Ghosts of Those Before
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“It’s more desolate than I thought… I don’t like this, Sunglow.”

Sunglow was in front of him, standing on his stem and holding a metal-tipped spear. His green flesh shining with a tint of blue, thinly lined with spines, the look of one from the Sun Province.

“You’re from the Hill Province, Redstone…” Redstone had the look too, balancing on his thin, long stem, two arms and a torso, the shapes of speartips, his body colored a pinkish-red. In one arm he held a traditional Hill mace, its four spikes shining in the sun.

“The Fire Province had ruins, small ones, I saw them during the last Hill Rebellion…”, Redstone remembered his young self, excited at the thought of being a liberator for his Kingdom. But the Kingdom of the Hill was now the Province of the Hill, the King that had assigned him to that raiding party was betrayed in a cave, “…we were never meant to see these.”

“You Hills are a superstitious bunch, and don’t talk to me about the last Hill Rebellion, I fought under my King, but both our Kings are dead, from plague or from their own soldiers. King Stone rules now, may the sun shine on him.”

The mountains that cut off the valley were behind them, in front of them were stone walls. Beneath their stems were paths made of black stone, rusted metal wagons sitting on top. The Sun had shined bright the day the Kingdom of the First was destroyed.

“Do what you will.” Redstone said, “I will not go in.”

“Then stand watch here.” Sunglow responded.

He entered the remains of the building, the tip of his head reaching a little over half the height of the doorway. They use windows as doors, how foolish. The floor looked like stone, but did not feel like it. Even their rock is fake. A row of tables crossed the building, on top of which were strange metal devices with buttons. Sunglow pushed one and jumped when it ejected a small container. Inside he found round metal pieces with faces, which he took for iron and copper, until he touched one. There were thin strips of green cloth, rotted and falling apart. He put the round metal pieces in a bag, First artifacts were valuable. He opened a door into a tiled room, he saw a sheet of glass which showed his face. He had only ever seen his reflection in water, and for the first time saw himself clearly. He made several poses and studied himself for minutes. Walls of some strange material had been put in place, yet some had fallen down. Each contained a ceramic bowl filled with water. Did they use this to drink? Sunglow realized he was thirsty, but the cloudy mosquito filled broth in the bowl was not a risk he would take. Sunglow left the room and looked to the shelves that stretched from one end to the other down the building. Most contained nothing, but in one section he found glass bottles. Each was covered in a layer of rotting paper, and plugged with some type of spongy wood. Redstone could open this, he thought, putting a bottle in his bag.

He was about to take another door when he heard the sound outside. A low crackling hum that broke the silence. Sunglow raised his spear and slowly moved to the front of the building.

“Who goes there?” He could hear Redstone yell. A few loud clanks followed.

“Don’t come any closer! I am trained with the mace and will-”

BANG.

Sunglow froze, and heard faint clumps which got steadily louder. He kept his spear in a battle stance, years of warrior training behind him. A black-clad figure stepped through the door. Ghost. The figure saw him, and Sunglow raised his spear to throw, the figure raised what looked like a metal stick, with a hole in the center.

BANG.

A hundred metal pellets ripped through his stem and flesh. He dropped his spear, then himself. He didn’t look down, but the fact that he couldn’t feel the lower half of his body told him what he needed to know. The figure stepped closer, on his arm was a symbol, a circle with three spears pointing inward. This was no ghost, this was the First, standing before him. It stepped out.

Sunglow’s last thoughts were of the afterlife.

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