One of the Old Master patrols that we took out had this letter among them. Seems like it was sent from a ‘Lieutenant Dietrich’ from the coliseum to one of their other outposts. What do you suppose we should do with it?
A fierce wind, a scorching sirocco, blows past the entrance to the coliseum. Around me I hear the grinding of steel gears and the cold, haunted groan of machinery as the ironclad gates crawl open. A cloud of dust settles just outside and through the storm I see the dark silhouettes of our soldiers marching home. I know them by their armbands, those uniforms which command authority. We clad our champions in black so that they may strike fear into our enemies. When tepid hearts witness our soldiers, they know that the shadow of death has come to take them. It is, above all else, a posturing – for you and I both know they are agents of justice and purity.
Behind our troops the prisoners come forth in chains and collars. I see that our heroes have acquired a dozen more of the horned mongrels. I’m given an eyeful of those hideous beings with runes butchered into their skin and self-inflicted burn wounds smothered in the ink of barbarians. I find myself covering my nose to ward off the smell of unbathed, piss-ridden fur – to think that these beasts regard themselves as people! Most of the mongrels have dull and listless expressions, but a few of them teem with scorn. I find my eyes meeting the wrathful gaze of one such recalcitrant animal and I snarl back at it, seeing no reason to hide my contempt. Do these unsavory creatures not realize how lucky they are? No, the greatness of their task is lost upon them. There would be no need to collar them, after all, if they could even understand the virtues of loyalty and obedience. I want to rip off their disgusting tattoos and crush the light which burns within those dumb, defiant eyes. I turn away as I start walking with the soldiers. Our footsteps upheave dust which mixes in with the smells of iron and mortal sweat.
The coliseum bristles with noise and vigor. From across the region crowds of people have gathered to barter within our bastion of reason. To my left, a dark-haired elf cleans the grime from their goggles as they argue over the price of a slave they sell; to my right, a haggard-looking human empties a backpack full of guns and machinery onto a fold-up table. Scavengers and vultures, all of them! They know nothing of our coliseum’s history, care nothing for the legacy of our nations. They look upon this sanctuary of hope and see only a vendor from which to glean quick credits. Nonetheless, we have need of them. We need the goods and the labor they sell to us. Most of us all, we need the technology they bring. We need every last piece of it, young one, for reasons I will reveal to you soon.
We make our way to the gate. Even unfinished, it is a work of majesty and greatness. The massive, monolithic structure towers over me, grasping toward the heavens like a challenge to divinity. Along its otherwise smooth, metallic surface there runs a latticework of wires and circuits intricate beyond comprehension. Those veins of rubber and metal sprawl out across the gate’s exterior, twisting and curling like the motions of an ancient, timeless dance lost to us impermanent beings. A faint glow pulsates along the base of the gate; I feel the heat and energy which emanates from it, pushing back the hairs of my skin and pulling the sweat from my brow.
Make no mistake, my child: this gate I write to you about is far more than just a doorway. It is our future. Only by reaching beyond this tattered and decaying realm will we restore our legacy.
The future is a beast with endless hunger, demanding every last morsel of technological gear to realize its existence. Nearby I see those structures which serve as the gate’s power sources. They look wretched and crude in comparison, more like disheveled stacks of wayward tech than any scientific marvel. Put together, those veritable mounds of mismatched machinery could stretch most of the way across this coliseum wall; they, too, are impressive in their own right, even if they do look like they were strung together by artisans of dubious merit.
There was a time, long ago, when this gate was just one of many: a time when our ships soared across the sky like chariots of the gods. Our strongholds were beacons of light in the wild’s vast, untamed darkness. And we built our artifacts and artifices anew; we did not need to scavenge the dust and bones of civilization’s long-rotted carcass – all of this, and more! I tell you, my child; our history holds marvels the likes of which few still alive will dare to dream of. It pains my heart to know that you could never have lived to see what our nations used to be, but this I promise: you will grow to inherit the future that we, remnants of the conquerors of old, will create. My sweet child: may this be our generation’s gift to yours, no matter the cost. By the trampled ashes of our savage foes, by the sweat of laborers and the blood of heroes, we will make our dream a reality.
From the dying light of a desolate world, a world in which we once were masters – we rise, rise into the future.
Written by Kriss Morton for the 2018 Writing contest