First Impression

by C.W.Smoke

Visit Castle Smoke

I lie on a flat surface in a large white chamber and stare straight up at the domed ceiling. I do not belong here, but I cannot move. And my voice -- I cannot speak. At the edge of my vision I see a woman dressed in white. She moves away from me toward a large archway. Although I cannot see her face, I know she has seen me.

I must make contact. The King must know!

You there! Wait! Do not go....Look at me! In the name of the King, I command you -- look at me!

The words echo inside my head, but no sound escapes my lips.

The woman pauses. She looks back.

What a face! Golden -- beautiful! Can she hear me?

I shout....I am Prince Giacomo Borgani, First Prince of the Realm, High Commander of The King's Legions. I offer great reward for your assistance....but there is only silence.

She turns away.

Wait! Do not go! Look at me!

I am his son! The King must know...Stop! Come back!

No use. She is gone.

But something new is here -- something terrible -- inside me. Something that scurries on tiny feet. Something that seeks my memories, then devours them -- one by one.

No! You cannot do this! Stop! I command you! I am Prince Giacomo! Stop!

But it does not stop. Slowly, insatiably it moves from memory to memory leaving only emptiness.

I must keep my memory....I shall survive -- only if I can remember...

I must remember....Chin....Yes, Chin The Barbarian on the plain of Olmos...

* * *

"My blade, Slasher carries Death's Song to my enemies. My shield, Omicron runs red with their blood. My steed, Centurion tramples my enemies, scattering their bones to The Gods of the Four Winds. For I am Giacomo The Fierce, Mighty Sword of Retribution, First Prince of the Realm, and no mortal 'cept my father, The King shall stand before me. Surrender, and you shall live." So spoke Brinchani, carrying my words to Chin, the Barbarian, who made his reply.

Brinchani shall be honored. My men know how to die.

Soon the battle shall begin.

I look forward to our battle with yearning. Only Chin and his Barbarians stand between me and the wealth of Chadra by the sea. May Thun, The Great God of War give me strength.

* * *

What? My army is gone. Where am I?

Do I dream?

No! I am inside the strange temple again. The light has gone. It is dark, and the emptiness inside me grows.

Tired. So tired....I must sleep.

No! I must not! Great Thun! I call on you! Give me your strength. Split the darkness asunder. I must remember. I shall remember...

* * *

Morning -- the day of battle. The sun warms my back. A cool sea breeze blows the pennants on our red and yellow banners toward the Barbarians who are strung out in a line equal to ours across the Plain of Olmos.

I sit astride Centurion at the head of my army. Chin sits likewise on his pony directly across the plain from me. The banners of the Barbarians are black and leathery. Their mounts are short and shaggy -- like Steppe goats. The inside of my mouth tastes of copper as the war chants begin.

Da-doom! Da-doom! Our drums sound. My men shout, raise their weapons, and stamp their feet.

Loud howls and waving spears answer us from across the plain.

I raise Slasher above my head -- a challenge to Chin.

He struts his pony back-and-forth before his army.

I ride forward -- alone onto the field of battle. The shouts on both sides grow louder.

Chin unsheaths his blade and rides to meet me. Battle cries cease as we move within spear hurling distance. Our armies wait and watch us in silence.

The sun and wind are behind me. Ahead my destiny beckons. What more can a man ask?

* * *

Blackness! Blackness surrounds me. I have been swallowed....swallowed by some huge beast. I am tossed about -- thrown to-and-fro -- bounced from side to side as darkness closes in.

A trick! Ensorcelled by my enemies! I must break free before emptiness engulfs me! I must remember....Chin....I battle Chin!

* * *

The gods gaze down upon the plain of Olmos. Chin and I do not tarry. Urgency binds our dance of death.

Our steeds gallop straight for each other. Their hoofbeats echo across the plain. Dust clouds rise -- portends to our clash. His pony is swift -- but small. A fatal choice! Centurion shall trample both Chin and his mount when we engage. That pony shall cost him his life.

So be it! I shall crush them both.

With blades drawn we close.

For the first time I see his dark eyes. They are warrior's eyes -- fierce and unyielding like mine.

I hold Omicron my shield before me. I raise Slasher. A powerful swing, a push -- and Chin The Barbarian shall be no more.

I swing Slasher. I push Omicron, but Chin is gone!


No! A trick! He hangs beside his pony, righting himself as we pass.

I turn -- too late -- as lightning flashes inside my skull. A thunderclap pounds my ears. Then blackness engulfs me -- silent darkness all around.

* * *

I swim in black emptiness.

A light! I must reach it!

I thrust myself toward the light with all my strength.

Such brightness! My eyes -- I am blinded! I cannot see!

I feel strange -- weak. My strength is spent, but I am free!

Unseen hands lift and wrap me in cloth garments. I cannot move my arms or legs. And my mouth -- it will not speak!

Chin! Where are you? Enough trickery! Come out and fight!

A woman's voice -- I turn my head toward the sound, but there is only shadow -- light and dark. Very close now, the woman speaks. "She's an old soul, Sam. Look at her eyes."

What is happening? Great Thun, let me see!

A large shadow moves into my vision. A man speaks. "What a cutie! Koochie-coo, Baby Rosie. Tickle-tickle on your chinny-chin-chin."

I feel a finger beneath my jaw, but still my mouth will not make words.

Chin! Gone -- emptiness -- nothing.

Chin? Chinny-chin?


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