The Taste of a Human Heart
You were probably expecting some big battle.
A protracted duel between me and Akavarin. Bolts of lightning from his hands. Vicious insults and fancy swordsmanship from me and Murasame.
Sorry to disappoint.
I ate the Necromancer’s heart in seven beastlike bites. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I’ve eaten animal hearts before—elk and bear and even a horker once just to see what it was like.
To be honest, I prefer liver.
When I was done, my stomach felt hot. All of my blood vessels pulsing like I’d been running full-out for a mile. It was a good feeling and I stood there for a while in that destroyed hall and laughed until my shoulders and ribs hurt.
The castle walls continued to breathe around me, but in a rasping sort of way that told me the magical building would not outlive its creator by long.
In all my hurry to pop my cannibal cherry, I’d forgotten about the magical talking sword, Murasame.
The blade was still slammed into the marble floor. I yanked it out by the hilt and saw a rather severe amount of damage—half the shaft was cracked and bent, like a rotting tooth someone had punched really hard.
You fucking bitch. Look what you did.
Is that all you fucking have to say? I should fucking rape your skull to death you little—
I let go of the blade, his voice faded and then disappeared.
“One more impolite word, and I will leave you here, Murasame.”
I let a few moments pass.
When I picked up the sword again, there was only silence.
“That’s better,” I said. Then I got one of those prickly, sweaty feelings that only happen when something very problematic is about to occur, and my body knows it before my mind does.
The far wall of the fortress yanked backwards and imploded.
There was dust and debris. Wreckage of earth and dark architecture. Seven pairs of glowing eyes burning up from the rubble.
“You are the Bosmer he spoke of,” came a voice. It sounded like crushed paper vibrating on a wind that did not exist. “The cunt.”
I spat on the ground and lifted Murasame into a high guard as if I was really going to bother with these idiots.
“And you’re the afterbirth remnants of an asshole,” I said. “Go fuck yourselves.”
Then I blinked.
I like to visualize what I must have looked like to those morons. To wonder what it must feel like to frame your entire existence around a single man—a single force—and then watch a black-haired elf spear her way out of the sky and pulverize him, then eat his heart and skip away on the wind in a puff of black smoke.
No matter how much my life goes to shit, that will always make me smile.
It took almost half a day of teleporting to get clear of Akavarin’s dark and dying land. Then another to travel far enough away that I couldn’t feel the stink of him on my skin and inside my flesh.
I ended up in a field with the grass all bent down and dead. Killed by just a few seconds in my presence.
“That’s it, then.”
You’ve broken me. I feel…awful.
“You got what you wanted, didn’t you?” I asked. “Akavarin is reduced to a shit stain on the floor.”
Picture your spine twisted off and ripped clean, then tell me how much getting what you wanted matters.
“You’re being pretty dramatic.”
I sniffed the air. It smelled like fresh wheat and moist soil. The wind blew natural and pure. It was just me and the sword ruining things with our wickedness.
“Tell me, what will you live for now?” I asked.
What do you mean?
“I get what you were doing. You were a piece of lichen. A parasite. You rode Vergun to me, and then you rode me to the end of Akavarin’s existence. That’s over. So what will you do now? What purpose do you serve?”
There was a silence.
What purpose do you serve, Narova? What do any of us serve? Carry me to the next thing, and I’ll kill it. Why complicate matters?
I thought about that.
My life is a lot of things, but it has never been simple. I’d have liked for all the fucking and killing to be enough. I’d have liked to be satisfied with a bloody path paved by the bones of anyone who stood in my way.
But I remembered a time when the limbs and leaves of the Valenwood trees moved like a song’s rhythm on my lips. When there was no magic in my life except the miracle of life and the feral instinct of an elf who was born to hunt.
I missed it.
“You’re right,” I said. “Best keep things simple. And you know what? Magic swords and masks are pretty fucking complex.”
I pulled Murasame off my shoulder and slammed the blade into the earth. Grabbed the hilt with one hand and stepped back for leverage.
Wait. What are you doing? Stop! Stop! You can’t do this after—
I activated most of the tattoos on my body and kicked Murasame in half. The metal snapped and cried across the landscape. A moronic voice whispered through my skull, but the noise the sword made in those final throes isn’t even worth putting into italics for you.
Murasame was dead.
I pulled the mask off my face. Looked at it. Ran my thumb over one cheek. I thought about the smooth and serene surface of this mask, and of all the nightmares it had brought. All the people I had killed while wearing it. Then I thought about my own face—scarred and weathered and mean.
I dropped the mask. Stomped it to splinters with one foot.
Then I walked away.