Thursday, November 3, 2011

Story Time: A Paladin’s Tale (Chapter 10: Corridor)

The bloating moon waddled away. She was getting bigger, fuller, with age. She was the third sister, and when she blossomed, came of age, demands must be met.
The Boss had a name that was not “Boss.” That is a silly name, meant to be asinine and childish. But those who knew of him and had borne witness to his malignancy could not say his true name easily. If they spoke his name out loud in any language, the very act burnt and altered, like drinking a boiling liquid that scorched one’s tongue, destroying the ability to savor sweetness. He had taken more than his share of maidens, destroyed the honor of the steadiest of paladins, and corrupted the souls of warlocks and priests alike. In an ancient time, there may have been the luxury of empathy for him—all creatures start off small and innocent, even those counter to light. They are needed for balance, bred and imagined to interlock for all eternity with their opposites. There is salt in the cake, just as there is sugar in the sauce. Even Death needs love, otherwise it would fall upon itself. But that time had passsed. 
Micah’s sister—no ordinary girl this one. As hard as she tried to be, she could not completely manage the loss of her soul. Her quick blade stayed clean: she always kept it as sharp as possible so her quarry would feel no pain. She hit a little harder and truer, so as to end life faster. She never stole from anyone lower than she, who had less. She never hurt children, even if she was the loudest one to protest their existence. “Rubbish spawn!” she would yell just as loudly as the others when the matter came up.
As she sat on the cushioned floor, she unconsciously rubbed her tummy where a baby would be, if she could have one, if it wasn’t too late. If she could be helped. And, if Micah set her free. A handful of “ifs” was all she had. Boss wanted her: he wanted to keep her in his possession, and tempted her with a handsome face, and promises he had never shown or given anyone else. She was still terrified of him, but with every visit, the seduction of those things she wanted, secretly desired, he knew, and wanted them himself. A child. A hearth. A home. It may take cutting out her heart so she would never see his true self. For now, what she saw was the spell he cast: he was in his Night Elf form. When he came around, the goblins and succubae skittered away; he protected her from them, explaining they came with the territory, but he would never let them harm her. Not really.
He had her, kept her, and had only allowed Micah the three full moons not as protection or a gift for Micah or his sister, but from himself. Even Death needs love.
And it made the immortal boredom a bit more interesting, too, to see these stupid creatures squirm and give them hope.
The thing we fear the most we cannot name out loud. It has to remain unidentified, faceless, and lost. If we find it, inadvertently pull it out of a hidden corner in a closet, or misplace our hand in a spider’s web and get bitten, we believe that we have done something to provoke it, which implies control on our part. Oh, silly little mortals—to deem that you have any control at all. Micah's sister also felt she had some modicum of control.
Say Death’s name out loud. You can poke it, prod it, and come up with ways around it, but Death will not change.
Micah’s sister could say his name. He demanded it, needed it, from her. When she used her heartbeat, her breath, her voice, to move her lips and form his name on her tongue, it corrupted him as much as it did her. She had no need to struggle against what she desired, too.
Daci, Micah, and Gaenlon met with no challenges entering the estate. A dour-looking manservant provided access to the great room. He didn’t bother asking for their weapons, but only smirked, and faded into the walls.
Earlier, after they had broken camp and resumed their journey, the three of them debated the best way to approach and enter—should Micah remain in the shadows? Should Daci stay behind with the horses? Gaenlon thought the best strategy was the most straightforward approach: use the power of the three and go in without deception or games. It wouldn’t buy any time to try to use subterfuge here: there were no tricks or spells that could destroy, and they just needed to get Micah’s sister out alive. That was all.
The chamber sconces shone with such a dewy, golden hue, they nearly disoriented  the trio. The smallest detail of the estate was a work of art, from the lights to the furnishings. Usually, Gaenlon took no notice of many of the details in a dangerous situation—he had no need to. Someone’s sense of style or comfort meant nothing to the obtaining the boon. He wasn’t there to enjoy the scenery, for gods’ sake: the boons constantly changed regardless. He had so much gold, weaponry, shields, potions, enchanted scrolls, stockpiles of natural goods that he could have lived like a vagabond king forever in that pub, until he drank himself dead. This time, the boons were intangible: regain the love of his parents, and the forgiveness of his own heart, and from hers. If he failed, he was lost. His prodigal return would never happen, and they would never know. The rogue had promised, or threatened rather, him, not to bear witness if Gaenlon failed. The truth would die with him, the only true promise the rogue made to Gaenlon. Now Daci’s presence was an inconvenience to the rogue’s threat, that was certain, but Micah believed her tiresome paladin honor would reign over gritty gossip. She wouldn't say a word. And she didn’t seem really all that tough herself; a bit green around the horns. So what if she had had one lucky shot in her? Meaningless.
This place was different, thought Gaenlon. Every inanimate object felt alive, and threatening. A vase held an arrangement of sorrowmoss and kingsblood. This portrait spoke to the walls. And even the lights watched. Twelve simple lights on the walls, illuminating a corridor, walk to the next room. In that room hung twelve porcelain masks, a dozen faceless souls ready to devour.

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