Chapter 69 Stick and Mask part 2
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Title: Archaeologist Discovers NEW Talis Cave
Body: This next excerpt of translated work appears to be some sort of a prophecy, more appropriately it should be called a warning, even a rant. Something must have ticked off Talis in a vision. That’s my interpretation, see for yourself.
This translation pales in comparison to the implications of the previous ‘essay’ but the mood is far more serious. I’m beginning to get chills when working on these translations. They almost sound desperate and hopeless. Talis experienced a great inner turmoil we are theorizing. Perhaps toward the end of his life he questioned his actions and who his friends were.
Here it is.
“Woe to the chiliad cries lost in their wicked shivaree. The morbid lichdom. That damned decrepit circus of sin.”
acsd3345 [commented]: First
Omerta [replied]: Not the time or the place.
Themessangerhawk [commented]: Makes me think of the Cult of Diamak. If they really are responsible for the destruction of the cities on the Brother continent then I think they are the likeliest case for something even Talis feared and warned against.
Silversliverseven [replied]: Could be, except Aceldama wiped them out months ago.
Themessangerhawk [replied]: As far as we know.
Jamesthelady [commented]: I’m not questioning the validity of the source, but how do we know Talis is even that great?
Anonymoose [replied]: He’s a Fable class Specter who lived for hundreds of years and wrote the definitive book on awakening Aspects. You’re right, probably just a fluke.
Jamesthelady [replied]: I get that but no one saw him for decades and his health had probably been declining for a while. He was finally facing his death and was just trying to come to terms with it.
Taleoftwotails [replied]: If you’re such a skeptic why are you even on these forums?
Jamesthelady [replied]: If you’re not going to think for yourself why are you commenting?
Omat1 [commented]: Good luck trying to figure out one of the most enigmatic cryptographers! Reading the comments just to see people’s ideas.
Alito [commented]: It has to be the goddess-statue of Labyrthnium.
Hammerman024 [replied]: She doesn’t fit this message. And since when did inanimate objects become dangerous?
Alito [replied]: Since it awakened an Aspect.
Capito [replied]: Somehow it doesn’t surprise me theories like that exist.
Alito [replied]: It’s not a theory, do some research.
Capito [replied]: Any proof?
Petarack [commented]: Did you guys hear about the genocide in Ophir?
Re3978 [replied]: Yeah that was crazy, I had relatives who lived there. You think this has to do with that?
Petarack [replied]: Sorry man, world’s going crazy. I don’t know, it’s similar to what’s happening in the Brother continent minus the complete annihilation of the city.
Mosspiglet [commented]: It doesn’t seem like he’s cursing a specific person but more of a large group. Lichdom implies something eternal but does he mean that as a literal group of immortals or more of a way dynastic cycles repeat themselves?
Taroohh [replied]: Talis could either be referring to someone(s) or an upcoming event. The closest thing to immortal was Talis. Now it’s whatever killed Talis.
CvarichSeven [replied]: What if it’s both? Like a paradigm shift but in the wrong direction.
Miverand [replied]: I’m going to the library and checking the histories. Prophecies are usually the result of symbols from the past, revealing the future. If Talis is referencing something big, I’d bet it can be found if we look back rather than forward.
Zaline [replied]: I have access to one of the biggest universities, I’ll see what I can discover. We should start a thread on this subject alone. This could be crucial if we find anything and my gut tells me we will.
MarcSOcre [commented]: It’s Garghent. They’ve had an explosion of new Specters and plus they’d be the one to cover up this sort of information.
Pearlgreyblue [replied]: If it was Garghent then why would Talis write down his final message warning the world about Garghent right next to Garghent?
MarcSOrcre [replied]: Okay good point but I still think Garghent is involved. Too many Specters. The rate is supposed to be one in a million, Garghent has at least tenfold that rate.
Behindyou [commented]: I feel like it’s King Eberon. No one else we know of could come close challenging Talis.
Obviousoblivion [replied]: The same king that got assassinated ten years ago?
Behindyou [replied]: Rumor is that he’s not dead.
TheWhirlWhyWeb [replied ]: You should make a new thread on that subject. You can at least pool all the evidence and rumors together into a single place.
Behindyou [replied]: Thanks, I’ll do that! If he really is alive, regardless of this Talis message, that could be a game changer on the world stage.
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Deo ascended the steps to the throne seat of his ziggurat. A daily routine. The beginning of spring brought with it the fresh sting of flower pollen and the whirring buzz of insect broods awakening from the underground. Deo caught a whiff of cigar and knew that Hege was already waiting on the platform. Upon reaching the top level, Deo saw that Jan, the angel boy, was on the left hand side of the throne and Hege on the right hand side.
“Welcome, lord.” Hege greeted. “It is a fine day,” remarked the big man.
Deo agreed with a nod.
“You look tired.” Pointed out Hege.
“I did not sleep well.” Deo sighed as he slumped into his throne. “The season change always keeps me up.”
“Ah, how odd. Anticipation perhaps?”
“No,” Deo said, “anxiety. I never know if the new season will arrive. I spend all night worrying about it.”
“Surely the rotation of the planet around the sun is not so unpredictable?” Hege teased.
“I will admit my mood changes with the seasons, excuse me if I don’t share your wit this morning.”
Hege refrained from pointing out how it was midday.
“You will need to find your wit after all, Lord Deo. Your friend from the Palaot is coming today as well as a host of people you correctly predicted would come.” Hege took a puff.
“In fact, he continued, they are lining up outside the walls as we speak, awaiting your orders to let them into the city, their weapons confiscated of course.”
Deo looked around the ziggurat and noticed all the people gathered here. Most were from Hege’s team and the Specters who stayed in Ophir. The elite of Ophir, essentially. They were lounging around, waiting for the day to begin. Newcomers were arriving and a lot rested on whether they saw Deo as a leader to follow or to mock. His first real test as lord of the city.
An important day indeed.
Deo realized Hege must have rounded everyone up after getting news that visitors were entering. His information networks were efficient.
Deo saw Bubonica on the lowest level, standing with a horde of rats. Weeper was sitting on a bench just outside the ziggurat perimeter, holding hands with her undead former lover. The Onager Aspect sat on the podium of a gargoyle statue, arms crossed in his sleeveless vest.
The girl in the veil, Klea was her name, stood in her own corner on the main second floor. The bestial figure of the Carn Aspect squatted directly below the throne area, oversized limbs and elongated head, much like a fossil of an ancient dinosaur. Finally, the Veinbreaker Aspect was laying down, reclined with hands behind head, visibly bored of the whole affair.
There were many officers and other citizens of Ophir expectantly standing and talking amongst themselves. Mixed in those lots were hundreds of undead, acting like ghastly fillers to an empty room. They remained motionless, standing where they had been the previous day.
“Very well, bring the first of them in.” Deo pinched his nose, as if that would force the sleep out of him. This could prove to be an integral day for his city. The situation felt volatile once more. Mutiny was an easily foreseeable circumstance, although Deo doubted anything that extreme would happen. An attempt on his life seemed more along the lines of the day’s mood.
Deo’s mind raced as he mentally prepared himself for the worst case scenarios. He knew Hege would be doing the same and with a much more relaxed countenance.
Deo scanned the area. His eyes met the Veil Aspect’s. He could see the intelligence in her eyes, the understanding that comes with lucidity and awareness. No one else met Deo’s gaze.
The volatility was subtle, the tension felt slack enough and only the most perspective could notice it.
Deo righted himself as the first vagrant stepped up to the central hall. Arrogantly he strutted past the wary and curious faces, even the still ones. He was lean, scarred and well groomed.
Deo noticed the eyes first, lazy and protruding.
“Well well, I like what you did to the place!” The man started, his voice dripping with malice.
“His name is Bilack, he’s a known murderer. Must’ve escaped prison and come here.” Hege whispered to Deo.
“I see. Does he have an Aspect?” Deo said back.
“Not that I’m aware of.” Hege said honestly.
“It’s rude to talk about someone when they are right next to you!” Called out the killer.
Deo cleared his throat and turned back to Bilack. “Why have you come here?”
Bilack’s perverted eyes betrayed his charm. “I’ve come to start a new life. Everyone deserves second chances, right? And I hear you’re offering sanctuary.” He smiled and spread his hands in innocence.
“Wrong, Bilack the killer. You have come to join me.”
“I’ve come to join your city. I’m not the type to be bound to authority figures, ya’ know? Besides, I’m no warrior.” Bilack’s voice was nonchalant, as if he were owed citizenship.
“I should warn you, Bilack,” Deo started, “we’re all bastards.”
Carn’s nostrils flared. Klea seemed expectant, almost humorous. Hege took a few puffs.
They had picked up the change in Deo.
“That’s what I was counting on.” Bilack smiled.
Deo leaned to his left. “Jan.” He directed.
The Seravim Aspect said nothing. A flash of light erupted from him and in the next moment he was skidding to a halt in front of the bewildered Bilack. Jan lanced his black blade into Bilack’s heart, killing him before he could react. Jan wiped the blood off his estoc and replaced the sword on his rope belt. Jan leapt back onto his spot, using his wings for assistance and landing softly, toe tips first.
Deo snapped his fingers and the corpse of Bilack rose and joined a group of other corpses, unmoving and unliving.
“Didn’t quite like him?” Hege asked rhetorically.
“Someone like that will only cause internal trouble. He preys on women and children. He’s more useful as a corpse.” Deo affirmed.
“How can you be sure?” Jan questioned, speaking for the first time. Deo realized the boy didn’t mind killing so long as it was justified, or at least to his childish concept of justification.
“Those drooping eyes, they looked like a kid’s. As if Bilack had stared so much he began to take on the appearance of the object of his lust.”
“Can you really know that?”
“Psychoanalysis, physiognomy. Criminal record. Take your pick.”
“So he deserved to die…” Jan confirmed, more for his own conscience than anything else.
Deo left it at that. He’d have to keep in consideration Jan’s naivety. Of course Bilack didn’t deserve to die, just as he didn’t deserve to live. Existence or lack of existence is a morally neutral circumstance, rather, morals don’t exist.
The concept itself is a human one, an invention to prevent retaliation and responsibility. In order to say, ‘what you do is wrong and you shall be punished, but what I do is right and therefore I am rewarded’. Such subjectivity was hardly becoming. Bilack died because the people in his city would be uncomfortable with him living here. Because Bilack was inconvenient and offered too little in the way of skill and usefulness. But the savage efficiency of Deo’s power allowed both friend and foe to join his legion upon death. No, to Deo, Bilack’s death had nothing to do with the man’s murderous intent.
Deo sensed the approval of the human’s in the ziggurat.
“Bring the next in.” Deo ordered. Hege must have in turn controlled one of his own men with his Hegemony Aspect as the next group came into the hall shortly after, with no obvious communication between Hege and the guard at the border of the city. Deo didn’t know Hege could give commands mentally, if that’s even what happened. He could just as easily have an earpiece in and the gatekeepers heard.
A mercenary band of twelve arrived into the hall. They looked haggard and travel-weary. From a northern city they fled after their employer betrayed them, wiping out most of their group. The survivors escaped and decided to try their luck in Deo’s Ophir.
They looked professional and according to Hege, were geared out with the highest quality weapons and technology. Veteran soldiers were always a valuable asset. Deo accepted their terms of payment even as Carn growled through the entire transition. The mercenary group specialized in hunting monstrous Specters. Carn was audibly unhappy, understandably. Deo decided to let him devour the next group, regardless of who it was.
The monster hunters formally pledged their allegiance.
“Find them a place to stay, preferably away from where Carn sleeps.” Deo ordered.
“Aye.” Hege agreed.
A trio of deserters came next. Their company had been disbanded after the Coalition of the Sister fell apart and the three of them had been living off the land since. There was nothing extraordinarily special about them, just soldiers looking for work. It was just their misfortune that they were next in line.
Deo looked down to where Carn was, directly below. “Go, enjoy yourself.”
The big half-man, half-dinosaur Specter rumbled his appreciation and lumbered his way to the center hall, pouncing on the weaponless soldiers without warning when he came in range. They never had time to flee. Carn landed on the spine of one soldier on the initial leap, smashing his torso flat. He tore the throat out of the next one with a vicious swipe of his clawed hand. The third died from having his skull crushed by a terrible bite. Blood poured onto the floor and Carn dragged the three bodies together back to his spot. He let out a satisfying roar and dug into his feast.
“What do you know of our saurian friend?” Deo asked in a low voice.
“My intel found he was raised as a child to be a cage fighter in one of Ophir’s many underground rings. He never learned to speak and fought everything from dog to man, defying the odds and awakening an Aspect along the way. Your conquest of the city freed him, I imagine he feels gratitude toward you.”
Deo nodded and was about to ask another question when a newcomer stepped up to the halls. He was a boy, around Deo’s age. We wore a long coat and heavy pants, obviously winter clothing. The amount of wear and stains meant he likely owned little else. Covering each of his ears were hand-sized tarantulas, like hairy eight legged earmuffs. An orb weaver hung from each ear on a thick web. Deo assumed there would be more spiders on him but could not see for sure.
The newcomer noticed the blood on the floor and Carn chewing on some bones and flesh.
“You started without me?” He was grinning.
Deo took a liking to him immediately.
“What is your name?” Deo demanded.
“Arvin Artur. Pleased to meet you Lord Deo.” He bowed and the spiders dangled from the movement.
“Likewise. You have an Aspect, no?”
“I do indeed. The Aspect Arachnomania.”
“Scary.” Deo commented, returning the infectious grin of Arvin.
“If you only knew.” Arvin’s eyes beamed and somehow the grin got wider.
“Welcome to Villain Throne.”
“I pledge allegiance to your cause, whatever nefarious thing that may prove to be.” The tarantulas on his ears turned and started preening. “May I?” Arvin inquired.
Deo realized that Arvin was no longer talking to him but instead asking Carn. The big thing grunted and Arvin approached.
“My spiders are thirsty,” he explained. Carn pushed one body toward Arvin. Arvin sat down across from him and a clutter of spiders scurried to the body and sank their fangs into the flesh. Arvin spoke to Carn in some guttural language which apparently Carn could converse in.
“It’s called the beast tongue. I’ve heard of some Specters learning it depending on their Aspect. Usually you hear it from Specters who grew up feral.” Explained Hege after seeing Deo listening intently to Arvin and Carn.
“That is intriguing.” Deo admitted.
“Very. It seems like some universal understanding is exchanged between speakers of that language.”
“I’m glad we have someone who can communicate with Carn.” Deo said, relieved.
“That too.” Hege chuckled. He sighed when the last puff of his cigar was inhaled. He put the snub out.
Deo’s expression hardened when he saw, still vivid even from a distance, the green eyes of Kiasmus, the Palaot elder. Hege glanced at Deo, watchful of his body language.
“Lord Deovulis, the Aspect of Death.” The Palaot called out coldly.
“Elder Kiasmus.” Deo returned the pleasantry with equal apprehension.
“Now you have domain.” Kiasmus spoke with some indignation this time.
“And you have graced me with your presence.” Deo retorted
Kiasmus held his Deo’s stare. “Me and a hundred of my finest warriors as well as their families.”
“You may select your own plot of land to settle in.” Deo said, almost amicably.
“That is generous.”
“You will come to know that those who serve me loyally are rewarded handsomely.”
Kiasmus stiffened slightly at the word ‘serve’. Deo caught it.
“Among your people, you are the Elder, the leader. I do not seek to remove that title from you Kiasmus. But in here, my city where I am lord, you will abide by my sovereignty. Abandon your pride and do not give me a reason to doubt your intention.” Deo addressed the obvious tension directly, in front of his dark retinue. Crossing Deo would enact the wrath of all these Specters and soldiers.
“Truth is,” Kiasmus relaxed. “I care only for the prosperity of my people. I have traveled swiftly and left my home which I value beyond all other lands only to join someone who demands I grovel at his feet.”
“Groveling is a small price to pay for the amount of bone I can supply you.”
Kiasmus took a knee and bowed. “Lord Deovulis, I pledge allegiance to your throne.”
“I will have someone show you to a burrow where several tons of bone are piled under the dirt. They are yours to have. Prove your worth to me and you can have more.”
Kiasmus looked content for the first time since his arrival. All the stress and worry disappeared from his face. An addict being told he’s getting another fix.
Deo unconsciously rubbed his hand against the smooth finish of one arm of the throne.
“I’m not sure that I trust him.” Hege expressed after Kiasmus left to retrieve the rest of his company.
“He does not like me. He was raised to prepare for me, or someone like me, apparently. His whole life expecting to use one weapon, only to discover that the one weapon is sentient and demands lordship.”
“He will one day try a coup.” Hege predicted.
“That is likely. Perhaps you will play him in chess?” Deo proposed, already looking distant.
“You want me to lead the coup?” Hege jested.
But Deo stopped listening, Hege’s chuckling muted out by the pounding rush of blood in Deo’s head. The furious sadism, the spastic bloodlust. Everything hated and everything fragile. Flowers beguiling a fruitful spring, nothing beautiful fades from immortelle touches unless that touch is death. Out of words and boiling in his mind was an endless faucet of insane lucidity, rapid flashing dementias surging in flashbacks to a time of bottomless deep, inexorably sinking. The sensation of quicksand, only infinitely obsidian and bodily dysmorphic.
Deo panicked silently, trapped in void nothingness. All that he was threatened to dissipate. He couldn’t speak, not even a gasp or cry. He needed to get out but the phantasmagoria of horrific apparitions drew him further down into limbo.
A command was issued from Deo.
Sixty millions undead shouted at the top of their preserved lungs, and those without lungs stomped on the ground and beat their chests. The noise brought Deo from the brink, the raw power of his Aspect grounding him and the throne reassuring.
And the throne reassuring…
The end of Arc 6: Psychology of Thrones
The end of Book One: The Seat of Power