by John Dodd

The last thing I remember was the dreamless sleep of the drum I take every night, but this is different, this time, I dream, and when you dream like I do, they can't be more terrible.

Just like always, it's white, all white, like some idiot advertisers idea of peace, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Truth, what is the truth, I stand here, surrounded by nothingness, looking for what has happened here, just as always, the dream begins when I die, slain by the blade of steel offered by those who rule over us. As I fall to the floor, I see my mother, the one I've never met. I can see all of her except her face, but I should be able to, nothings in the way of it. I should be able to see more than the blank oval in front of me.

But I can't, just like always, her face is hidden from me, and as I watch, she seems to look down at me, her distaste is almost tangible, and I feel a tear winding down my face, it's not fair, I wasn't old enough, I couldn't have stopped.....

The head falls from her shoulders and my father steps forwards, wielding a large blade constructed of bone, her head rolls to my feet, and I look down, my own face stares back at me. I snarl with rage and lunge at him, striking out with all my training. He looks down at me like the insect I am, kicking me aside and striding onwards in his quest to be better than us.

I run after him, slipping on a patch of blood on the floor, I drop to the floor, my outstretched hand impacting into something soft and moist, plunging deep inside it. My head jerks up to see the face of Elianna, my wife, my hand is deep inside her chest, I pull my hand back, her heart is still beating there.

"Culainn" her breath is soft and warm, blood trickles from between her lips and the last word she breathes is "Why........"

There was nothing I could have done, she could never have survived that shot, I didn't get there in time, It was my fault....

NO, it wasn't my fault, it wasn't down to me, I couldn't have stopped them, they were just killing Ebons, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, but surely I could have done something, surely I could have made a difference.

I'm back in the nothingness, on what must pass for the floor, I look up, my team is around me, looking down on me, contempt in their eyes at what I am, my race is meant to be kind and gentle, pacifists and healers. How could they ever understand what I am, how could they ever know that the rage wasn't mine, that the fury would never harm them, how could I ever be anything more to them than an object of derision, how could I ever belong there?

There is another way, a voice whispers quietly in my ear.

No there isn't, I cannot accept that. I must fight, I cannot be what my father is. I was cast out of the Ebon race when I was born, a combination of my fathers transgression and my mothers death, nothing wanted me, why should they want me now.

I look into the distance, I see all the people I ever killed, lined up to face me, all of them were killed for good reason, all of them killed in the service of SLA, why do they wait for me now. I raise my hands in fighting position, ready to die as I have lived, weapons in hand, foes before me. I know I cannot defeat them all, but I will not be bowed by them, I will die in the way that I have chosen, not them.

I look to the side, and there, standing by my side, is my mentor, Vn'cn't. He is dressed as he was when I found him, bleeding and dying all that time ago, his arms are folded and he shakes his head as he looks across, speaking in his guttural tones.

"You cannot win that way Cul, that is what they want you to do, you must be better than them, you must let go, each time you fight, you make them stronger."

I look across at him, he bows once, arms crossed over his chest, in the salute of honour he taught me so many years ago, and in that moment I understand how they manage to get so many of us. The key is not to fight them, and it's something none of us would ever suspect. I turn back to the horde advancing on me, opening my arms and closing my eyes. The blades strike like quicksilver and I feel the blood spraying out, still I do not strike back at them, accepting my fate.

The whiteness fades, so does the pain. I open my eyes to find myself in my bedroom, it's dark, around six in the morning, I rise from the hardwood and go to the bathroom. Funny, the drum must be having a few after effects, I can't feel the demons any more, I shrug mentally, I'll just enjoy it while I can.

I look in the mirror and realise why I'm not feeling the Demons any more, on my left shoulder blade is a small pulsing mass of Dark Lament tissue. I recognise this and shake my head slowly, it seems that I'm one of the dead men now, this may take some getting used to.

I return to the church where we buried Vn'cn't, laying a flower on his grave and saying a silent prayer to a god I've never believed in. But he was there for me in my hour of need, so maybe he wasn't wrong, maybe there is a reason for this, maybe I'll never know, and I remember his last words to me.

"You can never lose as long as you don't play."

I didn't understand then, and part of me is sorry that I could never understand it while I was still alive.

And as I leave the graveyard, one more thought occurs to me, how much fun am I going to have freaking my squad mates out with this thing?