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He licked the playwright’s blood from his blade and laughed.

“It appears the sword is mightier than the pen after all.”

He kicked the corpse in the teeth once, twice, three times, until the smashed lips sucked into the toothless mouth.

“By several orders of magnitude, even.”

Six bodies of dead performers lay scattered around him. Their tented wagon billowed in flames.

He danced a jig around the scene.

“No one dies more easily or more uselessly than artists die.”

He danced and laughed again.

He’d been one of them once. A writer, even — the lowliest of all.

But the desert had cured him of this malady. Its long, remorseless miles had blessedly cooked every bit of beauty from him.

He saw that the real play hadn’t been the one they’d been performing but instead the performance itself. The very life they’d lived was the dream — the thing to conquer.

This was no world for soft or pleasant things. This was a world of dust and steel alone. Human bodies like wet bags ready to be burst open.

On the far horizon hummed a city. He imagined it engulfed in fire. His blood rose excitedly.

He headed towards it. The time was early. If he hurried he could get there by next day’s early morning.

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