Galva's arm trembled, the sword grew heavier with each gasping breath. He watched the eyes of the man he had killed dull as life seeped away. Galva wondered if his own brown eyes would have such a hollow look when it was his turn to face the death gods.
Banishing the image from his mind, Galva tried to calm his breathing and surveyed the room. Nine carcasses lay on the floor, all in different stages of dismemberment, all victims of his sword. The room was silent except for his breathing. There were no more combatants to oppose him, only fatigue.
A sharp pain climbed up his arm, lodging into his shoulder and back. His muscles begged for mercy, refusing to allow him to carry the sword any longer. Galva dropped the sword. The clank of metal hitting stone echoed in the lifeless hall.
His fingers cramped, refusing to open. They were numb from the banging of metal on metal. Galva tried to massage life back in to his tired hands, then pulled his helmet off and let it drop to the floor.
It had been a few years since he had been in this room. It looked the same, with its marble floors, elaborate tapestries, and a large marble pillar in the center with stairs slithering around it, leading to a platform used to gaze at the stars, or watch the events in the hall below. Groaning, Galva looked at the pillar. He knew what he wanted was up there.
He rested a little longer, pulling the hair that blood and sweat had glued to his forehead back into a plait. The stench of blood in the hot room permeated his senses.
He planned his path among the corpses, wanting to use as little energy as possible. With shuffling steps, he worked his way around the carnage toward the pillar. He didn't have the energy to step over the bodies.
Blood and offal stained the once white marble floors making them slick, forcing Galva to take careful steps. He slipped twice before reaching the stairs.
Resting a sticky hand on the cool pillar, he contemplated sitting down, but discarded the idea. He had to get to the top to claim his prize. He moved to the first step. He left a bloody handprint on the white pillar as he climbed.
Leg muscles burned with each step being harder than the one before it. Each step tempted him to sit down. Each step tempted him to just give up, but Galva refused.
Circling the pillar once, then twice, he trudged his way up. Each circle brought him closer to the prize. Each showed him a grander view of the tapestries hanging on the walls.
Images of fighting knights and heroic adventures that spoke of gallant efforts and noble deeds covered the tapestries. None of them meant a thing to him. They were the past. His concern was for the future.
Galva continued to climb. His legs grew numb as he circled the pillar one more time. Hungry flies buzzed around his face, picking at the blood and entrails that clung to his armor. They bit at his skin, but he was too tired to swat them. He just climbed.
Making another trip around the pillar he spied an image of a laughing child on a tapestry. It brought memories of happier times to his exhausted mind. He remembered enjoying himself in this hall. He contemplated whether he really wanted to reach the top. Reaching his goal would change everything. Was this worth the sacrifice? he wondered.
The gods answered him with memories of the betrayal that lead to this decision. The memory of being sent to his death for something as small as a refused kiss. He had killed nine men to climb those stairs. Nine men that guarded the treasure. The choice was already made.
Galva circled the pillar one last time, reaching the top. His knees threatened to give way, his armor tried to drag him to the ground. He fought the urge to sit and stared at his goal, Vanessa.
Standing at the back of the platform, the personification of beauty, a slim figure of a woman with ample bosom struck a confident pose. She pulled her blond hair back from her face in a wave, revealing porcelain white skin and cobalt eyes. Many men had gone to their deaths for that face.
Resisting the temptation to drown in her eyes, Galva walked up to her. She watched him, with the calculating eye of woman who controlled her kingdom.
She smiled. It fell short of reaching her eyes. Galva's bones creaked as he raised his hand toward her chin. Her smile faded, her eyes focused on the gore that hung from the tip of his finger, a slug shaped chunk of gray flesh coated in blood.
Smiling, Galva flicked the gore into the woman's face. "I want a divorce."