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THE NIENTE PART 3

by Pete Sylvinski

In his dream Koyoko walked along the streets of the market that was in his village. He wasn't sure if it was the past and he didn't know if it was the future. He wore a robe like the one Nenziel wore. The length of it ran to the ground dragging in the dirty street as he walked. It was a delightful day and children played in the streets oblivious to all that was taking place around them. The streets were crowded with people doing their shopping and no one seemed to notice him. There was a dull buzz surrounding the market as customers and shop owners argued over prices.

Koyoko continued to walk the streets and passed by a tapestry shop where a customer was trying to bargain with the owner. The owner was a short plump man with dirt filling the lines of his face. He had the look of someone who had said no a thousand times and wasn't about to say yes now. He stood, arms crossed, looking at the man who was now about out of ideas on how to get the fabric at a reduced price.

Koyoko smiled and kept walking. Ahead of him, in the middle of the street, he noticed a pig wandering among the patrons. It wasn't uncommon to see animals running wild through the streets. This was the market after all and sometimes an animal would escape its cage. However, it was strange that no one was trying to capture the animal. Even stranger was the fact that the pig ran around and between people's legs as if they didn't care. The pig wasn't even getting a fleeting look. Then, with mild surprise, Koyoko noticed that the pig wasn't a pig. It was a wild boar with a nice set of dangerous tusks.

Koyoko stood still in the middle of the dusty street watching the boar. People continued their shopping as the boar ran from one stall to the next. The boar ran to a fruit stand and took a sniff. Then the boar started towards the other side of the market, but this time he stopped in the middle of the street. The animal turned around and looked right at Koyoko. He could've sworn the boar gave him a look of recognition. The boar grunted once and then turned to its right taking a street that ran towards the river. A few steps in the animal turned around again and grunted towards Koyoko before resuming its trek. Not knowing why, Koyoko decided to follow the pig.

His feet carried him onward and he turned down the street looking for the boar. This was a narrow street and filled with carts merchants were carrying from the shops to the river. Being that the path was narrow and crowded Koyoko couldn't find the boar, but then spotted its curly tail dart in front of a man hauling a rather large cart. The man didn't even seem to notice. Koyoko rushed forward past the cart, but again lost his target. He turned to ask the merchant if he had seen which way the boar had went. Koyoko could get no response. The merchant just ignored him and kept his pace towards the river.

Koyoko continued along the street and exited in to an area that was devoid of shops. Instead, the vicinity was peppered with carts containing various goods that were to be bartered or sold. He looked beyond the carts and saw the river. At this point the river was wide and Koyoko could see it churning in the brown currents that flowed downstream. Koyoko was now on the outskirts of the market and had entered the small port. There were six boats anchored now and they were busy unloading. Once unloaded, they would pick up a new cargo and head to another destination that was much the same. A man with a whip snapped it over two oxen as they pulled a load down a ramp. There was activity all over, but nowhere could he find the boar. He wondered for a moment where it had gone and then wondered why he had followed it in the first place.

Forgetting about the stupid animal Koyoko walked towards the river. He had always liked the river. It was peaceful even though it was always changing. He strolled along its banks not thinking about anything, but simply relaxing. He didn't even notice that his robe was getting wet. As he made his way past the large boats that were anchored he noticed a man sitting in a very small dinghy. The man sat quietly with his focus on the floor of the vessel. His face was concealed by the large grass hat he wore. As if sensing that he was being watched, the man raised his head, his eyes falling on Koyoko.

"Say there Koyoko you aren't still looking for that pig are you?"

"Pig? Hey, how did you know about that and how do you know my name. Who are you?"

The old man in the dinghy smiled at Koyoko revealing a toothless mouth and heavy wrinkles. He looked as if he had not bathed in weeks and his clothes were grubby with dirt and stains.

"Koyoko I know more about you than just your name. I know things about you that you don't even know yourself. Why don't you hop in my boat and we'll go look for that pig. Come on what do you say?"

Koyoko's feet carried him towards the boat. He was in that place in your dreams where all of the sudden things change. One moment you have total control of a dream and the next moment your mind is taking you places it wants to go.

Koyoko walked up to the boat and placed a hand on its bow. He tried not to get his feet wet, but had to place one foot in the water to get the proper spring in his step to get into the boat. Having both legs in the boat Koyoko sat down on a bench that had been mounted in the front of the boat. He looked up at the old man wondering what was next.

The old man regarded Koyoko for a moment and then nodded his head and reached down and picked up a long pole. Koyko watched the old man place the pole into the water using it to push them away from the bank of the river. There was something familiar about the pole, but Koyoko couldn't quite place it. Maybe because it looked like, no that wasn't the case, that was another place and he was here now in this boat with this disgustingly filthy old man. The old man continued to push the boat further into the river and then swung the bow of the boat around so that he could navigate from the rear.

"Sir, it would be nice if you could tell me where we're going," said Koyoko, now starting to wonder if he had gotten into something he shouldn't have.

"I think the more important question is where are you going?"

"Where am I going? What do you mean where am I going? Obviously I'm going the same place you are and I want to know where that is."

"Well, aren't we going to look for that pig that you were following earlier," said the old man giggling as he spoke.

Koyoko watched the shore as it grew more distant. It seemed like an awful long time before he finally spoke.

"Alright, that's enough, turn this boat around and take me back to shore. I don't know where the hell you're going, but I want out."

"I don't think in good conscience I can do that Koyoko. You were looking for a pig and so I am going to help you find a pig."

"Listen old man if you don't turn this boat around I'm going to break your scrawny little neck and turn it around myself."

"And after you break my scrawny little neck where do you plan on going?"

"Back to the market."

Koyoko broke off as he turned around and saw no market, no shoreline and no boats anywhere in sight. He turned his head in every direction, but only saw water, water and more water. Koyoko panicked and his tension rose as he wondered what he was going to do. Surely it was a trick this old man had worked on him. Old man? Oh yeah, that was right there was an old man in this boat with him. He was going to take him to find the pig and isn't that what he was looking for all along? A pig he had seen in the market and had followed down to the river. That pig must have caught the next boat out because he wouldn't just carelessly hop into a boat with a complete stranger. That's what they were doing following the pig or was it a boar? Was there any difference? Damn that pig. As Koyoko continued to lose it, his eyes jumped every which way still trying to comprehend where he was. Suddenly the old man came into focus.

He was still standing and was staring at Koyoko and he still had that stupid pole in his hand. He looked at Koyoko with a funny look. Was it disdain, disgust or maybe it was contempt. Maybe the old man wasn't there at all. Koyoko thought that if he looked hard enough maybe it was really the pig that was pushing the boat along and together they were looking for that old man they had seen earlier at the market. As if he had read Koyoko's thoughts the old man looked at Koyoko smiled and sat down in the boat while still holding the pole.

"What's going on?" asked Koyoko finally able to speak. He sat there looking at the old man needing an answer.

"I think you know what's going on Koyoko I think you've known for sometime now. It's the reason I came to you."

"You didn't come to me. You were just there on the bank of the river when I happened to walk by and was stupid enough to get in this boat."

"Enough," said the old man cutting off Koyoko. "You know why you are here. You're just to enmeshed in your sense of right and wrong to see any different. It's time."

Dropping the pole the old man rose to his feet and stretched out his arms. He closed his eyes in subtle concentration. The wind began to blow and the clouds gathered in the sky devouring the sun. The boat started to rock violently back and forth. Koyoko grabbed onto it's side trying to keep from being thrown into the white capped waters muddy waters. The old man remained standing seeming to not notice the fact that at any minute he could be thrown overboard. He opened his eyes and directed his attention to Koyoko.

"Evil has many faces Koyoko. It uses these faces to trick us to do its bidding. Many of these faces can be hideous and ghastly, the true picture of how we see evil. But this is not how evil sees itself nor is it the true picture. Evil is vain and therefore prefers to adopt beauty as its guise and it this perceived beauty that drops our guard. Look deeper at the goddess like handmaiden who is more beautiful than even the princess and you may see evil grinning back at you. When a beautiful child commits wrongful acts and smiles we say that the child doesn't know better, but can you be sure the child is not evil. Be wary of the man who says he wants to make the world a better place for there is beauty in his speech, but possibly evil in his intentions.

"Evil uses rhetoric to seduce us. Peace, caring and giving are evil's favorite words. These words spur us on and so we carry the banner of a preacher and nothing more. We do not look to the actions, only the words. Words are a mask worn by and evil and spoken with a sweet tongue.

"You cannot be totally blamed Koyoko. You were deceived by an evil that practiced what it preached, but when it was revealed you turned away. So I ask you Koyoko, what mask has evil used to trick you?"

The old man continued to gaze at Koyoko waiting for his response. Koyoko, meanwhile, seemed to not notice the waves pounding on the small boat, the water drenching his robe. His mind was stuck, it was locked up as it had heard too much. Finally he spoke.

"Masks? Small children? Evil? What are you talking about? I just want to get out of this boat."

"Koyoko, why do you deny what you already know? I can see now that I must be more blunt. I'm sorry Koyoko."

The old man wrapped his arms around himself took one last long look at Koyoko and vanished into the wind. With his disappearance the winds picked up more tossing the boat around. Koyoko sat motionless blankly staring at the spot where the old man was seconds ago. He turned his head in every direction hoping to find him. Instead of seeing the old man Koyoko saw a huge wave rushing towards him and the boat. The boat was sure to be scattered, but if Koyoko saw it he didn't act like he cared that much at all. Seconds later when the wave crashed into the boat sending pieces of it in all directions Koyoko still had a blank stare on his face.

Koyoko wasn't sure when he snapped back to reality, but it was kind of neat because he was falling very gently and there were all these fish that could apparently fly surrounding him. It was interesting to note that bubbles were coming out of his mouth, but how this was happening he had no earthly idea. At first he thought it was dark, but it seemed that it was getting brighter. He watched the bubbles leave his mouth and smiled when he burped and a green bubble popped out of his mouth. Was it really green? As he watched the bubble it didn't travel upwards as all the others had it just kind of weaved back and forth in front of him and it was gradually changing colors. Kind of like a rainbow. Form green it slowly changed into blue and then from blue it slowly changed into purple and then it became a very familiar red. A particular shade of red he had seen before. A crimson red.

The bubble did not change colors from the crimson red. Instead it started to grow larger and as it did Koyoko was startled to notice that there was a scene unfolding before him inside the bubble. There was a beautiful landscape with mountains in the background and rolling hills scattered with trees leading up to these mountains. It also looked like there were tiny figures running over the hills. The sky was a flickering orange. The bubble continued to grow and when it was larger than Koyoko it quickly moved forward and swallowed him whole. Then Koyoko realized, or at least thought he realized, what he was looking at. This place may had once been beautiful, but now it was being ravaged by war. The trees that scattered the hillsides were engulfed in flames. Koyoko stood on a hill a short distance from the battle, but it wasn't really a battle. More like a slaughter. One side appeared to be in full retreat running for their lives headed towards the mountains. They did not stop to help the wounded nor did they worry about the weapons they had brought to the battlefield. It took a moment for Koyoko to realize that these people were not fleeing from a regular army. They were being pursued by beings in the air and on the ground that could have only ascended from hell.

From the air men with wings slung fireballs at the scattered army. When the fireballs hit they exploded killing those who were around it. From the ground strange creatures aggressively pursued. Some looked like ordinary men others were giants and had only a mouth with large jagged teeth. Others appeared to be half of one animal and the other half a man or a woman. Koyko watched a creature, who had the lower body of a hoofed animal and the upper body of a very large muscular man, repeatedly impale his opposition with a horn that protruded from his head. When this creature had finally torn the man to shreds so that a human shape wasn't even discernable he continued the chase. Still other creatures had no earthly explanation. They walked on two or four legs and some did not walk at all. Instead, they slithered. Koyoko gazed along the horizon of the battlefield and he was sure of one thing. The creatures were superior. Everywhere he looked there was human carnage. Then he noticed something peculiar. It was a shape on the next hill over that was not natural. He realized what it was- the gate!

Next to it stood a robed figure holding a very long staff. The figure stood still appearing to also be looking at the ongoing massacre. Slowly, the figure turned around and looked in Koyoko's direction. Koyoko watched as the figure glided across the air and headed straight towards him, his robe fluttering. Koyoko knew who it was even before he landed gently next to him. It was what he had been rejecting all along.

"It's beautiful isn't it Koyoko?" Asked Nenziel. "It's what I've been working towards for a long time and now I have it. It's like it once was, that is until the Niente came into existence. Many of your people's myths and legends are true. Aren't you glad you're going to help me reclaim what was once mine?"

"This is sick I would never help you with something this horrible. Get the away from me."

"Oh, but I think you will Koyoko because now you don't have a choice. I think it's time you found out what it is you're dealing with."

Nenziel grabbed Koyoko by the shoulders and spun him around pulling him closer. Koyoko tried to struggle to get away, but then he saw Nenziel' eyes. In them was the vision of battle after battle. Planet after planet being consumed by Nenziel and the demons he released on those worlds. As Koyoko looked into Nenziels' eyes he saw all the different races from all the different planets that had been destroyed. Then he saw what was taking place around him in Nenziel' eyes and he knew this was his world that was being destroyed. Koyoko realized that he had been tricked and had the gate he helped build been open it would have been the end of the world. Koyoko started to scream and Nenziel started to laugh. Then Koyoko awoke not only from his sleep, but from his delusions.

____________

In the middle of the night drenched with sweat from his all telling nightmare Koyoko did not bother to gather his things and fled into the night with no particular destination. He ran as far as he could going from village to village, but never really feeling like he had ran far enough. Then on the fourth night Nenziel came for him.

Koyoko had just latched the small wooden shutters that closed the window of his temporary habitat form the night. Another day he thought and no sign of Nenziel. How much longer must he run? He felt like the answer was probably forever. As Koyoko sat down on the wooden framed bed that used hay for bedding the wooden shutters slammed open causing a loud thump that scared Koyoko half to death. He turned around to shut the shutters hoping that he had simply forgot to latch them and that a strong wind had blown them open. Instead he saw Nenziel' hooded face staring at him. Nenziel' lips smirked as if in amusement, but his eyes revealed his true nature.

"Did I give you enough time to feel comfortably safe Koyoko? Judging by how high you jumped in the air when those shutters flew open I'd say not."

"What do you want with me? Leave me alone. I am no threat to you," pleaded Koyoko.

"Nobody's a threat to me Koyoko," boasted Nenziel as he walked through the wall and into the room with Koyoko who gasped in astonishment. "But I like having you around and that is why you are coming back with me to help build the gate. Refuse and you will be sitting in a pool of your blood quicker than you could imagine. And just for the fun of it I might even go back to that village I picked you up in a kill your family. Better yet I'll make you watch me kill your family and then I'll kill you. Yes, that would definitely be the best way to do it. Any questions?"

"You wouldn't dare."

"Oh, but I would Koyoko. To me it's not a dare, but pleasure. Now come Koyoko there is no reason for further arguments."

So Koyoko went, a servant to Nenziel, but not by choice. He was convinced that he could do nothing to stop Nenziel. He had, however, seen somebody try. A dream it seemed, but he could remember standing next to the crumpled gate he had helped build watching as a group of people with extraordinary skills fought Nenziel. Maybe there were more. However, as time went by and no one came to fight Nenziel his hope faded.

Then an amazing thing happened. He was in a strange land called England and he sat concealed among a cluster of shrubs. He watched as all the men that had joined Nenziel bowed towards the gate. He didn't know the fate of those men, but he knew one thing. Hope had been restored- they were finally coming.

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