Monday, September 29, 2014

Dangerous Questions to Ask--The Order--Part 2 Installment 9


[Today's soundtrack comes from Darksiders II.
]












Tiny drops of light slid up and down the five silver threads in time with the flickering candle. One thread flashed red hot and Deathly turned his head toward it, the red reflecting in his lenses. Deathly tilted his head and touched the thread. It hummed a dual, clashing note.
“Enjoying yourself, are you, Murderous?” Deathly murmured.
He shifted his gaze to the one dull thread woven amongst the others in a complicated spider web that was enlightening only to Deathly. Pondering the dull thread for a moment, Deathly stepped away from the tall cabinet, normally locked and unnoticed. He fetched a vial with a faint amount of blood nestled in the bottom, then unscrewed the lid and dripped a blood drop onto his gloved finger. He slid his wet finger along the dull string, murmuring under his breath, then tracing symbols in the air.
The thread did not respond.
“Very well, Mangler. Stay dead.”
Deathly closed the doors to the plain black cabinet that was so often overlooked. The doors locked automatically upon meeting and then the threads were once again hidden. Deathly put the vial of blood away and then leaned heavily on his worktable, his head twisted to one side in a very human image of irritation. He drummed two gloved fingers against the tabletop.
Murderous was taking too long to find Mangler’s body, and even if he did, Deathly had no guarantee that he could convince the little twit to bring the corpse to the laboratory before he took it to Masuta. And if Deathly hated one thing, it was throwing away effort. Training Mangler to question and doubt had taken centuries, carefully crafted centuries and thousands of sacrifices.
Deathly touched the top of his head where the mask connected to the hood, finding the button and slowly undoing it.
Morbid strolled in. “Find him yet?”
Deathly looped the button back to the hood, straightening into his usual posture. “Unfortunately not.”
Morbid nodded, touching her braid absently. It hung loose today, not twisted into a noose. “What will happen when he is found? To Mangler of course. I don’t care about Murderous.”
“I couldn’t predict it,” Deathly rasped. “If Masuta is so concerned as to promote Murderous of all people…I suspect Mangler will be entombed.”
“What? Not raised? Of all the tortures I expected from the master, that’s not it,” Morbid said. “It’s so…bland.”
“Entombing is a far cry from bland,” Deathly said. “I can imagine few things worse for one such as us than to be entombed.”
“Don’t get me wrong; I like being alive very much. In fact, the immortal gig is one of my favorite things, but at the same time, I can see the upside to dying. A person gets tired.”
“You have no sense of death, Immortal. Never fearing death, knowing that dying is merely a temporary stage, it has left you with no respect for moving on. The world beyond life is a very strange and fluid place that all beings belong to. It is our natural home. All things shall perish from under the sky, even the forgotten gods and the Immortals. This is not a sad thing. It is only because we do not know it that we fear it. To be entombed is not to be buried and never risen again. It is to never live and never die. It is to be dead and trapped. You, Morbid, have died few times in our centuries. You do not remember the drifting between life and death, but there is a reason you all return to life afraid and gasping. Because you had floated on the edge of oblivion and nearly been lost. That is what it is to be entombed. It is floating on the edge of oblivion and dissolving into nothing.”
Morbid leaned one elbow against the table. “You’re such a ball of sunshine. I love it.”
Deathly tipped his head down in a faintly condescending gesture, then shook his head.
“More importantly, entombing is a desperate move on Masuta’s part. I wonder what has spurred to the master to such frenetic motions. It is too early for an endgame.”
Morbid arched an eyebrow. “You’re doing it again, Death. That riddle thing.”
“Forgive me. I am merely pondering.”
“You’re older than us, aren’t you?”
Deathly moved, too fluid and loose for his usual borderline mechanical movements, turning his head away then snapping it back toward her as if changing his mind mid-motion.
“Am I indeed?” he asked, no expression showing through his body.
“But are you older than the master?” Morbid asked.
Deathly turned to his chemicals. “Careful asking questions that no one has dared to answer. It is such questions that led Mangler to his current fate.”
“Oh really?” She leaned closer until she was only inches from Deathly’s lenses. “What questions did he ask?”  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Warmth amidst the Cold Madness--The Order--Part 2 Installment 8

[The soundtrack of this installment is.....



]





Without any fuss, Zofi allowed the hooded acolytes to drop her back in the grate-covered hole of a cage next to Alfons. She caught a glimpse of Alfons’ bloodied face, but then the acolytes calmly sat her down, tying her to the iron ring set in the ground, back to back with Alfons. Then peacefully, the disciples climbed out, removed the ladder, dragged the grate across the opening, and left. The chains keeping it all closed settled with desolate rattles. Zofi exhaled slowly, hunching forward over her knees.
“You okay?” Alfons asked finally.
“Better than you,” she answered. “What happened to your face?”
Alfons chuckled flatly. She felt him shrug. “Nothing. I mean, they hit it, but it’s fine.”
“Just…why?”
“Why are they going to slaughter two hundred people tomorrow?”
“To bring back the Murderous One. Honestly, Al, weren’t you listening?”
“Oh yeah. Right. You’re alright though?”
Zofi smiled despite herself. “We covered this too. I’m fine. They just wanted some undertaking done, so I’m tired, but I’m fine.”
He paused. “That’s…practical of them.”
“I suppose they don’t want any wights to ruin their big day.”
“Will there be?”
“Wights?” she said. “No. Just in case, I mean.”
Alfons didn’t ask just in case of what. He didn’t want to jinx it. Just in case they did survive. Someone on the other side of the wall started screaming in a burst of panic. It subsided into sobs quickly. Neither Alfons nor Zofi reacted. Screams and cries had become regular events in the hours they’d been here. As far as they could tell, nothing was causing the outbursts except an overflow of fear. It reminded Alfons of the frontlines. In a way, he missed the frontline. He didn’t have to worry about gods there.
“Can you do anything?” he asked. “Undertake us out of here, or something? Like the shortcut we took to Nocri? There’s enough death here, surely.”
“It’s…not really. Shortcuts are finicky. Master undertakers can do them regularly, but I can’t. Not to mention, it’s not really something we’re supposed to do. Not that that’s really bothered me before, but…I can’t really. It’s complicated.”
“And all the powers of death at your hands and you can’t do anything else?”
Zofi laughed. “You seriously misunderstand what undertakers can do. Our powers work on the dead and the dead only. And all it does is keep dead things dead.”
“I know,” he answered. “I was just hoping you had some undertaker secret you were saving for a dire situation.”
She gently leaned back against him for a moment. “Sorry.”
He shrugged again.
“What about you?” she asked. “Can’t you do anything? You’re a soldier.”
“Not an able-bodied one, remember?”
The bitterness in his voice made her regret mentioning it. She’d forgotten he wasn’t, as he claimed, able-bodied. He seemed so normal.
“What…what is it, anyway?” she asked, trying to sound merely curious. “Your…condition?”
“Nope.”
“No, what?”
“I’m not going down that.”
“I’m not, I was only—I didn’t mean anything by it,” she said.
He leaned away from her. “Right.”
Zofi tilted her head back, staring up at the night sky through the bars. A wedge of the fat moon was visible in the corner. She shivered and looked away. All at once it felt hard to breathe and she grimaced.
“Do you think we’ll…?”
“I expect so.”
“I really don’t want to,” Zofi said. Her tone was light, but her body was tight and she felt only moments away from adding her own fear-flooded scream to the night.
Alfons touched her fingers, then held them.
“Neither do I.”
The warmth between their hands kept them quiet during the moon’s descent while shrieks and howls built up into a discord of madness.
Dawn came and scythed the field into silence.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Detour--The Order--Part 2 Installment 7


[Your soundtrack for this week is......
]










Murderous stared at his dried blood on the street stones and debated about licking it. Would it taste different? It had been the blood of another body. Or would it just taste like him? He picked up a splinter of bone—one of his, from his ribs no doubt—and licked it. It tasted unsatisfyingly like bone. Just bone. Murderous flicked the bone splinter away and strode toward Mangler’s deathspot.
Obviously the body was gone. Murderous hadn’t expected it to still be around because it was Mangler’s and Mangler was every kind of spoil sport, even in death. Murderous laid his hand against the black spot where his Irrevocable Death had punctured through the Right Hand’s heart.
“Not so precious now, are ya, dead man?” Murderous taunted.
He heard a footstep and spun, whipping his finger gun up. A woman with white-blonde hair stood only a few yards away. She flinched at his turn, then saw his choice of weapon and lifted a silver eyebrow. Murderous tilted his head. She looked familiar.
“Well?” she said.
“Well? Well, what? What well?”
She folded her hands in front of her. “You’ve threatened me. I presume you want something.”
Murderous hesitated, taken aback by her unflappable manner. And still she struck him as familiar. But where, why? Was it important? Did he care? Could he kill her?
“The body that was here with black blood,” he said, “I want it.”
The woman actually took a step back. Her eyes narrowed, then relaxed. “Again?”
Murderous’ eyes roamed the area, looking for answers and finding none, before returning to her. “If you don’t know, then run so I can kill you with more fun.”
The woman watched him, then stepped away and left the alley. “I don’t think you will.”
Murderous blinked, then bounded after her. “Excuse me?”
“You won’t kill me.”
He gaped at her. “Why? I’m unhappy. That’s when I like to kill.”
“You need me, first of all,” she said as she walked swiftly through the streets.
“I do not.”
“Among other things.”
Murderous stopped walking, staring after her because he’d heard all this before. And the amused twitch of her lips implied she knew it too, was carefully echoing that moment. This was the undertaker who had put Maniacal’s body to rest, who had helped him find it. 
The woman who had been unafraid of him.
“I have a new body,” he exclaimed, utterly baffled that she should remember him first.
She halted and looked back. “Yes, it’s very nice.”
“No one’s seen it yet.”
“The face may be new, but the gleam in the eyes is unchanged. Many things are unchanged. And here you are again, searching for a body with black blood. Another one of yours?”
“Yes. Of course it is. Where is it?” He paused, another question striking him. It resonated with importance even though it seemed to him completely inconsequential. Boring. “Who are you?”
“You first, Immortal.”
Murderous flipped between fury and intrigue, his finger pointing and retracting. How dare this mortal know him? How dare she be flippant?
But how did she dare? Really? How?
“Murderous,” he answered quickly, greedily waiting for her reply.
She smiled. “Blanche.” Then she crossed to him, moving slow but steady, her hips rolling with every step, her eyes fixed on his. “You’re Murderous? As in the Murderous One, one of the gods of chaos?”
“Of course. Who else could be me?”
“How blessed am I to meet with a god not once, but twice.”
“Yes, yes, that’s—well. Where’s the body? I need it. I need it now.”
“I know where lots of bodies are,” Blanche murmured, closing in within a few inches of him. “Hundreds of them, crammed together in a great pit, all howling and screaming.” She bridged the gap between them. “Not yet dead, but soon. The knives are even now scraping along the whetstone, waiting to drink blood. Hundreds of innocents waiting for their slaughter.”
Murderous’ eyes gleamed. He couldn’t have stopped the growing grin on his face if he tried. Only a breath separated him from Blanche. He could smell her hair, see her hazel eyes in the dark.
“And all of this death,” Blanche continued, “is for you. Hundreds of throats opened in your name, for your pleasure. I can take you there. You can witness the glory yourself.”
Murderous giggled, stepping back to dance in a circle, unable to contain his glee. “When, when, when? So much gore, so much death, unnecessary murder! When?”
“Through the rising of the blood moon.”
“We go now!” Murderous ordered brightly.
Blanche smiled. “I shall lead you…my lord.”
They left the site of Mangler and Murderous’ deaths. Murderous didn’t even notice.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

We Were Born For This

Let us start now
as if it’s all something new to us,
this adventure, this journey, this quest.
Braving forth with gentle souls
and opened eyes, we begin.
And fear, if we have it,
is only from pretending
that this has never occurred.
The fear can be conquered,
when hands interlock in an endless line
encircling the world and we remember, this journey
is not our first.
We’ve been adventuring
since before our births.

As yet unformed light
we explored the stars
with endless games of hide-and-seek,
our laughter bright as chimes
ringing among the fires of creation,
swinging through the swirling colors of the cosmos.
When the Voice said when,
we joined the woven band of people
crisscrossing the green and blue
as ethereal beams of happiness,
dependent and small.
But fearlessly we quested onward,
shaping our nonage with laughter
bright as chimes and endless games
of hide-and-seek that tinged
like resonant crystal circles,
not through creation’s flames
but through humanity’s rights and wrongs.
And when one odyssey concludes,
it is with still childlike courage we step out afresh.
We have all been voyaging since the first dawn
haloed the universe with golden clouds.
Let us start again now,
as if it’s all something new,
for this is what we were born to do.

                                                                        - E. Farris

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Who Would Have Thought?

I thought I'd be lonely forever.

 I had lost my family to the great god Rrroom when I had been sucked up in its maw and carted away. Fate intervened though, setting me from from the underworld. But now I don't know where I am. The world is strange, with none of the familiar sights, of the cliffs and the plains. The under hang where I lived with my family is far away. I am alone now, the only one of my kind. Following the ways of my people, I hide in a new under hang. It's much smaller, the cliff above it shorter.

And it is without company.

Until it came. One of the gyants. A small one though just a Kid-Thing, comparatively, small than the great god Rrroom. The Kid-Thing found me and pulled me from my hiding place. I was terrified I would die, then and there, for everyone knows that it is gyants who convince the great god Rrroom to purge the plains and under hangs. But the Kid-Thing just sort of talked at me and then put me back.

Everyday the Kid-Thing comes, sometimes more than once, and we talk and talk and talk. Who ever would have thought that I, a lowly dust bunny would ever be best friends with a gyant? Yay Kid-Thing!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

He Will Answer--The Order--Part 2 Installment 6

[This installment's soundtrack

]








“Why didn’t you try to fight them?” Zofi whispered to Alfons as the hooded acolytes of the Murderous One ushered them through the woods.
“Because I first noticed them when they put the knife to my throat,” he snapped.
“I thought you were a soldier,” she complained.
“What is that supposed to mean? I don’t have better hearing.”
“Better awareness of your surroundings.”
“That’s not my job.”
One of the hoods calmly reached out and grabbed him by the hair, yanking his head to one side in a quick motion that almost snapped Alfons’ neck. Almost.
“Do not make light of this moment,” the hood intoned, releasing Alfons’ hair in a sharp, mechanical movement. “You are sacrifices to the great god. Your fear will increase the quality of the sacrifice, of your blood. Embrace it.”
Zofi scoffed, pulling at the ropes around her wrists. “I’m an undertaker from the frontlines. I faced down a wraith without tools. You are the last things to frighten me.”
The woman smiled beneath the hood. “One of the last undertakers from the war? Forgive us if we find other uses for you before your death.”
Zofi narrowed her eyes. “What do you mean, one of the last?”
“Since the last blossoming of the moon, we have been killing them in greater and greater numbers. Tomorrow is the day of last sacrifice, when Murderous’ Moon rises to wash the land red, when we will summon the Murderous One back from the beyond to end the war. Both sides shall be slaughtered and we will have peace again.”
Alfons gaped at the hoods. “That’s…that’s insane. You’re lunatics! You’re lunatics to try to summon the Murderous One. He’ll probably kill you all too.”
The hoods made a slicing gesture in unison, mumbling something Alfons and Zofi couldn’t make out.
“It will be an honor to die at his will,” the priestess said, “but we believe he will be satisfied with our gift to him.”
Alfons shook his head. “I wouldn’t count on it,” he murmured.
The short procession stepped into an enormous clearing. Tents and huts were arranged in tight circles to one side, while the rest of the clearing was conspicuously empty. The space was cloyed with the stench of blood and death. A raised platform directly in front of them had been coated in so much blood that it resembled a thick layer of paint. The grass had been beaten flat from countless feet going back and forth. It was slick.
Zofi suddenly examined the priests’ robes more closely. The deep, almost black red of the robes was patchy, darker in some places and barely dyed in some areas. But it was the texture that tipped her off. She jerked away from them in shock as she realized their robes were red from blood, not dye.
“Bit heavy-handed all of this, don’t you think?” she said to cover her abrupt revulsion. “I mean, gods, if you wanted to be a cult, did you have to be so clich├ęd about it?”
The priestess looked back at her and smiled her placid smile again. “The Murderous One delights in carnage. We have provided him with enough carnage to beckon across the beyond. The process requires much death in little time; as such we have no time to clean between killings. The mess is not our preference, or for visual effect. It is merely a consequence of our activities.” She then inclined her head. “Though it is to be mentioned that the constant smell works to heighten the fear of the sacrifices.”
Zofi could understand that. If she’d not spent weeks among the smell, she’d have been afraid. A quick glance at Alfons confirmed he was the same. It wasn’t the death or the stench or the gore all around them that unsettled her; it was the calmness of the disciples. They had not once lost their content demeanor. Striding across the bloodied field did not falter their steps. Taking two people captive did not quicken their heart rate. Discussing the return of the Murderous-God did not fill them with excitement. Everything they did was tranquil. Zofi wondered if they even murdered innocents with the same sereneness.
It was this serenity that finally touched the back of her neck and breathed fear down her spine.
The god’s acolytes guided them to the open space left of the platform. As they drew closer, Zofi realized it wasn’t open space at all. The ground was dug away, replaced with wooden slats only a few inches apart. She peered into the darkness beneath the slats and found pale eyes staring back. She made out faces then, then shadowed bodies, two or three people of all ages then a wall, then two or three more, then a wall, for dozens and dozens of steps.
“They’re on this side, too,” Alfons said quietly.
She looked and saw that the cages went on in several rows for fifty yards or more. Children, adults, young people, elderly, men, women, soldiers, villagers, undertakers, the acolytes had been indiscriminate.
“We’re all to die tomorrow?” Zofi asked.
The priestess smiled at her serenely. “Yes. We are quite quick at it now.”
“But there must be over fifty people here. You can’t mean to kill them all.”
“Nearly two hundred,” the priestess said with a gentle nod. She halted the party, then gestured to the far left.
Up close now, Zofi saw that the rest of the open space in the clearing was a pit at least fifteen feet deep and an even larger area than that of the prisons.
“The blood moon wanes tomorrow. As it does, we will overflow this pit with blood and the worthy sacrifice will call to the Murderous One.”
Zofi’s lips parted in shock. The acolytes all bowed their heads toward the pit.
The priestess lifted her chin, staring up at the full moon starting to lift above the treetops.
“And he will answer.”