A Whisper of Dusk, Chapter. 2, DisOrder
My bracers scarcely slowed its downward progress, and the ensuing pain of the battle axe slicing into my muscles and bones made me scream aloud. But I had done it! I had prevented the child’s death.
My intention had been to intercept the blade with both of my arms while I was crouched over the child, thus allowing me to absorb some of the axe’s momentum with my body.
Success! A pain filled one, but still a success.
My next intention was to roll my arms up and out, force my elbows in and grab the blade just enough to give me a purchase upon its surface.
That attempt was partially successful. Alas! The injury to my forearms prevented a secure grip.
My third intention was to push the axe down and off to one side, while pushing my body forward so as to prevent the Order Bastard from gaining sufficient room to swing his axe again.
I failed, miserably.
Instead, I staggered due to my disorientation. The Order Fighter took advantage of such and whipped his axe down and around back up to crack me across my head with the flat of his axe blade.
My training took over and I managed to roll with the impact, then went to one knee. With a grunt of exertion, I was able to push off from that position propelling myself back at him while extending my left arm in a warding-off gesture.
Unfortunately, due to my injuries, I overestimated his position and made a hard landing with the cobblestones of the courtyard gouging painfully into the left side of my face and jaw.
I heard his jeering laughter directed towards my plight, as I struggled to raise myself up, blood pouring freely from my face.
‘Quintus! (1)’ I yelled mentally. No answer was forthcoming to my entreaty. It was too much to hope for, but I had to try.
Shaking with the exertion, I was able to get to my hands and knees, but such progress was swiftly made moot when the Order Fighter chose to kick me sidewise in the belly. I started to retch involuntarily as the force of the kick flipped me over onto my back, leaving me gasping.
Opening my eyes, I had my first clear glimpse of my foe then: that Order Fighter was a swarthy man with yellowish eyes, along with a short brown beard adorned with an unholy smile. He was covered in steel armor: a metal cabasset helmet, heavy breastplate, bracers and greaves, sollerets with all of his joints protected with overlapping plates.
Blearily, I saw the symbol of the Chief God, this world’s Lord of Law; staining nearly every metallic surface of that hateful man.
“Goddamned Heretic!” he sneered, towering over me. “What the fuck do ya think you’re doing getting in mah way!” At the sound of the Fighter’s voice, the Gazer child screamed again, gaining his notice. I saw his sneer transform into abhorrence when he saw her. He turned away from me while raising his battle axe anew. His intention was plain.
Bolstered by his objective, I found the strength to roll, and then raise myself to a semi-standing position just as he began the murderous down-stroke of his axe upon the shrieking child. I pushed myself into him; toppling us both over. Again, the child was spared!
He, burdened with his metal armor, impacted the ground with a metallic clangor. I took the opportunity to crawl over to the child. I then clutched her to my person in an effort to use myself as a shield against further attacks. As she latched onto me, I felt her whimpering subside into a staccato of panting. I attempted to stand so that I could flee with her.
Behind me, I heard the Order fighter cursing obscenities while he made a larger racket getting back to his feet. Unfortunately, he made it upright before I could. I tried to run away from him then, but instead all I managed was a lurch as I stumbled and then fell to my knees, painfully impacting the stones below with the combined weight of the child and myself.
My heart quailed at the sound of his sollerets ringing on the stone as he approached me at a rapid pace. Instinctively, I curled my body around her. It was well that I did.
I felt several of my ribs break within me as he lashed out with one of his sollerets impacting me in my back. I was momentarily blinded by the intensity of the sharp pain that blazed within me, eliciting a cry of anguish from my lips.
Regretfully, in my weakened state I felt my arms lose purchase of the child when he kicked me again, this time between my shoulder blades. I found myself lying dazed atop the child. From a seemingly far distance, I could hear her whimpers turn to frightful screams as that Order Fighter turned me over, exposing her to his depredations.
Dimly, I saw him reach out and make contact with her while she shied away. Then as if in a tunnel, I saw a bracer adorned arm leap out and snatch his hand away from her.
It was my arm; swollen and bleeding my life’s blood out onto the ground. This action angered him all the greater. But, it succeeded in turning his attention away from the child once more.
“Oh, fuck all! You goddamned Heretic!” The Order fighter shouted. “If you won’t stay out of the bleeding way I’ll kill you as well!”
I felt his gauntlets punching me then, as my head was jerked to the left, to the right, and to the left again. Repeatedly he struck, breaking many bones in my face and jaw. Finally, he stopped.
Due to the pain, I could barely comprehend the situation I was in then. Yet, still, my first concern was for the child. I could only watch helplessly as the Order Fighter attempted to chase her scuttling form down.
Her life being threatened by that fighter, gave her the impetus to dodge him repeatedly, until finally he gave up the chase, and chose instead to retrieve his axe.
Suddenly I heard a mental voice quivering with fatigue.
‘Primus? (2)’ It was Secundus!
‘Secundus? Can you aid? (1)’ I mentally screamed.
‘I can barely speak, Primus. (2)’ he replied weakly.
I attempted to stand. But all I managed was my knees, barely.
At that point, the Order Fighter noticed my action. Laughing, he came over and smashed me across the back of my head with the flat of his axe, I did not black out, as I am unable to do so.
But the pain of it was enough to disorient me still further. Somewhere, in the miasma of nausea and pain that assaulted me, I heard the child’s screaming escalate nigh onto a howl of mortal terror.
All I could manage then, was to raise my head and view what was transpiring: The Order Fighter was playing with her as if she were a toy, chasing her with his axe, striking at her now and again as he herded her around the courtyard. The sound of his laughter filled me with a vicious rage. Yet, I was impotent to intervene.
‘SECUNDUS! (1)’ I mentally-screamed at my one available not-brother.
‘We are depleted of natural Mana, Primus. Even if I could somehow manage to scrape something up, the Watchtower Guardians would demand their due. (2)’
The Guardians could be generous with whom they bestowed their favors, but like a black-market money-lender, they always demanded first payment.
I cursed myself then, and my vanity. If this had happened a day earlier, or even a few hours prior I could have done something productive. Then the child would have been safely in the arms of her mother by now. Instead, all I could manage to do was bleed onto the stones that lay below me, in helpless fury.
‘There is one prospect, Primus. (2)’ Secundus whispered.
‘Anything! (1)’ I demanded.
Swiftly, he sent me his idea.
‘No! (1)’ I rejected it fiercely. ‘There must be an alternative! (1)’ I begged. But deep within, I knew there was not.
‘It is the only option available, Primus! (2)’ he said quietly. ‘But, it cannot occur without your permission. (2)’
I hated him then, for what he asked. I glanced up again at the Order Fighter; he had tired of his sport and was approaching the child with a firm set to his countenance as he began to raise his axe one last time. I noticed then in the sky above me, another Whisper of Dusk shining forth.
The time of my Choice had arrived. It was now an option between bad or worse. Bad, the child might live, but at an acute cost. Worse, the child would die. The cost: my soul. I closed my eyes, and mentally held Secundus’ gaze with mine own.
‘Permission…Granted. (1)’ I hesitated, crying. There was so much I wanted to say to him then, but it was too late. Far, far, too late.
He returned my gaze and I could see then in that timeless moment his memories of our times together.
‘Goodbye Primus. (2)’ he whispered sadly.
He then spoke the Rune of Unmaking: the rune that a mortal can speak only once.
Then he was gone.
Aloud I screamed my rage at my loss. The Order Fighter ignored me then, intent on his kill.
Every Annwyfn that existed has had to invest a sizable portion of their Mana, into the creation of a not-sibling. That energy is not expended, instead it is ‘stored’ in the physical form of our not-kin: Available for release.
The amount of the Mana that I had invested in Secundus all those countless lifetimes ago, filled me slowly yet steadily in a furious blazing of light. But not just a mere five human sorcerer’s worth of Mana. No. It was my full original allotment! Nor was it the mish mash of Magics that I had been reduced to scrounging to maintain my existence since my Attainder.
It was Law Magic! A coruscation of Law Magic in the heart of a Chaos Lord’s domain. That very Magic that I had nursed upon since the moment of my creation, and had been denied access to when I was made immortal.
My screaming continued as my person flared with the returned Power of my long-lost youth! My first intention was to extend my shield buckler around that child.
Instantly, it occurred. Now, that Bastard of an Order Fighter could spend the rest of the night pounding at my shield in his impotent fury and achieve naught!
According to Director Maki’s account of what she witnessed that evening, my broken and bleeding form seemingly disappeared in a blaze of white light and became visible seconds later, standing tall and radiant with my eyes blazing with eldritch energy.
I could well believe that, as the next thing I did upon receiving the Law Mana was heal myself. (Then, I paid my debt to the Guardians.) What would have taken an hour of Chaos healing magic to perform upon my person it took Law healing magic mere seconds.
“Sweet Ilias, Chief God Protect Me!” that Bastard of an Order Fighter swore aloud after he noticed my transformation. I reacted accordingly.
“Damn your God, mortal!” I replied, then gifted him a Blast-punch to his face.
This expulsion of energy caused him to shoot back and away from me and the child. It almost amused me to see his hateful axe left spinning upon the ground. He came to land in a heap at the other end of the courtyard, and remained there unmoving. I almost smiled then. But my anger at my loss continued unabated.
I approached the child to attend to her. I was confused when she seemed more frightened of me than she had the Fighter. Turning away from her was when I noticed that I still blazed with the light of the Law Magic that Secundus’ had sacrificed himself for.
Searching about with my Psi-Tendrils I discovered that there were other Order fighters. They were causing havoc and mayhem in and around the castle and the surrounding city. I deemed it necessary to neutralize the lot. After all there were other innocents in danger of being harmed.
Swiftly, I levitated myself to an appropriate height far above the ground, and scanned the environs around me
I sent out a mental call to my remaining Not-brothers. They answered quickly. Their efficiency pleased me.
‘Quintus, do you detect the other Order Fighters? (1)’ I demanded.
‘Uh, yes. Yes, Yes, I do, Primus. (5)’ He answered. ‘Uhhh, are you, all right? (5)’ He blurted, sensing my extreme rage.
‘No, I am not Quintus. I am angry beyond compare. I have sacrificed a part of me and a friend. I will make the Order Bastards, PAY! (1)’
‘Target the Order Fighters! (1)’ I commanded.
‘With what, Primus? (5)’
‘Plasma Spheres. (1)’
‘We have not been able to use those since our Attainder. We lack sufficient energy! (5)’ he said in dismay.
‘Check our Mana levels Quintus. (1)’
‘What! What has been going on, what has happened? Where did we get this energy? (5)’ he demanded confusedly. I had to be patient with him then. His disorientation was understandable.
‘Secundus unmade himself, Quintus. Now, are you finished with your prattling? (1)’ I felt him reviewing my memories.
‘Yes, I am, for now. Orders? (5)’ he said shakily.
‘How many Order Fighters can you detect? (1)’
‘Target lock them. (1)’
‘All. Then initiate Plasma Spheres. (1)’
‘All targets locked onto. Initiating the Plasma Spheres, setting for minimal level. (5)’
‘Belay that. Initiate for full level. (1)’ I replied, coldly.
‘What?! That would destroy them! (5)’ he replied in a shocked tone.
‘Irrelevant. Proceed. (1)’ I replied mechanically.
‘I told you to Proceed Quintus! (1)’ I said, annoyed.
‘No. (5)’ he whispered.
‘I said NO! (5)’ he yelled defiantly.
‘What is the meaning of your insubordination? (1)’ I demanded angrily.
‘I will not obey that order to kill. (5)’
‘What gives you the right to let Secundus’ sacrifice go for nought, Quintus?! Shall I un-make you as well? (1)’ He did not answer.
‘Tertius! Take Quintus’ place. (1)’ I ordered.
‘I will not! (3)’
‘Nor I! (4)’
‘What gives you all the right to mutiny! (1)’ I began to rage.
‘Odinne’s brother gave us that right! (5)’ Quintus screamed.
‘How DARE …?! (1)’ I started to shout in my fury.
But what he said, shook me to my core. Odinne’s brother had sacrificed his life in service to his sister’s cause. Odinne had ample right to demand the blood of his killer in revenge for his death.
Instead, at his bequest, she had chosen the path of rhetoric in her fight for Justice in his name. That fight’s end result being the Worker Right’s Bill made into law. The law made true a handful of days before my Summoning.
‘Odinne, would be ashamed of you now, Primus. (5)’ Quintus spoke coldly. I wanted to scream at him then. But I could not. My rage had begun to flag.
‘Before you embark upon a journey of revenge… (5)’ He began.
‘You must first dig two graves. (4)’ Quartus injected.
‘The first for your enemy… (3)’ Tertius continued.
‘And the second, for yourself. (1)’ I finished, ashamed by my lapse.
That was one of the tenets that Odinne quoted to us her followers, before we embarked upon a campaign. It hurt me terribly, to have them thrown into my face like my not-brothers had just done.
In my much needed, sudden humility, I allowed myself to descend back down to the ground beneath. It took many seconds I had been so elevated.
‘Quintus. Do you still have a lock on the Order Fighters? (1)’ I asked.
‘Yes, I do. (5)’
‘Target them with a Group Blindness spell, instead. PLEASE. (1)’ I asked. After a momentary hesitation he replied.
‘It is done, Primus. And thank you for coming back. (5)’
‘Thank you for bringing me back. (1)’ I said quietly. A temporary blindness would make them easier to subdue without causing them harm. Which was in line with the Great Maou’s desire.
Looking around the courtyard, I noticed then, that the mother of the Gazer child had been reunited with her child. I saw the joy of their reunion, as well as the thanks she wanted to give me, but I saw also the fear in her manifold eyes. I smiled as best I could and turned to the Order Fighter that I had knocked across the courtyard. He was still alive.
‘Good.’ I thought.
He was made of tough material, as he was just then starting to come around. Standing there, watching him, I could feel the Law Magic trickling out of me and sizzling onto the courtyard stones. I had but minutes before it would be repelled completely by my Attainment.
I made a decision as I strode over to him. I grabbed him roughly and picked him up one handed with a look of grim determination on my face. Looking down into his fearful yellowish eyes, I could see them just beginning their transformation to purple. I then used a goodly portion of my remaining Law Mana to regain my intended destination: my apartment.
It made for a memorable journey up all those stairs. Mamono guards left and right were quite confused at the sight of me and my prize. They were not sure if I was the enemy, yet I held an Order fighter as my prisoner. No few of them looked at him hungrily.
“MINE!” I shouted at those who attempted to relieve me of my burden. I had other plans for him!
Eventually, I made it to my apartment door. He had bestirred himself a couple of times during our journey. But some judicious ‘wall-to-wall counseling’ on my part convinced him to settle down. These new bruises of his would heal readily enough.
Facing the door, I realized my dilemma. In order to open it, I would need to release my prize. But if I did such, then he might chance an escape!
So, I settled for pragmatism: I kicked it open.
I was surprised by the amount of strength left to me, as the door flew off of its hinges inwards, and bounced off of the frame of my bed within.
Stepping inside, I caught sight of Afrodille. She was suppressing a scream with her hands at the sight of me and my guest. I bowed an apology to her as I stepped around the destruction my thoughtless kicking had created, and strode resolutely to the balcony door. Afrodille was stalwart enough to come to my aid, opening it for me.
Stepping out on the balcony, I called out, “VASI! Where are you? Are you here?”
Ah, there she was, perched in her usual spot! I laughed at the sight of her then! She resembled an owl harpy her eyes were so wide!
“I have a present for you, Vasi!” I purred at her. Her eyes shifted, and I saw her fright shift into that predatory gleam I remembered so well.
‘Why don’t you come inside and inspect your gift, my dear?” I said as I went back in and deposited the struggling Fighter onto my bed. She remained behind my back as if doubtful of my generosity.
“I have to agree Vasi, this would indeed make for an excellent nesting spot.” I said, recalling her first words with me in an attempt to coax her.
That did the trick! In a trice, she flew around me, and pounced upon her prize! Judging by the celerity in which she unwrapped her gift, I surmised that she was pleased with my selection. I chose to tarry to insure she was not injured by his struggles.
I need not have worried as she proved to be more than capable of handling herself. I took my leave after their third round, as he was the one who initiated the fourth.
I left my apartment and noticed the guard pair of Nova and Philomena approaching. They had their swords drawn and were ready to attack if I made the wrong move. To which I raised my hands in surrender. Nova took note of my actions and sheathed her blade, then spoke.
“Annwyfn Arawn, I hereby place you under arrest.”
I submitted quietly. No, I would not have fought them then. I could not. I was too weary to, as I was just beginning to grieve in earnest for Secundus.
I had been returned to the place of my Summoning, and placed into a mystical jail cell. It was a long overdue opportunity for rest that I took full advantage of. Rubbing the sleep from eyes, I noted that the pentagram had been etched solidly into the surface of the stone this time. Quintus counted aloud a dozen protection circles surrounding me. I raised my head and noted them all silently. Then I returned to my grief.
I sat morosely upon a cot in the center of it all. The cot had been thoughtfully placed there by Aeshma for my comfort. She had also brought along a number of books for me to read and pass the time until I received the Great Maou’s judgment.
Turning my head slightly, I noted several of the book titles: Ribald Tales of Royal Makai Vol XIII, Ten Tails of the Hidden Master by The Wandering Scribe, and a sequel to the Wandering Scholar’s first work. I picked up the sequel with the intention of reading it, but I merely flipped through the pages at random not taking note of so much as a single word.
Despite my heartbreak with the passing of Secundus, all I could think about then was the necessity of matrimony. I knew I would need a mate eventually, if I wished to remain in this world. I also knew that if I did not make a choice of companion, then the choice would be made for me.
With Secundus’ death, his libido… No. Scratch that!
MY libido had returned. With his demise, all of the personality traits I had ‘gifted’ him in his creation were returned to me, my libido being the most notable.
When an Annwyfn created a secondary personality, we had the choice of how much of our original personality we could invest into each. With Quintus, I duplicated my ability to multitask. With Tertius, I had copied my hand to hand combat skills.
But with Secundus I had chosen to invest, not duplicate, my libido in its entirety. Now that he had been unmade, every last bit of his/my libido had found its way back. I was finding it to be an unwholesome burden to carry, as I found myself idly speculating upon the feminine forms of the guards who patrolled this room. My mind was filled with desire towards discovering how their bodies would feel, and taste, under my touch.
‘Is this what Secundus felt all of the time?’ I asked rhetorically. None of my not-brothers chose to answer. It was just as well they did not, as I realized that I needed to learn how to cope with it all again in a mature manner.
Surely, this was the source of my sudden desire for a wife, But, I did not want a woman solely for the physical pleasure alone, plentiful as it was here.
No, I needed and wanted something more than just a woman’s body, I wanted her mind. I wanted someone intellectual, and one who chose to exercise it in a positive manner. Perhaps someone with a cause worth believing in, worth working towards, someone who could put my talents and my not-brothers talents to good use! Alas, Belphegor did not fall under any of such criteria.
I fantasized about finding someone who understood the concept: “That Great Power comes with Great Responsibility.’ Such a woman like that would understand the abject loneliness of an existence in power, and so perhaps we could console each other in our respective uniqueness.
I heaved a despairing sigh then, knowing it for the pipe dream it could only be. I hefted the book within my grasp and looked at its cover again. It was undoubtedly filled with more accounts of Monsters turned into loving sexpots of feminine wonder, each and every one of them rabid for a husband to complete themselves.
Perhaps I will read it someday. It scarcely interested me then in my depressed state. So I placed it atop the small pile of its brethren.
What I wanted right then, was some time to myself. A place where I could tarry for a while, perhaps even find a modicum of peace for a short time as I needed time to grieve. Aeshma had mentioned that she had recently visited such a locale, and it was there she had met her husband. What was it called again?
‘The Covet Corner Hotel. (5)’ Quintus answered. I thanked him for his insight.
Like a tongue probing the socket of a recently removed tooth, I kept mentally reaching out for Secundus. It was an agonizing sensation to encounter a void where he had been for so long. I had done such before with one of my other personalities, but the pain of such a loss was nigh on unbearable still.
‘In time Primus, you will be able to hoard enough Mana and recreate him. (5)’ Quintus said in an attempt to console me.
‘No Quintus. I can never recreate him. I can only replace him. (1)’
It was true that I could replace him with another one named: Secundus. But like a candle that was relit, he would never be the same as before.
It has been said that a man can never cross the same river twice. So it would be for the next Secundus. All that the previous one was, all of his experiences, all of his knowledge, was lost.
He is gone and lost forever, all because of my vanity. All because of my wish to impress the Great Maou, perhaps even impress a powerful female that would deem me suitable for marriage.
No, not a marriage based upon the lusts of the flesh alone, but perhaps one in which I and another could embark upon a mission of improvement for all, together.
‘PRIMUS! (5)’ Quintus mentally yelled, loudly enough to shake me from my maudlin reverie.
‘Yes Quintus? (1)’ I replied dejectedly.
‘You have visitors. (5)’
After a double take, I looked up and I saw then that Aeshma with her untamable curly red hair, alabastrine skin, and her overly taut black business togs, had returned. Standing alongside her was Director Maki with her streaming iridescent white hair, and her cerulean skin sequestered by her inordinately tight leopard skin jacket and pants.
“Hello Director. Hello Aeshma. I apologize for my inattention.” I said wearily, not looking at their eyes.
“Arawn, you seemed to be ‘away with the fairies’ there. Why are you so despondent?” Aeshma asked, as she stood facing me, fidgeting with her satchel.
“Surely, you realize that your arrest was one of necessity, Arawn.” Maki spoke softly, her brow furrowed. “Yes, you damaged the door to your apartment, but I doubt that the Great Maou will expel you for that. Especially after the actions you took to protect the Gazer child.”
I had expected to face judgment for the property damage I had incurred, yes. But, how could I explain to them, of my loss? Could they even comprehend that I had sacrificed a part of myself for that child?
It was then in that moment, I found my gaze lingering upon Aeshma’s cleavage, as well as the contours of Director Maki’s form fitting clothing. Deep within myself, I felt lust bestir itself again. But it was not the lust for the embrace of a woman. No, it was the lust of an animal. I desired to rut with them, either singularly or both at the same time. The mere thought of which, was enough to make my blood pound anew.
I had to forcibly tear my gaze away from them, lest they take note of my ungentlemanly behavior. They were expecting an answer from me. I had best give them an honest reply.
“Thank you both for your time.” I stated, while I studiously avoided looking at them. “But I assume that you did not come here personally to award me such platitudes?” My answer seemed to hit the mark, as they both shifted uncomfortably.
“The Great Maou has requested your presence Arawn.” Director Maki spoke quietly, not looking at me. “She demands that you answer some questions she has for you.”
‘Demands?’ I thought to myself. ‘That has an ominous sound to it.’
Eventually, I was able to bestir myself into action. I was then escorted to the Great Maou’s private study chamber by both Director Maki and Aeshma. We were all guided to our destination by a pair of rather scrumptious looking Red Oni guards. I found the rhythm of their buttocks clenching and unclenching as they walked ahead, mesmerizing.
‘Quintus. What is wrong with me? (1)’ I asked in growing desperation at my childish antics.
‘There is nothing wrong with you Primus. That is just your libido in action. (5)’ he replied. Did I detect a small amount of smugness in his tone?
‘Great Maker! (1)’ I replied. I had forgotten just how intense it could be! No wonder that Secundus was constantly distracted by the feminine sex! Their physical forms were enchanting!
‘Speaking of enchantments, it is just as well there is no sign of Belphegor now. (3) Tertius quipped. I halted then in my advance at the thought of her, my blood chilling. Both Aeshma and Maki nearly ran into me, my stop had been so sudden!
I quickly apologized to them as I resumed walking, the guards ahead waiting impatiently for us all.
My blood froze not just at the thought of Belphegor, but also because another, stranger, part of me wanted her to continue with her blandishments. The mere thought of my submitting to that foul-minded creature, was enough for me to question my sanity!
‘How many days of Essence generation, must I invest into creating another personality, Quintus? (1)’ I asked rhetorically in the off chance I had over looked something. His answer did nothing to quell my discomfiture.
‘At least three weeks, Primus, for the bare minimum. (5)’
I was silent for the remainder of our short journey.
Soon, we arrived at Her Majesty’s private study. It was situated off of her throne room. Entering through a set of double doors guarded by a Minotaur/Cyclops pair, I soon saw that the Great Maou’s Study was a grand gallery of wood and stone. It was adorned along the walls with bookshelves that held hundreds of books, tomes, and maps of every kind imaginable. There, along one cloister wall, was a rather lewd tapestry that caught my eye and would not let go. If I had been there under differing circumstances, I could have easily lost myself for hours, if not days, within those works of knowledge.
Those stone walls and wooden shelves framed a long wooden table that had but one padded chair at its other end. I presumed that that one chair was the Great Maou’s. But she was not there. Beyond the chair, at the far end of the hallway were another set of double doors guarded by another capivating Red Oni pair.
Approaching that end, we were told to await the Great Maou’s pleasure. I noticed that when our escort said it, she did so with a smirk. While standing idly by, I became aware that sitting on the table near the Great Chair, was a Dragon Chess set. I ambled closer to it for a better view, as it had been quite a long while since I had seen a game. It was the basic set, a mere five boards.
Looking it over, I could see that it was in progress as if someone had stopped the game at a particular point. Curious, I had Quintus do a quick scan. There was something about where the pieces had been left that seemed ‘off’ to me.
‘The Law board Primus. The Lawyer’s Annwyfn pawn at 4 Epsilon is ready to attack. (5)’ Quintus observed.
‘Coincidence? I think not. (1)’ I said by reply. As if in answer to that thought, the double doors near the chair opened and the Great Maou strode in, looking as Regal as she always did, save for her disheveled hair.
‘I need not speculate what she has been attending to.’ I thought wryly to myself, noting the sight of a ruffled bed before my view was cut off by the doors closing. We all then bowed, as was appropriate for the Demon Overlord. She waited patiently and then spoke.
“Annwyfn Arawn! Just the person I’ve been hoping to speak with!” she smiled. It was not the kind of smile that would reassure one. She continued.
“Please excuse my appearance everyone. For some strange reason, all of my hairbrushes have disappeared.” as she spoke, she looked meaningfully at each of her guards in turn. I noticed then that all of them looked strangely embarrassed. She then turned her attention to me.
“Well Arawn, you certainly have been quite the busy Annwyfn have you not?” She paused, clearly expecting an answer.
“Yes, your highness. I have been. I hope that I have performed to your satisfaction, all things considered.” I replied, uneasily. At that point, she smiled again as she sat down upon the sole chair. She made a gesture with her hand and In front of her a pile of documents appeared with a slight ‘puff’ of smoke.
She began to read aloud what appeared to be a number of reports concerning me and mine actions, and asked me a number of probing questions as she dictated everything that had been reported to her.
She was pleased with my defense of the Gazer child, a bit annoyed with the destruction of my apartment door, expressed admiration of the way I handled Messalina’s party games, she was quite happy with my ‘awarding’ the order fighter to Vasi, and expressed a determination to personally view what I had created to replace Ossymand’s tower with. All in all, she was satisfied with my progress in so short a time.
During all this, both Aeshma and Director Maki remained silent, not looking at me. This changed when the subject of my request to be allowed entry into Her Army came up. She was fine with the notion of allowing an unmarried male the opportunity to ‘climb the ranks’ and was willing to create a special designation that would allow me to do so.
She expressed doubt that I would remain a bachelor for long though. To which I readily agreed. I had been apprehensive for a while, thinking that she was inclined to have me punished for my behavior of the destruction of property.
She then stood, and seemed ready to dismiss us all.
‘Oh yes!” She said, tapping herself on the head as if she had just then remembered something important.
‘Approach me Arawn.” She ‘requested’. Suddenly, I was nervous. I had realized that the previous exchange had been an act. The real questions were about to be sprung.
“I’ve been attempting to play this replica of the ancient version of Dragon Chess, Arawn.” She stated, gesturing to the board I had looked at.
“But for some strange reason, the game will not allow itself to move past a certain point.” She then looked at me meaningfully. “I assume that you are at least fairly cognizant of how to play?” She asked me sweetly.
“Yes, Great Maou. I have played this game many times in the past.” I replied softly.
“Excellent! Then perhaps you could help me to understand why every time an Annwyfn piece is in a position to attack, it will not allow itself to proceed?” She spoke as softly as silk wrapped around a hammer, looking pointedly in my eyes.
I sighed inwardly. This point was inevitable.
“That is because you have not performed the proper action necessary for it to do so, Great Maou.” I stated, not looking at the board. I did not need to.
“Show me, Arawn.” She said quietly. Slowly I reached out with one hand and placed a finger atop the Annwyfn piece in question. Glancing around, I noticed then that both Aeshema and Director Maki were watching my every move with a silent intensity.
“Ar Wahan.” I commanded my namesake chess piece. With a small flare of light, it separated into 3 shorter versions of itself. I then looked back up at Her Majesty.
“You may now proceed with the game, Your Highness.” She chose to not look at the now converted chess piece. Instead, she continued to look at me as she resumed talking sternly.
“When you first arrived here, in the room in which you were Summoned, Arawn. You said a strange word aloud. That strange word was: Quintus. Later, you said another strange word: Secundus. Both times you said these words they were not invocations or spells. Instead, you used them as if you were addressing someone.” She said, in a quiet tone of voice.
I looked away then. I knew where the line of reasoning was going. But, I chose to wait it out.
“I had to consult with an expert Arawn; both of those words come from a long dead ancient language. Quintus means five, Secundus means two.” Her eyes bore into mine as she stopped speaking. She glanced over to the board for a second and then back up to me. “Would you care to elaborate?” she spoke coldly. I audibly sighed with resignation.
‘Brothers, prepare to separate. (1)’ I commanded. None of them chose to object.
‘It would be easier if I showed you, Great Maou.” I replied quietly, my head hanging with ill resolve.
“Do so.” She demanded.
‘Ar Wahan. (1)’ I commanded. Instantly, three flares of light appeared behind me. There, stood alongside me my not-brothers in their physical forms. One of my greatest secrets now laid bare for all to witness.
Aeshma and Director Maki were astounded by the sight. Aeshma looked at me fearfully, while Director Maki looked at each in turn, then I saw a light go on in her eyes when she beheld Quartus. I figured then that she remembered my bilocation demonstration. Her look of outrage confirmed my speculation.
The Great Maou on the other hand, seemed nonplussed as she viewed my physical twins one by one, comparing them to me. I stood in my assigned clothing, Tertius stood in his white Keikogi. Quartus in his grey setone. Quintus in his blue jumpsuit. We all returned the stares of the three demons with a collective sheepish countenance. I took the initiative.
“Great Maou, Aeshma, Director Maki.” I said, waiting for a command to cease. None came. I continued. “Allow me to introduce to you all: Me, Myself, and I.” I smiled. Unfortunately, my attempt at levity fell on deaf ears.
“What are you?” The Great Maou asked. Maki nodded in agreement.
“I am.” I (Primus) began.
“An Annwyfyn.” Tertius continued.
“In the entirety.” Quintus finished.
“Which one of you is Quintus?” she said, trying to get a grasp on the situation. Quintus raised his hand. She then pointed to Tertius and so on, each of us introducing ourselves with our numerical designation.
“So, which one of you is Arawn?!” she said, angrily.
“We all are.” I (Primus) stated. She frowned at me then. She looked around at each of us again.
“Wait, where is this ‘Secundus’? This number two?” She demanded with a fire in her voice.
“He no longer exists, Great Maou.” I stated.
“He sacrificed himself.” I replied sadly.
“Explain.” I then proceeded to tell my account of the fight in the courtyard from my perspective. After I had finished, I saw that Aeshma’s way of looking at me had changed from one of guarded fear to one of incredulity.
The Great Maou was angry, and threatened to use my Covenant Artifact on me to ‘winnow the truth’ from me.
I dared her to do so, explaining that it was in fact the truth. She pulled it from her person. I had half expected her to use it long before. She invoked it, and I felt its chill encompass me.
“Is everything you’ve told me concerning Secundus, the truth?”
“Yes.” I replied. Instead of continuing her questioning, she chose to place my Covenant Artifact down upon the table in front of her, effectively deactivating it. She then gave me a questioning look. It did not take my telepathy to know what she asked. Dismissing my brothers, I began.
I told her about the history of the Annwyfn. What our original purpose was supposed to be and what we ended up as. The first Annwyfn was Dagda, the Dozen. He was unique in that he had eleven not-brothers. The vast majority of us could duplicate into two. Fewer of us could triplicate into three. A handful of us could quadruplicate into four and only three of us could quintuplicate.
Each individual Annwyfn was a gestalt intelligence capable of multiple ‘bi-locations’ when called into battle. Thus, one highly trained battle Mage could become several highly trained battle Mages at a moment’s notice, all working in concert via telepathy.
I did not tell her everything, for that would have taken hours. She seemed satisfied with what I gave her. She was pensively silent for a long time afterwards.
“When you first showed up here several days ago, you almost killed a Monster, Belphegor.” She began, “Now, you readily sacrifice a part of yourself to save another Monster, a Gazer.” She stood up and looked at me.
“Why?” she demanded quietly.
“I chose to save more than just another Monster. I chose to save a Gazer child.” I emphasized. “As I said before, I will not harm an innocent. She would have been harmed by my inaction.”
“Arawn.” She began again. This time quietly. “When your artifact was first discovered, it was wrapped in some parchment covered with a script that we could not translate. Director Maki.” She said, turning her head and nodding to her.
Director Maki produced a set of parchment sheets from her own satchel. She then placed it in front of me on the table. I leaned over to take a look at them. At first the glyphs made no sense, it took me a second for me to comprehend why. The pages had been placed mostly upside down. I then turned them all right side up.
“I take it you feel that I can translate them for you?” I asked as I looked over at her from them.
“Yes, I believe I can. I do not know what the official designation of the script is though.”
“Then do so, Arawn, aloud. Director Maki will be taking notes.” Looking over I saw that she had a quill and ink ready. She and I made eye contact, and she smiled at me in a strange way, then winked. For some reason, I was reassured. I then bent to my task.
It took a bit more to find the first page and then to sort out the remainder. But once I got started in earnest, what I read astounded me!
For it was addressed to me!
“Annwyfn Arawn. If you are reading this, then it means that I have failed in my promise to you, and I hope that you can find it within yourself to forgive me.” That first sentence brought a gasp from me!
“Oh, Great Maker!” I said half to myself, as I covered my mouth with one hand in shock. “Of course, I forgive you my water succubus!” I whispered as if she could have heard me across the gulf of time. It took me a while to regain my composure.
I did not notice it at the time, but a knowing look passed between the Great Maou and Director Maki.
Looking up then, I wanted to explain what and who she was. But I realized it would take too long for me to explain. I continued instead.
“If in fact you are reading, then that means you have also discovered where I hid your Artifact. I think you can appreciate my cleverness in my choice of hiding spot.” I looked up quizzically at Director Maki. She looked over to the Great Maou for approval. She received it with a nod.
“Your Artifact was discovered inside a Dragon Chess piece.” Maki said with a small smile.
“Which one?” I asked, suspecting the answer.
“The Jester.” She said simply. I laughed then, shaking my head.
“How appropriate!” I responded and then grew pensive. “Quite clever indeed!” The Jester piece has an inherent magic of its own antedating my own time! By hiding my artifact within it, the Jester’s dweomer effectively hid my artifact’s! Such ingenuity!
I continued to translate, and it grew somber.
“I regret Arawn that I never thanked you for your intervention with the Order Hero to save my life. There were so many times on our journey to the Gateway that I wanted to do so properly. But since I was still only a Lesser Succubus at the time, I wouldn’t have been powerful enough to…”
I hesitated then as I swallowed, reading what was written before me. “powerful enough to corrupt you into MY Incubus.”
Pursing my lips at the thought, I was not sure that even if she had had the Power of the Great Maou at her command, she would have been successful in that endeavor. Even so, I doubt that she would have freed me once she realized that she could not. I continued.
“But, as the old saying goes, if Wishes were Nykers, Imps would Ride.” I said, as I looked uncomprehendingly up at Maki. She shrugged her shoulders.
“My biggest regret then, as I saw you fade away into that nether world I had sent you to; was the fact that I never told you my name. So that maybe you could speak it aloud every now and again in your Never-Ending Story, and as such, have a small part of me be made Immortal in remembrance. It would be apt, since Demons are not known for keeping records. Goodbye Arawn, I hope you have found some measure of peace by the time you read this. Perhaps even, you have reconciled with those who pronounced your Attainder. Remember me well Arawn. *signed* Bo…”
“Boann, your Water Succubus.” The Great Maou finished for me. I jerked my head up at that.
“You told me that you could not translate this.” I stated with a bit of fire in my voice, looking between her, Aeshma, and Maki.
“A necessary lie Arawn.” I wanted to upbraid her for her deception. But as I thought about it, it made a sort of sense.
“A test of my honesty.” I stated. “Did I pass?”
“Quite.” She then turned to Aeshma and Maki and spoke.
“Leave us.” They did.
The Great Maou then spoke to her guards and strangely gave them the same command. They hesitated and obeyed her only after a glare from their queen. After they had left, the Great Maou then picked up my Artifact, and looked at it as if she were inspecting it.
“The bone?” she asked. “Yours?”
“I presume that Lord Paimon ripped it from you, as part of your Covenant?”
“No.” She then looked at me with confusion. I continued.
“No, it was not ripped out by he.” I said quietly. “I dug it out.” She stared at me in shock.
“Lord Paimon wanted a show of my devotion. Such was his price. As a result, our Covenant was sealed with both Blood and Pain Magic. Which, probably explains why the Artifact has endured for so long.”
“But why? Why do this?”
“Before I was cursed to Immortality, I once commanded a far greater level of power. But after being cut off from Law Mana, I became…diminished. I was unable to heal myself magically anymore, and I had had need of such occasionally.” I said, remembering that time I had flung myself from that precipice.
“Chaos Magic was the only thing available to me at the time. Since I was in full rebellion, I wanted to get back at the Lords of Law for what they had done to me. I succeeded beyond my measure, to my eternal shame.”
She was silently introspective for a long while. I waited patiently. Finally, she spoke again.
“Your Summoning has left me in a quandary, Arawn.”
“Belphegor has made it plain that she desires you for a mate. You do see that do you not?” She asked me rhetorically. I agreed with a shudder.
“She has also demonstrated that she is willing to do just about anything to make it happen; Including potential sedition against her Queen.” I was aghast at such a revelation.
“Yourself?” She nodded. “What has she done?” I asked.
“Against my express orders, she has attempted to steal your Artifact on several occasions, with help from others.”
“But that would be useless in her ha…uh…paws.” I added at the last second. “Only a Lord of Chaos….” My voice trailed off in sudden realization of where this conversation was headed. She smiled.
“Only a Lord of Chaos can command you with it.” She finished for me.
“Has she attempted an overthrow yet?”
“Not yet. But from what I know of her, I would not put it past her, eventually.” I had nothing by way of reply to that.
“This is my Quandary Arawn. If I allowed you to stay, she will eventually seek my throne for the power to command you. If I sent you away, the same will occur because she never gives up trying to obtain what she has settled her mind upon.
“Leaving you but one option.” I began.
“And that is?” She asked.
“To kill me.” I stated. She laughed mirthfully. I had not expected her to be so amused by the notion! She saw my anger and stopped, but not before shaking her head at me.
“No Arawn, that is not my intention! Far from it!” she managed to get her face still. “Still you do not comprehend me nor my motivations. It is not in my nature to kill. In fact, I wish I could avoid it entirely. But the Chief God has seen to it that such an option is not readily available.”
“Then what is the option you have in mind?” I demanded. She smiled and replied with one word.
Her reply left me speechless.
It was just me, her, and two pairs of guards. We were all alone in the center of the vast room in which I had been Summoned. Looking around the area, I noted the stacked equipment and the mirrors adorning the ceiling. I knew now what the area was most often used for.
‘Perhaps, I might avail myself of this room’s services some day? (1)’ I thought to my not-brothers.
‘Belphegor. (5)’ Quintus prompted.
‘Or perhaps NOT! (1)’ I thought hastily. Just the mere thought of that Demon was enough to induce a spike of fear in me. Here in this spot most of all.
But such was not why I was here. What I was here now for was the Great Maou’s attempt to free me from my Covenant. She and I had conversed for several hours after she had made her decision to gain me my Manumission.
She was not inspired to do so solely out of the kindness of her heart, no. It was also for more altruistic reasons. Most of those reasons involved Belphgor’s sadistic manipulations.
For the Demon Overlord felt that she could not punish a Demon for the instinct of mate seeking. After all, it was the Great Maou herself who had instilled that lust into every Monster upon her assumption of power. Belphegor included.
I was under no illusion that if this attempt was successful, Belphegor would lose interest in me. It would simply make her self-appointed task more difficult. Which was fine as far as I was concerned.
The process of Covenant Manumission would be a difficult and dangerous one. This was so, because, to the best of our respective knowledge, none had ever attempted it. Least of all a Demon Lord!
There was only one entity who could give final permission to the breaking of my Covenant, and that one was long dead: Chaos Lord Paimon. The Lord with whom I had sealed my pact with aeons ago.
But, Chaos Lords seldom truly die. Invariably a small portion of them always manages to find a way to continue. Like that ancient dirge: “That which is not truly dead can eternal lie. And through strange eons even Death may die.” This world in which I found myself in eons after I had made the pact, was indeed strange.
So, the Great Maou’s task was to locate this remnant of Paimon and get him to agree to an ending of our Covenant.
A simple affair in concept, yet it was difficult in practice. A table stood between the Great Maou and I. We faced each other over it. Between us on the table’s surface were several frangible items, and my Covenant Artifact. The frangible items were there as an attempt at sympathetic magic. Break them, and in the end (hopefully) break my Artifact and my Covenant along with.
The Great Maou’s face had a stern cast to it. Appearance wise, she was of an above average Succubus with the unique Platinum hair color. But, she was not a Succubus to be trifled with.
Her presence bespoke Command, she carried herself with an air of authority that made deferring to her seem natural. She demonstrated that authority when she Invoked Ancient Words of Power to garner the Attention of the long dead Chaos Lord Paimon,
“Heu Culus Paimon! Excitare Tuum In Ano Est!” she intoned endlessly for what seemed like hours. Finally, she received a reply.
“Quid Vis Deodamnatus!” an echoing cry filled the air of the Summoning chamber. It seemingly came from everywhere and nowhere! The sound of it grated on my nerves akin to nails on a chalkboard. I recognized it, it was the vile voice of Lord Paimon! Or what was left of him, echoing from some dank dimension deep in the bowels of the Multiverse.
The Great Maou wasted no time.
“Quid Vis Manumissio Annwyfn Arawn!” she demanded.
“Cur Mini Curae Quod Velit?” The Paimon remainder shot back.
“Te Futueo Et Caballum Tuum!” She threatened diligently.
“Quando Podeces Te Regi Eorum Fecerunt!” Oh such defiance! He was truly a Chaos Lord, even in his un-existence.
“Quid Vis Manumissio Annwyfn Arawn!” she demanded again.
“Puto Voe Esse Molestissimos.” Try as he might, he could not resist her power.
“Quid Vis Manumissio Annwyfn Arawn!” She shouted, implacable in her demand!
“Quid Moror Curae!” I sensed his resistance was crumbling!
“Quid Vis Manumissio Annwyfn Arawn! Scio Erin In Lecto Fortissimus!” she yelled, pressing her advantage! Suddenly, I could feel my Covenant Mark start to burn fiercely! It was working. I could barely hold back a moan of pain.
“Quid Vis Manumissio Annwyfn Arawn! Scio Erin In Lecto Fortissimus!” She shouted yet again, forcing aside his mystical counterattacks! The intensity of my Mark’s burning became nigh onto a Nova! I could not hold back any longer, as I bent over and started screaming in agony, clutching at my Mark!
“Quid Vis Manumissio Annwyfn Arawn! Scio Erin In Lecto Fortissimus!” she shouted one final time. The entirety of my existence became nothing more than PAIN centered around my Covenant mark then. I fell onto the cold stone floor unfeeling of naught else but my agony, writhing in torment.
“Vis Eam Accipite Illum! Qualem Muleirculaem! Tace Atque Abi!” The remnant of Paimon spoke in parting as finally, the last bit of his resistance evaporated. My pain stopped. I became aware of my surroundings and struggled my way back to my feet, panting. I saw The Great Maou holding my Covenant Artifact in her left palm, it was crumbling into dust. She then turned her hand and let the dust tumble to the ground, dissipating in the breeze. My mark was gone. My Covenant yoke was no more!
“Quisque Comoedus Est.” she said in finality, with a slight smile on her face. It was done. I had been freed from the enslavement that I had foolishly entered into in the halcyon days of my youth. I knew then what I had to do.
I stood up and summoned up a Blast-punch in my right hand. I then shaped it into a Force Blade, ready for attack. The guards standing behind her immediately drew their own blades. The Great Maou gestured to them to desist. They reluctantly obeyed their Over-Lord.
I looked at this Demon who had ripped me from my home, and all that I had known, and I made my decision.
I knelt before her and then reversed my blade. I offered her the hilt, and spoke.
“Accept my service Oh Great Maou! Let your Great Plan be mine, even unto the End of My Days!” She laughed a laugh of joy, and smiled.
I expected her to take my sword and knight me with it. (or something along that line). But she did not. Instead, she nodded and patted me on the head a few times. I found it to be a curious sensation, yet it was also strangely comforting.
After I had regained my composure; the Great Maou, as gracious as always, asked if I would be interested in attending a social gathering with her. She was overdue to attend and didn’t have an escort.
I accepted, and she requested that I present my arm for her to hold onto. I attempted then to point out that her husband should be the one with that Honor. But, she was insistent. I could feel both her implacable strength and the fires of passion that burned within her, just with her elbow interlocked with mine.
Along the endless stone and wooden hallways that echoed with our footsteps, she inquired as to my plans for matrimony. When she did, I noticed her eyes almost blazing with an intensity I found unnerving.
“I do plan on finding someone, Your Highness. Alas, the list of immortal Mamono who are single is a dreadfully short one. After all, I do wish to maintain my standards.” I said quietly, hoping to forestall such an inevitability.
“What is the nature of the party we are to attend, Milady?” I said in an effort to change the subject.
“It is a small affair, Arawn. It will be just me, you, and my daughters: the Lilim.” She spoke matter of fact. “Of all of my daughters, only one of them has seen fit to bestow me with a granddaughter. She, and her mother will be there, to introduce her to me and her Aunts.”
“Ah, I take it that you wish to have the rest of your daughters be ‘inspired’ to add to that number of grandchildren?” I bantered as we approached a set of guarded double doors. The Great Maou’s smile grew at that quip of mine.
“You are quite correct, Arawn.” She replied, glancing at me.
Finally, when we came to a stop in front of the double doors she turned and looked at me full in the eyes, still maintaining her grip upon my arm.
“Unfortunately, not all of my daughters are in a position to do so.”
“Why is that, Your Highness?” I asked, suddenly feeling nervous.
“Not all of them are married, Arawn. Like you, it seems that they too wish to maintain their standards concerning Matrimony.” She spoke as the doors were being opened by the guards posted outside.
When the doors were standing wide, I noticed that there were at least a score of platinum haired Succubi standing within. Each and every one of their carnitine eyes turning to behold their mother and me standing before them. I noticed then also, that the Great Maou’s grip upon my arm had tightened to a steel-like vise.
“After all, the list of powerful male sorcerers who are single is a dreadfully short one.” She spoke as she half-dragged me into the chamber beyond, the doors closing behind us with a grim finality.
“Itsy-Bitsy Spider went up the waterspout.” a heavily robed young lady sang quietly as she carefully swept up some dust from the floor of the Great Maou’s ‘Fun Dungeon’ that had been recently used as a Summoning room.
“Down came the rain and washed the spider out.” She continued as she magically sorted out the dust she wanted from the dust she didn’t.
“Up came the moon and dried up all the rain.” The young lady’s hood fell back revealing a tall pair of goat horns sprouting from her platinum haired head. She began to carefully pour the desired dust into a labeled clear glass bottle.
“So the Itsy-Bitsy spider went up the spout again.” She finished and sealed the bottle with a fine cork. The not young lady, then held up the bottle to read the script written upon it: “Arawn’s Artifact”. Out loud she spoke, mostly to herself.
“I WILL have you Annwyfn Arawn.” Belphegor vowed as she began to cackle gleefully.