The Other Side, 4

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 - 6:37 PM

Another installment of the bad guys. Incidentally, if you have an interest in some of the thoughts and portraitures that lurk behind the scenes of the writing process (as well as some fine authorship), you should take a look at the Burning Zeppelin Experience. There's some great thought-provoking observations there.

In the distance, the Wound was a gaping mouth, a canyon that broke the spotted and poisonous verdant landscape with impossible size and depth. To one side, the hunched plateau of Beauty's Rest sat on the Wound's edge, spilling a mottled gray slope into the depths like a waterfall made into bones. Over this, Leoric could see a growing whirlwind of harpies, sweeping up from the Rest and spiraling out over the depths of the Wound.

“Seers cannot see into the Wound,” said Leoric to Avar, who stood quietly nearby. “It rots their vision. But there are other eyes, and we must be sure to blind them.”

“Yes, my lord,” replied Avar, hands resting on the top of his ever-present axe.

That was Avar, thought Leoric as he watched the aerial vortex of harpies. Succinct and to the point. There were never any excuses nor explanations, no sign of the need to explain himself.
“Do you have everything you need, Avar?”

“Yes, my lord,” came the steady reply again.

“Is there any news?”

“Julian returned from the Manticore yesterday. Lakhesis calls on her haruspex to take omens before she agrees to an alliance. Omphale brings news that she has many new hatchlings. The cult of the Obedient has finally arrived at the main camp, with a message from Fidelity to Lady Isabeau. Tancred's work goes quickly, and most of his things have been distributed already. Also, the palimpsests at the Citadel have begun to wake, and Lady Isabeau will be negotiating with them soon.”

“Have any other Disciples shown interest?”

Avar shook his head slightly. “No, my lord.”

Leoric folded his arms, looking back at the younger man. Avar was broad-shouldered, with the easy, powerful build of a man comfortable with hard labor. A sullen, dark-eyed face was shadowed over by a long fringe of black hair, today half-heartedly tied back in a small knot. Mismatched armor blanketed Avar's solid body in a haphazard quilt of metal, chain and thick leather. Every piece was marked with the ruin of its previous owner, but each piece was meticulously cleaned; it was Avar's habit to wear his trophies in this way.

He liked Avar, all the more because Avar was frequently underestimated. Avar didn't brag, nor did he seek recognition. Many assumed he was just a pawn for Leoric, but the truth was Avar was very clever and wise, and capable of surprising subtlety. Certainly his sheer will should have been respected, but very few could even comprehend the terrible agony Avar bore every moment. Few even noticed the precise diction and control of his speech, which hinted at the ceaseless gnawing Avar endured.

No, they only saw Avar the Oathbreaker, Horse-Killer, the Hammer of Kerosh.

“Be sure Julian is properly rested. I will need his mind sharp for questions later,” mentioned Leoric, looking back at the growing tornado of harpies over the Wound. “Tell Lady Isabeau I will return to the Citadel later, and tell her to promise the palimpsests whatever is necessary. Also tell Tancred that no, he may not run off to hunt the 'blasphemers'.”

“The Obedient, my lord?”

“They are there to die for Fidelity, so train them up for the front line.”

“Yes, my lord.”

Leoric saw the huge funnel of harpies darken, the taper thinning and the top widening. He pointed. “Avar, have you ever seen this before?”

“No, my lord.”

“Once a year they do this. All of the harpies go there to praise their ultimate father, Beauty's teacher...”

Avar began to speak, but Leoric put up a hand to silence him. Only a moment later, a single wailing note began in the depths of the Wound, which swiftly washed upward through the cyclone of harpies as each harpy added her voice. The layers of wordless song clashed and spun in liquid cacophony for a few moments, and then the entire whirling flock harmonized in a single, heart-squeezing voice. The song was mournful, triumphant and longing all at once, rising and falling as it echoed throughout the valley.

Leoric could have listened to this song for hours, immune though he was to the heady enchantment of a harpy's voice. It was a confirmation to him, a reminder of what he fought for and what he had made himself. This was why they were Beauty's children. Whatever bitter cruelties harpies may have visited on themselves and others, this was the truth in them.

It was an hour before the harpies began to break their massive cyclone apart, separating into flocks and heading to respective roosts.

Leoric sighed, turning towards Avar, whose expression had not changed.

“You may go,” said Leoric quietly, and Avar curtly walked away.

Avar's soul might be too scarred to feel beauty now, thought Leoric, but mine is not, and I have chained myself to open eyes. The horrors of the Wound are nothing new, and nothing different. Leoric's understanding began when his father hung from the gallows for doing what was right. That understanding was complete the day he stood before the gore-covered madness of Hope's Tree, where corpses hung like fruit and the air was thick with the breath of the dying.

Mankind did not deserve the blessings of earth, for he did nothing but waste them. Mankind did not deserve the compassion of society, for he is opportunistic and greedy. Mankind did not deserve mercy, nor love, nor faith; he praises each of these only at his convenience. Mankind clamors for healing, for peace and for truth, but stamps on sacrifice and destroys those who would offer a kind hand.

The End would be the truth mankind needed. It would flow out from the Wound and blast the hypocrisy of the world away. Yes, thousands would suffer and die, but all would suffer and die equally. In the end, there would be peace.

All that I had, you took, he thought. All that I gave, you squandered. When I come forth, you will cry out and call this vengeance, and yes, I do hate you. I hate all of you.

But one day you will realize that what I have given you is justice.

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At February 27, 2009 4:08 PM, Anonymous Ashan said...

All right, this tears it.
We're not going in there until we're level 30.
And we have a few hundred thousand followers from multiple planes.
And warships from Planescape.
And a new pet tarrasque.
And Strahd reforms and joins our side.
And Roland comes along just to tend to the horses. (okay, that one's just for me)
And a few of the Shepards decide that really, deep down, they just want to help people.


I'm just sayin'


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