Christmas eve, 8 p.m.
No matter how hard they worked to get to this place, to regain control over the city, over the Chosen without violence, and yet in this moment that should be so joyful, nothing seemed to matter anymore.
Bray sat down, his head resting in his hands as if the weight of the world was resting on his shoulders. Today?s happenings had almost made their dreams come true, but now, nothing would ever be right with the world again.
A few days earlier
From the moment the buggy toppled over Bray had been a captive by the Chosen. At first he could not see why Trudy betrayed them all, but when they threatened to take Brady’s life, he understood. Cause what other option was there then to go along with them, if they threatened to kill those you hold dearest…
For weeks he had gone through the motions, pretending to pray to his long lost brother, being a part of something they called the fifth circle and dragging his friends into this strange cult. But no matter how desperate the situation seemed, still, there was hope.
And that hope came, in the form of Pride, a young man who was recently brought in, a slave. But no one, not even the Chosen, could break his spirit. He never told Bray why he came to the Mall, but that didn’t matter. All that mattered to Bray was that he was there, and that he was willing to fight their way to freedom without resorting to full on violence.
They started planning, four minds brought together by the need to be free, the only spirits not broken by the daily regime. Alice had managed to acquire the Guardian’s cloak, as she was given the task to repair it and wash it before the big ceremony.
Tai-San had found her way into the Guardian’s heart, and gained his trust, making her able to get him to do what ever she wanted without raising suspicion.
And so their plan hatched.
Tuesday, December 24th 11.am
“I’m gonna do it Bray. I’m just gonna.do.it.” Pride said determined as the smell of peroxide stung in his eyes. His hair was covered in the awful substance Alice had found between Zandra’s old stuff. Though normally not a fan of bodily alterations, Pride had agreed to let his hair be dyed into the same color as the Guardians.
‘There’s no going back now, we have to do this. It’s the only way…’
‘But… still, it is dangerous, what if something goes wrong, what if we get caught? They will kill Brady for sure…’ Bray shook his head, unable to deal with the possibility that things might go wrong.
‘Bray, be reasonable, do you really believe them when they said they’ll kill her? She’s Zoot’s child for goodness sake…’ Alice shook her head, fed up with Bray’s insecurities and doubts. ‘If you don’t want to kill him, Pride’s plan is the best option we have.’
Tai-San’s face turned red ‘We can’t kill him! He’s a human being!’
Pride placed his hand on hers ‘We won’t, we’re not gonna kill anybody, this is the best way…’ He stared defiantly at Bray, as the color drained from his dark locks.
He put on the costume Alice gave him, and draped the cloak around him. Nothing could be seem, except for a few locks of blond hair, just like the Guardians.
‘Tai? It’s up to you now…’ Alice said, sighing deep as she knew what Tai would need to sacrifice.
Tai-San nodded and made her way to the Guardians chambers, ready to make sure he’d forget the time, the importance of this day, as she locked the door behind her. ‘It is time my Guardian… she said as she dropped her cloak on the floor. Time to unite our mind, our souls, and our bodies in the glory of Zoot…’
December 24th 'noon
Dressed as the Guardian, Pride led Bray outside, to a small stage set up outside the Mall. It was supposed to be to show the people that there was no way but the Chosen way, and that even the mighty Bray himself would kneel to Zoot.
But nothing was less true.
Above them, on an almost hidden rooftop, Ebony prepared the crossbow. This idiot had embarrassed her for the last time. After their last encounter she has been such a mess that not even Lex dared to come near her. And now he was almost driving them apart. But this had to stop, today.
In the gathered crowd, Lex was looking desperate, this couldn’t really be happening, Bray could not yield.
‘Hey… watch it…’ he heard a familiar voice say as he bumped into someone without looking. Lex turned around, it couldn’t be… could it?
‘Amber!?! You’re… alive?!’ He said as he stared into the familiar face. ‘Lex… still subtle as always…’ she said teasing the guy. ‘Look… I just… I had to see it for myself… I can’t believe Bray would really do this, I was so sure Pride would have gotten through to that thick skull of his…’
‘Pride? Who’s Pride?’ Lex asked cautiously. ‘My husband…’ Amber said, twirling her ring around in her hand. Lex pulls as face as he hears her say that. As if marriage means anything anymore in a world like this. His and Tai-San’s clearly didn’t mean a thing, not to hers anyway, but it was ok. He had Ebony now. ‘Don’t worry Amber, this will all be over soon… Ebony will shoot the bastard and we can all relax again’ he whispers in her ear.
Amber grimaces. ‘Violence Lex… really…’ she shakes her head, why do things always have to be solved that way. As she looks at the stage she sees Bray and the Guardian move to their places, ready to make a speech. Strange, the way the Guardian moves, so gracefully, almost like he was… Amber stares up at him, trying to reassure herself that she’s wrong. But the way he holds his head, it has to be… ‘Pride…’ she mumbles under her breath as the words Lex spoke run through her head ‘Ebony will shoot the bastard…’ No, no, no… Amber pushes herself forward through the crowd.
‘Zoot be praised!’ the Guardian tells the crowd. ‘See here, Bray, Brother of the Great One.’ He gestures to Bray, standing besides him. ‘Zoot in his wisdom, has send him to us, to enlighten us on to a new path, a new tomorrow. One where we don?t have to worry about right or wrong anymore. A tomorrow where we shall all live… in harmony’
On her rooftop, Ebony can’t hear a word the Guardians saying, she sees his lips moving, but what he says she can guess. Most likely something about more slaves and Bray being one of them. She just can’t have that. She aims her crossbow and releases the arrow.
‘Nooooooooooooo’ Amber shouts as she launches herself on the stage, pushing past the guards as the arrow speeds towards Pride. Trying to get him out of the way, she puts herself in harms way. As the arrow pierces her heart, Amber falls to the ground.
Everything goes so fast, Bray hardly realizes what happened. Some woman jumped in front of Pride, trying to save what the crowd would have seen as the Guardian. Total chaos will surely break out now. They could lose everything they worked so hard for.
‘Guards, let these people go. You heard him, I will guide you on your new path now, do as I say!’ he says and the Guards instantly follow his instructions.
‘Oh Eagle…Eagle… don’t leave me…’ Pride sobs as he cradles the dying woman in his arms.
‘Amber?! Amber?!’ Lex calls out as he rushes to the stage, having just witnessed what happened.
Bray’s head almost spins around as he hears the familiar name. No… it can’t be… she’s dead… or well… she was…and now… Bray kneels next to Pride, and stares in shock at the woman’s face. ‘Amber? no it can’t be… no…’ Tears sting his eyes as he and Pride watch the woman they both love more than life itself die before their eyes…