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#darkness plants growing out of and devouring their corpses
joeandnicky · 3 months ago
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its smooth dark wave
written for the all & more discord server’s stocking event! link to the fic on ao3 here. in essence, this is: four times joe wanted cuddles, and one time nicky did.
At the end of the mission, Nile is dripping blood like a melting popsicle and Andy is cradling her limp wrist in a way that makes Nicky think it’s definitely broken, so Nicky and Joe go out to get the groceries. They don’t have a car here — they’d arrived in Prague by train — so they take a bus to the store. Joe almost drifts off on Nicky’s shoulder, but then a baby at the front of the bus starts crying and it jolts Joe awake. From the way he twitches in his seat, Nicky knows he’s itching to get up and go comfort the child — its mother looks harried and tired herself, the circles under her eyes even deeper than Nicky’s, which Nicky knows is an impressive feat — but it runs the risk of raising the wrong type of attention, and neither of them speak Czech particularly well anyway. Nicky squeezes Joe’s hand in consolidation and Joe squeezes back.
“Ah, Tesco’s,” Joe sighs as they step inside the sliding doors. “How I’ve missed you.”
Nicky rolls his eyes.
“I saw that,” Joe says.
“When will you learn that all grocery stores are the same?” Nicky says, yanking a dirty cart off the rack.
“I am offended by that suggestion,” Joe says cheerily, steering Nicky towards the produce. “After so many decades of my tutelage, I would think you’d have learned by now: there’s nothing better than a bargain, and nobody does a bargain like Tesco’s.”
“Agree to disagree,” Nicky says, but this Tesco’s does have one advantage: it’s huge, set in the bottom floor of a fancy, glass-walled mall, and Nicky suspects it has a small imported food section. “I’ll get the nonperishables?”
“You know how I hate to be parted from you, my heart, but in the interests of expediency, I think that’s wise.” Nicky rolls his eyes again, but he’s smiling when he ducks forward to press a kiss to Joe’s cheek.
Nicky moves quickly through the aisles, their grocery list long-memorized: several loves of bread, a carton of eggs, three bags of Monster Munch (for Andy, who can eat a whole bag in a single sitting.) He picks up a bottle of vodka, remembers they don’t need it anymore, and drops it back off. They have Joe’s favorite gummy worms in the candy aisle, so Nicky grabs a handful. And then, in the back corner of the store, Nicky finds the imports section. There’s not much there — marshmallow fluff, microwave popcorn — but there are a few packs of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups that Nicky remembers Nile devouring when they were in Vancouver a few weeks ago. He clears the shelf.
When he finds Joe again, he’s stocked up on what might be every vegetable under the sun and several shrink-wrapped packs of meat. “They had a lot of it on sale,” Joe explains, dumping his basket into Nicky’s. He’s also holding a plastic bag of custard-filled donuts, which Nicky looks at pointedly. “What?” Joe says. “They’re like twenty cents each!”
Joe eats one on the way out of the mall, fat sugar crystals falling into his beard, but despite the sugar, by the time they get back onto the bus, his eyes are drooping again. Nicky’s not surprised when, two blocks into the bus ride, his head falls heavy on Nicky’s shoulder. A moment later, he’s snoring. Smiling, Nicky glances around the bus — mostly empty, the night falling quick outside the window — and raises an arm to wrap about Joe’s shoulder. A quick cat nap never hurt anyone.
---
Joe likes to sleep a lot more than Nicky. Or perhaps ‘likes’ is the wrong word - whether or not he likes sleep, he needs a lot more sleep than Nicky, and over the years, that means Nicky has spent many, many hours lying in bed with a sleeping Joe, waking for his love to wake or trying to work out a sneaky way to slip out from under the covers without jostling him.
It’s always notable when Nicky wakes to an empty bed, and it rarely means anything good. But tonight, when Nicky wakes cold, his sheets vacant aside from moonbeams, he’s not surprised. He wraps the covers around himself and shuffles out to the living room like a mummy. “Is your third espresso coming back to bite you?”
Joe pouts at him from the couch. He has a yellowed novel spread open on his lap, the room lit by a single warm lamp. “It was such good coffee,” he says sadly — the same thing he’d said four hours earlier, when he insisted on having an encore to their dessert, because it was just so good, Nicolo, I haven’t had coffee like this since the 1600s!
“And now you’re paying the price for it,” Nicky agrees. He drops into Joe’s lap, blanket sleeves flopping over Joe’s shoulders. “Do you need to be tired out?” He rocks his hips against Joe’s.
But Joe’s pout only deepens. “I already tried that,” he confesses. “It didn’t work.”
Nicky suppresses a smile. “Well, it sounds like you’re in a real pickle now, then.”
“Habibi,” Joe whines. “Stop teasing me. If I can’t get to sleep, my whole rhythm’s going to be messed up for weeks. I’m going to be sleeping until noon again. You know I hate to sleep late like that. I never see you.”
Joe seems genuinely upset at the thought, and that frown has Nicky softening. “Very well. I will go make tea. You take this blanket back to bed.”
“I don’t think Nile’s Sleepytime Tea is going to cure this,” Joe says doubtfully, but he does as instructed, only getting mildly derailed by Nicky slapping his ass on the way out the door.
Nicky takes his time boiling the water, steeping his mug and Joe’s. By the time he gets back to their room, Joe already seems more relaxed, sprawled comfortably on the mattress, staring out the window at the glimmering blue ocean, the same dark hue as the night sky. Joe turns as Nicky enters. “It’s beautiful here.”
“Very,” Nicky agrees, passing Joe his mug. “We should come here more often.”
“Should try to find a safehouse,” Joe says. “On the north island, maybe. More isolated. We should take a couple days while we’re here, see if there’s anywhere available that would work.”
Nicky slips under the covers, and Joe slots into place at his side, his leg thrown over Nicky’s. For a few moments they just sit in quiet, enjoying the New Zealand sea breeze, sipping their tea. But eventually, Joe sets his aside, snuggling down into Nicky’s chest, and Nicky takes that as his cue to put away his own mug, threading his hands through Joe’s hair. “What would you like to hear tonight?”
“Surprise me.”
Nicky is in a strange mood tonight - perhaps it’s the full moon - so, after a few moments thought, he starts singing an old Italian song he remembers from his childhood. It’s fractured, some bits incomplete, some bits skipping in a strange way that makes him think he’s forgetting some old verse, but Joe relaxes in his arms anyway, his head heavy against Nicky’s chest. Nicky lets his hand drift down Joe’s back, remembering the game his mother used to play, scratching his back as a child: and now the farmer plants his seed, she had said, and gently pinched his skin in even rows. And now he tends his crop, and she had scratched her nails down along his spine. Nicky’s favorite was always when the rain came: she’d patter her fingers against his back, light but quick, like the littlest drum. It always made Nicky giggle.
Now Nicky traces the knobs of Joe’s spine. "And sleep tonight, my darling," he sings, his voice rasping like candlelight in the darkness. "You are safe and dry. Tomorrow in the morning, I will hold you in the light."
By the end of the second verse, Joe is asleep. Nicky follows not long after.
---
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay?” Nile asks doubtfully, giving them a once-over. Nicky doesn’t blame her: Joe is practically a corpse in Nicky’s arms he’s so tired, tripping over his own feet every other floorboard.
“I’m sure,” Nicky promises her. “He’s just tired. It was a long stakeout.” He was only supposed to be out there alone for twelve hours before Nicky relieved him, but then Andy had found a time-sensitive lead she wanted to follow, and Nicky couldn’t let her go alone. Joe had said it was fine, but in the end it had been almost thirty-six hours before Booker was able to go take over for him, and a day and a half of staying hyper-aware has Joe dead on his feet.
“I’ll make dinner, okay?” Nile says. “Something you can eat in bed. Does stir fry work?”
“I love you, Nile,” Joe half-slurs from Nicky’s arms. He peeks open one eye from where his face is buried in Nicky’s shoulder. “You’re my favorite.”
Nile rolls her eyes. “Sure, weirdo. Go get a shower, you smell like ass.”
“What ever happened to respecting your elders?” Joe moans, but lets Nicky tug him away to the bathroom.
There’s no bathtub, unfortunately, but Joe probably wouldn’t be able to stay awake long enough for a tub to fill anyway. “Are you going to drown if I put you under the shower head?” Nicky asks, and Joe shakes himself awake enough to stumble into the tiny shower stall.
“Not that far gone yet,” he says, but he fumbles the shampoo bottle. In the end, Nicky takes over, washing his hair and soaping him down from the open shower door, the front of his clothes growing damp with the refracted spray.
Eventually, Nicky deems Joe sufficiently cleaned and helps him stumble out of the shower and dry off. He leans him against the sink so he can stand behind him and comb his hair; they only have one of Booker’s old combs at this safehouse, which isn’t ideal, but Nicky manages.
He’s almost done when he glances up to ask Joe a question and realizes that Joe has somehow managed to fall asleep standing up. His eyes are closed and his head is limp on his neck and he’s making the puffy breathing sounds, like little sighs, that Nicky finds are often the precursors to his snores.
“Yusuf,” he whispers.
Joe doesn’t so much as twitch.
He’s so cute when he’s sleeping.
Grinning, Nicky ducks forward for a brief moment to bury his face in Joe’s hair — his wet, springy curls, now neatly combed from Nicky’s attentions. He presses a quick kiss to the nape of Joe’s neck, and then he leans back and, sparing a brief thought to regret that he’s not strong enough to carry Joe comfortably to bed, shakes his shoulders gently. Joe snorts, jolting up.
“Hey,” Nicky murmurs. “Bedtime.”
“Mmh.” Joe smacks his lips. “Didn’t Nile say - dinner?”
“You can eat in the morning. Unless you want to -“ But Joe is shaking his head, yawning.
“‘m tired. Sleep first.”
Nicky guides him to their room with a hand around his waist. Joe’s eyes fall closed again halfway there. On their bedside table, Nicky finds two bowls of rice and chicken stir fry waiting for them, as well as two glasses of water. A midnight snack, then. Nicky eases Joe down to the mattress carefully, and then, when Joe clings with one hand to Nicky’s shirt front, slides in after him. Joe’s arm heavy around Nicky’s waist, his nose to the back of Nicky’s neck. “Sleep, Yusuf,” Nicky murmurs, and Joe does.
---
(When Nicky had met Quynh and Andy, one of the first things he’d noticed about them was how they slept curled together, like two cats in a single beam of sunlight. There wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it, except that they were always touching, a hand on a hip, an ankle across a shin, their backs pressed together when they needed to sleep sitting up. “I would hate to lose her in my sleep,” Quynh had joked when Nicky finally worked up the courage to ask — the two of them on a run to gather herbs for a local medicine man in the mountains, Joe and Andy lingering in the valley below. Nicky remembers the sharp curve of her smile, so like Joe’s scimitar.
It was one of the most jarring things, later, seeing Andy sleeping alone. They had gone south for two years — such a brief period to them by that point — and return north to find everything different. Andy, who had so loved sleep before, barely seemed to have the stomach for it now; she was always awake when Nicky went to bed and already cooking breakfast when he woke, and more than once, Nicky was jolted awake by her thready gasps in the night. Joe had tried to comfort her once — they had caught her in a nightmare — but she had startled awake faster than either of them had expected and gutted Joe for his trouble, and after that, they had always been careful around her.
Perhaps if they were better people — kinder, more generous friends — they would have tried sleeping apart themselves for a time. But neither of them were wiling. The first night after they found Andy, after they had heard what happened to Quynh, they had both waited up until Andy had fallen asleep by the fire. Then Joe had tucked himself up behind Nicolo, and wrapped his arm tight around his waist, and whispered, “Please let me hold you tonight.”
His voice was low and rough, the voice of an old man wearied by life, and Nicky hadn’t argued. He’d merely nodded, placing his hand over Joe’s on his stomach, and paid close attention to the beat of Joe’s heart against his back. Joe requested the same position the next night, and the night after that, and eventually Nicky realized that he liked it as much as Joe did. This way of sleeping had its advantages: in front, he could have his sword at the ready to defend them, he could scan the surrounding areas more easily to search out a threat. He was able to protect Yusuf much better this way — his sleepy, soft Yusuf, who took so long, sometimes, to wake. He deserved to be protected. And, selfishly, Nicky found he loved being held.)
---
It’s a hundred and five degrees outside, the cicadas are screaming like the world is ending, and Nicky can’t sleep.
He rolls over onto a smooth stretch of sheet, seeing if a change in position will help. No such luck: the sheet, which should be cool, is even warmer than his body and scratches in strange ways against his exposed stomach.
He should be used to this. Almost nine hundred years of living without air conditioning, of sleeping outside in the mugginess of monsoon season and hiking through hours through desert heat — but these last few decades have spoiled him, and now Nicky is lying in bed, wide awake, unable to think about anything but the fact that he isn’t touching Yusuf.
Pathetic.
He’s debating his options - tea? A cold shower? A cold mango? - when Joe rolls over to face him and mumbles, “Nicky?”
“It’s fine,” Nicky whispers. “Go back to sleep.”
But Joe just frowns, eyes still closed, and reaches across the mattress with one hand to grasp for Nicky’s arm. “Where you going?”
“I can’t sleep.”
Joe cracks one eyelid.
“It’s been a while since we’ve slept apart.”
Joe’s eye falls shut again and he sighs, hand falling from Nicky’s arm. “How wide do you think the bed is?”
Which is not what Nicky was expecting he’d say. “What?”
“Lay back.” Nicky does as instructed, though he keeps himself propped on his elbows so he can see what Joe is doing - moving his pillow to the opposite corner of the bed as Nicky’s, then dragging himself down there too, so he lays parallel to the foot of the bed.
“Joe -“ Nicky starts, but then Joe stretches out, his ankles sliding against Nicky’s, and Nicky realizes what he’s done.
“Better?” Joe asks. From the drag of his voice, he’s already falling back asleep; Nicky wants to kiss him, but he’s too far away, so he settles for rubbing his ankle against Joe’s.
“Better,” he agrees, because it is — just to be touching Joe is, apparently, all his body needs. Nicky can already feel the strange tension in his shoulders releasing him. Nicky falls back on the pillows, keeping on eye cracked to watch the way Joe shuffles about on his stomach getting comfortable. In his new spot, he’s lying right in the square of light let in by the window, a strange yellow-green from the streetlights outside. It casts his face in an aquamarine tone. He’s so beautiful.
Nicky falls asleep easily, between one breath and the next.
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tovonind · 4 months ago
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On the names of plants
One of my players wants a terrarium-of-holding, and considering that my campaign involves a certain amount of worldhopping, I’m rather fascinated by the idea. It also means that I have to spend some time thinking of (i) how such a  thing would work, (ii) reading up the effects of introducing non-indigenous/endemic species into interesting biomes, and (iii) names for fantasy plants. Let’s talk about each of these for a bit:
1. The terrarium itself
Taking inspiration from how incredible terrariums can look, the early brainiac’s obsession with miniaturizing cities to preserve their culture (kandor being a prime example), and the native D&D bag-of-holding variants (the bag of colding, devouring, beans, tricks etc.), I’m taking a stab at an artifact that maintains small pocket-biomes. The item can be found here on D&Dbeyond, where it can be added to character sheets etc. Art for the terrarium comes from this fantastic artist on redbubble (Will Hewitt).
2. The effects of non-endemic plants in fantasy biomes
Before we get into this, let’s first look at some real-world examples (not that we want to be bounded by reality, but still, reality can very often surprise us). For reference, here’s a wiki article on introduced species. 
To summarize, when introduced into a new biome, plants can either - die out,  - naturalize (affecting the local biome to different extents),  - adapt/mutate/hybridize with local flora/fauna, or - become invasive
The fourth has the more interesting consequences, and the prerequisite for this can be summarized by two conditions:
- it has the resources it needs to grow.  - it doesn’t suffer competition or predation
From teh wiki,
An introduced species might become invasive if it can outcompete native species for resources such as nutrients, light, physical space, water, or food. If these species evolved under great competition or predation, then the new environment may host fewer able competitors, allowing the invader to proliferate quickly. Some interesting examples of this would be 
- introducing sustainable food crops in regions without food can lead to a complete change in the economy and lifestyle of the people in that region.
- a new plant can sometimes carry diseases or pests that are relatively benign to the plant itself, but fatal for other native species.
- Rootless duckweed (see below) can be dangerous almost everywhere it’s introduced.
- Cactacae and Myconids coming into contact with each other can be hilarious or deadly depending on the circumstances. 
- Mana-rich plants in mana-poor regions can completely warp the surrounding biomes, since they have no resistance to the glamouring effects of these plants. It is important to be careful while bringing any plants over from the Feywild.
- Some plants (like the fleshy tuberondum carnis) can cause higher level predators to stop preying on grazing animals, since they taste similar. This can lead to an explosion of grazing animals, which leads to the savannah being stripped of edible grasses, and upsets the biome. 
- Plants that grow in remote/inhospitable/extreme/space-like locales (that are not used to resource-rich environments) can sometimes go crazy when introduced into normal ones.
3. Names and characteristics of fantasy plants:
All right, let’s take a stab at these. A lot of these are real, with some added flavour. Can you identify which ones aren’t?
‘Bob’ is a variant of the Blackhew (Viburnum prunifolium): Native originally to Karvadam and now other parts of Tovon Ind with trade, the plant is thought to emit a low hum, along with an almost unnoticeable musk that vibrates at the same resonant frequency. Tabaxi, Moogles, Loxodons and other sensitive species can detect this to some extent, but it particularly seems to affect the slakemoths and other creatures of a dark aspect to varying degrees, ranging from mild distaste to complete discombobulation (scribbled in the margins: 'see what i did there?'). It is not presently known if this effect can be amplified, although traditional means like poultices, brews and steeped concoctions do not seem to be effective in this regard. The plant also has certain religious aspects to it, and is sometimes used as an offering during rituals at Dracoperonia (dragon temples) across the land. (updated Jan 6)
Corpse Flowers (also called the Titan Arum, Scientific name: Amorphophallus titanum) - not one big flower, but thousands of smaller ones. grow on corpses in the crystal forest and emit a faint bioluminiscence. folklore suggests that they’re releasing the souls of the fallen from their bodies to wander the forest for evermore.
Dwarvish Wheat / Lithiops (Lithops Hookeri, Lithops Salicola, Lithops Olivieri, etc.): A small, desert thriving rocklike plant of the succulent family that yields flour when processed, and is used to make dwarvish bread. It is thought to be what gives dwarvish bread its characteristic texture and density.
Witches' Butter / Yellow brain / Golden Jelly Fungus (Tremella mesenterica): Mostly extinct in nature but found in many private botanical gardens, this potent herb can sometimes be found growing on recently fallen and dead trees, especially if the trees had any magical essence. Being rich in mana, it has been used as a catalyst in many magical potions and poultices. While edible, it remarkably has no flavor. It is parasitic on other fungi.
Dragonsblood Tree (Dracaena cinnabari): With mana-rich sap that resembles dragons' blood (It’s a deep red, even when dried into resin, and is used for magical ceremonies, and as a stimulant), this rare tree is highly sought after and was even worshiped in older times. It is said that it can not be grown without the blessing of a dragon, and can only be found on the floating island of Caelondia. The canopy looks like an umbrella and acts like one. It shades the roots and reduces evaporation. 
Welwitschia / Tumbo / Tweeblaarkanniedood (Welwitschia mirabilis): A living fossil found in the deserts of Tovon Ind, its close relatives have gone extinct and its distant relatives include pines, spruces, larches, and firs. It has one very short trunk and two leaves—only two. It grows only two leaves no matter how mature it is (and it can get very mature - living 400 to over 2000 years!). Wine made from the leaves of this plant are said to induce intense visions, but sometimes have the unfortunate side effects of driving the imbiber completely insane (DC 10 CON).
The dude (Dudanus Principus): A small flowering bush that produces a pungent green-and-black bud that is often smoked as leaf, fermented to make beer, or steeped as tea, depending on the region. Produces a sap that tastes like milk. Grows best in cool climates. Artists in recent times have experimenting with using it as an ingredient in making paint.
Rootless Duckweed / The green death / the ravening swarm (Wolffia Arrhiza): An extremely small flowering plant, normally not dangerous unless it comes in contact with water, in which case it starts multiplying exponentially as long as water is available to sustain it. Once it crosses a critical threshold, it beings leaching moisture from the air. Careless mismanagement of this plant is thought to have wiped out small villages.
The strangler fig (also called the pleasant sleep, Ficus vulgaris): A symbiotic plant found in the forests near the northeastern part of the continent (to be fleshed out), emits a sweet scent that charms prey into coming close (DC12 CON). Small creatures caught unawares are slowly asphyxiated, and animals that come to eat these creatures carry the plant’s seeds to other locations.
Hydnora / Magis’ staff / the seeing Maw (Hydnora Morgana): The Hydnora plant grows almost completely underground, except for its strange, bristly red flower that is shaped like an open pod, or a gaping maw. Traps insects and other small creatures and keeps them until the flower is mature, then releases them to complete the pollination. The fruit takes two years to mature underground, is said to be similar in taste and texture to a potato, yet useful for tanning leather and preserving fishnets.
Mandrake root (Mandragora Vox): Potent magical herb, that has the appearance of a radish-like root. Causes deafness/madness and death in extreme cases if uprooted at any time other than twilight (recent studies show the absence of shadows as a necessary component in controlled conditions). Can be used to revive the recently dead if prepared in appropriate ways. 
Tesla trees / Wednesday’s weed (Arborum Fulmenis): Large electrified trees that appear to store up electricity inside their body during certain seasons, releasing all of it in huge arcs of lightning from their crown, burning away all that was growing or walking near them and thus getting fertilizer. Found in the garden of the time-lords in Karvadam and metal sections of the crystal forest.
A lot more fictional plants to cover! See the list here of fictional plants, this list of real but cool plants, and this list of old names for plants, for example.
A few more resources from my player: 
- https://www.reddit.com/r/Pathfinder_RPG/comments/94hpjl/are_there_any_magic_items_to_have_a_portable/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share
- https://www.reddit.com/r/DnD/comments/1077so/4e_making_a_portable_garden/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share
- [starter item] https://aonprd.com/EquipmentMiscDisplay.aspx?ItemName=Portable%20terrarium
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rumi-mathnawi · 6 months ago
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THE MATHNAWI BOOK III STORY XVII PART 1. The Vakil of the Prince of Bokhara.
The Prince of Bokhara had a Vakil who, through fear of punishment for an offence he had committed, ran away and remained concealed in Kuhistan and the desert for the space of ten years. At the end of that time, being unable to endure absence from his lord and his home any longer, he determined to return to Bokhara and throw himself at his lord's feet, and endure whatever punishment his lord might be pleased to inflict upon him. His friends did all they could to dissuade him, assuring him that the Prince's wrath was still hot against him, and that if he appeared at Bokhara he would be put to death, or at least imprisoned for the rest of his life. He replied, "O advisers, be silent, for the force of the love which is drawing me to Bokhara is stronger than the force of prudent counsels. When love pulls one way all the wisdom of Abu Hanifa and Ash-Shafi'i is impotent to withstand it. If it shall please my lord to slay me, I will yield up my life without reluctance, for this life of estrangement from him which I am now leading is the same as death, and release from it will be eternal happiness. I will return to Bokhara and throw myself at my lord's feet, and say to him, 'Deal with me as thou wilt, for I can no longer bear absence from thee, and life or death at thy hands is all the same to me!'" Accordingly, he journeyed back to Bokhara, counting the very toils and discomforts of the road sweet and delightful, because they were steps in his homeward course. When he reached Bokhara his friends and relations all warned him not to show himself, as the Prince was still mindful of his offence and bent on punishing him; but he replied to them as to his other advisers, that he was utterly regardless of his life, and was resolved to commit himself to his lord's good pleasure. He then went to the court and threw himself at his lord's feet and swooned away. The Prince, seeing the strong affection borne to him by his repentant servant, conceived a similar affection towards him, and descended from his throne and graciously raised him from the ground, and pardoned his offence. Thus it is that eternal life is gained by utter abandonment of one's own life. When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. He is a true lover of God to whom God says, "I am thine, and thou art mine!"
In the course of this story, which is narrated at great length, are introduced anecdotes of a lover and his mistress, of the Virgin Mary being visited by the "Blessed Spirit" or Angel Gabriel, 1 of the fatal mosque, of Galen's devotion to carnal learning, of Satan's treachery to the men of Mecca at the battle of Bedr, 2 and of Solomon and the gnat. There also occur comments on various texts, and a curious comparison of the trials and wholesome afflictions of the righteous to the boiling of potherbs in a saucepan by the cook.
The reply of the lover when asked by his mistress which city of all those he had seen was most pleasing in his sight.
A damsel said to her lover, "O fond youth,
You have visited many cities in your travels;
Which of those cities seems most delightful to you?"
He made answer, "The city wherein my love dwells.
In whatever nook my queen alights,
Though it be as the eye of a needle, 'tis a wide plain;
Wherever her Yusuf-like face shines as a moon,
Though it be the bottom of a well, 'tis Paradise.
With thee, my love, hell itself were heaven,
With thee a prison would be a rose-garden.
With thee hell would be a mansion of delight,
Without thee lilies and roses would be as flames of fire!"
The answer of the Vakil to those who advised him not to court death by yielding himself up to his lord.
He said, "I am a drawer of water; water attracts me,
Even though I know water may be my death.
No drawer of water flees from water,
Even though it may cause him a hundred deaths.
Though it may make my hand and belly dropsical,
My love for water will never be lessened.
I should say, when they asked me about my belly,
'Would that the ocean might flow into it!'
Though the bottle of my belly were burst with water,
And though I should die, my death would be acceptable.
Wheresoever I see one seeking water, I envy him,
And cry, 'Would I were in his place!'
My hand is a tabor and my belly a drum,
Like the rose I beat the drum of love of water.
Like the earth or like a fetus I devour blood,
Since I became a lover this is my occupation.
If that 'Faithful Spirit' should shed my blood,
I would drink it up drop by drop like the earth.
At night I boil on the fire like a cooking-pot,
From morn till eve I drink blood like the sand.
It repents me that I planned a stratagem,
And that I fled from before his wrath.
Tell him to sate his wrath on my poor life,
He is the 'Feast of Sacrifice,' and I his loving cow. 3
The cow, whether it eats or sleeps,
Thinks of naught but sacrificing itself.
Know me to be that cow of Moses which gave its life,
Each part of me gives life to the righteous.
That cow of Moses was made a sacrifice,
And its least part became a source of life.
That murdered man leapt up from his deadness
At the words, ' Strike the corpse with part of her.' 4
O pious ones, slay the cow (of lust),
If ye desire true life of soul and spirit!
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal. 5
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, 'To him shall we return.' 6
Know death to be the gathering together of the people.
The water of life is hidden in the land of darkness.
Like a water-lily seek life there!
Yea, like that drawer of water, at the risk of life,
Water will be his death, yet he still seeks water,
And still drinks on, and God knows what is right.
O lover, cold-hearted and void of loyalty,
Who from fear for your life shun the beloved!
O base one, behold a hundred thousand souls
Dancing towards the deadly sword of his love:
Behold water in a pitcher; pour it out;
Will that water run away from the stream?
When that water joins the water of the stream
It is lost therein, and becomes itself the stream.
Its individuality is lost, but its essence remains,
And hereby it becomes not less nor inferior.
I will hang myself upon my lord's palm-tree
In excuse for having fled away from him!"
Even as a ball rolling along on head and face,
He fell at the feet of the Prince with streaming eyes.
The people were all on the alert, expecting
That the Prince would burn him or hang him,
Saying, "Moth-like he has seen the blaze of the light,
And fool-like has plunged therein and lost his life."
But the torch of love is not like that torch,
'Tis light, light in the midst of light,
'Tis the reverse of torches of fire,
It appears to be fire, but is all sweetness.
Love generates love. "If ye love God, God will love you" 7
That. Bokharian then cast himself into the flame,
But his love made the pain endurable;
And as his burning sighs ascended to heaven,
The love of the Prince was kindled towards him.
The heart of man is like the root of a tree,
Therefrom grow the leaves on firm branches
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masked-buffoon · 6 months ago
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Chapter 1: Preying in the dark (Part 4)
Warnings: human trafficking, mentions of rape, explicit violence and language, manipulation
Author notes: the last part of the first chapter! I’m impatient to know what you’ll think of that conclusion... Please, pay attention to the warnings! I’ll see you in chapter 2!
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"What are these beautiful clothes for...?" I could not help doubting as I stared at myself in the mirror.
"Why, they are a gift." The woman smiled gently, adjusting the skirt for me "We asked for adopting you... You'll officially become our daughter, Yōko-chan...!"
"Is that so...?" Tears made their way to my eyes "Your... Daughter...?"
"Yes..." She brushed a few strands of my hair away from my face.
"Thank you..." I cried softly "That someone cares about me to this extent... It feels so warm..."
"Right...? You deserve it..."
If I did not deserve love, I believed I at least did not deserve ending up on a stage, spotlights blindly pointing toward me with my hands cuffed, in front of hundreds of men hungrily devouring my body with their stares. A gift, she had said... A daughter, she had promised... For the first time in my life, I was grateful toward my ability, for allowing me to hear these people's loathsome thoughts beforehand, so I could have prepared an escape route in case. Being sold in an auction was the last thing I had expected when I had been welcomed so kindly in that house. Believing in one's friendliness... I would never be that stupid anymore.
"Let's start at one thousand...!"
My initial worth was one thousand yen...? That was cheap, I thought, until I realised there were a lot of foreigners. They were auctioning in dollars. I sighed slightly and waited. As soon as I would be bought, I would try to run away. For that purpose, I had hidden my knife in the folds of my dress, and, were I to find any kind of pin, I could try to pick up the lock of my handcuffs. There was hope... I would get out of there. At this point, even the slums seemed nicer to me than any sort of place pretending to welcome poor homeless kids. People were never good.
"Ten thousands...!"
My eyes widened. Ten thousands...? Someone was willing to go so high to acquire me...? For which sake...?
"Ten thousands, end of auction...!"
I was given to a fat man with small, vicious eyes. I could barely hold a grimace of disgust back as he patted my body like he would evaluate livestock. He then tugged on my handcuffs to bring me toward his car.
"I'm going to have a lot of fun~" He told me once we were inside "It was worth the price~ It isn't everyday you get a virgin...~"
Could he be more... Gross? Any more and I would just end throwing up on him. How could a human be that distasteful?
"Ah, I can't wait to go back~ I want to taste you now~" He groaned, getting closer to me to place his filthy tongue against the skin of my neck "So sweet~"
"Get away...!" I fought back, trying to kick him.
"Playing fierce...?" He chuckled "It's alright, I love some resistance~"
"I don't want it...!" I struggled, yelping each time he would make contact with my body "No...!"
Suddenly, a slap made my face go numb. My mind was incredibly dizzy as I raised my eyes at him. However, far from frightening me, his move lit up a flame in me, a will I believed I had forgotten. How dared he buy a girl for the sake of his vile pleasure? How dared he take advantage of me, who had asked nothing but some comfort in that family? How angry I was, against that repulsive man, against the entire humanity for having minds able to do evil, and against myself for being such a weakling. I had an ability, and I had even been a thief. I could defend myself. I stayed still and darted my eyes away from him as he unbuckled his belt before coming back to me, and I saw his tie pin. It looked rather thin and, mostly, it would have to do. Discreetly as he was sliding the straps of my dress off of my shoulders, I took the pin and manoeuvred it toward the lock of my handcuffs, trying to ignore his lewd ministrations so I could focus on freeing myself. I gasped as he bit down on my collarbone and bit my lips, getting my mind back to work. My survival depended on whether I was able to pick the lock up or not. The greasy man was too focused on "tasting me" as he said to even hear the familiar clicking sound of a lock being opened, and did not even notice as the handcuffs fell onto the floor of his expensive car. I took opportunity of that to push him away with all the strength in my arms, before reaching for my knife in the folds of my dress.
"Let go of me...!" I threatened, the tip of the blade trembling the slightest as I pointed it onto him "Let go of me, and I won't hurt you..."
"H-How...? How did you free yourself...?!"
I did not answer and got closer to him. The knife was now grazing against his skin, threateningly.
"N-No...! No...! I'll let you go...! I won't touch you...! Please, don't kill me...!" He begged for his life.
"I suppose I don't need to hurt you if you don't do anything..." I hummed, sitting back to readjust my dress properly "Do anything suspicious and I will stab you."
"Y-Yes..."
I managed to keep him at knife range for the rest of the way toward his house. I had to think about a way to leave him definitely, without taking his life, preferably. As soon as the car was parked, I noticed we were not in front of a house, but in a back alley. Immediately, the man jumped onto me to grab my wrist, making me drop my weapon. I had been careless.
"What did you think~? That I would let you go~?"
"You are disgusting." I spat at his face.
"But I am stronger... And strong people make the rules~" He grinned, wiping his cheek.
I winced as he approached me again, and closed my eyes. So it was the end... Tears streamed down my cheeks as my "owner" pulled the top of my dress away to reveal my bare chest, before lavishly latching his tongue on my skin, each time making me whimper in disgust. He was carefully pining me to the seat, hands above my head so I would not escape, and I could accurately feel that part of him grow against my thighs. It was the end... If only somebody could kill me this instant... Despite wanting to live, ending everything would be much better than suffering this kind of humiliation.
"It... It hurts..." I grimaced when he groped my bosom, sobbing "Stop it...! I don't want it...!"
"Don't worry...~ Soon enough, that'll be everything you desire~"
I bit my lower lip as his teeth planted into my thin neck and held back a gasp of pain. I had stopped fighting back, exhausted by the situation, by my ability, by myself... I so desperately wanted to escape, yet I did not have the strength to do so... How pathetic I was. Except being a victim, I could not do much more, could I...?
The brusque metallic noise of a bin falling in the alley made my assaillant jump in surprise, and I understood it would be my only opportunity to escape. I did not care about being proper anymore; swiftly, I crouched down to grab my knife and planted it into the man's chest without further hesitation, and watched, oddly satisfied, as blood started staining his immaculate shirt. His scream echoed in my ears like a beautiful aria from a famous opera, and a smirk made its way to my face.
I had perhaps gone crazy.
"You sound like a pig... Who knew pigs could be so melodious...~?" I chuckled, twirling the weapon between my fingers and staring at the blood spurting from the wound.
"It hurts!! It hurts!!" He wailed.
"So funny... Didn't I cry these exact same words a minute ago...?" My voice darkened "Never mind..."
I stabbed him again, finding an efficient way of putting my knife aside as I readjusted, once again, my clothes. As he was whining, holding his chest, my eyes fell onto an interesting object hidden under a seat, and my hand tightened around it. My lips raised upwards and I kicked the door of the car opened, bringing the man with me outside. I dropped him on the ground without care and pointed the small revolver toward him.
"Don't shoot... Don't shoot...! No...! I don't want to die...!"
"We both know I cannot trust you..." I tilted my head slightly "Besides... Your words do not reach my ear, just as mine did not reach yours. I suppose you may reflect on your sins in hell. If you don't go to a far worse place..."
I pulled the trigger curtly. The bullet landed right into his chest, and I was surprised it did not kill him immediately. Instead, he rolled on the concrete, resembling more and more a vulgar beast. I sighed slightly.
"You don't make things easy, do you?" I frowned "I have only five bullets left..."
I crouched down and pressed the barrel to his forehead, smiling.
"Like this, I'm sure you'll die right away. Farewell...~"
He, indeed, died without even giving his last breath. Right in front of me, I saw the chauffeur, too afraid to run away, and so frightened he had peed himself. I approached him, lightly.
"You must be glad to be freed from such a terrible master, aren't you...? I'd be more than happy to let you run, but silent witnesses are the same as culprit, you know...? Moreover, I wouldn't want you to call the police... You'll understand I have no choice, won't you...~?"
He died, too, with a terrified look on his face.
I sighed deeply and took a look at myself. I was covered in thick and stinky blood. I definitely needed to take a bath... Luckily, we were not far from the river. I thought a moment, then carried the two corpses inside the car. I did not wear gloves and my fingerprints would be found if the police were to discover the crime. I had to stay calm in order to come up with a plan. There was a faint scent of cigarette in the vehicle and, after looking inside for a moment, I found a lighter. Although my head was pounding, I knew what I had to do. Remaining as composed as I could, I took the clothes of the chauffeur to replace my light and unpractical dress. They were too large, but at least, they were not stained by blood like the rich man's. I kept them away not to dirty them, then I gathered the knife and the gun, knowing they would be unlikely to disappear. Finally, I set the car on fire, and ran away, toward the river. It was not long before it exploded, burning away any proof that I was the one who had committed a murder. Arrived in front of the water, I threw the weapons as far as possible before dipping in the stream myself. The water, although chilly, was oddly soothing. I plunged my head right into it, and relaxed. The uncomfortable sticky sensation of the blood disappeared gradually and I allowed myself to breathe out. As I rinsed my hair, I could not help questioning myself. I had killed two men and had burnt any trace of my deeds without even the slightest increase of my heartbeat, without even feeling my breath hitch. Not once. And at the moment, I felt calm, almost serene, as though I had done nothing more extraordinary than going for a walk. I was a murderer. A true one. I had taken lives, cold blooded, and did not feel the slightest regret about it. Well... Why would I regret getting rid of parasites, anyway? Rapists who bought preys in underground auctions were not exactly useful to the world, they would not really be missed by anyone, would they? Actually, I had perhaps done a favour to our society, by suppressing a dangerous pervert. Instead of coming after me, the police should thank me. If only I could eliminate that hypocrite family who had played with my feelings to make themselves some money as well... But that was a thought for later. At this point, I mostly needed to concentrate on surviving, instead of playing heroes. I stepped out of the water and grabbed the clothes I had taken earlier. Once I would be back to the slums, I would mend them to my size, but they would have to do until then. While I was getting changed, a calico cat nimbly stepped in front of me before staring at me with its green intelligent eyes. I smiled at it and held out my hand in its direction.
"Are you maybe the little one who made that bin fall, earlier?" I asked, petting its head "If so, thank you... Although, you may not have saved me, had you known I would turn into a murderer... What do you think?"
It meowed, nuzzling its head against my palm.
"You don't understand, do you...? It doesn't matter... I am grateful nonetheless..."
It stepped farther from me and meowed again. I stood up and turned my eyes toward the sky, as its colour shifted to announce the beginning of a new day.
"Now... What am I going to do...?"
Another meow answered me, and I noted the cat was waiting for me. I was amused.
"Following you? It is a shame I can only read humans' thoughts. I would have loved knowing what is going through your mind right now... Show me the way, my cute kitty. At this point, I am at a loss for a purpose." I said.
The animal made its way in the forgotten streets of Yokohama. I followed him through the dirty ways covered in garbage, the unfriendly alleys, in front of brothels and drug retailers who populated the town. It was not the way toward the shallows, but I did not care. I was curious. I wanted to know if that cat would truly bring me somewhere, or if I was just acting stupidly again. It had saved me once. Perhaps would it once more...? I sighed and held onto the shirt tightly. I was still wet from my earlier bath and the chilly morning breeze made me shiver uncomfortably. Even so, it was better than living in a golden cage as a toy for a rich man. I still had no regret for these people I had killed.
While I was walking, eyes fixated on the cat, I did not pay attention to my surroundings and suddenly bumped into someone. Quickly, I stepped aside and bowed, apologising, then looked for the one I had been going after. Gone. The cat had disappeared. I was dumbfounded. I had been deceived by my own idiocy, one more time...
"You." The person grabbed my arm, startling me "You are..."
"Let go of me...!" I pulled away "I apologised, already..."
"Not that..."
It was a tall man, with brune messy hair, a dark coat negligently thrown onto his shoulders and a bandage wrapped around his head, hiding his leg eye. The only one I could see was of a warm coffee colour, yet deprived of any trace of life. Was he even alive...? The corpses of the men I had killed just earlier had appeared much more lively next to him... Did he not desire to live...? Moreover, his touch... It had vaguely cancelled my ability for a second, letting me experience the utmost silence for the first time of my life — time I had obviously found too short. Who was he? His silhouette seemed oddly familiar as well...
I backed against the wall and clenched my teeth when I saw I could not escape anywhere. That person...
"You're the one from that time... At the jewellery..." I recognised him, voice becoming slight in fear.
"The frightened bunny." He grinned darkly "I recognise these peculiar eyes... You made me run quite a bit, you know that~?"
His hand approached me. I closed my eyes, thinking he would either hurt me or try to rape me, but he did not. He stayed still.
"You were quite the troublesome target... Your name is Ogawa Yōko, isn't it? I have orders to bring you back with me." He said.
"Bringing me back...? Where to?" I asked, still trembling.
"To the Port Mafia." He declared "You are an ability user who runs wild in the city. Of course, we are interested in recruiting you...~ So, what can you do?"
"I-I can —"
I stopped myself. If I were to reveal my ability, he would know my weaknesses and strength. I could not expose myself to a stranger, let alone a mafioso from the most feared underground organisation of the town. I looked away, deciding to stay mute.
"You aren't too stupid, finally~" He chuckled "Would you believe I've been after you ever since that accident at the jewellery? Mmh~?"
"I-I thought you didn't want to kill me..." I could not help the stuttering of my voice.
"Not anymore~" He stepped back to take a look at me "Had I killed you, I would have been copiously punished~ Ogawa Yōko, a stray ability user whose power is to read people's minds... And a murderer~"
I froze. How would he know...? I had not heard any witness' thoughts during the crime... And it had not even been an hour ago...! How would that man get such information...?
"Surprising, right~? I also know it was just a mechanism of defence...~ You were about to be raped, weren't you~?"
He was despicable, I thought to myself as I glared at him. He had been there the entire time... But had not even budged to save me. What did he want from me...?
"If you knew, why didn't you help me...?" I whispered.
"It would have erased all the fun, wouldn't it...?" He blinked as though surprised by my question "I like seeing to which extent the human being can go for its life... And you did not disappoint~ You have the potential to become one of our assassins, a soldier sent to butcher our enemies, and I will raise you just as such...~ Unless you don't want to follow me, in which case I will have to eliminate you."
He was not giving me any choice. I clenched my fists, looking down at my feet.
"I... I don't want to go..." I muttered "I don't want to go with you...! Killing people as a job...? Are you crazy...?! What kind of sane person would accept...?!"
"A person who cares about their life... Which doesn't seem to be your case."
His playful tone completely darkened as he pulled a gun out. Mercilessly, he put the barrel against forehead, and I saw, horrified, his finger grazing against the trigger.
"Does... Does the Port Mafia not have enough ability users...?" I asked, wondering why he needed to kill me.
"We never have enough... If you don't know why I am going to suppress you, well, it is because we can't take the risk of having you joining a rival organisation, can we?" He sounded blank "It is regrettable we have to come to such extents... I did like seeing the flame of life flickering in your eyes~"
I crouched down at the last moment, avoiding the fatal bullet, and threw myself at his legs to make him lose his balance. Surprised, he did not expect my move and fell onto the ground, letting go of the firearm. I grabbed it.
"I... I don't want to die...!" I threatened him with the gun "But I don't want to join the Mafia either...! Corpses strew the alleys of Yokohama, and they are made by you...! I don't want to be a killer..."
"I'll give you a simple choice." He stared at me with his unique eye "Kill me this instant and escape, or follow me. Whatever you choose, you'll have to take lives...~ So? What will you do, Ogawa Yōko...~?"
"I don't know...!!" I cried "I... I just wanted to live normally... I never wished to have an ability...! That so-called power is killing me... If only I could give it to someone else...!"
"You can't. An ability is a part of its user. It is anchored in you. It is the reflection of your inner wishes and fears... It is you." He softened the slightest.
"I... I never desired not to ever sleep..." I was now frantically sobbing "I never desired to know everyone's secrets... I... I never desired to be born with an ability... So, why...? Why was it me...?"
"That..." He gently took the pistol from my shaking hands "Is a question you have to answer by yourself..."
"Mmh... Thank y —"
I found myself pinned to the ground strongly the next moment. The man's foot pressed at my head, crushing my skull with a force that made me tremble in fear. I did not dare moving anymore.
"Why, human beings are so easy to fool..." He sighed, removing his foot to harshly tug at my hair "Give them one or two comforting words and their barrier falls like a sand castle... That's disappointing."
I was afraid. That person was holding me; a single move, a single action from him and I could die. At this moment, the pressure I was feeling reminded me of a particular event which had occurred, long ago, at the mansion I used to live in. It was the moment my parents had decided to call agents of the underground to take care of their business problems.. Rivalled by another trading company, the father's slowly started decreasing. His methods were too ancient, not innovative enough, and his products were never renewed. Oblivious to these problems, he had requested the Port Mafia to sabotage the other company's business... And a tall man surrounded by a menacing aura had entered our mansion, accompanied by a young boy which face was bandaged just like the one of the man holding me down. The boy... I recalled he had not looked much older than me... If they were the same person, then he was unrecognisable. That night, I had sneaked out of my bedroom, suffering from insomnia as usual, and had eavesdropped behind the door of the lounge. They had signed a contract to obtain some kind of jewel my parents owned to pay for their debts. I did not remember its name, but it was an odd one. Afterwards, I had been caught and brought inside by a guard, and our eyes had met, his, empty and lifeless, and mine, terrified, tired, yet holding onto my pitiful life. If the one hurting me at this moment was him, then I did not want to enter the Port Mafia... I did not want to be turned into a monster as well.
"You manipulated me..." I realised.
"I said the truth, but I took a voice you would find reassuring. So... You could indeed say I manipulated you~" He snickered.
"Why didn't you go to the end...?" I questioned "Why didn't you manipulate me into willingly entering the Port Mafia...?"
Silence. I gritted my teeth, hoping I had not upset him. He could kill me at any time...
"I wonder... Is it because I am an idiot or because I wanted to enjoy breaking you...?" He honestly wondered "What do you think~?"
"... We both know I won't survive saying you are an idiot..." I mumbled.
"Then, the matter is settled~" He let go of me, much to my disbelief "Don't worry, I never intended to kill you~"
"What...? But if I refused...?"
"You can't refuse." He told me, more seriously "Because I am your only salvation, the only person on this Earth who can help you."
"How would you be...?" I raised an eyebrow.
The fact he had touched me... It had indeed given me a minute of quietness... Could it be an ability...?
"No Longer Human." He smirked "The power to cancel any ability as long as I touch the user...~ I am certain it could be useful, in your case... Have you never wished you could sleep? Dream? Have you never desired some rest? That's why, you don't have the choice but to enter the Port Mafia~"
"I'd rather die..." I defended, without much conviction.
"Liar~"
I did not know what to do. I did not want to become a mafioso, but in the other hand... Being able to rest, to sleep, would be such a bliss... I had always dreamt to experience the sweet state of unconsciousness, ever since I was born. I was a right about to fulfil this desire, but at the cost of turning into a killer... And I had troubles determining whether my sanity or the bestial part of me would win. Taking people's lives... It was not such a difficult job, was it...? Pulling a trigger was not quite the complicated move, was it...? The gunshot would echo in my ear, but my job would be done... Yet... It was so inhuman, so immoral...
"One of my hobbies is watching dilemma playing in people's eyes." The man interrupted my thoughts "You truly don't disappoint~"
"I... I don't have much of a choice, do I...?" I looked at him "I must go with you... Or I'll end up dying there... Because you'll kill me..."
"I said I didn't plan to kill you, though?"
"That is if I comply. But if despite presenting me your most interesting ability I were not to accept... Wouldn't you need to eliminate me...?" I asked.
"That is an option I did not consider..." He admitted before smiling slyly "Because I was certain you would come...~"
"... What is your name...?" I clenched my fists behind my back.
"Dazai Osamu. I am your new superior from this day on." He introduced himself "And the one you'll depend on...~"
"Then, Dazai-san... Before we leave, I would like to know... How did you find me...?"
"I've been after you ever since the robbery, after all. It was not too difficult following your track. I was originally supposed to buy you at the auction, but the Boss was only willing to pay five thousands for you...~ That's your worth. Five thousands~ To be honest, I would not have needed to negotiate with you, had I successfully bought you back there, but it doesn't matter, does it~?" He glanced at me "Because I won...~"
The part of me which liked believing in people wanted to trust him, and it did. But the more composed part supposed all of this friendly talk was an act and warned that I would soon be deceived by his true self. I ended up following him, nonetheless, because he had been right; I was not willing to follow a righteous path at the cost of my life.
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hoodlumwhore · 7 months ago
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LITTLE WOLF | SEVEN
A/N: Hi there lovelies! Everything is starting to hit the point of the story so hopefully everything starts to clear up and things make more sense. Expect everything to be clear around parts nine and ten (and beyond) any questions further please do ask! I promise I don’t bite 😁💕
Recap: SMUT at the lake. Frank is being protective for reasons yet unknown (soon to be discovered I promise!) 
Warnings: depictions of war aftermath. There is a village raid. Any sensitive topics are mentions but not graphically depicted (or at least I didn’t think so) But this is a very dark and somber piece.
Word Count: 5336
ENJOY <3
_____________
It’s been two days since mercenaries tried to slice your pretty head from your neck. Two days since Frank got hurt and developed a stiff limp. Two days since that night at the river. Two days since Frank and Billy said anything to each other that didn’t end in profanity or crude gestures. Two days since you’ve been playing the unhappy medium between the two men, Curtis and Micro wisely choosing to stay out of it. 
To say you are annoyed would be an understatement. 
Every time you mounted the horse nestled between Billy’s arms, you had to fight not to snap his fingers off. He was moody and it was giving you whiplash. One moment he was his normal cocky self, joking with you, teasing you, letting his hands plant themselves on your exposed thighs as you rode. Then Frank would say something or Frank would look at you, hug you, make you smile, and Billy became snappy and pouty and irritable. In between all of that, he kept having intense pain. He said it felt like being whipped across the face, skin splitting open. You didn’t dare ask how he knew what that felt like. You tried to be sympathetic to the cause but it just made him more snappy because whatever was going on in his head made him angry. 
You would like to say Frank was the lesser of two evils in their stupid feud but that would be a lie. Frank knew he pissed off Billy. Frank also knew he had the upper hand of a secret even you weren’t privy to. So he purposefully did things to make you laugh despite yourself, made sure to hug you in front of Billy, gave you secret looks that he always did when you were younger. You would think you were in the middle of a love triangle had Frank not settled his heart with his one true love, may she rest in peace. 
All this bickering plucked a nerve, one that made you decide that the moment you set foot in Russo territory, you were done with them. At that point, the four men would have technically completed their task since you had never asked them to fight alongside you in killing the king. You knew Frank would most likely go with you and that was his choice to make but you weren’t going to ask or assume. Five years was a long time for both you and him to become jaded. You wouldn’t blame him if he decided to choose life. He himself said this was a suicide mission. Plus, you weren’t too keen on having them along because all the bickering and verbal jabs made them unreliable. The harbored anger, whether they felt like they were in control or not, is a bias. One you can not afford in the heat of the fight. You didn’t trust them to have each other’s back let alone yours. So pledge or no pledge, money or no money, you drew the line here. Everything now was about the betterment of the people. You couldn’t afford to sit here and grow an attachment to a makeshift family-that wasn’t the game here. You got what you needed and now you just had to finish the job. 
It was midday, the sun was out but it was hidden behind the thick layer of grey clouds in the sky. You knew it was sunny because you could feel the heat on your skin, sticky. Frank announced you were entering the Russo Kingdom, seeing some familiar sign that let him know the five of you had crossed the border. Something deep in you twisted at how you weren’t able to recognize where you were. Five years was a long time. You were currently riding alone on the black horse, having kicked Billy off to be a miserable ass with someone else. Funny enough, he got stuck with Micro. 
As you rode on, you found the air to get thicker as the forest floor turned to gravel which turned to broken cobblestone. It was then you noted the layer of grey clouds were ashen tendrils of smoke billowing in the breeze and the heat was not from the hidden sun but from the fires that roared in the homes of the townsfolk. Your spine stiffened as you took in the sight before you. It was absolutely horrid. People's homes were ablaze. Children were abandoned in the streets, tears staining their cheeks as they cried and screamed for help while they held the hand of their dead mothers. Their bodies were covered with soot and fresh blood. It was hard to stare at them without seeing their mothers lying in a puddle of their own blood, even more so when you knew it was not just blood that seeped from them. As you took in all the horror, you knew that destruction was not new to this town. Over five years it bore it’s scars loud and proud. It was the smell of death and burning flesh that told you this raid was recent and deep down you knew it was because of you. There was no coincidence this raid happened just days after you were attacked, that news broke you left. The king is expecting you, you just didn’t know how he knew. 
Bones lay scattered on the streets, skulls of folk you probably knew the names of. Decaying corpses were being picked apart by ravens. Bodies were tied to metal poles in the town square, fire melting their flesh like a molten candle. You couldn’t help but think what a blessing it was that the bodies burning were already dead. It was as nice of a funeral as they were to get, letting God whistle the wind to carry their remains to heaven. The thought turned acidic, your stomach churning when you heard sobs, almost inaudible, coming from the flames. They were alive. They were burning alive, hopeless, afraid, and alone. You tried to keep it together. Tried to ignore the rotten meaty stench of the people you were supposed to lead burning at the stake but you couldn’t. The world went silent as you stared at them. The breeze blew, the flames danced, the ash fell from the sky. You hadn’t even realized your horse was no longer moving, or that the men had dismounted and were not standing amongst the chaos or that tears fell in rapid succession down your cheeks, or that Frank was calling your name. The world was deaf. An appropriate metaphor for death because that is what this town was, death. It was the honest truth of what happens when you die. The illusion of pearly gates and beautiful angels to hold your hand and walk you through puffy clouds of ivory and gold seemed asinine. This was the truth. It was dark and terrifying and lonely. It was silent and somber. 
Anger and heartache squeezed at your chest as your eyes were glued to their burning bodies. This was the aftermath of your betrothed. This is what he did-he left these children- these orphans- to a lifetime of trauma. He left these people to die for a cause they don’t believe in.You weren’t naive to think this wasn’t what war looked like. Some of your towns had fared the same. You weren’t naive to think your betrothed’s betrayal didn’t spread heartache and pain like a disease amongst his people who believed in him since before his birth. You weren’t naive to think the rumors that flitted the country about the Russo Kingdom were false. But seeing it in the flesh was...it was like hearing the news that he died all over again. Unbelievably shocking. 
Rough hands were gentle as they rested on your leg. Your gaze didn’t shift from the bodies but you felt yourself being lifted off the horse. 
“Sweetheart.” It was Frank. His gruff voice  raw with emotion. “Sweetheart, don’t look.” Your feet now on solid ground had a mind of their own. They lurched forward towards the bodies. The guilt ringing inside your ears but Frank grabbed you by the waist, hauling you back. “You don’t want to do that,” he said softly. 
“Frankie.” your voice was brittle and you hated it. You hated it even more when you felt your lip wobble and your knees buckle. 
His arms were tight as he pulled you into his chest. He held you while you let out a weak whimper. Your throat burned as it contained a mournful sob. Shaky fingers grasped and clawed at the cloth on his back trying to ground yourself. Your breathing got heavy and labored as you trembled in his hands. You didn’t want this. 
I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
You hadn’t realized you said it out loud until Frank’s grip tightened. “Shhh....this isn’t your fault.” He pulled back, not giving you a chance to get it together. Instead he held your face in his face, his thumb swiping away tears. “It doesn’t get an easier sweetheart.”
“He left them here. He did this-he-he-”
“I know. I know.” his lips pressed into your forehead before he whispered. “Don’t look.”
You whimpered and said, “How can I not? This attack is a threat towards me.”
He had no answer. This attack was a threat at you but this was part of a war William let happen.
All the happy lies you fed yourself, that you recited to Billy in order to feel like you had forgave William, were bullshit. You were just a stupid, naive girl who believed in him, in his love for you, in his love for his people! You believed you could let go of all the anger that ate up your soul but you couldn’t. These acidic feelings came rushing back like the flames devouring his people. This was…
You’ve killed before. You’ve seen dead bodies before. Never got to see but heard the reports of towns that were completely destroyed in your kingdom, reports resembling what you were seeing now. But to witness it in the flesh. To smell the aftermath of ruthless tyrants cackling as they wash their hands in blood -- it was different.As future Queen of your kingdom, you were an important asset that had to be protected regardless. You were locked away for your own protection in case the time came when you would have to take over before your parents relinquished the throne. So instead of fighting out there or being in the room where all the decisions were made, you were twiddling your thumbs watching men you trained with, men you’ve befriended get sent off everyday only to come back broken beyond repair or not at all. And the worst part is, is you wished the ones who made it back didn’t. It was better to die out on the battlefield then come back home an empty shell of a man they were raised to be. 
“Sweetheart.” his voice pulled you away from the carnage. “We need to go.”
“No.” you shook your head. “Not we.”
“No? What do you mean No? And yes we- (y/n)” your name a low whisper of warning. 
No longer did you desire to let yourself sit and decay in utter despair. It was a feeble attempt the first time, trying to stitch yourself together with needle and thread. These people needed something to believe in again, someone to believe in again. They needed hope. They needed hope as much as they needed air to breathe or water to drink. You were going to be that hope even if you had to die to be seen as the thing with feathers. 
Sniffling, you pressed the palms of your hands into your eyes and took a deep breath. You moved towards the other three who were watching you and Frank from a distance. Curtis and Micro looked sympathetic towards your display earlier. They knew it wasn’t easy and it hurt to know this how they lived when everything went down. They saw the first fire, the first blood, the first death. When you looked at Billy he had guilt in his eyes and anger in his fists. He could barely meet your eye but you didn’t fault him for it. 
______________
Billy knew he was acting out but he couldn’t find it in him to care. The past two days have been filled with head searing pain. New images kept flashing in his head of places he knows he’s never been or he thinks he's never been. He sees a little boy who stares at him with hope and laughter. He sees the woman from before but she is still faceless. He sees Frank except Frank looks different. He sees a black beach but he doesn’t know where it is. The frustration grows like mold under his skin and for the second time in his life he feels lost. The only difference between then and now is that everyone around him seems to have the answers but no one is telling him anything. Billy knows Frank knows something. He’s climbed his way out of the trench of denial. He isn’t stupid. He knows Frank knows her and doesn’t want her getting close to Billy. He just wants the why! And Billy thinks he knows her, the tattoo tugging at his gut, but his brain is so scrambled he can’t answer the how. It only confirmed it when he slept with her. Billy won’t lie and say he hasn’t slept with a woman before. When his face got bashed in, he hid for a long while. Women didn’t naturally flock to him like they used to. One whore house later and he was a guilty albeit sated man. He didn’t frequent them too often because he never felt good after. But his body never reacted the way it did when he was with her. His hands never touched another woman the way they touched her. It was like muscle memory that took over his movements in his lusty haze. Billy hated how he felt around her because there were secrets. He didn’t know her name. He didn’t know where she came from even though she said it, it was a lie. He doesn’t know how he knew it was lie but-
It made him a hypocrite though. She hid her name and her past but everything else about her seemed honest. Billy wasn’t. Billy was a prince, the prince, the rightful King to the throne. Yet he was in the streets making everything worse.  
He was thankful he didn’t ride into the town with her. Her reaction alone was enough to make him want to hurl, he didn’t think he could handle her grabbing onto him for comfort. He was the one who did this and he had to watch her face flip through various different emotions until she only felt numb. He didn’t like being responsible for that….not when he felt so strongly for her. 
But Billy wasn’t good at emotions. He was mean, sarcastic, hypocritical, ruthless when he needed to. 
So to say she was leaving bothered him was an understatement. 
“I want to thank you all for coming this far and risking your lives to take me here but your services are no longer required. You are free to go, the money is all yours I have no use for it anymore. Split it amongst yourselves and-”
“This is it?” His voice sounded rougher than he intended. “You’re just going to leave?”
“I hired you for a reason Billy and you have fulfilled that end of the bargain. I didn’t ask you to follow me into what very well may be my death and I honestly hope you don’t.”
“So we are just a service huh? To fulfill your needs?” She didn’t miss the double entendre judging by the way her eyes narrowed. 
“What do you want me to say here? There are bodies burning ten feet away Billy! There are children, orphans, mourning over their raped and butchered mothers! Their fathers are God knows where, dying for a cause they don’t believe in or dying at the hands of a tyrant because they don’t-” her words got stuck in her throat. Her eyes briefly shut to gain composure before she verbally slapped Billy. “I didn’t come here to make attachments Billy. I came here to finish what- I came here to end this. Don’t expect me to hold your hand and say we are a family. Don’t expect me to ask you to end your life instead of leaving you where it is safer and you can actually do something with yourself. Don’t ask me to stay here and not walk into-”
“Your death?” he scoffed. “You said you didn’t come here to make attachments but yet everything-”
“Careful.” Curtis warned much to everyone’s surprise. 
“This isn’t your choice to make Billy.”
“And it’s yours!?” He asked incredulously. 
“YES!” Billy watched Frank’s hand rest on her shoulder, squeezing gently. She took a deep breath, then one more. “You don’t know who I am-and for good reason. Of course you wouldn’t understand why this is my choice.”
Billy won’t lie and say that it hurt that she was tying herself off from the rest of them. She fit in their group seamlessly. Billy wanted her to be a part of their life. He wasn’t going to try and stop her mission even if it was suicidal but he also didn’t want her going alone. She was sacrificing herself and for once in his life he didn’t like it. He was the reckless sacrificial lamb because Billy lost the meaning and value of life. She somehow dug it up from the depths of his hollow carcass and showed him the world. Now he had to watch her lay her head on a bloody stump. He briefly wondered if this is what Frank felt like; What Frank was trying to protect him from. 
____________
It hurt that he threw that night at the river in your face but it was easy pain to swallow. You liked Billy, you did. But your people trumped your desires and affections. Billy’s words weren’t going to cut you down. 
Frank’s heat against your back was comforting as he squeezed your shoulder. You knew he probably would fight alongside you. You were just hoping he wouldn’t. That he would choose life. 
“Well I for one am fighting with you.” You shook your head ‘no’ on principle. “This is not your call to make and you know it.”
The guys tilted their heads at you but you sighed and mumbled low enough for only Frank to hear. “I outrank you.”
“And I outweigh you.”
You sneered despite the twitch of your lips. “Fine. Fine.”  You looked at the men before you and looked them in their eyes. “If you would like to join your friend you can. I won’t stop you but I will not ask you. The responsibility of your lives does fall on me-” because you knew if they chose it wasn’t for the right thing. It was for you and ultimately Frank. “I can pay you extra if you choose to fight with me now. In the event that I die-” Frank made a noise but you ignored him. “In the event that I die there are people in my kingdom that can compensate you on my behalf. I-”
“I will fight for you.” Curtis stepped forward. “I will fight for you ma’am but I do not want your money.” You opened your mouth but he shook his head. “You are an honest woman-” not that honest you thought, “ and it would be an honor.” he bowed at the hip. 
It made you wonder if the bow was out of gentlemanly respect or if Curtis figured it out. 
“You don’t even know why she’s here.” Billy spat. 
Curtis shrugged while you glared at him. “I think the answer is obvious enough. If she wishes to disclose then she can. I will not ask that of a lady.”
Micro stepped up next to Curtis, standing shoulder to shoulder. “It doesn’t matter what your reasons are. I will fight too.” Silence. “I can’t fight...physically.” he amended, making you smile. “Swords are heavy and I do not have the talent to wield one but I too will fight for you.”
“That is admirable of you Micro, it is but all of you realize that if I don’t make it out alive, you will be traitors to your kingdom.” The stories of men eating other men flashed in your mind and you suppressed a shudder.
It was Curtis who spoke first. “You are forgetting, miss, that I became a traitor that day I left the royal army.” 
“You saved my life twice now.” Micro said. “It only makes sense that I try to defend what I can of yours.”
You didn’t know what to say so you just nodded.  Everyone looked to Billy except you. He huffed and rolled his eyes and said “of course, as if you had to ask.” you won’t admit that it made you smile. 
“I respect your decision to fight alongside me. It won’t go unforgotten. But I do have one rule.” You turned to gesture between Frank and Billy. “Whatever the fuck is going on between you two stops right here. I can’t trust you to have each other’s back let alone mine for that matter.”
The authority in your voice had them both nodding their heads, bowing. “Yes ma’am.”
“Good. Let’s go.”
You were going to find shelter by nightfall, hatch out a plan, and by morning light you were going to kill the king. 
The five of you stuck close together as you walked from one town to the next. Any sound that Billy or Frank felt didn’t belong had all of you ducking into the shadows or behind pillars that were still standing. The nice thing about a lot of towns in the Russo Kingdom is that the ones near the border are close together. They kind of intertwine with each other. You remember the days you used to walk through them with him and his parents. The people were so kind as they looked upon your face. You were their future Queen and they had nothing but the utmost respect for you. You kind of missed their smiles as you walked through the towns. 
You were lost in thought, you hadn’t realized the sky darkened from a light smokey grey to a dark charcoal that surged against the dark sky. The damage was lighter here, no active fires or screams to haunt you. You didn’t even realize where you were until the five of you were passing a store. Something about it made you stop as you stared through the broken glass and charred wood. There was a sign in roseate paint that was too burnt for you to read but the upward swirls of the once legible print was familiar. You hadn’t realized you were moving forward to touch the sign when Frank’s hand clasped over yours. 
“Don’t.” he said, voice low. 
You looked up and saw in his eyes that he knew this place as much as you did. The guys hadn’t seemed to realize you stopped following until Frank loudly cleared his throat. 
“Keep moving (Y/n).” 
You did so without thought, catching up. They all looked at the both of you confused but you ignored them in favor of searching through your memory bank. It clicked. 
“We’re in Oxhill aren’t we.” It wasn’t a question. 
Frank grimaced. “Yeah.”
“How do you know that?” Micro asked,Billy and Curtis equally curious. 
“Been here a long time ago.” was all you supplied. “How do you not?”
“I’m from far away, remember. When he muddled through all this destruction years later I never bothered to ask where we were.”
Fair enough. 
Oxhill was the town you and William had the best date of your lives. It was the first time  he kissed with more than just a gentle peck to the cheek or a lingering pressure on your hand. You were so young then too. With being the future, you and William were always surrounded by guards or your parents. Everything was dealt in a diplomatic fashion. Stand up straight. This fork goes in this hand. Small sips. Don’t slurp. Don’t eat that. Drink this. Sit like this. That isn’t lady-like. That is a man’s job. The list went on. While you were lax in how you operated, your parents had a traditional sense about things. Same with William’s. They found your dreams and passions admirable and sometimes sensible but in light of traditionalism, it wasn’t practical. It didn’t bother you per se but sometimes it was nice to shed the skin of being the future Queen. William felt the same way which is why he orchestrated this elaborate date where the two of you could hide. It was over one of the weeks you were visiting his Kingdom. You were in your chambers, awake watching the sun begin to rise when a faint knock rapped against your door. You made a noise to signal they could come in and William slipped through. He didn’t even get a goodmorning out before he asked you out on a date. Of course you said yes. He promised it would feel like both of you were normal people instead of the future King and Queen. You didn’t think that was possible but you let William dream. When you didn’t argue, he vanished only to return an hour later with a bunch of stuff under his arms. You were confused to say the least but he started to rapidly explain as he set everything down. That morning you both spent dying your hair with mud which he reassured you would come out with a thorough wash. While his fingers raked through hair to coat it evenly you tackled out a fake backstory just in case. You laughed and snorted at the ridiculous details you added into your story. You both dressed in modest linens and by the time the sun was high in the sky, William bowed at the waist, extending a hand in his dramatic fashion and asked you to accompany him on the best date ever. So you slipped your hand in his, sighing happily as he pressed his lips to your knuckles and let him lead you out of the castle. While he was adventurous, he wasn’t stupid. Even though he made it seem as if guards weren’t there, they were. It was a necessary precaution but they too were dressed modestly to blend in. Sometimes you forgot they were there. He even enlisted Frank to make sure things ran smoothly. He thought of it all.  That afternoon you started out by simply just walking through town, arm in arm like lovesick teenagers. He even bought you a bouquet from a flower shop, the one with roseate lettering that read “Mavis’s”. Frank teased him about it for years. You danced in town hall with a bunch of people as a few older gentlemen played music, you snuck into a tavern you were too young to be in and laughed at lewd jokes and drank too much wine. You were loud and carefree as you danced once more, singing with all your might bar songs with the locals. You ended the night walking through the torch lit town sagging against each other as the liquor took away your stability. And when the two of you snuck back into the castle and he escorted you to your chambers. He went to kiss your cheek goodnight but whispered for him to give you a real kiss. And boy did he.  The next morning the two of you were all smiles. 
Frank nudged you, pulling you from reminiscing. “This is as close as we are going to get tonight. We need to find a building and lay low till morning.”
“We need to eat.” was all you said in response. 
“I can take care of that.” Micro piped up. 
Curtis found a structurally sound building and ushered everyone in. The five of you huddled in the back deeming it acceptable for the night. Micro took Billy and disappeared for food while Curtis and Frank watched after you. They sat on the floor behind the counter, you were next to Frank, resting your head on his shoulder. You took the time to think of a decent plan but you weren’t sure how it would go down. You knew that you would have to face the king alone and that Frank was going to try to stop you. You knew that they wouldn’t approve. The question was who did you put where in order for everything to run smoothly? The king knew you were coming, did he know how soon? Regardless, you knew it was going to be easy going in because the King was going to want an audience. 
Within the hour, Micro and Billy came back startling Frank and Curtis. They drew their swords only for Micro to squeal and say “It’s us! Oh my God don’t swing!” you giggled because you could. 
All of you sat down, munching on meat and fruit that they found in the town over that was still somewhat operating. 
“Soo…”Micro drawled. “What’s the plan?”
“Good question.” 
He smiled. “I’m serious.”
“Still in the works. I-I-well my initial plan kind of went out of the window so I’m shifting some things around. But I know where I need some of you.” You bite off a chunk of meat. “We can talk it over after dinner.” You paused. “I feel like I should just tell you why I’m here if you haven’t already figured it out.”
“Sweetheart.” Frank grumbled.
“I’m here to kill the king.” you said simply. 
Micro damn near choked on the meat, Billy whacking him on the back. Curtis didn’t even flinch. 
“You’re what?” he hissed. “That’s fucking crazy! Are you crazy?”
You laughed and shook your head. “No. I’m quite reasonable actually.” 
“This is a suicide mission!”
“You can still back out Micro.” you said softly. But he shook his head ‘no way’.
“I respect your decision.” Was all Curtis had to add. 
“Just to make things clear here, when it all goes down, his head is mine. No one else gets to end his life-”
“You don’t have to do this.” Billy added. 
But you weren’t given a chance to speak. Frank did it for you. “Yes. She does.”
“Okay, what is the story here?” Billy asked. “I know you’re hiding shit and I think with everything going on tomorrow we might as well clear the air.”
You and Frank looked at each other but you shook your head. “That’s a story for if we survive.”
“And if we don't?”
“Then she’ll tell you in the afterlife.” Frank said, kicking Billy’s foot. 
It was lighthearted enough that everyone laughed. 
Dinner passed and you talked over plans with the guys. They didn’t like certain details but they really had no other option. The ultimate goal was to get you alone with the king. They made promises that they would try to get to you as quickly as possible and give you all the backup you needed and you were thankful. It was an attempt to preserve your life and you wouldn’t deny them that. Once everything was settled, you leaned into Frank tired and drained. Tomorrow may be the last day you lived. So you asked Curtis if he could sing and he did. A baritone hymn soothed your soul as you listened to him croon. If you were going to die, you were going to start planning your funeral. What better than having Curtis sing a pardoning song.  That’s what you fell asleep to. The low bass vibrating against your skin as you slipped into a darkness.
_________________
Part 8 Later this week! Things get a bit dark and emotional for the next couple chapters but things (hopefully) will also start to make sense. 
Thank you for reading, hope you enjoyed! 
STAY SAFE. STAY HEALTHY. STAY POSITIVE
MUAH 💋
BILLY RUSSO: 
@bisexual-space-slut @witchygagirl @gottaboopthesnoot @addictedtofictionalcharacters @rexorangecouny @suchatinyinfinity @nerds4life246 @broadwaybabe18
LITTLE WOLF:
@a-dorky-book-keeper @playbucky @projectcampbell
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sadoeuphemist · 7 months ago
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Inside the whale, Jonah held fast to his principles “Let me die,” he prayed incessantly. “Let me be judged by a just and righteous God who punishes the wicked and defiant. No more of these bullshit second chances! When the men who conspired against Daniel were thrown into the lions’ den themselves, did the lions cradle them gently in their bellies until they repented? Of course not! So withdraw your mercy from me, Lord! Undo this miracle! And let this fish devour me!”
He continued ranting like this in the darkness and the damp, until finally the whale responded. Its voice rose up from all round him in a warm convulsion of air, vibrated through its bones, undulated the flesh beneath him.
“Um, actually,” it said, “I’m a vegetarian.”
---
As it turned out, the whale was ancient, from a time before the Flood when animals had not yet known to eat flesh. Despite its great size, the whale subsisted solely on plankton, and carried Jonah with an intestinal tranquility as it floated through the seas.  
“I was meant to go to Nineveh, that cesspit of a city,” Jonah told it, huddling in his wet clothes, “prophesying destruction for their wickedness. But you know what’ll happen if I do? Finally faced with the threat of consequence, they’ll all whimper and repent, and God in all his endless mercy will forgive them.” He shook his dripping locks. “I’d rather die. How can generations of wickedness be forgiven, just like that? Better that Nineveh be razed to the ground, and I die here in your belly for my defiance.” 
“Hmm, that’s an awful bloodthirsty creed you go by,” remarked the whale, its voice rumbling through him like distant thunder. “As I see it, if Nineveh repents, that’s only a good thing! The city’s huge, there’s over a hundred twenty thousand animals living there. You want them all to die?”
Jonah snorted. “Animals? Who cares about the animals?”
“Well, I do,” said the whale, “seeing as how I’m an animal myself.”
“Animals die all the time,” said Jonah. “They slaughter those animals in Nineveh, you know? That’s what they’re for! Even in nature, wolf eats sheep, lion eats gazelle, big fish eats littler fish and so on. It’s a bloodthirsty world! Which is why mercy for the wicked should have no place in it!” 
“Doesn’t have to be so bloodthirsty, is my point. You’re a prophet. Don’t you believe the prophesies? The wolf dwelling with the lamb, the lion with the calf, both chewing contentedly on straw. A better world is possible. I should know. I’ve seen it! We can have a green grazing world of harmony once again, if we work towards it.”
Jonah sat fuming. “Fat lot of good that does for all the innocents here and now,” he said. “Explain to me why I should be spared - why a voracious empire built on corpses like Nineveh should be spared - while some sinless sparrow gets torn apart by the hawk’s talons.” 
“Listen,” said the whale. “I understand well the cruelty of the world. At the end of my days I myself shall be eaten by the Leviathan. I’m terrified of that, of course. The terror of his teeth, his burning eyes the last thing I’ll ever see. But even in that carnage there’s the knowledge that at least I will have gone to feed something greater than myself - that my body will stoke the furnace of his belly and form the brightness of his scales, and that his tail will thrash on and his splendor will go on undiminished, proof of the glory of the Lord.
“But if Nineveh dies, and all the animals and men and women and little children in it, well, what will be nourished by that?” 
Jonah sat in sullen silence.
“We must believe that a better world is possible,” implored the whale. “I am living proof of it! I float through the flashing silver-scaled oceans of the world, harming nothing and no one, and all around me the good green clouds of plankton serve for food. You must imagine it, brother! Every bird of the sky and every creature that swims in the seas and crawls on the earth, dwelling together in harmony, and every plant yielding seed and every tree and its fruit and every green plant given up to us for food in abundance! What’s the point of believing in God, if you can’t believe in that?”
---
After three days and nights inside the whale, Jonah relented, and vowed to fulfill his duty. The whale coughed him up onto dry land, and Jonah made his way to Nineveh, for a full day walked through the thronging city calling out that in forty days would be their destruction. As he had foreseen, they repented. All the Ninevites in the city, young and old (including the more than one hundred and twenty thousand animals) covered themselves in sackcloth and called on God’s mercy and fasted.
Jonah threw up his hands and shrugged and made his way out of Nineveh to the wastes, and set up camp there waiting to see what would happen.
The sun beat down relentlessly. God made a green gourd plant grow, with slender stems that climbed like vines, shooting up from the earth to grow gracefully until they were taller than a man, with broad cooling leaves that shaded Jonah, and he sat in the green and sunshine-dappled shadow of the leaves, and for the first time in a long time he was happy. And then God sent a worm to gnaw away at the roots of the plant, and it died.
Jonah woke the next day to find the plant withered. The sun blazed down on his scalp. A scorching wind swept over him. The broad smooth leaves were shriveled and brown, the stem crumbling and twisted. A fat satisfied worm lay at its roots, all the life of the plant gone into it, and Jonah looked down at the bloated pale thing, and screamed and howled to match the scorching east wind.
“You’re mad?” God said to him. “Is it right that you’re this angry about a plant?”
“It is!” said Jonah. His blood beat in his ears and he felt as though he might pass out. “I’m so mad I wish I were dead!”
“So you care about this plant, though you did nothing to tend it or make it grow. It sprung from the ground overnight, and died overnight. And yet should I not spare the great city of Nineveh, with over a hundred and twenty thousand people still too young to tell their right hand from their left - and just as many animals!” said God, and then relented. “It was a pretty good plant. You’re not wrong about that.”
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rumi-mathnawi · 8 months ago
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THE MATHNAWI BOOK III STORY XVII PART 1. The Vakil of the Prince of Bokhara.
The Prince of Bokhara had a Vakil who, through fear of punishment for an offence he had committed, ran away and remained concealed in Kuhistan and the desert for the space of ten years. At the end of that time, being unable to endure absence from his lord and his home any longer, he determined to return to Bokhara and throw himself at his lord's feet, and endure whatever punishment his lord might be pleased to inflict upon him. His friends did all they could to dissuade him, assuring him that the Prince's wrath was still hot against him, and that if he appeared at Bokhara he would be put to death, or at least imprisoned for the rest of his life. He replied, "O advisers, be silent, for the force of the love which is drawing me to Bokhara is stronger than the force of prudent counsels. When love pulls one way all the wisdom of Abu Hanifa and Ash-Shafi'i is impotent to withstand it. If it shall please my lord to slay me, I will yield up my life without reluctance, for this life of estrangement from him which I am now leading is the same as death, and release from it will be eternal happiness. I will return to Bokhara and throw myself at my lord's feet, and say to him, 'Deal with me as thou wilt, for I can no longer bear absence from thee, and life or death at thy hands is all the same to me!'" Accordingly, he journeyed back to Bokhara, counting the very toils and discomforts of the road sweet and delightful, because they were steps in his homeward course. When he reached Bokhara his friends and relations all warned him not to show himself, as the Prince was still mindful of his offence and bent on punishing him; but he replied to them as to his other advisers, that he was utterly regardless of his life, and was resolved to commit himself to his lord's good pleasure. He then went to the court and threw himself at his lord's feet and swooned away. The Prince, seeing the strong affection borne to him by his repentant servant, conceived a similar affection towards him, and descended from his throne and graciously raised him from the ground, and pardoned his offence. Thus it is that eternal life is gained by utter abandonment of one's own life. When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. He is a true lover of God to whom God says, "I am thine, and thou art mine!"
In the course of this story, which is narrated at great length, are introduced anecdotes of a lover and his mistress, of the Virgin Mary being visited by the "Blessed Spirit" or Angel Gabriel, 1 of the fatal mosque, of Galen's devotion to carnal learning, of Satan's treachery to the men of Mecca at the battle of Bedr, 2 and of Solomon and the gnat. There also occur comments on various texts, and a curious comparison of the trials and wholesome afflictions of the righteous to the boiling of potherbs in a saucepan by the cook.
The reply of the lover when asked by his mistress which city of all those he had seen was most pleasing in his sight.
A damsel said to her lover, "O fond youth,
You have visited many cities in your travels;
Which of those cities seems most delightful to you?"
He made answer, "The city wherein my love dwells.
In whatever nook my queen alights,
Though it be as the eye of a needle, 'tis a wide plain;
Wherever her Yusuf-like face shines as a moon,
Though it be the bottom of a well, 'tis Paradise.
With thee, my love, hell itself were heaven,
With thee a prison would be a rose-garden.
With thee hell would be a mansion of delight,
Without thee lilies and roses would be as flames of fire!"
The answer of the Vakil to those who advised him not to court death by yielding himself up to his lord.
He said, "I am a drawer of water; water attracts me,
Even though I know water may be my death.
No drawer of water flees from water,
Even though it may cause him a hundred deaths.
Though it may make my hand and belly dropsical,
My love for water will never be lessened.
I should say, when they asked me about my belly,
'Would that the ocean might flow into it!'
Though the bottle of my belly were burst with water,
And though I should die, my death would be acceptable.
Wheresoever I see one seeking water, I envy him,
And cry, 'Would I were in his place!'
My hand is a tabor and my belly a drum,
Like the rose I beat the drum of love of water.
Like the earth or like a fetus I devour blood,
Since I became a lover this is my occupation.
If that 'Faithful Spirit' should shed my blood,
I would drink it up drop by drop like the earth.
At night I boil on the fire like a cooking-pot,
From morn till eve I drink blood like the sand.
It repents me that I planned a stratagem,
And that I fled from before his wrath.
Tell him to sate his wrath on my poor life,
He is the 'Feast of Sacrifice,' and I his loving cow. 3
The cow, whether it eats or sleeps,
Thinks of naught but sacrificing itself.
Know me to be that cow of Moses which gave its life,
Each part of me gives life to the righteous.
That cow of Moses was made a sacrifice,
And its least part became a source of life.
That murdered man leapt up from his deadness
At the words, ' Strike the corpse with part of her.' 4
O pious ones, slay the cow (of lust),
If ye desire true life of soul and spirit!
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal. 5
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, 'To him shall we return.' 6
Know death to be the gathering together of the people.
The water of life is hidden in the land of darkness.
Like a water-lily seek life there!
Yea, like that drawer of water, at the risk of life,
Water will be his death, yet he still seeks water,
And still drinks on, and God knows what is right.
O lover, cold-hearted and void of loyalty,
Who from fear for your life shun the beloved!
O base one, behold a hundred thousand souls
Dancing towards the deadly sword of his love:
Behold water in a pitcher; pour it out;
Will that water run away from the stream?
When that water joins the water of the stream
It is lost therein, and becomes itself the stream.
Its individuality is lost, but its essence remains,
And hereby it becomes not less nor inferior.
I will hang myself upon my lord's palm-tree
In excuse for having fled away from him!"
Even as a ball rolling along on head and face,
He fell at the feet of the Prince with streaming eyes.
The people were all on the alert, expecting
That the Prince would burn him or hang him,
Saying, "Moth-like he has seen the blaze of the light,
And fool-like has plunged therein and lost his life."
But the torch of love is not like that torch,
'Tis light, light in the midst of light,
'Tis the reverse of torches of fire,
It appears to be fire, but is all sweetness.
Love generates love. "If ye love God, God will love you" 7
That. Bokharian then cast himself into the flame,
But his love made the pain endurable;
And as his burning sighs ascended to heaven,
The love of the Prince was kindled towards him.
The heart of man is like the root of a tree,
Therefrom grow the leaves on firm branches. 8
Corresponding to that root grow up branches
As well on the tree as on souls and intellects.
The tops of the perfect trees reach the heavens,
The roots firm, and the branches in the sky.
Since then the tree of love has grown up to heaven,
How shall it not also grow in the heart of the Prince?
A wave washes away the remembrance of the sin from his heart,
For from each heart is a window to other hearts.
Since in each heart there is a window to other hearts,
They are not, separated and shut off like two bodies.
Thus, even though two lamp-dishes be not joined,
Yet their light is united in a single ray.
No lover ever seeks union with his beloved,
But his beloved is also seeking union with him.
But the lover's love makes his body lean,
While the beloved's love makes hers fair and lusty.
When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises,
Be sure this love is reciprocated in that heart.
When the love of God arises in thy heart,
Without doubt God also feels love for thee.
The noise of clapping of hands is never heard
From one of thy hands unaided by the other hand
The man athirst cries, "Where is delicious water?"
Water too cries, "Where is the water-drinker?"
This thirst in my soul is the attraction of the water;
I am the water's and the water is mine.
God's wisdom in His eternal foreknowledge and decree
Made us to be lovers one of the other.
Nay more, all the parts of the world by this decree
Are arranged in pairs, and each loves its mate.
Every part of the world desires its mate,
Just as amber attracts blades of straw.
Heaven says to earth, "All hail to thee!
We are related to one another as iron and magnet."
Heaven is man and earth woman in character;
Whatever heaven sends it, earth cherishes.
When earth lacks heat, heaven sends heat;
When it lacks moisture and dew, heaven sends them.
The earthy sign 9 succours the terrestrial earth,
The watery sign (Aquarius) sends moisture to it;
The windy sign sends the clouds to it,
To draw off unwholesome exhalations.
The fiery sign (Leo) sends forth the heat of the sun,
Like a dish heated red-hot in front and behind.
The heaven is busily toiling through ages,
Just as men labor to provide food for women.
And the earth does the woman's work, and toils
In bearing offspring and suckling them.
Know then earth and heaven are endued with sense,
Since they act like persons endued with sense.
If these two lovers did not suck nutriment from each other,
Why should they creep together like man and wife?
Without the earth how could roses and saffron grow?
For naught can grow from the sole heat and rain of heaven.
This is the cause of the female seeking the male,
That the work of each may be accomplished.
God has instilled mutual love into man and woman,
That the world may be perpetuated by their union.
Earth says to the earth of the body, "Come away,
Quit the soul and come to me as dust.
Thou art of my genus, and wilt be better with me,
'Thou had'st better quit the soul and fly to me!"
Body replies "True, but my feet are fast bound,
Though like thee I suffer from separation."
Water calls out to the moisture of the body,
"O moisture, return to me from your foreign abode!"
Fire also calls out to the heat of the body,
"Thou art of fire; return to thy root!"
In the body there are seventy-and-two diseases;
It is ill compacted owing to the struggle of its elements.
Disease comes to rend the body asunder,
And to drag apart its constituent elements.
The four elements are as birds tied together by the feet;
Death, sickness and disease loose their feet asunder.
The moment their feet are loosed from the others,
'The bird of each element flies off by itself.
The repulsion of each of these principles and causes
Inflicts every moment a fresh pang on our bodies.
That it may dissolve these composite bodies of ours,
The bird of each part tries to fly away to its origin;
But the wisdom of God prevents this speedy end,
And preserves their union till the appointed day.
He says, "O parts, the appointed time is not yet;
It is useless for you to take wing before that day."
But as each part desires reunion with its original,
How is it with the soul who is a stranger in exile?
It says, "O parts of my habitation here below,
My absence is sadder than yours, as I am heaven-born.
The body loves green pastures and running water,
For this cause that its origin is from them.
The love of the soul is for life and the living one,
Because its origin is the Soul not bound to place.
The love of the soul is for wisdom and knowledge,
That of the body for houses, gardens, and vineyards;
The love of the soul is for things exalted on high,
That of the body for acquisition of goods and food.
The love too of Him on high is directed to the soul:
Know this for 'He loves them that love Him.'"
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mrneighbourlove · 9 months ago
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Evil’s Bane: Ch 9. Everyone has Something to Lose
The wrath that filled Leere was unfathomable. Separated from her allies, she had no reason to believe that they might still be alive. Everything in Inferos and the Tower of Death had pushed her limits so quickly. Time felt off and she had no grasp of her spacing around her. Was she in the middle of the tower, transported close to the ground, or not even in it anymore? The very least she could process she was in what looked like a massive hall. It held rows and rows of pillars from the ground to the roof, and down each end it appeared the room was endless. About a couple fields of distance away, there was a massive obelisk, illuminated by the moon piercing its light through very large glass windows the size of small fields. Using her staff as a cane, she ventured forward, wondering if she could use the Obelisk as a magical conduit to bring the entire tower down.
"So you finally arrived." A smooth voice called out from the dark. Destroyer was there in the endless hallway, standing in the Obelisk's shadow. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd show up at all. Aren't princesses taught to be on time?"
Leere stopped walking, her staff echoing far as she planted her hilt into the floor. “Perhaps. But a Sage is never late or early. They arrive precisely when needed. And they hate cliches. Such as the Dark Lord waiting at the top of his tower.... step in the light.”
"Now, now, you should know that family sometimes share traits, especially since my brother loves to make an entrance... or more specifically, his host." Destroyer was actually not so terrifying. He was beautiful; an array of scales that reflected the various colors of the ocean. Two navy horns sprouted from his head which was coated in silver hair, and a pair of blue wings adorned his back. He was a long, lost creature of legend... a Drakkan; the fabled half-dragon, half-human. A long tail flicked behind him as his clawed, raptor-like feet gently touched the steps as he descended to Leere. "Though I'm sure that I am not what you expected. There was a slight... well... mix-up with our hosts, you see."
“Is that right?” Leere was alarmed by the appearance at first, but then steeled her will. Appearances after all could be deceiving. “Is it because you deserve the title of a snake who slivers in the dark?”
"Very perceptive of you." Destroyer chuckled, very amused by her expression. "You see, thanks to Tzitzimime, I obtained the host everyone adored; an innocent healer of his kind." He then held up one hand. "Then my dear brother inherited the host who everyone would fear and abhorred; a snake who would devour and use others."
“I’ll ask this once. Why? Why join forces with the Devil? Because you feel so hurt and alone at the loss of your long-lost love? Is that why you want to destroy this world? You can’t mature and grow up like everyone else in the world?”
"Oh, trying to get all psychological on me? Make me feel guilt? Admit my mistakes and repent? Perhaps I should reflect upon these actions... yet, I care not for the opinions of a meager human." Destroyer pretended to be offended, clutching at the center of his chest. "My only goal is to be rid of everything my brother created. When he is gone, when his creations are gone, then it shall be just Kaksa and I. No more interruptions, no more work, nothing but the void and us. Tzitzimime can have this little planet for all I care."
Leere looked at him with contempt and fury. “Then that makes you the most dangerous being I’ve ever encountered. Your insanity dooms all of life. For my family, my country, and all of life, I’ll do what I must.”
Taking a battle stance, Leere activated the blade on her scythe. Her staff she gripped glowed a soft red, and the plasma of her blade shined a mighty blue. Both colours basked her image with a fierce light.
"Oh, why do you look so worried, 'tiny princess'?" Destroyer mocked Leere with the title that Bonegrinder had given to her. "Surely you must know that the Mortuus aren't of my brother's work. Your kind are the result of Tzitzimime trying to sow some of his seeds in one of my creations. Tempting them, warping them... making them better. I quite enjoy the madness and bloodlust." He then snickered when she took an offensive stance. "You think you can defeat me with a gardening tool?"
“I will defeat you. And I’ll take your head too.”
Leere’s eyes filled with bloodlust and she began her first strike. With a swing of her scythe, she charged a sickening red energy, throwing an energy slash at him. The blast missed when Destroyer ducked, but it cleaned right through the obelisk like it was a bullet traveling through butter.
"Impressive for a human that earned the title of Shadow Sage." Destroyer glanced at the ruined Obelisk. "Now, it's my turn." The deity only had to touch the ground with his hand and the floor started to disintegrate. His objective was to bring Leere closer, putting her in a difficult position.
Leere ran forward, hopping from tile to tile. He wanted her to get close? Fine. But she’d make him see that only made her more ferocious. As she drew closer, she summoned a wall master from behind him. The flying fist struck Destroyer in the back of the head. As he was off balance, if only for one second, Leere drew in close enough to make a clean cut across his chest. The plasma of the scythe burned incredibly well against her opponents’ skin.
Plink, plink, plink... a few scales scattered across the tile, sounding like falling coins. Following another cut, flesh fell with a wet plump on the floor. Yet, the Destroyer was hardly fazed. While effective, he simply stood upright, his body healing. The God could push through any pain, for he had no fear of feeling it. It seemed he possessed that same ability to heal his host, just like Prama did for Bonegrinder. Both of the brothers refused to let their host die until their work was complete. "Didn't your mother teach you any of her wisdom?" Destroyer sneered at the princess with a sinister grin. "In battle, aiming for the head is the most affective move... yet, here, that wouldn’t help you anyway." With his giant wings, Destroyer gave a mighty 'whoosh' of wind and knocked Leere backwards, before purposely grabbing the burning scythe right on under the blade, spinning her around with it, and slamming her down three times against the tile floor.
Leere felt her head spin and blood spurt from her mouth. He was just like her brother. She doubted that even if she had a bomb, she could kill him. Klinge couldn’t do the same to Bonegrinder. So that left Leere with one option. The one thing she knew that she could affect Bonegrinder with, so maybe it could work against this prick. Blood magic. Grabbing his arm, she immediately started to leech him best she could. “Die you Bastard.”
"Ah... blood magic. One useful thing that I managed to pull from the discarded shadows of my brother." Destroyer's movements were suddenly slowed, fighting against her control. "Unlike you, though, 'tiny princess'... I am not alone."
“You are the one alone. You’re a pathetic pile of death worshiping garbage! What’s the matter? Scared of dying? Like all of the people you want to erase?”
Both hands of hers reached up to squeeze up around his neck. She had to focus. Even if it meant sacrificing her life, she’d snuff the life out of him.
"Heh, the Goddess Zarazu would love it if I did worship her but she has the God Ba'puu to do that." As Leere reached for his throat, he then said, "You can try to kill me, it won't work... though, I'd be more concerned about Tzitzimime.I think he has something of yours."
“...What?”
Suddenly, a tentacle with a blade tip stabbed from behind Leere and through her stomach. It wouldn’t kill her, but it was enough to stop her concentration on the Destroyer. Now that her hands dropped to her side, he could clamp his own around her throat. The Shadow Man whispered behind Leere, planting a finger on the back of her head. He drained her of magic, leaving her powerless. “Take her. The ritual will begin with her suffering and torment.”
Leere’s mind went fuzzy, and her body fell into the arms of the Destroyer as if she was some poor roofied girl. “N-no. Bonegrinder....” The Shadow Man grabbed her scythe, impressed by its build. “Think I’ll keep this. Top of the tower. The little meat bags are waiting for you to put her in place.”
"Now, now, why are you calling for the host of my brother?" Destroyer asked the princess with a snide chuckle. "After all, he tried to warn you and you wouldn't listen. We can sense each other, you see, 'tiny princess'. He desperately wanted to save you, but now... he's as trapped as you are." When the chaotic deity gave his order, Destroyer unfurled those huge wings and started to fly to the top of the tower. "You should have listened to him while you had the chance."
~
The section of tower Bonegrinder and Black found themselves in was eerie. The hallways were slimy, with hard black walls that were very nest like, as if they were shrunk down to a wasp’s catacomb. This flesh was growing over what used to be a metal hallway. The only light sources were windows still uncovered, moonlight still peaking in.
Black was sure that Bonegrinder would be furious with him for not choosing to go to Leere. Yet, the woman made her choice. She wanted to try to save some of these already damned souls. Personally, Black was beginning to question her sanity as well. True, Bonegrinder had his moments, but at least he admitted he was somewhat insane, mainly due to two souls sharing one body. Leere was... something else. Fortunately, Bonegrinder was still alive and well, but... out of his rational state of thought, mumbling to himself. The Wraith was certain he could hear Prama's whisperings, trying to help the Anagari get a grip but failing to do so. What the Wraith did not know was what Bonegrinder was seeing... the corpses of his family.
In the not too far distance, someone stumbled out of a door. A Mortuus cultist, walked a few steps forward, until finally his top half fell backwards as his legs fell forward. Something had cut him in half on the other side of the door.
"Bonegrinder, you need to come with me." Black had knelt down beside of the Anagari, trying to get his attention. "Leere will require our aid if... she's not already dead, but we need to get out of here. Destroyer is very close and... I believe that Tzitzmime is as well."
Bonegrinder did not even hear Black. All he heard was the words of his deceased family. His daughter with her birdsongs. His son requesting to go hunting. And his beautiful wife... his Brightscales, as he once called her... was asking why.
Voices whispered out to Black, as if the tower itself was taunting him. ”You can’t save her. She’ll make us whole.”
The Tower of Death could feel its purpose about to be realized. The walls had glow of red go up and down its walls. Suddenly, the corpse that was collapsed not too far away quickly mutated into one of the ghouls seen before. Hissing, it sniffed the air, until it saw Black and Bonegrinder. Angrily, it clawed its way back into the way it came, as if wanting to escape them.
THWACK!!!
Black cut off the head of the ghoul quickly, so it would not go and find friends to bring back later. Prama, meanwhile, was fighting like mad to Bonegrinder. Between all the suffocating darkness and using much of his magical excess to heal the Anagari, the deity was struggling.
"You big, fat, lump of flesh, get your scaley ass moving! Modoc!!! Move it!!! Leere needs you!!! Black needs---oh thank me, he's here."
Black tried again, moving the Anagari's head to look at him. "Bonegrinder, come on, you can't let old ghosts haunt you! What happened back then was not your fault!!!"
Behind the door, Black could hear someone hacking apart more ghouls.
"...? Hades? Is that you?"
No answer. Just droplets hitting the ground. Followed by a thick splat.
On the other side, Bi-Hanzo was still trapped within his own personal hell. He learned the “truth”. He could see it with his own eyes. And it was all so, so terrible. Grasping a map off a wall, he was reading it carefully. As one last remaining ghoul grabbed his leg, he lurched back. With a quick kick he knocked its head right out the door.
"... Hanzo?" Black did not expect the man to make it this far alive. While his magical talents were impressive, many others of the 'good' Mortuus had succumbed to these monsters.
Bi-Hanzo didn’t hear him, tearing papers off a wall and rummaging through them. “It’s all connected. They have every location of our villages down to the coordinates. Our bodies. They’ve been kidnapping and harvesting our bodies. For what? For this tower? For their precious gods?!!!” The man sounded unhinged.
"That's an easy answer, it's because these people are demented and Tzitzmime is their deity." Black was not in the mood for a mental breakdown at the moment. Once more, he tried to rouse his master. "Bonegrinder, please, we need to leave. This place is getting fouler by the minute and I am concerned for all of our sakes.”
When Black turned to go back to his master, he paid for his lack of human understanding. A massive block of ice encased his body from behind, and Bi-Hanzo brought his attention to Bonegrinder. “You. This is just as much your fault as Destroyah! You vile god of creation.”
"....!!!" Black was not expecting for Hanzo to turn on him. The ice trapped his movements momentarily, but he was able to slip his physical form into the shadows to break free. Before Hanzo could touch the Anagari with his magic, Black had shot out from behind the man, getting him in a headlock. He held a blade at Hanzo's throat. "Try that again, and it will be your head rolling."
Bi-Hanzo had more then enough time with Black’s threat to turn into mist, and phase through him. Solidifying behind him, he thrust his arm forward, using physical contact to steam Black’s body to a boiling point. As the Wraith swiped at him, Bi-Hanzo broke off. Taking a stance, the guardian was ready to kill. “No. I will take yours.”
Black underestimated exactly how much magical knowledge Hanzo had. He yelled when the steam scorched his skin and leapt backward from the Mortuus. This man was trouble. He should have killed him earlier.
"I've lived lifetimes. You're a child compared to me." Black growled at the Mortuus. "You will not touch my master."
“I’ve killed plenty of undead and mad Echidnans. You’ll be no different.” Cooling the air, Bi-Hanzo fired off large icicles at Black, but in the direction of Bonegrinder.
"I'm not an undead and I'm not an Echidnan. Not fully, at least, of either..." The Wraith managed to deflect the shards of ice and kept a defensive stance. Nothing would harm Bonegrinder, not while he could still roam this earth. He stomped one foot to the ground, causing the shadows to shift underneath Hanzo, latching onto the man. "You won't win."
“I’ll kill you both! You’re a follower of the fallen god Proxamus! He only creates suffering!” Struggling off the shadows, Bi-Hanzo froze the floor underneath them. Slamming his fist on the ground, more bladed icicles shot upwards to stab into both Black and his master.
Black reacted quickly enough to swallow Bonegrinder in the shadows and spit him out, but did not possess the energy to avoid the ice spikes the same way. He managed dodge most of them, but was still sliced by the frost. The Wraith was done with this nonsense. Maneuvering through the ice, he blinded Hanzo with one of his flash bombs before sinking the sword into the man's heart. "I serve no one but Bonegrinder."
Once again, on instinct of being blinded, Bi-Hanzo turned himself in a mist form. If he could see an attack coming, he could avoid the damage. Stepping away from Black, he rubbed his eyes as he solidified. “You serve the God of Creation trapped in flesh. He could save my people, but he only cares for himself! Kenshi. Lang. All the others. I will avenge them!!!”
Ranting, Bi-Hanzo kept put up a solid wall of ice between himself and his targets. Only in his mental struggle, their were a few openings now. Suddenly, as if a spell ended over him, he gripped his head. The image of Black and Bonegrinder was groggy behind the ice. “... Wait. What’s going on? My head....”
Black saw that Hanzo was distracted. He took this as a chance to strike. Throwing his dagger at the man, the Wraith hit Hanzo right between the eyes.
Black gasped, stumbling backwards. The dagger didn’t pierce enough to kill him outright, unable to reach his brain. But none the less he screamed. “W-what are you doing?!?!”
"You attacked my master and myself, I should be asking you, you damn idiot!"
Parts of his body were solidified, others were misty, such as his head. It didn’t look like he’d last long. “I what? Oh god. Oh god not yet.” The ice wall broke apart, starting to turn into vapour, another sign of Bi-Hanzo dying. “Where’s the sage?”
"If I knew that, why the hell would I tell you?" Black stood over Bonegrinder, hoping the snake would be rousing soon from his nightmares.
“She was right.” Bi-Hanzo’s breakdown was starting to come back to the man. Pointing at a map in the room over, he breathed heavily. The knife had fallen out when his head turned to mist, but the blood was still pouring down his face. “There’s a map with our villages. If you gave a damn, you could save them before...” His eyes slowly widen, as if he came across something truly horrible. “Oh no. They have her. Spirits save us. Can you hear them? Taunting us? They have her.”
"You are wrong in assuming that I would care about the people who once hurt the only person who gave a damn to help me." Black watched as Hanzo started to fade into nothing. "It's hard to feel guilt in this state. If you're worried about the Shadow Sage, then pray to your fallen god to save her. Or for a miracle. I'm no god."
“Please. You must.”
Suddenly, from the darkness, a monster as large as Hades stepped out behind Bi-Hanzo. It was a creature with a head of six bulbs for eyes, legs as thick as tree trunks, and six clawed arms protruding from its body. To be blunt, it was the most alien looking thing Black had ever seen. The man turned to it, in an almost suicidal trance. “An Angel...”
It looked like he was about to hug it. That was when the Abomination stabbed into his body, it’s arms sharper than any blade Black held on him. Bi-Hanzo was shredded as if he was simply a pig for the slaughterhouse. This would be a good moment to run.
"...!!!" Black stilled, feeling a sense of absolute dread wash over his being. How could he fight this... this thing? It was not a creature he knew how to kill. Was it a hellspawn? It had to be; he knew of nothing else it could be.
"... Modoc..." The Wraith muttered under his breath, eyes wide and trying not to make any sudden movements to agitate the monster further. "Wake the fuck up or we're both going to get eaten."
Inside of Bonegrinder's head, the Anagari floated in a void. He had withdrawn from his physical surroundings and was trapped inside of his own mind. There, Prama was suspended in front of him, in all of his glory. The Maker, the creator of all light and creatures of it, tried to console, Bonegrinder. "You cannot give up yet, Modoc. There is still much to do and to be done."
"He is so tired, Prama, so tired. Please, please let him sleep the eternal rest and be with his family again. Let him die."
"And what of your precious friends? The ones you call your 'children' and look after?"
"They will all be fine."
"What of Leere?"
"The tiny princess no longer listens to him. She will not listen now."
"She is in danger. Will you not help her?"
"How can he now?" The Anagari looked so defeated. "If he goes, you will be at risk. Without you, the world will descend into madness. If he stays away, Chaos could become whole sooner yet either way, the prophecy will be fulfilled."
"If Chaos forms into a whole from a fragment, then everything could be lost. This world, myself, and Kaksa. I do not want to risk her... would you want to risk your beloved Brightscales?"
The Anagari's eyes narrowed. "Don't call her that. That is his name he gave her, reserved for him to call her alone."
"Would you?"
"... no. He would not. He could not imagine it."
"Then you need to wake up and go."
The Abomination made no hiss, no scream, no roar like any of the ghouls or cultists in the tower. It simply strolled up to Black calmly to tear him piece to piece.
Black stood his ground, ready to fight... yet before he could, Bonegrinder's massive tail thwacked the Hellspawn away from the Wraith. Surprised, the Wraith did not expect the Anagari to recover so soon. "...?! Bonegrinder?! Are you---"
"He will be fine. We must find Leere. We've not the time to deal with this thing."
The Abomination cracked its neck back into place as it picked itself up from the ground. With the pace of a silent killer, it kept walking at a modest speed towards them, all its limbs ready to grab the next tail or person that drew too close.
"Do you have enough reserve to use your shadows to move us to her?"
"That... would be a stretch. But I will try."
"Then do so."
With that... the two disappeared from the shadows.
The Abomination nearly missed grabbing them. No matter. The Tower of Death had a mind of its own. It had to keep Bonegrinder and Black away from Leere. And it would send its Angel in the right direction to catch them once more. Nothing good would escape this hell.
________________________________________________________________
Previous Ch. https://mrneighbourlove.tumblr.com/post/626629526442655744/evils-bane-ch-8-looming-dread
Next Ch. https://mrneighbourlove.tumblr.com/post/626631967066243072/evils-bane-ch-10-evil-anew
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kupoetic · 11 months ago
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The Rotted Throne [Dark Souls]
A Dark Souls inspired concept about an unvisited region in the world. The time period and location is left ambiguous There is a small connecting thread to my other work Painted Flower Beds. 
Every so often here you’ll find another cadaver still trudging about. Dauntless, taking step after step as if there were any destination that awaits their arrival. Naught but gravel blown by the wind, being chipped away until they are indistinguishable from the dust blowing across the barren fields. Few will remember why they came or where they came from. So, you might as well know where you are.
You’re in a land with no name. Well, it certainly had one once, but to be something in name only is to be nothing at all. What good is a name for a land with no one to speak it and no lord to uphold it. This great empty, it was once home to many people, and to a goodly Queen. Her subjects were many, and when the lands became embroiled in strife, they suffered.
The Queen was benevolent, she emptied her coffers and sold all her possessions, all to help her starving subjects. But there were so many, and the royal riches were not nearly enough. So, she took the kingdom’s armory and sold it to their warring neighbors. Still, it was not enough, and soon the masses clamored again. Then she had the forests cut and burned, the ash used to nourish the crops. When the ash was depleted, the people begged for more, thus all the animals were slaughtered, their humors soaking into the ground, feeding it just awhile longer.
Eventually the queen turned to very grim means indeed… Ah, but no matter the means it was never enough, and the subjects she so desperately wished to save broke down her gates and burned the castle. The queen had sacrificed so much for the kingdom that in the end there was no kingdom left. It was a kingdom only in name…
Oh go on ahead, I won’t stop you.
You’re certainly someone, with a duty… and a purpose…
Perhaps you’ll go sit upon the rotted throne.
Make yourself a proper lord. At least in name…
Hmm Hmm Hmm…
 The Barren Plains
Serrated Plow
The prongs of this plow end with serrated blades. As corpses were dumped into the fields, their viscera was let loose into the soil. All the quicker to feed the earth, as time was of the essence.
Skill: Eviscerate
Plunge spear into exposed flesh and repeatedly tear, causing bleed damage.
 Mulch-wrapping Shirt
A loosely woven cloth wrapped around the torso of an undead from the mulch pile. Several holes have been stabbed through it.
The cloth wrapped around the undead sent to the mulch pile was designed to let their blood and viscera bleed into the earth while keeping bugs and stray animals from devouring them.
 Carrion Root
Ground up root of the strange plant that would grow around the soils where undead were leeched. Consuming the leave made one violently ill, but it was discovered the root counteracted the toxins and disease festering in the mulch pile. Invaluable to harvesters working there.
Cures poison and toxic status. Reduces poison and toxic buildup.
 Bleeding Extract
Distilled extract taken from toxic plants that grew in the Great Oakwood. Applies bleeding to right hand weapon.
Originally used by hunters in the Great Oakwood, the blood-thinning effects were put to more sinister uses by the farmers tilling the increasingly barren fields.
 Alta’s Dress
The royal gown of Queen Alta.
Once an ornate green dress. After being sold the dress was ripped apart to be sold to others in pieces. This remaining section is dirty and faded, a far cry from the verdant green that once represented the Lord and Land.
 Bandit’s Scarf
An assuming brown cloth that could quickly be wrapped around the face to hide one’s identity.
When food became scarce many of the impoverished turned to theft and murder. Because they often had to steal from close neighbors and friends, robbery was better done surreptitiously.
 Bandit’s Vest
A simple-looking vest designed to hold a hidden blade.
When food became scarce many of the impoverished turned to theft and murder. Because they often had to steal from close neighbors and friends, robbery was better done surreptitiously.
 Great Oakwood Ashes
Evlana Arrow
Light arrows with thin shafts. Extremely streamlined tips.
Said in jest to be the arrows of the goddess Evlana herself. Their unique design allows them to fly faster than standard arrows, a necessity to catch the game once inhabiting the Great Oakwood.
While they do not strike as hard as heavier arrows, the tips effectively pierce armor.
 Xanthous Gloves
Gloves wrapped with bright yellow cloth, worn by scholars who studied ancient sorceries.
The gloves are covered in ash from persistent digging. What could one have hoped to find in the bloody, ashen ground?
 Coin’s Knight Greatsword
A single-edged greatsword once wielded by the knights of Demetia.
Demetian knights only resorted to using the bladed edge against foreign marauders. Tragic then that the blade has now been worn down by use on those it was meant to protect.
Skill: Takedown
Rush forward and swing with the blunt edge dealing heavy but non-lethal damage.
 Coin’s Knight Helmet
A sturdy copper helmet once worn by the knights of Demetia. Long since tarnished to a shabby green.
The armor and weapons sold from the royal armory came into the possession of mercenaries in the employ of nobles. Though garbed as a knight, their loyalty was only to the coins that paid them, and so they became known as a Coin’s Knight.
 Coin’s Knight Cuirass
A sturdy copper cuirass once worn by the knights of Demetia. Long since tarnished to a shabby green.
The armor is emblazoned with a stuffed Cornucopia. However, this symbol of abundance has all but worn away.
The armor and weapons sold from the royal armory came into the possession of mercenaries in the employ of nobles. Though garbed as a knight, their loyalty was only to the coins that paid them, and so they became known as a Coin’s Knight.
 Soul of Baron Nole
Soul of Nole, Baron of the Great Oakwood
As Baron Nole watched his woods cut and burned he became reclusive and hired mercenaries to defend his estate. It is said that he took in many servants, but it is unknown how he kept so many fed while the masses outside his ash-covered gates starved.
Use this wondrous soul to acquire numerous souls, or to acquire something of great worth.
 Nole’s Carving Knife
Dagger formed from the Soul of Nole, Baron of the Great Oakwood
As ash settled on his estate, he knew the land would never recover. To avoid starvation, they would need to feed on what could be provided. One by one he invited servants into his dining room, so as to develop a new appetite.
 The Mulch Pile
Harvester’s Scythe
Scythe of the harvesters tasked with feeding the mulch pile.
The harvesters' grisly work of adding undead to the mulch pile was a tedious task. To ensure the undead did not escape the harvesters would slice at their heels, robbing them of their ability to flee.
Skill: Reap
Slice at nearly ground level, bypassing any attempt to block or parry.
 Harvester’s Gloves
Gloves of the harvesters tasked with feeding the mulch pile. Coated in an indescribable foulness.
The harvester's work was dirty, throwing bodies, excrement, and all manner of decay into the heap of compost. Proper protection was absolutely necessary.
 Harvester’s Boots
Boots of the harvesters tasked with feeding the mulch pile. Coated in an indescribable foulness.
The harvester's work was dirty, throwing bodies, excrement, and all manner of decay into the heap of compost. Proper protection was absolutely necessary.
 Pillager’s Axe
Greataxe used by invading marauders. Unwieldy, the great size was meant to intimidate, allowing its wielder to plunder without resistance from the populace.
The marauders that came seeking easy plunder found themselves wanting. Soon they were bereft of enough coin or provisions to make the return journey.
Skill: Battle Cry
Let out a savage battle cry that temporarily boosts poise.
 Peace Seeker’s Ring
Ring of Peace Seeker Danellia. Increases sprint speed when moving away from an enemy.
Danellia had to flee many homes as war engulfed cities and the undead curse brought down nations. The undead are driven by ambition and purpose. If they are otherwise fated to go hollow, what then does peace look like to an undead?
 Castle Demetia
Alta’s Crown
Crown bearing the royal sigil of Demetia
The royal crown of Demetia was a humble ornament made from the lacquered wood of its great oak trees. It was of no worth to any merchant and so it was ignored. Yet if it was indeed so worthless, why did Alta clutch it so tightly?
 Soul of Knight Cevert
Soul of Knight Cevert, the last knight of Demetia.
Knight Cevert became the de facto captain after most of the sworn knights abandoned the queen and fled the palace. Even without his sword or armor, he gathered his few remaining men and stood guard against the angry mobs.
Use the wondrous soul of this virtuous knight to acquire numerous souls, or to acquire something of great worth.
 Cevert’s Gloves
Fighting gloves of Knight Cevert.
Without a sword to defend the queen with, Cevert took to using his fists. He wrapped his fine gloves in leather and sewed small pieces of metal between the straps. The thieves who did not take an unarmed knight seriously paid quite dearly.
Skill: One Inch Punch
Extend fist out and then deliver a surprisingly powerful blow, causing extra poise damage. Extremely short range.
Devour
Dark Miracle learned long ago by the royal heralds.
Break down nearby corpses to a baser form, allowing one to draw them in and restore vitality.
The fundamentals of this miracle were employed in creating the mulch pile, but why had such a miracle ever been taught in a land of abundance?
 Great Oak Chime
Sacred chime made by fastening the bell to an oak’s branch and allowing the wood to grow over it.
The once plentiful lands of Demetia used tributes to keep war from their borders, but after the Great Oakwood and its fauna were sacrificed there were no more tributes to offer, and so their neighbors allowed marauders to roam freely.
 Violet Herb
Herb with a deep violet hue. Dramatically increases stamina regeneration but lowers resistance to poison.
These herbs were once used by royal heralds before a long journey. When the ash and blood of the Great Oakwood seeped into the water these once blue herbs took on a purple tone, a color associated with poison.
    VISUALS
·         The Barren Plains have dust storms that fade in and out over time.
·         Undead corpses in the fields of the Barren Plains have their hands and feet bound.
·         Some undead corpses in the fields of The Barren Plains have their feet cut off.
·         Undead bodies in the Barren Plains may suddenly grab and bite into carrion birds that land on them.
·         A small stream in the Great Oakwood Ashes appears polluted and purple tinted.
·         Gently falling ash is persistent in Great Oakwood Ashes.
·         Baron Nole’s estate is the most intact structure in the entire region, covered in ash.
·         Some hollow Coin’s Knights in Nole’s estate are missing limbs or pieces of torso.
·         Baron Nole appears emaciated, except for his protruding belly.
·         The Mulch Pile structure stands overlooking the Barren Plains, the bottom of the structure is a filthy trough. An enormous pit inside flows into the trough. The pit is overflowing with a pile of filth and bodies.
·         Hollows pray and clamor at the trough below the Mulch Pile.
·         Looms of the ‘loose woven cloth’ run to bloody counters next to the Mulch Pile.
·         The Mulch Pile structure has hanging meat hooks and cages.
·         Most of Castle Demetia is crumbled or burnt, the structure rises into the air but is full of holes, floor gaps, and missing walls.
·         The throne in Castle Demetia is made of oakwood, but has rotted.
·         Hollowed knights in Castle Demetia are not wearing armor and fight with sticks or bare-handed.
·         A Coin’s Knight can be found inside the remains of Queen Alta’s room.
·         Queen Alta’s corpse is found praying to a withered sapling, beyond a room guarded by Knight Cevert.
·         Hollowed Heralds can be found in other nations around Demetia.
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rumi-mathnawi · 11 months ago
Text
THE MATHNAWI BOOK III STORY XVII PART 1.The Vakil of the Prince of Bokhara.
The Prince of Bokhara had a Vakil who, through fear of punishment for an offence he had committed, ran away and remained concealed in Kuhistan and the desert for the space of ten years. At the end of that time, being unable to endure absence from his lord and his home any longer, he determined to return to Bokhara and throw himself at his lord's feet, and endure whatever punishment his lord might be pleased to inflict upon him. His friends did all they could to dissuade him, assuring him that the Prince's wrath was still hot against him, and that if he appeared at Bokhara he would be put to death, or at least imprisoned for the rest of his life. He replied, "O advisers, be silent, for the force of the love which is drawing me to Bokhara is stronger than the force of prudent counsels. When love pulls one way all the wisdom of Abu Hanifa and Ash-Shafi'i is impotent to withstand it. If it shall please my lord to slay me, I will yield up my life without reluctance, for this life of estrangement from him which I am now leading is the same as death, and release from it will be eternal happiness. I will return to Bokhara and throw myself at my lord's feet, and say to him, 'Deal with me as thou wilt, for I can no longer bear absence from thee, and life or death at thy hands is all the same to me!'" Accordingly, he journeyed back to Bokhara, counting the very toils and discomforts of the road sweet and delightful, because they were steps in his homeward course. When he reached Bokhara his friends and relations all warned him not to show himself, as the Prince was still mindful of his offence and bent on punishing him; but he replied to them as to his other advisers, that he was utterly regardless of his life, and was resolved to commit himself to his lord's good pleasure. He then went to the court and threw himself at his lord's feet and swooned away. The Prince, seeing the strong affection borne to him by his repentant servant, conceived a similar affection towards him, and descended from his throne and graciously raised him from the ground, and pardoned his offence. Thus it is that eternal life is gained by utter abandonment of one's own life. When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. He is a true lover of God to whom God says, "I am thine, and thou art mine!"
In the course of this story, which is narrated at great length, are introduced anecdotes of a lover and his mistress, of the Virgin Mary being visited by the "Blessed Spirit" or Angel Gabriel, 1 of the fatal mosque, of Galen's devotion to carnal learning, of Satan's treachery to the men of Mecca at the battle of Bedr, 2 and of Solomon and the gnat. There also occur comments on various texts, and a curious comparison of the trials and wholesome afflictions of the righteous to the boiling of potherbs in a saucepan by the cook.
The reply of the lover when asked by his mistress which city of all those he had seen was most pleasing in his sight.
A damsel said to her lover, "O fond youth,
You have visited many cities in your travels;
Which of those cities seems most delightful to you?"
He made answer, "The city wherein my love dwells.
In whatever nook my queen alights,
Though it be as the eye of a needle, 'tis a wide plain;
Wherever her Yusuf-like face shines as a moon,
Though it be the bottom of a well, 'tis Paradise.
With thee, my love, hell itself were heaven,
With thee a prison would be a rose-garden.
With thee hell would be a mansion of delight,
Without thee lilies and roses would be as flames of fire!"
The answer of the Vakil to those who advised him not to court death by yielding himself up to his lord.
He said, "I am a drawer of water; water attracts me,
Even though I know water may be my death.
No drawer of water flees from water,
Even though it may cause him a hundred deaths.
Though it may make my hand and belly dropsical,
My love for water will never be lessened.
I should say, when they asked me about my belly,
'Would that the ocean might flow into it!'
Though the bottle of my belly were burst with water,
And though I should die, my death would be acceptable.
Wheresoever I see one seeking water, I envy him,
And cry, 'Would I were in his place!'
My hand is a tabor and my belly a drum,
Like the rose I beat the drum of love of water.
Like the earth or like a fetus I devour blood,
Since I became a lover this is my occupation.
If that 'Faithful Spirit' should shed my blood,
I would drink it up drop by drop like the earth.
At night I boil on the fire like a cooking-pot,
From morn till eve I drink blood like the sand.
It repents me that I planned a stratagem,
And that I fled from before his wrath.
Tell him to sate his wrath on my poor life,
He is the 'Feast of Sacrifice,' and I his loving cow. 3
The cow, whether it eats or sleeps,
Thinks of naught but sacrificing itself.
Know me to be that cow of Moses which gave its life,
Each part of me gives life to the righteous.
That cow of Moses was made a sacrifice,
And its least part became a source of life.
That murdered man leapt up from his deadness
At the words, ' Strike the corpse with part of her.' 4
O pious ones, slay the cow (of lust),
If ye desire true life of soul and spirit!
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal. 5
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, 'To him shall we return.' 6
Know death to be the gathering together of the people.
The water of life is hidden in the land of darkness.
Like a water-lily seek life there!
Yea, like that drawer of water, at the risk of life,
Water will be his death, yet he still seeks water,
And still drinks on, and God knows what is right.
O lover, cold-hearted and void of loyalty,
Who from fear for your life shun the beloved!
O base one, behold a hundred thousand souls
Dancing towards the deadly sword of his love:
Behold water in a pitcher; pour it out;
Will that water run away from the stream?
When that water joins the water of the stream
It is lost therein, and becomes itself the stream.
Its individuality is lost, but its essence remains,
And hereby it becomes not less nor inferior.
I will hang myself upon my lord's palm-tree
In excuse for having fled away from him!"
Even as a ball rolling along on head and face,
He fell at the feet of the Prince with streaming eyes.
The people were all on the alert, expecting
That the Prince would burn him or hang him,
Saying, "Moth-like he has seen the blaze of the light,
And fool-like has plunged therein and lost his life."
But the torch of love is not like that torch,
'Tis light, light in the midst of light,
'Tis the reverse of torches of fire,
It appears to be fire, but is all sweetness.
Love generates love. "If ye love God, God will love you" 7
That. Bokharian then cast himself into the flame,
But his love made the pain endurable;
And as his burning sighs ascended to heaven,
The love of the Prince was kindled towards him.
The heart of man is like the root of a tree,
Therefrom grow the leaves on firm branches. 8
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badlandsloop · a year ago
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Ikoria Bonder Fanwalker: Lamar, Accomplished Hunter & Morovesh, the Encroaching Fear
As a youth in Skysail, Lamar developed special druidic powers. He had the ability to revitalize natural things, plants, animals, minerals, etc. Using this magic he could invigorate a dying or dead plant. Regrow limbs or horns on living or dead beings. Grow Ikoria’s warning crystals as though they were still firmly planted in the ground. He was responsible for tending the garden balloon where his family lived.
One day a malfunction caused Lamar’s home to plummet into Indatha. Miraculously, his power grew a protective cocoon that saved his family from the crash. That night however a horrific nightmare slaughtered his entire family and tore out his left eye. He swore then to be the greatest hunter, to exact his revenge.
Lamar followed his path of vengeance, hunting deadlier and deadlier prey with his massive crossbow, Awakening. This weapon has six arms that rapid fire footlong bolts from six barrels. He also wields special bolts embedded with various plant and animal parts and crystals. Using his magic, he revitalizes the poisonous plants or venom glands within these bolts to slowly kill his prey. The crystals remain active and glowing, since they are nearby the monster they are lodged within. He used his druid magic to repeatedly harvest slain monsters. He infuses the corpse with magic, allowing valuable parts (horns and organs and such) to re grown and sold. Eventually he gathered enough experience to take on the nightmare that slew his family.
Morovesh is a nightmare anaconda. Her species is endangered as it is the favored prey of Nethroi, Apex of Death. While her mother was pregnant with a brood, Nethroi killed and revived her. Morovesh and her siblings then existed within a corpse, fed by a womb suffused with dark magic. As such, she became something unique. The Death-Dweller’s magic allowed her the power to become a mass of darkness and smoke. In this form she cannot be harmed and can enter the mind of other living beings to feed on their fear. She hunts this way, haunting her prey for days before crushing and devouring their body.
By devouring the minds of monster and human, Morovesh has become uniquely ambitious. She wishes to hunt and kill Nethroi, the beast that created her. She spent her life hunting stronger and stronger prey steadily mutating more power.
These two ambitious hunters found themselves tracking the same target. The nightmare that killed Lamar’s family. The two stalked it for days, each exacting their devastating tactics. They converged simultaneously to finish it off. Each was surprised they had help, yet neither could harm the other. As Lamar’s poison bolts slowed the nightmare’s body, Morovesh crushed its body. Ignoring the feeding snake, Lamar went to take his prize, his prey’s eyes. He took two and used his magic to replace is lost left eye. 
Full of fear and flesh, Morovesh turned her attention to Lamar. She delved into his mind but found no fear, only ecstasy. This flood of emotion ignited the hunter’s planeswalker spark and flung him from Ikoria. While on a new plane, with a nightmare anaconda in his mind, the eludha bonded the two expert predators.
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Lamar is confident and determined to a fault. He cut his long dreads short to mirror Morovesh’s tendrils. He wears studded monster leather armor and a metal half mask to cover his glowing yellow green nightmare eyes. He has black hair and dark skin and his human eye is green.
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Morovesh is roughly 35 feet long. She has dark green scales with black patterns that resemble eyes. She has ten arms with hooked talons for grasping prey. Her “hair” is smokey prehensile tendrils she uses to grip Lamar when he rides her head.
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Lamar and Morovesh compliment each other well. They have similar hunting styles and similar ruthless ambition. They work in tandem around the planes hunting and killing and growing in strength.
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strych-nine · a year ago
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I built this empire of corpses. The magnolia tree devours my dead. I sit behind the grinding wheel, pick the petals apart, and turn my brittle bones into mortar. Their faces vanish under the stone, and I only then mourn the quality of my bricks. This one, too dry. These, too fragile. They will never hold back the roots at this rate. Paint the grindstone, cut the stems, trim the fat, crushing fingers, breaking joints, laying bricks. I will never keep the magnolias out. I stuff the flowers down my throat and feel the petals flutter between my empty ribs. The hands of those I sacrificed clench in fists around bouquets, tell me to climb to the top and jump. Promise me that it’s safe. They survived, after all. But they didn’t. I built this empire of corpses. My weeds sprouted from their necks as I wrung them. I wove a crown of their hair, and wear their teeth as beads. I threw their bodies under my stone, swallowed the meat, soaked the dust of their skeletons in their blood, made their bricks into my tower. And now the magnolias cast their shade over me. My lungs fill with their perfume and I choke on the petals; every day, the tree grows taller and I am running out of bones, running out of bricks, and the roots cling and beckon my feet to climb the tower, to follow the others. The tree feeds on their blood and mine-- how far can I jump to prevent from being consumed? What wild, nuisance plants would spring from my corpse, should I succumb? As I splinter my bones and pull apart my meat, I’ll have no feet to climb with, no legs to straddle the grindstone. I sweep the leaves away and sink my fingers into the earth, scrape and scratch it open like a yawning maw. In my tower, I will not mourn my bricks. In my grave, covering my face with rich, dark soil, blocking out the sun, I will not feed the magnolia tree.
The Walls [ b.e.c. ]
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rumi-mathnawi · a year ago
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THE MATHNAWI BOOK III STORY XVII PART 1. The Vakil of the Prince of Bokhara.
The Prince of Bokhara had a Vakil who, through fear of punishment for an offence he had committed, ran away and remained concealed in Kuhistan and the desert for the space of ten years. At the end of that time, being unable to endure absence from his lord and his home any longer, he determined to return to Bokhara and throw himself at his lord's feet, and endure whatever punishment his lord might be pleased to inflict upon him. His friends did all they could to dissuade him, assuring him that the Prince's wrath was still hot against him, and that if he appeared at Bokhara he would be put to death, or at least imprisoned for the rest of his life. He replied, "O advisers, be silent, for the force of the love which is drawing me to Bokhara is stronger than the force of prudent counsels. When love pulls one way all the wisdom of Abu Hanifa and Ash-Shafi'i is impotent to withstand it. If it shall please my lord to slay me, I will yield up my life without reluctance, for this life of estrangement from him which I am now leading is the same as death, and release from it will be eternal happiness. I will return to Bokhara and throw myself at my lord's feet, and say to him, 'Deal with me as thou wilt, for I can no longer bear absence from thee, and life or death at thy hands is all the same to me!'" Accordingly, he journeyed back to Bokhara, counting the very toils and discomforts of the road sweet and delightful, because they were steps in his homeward course. When he reached Bokhara his friends and relations all warned him not to show himself, as the Prince was still mindful of his offence and bent on punishing him; but he replied to them as to his other advisers, that he was utterly regardless of his life, and was resolved to commit himself to his lord's good pleasure. He then went to the court and threw himself at his lord's feet and swooned away. The Prince, seeing the strong affection borne to him by his repentant servant, conceived a similar affection towards him, and descended from his throne and graciously raised him from the ground, and pardoned his offence. Thus it is that eternal life is gained by utter abandonment of one's own life. When God appears to His ardent lover the lover is absorbed in Him, and not so much as a hair of the lover remains. True lovers are as shadows, and when the sun shines in glory the shadows vanish away. He is a true lover of God to whom God says, "I am thine, and thou art mine!"
In the course of this story, which is narrated at great length, are introduced anecdotes of a lover and his mistress, of the Virgin Mary being visited by the "Blessed Spirit" or Angel Gabriel, 1 of the fatal mosque, of Galen's devotion to carnal learning, of Satan's treachery to the men of Mecca at the battle of Bedr, 2 and of Solomon and the gnat. There also occur comments on various texts, and a curious comparison of the trials and wholesome afflictions of the righteous to the boiling of potherbs in a saucepan by the cook.
The reply of the lover when asked by his mistress which city of all those he had seen was most pleasing in his sight.
A damsel said to her lover, "O fond youth,
You have visited many cities in your travels;
Which of those cities seems most delightful to you?"
He made answer, "The city wherein my love dwells.
In whatever nook my queen alights,
Though it be as the eye of a needle, 'tis a wide plain;
Wherever her Yusuf-like face shines as a moon,
Though it be the bottom of a well, 'tis Paradise.
With thee, my love, hell itself were heaven,
With thee a prison would be a rose-garden.
With thee hell would be a mansion of delight,
Without thee lilies and roses would be as flames of fire!"
The answer of the Vakil to those who advised him not to court death by yielding himself up to his lord.
He said, "I am a drawer of water; water attracts me,
Even though I know water may be my death.
No drawer of water flees from water,
Even though it may cause him a hundred deaths.
Though it may make my hand and belly dropsical,
My love for water will never be lessened.
I should say, when they asked me about my belly,
'Would that the ocean might flow into it!'
Though the bottle of my belly were burst with water,
And though I should die, my death would be acceptable.
Wheresoever I see one seeking water, I envy him,
And cry, 'Would I were in his place!'
My hand is a tabor and my belly a drum,
Like the rose I beat the drum of love of water.
Like the earth or like a fetus I devour blood,
Since I became a lover this is my occupation.
If that 'Faithful Spirit' should shed my blood,
I would drink it up drop by drop like the earth.
At night I boil on the fire like a cooking-pot,
From morn till eve I drink blood like the sand.
It repents me that I planned a stratagem,
And that I fled from before his wrath.
Tell him to sate his wrath on my poor life,
He is the 'Feast of Sacrifice,' and I his loving cow. 3
The cow, whether it eats or sleeps,
Thinks of naught but sacrificing itself.
Know me to be that cow of Moses which gave its life,
Each part of me gives life to the righteous.
That cow of Moses was made a sacrifice,
And its least part became a source of life.
That murdered man leapt up from his deadness
At the words, ' Strike the corpse with part of her.' 4
O pious ones, slay the cow (of lust),
If ye desire true life of soul and spirit!
I died as inanimate matter and arose a plant,
I died as a plant and rose again an animal. 5
I died as an animal and arose a man.
Why then should I fear to become less by dying?
I shall die once again as a man
To rise an angel perfect from head to foot!
Again when I suffer dissolution as an angel,
I shall become what passes the conception of man!
Let me then become non-existent, for non-existence
Sings to me in organ tones, 'To him shall we return.' 6
Know death to be the gathering together of the people.
The water of life is hidden in the land of darkness.
Like a water-lily seek life there!
Yea, like that drawer of water, at the risk of life,
Water will be his death, yet he still seeks water,
And still drinks on, and God knows what is right.
O lover, cold-hearted and void of loyalty,
Who from fear for your life shun the beloved!
O base one, behold a hundred thousand souls
Dancing towards the deadly sword of his love:
Behold water in a pitcher; pour it out;
Will that water run away from the stream?
When that water joins the water of the stream
It is lost therein, and becomes itself the stream.
Its individuality is lost, but its essence remains,
And hereby it becomes not less nor inferior.
I will hang myself upon my lord's palm-tree
In excuse for having fled away from him!"
Even as a ball rolling along on head and face,
He fell at the feet of the Prince with streaming eyes.
The people were all on the alert, expecting
That the Prince would burn him or hang him,
Saying, "Moth-like he has seen the blaze of the light,
And fool-like has plunged therein and lost his life."
But the torch of love is not like that torch,
'Tis light, light in the midst of light,
'Tis the reverse of torches of fire,
It appears to be fire, but is all sweetness.
Love generates love. "If ye love God, God will love you" 7
That. Bokharian then cast himself into the flame,
But his love made the pain endurable;
And as his burning sighs ascended to heaven,
The love of the Prince was kindled towards him.
The heart of man is like the root of a tree,
Therefrom grow the leaves on firm branches. 8
Corresponding to that root grow up branches
As well on the tree as on souls and intellects.
The tops of the perfect trees reach the heavens,
The roots firm, and the branches in the sky.
Since then the tree of love has grown up to heaven,
How shall it not also grow in the heart of the Prince?
A wave washes away the remembrance of the sin from his heart,
For from each heart is a window to other hearts.
Since in each heart there is a window to other hearts,
They are not, separated and shut off like two bodies.
Thus, even though two lamp-dishes be not joined,
Yet their light is united in a single ray.
No lover ever seeks union with his beloved,
But his beloved is also seeking union with him.
But the lover's love makes his body lean,
While the beloved's love makes hers fair and lusty.
When in this heart the lightning spark of love arises,
Be sure this love is reciprocated in that heart.
When the love of God arises in thy heart,
Without doubt God also feels love for thee.
The noise of clapping of hands is never heard
From one of thy hands unaided by the other hand
The man athirst cries, "Where is delicious water?"
Water too cries, "Where is the water-drinker?"
This thirst in my soul is the attraction of the water;
I am the water's and the water is mine.
God's wisdom in His eternal foreknowledge and decree
Made us to be lovers one of the other.
Nay more, all the parts of the world by this decree
Are arranged in pairs, and each loves its mate.
Every part of the world desires its mate,
Just as amber attracts blades of straw.
Heaven says to earth, "All hail to thee!
We are related to one another as iron and magnet."
Heaven is man and earth woman in character;
Whatever heaven sends it, earth cherishes.
When earth lacks heat, heaven sends heat;
When it lacks moisture and dew, heaven sends them.
The earthy sign 9
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