Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first…
Yes, that’s right, I’m nearly halfway through! My character is learning some lessons and it is time to unleash the villain…
Here’s an excerpt for you to enjoy:
Morgana found walking on the white sand difficult, she wished that she could walk on the grass to either side. It’d spare my ankles and knees, at least. She thought as her ankle twisted in the sand again. “Ow.”
“Young Lady?” A voice came from her right. Standing on the grass just off the path was a man wearing normal everyday clothes, with a steel roman helm on his head and sword in his hand. “Do you need any help?”
“Don’t talk to him.” Merla said, and squawked angrily at the man. “If he gets onto this path, he’ll wreak havoc among the others treading it.”
“What others?” Morgana glanced behind her.
A whole crowd of Judged were walking that path behind her, having as many problems as she was by the looks on their faces.
“Why are they on the path?” she asked the crow, ignoring the man with the sword and slogging on through the ankle deep sand.
“Their punishment is not here, it is over the bridge in the Hills of Treachery or beyond.” Merla told her.
“So they have to walk through this muck to get there? That’s hardly fair.” Morgana protested.
“If they had a violent life without cause, then they join the Plains of War. If they have to go to the Land of Fear or Grasslands of Apathy, they walk the Tiring Path. If they are destined for the Hills of Treachery they walk the path.” The crow shrugged and took off, circling above her. “Death and the afterlife isn’t meant to be fair, it’s a learning experience.”
Morgana trudged through the sand, glad that she’d left her trainers on Charon’s ship now. I’d have sand in my socks if I weren’t wearing these boots.
Stopping for a rest by a tree, Morgana ate some of the food Charon had given her and swallowed some water. Merla landed nearby and transformed.
“Would you like something to eat?” Morgana offered the raven woman an apple.
“I ate well of a dead horse an hour ago, but thank you for the offer.” The woman smiled.
Morgana hid her shudder. “Okay.” She looked around. “When will the fighting stop for the warriors to sleep?”
“It never stops. There is no day or night outside the Elysium Fields.” Merla shrugged. “It is punishment. If they are mortally wounded and cannot fight any more, they lie still until they are whole again and then just carry on.”
Morgana stood up, brushing sand off her trousers. “So if you are violent without a cause in life, you get to keep fighting in the afterlife without stopping? Isn’t that a reward for those kind of people?”
“Ask them.” Merla gestured toward a group of teenagers who were battling nearby. One of them had been cut in half and his head and torso lay close to where Morgana sat.
Holding her breath against the stench, Morgana knelt on the path close to him. “Are you enjoying all this fighting?”
The teenager turned his head and smiled. “I did, when I first got here. It was fun to smash someone’s head in and see them get up again and keep fighting. “ His smiled faded. “But now, I just want to be able to sleep.”
A shimmer appeared around the boy and his body re-knitted itself. Gasping he pulled himself up on to his knees. “Every time I get hurt I have to keep fighting. I can’t rest until I can no longer fight, and I still get the pain.” He stood up and turned back to the battle, sword in hand.
Morgana started walking again, desperate to get away from all the violence around her. “Will he ever leave the Plains of War?”
Merla flew up to her shoulder again. “Only when he sees that violence is unnecessary and unwanted. He has to not fight back three times. Then he’ll be released and be able to Journey to the Elysium Fields.”
Morgana thought about that for while as she trudged through the sand on the Tiring Path. I haven’t been violent toward anyone, even at my angriest, I never hit anyone.
Merla shook herself, the black feathers tickling Morgana’s ear. “I can hear your thoughts, young one. I have just been ignoring them.”
Morgana blushed. “Sorry.”
“There is such a thing as Mental Violence, you know.” The Raven remarked. “But those who lash out verbally and cause mental violence usually have a deep seated reason for it and so they rarely end up in the Plains of War.”
They came over the brow of a rise in the plain and looked down on another river. Steam rose from it’s surface and the water bubbled as if boiling.
“What’s making the river do that?” Morgana asked Merla.
“This is Phlegethon, the River of Flame. The water runs along a stream of Lava from the planet’s core and the heat boils it. No one can cross it unless they use the bridge.”
Morgana saw a high arching stone bridge beside what looked like a massive kennel. As they got closer, she could see that everyone who sought to pass the kennel and go over the bridge paused for a moment in front of the opening. “What’s in there?”
“You’ll find out shortly.” Merla took off. “I’ll meet you on the other side.”
“Great, sure.” Morgana said, fear bubbling up in her chest. I can do this, I am not afraid. She chanted to herself as she watched the Raven swoop over the kennel and perch on the far side of the river.