Chapter 85 The Interluder and the Propheteer

“Behold! Hark! Hark here and heed this! What the sender has sent is delivered. Who is the sender, asks you? Give an ear and I shall imbue you with the words that provide the answer!” The flamboyant orator treated the ziggurat platform like a stage of presentation. “Lean in and hear a tale, the great tale of Diamak, Drinker of the Core!” His arms were thrown in grand sweeps as he turned and turned and waved his hands about dramatically in tune with musical diction. “I, but a humble messenger, I have the honor of regaling this the intermission, the in-between of alpha and omega. As the Interluder, I provide the prologue to the final act, Diamak’s return.” He bowed, and the light dimmed. A spotlight appeared on him, following his movements. It was daytime but the sun did not reach where the Interluder performed. 

His coattail dragged on the floor. His mask floated a finger’s width from his actual face, which after his bow and all the turning revealed that there was no face. The mask changed to exaggerated expressions but the mouth or eyes never moved beyond that. He had on white gloves and a monocle in his breast pocket. All of these features appeared to be physical characteristics upon further inspection. The Interluder was tall and lean but only humanoid in form. Nothing else about him suggested that he was a person. His Aspect had clearly changed him from human biology. He was a marionette of some carnival play.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, the story of your demise.” The Interluder clapped his hands and all sorts of fantastic phantasms appeared with bursts of colorful light and sparkling effects. They were vague representations of prehistoric animals, artistically styled to fit the Interluder’s slender form. Bright pink mammoths only half-formed flew energetically in the air. There was a glowing green dragon and primitive humanoid creatures hollering and jumping up and down. A giant sloth chased around a golden sabretooth and the entire scene was a light show of some ancient world teeming with life and predators.

“Bear witness!” Rolling a fist sized ball of fire was a lone scarab. “The Scarab of the Sun lives a trite existence. Among all the beasts of the land and sea, it was the most insignificant. Stepped on over and over by the bumbling predators who run without seeing.” The scarab was squashed by the sloth as it chased the sabretooth, snuffing out the ball of fire along with it. 

“For millennia the Scarab of the Sun have been tasked with a single purpose, to roll balls of dung to the highest peaks and hills, secreting their flammable liquids on it so that the sun may burn the ordure of life, to purify the land of foul things. It is their cult, you may say. They wish only to emulate the sun in all its majestic fury.” A new scarab appeared, rolling a ball of fire. “Even other beetles treat the Scarab of the Sun with disdain. They believe that the burning of the dung is a waste of resources. Without honor they wrestle the balls of fire from the Scarab of the Sun and claim the dung for themselves.” A swarm of horned beetles, all glowing different colors, rushed the scarab rolling the ball of fire and tore it asunder. It’s pieces shattered into particles and dissipated.

“As you can see, the Scarab of the Sun is not well regarded. But it’s work is of the utmost importance. The sun requires constant offerings to maintain goodwill. The sun is lonely and wishes only to see its light be reciprocated by the planet it gives warmth to. The Scarab of the Sun understand this, as caretakers of the world, the beetle must perform its duties for life to continue in its sacred cycle. But all have forgotten the sun and the Scarab of the Sun.” 

Several more Scarabs appeared and these were swiftly killed in various ways. Being crushed, eaten, caught in webs, turned on its back and left to starve. “Enter Diamak,” presented the Interluder. Music accompanied the arrival of another Scarab rolling a ball of fire, a moaning choir of anguish and hate. “The last of its species. Diamak did its duty. Up a mountain it rolled its dung, the final ball to be burned of an extinct race. But to the top it did not reach, for a most cruel and bored creature swatted the ball of dung and rolled it down. Back up the mountain Diamak rolled the dung, exhausted from its fruitless efforts. But then the ball of dung caught fire, so much of Diamak’s fluids had rubbed onto the dung during the grand undertaking. Near the top now was the creature laughing heartlessly at the lone scarab for returning.”

The light show revealed a miniature mountain with a scarab and a creature at the top. The scarab rolled the burning ball of fire towards the top.

“Before the creature could swat Diamak away, the scarab pushed with the force of a dying race. It tossed the ball of fire into the face of the cruel creature. Taken by surprise and with a burning head, the creature reared back and fell, dashing its body far below. Diamak finished its climb, though it had lost its ball of dung. It gave the burning monkey-man far below as an offering instead.” The scene the Interluder played with the spectral creatures matched the story he narrated. The scarab in the light show raised itself up on two legs and embraced the sun’s beams.

“The sun looked kindly on Diamak. No scarab had slain such a creature before, for they were a peaceful race. Perched on the mountaintop in the full daylight, Diamak coated himself in his flammable liquid. He took flight, wishing to end his race with dignity as a final sacrifice to the sun. He caught ablaze and the fire danced and licked him with sharp tongues until he could fly to the sun no more.”

The scarab plummeted to the ground in the light show. “Diamak lay dying. Experiencing the thrill of killing at the same time of his species’ end and being so high in the atmosphere at the top of a mountain and flying so close to the sun, Diamak learned things no other scarab had learned. This knowledge was accompanied by power. In Diamak’s near death state, the scarab suddenly knew the truth of ten thousand things. It crawled with broken limbs to a pile of manure. The last of its effort was put into forming a makeshift ball of dung. With the last of its life, Diamak crawled inside, poking only a single limb out of the dung ball. The sun set and Diamak died inside that ball of dung, the last of his race.”

The Interluder paused and the whole scene darkened and quieted for some time. The fake sun rose in the light show, and the sunshine eventually reached the hardened ball of dung with Diamak still inside. 

“The limb Diamak kept outside its grave was kissed by the sun. Once more Diamak burst into flames. Better than the phoenix does the scarab rise from its own ashes. Diamak was reborn. It dug its way out of the pile of dung and debris, an insatiable hunger blinding it from reason, for Diamak had seen the void and returned. Only the emptiness remained from its trip in the void. Diamak began to hunt the very creatures that sent its brethren to ruin.”

The scarab in the light show took its revenge on the critters that had destroyed the previous scarabs. 

“Oh Diamak the Harvester! It ate itself fat and rolled a new dung ball, bigger than before. Once more Diamak climbed into the dung, once more dying. This death was caused by overconsumption. Day turned to night and night became day again and Diamak was reborn with the dawn flames. It was larger, twice its size from before and the trip to the void gave it new insights and new power. Diamak breathed fire on its foes and consumed the burning flesh of its enemies. For ages Diamak proceeded its cycle of hunting, dying and rebirthing, each time with the sun, growing stronger and larger.”

The scarab was now as big as the sabretooth. It attacked the sabretooth and ripped its heart out, sending out sparks and rays of light.

“Diamak took revenge on the giants that had uncaringly stomped on the Scarabs of the Sun for eons. And so Diamak had evolved beyond all life on the planet. Diamak the Harvester traveled the world in search of prey, that same all-consuming hunger becoming increasingly difficult to satisfy with each trip to the void. Despair plagued Diamak as the void tormented its mind. Nothing could keep the hunger at bay. Alas! How Diamak suffered that unquenchable pain for thousands of years. At the brink of insanity, the kind that will melt the brain and disintegrate the heart. Right at that brink, at that crumbling precipice, another species, the humans, learned to harness the void, to be filled with that hunger and the drive to fill it. That Species challenged Diamak one frigid ice age. Diamak was weak without the sun which it owed all its being, weak from hunger and atrophy. The humans drove Diamak underground, cast it deep beneath the ice, beneath the crust of the world. With terrible power the humans split the world in two and shattered the glaciers that formed like a cancer on the world. They created one ocean to be Diamak’s grave, the abyss. They built a wall of water to crash down on the crack in the planet, a scar from where Diamak battled the humans. That wall keeps Diamak beneath the ocean, trapped for eternity.”

The Interluder played out the events with his light show, music playing still to help establish the mood of an epic battle with a tragic ending. 

“There Diamak still rests in the dark, too far from the sun it so adores. Diamak, ever the harvester, ever-hungry, descended further into the underworld. Through the bowels of the planet Diamak dug. Digging for thousands of years, the pain so much more horrible than ever before, worse than its trips to the void, worse than losing its brethren. That darkness, isolation, hunger, defeat, insanity. All this filled Diamak, but spurred on by its duty to the sun, it chose to survive. Diamak needed to grow stronger to break free. So deeper it descended. Below the mantle Diamak traveled downward. The singular thought in its mind. The planet, to exist, must have a piece of the sun inside it, for all things contain the light of the sun. Diamak found the beating heart of the planet, the molten core in which the world formed around, billions of years ago. Diamak, the Harvester, was no more.”

A flash of light burst and the light show ended. The spotlight affixed itself on the Interluder once more. 

“Diamak, Drinker of the Core!”

He bowed. “Now, stronger than before, Diamak makes his return, a piece of sun inside of its body. We, the followers of Diamak, herald the return of our omnipotent Thaumaturge!”

The Interluder stepped aside. “And now I must present to you the Propheteer.” He bowed and made room for another figure to step into the spotlight.

This entity was clearly feminine, but like the Interluder, only human in form. The Propheteer had long heavy robes, scarves wrapped around her neck and arms that dragged on the ground. Her earlobes hung as cloth strips and a triple layered crown adorned her head. Her eyes were concentric irises, eyes within eyes, staring either through or blankly, one could not discern which. The Propheteer did not have a mouth or nose, instead she had a calling horn that curved up, like those used as bugles for announcements and made of ivory or ram.

Her voice when she spoke was muffled but carried louder than an echo. She spoke in prophecy.

“On the day of last ice, when brother and sister were separated, and the Flamebringer was buried in a tomb of water by foolish Man, the sun wept. With no flame burning, the sun will die. The Flamebringer must return with the great gift of inner fire to restore the sun’s joy. If you stop to listen, you can hear the ground tremble as the Flamebringer seeks a way out from the cursed purgatory that Man cast it into, punishment for delivering fire to the world. Foolish Man knows not the calamity of insulting the sun and its chosen Flamebringer.”

The Propheteer talked and stood in such a way with her head tilted up that even being of a higher elevation made one feel looked down upon. 

“There exists one Man among you who hates the sun as much as the Flamebringer loves the sun. The Flamebringer possess great power from the depths of the underworld. Until the Sunhater is destroyed, the Flamebringer will engulf the atrocious cities of Man, one by one, in molten flames, sinking them into oblivion in cavities to be devoured. Deliver the Sunhater, and the Flamebringer will spare Man. You have until the Flamebringer breaks free from its prison.”

The Interluder and the Propheteer left without a word. Light returned to the ziggurat and everyone present was left in stunned silence.

Hege broke that silence after minutes of stress-puffing his cigar. “That was odd.”

Kiasmus was bathed in sweat which was soon replaced by anger. “Both were stronger than the Master I just dueled. Far stronger. They are Fables. I can feel it.”

“Like Talis?” Onager asked incredulously.      

Deo sighed. “Was that the last arrival of the day?” Deo posed the question for Hege.

“I believe so.” Hege answered.

“Still no new Specters.” Deo noted. “We’ve plenty of soldiers and killers. Ah, no matter, these things take time.” Deo was acting unconcerned, though his mind was racing, trying to make sense of the two figures that had entertained his party.

“What was that all about?” someone said. The anomaly was discussed with trepidation at first and then with passion and opinions, underlined by fear of the unknown.

Deo realized he needed to address his people. He stood and demanded attention. “I too have seen the void. What those things described, I feel running in my blood and beating in my chest. Who they talked about, this Diamak, is nothing more than a powerful and ancient Specter. It is likely what has been causing the disappearances of the cities in the Brother continent. We too, are a cause of disappearances of cities. Do not fear something which has taken centuries more than us to accomplish. We have a war to prepare for, aye, maybe more than one now. That is it.”

Deo could feel how the symbol of his Throne formed a bond stronger than the fear of the unknown. The Throne offers security to those who bow before it.

“Garriot, how is that zhoulba of yours developing?”

“Well lord, the scientists have been mapping its DNA and coming up with solutions as to the best possible food and shape to raise it with. The key, so I am told, is a healthy mix of complex organic material and ferrous metals. Leftover factories and human brains have been doing wonders. Oh, and Kiasmus has kindly gifted my zhoulba with the recovered chunks of Klyle’s flesh that he didn’t need.”

“That is a joy, I have taken a liking to your pet.”

“As have we all,” smiled Garriot.

“So tell me, have you decided on a name?”

“You know that it has been troubling me for quite some time now, waiting for the perfect name to come to mind and all that. I have decided, and Goblin actually approves so you know it’s a fitting name.” Garriot cleared his throat.

“I have named the zhoulba… Irpekh. It is goblin for ‘lord of the feed’, quite fitting I think.”