Chapter 11 – The Monochrome Rainbow

The desert that had glistened like a sea of gold by day was neither shimmering, or stagnant as night came. A restless wind was blowing through the field of unwashed bones still lingering untouched. Clouds were gathering, promising a chilling downpour.

A campfire in a flimsy tent. The group of survivors took refuge outside of the ruins, in the shadow of a pillar, for they could not know how long it would rain. As the ruins were like a pit, water could flood the exhumed tomb of the unnamed civilization. But there was no rain. The black clouds flashed and rumbled.

As Karma waited for rain, looking up at the thick, patternless, smoke-like cloud formations, for a fleeting moment he felt as if he saw a recognizable pattern. A black-grey arc. A monochrome rainbow.

Karma whispered under his breath: “Where does the light come from?”

At the encampment, consisting of just a large cloth over their heads and some sacks of supplies, there was a fight brewing. Rustling cloth, creaking joints of armor. Hairless and riddled with holy trinkets around his neck, Tarot sat down beside him, before his brother could make sense what the commotion was about. They exchanged glances, the flickering flames of the campfire illuminating only half of their faces. First nodded Karma, then nodded Tarot.

“His book will be burned”, a woman’s voice stated firmly.

“Then why the fuck ain’t it burning? Fuck we talk like this?” Boros grunted.

“That book is the reason we joined this expedition”, Karma added, springing on his feet.

The two quarreling warriors looked in his direction.

“I can’t let you have it. My order will study it and then burn it.”

“Oh, so you assholes want all the spells to yourselves, eh?!”

“What order?” Karma asked.

“I can exit this conversation any time I wish, monk. You wouldn’t have time to blink before I’m gone.”

“Yet you aren’t leaving. And you are slipping out answers to our questions. We both know why that is. So what order are you talking about?”

Nembra fell silent, she hesitated. She glanced around her sides nervously. There were soldiers staring at her with dumbfounded, curious expressions on their bearded faces. There was clearly too much audience for her to reveal whatever she was hiding.

Tarot slipped past the onlookers and approached the robed woman with slow, calm steps. His feet were bare, yet the night air failed to make him shiver. As their eyes met, he smiled, but it was a hollow, unhappy smile. A reflection of the crackling campfire gleamed in his sorrowful eyes. Behind him, Karma spoke on his behalf:

“The monster inside of my brother still has no name. We cannot exorcise the beast.”

“You won’t be able to read his writings”, Nembra sighed.

“Let Tarot judge that. Show it to him”, Karma urged.

“It’s no use. All his notes are written in a forgotten language, near-impossible to decode. I learned that much while we were… together”, Nembra said.

“But your order can translate it?” Karma asked.

“Yes. We have these resources”, Nembra replied.

“Then it’s decided. We will travel with you. We humbly surrender to your unnamed order”, Karma concluded.


The quarreling had ended, now everyone was preparing for sleep, except for Karma. His object of study were the thundering clouds. Soon they would rain, he predicted.

The reaper had taken refuge on the tall pillar that towered above their camp. In case of an ambush, they could fight relying on shields, their backs against a wall. A less than ideal position for a battle, but better than being surrounded. The reaper had volunteered not to sleep, acting as their scout.

Curled in a ball, Tarot slept beside him. He always struggled for sleep, unless he took that position. Whatever pain he was in, this one position seemed to make it tolerable. While watching over him and staring at the restless cloud formations, he was startled by a sight. There was someone. Karma peeked behind his shoulder at the pillar where the reaper sat watch.

There he stood, many feet away in the direction of the ruins. A familiar figure, wearing tattered clothes, he was holding on to something. The figure motioned the monk to follow as he slipped into the darkness.

Karma pondered his options, but made a quick decision. He assumed Nembra’s eyes would be elsewhere. Alas, he slipped from underneath his blanket, landing on the sand below the rock he had laid on. Not even Tarot, who slept right beside him, was alerted by his movements. It had gotten so dark, only sudden lightning might blow his cover. But the rumbling was still long ways away.

Karma removed his shoes and walked silently after the figure hiding in the ruins. The sand was cold, his teeth were close to start clacking. While everything was black, his other senses quickly got sharper, he could see shapes in the dark. Movement was easy to spot, and he saw a person moving behind the remnants of a pillar. As the monk approached, the man nonchalantly handed him a scroll. He knew it was a scroll the moment he touched the rough parchment.

He whispered a prayer and a tiny two-legged dancing light appeared in his palm. Judging by the smell and the smudginess of the writing, the scroll was written in blood.

“Death is not the end. Since the reward is on my head, my flame will be extinguished without damaging the head. This assumption is my final gamble. The stone my army dug is the Obituary of the Universe. Built by the first civilization after a cataclysm. They wrote, god descended from the heavens and wanted to kill them. But they killed him. There is too much to write. You wish the secrets to his condition, only I can help. The historical society is no longer allowed. This incantation lets you revive my head.”

The lower part of the scroll had the words for the spell.

The suspicious man was afar, he’d taken several steps backwards after Karma uttered his prayer. Wrapped in the night, he shuddered as the monk pushed the dancer in his direction. He did not want to be seen.

“Is that you, Gordon? Why did you help him? What did he promise you?” Karma asked.

There was no answer. The monk could only guess at the motivations of the mute man. Whatever the commander had learned while in Maron’s company, it appeared to have completely changed his allegiance.

The air turned colder all of a sudden, Karma swiftly turned around. It had felt exactly the same as when Maron made his first appearance. Was he just on the edge? Thinking too feverishly? Would he sleep, having seen so much carnage? Only a few feet from where he shivered, the sea of sand was layered with silent flesh. And all those that the reaper had cut down were merely a prelude to the perishing that was coming. Unless he was wrong. There was no other path. He had to be wrong. He simply had to be.

The petite flaming dancer on his palm was so miniscule, it barely lit the walls. Karma barely saw in front of him, and the wind was cold and whipping the dancer to staying small. It could have been seen by the reaper. What would she have done if so? Gordon slid deeper into the ruins, the near-inaudible hiss of his feet fading.

There were no stars visible that night. Only the monochrome rainbow.


Nembra sat on the pillar made of rock. She was together, finally, with the man she once admired. And he was finally at peace, his tongue hanging from between his lips, glassy eyes still open, arteries no longer bleeding. Whatever had been his final thought, it was written somewhere on that badly shaved head.

Their conversations would have been inaudible to bystanders, had there been any. But it was not silent. The arguments he had made were not gone with him. The insights he had made were inked in the book he’d left behind. And many minds still persisted who had heard his words. The tombstone he had dug up was going nowhere. As Nembra hovered between sleep and lingering awareness, she could still hear his voice crisp and clear.

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