The Rotting Goddess
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    bad wolf Scourge of Nemo's Avatar
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    Default The Rotting Goddess

    This is a bit different than my usual, I guess. Instead of doom and gloom that mocks everything that is good and holy, it's, uh, deliberately melodramatic, random irrelevant soap opera murderers that mock everything that is good and holy. So. We'll see.

    Also, not ready for grading. There haven't even been any Pokémon yet. XD

    Uh. And big, ridiculous words will play a role later in the story. I'M NOT JUST BEING PRETENTIOUS. I PROMISE.

    Current Character Count: 34,749

    The Rotting Goddess

    prologue: the bucket lid raised
    arc i - oubliette
    chapter i: into the rat trap
    chapter ii: on the edge of lunacy
    Last edited by Scourge of Nemo; 13th January 2011 at 04:32 PM.

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    bad wolf Scourge of Nemo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Battle of Frogs and Mice

    The Rotting Goddess


    PROLOGUE
    the bucket lid raised

    The full moon came oddly that month, and would shine twice—once red, once blue. September’s Harvest gave way to the bowman and her arrows, the blood of the hunt under pale red of October. Jack’s grin would glow from doorways beneath the second moon, the face called the betrayer moon, the man of cheese who invited lunacy. And meanwhile, something was stirring. Cats leapt, fiddles in hand; the maiden let down her hair; dead fathers walked and the gray mocker whispered.

    Once in a blue moon.

    It was a time of nevers, of maybes, of sometimes, of two-and-a-half-years and every once in awhile, twice in three months—a thirteenth hour, a three hundred and sixty-sixth day. And it would be now.

    One more night.



    If they say the moon is blue, we must believe that it is true.



    “Um.”

    It was the only thing to say, really. Um. Clipped, uneasy—perfectly demonstrative of her misgivings and more than mild resentfulness. For the love of God, they were sending her to an ex-penal colony with more livestock than people. There really was no other appropriate response.

    “The hell?”

    Except maybe that. Yes, she was in disgrace, and her badge was dangling rather precariously over the gaping crevice of eternal shame and condemnation, as it were. A temporary suspension wasn’t out of the question. If anything, she had expected it. It wouldn’t have been fair—it would have been downright ridiculous, circumstances considered. But a month or so of “involuntary off-pay leave” wouldn’t have surprised her, either. (And she couldn’t say she hadn’t been looking forward to spending a few weeks doing something other than knocking over felons and begging judges for warrants. A day of fly-fishing, maybe, and some uninterrupted scarf knitting. Maybe both.)

    “I refuse to shoot a twelve-year-old boy, and they ship me off to a farming community for two weeks? And for what? Some vague case no one’s touched in seventeen years that you can’t even find a file for?” Alexandra Sanders’ very hair seemed to crackle with indignance. (But that was probably just because she had forgotten to brush it.)

    A gentle push came from Silas Corrigan, her partner of six months. She was too busy gritting her teeth to realize that her fist had curled and whitened, digging her nails and the tip of a knitting needle into his wrist.

    The tap became a bit more like a shove. “Alex, he was sixteen, and he was trying to throw a grenade at a SWAT team. Shut up and get in there.”

    “Uh-uh.” Her body somehow managed to end up right back where it had started prior to the push. “Can’t make me.” Alex dug her heels into the carpet furiously, hazel eyes narrowed, elbows jabbing at her assailant’s ribs. The tail end of her current knitting project dangled, bedraggled and forgotten, from its garishly orange yarn ball.

    They must have looked rather odd, at that point, as Silas’ attempt at ushering her into their boss’s office had degenerated into mid-hallway full-bodied shoulder shoving. Considering that she hardly looked formidable enough to shift a chair, while he weighed in at seventy pounds heavier and somewhere around eight inches taller than her, there was a certain absurdity to fact that a struggle was even occurring.

    “Doyle could have had the balls to call me useless officially—but no, he’s going to bother being a subtle bastard. Why disgrace me when he can just strike me from memory by dumping me off in some obscure Amish cult town.” At this, the needles’ direction became far more pointed. Alex launched a vicious attack at the nearest desk, only to be thwarted by toe pain whiplash.

    Silas used her distraction to sweep the screeching fury into a bear hug, lift her kicking form off the ground, and deposit her before a door at the end of the hall. A calloused, bulky hand reached over to muss up her hair in a condescending head pat.

    Waving him away, she straightened her Kevlar vest and yanked at a curl of his hair. “Jerk.” The door stood before her, name plate and doorknob glistening. Alex pointed an accusing finger at it, then shifted the digit to him. “This door signifies me stepping directly into the woes of misfortune and injustice. You just placed me right next to it. Anything that happens from this point on is entirely your fault.”

    This unnecessarily melodramatic accusation received an odd look from a harrowed-looking intern with glasses askew and an impossible number of pens bristling in his front pocket. Newbie, clearly. The experienced cubicle-inhabiting members of Littleroot Police Station were well accustomed to ignoring Alex and Silas. (She caught his eye and stuck out her tongue; he scurried past them at an increased speed.)

    “Good luck, Sanders.” The detective mock-saluted her with a one-sided grin.

    “Meh.”



    They would make men believe that the moon is made of cheese…



    “Hello, Miss Sanders.” Doyle oozed politeness with more eagerness than a Ditto trapped in an oven oozes singed purple slime. Hands folded, voice prim and proper, chair tipped just to the point of nonchalant attention… Alex wanted to sic her Growlithe on his leather chair. “I see Silas has delivered his portion of the news. You are not too fussed, I hope?”

    Actually, now that Alex took a moment to ponder it, a Ditto stuck in an oven wouldn’t be particularly excited to melt. No, Doyle was more akin to the ever-malicious Jello that kept reappearing at family gatherings, and had a habit of oozing through at least six hapless clothing articles (and a pet or two.) Nothing came out of Aunt Priscilla’s kitchen without a vindictive streak.

    Temporarily distracted by flashbacks, she settled for a zero-syllabic grunt in response. “Hmm.”

    “Hmm?” That sounded far too expectant for Alex’s tastes. (His hair was rather sticky, too—a bit much gel, and probably excessive amounts of hairspray. The blonde looked rather bottled. Yes, definitely Aunt Priscilla’s Cabbage-and-Marshmallow Lime Delight Jello….)

    A few moments of awkward silence ensued. She was determined not to break it. Or scream in frustration. Because the slanted look in his eyes told her all she needed to know—the moment she had entered this department thirteen months ago, she was damned to hell. And by God, she certainly deserved it.

    Which wasn’t to say she wouldn’t scream like a Dugtrio being stalked by a Doduo colony as he dragged her down.

    “Really?” she managed to snarl out.

    Doyle’s smile made her want to kick puppies.

    Bastard.

    Yes, she was the Dugtrio, he the Doduo. No matter how persistently she evaded his every move, no matter how many times she poked her obnoxious little phallus-shaped heads up through the ground in pursuit of escape, he would stomp her back down. It was an eternal game of Whack-a-Mole, in which she was the poor, oft-beaten rodent. With every onslaught, though, she would shriek and protest—and she would be six times as obnoxious as he could ever dream to be, because she would occasionally pop up at just the right time to send him skidding through the dust. It would harm his ego far more than her head. The pain was worth the gain. Somewhat.

    One hand worked it through the unnecessarily slimy hair as the other patted awkwardly at his jacket, probably in search of his handkerchief (because only reincarnated Jello demons carried handkerchiefs, those days). “Miss Sanders, what else do you expect me to do with you? The Bureau nearly lost half a SWAT team because you couldn’t swallow your tongue and pull the damn trigger.”

    Screaming-hell-demon-response. Right. Theoretically. In practice, she’d say as little as possible.

    Alex leaned back in her chair obstinately, picking apart the seams at the arm rests. So much for active resistance. As long as she was stuck in the abhorrently-decorated office, she may as well cause some good old passive aggressive destruction. Really, who mixed purple arm chairs with a red plaid couch and walls the shade of four-month-molded margarita mix? Everything about the furnishings (except the intimidating full-backed leather swivel chair) contradicted the uptight iciness of the crusty old turd of an owner. The only way to rectify the situation was to destroy them, clearly.

    “I’m waiting, Miss Sanders. You seem to have a nice piece of advice or two at the tip of your tongue.”

    “As I said. You could suspend me.”

    “Yes, and I’m sure all your young journalist friends wouldn’t just jump at the chance to condemn our child-slaughtering governmental regime. Nevermind that she has no right to the job, no experience, no understanding of what cause it is she shoots for.… All that matters is the poor little child with the grenade, left depraved and unaware by a childhood saturated with propaganda. ‘Alexandra Sanders fought for his life, and now she’s paying with her own.’”

    Alex couldn’t bring herself to protest his mocking tone. She did have a few rather unfortunate acquaintances. And she should have shot the brat.

    After a year of being dragged to Doyle’s office every other day or so, Alex had begun to formulate a theory: Doyle got the good chair and a view of the Vertigo poster; anyone who felt like challenging his authority got a subconscious self-esteem downer with the threadbare chair on the left; and anyone who pandered to his every whim was assured of the usefulness in the form of the foot-shorter reproduction of Doyle’s own leather monster. The sloppiness was merely intended to throw visitors off, and the entire basis of his interior decoration was a mind game. It made far more sense than the other alternatives, which all depended on Doyle being either incompetent, or too lazy to rectify his decorator’s mistakes. “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras, Sanders,” they would always tell her. Psychological manipulation was always the hoofbeats when it came to Ulrich Doyle.

    But right. She was in the middle of a conversation. Doyle’s thin eyebrows rose in an arc that made Alex wonder if he spent an unhealthy amount of time around wax, spas, and women’s clothing. She could never quite get her eyebrows shaped like that, now matter how many times she took tweezers to them.

    The eyebrows were waiting for her answer. Right. Eyebrows waiting higher. Right right right….

    This was another situation in which “um” wouldn’t have been misplaced. Unfortunately for Alex, she had already used it once today. Hmm, meh, and uh-uh were also off the list. “Er” was entirely inappropriate for a situation such as this. And so, she settled, with much deliberation and forethought, on a drawn-out squeak of discomfort. “Eehmkk.”

    Doyle eyed her carefully, lips pursed and eyebrows still positioned with unnatural precision. “But enough equivocation. Mister Corrigan seems to have preemptively informed you of your fate.” Here, Alex’s fingers began curling deeper into the gaudy armchair. “Unfortunately, it seems he was not fully informed. As such, his…” a stuffy, condescending pause, “representation… of the situation is not, shall we say…” a cough, “right.” Alex’s glare sharpened as he melodramatically wrist-flipped a manila folder. It spiraled to a halt on the desk’s edge.

    She opened the file. Her finger traced across the pages as if trying to absorb the words at a faster speed; her mouth slackened slightly; her neck gave an awkward twitch-crack movement. Silence.

    What? But this… FBI-level false identity (passports, letters of recommendation from previous bosses, employment records, degrees, school reports), full-length reports on a case that no one was recorded as investigating, complete psychological profiling on everyone who moved to Forget-Me-Not Valley in the last five years (all seventeen, which seemed too high a number), task list after task list, scientific evaluation of the soil quality.... The three-inch pile of overkill sitting before Alex left her speechless, confused, and completely bowled to the ground with shock. For a moment, even odd noises abandoned her.

    And then her eyes met his, narrowing the glare so that they may as well have been closed.

    “I’d think a suspension would require less paperwork than all this shit.”

    “Your language, Sanders.”

    Kabloom. All theories blown. Alexandra Sanders officially had absolutely no idea what was going on. (Not a new state of being for her, admittedly—but still a surprising one. And here she thought she’d had it all figured out.)

    “I don’t know what you expect me to get out of this, but whatever it is, it’s not coming to me.” The indignation and bewilderment of the day was steadily giving way to a nice, solid sinking sensation in the depths of her stomach. This was far from a throw-away preparation job. No, anything but. They didn’t send you anywhere under identities this strong unless there was a genuine chance of getting shot.

    “We’ll put it this way. The Miltank Mules went away twenty years ago. Now they’re back. Our technological improvements helped us trace the geographic signatures of soil remnants to Forget-Me-Not Valley. Now, we need someone who we don’t mind sending off on a useless black bag operation to go in, get their Miltank breeders out, and push around enough weight to get a conviction.”

    “…Miltank Mules as in the dealer that used Miltank to smuggle harmless, entirely legal hallucinogens to bored rich kids? As in the supposed ring declared null, void, and un-investigatable because no crime had been committed?” So much for preserving paperwork. And not being sent on a red herring waste of time. And getting shot. That last one might’ve been fun.

    Doyle cleared his throat into a faux-Rolex adorned hand; for a man in his mid-thirties, his mannerisms were awfully ancient. “Yes, well, now they’ve defaced public property.” At least he had the grace to appear embarrassed for her. Hah. Ha ha ha….

    “…What?”

    “They took their Miltank for one too many public grazing. Which is to say, Slateport doesn’t appreciate hallucinogen-laced cow patties diffusing into the atmosphere. That is, the parents of Slateport. They do not want their children getting high off of second-hand vapors.” Which definitely happens. She could see him folding slowly and awkwardly in on himself, well aware of how entirely ludicrous he sounded. Righteous anger seemed the best course of action.

    “This just gets better by the minute. Shall I whip you up a cocktail and press your coats, while I’m at it?”

    Her snipe whizzed past his ears. Doyle was in business mode, now. His eyebrows slanted downwards, forming determined grooves that were really just byproducts of too much sunbathing as a youth; his posture shifted, leaning towards her on his chair. “We can’t get inside contact because of their technology and isolation policies, but from what we know, Belinda Horace owns the ranch right now. Just farm for a few days, scrounge up sufficient proof for arrest. All there is to it. Foolhardy or not, Slateport is paying, and we’re certainly not losing any significant manpower.”

    “Mmmpf.” Doyle’s eyes strayed repeatedly towards the door as he settled back into his chair, hands folding into his lap; now was very clearly her cue to leave. As such, she took it, grabbing the file into one arm and bestowing a kick upon the heinous disgrace to mankind that was her purple chair. The resulting stumble lead her flight from the room.

    “And Sanders.” She paused in the doorway, dignity sputtering pitiful puffs of smoke. “Be grateful your father is willing to stick his fingers into dirty places.”



    If they say the moon is blue…



    The drinking-and-tea biscuit-dunking noises of their customary dinky little coffee house were a good deal more sedate than usual—mainly because they had bribed the owner twenty bucks to keep the place open an extra fifteen minutes. Despite the relative emptiness of their surroundings, Alex and Silas had more than made up for the lack of hustle and bustle with a full half hour of exuberant, slightly rummy conversation about nothing.

    “You know you can’t keep wearing that.” Silas made an offhand arm-swirl in the direction of her Kevlar vest.

    “But… it finally stopped chafing my nipples.” Alex’s response was intended more as a distraction while she reached for his drink, attempting to snatch it from his hands.

    “‘Oh, Miss Farmer, I hope you didn’t think you’d need that on our perfectly innocent non-drug-dealing Miltank plantation.’” His drink shifted to the right just in time to avoid her questing fingers. “And the nipple resistance—probably a not a good thing. Losing nerve endings in erogenous areas is a no-no.” She leaned farther towards the scotch glass, biting a lip in concentration; he grabbed at her wrist. “As is underage drinking. Silly twenty-year-old.” This was accompanied by a condescending finger waggle and over exaggerated frown. Successfully waylaid, Alex settled back with a frown. The pair lapsed into silence.

    Alex broke it awkwardly, much in the same way that a two year old shatters her mother’s three thousand dollar, four hundred fifty-year-old Kantonese vase. “He mentioned my father.”

    “Who is, y’know, the one reason you have a job. And a life. And only a semi-shameless public reputation.”

    “…But he blamed my father for the getting stuck in Forget-Me-Not Valley.”

    Silas gave her a flat glance. “You suck horribly at politics.”

    “I got away with swearing at Doyle, though. Six times.” A few less than that, but Silas didn’t need to know.

    His snorting response surprised Alex. “You really, really do. He wasn’t forced to sit there and take the whole ‘arr, we serfs will beat you to death with a shovel, one day!’ petty rebellion thing. He basically just dropped you off in a garbage bin. He can avoid bothering to force you to have common sense while working under him now that you pretty much… won’t be working under him any longer. No fuss, no hassle. He let you run your mouth because it convenienced him.”

    There almost seemed to be a note of genuine anger in his voice, but it wouldn’t stop her from turning the entire conversation into a joke. It was the only way to brush things aside, really—get ridiculous, make them frivolous. The more politically incorrect, the better—but only in civilized company, which Silas was not. As such, she took the lame, easy-out conversational path: Petty contradictions. “No, no, I definitely won a victory of some sort.”

    Silas turned his dark-eyed I-am-not-amused (but I really am) look on her once again. Everything about it was drier than a week-old waffle. Alex entertained a momentary notion of reaching across and snapping it in half. His flat-line smile almost grated more than Doyle’s nothing-you-can-do sneer-with-the-consistency-of-melting-ice-smile. But not quite.

    The tension of Alex’s soon-to-be absence slouched on the barstool between them, scythe propped against his knees, cord wrapped around his wrist, one-faced coin clicking between bone-white skeleton fingers. He loomed far above them, a specter of doubt that neither wanted to address. They merely drank and cavorted, talking right through his ribcage as if he weren’t there at all. Despite their avoidance, though, he was undeniably present, grinning like death in a face without eyes; both could see the curve of his scythe in the corner of their vision, held dangerously close to their necks.

    Beneath Death’s gaze, constant as the presence of the moon, fleeting as its cycles, both fell into silence again.

    Just as both had begun fading into the night, Silas picked up the frayed ends of their conversation where it had left off, raising his scotch to the air, wobbly and misplaced. “Well. I’ll drink to that.”

    Alex met his glass just as unsteadily with her milk. “I don’t remember whatever it was I said fifteen minutes ago, but amen.” Her grin was careless, loose, a mash of slack lips and eager eyes, youthful and free.

    The cord tightened in skeletal hands.



    we must believe that it is true
    (hey diddle diddle)
    Last edited by Scourge of Nemo; 3rd January 2011 at 02:52 AM.

  3. #3
    bad wolf Scourge of Nemo's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Rotting Goddess

    oubliette
    [fr. the French compound of “oublier” (disremember, forget, put out of one’s mind) and “etto” (diminutive), which means “little place of forgetting”]
    /oo blee ET/ a dungeon with an opening only at the top

    Eater of filth,
    goddess of darkness, grimly silently
    munching corpses, Hecate,
    regaled with incense of garlic; honored with gutted puppies
    and rubbish rites…
    -Ellipsis Marx
    arc i
    +oubliette+



    CHAPTER 1
    into the rat trap
    [under the hunter’s moon]

    The moon’s face shone red, the color of shame-lit streets and blood-slick bullet fragments. Though full, its surface wavered between clouds; its form hung like a ghost, haggard, fleeting in and out of existence, wan despite the ruddy blush.

    With the eyes of its dull, weary face, it watched a goddess—the keeper of the crossroads, the fiend of three faces and no heart. In stone hands, she held a torch of flames that never died and a mirror that wrote on the stars; in her blank eyes glowed the moon. Its light cracked through her pores, tearing at the crumbled puzzle pieces of moss-eaten stone. As the moon waxed and waned, her silhouette seemed to flicker, fading in time with its ashen glow.

    This was the goddess, said to walk on earth, guiding the growth of the crops, making the ground fertile and green. This was the witch, the crumpled bag of flesh and cracked hair that cast blights on the cattle and droughts on the rivers. And this was the moon, the eternal bonds on the witch’s wrists and the goddess’s poisonous mouth. Each struggled to be free of the others; only the moon kept harmony. And tonight’s moon was… antsy. Any second, with just a twitch of the clock’s hand, a blink of its numbered face and timeless gaze, the stone monument could dissolve into the night.

    one

    two

    three

    (up up and away)

    It is said… One careless second, eyes laden with the droop of the Sandman’s burden, and the witch could shatter the goddess’s unyielding flesh. Free from his prying gaze, she could draw her scraggle-brush broom out of nothingness and stars and ride away into the night, straddling harsh moon beams and lonely constellations.

    One to three—stone to life, to magic, to night.

    (In the shadow of the Hunter’s Moon, a hellhound raised its maw to the sky. At its left heel strode Misfortune; at its right, Death. The very plague burned in its mournful bray, red with the heat of fever, black with the stench of death—a warning and a promise, a plea that the people would heed its midnight call.

    It was not the harbinger. Only the messenger.

    This white omen lacked the status of a herald. He did not play Disaster’s pipes; he sprinted from them, even as their keen burned in his ears. It was all he could do to arrive with his divining and his warning, two steps ahead of the storm or the quake or the fire. The messenger carried only the unofficial word, a letter sent from the gods with a broken seal; he hauled the rumor mill on his back.

    (Burning arrows searing innocent flesh—heads returned to foreign monarchs on cheap plates and slabs of rock—the asp’s poison in an unsuspecting wrist—a neck, snapped between the weight of its jerking feet and strangling rope. Humankind was in the habit of shooting the messenger.)

    Once upon a time, there was a proud Solrock who never stopped spinning, for he loved the glimmer and heat of the sun. The whorl of heat did not cease, and soon, the land began to wither and die beneath him. One day, a witch came to him, back crooked and hands bent. At first she begged. Then she warned. Then she threatened. “You, in your selfishness, wish for the sun’s light to dance only on you. Instead, its harsh fire has struck down the land. The sun is an adulterous master: You must cease to serve it,” she told him, “or I will turn you away from the sun, to blackness and dust. You will never taste its light again.”

    He did not listen. It was not his only folly. And so one night, the witch returned. “My people have suffered and starved to please your vanity. You will repay them.” Flexing her knobbled fingers and muttering in her choked-gutter voice, she turned him from a shining imitation to a twisted omen. He did not touch the sun again.

    Absol(ute) absol(ution)—this was his condemnation, his atonement, his purgatory. Night after night he walked through flames and emerged unsinged and unpurified: The people would always be his to save. Forgiveness was never enough.

    I wash my hands of this, said the Absol to the portent moon.)

    The man on the moon, two-faced, turned to hear the prophet’s cry.

    One moment. Time shuddered; cracks spiraled through its planes; the thirteenth hour flashed in and out of being.

    Somewhere deep in the earth, chains rattled loose. A manacle cracked against cold stone.

    The (moongoddesswitch) ethereal sentinel never could keep his watch. Not when the moon was blue…
    I told you not to blink.

    The earth split. Stones tumbled from the cliff faces, settling in clouds of dust on the valley floor below—tree trunks trembled. The animals felt a shiver in their bones: Pidgey fled from their perches in a flurry of feathers and forgotten young; Rattata scurried, squeaking, beneath the leafy forest floor; Seviper stole the unusual opportunities to emerge from their burrows and herd their panicked, distracted prey. The unexpected racket upset the calm of the night, infiltrating the silence. A rumble began, seemingly floating in the air.

    (“And so the moon must ever keep vigil in its solitude,” said the cat to its fiddle.)

    The goddess breathed, stone no more.




    Under the light of the moon, seven gods gathered before their mistress.

    The one of pale skin and cruel face stepped down, robes pooling about her feet, hair unfurling in its careless braids almost to the ground. No light but the moon’s reflected in her eyes.

    Fearsome, all: soul-suckers, flesh-eaters, energy-leachers—sinners, soldiers, narcs and saboteurs, they bowed to her. For it was her land they feed from, her fire, her water, her earth and sky that they stole. The witch created them; the goddess owned them; and the moon kept watch over their treacherous backs. Powerful, unpredictable, capricious and solipsistic, the ghost-gods lived for themselves and died for no one—but before her, they were nothing. She could unravel them in a moment, slice the thread that tied them to earth. They knew this. It was why they scraped and groveled at her feet; it was why they held their non-existent breath, awaiting her words.

    And she did make them wait.

    She played with the fire of the torch in her hands, sent it scattering across the mirror surface, threw it to the moon. Their comfort would not come before her glee. It had, after all, been quite awhile since she has walked the earth.

    “So,” the witch in a goddess’s skin said at last, voice dried and crumbling like the rocks that imprisoned her. “This woman. She has woken the Barghast, who has, in turn, woken me.”

    The balloon-god spoke, voice wheezing with each puff of air. “She comes tomorrow. Her mind is weak, impressionable—she seeks only the truth she already comprehends. Once she has attained what she comes for, she will depart, and will bother us no more.” He was the observer, the one who heard everywhere but was seen nowhere—nowhere but as a purple speck on the horizon.

    “I think not.”

    The goddess’s quiet contradiction was met with nervous glances and awkward shifts of ectoplasm. The ghosts did not wish to anger their goddess—neither did they wish to humor the look in her eyes, the tone in her voice. This was her plotting face. Seven years of famine and the annihilation of an entire race had followed the last time she wore this expression and spoke in this manner.

    It had, indeed, been a very long time since she had properly woken…

    “This woman comes to make trouble for my valley. We might instead…” and here she paused, skeleton-bone hand cupping the flame, “…make our troubles the world’s, don’t you think?”

    Such a very long time.

    The god bound in the stone knew what this meant. It was he who had been formed of the tormented spirits of one hundred and eight (beads of prayer, heavenly stairs, rings of the bell—his were the sinners who did not pray, did not enter the temple, did not cleanse themselves in death). It was he who had been born of the goddess’s temptations, of the failure and malevolence of man. Within him, the bound ones shivered—they remembered the goddess’s wrath, the havoc she wrought on the world. They remembered very well…

    Twelve houses, nine planets. One hundred and eight. Metal silver—the moon. One hundred and eight. The size of earth in the size of the moon. One hundred and eight. Stages of the soul, paths to god—the gods. One hundred and eight. One hundred and eight sins, delusions, desires… The goddess knew each of the demons at her side. As they swirled about their host’s depths, glowing green will-o-wisps in the murk, they knew she remembered their worth, just as they remembered her cruelty, her vice, her whimsy.

    The world chained her to a statue, just as she bound them to the keystone for their failure to resist her corruption. They were hers, and she would do with them what she willed. And already they could see in her eyes—what she willed would not sit well with the world.

    “Staid.” Her fingers strayed to the mirror at her side. “Keep your watch. Only Sam and the doctor have regular leave.” (The golem nodded, silent, nearly unmoving.) “Nappy. Eyes open, as always. Focus on the newcomer.” (The balloon spun a perturbed circle, propellers flapping.) “Bold, Chef, Aqua. Keep your appetites to a minimum. All must appear safe.” (Sarcophagus, chandelier, and jellyfish, deceptive in form and malicious in diet, did not dare utter their discontent. The goddess’s hand stayed far too close to her fire.) “Hoggy. Perhaps a few more fires shall do the good people of Forget-Me-Not Valley some good. Discourages them to invite the newcomer in if their kitchen is exploding, wouldn’t you say?” (And the appliance nodded vigorously, garnering apathy-veiled anger from its brethren.) “As for you, Timid…” (The one hundred and eight whirled faster in their trepidation.) “You will remain at my feet, for the time being.”

    It was to be expected, and therefore was all the more ominous.

    “You may all return to your flesh-bound forms,” said the goddess with the moon-filled eyes, red and cold. “Perhaps I will soon wear my mask before the true gods…” With that, she bit her thumb, traced her bloodied finger across the mirror’s surface and the moon captured within, and turned once more to stone.

    (The Harvest Moon shone red. A word of death written in magic, the witch’s omen, bled into the moon as the shadow of the absolution veiled its face once more. The Barghast cried in the night, sorrowing for the deaths to come.)

    And at the goddess’s feet, ghosts once again became men—or perhaps something less.
    Last edited by Scourge of Nemo; 13th January 2011 at 04:03 PM.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: The Rotting Goddess

    He stepped through the portal,
    Locked the door and ate the key
    -Gatekeeper, Within Temptation

    CHAPTER 2
    on the edges of lunacy
    [rafel mahee amek zabi almit]

    Three steps out of the path sided by a sheer rock embankment, and Alex already felt like biting someone. Preferably Doyle. Or Silas. Biting Silas tended to lead to more entertaining results than biting Doyle, which would probably just get her shipped to Siberia. Ah well.

    Point being. One step past the path, and the heavy stench Miltank manure had permeated her overalls. Two steps past the path, and she had realized there were no telephone poles. Which likely meant her cell phone would have no coverage, unless she stood on her roof and wired herself to a satellite. Which meant she wouldn’t be able to report to Doyle. Which meant that she would be in even deeper doodoo. Three steps past the path, and she met her guide.

    He was wearing a straw hat. And chewing on a grain. And had an overbite, dirt-encrusted galoshes, and what looked like prison tattoos. All over his body.

    All in all, the picture of small-town farmer.

    Fan-tastic.

    “Welcome to Forget-Me-Not Valley,” he said. (He even had a bit of a drawl, which was odd, considering the valley was located on the exact opposite side of the country from the drawling-farmer locale.)

    “Yeah. Hi.” She smiled benignly. She was Myfanwy Zenzinov, uneducated dropout and failed trainer. It was uncomfortably close to the truth. In fact… better to add “demure” to uneducated dropout and failed trainer. Just to indicate some separation of character. Point being, Myfanwy Zenzinov did not sneer at the quaint farm-boy; she hoped to spend the rest of her life becoming one. So she smiled. And smiled more. He smiled back.

    Things were starting to get awkward.

    “Uh. So. I wanna see my farm, if that’d be cool…” she mumbled. Perhaps a bit too quietly—he looked confused for a moment, before his face brightened with a grin.

    “Sure! I’ll show you where it is, then deliver you to the Mayor for his own special welcome; you’ll have to figure the rest of the valley out for yourself.”

    This was refreshing. From the way the files had been written, they made it sound like the entire town was a madhouse of drug dealers. Not that the Miltank Mules had been an overly harmful group—they ran for at least two decades before they did anything illegal (besides the drug dealing). And it wasn’t that they had been sneaky and underhanded. They just weren’t dangerous. At all. The breach of law that fractured their mostly-legal reputation had had something to do with postage stamping the wrong side of an envelope, too, so it wasn’t like they broke out of their rut with any gusto. Even now that they were back, the only reason anyone cared is because some stupid kid had been sticking his nose into the dung patties. That probably wouldn’t have mattered, had the kid not gotten a whiff of inhalant up his nose. And even then… nothing would have been done, had said kid not belonged to an esteemed member of the Slateport City public watch.

    Whatever. Point being, Alex had assumed—er, more like hoped—that the entire town would be snorting Ether and Star Dust. Other than the fact that it’d be incredibly entertaining to do business with high villagers, it’d also be far easier to lie to them. And figure out which one was selling the goods.

    But if this guy was anything to go by, no such luck.

    “Uh, Miss?”

    She had apparently been staring dumbly into space for more than a minute. Splendid. “Right, yeah.” Alex started to follow.

    “Anyway, like I was saying, my name’s Sam. I take imports in and out of Forget-Me-Not Valley. Just crops and animal products, though. You have to sell anything else through our peddler, Viggo. You, um, might want to avoid him for awhile. Or at least wear… close-toed shoes.”

    “What?”

    “Nevermind. What was your name, again?”

    Alex had an answer prepared for this one. “Well, you see, when I was born, my parents were in the midst of the divorce. Neither of them wanted me, and they both hated each other. So, to get back at whoever ended up with me—‘cause the stupid court system wouldn’t put me up for adoption, the bastards—they both agreed on the most awful name they could think of, and changed the pronunciation every day.”

    The farmer blinked slowly. His grain drooped a little. “Gosh, uh.” He seemed to be thinking of consoling me. Then he blinked a few more times and gave up. “What was that name, again?”

    “Well, today you can pronounce it Moo-fan-weh. Moo for short. Like a cow.” Here, Alex paused, hooking her thumbs through her dungarees and sticking out her belly. “Mooooooo.”

    She had prepared her personality on the assumption the town was full of stoners.

    Last edited by Scourge of Nemo; 13th January 2011 at 04:28 PM.

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