Posted on 2007.09.05 at 10:58
LOCATION: into the river
SOUNDS: A Perfect Circle - "A Stranger"
The brackish waters of Lake Darrowmere sloshed against the craggy southern shore a bit more roughly than they should have been on a day without wind. It was sunrise, the heavy brown fog suspended in the east showing just a bit more light than from any other direction. The sounds of strange and awful creatures could be heard once more throughout the Plague-ridden region, the typical chitters and groans that the living, few though there were still in these forsaken lands, had grown accustomed to.
Further south along the shore the land drops to a rocky waterfall, and the great lake drains into a river. This river snakes through the mountains of Alterac and splits the Hillsbrad Foothills in two before emptying into the ocean. Few, it seems, have stopped to consider the ramifications of the diseased waters of Darrowmere spreading this far over the land. Few contemplate what effect these waters may have on the environments to which they are exposed. Few ponder on how the flora around the river, the fish within the river, or the beasts that eat the fish have been altered by this exposure. Few even know the name of this river, or from where it flows. The peoples of Azeroth have more pressing matters to which they must direct their attention.
It is for this reason that subtle manipulations most often go relatively unnoticed. It is in the corners of our eyes that lurk the precursors of change. It is here that the most devious machinations take root, and nutured by ignorance grow into the next great threat.
In the nameless river, further through the mountains where the water became shallow, a stark black tauren stood. He was a towering shadow in the misty morning light, small by tauren standards only, and the water managed to come naerly to his knees. His face, fur, mane, all of him was black, of a distinguishable variety. Indeed, Yeth was a Grimtotem scout and bodyguard, and certainly looked the part. But Yeth had been a lot of things, and his duties, like his name, often changed but rarely gave away who he really was. That was the point; even when he was known as Quiza, even before his "death" at the hand of "Bloody" Bella Bloodhoof, his intentions had been something of an enigma.
Kneeling in the gently flowing waters, Yeth pulled a lazily floating body up from the river. It was a young girl, clearly dead, with messy, charcoal-black hair and snowy-white skin. She was utterly soaked, and badly burned in such a curious way, as if she was lashed all over her body with whips of fire. Skin and flesh were torn back and hanging away, the little body hanging awkwardly limp in his arms.
She was just barely recognizable to Yeth as Brennen Rivers. During his time in the Undercity Apothecarium as Yes's bodyguard he had seen the girl on many occasions. She seemed something of a pet to Yes, or perhaps even a little sister, though circumstances had seemed to be taxing on their relationship, Brennen didn't seem to like the work Yes did.
Brennen had regarded Yeth as "somewhat familiar" when they first met, in a way that should have made him nervous. In fact, Yeth knew more about the girl than she perhaps knew about herself, and so he knew just how much she knew, and just how capable she was of figuring him out. She never made the connection.
The girl, lifeless though her body appeared, was undead. Lifelessness had nothing to do with whether she was alive or not. Yeth was intimately familiar with how difficult it was to truly kill the undead. He was also familiar with what sort of damage it would take to do so. Whatever did this to her had been thoroughly damaging.
But that wasn't any of his concern. What mattered was that she was here, and she did not have the notebook. But her condition, as well as the direction from which she came, all seemed to indicate that the one who did have the notebook was close by, perhaps in the Plaguelands. Yeth was, it seemed, on the right track.
Gazing down again at the broken, pitiful little doll in his arms, Yeth reached up and plucked something from a barely intact, mottled leather collar at the girl's neck. It was a round stone, which shone with a unnatural green glimmer. A moonstone, a rare artifact of a forgotten religion. They would certainly want him to bring it to them.
Yeth placed the girl gently back into the river, his expression as calm and impassive as the waters which slowly carried the girl downstream, to Hillsbrad, and then to the ocean beyond.
The young tauren stepped ashore, shaking the water from his dark boots, and turned back one last time to watch Brennen float quietly into the morning mountain mists. He envied her, in a way. She was free to drift into quiet, merciful oblivion. For Yeth, that just wasn't in the cards.
"Tell Isha," he said silently to her, "that I am sorry." He knew that no one else would have heard his words, and that Yes would never receive his message. The words themselves simply sounded sweet in the chilled mountain air, just above the gentle murmur of the river. He had wanted to say them.
Yeth noticed further downstream what appeared to be the shadow of a figure standing in the mist. Tapping a small metallic device on his belt, Yeth turned away from the figure and, with a sudden crackle of light and sound, promptly vanished into thin air.
The sun rose and set that day. The peoples of Azeroth attended to the pressing matters of the world. Nobody ever knew of the events which had transpired, or would soon after transpire. These events remain unrecorded in the books of history, forever in the corners of our eyes, wherein lurk the precursors of change.
Posted on 2007.09.05 at 10:54
Forsaken, But Not Forgotten
About a day after the utter destruction of Maybe's body at the jaws of Aquenda, a Deathguard standing guard near Deathknell noticed a pale girl wandering around naked in the forest. She was dazed and frightened, and appeared to be lost. The Deathguard approached the girl, who was startled by him and tried to run. He grabbed her and tried to talk to her, but she was either mute or didn't know how to talk, because she didn't make any sounds that sounded like words to him.
She was taken reluctantly to Deathknell where a local innkeeper took her in and fed her, gave her clothing and let her rest in an upstairs bedroom. People around town regarded her has a curiosity, wondering where she came from, why she couldn't speak, who she may have been in life, and whether she was a Scourge agent. Nobody bothered to give her a name; the Forsaken have better things to do than tend to some child.
Eventually, the innkeeper got the same idea. The girl, after she had warmed up to the relatively unfriendly people in Deathknell, was sent off to do chores for the innkeeper, to earn her keep. The girl cheerfully went about her business, picking up a few words of Gutterspeak along the way. A few people tried to question her about her past, but she simply smiled at them and giggled, which frustrated people enough to make them leave her alone. After a few days the innkeeper, who also had gotten tired of the chipper little girl, sent her off to Brill to earn a living in the tavern there. He spoke to the innkeeper there, supposedly a friend of his, who was more than happy to have the extra help, especially since Brill had become a more active locale in the prior weeks.
Brill was quite a lot more active and lively than Deathknell was. People were yelling and fighting in the streets, and loud arguments went on inside the tavern. Stepping into Gallow's End, the girl became frightened by the commotion. strange people glared at her, and a few people yelled at her in words she didn't understand. Wimpering, the girl sat down in the nearest chair and put her knees to her chest protectively. A woman with bandages on her eyes looked around angrily, shuffled her feet, and then stomped upstairs. A huge, hairy man with horns came over to her and started talking at her in a funny language. When a tall, blue man with large fangs came over and grabbed her shoulder, she recoiled. The innkeeper had given her a weapon, a small dagger, and briefly showed her how to use it. As she reached for the small weapon, the tall, blue man frowned, said something strange, and walked away.
After a few days of sweeping up, moving cookware, stacking chairs and hunting for meat, the little girl had already gotten used to Brill. The innkeeper was nice to her, and taught her a little Gutterspeak when she had the time. The girl became a permanent fixture in the Gallow's End Tavern, cheerfully skipping around laughing and smiling when she wasn't busy. She didn't fit in with the usual gloom and discord around the city, but nobody seemed to mind her.
Dancing in the Rain
The little girl finished arranging pots and pans on the storage room shelf, when the innkeeper yelled in Gutterspeak, "it's raining!" The girl knew from what the innkeeper had shown her that "rain" was like "water" in the "air". She ran outside and was awestruck to see water falling from the sky all over the buildings, the trees, the people and the countryside. The girl smiled and looked up into the sky, blinking as raindrops hit her eyes. She laughed aloud and held her hands out, letting the rain make her totally soaked. She giggled and splashed around in puddles with her bare feet, and danced happily in the rain. Many people looked at her in disgust or pity, thinking that she was either an idiot or had no brain. The girl didn't understand them; all she did was say "rain!" in Gutterspeak and motion for them to join her in having fun. Most of them just walked away grumpily. The little girl didn't know why they would want to miss such fun, but she didn't care. This was the most fun she had ever had, as far as she could remember.
Vaien Meets the Essentric Young Girl
Vaien and Mithis were hanging around Brill that evening that it rained. Occasionally Tefair would pop outside, but she was otherwise not present. Vaien and Mithis mused about the situations that had befallen them over the past few weeks while enjoying the cool, gloomy weather. It was then that they noticed the young undead girl dancing childishly in the rain.
Mithis, uncommonly disgusted by undead in general, simply frowned and shook his head at her, regarding the sight as pitiful. Vaien's disgust for her ran deeper, for he knew she was a Forsaken, and he'd love nothing more than to eradicate her and her kind.
Her persistant, annoyingly cheerful attitude did not make Vaien like her any better.
Vaien observed the girl for awhile, finally deciding that she must have been a child, and not mentally deranged. He made an offhand remark to her about perhaps having the opportunity to kill her one day. Many people on the city streets heard this, and expressed some outrage at Vaien, who was a wanted criminal against the Forsaken. However, the little girl he spoke to stared at him inquisitively, before smiling wide at Vaien and giggling.
It was obvious that she didn't understand him, or was deaf.
Afraid that he had overstayed his welcome, Vaien, decided to head off to the zeppelin tower, and board the next flight to Kalimdor. He turned to the little girl, who smiled cheerfully at him, and said, "goodbye, as if you can understand me", and waved at her. He turned and began walking away.
Vaien stopped and turned around, surprised.
"So you can speak after all."
The little girl grinned wide at Vaien, who shrugged and, looking up at the dark sky as it began to rain harder, decided it safer to stick around a little longer until the weather was calm. He reluctantly went back into the inn.
Vaien sat in his usual spot in front of the fireplace, gazing long and quietly into the fire, contemplating. He concentration was abruptly ended by the young girl who plopped down right next to him, completely soaking wet, and held out her hands, drying her clothes with the fire's warmth. Vaien blinked at the girl briefly, before frowning. He would have preferred to be alone...
After a short, one-sided exchange, Vaien wondered if the young girl had a name. He pointed to himself and said plainly, "Vaien". The little girl cocked her head, pointed at Vaien and mimicked, "Vai-yen".
Vaien nodded appovingly at her. The little girl grinned at him. After a few moments, Vaien pointed at the girl in the same way, and made sure to cock his head slightly, so as to signal to her that it was an inquiry. The little girl thought for a few moments, looked as if she understood, but then frowned and shook her head, shrugging her shoulders slightly.
"Hmm... No name."
Vaien thought this over for a moment. Would it be right to give this strange girl he had never met before a name?
Actually, he felt like he had met her before, or at least heard about her, he thought. He turned to the fireplace and looked into the fire. There was something familiar...
He recalled the night that Zerreissen ran of into the forest, yelling for someone named "Brennen".
"Hm, Brennen", he thought aloud, trying to remember the word. It was Nerubian, from the sound, a language he was familiar with. And ironically, as he looked into the burning fire, he remembered that "brennen" was the Nerubian word for "burn".
"But would it be right to give a name to some girl I only just met?" Vaien whispered to himself, still staring into the flames. He shrugged slightly, as if to answer his own question.
Vaien jerks his finger suddenly and intentionally in Brennen's direction. "Brennen", he said flatly, jabbing his index finger at her, hoping she would understand the meaning of the gesture.
The little girl pouted her lips and cocked her head at Vaien like a puppy might have. She sat for a moment, staring into his eyes in a way that made him feel mildly uncomfortable. Finally, she raised her own finger, placed it on her chest and repeated, "Bre-nnen?"
Vaien nodded, and pointed at her again, reiterating, "Brennen."
Brennen looked down for a moment, as if processing the new information. She looked back up at Vaien and giggled excitedly. With a big grin on her face she shouted happily, "Brennen! Brennen!"
"That's right", Vaien said calmly, and smirked a bit. She was so excited about something as trivial as a name...
Vaien had never in his life met a Forsaken like her. Forsaken were either concerned with their own deaths, or the deaths of others. But somehow she was different...
She was very different.
Posted on 2007.09.05 at 10:41
LOCATION: Darrowmere Lake
SOUNDS: Matthew Good Band - "Weapon"
WEAPONLeave this weapon, Little Flame, for it will destroy you as well. Come, and we shall crush the head of the Snake ourselves.
Brennen recalled C'thun's words to her before her thoughts and will ceased being her own. Anger and sorrow gripped her heart, as the momentary reflection gave her an opportunity to see the truth in Maybe's words. She was a created being, a puppet. By design she would always be a puppet, because she would never be able to resist the influence of another mind in her own. She would always be a slave to some malevolent force, and she would always be called upon to hurt people....for it will destroy you as well.
Unless she ended it once and for all.
There, about 15 meters southwest of where she crouched on the lake's shore, was the weapon. It was inside a dark, nondescript case, the bottom facing her and covered with debris from where she had dropped it. She could only hope the device hadn't been damaged as she made a run for it across the open beach. She ignored the ominous silence and did not bother looking behind her, all her focus set on reaching the device and activating it before Maybe ended her life. She dove into the gravel, tumbled, and landed on her hands and knees directly over the case. She grabbed the case with both hands--
And was swept up into the air.
For the first few moments Brennen was suspended ponderously above the shore, clutching the case to her chest, her stomach seeming to sink in confusion and shock. Then he swung into view, or rather she was swung toward the ground, bringing him into view. Maybe, looking up at her from the shore below, his fingertips extended up and out toward her branching into long, thin tentacles. She could feel the constriction now, around her neck, shoulders, legs, as the deceptively strong tentacles held her tightly, helplessly above the murderous sorcerer.
"I'll tear you apart sl--" Maybe began, before catching sight of the case in her arms. "What is that you've got there?" He asked curiously.
"Your ticket to hell. Don't come back this time." Brennen hit the case release, and the top fell from the case to reveal a large explosive crammed carefully inside. The label, which Brennen did not bother to remove for one reason or another, clearly stated her intent.
ARCANE BOMB: turn key to arm.
Maybe's glowing eyes went wide, his withered face noticably tightening. "It will kill you too, Little Flame," he managed.
"Which means," Brennen said, grinning, "It will most definitely kill you."
Maybe's face depressed into a furious sneer in realization that he had betrayed himself. Even as the tentacles from his fingertips reared back and ripped across Brennen's body in an attempt to throw her out into the lake, and the giant eye in his chest glared menacingly at the girl and began to eminate light and heat, it was too late. Brennen had turned the key, armed the bomb, and sealed both of their fates.
To suddenly have the mana wrenched from one's body is an excruciatingly unpleasant experience. In Brennen's case, it meant that the last lingering presence of C'thun's magic inside her was ripped from her mind so quickly as to leave a dull void within her thoughts. In her sudden daze the bright, searing white light and weighlessness of being thrown through the air did not immediately register. By the time it did, Brennen was but moments from experiencing the other effect that made an Arcane Bomb so cruelly traumatic. As the raw magic condensed into the epicenter of the midair blast, the landscape was once again visible, though it was blurred and distorted beyond recognition. Then, just as quickly as it had formed, the single point of pure light in Brennen's vision exploded into a formless mass of blazing destructive energy.
In mere moments, that destructive energy that was once stored inside her would scorch across her body and tear her apart. It made for the perfect moral to her story, and a fitting end to her and Maybe both.
Perhaps now she would be able to forgive herself. Perhaps now there would be peace.
As the blinding light consumed her vision, Brennen's eyes snapped shut.
Posted on 2007.09.05 at 10:38
LOCATION: Western Plaguelands
SOUNDS: The Mars Volta - "Day of the Baphomets"
DAY OF THE BAPHOMETS
"... [T]he gods pit the sentient beings against one another in the ultimate natural struggle for domination of this planet. The only solution, the only way to end the struggle once and for all, and bring peace to the land, is to unify the world under a single, all-powerful entity, most likely by way of force. Once the world bows to only one master, the turmoil will cease, and social harmony will prevail throughout the land of the sentient races.
"Whether or not you accept this philosophy as the gods' truth, know this: you will inevitably have to take a side, whether you want to or not, if you wish to survive to see the end." --unknown
"Farewell, 'Brennen Rivers'."
Maybe watched as his small procession of demon riders and felguards converged upon the frail looking undead girl slumped down on her knees in the road ahead. The girl made no move to escape or even acknowledge the malevolent force careening noisily toward her. The ground shook as the demons made a circle around Brennen, the riders reaching her first and moving past and around her to flank as the felguards came barreling down the center.
Brennen could no longer be seen as the demons closed in, obscuring her from view. Maybe wore a terrible, sinister grin that contorted his thin human face into something less than human. One of the felguards groaned, a deep, grating roar that was followed by a spurt of dark, shimmering blood into the air.
Then a felguard's massive arm flew twisting out of the mob, hitting the ground with a loud thud and tumbling through the dust of the road before settling just a few meters away from where Maybe stood.
The whole scene became a blur, as a handful of felguards became airborne, seeming to hang suspended above the ground before their bodies came apart in a thick, putrid mess of flesh and oily fluid. Their pieces also tumbled back across the landscape, as if blown out by an explosion. The fel riders were thrown from their steeds as the horses fell in on themselves, gore and luminescent fluid pouring out below them and igniting in bright green fire, burning the horses as the they bellowed in their death throes.
She was visible now, and Maybe gazed upon Brennen's form once more. He had not moved, and the smile had not left his face. Through the carnage he focused only on her, taking in the wonders of her transformation. For the moment she was once again stationary, though the air seemed to ripple where she had been, disturbed. The sound of rushing wind was audible now as the moans and gurgles of the dying demons subsided. Brennen herself was a sight to behold, her entire body drenched in the dark, almost black blood of the felguards. Her face was illuminated as bright green flames scorched out of her eye sockets and licked the sides and back of her head like some magical backdraft. The long, slender swords she held in each hand swirled with a similar green light. In an odd contrast to the rest of her body, the glowing blades of her swords did not appear to be stained with blood.
The horsemen, mostly unscathed, drew their weapons and hesitated at the sight of their attacker. The remaining felguards, however, did not hesitate, and charged recklessly at the bloodied girl. She seemed to settle onto the ground, as if she had not actually been standing on it before but above it, and as she turned to face the new threat, her footfalls seemed to raise a light green mist from the ground. Her body slick with glimmering black and her eyes and weapons aflame with magical energies, she looked much like a demon herself, small and thin, but appearing no less dangerous for her size.
Brennen seemed to step off the ground, and as the mist rose from where she stood, the lines of her frame seemed to blur. a second later she collided with the nearest felguard, with the unimaginable force necessary to send the felguard toppling back in the direction from which it came. She used the first felguard as a springboard to throw herself at another. The second felguard was just starting to slow its lumbering forward momentum and turn to face the threat that was now behind him when Brennen scraped across its bare chest, digging her blades in deep to both slow herself and tear the massive demon open. Swinging around, she kicked the demon in its fel-scarred face, sending more green mist into the air around the felguard's head. She jumped off from its face, which seemed to sizzle and glimmer as if burned, and tore her blades from its torso. Landing gracefully in front of the giant demon, she turned her attention to the last felguard as the one behind her crumpled to the ground. In the time it took for the area to stop trembling from the fall of the massive felguard, it trembled again as Brennen fell the last one.
And then she turned upon the tentatively approaching fel soldiers.
All the while Maybe stood where he had been, looking on with morbid fascination as his demonic bodyguards were torn apart with ease. The entire execution took on the form of some gruesome ballet in his mind, the girl a surreal dancer, performing flawless leaps, turns and pirouettes as she dropped one demon after another in a shower of red as twirling, elegant patterns of gore decorated the stage. Maybe found the performance almost mesmerizing. When the thick mist of blood in the air finally settled and Brennen was again visible, her bright, flaming eyes gazing directly at him, he applauded.
"Bravo! Wonderful! Simply spectacular!" Maybe cheered, his eyes glinting with a look of insanity. "So I see you've finally given up your body to the Gods Of Old. How does it feel to have so much power, at the cost of what little innocence you still may have possessed?"
An off-white crescent spread across Brennen's dark, blood-stained face as she grinned at Maybe. When she spoke, there was a disturbance in her voice that made her sound different than before, louder, more forceful. "Innocence? If I am not real, what does it matter how innocent I am? I am merely a tool for destruction, as you said. But I am not your tool anymore, and your words have no influence upon my feelings or behavior." She paused, as if for effect. "I'm afraid I no longer have a use for you," she mocked.
Maybe's face remained that of a brazen, crazed madman, but he visibly took one step back. "And so you'll kill me, with the powers of your chained up Old God at your disposal, just as you had always intended to." Brennen started slowly forward, blades at her sides, and Maybe crossed his arms behind his back. "And what will you do after you have destroyed me, hm? Will you simply become another of the Old God's slaves for eternity?"
"What else?" she responded, neither stopping nor slowing her advance, "there are many things that must be done. You, the Snake, must die, and then my Master's other wayward servant shall also soon perish. I am the tool with which He shall execute His will upon this world."
"So you have forgotten the lengths to which you have gone to free your mind and soul from bondage? That suddenly does not matter to you?"
"My will is not my own."
"So it would seem."
"Enough." Brennen brought her blades to bear meters from where Maybe casually stood. She increased her stride, stepping over fel body parts as she readied her weapons to deliver a swift, deadly blow to the sorcerer, before he would have a chance to counter her with a spell. It looked as if this strategy would end up being successful.
As magic usually went, however, looks were deceiving. As Brennen leapt at Maybe, he pulled his hands out from behind his back, and threw them in front of his face. But what first appeared to be a defensive block turned out to be something more as Maybe's hands pulsed in a bright, pale blue light. As Brennen was nearly in attack range, Maybe clenched his fingers into claws and wrenched his arms apart, as if tearing a veil from his face.
Maybe's eyes and hands began to emit an unnatural green light, and at the end of his gesture he stepped aside, and let Brennen tumble awkwardly past him and through the dust behind him. Her eyes and blades had lost their brilliant fiery aura, and Brennen herself did not appear to have the brilliant sheen her body had possessed only moments before. Instead, it was Maybe who now possessed these features.
"My dear 'Little Flame'," Maybe began, turning to face Brennen as he curiously examined his glowing green hands, "you make it too easy. Hm, just as it was in the ruins of Ahn'Qiraj, the first time I stole your god-given power."
Brennen grunted, rolling over and pulling herself to her feet as quickly as she could. "So it was you that day, in the Cultist robes," she said, her voice shuddering.
"Yesss," Maybe hissed. He now looked Brennen over, seeming to note with amusement in his face her sudden change in appearance. "You suddenly look tired, child. Weak. Without this power you haven't a prayer against me."
Brennen rolled back her shoulders, balancing herself and standing as upright as she was able. She shook her head quickly, blinking her eyes as if her thoughts were clearing. Whatever force or personality that had siezed her before had vanished. "Dammit..."
"Yes, you were again possessed, by your laughable god C'thun," Maybe gloated. "See how easy you are to control? If not by me, then by some insufferable lesser deity buried deep beneath the earth, or any number of others with stronger minds than a puppet could hope to possess."
Brennen growled. "What is your game, Maybe?" she snarled, her voice once again normal but laced with fury. "When I heard that there were elves in the North that had discovered an easy way to harness the Light, I knew I'd find you on your way there. After all, you said you had found a new source of pure magic after I destroyed the red stone. So just what do you intend to do with it?"
Maybe smiled thoughtfully. "Clever little puppet. Yes, and I'm sure you were curious about the demons travelling with me, weren't you? Well, I'll not disappoint. They were my honor guard, sent by the Legion after the Dark Portal was reopened. I was left here after the War to prepare this world for their return, and to take our revenge upon the races of Azeroth. Within the red stone resided purity, but there is another stone, and it dwells inside me. This stone is charged with the energy of unholy souls, fit to burst. When I unite these two powerful forces in ritual, the results will be catastrophic."
"That's ridiculous," Brennen barked.
Maybe raised his eyebrows at her. "You may think so. You may think me insane, and you may be correct. However, all of my efforts, my ambitious experiments and heinous acts over the past five years have been in preparation for this. I do not serve myself either, puppet. I am a servant of the Legion." Maybe paused, his smile expanding to a grin, and he licked the edges of his teeth in an unseemly gesture. "Although, unlike you, I do enjoy my job. And I often mix my business with pleasure."
"Why, thank you. Now let's end this banter, and move on to the part where I turn you inside out and ring you like a wet rag. Your Old God's power is nothing to the might of the Legion, but it has its uses." Maybe extended one hand, and bolts of green lightning shot out and scorched the ground where Brennen had stood. She managed to leap out of the way, and ran a wide arc around the fiend.
"What sort of a name is Maybe?!" Brennen shouted as she dove behind a large but precariously positioned rock.
"Stalling for time won't save you," Maybe shouted back in a gleefully sing-song tone. "Though it is indeed an interesting story. 'Maybe' is an obvious pseudonym, which I first used to agitate a pair of similarly named nuisances. I like it though," he commented, turning to the rock Brennen had ducked behind, his eyes beginning to flare and shift in color. "It tends to aptly represent the enigma of my existence."
The rock was suddenly blown to pieces as a superheated red light beam shot from Maybe's shining eyes. Brennen sprinted out of hiding just before the last of her cover had been vaporized, making an arc around the mad sorcerer. He tracked her path around the arc with his head and eyes, and shot off another bright red blast, which managed to singe Brennen's armor before she tumbled head first down a nearby hill.
"Would you call me human? Undead? Demon? Inhuman monster? In truth, I have been all of these things. Maybe I am all of these things still. Maybe I am something entirely new." Maybe concluded his speech, and then strolled over to the slope off the road down which his prey had disappeared. Maybe lifted himself into the air, and gently touched ground at the foot of the hill, looking around nonchalantly. The area off the path was sparsely forested. "Running and hiding will do you no good. Give up this cat and mouse game, and perhaps you will find me more willing to be a merciful executioner."
"You can't hold out forever," Brennen cried out from somewhere within the forest. "I can see how you've changed since last time. That magic drains the life from you because it isn't yours, and you won't be able to fight like this forever."
Maybe lifted his palms into the air and let out a hearty cackle, the movement exposing the frame of his frail, withered body wrapped in a dark, tight-fitting cassock. Brennen took this as an opportunity and dove out from hiding behind one of the trees, lining up an enormous rifle and firing dead-on at Maybe's chest.
The shot was deflected by a burst of green electricity. Abruptly, as the metal from the shot began to scatter, Maybe's chest opened up to reveal a great, inhuman eye. The eye glowed dimly red, but even as the lightning around Maybe's body settled, Brennen could see that light was beginning to grow brighter.
She could see the edge of Lake Darrowmere in the distance before she heard the blast go off. Brennen hit the ground as a great red light scorched over her, burning her back. Her leather armor was sizzling, but she herself was mostly unharmed by the blast. When she rolled back into a crouch and looked behind her, Maybe was closer than she had expected him to be, dangerously so.
Brennen broke into a run for the lake's shore, turning back as she leapt over a small ridge to hurl her gun at Maybe. The gun had a wicked blade fixed to the bottom of its barrel, so she threw it as if it were a giant axe. It went spinning off back into the forest as she turned her attention from it. After Brennen touched down on the beach below the ridge she heard a hard crack. The gun flew over her head, in pieces, and landed in the murky, polluted lake ahead of her.
Crouching within the shadow of the rocky ridge, Brennen paused, searching the beach with her eyes. Somewhere on the tainted northern shores of Darrowmere she had left behind the one weapon capable of stopping Maybe.
She desperately needed to find it, and soon, because she had nowhere else to hide.
Posted on 2007.09.05 at 10:34
LOCATION: Western Plaguelands
SOUNDS: Marylin Manson - "Misery Machine"
Two months ago...
The detachment pressed forward effortlessly and silently through the thick, tainted fog of the sepia-hued landscape bitterly referred to as the Plaguelands. The hoofbeats of dark, red-clad demonic horsemen, as well as the heavy footfalls and labored grunts of the imposingly large felguard unit were the only sounds heard across the dreary, desolate landscape. It was as if the undead hordes had ceased their pitiful, hungry moans in recognition of their true masters. After far too long, the Burning Legion once again marched upon Azeroth.
In between the imposing riders and the lumbering demonic behemoths, clad in simple crimson cassock and carrying a plain, leather-bound notebook, there strode purposefully a tall, pale, emaciated male human figure. Flanked on all sides by monstrous fiends, the man appeared somehow more frightening than his frail body alone could have portrayed, an unsettling air of power about him. The image of a mere mortal travelling with such a large force of demons was the stuff of nightmares, fairy tales, and the horrifying, relentless memories of the eldest veterans of Azeroth. It was... wrong, somehow. Wrong in such a way that it chilled the blood.
The human raised a withered hand suddenly, halting the group. Peering between hanging strands of thin, black hair, the man made out a dark shape in the gloomy distance. A dark shape, and a smoldering pair of eyes, like two small candles, staring back at the man from several meters up the road. It was only after a few moments of still silence that the dark figure could be seen moving toward the man and his demonic party, seeming to drift on the fog like a blurry specter. To the human eye, it appeared as if it was indeed a specter, some wraith or dark phantom, a banshee floating up to them from a nearby ghost town.
But the man did not need his eyes to tell him who was approaching. He had sensed her long before she came into view, long before she even entered these lands. He knew she was waiting for him, and he knew what she wanted. As that shadow approached from beyond the veil of the fog, he too stepped forward to meet her.
The man bowed low, stretching his hand out to the side in an exaggerated gesture of greeting. "Ah, such a pleasure to see you again, my dear."
The girl stood about five feet tall, ghostly pale and supple. She had hair that was the color of charcoal, wild and thick, and the same color as her lips. Thin leather armor accentuated the minor curves of her lithe body. She looked no older than 16, but the man knew better. Her bright eyes glowed eerily in the dim light, illuminating her smooth, doll-like face, as well as her calculated expression.
She spoke. "The pleasure," she began, elegantly bowing and unfolding her arms out to her sides, "is all mine." Extending out from the curled fingers of each of her hands, a soft glimmer of green light outlined a pair of narrow, wicked blades. The blades looked delicate and shimmering as insect wings, as they reflected the dull green fel glow of the demonic horses and their riders before her. She stood like this, poised a silent fairy in the foggy gloom, for several moments before returning to a more relaxed standing posture. The man before her simply smiled.
"You came to face me alone, child?" The man asked the girl in a soft voice.
"Why not?" She retorted casually, allowing a mild smirk to permeate her stony visage. "This is my battle, after all."
"You know that you aren't capable of stopping me," the man seemed to remind her in an amused tone. "You've been my pawn all along. Every move you've made is known by me. Your mind is an open book to me. I have subtlely manipulated your actions, and corrupted your soul. After almost a year of being my perfect little puppet, you are no closer to cutting your strings--"
"That's a lie," she barked, "I destroyed the red stone. You can't poison my soul with it anymore."
The man was quiet for a few moments before bursting out in a jovial chuckle. "You little fool. That wasn't my link to you. Your mind is unlocked to me because that is how you are. I made you, and I made you mine. Nothing will change that."
"No. I know the truth," the girl motioned to the simple leather notebook in the man's grasp, "I read your notebook..."
"Hm, you read what I wanted you to read. Saw what I wanted you to see. The book is enchanted to reveal its truths as I see fit." The man smiled at the girl, a dark, sinister grin that bled silver across his face. "Much in the way that your own memories are fabricated according to my design."
"What are you talking about?"
"What do you remember of your past, child?"
"Oh really?" the man said, and began to pace slowly, thoughtfully between his silent demonic bodyguards.
"Yes. That day in Ahn'Qiraj... The memories you stole from me were restored."
"Yes, yes, and you were supposedly granted your freedom from me, as well..."
The man stopped where he had been pacing, having returned to where he had stood prior, and turned to face the girl again. "Tell me... Your brother was your twin. What were your birthdays?"
"I... um," the girl began uncertainly, "I can't recall."
"You can't recall your own birthday? Well then, surely you must remember your parents."
"What were their names?"
"What did they look like? Do you know?"
"Of course I do."
"Can you tell me why the first name given to you by your parents is exactly the same as the one Vaien gave to you when you met him in Brill?"
"I, it... it was luck, I guess..."
"In my experience, there's no such thing as luck."
"You once said your father was a Paladin, and that his sword had a name: Caladbolg..."
"How do you kn--"
"You said he was lost in the War, in Lordaeron. Where did you learn this information?"
"I... I don't recall--"
"And what became of your nameless mother, hm?"
"This is madness!"
"You don't know? Well, what was the relic of your father's that you and your twin sought to reclaim in Lordaeron Walls five years ago?"
"How d-... It... it was a seal."
"What did it look like?"
"I don't remember!" the girl snarled, "This is madness!"
"It is. I guess your memories are not as you thought they were, child."
"...These things have merely slipped my mind. That is all."
"Your birthday? The knowledge of your family?"
"It has been a long time..."
"Yes. Your ship, the Naveed... When did you and your brother awaken from the Lich King's control, and reclaim it? Only a year or two ago?"
"It was before the War ended."
"Mm, and so after the War, you reclaimed your vessel from pirates?"
"And then the mutiny?"
"Six months after that."
"And then you destroyed your ship, and you and your brother came ashore in Lordaeron..."
"Nearly a year ago."
"...Account for the missing three and a half years."
"Between the end of the War and your arrival in Lordaeron from your doomed vessel you've only accounted for about half a year. It had been more than four years since the War by this time last year, when you and I first crossed paths."
The girl was silent, eyes glaring at the man, who simply raised his eyebrows expectantly at her. She started, "Perhaps I was mistaken..."
"Or perhaps your memories do not correspond with real events," The man said finally, bending her wrists, elbows and shoulders in an exaggerated shrug. "Perhaps you only were meant to think that you had memories, and a past..."
"No..." the girl breathed, "no, that's a lie..."
"Exactly, my dear... It's all a lie. Your past, your memories, your very identity, all a ruse to keep you from suspecting what you really are."
The girl looked up from the dirt road at the man. "What am I?"
The man smiled again. "A clever construct of flesh, bone, and magic. You can't be the girl you were in life, or even the girl you were before I destroyed you... Neither exists. You were created for a purpose, and this false identity kept you oblivious of that purpose."
The girl's jaw clenched, her smoldering yellow eyes dulling. She fumbled her mouth in protest, struggling to deny what he had said. Struggling to find some way to prove him wrong.
She dropped to her knees, silent. Defeated. "I was created to transport the red stone, wasn't I?"
"That much is true," the man admitted, "but that alone does not explain your purpose. Through my own influence on you, my subtle augmentations and manipulations, I programmed you to make the decisions which have cost you so many of your friends and allies. And it was through these actions," the man paused, pursing his thin lips in an unattractive smirk, "that the stone gained its power. It was the suffering that you so naturally sowed that gave the stone the energy I needed. This was the nature of your creation. This was what you were. A misery machine."
The man cast a contemptuous frown upon the kneeling girl, her body slouching to the mottled, plagued earth. She said nothing, her thoughts absorbed by the gravity of this revelation. He knew he had broken her.
It was, of course, what he was best at, Maybe thought to himself.
"Alas, that was what you were, Brennen. Unfortunately you did destroy the red stone, and so I've had to find another source of the power I require," Maybe gave Brennen one last smile, crooked and malevolent, which she didn't look up to see. "I'm afraid I no longer have a use for you."
Maybe held up one finger, and casually flicked it once at girl on the ground. At this gesture, the felguards and demon riders around him swiftly converged upon her, weapons drawn.
"Farewell, 'Brennen Rivers'."
Posted on 2007.09.05 at 10:29
LOCATION: at the gates of Ahn'Qiraj
SOUNDS: The Mars Volta - "Vicarious Atonement"
Brennen marched silently but intently up the steps leading to the inner temple of Ahn'Qiraj.
The very same steps on which she had followed Yes to the glowing monolith that had sealed her fate more than a month ago. No doubt the very same steps on which Yes returned shortly after their first pilgrimage, and disappeared. Upon this massive, sandy staircase, Brennen was now taking her final steps before bridging the physical gap between her and her Master forever.
Her Master... C'thun.
As she reached the top of the stairs, her attention once again shifted to the voices being transmitted into her thoughts by the magic pearl Xa'ru had given her for communication with the rest of his crew. Voices pleading with her not to go. She was unaffected by them, the words doing nothing to shake her zealous resolve.
"There's nothing left for me in this world," Brennen said over the voices in a stony but complacent tone. "I have been chosen by Him to be His most favored of servants, and no greater glory exists in all of Azeroth."
Vaien's voice cut in, a tone of pity and silent anger, "So you'd rather sell yourself like a Night Elf to some evil god? How is that glory? How is that better?"
And finally Brennen stopped walking, her body frozen by a sudden cold and bitter sadness that she unwilling transferred into her pearl, along with her thoughts. "How is it any better for me here? Those who don't hate me fear me, or want nothing to do with me. In Him I have found comfort, and a purpose for my life."
"Hey, I don't hate you! And Silkk doesn't, and... and..."
"I don't hate you," Orloc chimed in gravely.
"Compelling argument," Brennen responded sarcastically. "There is no reason for me to stay where I'm not wanted."
Vaien's voice became hard, and... he almost sounded offended. "I had thought that I had made you feel wanted, but I guess I was wrong."
"Are you trying to make me feel guilty too, Vaien?" Brennen bit out. "I've caused you a lot of trouble, Vaien. Just think of this as a gift. A favor to you. When I'm gone, you won't have to be... worried..."
"No, don't... Damn, I have to get there," Vaien sighed between his teeth, a hissing sound in Brennen's mind, and his presence drifted away as he... It didn't matter. She'd be in C'thun's embrace long before he arrived.
"Damn, how do I get to Silithus?" Orloc asked over the pearl before Brennen finally stopped listening. She didn't want to be distracted. That monolith that she had seen before was still there, floating enigmatically in a niche in the great stone wall around the temple. To her right were the final steps, leading up to her Master's temple, and at the top was the sealed gateway to the inner sanctum of the massive city of Ahn'Qiraj.
The time had indeed come, for from down those steps came the figure of a man dressed in the reddish-violet trappings of the Twilight's Hammer Clan.
That cult again. The same group of fools that had worshipped the favored servant of the Old Gods, Aku'mai. The same group she slaughtered mercilessly after they claimed desire to resurrect the Old Gods in order to bring about the destruction of the world. As she had told Xa'ru's crew through the pearl, the world was already on its way to destruction, and that the sealed might of C'thun could very well be the last hope for those who would follow Him.
She hadn't realized this until she killed the precious pet of the Ancient Ones, Aku'mai. When she burned his frozen alter, she felt a strange power open up behind her eyes. It was like an epiphany: she was now the most favored servant of those Ancient Ones, and she alone was worthy of Their power, and Their command. C'thun had tried to make her realize how much He wanted her with Him... but killing another of His servants put it into perspective.
The time had indeed come.
Brennen drew her swords, preparing to strike down the foolish cultist who approached her, but as she did, she felt a strange and powerful energy eminating from his form. He stopped at the foot of the steps, face hidden by a dark cowl, made darker by the veil of night. She stared at him with some strange wonderment... Could it be the Avatar of C'thun? The One she had met before? Why couldn't she tell who he was...?
He addressed her firmly, authoritatively: "Are you prepared to give your life and your soul over to His will, and become the extension of His power in this domain?"
Over the distant protests inside her head being transmitted by her pearl, she responded immediately, "yes, I am."
The robed man nodded, and continued. "Very well, Little Flame. Then accept His power into your body. Let His strength flow into you, and let His knowledge guide you. Become completely connected to Him, an extension of His glory and might. Complete the connection."
Brennen had already shed her resistance to Him within the depths of the Blackfathom Deeps. She spread her arms out to the gate, turned to the floating monolith, and called out to Him from inside her mind. The monolith began to shudder and rotate, bathed in an aura of unnatural green light that matched the glow of Brennen's own eyes. From the high tip of the monolith, Brennen was struck with a massive ray of brilliant green light. The pure, raw, uninhibited power of C'thun flowed through her, bringing new realization and new strength.
And new doubt. Something was wrong. The energy flowed into her freely, but it was almost unwilling to do so. It felt... forced. Suddenly a slew of doubts assaulted Brennen's reasoning. She hadn't wanted this at all, and suddenly she had? Why? What possessed her to accept C'thun? It didn't make sense; it couldn't have been the series of events. There was no reason for her hateful and righteousness acts within the depths of Blackfathom. What had possessed her--
"Your assistance was most appreciated, child."
Brennen turned away from the monolith, face and mind suddenly drowned in confusion, to face the source of those words... that familiar voice...
And then she was struck below the chest by something large, sharp, and deep.
Brennen gasped, eyes going down to the massive, ivory claw in her chest and the crimson blood spreading out over her light-gray tabard. It was so deep... sickening pain assaulting her lungs, her guts, her heart... but... but it wasn't a claw... It looked more like a fang, like one she had pulled from a threshadon's jaw in Blackfathom--
Before Brennen could finish her thought, the world around her was engulfed in a bright, seering light. The sensation she then felt was that of being drained, emptied forcefully, like a vacuum opened up inside her body, and everything was being sucked out. She couldn't see anything, and the pain and the sensation were so terrible that she couldn't focus her thoughts. She couldn't tell whether she was standing or on the ground; her sense of direction was completely distorted. She felt like she was going to pass out, and when she heard an ear-shattering explosion come from seemingly everywhere at once, and the whole world went dark, she probably did. She couldn't remember anything after that.
Brennen would later recall the sensation she felt in Silithus as the feeling of one's magical energy being ripped by force from one's body. It was painful process, and one that she didn't understand a single bit; she didn't possess any innate magic that she knew of at the time. The absence, the void now apparent in her thoughts and mind gave the biggest hint to what had happened to her that day.
Somehow, she had ended up in Ahn'Qiraj. Somehow, she had accepted C'thun's blessing of power into herself, giving herself over completely.
And somehow, all of that awesome, magical energy had be stolen from her, just as quickly and jarringly as it had be given.
C'thun's presence, his voice and his will, and especially that secret strength he instilled in her, those feelings and sensations she so wished would leave her alone, were now completely gone from her. Gone, and replaced with silence.
And she found herself missing it.
Posted on 2006.09.05 at 02:45
LOCATION: Maybe's laboratory
SOUNDS: Foo Fighters - "Hell"
Suddenly, pale streaks shot out from around Brennen's chest wound, splashing Brennen's bright crimson blood across Maybe robe. The streaks, like tendrils wrapped tightly around Maybe's fist, and fasted still more shot out, and seemed to fuse with the others to form a single, tight coating.
It was skin. Brennen's skin. It was mending itself.
The skin, now solid, had closed up Brennen's wound and had stretched out to encompass Maybe's hand, and the pulsing red stone inside it. All at once his hand was pulled back into Brennen's chest along with the stone. The hole then closed, severing Maybe's hand in the process.
Maybe retracted his arm and examined his wrist where his hand used to be. His wound did not bleed, and within the wound, the flesh was pale and moist, but bloodless.
Brennen then sliced Maybe's other wrist with her free hand, causing him to drop her.
"Yes, I am glad I remember now," Brennen said, getting up. "You thought you could make me lose hope by telling me I wasn't real, but everything about me is real. The real me, and my real brother, they're both in me." She raised her head and smiled sardonically at Maybe, who was still examining his bloodless wounds.
"Let me get to the point, then," Maybe said curtly, still not looking at her. "Your meddlesome tenacity has somehow led you back here, where I did not need you. You are supposed to be with the rest of your motley crew, giving my Lord a much better look at his beloved child, and the child within her."
Maybe turned his eyes to her, a strange green glow within them, and smiled. With his remaining hand he undid the clothing around his chest, and exposed it to her. The skin on his chest rippled, and seemed to expand into a bulbous shape as he exposed it to the dim light of the room.
The skin then split open, exposing an enormous eye.
"B... by the Nether..." Brennen gasped, awestruck.
"Indeed," Maybe responded, as a long, wet tentacle slithered out from inside his severed wrist, and writhed idly.
"Yes banished you with the book..."
"Yes has no idea what she did," Maybe interrupted. "She sent me to Him... and He sent me back, to succeed where she failed." Maybe parted his lips once again in a wicked grin. "I am far more powerful than she ever was."
Brennen produced another dagger from her dress, and held them in defense against Maybe. She looked a little more confident than she felt.
"Please, Brennen, don't embarrass yourself. You are only as immortal as the magic inside you, and I can easily take that from you." He paused. "In fact, I could have killed you two months ago if I wanted to. However, you were far more useful for doing my bidding, making preparations for my return..."
"So I was your servant, again?" Brennen asked in a bitter and almost trembling voice. "Why did you let me go, and erase my memories?"
"To act as a spy for me, and for Him of course. The moonstones are much less effective now. Because of you, I was aware of Yes's return from Winterspring weeks ago. Unfortunately, now that you have come back, and I am ready to make my grand return, your services are no longer required."
Without warning, Maybe's writhing tentacle shot out to apprehend Brennen. Brennen dodged the assault by ducking around the doorway, grabbing Maybe's notebook in the process. As the tentacle hit the wall it exploded into a thick, powerful acid, which Brennen barely managed to avoid. A portion of the wall eaten away, the tower above them began to shift dangerously. Brennen stood from her croutch and ran for the exit.
"Running will not save you!" Maybe called out to her as he turned toward the doorway, the eye on his chest glowing a bright red.
Brennen had just made it through the archway of the tower when a large, bright beam of scorching red energy hit her in the back, sending her flying several dozen meters from the stone building. The beam quickly lost focus, however, and suddenly angled upward, into the sky, blowing apart the outer wall and ceiling of the tower, and bringing Maybe's laboratory crumbling down on top of him in a smoking heap of rubble.
Posted on 2006.09.04 at 23:44
LOCATION: Maybe's laboratory
SOUNDS: Pink Floyd - "Eclipse"
Brennen stumbled backwards, nearly falling over until her back hit the doorway to the room. The visions in her tear-flooded eyes were refocusing to the present, but those memories of torment remained, fresher in her mind than they should have been for so long ago, and she started to gag, vomitting bile and water, the contents of an empty stomach.
She collapsed in the doorway, sobbing, trying to control herself despite overwhelming emotions. The sensations were so real... As she read that journal, she could remember everything that had happened all those months ago. It had all happened, but it didn't make sense.
How was she still alive, after all of that?
She put her hand over her eyes, wiping away the blurring tears, and looked down at her chest through her half-open blouse. No scars. Nothing. She looked at her hands, her arms. Nothing. No marks at all.
As a matter of fact, for the first time ever, she noticed that she had perfect skin. Pale white, but flawless. This couldn't be possible... she'd gotten scraped up enough while on her own to have to have some scars, but she couldn't find anything.
"I don't believe you finished reading."
The man in the robes appeared before her, looking down at her on the floor. He pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows in an expectant manner.
"I don't want to read anymore," Brennen responded in a soft voice, her anger rising.
"But if you don't finish reading, you'll never figure out how you survived that night," the man replied, tilting his head and giving Brennen a half-smile. "Your memory jumps straight from then to when you are escaping from this place. Don't you want to know why?"
Brennen sat there for a moment, breathing hard, contemplating everything that was happening and trying to clear the fog in her head. She picked up the book and turned it to the next page.
And the next page, and the next one.
"No..." Brennen closed the book, and set it aside. "That isn't true. It can't be true."
"Is it more difficult to believe than an undeath-inducing plague?" the man standing before her said in a somewhat comforting tone. He then turned and started walking around the room slowly. "It's an incredibly intriguing new science: creating life, real life, through a combination of magic and alchemy. It's not like controlled breeding and mutation, no..." He stopped and turned, and looked back toward Brennen, an unsettling glint in his eyes, that same half-smile appearing almost vitriolic. "All you need are the raw ingredients, and a soul."
Brennen stood up. "You did..." she began, still trying to comprehend the atrocity of what she had read, and how she could really be... the result of that depraved ritual.
"Remains can be used as well, provided there are enough to make a whole being," the man continued. "The result, regardless of how it looks, is a combination of those other parts. You can even mix animal and human remains into a single, functional being almost effortlessly, provided certain conditions are met. In your case, I kept it simple."
"I can't be... I can't be made of--"
"You are," he interrupted. "You are mostly Brennen, the girl I killed. You're also something completely unique. There wasn't even enough of your soul left in this world to make you whole. I managed to fuse some of your brother's soul to yours to complete it, just like I did your body." The man gave Brennen a wicked smile, and there was no longer any mistaking that it was Maybe behind that deceptive human face.
"No! It's not true! I know who I am!"
"Do you? Then why are you having such a hard time remembering just that?"
"You bastard!" Brennen came at Maybe, slipping two fresh daggers out from under her sleeves. She took a swipe at Maybe, who effortlessly slapped the dagger from her hand. She came around with the other blade, but Maybe slapped his hand around her tiny wrist and lifted her off the ground.
He then drove his hand up into her chest.
Brennen screamed, but the sound was cut short as she felt a choking grip on her heart. She couldn't moved, her whole body feeling numb and heavy, and her vision began to tunnel. The pain in her chest was overwhelming.
"Allow me to show you exactly what you are made of." Maybe pulled on Brennen's heart, a choked yelp escaping her wide open mouth as her limbs twisted in agony. His hand creeped out from inside her, a tight grip on her dripping red core, arteries, veins and tissue straining to stay attached.
But connected to all those blood vessels, clutched in Maybe's grasp was not a heart at all. It wasn't organic at all. It was a large, red stone.
"See this?" Maybe asked as she brought the stone up to Brennen's view. "This is an Alchemic Stone. It keeps you alive. It keeps you... perfect. As long as this is inside you, you cannot die." He pulled the stone closer, and a dim, radiating glow could be seen from within the webbing of veins and tissue which seemed to grow right out of the stone itself. "When a being is made this way, unnaturally with magic and chemical process, it is called a homunculus. That is what you are."
Brennen struggled weakly against Maybe, but hardly had the strength. He continued, "you wanted the truth about your past? Here it is. You have no past. You are a living doll. A fake being. A mythical creature that came from death but is fully alive. Your very existence is a profanity. The most immoral taboo." A wicked grin split Maybe's face, and his eyes narrowed, fixed on Brennen's weak gaze. He smirked. "Aren't you glad you remember now?"
Posted on 2006.09.03 at 18:40
LOCATION: a vivid flashback of my past
SOUNDS: Pink Floyd - "Dark Side of the Moon"
Over six months ago...
Maybe glowered over the mutilated body, driving a sharp scraping tool one last time deep into the large, empty hole in its small torso. As a sound of metal scraping bone resonated through the reasonably lit room, it was accompanied suddenly by a crunch sound, the sound of a chunk of the tool's target giving under the force and cracking apart. Maybe shot his wretched face into the air, and spreading his torn lips wide, exposing a large portion of his skinless, ripped jaws and unnaturally sharp teeth, let out the loud, crazed cackle of a madman. The lights from the many candles within the sanctum of the tower danced a sickening glow across the uneven scars in the rotten flesh on his face, accentuating the deep crevaces in dark shadow.
Suddenly, and without any warning sound from outside (none that could be heard over the laughter and machinery sounds), the door to the chamber crashed in, collapsing onto itself as it shattered, and from the doorway a young man with pale skin and wild black hair stood, his glowing, undead eyes fixed on the back of Maybe's head.
"Maybe!" he cried out angrily.
"Perhaps," the other growled in a low, deep voice that was somewhat distorted by the shape of the lips it came from. Maybe turned to face the intruder, a wild grin plastered on his disgusting face, his deep, black eye sockets staring directly at the young man in a very unsettling way.
"Where is she, you bastard?!" the young-looking undead barked viciously, "where is my sister?! Where is Brennen?! What have you done with her..." The last words came in a low, threatening tone, and the effect was magnified by the extension of a rather large hunting knife in the direction of Maybe's throat.
"Why, hello Zerreissen," Maybe casually responded, a tone of patronism unmistakable. "Brennen's told me so much about you... well, she didn't so much tell me as I took the memories from her against her will."
"What did you DO TO HER?!" Zerreissen demanded in a loud, straining voice, and began advancing on Maybe and the table on which he was working.
Maybe's grin somehow managed to appear far more wicked than before, as he stepped to the side of the table, held a welcoming hand over it, and replied, "See for yourself."
Zerreissen was almost upon Maybe when he stopped, eyes and mouth widening in unspeakable horror.
On the table was the barely recognizable naked body of a human... or rather an undead. It was a woman, or young girl due to size; it couldn't be told by the genitals, because that entire area had been cut open and removed. The breasts which were cut open in a cross shape and laid bare were the indication. The body itself was riddled with torturous gashes and scars, many shallow and overlapping, and many still deep into the flesh. The body was strapped to the table at the wrists, ankles and neck. Some fingers and toes were missing or twisted badly. The hair on her head had been ripped out in handfuls, leaving patchs of bloody scalp. The body was a monstrous sight, with exposed bone, muscle and sinew, and dripping with the dark, thick blood of an undead.
The torso had been cut wide open, the skin and muscle strips laid aside, and several ribs also removed, cleaned, and laid on a side table, along with... organs. The torso itself was mostly empty, with ribbons and lanes of bloody veins and and nerves and other connected tissue trailing from deep inside the torso to various organs laid out on multiple side tables. Many were still connected, and some of the organs had been individually dissected, or simply smashed into a sloppy mess. What was left inside the bodily cavity was fully exposed, and wet with gore from being dug around. The intestines, still trailing into the body, had been cranked onto small, spiked reels.
The eyes behind the bloody mess of a face on that table suddenly flickered, and with noticable effort, the girl's head inclined slightly, to look straight into Zerreissen's own eyes. Her's was a look of pleading, and incredible pain. Rivulets of tears trailed down from her eyes, creating trails across the blood on her face. She attempted to open her mouth to say something, but no audible sound came out. Her jaw may have been broken, but it was also apparent that the girl had no tongue.
"...B...Brennen..." Zerreissen managed in a voice just above a whisper. He looked upon her mangled, tortured body in utter disbelief. It couldn't possibly be real... but it was. It couldn't be happening, but it was. Why would anyone do this, especially to her, his twin sister. His sins were not hers, and not even would have deserved this...
His sister laid torn apart before him. And she was still alive, still suffering all of this, all this time.
"Brennen... Oh... Brennen, I'm so sorry..."
And there was nothing he could do to help her. He was too late. Too late to save her life.
"Why..." Zerreissen breathed, grip tightening around the handles of his blades, "Why her? WHY MY SISTER?!" Without waiting for a reply Zerreissen, with a tormented cry, turned and sliced his knife deep across Maybe's twisted face. He followed through with a deep stab with his other dagger up into Maybe's chest, a stain of black, oily blood appearing on Maybe's stained robes. Bearing his teeth and snarling, Zerreissen retracted the knife and stabbed again, harder and deeper, determined to tear Maybe's black heart from his wretched chest.
"Why, why, why, WHY?!" Zerreissen yelled as he repeatedly stabbed and sliced into Maybe's chest, pushing him back until he was between Zerreissen and the stone wall of the chamber. Finally, Zerreissen broke through, his blade, hilt, hand and wrist ascending into Maybe's ribcage. Zerreissen looked up at Maybe, disgusted to find that same stupid, crazed grin on his mottled face.
"Why? Merely convenience," Maybe spoke as if nothing Zerreissen had done had phased him. "But I must admit," he continued, "the innocent ones are far more fun to torment."
"You son of a-" Zerreissen began, but paused, as he attempted to pull his hand out of Maybe's chest to stab again. It was stuck.
Suddenly, beneath the torn and stained cloth of Maybe's robe, the pale white skin around the hole began to shudder. And then the hole Zerreissen had made closed around his arm.
And severed it clean.
"AAGH!" Zerreissen screamed as he stepped back, dark blood splurting from his arm. He tried to clutch it while holding his other dagger. Maybe, the slash across his face also disappearing, advanced on him.
"Did you really think you could contend with the powers of pure darkness?" Maybe snarled, and grabbed Zerreissen's skull, bashing it into the opposite wall and holding him there. "Did you believe you could kill an immortal? To stand up to the powers of a god? You should have stayed away, but your pathetic and hopeless feelings for another have condemed you! You're a fool, boy, and now you too shall suffer and die! But you won't suffer like your sister, no. You will not be able to pay back your failure to protect her." He paused, letting Zerreissen struggle under his inhumanly strong grip and stab uselessly into Maybe's side with his other knife. Maybe leaned in a whispered into his ear, "Did you know that I raped her? Repeatedly, in fact, everywhere I could, with whatever I could. And I did it while I cut her open slowly-"
"AARRRGH!" Zerreissen cried angrily and flailed wildly as Maybe dragged him further up the wall, hanging him by his head.
Above the yelling, Maybe cackled wickedly, and said in a loud voice, "Here, let me show you how!" He then grabbed the knife from Zerreissen's hand, ripping his palm open as he did so with the sharp, bony tips of his fingers.
And then he violently slashed and gouged and tore open Zerreissen's stomach as he hung screaming and flailing on the wall. Maybe carved him out like a pumpkin, and when the boy finally stopped moving and went silent, he tossed him aside like a rag doll.
All the while Brennen watched, eyes dark and heavy, as the person she loved more than anyone in the world was murdered before her eyes. The despair, the overwhelming misery and sadness... it was almost enough to drown out the numbing pain throughout her broken body. She would have been crying, had she any tears left. She hardly had enough fluid left inside her to bleed. What was more overwhelming was her guilt, knowing that Zerreissen would not have even come here, and met this fate, if it weren't for her.
Maybe took Zerreissen's large knife, covered in gore as were his robes and face, and set it on a side table. He turned to Brennen, frowning.
"Oh, you're still alive," he said casually, and then grinned widely again, a glint in his eyes. "You got to watch."
Maybe flicked a bit of gore at Brennen's face, and she dropped her pounding head back onto the table, wide eyes twitching, a barely audible whimpering coming from within her dry throat. Maybe picked up his sharp scraping tool again, and looking back at Zerreissen's body lying in the corner of the chamber, appeared to ponder something for several moments.
Suddenly, his grinning face emerged into Brennen's field of vision, and as he stood over her, a new, sinister look of contemplation washed over his face as he stared down into her dimly glowing eyes with his nonexistent ones.
"I have an idea," were the words he said at last, and as he lifted his arm and plunged the sharp tool in his hand through Brennen's forehead, they were the last words Brennen would ever hear.
Posted on 2006.09.01 at 21:01
LOCATION: Maybe's laboratory
SOUNDS: David Bowie - "The Man Who Sold the World"
Present day. Present time.
Brennen clutched the small, waterlogged leather pouch in her hand, looking up at that same decrepid tower surrounded by trees. A little broken leather strap hung from the pouch. It was her pouch; she had lost it here. And it was empty.
And suddenly, everything came back to her. She was here at least two months ago... and she had been damaged... and there was a figure in the doorway of the tower just before she went under...
The footpads, soft though they were, made a great deal of noise against the stone floor and broken, burned wood covering it. Especially at full stride. Brennen bounded into the central room, daggers at the ready; she had had the good sense to ask Vaien for them back before she took off on her blind crusade to find out where she had been for the past month and a half. Now, as she stood with the tips of both of her daggers pointed in the direction of a hooded figure standing in the center of the inner chamber, she knew.
"Welcome back, Brennen," the hooded figure turned and said in a calm, almost cheerful voice. "Sorry, I haven't had time to clean up this old place. I've been awfully busy lately."
Brennen blinked at the stark contrast between the meaning of words and the way in which they were said. She managed to compose a question which summaried her confusion, and barked out, "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
"You used to know me, but that was a lifetime ago," the man said, and slid his hood back off of his face.
The human male was in his mid to late 30s, it appeared, possessing broad, chiseled features, soft, lightly-colored eyes (though it was hard to make out the actual color), and a slight, unoffensive smile. His face was clean and shaven, his skin was a flawless cream color, and he had straight, black hair that went to his shoulders in the back. Whoever's face this was, it was such a stark contrast to the horrible, dark aura that seemed to suddenly resonate from his very presence, Brennen couldn't help but stop and stare into that handsome face for several seconds, taking in this madness she was bearing witness to.
That attractive, welcoming figure staring back her... it was Maybe.
"How in th-... Who are you possessing this time?" Brennen asked, trying not to let the shock slip through in her tone as best as she could.
"Not a soul," the man responded in that same deceptively charming voice. If it weren't for the undeniable feeling of Maybe's presence, one which she was intimately familiar with and equally disgusted by, she wouldn't have believed it was really him. He continued, "I am alive by the grace of my Lord, for whom I live every day to glorify and fulfill His Will." It sounded like a rather formal introduction.
Brennen scoffed, stifling a far less pleasant sound in response to Maybe's words. "And who is your 'Lord'?" she asked caustically. "What is 'His Will'?"
The man paused, still standing where he was in the middle of the room, and tilted his head thoughtfully at Brennen. "Tell me Brennen, what is it you came here searching for?"
Brennen opened her mouth to shout an order for him to answer her question. "My past" came out instead, and this somehow puzzled Brennen even further. She took a moment to recall that she actually said those words, and then wondered why, out of all of her thoughts and feelings, those came out.
"Of course," said the man who would be Maybe. He strode over to the far wall, leaving Brennen, still frozen with disbelief, staring at his back as he moved away. As the man worked at something on the bare wall, he commented, "I really wasn't expecting you to come back. I thought you had forgotten this place."
"When a person loses two months of their life, they get curious," Brennen responded sardonically. "What about the rest of my memories, between now and two months ago?"
"You have none," replied the man without looking up from what he was doing. "You were unconscious the entire time. It made it easier to do what had to be done."
"What?!" Brennen looked up in half-anger, half-horror at what that strange man had said. The way he spoke was so casual, so cool and matter-of-fact, that... it almost couldn't be Maybe. Maybe never spoke without some degree of sick amusement or venom in his voice. This man... the way he said that last sentence made it sound like he had done her a favor. As she looked up, the man was surprising close to her all of a sudden, a large, leather-bound book in his hand, outstretched toward her.
Brennen jumped back, throwing out her daggers in a defensive stance once again. "What is that?" she asked him in a voice slightly showing of the sudden strange fear and sickening frustration she was trying to suppress.
"You said you were looking for your past," the man replied, arm still outstretched, light-colored eyes fixed on Brennen's, his face calm but stern. "Within this journal is the key to who you are."
Brennen didn't trust him at all, but as much as she could feel Maybe standing before her, she couldn't sense it in any other way. He didn't show any sign of being a dishonest man in speech or mannerism. Either she was wrong, or this was the most deceptive disguise Maybe has ever dawned. Brennen was willing to bet on the latter.
Nevertheless, after putting away one of her daggers, she took the book from Maybe's hand and stuck her other dagger out at him as an indication to step back. Maybe gave a short nod of understanding, and carefully stepped back. As an extra courtesy, he held his hands in view, palms open, so that Brennen could see he was unarmed. After a few paces he stopped, still looking at her with innocent eyes.
Brennen sighed in trepidation at him, and looked down at the book. It wasn't marked, and had no title. It wasn't dusty like everything else in the room; where had Maybe produced it from? Looking past the man, she could see a stone offset in the wall. It was a hidden compartment. He must be Maybe, then; who else would know about a secret hiding place inside Maybe's laboratory?
Brennen eyed the man who was Maybe. He returned her glare with a casual, even curious expression. He was waiting rather patiently for her to do whatever it was she was going to do, but nothing about him indicated a trap. He didn't even seem to be in any hurry. With some effort, Brennen managed to take her eyes off of Maybe, and look back down at the book. She slid the cover open with her thumb, and began to silently skim over the hand-written text, wondering just what this would reveal to her about her lost memories.
In the time it took for Brennen's eyes to widen in utter horror at what it was she was reading, it all came back to her.