5 She“s Hearing Voices
(From the point of view of Violet Belladonna)
I stood there, dumbfounded as do everyone else. Those who could see the gate of Ur fell into a deafening silence. They could not do anything but listen. The banging sound from afar, the clanking of soldier's armors, the noise that's coming from people scratching their nails on the stone gate of Ur, and the desperate pleas of the soldiers as their voices cracked and boomed from the other side of the gate filled the shimmering streets of Ur. One after another, the people started to break. Some covered their mouths as they wept, most dropped to their knees praying for a god to deliver them from the conquerors, and others started to run about with a face of horror.
Amidst the veil of violence and chaos running rampant all around, I remained silent and still, thinking of what I can do.
... Thinking of the queen will do...
... Thinking of what I must do...
What must I do?
I looked below me; the princes are still clueless about what is happening. Perhaps my barrier is too powerful for them to hear or feel what is happening around them.
I have a mission to save the princes from this hell.
I looked all around—chaos and melancholy, death and suffering, stones and marbles, but not a sight of a catacomb.
I know it's around here; the catacombs are near the king's chamber.
As my gaze follows the trail of the countless people running about with their pieces of jewelry and beautiful silk clothing, I noticed a black metal gate with peculiar arabesque design. Unlike most metal gates with a single column of thin metal lined up perfectly like how soldiers are before the start of a war, this one has a distinctive design, similar to that of a slower. The metal is bent to create an image of an arabesque pattern I usually see imprinted on the windows and gates of churches built by the priests of Caelum.
This is it—the one we're looking for, the catacombs. I found it!
"Men, we need to go. Now, now!" I shouted as I diverted my attention towards the surrounding soldiers accompanying me, all with the same dumbstruck expression. "The catacombs, stop looking so dumb, and let's get this over with!"
They remained unmoved. I'm not sure if they can hear me.
"Soldiers! Listen to me!" I screamed in desperation. Nobody was listening; I am merely talking to the wind.
I gritted my teeth and clenched my fists as I saw their expressions. Mouth agape, jaw dropped, eyes filled with abject horror, brows furrowed, some even have their saliva dripping from their mouths, and their grip at their weapons are almost loose enough for them to drop their weapons.
My eyes glowed white, and so do the floating balls of crystals around me. A gust of wind blew from within the balls orbiting me. The impact of the strike alone is enough to send these armor-clad 'strongmen' down into the ground.
"Are you not soldiers of Izrecael?" I shouted as the white gleam in my eyes started to dissipate. "Are they not dying out there, while you're here doing the easiest job a soldier could do? Stand up, protect the princes, and you'll leave this place where you wouldn't even see the horrors of the battlefield with your own eyes. Stand up. NOW!"
Damian was the first to stand up from the group of soldiers. Their morale has sunk deeper than anything I've seen in a soldier from Izrecael. Their fellow warriors are on the other side of that gate, and they are all screaming the same protestations.
They are retreating.
The men of Izrecael are retreating. They have all the right to be surprised, but they have an obligation to do, and that same obligation is what's hindering them from keeping the right to feel awe-struck because of what they're seeing.
As the soldiers stood one after another, I didn't wait for them to have their spirits return from within the hollow spaces in their brain as I ran towards the catacombs as fast as I might run with my nimble feet.
As I ran, a soldier caught up to my pace. It's Damian. Wow, of course, the wounded soldier is the one who gets his act together, how foolish of me to believe the perfectly healthy young men behind me wouldn't be the one cowering like cockroaches.
"I'm sorry for how I acted, Madame Belladonna," Damian said to me as he puffs, running towards the gate of the catacombs.
"Your apology won't get the princes out of here. Save it. Run. Protect them." I gasped and panted as I spoke while running, almost biting my tongue in the process. "That's our job."
Damian ran faster, filling the streets with the sound of his war cry, with his sword tightly gripped in his fist. He reached out his hands as his distance between the gates of the catacombs shortens.
I was lagging a few meters away from him. He's running so much, but I don't understand the purpose. He's like a barbarian with a raging flame on his head instead of a brain.
"This stupid soldier!" I whispered to myself, but perhaps I got too passionate because I shouted it instead.
When Damian reached the gate, he pulled and shook it as hard as humanly possible with his bare hands. I do not understand what he was doing, and I was still a few distances away from him. I see no soldiers around me either, but I'm too curious to know what Damian's end goal is instead of looking back to check for more dead weights.
After a while, Damian, the mad soldier, pulled the gate so hard, its design started to distort into an image I cannot even recognize. That metal gate looked like clay in his hands as he pulled it with the strength above what I perceive is normal. With a roar, as he gazed upon the darkened skies, Sir Damian pulled the gates of the catacombs from the dark stone it was attached to like pulling a metal gate from the strongest stone known to man was something he does every day.
He threw the gate nearby with a piercing scream of a tiger for that sound he was making was not something a man could do unless he's hiding steel barbs in his throat.
"Come, come, Madame Belladonna!" He shouted, waving his hands at me, signaling me to hurry.
"Why did you do that?"
"Did what, Madame?"
I stopped running when I reached the entryway towards the catacombs. I panted and gasped for my breath as I hugged the princes on my chest tighter.
"Why did you do that to the gate?" I yelled, panting, gasping for breath. "Why can't you just open it like a normal person?"
"Well," Sir Damian said with a troubled expression, "I know they always locked the catacombs for some whatever because I am buddies with the person who has all the keys to the catacombs, yeah, around in this here empire. So I thought yeah, we can't look for that guy now since, you know, this is happening, so I decided I have to force our way in, yeah?"
"You… Really?" I said, impressed at his logic. It's a perfectly reasonable answer too, and it worked after all.
"Yes, Madame." Sir Damian said, now with a silly smile, "Oh, look, the others are here too!"
The soldiers frolicked around me like children running towards their teacher.
"We apologize for our behavior, Madame Belladonna!" The soldier who's probably in charge of this group or something said, "We will accept any punishment you think we deserve!"
"You're sorry, of course. I'd cut your head off right away if I saw you still lying down on the ground where I've last seen you, but here you are now, and you still have a job to do."
The men remained silent and gulped as they heard the deep and commanding voice of the petite woman in front of them. Sorry boys, I grew up in a worse world than the ones you got there in the barracks.
"Now, we have no more time; we need to—"
And then it happened.
The gigantic dark-colored gate, protecting the citizens of Ur from whatever monster from the other side, blasted into the air and buried itself onto the walls of the king's chambers.
I looked at the large gate that flew into the chambers of the most important building of Izrecael from a few meters away as if it was thrown like a ball. My vision caught a glimpse of what horrors lie below as I hear squelching and dripping sounds from all over the place.
I slowly lead my eyes down, down towards the ground, down to where my sight caught a glimpse of something far beyond what I imagined.
Innards, organs, skin, blood—these are things I frequently see in my line of work, but one I have not seen piled like livestock as far my eyes could reach. I felt my stomach churn at the absolute stench of death prowling about the streets. Everywhere... it's everywhere. Blood and guts—the white roads of Ur, now painted with darkened liquid and the pinkish colors of human organs along with the crushed and burned remains of the soldier's armor, now looked like a macabre painting of a deranged artist on a white canvas.
All of them are dead, none survived. The people who were running in circles all over the place got crushed too while I could see some who managed to escape the explosion like us cry, pass out, or downright puke, mixing their excrement with the blood of the dead soldiers.
I almost yelped when a severed head suddenly fell beside my feet. I was perplexed seeing the severed head, I know I'm used to seeing dead bodies, but even I have my limits. It's not every day one sees a flying head of a fallen soldier land on your feet even in my years of experience. I took a few steps forward until I bumped my back on Sir Damian's chest.
"Are you okay, Madame Belladonna?"
"I..." I cleared my throat before continuing, "I'm alright. I just... We need to go."
That's what I said, but I was too stunned, too dumbstruck, too repulsed, too paralyzed to move my body. It seems I have lost control of myself, and now a sort of petrifying sensation lingers on my skin, making me unable to move even an inch of my fingers. Is this what the soldiers felt earlier, is this the true colors of war—red and nothing more? I realized I have been very privileged to be living with the queen, for I do not see this sort of image enough to be used to it, unlike the tall Sir Damian who's standing beside me.
I looked at the severed head. It felt like it's staring into the deepest crevices of my soul, like a sort of dark spell creeping into my mind as it gazed at me. Of course, this statement doesn't make sense because the man's left eye is burned while the other eyeball is hanging outside of its socket. How come I can still feel the intensity of his gaze, though? I could feel his eyes piercing my heart while the number of mosquitos buzzing all over the now singed flesh where his neck was once attached grew.
I can't believe corpses can still affect me.
No, that's not quite right. I'm used to seeing corpses. However, I'm not used to witnessing a massacre.
Magic, perhaps? Perhaps they have the capabilities to create a bomb stronger than dark mud. I don't know anymore, but whatever that explosion came from, it killed all the soldiers retreating and begging for their lives outside the gates of Ur, all perhaps so the forces of our enemy could open the city gates and let hell raise towards the king.
Maybe I'm crazy, maybe I'm losing my mind, maybe all these sudden stress is taking a toll on me, but I feel like I hear them speak. I mean, the pillars, of course. Their screams clearer now that the crestfallen screeches of the retreating soldier seized. I thought I heard them utter a language I could understand as their desperate plea for help rang throughout the horizons.
"We're dying!" They said, "He's coming." They cried.
That day, the explosion which blew the gates away from where it once stood, painted a crimson color on the entryway to Ur as I heard the cries of the pillars grew louder.