 through 27