“The Doom”

Most-High – the Regal One, King-and-Adjudicator – looked down from his tall throne at the mortal that kneeled before him in the Great Chamber, that throne room of the gods in their basalt castle. The mortal did not kneel out of deference, nor out of fear, nor out of love and loyalty to Most-High and his fellow deities. No, this mortal knelt only because two of the Courageously Slain held their spears against his neck, forcing him to obey the commandment of Most-High.

This fact alone displeased the Regal One and tempted him to have the mortal slain outright before any questions could be asked. After all, he could just have Seeker-of-Mysteries raise the mortal’s shade…

But Most-High knew implicitly to show such impulsive wrath toward a mortal, no matter how impertinent they might be, was to show weakness. And to show weakness in Court was to invite the schemes and plans of his brothers and sisters. Or – Powers forbid it – the attention of the Messenger.

An imperceptible chill ran through Most-High as he thought of the Thousand-Faced-One, his skin developing gooseflesh at the very notion. Narrowing his eyes, he focused upon the kneeling mortal before him.

“Explain to me, frail one, why you decided to contravene Our most Holy Law and seek to watch us at our dancing on the mountain-heights?” Most-High’s voice was deep and full of righteous menace, but the mortal did nothing but smile back at him.

“Why, I sought to catch the last glimpse of the Gods of Men before their Doom fell upon them,” he said with a wild light in his eyes. “Such a sight shall not be seen again.”

“What blasphemy is this?!” cried out Beauteous-and-Desired, whose face is like the soft glow of a thousand ruddy dawns. “How dare this ugly, may-fly of a creature impugn us so?!”

The mortal was ugly, Most-High would not dispute his sister on that count. His long, dark hair was shaggy and disheveled, his clothes stained from sweat and dirt and who knew what else. All he wore was a simple, roughspun tunic and trousers, his feet clad in linen wraps and rough sandals; a bag woven from hemp fibers was slung across his thin and bony chest. He smiled lecherously at Beauteous-and-Desired, those teeth that remained in his skull were small, brown, and worn.

“I may not live long, but neither will you, harlot!” he cackled, his laughter ending in a racking cough that ended with him spewing blood and phlegm upon the marble stones of the Great Chamber’s floor.

Most-High frowned deeply. “Have this mad man put in the cells,” he told the two spear-wielding Courageously Slain. “We will deal with his impudence on the morn, when we have had time to rest and think.”

The guards dragged the mortal from the Great Chamber, the dirty man kicking his legs violently as he cackled and yelled hysterically, his voice at a fever-pitch. The gods had averted their attention from him as he was removed from the throne room, both because he was offensive to their sight and because he, being mortal, was beneath their attention. And so, none of them saw the small puzzle box tumble from the mortal’s bag as he was yanked through the doorway of the Great Chamber by the Courageously Slain.

None save Crowned-in-Ivy, youngest and most-beloved son of the Regal One. As the other gods departed to attend their nightly revels, the young lad wandered on his way to the Chamber’s door, and picked up the box. A small cube made of ebony, inlaid with gold in patterns that dazzled his youthful eyes and made him feel heady, as when he sipped of his father’s cup of the Sweet Nectar. Crowned-in-Ivy’s fingertips slid across the wood panels and the lines of gold as he quickly became consumed with the box, pressing down on one panel to allow another to slide its place, popping out another panel to change the box’s shape into something new. The young lad sat on the marble tiles of the Great Chamber, in the midst of the gods’ tall thrones, until finally he could no longer change the box from its new trapezohedral shape. His gaze was drawn into the panels, which flickered with the light of the Chamber, reflecting images back darkly. In the panels, he saw his own beatific face, but changed – instead of beautiful and young, it was ghastly and marred. Disturbed by this vision, but unable to draw his gaze away from it, Crowned-in-Ivy was held in thrall until he saw a shape rise behind him in the dark mirror of the ebony box.

The movement broke the spell that had held the young god and he turned in surprise to see a tall man standing behind him. Looming almost as tall as the thrones themselves, powerfully built with skin as white as maggots, he wore only a breech-clout and a hood that eclipsed his face in darkness. In one of his linen-wrapped hands, the Albino held a large, jagged, broken blade that was as dark as the puzzle box that Crowned-in-Ivy still held in his hands.

“Who are–”

The young god’s question was left unfinished as the Albino slid his blade through the youth’s mouth, smoothly separating the top of his skull from the lower. As Crowned-in-Ivy’s body fell back onto the marble floor of the Great Chamber, the trapezohedral puzzle box held fast in the death-grip of his hands, the Albino stalked off.

He found Seeker-of-Mysteries first, sequestered in his chambers dissecting the corpse of some infant beast with a vertical mouth in the center of its face. Surprised and enraged to be disturbed in the middle of his studies, Seeker-of-Mysteries was at first oblivious to the identity and the purpose of the interloper. But when his eyes fell upon the Albino’s blood-slick sword, he attempted to use the magic that he had mastered over so many millennia to save him. Instead, the Albino cut off the god’s hands and disemboweled him as Seeker-of-Mysteries still drew breath, forcing the god to collapse and drown in a pool of his own blood and offal.

Beauteous-and-Desired he found in a bath of steaming water, rose petals, and floral perfumes. She knew not that he had entered until he grabbed her long, lustrous hair in his powerful fist and yanked her head back over the rim of the bathing tub. She screamed, but only for a moment before the Albino’s blade sank through the meat of her exposed throat like a hot knife through butter, cutting all the way to bones of her spine in a single slash. Her left her there, the goddess’ blood spreading through the warm bath-waters as her head lolled horrifically over the rim by a few cords of muscle and ligament.

One by one the Albino hunted down the gods in their cyclopean basalt castle, high in the northern wastes. He found them in their private chambers, alone. He found them in the revelry halls in groups, forcing him to face them and their Courageously Slain. But all died, felled by the Albino’s ebon blade.

Finally, he found Most-High in reclusion on the roof of the castle’s highest tower, gazing up at the odd constellations and the corpse-white face of the full moon as it sailed slowly through the sky.

“Who are you?” the Regal One demanded as the hooded figure emerged upon the grey-stoned roof. “How dare you intrude upon the home of the gods without invitation?!”

“I am the Fiery-Blade of the South,” the Albino said, his voice coming from the shadowy depths of his hood, the sound flowing and crackling like solarwinds. “I am the Harbinger of the Awakening and the End.”

Most-High drew his own blade, forged in the heart of a thunderstorm, but even it could not stand against the broken blade of the Albino. Most-High was driven backward, his sword cast aside onto the stones of the rooftop as the King-and-Adjudicator fell to his haunches and backed away from the hooded figure in terror.

“I am your Doom,” the Albino said, pulling back his hood and showing his face to Most-High.

The Regal One screamed in mindless horror as the Albino’s blade sunk into the god’s heart, snuffing out the life that beat there. Finished with his task, he drew his hood back up and descended through the abattoir that was now the castle of the Gods of Men, journeying deep into its dungeons until he found the cell of the dark-haired and dishevelled mortal.

The man gasped as he saw the silhouette of the Albino on the other side of the bars, and began weeping with joy as the door to his cell opened and the hooded figure entered.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” He cried out, tears and snot running down his face.

The Albino pulled back his hood, revealing a face that was as empty and shining as the darkness of the void, before smothering the mortal with one of his opalescent hands. The mortal’s lifeless body fell to the floor of the cell as the Albino stood and raised his hood once more. As he left the basalt castle of the gods, somewhere – in the depths of some dark ocean – the Albino felt a form that was dead-but-dreaming stir and begin to awaken within its hoary temple-tomb.

And the Albino was pleased.

Nicholas Egelhoff © 2013