Sunday, October 16, 2011

Crux: Revelation 7

N.A.: This is a long piece after a somewhat long absence. It has not been reviewed, edited or even thought over. Basically, I just wrote my ass off hoping it would be interesting and clear some questions for the small segment of people who have read the full version of Crux and enjoyed it. It might seem a tad dry and unspectacular, which is why I encourage any comments about repetition, alternative terms or any thing that just doesn’t seem to fit. 

Maar stared at a second dawn from the heights of a nearby chapel, like a black gargoyle observing the landscape below. His eyes narrowed suspiciously at the silence ruling over the Gate. It was unusual, especially for this part of Crux, to lack any sign of activity. Most souls would come through the Gate, if only for a short while, later to be taken to either Hecta or a higher plane. But this particular second morning was as dead as the ethereal graves that lay scattered in the circular valley beneath the building. There were tombs and mausoleums and columns of all shapes and sizes, spread all around the area in a monochrome rainbow of mist. The lands itself appeared as if it was evaporating and the indistinct servants of Horvan the Watchkeeper were fading in and out of view, hovering steadily and transparent above the ground. There was absolutely no movement aside for the constant breeze that itself was as silent as a last breath of air being exhaled.
The Nephalem reached for his bow and armed it with a dark arrow, taking aim. He sucked the air in and waited until the gentle wind removed the strand of azure hair off his right eye, then he released the projectile. Nothing happened. The arrow hit the ground silently, like he shot it in outer space, and no monster jumped out of the mists to get him. It made him anxious.
Letting go of the giant stone cross, he leapt from the roof to a nearby ledge and dropped down with feline agility and stealth. Kara opened one eye and looked at him expectantly.

“Nothing is stirring down there” he said softly. “I don’t like it. It should be packed with souls and guides taking them one place or another. Something has changed…”
“You’ve been asleep for a long time, didn’t you?” the girl asked sympathetically. “Perhaps they have… relocated?”
He shook his head and crouched next to her. The possibility didn’t cross his mind because there wasn’t any chance of such a thing happening unless Innanna willed it. And Innanna was still trapped.
“That can’t happen. But now that I’m putting some thought into it, our whole journey so far was rather… dull. Some of my memories are lost in the fog of time. Such are the mechanics of this place… But never before have I noticed such shortage of activity.”
She smirked bitterly. If that’s what he considered dull, then she wouldn’t want to find out what excitement meant.
“What are you thinking about?” he asked, noticing the Kara’s vague interest in his words.
“Oh… Sorry” she replied, like snapping out of a daydream. “I remember some things as well. Made me wonder about stuff.”
“Stuff” he repeated. Stuff wasn’t a term he used often – must have been more commonly used on Earth these days.
“Yes, I guess I could call him ‘stuff’. Being that he kicked my soul in the teeth and walked away smiling. Wish Dan could see me now. Bet I’d look pretty darn adventurous to him after all I’ve seen here…”
“This Dan… Your lover?” Maar asked in a serious tone.
“Boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend. …Can’t believe I spent two years with that prick” she hissed between her teeth, closing her eye and trying to shake the image away. “You know what he said to me?”
“I’m guessing he said something that you loved, but he meant none of it. Eventually proving his unstable and unreliable nature to you by doing something terrible. Probably cheating on you with someone you would consider immoral and look down on under normal circumstances.”
Kara blinked in astonishment. She opened her mouth and closed it a few times, trying to find the words, but all she could manage was: “How did you know that?”
“I’m no stranger to such relationships. It may have been a long ago, but I remember some of my time on Earth. What? Did you think that on any planet in the whole Universe such interactions differ in any way? They don’t. I’ve met creatures that lived on the rim of the void and they were as pathetic – no offence meant – as any fragile and emotionally scarred human being. Time, space and love are all the same in any dimension you care to name: relative and identical.”
“I must admit I’m surprised. For a cold-blood individual you have an incredible understanding of emotions…”
He grunted in disapproval and wanted to stand, but she caught his arm.
“Look at me” she said softly.
“I want to see your eyes. Your human eyes. Surely you still retain some of your human appearance – I want to know it.”
“That’s not a good idea.”
“I just want to understand. There is something driving you. Something so powerful that not even demons have any influence on you. Let me see.”
“You won’t like it” he warned in a low voice. “But I will show you if you must know. I’m certain that there’s no arguing with you anyway. You’d probably just push this ‘til the end of time if I don’t agree, right?”
She nodded smiling and pulled him close, placing her palms on his face and staring into the Nephalem’s burning eyes. It was nearly impossible to distinguish the spherical shapes behind that blue burning energy they emanated, but she had a way. As gently as possible, Kara began absorbing his essence just like before, but this time without draining him completely. Little by little his eyes were outlined, then became focused and finally, as the energy’s colour faded into just a slight blur, she gazed upon them and tried not to shiver.
“Thank you,” she whispered as she released him. In a moment the magical fire resumed its burning ritual, covering secret behind it.
“Well?” he said, sensing her discomfort.
She closed her eyes and exhaled deeply, then looked upon him with a small smile.
“It must take a lot of it. Self control I mean… I can’t imagine what you’re going through...”
“Please don’t speak to me like that. It sounds like pity and-“
“It’s not!” she quickly reacted. “…Okay, maybe I do feel sorry for you, but that’s not what I was trying to say. Look,” Kara said in a breath. “If anything, I admire you. You’re incredibly strong to contain those urges. I don’t know why you decided to fight that beast inside, but it’s… really impressive.”
She couldn’t find the right words. In his blue eyes she saw the need to hunt and kill and enjoy that feeling. She saw a monster roaring to come out and lay waste to anything in its path. It wasn’t just a feeling most people would get when staring at someone, but a certainty. It was obvious that this… man was engaged in a permanent battle. A David versus Goliath encounter where he actually managed to hold his ground. What Kara couldn’t understand was how that was possible. Sheer will alone was not enough.
“It’s anger” Maar answered, knowing what she was wondering. “I’m using my own essence to fight my nature. I am made from and for sin, and from that I took what I could in order to find some balance…”
“…How did it come to this? I mean… Your kind doesn’t seem to have much self control.”
The Nephalem stood and gazed at the pink hued horizon, then looked down at her.
“When I arrived here demons and angels didn’t have much control over the Nephalem. In terms of time, Innanna had just recently been banished and the usurpers themselves didn’t understand what power they held over us. While I haven’t had a morally correct existence when alive, I still clung to the notions of good and evil. But most of all, I held on to logic… When the violence started and cities were burned, I saw no reason in it. High, Fallen… there was no point in killing each other.”
“They just ordered you to fight amongst yourselves?” Kara asked, taking an sitting suddenly in an Indian position.
“They called it purification. Like we were not meant to share this world... Darkness and light should not coexist in peace.”
“And you just accepted? That’s horrible! That’s… racism!”
“It wasn’t a matter of who was superior, Kara…” he spoke calmly. “That’s exactly it: we all aspired to being superior. To achieving… more. To reaching the next level and maybe, at some point, we would be like our creators. It’s in our blood, it’s in our nature – you saw that in my eyes.”
“They are the windows to the soul, I guess…” she muttered.
“And so” he continued “ we fought. We killed young and old, soldiers and bystanders. And the more we fought, the more our free will diminished. Hell! We all became… stupid! Animals, with just reflexes. Nothing more. You saw those I fought – there wasn’t a grain of self control in them. They just followed blindly to whatever command they were given… When I saw that, when I witnessed innocents being slain in a war we didn’t need, I had to do something.”
“So you just got pissed and said no?” she asked dumbly.
“Nobody can just do that. But I pushed myself to leave… I walked out of Bastion and kept walking until that influence faded enough. It was like a claw gripping onto my spirit. But then it relaxed somewhat… It took me a while to understand what was happening, but with help I did.”
“It’s then that you met Palisera?”
“It was long after I left Babel. It seemed like forever since I had left Babel and wandered into the unknown. Crux changes…”
“I noticed that. I was going to ask if you even know where we are headed.”
He nodded gravely and paused for a moment.
“Learning the Calendar is nearly impossible. It is that which controls the aspect of this realm. Surely I was confused and in but hours I became lost. I don’t know if it was luck to come upon Yarin and I don’t know what drove the creature to teach me about Crux. But at some point I just knew how to tell the signs. Look there!”
The girl jerked her head in the direction he was pointing. Far on the horizon, red objects were falling over the end of the world.
“The Crimson Tears” she said quietly.
“Yes. And the second sun rising to the right and the four stars on the opposite side. It means it’s the sixth day of the Season. But it’s not enough to know your way… There are other clues. The lack of shadows is one. It means there are some strong energies colliding nearby. The lack of sound as well… And others.”
“It all seems insane to me… How can you know what you will find over the next ridge?”
“I watch and listen. It speaks to me in ways I don’t know how to describe. And it is as fascinating as it was in the beginning… That’s why they called me the Wanderer. I wanted to know the how this world can change and I did… It worked for a time – replacing the need to destroy with curiosity. Yet, when I stumbled upon my own brethren again, everything came crashing down on me. Exploring was no longer a viable purpose. I had to act in some way.”
“What did you do?” Kara asked fascinated with his story.
“I met a spirit one day. Well… it actually met me, while I was camping in the mountains of Raibah. It just flew by between the narrow passages and I decided to follow. You don’t see such wisps often and, even though I spent quite some time there, I had never seen one just wander by. It led me to a lake in a hidden valley, it hovered over the waters then dove in and disappeared. I decided to follow…”
“You didn’t end up in Hecta, did you?” she asked, arching an eyebrow. “Because if you tell me your father taught you self control, I’m going to call you a liar and walk away.”
“No” he said, smiling a little. “I met him much later… That is a different story altogether.”
“I should think so…” Kara whispered.
“Anyway… The portal took me to Rhodima. I had no idea that was even possible though I prided myself with knowing Crux better than anyone. And yes, it was then that I met Palisera for the first time. Now that I think about it, she was never a mentor to me…”

“Not such a nice thing to say. She did guide you.”
“No, she told me about myself. Palisera doesn’t tell the future nor does she give any advice. She looks upon the world as it is and speaks of it. She told me about what I was, from the smallest part of me to the whole entity I could become. And when she told me about principles, it was then I realized what I had to do. All beings are driven by some… stuff inside. You are one way or another depending on how you organize that… stuff.”

Kara chuckled. Now he was at a loss of words.
“You shouldn’t use that word. It doesn’t suit you very well.”
“True as that may be, it makes my point. We are how we decide to be. I used the fury inside. I fuelled myself with rage against being dominated by a creature which, from my point of view, by my principles, had no right to do so. I channelled it through logic and reason, and when I had learned from her about Innanna, about the Nilithar, I knew what had to be done…” he trailed off.
“How many others were before me?” she asked cautiously.
“Many” Maar replied sharply. “But I will not fail this time, Kara. I will not fail you. This world must be restored and all of us must be given a chance again. It is how things were meant to be and nobody has the right to deny us that.”
The girl nodded, stood up and patted his shoulder. It seemed enormous compared to her tiny hand. The wind picked up and swirls of grey mist rose and danced around them. Something about his posture and the determination in his face told her he would be unstoppable. Not just his code, or skill, or the focused fury he aimed at his adversaries, but the realm itself seemed to reassure her that if they stood together, they would win.
In the silence of the Gate, a beam of light cut through the fog and hit the centre of the cemetery. Three flashes of intense red light appeared and, with cries of battle, a trio of celestial figures materialized. Maar walked towards the edge of the cliff with Kara following fast. They gazed upon three warrior angels glancing in frozen eyes. They wielded war scythes and everything about them spoke of death.
“I think you should take cover” he whispered to the girl. “I’ll be back after I rip their damned wings off”.
“You can leave them attached to their corpses for all I care. Just come back in one piece.”
“Go inside the building. I’ll hold them off at the entrance” Maar whispered.
As she left her side, he could feel the electrical impulses stronger and stronger, running up his spine and into arms. The fury of hell, the essence of the Fallen, bolstering his might thousand fold. Maar let it loose. If there was a time to give into his nature, this was it. His lightning-like wings burst open and spread widely, while his skin crackled with energy and the circular tattoos began glowing blue. He tossed the bow and quiver aside and flourished his twin daggers.
You stand no chance, weakling!
We wrestle demons and spill their blood in rivers!
Surrender the woman to us, you filthy aberration!
The Nephalem ground his teeth, showing a pair of growing fangs on a figure of pure hate. Even so, the sense of reality could not be beaten, the same way he knew he couldn’t win a battle against three higher beings. But he had to try. He crouched and jumped downwards, smashing the ground with a thunderclap. As the mist cleared around his figure, Maar stood up straight and pointed a dagger at the three angelic warriors.
The only thing I will surrender will be my blades in your hearts!
Then we will deliver you to oblivion…
We will walk that path together then! Come!
Blades rose in the air, preparing to strike, but they stopped before their handlers would take one step forward. A sound echoed in the short moment of silence before the battle and, from atop of a nearby marble mausoleum, Akaba clapped loudly and reached two fingers to his mouth, whistling loudly and rather rude.
“Awesome show! Encore! Please, that was so dramatic I almost wept!” he shouted, crossing his legs and flashing a sinister white smile. “I really enjoyed the special effects” he addressed Maar, nodding. “Bravo! …But you three” the Infernal mocked the trio of angelic soldiers. “have the worst armourer in the known Universe. Who designed those chest plates? They look like broken nutshells!”
What… is this? said one of them.
It makes no difference. Whatever you are, you have no business here, said another.
“On contraire,” Akaba replied and slid down to the ground elegantly. “This is precisely what I was looking for” he grinned and the smoke spear appeared in his hand. “Oblivion is my business, you pathetic little bitches!”

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