This story is one of the behemoths upon which I’m currently at work.
“…the Nine were commanded by the fallen brother, and the Nine were obedient having thus been created by that brother, their Father, who bade them search the vastness of all time and space for that which had been taken from him.”
From VI Chronicles of the Book of Genna
Attributed to Sirek the Young
of the Third Age
“Her savior can only be the one who covets her as a lover and embraces her as a father.”
October 11, 2022
The tattooed man, known here as Angelson, pulled up his hood to cover the artwork that marked his bare scalp and face. No inch of him was left untouched, each image etched into his flesh told the story of a history yet to come to pass.
He hated this place, the stench of decay, mostly. These were end times for a dying world and being here only reminded him of other losses suffered in other lives.
He was always the same man, if known by a different name or no name entirely. He felt a harbinger of sorts, and the news he brought was never pleasant.
Angelson had arrived here two days ago, taking up temporary residence in the Deep Valley Motel, a seedy two-story structure that smelled of violent, vengeful, mournful coitus. He could see the human stains (both the physical and the spiritual) everywhere he looked and lamented the passing of more civil and “chaste” times. But here, time marched on and the people and the world with it until all were perched on the precipice of a dark abyss. The simplest of metaphorical nudges or the softest of proverbial breezes could mean the descent and the demise of people who had yet to learn better.
It was all part of the push and pull between Emilian and Velaak. Everyone else was merely caught in the middle, fates unknowingly woven into the desires and ultimate providence of two young girls.
Angelson smoothed the blankets on the bed. He did not sleep, so the covers remained virtually undisturbed. He had simply passed the hours resting atop the bedspread, gazing at the popcorn ceiling as if he were studying a star-filled sky. Even amid the popcorn, he could still discern patterns and constellations, the visages of people and beasts, detailed tapestries of storied times long ago and far into the future.
Nothing was certain. Even his tattoos changed as uncertain histories eventually resolved themselves. That was always painful, a reminder of the deaths and sacrifices that punctuated an Age. Never a euphoria of new lives’ beginnings. His body seemed to only respond to the evils in men’s hearts and the vain enterprises of imperfect and largely disinterested Designers.
If this made him a sort of reluctant nihilist, so be it. But knowledge is experience, and Angelson’s experiences put him in the front row of the Grand Guignol. How could his philosophy be anything different?
Angelson retrieved from the nightstand the intricately carved box. No bigger than a child’s shoe box, the wooden container was made from the sturdiest flesh of an ancient ash tree, stained with a high-gloss, black lacquer, and ornamented along all four sides with a frieze depicting Velaak’s exile and descent into Dun’galur, followed by the Nine Drizu’dæ Valkier. The lid and the base were slightly larger than the box proper and styled with beveled edges that were mirror images of each other. Inlaid atop the lid were nacre tiles no more than a half square-inch in area, and the lid was sealed tightly with a brass clasp. The hinges were also of polished brass, and the box itself was supported upon four feet carved from pewter into three-taloned claws.
Vara had given him the box when she set him upon this mission, its significance—and its contents—lost on him. She had assured Angelson that the man in question, though not necessarily recognizing the significance of the box’s contents, would respond to a distant, collective memory, which would prompt him to act—assuming that the soul that had filled him had not been damaged beyond repair. With little information to go on, it had taken him a long while to search out and identify the man believed to be the subject of his quest. Upon locating the man, Angelson observed him and soon came to regard him with pity and doubt. This was to be the girls’ savior? His savior?
The man was a husk, an empty shell. A drunkard. Lost and not wanting to be found or to find himself. Angelson considered the events along the course of his life that had brought this man to such woeful depths, and he wondered if it were too late for redemption.
While turning these thoughts over in his mind, Angelson feared the remaining Nine and their servants were close to peeling back the veil. Vara had instructed him to find and protect the man and ensure he was able to accomplish what he must. Vara had been gripped by desperation and impressed upon him that the fate of worlds rested on this man’s shoulders. On more than one occasion, the man had been close to succeeding. Too often he failed.
Finally, it had come to this. The man could not fail again.
But there was also the boy.