Well, whoops. Between technical problems and travel problems, I think it's obvious that The Order did not get updated Monday. But it's Thursday, you say. Almost Friday, you say. What's your excuse for that?
Weeeeeelllll, mental agony, physical sickness, a lot of no sleeping, and so many deadlines I can't see straight.
As such, The Order will be delayed (I know. I'm sorry) until...let's be kind to me and say Tuesday. Cool?
Til then, hang tight, friendlies. All will be well. Go do that thing you've been putting off. :) I believe in you!
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
Alfons blinked up at the black marble building, leaning hard on the man who had come back to life.
“A temple? Are you insane?”
“It’s possible,” the man replied, adjusting his grip on the makeshift sled the two of them had put together for Zofi, still unconscious. “I was dead for a long time.”
Alfons coughed, blood splattering the man’s shoulder. “That’s just great.”
The man glanced down at him, concern on his face. “Let’s get you inside before you expire.”
“No offense to your plan, but we didn’t exactly get along with the last acolytes of a god, not to mention the actual god, we met.”
“This is a temple to Morbid. They’re fairly barren,” the man explained, surging forward, dragging Zofi with one hand and half-carrying Alfons with the other arm.
They stepped into the cool darkness of the temple, a single torch gleaming at the end of the long hall, illuminating the fifteen-foot statue’s face. The man paused, staring up the sleek statue of a woman with extremely long nails and her hair twisted around her neck. He stared retrospectively at it, even reverently, for a several long moments.
Alfons coughed blood again, grasping at the man’s shoulder as his legs tried to give out. The man reacted quickly, tightening his hold around Alfons’ waist to take his weight completely. Alfons wheezed, trying to get his good leg under him, but unable to. The broken bones (and other injuries) were taking their tolls.
“I request the sanctuary of the Morbid One!” the man shouted into the empty hall.
Almost immediately a woman stepped out of the shadows. She looked them over with eyes heavily lined in kohl, but upon spying Zofi, nodded.
“Sanctuary is yours,” she said, stepping forward to take Alfons. Three more women stepped out of the dark edges of the temple, two helping her to carry Alfons, the last helping the man with Zofi. They guided them out of the temple’s main hall into a series of interconnected side rooms. Women of all colors, sizes, and ages, unified only in their use of kohl, gathered around the three, carting Alfons and Zofi to separate rooms. Alfons tried to keep track of what happened, but one of his broken bones snapped again and he plummeted into unconsciousness.
Alfons came to in semi-darkness. The man sat beside him cleaning dirt from under his fingernails.
“They don’t,” the man said.
Alfons swallowed back the dryness in his mouth. The man held out a cup and tipped a thin trickle of water down Alfons’ throat.
“What?” Alfons said once he’d drunk.
“Fingernails and hair. They don’t grow after death. That’s a myth.”
The man chuckled. “You’re looking considerably livelier. The priestesses replaced a few of your bones apparently. Bone death, hmm?”
Alfons looked away, surveying his body as an excuse to break eye contact. He’d been well taken care of, it seemed, with splints and wrappings and enough medicine that he couldn’t feel anything.
“I didn’t ask them to do that,” Alfons said.
“It needed done.”
“That’s not the point!” Alfons snapped. “You can’t just go into somebody and tamper with their body without their consent. Taking out bullets, fine. Stopping bleeding, alright. But removing and replacing my bones? No. I don’t know these people. I don’t know what they want, who they help, why they’d help us—”
“It’s what they do.”
Alfons narrowed his eyes at the man.
“The disciples of Morbid take care of any and all who have been abused. It began as a joke, on Morbid’s part, but I think she’s come to like the idea. If I’m being charitable.”
“Who are you?” Alfons asked.
The man smiled. “Mathieu. I am, was, am a priest of the Mangled One, though I began in a temple devoted to the six.”
“Mathieu,” Alfons repeated.
“And believe me, the priestesses would not have dared to violate you if a bone transfer were had not been absolutely necessary to keeping you alive. You were…are dancing on the edge of life, my friend.”
“We aren’t friends.”
Mathieu inclined his head. “A figure of speech.”
“I see. Where’s Zofi?”
“Another room. She’s as fine as can be expected given that she used her life to raise mine, which is not, I should add, how it is done. I didn’t know it could be done this way.”
“How do you know all these things?” Alfons asked.
Mathieu shrugged. “I have spent much time among the gods.”
“They’re not gods.”
Mathieu raised his eyebrow.
Alfons gestured at his ribs. “I’ve been shot by one. I’ve seen them bleed, scream in fear. I’ve robbed them. The Immortals are not gods.”
Mathieu held up his hand. “Wait. Robbed?”
“I was part of a mission to steal some Key from the Immortals. I’m the only one left of the team.”
The man exhaled, then stood, Alfons tracking him intently with his eyes. “You stole the Key.”
“Do you know where it is now?”
Alfons’ eyes narrowed. “I don’t know. It was lost.”
“Damn,” Mathieu murmured.
The priestess who had received them entered the room, drawing their attentions. “She’s awakened.”
Monday, March 9, 2015
[At long last, we return to Zofi and Alfons. And Mangler.
He was dissolving. He was balanced an edge so thin he could not sense it, just know it was there. To one side, he knew was something, old and familiar, but to the other was something new and different. He longed to fall into the old something, but couldn’t make himself tip that way. Nor could he make himself tip into the new something. Neither somethings scared him. They were utterly unalike, but neither was…wrong. This balancing though, this hovering between the two with no sense of sight nor sound nor taste nor touch nor smell nor self, just knowing, this was wrong. This was a frightening wait.
He should have been able to step into the new, he knew this, but something kept him from it. What kept him from falling back into the old was simple. He wasn’t supposed to. Though he wanted to, he was meant to go forward, not back, and wouldn’t. But he had hovered too long. The void around him plucked at him, the undecided, peeling away bits and pieces, dissolving him.
Hath ni gway necro thanos zo qui. Resp fuir wer, goruin thanos. Thanos atui. Thanos viveira.
The words thrummed like a plucked string, vibrating on a level he couldn’t understand, deep inside him, in his…bones? Yes, because he’d had bones. He could sense those bones now, almost feel them nestled in decaying flesh. Light flashed before him. Light? No light should be here. He existed away from all that…but he could see nonetheless, see symbols and sigils glowing before him. Not with the eyes he could almost feel resting in the distance body, but with his selfness. He was becoming a self again.
The longer the words thrummed in the background, the brighter the sigils glowed, the more he felt his self, his body, felt the firmness of the old something solidifying around him, tugging him backward, a string on his ribs pulling, pulling, pulling. He was heavy, aware he was heavy, aware of his weight, aware he had weight. And then at once he fell into the old something and was encapsulated into a body. With that came sensation, then pain, deep fierce pain radiating through every nerve coming back into being, as if each one were being stabbed again and again and again with a needle of fire. But it was the tightening in his chest that burned the most, everything was focusing there, shrinking in without losing mass. Then his chest broke open.
Mangler gasped, air pouring down his throat and into his lungs. His eyes slapped open and he fumbled with limbs weakened from entropy and decay until he’d sat up. Someone was screaming. He was screaming. And the human to the side.
Where was Death?
Mangler frowned, panting heavily, scanning the—what was this, a cave—for anything familiar to his former rebirths. It was not Deathly’s lab with the vials and chemicals and Deathly’s mask leaning over him, waiting to coax away the terror all the Immortals felt upon reviving. This was, this was some human man screaming in the corner and a human woman lying beside him, dead? He bent over her.
“Don’t touch her!”
Mangler lifted his head to see the man reaching out for him, screeching ended, fear and fury mixed on his face like two different colors of paint. Almost immediately, Mangler disregarded him. The man was on the verge of death. He was harmless.
Unless he was responsible for Mangler’s resurrection.
Mangler turned his attention back to the man. “Where is Deathly?”
“D-Death? What?” The man shook his head. “Leave her alone. Get away from her. You-you’re supposed to be dead. She was just putting you to rest. Masuta have mercy.”
Mangler’s pupils shrank and he shifted to his feet in a smooth motion, body remembering how to be alive, though it was more disjointed than usual.
“Masuta shows no mercy,” he snarled, stalking toward the man. “Do not pray to Masuta.”
The man recoiled, dragging his injured body backward. “Oh gods. Oh all the gods. Death, take this wraith!”
Mangler paused. Wraith. This man thought he was a wraith? “I am not a wraith.”
“You were dead though. Now you’re not. What sort of thing does that, but a wraith?”
“I do,” Mangler said. “It’s something of a curse, though not one many are able to evoke. Who brought me back? You?”
The man shook his head. “Zofi. She’s an undertaker. Sh-she thought she was putting you to rest. You were dead.”
“Yes, you’ve said.” Mangler circled the woman, examining her red hair, her injuries, then abruptly, he looked up again. “You.”
The man shuddered. “Wh-what about me?”
“You were killed.”
“No. I was not. Attempted killing, yes, but I am very much alive.”
“Irrevocable Death, I can smell it. Which was it? Who inflicted it? And how has it not killed you?”
The man touched his side, wide-eyed look fading to deep apprehension. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Mangler snorted, raising an eyebrow, but just knelt by the woman. If the man wasn’t dead now, he wasn’t going to be in the next few minutes. Mangler felt for a pulse and was surprised to find one.
“Well now. Undertaker, are you? Somehow I don’t think so.” He straightened. “So then. Who are you?” he asked the man.
“You are a very unique man, Alfons. Which of the Immortals was so insulted by you as to kill you?”
Alfons licked his lips. “The Murderous One.”
Mangler’s forehead clumped. “What? But he shouldn’t be…of course. Death brought him back. He would have had no choice.” Though it did beg the question…what had happened to Mangler in the meantime to end up here? “We seem to have a fair number of puzzles, Alfons, but none that are safe to discuss here. We need to move.”
“Move? Why? Where?”
“Anywhere. My resurrection will have been noticed. And that puts us all in danger.”
“But how are we supposed to go anywhere?” Alfons asked. “I’m not…capable of much.”
“Leave that to me.”
Monday, March 2, 2015
[The Order is returned!! Part 3 begins and right on time, too. Welcome back readers. And brace yourself. Part 3's going to be quite a ride. The soundtrack!
The creature scuttled through the night, moving quick and undetected. Despite missing all the appendages necessary to smell—like a head—it nonetheless acted like a bloodhound, tracking down a trail of blood only it could sense. Though little more than a ribcage and legs, it darted without difficulty across a strangely barren rocky field that was only notable for the dozens of charred pyres, miles of remembrance stones, and the blood stains not yet consumed by the earth. The four-legged creature paused at the edge of the field, just before the ruined city. Its spine curled up, the mismatched bones comprising the minion clacking together softly. What made it hesitate was not something visible, not to humans at any rate. It was something only the fiend could sense.
Eventually, it continued onward, creeping through the ruined city until it came upon a place where the wall was cracked and dripping a thick, black liquid. Splattered around it were regular blood stains. Not far away from that was a mixture of black and red blood and fragments of bone. The flesh that had been there had long ago degenerated.
The minion paced around the place, picking up a trail of the black blood a little ways away from the bleeding wall. Even when the physical trail disappeared, the minion continued scrambling along after it, not daring to stop until it had found what it had been sent for.
In the depths of the temple, Masuta paced. The curtain keeping him from the world—or maybe the world from him, whispered with his motion, though even if he had been still, the curtain would whisper still. Masuta longed to once more wreak havoc on the world, to be loose in it as an unstoppable force, but the time was not yet right. All the pieces of the Crest needed to be recovered. The Key had to be returned. The war had to be whipped back into a frenzy.
Mangler needed to be removed. As long as his body was out there, there was a risk it could be raised. Masuta had lost his hold on his right hand. However it had happened, Mangler had discovered the strings Masuta controlled his Immortals with and had cut them from himself. An uncontrolled Immortal was a rogue force Masuta was not prepared to contend with. He had never imagined it could happen. Death had assured him it could not—
Masuta stopped, his twisted body going completely still.
His head turned toward the empty doorway. The layer of the veil split away, morphing into the shadow of a wight. It swayed in place.
“Death,” Masuta hissed. “I would speak with you. You are commanded: come.”
The wight ghosted forward and then disappeared, taking the order with it. Masuta resumed his pacing, fury growing in his eyes. Death had lied.
Now Death would die.
Friday, January 30, 2015
This is really late because I am a terrible person. This is the last installment of Part Two. I will return March 2nd with Part Three. See you all on the other side.
Deathly’s lab was quiet except for his mechanical breathing as he worked on his latest experiment. Morbid was not even in the temple, Muderous was on a mission, and the others rarely bothered Deathly. It was nice. As much as he enjoyed turning Morbid against Masuta, he needed tonight. He needed time to work in silence without interruptions.
A spark ran through Deathly’s body then and he dropped the test tube he held. It shattered on the floor, splashing blood everywhere, but Deathly didn’t notice that. He was focused on the feeling that had rushed through him. He knew it. It was one of his creations. He always knew when they died, because he could feel it, could feel part of himself return, a jolt, but this was different. This was...puzzling. This he only felt when they came back to life.
“How were you brought back…?”
Deathly whirled around, rushing to his cabinet, unlocking it with unnaturally clumsy fingers, until he yanked the doors open. The spider web of silver threads was there as always, drops of light sliding up and down them. Occasionally, one would flash, red, black, purple, and more as the corresponding Immortal felt a surge of emotion. Deathly had become so used to seeing only five illuminated threads that he had to touch the sixth to be sure.
Deathly gaped at it, then ripped off his glove, holding up his bare hand in the air and whispering. His hand was wrapped in lines of symbols inked into his skin in raised lines. As he spoke, individual sigils flashed green, one after another.
The sixth thread hummed, glowing brighter for a moment. Then as Deathly watched, the silver thread began to darken, the silver leeching away to become vivid copper.
Deathly pivoted from the room, leaving the cabinet open and the glove discarded on the floor. Running, he descended to the depths of the temple, then lower still, to the crypts. No light existed here until Deathly set his hand to glowing green.
“Hath,” he hissed and the light flashed away and spread, elucidating the room from every angle and leaving no clear source. The walls were curved, seamlessly running into the ceiling. Only someone who had helped build it would even know this ancient place was a crypt. It had no markers, no graves, no signs that anyone had been here before, but for the too-smooth walls.
Deathly reached up and undid the ties on his mask, then removed it from his head, dropping it to the floor. Then he took off his other glove revealing a hand as covered in symbols as the first. Muttering under his breath, all the symbols began to glow green.
The ground beneath Deathly cracked, then parted. Out of the ground rose a four-legged, headless creature comprised only of bones.
“Find him,” Deathly ordered.The minion scuttled off out of sight, leaving Deathly in the crypt alone. He replaced his hood, then picked up his glove, staring at the hole the bone minion had emerged from. Then all the light disappeared.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
[I have been waiting for this moment for a long time. Particularly for this soundtrack.
Zofi inhaled slowly as she silently counted, letting the oxygen—the life—flow into her lungs and then seep throughout her body. Once she had reached seven, she paused, holding her breathe, restarting the count, letting the air swirl around in her lungs, pushing against her chest.
She let the air out, but not in a rush, in a steady stream, as slow and even as her inhalation. One…two…three…
An hour passed without her moving from where she sat against the cave wall breathing in the measured cycle. Alfons lay nearby listening to her, subconsciously mimicking her patterns. Apparently she was going to do the final rites today and put the corpse to rest. She was nervous though. Alfons could tell. If anything, she was spending all this time preparing and what he knew of Zofi, she didn’t prepare. She charged headlong. After all, he’d met because she had attempted to take on a wraith by herself without any tools or knowledge. Of course, this time if she failed, she would die. She could have died with the wraith too, but it hadn’t been as concrete an idea. Many results could have come from failing. This only had one option.
Zofi broke her breathing pattern and opened her eyes. Alfons heard and shifted onto his side to watch her creep toward the body. She dipped her fingers in the mud pile she’d collected in lieu of charcoal and smeared lines on her face. She outlined her eyes in broad swaths of the dark mud, filling in her eye sockets and coating her eyelids. Then she painted her nose, leaving only a thin clean line straight down the center. After that she covered everything under her cheekbones, including her lips, just dragging away thin lines across her lips.
When she glanced at Alfons, he realized she had painted herself a crude approximation of an undertaker’s skull mask. He wanted to ask her about it, about why undertakers must wear a skull mask when putting corpses to rest, but didn’t. This was too important to risk distracting her.
Zofi took a deep breath, feeling as if her stomach was trying to eat her. Her hands shook, but it was too late to turn back now. With a brief prayer to her father of all people, she began to apply the symbols to the body. Concentric circles on his forehead, then various collections of lines, short crisscrossing lines, forked lines like lightning, sharply diverting lines like the creases in one’s skin, circles slashed by an single straight line, T’s intersected by dots. The symbols adorned his face, his hands, chest, feet. The most complicated symbol was drawn over his heart while Zofi muttered a difficult prayer in a language she’d never properly bothered to learn, merely memorize. She forgot a word, forgot a symbol, paused, feeling blood trickle from her nose, then forged on, confident in her remembering.
It felt like days before she had finished, but it had only been minutes, minutes that had stolen years from her. Zofi collapsed beside the corpse, feeling all her expended life leave her in a rush. Alfons pushed himself upright, forehead creased in fear.
“Zo?” he whispered, trying to drag himself closer. What if it had killed her? What would he do if she had died?
He managed to get close enough to touch her arm, but then the corpse woke with a gasp and Alfons could only shriek in terror.