Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Center Cannot Hold: Maralda and Lahm 5

In which we learn about 8511's mirror and its importance.  This is part 5 of a short story.  To read from the beginning, click on part 1 below.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

The old Ramelin man frowned.  His salt and pepper beard obscured part of his face's cold emotions.  Behind his eyes I could sense the purplish, cold power of his magic.  The master of the Necromancy department glared down at 8511.

"My property, finally.  What took you so long, tool?"  Maxmidan ignored the two of us.  I wondered if Lahm's own look of anger even registered.  "I assume these two were simply trying to help return you.  I'd hate to have to report any theft."

"We thought it'd dangerous to leave someone alone in a place known for what it does to those who know nothing of world."  I said, my mouth opening before I could think.  "She looked lost and mentioned you Professor.  We thought to help her get back to you as soon as we could."

"It is not a 'she'." Maxmidan corrected.  "Androids are tools.  They may be people-shaped, but don't be fooled.  They oft think like tools: useless unless used."

I swear I could hear a pin drop in the awkward silence.

"Either way, sir... here she is."  I waved my left arm around, as if displaying her to a audience.  I let my right hand drop down to under my coat.  My family's amulet felt warm as I clutched onto it.  Just in case, I might have to use it.

"Yes.  I suppose."  Maxmidan analyzed 8511.  After a moment, his voice switched to a command.  "Tool.  Did you find the necklace?  That is not what I sent you after."

8511's body froze, paralyzed as if by magic.  I cringed, recognizing the enchantments.  For anyone but an animal or Android, such cruel enchantments were illegal.  I thought I heard Lahm's teeth grit.  He recognized the same domination magic I had.

At first, the Android girl didn't answer.  I could sense the spell weaving its way.  I understood the basics of this version of the spell.  Pain and negative emotions would well up inside the subject if they didn't respond.  It was another layer to the enchantment, a cruelty to just be cruel.

Maxmidan's eyes glowed a bright purple, crackling with energy.  He stared at 8511.

"Answer, Tool."  Maxmidan lifted his cane up from the ground, hefting it up in one hand.

"No, I didn't find it.  No one could find that stupid necklace.  Perhaps the one who dropped it should
"All Power is Finite.  All Cages Open. All Chains Break."
-Shraxes, the Caged One
try retracing his own steps."  8511's eyes streamed tears of pain.  I heard the sound of her sarcasm, the anger and the pain.  She opened her mouth to continue the tirade against Maxmidan.  "Why do I have to-"

Maxmidan swung at her with the cane.  He hit her in the face, knocking the Android to the ground.  "Tool.  Shut up."

Just as he was about to lift his arm up in another swing, I dove for 8511.  As I did, Lahm grabbed the can from Maxmidan.  I put myself between her and Maxmidan.  Lahm threw the cane away.

"You do not strike a innocent."  Lahm said, his voice full of contempt.  "No matter what rules or lies Ith gives you, that is one thing you do not do."

Lahm pulled out a dagger.  That didn't matter.

"Ex nihilo."  Maxmidan threw blackness at Lahm.  Lahm fell to the ground, his muscles warping.  Necromancy writhed all over him.  I didn't recognize the spell, but took note that Lahm wasn't dead.  "You live, Tiefling because I'm kind enough to keep you alive.  You talk like a Crow.  Maybe a bit of enervation will teach you, hmm?"

"No."  8511 whispered to me.  She looked up to me.  "He's a monster.  I..."

"It's alright."  I told her.  "Lahm... has this thing about helping.  He's right.  You need our help."

"You don't understand."  She shook her head.  "I didn't want you two to get... Believe me when I say I'm sorry, ok?"

I blinked.  "Sorry for what?"

8511 ignored me and pulled up the mirror she'd been clutching since we found her.  She gazed into it.

"O Shraxes, I agree.  I ask for one wish and I shall break this mirror as you ask in return."

My eyes widened.  Maxmidan and Lahm must've kept talking or something, because neither of them saw what I did: 8511 threw the mirror to the ground, shattering it.  In the instant before it struck the ground, I saw a face.  A demonic face, like that of a woman but so unholy and beyond anything human or ursyklon.  She had been smiling, her horns covered in black energy as the mirror shatter.

I then heard a feminine voice rumble through the hallway.  "Your wish, then, young one?"

8511 pointed past me.  I nearly fell over in surprise.  She pointed past Lahm, to Maxmidan, his eyes still crackling with necromantic magic.  "Him.  I want his power, his magic and all he has wrought from them."

Then the demon woman laughed.  I felt my stomach turn.  Lahm gazed upward, his face pale yet worried.
"What did you do?" I asked.

8511 didn't answer me, but I could tell she was ashamed.  That's when it happened.

Maxmidan's knees buckled from underneath him.  Purple energy pulsed out of him, like water from a river.  It poured out, a torrent of magic.  The stench of brimstone filled the air.  My hair started to stand up, static in the air clinging to it.  I moved away from the river of power that poured out of Maxmidan.

And into 8511.

She then stood up, taking in all the magic and power her wish had taken.  Maxmidan fell to the floor.  8511's eyes started to glow purple, her wax face smiling.  She looked like she was experiencing revelations, like a child that has found the joy in reading on their own for the first time.

"This is his power.  All yours."  The demonic voice echoed, its source still unseen.  "This daughter of Shraxes thanks you for your aid.  Ask again, and perhaps even my mother will find a use for you, my little witch."

Then Maxmidan screamed in pain.

I looked over to the professor.  His salt and pepper beard had gone gray.  Then the hair started to fall out.  The gold gear on his lapel fell, then turned into rusted iron.  His clothes turned into rags.  I saw wands, rings and other magic fall from his person, turning to dust.  Their energy flowed back into the Android.  He held up one hand, and called out a staff from a glove, and he tried to use it to counter and stop the flow of the energy.  It didn't work, and the staff turned to dust along with everything else the professor had been wearing.

But it didn't end there.  The spell agonizing Lahm ended, returning into the maelstrom about 8511.  Maxmidan's flesh grew pale, then shrunken.  He aged as if decades, his body turning to a shell.  When it did end, he had become skeletal.

Lahm checked him.  "He's still breathing.  But... I don't know if he'll..."

Lahm shook his head.

"What did you do?"  I asked 8511 again.  I stared at her.  She'd... changed as well.  The Android we'd met had been covered in ragged clothes, cheap and covered in sewerage and the other detritus a crawl underneath Crux will give you.

Not this Android.  She wore a purple, black and red set of robes.  They covered her in a golden hood, framed with sigils that resembled bones and skulls.  Her hand held up a staff, bright with gold and amethysts.  Both her eyes had a dark shade of purple.  The rune on her forehead having become an enlarged omega symbol.

"I took the only thing that mattered."  8511 walked over to Maxmidan and spat at him.  I then noticed something else.  8511 was taller than me now, even a bit taller than Lahm.  Even Maxmidan's height had been taken to her.

"Power."  I shuddered.  "We... Lahm-"

Lahm waved a hand.  "We can't stay here.  It's alright, I've got a guy."

Lahm stumbled over to a nearby door.  I followed, turning back to 8511.  "You coming?"

She blinked.  "Oh.  Of course."

We left the rat bastard of a professor right there.  Meanwhile, I felt tingling go up my spine.  I let 8511 walk in front of me.  Suddenly have a Android Mistress of Necromancy behind me felt really, really risky all of a sudden.

"I apologized before because I didn't understand."   8511 told me as we followed Lahm.  "I wanted his power because he's a cruel man.  I didn't know if doing it that would've hurt you or Lahm.  I didn't want that."

"Uh..." I searched for the right thing to say.  As a Bard, I should have an analogy or something to use.  Something witty.  Dang it.

"But now..."  She blinked.  "Are you shorter or..."

"Yeah.  You're taller now."

"Oh.  That-"  She banged her head on a door as we walked threw.  "Ow."

That made me smile a bit.  "You okay, 8511?"

8511 rubbed her head.  Then I heard her whisper.  Something hissed.  Then metal clanged onto the ground.  Her metal name plate was on the ground, cut as if by acid.

"I am okay.  But that isn't my name.  I never want to heard 8511 ever again."

As always, thanks for reading.  Sharing and +1s are appreciated, especially if you liked the story.  This isn't the end of these characters, but its probably the end of this short story.  I hope you enjoyed it.   The characters and setting are based on Crux, the City of Curses, a Pathfinder homebrew setting I've been dabbling with.

Comments are beloved here!   Good ideas are welcome, while bad ideas are ignored.  Great ideas are stolen outright.  Thanks and see yah around the bend...