A shadow on the heart of the Earth
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9377 White Gold Dollars
|Posted: Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:27 am Post subject: The Durance of the Earth
|This is a piece of Covenant fanfiction, so all legal and moral rights are Stephen R. Donaldson's and his publishers'. I'm also less confident in the validity of this story than the one I'm working on in a different thread. For that one is set during Loric's struggle with the Viles and resolves questions that the canon does not, but in a way that seems unlikely to conflict with anything plausibly to be expected learned from TLD. For example, I have "Nekrimah" as the name of the Demondim loremaster who creates the Waynhim and the ur-viles, but is also a Demondim companion of the Lords against the Viles (as per the alliance) and the one who was possessed by two Ravers. Unless the fate of the Demondim, and the way the Viles were silenced (not sure if it's written anywhere...), are particularly crucial to the outcome of TLD, this kind of information seems acceptable to make assumptions about for fanfiction's sake.
However, *this* story covers the resolution to the initial threat of the skurj, and the origins of those creatures, as well as the nature of their Durance, seem highly plausible subjects of revelations in TLD. I write this, then, only because I am addicted to writing this stuff right now.
THE DURANCE OF THE EARTH
1. The Bane of the Ragemaw
2. The Theriff and the Zlaughter
3. Findail's Shadow
5. Across the Morning
7. A Wizard's Dreams
8. Flight by Slowind
9. Along the Last Road
10. Afforested Lands
11. Elohim Marching
12. The Auriference
13. Kastenessen's Shadow
14. Against the Arguleh
15. The Despiser's Hold
16. The Skurj
17. Fallen Stars
18. The Wyrd of the Insequent
Rather than actually use the chapter format, though, I'm going to present the story in chunks that will slowly merge over time.
Far to the north of the Land, for seven thousand years men and women had been cast into the Ragemaw as if it were the door to an abyss. Executions and massacres were carried out like festivals of calends: tyrannical peace and soulless war each claimed thousands of thousands of victims here. The unjustified blood of this epoch of punishment burned into the deep magma that flowed through the depths of the canyon, and because the Despiser had left his primordial mark on the very soil of the country, the entire land was rendered a bane unto itself. Prolegomena to the corruption of the world's fire moiled into being there like the larvae of a holocaust.
But Kastenessen would not listen to Findail at all. Instead, he left himself transfixed by dreams or the horizon, Findail cared not which.
In the second chapter, we would be introduced to two Insequent, the Theriff and the Zlaughter, who despite their civilization's propensity to isolation are working together for some reason: they know of the impending apocalypse of the skurj and are trying to prevent it. They hope, in fact, to rival the Elohim by capturing Kastenessen first.
"My lore is derived from observing a lost tribe from the mountainfolk of the east." The Theriff consulted an occult compass and stared at the horizon indicated as he described his studies. "They are the Ko-hamishi, and their prowess in battle is superb. It is evident to one of my insights that they have other great potential as well. Already I have accrued one apprentice: you may know of him, as he is infamous for his delirium. A score of moons he went clad in seaweed, and that was not the worst of his filth... But anyway, what of the Zlaughter? What adventure of revelations have you set yourself upon?"
The Insequent paladin shrugged. "I seek to know virtue. I sojourned for an era in Andelain, beyond the eastern mountains, learning to see the grace of the Earth even when I departed from the perilous Land. I have put aside the unsociable character of my people and conceived of friendships where none were thought possible before. I would stand with the Elohim themselves if in the Creator's name."
At that, the Theriff chuckled. "A Disciple, are you? I thought the claim of the Elohim to be the Creator's hold in this world, and the effortless majesty of their power, would have proven to you that even if he is one of the truths of Time, still he is not on the side of the truth."
So they are traveling around the world trying to get help for their cause. Their first stop is a country I'm fabricating out of myself (I decided not to go with Vidik Amar because my intuition tells me that there's a strong chance this would end up conflicting with canon if I did).
Joyfully perplexed, the Theriff felt that he was seeing a miracle of lore no Insequent could dream of mastering without absolute immersion in this country's ways of life. For all the structures that in another land would have been the handiwork of creatures like humans and Giants were here alive.
"Jhrey-kites," the polor chirped. "Known also as the Blades of the Crescent Moon, for their wings sever the wind as sharply as light pierces the sky." Then the artifice articulated an alien mimicry of bird-song, and one of the avian enigmas coasted into the Zlaughter's hand. Four sails, one for each angle of the eye-like hilt, folded into the jhrey-kite.
The Zlaughter recognized as soon as he took the living sword or toy by its handle that it was gifted with an analogue of Land-sight.
Then they teleport from island to island across the Sundeath Sea.
The Theriff's proximity to the Zlaughter, while the latter employed the jhrey-kite as a living dervish towards the sky, seemed to impress a mystical aspect upon the Theriff's lorewisdom. Formerly, the techniques he had used—except some of the more awe-locked powers of the Ko-hamishi that he as yet had no personal testament of—were mighty but, if only compared to the heights of the Insequents' magical self-elevation, mundane. Now the Ko-hamishi community of spirit, one of those slight traits the Theriff had copied into his aura if not his inner essence—his memory if his not his bones and hearthew—refracted the intangible starlight of the jhrey-kite into flickering bells and ethereal words.
Alethic intuition graced the Theriff as he began to realize that the voice he had heard might have been the Zlaughter's swordplay.
This is before arriving near the land of the Giants, where they enlist the aid of a rare Giant wizard. She flies them by flying contraption to the far edge of a great desert (but not necessarily the Great one).
From the black storm, a pale hope emerged. The monster was intimidating beyond anything the Theriff had ever survived nightmares of. An undefined face, arms with pointless hands in which pulsed lithic blood. Tall enough to cast its shadow menacingly upon the Insequent.
Where its mane would have been, were it a destrier such as many Insequent delighted to ride, a cancerous lesion effused glamorous ill.
It did not attack, though it appeared entirely willing to. The Zlaughter was entranced with gall at what his mimicry of Land-sight told him about the creature's wound. And only the Theriff—by means of his own special lore—heard when it spoke.
When the alien words left his mind, the Theriff turned to the other Insequent and said simply, "It wants us to follow it."
On the second night, the Sandgorgon asked about the history of the Insequent.
That is quite the tale, and I am no Giant.
The monster replied that there were many days left before the party reached the end of the Last Road. So the Insequent began, and night after night picked up where he left off from the day before.
The Theriff spoke first of the Legend, the first of the Insequent, whose true name became the name of her people before she passed beyond use and life. She had in her youth ventured to the south of the Land, where she dwelt for centuries with horses for whom the mystery and sanctity of Time were the meaning of the Arch of Life. The lore of the Legend had opened the ancient door to the study of and attempt at symmetry with wild magic that empowered the Insequent as a civilization.
By the seventh day and night, the Zlaughter was visibly riled by the continued sojourn in the Sandgorgon's shadow.
"My friend, there is something wrong with that beast. The injury to its neck never heals. To my especial sight, it has not the power of speech, yet it communicates with you through your mind? I tell you, some demnified force has occulted the truth of that monster from us."
The Theriff shrugged a sigh. "For one so trusting in the Earth's peoples, you voice concerns of deceit more often than so dispirited a fellow as I. Do not allow your altered perceptions to engender arrogance towards those who lack for your sense of truth."
In one of his last nightmares, the Sandgorgon's un-Lawful lesion spoke to the Zlaughter, prophesying the latter's damnation.
Numberless shall be the days of thy discontent; never shall thee rest, not even in pain that may be grace. The Creator will forsake this creation. See shall thee that this is so one day. This I vow.
Though obsidian horizons no longer occulted the distance from sight, the crepitation of the Insequents' footsteps and the stalking of the Sandgorgon disturbed the Zlaughter vaguely. Deeper into the white desert the three tread, and the sky ossified with light. Two hours after a pale noon, a city became apparent in the direction the trio was headed.
That it was ruined beyond reconstruction was evident an hour later.
The Sandgorgon led them deeper and deeper into the mausoleum. Panes of gold depicted a vicious past. For a thousand years, the surface dwellers had sacrificed children of all generations to the self-emaciated hungers below the city. The children did not die: they were merged alive into the devouring abyss of the deep rock. Some escaped, but only by passing through a defile of the world's diluted ichor polluted by an aeons-lost corpse of ill Earthpower. The twofold agony of the dark and the incarnadine waters transformed the surviving children into incarnate possession—gnashing on the blood of those who traded with them for their forsaken power, mastering other creatures through a brute theft of spirit more costly than that practiced at times by disparate Insequent.
Howling ancient and unambergrised echoed on the farthest shore of the megalithic corridor's circumscribing structure. Far below the ashen gold of the floor, lost horrors existed as either tangible possibilities or intangible actualities.
After they escape the Lovecraftion demesne of the croyel, they set off through an unnamed region of forests and meet the Elohim who are searching for Kastenessen.
"You will be allowed to accompany us—but on condition that you swear to uphold all that we aim for with your aid. We will not brook surquedry from ones such as you, not when we seek to avert the rousing of the Wyrd of the World's End."
The Auriference is introduced at some point, and her knowledge of the location of SWMNBN is tied to her tracking Kastenessen through Emereau Vrai, but how this ends up with Kastenessen captured I haven't come up with yet.
Findail sighed like the rolling of the world's eyes. "This madwoman vaunts herself as if Appointed to these depths. She seeks to usurp the auspices of the Elohim by fulfilling the role of quiescence for She Who Must Not Be Named that the Guardian of the One Tree fulfills for the Wyrd of the World's Ending. Thus she would prove that she signifies as much as the Guardian does, for is not the threat of this bane nigh unto the Wyrd in the scales of the world's savaging?"
"You would not think that you are equal to all things if you considered how much of the temple of the Earth was desecrated by the Creator's felling of Despite." The Zlaughter may have desired—desired greatly, even—friendship with all the peoples of the world, but the condescension with which Findail described the Auriference's aspirations goaded the zealous Insequent to defend her. "In the Land alone, not only the banes under Mount Thunder but the ichor that seeps from the stone under the western mountains promise countless opportunities for the Earth's ruin."
Nearly undetectable awe flitted across Findail's face as soon as the Zlaughter spoke the word ichor.
—One of their kind knows of the Blood of...
—Unforgivable to allow these Insequent to retain the knowledge...
Then the Theriff lost the tune of the whispering bells again.
"Fey fools and child Insequent, cease this furious interlocution. I would not have you rouse Her and devour us." The Auriference's own garish ornamentation twinkled in the gloom like an echo of the Elohim. "The scent of rage, a passion that She feeds on, may disturb Her dreams, though it is only men whose ire chokes the air of these tunnels."
"They are the Nightmare of Diassomer Mininderain," the Auriference whispered in dread. "She Who Must Not Be Named sleeps—and dreams. I have come here to be enraptured by Her visions again and again over the millennia. I would haunt myself with their memory if I did not sacrifice my own respite to them across the ages.
"On some nights, She dreams of future love ill spent, and gnashes in Her eternal dark nigh to awakening to forestall such horror. Yet in Her secret heart She harbors darker intentions. Witness their genesis in the tale of Diassomer Mininderain, the Mate of Might, the Master's Wife. The mystery of the tale is this: that it appears in the guise of Her own sojourn from the Master's heaven to the hell of the Earth, yet the name in the tale may not be Her true one. I stress that it may not be. Perhaps it is a name She gives Herself in Her dreams. Perhaps it was the first failed attempt to speak Her true name to Her. Even if I might, I will not tell you which it is. It is not the way of the Insequent to corrupt the outcome of the Earth."
Findail smiled as if victoriously. "It is sooth that those who know Her true name would threaten to rive the Arch of Life, were they to speak such a dire Wyrd unto Her. But only the Elohim share this knowledge, and neither do we desire to corrupt the outcome of the Earth.
"Thus it should be an axiom of your pretentious self-Appointment that you are not needed to uphold Time against She Who Must Not Be Named, Insequent."
Courage is the grace of despair. The Theriff lapsed from courage to panic and back again over the three days the company spent camping in the shadow of the titan bane, and still they had not participated in the Nightmare of Emereau Vrai. It was taxing enough having to work with even one other Insequent, though the Zlaughter was zealous of good works in ways that transcended ordinary Insequent disrespect. The Auriference seemed delighted by spiritual evisceration night after night; the Theriff was certainly not.
The pathetic inertia of the Elohim amazed the Insequent. All that he felt mattered to them was that they had found a way to make the people who most sought their humility responsible instead for Kastenessen's defeat. That way, the Elohim would turn out to have used the Insequent as tools of their own designs, achieve the absolute humiliation of the the Insequents' intellection.
The language of the dream glorified many places Kastenessen had ventured with Emereau Vrai in his embrace, but as soon as Findail saw the events from a particular vantage, the look in his eyes implied to the Theriff that the Elohim knew which region of the Earth Kastenessen had taken shelter in.
When the protagonists make it to the north of the Land, the party confronts the arguleh, who are (with their limited intelligence) building a massive wall of ice to keep the northern fire at bay. In the land of the Ragemaw, they face a Clave-like society that calls itself "the Land's Master's Hold." They are men and women who believe that there is a Despiser, though they have never seen him (this is a play on blind faith in a Creator).
"Be cautious, for there is a glamour upon the heart of this land," Findail said quietly. "Ages of mendacity have corrupted the very image of the Earth here."
The villager was clad in the colors of the landscape as if to blend in to all darkness. The Insequent yelled at him to hold as the villager grabbed the doplaģlion and began to devour it raw.
At the sight of the villager's aura of grave rage, the Zlaughter jolted back, stumbling into the Theriff and knocking both of them down.
Wracked by spasms of unfathomable meaning, the villager collapsed as well.
From the rim of the dessicated vale, the Elohim watched the scene with complex severity.
The Zlaughter looked more deeply into the rabid man, and saw that he was hallucinating pure Despite. Carious glaring suggested itself in the villager's self-tortured gaze, pressed out from his eyes as if struggling to escape a prison. When the effects of the doplaģlion blood in his body wore off, the man stood up and returned the vision of his onlookers calmly.
"Welcome to the Land, and be true." The villager stared like a smile at the travelers.
This is surely not the Land. And the Zlaughter interrupted any further introductions by asking austerely, "How can we be true in a realm of lies?"
Flickers of frustration disgraced the other's pleased countenance. "Lies?"
"The droll titles that the Insequent adopt for themselves and their civilization are lies," Findail half-whispered, goading the Theriff and the Zlaughter on principle.
The Theriff maneuvered ahead of the Zlaughter to speak with the deluded man. "Can you show us the way to Andelain?" he asked in a placid tone. "My friends will no ill towards you or this region of the Earth; they are only unfamiliar with the ways of other peoples."
He was the first man the Insequent had met in what the Elohim had called the Despiser's Hold, and he had done nothing clearly intelligent until now. That he might serve as a map was doubtful. But a look of weird delight clouded his aura at the sound of the word Andelain, and as courteously as starlight he said, "Garrotting Hills. The Ragemaw is the Gallows-fell of the Hills.
"Rarely do any travel to the Land save in search of the Ragemaw. For seven thousand years, armies and judges have made the pilgrimage to the Land's heart, bearing with them men and women as countless as the trees of the Lost Forest. There they all still live, thousands of thousands, for there the Law of Death has been broken. If I could not guide you to the Ragemaw, I would have to be a stranger to this country. That I never have been."
"They are the Ranyhyn," Jale said with awe washing over his words. "The great horses of the Anchors of Rage."
Findail frowned like a cough.
"The Anchors of Rage are the islands on the shores of the Sundeath Sea so far as it borders the Land. Legend says that the Ranyhyn hold back the undead bane that once escaped the Ragemaw, a terror of dire despair from the day when the Law of Death shattered. The day of the Illearth Bloodfire..."
Without warning, Jale wheeled on the Elohim and articulated as clearly as crystallized conviction, "The Despiser and the Creator are one." Then he resumed the rapture of the islands in the distance. "Evil cannot exist without the grace to bear it. Surely the power to resist evil exists, wherefore the iniquity contradicted by grace is the one Wyrd of the truth of the Earth. For it is the origin from which grace's essence emerges as contradiction thereto. Despite is the keystone of the Arch of Life."
Drifting into focus, the nature of the horses roaming the horizon became clear to the Insequent, likely had already been clear to the Elohim. Extreme parasites afflicted all of them, demons of contorted flesh the color of brackish ashes. The same doom met by the Sandgorgon who guided us down the Last Road. They siphoned life from their mounts in return for theurgy that locked the awareness of the wretched animals in an eternal present of unknowing rampage as the so-called Ranyhyn stampeded without surcease.
"Though the people of the Land have never met the Despiser, we know that he is in sooth imprisoned within the Arch of Life." Jale's inexplicably but inexorably mounting ire towards his audience slicked his voice with the oils that burn with hate. "And we know what is within his power to achieve within his prison. Thus we imagine his ways, and enlighten wanderers in the Land with the knowledge that emerges from our reflection.
"The outcome of all things will demand a revolt against the Despiser and the Creator if it is to be the Earth entire freed from the hazard of becoming a midden for the Elohim like this Land."
Sick with unmerited shame, the Insequent recognized that the Land's Master's Hold had done what no Insequent would ever have, for like the Elohim they did not desire the destruction of the Earth. Yet it was like unto the ways of the Theriff's people as well, for it was a type of their meticulous lorewisdom, devoted to emulating an ideal of reified Despite.
"Now I ask your pardon as I seek out viands," Jale interjected into the silence of the Theriff's chagrin.
He returned with an unfinished doplaģlion corpse, held out his hands towards the travelers, including the Elohim as if to offer the dead insect to his land's guests.
"Ah, it is a weakness of mine," Jale confided to everyone as he wrapped the unconsumed remains and shoved the cloth into a pocket.
Wearied by walking and nightfall, the Theriff plodded after the rest of Kastenessen's durance, the untrammeled hold of Findail and the other self-faithful Elohim on the renegade. Part of him considered that perhaps the faery monsters were precisely that: monstrous, now for sentencing to a fate worse than death one of the few of their kind to love, if not also altogether respect, as simple a mortal creature as a princess. To love someone aside from themselves. If they did embody the will of the Creator on the Earth, surely that will was a horror to surpass all others, even the most wicked delirium of the Despiser? And what of the Nightmare of Diassomer Mininderain? The Zlaughter might regard himself as an example of the life of the Earth exalting innocence or at least purified corruption as paramount. This would prove a Creator, but only if it were given beforehand that such good could only be the Creator's means to fulfilling the destiny of the world. But the Zlaughter's collaborator saw this logic as hardened naivete if not self-deceit.
Atoms of obsidian miasma thickened into an atmosphere and a sky that daunted even the Zlaughter as the forsaken trees of the Lost Forest surrounded the escort of the Appointed. Subliminal roots, preternaturally sickened veins gnawed quietly at the maximal threshold of the Theriff's velleity.
A fractured statue came into view. It resembled the strength of a god holding up the stars, its rubble arranged to forge the osseous atrocity of the One Throne. The Zlaughter apprehended instantly that the secondary construct was a planned desecration of the original.
Findail announced without preemption, "It was a work of art by an Elohim from the time of our wandering unwisdom, an image of one of the Appointed who sacrificed herself for the sake of the One Forest. Some of those claimed finally by the Ragemaw meet horrific deaths here, before the profane vision of justice torn into being by this foul region's rape of the holy Wyrd."
The jhrey-kite radiated its living message at the Zlaughter's simulacrum of Land-sight.
—Ŕehaal melćuron orćreśt urvoising.
They are incarnate rape.
Though the Theriff heard the sword, he could not make use of its message. But when the Zlaughter translated the perception of the jhrey-kite to him, the Theriff understood what all the denizens of the Despiser's Hold secretly knew that no outsider would until it was too late. It would quickly become clear to any ordinary interloper that the mendacity of the townsfolk and the justiciars of the One Throne occluded only the obvious: that this land was not what it seemed. But the game being played was more difficult to play fairly than that. The puerile clues Findail had given the Insequent about Jale's warped legendarium of the Ragemaw suggested that Jale's stories were profane analogies of truths about the southern Earth. From the Zlaughter, the Theriff had learned to appreciate that in the genuine Land, virtue and perfidy were as evident as the incorruptible color of the moon. In this lying realm, Land-sight was interposed with a capacity for possession.
Queue the final conflict that ends with Kastenessen's Durance, and the implications of this event for the future of the Earth. It is revealed that the skurj were formed in part from the desecration of Elohim during the time of the fey race's wide wanderings, for an apostate had murdered two others of that kind there.
As certain as he was that he was about to die, the Theriff found no relief in the reason he remained alive. For far on the horizon, the Earth erupted.
Out of the titan blast flowed a river of the skurj.
CHAPTER 16: THE SKURJ
Feral glory shone in Findail's eyes. This was his real enemy, wherefore perforce he must needs sacrifice his friend for his entire people's sake. Abomination incarnate, the fiery leviathans melted the Lost Forest in their wake, rocking the ground as they surged and dashed by the hundreds into and out of the stricken dust.
But when all eyes but Jale's had turned from Kastenessen, the cursed Elohim took the shape of a doplaģlion.
The insane man leaped at the image of his hunger. "Devour! Destroy!" he started slavering, exulting in the holocaust impending upon the countryside.
As he bit into Kastenessen, Findail's hold on the other was broken, and the Appointed ran deeper into the woods.
"The One Mountain! You dare trespass on the One Mountain!" Jale howled in pursuit.
Shockwaves from the approaching skurj unbalanced more than the Theriff's mind.
"At grave cost have we sought the absolute depths of the Despiser's intent. One who paid that cost in the first ages of our truth was lost to name and use and life thereby, for after an age in the aura of the Despiser's possessive will, corrupted beyond redemption, the Elohim murdered the first two of his kind to find him when he departed from the Despiser's presence. Then he dragged the blood of their Wyrd with himself into this void of fire. Such self-murder and atrocity, catalyzed by millennia of massacres, generated the living rage of the skurj."
This is what makes it possible, but at incredible cost, for an Elohim to meld itself with the skurj.
The Earth-riving dervish of the skurj assembled its mounting possibility in the epoch of magma seething near the shell of the north. As serpentine as a plague, cynosures of calescence incarnated omens of the world wheeled apart.
The Zlaughter reeled in dismay. The uttermost perversion of the image of the Land, of the dance of the Wraiths I witnessed in Andelain. And Kastenessen had conserved his captive might for this moment, the Theriff calculated. The two Insequent stepped further and further back in helpless fury as the dire Elohim transformed into a majesty of fire that the Zlaughter shouted out the name of in absolute surprise.
"A Fire-Lion of Gravin Threndor!"
Findail withstood and overawed this seraphic alchemy by defining himself as an organic chaos of arcane angles and primal dark. The Zlaughter saw in this an invocation of the rare specters he had slept below as he roved among the trees of the Land. Isolated rumors had all whispered with the persuasiveness of suggestion that the living voids were the Dead of felled woods.
As Findail ensorcelled his prisoner, worked to subvert the renegade's last chance of escape by distorting parts of his haecceitic Earthpower into an extreme dimension of existence, the Zlaughter was at an almost absolute loss to trace the recursive alluvion of the spectral magic.
Roaring lava, Kastenessen shaped himself into a proxy of a lurker in the Sarangrave that the long-deceased Insequent known as the Verderor had prophesied to his fellows after he submersed his intellection in the eastern Land—that after long consult with a Forestal, and with the Zlaughter now unaware whether the prophecy had come to pass. Though it lacked for flaring theurgy, as obdurately as a Sandgorgon or the Ko-hamishi the nova of tentacles reified surpassing force.
It also clouded the Theriff's memory in an exotic and yet unpracticed way; he deflected the psychic attack with a deft flick like the work of white gold.
Tectonic apocalypse surged along the walls of the Ragemaw, and Findail became a mighty horse, the true reflection in the Despiser's Hold of the sorrow here that was known as the Ranyhyn.
Here Findail faltered. But before his charge could even conceive of a means to avail himself of this opportunity, the warden of the Appointed appeared as a Wraith. Deluging the rhapsody of the Elohim into the sprite brightened the note of light like a daughter of the sun.
The mass of groping flesh collapsed into the human figure of Kastenessen. Bowing his head, he may have been defeated. But then he lifted the vainglory of his eyes to his friend and enemy and smiled.
Ramifying inferno, rapturing to the Earth a host of falling stars, Kastenessen shadowed the heart of the living Wyrd of the World's End.
Findail glared at the Appointed. Though he may have thought his voice occluded by the chiming of the Elohim, the Insequent heard him clearly.
—Our kind may assume the forms of any living thing, Kastenessen. Understand that you must fall. This has been decreed by the sovereign will of the Wyrd of the Earth. Know you not the name of the origin of that Wyrd? You must know it, for it is the name of the genesis and the ending of the Elohim.
Then the leader of the quest for Kastenessen proved that he merited his station, if only by the standards of sheer power and insight, as he transcended the demonic Elohim through a type of the One Tree.
The Elohim have had another goal in mind all the time, though. The Theriff was right in thinking this. But what they secretly intended by means of the Insequents' aid was an occult atrocity, not just degradation. They had bargained with the Insequent for their aid, but had couched the language of their bargains in such terms as misled the Zlaughter into unintended outcomes; the Theriff reasoned his way out of a dubious agreement with his principled adversaries instead. But it did not matter: if just one of them gave the Elohim what they wanted, the doom of the Insequent would be at hand:
The clamor of the Elohim, a hurricane of bells and crystal chimes, resounded clearly for the last time of all the Theriff had heard it during the quest.
—They will reveal the true name of their people to Findail. Therefore, they will all prove to be nothing before us.
—It is the penalty for their presumption. Who are they to defy us? What ruin have we ever wrought upon the Earth, that they despise our glory? They have the souls of demons. Even the croyel are not as mad as they are. In their time, they will achieve the profanation of the stars. This must not be permitted.
Under a compulsion beyond defiance, the Zlaughter fulfilled the letter of his bargain with Findail by beginning to confide the Wyrd of the Insequent to Kastenessen's betrayer.
"Silence yourself!" the Theriff shouted, able to move in no other way. "They will destroy our race entire if you tell them the story they have asked for!"
"How is that possible?" the Zlaughter asked, turning to the Theriff for a moment. The strain of resisting his vow of recompense for being allowed to participate in the defense of the Earth stormed through the Zlaughter's judgment, drawing him back to the request the Elohim had made of him. He appeared to consider the content of the tale he was about to undertake, squinting with partial insight as he recognized the part of it the Theriff deemed alarming under these circumstances. "They already know our people's true name."
"They know it not at all," the Theriff desperately explained. "They know none of our true names, they who know Hers. Though we may rewrite the Wyrd of the world, they are precluded by the mirrors of wild magic we wield from the haecceity of the Insequent. So it is that they cannot decipher our role in the end of all things, and they will not withstand us in the prime of our might. And the day will come when we are better men and women than they are, though we are not men of that day and though we yet are the shadow on their hearts, you the Zlaughter and I and all our kin. We must not bring to an end our eclipse of their lying sun's light. We must make the way strait for those who are to come in our stead, those who will war against divine powers in the name of creation's honor."
"So you have taken up Discipleship?"
And the Theriff's argument may have swayed the Zlaughter, but the Elohim laughed with elaborate self-vindication as they invoked their bargain with the Insequent to speak two words through him. All hope died in his eyes when he heard what he was saying.
Agony like the jaws of the skurj imploded the Zlaughter into his own blood, and he forced out only the howling of a demon to signify his insanity before he collapsed apart.
To the Theriff's horrified perception, the treacle of the Elohim treachers resembled gibbering joy. Not only had the Zlaughter lost himself to name and use and life, but he had done so by sacrificing the mystic identity of his only true companion. And now the Theriff would be made to utter the words the Zlaughter would not have.
But first Findail spoke words that might have been gloating if it were not for their chagrin. "The choice given to the Zlaughter was to either tell us the Wyrd of the Insequent or the Wyrd of one other of his kind. For he promised to uphold all that we intended with his aid at this time. And from one Insequent we can learn another's true name, and from that one to the next, until we know them all to the last. The alternative is that one of them tell us the name of the race. So either all will die to meet your kind's absurd standards of propriety towards each other as one by one you violate those standards, or one of you will commit supreme treason. I pity you, for you were deluded to believe you could trifle with the power of the Creator's hold on the Earth. But I would not suffer the affront of the Insequent to somehow come to damn this creation. You are not the shadow on our hearts: you are only more vulnerable to its lure than most others."
But in the interval between Findail's next possible reproach and the Theriff's last silence, the latter remembered an esoteric fragment of his unique lore and prayed aloud like a song, "Ha-man rual tayba-sah carab ho-eeal neeta par-raoul."
Without understanding how, the Insequent voided the compulsion of the Elohim. They now glared at him, Findail least of all.
"There are mysteries buried in the heart of the Earth that even we have yet to decrypt," Findail murmured. "Know that the Earthpower preserved you, not your corrupt shadow of wild magic. Let this be a lesson in the worthlessness of white gold, and quest not for such puissance. The dominion of Time is not for you."
Wevei Hadekt caught up with his overwhelmed understanding and discovered that he had thwarted the Elohim.
"You are surprised, as well you should be," Findail said, staring at the Theriff's shocked eyes. "Yet there is no justification for me in staying here. You did not capture Kastenessen, though you set out to do so. The Zlaughter, your irretrievably zealous friend, is dead by his own hand." The Theriff winced with offense at that description of Zenkazen Reloh and his fate. "So it is that you have been thwarted as well as I have."
"You have Kastenessen's curse to crush your immortality with dread thereof."
"If I would despair of that curse, then I should glory in finding also that I have shielded the Earth from absolute death. Yet I therefore will do neither. I do not desire to be revered as a savior, for it is a companion of mine whom I was made to sacrifice to attain such a stature.
"Farewell, Insequent. I pray that you should come to comprehend the futility of your people's ways. Intercede not where you are not needed, and know that nowhere does all the wide world need you. This is the only hope that you may justify your life with."
But the Theriff was not entirely done. "Treachers!" he shouted while the Elohim shone as if flaring wings of light, readied for flight away. "Without us—without the Auriference—you would not have captured Kastenessen. Are we Insequent not heroes of the Earth? Do we deserve not the respect due such heroics?"
Findail interrupted his transmigration to say, "You were not needed for Kastenessen's interdiction either. You were permitted to follow us that it might be made clear to you that the might of the Elohim and the purposes of the Appointed transcend all your designs, and so that you might be brought to speak to us the true Wyrd for your kind. Also, we deemed it best to watch over you, that you would not by your foolish meddling somehow come to assist Kastenessen in his evasions. The Auriference foreshortened the long years of our search for our fallen brethren, but the value of this aid was contingent." Sounding then like a bell of crystallized blood, Findail vanished.
Last edited by Mighara Sovmadhi on Mon May 13, 2013 8:58 pm; edited 2 times in total
|deer of the dawn
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|Posted: Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:19 pm Post subject:
|Mighara, I really wish you would present these in complete "chunks" whether or not you see them as "chapters". It seems like you're making your task so huge, it will never come together. Reminds me of the author of "the Rime of the Ancient Mariner".
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle. -Philo of Alexandria
ahhhh... if only all our creativity in wickedness could be fixed by "Corrupt a Wish." - Linna Heartlistener
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|Posted: Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:40 pm Post subject:
|deer of the dawn wrote: |
|Mighara, I really wish you would present these in complete "chunks" whether or not you see them as "chapters". It seems like you're making your task so huge, it will never come together. Reminds me of the author of "the Rime of the Ancient Mariner". |
Sorry... I kinda gave up on these stories for the moment. Once I start my new job and have money to spend on "inspiration" for my writing, I should clean these chunks up at least a little.
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