Bronze blood, brilliant and blazing, spews from smiling steel in a fiery arc. Their guardian swings down, worked by wire, but the spray spills through empty sockets, fire filling their vision and searing their flesh. They choke, a halting heated breath, and that face, that sneering, hateful face consumes the world before them. Glowing white words roll from its taunting tongue, pulsing in time with the pounding pain.
“All great performances are paid in blood, are they not?”
Their left hand grasped at their bundle of wires, slipping within their pale grey robes, fingers twisting, weaving, binding.
It was just a show. Amusement for the masses, with music and merriment.
Their left hand looses one bundle for another, slipping within their now burning robes, fingers twisting, building, binding.
Steel lashed out, held in those hateful hands, and Sirellon’s sword rose to answer, clutched in wire-bound claws to meet their foe’s blade, edge to edge.
It was just a show. A play for the patricians, with pastries and punsters.
Steel lashes out, held in those hateful hands, and Sirellon’s sword rises to answer, splitting flaming fabric to meet their foe’s brand, edge to edge.
It had only ever been a show. A performance paid in blood.
The heavy blade swings down, edge tearing the blazing tessellations of the rippling robe as it passes. Their guardian shudders and cracks down the middle, the left half dissolving in a dusting of ash that covers their ruined face and ravaged eye as the newly blooded robe flares out like fiery wings. Bared bone and wire flow in tandem, dancing to the steps their hand directs, sliding over a slender, black-clad body.
Wires writhed about them, whipping walls with heavy blows that gouged the burning wood. Sirellon’s scaled body stood, suspended by straining strands of metal, shield bound to ruined arm and blade raised and ready. They pulled one wire, then another, one foot forward, one foot back. They leaped, and Sirellon leapt with them, her sword descending on that screaming soul.
Sirellon’s skull rises on her sinuous spine, a gaping toothed maw that closes on that fearful face, banishing the vision into wisps of smoke. Wire weaves her arm to vertebrae, clawed hand closing on her sword’s hilt, raised in tandem with their left arm’s gesture. A twisting of their right, and Farook waits at their side, knives gleaming in the incarnadine illumination of their foe’s flame.
Bound knives gleamed scarlet in the light of the carnelian conflagration, blood dripping from handles to wire-wrapped hands. Farook flicked the blade, spraying scarlet on the face of the soldier at his feet, then turned, empty eyes staring at the wires’ wielder. His mouth moved, forced by the ferric filament, but no words were spoken.
“That’s the last,” they said in his place.
Bertram nodded, his beard split by gleaming strand, and his mouth moved in likewise silent speech.
“The fire rages still. We'll need to find new beds,” they said in his place.
Sirellon sat, wire-bound claws wiping her sword on her blood-soaked breeches. Her mouth moved, metal sliding scaled lips apart, but no sound escaped her throat.
“We journey onward, then,” they said in her place.
All three nodded, and rose to feet, one by one. They followed, hands and arms and legs working wire to keep the bodies balanced, sweat pouring over pale skin, leaving streaks in blackened soot.
“Yet another journey, aye? If nothing else, we’ve still our lives.”
They halted, then, all movement stilled, aching with the strain of keeping all three upright. “Do we?” they asked, their voice choking. All three faces turned to them, wires creaking with the movement.
“O’ course we do,” Farook said, his growl spilling from their throat.
“Fear not, green eyes. We are still with you,” Bertram said, his rasp slipping from their lips.
“We live, heart of hearts, with you and within you,” Sirellon said, her whisper sliding from their tongue.
“As before and ever after, Death has been denied.”
Death had never been denied.
Sirellon’s skull shifts before them, yellowed with the passing of the years and bearing the scars of countless scuffles. Beyond her bones, the suit stands before them, bereft of fire and fiddle both, yet grinning in the gleam of the searing sunlight. Their one eye closes, chest heaving with a long, slow breath.
“A bargain struck we,” they say, voice rasping like their Bertram’s, and wires lift Farook to stand on their upraised foot. “Fulfillment, or solace; a price paid in blood.”
They kick, and Farook flies, daggers aimed at fiddler’s face. His flat blade flickers, steel striking bone and flying from his feeble grip even as Farook’s flight founders. A dagger yet digs deep into the suited shoulder, blood staining the blade a dirty bronze. They follow, feet flinging frozen sand behind them, striding through the newborn flames that burst from blood-drenched silicate, and they strike, Sirellon’s blade arcing sidelong at fiddler’s naked neck.