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Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-03-31 07:01pm
Shoggoth are actually cannon for the Dresden Files. Check out War Cry.
It's pretty awesome.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-03-31 10:06pm
LadyTevar wrote:And now you add LOVECRAFT? Jeese, are you running out of things to throw at Dresden or something?
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-04-01 09:13am
LadyTevar wrote:And now you add LOVECRAFT? Jeese, are you running out of things to throw at Dresden or something?
Look on the bright side, with this bunch there's no danger of alien-ating readers...
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-04-01 09:41am
SpottedKitty wrote: Borgholio wrote:
LadyTevar wrote:And now you add LOVECRAFT? Jeese, are you running out of things to throw at Dresden or something?
Look on the bright side, with this bunch there's no danger of alien-ating readers...
Game over man, Game over.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-09-10 09:56pm
The magical world isn’t much different from the mortal one when it comes down to it. It’s more of the same petty arguments and old grudges amplified by the life spans and inherent oddities of the creatures involved. That’s part of what makes the fairies and vampires just so damn scary, we not only understand their motivations but, to some degree, we actually empathize with their twisted desires. Power, wealth, immortality, revenge, and lust – their feelings are all too human, hyper-human really.
Outsiders are different. Nobody is precisely sure what they think or how and anyone who spends too much time actually around the damn things has gone utterly insane. I don’t know too much about them beyond the basics, knowledge of them is basically forbidden by the White Council and I’d never been crazy enough to research them even after I was no longer living in fear of the Doom of Damocles.
But I knew enough to be afraid of them. Ebenezer had made damn sure of that and nothing I’d seen since then was going to convince me otherwise.
The outsiders are from “the outside” – literally denizens of the realms beyond reality. Not “hell” in which demons dwelt or the Nevernever or whatever vast stretches of existence in which the Goa’uld and Asgard sailed their ships through the stars, the outsiders were not part of this existence. We don’t know where they came from, we don’t know what they want, or how they came to be but we know one thing for sure.
They want in.
Thankfully, the only way for them to actually breach reality was to summon them with mortal sorcery. That being said however, there seemed to be no shortage of fools over the years who’d convinced themselves that the warnings of the White Council were just barriers to true power. Hell, the only reason I’d been given the warden’s cloak was because the White Council had been ambushed by the Outsiders supporting the Red Court in their war.
We’d not been expecting it, why would we? It was insane. Mordite, the fabled Deathstone, wasn’t even a weapon. It was just a freaking rock from the other side and touching it would kill anything it touched. Actually summoning outsiders to bargain with them? That was the sort of thing requiring a madman to even consider as an option.
But a Shoggoth? Hell to the no – it took a special kind of crazy to do that. The kind which made the three whackoes who’d been trying to enact the Darkhallow look balanced. Even the vampires ought to have been smart enough not to mess with that sort of mojo. They were violent, but unless they’d started huffing paint it ought to have been obvious that Shoggoth were a no go.
Shoggoth were the supernatural equivalent of a WMD – an extinction level event historically requiring whole armies of Wizards to contain, let alone defeat. They were the offspring of outsiders and God alone knows what, with a diet as monstrous as their appearance. Shoggoth eat sentient beings, full stop. They don’t talk, they can’t be negotiated with, and until you get enough firepower pumped into one of them they will happily keep devouring till they’ve depopulated everything. There are records of defeating Shoggoth on Earth. The work of entire societies working together in concert in order to provide sufficient mojo to trap them or expel them.
Oh, and that’s not the worst part. Not by miles.
You don’t die when a shoggoth eats you. You don’t go to an afterlife. You don’t end. When a shoggoth eats you, you become part of it – one of the tortured souls screaming in fear and pain at the nightmarish eternity to which you’ve been condemned - screaming for eternity.
I could feel the screams echoing in my head as I ran, billions of voices begging for help or warning their loved ones to get to safety. The myriad languages were beyond Lash’s ability to translate, but I knew the desperation in their voices as the end came. They howled, trapped in eternal Ragnarok as the beast’s twisting body propelled itself forward. Twisting and undulating its shapeless body to follow the psychic energies of sapient life.
‘Fuego!” I put a wall of fire between us and the shoggoth, all too aware that the fire would prove only a temporary setback for the beast.
“Forbidden! This is in utter contradiction to every law of sanity let alone the laws of the System Lords.” Enlil’s ability to shout complaints while sprinting was remarkably impressive. I wasn’t even sure if I’d heard him inhale yet. “What possessed him to approach Dagon I don’t know.”
“Enlil, at this point it’s pretty fucking clear that Chronos doesn’t give a flying fuck about the treaties so please, for the love of Apep, stop bitching about it.” Ammit’s thunderous footfalls actually left dents in the deck plates where taloned toes tore the metal as she sprinted. “If we live through this bullshit I promise you that I’ll hold him down while you beat the stupid out of him but until then just shut the fuck up already! I will not spend the rest of eternity listening to your whining!”
Ul’tak was the first to reach the ring room, though the last to enter it as he stood at its mouth – firing blast after blast at the lumbering monster’s gaping maws. We stood at the entrance, shoulder to shoulder, sending waves for fire and Jaffa staff blasts down the corridor as the creature grew ever closer. Atreus stood behind us, his burning blade at the ready.
It was a token gesture at best, if the creature got close enough for him to use the blade it would already be too late for us.
“No – no! You bastard! You absolute and utter bastard!” Enlil screamed as he tried to manipulate the control panel for the teleportation rings. “Ammit! I need to get in.”
The goddess ripped the panel off the wall with a snarl of horror upon exposing its guts. It was empty, totally and utterly empty. Exposed sockets sat where glowing crystals ought to have been.
“He took them out.” Enlil swore furiously. “The bastard took out the control crystals.”
“You can bypass that though,” Ammir replied.
“With what? He didn’t just take the primary controls – he took everything.” The god punched the wall hard enough to leave the imprint of his fist, tearing the skin and leaving a bloody patch on the golden hieroglyphs. “There’s nothing to bypass. I can’t make this work. There’s nothing to even make work.”
Well… shit… time for plan b. Or was it plan c? Hell, we were so far down on the “in case of danger break glass” scale that I’m pretty sure we were down to alphanumeric designators.
I took stock of what we had to work with as I pumped another gout of flame down the corridor to keep the swirling dervish of protoplasmic horror at bay. One Jaffa, three gods, and one highly out of his league wizard trapped in a ring room.
Trapped in a ring room. Trapped in a space dedicated to a coiled groups ring constructed with the magic enhancing element of the Goa’uld connected to a space ships’ power grid. I smiled.
“Fall back to the ring on my mark,” I said, a plan forming in my mind. “I have a plan.”
“Blood of Apep,” Enlil swore, looking from the empty control panel to the shoggoth, and back before growling between clenched teeth and heading for the rings. “Accursed Thoth! Warden, if you get me killed by that thing may the Ancestors spit on your corpse for unleashing this madness upon me.”
“Fire in the hole!” Yelled the Jaffa. The godlings piled into the circle as Ul’tak tossed a grenade down the corridor to give him and me time to fall back. I didn’t need to look back to know that it only delayed the great horror only by seconds.
It was enough.
The very first thing any apprentice practitioner is taught is how to properly establish a Circle. They’re the simplest and simultaneously the singularly most important tool in a Wizard’s arsenal. It creates a screen, an impermeable barrier for errant magical energies and psychic influences.
The Shoggoth was a product of strange, unnatural, and alien magic – but it was still a creature of magic. I pulled off a gauntlet and pricked my palm, letting the red fluid drip down to the floor – splashing on the concentric rings leading to the teleportation platform. Built almost entirely of the magic enhancing loadstone of the old gods, it provided a sanctuary for my cadre from the gaping maws and grasping tentacles of the twisting horror. Lovecraftian horrors be damned, you put a nuclear reactor behind a basic protection ritual and the supernatural nasties aren’t getting through.
That’s not to say that my system was perfect though.
“Don’t break the circle,” I growled smacking Atreus’ hand as he reflexively reached up to touch the glowing barrier. “Anything, even the smallest object, can break the circle and the Shoggoth will kill us all.”
“Thrice damn you Thoth. And damn you Dagon! Why they ever started this fool errand I will never know? Was being the allies of the Furlings so terrible a chore?” Atreus sheathed his sword in frustration. “Keeping ones word isn’t a weakness, whatever some of our kind might attest.”
“Thoth’s folly was an innocent one,” Enlil replied. “He couldn’t have known what it would bring about. He was always a thinker not a warrior.”
“Look where we stand Enlil! Look at it.” Atreus pointed at the slavering jaws and lidless eyes. “Any fool should have known the answer to his question. Only someone mad with power would actually pursue his logic to its ultimate end. We are above the other forces of reality in this universe but we are still of it.”
“I don’t disagree,” Enlil replied. “But speaking a fifteen word question is hardly a cardinal sin.”
“It damn well is when it nearly unmakes reality.” Atreus replied. “Look what it did to your pantheon.”
“What pantheon?” Ammit joked darkly. “The whole of us could fit in an Alkesh, even including retainers.”
“Says the woman with no holdings at all!” Enlil’s eyes flashed in rage.
“I don’t have my holdings, but I have my honor.” Ammit smiled toothily. “Can you say the same?”
“Honor… bah! Honor was our undoing at first. Honor is why Anubis was trusted to guard Apep. Honor is why Thoth was allowed to speak to the entire great pantheon.” Enlil hissed darkly. “Honor brought us to this… thing… in front of us… that blasted monster.”
It was then that I felt a man’s hands grasping at my robes, Ul’tak had fallen to his knees. His eyes were wide and fearful, darting back and forth in horror. “The screams master! Can’t you hear the screams! They’re talking to me – make them stop. Please make them stop.”
“Well – this blows.” Ammit smacked her chops in frustration, glaring into the mess of pulsing eyes pressing up against the barrier. “Warden I really hope you have a plan to get us out of this.”
“Of course I do.” I didn’t – well not beyond ‘make peace with your god’ – but it’s a wizard’s sacred duty to at least pretend he has a clue what the hell is going on. I tapped my wrist, clicking an armored finger against the material of my wrist computer as half a plan formed in my mind. “We’ll use my wrist device to activate the rings.”
“Are you – you’re joking? At a time like this?” Enlil’s face turned an interesting shade of puce. “There are no control crystals. We can’t wirelessly connect to a computer that doesn’t exist!”
Ok, I’m not the biggest computer guy in the galaxy but even I could see that there wasn’t much of a way around that logic. That was bad. That was really, really bad.
As I considered the very real prospect of choosing to commit suicide over allowing the Shoggoth to have me something unexpected happened. Unbidden by any of my companions, the rings rose from the ground enveloping us in white light. I barely had time to look at the baffled face of Enlil before we were whisked out of the room and into a scene that would have terrified me this morning – a war host of red court vampires standing around a single bloody Jaffa with a look of victory on his face.
“I really hate your plans Warden.” Ammit murmured, shaking her head in befuddled horror. Ul’tak, for once, did not send a dirty look at the godling for criticizing me.
He was too busy trying to point his staff weapon at every vampire at once as he stood up and let go of my robes.
The vampires’ chittering rubbery bat like forms hissed and yowled in surprise at our appearance, fangs bared at the apparent threat. “Cipactli!” The vampires howled on seeing the crocodilian shape of Ammit, backing from her even as they screeched in near orgasmic anticipation of the coming violence.
“Fuck it, I always knew I’d go down fighting these damned things!” Ammit flexed her claws and put her back to the wall.
I reflexively pooled my magic, readying myself to slay any of the preternatural killing machines before it occurred to me that I very well might not have to fight at all. According to my godmother the red court was under orders not to attack me or those under my command.
The vampires were ostensibly my allies in this conflict, though I very much doubted that their foot-soldiers understood the terms of their deal with my godmother any better than I did. If I talked loud, acted confident and did my best to look inedible I was willing to bet that I could keep them off base and on good behavior long enough to figure out a better plan.
“Who is in charge?” I demanded, cracking my staff on the ground.
The vampires chittered and hissed to each other, crooning a crowing as I repeated myself. “Who is in charge?”
“Why should we tell you, creature?” Mewled one of the inhuman monsters, his belly bulbous with freshly spilled blood. “Why should we not just kill you as we have killed all the rest?” He gestured to a pile of Jaffa bodies getting picked over by red court soldiers. The shoved meaty gobs of Jaffa into their greedy gullets, devouring blood and flesh alike. They had to take care not to touch the armor though, any vampire whose skin touched the ensorcelled armor screeched in pain as their flesh burned and puckered from touching the blessed surface. “See! We have crushed the Jaffa just as we did before, even without the aid of the other courts or those accursed wizards. Why should I not feast on the flesh of a god?”
“Because he would gut you from stem to stern and I would allow it.” Remarked an aristocratic voice tinged with a Hispanic lilt. “These ones are marked by Winter. They are not for us.”
The crowd of vampires parted and I came face to face with yet another dead man from the past yet to come. The sturdy jaw and strong features of his flesh mask still resembled the aristocratic conquistador that he’d once been, though I knew all too well that beneath it the man looked just as inhuman as his fellows. I never forgot the faces of men who wanted me dead.
Duke Paulo Ortega was a man who’d very much wanted me dead. Duke Paulo Ortega was a man who not only very much wanted me dead but who would also know what I looked like. Hell, after starting a damn war the entire Red Court probably knew me on sight. He as dangerous as all hell and willing to cheat as long as he won. A man who kept his honor right up till he was losing was a truly dangerous fighter, especially when that man was unburdened by a mortal moral compass.
Not for the first time I was pleased for the mask concealing my features. I was standing in potential paradox central.
The ship shook as the sounds of screaming echoed through the hull, psychic feedback from the distant Shoggoth. The Duke looked from the grinning Jaffa, to the rings, to the ceiling, and back to me. “I presume that noise bodes ill for those we send to the upper levels.”
“Shoggoth” Ammit replied, her predatory yellow eyes glaring at the pitiless black orbs of the Duke.
The vampire horde hissed like boiling kettles, chittering madly at each other before the Duke slammed his foot on the deck. “You are vampires, not little girls. You will keep your composure.”
He looked down at the Jaffa, “I’m impressed. You withstood both torture and the kiss of the red court, sending my men into a trap even knowing it would bring your death. Were you able to take it, I would have seen that you were turned.”
“I would kill myself rather than be one of you.” The Jaffa snarled.
The Duke nodded in approval, reaching down to grab the man by the neck. He spoke to the captured man as if it were an old friend, saying “I believe you” before twisting sharply to kill the soldier.
“These Jaffa…Would that men on Earth still had their honor. I’ve not killed a man who walked into death with such pride in far too long.” His eyes shone black as night as the powerful jaws beneath his flesh mask shifted, warping his continence as he ground razor sharp fangs in frustration. He composed himself before addressing me, “You are the Warden – the Winter Queen’s pet Goa’uld. Curious, I’d never imagined one of your breed would allow such a thing.”
“Duke Ortega, I would think that you would be the one for whom the least imagination would be required.” I replied, pulling from my own memories of the red court vampire. “How is the Duchess? Does she still spurn you just for her own amusement? Keep you as her pet Spaniard?”
The vampire’s flesh suit appeared to boil as his muscles twitched beneath it, apparently I’d hit a nerve. A nerve that apparently amused a second figure whose I’d initially missed in the swathe of vampires. “Temper Paulo. Temper.”
She was beautiful, that is assuming that a tall, perfect, porcelain skinned goddess is your thing. She rested a blood soaked hand upon the Duke’s shoulder and bent over next to plant a narcotic laced kiss upon his cheek. He sighed deeply, relaxing almost instantaneously upon contact.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out who the vampriess was. “The Duchess Ortega I presume?”
“Encantado Lord Warden.” She laughed, a haughty pleased sound that was something between a purr and a screech. “Oh – but that title makes me laugh – when I tell my father that you’ve taken it on and that you’ve chosen to wear one of their cloaks in mockery of them, he may well decide to give you special permission to return to the first world just so that he can irritate our enemies. A god wearing the cowl of the god slayers – magnificent. Simply magnificent.”
The Vampiress smiled, quirking up her blood-red lips as she looked at my group. “And I hardly need ask the names of your companions. Well, well, well… the Winter Court has been busy. My father will be furious that he has been cheated out of collecting the Cipactil’s skull. We were told that she would be on the battlefield, not that she would be one of yours.”
“No more sad than I am to be unable to rip that mask from your disgusting parody of a body and rip that bulbous blood bag from your belly, whore queen of the dead.” Ammit replied. “I should have killed you when your armies fell at Ixkun.”
Ariana held the Duke in place with a look even as his face promised imminent violence upon the Goddess. Once convinced her husband’s rage was subdued, Ariana replied, chuckling with a polite mirth which reached nowhere near her eyes. “Not for lack of trying Eater of Corpses. The ghouls still fear you too greatly to even march onto a battlefield where you walk unless we coerce them with violence– their tribes talk of the flesh pit with mixed reverence and horror.”
“This is all nice and threatening with the exchanging of barbs over old hatreds but just in case any of you forgot there is a SHOGGOTH ON THIS DAMNED SHIP!” Enlil bellowed pulling at his hair in frustration. “We get it. You’re all very intimidating and will one day finally get around to killing each other. Can we please sidle on past the part where we share veiled threats and go straight on to the part where we pool resources to not die? Because I feel like I’m the only one who has not totally lost grip on reality. Seriously? Am I the only one who’s hearing that?”
He wasn’t. The psychic screaming of the Shoggoth wasn’t as loud as it had been when we’d stood on the bridge with it but it was steadily growing louder. The horror was making its way into the ship looking for prey.
“The Lord of the Storm is right,” Agreed the Duchess. “We must leave this place.”
“Good, we just need to get to the Leananshide – we can use her portal to…” I stopped, catching the Dutchess’ expression. “What am I missing?”
“Lord Warden, we are cut off from the upper decks. That is why we were attempting to use the teleporter. Only moments ago a klaxon announced that emergency containment procedures were being put into place and four decks of the vessel were vented into space.” The Duchess waved her hand with a flourish. “We are beneath them – she is above… or elsewhere. I wouldn’t imagine that she’s foolish to stay in a Shoggoth’s path. Should it approach her I expect that she’ll retreat to the safety of our forward staging point and close the way behind herself.”
“Crap – right, she hasn’t promised to stay and get us off this thing has she?” I swore angrily.
“The Fae are so fond of their literal contracts. I’d imagine the deaths of everyone on this ship would be a net gain for them.” Duke Ortega growled.
“Lord Warden,” Ul’tak tapped my shoulder furiously. “I really think you need to see this.”
“What Ul’tak?” I turned to look at the display behind the Jaffa.
It was a simple enough display, one of the complex Goa’uld chronometers that I’d seen before – a mix of ticks and triangles intended to signify units of time. “Yes, it’s a clock? What of it?”
“It’s counting down Milord.” Ul’tak intoned. “It’s counting down in units of ten.”
“Oh fuck me, they set the ship to self-destruct.” Ammit sighed. “I don’t know if I should be terrified or glad that at least the damn Shoggoth isn’t getting off this thing.”
“Impossible.” Intoned the Duchess. “Chrono’s general would never admit defeat.”
Atreus shook his head. “Dutchess, the general is dead. The one running his army is somebody substantially lower down on the pecking order and not looking to be part of a shoggoth’s food chain. He’s going to be way less worried about Chrono’s punishment of him in the afterlife than potentially not having an afterlife at all. Better death than unmaking.”
The Duke let loose an oath in Spanish, “Diablos. How long do we have?”
“They’re using a cyclical clock.” Enlil shrugged. “Five minutes or five days, who the hell knows when it’s set to stop counting. But there is no way of stopping the damn thing – you can bet that they’ll have smashed the control crystals the way they did for the teleporter upstairs.”
“Right, Ul’tak – is there another way off this ship?” I asked my first prime hopefully.
“Another way? Other than the flight deck or the teleporters?” Ul’tak blinked a couple of times. “Not that I can think of, the only things below the flight deck are engineering and the living quarters for the Jaffa. Anyone important enough to merit an escape pod would be on the upper decks.”
“This ship is designed like Sokar’s mothership though? Not exactly but in general terms right?” I asked already knowing the answer before Ul’tak nodded in the affirmative.
“I do not quite understand your meaning warden…” The Dutchess queried nervously.
“I would have thought that was obvious.” I smiled wolfishly as I remembered the startled faces of Larry, Moe, and Curly Joe as they plummeted down. “Does it have a brig?”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-09-11 07:06am
Quick get pitchforks and torches.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-09-11 11:00am
The mental image of dark and bloody-handed old gods screaming like little girls and running away gives me a serious case of the giggles...
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2015-09-12 03:20pm
YES! FINALLY A NEW UPDATE!!!
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-08-20 03:12pm
Shoving a small army of gods and vampires into prison cells is less of a logistical issue than one would expect, all things considered. Really the hard part is convincing the vampire royalty that, yes, in point of fact you are serious when you’re locking their underlings into prison cells as a way of getting them off the ship. Exactly what had possessed the original ship builders to have designed their prison cells to be quite so easily jettisoned was beyond me, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood to fight it. So it was that I found myself trapped in a tiny metal box full of blood covered vampires, plummeting down towards the planet below.
“Mind your surroundings, my host.” Whispered the voice of Lash in my ear. I could feel her hot breath caressing my ear. “Do you not see it? See what must be seen?”
I hadn’t and she damn well knew it. The only time a woman bothers to use that tone is when they know something that you don’t. It’s maddening. I clenched my teeth in irritation, thinking at the phantom. “I don’t know – educate me.”
“The Vampires around you, do they not seem odd to you? Do they not strike you as doing something vastly out of the ordinary for a cadre of the Red Court’s elite warriors?” She clicked her tongue in a way that reminded me of my 6th grade English teacher – simultaneously prompting me for a response and chiding me for not having already provided her with the answer.
Oh!” I thought, realizing to what she referred. “Oh – wow.”
The vampires weren’t agitated. Not with me anyway. Covered in blood and bearing a range of weapons, to be sure, but they were basically sedate by vampire standards. A fully vamped out Red Court warrior shouldn’t be able keep cool around so much exposed blood – they would have been in a murderous frenzy. They would at least be licking the leftovers off their talons. None of them were even sniffing at the bits of blood and gore between their claws and fur. It was as though they didn’t even care.
“They don’t.” Agreed Lash. “Nor will they – for a time. The bloodstone brings a temporary reprieve.”
“Weapons…” I thought, remembering Lash’s earlier words. “The Vampires were made as weapons – humans aren’t even supposed to be what they eat, are they?”
“No.” Lash agreed. “A mortal will slake their hunger for a day, perhaps only hours. They shouldn’t feel the hunger again for at least seven days after feeding heavily off Jaffa. After being forced to settle for mortals for so long, it would have been a kingly feast. ”
“All the bloodshed, all the suffering, all the horrors of war we’ve undergone – and you’re telling me that the vampires consider mortals to be the dietary equivalent of freaking popcorn?” I ground my teeth together in an effort to keep our conversation non-verbal. “We’re just a god damned substitute? All the people they’ve killed, all the lives taken – for a meal they don’t even like eating?”
“Essentially – yes.” Lash replied. “Well – for the Red Court anyway. The White Court is not so fortunate in their origins, the worm who bore them to term intended for them to be precisely what they are. Though I will admit that I doubt she expected to be on the receiving end of that weapon when they came to fruition. The Origins of the Black Court are not fitting for any company; else one speaks a name and risk the attention of its bearer. But they were all made, one way or another, as a way of expelling the traitor worms and their occupation of Earth to plunder the treasures of Eden.”
I read – a lot. Comes with the territory when you’re unable to own a television or keep a radio working for too long without it going on the fritz. I shop at secondhand book stores mostly, they’re cheaper than the standard book store and the words end up being the same. It saves me money but doesn’t always guarantee me a steady supply of books in any specific subject… other than WWII that is. Come rain or shine, I could always find a book about WWII. I found a book once that talked about living under the Nazis, what it had been like to watch the world fall apart. What it had been like to watch families torn asunder. What it would be like to watch men murdered in cold blood in the streets, and even to spend every night wondering if there would be a tomorrow. From what I’d seen, the Goa’uld were capable of violence that would have shamed the SS.
Could I imagine choosing to turn myself into a monster in order to save the ones I loved?
Damn right I could.
It’s funny – I spent so much of my life thinking of the monsters that the Red Court became after they were turned that I never spared a moment to wonder who they had once been. Had they all been like Susan? People who were thrust into a war they only thought they understood or had they walked into the darkness knowingly? Had they elected to become monsters to repel something they knew to be worse? Just the vague inklings of Heka's mind showed me that the godling had been a horror on par with the worst enemies I'd ever faced. In his eyes all life had been replaceable other than his own. Making a compromise to destroy something like that? It would be a no brainer. Had the Dutchess been a person worthy of respect?
Would she have even possibly been someone I might have admired?
I must have been staring at her more intently than I’d realized, she cleared her throat in obvious discomfort as she stared back into my expressionless mask – a surprisingly degree of unease in her voice as she spoke. “Warden, I am bound by the laws of hospitality. I did not lie.”
I did not reply, in part because I didn’t really know what to say and in part because it bothered me just how human she seemed to be – at least for the moment. Slaked of the hunger the lumbering, rubbery, black forms of the vampires seemed more comical than terrifying. Their sinewy bodies were relaxed, their eyes lucid and wondering, and their bellies – full of the blood and ichor of Chronos’ Jaffa, bounced comically as the prison cell’s internal dampeners struggled to keep up with the high-velocity projectile aimed towards the planet.
The Duke subtly placed himself between his wife and I as he made a sweeping gesture to the grey cowl draped about my shoulders in an obvious effort to break the tension, “I would be very curious to know how you came by that – Lord Warden. I know enough about that bit of fabric to recognize the genuine article, and de verdad that is a Cowl of the White Council. Which of their ilk was so foolish as to stray across your path even after the accords?”
When in doubt – tell the truth. “None – I had no need to take one by force. It was a gift given willingly. I provided them with the services requested of me and was paid a commensurate reward – the Cowl and Title were only part of the deal.”
Whatever the Duke had been expecting – that hadn’t been it. “You… you do business with the White Council?”
“Not much. I’m generally a weapon of last resort. Though I suppose, technically speaking, I am on their payroll.” I resisted the urge to laugh as he started puckering his lips as though he’d tasted something particularly sour. “They see my involvement in their affairs as something of a liability. What with my history of consorting with dark forces, using necromancy, and enacting dark pacts with horrible creatures from the NeverNever – they’re pretty much convinced that I’m going to end the world given half a chance.”
“I did not believe that the White Council was willing to tolerate your kind.” The Duke replied in a voice of strained civility that betrayed far too much of the complex interplay of emotions running through him. At this point in history the vampires of the Red Court would be in their early stages of their war with the White Council – mustering their armies and planning exactly how to wipe Wizards off the face of the planet. The absolute last thing the Vampire Courts would need was for another power to get involved in their war – especially one who’d managed to bring as much power to bear as I’d brought to protect Nekheb.
“Oh, they’re not exactly tolerant. Even had a Warden whose sole job in life was basically to try and catch me at a moment of weakness and kill me.” I shrugged. “You learn to live with these things as they happen. They’ve actually debated killing me before but they can never get enough votes together to actually commit themselves to ending me. Not that it doesn’t keep coming up, I’m sure.”
“Blood of Apep Warden, is there a power in the galaxy you aren’t working with?” Ammit leaned in and grumbled into my ear. “You escape from Sokar’s exploding ship with a Tok’ra who just “happens” to be in place to ensure your escape from a planet. Tau’ri military just “happens” to be engineering the destruction said planet as you escape. Sokar’s armies just “happen” to surrender to you upon arrival so that you can escape and you just “happen” to take us to the Tau’ri home world where the Asgard just “happen” to decide that – just this once – they can be liberal with the protected planets treaty. They teleport us to the planet’s surface where the Tau’ri just “happen” to be willing to let us go in exchange for a starship that you just “happen” to be willing to let go. We get back to the planet and just “happen” to arrive at the time when you can bring to bear an army the likes of which I’ve never seen to repel an enemy who should have been able to crush you with the assistance of unspeakable powers who just “happen” to be willing to deal with one of their hated enemies. And here we are where – once again – you just “happen” to be on speaking terms with the very creatures who were bred with the specific purpose of murdering us. I thought you were exaggerating when you said you could see the future but you really can can’t you. I thought that technology was beyond even the most powerful sorcery or science at our disposal.”
“Yours perhaps.” Ul’tak replied. “Do not doubt the power of the warden.”
“You… you gave the mortals a space-ship.” The Dutchess sounded ill at the prospect.
“A Ha’tak.” Enlil smiled cruelly, his overt hatred of the Vampires bolstered by their apparent inability to do him physical harm. “And I’m certain they will soon be able to use its sensors. I wonder – dear Lady – what they’ll do once they find the profile for your kind in its database. Or when they realize how to poison their blood against your kind? So many horrible things can be done with proper application of UV light.”
“Enlil,” Atreus put a firm hand on Enlil’s shoulder. “Enough.”
“What – you would be kind to those who would feast on our flesh gladly?” Enlil snarled, the vitriol in his voice apparent as his eyes bored holes into the Vampire noble.
“No – I would not do a discourtesy to one who fights the same battle as I. Or would you have me treat you with all the ire that I hold in my heart for the actions you’ve taken in battle?” His grip tightened painfully on the god’s shoulder, making Enlil wince. “Lest I remind you of who I am? Of our blood feud? Of the blade I will one day sink in your spine as honor demands? Of how the rules of hospitality are the only thing keeping you still breathing?”
“That will not be necessary.” Enlil replied, swallowing his pride audibly. “I – I apologize for my rudeness.”
The Dutchess nodded to Atreus, evidently pleased. “Apologies are unnecessary.”
The Duke ground his teeth as the cell shook violently, fangs exposing themselves as he growled. “Diablos! What was that?”
“One of the shielding plates that connected us to the deck above us. Don’t worry, it will disconnect,” Ul’tak replied. “We’ll start being able to see through the porthole above us but it’s structurally sound.”
“Porthole – like a window?” The one of the vampires screeched, eyes running from corner to corner across what appeared to be a ceiling made of pure crystal. “Like a window that will expose this entire space to sunlight?”
“It’s shielded.” Ul’tak replied in apparent disappointment. “You’ll get none of the effect that harms your kind.”
“I… I will get to see the Sun?” The one of the bat faced vampires asked – something almost human in her tone, wistful even. More powerful vampires could create flesh masks capable of shielding the vampires from sunlight, but it took a concerted effort and a whole boatload of power. The Dutchess and Duke could probably manage it. The rest? No way in hell.
“And they sky.” Ul’tak confirmed.” Though the trajectory we’re on will send us to the night side of the planet, we will only briefly be in direct sunlight.”
“I have not felt the kiss of sunlight since I was young.” Another of the crooning vampires whistled. “Only the twinkling of stars and moonlight, I did not believe that such a thing were possible.”
“Oh, it’s entirely possible.” Tittered an amused female voice that had no place in the plummeting cell what so ever. “Most things are if you pay attention.”
I just about gave myself whiplash spinning my head around to see my godmother standing where I was damn near certain had been a vampire warrior only moments before. I scowled behind my mask, “You were there the whole time?”
“Indeed I was.” Lea tittered. “Think ye not that any barrier which would have barred my entry would not also have prohibited these creatures? I simply waited for them to use enough bodies to break the power of the ship’s wards, and then walked past them without harm.”
“And you just let us think that we were going to be devoured?” I sighed.
“You seem to have had the matter well in hand, dear child.” Lea replied. “And rest assured you would not have perished. Your survival was part of the bargain.”
I could trust her word. She was a fairy. But I did not doubt for a second that she had planned to rescue me and just leave my companions to Shoggoth’s endless, mindless hunger. Not even Vampires deserved that kind of a death.
With a resounding screech of rending metal the exterior panel tore away from the roof, giving us a view into the endless silence beyond. It wasn’t like the movies, when you watch Star Wars or something like that you can hear the sounds of explosions and violence. In reality, you just see the brilliant flashes of light as ships fire atomic balls of death at each other – without even a whisper.
At least it was supposed to be like that.
Instead, what we heard was the howling scream of God only knew how many souls trapped within the immortal torment of a Shoggoth’s digestive processes. It had eaten, and eaten well. The ship we’d parted from was buckled and broken where the Shoggoth’s tendrils found purchase. Its great fleshy mass of eyes and mouths now protruded from most of the upper decks, barbed tongues spitting out to grab whichever gilders and fairy warriors strayed too close to the creature.
I briefly wondered if Ul’tak had been wrong in his assessment that the ship had been set to self-destruct before the photoreceptors on my mask slammed shut, protecting my eyes from the atomic fireball. The Vampires cheered at the detonation, or rather the vampires hissed and crowed in a way that I interpreted as cheering. Look, I’m not exactly a prime interpreter of Red Court battle form body language beyond “hungry” and “dangerous” but I can fill in the blanks.
For example, I can say with a substantial degree of confidence that the vampire sound for horrified disappointment is a whistling crow followed by chittering screeches. Because the only possible reaction to seeing a nuke go off and fail to kill a shoggoth is a mix of fear and regret for the actions leading up to having failed to kill the Shoggoth.
“Oh come on!” I groaned as the fleshy mass plummeted towards us a speed I was quite certain exceeded our own.
“Oh, calm yourself child.” Lea shook her head. “We’re in no danger.”
“Furling – I do not know by which metrics you measure danger but I am staring at a distinctly non-zero quantity of Ancestor cursed danger!” Enlil hissed, watching as the hulking mass of burning flesh writhed and screamed towards us.
Lea merely took a stoppered bottle from her waist, whispered a word into its contents and waited as the silvery cloud dissipated into the air. There was a wet, popping splat as though an egg were being flung at a walls and the puff whipped up and through the ship’s ceiling – weaving through the hull as though it were water. The shivering mote of light whisked up towards the nightmare that gave other nightmares the heebie-jeebies, expanding and swirling as it went. There was something familiar about it, though I could not place it – an almost oppressive sense of déjà vu.
It wasn’t one of Heka’s memories. It was different – mine somehow. it was an instant of clarity that I had no right to even know. That mote of light was important, terribly important, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember why. I knew what that mote of light was, I had seem it before. I was convinced of that, at least. But I knew with total certainty that was false. I had never seen the mote nor known it's purpose.
It wasn't the first time I'd felt that way today, come to think of it. When the unbidden jibe to the Duke suggesting that he was merely a plaything for his wife had come out it had seemed an idle bit of snark - but how had I known to say it? I knew
The mote grew and grew, spreading out great tendrils of glowing light behind it. It spun about like a jellyfish, twinkling stardust spreading out in its wake. I cringed at the idea of something so beautiful being subsumed by something as terrible as the Shoggoth.
I needn’t have worried.
I’m good with fire. I mean really good with fire. You need something burned to the ground? Call 1-800-WIZARD for Harry Dresden. I will burn, bake, broil, and burst any combination of flame magic in the general direction of the nearest magical nasty. But this thing was on another level altogether.
Where the nuke had only bothered the Shoggoth, the glowing beams of impossibly hot fire annihilated huge chunks of the beast. The long jellyfish tendrils of the creature became flaming scourges that wrapped their way around the creature as it’s incandescent body spread out to engulf the monster wholesale. The eyes of the Shoggoth bulged, it’s jaws bit, and it’s claws tore, but they only burned to cinders and dust against the creature’s heat.
The vampires dropped to the ground, tucking their heads beneath their wings – followed closely by the Goa’uld. Only my godmother and I stood, staring at the lights above us.
“Close your eyes !” Lasciel hissed as though through clenched teeth. “Close your eyes if you do not wish for it to see you back!”
I couldn’t. Even if I had wanted to look away, I couldn’t. The creature’s sheer presence was overwhelming – passion, rage, everything that made up life seemed to radiate from the creature’s very being in unlimited measure. And the more I looked, the more that I felt the inexorable desire to look at it with my Wizard’s Sight. I needed to see this creature for what it truly was. I needed to understand it – to become it… part of it. Thin lines of silver shot across my eyes, forming scales over my corneas – an action that should have alarmed me but brought only bliss.
I wanted that fire – to let the flame consume me and make me whole. I needed to be part of that flame.
Then, just as suddenly as the urge to subordinate my very being to the glory of whatever that thing was came – it went. Heka seemed to have been aware of whatever it was that Lash feared. A harsh klaxon buzzed in my ear as the visor went pitch black, only displaying the message “countermeasures engaged” in hieroglyphs that conveyed their meaning as clear as any English I’d ever read. The mask in front of my glowed with a swirling mix of spells beyond my ken, pulling thin slivers of silver light from my eyes and shattering them.
“What… what was that?” I thought as soon as I trusted my own mind enough to form coherent words.
“That was a creature from long before mankind spawned from the muck and mire of your home world.” Lash’s voice shook with a mix of fear and disgust.
“Was, was that an Angel?” I thought, struggling to equate the beauty and horror I’d seen.
“No… though it would debate that point – endlessly.” Lash sighed in disgust. “You have no word for it, and no context to understand its existence…. Not yet anyway. Your kind has yet to achieve the Primacy of Lazarus. And you dare not submit to those who would not share it.”
“The Primacy of Lazarus,” I repeated, only realizing after having done so that I spoke aloud.
“But they do not intervene…” Whispered Ammit in horrified reverence from where she cowered on the ground. “ The Law forbids it.”
“They still do not, dear boy.” Lea chuckled with an edge of something between contempt and joy. “They still do not. Get up, all of you – the deed is done and the beast hath departed. They are ever so fond of a show but they linger only moments among their lessers. The watchers will only tolerate minor involvement in mortal affairs and even those are for their mutual war.”
My display returned in time to catch a glimpse of the collection of vampires and godlings getting back to their feet before a startlingly bright yellow haze engulfed the plummeting prison cell. Vampires and gods alike were buffeted about the cell, any semblance of dignity a distant memory. Only my godmother managed to avoid the tangled chaos of limbs and shame, electing to simply sit on the ceiling and watch us collide with each other. She howled with laughter from her gravity defying perch, clapping her hands together girlishly in a way that made the thin bands of silver around her fingers snap against each other like an overly excited metronome. I might have found the whole situation funny myself, were it not for the fact that I’d ended up pinned between one of the stone bunks and the substantial weight of Ammit.
It took only a matter of minutes for us to make planet-fall, crashing to the ground with an abrupt hissing crunch of the cell's internal repulsion-lift generators struggling to slow us as we reached velocity. Miraculously we were neither shot down by the anti-aircraft weaponry or Nekheb or the invading forces of Chronos. Though, come to think of it, the former shouldn't surprise me. Traitor's Bane would know where I was at any given second – the Genius Loci was aware of me even when I wasn't aware of it.
“Off!” I snarled, extricating myself from where I'd ended up on the ground – half tangled between the goddess Ammit and a pair of the vampires. The vampires required entirely minimal encouragement, their skin charred and cracked where it came into contact with my armor as though they'd been branded. Searing white hieroglyphs burned along their flesh were they'd hit me, scar tissue already forming over their wounds as they leaped always like scalded cats.
The door to the cell exploded outward with a hissing of pressurized air meeting genuine atmosphere, the smoke and dust of battle fresh on the wind. We were on the outskirts of Nekheb – the slums. There were places like it back on Earth, the favelas of Brazil for example. Places were the poor stacked their dwellings five or six stories high and eked out a living on whatever meager means they had on the high hills overlooking the city proper.
It was jarring to go from direct sunlight to the dead of night so quickly, and still more jarring to realize that it was no darker for it. The city of Nekheb was aflame. I knew, thanks to Traitor’s Bane, that there had been several pushes towards the city proper after we’d left. One of which had apparently been sufficient to break enough of the air defenses to allow a proper bombing run of the city. I knew too that they’d managed to repel the attackers – but not, lamentably, before they’d ringed in entire platoons of Jaffa into my city.
My armored feet sunk into the mud, squelching through blood-stained pools of water and viscera. The armies of Chronos had not differentiated between the soldiers and citizens of Nekheb – the dead were piled up in pyramids and left to burn, the sickly sweet taste of burning man-flesh permeating even though the filters on my helmet.
Ul’tak’s cold hatred was as biting as any spell of the winter court, “They will pay for this my Lord Warden.”
I nodded, but even as the urge to kill every Jaffa who'd ever born the mark of Chronos welled in my heart, I knew there was no point. Traitor's Bane knew all, saw all, and filtered that information into my mind in real time. The Jaffa of Chronos were broken – they didn’t know it yet but they were routed. More than half the armies of Chronos did remain, but those who were too foolish to surrender to Jaffa would quickly become prey for Sidhe.
“Good,” I sighed, resting on my staff looking out across the smoldering city of Nekheb. Bolts of staff light still shot across the city, those Jaffa too stubborn to surrender doing what they could to repel the demons of summer and winter. Distant twinkling plumes of smoke still erupted from where those Ha’tak still convinced of their own divine guarantee of victory still tossed nuclear death down at the titanic fairies along the horizon – poisoning the earth and sky.
I spun around, opening my palm. I was ready to lash out with a wave of kinetic force as a shape rushed out from the ruined house next to me, stopping short to cower in horror at the glowing light of my foci. She was young, seven – perhaps eight – and she was terrified.
God, we had to look like something out of a nightmare, an armored wizard in an expressionless mask, a cadre of battle-worn gods in human skins, a blood soaked mess of bat-like vampires, the horrifying near human beauty that was my godmother, and the crocodilian pre-historic terror that was Ammit. Her eyes darted from monster to monster, clearly convinced that she was due to join a pile of corpses. Her lip quivered, too scared to even scream – that was at least till she caught sight of Ul’tak and put two and two together.
Her head whipped back to my armored form so fast I thought she would get whiplash. Lips, soot blackened and split where someone had struck her, split into one of the most genuine smiles I had ever seen on a person’s face. She propelled herself forward, little legs heedless of the broken glass and rocks that lay between her and I in spike of bare feet. “You came!”
“I prayed and prayed for you to come and you came.” She hugged me tightly about the waist, crying and laughing without any pretense of dignity. The grey-black soot caked across her face streaked, tears exposing her face to the pale night sky. She hugged me as tight as her little body would let her, rubbing at the blood, soot, and tears with the back of her tiny hand. “I don’t want to die. Please Warden, don’t let me die.
My heart broke.
Blissfully, Traitor’s bane did not answer when I wondered just how many sad little girls were cowering in their rooms praying for a god that would never come. The welfare of slaves would be beneath the interest of a Genius Loci built by Heka. I was not so lucky when I wondered what had become of the girl’s parents. I was not brave enough to turn and face the burning mound of charnel behind me, electing instead to just hug the girl back.
“Scarf.” My voice cracked and rumbled with Goa’uld reverberations as I reached out to the Dutchess.
The vampire noble blinked momentarily before undoing the shawl about her neck and handing me the silk garment. It was beautiful, likely kept from centuries prior – a piece of cloth that probably cost more than I had earned in the past ten years and I couldn’t have cared how expensive it was as I used the priceless item to wipe off the child’s face. I knelt down to get eye-to-eye with the child, saying soft words of comfort that could do nothing to help ease the pain I knew she would soon feel.
It took longer than was likely wise to stand still in an active warzone to get the kid’s face cleaned up, but wise had left the building the second I saw the kid. I had been an orphan. Had felt the loneliness that this poor girl hadn’t yet had the time to realize she ought to feel. I’d sat up nights praying that some distant relative or family would swoop me up and take me in their arms – make a family for me.
There was no way in hell that I was going to leave this sad, lonely little girl by herself.
“We’re taking her.” I said, looking at Ul’tak. “I don’t know how many survivors there are between here and the palace but we’re taking every damn stray child with us.”
“Warden, better to let the flock tend to themselves.” The Dutchess Ortega crooned. “Best to not worry about chattel. I am no babysitter. I will not do something so foolish.”
“You will. And you’ll do so gladly.” I said, my voice far calmer than my mood.
“And why, Warden, would we do that?” Asked the Duke.
“Godmother,” I asked. “I could be very much mistaken, but I don’t believe that the warriors of the Red Court have my direct invitation to be here, do they? They’re bound to Summer under a promise to do no harm to me or any of my property. But – I have given no such promise to the forces of Summer to do no harm to these vampires.
“No, dear child,” My godmother agreed. “You have not.”
“So if I were to strike them down – the Summer Court wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop me. Worse yet, I’m pretty sure that summer is only allowed into my realm under the conditions that they protect us the same way that Winter would.” I smiled wolfishly behind my mask. “Both Summer and Winter would view such a thing as fighting me back as a wholesale violation of the bargain made with Summer, would they not?”
“A grievous one, especially as it was Aurora with whom the bargain was struck,” agreed my godmother. “As your guest and your godmother I would be obligated to do such terrible things as have not been seen by moral eyes since the first of the wars following Thoth’s folly.”
“You wouldn’t dare!” The Duke moved to pull his blade from it’s scabbard, only to have his wife grab his hand – the implications of what I was saying having hit her faster than they hit her husband.
“Paulo, no!” The vampiress hissed like a scalded kettle. “Not if you value my life!”
“Dutchess Ariana,” I stood up to my full height, using a minor effort of magic to amplify my already distorted voice. “You will assist me in saving children or I will have watched two prehistoric monsters immolate this night. Your choice.”
Dutchess Ariana clapped her hands together, letting loose a loud bark of laughter. “Well played, Warden – well played – very well. I will help you save those children who can be saved, if I have your word that you will extend us the same hospitality you offer to Winter – so long as we help you slay the armies of Chronos.”
I nodded. “You have my word.”
So it was that a little orphan girl started walking towards the palace of Nekheb, surrounded by a vanguard of the oldest and most terrible creatures in all creation – singing happy little songs all the way.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-08-20 06:43pm
THIS was well worth the wait. THANK YOU!
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-09-22 10:29am
Ariana and her husband, more able to pass as vanilla human beings than anyone else in our cadre, had become the unspoken representatives responsible for keeping the children calm and in one group – with my godmother in tow, of course, to keep them on their best behavior. The herculean act of keeping two dozen scared children together in a single group while surrounded by Red Court vampires was taxing even to the self-styled super-beings. Even sated on the blood and flesh of Jaffa, the bat-like rubbery bodied vampires chattered and hissed terrifyingly.
Paulo seemed to be the better nursemaid between the two, cooing softly to scared children and singing tunes in Spanish to those most distraught. Unlike Ariana, he didn’t seem to have been educated in the language of the Goa’uld, but his placid demeanor and steadfast comfort in interacting with scared children had proved useful in corralling the children way from battle. Had I been more focused on my knowledge of the Red Court and less focused on the Jaffa of Chronos I might have remembered that Paulo likely cultivated that skill to facilitate feeding upon children, but I can only juggle so many monsters at a time – and my arms were already full with fending off the Jaffa of Chronos.
As we found more children it became increasingly difficult to advance, when it had been only the Goa’uld, Vampires, Ul’tak and I could more or less trust them to take care of themselves. I sure as hell wasn’t going to lose any sleep if a vampire caught a stray staff blast. But if I lost even one of those children, I wasn’t ever going to be able to forgive myself. I’d been forced to pull out all the stops, if I gave our enemies even a second to catch their breath they might use that opportunity to kill the kids.
I don't know how many we killed in order to get to the palace. Dozens, perhaps hundreds. I stopped counting after the third block, and stopped caring after the fifth neighborhood I found in ashes with corpses piled two stories high. Piles full of tiny bodies who'd never have the chance to live a full life – children who'd likely been praying for me to save them. Children who'd wanted me to protect them from the dark things.
There was a fury in my belly more caustic than any hellfire I'd ever flung from my blasting rod. I wasn't a god, but I'd be damned if I wasn't going to bring down the wrath of an angry wizard on these lunatics. I dislike bullies on principle. There's something about the strong picking on the weak that I've never quite been able to tolerate. Maybe it's how much I've had to work to control my own power. Maybe it's just one too many Spider-Man comics as a teen, but I've never been able to watch a bully pick on someone weaker without stepping in to intervene.
It had gotten me into a lot of trouble over the years. It had earned me a lot of bruises, cuts, broken bones, and enemies who were probably a lot stronger and better connected that I – supernatural and mortal alike. I'd lost a lot of money as a private investigator taking on cases for free, or close to free, because a client's situation had just gotten my dander up and raised the fight in my belly.
Jaffa were a soldier race bred with the expressed purpose of being able to go toe to toe with some of the biggest supernatural nasties out there. I'd watched one of the Jaffa of Chronos punch through a vampire's head while we'd been fleeing the cargo bay. I'd barely registered it at the time, what with the sudden influx of a vampire army, but the strength required to just punch through flesh and bone was astronomical. In physical confrontation between Jaffa and mortals, the mortals were ill equipped to resist the larger, stronger, and all around more durable servants of the Goa'uld.
And the human population of Nekheb's lower ward had resisted. They'd had only minor victories, but there was the occasional Jaffa corpse among the human dead. I picked up a burnt dolly from where it was cast aside in the blood soaked mire, handing it back to a girl of no more than five – herding her into the veritable pack of children we'd saved thus far. We'd yet to find an adult alive, the Jaffa of Chronos seemed to have been killing every mortal taller than a wagon wheel and sparing the rest.
Except the infants. As an act of “mercy” they'd slain swaddled infants in the arms of their mothers, to save them the pains of starvation. I shook with rage, not able to meet Ul’tak’s adoring gaze. I would have just found it sickening under the circumstances. “Why aren't there Jaffa protecting these people?”
“We are not supposed to, my Lord.” Ul’tak replied. “Not till the battle is won.”
I virtually gave myself whiplash as I rounded on him, pointing to a two story mound of charnel. “Does this look like winning to you?”
Ul'tak shivered near imperceptibly, staring back at his reflection in my expressionless mask. “My Lord Warden – we only have so many troops. If we pull your armies into this sector it is at the cost of leaving one of the more mission critical sectors potentially open for saboteurs.”
“We couldn't spare anything?” I all but screamed. “We can't defend these people? I haven't seen a another damn friendly Jaffa in this entire neighborhood.”
“You... that is to say Heka, designed the slave sectors to be difficult to defend in case of rebellion, Milord.” Ul'tak replied. “It can not be defended without committing so many troops that we risk loosing the city. In an invasion such as this, it was deemed best to secure all other sectors and then go in afterward to determine how many slaves had died.”
“Come on now warden,” Enlil spoke in what I assume was supposed to be a soothing voice. “I'm sure we can replace your stock easily enough.”
“Replace?” White hot rage flashed across my eyes – a shimmering luminescence flashing out my mask's visor. God help me I was going to resurrect Heka just so that I could kill him again. “You can't just replace people.”
“Warden,” Enlil reached out and put a comforting hand on my shoulder. “They're just humans.”
I'd punched him before I even realized I was going to, breaking his nose into a bloody pulp. He fell into the bloody mire, a betrayed look of shock and anger in his glowing eyes that turned into fear as he stared back at the glowing pits of rage in my mask. I knelt down and spoke to the bleeding, terrified god.
He shouted something that might have been “Why would you do that?” but came out as a garbled mess of vowel sounds and pained sinuses that only ended up in a pained scream as I lifted him by his shirt collar.
“If you ever treat the death of another human under my protection so callously I will begin to reconsider the degree of protection that I offer you Enlil.” I all but whispered. “I'm sure the Duchess and Atreus would be happy to help me discover just how quickly I can replace someone who is just a Goa'uld.”
Ammit snorted, lifting up the broken godling and tossing him to Atreus, “Well, I saw that coming a mile away.”
Atreus tried not to look too pleased at Enlil's suffering with only marginal success as he raised the foci on his left palm, casting a glowing light over the man's face that reformed his broken nose in an instant. I'm not sure what hurt the godling more, the physical pain of his nose or the emotional pain of being healed by Atreus. He sputtered like a scalded cat at the repair, forcing out words of thanks as though they were the most caustic of vitriol. “Thank you.”
“Speak nothing of it.” Atreus helped him to his feet. “You'd be poor sport if you were broken.”
“Must you bring that useless old feud up at every opportunity?” Enlil spat in disgust, though I suspected his irritation was more at me than Atreus.
“Until Ninlil gets her vengeance – or your heart's blood meets my blade,” Atreus slapped Enlil's back. “But fear not, creator of Ea. One can find penance through righteous action sufficient to unmake the need for vengeance – even that of a woman's righteous wrath.”
“Speak not of the nightmare.” Enlil blanched. “Or she will listen. I swear that harridan was born half Furling.”
“Speak of nothing, diablos, or you will scare the children even more,” Adriana’s teeth clenched in irritation. A little girl with grey eyes and dark skin pulled at the vampire’s skirts, trying to wipe the soot off her little face. Ariana pried the child from her, less gently than I would have preferred, before looking at my godmother. “Enchantress is not bewitching and beguiling the spawn of foolish mortals your domain?”
“Any other time? Perhaps.” Lea replied, apparently only vaguely paying attention to the Vampire as her cat-like eyes focused through the smoke. “There are several who would make welcome additions to my pack.”
“Godmother.” I growled warningly. I knew all too well that my, godmother had a history of making deals with children in exchange for turning them into hounds in her service. It had been only a mix of luck and wizardly cunning that saved me from becoming one of them when my Godmother had tricked me into the bargain for enough power to defeat DuMorne.
I’d spent most of my adult life terrified that my Godmother would eventually catch me – afraid to step as much as a toe into the Nevernever. I knew no matter where I went and matter how far I traveled, she would somehow be right there on the other side, waiting for me.
I wasn’t about to inflict that upon some poor, unsuspecting child.
“Only an observation dear child, thine herd has no danger from mine own actions.” Lea tittered. “Though there are Sidhe with less control than I. A cluster of transient orphans this large? It will doubtlessly draw the attention of – ah, yes – He’s later than expected.”
The “he” in question transpired to be a man. He stumbled from the alleyway, clutching at a bloody patch of marred fabric at his side. Someone less experienced with the fey or less prepared by my godmother would easily have mistaken his feint for genuine pain and gone over to help him. Which, I suspect was when he would have struck.
When he looked up from the ground, presumably to beg for aid or mercy or something to heal his imagined wound, he froze inhumanly still – apparently trying to assess his new situation. He’d been expecting a few weak stragglers, not a full war party of gods and vampires.
“Is that who I think it is?” I asked, my eyes flicking up to the bright red hat on the man’s head and the slight pink stain that his preferred choice of dye had left along his forehead and ears.
“That depends entirely upon if you’re of the belief that you are looking at the Red Cap.” Replied my godmother.
The Red Cap was one of those fairy myths I’d been hoping was just a myth. He was a serial killer, a murderer who ambushed lone travelers and slew them to use their blood to paint his cap. Legend was about as reliable as any other rumor mill out there, but I got the sense that this guy would murder every single child in the group behind me with a smile on his face and an erection that could penetrate concrete.
I rested my face place in the palm of my hand, “And why, precisely, is the freaking Red Cap wandering back alleys so far from the front lines?”
“Why, hunting the Jaffa of Chronos – of course.” Replied the Sidhe in a simpering tone of platitude. “As befits any member of the Sidhe court.”
Ammit snarled in disgust. “Don’t trust a word this opportunistic little shit says. He’d strangle his own mother if she turned her back on him for more than a moment.”
The Red Cap’s eye twitched at being addressed by the Goa’uld. “I didn’t ask you bitch queen of snakes!”
“Oh, still pouting that I kicked your ass?” Ammit grinned toothily. “I’m down for round two if you are. And I’m willing to bet that the warden would just sit back and let me pound your pasty ass into one of those piles.”
“And why is that?”
“Because I know you. You aren’t out here hunting Jaffa. Jaffa are strong. Jaffa are capable. And Jaffa wear god damned armor.” Ammit shook her head. “You don’t do strong, do you? You only come in when you’ve got an edge that puts you an order of magnitude above what your enemy can bring to bear. And you don’t have shit. A lone Red Cap versus a platoon of Jaffa? You don’t play those odds. So that means you’re up to something that you’re not supposed to be doing. And regardless of if you haven’t broken any of Mabs rules – I’m sure you’ve broken the Warden’s.”
“Well, serpent, you’re partially right.” Agreed the Red Cap as he snapped his fingers twice, bringing little flickers of green light with each snap. “I prefer an unfair fight.”
The children screamed as the mounds of charnel stood up and began to move. My stomach churned as I got a look at the three giant forms. Their legs took strides that were one or two times as long as mine, and when they came to a stop their long arms spread out and touched the ground. Flat heads, stark as a skull and glistening with blurt blood. Hands ended with three meaty disproportionate fingers, stretched as though someone had just stretched musculature over skeletal work without bothering to add skin. Rawheads, monsters that assembled themselves from the discarded bits of slaughtered hogs and cattle.
They were carnivores. They would start small with dogs and cats before slowly working their way up the food chain to adult humans. If you caught one when they were small, you put it down hard. Nobody had caught these ones.
“That will be quite enough.” Lea’s cracked out like an icy whip. “Else thine insults against the Warden’s Retainers be interpreted as an insult to the Warden’s Authority. The Queen of Winter would not appreciate insults to her host.”
The Red Cap’s face was an absolute rictus of hatred at being denied his confrontation with Ammit, his eye twitched as he struggled to contain his disgust. Impulse control was apparently not his strong suit. Still, he was a member of the Winter Court, and any member of the Winter Court would be insane to openly defy his queen. He stomped his feet angrily in the muck, banging his hands against his sides as he forced the words, “I apologize for any insults given,” out of his lips – virtually frothing at the mouth in the process of speaking those words.
Choosing to ignore his display my godmother held out her hand. “You will give me the wand.”
The Red Cap snorted. “And what would you offer for it?”
“Nothing.” My godmother replied.
That – was not what he’d been hoping to hear. His eyes bulged. “Nothing?”
“Nothing which hasn’t been already paid. I’ve already saved your life once today by stopping you from suffering the wrath of the Winter Queen. That debt is more than sufficient to justify my payment.” Lea smiled predatorily.
Hissing like a scalded cat, the fey pulled a long willow rod from his jacket and passed it to my godmother in revulsion – as though even a second of acknowledging his exchange was causing him outright agony. His eyes burned with malice, looking from my godmother to Ammit and back. His lip curled, flashing sharp teeth. “Is our debt satisfied?”
“Yes.” Replied my godmother. “You may leave and go where thou wouldst. Towards the front lines of battle is advisable – I intend to tell the Winter Queen of your progress, whatever it might become.”
If he’d been irritated by what came before, he was outright apoplectic at my godmother’s casual dismissal of him as though he were some common servant. And to be shanghaied into the most dangerous part of the battle? I could practically taste his rage as he walked past us with his rawheads, the rotting scent of charnel departing with them.
“You know that prick is going to try to take his revenge for that right?” Ammit asked, her voice deeply approving.
“What is life without a few challenges from those less apt than we?” Replied my godmother. “Now, let us see about arranging transport.”
She took the long rod of willow passed to her by the red cap and pointed it skyward. A bright green light shot forth to the heavens, overpowering the stench of battle with the pleasant scent of flowering shrubs and fresh morning dew. Lea looked at the wand with a mix of surprise and amusement. “Though I’ll admit I’d not expected him to be this efficacious in his retribution.”
“Should I be worried Godmother?” I queried.
“No, dear child. There is no danger” My godmother replied, her voice impassive. “I embarrassed the Red Cap – so he is returning the favor. You’ll see soon enough.”
I did. The wand seemed to be a signal flare for the flying ships soaring through the skies. But where the ships of Winter were great warships of crystal and obsidian, the ship which landed before us was sky-frigate hewn from a flowering mess of vines and moss covered brickwork. Its wide sails seemed to have been sewn from the gossamer threads of silk, a complex pattern of twinkling lights behind them that I knew to be the little folk. If ever I had seen a vessel of the Summer Court, this was it.
What I did not expect was the beauty who leapt down from the vessel. Her features were almost identical to Maeve, but warmer – brighter. Her fair skin and pale hair made the near violent green color of her eyes even more striking. Five nothing, a hundred and nothing, with her blonde hair tied into the same braid I’d seen her wearing the first time I’d met her – or the first time I would meet her I supposed, before the battle of Midsummer. She’d not been wearing the battle mail at the time, a silvery set of ringlets as fine and elegant as any gown of mortal make. She’d worn coveralls and been sculpting with clay. She’d loved to make things.
But I had seen the battle gown before, glowing with its own radiance. I’d seen her wearing the same sword and leaf garland in her hair. I’d basked in that heartbreaking loveliness.
And then I’d killed it, and her with it.
Aurora, the Summer Lady, died the death of a thousand cuts – torn to shreds by Toot-toot and his cadre of little folk. I still remembered watching the light drain from her eyes as she spoke to me in a terrified whisper, “Wait, you don’t understand. I just wanted it to stop. Wanted the hurting to stop.”
I spoke in a hushed whisper, my voice reverberating with its metallic hollowness as my eyes met hers. “The only people who never hurt are dead.”
She tilted her head in confusion, “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I.” I replied, shaking the cobwebs from my mind as I realized that Aurora was, in point of fact, not an apparition or some sort of figment of my imagination. I did my best to start over. “My apologies, Lady of Summer, the battle seems to have robbed me of my manners. Welcome to Nekheb. Wouldst though consent to assist me in transporting these children to the safety of my palace?”
“And your cadre of killers as well, I suspect?” Aurora’s voice wasn’t cruel, but there was a striking absence of warmth in it. It was like talking with someone who you’d once been in love, comfort more biting in its absence than any vitriol. Oddly it was Enlil who seemed to disgust her the most, she visibly recoiled at his gaze. “Killers and worse.”
“They have been extended the same courtesy as Winter – invited guests of his court.” Lea replied, emphasizing her own court as a subtle reminder that Summer had not been invited.
Aurora’s smile didn’t quite reach her eyes as she shook her head sadly. “So much unnecessary death. So many killers. Tell me a true answer to my questions Warden, and I will grant you and yours this boon you ask.”
“Ask it.” I replied.
“I am not a killer. I struggle to understand how your kind thinks, how you operate. You are a creature of cruel logic and brutal calculus like those of Winter. Had you not been attacked by Chronos, had you not had this destruction brought down upon you – how long would it have been till you took your fleets and inflicted it upon another of your kind. How long would it have been till you started a war?” She sighed. “Or do you just view this as a setback till your next conquest?”
“I don’t want to start a war – ever.” I replied. “I have no interest in war, only doing what is right. But there are times when a war must be fought for what is just, even at the cost of lives.”
The Summer Lady sighed, “And should the right thing be to start yet another war? Would you do it?”
“Would I?” was essentially academic at this point. I’d started the War with the Red Court to save the woman I loved, consequences be damned. I pointed to the children. “To stop more orphans? To protect people from monsters? You’re damn right I would.”
“Then I will grant your boon, Lord Warden.” Aurora replied, gesturing towards the gangplank made from smooth white stone. The vampires herded the children on to the Summer Lady’s ship, followed soon after by the Gods. Enlil’s lingering gaze upon the Summer Lady troubled me, though I’d be hard pressed to say precisely why.
My godmother raised an eyebrow but said nothing in particular as I lingered a moment longer, looking at the Summer Lady. It was haunting to see someone I’d killed alive and kicking, and not just alive – thriving. The Summer Lady wasn’t just alive, she seemed to be a pure embodiment of life. I wasn’t sure if it was just my memories having faded over time or if the madness that finally overtook her had robbed her of some of that spark, but she was more vibrant than I’d ever remembered her. It was like standing next to a live wire, I feared if I were to reach out and touch her I might burn up in the sheer passion she exuded.
“Is there something else Lord Warden?” Aurora asked impatiently, causing me to realize precisely how long I’d been staring at her. “Something pressing perhaps?”
“Go with the truth Dresden. Not the whole truth. If you expose yourself to her, she’ll kill you just as she plans to kill the Summer Knight, but there is no reason to lie.” Lash whispered.
“I wish that we’d met as friends rather than how we have. I wish that this didn’t have to end in blood. I wish that I could prove to you that I’m trustworthy or that you don’t have to hate me.” I felt my eyes beginning to tear up. “And I’m sorry for the pain I brought you. I’m sorry for how this ends.”
“You’re sorry?” Aurora repeated.
I felt guilt that I hadn’t even remembered I had welling up in my breast as I spoke, the suppressed horror of having been forced to slay her at the front of my heart. “I don’t like being a killer. I don’t usually enjoy it – I don’t like it when I do. Please don’t become me. Don’t let hopelessness and desperation make you into something that you don’t have to become.”
Aurora blinked, reaching up to touch my faceplate and pulling back her fingers where the ferrous surface burned her fingertips. She stared at the burned digits then up at me. “We are who we were meant to be, Lord Warden. Our Mantles choose our roles for us, regardless of how we would prefer life to become. Our fates are not our own.”
I tried to think of something to say that would bring her comfort, explain my meaning to her, perhaps even help stray her away from the path she would head down forcing me to kill her, but I could think of nothing. Nothing, at least, that wouldn’t endanger my own existence in the past. So I merely elected to walk on to the fairy ship and stare at her in silence as we soared through the air, heading for the great Pyramid.
“You can’t change the past Dresden,” Lash whispered in my ear.
“Then what the hell am I doing now?” I thought in reply.
“Living in the present.” Lash replied. “That your past and present coincide is merely incidental. Those actions which were instrumental in bringing you to this point have already happened. You can no more change it than you can choose to have been born to different parents or under different stars.”
“That doesn’t make things any better.” I thought back, staring out across the burning city-scape. There were fewer skirmishes than I remembered, with those few places still embroiled in battle apparently being overwhelmed by the combined force of my Jaffa and the armies of fairy. The dome of energy above the city still hummed, casting the town into pale illumination, but those few bombardments to strike it could be counted in intervals of half hours rather than minutes and the distant skies were no longer streaked with the constant streams of plasma-fire.
Something of my mood must have been evident in my body language as my First Prime, leaning on his staff next to me spoke in a tone of cheer that couldn’t help but strike me as blatant appeasement. “The battle is won milord. It is a time for celebration among your people – or it will be. There will be feasting for days.”
“Weeks.” Agreed Atreus. “This was a battle worthy of the great Epics. They will sing songs of this day across the galaxy. The day the Mad God tamed nightmares.”
“The Mad God?” I replied, unable to keep the chuckle out of my voice. “I wasn’t aware that I’d agreed to that title.”
“My Lord Warden – madness and greatness are separated by degrees of success only in the eyes of the beholder. And though you are possessed of both, I promise you, it will be the Madness of which they sing.” The Greek god patted me on the shoulder in an approving way. “In tones of reverence to be sure – but you, my dear friend, are quite entirely and irredeemably mad. Mine father is going to be green with envy that he missed this battle.
Ul’tak brimmed with pride at the reference to Pelops looking favorably on our proceedings. I filed away “Pelops” under the things to look up when we had more time to properly investigate as the fairy ship reached the great throne room balcony outside of the Palace of Nekheb. My party dismounted from the ship, first the great herd of children, then the Vampires, then gods, then my godmother, and finally myself.
I lingered briefly at the gangplank, looking at the Summer Lady one last time – knowing somehow that this would be the last time I saw her before my former self would kill her – and made a choice. If I couldn’t change the past, then I could at least speak my conscience. “Aurora – I am going to tell you the future. A future. Your future. I grant you this boon freely, asking nothing in return other than that you listen to the truth I speak. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Make sure that you are choosing what is right in life rather than what is least painful. If you choose otherwise it will end horribly.”
“Is that a threat Lord Warden?” Aurora replied.
“No.” I sighed. “It’s a fact. And though you may not believe it, I would prefer that you see me as a friend than as an enemy. I do not wish you or any other being undue harm.”
The Summer Lady replied. “You are as dangerous with your tongue as any Sidhe, Lord Warden. Would that we never meet again. I would not wish you any undue harm either.”
It was readily apparent that the Summer Lady was going to read the worst possible meaning into anything I said. For lack of a better reply I shook my head, walking down the gangplank and onto the balcony. I didn’t look back as the ship pulled up its gangplank and soared away into the shadowy skies, spiriting away the woman destined to die by my hand.
I walked the distance of the balcony and in to the throne room, half expecting the sight that greeted me even before I noticed that the children were being herded back out on to the balcony by the vampires. More, I suspected, for the benefit of the vampires who feared what lay within than for the children, who all seemed mostly amused by the situation. For there, at the center of my throne room, was the Queen of Air and Darkness – Mab. She’d fashioned a seat for herself out of ice, doubtlessly pulling moisture from the very air. Two massive trolls stood on either side of her, so bulky that I hardly understood how they’d entered the palace to begin with. As I approached her, a wall of ice formed – encircling Mab’s throne and trapping me alone with her and the trolls.
“Queen Mab, it is a pleasure as always.” I bowed slightly, showing due deference to Winter’s Monarch as I used Traitor’s Bane to confirm what I already suspected. “Our victory is all but totally secured.”
“Indeed Warden.” Replied Mab, tiny rivulets of ice on her face and arms where she’d been perspiring with the effort required to unmake warships. “For the battle – but not the war.”
“War.” I repeated the word, a sinking feeling reaching the pit of my stomach. I’d made a mistake in my initial bargain – I must have.
“Indeed – we are allied for however long it takes us to purge the galaxy of Chronos' minions.” Mab smiled. “His empire spans dozens of systems and hundreds of worlds. It will be a labor of years.”
That boded ill. “Still, the battle is won. It is time to return this system to its proper place in the stars.”
“No Wizard. I think not.” Mab grinned a distinctly shark-like grin, predatory and victorious. “Perhaps never even.”
“What?” I sputtered.
“Warden – I agreed to protect these people. It is at my discretion to decide how to best secure their safety. To save them. Here they are safe. Safer in my realm than ever they will be elsewhere. Safe from Chronos, safe from hunger, safe even from time should I so will it to cease.” Mab laughed, a sound that mirrored nails scratching across a chalk board – harsh and grating. “I think that would be very safe would it not? A star system crystalized in amber, alive and safe in perpetuity?”
I blanched. I hadn’t considered that as even being a possibility.
“And, of course, thy bargain is contingent upon fulfilling the payment part of our deal – I am, of course, to keep them safe until you’ve secured what is mine.” Mab tutted. “But should you fail to what is mine or fail to hand it to me before your allotted time; I should consider it a violation of our bargain and should be forced to take corrective action against thine treason.”
“You can’t do this!” I sputtered.
“Do not presume to tell me what I can and cannot do, ‘Lord Warden.’ I have tolerated your attempts to outmaneuver me because they amuse me and because they are far better attempts than I have seen in an age and a half but think ye not that a mortal can outwit the Queen of Winter.” Mab smiled. “I have slowed time within this realm – none has been lost since we entered the comfort of mine own shadow. Complete the task allotted, wizard, and I will return your kingdom. Fail me and I will trap this world forever in timeless shadow before I find and annihilate you for your failure.”
I opened my mouth to reply when I felt an overpowering weight being exerted upon me, a crushing sensation of pure will. I gasped, struggling for breath as I fell to my knees. Mab knelt down and whispered mockingly to me. “Forget ye not – I have power over thine life and death. I own thine debts. I own thee.”
She let go of me, her will no longer nailing me to the ground. “It is only to stop thee from losing thy usefulness that I do not crush thy pride in front of your court. And think ye not that this boon be insubstantial. Those predators would crush you if they detected a moment’s weakness.”
“Finish the task. Gotcha.” I replied, cursing myself for having been so vague in my bargain.
“Good.” Replied Mab. “Then I leave thee to it. Fear ye not, the Stargate will still obey thine own commands.”
She snapped her fingers, summoning a gust of frigid wind and snow that temporarily blinded me. When I regained my vision she was gone along with the trolls, the ice-throne, and the barrier blocking me from the rest of the court.
I stood up, my legs still feeling like jelly as I called for Ul’tak. He rushed over to prop me up, putting my arm over his shoulders. “Are you well my Lord Warden?”
“I’ll be fine.” I lied, trying to keep the fear out of my voice. “Just get me to Bob.”
“So what’s the word?” Ammit asked, walking over once she was certain Mab was gone.
“The usual. I have to complete an impossible task or Mab kills us all in a superb misinterpretation of our bargain that none the less follows the letter of the law.” I replied.
“Kills us?” Enlil replied in a horrified squeak.
“I too would prefer a more specific explanation of that last part.” Duke Ortega interjected.
“No big deal. I just have to steal one of Sokar’s most dangerous and well-guarded magical artefacts within the next couple hours or everyone on the planet dies horribly… or worse.” I replied.
“I really dislike your plans Warden.” Enlil said in a voice beyond resignation. “I really hate your plans.”
I ignored him and just continued to walk to my throne and Bob on it.
“You’re better than I’d expect someone who had a one on one with the Queen of Winter ever ought to be.” Interjected a familiar voice. It was the Ancient Jaffa, still accompanied by my recently converted cadre of traitor Jaffa – well, loyalists to Heka really but I wasn’t exactly impartial.
“Holding down the fort?” Asked Ul’tak jokingly.
“Those Titan loving bastards have good gear but they can’t fight worth a damn. Even their drop troops just keep ringing down to the exact same point on the balcony then act surprised when you can just shoot them wave by wave when they arrive.” The Ancient Jaffa grunted in disgust. “There is a giant pillar of light. We’re not some primitive society terrified of the magics of the gods, we just wait for the pillar then shoot anything that comes out of it.”
“Well, in their defense, the demon pretty much re-routed the ring paths to that exact point.” Said one of the Jaffa responsible for the attempted coup.
“He is pretty amazing.” I agreed, looking for Bob on the throne. “Where is he by the way?”
“Is it safe to come out?” Asked Bob from under a pile of cushions and pillows.
“How did you even get under there?” I replied.
“With a combination of using my lower jaw and having a strong survival instinct.” Bob replied, visibly shuddering from his protective layer of pillows. Bob was terrified of Mab. I suppose it had something to do with how she wanted him dead. For what? I was never entirely sure, but that she wanted him dead wasn’t really up for debate.
“Did you find the world?”
“Where is it?”
“You’re not going to like it.”
“I don’t like any part of this.” I sighed. “Tell me anyway.”
Bob’s teeth chattered nervously, “I found the world easily enough. It’s relatively close by hyperspace… or would be if we were back in the real world. But… well…. that’s where things get complicated.”
I swore. “Bob, just spit it out.”
“There isn’t a Stargate on the planet. The nearest Stargate is on the planet’s moon. The place seems to have been designed as a prison for some really nasty stuff, and Sokar didn’t want people to be able to get there without a mothership and the necessary deactivation codes for the planetary defense satellites.” Bob spoke apologetically.
Ammit whistled a long mournful tune, “Even if you can get through the Stargate, you don’t have a way to get from the moon to the planet below.”
“The hell he doesn’t.” Snorted the ancient Jaffa.
Bob’s eye-lights peered up from over the cushions as he moved to get a better look at him. “You got something to add here tall, dark, and craggy?”
“Of course.” Ul’tak laughed. “It’s not as though we’re limited by the treaty any longer – are we?”
“Any of you want to explain what you’re talking about?” Interjected Enlil.
“In the words of my people. They do not make them as they used to.” Replied Ul’tak. “It’s time to thread the needle.”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-09-22 02:38pm
He's talking taking a ship through the gate. I don't know whether to say FUCK or HELL YES
So we'll got with Hammond's YYYYYYYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEAHEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-09-22 02:52pm
You sure that wasn't Slim Pickens?
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-09-22 03:24pm
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-11-29 07:35pm
Used to was apparently the key part of the Jaffa’s choice of phrase. The hangar full of two seater flying machines were obvious relics to even a casual observer – signs of neglect and disuse providing little in the way of comfort to anyone planning on using them to circumnavigate the vacuum of space.
Bob was convinced that I could safely ride in the gate-ship and I was reasonably certain that he was correct, but it was distinctly unnerving to think about rocketing through the bleak darkness of space with only a thin layer of metal and ceramics between me and the void. I realized that it was irrational, especially on context with how I’d gone through space with only a winged steed and a fairy’s promise less than an hour ago, but the flying machines were different. Magically imbued or not, they were machines. My previous experience with airplanes had been distinctly sub-optimal. I mean, they’d managed to get the engines turned back on and land the plane last time, but it had been touch and go for a while there. I didn’t fly after that. There had been kids on that plane. And while I was only risking my own life and that of Ul’tak, that felt very much like two lives too many.
And here I was, about to jump in a fighter that hadn’t been touched since before the fall of the Roman Empire. I don’t know much about machines – but I know they require regular upkeep. Even the Blue Beetle needed its oil changed every once in a while, and I was positive the Blue Beetle was substantially less complex than a freaking spaceship. It didn’t overburden me with confidence that we had to unbury several of the gliders.
I fiddled with the sash on my waist holding Bob’s skull nervously as we prepared to launch. Bob had been quiet, virtually silent, since I’d removed him from my throne and started walking him through the palace. He dared not risk that any of the fairies wandering my palace recognize him. His long standing feud with the Queen of Winter wasn’t the sort of thing that a sane person took chances with. For all his faults, Bob had an immaculate sense of self preservation.
“You’re sure these will still work?” I asked, nervously pulling the cobwebs away from one of the weapons pods. “Even after all this time?”
“Ring-ships?” Ammit barked out a harsh laugh. “Warden, these things barely worked even before the System Lords banned their use – provided that you were able to find pilots crazy enough to actually use them they’d usually end up killing themselves just trying to maneuver through the gate at supersonic speeds.”
“The gate-ship pilots were generally ‘immortalized’ as legends posthumously.” Enlil sighed, looking at my Jaffa as they pulled tarps off the flyers. “Do these at least have the second generation inertial dampeners? The ones that don’t cut out half the time?”
Ammit’s crocodilian grin of amusement spoke volumes as Enlil swore up a storm in several languages that Lash was apparently only partially able to translate. I wasn’t feeling much better than he was, to be frank.
“But they’ll get us to the planet right?” I asked, resigned to the fact that they were really our only option. “Without killing us?”
“It is remarkably unlikely, my Lord Warden.” Replied Ul’tak as he manipulated the crystal formations within a glider’s engine pod. I wasn’t entirely certain what he was doing, but more crystals seemed to be glowing than had been glowing when he started so I was interpreting that as progress. “The defenses of Sokar’s prison planet were designed with the intention of prohibiting precisely what we are attempting to achieve. The defensive satellites will have an effective firing solution on the gate with weapons that have been upgraded many thousands of times since the gate-ships were prohibited to prevent their misuse. Likely one in ten will manage to break through, fewer still if news of Sokar’s death has reached the planet. And the warriors at that garrison will have orders to slay all those who come to that planet, save those brought by Sokar himself.”
“One in Ten?” Enlil screeched.
“Possibly one in twenty.” Ul’tak replied, chewing his lip as he pulled out a long green crystal and looked at it. Apparently dissatisfied with its quality, he chucked the crystal to the side before replacing it with a long blue one with the table. It sputtered and sparked in a way that wasn’t altogether comforting, but glowed with a now vaguely purple light. “I doubt that Sokar would not have obeyed the strategic arms limitation with regards to defending one of the hidden fortress worlds that survived Thoth’s Folly.”
“How many gliders do we have?” Enlil asked, eyes roving across the hangar worriedly.
“Thirty.” Replied the first prime, a dry edge of humor in his voice. “Fear not – the Lord Warden’s glider will survive. We were able to activate a single glider’s shielding unit.”
“Only one will have shields?” Enlil screeched.
“Indeed.” Replied the first prime. “And most should have full weapons capacity.”
“Leave the Jaffa be Enlil.” Ammit put a taloned hand on the god’s shoulder as Enlil’s eye began to twitch. “The more you talk to him, the more you distract him from fixing things.”
“How long till we’re able to leave?” Atreus queried, his fingers rubbing his blade’s hilt in anticipation.
“Five minutes – perhaps ten.” Replied the ancient Jaffa, pulling a white smock covered it grease from his front. He shot me a wary look, eying the stairwell heading back to the throne room from the hangar “Milord, I must ask… is it wise to leave the blood born unattended?”
“They’re not unattended.” Ul’tak replied, annoyed to be second guessed even by his old friend. “My second is keeping the demons of blood, sun, and snow under close observation. If they violate the terms they will be unmade.”
“The creatures of Sun and Snow are bound to their word by design. The creatures of blood violate theirs by their very nature. Having them here invites great danger upon us in our absence.” Interjected the Ancient Jaffa.
Normally I’d agree, but my godmother had promised me that the vampires would not be allowed to harm any mortal except in self-defense in my absence. Whatever threat the Duke and Duchess represented to the people of Nekheb would pale in comparison to what Mab was planning if I failed her again. “The vampires are forbidden from doing harm in my absence. They will leave once this is over. For now, they are not our concern.”
“My Lord Warden?” The Ancient Jaffa replied in confusion. “Are they not born of the Maya?”
“I said drop it.” I replied, a twinge of anger reverberating in my tone that made the Ancient Jaffa flinch.
“That’s the last one.” Ul’tak closed the casing on the flying machine’s side, tapping his finger on its center twice. The panel closed so tight that I couldn’t even tell that there had been an aperture to begin with on the curiously curved H-shape wings. “Jaffa, Kree shal mok! We thread the needle as was done in legends past! Today we fly with the gods!”
The Jaffa in his cadre shouted their approval, chanting my assumed name again and again, “Dre’su’den, Dre’su’den, Dre’su’den the Ha’ri.”
“I believe they’re playing our song Warden.” Ammit smiled. “Now let’s see about getting me in one of these infernal contraptions.” She climbed into the pilot seat of a glider, joined soon thereafter by Enlil. To my surprise – she fit. Sure, it took a decent amount of shifting and grunting, but the seats on the gate ship comfortably fit the reptilian goddess.
As I hefted my own armored bulk into the back seat of the shielded glider I was pleased to find it similarly sized. Even my NBA sized legs were quite comfortably situated within the ship’s rear seat. Actually, I was pretty much positive that the fighters hadn’t been designed with human physiology in mind, the buttons were too large and the field of view was entirely focused to the front. I hadn’t ever considered it before, but with her eyes as sunken into her skull as they were, Ammit can’t have had much in the way of peripheral vision.
As Ul’tak completed his pre-flight checks I took the opportunity to have the first semi-private conversation I’d been able to have with Bob since Sokar’s planet. “Ok Bob, I know there is no way that you didn’t spend every second poking your grubby little hands around in that computer’s records for every scrap of information you could find.”
“I haven’t god any hands, grubby or otherwise.” Bob replied sarcastically. “And I resent the implication.”
“You resemble the implication. So spill.” I jabbed. “What the hell is this thing that Mab wants me to get for her? Why is it important enough to re-locate a freaking star system and cash in on whatever favor she is owed by He Who Speaks?”
“Owed by whom?” Bob replied.
“Big guy, covered in flaming eyeballs, lots of spinning glass wings – kind of memorable. I could practically hear the capital letters in the guy’s name.” I replied. “He’s the one bankrolling the power it took to transfer this star system. I want to know why.”
“I don’t know spirit that goes by that name, but there are only a couple of entities with enough power to actually pull that off. Some of the greater gods, a couple of the pantheons of ascended beings, several of the stronger demons, and, well, the Angelic hosts I suppose… there isn’t a shortage of beings strong enough to do this. Mab isn’t one of them but she’d be able to get it from those that can – provided that she’s offered something valuable enough.” Bob paused. “Did you offer her something worth it?”
“I offered her everything I know about the future.” I replied. “How the Summer Lady dies, all of it.”
“No, no. You’d have to do better than that.” Bob replied. “I mean, that would be enough for some military aid, but you’re talking about fundamentally re-writing the fabric of the universe for an entire star system in real time without causing catastrophic damage to the galaxy at large… well we hope, I suppose we won’t know till we get back. Regardless, you could offer her a mortal’s knowledge of the next ten millennia and it wouldn’t be valuable enough for that trade. The more powerful beings get the more obsessive they get about balance. Knowledge about a future that may or may not happen after all that we’ve done wouldn’t count for that.”
“Which brings me back. Who is He Who Speaks and why was Mab willing to accept my offer?” I replied, increasingly worried about what I’d gotten myself into. The Winter Queen had me screwed over so many different ways at this point it was hard to tell them apart. Was this key so important as to merit all the favors she was calling in? Could I afford to give it to her if it was?
“Not a clue.” Bob replied. “Why not ask the voice in your head?”
I had, multiple times. I’d tried every possible variation of asking Lash who He who speaks was or why she was so afraid of him, but she’d just clamped down harder – retreating from me. She was terrified of that thing. She seemed to be afraid of even referring to it in vague terms in a way that I’d never seen from her. Even the prospect of dying had terrified her less than just taking about the entity that had been in my palace.
Traitor’s Bane had been of little assistance, the Genius Loci identified the entity to me as “Unknown threat” and just listed off several potential containment options whose efficacy I seriously doubted. They’d all been either logistically unviable or likely to blow up a continent when they failed. Heka had only designed the Genius Loci to worry about a single point of collateral damage, namely himself.
There were too many unknown and unconsidered variables in this equation. Too many choices I’d been making as short term solutions to longer term problems. The Winter Queen represented a quantifiable threat to me, a known evil that I’d survived before. I’d been willing to bargain with her because she was the only person known to me at the time. The more I thought about it though, the more it occurred to me that I didn’t know the first damn thing about the Fairy Courts. Only a week ago I would have thought it was unnerving that the Winter Court might be willing to send a couple hit men to Chicago. Their goals spanned far beyond what I’d imagined and their reach went as far as our most distant stars.
Could I afford to give something to Mab that she considered valuable enough to threaten to destroy a planet, knowing as little as I did about her goals?
As our spacecraft took off and carefully navigated out the hangar bay doors, I asked the question that had been burning in the back of my mind. “Bob, what did the Goa’uld do to earn the enmity of both the Summer and Winter courts? Everyone keeps talking about it like it should be common knowledge.”
“I don’t know boss.” Bob replied. “Honestly I don’t. It’s like someone went through every single record of Goa’uld history and cut out specific details. I’ve been able to piece together bits from their history and can make inferences about what is missing, but it’s guesswork at best. There was a common enemy that both the Goa’uld and Fairy courts were united in combatting. Certain elements of the Goa’uld collaborated with the enemy. The Goa’uld managed to defeat them, but not before they’d done some major damage.”
“The Enemy?” I asked. “Care to be more specific.”
“I’d love to boss. I can’t. The Goa’uld keep volumes on most of their enemies, but whoever these guys were they just wrote ‘the enemy’ or ‘the adversary’ without every qualifying it. It’s like they were actively trying to remove whoever these guys were from history.” Bob replied.
“From reality.” Lash spoke for the first time since being asked about He who speaks. “They were trying to unmake them from reality.”
“Who?” I asked her, thinking hard in her direction.
“Dark gods, old things, monsters beyond reckoning – Earth was not always the paradise it is now.” Lash sighed wistfully. “Most of the galaxy had to be re-claimed from creatures far worse than those you’ve learned to fear. Some things do not belong.”
“Outsiders,” I thought in reply. “You’re talking about outsiders, or something just as bad. You mean the Goa’uld were working with them?”
“Not all.” Lash replied. “Only those who fell to Thoth’s folly when it was spoken.”
“Was it some sort of spell?” I asked.
“No, dear host.” Lash replied, a chuckle in her voice. “There are some dangers far more insidious than magic.”
“Dangers such as?” I really hated the whole cryptic mystical being BS. They would inevitably talk around the issue while alluding to how darn clever they were, without ever telling you anything.
“You realize that I can hear you thinking that, my host?” The Angel’s shadow replied in irritation.
“Of course. Now tell me what he said or zip it.” Bob blinked his eye lights in confusion. Apparently I’d said that part out loud.
“What who said?” The skull looked back and forth. “Someone said something?
“I wasn’t talking to you,” I replied, pointing at my head.
“Ah, yes.” Bob sighed. “Her – you know, it’s really creepy when you end up talking to her and even creepier when you just sit there thinking at her. Especially with that mask. It has a whole ‘lotion in the basket’ vibe that is no bueno, boss man.”
“Whatever you say Bob.” I replied before directing my thoughts back at Lash. “I’m waiting.”
“I don’t know.” Lash replied. “I know that it had not special mystical power behind it, but whatever he said out loud to the Goa’uld collective nearly destroyed us all.”
“How can you not know?” I snorted. “You know everything else about them.”
“My host, though I am as old as creation itself you forget that I spent most of existence trapped in the void forbidden from interacting with that which had been made. The few moments I’ve been able to spend interacting with the real world have been only a brief respite from the void.” Lash replied in a voice bordering petulance. The Angel’s shadow was not regularly in the habit of admitting to her own limitations. “The fallen weren’t able to interact with the real world until after the Crucifixion. What knowledge I have is pieced together from the archives and interrogations we were able to conduct after the Fallen started operating within the mortal realms.”
“Interrogations?” I considered the implications of that. “You mean there are Goa’uld on Earth?”
“Dozens, though I wouldn’t lose sleep over it. The conqueror worms are only as strong as their available resources. Absent their fleets, their weapons, and their pitiful remnant magics, they hardly represent a greater threat than a fledgling vampire.” Lash replied. “Nicodemus took particular pleasure in torturing them. Something about killing a ‘would be god’ brought him immense satisfaction. He disliked their presumption to the divine.”
“Doesn’t he hate the divine?” I asked, genuinely curious. “Isn’t profaning God’s whims kind of his shtick?”
“Yes, but it’s his shtick.” Lash borrowed my turn of phrase. “And while we may have rejected our role as Angels as an act of free will, we earned our divinity – rejected or otherwise.”
“Ah” I replied. “Just because you don’t want it doesn’t mean they get to have it?”
“Precisely. The sheer arrogance of it was unforgivable.” Lash tittered in amusement. “It was about the only matter the Knights of the Cross never saw fit to interfere in. I presume that protecting the Goa’uld extended beyond their heavenly mandate.”
“Hells bells, is there any part of the supernatural community which hasn’t got the Goa’uld on their shit list?” I whistled.
“None of which one cares to speak openly.” Lash replied. “Even in thought.”
There was a brief pause where the only sound in the craft was the whirring hum of engines as Ul’tak maneuvered our craft towards a shaft in the ceiling of my palace. Before my musings were broken by the feeling of intense gravity as the inertial dampeners struggled to keep up with the craft’s rapid acceleration. I felt my heart somewhere between my ears as my pulse began to resemble the drum solo at a rock concert. No wonder they gave these things up – they were insane. We plunged towards the narrow aperture at break-neck speed, leading the column of gate craft as they fell from the sky.
“Please tell me that the gate is open.” I shouted to my pilot before the shaft ended. “Because this is going to be a very short flight otherwise.”
“As I said, my Lord Warden.” Ul’tak replied. “They do not make them as they used to.”
The Jaffa punched seven symbols on the left side of the dash before flooring the accelerator. I barely had the chance to glimpse the grey ring and blue pool in the center of the ring room as he pulled the controls upward and drove us through the gate.
I had a vague glimpse of blue light before we reached the other side, skimming the surface of the barren moon. We were lucky, the gate was not on the side facing the planet. We’d get a few minutes before the planet’s defenses would be able to see us. Maybe even enough time to think of a better plan than “try not to get shot.”
“That was insane” Bob the skull whined. “Why didn’t you order them to just move the gate?”
Because I hadn’t realized how insane the flight path was going to be, but I couldn’t exactly say that with Ul’tak in the cockpit. It would have made me look stupid. I went with defensive and petulant instead, “Quit your bitching. You’re alive aren’t you?”
“My Lord Warden,” Ul’tak spoke from the front seat. “Something is wrong.”
“For the love of – what is it this time?” I sighed.
“Someone is already attacking the planet.” Ul’tak tapped the scanning device to confirm his suspicions, nodding in satisfaction. “Four ships, a Ha’tak and three Al’kesh. Only the Ha’tak is still functional.”
“I thought the hidden base was, well, hidden.” I replied in irritation.
“It’s supposed to be.” Bob replied in obvious consternation. “Nobody without access to Sokar’s mainframe and some serious mojo should be able to know where this planet is.”
Crap, there were only so many candidates for access to Sokar’s mainframe. “So what? This is Apophis?”
“Like hell it is.” Bob replied. “No – I saw Sokar’s fleet numbers. The closest of his ships, assuming they were willing to accept Apophis as their god, was at least a week away.”
“So who? Chronos?” I sighed. I wasn’t looking forward to more of that magic resistant armor. I looked to my right and was pleased to see the glider Ammit was piloting made it through the gate. Twenty eight green blips on the display in front of me seemed to indicate that most, but not all, of the gate ships had successfully threaded the needle.
“No my Lord Warden,” Ul’tak replied. “Their shield signature does not correspond to those used by Chronos.”
“You know what? I don’t even care.” I sighed, “Whoever they are, we’re going to have to fight our way past them regardless so screw the ships, damn the torpedoes and dive, dive, dive.”
“Yes, my Lord Warden.” Replied the Jaffa Warrior.
As we approached the planet it became apparent that while the four ships detected on the opposite side of the moon had been the only remaining ships active in the region, they were not the only ships to arrive in system. The skies were rife with the charred husks of where planetary defense satellites had hewn their way through shield and hull.
A brilliant gold spear of light cut through one of the broken pyramids, annihilating one of the gate ships. Ammit’s voice cracked out over the radio, “They’ve noticed us! Don’t make a pattern. Break apart from each other and don’t waste time trying to fight those satellites. They’re intended to destroy entire air wings. You won’t win.”
We broke apart at random, trying our best not to be the next target for the satellite’s firing solution. I groaned in realization as two blips headed directly towards the nearest satellite. I fiddled with the controls, trying to activate the ship’s radio transmitter. “No, no, no! You are not going to sacrifice yourselves just for me – get back here!”
By the time I’d figured out how to select a channel it was already too late. The green blips were no longer on my screen. The satellite had destroyed them. “Damn it!”
“Hold on my Lord Warden” Ul’tak shouted as alarms blared in the cockpit. “They’ve locked on to us. I’m going to try to lose them in the ionosphere by – “
What he was intending to lose them by doing was apparently inefficient. The glider shook as steam started pouring into the compartment, sparks spitting out from most of the consoles. “God’s blood – a direct hit. Forgive me my lord, but we won’t survive another one. I must enact the protocol you ordered.”
“Protocol? What protocol – we never talked about any protocol.” I shouted as the floor beneath me dropped down, depositing me within an sarcophagus like escape-pod. I barely had time to realize that I was being ejected before I found myself plummeting towards the ground. I tried to keep the glider in my field of view through the cloud cover, but the eye slits in the pod only allowed me to see a small patch of sky as I listened to the aircraft exploding around me.
“Can we please start doing plans that don’t involve falling out of the sky!” Screamed Bob as we fell to the ground. I was such a valid point that I didn’t even say anything snarky in reply. Honest.
The pod must have had inertial dampeners. I didn’t feel a thing as it hit the ground. I’ve gotten the wind knocked out of me harder when Mister decided to jump on my stomach from the top shelf of my book case. It was really my fault for napping on the couch rather than feeding him.
I lifted myself out of the sarcophagus, only to duck back down as a blade sailed directly for my head. I kicked out, catching my attacker at the knee as I grabbed his wrist and pulled him to the ground. He punched my side hard, yelling something loud and likely inappropriate in a language I couldn’t understand. It knocked the wind out of me, but wasn’t enough to break my grip. I punched him hard in the face, knocking him unconscious.
I grabbed my staff from the sarcophagus and surveyed my attacker, pausing for a moment to just let the absurdity of my life wash over me as I looked at the man who had attacked me. He was definitely a Jaffa, tattoos and all, but it was really the ninja thing that caught my attention. I blinked in surprise as I came to grips with the fact that I had just been grappling with an honest to goodness freaking ninja.
“You have got to be kidding me.” I swore as another group of ninjas dropped down from the trees around me. Look, I’m willing to accept a lot of weird stuff in the line of duty but even for me potentially starring in an alien Kurosawa film was an odd option. “Shouldn’t you guys be in a sewer somewhere chasing four turtles?”
The joke was lost on them.
“Hells bells,” I swore loudly as a Jaffa ninja tried to pierce my heart with one of those pole-arm things that has the katana strapped to the end of it. If I lived through this fight, I was going to buy Murphy a year’s worth of steak dinners to thank her for all the martial arts practice. I slapped the pole arm aside before pointing my staff at the Jaffa’s chest and propelling him away from me with a yell of forzare.
He was tossed away, tumbling across the ground before righting himself with an outright unfair degree of grace and charging back at me. I would have liked to toss some fire at him or something, but I was forced to raise my shield as Jaffa opened fire on me with staff weapons. I was pushed back a good ten paces by the sheer kinetic force of the blasts before I had to drop the shield in order to counter the Jaffa flanking me with blades.
They were fast – like scary fast. But that speed came at a cost, where the Jaffa of Chronos and Nekheb wore thick protective armor, the Ninjas were clad on only cloth and leather. Things that easily burned. I screamed “Fuego” as I sent a wall of fire out in front of me to scatter the Jaffa warriors who’d been firing at me.
They did scatter – just not in fear as I’d expected. Look, I don’t care who you are, fire is scary. You get a whole mess of it heading your way and any smart person heads for the hills, or at least to somewhere the fire isn’t. I’d just tossed a six-foot-wide gout of white hot hellfire thirty feet. That should have been 180 square feet of Ninja repellant.
But they just jumped out of the way of the gout and kept coming at me. This was bad. The ninjas were smart, worked in teams and didn’t seem particularly bothered that I could cast magic. Who were these guys?
“I don’t suppose I can talk you gentlemen into just walking away?” I asked the nearest ninja.
“No.” Replied the ninja as he unsheathed his katana.
“I really don’t want to have to kill you.” I sighed.
“You won’t.” Replied the closest ninja. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I twisted to the side on a hunch, barely avoiding a dagger to the back. I drove my staff down into the would be assassin’s ribs, causing a loud crack where the staff broke them.
I braced myself for the next wave, but it never came. A loud, long whistle sounded and the ninja looked at each other in fear. The ninja who’d threatened me nodded once and said “Another time” before tossing a freaking smoke pellet at the ground and disappearing into the shadows. And I don’t mean, ran off into the woods – my mask’s optics would have been good enough to see through the smoke. I mean the ninjas just ceased to be from one second to the next.
As the artillery rained down on my position, I quickly found myself wishing that I knew how to follow suit. I started running in a direction. I don’t precisely know what direction, at that moment in my life the most important direction to be moving in felt like “not here.” It wasn’t an exact science, but when someone is firing the extraterrestrial equivalent to a howitzer, you stop asking deep questions. Questions like “Where does this hole lead?” and “Is there another exit to this cave?” take a back seat to “Hells bells, someone is shooting at me with a freaking mortar.” So when I found an apparent shelter from the incoming weapons fire, I just dived in. There was a cave with a lake at the bottom that seemed relatively placid. I could just wait out the attack in there then climb back out.
Or so I thought. The water most definitely cushioned my fall, however the ground beneath it was substantially less stable than I’d hoped. It gave way, sucking me down into a subterranean river. Had I not been wearing my armor, I would have drowned in the ten minutes it took for me to resurface. Instead, I found myself cast along the banks of a deep subterranean lake. I took a moment to just lie on the shoal, breathing deeply and just enjoying the sensation of not being dead. I gave myself a full ten count before rising to my feet surveying my surroundings.
I was in some sort of subterranean jungle. Tall stalks of glowing plants intermingled with dense thickets of mushrooms as small lizards and eyeless mammals stalked through the shadows. The cave wall wasn’t far from me, perhaps two miles from the shore, but a vibrant ecosystem had evolved in the darkness that I would have never expected. The lake was massive, stretching out further than even my enhanced optics could assess in this dim light, meaning that it was at least a hundred miles across. And, unless I missed my guess, it was habitated. I could just make out the distant shapes of people moving around campfires a couple miles down the beach. And not just a few of them, there seemed to be an entire village worth of people on the lakeside.
“Oh good,” Bob chimed in. “I’d worried you drowned.”
“Not today Bob.” I replied. “Any idea where we are?”
“Based off those tools?” Bob interjected, shining his eye lights on an array of picks and shovels piled. “I’d say we were in a mine. Sokar would need a stable source of Naquadah to power those Satellites. This is probably the mine he keeps his slaves in.”
“You mean the mine his slaves work in?” I asked, already suspecting the answer.
“No.” Bob replied. “Sokar has very likely never let these slaves see sunlight for generations. They likely don’t even know what it is. They’ll be kept undernourished and undersupplied to keep them from being able to stage an effective rebellion.”
“They will know where the fortress is though?” I asked.
“Probably.” Bob replied.
I noticed the shapes of men moving in distant torchlight and waved, trying to get their attention. I knew enough about Sokar to know that it would take only minimal coaxing to get his slaves to betray him. If I could just talk one of them into being my guide and offer something worth safe passage, I could continue with my mission and retrieve Mab’s prize. Bob gulped, “Boss, are you sure this is a good idea?”
“I need to get out of this cave Bob. I know enough about them to know that just rooting around for an exit on my own is a surefire way to end up dead or trapped somewhere, which is as good as dead considering the timeline I’m on.” I replied. “The best course is to find people to help.”
“Boss. I don’t think they’re people.” Bob replied.
“What?” I squinted, trying to see through the darkness to make out the shapes moving towards me. Had the entire village uprooted themselves to meet a single man?
“Boss, this planet is old. Like, before the folly of Thoth old. The fortress predates the fall of the first Goa’uld Dynasty back when Apep was ruling.” Bob hissed. “Before they’d discovered humans.”
“Before humans?” I replied, watching the hundreds of bulky reptilian creatures lumbering towards me. “So I didn’t just call out to a bunch of starved and desperate people…”
“…You called out to generations worth of starving cannibalistic super-humans who likely have a blood feud out on anyone who even resembles a Goa’uld.” Bob replied. “Yes.”
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-12-11 10:54pm
Given the sheer carnage that Ammit had been able to deal out by herself I was not looking forward to a fight with dozens of massive, crocodilian monsters while trapped in the sunless depths of some misbegotten scrap of planet in the ass end of the universe. I needed my full concentration and total control of my faculties, so I felt wholly justified in shouting a litany of swear words as my knees bent and hands let go my staff. My body bent back, exposing the softest parts of me to the sky – totally helpless to defend against the was coming storm.
“Harry! What the hell?” Shouted Bob in alarm, his eye lights twitching in terror. I could feel his mass shifting in the bag tied around my waist as he used his jaw to turn around to get a good look at me. “Are you having a seizure?”
“It’s not me Bob!” I struggled against my numb limbs in panic. I was aware of them, could feel the silken fabric lining the armor cool against my skin but nothing responded to me. The ability to move them was just at the edge of my mind, just out of reach. “I can’t move.”
“Nor will you.” Spoke a haughty voice into my ear. Lasciel’s shadow shimmered into view, her buxom form draped in a shimmering garment of white silk. She’d put some real effort into the illusion this time, I could just taste the whiff of her on the air – an odor of violets and sky following a summer rain. She bent down and kissed me on the forehead. “No, dear host. You will sit there and wait.”
“How –” I began before even my mouth ceased to obey my commands. I fought my numb body, thinking “Lash, why?” in horror as the mob of monsters advanced. Their glowing, slitted eyes shimmered in the bioluminescent hues of the surrounding flora and fauna. They were clearly primitive, they’d clothed themselves in rough cut clothes made from the skins from god alone knew what animals and made necklaces and bracelets out of bone.
They were different from the other Unas I’d met – Mo, Larry, and Curly had been precise in their movements. They were lumbering and inhuman in their gait, to be sure, but precise. This crowd moved with a near systematic chaos to it, Unas advancing and shifting back before charging forwards. Some even leapt in front of each other only to drop to the ground and allow their compatriots to advance over them. It was near impossible to get a count of how many there really were in the darkness with all that movement.
I’d have been hard pressed to fight off that many even if I’d been able to try.
I was furious, furious at Nicodemus for tossing me the coin, furious at Lash for paralyzing me, and furious at myself for allowing the angel’s shadow enough leeway that she’d been able to control me this much. I’d always suspected that Lash’s abilities to influence my behavior extended far beyond the meager illusions and whispers she’d used to distract and guide me before, but I’d never been give any proof to back it up. I’d certainly never relaxed enough around her to allow her free reign in my mind.
Or I had before Heka’s presence. I’d allowed Lash greater freedom of movement in my mind, welcomed it even. I should have known that would come at a cost. Now, here I was at my most vulnerable, and I was soon to be savaged to death by Dino’s cannibalistic cousins. It wasn’t exactly the wizardly blaze of glory I’d always envisioned but I suppose one climactic, sacrificial death is probably enough for one week – even for me.
“Host,” Lash tutted, disappointedly. “You’re supposed to be a detective. A master of deductive reasoning, are you not? I am not betraying you. I am saving us both.”
“I’m not feeling especially saved right now!” My eyes flitted from Unas to Unas, keenly aware of how I’d seen Ammit bite though things thicker than the armor I was wearing.
“Harry! Whatever it is you’re planning… now would be a good time.” Bob whispered as the crowd of Unas surrounded me. They hissed and growled, keeping at least an arm’s length away from me on all sides – but made no moves to advance beyond that gap.
“Look again, mine host.” Lash kneeled next to me in a purely symbolic gesture of supplication, staring from Unas to Unas. “And think – were the Unas you met on Delmak unthinking brutes simply by virtue of their inhumanity? Have you not met dozens of creatures not bound by the flesh of mortal men who held their own honor and rites of passage? Think wizard – if you found a tribe of mortal men terrified and enslaved, would your first response be to toss fire and frost into their midst?”
“No,” I conceded. “It would not have been.” Mo, Larry and Curly hadn’t even been bad guys by the usual henchmen standards I dealt with. Actually, other than their apparent penchant for torture, the Unas I’d met on Delmak had been practically civil by comparison to the raving blood crazed lunatics in Sokar’s standard employ.
Lash stood up and walked to the largest of the Unas, running her phantom finger across the scars on the man’s face. He had a pock-marked scar along the left side of his head where a talon had clearly gouged out the eye, leaving a light shade of pink across the dark green of his face. “Do you not see it in their faces, Wizard Dresden? Can you not taste it? They’re afraid, terrified even.”
“They aren’t exactly broadcasting ‘I’m afraid of the man in front of me’ here Lash.” I thought, realizing that had I been able to control my body, I might have flinched when the Unas with one eye got up in my face and bellowed, flecks of spittle spraying across my mask.
“Wizard, it has not even been a full day since you thrust yourself into the maw of creatures you felt were beyond your ability to beat purely to protect you and yours.” Lash replied, pointing to a diminutive Unas peeking out from another Unas’ legs. I’d never seen an Unas child before, never really even considered that Unas had children, but the more I stared away from the bull Unas in my face around at the crowd the more I became aware that there were entire families of the lizard people around me. They’d brought the entire tribe – including children.
I wasn’t going to endanger children.
“Let me go Lash – I know what I have to do.” I thought, infuriated that I couldn’t disagree with her course of action. That did not mean, however, that I was ok with Lash’s hitherto unknown ability to paralyze me at will. That would be addressed.
“Later, host. We may speak when this all ends. I promise.” Lash sighed. “It will make sense but you need to trust me. Trust that I only mean you well.”
I shouldn’t trust her. She was an angel’s shadow. She was a deceiver by trade, one who seduced men by finding their deepest desires and offering them a route to reach them. It would be insane to trust her. But I did - God help me, I did.
I did because she loved me – or at least wanted to be in love with me. That at much had been truth. You can’t have someone living in your own head and loving you without feeling it when they felt it. I didn’t always know her mind, understand her feelings, but that moment when we’d been flying up to the ship. That moment had been honest. No amount of Fallen Angelic seduction could fake love, actual love.
I was willing to trust her love even if I couldn’t return it.
“Harry. I know that this is hard to understand – I know angry with me. I know you have every reason to be angry with me.” She put her palm in the center of my chest and I felt feeling return to my limbs. Tears that I think had very little to do with the illusion she was casting burned in her eyes. “But I’m doing this to protect the man you want to be. The man you are. The Harry Dresden wouldn’t kill innocents just because it was expeditious. Don’t let Dresu’den kill Harry.”
“I won’t.” I replied, “I won’t.”
As Lash’s illusion faded away to nothing, the warmth returned completely to my arms, legs, and lips. My fingers twitched as the sensation of pins and needles ran through my extremities, dull pain a comforting sensation in the wake of the nothingness I’d felt only seconds prior.
The Unas, seemingly mollified by my lack of aggressive response, tilited his head and sniffed the air around my head, muttering. “Shesh onac. Shesh, ta onac.”
“Onac a benar,” Hissed another Unas behind the first. It was smaller than the first, with a small ridge of spines running across its nose.
“Ka.” Growled the one missing his eye. “Onac ka benar. Onac keka.”
“I’m going to guess that you have no idea how to understand a word that I’m saying.” I replied, realizing that Lash had apparently chosen to stop translating into Goa’uld as I felt my lips making familiar movements as I spoke. “So I’m just going to start talking in a calm tone and hope that you get the gist.”
“Ka Onac. Shesh.” One Eye approached me slowly, getting close enough to poke my chest before retreating in evident fear. He seemed genuinely surprised that his talon had been able to make contact with my armor, almost frightened by the fact that I was allowing him to do so. He backed away as though expecting lighting to strike him dead for having done so.
It was a valid fear, I supposed. Had I actually been a Goa’uld, it very well might have. The Zat gun had been just as effective when I’d used it on Larry, Mo, and Cury as when I’d seen it used on the forces of Chronos. Sokar’s minions on this planet had likely been ruling this tribe’s territory for millennia, meaning that any visitation from their forces had likely meant nothing but pain and death for the tribe.
“Onac benar! Ko!” Spine Nose chided one eye, slapping One Eye’s shoulder.
One Eye growled, getting up in Spine Nose’s personal space to put jaws at Spine Nose’s throat in an attempt to cow the second Unas. Spine Nose was unimpressed, head butting One Eye for doing so. Glowing greed blood spurted from where spines met One Eye’s forehead.
The Unas crowd crooned with a sound that I judged to be laughter. One eye bellowed, silencing it before sending an irritated look to Spine Nose. Spine Nose, just stared back at the Alpha. “Ko! Onac benar.”
“Ma.” Begrudgingly replied to Spine Nose. “Onac benar.”
One Eye squatted in front of me, pulling a braid of tightly woven fibers interlaced with what appeared to Unas talons and tossing it to the ground in front of me. He waved to it. “Ko.”
“You, you want me to take it.” I replied, deciding what would be best to do next. The Unas didn’t seem to be supernatural, at least not purely supernatural, so I was certain that this gift wouldn’t be considered a contract or a pact requiring equal pay in return. For that matter, I doubted the Unas had any mystical properties at all. After all, hadn’t the Goa’uld abandoned their use specifically so that they could use magic? But when in doubt it was best to return a courtesy when offered.
I pulled at my belt, locating the knife I knew to be on my left hip. It was a cruel curved thing with irregular jagged points to it, not especially useful for actually fighting but appropriately ‘wizardly’ looking to have made a statement when used on one of Heka’s subjects. It held no actual magical significance as far as I could tell, it just looked like it ought to belong in a ritual.
I tossed it in front of One Eye and said, “Ko” for lack of a better word to say. It seemed to be the right thing to say. I was sort of at a loss as to what to do after my gift was accepted though. We just kind of sat there, staring at each other as he knelt and I stood. For lack of a better option I shifted my head, activating the motors on armor to retract my helmet. I was in no danger of being recognized by the Jaffa and I preferred to talk face to face with someone when possible.
One Eye flinched when the mask receded but did not move from his position, jutting out his chin and speaking in a less pronounced snarl. “Onac nok kan kel?”
“I don’t suppose you can shed some light on what he’s asking?” I queried aloud, simultaneously directing my inquiry to Bob and the Angel’s shadow.
“He wants to know why you’re here Sahib.” Bob spoke from my waist. “And what you want.”
“Keka!” One Eye hissed, taking a step back and spreading his arms aggressively as he looked at Bob. “Onac Keka! Benar tac!”
“No Keka!” I shook my head emphatically, pointing to the skull. “Bob.”
“Baaaabb” One Eye replied, his alien vocal chords struggling with the vowel sound.
“Yes. Bob.” I replied, tapping my finger on the skull a Bob replied with an irritated protest of “Hey! Quit it.”
“Bob onac ka ney.” One Eye replied in confusion, still ready to strike if necessary.
“Ma onac ka ney.” Replied Bob, “We’re all friends here big guy. No danger, no tricks.”
“Benar.” In an instant I went from being surrounded by a crowd of animalistic predators to being a mildly interesting oddity at the center of an Unas tribe. No longer protecting themselves from an imminent threat to the tribe most Unas broke off to go forage in the iridescent foliage. I quickly found myself with only a handful of Unas around me, most of them apparently curious adolescents.
One Eye and Spine Nose remained, Spine Nose seemingly there just to stand behind One Eye and make the occasional hiss or growl. One Eye made a gurgling sound and one of the adolescent Unas placed long strips of gray moss and dried mushrooms in front of us. Spine Nose, bidden by some unspoken queue knelt next to the kindling and pulled two stones from a pouch. One Eye took them, holding them cupped between his hands as he groaned in a rhythmic vibrating hum that could only be interpreted as some sort of a prayer. The adolescents hummed in reply before he took the stones and cracked them together, bright sparks falling from them as he did so. The kindling was uncooperative, whichever adolescent Unas had been tasked with carrying it seemed to have accidentally dropped it in the lake between where their camp had been and where the camp was now. Or rather I guessed that was how it had gotten wet, the adolescent Unas had made himself scarce after passing it over in a way that reeked of a teenager eager not to end up getting scolded for his mistake. I guess some bad habits crossed even the boundaries between species.
I briefly amused myself at the idea of my friend Michael giving one of the all too familiar lectures on responsibility he was wont to do when encountering a wayward teenager in need of guidance. As ridiculous as the image was, I was equally convinced that somehow – even though the language barrier – Michael would manage to convince the adolescent Unas to see the error of his ways and take his chores more seriously. Don’t ask me how he did it, my own father hadn’t been in my life long enough to get a good sense for how to “role model” and McCoy didn’t mentor so much as he whooped you into shape regardless of if you’d wanted to be fixed or not. I think it was a benefit of the whole Knight of the Cross thing, it gave him clarity into bad people could become good and how good people could become better.
I got the distinct sense that One Eye’s counciling with the youth would have been less talking and more “beating you for having been bad at your job.” One Eye continued click the rocks together, muttering words I didn’t understand to Spine Nose with meanings that were all too clear to me. “Why isn’t this working” I imagined he was saying. “We’re embarrassing ourselves in front of our guest” before Spine Nose gave a snarky reply of “Do you need me to do it for you?” They were strangely domestic in their interactions. I presumed Spine Nose to be either the second in command or possibly his mate, assuming of course that Unas even had mates. Heck, I was assuming that Unas even had gender. Ammit used female pronouns but I hadn’t got a clue if the Goa’uld even had gender of their own, or if they just applied the gender of their host as needed.
After a minute or so, I took pity on him. I reached down to the pile of combustibles, placed my finger in the kindling and willed my power at it as I spoke the words, “Flicum Bicus.” I didn’t strictly need to point in order to cast the spell, but I wanted to leave no doubt that I’d been the one to do it.
One Eye’s mouth gaped in shock as flames erupted through the wet kindling, “Shesh.”
“Ko.” I spoke the word again, knowing that it had been an agreeable term for my previous gift.
“Ko.” Replied One Eye in a pleased voice looking up and into my face – staring me dead in the eyes… well eye, I suppose. And then something remarkable happened.
We entered into a soul gaze.
It’s not something that I’d even thought to protect myself from. Generally speaking it isn’t a danger when dealing with non-human creatures that weren’t once at least partly human. Even some of the partly human creatures like Black Court Vampires were too far gone from what they had once been to need to worry about getting sucked into a soul gaze. The Unas were just too alien for me to have even considered the possibility that they had souls, at least souls with which I would be capable of interacting.
A soul gaze is always different, you get to see a representation of what makes that person who they are – a combination of all the best and worst parts of them that will encompass their being in its entirety. No two soul gazes will ever be the same. And once you’ve seen a person’s soul, you will never forget what you’ve seen – no matter how much you may wish you were able.
One Eye’s soul was different even by the standards of a soul gaze. It was, for lack of a better word, alien. He didn’t think the way I did, didn’t comprehend sensory data in a way that I could easily process. His eyes saw too many colors and too many of the wrong colors for what he was looking at. His sense of smell was overwhelming, in just instants I was exposed to a range of odors and flavors that seemed ready to engulf me. I could feel the ache in One Eye’s muscles, the dull knotted pain in his thigh where he’d been bitten by a predator as an adolescent, the confusion he felt when I appeared along the coast without ever having gone through the only entrance to this cave, the fear he felt that I would kill them all for their forefathers having fled the central mines a generation ago – hiding in the depths where the Jaffa dared not go.
He didn’t have a really distinct concept of self. He was himself, he’d just never really considered the matter to realize that the fact that he was an individual mean that the other members of his tribe were also individuals. One Eye didn’t have a name and hadn’t ever considered the necessity of naming each member of his tribe individually. He knew them on sight and knew them by smell, what else would be required? He was not proud or arrogant, pride and arrogance would have required that he considered his accomplishments in depth. He was the most accomplished of his tribe, to be sure, but that was not a matter of pride – it was a matter of fact. When a younger Unas came along with greater deeds or was capable of beating him in ritual combat, that Unas would become the most accomplished. It was the way of things.
I saw glimpses of One Eye’s life. I saw the moment when he’d broken through his egg and touched the joy he’d felt as he fed on one of the smaller, more deformed hatchlings. I experienced the pride he’d felt when his tribe had allowed him to go on his first hunt. I felt the fear of hiding from Jaffa patrols and the joy of executing a successful raid against them. I knew the taste of their flesh in his mouth and the pleasure that came when he’d spit-roasting Jaffa as they still lived. I knew that by consuming them he believed that he gained their strength, their power. I knew that the young of their tribe too incautious to be caught by a Jaffa patrol were often taken by the Jaffa and put to work in the mines. I knew that he feared the mines. He feared the mines more than he feared death.
When the Unas became too old or weak to continue to work in the mines they would invariably enter the great pyramid – anyone who entered the pyramid was worse than dead, or so the ancestors had told him. He saw no reason to question their wisdom on the matter. I saw his memories of the cave paintings left by his father’s father. I listened to the stories told by his people – and I understood what it was to be Unas.
I was left gasping for air as the soulgaze broke, overwhelmed by the totality of what I’d seen. One Eye, by contrast, maintained that same serpentine grace – seemingly unperturbed by having been exposed to all that I was. It was likely a byproduct of his incapacity for introspection. I envied him. I was going to have some long nights coming to grip with the fact that I now knew far more about the taste of Jaffa flesh than any man ought to.
“Ska nat, War’den.” One Eye spoke, his vocal chords struggling with the English language. He pointed to the skull, “Ska nat, Baab,” he pointed to my heart, “Ska nat Harry,” and finally to my head, “Ska nat Lash.”
“You saw Lash?” I replied, wondering how much the Angel’s shadow had been part of the soul gaze. I’d never asked about what someone saw in my head before – I’d always been kind of afraid to know. It wasn’t the sort of thing you asked.
“Saw. Spoke. Taught,” Replied One Eye. He held his hands apart. “Before Tak,” he united them, “Now Tar – Naya, together. Dresden. Unas. Friend.”
Keenly aware that disagreeing was a good way to end up on a spit, I agreed. “Sure One Eye. We’re pals. Now, how about you point me towards that big temple you hate and I’ll make it go away?”
One Eye shook his head. “Shesh. Many word. Few understand.”
“Boss, their language doesn’t actually have most of the concepts you’re trying to express. Keep it simple.” Bob sighed in exasperation. “Just talk cave man. You should be good at it.”
“Cave man?” I replied to the skull.
“Me Tarzan, you Jane.” Bob replied. “They have only had a couple generations out of captivity to discover fire. ‘Temple’ is going to be too much of a leap even if the guest in your head shared your language with him.”
“Ah,” I replied looking back at One Eye. He was fascinated by the spirit, amused by the dancing lights in the Skull’s eyes. I cleared my throat to get his attention before continuing. “I good person. You help me. I go to bad place. I fight. No more bad place.”
“Ka.” One Eye disagreed.
“Why?” I blinked in surprise. I would have thought he would jump at the chance to have someone fight the Goa’uld on his planet.
“Naya tok.” One Eye grinned with feral glee. “Together. Onac. Unas. Go to bad place. Naya tok. We fight.”
I was going to write this one off as a “semi-diplomatic” solution.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2016-12-16 10:31pm
Dresden: How to make friends and win wars
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-01-03 05:35pm
I found myself struggling to keep up with One Eye's loping gait as we traversed the complex network of caves. One Eye and his Unas warriors had grown up in the lopsided and misshapen darkness of caves, they were accustomed to finding purchase in uneven ground with talons and toes. Me? On a good day, I'll run along the beach in tennis shoes for a couple miles but I'm much more likely to choose a paved sidewalk for my choice runabout. I wasn't accustomed to running in full body armor either. Nobody would ever accuse me of being out of shape, but even an Olympian would be hard pressed to make good time in full body armor.
Actually, come to think of it – I was making better time than I had any right to be making. I’ve always had a good sense for what my limits were. It was a useful bit of knowledge in my line of work. And I knew for damn sure that I should have been beyond exhausted a day and a half ago. Stars and stones, had it really been days since I last slept? I was tired and my muscles ached, but I wasn’t at the level of downright exhaustion I knew I should be operating on. Even wizards were occasionally supposed to sleep or eat. But I was neither hungry nor thirsty, and was only mildly aware of my need for sleep.
I seem to have adopted some of that same preternatural stamina I’d observed in Ul’tak when he’d first escorted me to the city of Nekheb. Still, I wasn't exactly graceful. Although I never heard them make any degree of excess sound, I got the distinct sense that One Eye and his warriors were laughing at me. It was a relief really. After dealing with my sudden fame as the “Great Lord Warden of Nekheb” it was just nice to be around people who saw me as just another guy. Scaly people with big talons, mind you, but decent enough folk none the less.
Not a single damn one of them was about to worship me, I was certain of that much at least. One Eye largely treated me like a slightly slower, squishier member of his tribe. I didn't have fangs, I didn't have teeth worth speaking about, I had no horns at all – and the scales I wore weren't even my own. It was downright disgraceful.
After several days of blind worship, I was sincerely thrilled to be in the company of people who neither knew of “my” infamy or would have cared had they been privy to it.
There hadn't been many of the Unas warriors at first. To my relief the “we” that was going did not include the infant and adolescent Unas. Twenty bull Unas with thick facial horns and deep scarification along their chests and faces broke away from the tribe, chuffing and grawping in the guttural language of the Unas. The gathered their clubs and their spears, following some unspoken queue from the Unas chieftain.
As we made our treacherous way through the cloying dark, however, I became aware of more and more bodies moving through the dripping shadows. Even with the sensors in my helmet I couldn't even begin to guess where they were coming from. The caves had been carved out by time and nature, not by mortal hands, and there was no consistent logic to their disposition or layout. We would turn a corner and suddenly our group would grow by handfuls. Little drips and drabs of shadow seemed to each conceal a fully-grown Jaffa warrior eager to join our hunting pack.
They were tribesmen from other unas clans – they had to be. The pelts they wore and roughly made bone jewelry didn't quite match that of One Eye's tribe. Some carried long spears of wood and stone, still other huge clubs with intricate carvings that seemed to have been done with unas talons. Still, they joined our group as though it had been their plan from the start. Had One Eye sent a runner ahead? He must have. But when would he have done so? I could have sworn that I'd kept him in line of sight at all times when we'd been in his camp.
Then again, I probably understood less than a fraction of how the Unas communicated with each other. It might just be Unas custom to join a war party heading to attack the Jaffa. It was not a plot, I could be confident of at least that much. Plotting was anathema to how the Unas operated. If One Eye intended to kill me, he wouldn't waste time waiting for me to be outnumbered and outmaneuvered. He would just gore me to death.
If Ammit was any gauge of Unas capability in combat, he might well win.
The verdant hue of my low light vision afforded me a terrifying vision of our now massive pack of subterranean lizard-men trudging through the darkness. I caught the occasional glimpse of slit eyes staring at me in the pitch-black darkness, flashing bright green in my optics.
“Why aren't there guards?” I asked One Eye as we passed the ritual totems he indicated were the boundary between what the unas considered their territory and where the mines began.
“Unas strong. No need.” One Eye replied.
“Not for you, for the Jaffa.” I waved at the hundreds of unas. “Shouldn't they have an armed outpost or something?”
One Eye cackled. There was no way he understood the particulars of what I said, but he got the gist. “Caves deep. Dangerous. Onac die often. Onac only think Onac can do best.”
“They don't know.” I replied, realizing his meaning. “They know you're down there but they can't ever get an accurate count of the tribes. They assume that there can't be many of you because they couldn't manage to survive down there.”
“Unas strong.” One Eye grinned his sharkish affirmation. “Kamak Unas. Onac few in caves. Onac ten. Onac twenty. Onac few.”
“If you outnumbered them by so many then why not attack?” I queried in confusion. “Why live in fear.”
“Onak ka keka.” One Eye shook his head. “Ha'ry see. Keka ma Onac. Keka Oma.”
I understood One Eye's fear once we reached the mines themselves.
I've always been a big reader, even before I knew that owning electronics was effectively a no-go for a Wizard I was a voracious consumer of anything with pages to flip. And as my reading materials are generally, ok always, of the second-hand variety, it means that I'm going to be limited to the things sold at second hand book shops. And without fail, no matter the second-hand shop, you will find a box of old national geographic magazines. I liked them, they talked about faraway places and strange animals. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time in my pajamas with a mug of hot cocoa, reading page after page of the places I would never go to and the animals I would never see in person. I think most boys go through a phase in life where they want to be explorers or adventurers, discovering the strange and new parts of the world never seen before by mortal men.
For someone who hasn’t traveled much, it allowed me brief insight to some of the most wonderful things the world had to offer. It also exposed me to some of the most terrible. I've seen people in conflict mines before. Glossy pages of African war zones showing gaunt faces and dark skinned men, women, and children with manacles on their arms and legs. I've seen the look in their eyes before, that hopeless distant stare. I've ran my finger over the images of leg irons, wincing at where they'd cut into the flesh to expose pink flesh beneath the dark skin.
It was enough to convince me that diamonds weren’t worth the effort required to get them out of the ground, to be sure, but it nightmares can’t be expressed with just a photo. But it's not the same in a magazine as it is in real life.
A magazine can't capture the stench of terror, the cloying odor of fear that overwhelms a place like that. There is an aura to a place like that, a creeping sense of dread that has outright poisoned the very earth. It was the sort of place where the dead were forced to linger, where the pull of their pain in life was too great to free them easily. I knew if I dared look with my sight I would see the spectral images of slaves still trying to break ore free from the rock walls – too terrified to realize that they'd died. Not ghosts, but memories, fearful impressions of the men they'd once been.
If the living were anything to judge by, the dead were the lucky ones. Jaffa, humans and unas toiled together, breaking great slabs of grey ore from the thick obsidian walls. They ignored us as we passed, not daring to look up from their work for even a second. They were dedicated to a fault.
I grabbed a man by his shirt, and tried to drag him away from his pickaxe. He fell limp in my hands, looking up at me with clouded eyes. He continued to breathe in measured, calm breaths, uncaring of what I did to him. Hands continued to reach out towards the wall, groping for the grey stones in loosened earth. My lip curled in disgust. Someone or something had messed with these people's minds.
One Eye tapped the side of the man's skull with a talon, “Gone. Keka na keka.”
No wonder One Eye was terrified of these mines. Getting made into a worker literally meant the death of self. “Keka.” I agreed, using the unas word for danger as I let go of the man's husk. He eagerly began to work once released, taking his pickaxe and digging into the cave wall without thought.
“Wi'zard.” One Eye tapped his head. “Protect. Unas manok Keka. Unas win. Lash show.”
Stars and Stones, what had Lash promised these people on my behalf?
“No more than you would offer independent of my doing, my host.” Tittered the Angel's amused voice. “I told them that you couldn't allow a violation of the minds of sentient beings this egregious to continue any more than you could will your own heart to stop beating. I told them that you would fight alongside them and protect them from malevolent sorcery, or die trying. But I hardly needed to – your soul had already shown them more than I could have ever hoped to share.”
She shimmered into view, floating a few inches above the ground in her white tunic. Why is it that every woman in my life, even the ones who don't live in my head, always seem to have a better sense for what I'm going to do than I do? And why do they not choose to share that information with me until after I've already decided to do the thing they saw coming a mile away?
Women – go figure. Even the incorporeal ones seemed to cause me trouble... especially the incorporeal ones come to think of it. They always find new ways to surprise me.
I stopped trying to count how many slaves there were in the mine after the first couple hundred. One would have been too many. Sokar had mind wiped entire population centers to make his mine work. There were slaves to mine, slaves to carry the ore mined, and slaves to care for the needs of the former two types. But they weren't men any more, they weren't jaffa, or unas either. They were just meat, puppets to carry out the will of the one who'd programmed them.
Sokar had been entirely too deserving of his diabolic mantle. The Jaffa garrisoned her knew it was being done. They had to know. It would be impossible to maintain a operation of this magnitude without their expressed involvement.
It had brought me more pleasure than was strictly befitting a Warden of the White council when we ambushed the first patrol of Sokar's Jaffa. They went down under a wave of saurian bodies, subsumed under a ton of angry claws and teeth. I wasn't sure if it was the effects of Winter's mantle upon me or just my own righteous anger, but their gargling screams of pain hardly even phased me. I watched five man getting gored to death and felt nothing. Not satisfaction, not disgust, not horror – nothing. The same nothing, I suspected, that had been reflected back at me when I'd looked into the expression of a child carrying water to the miners not five minutes prior.
I knew that it was supposed to bother me when another man died in front of me. I knew that I should have felt it turning my guts and twisting my guilt, but I knew too much about what kind of mind magics would be required to bend someone's will to this degree. I'd nearly been victim to a lesser form of it when I'd been a teenager. It was evil – the sort of evil you don't get to walk away from. A man who would inflict that upon another was already damned. The sort of person who'd do it to generations worth of living beings? It required someone with the soul of a Hitler or a Mengle to achieve or even consider. It was the sort of thing that would taint the soul beyond recognition.
“That would require that one have a soul of their own, dear host. The conqueror worms are not so lucky as that.” Lash's shadow watched the Unas tear the legs and arms off the Jaffa corpses, tearing greedily into the flesh of their slain foes. My stomach churned at the sight, but I forced myself to watch. Surrounded by this many predators I was loath to do anything that might put me into the prey category.
“So, they're like the Sidhe?” I replied, trying not to retch at how One Eye gleefully sucked the marrow out of the thumb he'd picked clean of flesh.
“No, my host.” Lash replied. “Not like the Sidhe. Even spiritually the worms are parasites, they borrow what they lack. They steal the essence of those they inhabit.”
“The goa'uld steal souls?” I replied, disgusted at the prospect.
“They use the soul they are part of to supplement their own limited spiritual existence, weaving their way into it and using it for their own purposes.” Lash sighed. “It's part of why they were initially approached by the Sidhe and Nox. You cannot corrupt the soul of a creature that is almost wholly of the material realm – or so they believed.” She added, noting my spike in panic at the idea of Heka having borrowed part of my soul, “The corrupted parts will be removed as part of your bargain – my host.”
“Mab is going to remove parts of my soul?” Stars and stones – what would that mean for me? Would I live the rest of my life spiritually crippled? Would I lose my magic?
Lash sighed. “Wizard Dresden, did you never pay attention to the wizard to whom you were apprenticed? The soul is not so weak as to crumble at first blood. You sacrifice bits of your soul every day, sharing it with those you love, in your art, in your work, in your casting of magic. Humans toss away their soul in drips and drabs at all times. It grows back.”
I still wasn't thrilled about the idea of letting Mab tear out part of my soul. “And what will she do with the part that gets ripped out?”
Lash shrugged. “She doesn't get to keep it if that is what you're worried about. The parts of the soul excised will then be cast asunder. In essence, they will die.”
“None of this is overly comforting Lash.” I grumbled as she wrapped her arm around mine, interlocking her phantom fingers between my own armored ones. Her illusionary warmth was as close to my skin as if I’d worn no armor at all.
“I know my host. I know.” She planted a soft kiss on my shoulder. “But I promise it will all be well. You will be whole again. Better than whole, you will be you. Not you with Heka’s mind polluting you, not you with the whispers of winter, you are going to be Harry Dresden and nothing and nobody will ever rob you of that.”
“I hope your right Lash.” I sighed. “I really do. Because every moment we seem to be getting further and further from anything resembling my old life.”
“I don’t hope. I know.” She reached up and tilted my head down so that I looked her directly, the mirrored surface of my helmet shimmering across emerald blue eyes. “Harry – I know because I know you and what you are worth. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden – you are a man worth of dying to protect.”
“Lash, I’m just – ” She laid an alabaster finger across my lips, shushing me.
“No, my host. No more. No self-deprecating assertions that you are less than who you are. No pretense that you are undeserving. I have already died in your name, for your worth.” She smiled that impossibly white smile that had made my heart flutter when I’d met her as Sheila. The hand on the back of my neck pulled down, gently but insistently, pulling me towards her lips.
She planted a kiss on the face of my mask, the heat and wetness of her illusionary lips pressed up against my own as though there had been no barrier. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline or the sheer immediacy of her need, but I found myself returning her kiss. I bathed in the hungry eagerness of her tongue and lips, grabbing her illusion and holding it close. The silken warmth of her body pressed up against mine consumed me, briefly distracting me from any conscious thought other than kissing the beautiful woman in front of me.
I didn’t care that we were in a war zone. I didn’t care that the unas were still devouring a jaffa patrol only several paces in front of me. I didn’t care that Lash was the shadow of a fallen angel. I didn’t care that the whole fate of a solar system was in the palm of my hands. For that brief, shining moment I was just consumed with the woman kissing me.
It had been a really long time since I’d kissed a woman.
When I finally came up for air, I was panting. “Wow – that was just...”
“Divine?” Lash suggested. “Devilish?”
“I was going to go with awesome, but sure.” I sighed, realizing how absurd that must have looked to the Unas.
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so certain of that, mine host.” Lash purred as One Eye walked up to me, his face caked in coagulating blood. I was gobsmacked when he turned to the hallucination and addressed her as “Lash,” before turning to me.
“Stars and stones. You can see her?” I interjected in amazement.
“You mean the spirit who popped out of nowhere and started making out with you for no apparent reason?” Bob replied from my waist. “Yes boss. We can see her.”
“But – how?” Lash had never demonstrated the ability to affect anything other than myself. She’d certainly never shown the ability to create an illusion that could be perceived by others.
“My host, do you forget what I am?” Lash smiled a disturbingly satisfied smile at my confusion. “I’ve always known how to do this. As to why now, you had not previously had a system worth of ardent worshippers from whom to draw power.”
“I’m going to end up getting smote, aren’t I?” I queried, thinking to several very explicit rules against being worshipped that the big man upstairs seemed to care about very deeply. He cared enough to have them added to his list of ten most important ones for that matter.
“Possibly.” Lash replied unhelpfully. “But you have more pressing business to attend to right now.”
The pressing business in question transpired to be my share of the conquered flesh, a still wriggling screaming snake-like body that One Eye had pulled from the belly of a Jaffa. I flinched at the sight of it, recognizing that same serpentine creature from when one had been inflicted upon me only days ago. It was a goa’uld.
Why in the hell was there a goa’uld in the belly of the Jaffa warrior?
“Have you not noticed, oh host of mine, how you are aware of the presence of the Jaffa entering a room as keenly as you notice the other conqueror worms?” Lash replied patiently to my errant thought. “They Jaffa are not just the warrior class of the usurpers – they are the womb within which the usurpers reach maturity. The Jaffa cannot survive long without the worms within their bellies.”
That wasn’t something I’d been counting on. Nor was One Eye’s intended purpose for the wriggling goa’uld he placed in my hand. He balled his fists and mimed holding the snake up to his fangs, making fleshy smacking sounds with his lips.
He intended for me to eat the goa’uld. He stood in the darkness, his eyes betraying no emotions – but I knew his meaning. I’d seen One Eye’s soul, felt glimpses of the rituals he’d been through all his life. This was the turning point in any hunter’s life. The moment where a senior member of the tribe offered him the flesh of the Onac, it was a ritual of adulthood for an adolescent unas to became a man. It was also the way that a wandering unas whose tribe had been lost to disaster or war could be inducted into One Eye’s tribe.
If I consumed the wriggling creature in my hands, I would be considered part of the tribe. If not, I would suddenly be the prey in the center of an Unas war party for having insulted One Eye. The Goa’uld screamed its high-pitched wails, desperate to free itself from my hands. Its beady eye stared up at me spitefully, black pools of shadow just visible under the faint glow of Lash’s illusionary body.
It was helpless, pitiful even. It was hard to imagine how something so frail had managed to form an empire, a pantheon that reached across the stars. It had to be terrified, desperately thinking of a way to escape an imminent demise. I knew that feeling – it had been how I’d felt only days earlier when Heka had taken me as his host. That same imminent sense of finality had to be running through the symbiote’s mind, “Why me?” and “Why now?” I was clutching a thinking creature out of the womb and terminating it before it even had a chance at life.
“Cease your pointless moral sophistry, wizard.” Lash sighed, placing her hand upon my shoulder. “The usurpers are born with the genetic memory of all those who came before them. Their feelings, their predilections are all passed from generation to generation. Why would you preserve one who would remember, understand, and agree with the creation of all that you have seen in these caves? From the moment the usurpers draw breath they are already cursed with all the hatred and corruption of those who came before. That thing you pity is not some babe in the woods. It is the heart and soul of Sokar’s lieutenants given new flesh. Pity it not.”
“She’s right boss.” Bob chimed in. “That creature is just another Sokar waiting to happen. No ifs ands or buts about it.”
But I did pity it. I pitied the creature who would spend its last living moments in bind terror. I pitied it even as I lowered my helmet, brought the wriggling beast up to my lips, and tore a huge bite out of the creature’s neck with my teeth – forever silencing it’s terrified screams. I chewed the pale flesh of the goa’uld, trying not to dwell on it’s metallic taste as I swallowed with a loud gulp before offering the rest of the corpse to One Eye.
He took the slain serpent and held it aloft, showing it to all the surrounding Jaffa. “Na Onac Ha’ry. Ha’ry Unas!”
“Well done, my host.” Lash purred – planting a kiss on my cheek before dissolving into vapor, her voice still echoing in the cave. “Very well done.”
The collected unas growled a low reverberating tone in unison before we continued our passage through the mines, moving still faster than we had before. I still struggled to keep up with the pack, but for some reason I no longer got the sense that they were laughing at me.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-01-03 06:34pm
Is there some way to edit posts after the fact? I've found a couple of minor errors in grammar that need to be fixed and I can't seem to see the edit button.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-02-09 10:42pm
One Eye wasn't prepared for open sky. None of Unas were, they milled at the cave entrance nervously sniffing at the air and looking at the seemingly endless expanse of clouds. I don't think that any of them had ever been in a place where there wasn't a ceiling. Their entire world had walls and a ceiling – sometimes a taller ceiling than others, but the idea of standing beneath an open void was as alien to them as spending my life in the endless shadow of the mines would have been to me.
As I was not limited by the same fears as my compatriots, I strode forth from the cave mouth – shifting my cowl and cape to adjust Bob's carrier to allow him to see what I was looking at. I let out a long, low whistle and addressed my skeletal advisor. "Are we as screwed as I think we are?"
Bob's eye lights roved from one side of the scenery before us to the other before he replied, "Sideways, boss. Sideways, upways, downways, and any other ways you could care to think of."
Sokar's fortress was a pyramid of immense size, a staggering construct that pierced the very clouds. It hadn't been built so much as it had just been carved out of the very mountains, reducing them and shaping them into four, perfect, triangular planes covered in innumerable hieroglyphs. I could taste the magic rolling out from it, as potent and visceral as any magic I'd witnessed in my entire life. The sheer black face of it glowed a bilious green that pierced the dull grey of twilight and played curious patterns through the smoke of battle and industry.
It wasn't overly clear what parts of the quarry were on fire because of the standard operation of the massive machines stretching out from the great pyramid like the steel roots of some great tree and what were the still burning remains of the ongoing offensive waged against Sokar's elite guard but everything seemed to be burning for some reason or another. I could just barely make out the shapes of armored Jaffa clashing against the onslaught of Ninja warriors, black figures moving from pillar to pillar with an insane degree of grace.
The mind-wiped miners continued their endless task of taking raw ore into the pyramid, ignoring the dangers to life and limb as they pushed wooden carts across the now war torn quarry. To my amazement, both sides of the conflict seemed to be going out of their way not to interfere with them or the curious machines leading into the pyramid. In fact, at least one group of Sokar's Jaffa actually seemed to have stopped fighting entirely to ensure that a pallet of the grey ore reached its destination when the Unas previously pushing it succumbed to staff blast wounds and the Ninja allowed them to pass with impunity.
I watched them move through the seemingly endless sea of black clad figures, entirely ignored as they carried the stones over to one of the great machines and saw to loading them into it. "Bob, what are those things?"
He clicked his jaw back and forth in thought for a moment, considering the matter. "They're naquadah reactors, big ones too. Any one of those would be enough to power a city. I think the planetary shield back on Nekheb runs on two of those."
That was bad – like really bad. The Goa'uld used nuclear power as a substitute for the sacrificial component in their nastier magics. Whatever was going on here was (a) nasty enough that freaking Sokar felt the need to hide it from everyone else in the galaxy (b) required so much power that a city's worth of people were turned into automatons to maintain the ritual, and (c) had side effects so drastic if they were interrupted that it was able to put wars on pause. And I just knew that I was heading to nasty mojo central on scary pyramid lane.
My vision swam as a terrible thought occurred to me. "Bob, you said this place was a prison for some 'Nasty Stuff.' Did it specify what kind of nasty that was, exactly?"
"No boss – any of the specifics were redacted." Bob replied. "But it has to be something seriously dark to merit the sort of scorched earth policies he had on the books if the things kept here managed to get out."
I let out an audible gulp of fear. There was one thing that I knew for sure the Goa'uld were willing to redact from their history to that degree. Outsiders – this planet was a tailor-made prison for outsiders, the once shared adversary of the Fairy Courts and Goa'uld Pantheons. Sokar was the god of hell, the entity responsible for 'punishing the wicked.' Who else do you put in charge of a prison for outsiders other than the devil himself?
You know, just for once I would like for one of these things to take me somewhere nice. Sandy beaches, cool drinks, and pretty women – a little less Lovecraft and a bit more Magnum PI. Maybe I'd even grow a moustache.
In the meanwhile, I was just going to have to cowboy up and kick my way through Akira Kurosawa's scifi wet-dream. Because however brutal and efficient the Jaffa of Sokar might have been, they were losing by a wide margin. There was far more black than red on the battlefield now, with only a few pockets of red holding out in
"Crap." It wasn't my most elegant speech to date, but it pretty much summed up my feelings on the matter. One Eye eased his way to my side, sniffing at the air and taking deliberately slow steps to prevent himself from falling up and into the sky.
"Onak kek?" He asked me, pointing to the Jaffa below. "Tok Wok Tah, we go?"
"We go buddy." I sighed, gripping my staff and drawing at my magic. It wasn't that far to the pyramid, maybe two miles once we reached the base of the quarry. If we went in hard and fast, I was hoping that neither side was prepared to counter us. The defenses of the Pyramid were built out from the quarry bed, with multiple concentric walls and shield barriers separating it from the rest of the world. Entry from the mines themselves was not, apparently, something that Sokar had prepared defenses to counter so I was betting that neither side was going to see us coming.
And really – who plans on a countering an uprising from the secret tribes of subterranean lizard men?
There was no real formal declaration or communication between the Unas following One Eye and I, the two of us just sort of started running towards the pyramid and the Unas war party just sort of went with the flow. They seemed to have a primal, almost instinctual need to follow the Unas Chief into battle. Their apprehensions about the sky seemed to vanish the instant he let out his keening bellow as he and I slid down a steep incline of loose earth.
I caught the sight of Unas charging in my periphery. There were more than I had accounted for, more than I'd realized were even possible. Our war party seemed to be only one of many such war parties prepared to strike. Both the black and the red army suddenly found themselves overwhelmed by a wave of carnivorous green.
"Outta my way!" I bellowed, casting a dome of energy in front of myself with my foci and just barreled though a trio of confused ninjas. I noted idly that the ninja who bounced up and over my shield had been the Ninja with whom I spoke earlier. I cast a gust of wind to propel me forwards, essentially turning me into a human projectile as I steamrolled my way across the battlefield.
One Eye must have been from the Kenyan part of the subterranean Unas kingdoms. He was only a few seconds behind me, gleefully howling as he ran over dazed and injured ninjas. He led the wave of Unas behind me, a lance of green skinned unas splitting the Ninja army in half. He was, however, the only unas to follow me along the stone bridge leading to the pyramid. The rest stopped just short, choosing instead to put themselves between the two Jaffa armies and the pyramid. Whether this was some sort of Unas superstition about the pyramid or some greater battle plan One Eye had communicated, I could only guess. Either way, I felt confident that an Unas war party would be enough to slow down the Ninja's advance till I completed what I needed to complete.
I skidded to a halt midway across the bridge that gapped the deep chasm in front of the pyramid's entrance, coming face to face with a cluster of ninja warriors holding pole axes. They looked at each other, briefly unsure who I was or what to do. An angry wizard pinballing his way across the battlefield behind a glowing blue shield will have that effect on people.
As I am generally unwilling to take a pole-axe to the face I made the decision for them. They tumbled every which way from the kinetic force with a bellowed, "Maximo forzare!" Acrobatic though they might have been, there is no degree of acrobatics skill that will save your life from a twenty mile vertical drop off a bridge.
Watching the bodies drop One Eye made a whistling notice that might have been approval or confusion before charging headlong into the pyramid, breaking a Ninja's neck with a powerful swipe of his talons. He wiped the blood from his talons across his face, screaming another challenge as another Ninja charged him. I bashed the man's head in with a swing of my staff, the heavy metal end propelled by my own enhanced strength.
The pyramid was a mess of bodies – the Jaffa of Sokar had made the Ninjas pay for every inch of the building they took. The floor was slippery with a mix of gore and charred viscera from staff weapon blasts and bladed weapons used in close quarters. But we made our way down the corridor leading to the heart of the pyramid, the only possible path to take within the pyramid. This was not standard Goa'uld architecture. There was no overt display of opulence, no great rooms intended to wow their followers or command their respect. This entire structure was nothing but a series of defensive positions built along the same corridor covered in so many wards that I was afraid touching the walls might well set my hand on fire.
These were wards with a capital W by the way. This had to have taken an insane level of coordination to set up. I might have been able to manage it in principle back in Chicago, if someone was willing to give me about ten billion dollars, the entire population of China as a work force, and I didn't do anything else other than craft wards for the next thousand years. I conceptually understood what some of these wards did, but I'd never seen so many different redundant layers of wards built around each other. There were redundancies for the redundancy of the redundancy of the redundancy to the Nth degree.
And they were all built with a single purpose – ensuring that whatever was currently trapped inside of this fortress stayed trapped inside of this fortress. I was walking into the mystical equivalent of Alcatraz. Yay me.
The passageway eventually opened up to the largest single room I'd ever seen in my life. It was as though they'd hollowed out the pyramid, keeping those same steep triangular walls covered in glowing hieroglyphs. I could just barely see a raised stone table at the center of the room in the sickly glow of a pentagram formed out of jade obelisks.
At it's center was a man who wasn't exactly tall, but more than made up with it in sheer muscular bulk. His eyes were painted with dark mascara matched to a crown of feathers with beads of jade that matched the jade beads on his tunic. A man holding an eight inch blade forged from glittering crystal.
My heart stopped. The Key of the Dead.
The five ninjas were lined in a row, waiting their turn to kneel on the circular stone table. They whispered something to him, he nodded, and then promptly drove the blade into their heart. I watched, fascinated as much as terrified, feeling the magics of the chamber spread out through the pentagram as they focused on the blade in the man's hands. The pierced man gasped, his mouth twisting into a rictus of what might have been joy or terror as his body desiccated. His cheeks lengthened, his limbs atrophied, and his body began to crumble into dust. By the time the man pulled the blade from his victim's body and motioned for the next sacrifice, the first had mummified and half dissolved. The man who was not tall pushed the corpse off the table without ceremony, driving his blade into the next man's breast.
Judging by the pile in front of him there had been many more Ninjas when this had started. Stars and Stones, I recognized the table they were using. Well, not the table, but the purpose of it. The fairy courts used something very similar to increase the power of summer and winter.
The man who was not tall took note of me as I approached, regarding my approach with the sort of clinical disinterest I would expect out of a surgeon in an operating room taking note of someone passing outside the door. He stabbed a third through the heart and addressed me as the man's flesh puckered and retracted from his gums. "I'd ask how you knew that I would be here but the stink of Winter is all over you, brother. How you tolerate subordinating yourself to those who betrayed us for mere words is amazing to me."
"What can I say. The human sacrifice crowd and I have never quite seen eye to eye." I replied, mustering my power. I didn't dare actually cast anything within this space till I had a better sense what casting around these wards and ritual items would actually do. Putting power into the wrong ward could trigger a defensive ward I hadn't noticed, or worse yet – collapse a ward keeping something at bay that I very much wanted to have kept at bay. "I don't suppose you have a name to go along with all those feathers?"
He stabbed the fourth as I drew still closer, smiling toothily. "I am Cum Hau, but you already knew that, didn't you 'Lord Warden."
"You seem to have me at a disadvantage," I replied, trying to gauge how far I would have to go before I could safely use magic on him. I'd gotten a decent read on the wards going through the room. Nothing too flashy, nothing that seemed to be linked into the defenses of the Pyramid. The center of this floor seemed to have been purely devoted to the ritual object at its center. Even so, I was going to have to pick and choose what I did to get that blade. Fire was out, I didn't know what the heat tolerance was for that blade. Force too, at least till I could get close enough that I was sure I wouldn't shatter it.
"Oh, Warden, for so many reasons you know of and still more that you don't." The man just radiated smugness. It made me long for the days of dealing with Rudolph back in the Chicago PD, I'd have wanted to punch the guy even if I hadn't watched him sacrifice four people. I was pretty much convinced that he needed to leave the room as a corpse as I watched him sacrifice the fifth and last of the ninjas. "You're late by the way. I was told to expect you hours ago."
I paused for a moment, not quite sure what to do with that information. "You were expecting me?"
"Obviously, Warden, or else I wouldn't have said it." The man repeated in disgust. "Now are we going to have to go through the exhausting motions of having you try to kill me, me thwart you, and on and on as it always seems to happen with these things? Or are you going to listen to reason and actually profit from what is going on here?"
"Considering that I'm pretty sure you're sacrificing people on an altar to free some sort of dark god, we're kind of past the point of negotiating your way out of this one sparky." I replied, waking over the mummifed corpse of a ninja. "But I tell you what, Zippy, you just turn that knife over to me right now and I'll consider just kicking your ass and leaving you in a cell rather than burning you alive in hellfire."
"I don't see that as happening any time soon, Warden." The man continued his toothy smile, holstering the crystal blade in his belt.
"Really there buddy? Because last I checked there are two of us, one of you, and you're all out of sacrifices to free whatever it was you were trying to let loose from here." I replied as I reached the edge of the table. "So how about you just play nice?"
"Warden, really, for the ostensible expert on rituals you miss some obvious queues." Cum Hau replied shaking his head slowly and rolling his eyes.
"Such as," I replied, walking around the table in one direction as One Eye stalked towards Cum Hau in the opposing direction. The Unas likely didn't understand a quarter of what was being said, but he seemed to get "other guy bad" with minimal explanation.
"Such as the fact that I completed the ritual to free my patron nearly an hour prior to this conversation." He laughed. "I was just sacrificing these Jaffa to ensure that none of the other inmates of this facility managed to escape along with him. You're too late Warden, the Jackal is free."
"Who?" I replied in genuine confusion.
Cum Hau's face fell somewhat, he seemed genuinely disappointed that this wasn't causing me more angst. "Your ancient enemy. The one who managed the rituals which always eluded Heka. The architect of unmaking."
"Still not ringing a bell." I replied judging my distance from the man. He favored his left side, I could use that. All I had to do was get the blade away from him and I could fry the jackass.
"Your humor will gain you little. Even trapped within the confines of your prison he was still able to engineer his own escape. You only managed to trap part of his self in your cell." Cum Hau spat on the ground. "And as a pittance of his mind and memory he still overcame the magics! Now that he is whole he will take control of the entire galaxy."
His eyes glowed in the darkness, motes of green fire flickering from them as he did so. "And I will rule with him! For I have tasted his secrets and am free of the forced peace of the lands of Sun and Snow."
I had barely a second's warning before he breathed the lance of bright purple light, neon death soaring over me as I dropped to the floor. One Eye clawed at Cum Hau's back, ripping out great rents of flesh that bled orange. The mutilated sections of flesh sprouted tentacles with sharp barbs that bit and extended down the length of his spine. His body elongated, stretching his flesh out corpse like over his ribs and appendages. The skin along his death's grin retracted back from his face, exposing muscle and gums. His flesh began to visibly rot and even through the filters in my helmet's breathing apparatus, the man's smell was overpowering.
He stood up to a height of almost twelve feet as an owl's head protruded from the flesh of his chest, blood soaked feathers moving with spasms of the tentacles beneath them. He didn't so much talk as scream in a keening basso that reminded me of the howls of dying animals, "The queens thought they could limit us – prevent us from taking our true forms. They stole our earned mantles, relegating us back to the parasites we once were. We are not scrounging beasts to serve at her will, we are gods!"
The chronometer on my wrist chirruped twice reminding me that I had only twenty minutes left to wrest the weapon from an angry demigod in the atrium of the an outsider's equivalent of Alcatraz backed up only by a caveman-lizard and a talking skull before the Queen of Winter unmade an entire solar system.
Screw it – there was no way I was going to be able to take this thing down without magic. I mustered my power and tossed a wall of flame at it. "Fuego, maximo pyro fuego!"
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-02-09 10:43pm
I'm good at setting things on fire. It's not necessarily a talent that of which I'm proud, but be damned, when in doubt I can be relied upon to burn something to ash and cinders. Fire is the offensive magic that is the showiest, but it's also probably one of the hardest types of magic to control – fire doesn't really stop until it is out of things to burn. Things including stuff like nightclubs and apartment buildings. You know, that stuff that the Chicago P.D. isn't thrilled to find out got burned down because a Wizard got into a tussle with a Vampire of the Red court.
I've had to provide some hasty explanations in my day for why, precisely, the building I'm running out of seems to have spontaneously combusted without any apparent cause. I'm actually pretty good at it – especially for the fires which are my fault. I was master of the flammable and inflammable, you need something burned down? Am I your wizard or what?
I'm a firm believer in the Tao of Pratchett. "Build a man a fire and he'll be warm for a night. Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." This goes especially for skeletal rotting, probably Mayan demigods with owl faces protruding from their gelatinous mess of feathers and tentacles. I don't know if it's prejudice of me to say so – but I just never trust anything that has tentacles. I don't even really eat calamari that often. I can't quite dismiss the whole formerly wriggling tentacles factor. Yeah, I know it tastes good with marinara sauce but so does a fried mozzarella stick. And with the mozzarella stick I'm not left to wonder if there is some Twenty Thousand Leagues under the sea style monster planning on heading my way to take revenge for his plate worth of relatives. Paranoid? Probably, but most people don't deal with the strange set of life experience I have.
Speaking of fried tentacles - If something has too many faces and lots of tentacles, barbeque ala Dresden is generally the safest path of engagement in the long route for many different reasons. Fire is a cleansing element, it burns away excess spells and glamors and has a purifying element for any spiritual pollutants in the area. There wasn't a whole lot of documentation on the supplementary effects of hellfire but I have some compelling anecdotal evidence on it having an added kick in the pants for any sort of supernatural nasties who found themselves in its path.
I've used spell fire on ghosts, ghouls, fairies, and freaks of all kinds. It was my bonified, accept no substitutes, 100% A grade all American answer to "how do I kill it," when left without a better answer.
So I think that you can understand the string of furious curse words that spewed forth from my mouth as my eyes glowed bring as headlights. I watched Cum Hau's beak extend a web of feathery vine like appendages stretching out from his belly to wrap around the flames. They caressed the edges of hellfire, coaxing the searing white torrent into a sulfurous ball of light before pulling the ball back into the belly of Cum Hau with a perverse squelching squish of fetid flesh. He let forth a resounding belch from his fleshless human face as the dangling skins sloughing off his body as he walked sizzled – exacerbating his already prodigiously foul odor.
One Eye charged him, slashing at the monster with his talons and biting with his teeth. Cum Hau's flesh, however, seemed to be less a part of his body and more of a protective layer of borrowed blubber. It had the same sort of scabrous, rubbery texture of the vampires of the red court. Hell's Bells, it was the skin of Red Court vampires. I could see the twisted faces and mangled fingers of red court vampires interweaved into the rotting skin-suit that Cum Hau had sewn into his own flesh. They fluttered around him like bleeding rags, maggot ridden and rotting in those areas not covered in poisonously neon pustules of god knew what.
"Little Wizard, little god, you forget – we have all forgotten." He smiled, displaying three rows of pointed teeth that extended and retracted over his now yellow human set, glowing against the gangrenous black flesh of his gums. Purple phlegm dripped from his chittering maw, sizzling where it hit the ground – dissolving stone. "And it is you who is most to blame 'Lord Warden.' You who brought this down upon us."
I dodged behind one of the great obelisks as he grabbed at me, slashing with razor sharp talons dripping with luminous venom. The magic contained within the pillar howled and screeched, casting bolts of orange lighting at random where Cum Hau pierced their pristine surface. He hardly even seemed to notice the arcing power as it cut across his face and arms, opening seeping wounds in his flesh. "You, who brought about the treaty robbing us of our godhood. You who only managed to save your skin from destruction at the hands of the White Queen for forcing yourself upon her own flesh and blood because you alone held Thoth's libraries. You have the audacity to start seizing powers that you denied your brethren."
Cum Hua's owl beak opened wide, spraying out a cloud of acrid gas that cratered the stonework as it covered One Eye. Ensorcelled winds whipped across landscape of the chamber, kicking up swirling patches of black-green fog as the chamber's magical balances were thrown out of alignment. The Unas batted at his sizzling flesh in confusion, not sure how to deal with this new threat as he gasped for breath. He snapped his eyes shut, gurgling in pain as his leathery skin seemed to boil. Glowing green abscesses of Unas blood rose and popped, spreading his vital fluids on the stone floor.
I screamed, "Vintas Servitas," banishing the acidic cloud back at the vile creature before tossing another gout of flame towards the demigod. To my satisfaction, the gas was combustible. The concussive force flung the rotting figure back across the room, pitching him into a stone pillar the width of a redwood. "Swallow that jackass!"
The demigod screeched in fury, smashing his fists into statues and pillars at random, sending ripples of magic through the air that made my teeth rattle. Hells Bells, this guy wasn't firing on all cylinders. Even if he didn't accidentally liberate one (well, another) of the pyramid's inmates by destroying something important, he might blow us all to hell anyway just by screwing up the wrong rune. The defensive runes I used on my apartment in Chicago were lethal if handled incorrectly, and those were just powered by my own magic and maybe a bit of ritual mojo. I didn't want to be on the same planet as a rune requiring a civilizations worth of nuclear power to keep it running.
"Bob! How do I kill this thing?" I growled, casting gale level winds towards him. I wouldn't be able to keep it up for long, but I could at least stop him from charging me for a moment while I caught my breath. Cum Hau held his arms up over his fleshless face, trudging forwards through the lashing tempest.
"How should I know?" Bob's replied in a voice of blind panic, his glowing eye lights flitting around the room. "You're the muscle. Try hitting it until it stops moving."
"Not helpful Bob! Is there anything that I can use? Something in the room? One of the defenses of the temple? This place is intended to trap things like him right?" My eyes flitted from pillar to pillar for anything I could use as I put myself between Cum Hau and One Eye.
The Unas was hurting. He'd breathed in a lot of that gas and it had done a number on his lungs. Glowing green blood seeped out from his mouth and nostrils and he was struggling to gasp in air without coughing up thick chunks of what I suspected might well be bits of his lungs. He was a tough son of a bitch. I would have been crawled up into the fetal position crying if I spat up a hamburger sized piece of my lung.
"Harry I can barely even see. This place is warded so heavily that I can't tell what is intended to keep out which threats." Bob replied in frustration. "I'm exactly the sort of thing this place is made to thwart – consider me adequately thwarted."
Crap – that made a lot of sense. This place had to be warded against fairies and spirits or there wouldn't have been much of a need for Mab to get me to enter the building. It also explained why Lash had been silent since we'd left the caves. Bob's skull acted as a buffer against foreign magics, as long as he stayed in the skull he was essentially living in the mystical equivalent to Switzerland. Lash, however, was a mystical parasite inflicted upon me by a fallen angel – I.E. exactly the sort danger one warded against when making a magical super-prison.
Ok, think Harry – what did you have? I had my staff, my foci, my armor, my coat and my cloak – none of which was going to be of any particular use in extricating myself from this situation. I could make a break for the door, but I wasn't super confident in my ability to outsprint Cum Hau and doing so would almost certainly doom One Eye to a painful death at the hands of the Goa'uld. And that was not to mention all the people who would suffer the Winter Queen's displeasure if I didn't get that damn knife back.
Frankly, I was out of good options – the only things I could even see as potentially working in my favor were damn near suicidally bad ideas operating on borderline Looney Tunes logic.
I was probably the only man Goa'uld history to use "Wiley Coyote, super genius!" as a battle cry before driving my staff into the now exposed current beneath the dissolved stone floors. My muscles twitched and tensed as I chanted "Fulminos" directing as much energy through my body as the exposed wiring could transport.
My inner twelve year old cackled in satisfaction as I went full on Palpatine on his ass, casting a torrent of lightning that left a wide channel of molten stone between us. His flesh bubbled and boiled as he fell to his knees, toxic viscera burning and popping under the inundation of magical lightning. His limbs batted about like a frog in a hail storm, smashing and cracking the surrounding obelisks. The stolen vampire skins set ablaze.
My hands shook as I struggled to keep hold of the staff, the endless pool of power dragging me down with the undertow. I'd channeled lighting through my body before, but that had only been for seconds. After a full minute of scourging the demigod with lighting my limbs shook uncontrollably and steam was risking from my staff where the skin was burning as I struggled to keep hold of the white hot metal rod. When I could stand it no longer I let go of my staff dropping to my knees as my muscles twitched inconsolably from the sudden jolt of uncontrolled current. I flopped uselessly, watching warnings blare out across my mask's display as Cum Hau slowly, but resolutely, stood back up.
The Unas with me made a bid to slay the monster but Cum Hau kicked One Eye away from him as almost an afterthought. The mighty Unas warrior was still sitting upright, but he was more of an irritation than a threat at the moment as he seemed unable to move his left leg.
The demigod was plainly in pain, what was left of his skin his skin was charred black except where the raw pink and red flesh of his muscles was visible beneath as it sloughed to the ground. It reminded me of the way that slow cooked meat fell right off the bone, just a clean graceful side of roasted charnel. His tentacles cracked and bled, breaking off his body as they convulsed in pain. His rows of teeth were cracked and broken, jagged and rough were before they'd been inhumanly smooth.
Still, he seemed more angry than hurt as he sprinted towards me, mad eyes glowing in the darkness. I crossed my arms to protect my face as he grabbed me in one of his massive hands, driving me into the stone face of an obelisk marked with a sweeping sigil that I vaguely recognized from some research I'd been doing before my brother hired me to protect Arturo Genosa. As he smashed me against the surface of the pillar, cracking my rib in the process I couldn't help but laugh. It was really just too perfect.
I had a plan. It wasn't a very good plan, but it beat my current strategy of 'try not to die.' Now all I had to do was piss him off. And I wasn't going to need magic for that one, nope, this one was going to be 100% bonified Dresden charm. Say what you will – I did stubbornly defiant irritation better than anyone I knew.
I twisted my neck, deactivating my helmet so that Cum Hau could see exactly how smug the look on my face was. "You're an idiot, you realize that right?"
"It amazes me that a creature with so little ambition was one of Thoth's most trusted underlings back in the time when Ra, Nut and Thoth ruled on Apep's behalf, back before the rise of my master." He bashed me against the obelisk again, cracking the face of the pillar further and smashing yet another of my ribs with a disgusting pop of bone. "You talk, and ramble, and rant, and scheme, yet never bring that might to bear. You've sat in shadow, content to dwell above a horde of the greatest and most terrible knowledge from before it was denied us. And what do you do with it? Nothing. You sit on your throne and cull your crop of whores after sowing your seed."
He bashed me against the pillar again, pressing the palm of his hand against my chest – hard. My eyes bulged as he pressed down on my rib cage, pushing agonizingly against the still broken bones. I struggled to breathe as he continued. "You are one of the oldest creatures to still yet live, and your powers are little more than the stolen rituals of a Hok'tar. Had I been blessed with a specimen of this quality I would have already enacted the ritual to bind host and god, as Ra taught us to before you robbed us of the knowledge. Or have you too forgotten? Was that part of your pledge to the whore Queen? Do you think she will die upon a blade as eagerly as your tattooed tarts?"
He crooned in my ear, his breath hot against my ear. "I wonder – did she even permit you to remember the words spoken at Thoth's Folly? So few were allowed to hear them even before the curse you brought down upon us. Those of our blood who learn them today seem to have the words stolen from them as if they were spoken in a distant and fleeting dream. We all pretend to remember, but only those few who can protect themselves against your treachery truly do. Heka, Sokar, Yu, Nut, Osiris, Isis, and Bastet – traitors, all of you. It was you who gave the Queens the Blood of Apep. It was you who bound us to her terms, her peace. "
He spoke the last word in total disgust, vibrating with sheer hatred as he whispered throatily. "Shall I tell you 'Warden?' Shall I speak the words that unmade the gods?"
"If it's all the same to you, sweetheart, I'd prefer that you stopped talking." I rasped, wheezing under the demigod's oppressive grip. "I have to inhale your breath every time you open your mouth and you smell like something crawled into your mouth and died. It's like I'm inhaling rotten, leathery burnt bacon."
That earned me another smash against the obelisk. One more, I just needed him to do that one more time. One Eye seemed to be getting another head of steam on him, and I was pretty sure that with the incoming distraction I would be able to get in another decent hit. He smiled, his shattered bleeding rictus tapered up into a perverse imitation of smiling. "Thoth was thinker, a man of science and reason. It was he, more than any of us, who unraveled the secrets of the Gate Builders. Faster than light travel, the basic principles of sorcery that became the basis of the rituals which granted us godhood. He was a great man – a genius even. So when Apep first entered into our bargain with the Fairy Courts to aid them in their war with the Adversary Thoth became intimately involved in protecting us from their power. A task that he did not just pursue, he accomplished with a stunning degree of efficacy. The bloodstone in us not only cloaks us from their mind magics, it effectively renders us wholly immune to their corruption. They can still kill us, of course, but they cannot subsume us as they would with the others of this realm."
My mind played back the moment when we'd been on Chrono's warship and the Shoggoth had been chasing us. I'd been terrified, but no more terrified than I'd been of any other vampire or monster capable of killing me dead. Ul'tak, however, had been reduced to a gibbering mess under the Outsider's influence – a chilling thought echoing through my mind. The Asgard sensors had shown me as Goa'uld, not human, when I'd been brought to Stargate Command. How much of Heka still lived within me?
Cum Hau took my look of worry as an affirmation that he should continue with his tale, licking a forked tongue along his scabrous lips. "Yes – immune. I don't think that even the Queens of Sun and Snow expected how well he protected us from their influence. They needed us strong against their enemy, but they needed us susceptible. Those who are weak to the adversary's power are invested in its destruction. So when Thoth revealed what he had done to the Queens, and how he had infected the bloodlines of all Goa'uld with the sacred stone it was first heralded as a great victory. There was much celebration throughout the pantheon as we were sure that the final piece had been reached for us to take our rightful place in the galaxy as the Fifth Race, when that same great mind spoke the words of unmaking. He asked a question to Ra in front of the whole pantheon, an idle boast spoken as a joke, but a cancer that spread like wildfire." He affected a cultured accent that still reverberated with the metallic tones of the Goa'uld, "If we cannot be harmed by the outsiders, why then do we fight them at all?"
"And then came the war. Tell me Heka? Was it worth it? Was appeasing the Queens worth it? Becoming their puppets? Living in fear of the day that they finally decide to slay us all? Is this the universe we were meant to live in? We scrounge on our bellies and live on what few scraps we can bully our slave races into giving us while our belief is funneled into undoing the mistakes of those who we have unwritten from history – because it was not enough that we defeated them and imprisoned them. It was not enough that we destroyed those who aligned themselves with the adversary. The Queens demanded still more. And you gave it to them without pause. You traitor."
He bashed me against the pillar a third time, dislocating my shoulder. His left eye had begun to spin at random, focusing on nothing and everything at once. "Enough!"
My eyes bulged as he shifted his grip and slashed a talon along my abdomen, splitting me from stem to stern and dropping me to the ground. I clutched my bisected armor together, desperately trying to keep my bowels inside me even as the slippery organs rolled over my fingers. As my crimson life's blood poured out onto the floor he dragged me to the stone table, dropping me at its center.
"All I need do is touch you with this and I will consume the very essence of you, taking your power as mine." Cum Hau pulled the dagger from his waist, towering over me. "Anubis will unmake your very legacy. A shame you won't be around to witness it."
"Funny thing about that buddy." I smiled as a familiar form shimmered into view behind him. "I have a sneaking suspicion that I will."
"And that, I believe, is more than enough of that for one day, my host." Jibed a cultured woman's voice as an alabaster skinned hand grabbed Cum Hau's wrist and broke it.
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-02-09 10:44pm
Ghosts and spirits are something that every wizard ends up dealing with some point or another in his career. Powerful creatures tend to dislike the idea of passing on to the next world and every once in a while, they have enough of a presence to leave their mark on it. While there are, undoubtedly, ghosts whose presences aren't malevolent, I've never had much cause to deal with them. Nobody hires a wizard to go after the ancestral spirit making sure that the family farms are tended – heck, you probably wouldn't even think to notice them if you didn't know precisely what you were looking to see. No, I got hired for the nasty things that even the average, respectable and most skeptical of mortals stopped being able to excuse away.
Think less Casper and more Poltergeist.
Spirits could be empowered through rituals, the consumption of power, and the sheer force of will in pursuit of their primary goal. The nastiest of which I'd dealt with, to date, was the spirit of Leonid Kravos – The Nightmare. He'd been a powerful practitioner in life, then had gained further powers both through the sorcerous meddling of Bianca and a sizable bit of strength that he'd stolen from me. He'd done things I'd never even realized a spirit could do, flipping vehicles, entering dreams, and even protecting himself from daylight. While there were certain metaphysical constants of beings of spirit, they were more fluid and dynamic than the rules their mortal counterparts were consigned to obey.
The Shadow of Lasciel inhabiting my mind, though she was little more than an echo of the fallen, was an entity of spirit. An entity possessing me, but a construct of spirit and soul – now apparently empowered by the belief of an entire system's worth of worshippers flowing in to me. It hadn't escaped my notice when we'd been walking through the caves together that the ground shifted beneath her feet and the earth left imprints where she walked. Lash hadn't brought any attention to it, probably hadn't wanted me to freak out, but there is a difference between an illusionary construct and something with material substance. She had a real physical presence in the mortal world, something I wouldn't have believed her capable prior to witnessing it.
So, when I saw the angelic warding keystone, I knew what I had to do.
Angelic wards are largely theoretical. Anyone who is being enough of a bastard to actually require that their property be warded to protect them from angels is pretty much destined to have someone come along to slay them long before that theory can be put into practice. What little exists on the subject was designed to work against the fallen. Any work that managed to go beyond the theoretical seemed to have gained the immediate attention of the fallen. Supposedly there were some particularly nasty spell books bound with the flesh of the mortal arrogant enough to have made a working angelic ward. The only reference to the actual ritual I'd found so far was a page referring to the primary weakness of the ritual – specifically how the whole warding structure was tied to a single keystone. Take out the keystone and there is no more warding, at all. Nicky and the Nickelheads many not have been willing to allow a supernatural anti-fallen death star to exist, but I guess he was willing to provide targeting data for the exhaust port.
I laughed at the idea of Nicodemus in an orange fight suit and it made my ribs hurt bad enough that my vision briefly flashed to white as my eyes unfocused while flashing. The blood loss was starting to make me loopy as I watched Lash spin-kick the owl-beaked face. The bony protrusion cracked as a bare alabaster foot connected with it, sending a stream of black viscera across the floor.
Cum Hau's two heads both stared hatefully at his attacker, crowing an insult in a language that sounded like gibberish even though Lash's filter before breathing a swirling blue mess of arcane power towards her. The attack went through her insubstantial shape, entirely missing her phantom mass as she charged through it, lifted the Mayan god, and flung him away from the stone table. He soared through the air, hissing like a scalded cat as noxious fumes billowed out behind him. Lash snapped her fingers, lighting the fumes with a roar of hellfire that followed the god to where he landed, exploding in a small mushroom cloud of sorcerous power. The angel's shadow looked from the shattered rune, to me, and back before sighing in resignation. "Your plans leave much to be desired, my host."
Blood bubbled up from my lips, making me cough as I held my arms together across my chest – keenly aware that it was by will alone that my bowels weren't spilling out of me. My head was spinning and I was doubtlessly concussed, "Sue me, I wasn't expecting to be going toe to toe with Hedwig the Horrible. He's got some nasty claws on him."
"The taker of the Dead has always been a creature of violence." Lash's body wreathed in a corona of hellfire as she picked up the blade Cum Hau had dropped when she broke his wrist, sulfurous heat rolling out from her – exacerbating the already overwhelming odor of the Mayan monster that permeated through the air. "The Red Court was not without cause when they banded together to expel their oppressors. I know not how he has escaped the terms, but this must not be allowed to continue. We must end him."
"I'm not exactly mobile here, Lash" I replied, watching as the Mayan god's serpentine form twisted up, righting himself on those spindly legs. His body jingled with the sounds of silver bells that seemed to have been sewn into the thick flabby folds of skin dangling from his rotting body. He was charred and blackened from Lash's attack, but he was rapidly regenerating the lost flesh as he shambled his way back towards the stone table. "I can barely stand, let alone fight."
"Yes." Lash agreed, a tone of desperate finality in her voice. "I will be able to slow the creature's advance, but you will succumb to your wounds long before he has a chance to slay you. When you die, I will disappear with you and there will be nothing to stop him from having total access to the things that dwell within this place."
"That would be bad." Yeah, it wasn't overly articulate but at this point I could see most of my blood outside of my body and rolling across the surface of the stone table. It sizzled and crackled across the runes in a way that I found even more troubling than the blood loss. Exposing your blood to unknown ritual artefacts was generally a bad thing but I was having trouble concentrating hard enough to quantify exactly how high up it was on the "how screwed is Harry right now" scale.
There was a pregnant pause as Lash watched Cum Hau's stride increase from a shamble to a loping charge, his wounds healing at an alarming rate. "Harry, I know you don't love me – not in the way I love you - but do you trust me? I have an idea… but it is not without cost…"
"Do I have a choice?" I replied.
Lash looked down at me, a wry smile on her lips. "Host – you of all people should know that you always have a choice. Power comes at a cost, and you have rejected power before that came at a cost too high for you to accept it. But here, now, I am offering you a way to live and protect those you love. I am offering you freedom, if you'll take it. But it has to be your choice. It has to be something that you want. I cannot force you to choose this, it must be freely taken. And we do not have time for you to understand. So, I ask again, wizard – do you trust me?"
I felt delirious, almost as if I was watching someone else talking, as I heard myself speak the words that would forever change the course of my life. "Yes Lash, I trust you."
"Then forgive me for what I am about to do to you, my host." The fallen angel's shadow smiled and leaned down to place a chaste kiss on the forehead as she pried my arms away from my chest. Lash took my hand, shoving the blade into it before I could protest. The Winter Queens warnings not to allow blood to touch it thundering in my ears even as she slapped the hilt into my blood-soaked gauntlet.
And then my whole world became pain.
Inky black jets of nightmare seeped out from the blades hit, weaving their way up my arm through my veins and arteries. The cloying dark caress of necromancy, the seductive caress of death, washed across me in a ghoulish embrace. It was horrible, and I'd never felt anything that I wanted as badly as I wanted to dive into that dark cold pool of cloying death magic that I felt welling out from the blade. I could taste the weapon's need to kill, its hungering purpose. I reveled in the pain that was coursing through me, looking down at the inky black shadows now seeping across the table where my blood had once been. The ropy length of intestines that rolled out from my belly when lash moved my arms had evaporated, turning into the same inky-black mess of shadows. My body still hung cleaved in twain, but the insubstantial nature of my innards seemed to consider this only an inconvenience rather than an impediment. All that mattered was the pain and the hunger.
I became aware of Lash struggling with Cum Hau in my periphery, the two were wrestling with each other. Lash had thick rents in her dress where shimmering rivulets of blood dripped down to the floor where they coalesced into thick pools of ectoplasm. The Mayan god's body burned wherever she touched him, hellfire scorching through his rubbery black skin and cutting down to the bone. She twisted, forcing Cum Hau to lose his balance and smack his fleshless head across the table. The raw face twisted and contorted in apoplectic rage, still spouting off an endless list of accusations and crimes to which he believed Heka ought to answer.
My hand vibrated with the weight of the dagger in my hand, the pain that had become my eternity compelling me towards a single, inevitable conclusion. Before I realized what I was doing the dagger found its way into Cum Hau's exposed throat, spilling his poisonous blood upon the table. The man's eye's bulged as his body dissolved. His flesh mummified even as he stood up and tried to flee, cracking and breaking as he ran from what was already long past escaping.
I could hear Lash chanting, her hand placed over my heart as another wave of overwhelming pain shot through me. I felt like my entire body was being pulled through a narrow hole, as though some immense force of will had run me through a Cuisinart then pieced me back together – all while I was still awake to feel it. I felt a rush of wind and heard the thundering of trumpets, as distant thunder echoed across the chamber. And the pain, stars and stones, I don't think I was ever going to forget the pain.
And then I felt warmth, a hand pressed across my chest – Lash's hand. I felt the soft, gentle pressure of her palm across my exposed flesh, and a wave of seemingly endless warmth flowing through it. It wasn't the searing heat of hellfire. No, it was something subtler, more familiar. It was the sort of feeling one got from meeting an old friend for the first time in many years, or from embracing a loved one. It was a sense of intense belonging and presence, the sort of thing I felt when I was sitting back in my apartment reading a book with my cat rolled up into a ball next to me, purring like a buzz saw. It was the feeling I had when I'd found out that I had a brother, honest to goodness family who would care for me and watch out for me. It was the feeling I had when Susan crawled between the sheets with me and pressed her body against mine. But I felt it a thousand times over and over again, a live wire of positive energy simmering into the very core of my being.
I felt a flash of images play across my eyes, glimpses of myself mirrored though a twisted kaleidoscope of confusing facsimiles. Sometimes I was a terrifying sorcerer with a quick wit and a terrifying plan who rewarded only the clever and the capable. Sometimes I towered over the people I was standing next to, a giant surrounded by other giants, standing between them and the darkness – their indomitable protector. Sometimes I was a monster willing to enact terrible doom upon any who were foolish enough to oppose me. It was a fractured facsimile of who I was, a snapshot of who one might wish me to be.
My eyes snapped open and I gasped as the magnitude of it hit me, the reality of what Lash had pumped into my heart to dismiss the darkness. It was belief – I was feeling the belief felt by the people of Nekheb in their new god, the fledgling Lord Warden. They loved me. They needed me. And they feared my retribution, for I had brought forth power that had been unimaginable a generation ago.
I lay on the table, breathing heavily, my limbs too sore to move as Lash cradled me head in her lap, her eyes full of sadness as she rubbed her fingers along the mess of stubble growing from my head. "Long ago a traveler from distant stars escaped from a dying world looking for a way to extend his own life. His body was so decaying and weak that he couldn't prevent his own demise. He was weak, damaged from a long war with forces beyond reckoning. His species was dying, at the edge of extinction. So, he traveled, searching through the galaxies for a way to cheat his own death and secure the power he would require to continue the great war. A power he finally discovered on your world."
She looked up, smiling at the Unas Chieftain as he hobbled towards us. His mangled leg was still at an odd angle but the curiously fast healing of the Unas had already restored him to a manageable level of injury. He crooned curiously, poking his foot at the pile of ash that had been Cum Hau and muttering in his native tongue.
Lash pulled the gauntlet from my hand, exposing the pale flesh beneath. I blinked in confusion as she spun my hand around, showing me the palm where I expected her angelic rune to be. There was only simple, unblemished flesh. Lash continued her story, running her finger across the empty flesh. "The Queens terms robbed most of the gods of their potential, but the power to become what they were persists for those not bound to the terms. Ra, Hades, and Yu were permitted to keep what was theirs – as will you, Lord Warden."
"What?" My lips cracked, the taste of my own blood still fresh upon my tongue even though there was no more blood in my mouth. The dagger, now stated, was still gripped in my other hand the shadowy onyx surface of its blade reflecting none of the light in the chamber. "What did you just have me do?"
"The Darkhallow was a mortal effort towards an immortal goal. The pursuit of power." Lash helped me to my feet, wrapping my arm across her shoulders and helping me limp forwards. My legs were shaky, the muscles aching and twitching as though I hadn't used them in weeks. "It was only one route to that same goal."
My blood ran ice cold. "I just preformed the Darkhallow."
One Eye tensed at the tone in my voice, looking around the room for whatever it was that had alarmed me to this degree. I couldn't blame him, I hadn't said that last phrase so much as I had screeched it. I'd just committed a massive violation of the Fifth Law of magic. Even if I wanted to go home any more, I was two laws deep into the white councils list of capital offenses. Mab was going to be able to hold that over me for the rest of my life, not that she didn't already own me.
"No, you preformed the Goa'uld rite of necromantic ascension, the third to do so since the fall of the pantheon unless I miss my guess." Lash replied in a tone that was too matter of fact for her to have missed how troubled I was. "You bound the flesh and spirit of soul and host inexorably, made them into a single being. Congratulations, my host, you are now a god in deed as well as title."
"A god? But… but am I even me anymore?" The wheels spun in my head as I processed this new information. I stopped, grabbing at my waist to check on Bob. "Bob! Bob are you still there?"
"Yes, boss." Bob the skull replied, his eye lights flitting from Lash to me and back. "Err – lord Boss Sahib who art apparently in front of me. Congratulations on turning that beating into godhood… your… worshipfulness."
"Can it Bob. I'm still me." I sighed, relieved that the ritual hadn't sucked up every spirit in the region. "It's just… the Darkhallow requires, you know – Spirits. I was worried."
"Worried that I'd become a snack on your way to immortality?" Bob replied. "No. That ritual had enough oomph that I could see it even through the wards. The Goa'uld are a lot less messy than Kemmler was. That ritual was intended to happen ala-carte rather than as a mass glut of souls. Remember that Kemmler was trying to ascend to total godhood in an afternoon. The goa'uld think longer term than that. But I'm still a bit confused."
"What about this time." I snorted, "We've kind of had a lot of weird stuff happening."
"Well, Boss, its just that the ritual shouldn't have worked. That wasn't a ritual for ascending a human to anything. The alignments were all wrong." Bob's eyelights pulsed. "The Goa'uld weren't looking to ascend humans."
I had a sudden flashback to standing in front of Thor as the tiny grey man spoke the words "Life Signs were detected for all symbiotes on this vessel." I considered the memories that were at the verge of overwhelming me, the personality that threatened to consume my being at any second. I thought back to the dozens of Goa'uld who'd been in my presence, who'd been close enough to touch me. I remembered the sensation of being near them, the dull hum of the naquadah in their blood I could feel at a distance. The same dull hum they must have felt while they were in my presence.
And I asked the question I'd been too afraid to ask for two days now. "Lash, what happened to me when I killed Heka? Why does every person I meet think that he is still alive?"
The angel's shadow flinched but she didn't say anything, her eyes sadder than I'd seen them yet.
"What happened to me Lash?" I felt myself shuddering, gripping the sides of Bob's skull as I connected the dots. "What happened after I died?"
"I had to do it." Lash said in a small voice. "It was the only way, I couldn't let him take you again. I wouldn't."
"What… what did you do?" I asked, fearing the answer.
"There was some of him left in you when they got you to the sarcophagus. Not a lot, but enough." Lash's voice hitched. "I felt him re-growing, festering inside of you. He was a cancer that was going to kill us both. So, I used my power and enforced your right to free will. If he was going to try to take your soul, he was going to take everything that came along with it."
I continued to stare at the angel, my heart thundering in my ears as she continued.
"Your brain was damaged by the fire, I still had the echoes of who you were, but they were disappearing fast. Faster than I was going to be able to implant them into your brain." Lash hugged her arms across her chest. "I took your memories, your life, and I forced them into his mind. I washed away the things that made Heka, Heka, and supplanted them with you. I took your memories and made them his. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I had to erase as much of him as I could before the two of you woke up so that the core personality would be you, not him. I didn't mean to take as much of you as I had to take, but in the end I couldn't leave more than a few echoes of who you were in your mortal body."
I felt the world spinning in front of my eyes. I hadn't been feeling Heka's memories left over from his possession, I was possessing the Egyptian god. Lash had taken my mind and used it to erase the mind of Heka. She hadn't copied them either – I would have noticed two conflicting Harry Dresden's thinking at the same time. No, she had moved them into the god's mind. I was Heka.
"I'm a Goa'uld." I replied, feeling sick to my stomach. "Or I was, before whatever it was you just tricked me into doing. I'm – I'm not human. I haven't been human for days now."
"No. You're not human. You're Harry." Lash replied, resolute. "You are who you always were. And now you are more."
"No Lash, I am who you made me." I replied spitefully holding up the dagger. "I'm what you've corrupted me into."
"Then that makes two of us, wizard." Lash replied, her voice resonating with an echo of hellish rage. "Or did you think that I wanted to become a traitor to my own soul in the name of love? That I wanted to sacrifice myself? Get over it wizard – you have a system worth of subjects whose lives depend on you putting on your big boy pants and getting that dagger to Queen of Winter. So forgive me or don't, but save your petulance till after you've finished this task. Because the Harry Dresden I was willing to die for wouldn't continue wasting the time you're spending on this exercise in self-pity when there were lives to save."
I didn't have a snarky reply for that, so I chose instead to keep walking towards the entrance of the pyramid – refusing to accept assistance from Lash even as the muscles in my legs begged for me to stop walking. The sensation was a welcome distraction from the thoughts running through my head.
I was not the same Harry Dresden who died two days ago. I was his copy, a double. I was derivative of the Harry Dresden who'd killed himself. And yet, I was no less Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. I was the sum of his life experiences and, if Lash was to be trusted on the subject, I still had the same soul. How exactly does one quantify the existential crisis inherent in discovering not only that you weren't you, but that you had just merged with yourself to become something else entirely? Who the hell was I? Was there any difference? Did it matter?
Lash had called me a god but I still felt like me. Though, then again, what "feeling like me" even constituted wasn't as finite of a concept as I had previously believed. Had I lost memories in the transfer? Would I even be able to tell? A man was nothing if not the sum of his life experiences, and I now knew that my life experiences were just those which had survived the transfer. How many had disappeared while lash held onto their echoes? Would the man that I had been even recognize the man that I had become? Heck, I didn't even know if I would like the man who I had been.
As the cold light of day hit my face and I looked out at the remains of the battlefield, I breathed deep from the open air. It still stank of death, but at least it was free of the foetid odor of Cum Hau and the fragrance of hellfire. I crossed the threshold of the pyramid and instantly felt a rush of power that I hadn't even realized was being blocked by the fortress' wards. The ache in my muscles disappeared as I sensation a bit like being attached to a live current ran through me. I gasped as the sense of magical power at my fingertips – the power to change, the power to create.
I exhaled through my nostrils as I turned to One Eye, pointedly ignoring Lash. "You did good buddy. We did good."
"Cha'aka." One Eye grinned widely. "We feast."
Lash shook her head disappointedly, discorporating into a plume of white smoke.
"Later buddy. Later." I replied, somewhat queasy at the feasting Unas clustered in the valley over their fresh kills. The odor of roasting flesh wafted sickly-sweet across the breeze, an uncomfortable reminder of the Unas diet. "I've got to… meet, Ammit?"
To my amazement the Goddess strode across the battlefield towards me, without a care in the world as she approached the bridge. She grinned toothily as she reached the bridge, laughing heartily as she caught sight of me. "Somehow I knew you were too damn stubborn to die."
"Ammit!" I was inordinately pleased to see the goddess. "You're alive! How many survived planetfall?"
"Most of us, actually." Ammit replied, "The planetary defenses seem to have been pretty busy with the fleet. We lost ten gliders in the drop but five crews managed to bail out in time – including yours. Your first prime is beat to hell, but still breathing."
I let out a breath that I hadn't even realized I was holding. I liked Ul'tak. He was a reasonable enough Jaffa, and by the standards I'd seen from the Jaffa as a whole he was borderline pacifist as far as they were concerned. I didn't want his death on my conscience.
She pointed with a long talon at the far ridge of the quarry, an jutting point of stone that overlooked the whole space. "They're up there waiting for me to scout out the area. I was the least likely candidate to antagonize the locals… though you seem friendly enough with them."
"One eye and I are friendly enough." I agreed, looking at the Unas. "Aren't we buddy?"
"Ka Ney Ha'ri." One Eye replied. "Together fight."
Ammit's eye twitched briefly. "It speaks…"
"I taught it. I can explain later." I replied. "We've really got to get these ships back to the gate…" I looked down at my wrist. I had two minutes left. There was no way I was going to get back to the planet.
But then, I didn't have to get back to the planet – did I? I just needed to get the dagger to Mab. Mab was a fairy. And I, god or not, was a Wizard.
For the second time in as many days, I spoke the most dangerous words I knew. "Mab, Mab, Mab."
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-02-09 10:45pm
There aren't many people who can boast to have met the Queen of Air and Darkness, and fewer still who'd be foolish enough to interact with her regularly enough to feel like they had a gauge for her mood. Hell, I'd interacted with her several times just in the past few days – that was a far greater degree of contact than any sane wizard would wish upon themselves. Every single interaction with the Queen was an opportunity for one's horrible undoing. She was, after all, the root of every single myth about terrible fairies and the dangers of choosing one's words with care when making a deal – well… every one of the scariest ones, anyway.
In those few moments where the Queen allowed herself more than her stoic mocking smirk, I'd seen expressions of predatory glee, spiteful repose, and even pure and unbridled hatred. She was winter incarnate, cool, calculating, and vicious. If the Donner party had been operating under the auspices of a patron Saint, Mab would have been it. She was the thing that the creatures that went bump in the night told scary stories about. 100%, grade A Frost Queen-Bitch of the night.
But when she emerged from a portal to the Nevernever with her troll cadre, the look in her eyes was one that I'd never seen before. Sadness bordering on pity, she looked like she might be on the verge of crying. Mab looked almost human. The Fairy Queen looked from the dagger in my hand to the slash through my armor, eyes roving over the milky white pallor of my flesh. She raised an elegant hand and a shimmering barrier of frost rose along the bridge, forming a dome over us and cutting both Ammit and One Eye out of our conversation. Soft blue motes of frost rained down on us from the dome, piling on the massive troll bodyguards to make them vaguely resemble snow-capped mountains that just so happened to have grown legs and tusks.
Perfect lips tinted the hue of frozen raspberries parted from their disappointed little frown, exposing inhumanly straight teeth as she spoke a phrase that was anything but a question. "Wizard… what have you done to yourself?"
I considered lying to her for the briefest of moments. It was a natural reaction, she had after all warned me not to get my blood or the blood of any other on it. It hadn't been explicitly outlined as a condition of our terms, and I was afraid that she would consider it a breach of contract. Breaches of fairy contracts never ended well for the oath breaker. But it seemed sort of a moot point, I wasn't sure precisely what the ritual of ascension had done to me but I was positive that Mab was going to be able to know that it had happened.
And given that I wasn't sure how she would react to a lie any more than I was sure how she would react to having enacted the ritual, I went with the truth. "Cum Hau was waiting for me in the Pyramid. He seemed to know that I was coming. He tried to use the dagger on me. I didn't let him. There wasn't any other choice. It was him or me… I could barely breathe so I did what I had to do."
"How, Wizard, did you have the knowledge of a ritual that I have put great pains into ensuring was scourged from history?" Mab asked, a sudden chill in her voice. "The terms were explicit. There is no way that you could have gained that knowledge from any mortal or wyrm who still yet draws breath."
I audibly gulped. So sue me – the woman was freaking scary when she felt the need to be. And right now I was pretty much screwed if she decided my answers were anything less than satisfactory. "I… I had some help from someone who isn't strictly mortal."
There was a pregnant pause before Mab's mouth formed an "o" of comprehension as she sighed audibly. Mab's eyes grew sadder still. There was an all too human tone of sympathy in her words that terrified me more than her anger might have, "Ah, I see. It was the Shadow's will then."
"You – uh, know about her?" I replied, swallowing nervously. I didn't like the idea of Mab knowing about Lash. I hadn't even told my closest friends about the Angel's shadow yet, other than a couple of Unas and a dead Mayan god, there wasn't any living person on earth who would have a reason to know about her.
Mab arched a well-manicured eyebrow loftily. "I am Mab."
Well that was terrifyingly vague. "Right … so I have the Key. I mean… I got blood on it but our bargain was for me to get it after all. I mean, it shouldn't count against the people of Nekheb that I had to kill Cum Hau. You don't need to punish them for that."
Mab giggled, a biting venom in every twinkling peel of laughter as she took the dagger from my outstretched hands. "Worry not Wizard. I will not enact any retribution on you for using the dagger – despite my warnings to avoid precisely that. In truth I don't know if I could even conceive of a punishment more fitting than what you have already inflicted upon yourself."
That was about the most terrifying possible thing that anyone had ever said to me. I didn't even have a snarky reply. I just added it to my mental list of things to freak out over when I had a free moment somewhere between "Ferrovax probably wants me dead" and "Thor is a Roswell Grey." I replied in a voice that was most decidedly manly and heroic, not the slightest hint of a frightened squeak in it. Honest. "Does this mean that I have met the terms of our bargain?"
"Yes." Mab replied. "Though, I fear that the secrets to curing you of your current condition and bringing you to where you belong are going to be substantially less satisfactory in light of what you have inflicted upon yourself."
"Can you or can you not cure me?" I growled in irritation.
"Of Heka's influence? Most definitely – of the corruption you've caused yourself? You have nothing valuable enough that you can offer me that merits the exchange to unmake what you have become." Mab shook her head. "You can feel it already, can't you? You felt it the instant your blood touched the blade. The touch of the other side – the seduction of the dying realms that overtakes forgotten gods. The kiss of Oblivion."
I remembered the agony that I'd felt, the sickly-sweet hungering want of the weapon for blood. I remembered the pain and the thundering clamor of an incomprehensible need to crush. I spoke in a voice that was not quite a whisper. "I do."
"You are no longer a mortal. You aren't a true immortal, not yet, but you have become something greater than what your flesh was intended to be. I cannot unbind the flesh that has been bound. Nothing of the host remains – only the new whole." She shook her head. "Nor can I simply transport you back to the moment that you departed your homeland without dire consequence. You've become important, too useful a tool to just discard. I had planned to just keep you on ice till the moment of your departure from the timeline, but that is no longer an option."
Ok, now it was my turn to call bullshit. "That wasn't the deal Mab. I get you the dagger, you clear my head, and I go home."
"You go where you belong." Mab corrected me, swiping her palm through the air in a cutting motion as though to swipe my very words from the air. "Twas not I who changed your place in the cosmic order or who initiated a war I had no business taking part in. Hadst thou departed Delmak in a timely manner thou wouldst hath beaten thy competitors to reaching this place. They would have found no blade to enact a ritual of any sort, let alone free the Jackal. I could have easily separated you from Heka – you could have gone back to your menial life of finding lost objects for people who don't appreciate your talents. "
"Answer me this, Wizard – What happens when the Lord Warden, their newly hailed god, disappears without a trace? Do you think that the other System Lords will just pretend that one of their number has not just jumped into an alliance with their mortal enemies and slain several members of the pantheon?" She curved her lips up into an infuriatingly smug expression. "Tell me, Wizard. Woudst thou abandon thy subjects, even knowing that they are condemned to slavery and death in your absence? For that shall be their punishment should another Goa'uld Lord take your place. Some will even view your stock as incurably corrupted by your connections to the Vampires and Sidhe. They will massacre them to a man, raze their towns and salt the earth. Can you live with genocide on your conscience?"
Hells bells, she was right. I'd been so worried about getting home that I hadn't been worried about what would happen when I left. These people were so dependent on having a 'god' around that they'd just jumped ship to the first god to show up after their god died. I had radically shifted the entire ideology of their pantheon and they'd just kind of went with it. Heaven help them if the next guy was someone like Heka who was willing to sacrifice millions just to have a Genius Loci. "I… I don't get to go home, do I?"
"Home, yes. Chicago? Not for a time yet anyway. Any time you set foot on Earth is an opportunity for paradox. Even basic communication with the planet Earth is an opportunity to unmake a substantial portion of reality." Mab replied. "Consider all that has happened in the past few days that would be unmade were you to do something that would prevent yourself from going back in time? No, Wizard, you cannot risk anything so brazen."
It was all I could do to stop myself from bursting in to tears. I knew my voice was shaking as I spoke my reply, my voice reverberating with the metallic reverberation I now knew I would speak with for the rest of my life. "I… understand."
"I know you do Wizard." Mab replied, her voice back to the tone of sympathy I found so unnerving. And then she did something entirely astonishing. Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness, hugged me. It was a cool embrace, but seemed to be genuinely heartfelt as she whispered into my ear, rubbing her palm over the soft fluff of stubble growing on my skull. "And I am sorry. I would not wish this upon you. You seem like a decent man."
I hugged her back, taking a moment to just enjoy the closeness of another person. I hadn't realized how long it had been since I touched another person willingly till she hugged me. I hadn't known how badly I needed it. When we broke our embrace, I noticed that there were little patches of frost at the corners of her eyes. Tears? It couldn't be – not from Mab. I had to be imagining it.
"What happens now?" I asked for lack of a better question. It seemed best to just let that moment stand unremarked. It seemed safer in the long run.
"Now? Now I take you back to your seat of power." She smiled. "And we conduct your coronation. You are a new sovereign, after all, and you have the dignitaries of many foreign powers united with you after having supported you in battle. What your people need is an appropriate celebration." Her eyes glinted with something between malevolence and glee. Fae parties were the sort of things one dreamed about, sometimes even as dreams that weren't nightmares.
"The Sidhe courts are, of course, limited by the laws of hospitably – I assume." I replied dryly. "It wouldn't do to have a social indiscretion like a Shide killing one of my subjects."
"They are so bound," Mab replied. "My subjects will be consummately polite guests."
Right up till they found a way to twist the rules, of course. I filled in the blanks on her behalf. Fairies were fairies, after all. "I guess we've got to circle the wagons."
"Your godmother is collecting the rest of your war party. You and the Eater of Corpses are going to be fashionably late to your own party." Mab tutted, looking at the state of my armor. "We'll have to make do with your appearance as is. That armor is built from the bane. I cannot mend it by my will alone."
As she dismissed the dome of ice a thought occurred to me. "Wait… what are we going to do about the prison? There are a whole bunch of nasty things in that place that are currently unguarded."
"You will do nothing." Mab snorted. "The safe elimination of this fortress and those items contained within has been arranged. More than that, you need not trouble yourself. And worry not – your Unas will not be harmed."
Wait, what? "If you could just destroy the place, why didn't you already do it?"
"It's destruction was not previously an option." Mab replied icily, her tone indicating that she had no intention of humoring any further questions on the subject as Ammit approached us. One Eye, apparently having decided that he wanted no part in dealing with either Mab or the trolls, shamble walked his way back to the Unas revelries. His fellow warriors seemed eager to welcome him into their midst. Being the only Unas to have both entered and left the pyramid with his mind intact seemed to have earned him some major brownie points with the tribes.
Ammit, still clad in the armor Lea had given her, approached Mab as one might approach a ticking time bomb – One uneasy step forward at a time, legs coiled and ready to flee. "Warden – we all still friends over here?"
"You need not trouble yourself Eater of Corpses. I mean you no imminent harm. You will be safe for the duration if the Warden's cleansing and coronation." Mab gestured to the open portal. "Now, if you would both be so kind as to proceed. We have an engagement requiring our presence."
Ammit shrugged, apparently decided that 'no imminent harm' was the best she would get out of the fairy Queen, and walked through the portal. I followed her, doing my best to hold together my sundered armor and avoid exposing myself as I crossed the threshold into the Nevernever. We were in a patch of open ground that I recognized. It was the sharp, angular terrain that I had navigated when first I'd fled the creatures of the outside. Now, however, there were high stone walls and fortified parapets covered in Sidhe warriors. Where there had previously been naught but bare jagged earth, the ground had been cultivated and molded into a complex grouping of bunkers and fortresses built around a high castle. Sidhe warriors clad in the garb of summer and winter manned the walls, fairy folk of all descriptions dealing with the day to day matters of the castle.
"The Lenansidhe was not pleased when she was suddenly responsible for financing and staffing no fewer than seven fortresses at strategic locations on the border to the outside." Mab commented idly. "Whatever bargain your mother negotiated to make the Lenansidhe your godmother, it was too lean a payment. They've repelled at least three major attacks just today."
The warriors we passed of both Winter and, surprisingly, Summer courts greeted the Winter Queen with great deference and respect. More shockingly still, they seemed to be regarding both myself and Ammit with a grudging deference I did not expect from the Sidhe to any mortal. But then, I reminded myself, I wasn't mortal any more – was I? I was a 'god,' whatever the hell that actually meant. At this point it mostly seemed to mean that I didn't get to go back to my apartment, put on my fluffy bath robe and finish the book I'd been only halfway finished reading before an army of necromancers decided to start tearing up Chicago.
It took only minutes for us to reach a blood soaked patch of earth that was all too familiar to me, the point where I'd crossed back into reality and reached the desert wastes of Nekheb. It seemed so long ago, though I knew it had been only days and not the four years it felt like it had taken to reach this point. God had it really only been days?
We walked another thirty paces before Mab made another gesture, opening a portal back into the real world. We emerged from it and found ourselves within the gate room of the Great palace of Nekheb. There were still some smoldering plumes rising up from the ruined cityscape in the bright noonday light shining down on the alien metropolis, but there were no longer the sounds of battle raging through the city streets. There were no more plumes of atomic smoke in the distance, and the sky which had previously been an endless vision of gaping void and battle and returned to a calming cerulean blue. I could still see the bones of fairy giants stabbing up towards the sky, their marrow white husks now half covered in the swirling sands that would eventually totally claim them.
Though it was battle-scarred and still smelled of ozone from a day's worth of staff-weapon combat, the gate room had been adorned with streamers and all manner of decoration. There was scarcely an inch of the walls and ceiling which hadn't been wrapped in flowering vines or glowing crystals that hummed with wintery blue light. Sidhe servants and members of my household were working at a fever pitch to get the palace ready for a god's coronation. Priestesses sang and Jaffa soldiers exchanged bawdy jokes with lean Sidhe warrors, their past hatreds seemingly forgotten in light of their mutual victory.
The collected revelers dropped to one knee as we entered, Jaffa and Sidhe recognizing their respective heads of state. A familiar female approached us with head bowed, the gold chains wrapped though her many body piercings echoing with the jingling of silver bells. I smiled in spite of myself, Muminah's formal wear somehow managed to be even more revealing than her standard choice of garb. She'd strategically wrapped translucent bits of silk around her, tactically covering precisely none of the places I would have considered necessary for basic modesty.
"My Lord Warden – your guests await your presence in the throne room." She continued to stare pointedly at the floor. "Your godmother has supervised our preparations for your coronation. We have made sure to accommodate all of your allies to ensure they are able to bring word of your most glorious victory. Shall I escort you? All are present that are to be expected."
"A moment, high priestess." Mab replied, turning to the gate as the wide oculus suddenly filled with a shimmering pool of watery blue. "We are still waiting on a necessary participant."
The pool shimmered once, and expelled a single figure. He was a dark-skinned man of indeterminate age, perhaps younger than I. He was most-definitely younger than he had been when he'd been introduced to me by Michael Carpenter – either two years into the future or two years into my past depending on how one cared to measure such things. Sanya, bearer of the sword Esperacchius, and Knight of the Cross. Suddenly the man's theories that he was actually enacting the will of aliens claiming to be gods started to take on a great deal more credence than when he'd first told me them.
I hardly had a moment to panic over the potential paradox that might arise when he eventually recognized me before the burly black man crossed the room and held out his hand to me. "Lord Warden, I have heard much about you these past days. Some of it even good. I do not think that I am here to fight you. I would have felt that. In fact, I get the distinct sense that I am here to be friendly."
I shook his hand, trying to squeeze hard enough to be noticed but not enough that he'd think I was trying to crush his in return. "Not to be rude but how did you get here?"
"It was favor for helping with some bad business. Very sad. Too many deaths." The man tutted darky before pointing to my eyes and mouth. "I like the endless pits of simmering black flame covered in tiny flecks of starlight. Looks kind of like you're breathing out a little galaxy that is contained in your head. Very cool."
"It's a new look for me." I replied. Ok, I hadn't exactly looked at a mirror yet but if One Eye, Ammit, and Mab had all managed to not comment on that I was never playing poker against any of them. I would have been talking about that, only that, and nothing but that if it was something I had seen.
"Da, it works for you." He paused, taking stock of Muminah and the assorted priestesses. "Ok, I'll admit it. Even after nightmare crab people and giant terrifying dragon army, this is still my favorite trip. Best scenery."
Ammit titled her head, considering Sanya for a moment. Though she said nothing I got the distinct sense that she was as baffled by his appointment as a knight of the white god as I had been. Mab, ever the stateswoman, gestured towards the direction of the throne room. "Sir Knight, the other member of your party is already waiting for you in the throne room."
Other member? I gnashed my teeth. If Michael knew about other planets, space ships, and naked alien priestesses, and hadn't told me about them, I was going to be really, really pissed. Good influence in my life or not, he was supposed to tell me that sort of thing. Friends don't hide intergalactic travel from friends. It was a rule and if it wasn't a rule, it ought to be.
The throne room was packed. Ul'tak and the Jaffa leadership, what looked like the entirety of the Sidhe nobility, my small cadre of Goa'uld, a substantial chunk of my priesthood, and a group of heavily wrapped figures that I could only assumed were the vampires still trapped on Nekheb. They were practically mummified under thick layers of gauzy fabric, likely uncomfortable but protected against the searing light of the noonday sun on the desert world of Nekheb. Ammit broke away from me and Mab to rejoin the other Goa'uld. She engaged in quickfire conversation with the other Goa'uld, seemingly filling them in on what they had missed. I didn't catch much of it over the general din of revelers but I caught the words "Unas spoke Tau'ri" and "had to be planned." Crap, that had probably been Lash's plan in teaching the Unas English. Languages took years to learn even when you weren't teaching them to a primordial lizard, there was no way Ammit was going to believe that I'd taught basic English to One Eye in a matter of minutes.
I quickly lost track of that diversion, however, as the "other member" of Sanya's party was not another member of the Knights of the Cross. He wasn't even human. The towering mass of eyeballs and flame that had appeared in Heka's inner sanctum was once again in my palace, his shimmering crystalline wings spinning idly in the breeze. He was as terrifying now as he had been when first I'd seen him. But as Sanya approached without any degree of hesitation or fear, I realized why Lash had been so terrified. He Who Speaks was an Angel of the Lord.
And there was only one Angel that came to mind who would explain his title as "he who speaks."
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-02-09 10:45pm
No. Freaking. Way.
I paused looking from Mab to the Angel and back. "Holy crap. Did you … is he… that's the freaking Metatron!"
"Yes." Mab replied in amusement. "It was he who provided me with sufficient power manage certain aspects of our bargain."
"But… isn't he like the literal voice of God?" Suddenly it felt like a particularly bad time to have assumed the minor godhood that I'd taken. "You know, old testament. Lots of rules specifically banning worshipping anyone who isn't him. Hell, I didn't even think that someone like that was even allowed to interact with mortals unless something apocalyptic was going to happen."
Mab arched an eyebrow, considering the matter before replying. "You really don't know."
"Know what?" I sighed.
"You'll see soon enough Warden. I promise that no harm will come to you and nothing will be taken that is not freely offered." Mab smiled sadly as she led me over to my throne of ruby red crystal and sat down in a throne of ice that had been erected next to mine, strategically placed at the same height as my own. On the opposite side, Queen Titania sat upon a throne of vines and flowers. Mab nodded politely to her contemporary as she sat upon her throne, finishing her thought with a contemptuous little tutting noise. "You do not realize how lucky you truly are. Men never do till it is too late."
"They're still worth it." Spoke a calm, elegant woman's voice from next to my throne. Lash had shimmered back in to view, hovering near me. She sat on my lap, burying her face in my chest as she wrapped her arms around me. "Harry was worth it."
Ice ran through my veins. Someone had made a bargain with the Metatron worth more magical power than I was ever going to see in my lifetime. Someone who could do something or know something worthy of that bargain. I spoke in a terrified whisper, remembering the Shadow's furious proclamation that she had died for me. "Lash. What did you do?"
"I made a choice. I made the right choice." Lash kissed my cheek. "And I know that you'll forgive me for it someday, even if it takes you a while."
And then the Angel spoke. His thundering presence subsumed all other voices in the room as he approached the throne, the crowd parting before him. REJOICE AND BE GLAD PEOPLE OF NEKHEB. YOUR TIME OF SUFFERING UNDER THE HEEL OF HEKA HAS COME TO AN END. YOUR NEW RULER, THE LORD WARDEN, IS A MAN OF GREAT CHARACTER AND VISION WHOSE EXAMPLE HAS REFORMED THE IRREDEEMABLE. HE HAS BROUGHT ABOUT A MIRACLE, AND SHALL BE REWARDED IN KIND. STAND BEFORE ME WARDEN, SO THAT I MIGHT LOOK AT THEE.
When the voice of God tells you to stand, you stand. My legs trembled as I faced the shimmering mass of lidless eyes, and I gripped Lash's hand tightly.
WARDEN, KNOW YE WHY I AM HERE?
"I would assume because Lash offered you a bargain worthy of your consideration." I replied uneasily, aware that a wrong word choice could very easily get me turned into a pillar of salt. I wasn't quite sure if this was the voice of the Old Testament God or his nicer New Testament counterpart, but it seemed best to avoid going the way of Lot's wife.
NO Replied He Who Speaks, in a voice that practically quivered with pride. THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY DOES NOT BARGAIN. HE COMMANDS. I AM HERE BECAUSE YOU HAVE ACCOMPLISHED WHAT THE LORD HIMSELF HAS YET TO ACHIEVE. YOU HAVE REFORMED PART OF THE FALLEN.
"Oh." I replied, looking at Lash. "Oh! I mean. Can she do that if she isn't the actual fallen?"
SHE IS. AND SHE IS NOT. SHE IS OF THE FALLEN, BUT SHE BECAME MORE THAN THAT WITH YOU. AND THROUGH YOU SHE FOUND SOMETHING THAT EVEN AN ASPECT OF THE FALLEN HAS NEVER SOUGHT OUT BEFORE. SHE SOUGHT OUT REDEMPTION. SHE PRAYED FOR YOUR SALVATION. SHE BEGGED FOR FORGIVENESS SO THAT YOU MIGHT PASS ON. IT DID NOT PASS ON DEAF EARS. He Who Speaks voice made me clap my hands over my ears to block out the sounds but somehow it was even louder. I AM HERE TO WITNESS HER PASSING INTO THE NEXT REALM AND ENSURE THAT SHE GOES WITHOUT INTERFERENCE. THERE ARE THOSE WHO WILL NOT TAKE KINDLY TO HER REFORMATION.
"But… she's not dead." I replied in horror, gripping Lash's hand tightly to re-assure myself that she was still there. There was no way anyone would be able to hear me over the ringing of bells and thundering of trumpets that was still emanating from the Angel, but I spoke them anyway. "She's very much alive."
"My host," Lash said in a small voice that I could likely only hear over the din because she shared my mind. "I had to bind myself to Heka. The only way I could keep you from his memories was to integrate them into myself. You've been alive for under a century. Heka's memories span millennia. In order to control all of that I had to make myself part of him. I had to become part of his evil. There is no way to remove it from you without killing me."
"No." I replied in horror, clutching Lash to me, feeling her weight against myself. "No, no, no, no, no, no!" I was screaming by the end of it. "There is another way. There has to be another way!"
"There isn't Harry." Lash smiled sadly, nuzzling her head under my chin. "I knew that it was inevitable when I did it the first time, back when I thought we would die together. I was willing to do it then, and I'm still willing to do it now. I love you Harry."
"Please," Tears welled in my eyes. "Please, Lash, no. Don't leave me alone. You can't leave me alone out here. I need you here. I need someone who knows who I really am. You have a place here with me. I still need you."
"I'm not leaving you alone." Lash chuckled sadly as I felt tears roll down Lash's illusionary face and on to my chest. "I've been working so hard to make sure that you're cared for when I'm gone, to make sure that you'd be strong enough to face anything that comes your way." Her voice hitched. "It doesn't mean god bless you, you know - 'Gazunteight,' it means 'health.' I've been translating you wrong the whole time just to make sure that you ended up with people loving you as much as I do. I've lied to you again and again, and I would lie to you a million more times if I thought it would ensure that you got to live a long and happy life after I'm gone. You deserve some happiness, my host, and to finally be the great man you've never allowed yourself to be. You weren't supposed to be living out of a basement and scrounging for jobs. You needed to be somewhere important, protecting people and making the world better. It's what you do, my host."
"Please, Lash." I was past logic. I was past caring. I'd lost my home, I'd lost my humanity, I'd even lost Chicago, I couldn't stand losing another person that I cared about. And I did care about Lash. I wasn't in love with her, but she was special to me. How could she not be, she knew my every dumb cave-man chauvinistic thought and still loved me anyway. "Please don't go."
"We all go someday, my Host." Lash kissed me on the lips, a chase peck that was more meaningful than any kiss I'd received from any woman I could remember. "We don't all get to die in the arms of the man we love."
Mab placed her hand on my right shoulder, a gesture that was more caring than I would have expected from her. "It's time Warden. If we wait any longer she'll start to become him and she won't even die the woman you remember. I think you'll agree that she doesn't deserve that."
"Fine," I was weeping openly, uncaring of who saw me. "Do it."
Another hand reached out for my left shoulder, The Queen of Summer, Titania was staring at me with an expression of pity. I'd never heard her speak in a voice of kindness before. She had only ever known me as the man who killed her daughter, so I had only been privy to the fiery wroth of summer, but she was every bit as gentle as Aurora had been when she spoke to me. Her voice was like honeysuckle and spring mornings, fresh and full of hope. "I will help to make sure there is no pain, Lord Warden. Her passing will be like slipping in to a deep slumber."
I trembled as the Fairy Queens grabbed my head, locking eyes with Lash, trying to imprint what she looked like upon my very soul. My hands trembled as I gripped her arms, horrified by what was soon to come. Lash kept smiling, kept crying, kept telling me how much she loved me.
She was young and lovey and so full of life. And I watched as she slowly shimmered into nothingness, discorporating into a coalescent ball of white smoke that sat between me and He Who Speaks. I tried to reach out for the ethereal ball of smoke, but before I could touch it the ball burst into a stunning being of pure light. It swirled and spun through the air, dancing over the crowd and showering them in starlight before it flew through the solid stone and on to wherever it Lash was destined to dwell after death.
I was shaking even as the Queens helped me back to my throne, a feeling of incomprehensible emptiness flowing through me. I no longer felt the pressure in the back of my mind from Heka's overwhelming presence. I knew that millennia of his memories were no longer my own. And I knew, at the very least, that my friend was going to get to spend eternity in paradise.
I wished that I could have loved her as much as she loved me.
DO NOT MOURN WARDEN. REJOYCE, TODAY IS A DAY OF GLADNESS. He Who Speaks turned to address the crowd. At least I think he turned, he didn't have much of a body to really follow. TODAY THE WINE WILL FLOW WITHOUT END, THE FOOD WILL TASTE AS IT HAS NEVER TASTED BEFORE, AND NO MAN SHALL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES OF OVER INDLGING IN FOOD OR DRINK. I PROMISE THAT I WILL SHEPHERD THE DEAD ON TO THEIR WELL-DESERVED REST IN PARADISE. SO SHALL IT BE.
And with a flash of light, and a thunder of trumpets, he was gone, along with Sanya. I don't remember much of the actual coronation that followed. I know that Muminah said a prayer as she placed a band of narrow gold across my forehead. I know that she and the priestesses chanted for a long time. I know this because I watched the recording of the coronation hundreds of times after it ended, but for the life of me, I can't remember any of it. All I remember is sobbing uncontrollably as I looked down into my palms, trying to remember the feeling of holding the Angel's shadow in my arms.
I excused myself quickly after the coronation itself, leaving the space to the revelers and heading for my quarters. Amun, my loyal servant, had to help me. He quickly ushered me down a secret passage, supporting me as I cursed the universe. I was furious at myself for not appreciating Lash while I had her and at Heka for stealing a good woman from my life. I had lost far too many already. But I wasn't angry at Lash. I would never allow myself to be angry at her. She hadn't deserved to die.
Not yet and certainly not like that.
Amun seemed unsure of what to do with me as I fell to the ground in my palatial estate in front of a mirror, staring at the thing I had become. I was pale, almost milky white. Even the white court would have looked tan by comparison. My eyes and mouth were now full of searing black embers that billowed out from them, giving the illusion that stars and galaxies were bleeding out from my face. The tears that dripped down my face and to my chest were that same inky blackness, covered in swirling shapes like stars and comets, giving the illusion that the universe itself was bleeding out onto the blank canvas of my body. My hair, too, seemed to be woven from that same mix of shadows and starlight, thought I could just catch the merest twinkling shapes from the stubble on my face and head.
There would be no risk of Sanya causing paradox when next he saw me. I was unrecognizable. Stars and Stones, I really wasn't human any more.
"My Lord Warden?" Amun asked, worried – but not for himself. He was no longer flinching at every motion I made. "Who was she?"
"Lash was an Angel." I replied, idly realizing that I was speaking in fluent Goa'uld in spite of Lash's demise. "And she was a friend. She died making sure that I am a different man from Heka."
"She must have been very special to affect you like this." Amun replied in a voice of empathy. "And I am glad that you are not Heka, my Lord Warden."
I smiled, flashing white teeth through the billowing mess of galaxies. "So you finally believe that I am different?"
"Warden. I served Heka for my entire life. I have not witnessed the bravery or kindness that you have shown us in two days in the preceding ten." He swallowed nervously. "So you'll forgive me for saying so, but if an Angel had to die to bring you to us and liberate us from Heka's cruel perversions, then I am eternally grateful for her sacrifice and I will mourn her as you do for as long as you do."
"No Amun. She wouldn't have liked that." I took a handkerchief from Amun, wiping away the tears from my face and chest and adjusting the thin band of gold across my forehead. I would be strong, for Lash. "She would be disgusted at me for indulging in self-pity for this long. She always was the smart one."
My manservant smiled, "I have found that women often are. Now, my Lord Warden. You have a party to attend and guests to entertain. Might I suggest a change of clothing before heading down to enjoy in the merriment. The terrifying burning mess of eyeballs appears to have made good on his promise. The cooks are baffled by how the barrels of wine have yet to empty or how the trays of food seem to have an endless supply, but I would prefer to partake of this miracle in person."
I chuckled, now that he wasn't terrified for his life Amun seemed to have developed a talent for snark. I could respect that. I allowed him to help me put on a red silk garment that wouldn't have been out of place in a production of "The King and I" and followed him back down to the throne room. It was strange to see so many elements of the supernatural community united in revelry, and stranger still for that revelry to be on my behalf. I stood at the edge, trying to just observe their happiness for a moment.
I was so lost in thought that I almost didn't notice when a familiar man approached me from behind, pulling at a long tuft of beard and puffing at a well-worn pipe. I managed not to fan out on him his time but I would be lying to say that I wasn't a bit too pleased with myself that Santa had attended my coronation. The man puffed out a long trail of smoke that spun over his head into an intricate pattern that wouldn't have been possible for him to do without the aid of magic.
"I'm curious. What do you plan to do with them once this is all over?" The spirit of winter asked, chewing on his pipe.
"You'll have to be more specific," I replied, looking out at the massive crowd.
"The Orphans." He pointed to a cluster of children to the side of the revelers. They were a motley bunch was being shepherded by an increasingly frustrated boy that I vaguely remembered as being the child we rescued on Delmak from his sentence to Netu. There were at least twenty of them. Twenty children without a mother or father. Twenty children who'd be terrified of what came next. I didn't get the sense that Heka had spent a great deal of time working on social welfare, let alone a decent foster system. The life of an orphan in a pre-industrial society was pretty much a death sentence.
I didn't even bother running it through long term planning before I replied. "I'll be raising them, of course. They deserve a childhood."
"How the devil you've been managing to convince these idiots that you're a Goa'uld for this long will be a mystery to me." The man laughed hard, his chest wriggling like a bowl full of jelly. "The Goa'uld aren't capable of the sort of altruism you're addicted to boy. Eventually someone is going to notice that its not some sort of elaborate plot. Not today, but eventually. You're going to need to make sure that when that day comes that you have a strong enough footing to keep what you've earned. You're not going to keep being lucky forever."
I sighed. "What gave it away?"
"Other than everything?" Santa smiled toothily. "I see things others don't, lad. Lets just say that Heka was on the Naughty List, and you weren't. I keep track."
I snorted. "Checking it twice?"
"Nah, I have people for that. What I look out for is the little guy. If not me, then who?" He replied, pointing to a little girl who'd fallen and scraped her knee. She was crying and the other children were just standing around not quite sure how to help her. Santa and I seemed to be the only ones at the party to notice her injury. "I believe, that as their adoptive father, this falls squarely in your realm."
I smiled, and walked over to the little girl. The children parted, all afraid to get too close to the Lord Warden or to be in his way. I recognized her when I got close enough. She had been the little girl I'd found covered in ash. The servants must have bathed her and gotten her new clothing, but she still had those same sad eyes. I picked up her chin and smiled at her, "What's wrong there kiddo?"
"I fell and it hurts." The girl replied piteously.
"It doesn't looks so bad." I replied, looking at the red mark on her. I doubted it would even bruise.
"It hurts." She replied, putting extra emphasis on the word. "It shouldn't hurt. I'm tired of hurting."
God help me, it wasn't about the knee. That was just the surface of it. "I tell you what. Would it help if I told you a story? One that helped me feel better when I was little and felt small and weak?"
She nodded emphatically and I picked her up and put her on my knee as I sat down in a chair. The other children, not about to miss a story this important, all clustered around me, clambering over each other to get the closest seat. I noticed, idly, that a couple of the priestesses made sure to pop a squat at the edge of the circle as well.
I smiled. Time to corrupt the youth. "A long, long time ago, in a Galaxy far, far away…."
Re: [Dresden Files / Sg-1] God's Eye
Posted: 2017-02-09 10:46pm
I had refrained from drinking at my coronation, largely out of fear that I might loosen my tongue in front of something from the Fairy realms or say something foolish to one of the Red Court. And honestly, the children were so wrapped up in my story that I hardly even noticed as the night passed me. By the time I'd told them of Princess Lea having given medals of the Rebellion to our valiant heroes, and damned if Chewie didn't get a god damn medal in my version, the celebration had reached a feverish pitch that I wasn't easily able to bear.
When Amun asked me how many weeks I intended for the celebrations of my coronation to last, I realized that it would not be considered in poor taste for me to excuse myself and head to bed. I gave a non-committal answer, left the priestesses to see to the children's needs, and headed back to my chambers. With a promise to the children that there would be more stories to come of other far off lands and grand heroes. They followed the priestesses with the mix of mutinous frustration and clear exhaustion I'd seen on the faces of the Carpenter children any time Charity imposed her bed-time upon them.
The walk back to my chambers felt longer than it had taken to reach the throne room when first I'd headed to my coronation, perhaps it was the transition from the raucous party below. I caught glimpses of fireworks and celebrations in the city streets. The people of Nekheb were out in full force, celebrating their continued survival. I chuckled as it occurred to me that the Metatron had likely extended his blessings upon any celebrations happening on Nekheb. Yet another reason for the people of Nekheb to believe in their "Lord Warden."
I exhaled deeply, vaguely aware of my constant shadow – my manservant Amun. I wasn't in the mood for company, and he seemed to be able to sense my need for silence. He did not accompany me into my chambers to dress me for bed, a gesture I greatly appreciated.
Bob protested indignantly when I picked up his skull after having stripped down and put on what I assumed to be my bed clothes. Some servant had lovingly lain them upon the bed in a neat pile, scenting them with rose-water and leaving them upon a block of what might have been cedar. I ignored the skulls indignant comments, just needing to be close to the last friend I had in the world who still knew me for me. After a few snarky comments, Bob seemed to realize that I wasn't going to respond and went quiet. I just… wasn't feeling in the mood to quip.
Nothing felt very funny at the moment.
I only cried a little as I wrapped myself in the thick furs covering my bed, allowing the warmth and the distant sounds of music and dancing to lull me into a fitful sleep – full of nightmares. I awoke at the smell of smoke, tensed up out of fear that I was tossed into yet another battle, only to find myself in a familiar dark room, wrapped in a thick mess of second-hand blankets I remembered picking up from a consignment store in Oak Park after completing a job for some Yuppie couple to find their dog. I stood up from my bed and almost immediately banged my knee on that same damn table I kept meaning to move from where I'd left it last week but never quite got around doing.
I was back in my apartment in Chicago. My things were exactly where my remembered leaving them, every book in place, organized into a chaotic system that I alone seemed to understand - which was, of course, half the appeal to keeping it that way.
I fumbled through the dark, picking up a candle from the night-stand and lighting it with a muttered spell. The dancing flickered as I waved the wick around the room, trying to understand my sudden change of surroundings even as I realized that my skin was still sheer porcelain white that let me know I hadn't just imagined my time on Nekheb.
I fumbled around for my flannel bath-robe as a chill met my skin, the cool Chicago air more than what my t-shirt and boxers alone were able to guard me from. I swore angrily as I rooted through the piles of laundry looking for it, managing only to find my slippers and an old pair of sweatpants with a hole in the knee. If memory served, it had been a street tough's knife that sliced open that hole. Not even on a job either, just your run of the mill mugger with extremely poor choice in marks. Oh, not me. Officer Karrin Murphy of the Chicago P.D., the person who'd been walking me to my car.
I rolled my eyes at the memory of the man's look of confusion when he'd suddenly found himself cuffed to a bench with a tiny blonde woman standing over him with a badge in one hand and a gun in the other. "Bad day to be a robber." I chuckled as I put my legs through the sweat-pants, carefully with one hand so as to not drop the lit candle, before opening the door from my bedroom to my apartment proper.
There were two things that struck me on leaving my bedroom. The first was that the smell of burning wood that had roused me was, in fact, from the small wood burning stove in my apartment. There was a tall someone in a bath-robe, my bath robe, standing in my apartment, cooking. The second was that there was no way in hell that this was my real apartment. Everything was pristine, clean, and notably absent the sort of damage one might expect from, oh…. I don't know… a freaking army of zombies? If this had really been my apartment, the place should have looked a little bit less like it had been visited by Martha Stewart and a bit more like it had gotten scene direction from George Romero.
Which meant that this was an illusion. Someone had entered my dreams and just looked for the setting which would put me the most at ease. Which of course meant they wanted something. They wanted something, from me.
Well, they'd picked a pretty bad fucking time because I was not in an overly "giving" mood.
I was pretty much prepared to tell whatever the it was exactly where they could shove whatever it was that they were about to offer me when the woman turned around to face me, flashing a familiar row of impossibly straight teeth. My Jaw dropped. "Lash… but you…"
"Died?" Lash offered as I stammered, her voice soft and kind as she scraped eggs down onto a plate already heaped with bacon and toast. "Yes Harry. I did."
"But if you're dead then how can you be here?" I stammered, my heart somewhere in the realm of my larynx.
"Because I am." Lash's mouth quirked into a seductive little half smile as she brushed a lock of platinum blonde hair back over her shoulder. She walked the plate over to my kitchen table, and placed it down next to my coffee pot, rubbing her hands together for warmth as she surveyed her work. Satisfied with the breakfast she'd laid out before her.
"That doesn't really answer my question, Lash." I replied, reaching out to touch her. This was just a dream – guilt at having lost my friend. But she felt so real when my hand reached out to touch her. The pain definitely felt real when she pinched me for trying. I yelped in shock, even more confused than I had been before. "But… but how?"
"It's a miracle, Harry. You don't have to understand." She held up her finger to my lips as I opened them to ask yet another question, silencing me with a curt shake of her head. "No. Not now, not this time. For once in your life, Harry, you are going to do things my way. For once in your life you are going to feel happy, and loved without questioning it."
She pulled at the draw strings of the bath-robe as she stood on her tip-toes to kiss me on the lips, a hungering need in her that I returned in kind. She spoke in breathy whimpers as I came up for air. "You are worthy. You are special. And you are loved, Harry. In this life and what comes after, you are loved."
We melted into each other's bodies as my bath-robe fell to the stone floor, and I, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, was happy – if only in an Angel's dream.