And God said to Cain, "Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth". (Genesis 4:11-12)
September 24th, Year 1200 PA - Eastern European Plain (Ukraine)
"Wakey wakey, mister Chamberleinr!" These words triggered his awakening.
His heart rate suddenly increased. The man choked on a geyser of fresh air that shot into his throat as he leaned on his bony, right cheek. Dry and sandy specks of dirt blasted into his face, causing him to close his eyes again. As he jerked his head to the opposite side, the air seemingly shot out of his mouth like magic. The man began to hyperventilate.
The man lifted a sun-tanned palm to his face and attempted to rub the dirt out of his face, but the flesh that contacted his eyelids were grimy and rough like sandpaper. He cursed under his breath as he slowly got up from where he lied, all the while administering to his eyes. He patted his ears to dissipate the sound of gusts that itched his drums. When his eyelids finally parted, he noticed another man standing before him.
"How're you feeling, 'orporal?" The other man chuckled; he juggled the tip of a black object between his hands in a hypnotic pattern that deterred the arisen man from answering the question.
Signature sandpaper hands clutched the other man's palms, ceasing the swaying movement of the object, which revealed itself as an assault rifle.
"I feel like someone just gave birth to me in the middle of a desert." His reply had the quality of a croak. The man massaged his throat to purify his voice.
"Isn't that called 'feeling like shit,' eh?" The other man laughed.
"Very funny, Rias."
Both men wore green military dress and light armor pads that were held together similar to that of an armadillo. A leather belt bearing ammo packs and other sorts of equipment was tied around both men's waists and left shoulders. A sewn, shield-shaped blue badge with the capital, silver letters N-E-C-A in abbreviation format across the patch was present on the chests of both men, and a darker, silver wolf insignia partially overlapped it. These men were combat ready soldiers.
The man who had just moved his back from the dusty earth had a pair of dog tags around his neck, the name "Abraam Chamberleinr" spelled out on each pendant. Two yellow dashes on his rank indicator defined Abraam as a corporal. He had darker skin tone compared to his comrade, and had a very thin, rough outline of facial hair that matched the stale visual texture of his black hair. In short, Abraam Chamberleinr was aging too quickly. The other looked younger and fresher. He had a face fit for a perfect go-lucky expression and a nice, signature smirk of attraction. The letters on his pair of dog tags spelled the name "Rias Petrescu". A yellow diamond on his rank indicator defined him as a private of first class. His ruination of combed hair was dark blonde. Rias' face was clean-shaven. In contrast with his companion Abraam, Rias was aging too slowly.
"So, what did I miss during my nap, private?" Abraam's voice returned to his natural, gruff nature.
Rias' dimples disappeared. "I think it's a bit too early to take a trip to hell. The scatter picked up about a double-dozen devils, and it looks like we gotta deal their 'bumblebees', too."
Rias pulled out disk-shaped, metallic remote device. He tapped its center, and a three-dimensional light model appeared– a hologram. The soldier tapped a few more icons, until a black and white, holographic photo appeared. Abraam observed twenty-three cloaked figures, armor-clad and armed with unusual weapons he hardly thought he had operated before. Pairs of them rode on hovering objects that looked like enormous bumblebees, hence the name; Abraam could think of it as silly, yet there were terrible things he remembered from encountering these "devils", and they tended to be worse when riding on the back of a giant "bumblebee". Abraam stiffened from the term "devil" and his mind raced with bad thoughts; he had seen too much.
Rias put a hand on Abraam shoulder, pressing onto his rank indicator. "Hurts to lose you own men, eh?"
"W'got only two days until the return trip. The men are eager to return home to their families and friends, and forget the deaths. I hope none of my men will pass in our next battle."
"I feel like looking at your wife and child's picture is becoming cliché for soldiers like us." Rias said.
"You lucky bastard," Abraam roughly brushed Rias' hair, "I'm still needin' a name carrier. But me an' my wife can't afford an adoption."
Rias frowned, "Ey, sorry 'bout your wife's condition."
"Well if it's God's will that she'd have the condition then it's fine by me," Abraam's lips formed a weak smile. Rias jerked a half-smile.
Abraam sneezed, "I have a bad feeling about this as usual, but I've got this good feeling in me that's driving my OCD nuts."
"The hell's that suppose'd to mean?" Rias picked up his rifle and slung the carrier cord on his shoulder.
"I guess fate'll answer that question," replied Abraam.
"Well, I don't believe in fate."
"Your loss, private."
The two men gathered their equipment, and headed down a dirt hill and into a fray of tall, dry grass. They managed their goggles to the wind and pulled up their ski masks, and hiked towards the smoke in the distance.
September 24th, Year 1200 PA - Eastern European Plain (Ukraine)
A dry, brisk breeze blew across a dry autumn plain, shaking shrubs and brushing a sea of prairie grass as if it were combing the pelt of a lion's flank. The intersecting, irregular wind patterns blew the grass back in forth from different angles. The powerful hue of a setting sun turned the plain into a sea of golden waves.
Not a single prominence rose from the land's end. Only sky and clouds.
Then, the sun began to fall.
Several large hares jumped out of the tall grass like fish, attracting several buzzards that flew overhead, waiting to swoop down to catch a feast. The hares lept into a clearing where the prairie ended, then stopped to view the area. One of the buzzards began to fly toward the hares, all the while picking a target. Suddenly, the hares bolted in different directions, each diving into the tall grass, not to be seen again. The buzzard changed its route, and with a bird's-eye-view, took a glimpse at what had caused the dispersal of it's prey, before taking off to continue the hunt.
What the feathered creature's supernatural line of sight had seen was a group of thirty-three weary men, women, and children, huddled together to counter the wind as they stumbled across the sea of grass as if it were a marshland. The people wore animal furs and garments, hiding all skin but their eyes so that they could look for any sign of hope that would be most beneficial to their survivability, if that were the case of their travels. None of them looked like they had a destination in mind, as they moved in the same direction, not bothering to stop to look for any clues.
The men were distinguished by the larger heaps of garments; some of them carried firearms, but they all had makeshift, fur bags for supplies. Several objects resembling hand-crafted tools dangled on strings and twine that were strapped to their arms and waists. The women were distinguished by their bearing of small children, whether holding hands of carrying them in their arms. Fur bags were tied to their waists and their garments looked as if their were objects trapped within them for storage. Steam-like vapors surrounded their faces. None of them had the urge to speak. It was as if they had a plan.
As the sun began to descend, one young man stopped blending in with the others. He whispered something unheard of to an older woman beside her, then began to speed up, until he was ahead of the rest of the group. The young man ran up a mound, then stopped. From there, he frantically felt around his cloth pockets, until he patted a familiar and pulled out a pair of rusty binoculars. He lifted the binoculars to his eyes, then shifted the position of his eyes with his head to attempt to get a good focus. When the image became clear, the young man squinted to see what lied beyond. His eyes ventured into the unknown, until it grasped something of satisfaction. Then, his vision let go, and he brought down his binoculars. Raising a hand to hide the blinding sunlight and another to wave for attention, the man began to cry out to his comrades.
"Behold, wanderers! A road!" He yelled and leaped for joy until both his throat and legs sored. Although the rest did not change expressions, they muttered to each other, asking things pertaining to whatever they thought the young man was ranting about. The group seemed to jointly agree to place their trust in his message. A surge of energy and determination swept through the group, and the pace only seemed to become quicker. The wind blew with them.
Each man, woman, and child swallowed a satiating dose of joy as worn out moccasin soles touched the loose gravel of an archaic highway. Several rusty automobiles were scattered along the highway; a historical museum in its own right. The rubber tires drooped as if they were once scorched with hot fire, and pieces of rusty paint, scrap metal, and glass were scattered beside them.
A bearded, middle-aged man ran up to an automobile, directing the butt of his rifle into the door of one of the automobiles, denting the metal until it split from the rest of the surface. Specks of rusted painted and dust rained like a fire's sparks upon a hearth. He easily pried off the door, breaking the attachment cords in the process; there was no law here against vandalism.
The man crawled into the automobile, beside him was a white skeleton leaning on a rotting seat, the sockets of its skull staring upon the fellow as if it longed to have flesh and muscle in order to move once again. The man did not seem terrified; to him, this was a common thing. His mind and bony hands simply scoured the contraption for any useful items. The man had no respect for the dead either; he pried off the skeleton's radius bone, and used it to repeatedly hit the dashboard cabinet until it went lose. He pulled the cabinet cover off, and searched it. Dust filled the car, causing him to wheeze and wave the dust away. There were several dusty papers. The man reached into the fold of papers, and wrapped his hands around a plastic jar hidden between the sheets. It was labelled with words of a language he could not decipher, but he pried off the cap, and eyed the translucent gel-like substance within it. With one of his hands, he felt the substance. The surface was hardened with age, however under the surface was a paste-like gel. Might be flammable. He thought. He took it and lept out of the automobile, running to a pile of garments and packages where the group had left their belongings.
"Baschel! What've you found?" An alluring, brown-haired young woman gleefully asked the red-bearded man; her expression hardly showed the case though, since she was terribly exhausted from the journey. A boy infant lay in a bed of furs that overlapped her arms. Her shoulders shook as if she could not carry the infant anymore. Baschel, the bearded man, placed the jar on the gravel, and walked over to aid in the cradling of the baby. He grinned at the woman.
"I'm hopin' it might be the flammable gel," Baschel answered, "does Father have the flint and steel?"
"Indeed I do." A large man of age spoke, walking between the two. He bore the broadness of a leader, and white strokes of age and wisdom marked his tufts of cranial and facial hair that had not been cut in the ages.
The senior man stretched his back by moving his torso forward, and grunted to the numbness, "As my new son-in-law, you should be handling the usual fire in my place!"
Baschel handed the infant back to the woman, and walked up to ease the older man, placing his hand on the senior's shoulder, "Ah, dear ol' Tamarkin. On the day we first met, you told me that us wanderers did not have laws. You should just dub me your son!"
The old man, Tamarkin, lifted Baschel's hand from his shoulder, "But… we do have laws!"
Before Baschel could continue, the old man raised his throat.
"Bring the supplies and the pheasants! We shall refill our energy shortly!" He exclaimed. The others nodded in compliance. One man took several leathery objects from a garment bag; wild pheasants, plucked clean and ready for preparation.
Tamarkin turned to the lovely young woman at his side for command, "Naira, go fetch some dry grass from the plain. Thee will make the bed of fire."
The woman named Naira obediently followed his orders. She lay her infant aside Tamarkin before leaving. Tamarkin sat and pulled out a shiny, black stone… flint, and drew a steel dagger a wooden scabbard at his side. His place of seating marked the gathering, whereas the other comrades settiled their supplies and sat around a certified area in a ceremonial circle, as if such has been rehearsed often. A man set aside his rifle and brought out a bag of stones, which he spilled onto the ground at the center of the ceremonial circle before returning to his position among the rest of the travelers.
As Naira settled the grass onto the pile of stones, the mumbled gossip fluttered around the circle. She sat next to Baschel, who stroked his beard as he watched another man stick a metal rod into three raw pheasant carcasses. Tamarkin swung his large arms in a repelling gesture to order the circle to spread themselves out. Each traveler moved until there were gaps between them. They took out cut sheets of garments and set them onto the gravel. The small wind forced them to hold them down with their fingers. What was left of the sun was only a thin strip of laser-like light in the horizon and the phasing of dark blue sky and the orange star's hue. The waning gibbous moon began to increase its intensity.
Once all was prepared, Tamarkin cleared his throat, and spoke, "O, wandering children. We look to my son-in-law, Baschel, who has insisted that I simply call him son."
The group stared at Baschel, who ceased to stroke his beard and close his eyes in mild embarassment.
"Baschel has seemed to forget that even in the wild lands, there are laws present," Tamarkin continued, "I'm sure many of you have thought the same at some point."
The circle was silent for a moment.
"But now this… in this world, there is a phenomenon that exists that we dub, cause and effect." The old man stated, "In this world, as long as the effect may be a consequence, then the cause is a breakage of law. As Nomads, we have experienced consequences of all degrees… unlike those that dwell protected behind their Walls. Thus, there are more laws I encourage thee to follow here."
Several members of the circle stirred, while other simply nodded.
"As we feast, I want you all to remember that here in the wild, consequences come closer than you think, and laws are already broken before you know them." Tamarkin stood up more erect, "That is the curse of living in oblivion. I don't mean to scare you, but that is the truth and you must always know that!"
The entire circle stirred as Tamarkin took a deep breath, "Now, let us sing the rhyme of the Nomad, so that we remember thee before we enjoy the outliers of this way of life!"
The entire circle held their hands together, closed their eyes, and took deep breaths, and the deep tune swept beyond the circle the moment the song was audible.
"No heaven meets the end of earth,
From steps thou take buried in the dust.
Can the wake of the wind bring forth birth
And erase thy sins that sleep in thy crust?
Oh thee know that's not, so on thee goes.
Thee follow the wind like thy demon foes.
When white sky comes bloom and bright,
Thee shall wander weary dark.
Thee shall sleep soundly the light.
Ne'r dishonor thy sinful Cain's mark.
When gray sky comes fall and white,
Thee shall wander weary shine.
Thee shall sleep soundly the night.
Ne're dishonor thy curse from Thine.
Out of the garden's holy walls thee come,
To the point of which no sin may return,
To gravely walk far from His kingdom,
But still honor thy save from thee skin to burn.
Thee marked the wanderer's curse,
Until thee did halt and could wander no more.
Thy curse be passed on to kin, thee's remorse.
Thy demons drag thou down through accursed door.
But His great save thee wait by which foretolds,
Of which thee surrenders, as do thy walls.
Thy legend ends when Angels reach His goals.
We are thee, the wanderer,
And we must go, even if we cannot farther.
We are the Nomads."
The song faded into the wind and the newborn sparks of fire. Tamarkin hid his stone and sheathed his blade, then said to the others, "Now, we fast."
As the hearth of the fire warmed the feasting Nomads, there was another light beyond them; not of the Moon, but of an old Spirit that craved something shrouded with mystery. But this Spirit was good, and it watched the people with no aggression. Its treasure hunt was soon to be over, but a price would be paid for its success.
September 25th, Year 1200 PA - Eastern European Plain (Ukraine)
Morning had come, replacing the chirps of crickets with those of prairie thrushes. Field mice scurried from within the lively sea of grass, and buzzards circled the blue sky to catch breakfast.
Scratching his dusty head, Baschel arose from a bed of garments and glanced at the lovely lady Naira, who still napped at his chest with their infant son. He rolled onto the gravel, and faced the sunlight that shined from afar. He noticed that the world was strangely vibrant at the hour. Scratching his beard, Baschel made his way to the automobile where he placed his supplies.
"A cooked pheasant's leg can't heal a wandering stomach's craving," He said to himself. He grabbed his rifle and checked the cartridge. Only two bullets were ready for action. Make them count, Baschel. He thought to himself. Donning a sheet of deerskin, Baschel stepped off the highway, and left the law of comrades' interdependency.
The bearded man waded through the sea of grass. The reeds tickled his elbows whenever he lowered to a hunter's position. Then, in the distance, his good eye got a glimpse of a large hare that slowly crawled through the prairie shrubbery. Baschel kneeled in a bed of reeds, training the muzzle of his rifle on the oblivious mammal. Hesitation was his mistake. He fired and hit the patch of dust right behind the path of the hare. The hare shot through the reeds, high on adrenaline. The adrenaline rush battled Baschel's own immune system. He sprinted up the mount where the rabbit had taken off, all the while reloading his weapon. He concentrated his next shot at the fleeing rabbit, aiming a centimeter above it to ace the timing. He fired the shot, and the hare simultaneously fell.
Baschel lay on his bed of reeds to relieve the adrenaline. The aroma of dry autumn grass clouded his nostrils. Suddenly, a shrill, terrifying screeching voice echoed across the landscape. While this screech was too powerful to be a vulture's, just watching the vultures circling the kill and feeling his empty stomach made the man forget caution. He had left the law of investigative heeding.
Baschel rushed to the location of the dead hare before a single feather could touch the earth. However, there was no sign of it anywhere. Idiot. Forgot you protocol did'ya? Baschel thought to himself. Suddenly, an ounce of dread crawled of his skin. A shriveled claw of elongated fingers slided on the slide of Baschel's left shoulder, and toward the nape of his neck. He spun around and knocked the claw of his shoulder like an insect. His ounce of dread was replaced by absolute fear.
A devilish creature about a foot taller than he stood erect and hunched before him, staring straight into him with nothing but a mask painted with dried blood. The creature was armor clad and bore similar garments as those the travelers wore, only they appeared as trophies to this horrific entity. The creature resembled an arthropodic, humanoid insect of the devil's court. Its head was held within an elongated crest-like helmet.
The creature seemed to speak words to him out of the fabric of the darkest end of his imagination. Feast your eyes, human… upon my mask…. The very face of your oblivion!
Baschel lifted his rifle to fire on the creature, but he ultimately realized that he had used up all his rounds. The creature swiftly grasped a claw on the muzzle of his rifle, and snatched it away with ease, tossing it into the grass.
A metallic rod of pain slid into Baschel's empty stomach, and the world began to lose vibrance, as if it had defied his eyes and lied vision. Baschel's last thought was the price he had paid for leaving the laws of the world behind; this was the consequence.
"Bloody'ell, demon…" Baschel uttered. Then, his voice was drowned out with his blood.
As the man's life faded away and his body became nothing but a corpse for nature to feed upon, the creature screamed its shrill voice of doom's shadow. Then suddenly, the beating of sound waves from the thousand bees blasted across the horizon, and the shrills echoed at different decibels across the landscape, for others had joined on the lament.
The buzzing was more than an irritation; it was sign that Tamarkin loathed. And my son-in-law has disappeared. Hell's to break lose. Tamarkin pulled out a pair of binoculars, subsequently calling for his comrades to arm themselves. The women and children lay on the ground in terror, and began to feel the loosening of the gravel and the tremors of doom's approach. Suddenly, over the horizon, several cloaked figures zipped across the landscape on hovering, bee-shaped, alien contraptions, growing larger in both size and number each second. Tamarkin dropped his binoculars on the ground, grabbed a shotgun, and took cover behind an automobile.
Suddenly, one of the figures got up from one of the hovering machines and lifted a sight of horror. Tears of distraught crawled down Naira's face, and the infant son began to bawl and shake in her arms. The head of Baschel, crimson in blood, dangled from the creature's arm. The creature tossed it on the ground, then drew a blood-red blade, and cried a terrifying declaration of hostility. The creature's surrounding comrades repeated the same maneuver. One of them drew a firearm of its own, and fired.
Whether it made its mark or not, the battle's start was signified. The cracking of gunshots, screams of deaths, whizzing of bullets, and devilish war cries all contributed to the terrifying scene that displayed before Tamarkin's eyes. The enemy creatures' vehicles ricocheted into the automobiles and armed travelers. The creatures leaped onto the hoods of the automobiles, charging at their human assailants. Cutting them down or firing on them. They were fearless, and did not mind feeling bullets as long as they had a chance of hurting and killing a target. This was best distinguished by their monster demeanors. Blood spurted onto the gravel and glass shards rained like splashes of water. Family members were cut down before kin and terror was everywhere.
Tamarkin fired several shots in fury, until a creature pummeled him to the ground. His weak spine hit a piece of gravel, but he withstood the pain and knocked the creature out with the butt of his rifle. Uncannily, his assailants were quite light in weight and the force knocked them good. My daughter! My grandson! Two dear subjects crossed his mind. Tamarkin, clutching his back injury, stumbled into the side of the highway, his mind set on his prodigy. Then he saw something he could fear forever. Naira lay immobile at the side of the road, her blood spilled and mixed with dirt and cloth. Just as he could kneel in mourning defeat, he saw the bawling child who lay in the arms of her corpse. Tamarkin cradled the infant like a treasure, but he knew that he must save the child. He eyed the closest automobile, covered in blood and dust, rendering its inner contents invisible. Tamarkin lay the infant at the foot of the back seat, and with a last look of kindness, shut the door.
Tamarkin treaded to the middle of the road, kneeled, and lowering his head. He unsheathed a handgun, cocking it for action, and placing it to the side of his head. He watched as a creature crushed the head of the last other comrade, who died with his hand reaching into the air as if trying to grab a savior's warm hand or get a last feeling of the lively breeze. Tamarkin smiled out of no changing emotion.
Tamarkin closed his eyes, and his lasts thoughts flowed in his head: "We are thee, the wanderer, and we must go, even if we cannot farther!" He tilted his head to where his grandson lay. I promise that you will go far. He pulled the trigger, and responsibility of what followed fell into fate's hands.
Excluding the sun's golden rays, another light come upon the ancient vehicle, and peered over to see the small and round face of a tiny infant boy. The Spirit peered over its fortune, entered the void, and rested within the child's soul.
"In exchange for life and the supernatural, you will return the favor and save your kind." The Spirit whispered. The baby instantly stopped its wail. Then, the Spirit entered the soul, and the child was overcome with light. The golden hue of the sun shined upon the child's face.
The highway was scattered with blood, rubble, and broken glass. The demons, after slaughtering the people, took their weapons and treasures of glory and left without the beating of the heart, soulless as ever. The dry, brisk breeze blew across the great plains once again. Not a single prominence rose from the land's end. Only sky and clouds.
Then, the sun began to fall.