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news:bm:andronikus [2009/10/12 22:01] (current)
david created
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 +===== To Pay The Piper =====
 +==== Rudyard: ====
 +==== The Streets of Jerusalem, September ====
 +You swear you never saw him appear. \\
 +But he was right there, slumped next to you, stinking of Spices and river water. \\
 +Brown, shrivelled and wrapped in a ruinned carpet. Limbs hidden in rotted paisley pattern. \\
 +His yellow, blistered eyes meet yours and you nod in acknowledgment. \\
 +"You know Napashem of Baghdad?" he croaks. You stare befuddled. Memories of the tramp at the Covenant slip back... \\
 +"He has name and place for you." it smiles unpleasantly. "Ragged Man. Piper. Andronikus..." \\
 +==== All: ====
 +==== XXX, Khwarezm, October ====
 +"...Byzantine Outpost Thirty, Fertile Crescent" smiles Rudyard, twirling almost theatrically. He gestures to the ruined tower, "Only 7 years old, but plagued with shoddy workmanship and equally shoddy Emperorship, if you don'ts mind me sayings so". \\
 +The gathered stare at the lit blot on the horizon. Sergios smiles benignly. Loxos fingers his bow. Karantenos glares, wiping a bead of sweat from his brow. Lucius keeps himself resolute, his hands buried amidst Candida's, her expression equally stoic, both failing at the edges. \\
 +"Thirty. XXX. Trust that licentious, forsaken fool." Karantenos spits at the ground.\\
 +"Where did you hear this?" inquisits Sergios.
 +"Sources.' waves off Rudyard, returning attention to the ruin. "Deemed a loss and an irreparable one. Decommissionned and forgot about after the problems Khwarezm had with the Easterners or such."\\
 +"Rudyard, we are in your debt. In a metaphorical sense." Lucius shakes the Beggar King's hand. Bandages and sores. The things of rulers.\\
 +Rudyard bows low "All I ask is that I am returned safely to my subjects." A yellow smile.\\
 +More thanking. Soldiers are called. The Duke of Ruin returns to the darkness, whistling. It mingles only slightly with the pipe music. Distant with discord.\\
 +"Well," smiles Loxos, turning in the tent, steps towards the edge of the hill, "shall we begin? Don't mean to be impatient, but we have some small-trunks to rescue and a betrayer of our people to destroy!"\\
 +Below him, the gathered armies, camped and ready to disembark into the night. Karantenos' and Aprenos' Phalanxes. A small number of disturbing black-clad soldiers who keep themselves only to each other. Rus trappers and militia men, bought honestly for Sergios' coin. The elephants of Constantinople, calmed and march-ready. \\
 +Candida smiles weakly, taking quill and parchment out. "Final Pre-battle audit at ready..."
 +"Great!" Grins Loxos "I'll get the Canvas!"
 +==== Candida ====
 +Swiftly and surely, you flit between the assembled troops. Numbers are etched blindly but accurately on your paper. Now is no time for numbers, there is only one thing on your mind. Your Children. \\
 +Soon, you reach what you were aiming for. Loxos has his dragon-bone-bow slung over his back, a huge roll of some faric under his arm. He barely notices you as you slide past him, his attention payed mostly to that clumsy pink monstrosity he calls a pet. \\
 +Hios attention is away from the others. Soon you find her: Henrietta, a young female. Docile and friendly, she makes no effort to shoo you away. You remember how years ago she had wounded her foot... \\
 +You find the scar at the base. A wet-cloth, a small blade. A shallow cut. She barely flinches, but makes no noise. Silly thick skinned beast. \\
 +The phial fills red... \\
 +==== Candida and Lucius ====
 +"The numbers are finsihed. You are ready to leave."
 +She finds him in their tent, robes discarded. Chain and plate are applied, sash and insignia resplendant. She takes his helmet, and places it upon his head. An embrace. \\
 +Silence. \\
 +"He has no idea the hell he has brought upon himself." Lucius whispers. A final embrace. He bows low, and turns to lead against the darkness...
 +==== Candida ====
 +Lucius is gone. You smile softly, turning the phial in your hand. The Generals aren't the only ones with plans.\\
 +The curtain is closed. The herbs are burnt, the words said. The smoke fills your lungs. Shuddering and quivering you stare into the sky... \\
 +//...The Prince is careful. He watches from the ruined rafters, low and concealed. The Man who is naught but rags and old pleasures plays contently on his pipe. Abysses where the soul should look out. His air tastes of death and perverse and enjoyment. Fetish and blood. He is consumed by his own private, joyous hell. He si unsuspecting.// \\
 +//Two small figures curled by his feet. The man-kittens. Child's eyes stare blankly...// \\
 +//But there are more. Small figures. Cloaks. Bloodstains across the floor. Blank, unseeing eyes. Child's eyes. Hundreds. Hundreds of blank dead eyes... // \\
 +You are shuddering and curled on the tent floor. Something is wrong. Very wrong. \\
 +But what would you tell Lucius and the others? //Felix warned me that Andronikus has an inhuman army! Why yes, I do mean my cat, Felix. Oh why? Because I'm a filthy heathen who worships a combination fertility, witchcraft and vengeance Goddess! Why yes, I'd love to reserve a stake-fire now please!// \\
 +You think of Lucius riding into the Horde. Claws tearing. Inhuman eyes.\\
 +You see your children. \\
 +Then it hits. You remember your preparations. \\
 +You pour the ingredients onto the table haphazard. Swearing to Hecate, you begin to work... \\
 +==== Lucius, Sergios, Loxos, Karantenos ====
 +The plan had taken days of planning once they knew the location, and severe budget and arrangement checks from Candida. But now it was fail-proof. \\
 +The ruin of an outpost was prematurely rotten. Any troops would have been spotted by Karantenos' men, unseen amongst the grass and trees. There is nothing. Fort XXX is empty. \\
 +But this is still The Ragged Man, Scourge of Baghdad. And Andronikus, a drunk and horn-ruled man of an Emperor, but a considerable blade all the same. If Death had only made him stronger...
 +One at a time, the armies were positioned at three points, great distances away from ruin. Each then advances in order: Apprenos' Phalanx first, followed by Karantenos' Cavalry, and then Sergios' huntsmen, arrows flying as a statement of antagony. \\
 +It works. There is a pause in the haunting pipe. A handful of sudden staccato notes. Men are launched into the air in ones and twos... \\
 +...but he is unable to focus. Unable to judge which is the major threat. //Which is the biggest problem? Why are the attacks stepped like that? Why? Why?// \\
 +Karantenos lets out a charging cry, torches ready to burn the tower. Sergios rallies his men, another arrow shower dislodging stone and mortar. Lucius stays silent, hate rolling over his usual foolish exterior. His men cheer as he raises the whistle for Loxos' signal, ready to --- \\
 +A quick burst of sudden notes. The flame in the tower's window flickers. From the doors and windows, cracks and floor they flood. Hundreds. Shabby, ragged cloaks obscuring them entirely. Little glistening blades in hand. A chittering. \\
 +"Impossible!" Cries Sergios, Blade drawn, his men encircling for close formation, "These men are a numerical impossibility!" \\
 +"DEMONS!" Cries Karantenos, "Abyss Spawn! Be ready to receive, and pay back in favour! FOR THE ANCESTORS!"\\
 +The flood nears. \\
 +"FOR BYZANTIUM!" Cries Sergios. \\
 +Eyes are close enough to be seen glinting within cloaks. \\
 +"FOR HONORIA AND AUGUSTINA!" Cries Lucius, breaking emotional silence. \\
 +Contact. \\
 +The cloaked things chitter and scream shrill. Tiny blades snicker out, taking throats and wrists.\\
 +Sergios orders to press forward, and The Rus crush the tiny things underfoot, bows swapped for long-axes. They crumple like sacks of offle, The only resistance coming in their numbers. Sergios blade takes one apart at the neck. The cloak disembarks... \\
 +Karantenos Cavalry tear through them, hooves grinding them to paste. A child's dead eyes stare up at him. Soldier's senses overtake a father's. He pays it no heed. \\
 +The charge pushes forward, slowed only by the crumpled heaps. Aprenos cries fury, his men cheering and crying with their General. Something breaks inside his curiosity. Eyes peer down. Feet stop. Soldiers cry as their leader is thrown to the ground by their own inertia. He shakes with fury, tears running down into his chainmail... \\
 +Lucius Aprenos stares into the eyes of Honoria and Augustina Aprene. Into the eyes of his dead daughter. \\
 +A hundred times over. Every corpse looks at him with eyes of his dead daughters. \\
 +A laugh like the beating wings of a butterfly burning. A pipe note. \\
 +"Ingenious, I thought." the wind carries the whisper "The Pleasures of the Flesh taken the form of the product of Your Flesh..."
 +Covering every inch of the hill, the flood of daughters Aprene stop still. \\
 +Sergios men stop still in response. Aprenos men haul him out the rolling sea of corpses. Karatenos calls his men to never stop, and the flood continues to break beneath their efforts. \\
 +"... these are my need to touch... to feel... taken from me... childlings now born in the dead flesh of the oppressed... my oppressed... my prey..." \\
 +A shadow moves against the firelight. A single note. \\
 +The children change and charge once more. Cries of disgust fill the sky. Sergios makes the sign of the Cross. \\
 +Veil lifted. A mixmatch of skin and limbs. Organs creatively arranged into child shape. Some long dead, some worryingly flesh. \\
 +Beneath Aprenos, his daughters' eyes fade and are replaced by empty abysses. The illusion broken, the will creeps back... \\
 +The once crushed crawl back. Blades and claws reach up, tearing. Soldiers fall. Others are dragged beneath. The careful preparation is destroyed. When the ground attacks, tactics change. \\
 +"You come to destroy me... my once loyal men... for two mere... delicious... babelings? Know there is a flame within me... " \\
 +The figure approaches the lit window-crag. A second note. \\
 +Bodies explode. Fire and fluids. Screams. Sergios recites what he knows of the chemistry of body acids, and the Rus plough ahead regardless. \\
 +Lucius regains himself. Blade taking out a wave of swelling, jumping rot children, he grabs his whistle once more, eyes on the fire window... \\
 +"A flame that cannot... will not... be quenched... a need for flesh... a need for pleasure... " \\
 +Another shadowy step, rags flowing. The figure moves. Another note. \\
 +The organs skin and bone tear at each other. Piles of offal and fat reform into new shapes. \\
 +Karantenos' horse bolts as the great bone and flesh Terrible Lizard strikes at him, sinew and suture tearing and reforming. It raises on two legs, it's form too large even for these trained men. With honour, he calls a charge, sword drawn. At their feet, nameless creatures form. \\
 +Sergios sighs, as the floor rises in the form of a great Ursine behemoth. With a roar it sprays bile in his face. His men form together, preparing for annihaltion. \\
 +"Bears" whispers Sergios "Why is it always Bears?" \\
 +The organs attempt to form snakes of bone, topped with children's skulls around teh Phalanx. Spears thrusting wildly, Aprenos' men await signal, but his eyes are elsewhere. Almost... \\
 +The Ragged Man steps up onto the ledge. Illuminated. Pipe to lips. The Ragged Man. Emperor Andronikos. \\
 +"NOW!" Cries Karantenos, lizard's tail tearing the flesh-strewn Earth asunder. \\
 +Lucius blows the whistle. Sword snackering off a serpent's skull. \\
 +The Pipe shatters, arrow sinking into the bandaged wreck. Everything above the eyes shatters. Skull fragments explode. The Ragged Man wavers and topples backwards... \\
 +The Ground Quakes. And trumpets with delight. Canvas covers burst. From The Earth, Pachyderms! \\
 +"BY GREAT BARBAR'S TRUNK!" Cries Loxos, Astride Cyril's trunk. Dragon spine in hand. Fingers on a second flight. Runes aglow. "I WAS BEGINNING TO CHOKE ON CYRIL'S AIR BISCUIT DELIGHTS BACK THERE!" \\
 +"How... Charming!" nervously smiles Sergios, arm sweeping to tell his men to flank. Axes sink. More snarling skulls break from the wounds. Tusks plough into it from the other side, sinew tearing. \\
 +"Glad you could finally join us Loxos!" growls Karantenos. The Terrible Lizard is forced over, bull elephant charge against it's flank. It explodes, small bone and sinew bird-lizards tearing through the air. Karantenos, readied, spears the creatures efficiently. \\
 +Aprenos calls another charge, and all four forces rally on the tower. The lizards, snakes, bears, tearing claws, gurgling organs and other infernal flesh beasts are ground into the Earth once more. \\
 +There is a cheer as Karantenos leads his men in tossing torches onto the fray. Sergios observes and dictates the burning, leading his Rus trackers in gathering wood for the flames. Loxos appraises his gathering, victorious herd. Aprenos charges up the steps, blade in hand, his daughters' names in his heart. \\
 +A Single Note. \\
 +An explosion. \\
 +==== Candida ====
 +The battle cries last only an hour or so. The pipe notes haunt and flay you as you work on the salve. \\
 +A whistle. A trumpetting. A victorious cheer. Your heart races. \\
 +A note. An explosion. \\
 +Silence. Felix hisses. \\
 +You panic. There is nothing left. No sound. No other hope. Just you. \\
 +Just you, The Tax Collector. \\
 +And Witch, you think, holding the phial to the light. \\
 +You pour red into the grey mash, and instantly the mix becomes Flesh coloured. \\
 +Dropping your dress, you cradle a tiny trinket in your palm. A three-faced woman stares out at you. Taking the mix in the other hand, you pray three times, once to each face, applying the mix to your skin... \\
 +To the Mother, you pray for the return of your children. \\
 +To the Waykeeper, you pray the return of your husband. \\
 +To the Crone, you pray the destruction of Andronikos. \\
 +The paste sticks easily to your skin. After moments, it suddenly drains into your flesh. A burning sensation. Not entirely unpleasant. Felix purrs confused. The tent's canvas is coming down to meet you. You're growing taller. \\
 +Acting quickly, you take to the air, feeling the freedom of the night wash over you. \\
 +You focus on the fire as it rushes towards you... \\
 +==== Karantenos Loxos Lucius Sergios ====
 +The ground is writhing. \\
 +Fire fills the sky and ground, the ruins little more than a crater. \\
 +The meat-filled floor tears itself into writhing tentacles, sweeping and screaming. Karantenosduels two at once, more ever-spawning, his men lost amongst the forest of flesh and flame. \\
 +Sergios makes calculated guesses, trying to control the flow of flame by changing flesh distribution (via Rus with axe) to get to Loxos, arching down eyed-maws growing from the firmament, gaping for enwrapped elephant. \\
 +Lucius hauls himself to. All around is rubble, flesh and flame. A cacophony of pure chaos. Debilitated, he leans on his blade. \\
 +"Beautiful... don't you think?" Little more than a whisper. \\
 +"No." Lucius whispers back, he looks up. \\
 +He sees his daughters. Eyes glassed over. Tired, but controlled. \\
 +"I have become the instrument... myself... I am an instrument o pure pleasure... a tool of Enki..."
 +They hold the hands of a flaming skeleton, an effigy dressed only in charred ashen tatters. Nothing is left of it's skull above nostrils. Where eyes could be, instead float two abyssal whirls, blacken and jet with hate. \\
 +"... I lifted the Beast to the heavens... to find new pleasures... but was cut short... now I entrust you to help me bring The Mother's First Daughter back... and you disobey me... for babelings?" It tilts it's head, queerly. "You have changed Lucius. You a greater Fool than ever." \\
 +"No!" cries Lucius, blade in hand. Quicker than expected, he charges, mouthing a prayer to Saint Nicholas. \\
 +Two fleshen appendages tear from the ground, scything forwards him. \\
 +The first tentacle is parried aside. The second smashed. The blade whirls at Andronikos... \\
 +The children lift. A shield of innocence. It smiles cruelly. \\
 +Outside, the fleshen hordes increase. Loxos pulls Sergios out the way of crawling mouth in the floor, while Sergios repays the favour with a blow to teh eye of a screaming blade-arm. Karantenos rallies the charge against teh inner wall, all flanks covered as they press against teh ribcage of living sinew... \\
 +Lucius doesn't care. He drops, rolls around. The blade thrusts, carving upwards. \\
 +The Emperor effigy screams, little more volume than a sizzl;ing child, ribs exploding. The children fall. \\
 +Aprenos raises and swings. The skull-jaw opens. A single note. A flaming blade. The generals clash. \\
 +Blades return.  Andronikos lunges. Lucius steps back, then pushes forwards. Blade sweeps. A flaming left-arm falls to the ground. Andronikos screams. And screams. \\
 +The note hits. Blood ruptures from Lucius' eyes and mouth. He falls to his knees. Sinew raises, binding legs, tearing with tiny teeth.\\
 +"Yield..." croaks the dead thing. \\
 +Stamina kicks in. Another blade swing. The rest of the left half explodes.\\
 +It roars, a flaming claw engulfing his face. Flesh burns. Aprenos does not scream. \\
 +"YIELD!" A scream like tearing Seljuk flesh, YIELD... AND KNOW... ENKI'S FORGIVENESS!" \\
 +==== Candida ====
 +Screams. Screams and Tearing. Flames. \\
 +There is rage. Rage and something else: Despair. \\
 +It is too much to carry. The inertia carries you as you fall on all fours. \\
 +You roar to the Heavens. To Hecate. \\
 +You roar your anguish...
 +==== Loxos Lucius Candida Karantenos Sergios ====
 +The soldiers hack through the forest, only inches away... and then the arms return, the maws bite, the scythes sweep. \\
 +Karantenos bellows, sweat pouring, no compromise. Sergios covers Loxos as he snipes the cyclopean eyes tearing through the meat. Elephants and emn act as one, never giving up. \\
 +Then Sergios stops. \\
 +"Look." Smiles Sergios, pointing. "That's not one of yours is it?"\\
 +Loxos stares, sinew wrapping around his thigh. Absent mindedly, he cuts himself lose, gawping.\\
 +"No, no she's not... but she's... she's..."\\
 +"WHAT ARE YOU TWO PRATTLI--" starts Karentenos. As he too stops to stare. \\
 +A great she-elephant. Bright white-gray. Markings on her head-flanks make it appear she has three faces. Upon her forehead
 +, a birthmark like three keys.\\
 +She roars with rage.\\
 +Sergios whistles and pulls back, Rus following. Karantenos calls a counter-charge. Loxos signals off his herd, and jumps.\\
 +The White Elephant hits the Meat-forest roaring. An unstoppable juggernaut, it breaks through, lashes and teeth whipping at it's hide.\\
 +The Andronikos thing screams, black-halo-encircling, little more than half a bone idol to a fallen Emperor, forgotten already and mourned by none.\\
 +Lucius doesn't give in. Eyes staring at the bone-flame thing's Abyssal sockets.\\
 +The roar. The Elephant breaks through the forest, white glow eclipsing the charred bone-thing.\\
 +==== Candida ====
 +You lock eyes with Lucius, briefly. Staring. Never breaking. The Fool's mask broken.
 +==== Lucius ====
 +You lock eyes with the Great Beast, briefly. You know those eyes. Rage and... Hope stare back.
 +==== Lucius Candida Karentenos Sergios Karentenos ====
 +Andronikus is trampled, pulled underneath. Musical screams wither and die. The she-beast continues to roar, ever charging, it breaks through the other side... and continues... \\
 +Blackened bones are little more than ash. Their flames extinguished. Within moments the floor turns to rot. The forest dies and becomes mulch. Soldiers scream and cheer. \\
 +Lucius Karentenos Loxos Sergios
 +Karentenos tears Lucius from the rotting prison. Sergios and Loxos cheer. Backslapping. A Victor's Victory. Aided only slightly by chance. \\
 +Lucius brings himself to his feet. Sword out, he trawls through the rotten, fast-disappearing offal, staring at the Outpost's floor. Soon he finds her. Honoria, his nine-year old. She is sleeping. The soldiers help clear the rest. \\
 +Sergios, hankerchief in hand, carefully colelcts all the ashen bones... Loxos peers into the darkness, looking for the White seh-Beast. \\
 +"Where's Augustina?" Lucius asks slowly. The celebrating party stop still. "Where is my second daughter?" \\
 +Silence. \\
 +Loxos turns. Seeing something, he gestures to Karentenos. They begin to attack more floor... \\
 +"And his skull," begins Sergios, admiring his bone pile, "What is left of the Skull is also missing." \\
 +"I have a feeling I know..." starts Loxos, staring at his feet, "...but you're not going to like it..." \\
 +"It's poppycock..." Karentenos is also staring down, shaking his head, "...non-existant." \\
 +Lucius and sergios joins them, daughter waking in her father's arms. She calls him Daddy, asking why she's so sleepy.
 +Soldiers also gather, curious, they all stare down.
 +A burnt symbol, like a 5-pointed star. A Maw in each point. \\
 +Underneath, in Latin, two words: "GURA" and "BABYLON". \\
 +==== Candida ====
 +//There is still rage. Screaming...// \\
 +//A dream.// \\
 +//A scream. Tiny feet touch the sand. Child's feet.// \\
 +//Slowly, she walks forwards, awkwardly as if following a different beat.// \\
 +//In her hands, a blackened, ruined skull. The eyes are alive with darkness.// \\
 +//Endless darkness.// \\
 +//A white Light. A red.// \\
 +//Darkness.// \\
 +You awaken in your tent. Your head rolls with subdued cheering. The men are victorious, but something is amiss. \\
 +You look around. Your husband is sleeping aside you, bandaged. In a smaller makeshift cot, your eldest daughter. Your heart flutters. \\
 +But no Augustina. \\
 +You have destroyed what was left of a dead Emperor (that you falsely framed for invasion, but hey!) , but //something// remains. And it still has your daughter.
news/bm/andronikus.txt · Last modified: 2009/10/12 22:01 by david
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