Of all the evolutionary adaptations defining biological creatures and all the technological advances that extend nature’s niche into unimaginable realms, of all the riddles of consciousness forever plaguing the mind of the thinker and the rhymes of language which give and take meaning away, of all the majesty of colors blooming and withering in a cycle of successive dances, of all the great unknowns of past and present, of all the sanctity of the world and the stars above, there is but one mocking thing subduing and dominating life, the insult of the apex, a standalone monument that values not strength and cunning but sediment and comfort. That thing is the chair.
And the king of chairs is the throne. And from the throne the deaths of countless worlds have been decreed…
“Deo.” a course and sultry voice called. “What are you writing?” the voice asked.
Deo looked up from his work and saw Klea, the Veil Aspect, sitting with immaculate posture on a bench near to his throne on a lower level of the ziggurat.
“Nothing.” Deo said. He closed his book of primarily blank pages around an ink pen and set it to the side. “What are you here for, Veil?”
Deo spread his hands in a gesture of openness.
Klea’s face was covered as always by a thin lace veil with a wide smile of black lips sewn into the part that covered the mouth. Although her eyes were the only visible feature of her face, they revealed a lot. They were increasingly stressed and haunted. The lines of her eyes deepened, the color of the irises more vivid and the shadow underneath the eyelids darkened. Deo thought that it was like a shade had been constantly stalking her, draining her slowly of life and energy.
“I want to know why you have not taken a woman for yourself. You are young and in a position of power. You should be considering your bloodline.”
“I desire the death of humans. To build a bloodline is to admit defeat. We are all the last of our kind.” Deo said solemnly, owing the respect to the race whose fate he declared damned.
“You can deny your nature so willingly?” Klea asked.
“I am sitting on a throne. I deny nature with every cell in my body.” Deo said.
“I feel as if I am missing something.” admitted Klea.
Deo dismissed. “It is too much to explain. I will not give into base instincts or biological imperatives. All that I am, I choose to be.”
“You are a masochist then.” Klea said, the smile hidden behind her veil obvious, a rare instance in which the lace lips depict an accurate expression, one of maleficent humor.
“I would hope that everyone here understands the objective.” Deo pointed out.
Klea shrugged. “Most who’ve sworn to you do not even perceive a future. It is not a word in their vocabulary.” she explained.
“All the better.” Deo nodded.
“So what will you do when the time comes and you’ve conquered every city?” Klea pressed.
Deo took her meaning. “Should the human race dwindle beyond recovery, I will be satisfied.”
“I’ve been curious about that.” Klea said softly, trying to pry without being too bold or assumptive. “What is the story of Deo, the Aspect of Death? What sort of upbringing did you have that would make you want to eliminate your own species?”
Deo stood up, his voice as cold as ever, ianine eyes full of ire. “That’s just it. Since you are a Sage and psychology is how you utilize your abilities, you wish to know everything about me so that you can assist me.” Deo could see into her eyes and knew there was no hint of lying or betrayal. Klea genuinely wanted to use her Aspect to empower his emotions or however her ability worked. “There is no tragic childhood of Deo. I did not grow up wanting for anything, nor was I spoiled into pride. I have no personal vendetta that I am trying to fulfill. I have not been traumatized into a mental disorder. I am not some wounded soul lashing out at a pitiful existence. I have not suffered some injustice that makes me seek to balance the world through some twisted self-righteous sense of right and wrong. I am not trying to save anyone or anything.” Despite his obvious anger, the words did not come out any louder or faster than his regular cadence. “You will hear constantly of my enemies trying to dig up my past. Asking the same questions as you, trying to find a reason. But there is no reason there. Not a connection or justification or the answer. I am not a riddle. I am not hurt. Such pathetic unoriginality sickens me. Weeper’s Aspect did not influence me. Your Veil Aspect leaves me unaffected. There is nothing you can show me or say to me that I do not already know. I am Deo. I have built my throne to sit upon. I command legions. I have declared war against the humans. That is all.”
Deo sat back down his redwood carved throne.
Klea’s eyes were sparkling. “Then I found what I came to know, though it both surprised me and exceeded my expectations. I cannot aid you directly with my Aspect, yet nor can any other Aspect conquer your mind. In that I find comfort. You are pure hearted and untainted by anything false. The Aspect of Death is the embodiment of indifference. You are the reaper king personified! I will serve you with glee shining in my blackened lips. Like a flower bed, you pick out the unsightly weeds for no reason other than you have deemed them unsightly.” Klea was speaking almost fanatically, certainly maniacally.
“It goes no deeper than that.” Deo affirmed.
Klea’s eyes narrowed. “I do not believe that.”
“Believe at your own discretion.” Deo said dismissively. “This game we play is called disintegration. If you linger too long on rules and motives you will disappear into oblivion.”
“This circus of yours, it has quite the carousel.” Klea stood up to leave.
Deo realized something from what Klea said. Something he’d read recently in passing about Talis Ranis and his maze of words that were published.
Deo avoided the whole Mastery part of the cave translations because it did not apply to him and only skimmed Talis’ ‘prophecy’ section as it was dubbed by media and online forums. There was a craze in determining the meaning behind the Fable’s cryptic words. Deo pulled out his phone and browsed the headlines. He did not see Klea’s departure.
It appeared there was some consensus on certain lines while others remained highly debated. Deo determined these people were projecting their own meanings as it was relevant to themselves or their location. Some fetishized them as doomsday prophecies, while others were skeptical or dismissive of anything major. Talis Ranis was revered as the greatest being on the planet yet there were many who voiced their disagreement on the basis that some of the things Talis wrote about may inconvenience them. That to Deo was most humans’ limitation in belief and trust. They say, how will this hinder or help me? Talis Ranis wrote with some urgency in his tone, that alone would throw the masses into hysteria or utter distrust.
Deo found the line that he was reminded of, one he’d seen in passing.
Woe to the chiliad cries lost in their wicked shivaree. The morbid lichdom. That damned decrepit circus of sin.
Deo broke down the meaning. “Sorrow to the many whose suffering is drowned out by the mocking song. An undead kingdom. That damned decrepit circus of sin.” Deo chuckled.
“You knew about me. You wrote about me. Talis. If you knew about me you should have killed me before you died.”
Deo relaxed in his throne and searched himself up on the internet. There were some articles about a tyrannical genocidist who conquered Ophir but there were little details beyond that. News outlets based in the Brother Continent barely acknowledged his existence. Deo searched for the videos he had sent from the slaughter of Vallis.
No results. It had been scrubbed entirely now that months had gone by. How quickly the world forgets and moves on.
“Well that is to be expected. Giving me attention would serve only to increase my numbers and support.”
Deo crossed one leg over the other as he lounged in his throne, one arm supinated over the armrest, hanging as if ready to be handed the world on a platter and the other arm in a fist supporting his tilted head at the cheek.
“You cannot ignore me. This is for your prophecy, Talis. So that the world will come to know me through your words.” Deo added a thought, “perhaps that was your intention.”
Deo commanded his hundred million undead to start dancing. Singing songs of bone cackling and guttural mutterings and sepulchral dirges. Noises mostly, incoherent and wailing but full of implied laughter. Deo had tens of millions stationed outside of Ophir. They were digging trenches for the past several months and he sent thousands of those in small groups to dance in random directions. They danced in pairs like ballroom dancers, they tap danced and danced ballet. They danced in folk style or else just jumped and waved about in drunken mess of bones, holding hands and dancing in circles.
The pure peculiarity of the sight would spread through the news and internet in a way not even violence could. Violence would get suppressed, filtered and discarded amidst an initial outrage. But dancing skeletons? Images and articles and videos would fill everyone’s newsfeed within an hour. Citizens of Ophir would record it. Farmers in the country would spread the tale and the scouts set up to monitor the undead legions would report this to their superiors. It did not matter to Deo that the undead dancing on enemy territory would immediately be eradicated.
Deo did this all for a rumor. The rumor that Talis Ranis himself warned and feared of one such as Deo.
The morbid lichdom.
That damned decrepit circus of sin.
Deo felt the ice in the sun melting on his face and thought that the coming warmth would pair well with a fine, aged blood red.
The end of Arc 9: Under the Ice Sun