Here we are, lads. The fated introduction to the tale of a hero. Hopefully, you’ll find my writing somewhat bearable, and, probably-maybe-unlikely, somewhat enjoyable.
Anyways, here’s the first installment of Cobalt Star. It’s simply a taster though, so don’t expect a rigid posting schedule until much later.
Life, in all its forms, avenues, and endings, was a nuisance. Just as much as the people were, the scumbags who spur it, and even worse, the preachers that celebrate it. All of them belonged in a dirty ditch, as far as Quince was concerned. There just wasn’t any use in applauding it; this spark that the gods gave us; these sacks of flesh and bone, just for the express fact that it’d all end soon. Who cares about the achievements of man, when man itself is dying and finite?
Quince, horribly disfigured in the terms of morals and thought, pondered this for days on end. Being the grim punk that he was, he couldn’t seem to fathom any sort of excitement, legend, or camaraderie – believing it all irrelevant in the face of eternity, destined to disintegrate along the course of history. We’ll live with the consequences, he’d think, refusing to witness any form of reason.
But as to why will all be eventually forgotten.
The moon’s image quivered across a phantom lake. It sent out ripples of silver across the plane, which looked like glass that shallow evening. It was only here that he smiled; the beauty of the lake was enthralling, leaving him speechless and transporting him to a world where he didn’t have to think. A dream, where he had no reason to act, philosophise, or ever be bothered.
The folds of his uniform danced in the wind. They looked as if they were begging to fly away. He would’ve loved to join them, just so he could leave this horrid place.
This horrid place they call home, he thought.
What a lie.
He turned to face the wind. It was refreshing, enough to cool his head a little. He then realised he’d been breathing heavily, almost frantically.
It must be the thought of escape. he thought. Funny – am I really that obsessed?
Behind him, the chaotic sounds of the party erupted, suddenly fluctuating with the launch of the fireworks. He watched them burst above him, unfazed in the face of its colourful marvels. It wasn’t so impressive. Yet still, it was a perfect metaphor for his philosophy.
Fireworks. The impeccable image of finite beauty. Majestic, yet only for a second.
A second. Like any life, in the course of history. A blip in time.
What was the point in launching them? He could not fathom it.
This is what he thought then. As a misguided youth, unfamiliar with the ways of the world, he still had much to learn.
Though at the moment, this was not his story.
A tale worth telling should be strewn with knowledge. Knowledge of the world: of the past, present, and future, all linked together by a hero. Aze, even with all of his own misguidance, considered himself to be that hero. Or at least, one who could and would become one. A legend, whose name would be remembered for eons. A bloody figure of chivalry. Or figure to be.
Yet, as many other legends, this one began with certainly… not the most humble of origins.
You see, this very same man – the same who would solidify himself in history as a damn hero – now proceeded to con an old lady.
“Ah, curse this luck, eh madam? Shall we roll again?” he tilted his head, grinning from end-to-end. “Perhaps that luck’ll turn up something good the next time.”
The lady eyed him, determined and enthralled, yet not without suspicion. She’d lived for many a year, and could spot a duping from a mile away; even if she was now a half blind old coot on the verge of ninety. Her beady little eyes moved between the man’s and the kindly served dice in the palm of his hand. He seemed like an excellent, polite sort of gentleman, but even she knew that was the worst kind.
Besides, who wouldn’t be suspicious after losing over twenty times in a row? There must’ve been a trick to it.
“So? What do you say?” His cobalt blue eyes shined with opportunity. They looked like a child’s.
She took her time with her decision. “I’ll play,” she said. “on the condition that we use another pair of dice.”
She witnessed his demeanour crack. “A-Another… pair?”
She nodded, with her own expression of joy.
She knows, he thought. Or rather, panicked. Damn damn damn damn damn.
As beads of sweat trickled down his forehead, he tucked the pair of baked dice in his coat pocket. He could’ve sworn somebody in the crowd had also seen through him; he could hear a bunch of them laughing, snootily with their glasses of liquor and extravagant pompadours. He couldn’t stand their upper-class ohohohos.
But still, he had a chance. Lady Luck, famously, was on his side in these times of crisis. Usually. Sometimes.
As he hadn’t had any other pairs prepared, he went over to collect another set, off one of the other tables. But before he could, the old lady grabbed his arm and forcefully sat him down, with a strength that both surprised and scared him.
“No no no. This time, we use my dice.” Still smiling, she produced a set of her own.
The exquisitely carved cubes glistened in the light. They seemed to catch the attention of every passerby. It was as if she held a holy set of jewels, fitting for the head of a prime matriarch.
But Aze could see what really made them special. What sort of man would he be, if he weren’t able to see through his own tricks?
He knew this rhythm.
I get what she’s doing. They’re loaded too!
It was the look in her eyes that gave it away. Hardened, and now confident. She’d resolved to trick the trickster.
Well, he certainly couldn’t have that.
He stood, looking to make a statement.
Unfortunately, he had to show it by slamming his fists on the table.
“Now hang on just a sec-“
“Hold it, bud.”
The world froze. Gripped by fear and a burly hand, he turned to face the casino’s armoured enforcer.
Aze had faces on him, from all around. He didn’t have to look; he could feel their gazes upon him, judging him, condemning him to the title of lowly old-lady-harasser. And as for that lady, she cowered in her seat – which was obviously a ruse.
”You dirty little mong.”
He apologised to the enforcer, only just managing to quell his rage and the crowd’s suspicion; with a couple of witty comments and alibis. Which, when he thought about it, came out a little more like pleas of pathetic mercy.
And so, he sat down again for the final roll. Obviously, he couldn’t back out of it now; he’d tricked himself into this despicable situation, and there was no escaping the consequences. He might as well pay for it.
“Alright then, roll.” he said, shrugging. “I’m not afraid, you damn trickster.”
“Quite the gentleman, I see?” the lady replied, with a taunting chuckle. “But unlike you, I’m no trickster.”
Aze could only raise his eyebrow at this. No? Then why be so damn confident?
The lady shot him an experienced look, as if she was amused with his lack of understanding; no, she definitely was.
“A winner relies on skill, not tricks,” she said, ending it with a grin. As if to rub in the advice, she demonstrated that skill, in a performance of dexterity like no other. The dice danced through her fingers like a frantic monkey; it was as if someone had cast the dice over her knuckles, rolling them for a combination they were certain to get – she was in total control. The pair never showed any sign of dropping, and even when they did, Aze found himself misled. Her fingers were demonic machines, having finally been oiled in the face of their shallow adversity.
And it wasn’t just him that was amazed; the crowd, once again, was dazzled by the whims of this old lady. They eagerly awaited her roll, the roll that would destroy this feeble, ragged newcomer.
With these fingers, he knew that she could roll for any outcome she wanted. It would be child’s play, for such a legend. He couldn’t do much but be in awe of her skill. Which was foolish on his part, as he was about to get destroyed by it.
“Damn. What a woman,” he said through gritted teeth.
Vulnerable my ass.
Later, Aze found himself trying to fathom how the hell he managed to escape alive.
Following his miserable disarmament of tricks, the old lady he’d been tricking had produced a few tricks of her own; a pair of jewelled dice, and fingers blessed by the gods. Of course, what followed that was his pathetic defeat at the hands of an expertly predicted double seven – which, again of course, constituted in his total loss of funds.
See, that was where he’d bamboozled himself once again, with yet another terrible decision.
Fuming over his loss yet desperate to keep the money, Aze took advantage of the awe of the crowd, using it pocket as many sovereigns as he could before it was transferred. That was when he ran, shooting straight past the enforcer and for the gilded door.
“Sorry, but your efforts remain useless!” he announced, confident in his speedy legs.
Which, from what some told him, were something along the lines of “blessed” as well. In a simple race, they could never catch him, no way, no how.
But of course, they could block him. He stopped before a wall of guards, and a barricade of steel. Shields, with rigid pikes positioned out from behind. Each of the burly men who wielded them looked almost exactly similar to the enforcer from before. In fact, that same enforcer had joined the wall.
Shoot. He tried to keep a grin, but it was fading. Behind him, the old lady was hysterical. Never had anything grated as much on his nerves.
“Hold on, hold on. I’ve got somethin’ for this!” Frantically, he rummaged through the pockets of his coat for anything that would help him.
I’ve got it, I’ve got it!
Suddenly, the entire room filled with smoke. A dark, ashen smoke, that got into the eyes, the teeth, and any orifice a poor sap was ill-fated to have left open. It stung these people – which included anyone not Aze – leaving him with an incredible chance. Those in mention began to cough violently, while he expertly covered his face with goggles and a rag.
Yeah, a smoke bomb’ll make you do that.
His legs pumped with vigour. There was no way he was losing this money; he needed it for the best of reasons – his own, personal gain. But that gain was sorely justified.
Besides, he knew for a fact that he needed it much more than any of these guys did.
He also knew that he wouldn’t get through the front gate at this rate. So, the next best route was the roof, obviously.
The stairs were left wide open. As the smoke began to clear, he was able to navigate his way quickly to the top of them. He checked his pockets for another bomb, just to be safe. He cringed once he realised he’d used the last one.
Down below, the crowd was in a horrible panic, raising their voices, demanding retribution. The powerfully obedient guards acted immediately on their whim, commencing the chase.
Unfortunately, their willingness proved distasteful for such a commotion. Eager to give chase, some tried to wade through the fumes – which obviously didn’t end well. Those who did make it through were dazed by the gases, proving too groggy to even stand, much less climb stairs.
Aze on the other hand was far in the lead. And he wouldn’t stop, in fear of the twisted heel-turn of Lady Luck.
Alright, as long as I make it to the roof, it should be fine!
He had a plan, and, in addition to that, a single firework. In fact, he’d kept it with him specifically in the case of this situation.
Y’know. Just for insurance.
Of course, this escape was not without its difficulties. And considering that they left Aze lucky to be alive, they were terrible, terrible ones.
Such a difficulty awaited him on the roof; in the form of a daft, familiar knight.
“So how’s it goin’, Aze? You living well?” the knight said to him, emptying his canteen. It seemed like a total waste, pouring it all in like that. “Stirrin’ up trouble in your own fashion?”
Aze didn’t listen. He was too busy – as always when he encountered the man – staring at his hair. It was in such a strange shape – like a fin, or a brush, that spiked up from his bald head. Or even a crest. A disastrously blue crest. No, distractingly.
I obviously don’t keep up with the times, he thought to himself.
“Kato.” Aze said. “I made a decent profit,” he added, showing him a sovereign.
They began to circle each other. The knight drew his blade, training it on him. At any second, he could strike, and get it done with.
The very thought made Aze’s heart jump into his throat.
“I see that.” the knight said. “Listen, alright? It’s time to stop. Slow the heck down and return it all to it’s rightful owner.”
His phlegmy voice disgusted him.
“You know I’m not doing that.” he rebutted, reflexively reaching for another smoke bomb. His temperature fell as soon as he grabbed nothing.
Kato thrust out. The tip of his sword shot forward like a bullet. It almost caught him in the throat; he had barely enough time to react. Instead, it sliced the skin on the edge of his cheek. Kato himself followed through the attack and ended up behind him.
From that attack alone, Aze could feel the weight he’d put behind the strike. In addition to that, he made the mistake of allowing him to recuperate.
“You know, you’re pretty famous ’round these parts, Aze.” He cracked his neck, pointing the blade at him once again. “A lot of good guys want you dead. And all ’cause you had to steal their friggin’ sovereigns…”
He made a full turn, facing him completely. “All ’cause you had to murder their friggin’ queen.”
Aze would’ve replied, but he was instantly cut off by the sound of a dozen footsteps, rushing up the stairs and through the corridors. Those footsteps belonged to a dozen or so guards, having recovered from his distraction, brandishing pikes and rage.
Oh for the love of…
“End of the line, eh?” Kato mocked. “Gee, Aze. This wouldn’t have happened if you didn’t persist and just stayed still. In the stocks, I mean.”
The tip of his blade inched closer. Aze began to move backwards on reflex, but stopped as he reached the edge of the building. The cold wind of the sea rushed up his back, signalling an imminent fall.
Sooner or later…
“…switch to your flintlocks.” Kato ordered. The ogres behind him did as they were told, dropping their pikes and brandishing pistols. “We’ll execute him here and now. It’s his fault he made such a stupid mistake.”
He listened to the familiar clicks of their armaments. Before long, he had a dozen or so barrels trained on him. He could smell the gunpowder; he could sense the eager twitch of their fingers. It did wonders on his heart rate, as it skyrocketed to shocking levels. He almost couldn’t contain the fierce drumming in his chest.
“Ready? On the third, blast ‘im to bits. One!”
Time seemed to freeze. Everything that happened henceforth was a blur. He’d reached desperately into his coat pocket for the firework that lay there. The guards were more than surprised – they fired upon him, just as he jumped. Which was, of course, only out of reflex; he didn’t mean to jump to his doom. But he did, so he might as well follow through with his action.
Since he had a firework, it only made sense for him to have matches. In the heat of the moment, he produced these matches, lighting them on the rough side of the firework.
He spotted Kato peek over the edge, which was a signal for Aze’s next move. Aiming it at his face, he lighted the fuse. The colourful spark began to sprint down the string.
It was a sad enough ride.
As he plummeted down into the ocean, all he could see was the fanatical spark of his exit. Brilliant, bold, and finite, he took a glimpse of its beauty before he was swallowed up in the abyss.
Hope you enjoyed this installment! Although it’ll be a while, once this serial gets going be sure to tune in every week on Sunday, 7:00 PM AEST.
Or sometime around then. No promises!