Saturday, September 10, 2016

What purpose do these living have in the Realm of the Dead?

The prow cut across the last waves and ran aground on hard stone. Giovanni and Rhad' leapt out of opposite sides of the craft and pulled it further ashore before helping the others disembark. Tenet whispered as he reached within the inner lining of his belt and withdrew something. He placed the small bag within the bottom of the boat and pushed it back into the current. The wooden vessel slipped quietly and quickly into the fog.

"Why did you cast off our means of escape?" Giovanni wondered.

Tenet turned his strange eyes on the priest. "It was part of the agreement with its owner."

A tense silence followed as the two studied one another before they joined the others. The beach stretched out as a barren landscape of broken stone that rose into craggy terraces. Then the shroud parted and what had looked like a massive stalagmite took shape. Roksana and Giovanni crossed themselves reflexively while every member drew weapons, save Tenet.

Many black wings the size and manner of a Rukk's wings dominated the space behind the figure. Some fluttered lazily like a bird of prey. The rest simply adorned the man-shaped being. Three sets of arms stretched out also from his body, and each palm bore a piercing eye. A garish ruby fruit hovered over one hand, while a massive book lay open under another. Blood-rimmed eyes peered from under a black hood. Scores of tentacles writhed independently from between his pale lips.

A thundering cascade bellowed, snapping loose papers into a gyre around the hovering form. "Declare your name and your manner of departure, mortals."

It paused and its bone-rattling voice came again, "State your purpose for straying into our lands, Betrayer."

The voice crashed against their souls as much as their flesh, grinding both like a mortar in a pestle. Kadir fell to one knee from the pain. The rest looked as though the weight of living became a mountain heaped upon their shoulders.

Tenet however stood with shoulders drooped by a different burden. His strained face expressed it as he viewed the agony of the others. Whispers of names and familiar voices flickered from the giant book in front of the Fallen before him. Tenet clenched his fists.

Finally, he answered, "No, Wei Zhi. I did not intend this end for you...I warned...I...defended..."

Giovanni stepped to his side and spoke. His usually robust speech sounded frail in the aftershock of the Scribe. "I am Giovanni Battista, and I have yet to journey into death, but I will not come to these lands. My home is elsewhere, as is my friends'."

The creature merely arched its brow in thought, which seemed to add to the crushing weight on Giovanni's back. The priest's knees buckled. Then the thought passed and the thunder answered, "The end of man is known only in the Books, and you are no Scholar in their Script. One among you is already writ here, and another is promised to join them."

Tenet's whispers became insistent and then he spoke with a new voice, filled with clarity and Power. "The Scales are in the hands of Another, Thanatos. Only One can open and read the Books that Seal all ends. Neither you nor I are Him."

The dark brooding figure glowered. Tenet reeled as if lashed by one of its large tentacles. "So you speak to more than the departed, Betrayer. What purpose do these living have in the Realm of the Dead?"

Tenet answered, "Their business is to merely pass through and return alive."

The Exile seemed to grow a bit as he stood upright. His hand slipped behind his back and a faint shimmer fit a slender blade into his grip.

"Mine is to seal this Passage once and for all."

Art Source: "Azrael" by PeteMohrbacher
Story and Characters: (c)/by Corey Blankenship, Tenet, Giovanni, Roksana, Kadir, (c) Brannon Hollingsworth


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