Mercutio's Knight
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This temple was far more ancient than my species. I could not tell you which universe it came from nor who built it, but it was one of the oldest structures on this island. Its cerulean gem walls radiated with energy. If you quieted your mind and became still, you might hear echoes of the past from these walls. I used to believe it was just a rumor, back then. None of us had experienced it. The thought of trying it right then had surfaced-

But the creature killing my comrades dominated my focus. Nine knights had already fallen in battle against it. Its crimson body rippled whenever it swung one of its four arms. One man tried to defend himself by holding his arms up in front of his face. A single blow from the enemy broke both of his arms. The creature's flexible flesh made its facial features difficult to discern. Its eyes, nose, and alien features would come and go freely. The only constant was a wide maw full of teeth.

"This is the last one! We must stop it here!" I heard myself say. A resounding roar erupted from the remaining half dozen men. I spoke without considering my words, as if they were erupting from my heart. "Ezun, Tabr, to me! Everyone else, hold!"

"As you command, Koleth!" The other six yelled. I ran forward. Two warriors sprinted past me, but I was not looking at them. The bodies of the fallen transfixed me. Their blood was purple against the blue gems that made up the floor. I understood that if I failed here, then all of the unarmed innocents deeper inside the temple would end up this way. The thought made my entire body ache.

"For Our Father!" I heard my two comrades yell. When I looked up, I had already missed Ezun's skull being fractured. All I saw was his body collapsing. Tabr swung his saber for its midsection, but its second right hand caught it. The crimson creature's two left hands took hold of Tabr and twisted his head until the bones of his spine began to pop. He fought it until the third pop, and then his sword fell from his grasp and he was still forever.

I was the last to reach it. My hand reached up to pull a cord from my chestplate. An audible click sounded. I dove beneath the final arm that swung for my head. It barely missed. I tackled it. The creature released Tabr's body and grabbed me. Just one of its arms was enough to kill me, but my head was tucked underneath one of its lower arms. It wanted to pull me off so that it could do as it pleased.

"For Our Father!" I screamed. It was pulling my arms apart. A searing pain tore through me as bones broke. Just before it could pry itself free from me, the device in my chestplate detonated. Heat and light engulfed the both of us and I felt myself come undone-

And then nothing.

—-

I opened my eyes. At first, I could not move or see much of anything. Then, a ragged breath tore through my lungs and I coughed loudly. This prompted a rumble of voices in the crowd of people around me. I looked around with wide eyes, recognizing many of them as fellow knights. I was lying on a raised platform within the temple, cerulean gems glistening all around me.

"He has been delivered to us. Our Father has chosen him!" I knew that voice. It was the leader of the Order, Hemlock. They were eight feet tall and most of their features were obscured by their armor and helmet. However, through their visor, their eyes could be seen. Bloodshot purple hues stared down at me as they continued speaking.

"Our Father has bestowed upon him The Blessing, just as He did with me! No longer shall this brave knight fear death, for Our Father has given him authority over life!" The other knights lifted their voices, cheering Hemlock on. I sat up slowly, feeling how ruined my form was. I could not see beneath the robes that they had put on me, but I knew that much of my body was missing.

"It is because of his bold and selfless sacrifice that so many were saved! When you all go forth to face the enemy again and doubt haunts you, remember Koleth!" Hemlock roared. The Order joined him, chanting my name as I sat there listlessly. I touched my own hand and felt how cold I was. My mind was too numb for me to think of words to say. It was in these moments that a quiet voice pierced the darkness.

"I'm sorry."

No one else reacted. Only I did. I turned my head slowly until I found a strange figure in the crowd. A child, glowing a faint blue, stared up at me. The same faint energy that lingered around the walls of the temple appeared to make up her form. She clasped her hands together, as if praying.

"I tried to help you, but you could not hear me. I'm sorry."

I could not say anything. Air entered and left my lungs, but words did not come. The hands of my comrades lifted me from the platform, holding me up. I stood carefully on my feet, feeling how light I was. How weak I was. Yet, I did not feel disgusted or horrified. My heart did not stir. I looked for the entity again but it was gone. Hemlock took hold of my right hand and placed a saber in it. They had me raise the saber above my head as they yelled.

"We shall not only defend The Last Islands from destruction, but we shall annihilate those who plot to destroy them! With the power of Our Father and those chosen by Him, we cannot be defeated!"

The chants grew louder, becoming deafening.

"Our Father! Our Father! Our Father! Our Father!"

I felt nothing.

—-

Many weeks later, I stood on the edge of the island. Knights were entering floatships, equipping them with incendiary weapons, and running engine checks. I watched alongside the other commanders and Hemlock. We were all adorned with the most beautiful armor, skylight glistening off of it in waves. My own armor hid away the imperfections of my mortal form that could not be mended.

"We cannot defeat him with these weapons. What is our objective?" voiced one of the other commanders.

"To slow him down and distract him, Gorgon. We need to give the people of Adia time to disembark, and give Sekken time to bring us the proper weapons," Hemlock said.

"What proper weapons? Sekken doesn't know for sure that explosives will work on a Holder. No one has ever fought one," Gorgon replied.

I listened to them talk without joining in. The situation was dire. Jorggendel had been the Holder responsible for holding up one of the larger and more populated islands, Tetsu. Without warning, Jorggendel had allowed Tetsu to fall from his hands and sink down through the clouds. Two billion people had perished. Then, he started marching around and attacking Holders that were smaller and weaker than him. Within a few days, he had slain three of his brethren and sunk their islands.

"We still must try. This is an event that can unite most of the islands' civilizations to one cause. When we come out victorious, we will have many, many more supporters," Hemlock spoke. Their voice was firm and strong. Before Gorgon could respond, a voice from behind all of them interrupted the conversation.

"KOLETH!"

The commanders, Hemlock, and I turned to behold a young man. His dark hair and fair skin were distinct, making it clear that he was not a native of this island. He was being held back by knights with sabers. Even as they pushed him back and threatened him with their weapons, his voice lifted out toward the officers.

"Come back to me, my love! My husband! Those Withstander-imposters do not care about you! I'm your real family!"

I said nothing. Hemlock made a gesture to the knights and they sheathed their sabers. Each of them took one of the man's arms and started to drag him away. He stopped speaking briefly as his eyes met mine. After a few moments of holding that gaze wordlessly, he seemed to see something in the features obscured by my visor.

"Koleth, what have they done to you? Are you still there? Koleth!"

Silence was the only response offered. When the man had been dragged beyond the military platform, Gorgon spoke up.

"It is illegal for you to have any vows other than the ones you made to Our Father. Do you know that man?"

"I do not," I said without pause.

"I'm not so sure that's true-" Gorgon began before Hemlock's voice shouted out.

"Do you doubt someone who has been given The Blessing? When you have not been blessed? Even if he had made illegal vows in the past, he has surely chosen what is most important to him. Whatever happened in his first life is in the grave now!"

Gorgon's scowl deepened, but he did not speak any further. A shout from the knights at the floatships recaptured the attention of the officers. I stepped away from the others, my hollow voice tumbling forth.

"I'll be the first."

"Good. May Our Father be with you," Hemlock said with a grin.

"And may He be with you," I replied coldly. As I marched over to the floatship that was about to depart, I wondered how Hemlock still had their emotions. Perhaps they were faking them. They had died at least ten times and had only gotten more emotive with each passing. In my second life, I felt empty in everything that I said and did. I was like a husk, a shadow of Koleth that had Koleth's name and face, but nothing else.

I embarked the floatship. It fired up its engines. The many knights aboard were resolving themselves to fight, chanting under their breaths or double-checking their sabers and gear. I did not do the same. Neither fear nor apprehension gripped me. Nothing did. As the ship lifted away from the island, I looked back toward it through a porthole. The man who had called out for me was long gone, but the temple was visible from here. It stood in defiance of the end of existence, just as our Order did.

As I watched it get further and further away, I felt an inkling of emotion. There was just an ounce of longing ebbing from the core of my being. Without even thinking of the words, I spoke them.

"Goodbye, Mercutio."

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