The pinks and purples of dawn's early light captured my heart this morning.
There was something so peaceful about the way it gently slipped over the Town. The soft light seeming to caress the flames of the inferno that engulfed a good portion of the buildings.
Made my soul at ease.
An excellent start to a new day, if I do say so myself.
There was something so peaceful about the way it gently slipped over the Town. The soft light seeming to caress the flames of the inferno that engulfed a good portion of the buildings.
Made my soul at ease.
An excellent start to a new day, if I do say so myself.
You know, my friends... part of me keeps wondering why I bother continuing to update this blog. There is no true reason to do so. If anything, I can think of many a reason why I shouldn't. However... there is something about this Community that I find appealing. Interesting. Amusing.
As the carrousel turns as it always has, this place... has been giving me an in-depth look into so many of your minds. Some of you may not even think you have, but sometimes it is the things left said in between the lines that scream the loudest. Each of you come on here. Spilling your hearts and souls onto blogs of your own creation... where not all the readers care to make the pain stop. In fact, many of us (and not just the ones who advertise themselves as what they are) can't help but think of how to take that agony to the next pitch. To better the Act previous. Expand the Arc. Let you discover a new level of misery as the darkness that you thought had swallowed you whole only gets darker still. The intense crimson flare of splattered blood becoming an even sharper contrast to your dulling world. The once flawless white of innocence stolen away. Piece by piece. Spoiled beyond the point of return. Turning to a gray that dampens the soul at a mere glance... or, better yet, flipping the coin head over tails. For nothing makes a darker black than what was once dazzling white.
Even the little things here and there can bring a smile to my face.
Your precious war of words.
Proclaiming your acts of defiance as if they are some great mark in the endless struggle. As if what you do actually matters. That it will actually amount to something. You delude yourselves into thinking you have a chance. Into thinking that you may just "win this war" one day.
Win this War.
A noble thought.
Makes it all that greater of a shame when the truth is recognized.
This has never been a war.
Only a slaughter.
Whether the hand that guides the Runners through their final moments is Father's or our own - those that have run their time and are pegged to die... always do. Always. Despite all the pain. All the effort. All the support given. Every Runner will die. Leaving only a scattering of words on an internet page. A virtual gravestone, I've heard it called. It's cute, really. There are already so many around. Each one a testament to disprove their own opinions that there was a chance. That there still is a chance.
Every one of you stopped having a chance when He found you the first time.
Or should I possibly say when "One of Them" found you?
I'm sure at least some of you are aware that our Father is not the only entity to fear in the darkness. He is but one of an ever-growing Family. A group of Siblings, if you will. Not quite accurate, but as good a term as any to attempt to describe what They are. Each one being a near-perfect Predator. Most presumably far older than our knowledge dates them...
In my view, so long as there was someone alive to fear what dwells in the darkness, there has been a reason for that fear. When we were younger, most of us knew to tread carefully in their territory. We didn't know who They were, yet we knew to stay quiet in their presence. To hide. To run. However, with age comes arrogance and stupidity. We step forward and call the shadows out on their "bluff." Waving off the spook stories and the chills down our spines. Proclaiming ourselves above such childish nonsense as being afraid of what we can't explain. Proclaiming ourselves free of that paranoia... and, for some, they are allowed to live in that ignorance.
No one here was so fortunate. All of you were answered by your greatest Fears as they stepped forward from those very shadows to pass their Judgement.
Usually, you can consider yourself rather unlucky to catch the attention of one.
To catch the attention of two is a rather special manner of bad luck.
Catching the attention of more than that... well, you're obviously involved in something you shouldn't be. Plain and simple.
And each and every One... has Its own Followers.
It is between these groups of Followers... these Cults... where the true "Wars" can be said to be taking place.
"My God is Better Than Your God."
Tens of thousands of years of conflict amongst the human race... and it never seems to get old, does is?
Generally speaking, there tends to be three Cults which stand head and neck above the other, smaller Cults of the other Fears. It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that the largest organization is that of Proxies themselves. The minions of the infamous Slender Man. We have the largest base of Followers than any other Cult. We are the widest spread around the globe. And we hold the most power when it comes to political standing in the world of the Norms. Three cheers for us, hm?
At our backs... stand the Followers of the Plague Doctor. And, after them, those of the Rake.
That being said... just like any other Family: Every group annoys the others equally.
A Cult standing further down on the list doesn't mean they won't make a stab at the top or vice versa.
It simply means that some Cults have more resources to be a bigger pain in the ass than others.
For example, The Afflicted - our dear, diseased Cousins - have seemingly made it their goal over the past several hundred years to be the most irritating thorn in our side as possible.
Hence the ruckus.
It all could have been so innocent, honestly. One of the Cult Towns of the Afflicted decided an expansion was in order and they began infiltrating their closest, neighboring town. Taking up positions in the community. Digging their tunnels. Spreading their influence. Before long, it started feeling like a Home away from Home, no doubt.
Honestly? We wouldn't have cared all that much. It wasn't as though it was one of OUR Cult Towns and, if they felt they wanted it, then very well. Good for them. So long as they didn't expect us to send any house-warming gifts, nothing would have had to happen.
And then the kidnappings started. All around the area, Proxies started disappearing. Vanishing into thin air. Right in the middle of missions. It didn't take too long to connect the dots. We discovered through some of our connections that they were taking our kin back to their Homestead. Alive. They'd then proceed to experiment on them. Exposing them to all manner of Special Studies for days on end until the effects became too much and the life of our kin slipped away. A fitting sacrifice to their Sick-Humored God.
The challenge had been made.
Fast-forward a month.
And David and myself were more than ready for the little contest to come to an end.
As you already know, David had already begun ticking off the names on the list I gave him. Within the first couple of days of being enlisted into the Cause, David brought two families down to their knees... and then even further down than that. The first was a soccer mom with three children between the ages of five and twelve years. The second was a stay-at-home dad with two teenage sons. I had instructed him to make certain each family member was made into an example of what happens when Proxies are challenged. David had sent me pictures at the time, you may remember. They were impressive.
As you can imagine, the entire Town went on high alert when the bodies were discovered. David then found himself unable to move without being detected, so he pulled back. Started helping myself and the Divisions in the neighboring town. Just waiting for the heat to die down.
Was last night
The Divisions themselves were split up, and all on the offensive. The time for being discrete had been over for a while. I instructed a barrage to be swept across the "invaded" town alongside cloak and dagger strategies. Groups of three. No more, no less. Large groups can be taken out too easy, and going in alone leaves blind-spots open for a blade to be buried in one's spinal cord. Doctors do tend to know their anatomy, after all. Taking chances was not on my agenda. Three meant one could fall, and there was still two to watch each others' backs. Best chances.
The attack was a lure.
And They bit.
When met with such a heavy attack, they assumed it was going to be our Last Stand. The final push turned to shove to overwhelm them and reclaim the town. After all, that would be the direction the Highers had wanted to take. To take The Afflicted's beloved expansion project right out from under them, then move against the Center from there.
A foolish endeavor.
The town didn't matter at all.
But our Cousins didn't know that plans had since shifted.
They brought reinforcements from their Hometown to clash with our own forces. Fighting to keep their beloved spit of land. Leaving security in the original Cult Town... significantly lower than it was.
We moved fast.
It was imperative that David completed his list. It targeted very specific families from one side of Town to the other. I gave him free rein in the work, of course. Leaving him to his own creativity. So long as they were each made into examples, and one of two required a bit more than that. Special treatment, you could say. Something that would make a defined impact on the last remaining member of the family to walk into.
David took a few of the other Proxies with him to keep lesser details out of his way as he took care of business.
I swear, the man swept through the Town like a walking plague.
It was glorious.
He updated me after each visit was done.
Thank God, my phone still managed to keep a signal underground.
I would have liked to see David at work, honestly, but I had my own business to attend to. Granted, it had started out above ground, but it didn't take too long before I was moving through the the tunnels beneath the Cult Town itself. Slipping down corridors. Finding my way along. A map in my head of where I needed to go. A few weeks ago, I had taken it upon myself to... get one of our own recruited into their side of the Family. Swampjack came through just like I knew he would. A true snake in the grass, if there ever was one. Father would be ever so proud. As am I. The Ugandan native gave me exactly what I needed. Being a new recruit, he didn't have the rank to access the areas I needed into without causing a stir, but it mattered not. I only needed the knowledge to make me at home in the never-ending tunnels. I could pull "rank" myself.
And that is exactly what I did. As the chaos gripped the Town itself tighter and tighter, I walked with solid resolve to my step. Body language hinting at anger as I passed by many a Cousin of mine, and - just as I had planned - not a question was brought my way. In fact, a few of them moved OUT of my way. I truly had to resist laughing.
Full-body costumes make things so much easier at times.
The tunnels were designed a fair bit more impressively here than in the Wannabe-Town, suggesting an age to their Religion in that specific area that would rival that of some of our own Towns. However, between endless tunnels and sewer systems, things didn't get all that interesting until I hit my destination. Or, at least, the introductory to it. The Main Chamber was little more than a meeting place. Plenty of space for a gathering of people to come to worship their Sick God. A few carvings here and there. Polished, but not fancy. I didn't care, to be honest. I breezed right through it to the far back where a set of stairs lead me down to a new level and a new tunnel.
I had to resist the urge to gag.
The interlocked stones that had once covered the walls of my path so picture-perfectly suddenly had gaps left in their patterns. Carefully carved holes which framed the same thing over and over again: The bodies of humans. With arms, hips and legs caught back behind the stones, the corpses of men and women alike were exposed from the waist up to passer-byes like a morbid art gallery. Varying in different stages of decomposition to those that looked as though they'd died a few days prior, they were all lined up on either side of the hallway. One woman in particular wasn't even dead yet. The slow rise and fall of a ribbed-chest being the only indication of life from the pale, deathly-skinny figure. She reminded me of those who were taken from the Concentration Camps during WW2. A living skeleton and little more.
Punishment, one would think, yes?
I would admit, it would be a rather fitting end for a traitor or spy...
Only, this isn't a practice for Punishment.
It's for reverence. Enlightenment. Honor.
Much like the Buddhist Monks who'd practiced Self-Mummification and had themselves sealed in chambers to die and not-die at the same time, these figures allowed themselves to be sealed into these walls while they are still alive. Only these Afflicted members WANTED to rot. As a show of their faith, they wanted to be a part of their Cult even after death. So they were sealed into the walls. Once death claimed them, their flesh would rot off to "forever be part of the very structure that shelters [their] kin." Generally, this option tends to only be available for very prestigious members of the Family. Multiple reasons can be behind it, but any which way it comes to the same thing: They are left sealed, but exposed... to die of starvation, usually. Their corpses remain in the walls until they are only bones. Only then are they are taken out and properly buried in a crypt further underground.
Needless to say, the stench nearly made my eyes water.
I went down a set of stairs at the end of the hall. Emerging into a much smaller chamber which branched off in three directions: Lab. Vault. Cell. Things were getting more modern as I went. All to support their experiments. I left gifts in the first two rooms before moving to the third. Upon entry, I was faced with nine figures. All on the floor with arms tried behind their backs. All too sick to move.
Eight of them were Proxies.
One was a Chiller. A Cold Boy Follower.
A chorus of quiet, half-suppressed whimpers came from the assortment of figures. Some of which also cringing at the sight. I didn't blame them. My particular choice of attire... was a version of the Plague Doctor that they would have most likely seen many times before. And, most likely, it always accompanied the most... creative sessions they were exposed to.
I removed the hat and mask. Introduced myself for what I was. Then drew my gun.
I went through the room. Delivering one bullet in the skulls of each of my kin. Not wasting time.
Then I reached the Cold Boy Follower in the room. He couldn't have been more than twelve, but I couldn't help but smile. I've never been thanked by one of them before. First time for everything, I suppose. He received the same treatment.
Then I was gone again. Going back the way I had come. Hat and mask back in place.
By the time I reached the Main Chamber, well... I had visitors. As I'd hoped, with David's bloodbath flooding the streets up above, the last remaining member of each family came down to where they felt themselves untouchable. To me. The "Mad Doctors" - the Highest Ranking Oathbreakers of the Cult - had done just that. Seven of them were present in the center of the room. Screaming at each other. Some of which wearing their typical garb, minus their masks to allow easier yelling. Others in normal clothes.
When they saw me enter, tongues were bit and silence took over. One stepped forward. From research, I knew this must be Malfatto. Second in command. His attire carried more of a modern style. Black trench coat. Mask crafted from brown, patterned leather instead of bone. He left it handing around his neck as he spoke in a respectful tone. Holding himself tall as he explained the series of murders in the Town. Using words such as "torture," "barbaric" and "slaughter" to describe what each Mad Doctor had found in their homes. Apparently David brought his love of flaying into use. Can't say I disapprove. From what Malfatto spoke, the adults had it far worse than any children caught in his path, though they were dead just the same.
He went on to explain about the mess in the second town. Letting me know that our Divisions had followed my orders to the letter. Drawing the Cultists into the area, then splitting and flanking around. Giving them the Town... in favor of setting the one above aflame. From the messages on my phone, things were running like clockwork.
And why was Malfatto being so informative to me?
Perhaps because I was wearing the attire of their leader: Josef Bohr. His choice of likeness to their God was more of a mad doctor style. Many layers of tattered clothes. Long, wide sleeves. Stitches. Bolts. Pieces of leather. Pins. And other odd bits and pieces. His mask having a skin-like appearance with heavy stitch work and an extra long beak with a rounded end instead of a sharper one. I think I handled the look rather well. So long as I held the body posture of a man with a vicious temper, of course.
I had taken care of his wife and son myself. Letting him have the experience of finding his family alive. Missing their eyes, nose, tongue, and ears. But alive.
He slit their throats himself.
Then we had an altercation... before I let him follow his family.
Malfatto asked what should be done.
That would be when one of the other Mad Doctors blew a gasket. Screaming about how it was my fault that things had dissolved this far and the level of mind it took to ask that same person to get them OUT of the same mess. Eventually her tantrum brought her stalking right up to my face... and into the blades of my gauntlet (previously hidden beneath my flapping sleeves) as my other arm snapped around her back at the same time. Pulling her in. Tightly keeping her from moving away as her eyes drew wide in pain. I pushed my blades in deeper... until they pushed out the other side. She screamed. My grip wrapping around her spine as my hand that had been holding her close went to her touch her chin gently.
I told her to rest assured... that their dearest Leader paid for his foolishness already. Then I let her fall to the floor. Fit to bleed out. Removing the hat and mask to reveal my own mask underneath. I grinned, though they wouldn't see it.
"Hello, Cousins. Having a rough day, are we?"
The shock across the room made me laugh. Gun in one hand. Gauntlet on the other. I was confident in my situation. All seven of them were mentally shredded. Between the chaos of the fight, the loss of their families in such brutal fashions, the threat of the growing inferno, the assassination of their leader... and now a Proxy that had revealed itself in the heart of their Cult.
They were at a loss.
A few words were exchanged, but I didn't waste much time. Especially when one of the Mad Doctors tried to make a run for it. A put two bullets into his back. Malfatto was the only one who reacted. A flash of steel swinging my way. The others tried to join in. Thinking numbers would make up for lack of fighting skill and unsettled minds. They were wrong. I cut through them quickly. Only earning a gash or two as one fell then the next. Before long, they changed strategies. Malfatto and two others took off running while I finished off another.
I didn't bother following. Choosing instead of take the nearest exit. Which meant into the sewer system again. But not before I detonated the little presents I'd left behind. I felt the explosions through the ground. Walls chattering slightly. They wouldn't be using that restricted area anymore. With luck, same goes for the Main Chamber.
By the time I came up, nearly half the Town was engulfed in flames. Needless to say, I didn't stick around. David and I met up just outside of town. Exchanging your typical remarks. Watching as dawn broke over the inferno. Both of us looking as though we'd been through Hell and back again. Twice.
We've lost quite a few from the Divisions... but it's over. Mission completed.
The time to breathe deep and relax, however, didn't last too long. I soon had an assassin's stare on me. David demanded the return of that which belongs to him. I, of course, agreed. As was the conditions of the deal to begin with.
We met up not far from where David and I first introduced ourselves. Ronan was in perfect health, just like I said he would be. I am good to my word, after all. Through all this, I believe I proved that much at the very least. However, once David was sure that his partner was alright... I had the JOY of watching the assassin's fury rise to the surface all the same. That unmistakeable passion that I missed out on during our first meeting.
He told me that even though I held my word... the fact that I used Ronan at all meant I had to die no matter what. Otherwise his fiance would be seen as a target and he wouldn't allow that.
I told him he "allowed" that the second Ronan became his fiance in the first place. Even before that. It was his choice to put Ronan in this position. The consequences are their own to bear.
His hands balled into fists, replying by saying that if I wanted to live to see another day, then I had to swear to help keep Ronan safe from anyone else who would want to pull the same stunt I did. That he couldn't let me just walk away, but he would give me this deal. Help or die. My choice.
My response? I laughed a bit at first. Apologizing that he still felt that way. That we did good work together and Ronan himself had been... pleasant company. Then I pointed out... that I'd already helped them. With one blinded by arrogance and the other by lacking of self-worth, my interference served as a friendly wake-up call. I told them that, if I had wanted to, things could have gone a fair bit worse for them. I'm not always as friendly as I've been to the two of them. From my previous endeavors, they should have realized that and considered themselves lucky.
David was beyond bristling at this point. Apologizing through gritted teeth that I felt that way. I saw the glint of steel.
I told him that his shallow way of thinking disappoints me. That I'd hoped he would have learned something from this little Game of mine. I explained a piece of what I told Ronan during our time together: That if he had truly wanted to keep Ronan safe like he says he wanted to - if he truly cared - then he should have walked away from him. Simple. Instead, he chose to take his lover's hand and lead him into the lion pit. I told him that for whatever grand scheme he was using Ronan for, that David should not have been surprised that this part of his plan brought unwanted attention. In fact, he should have expected it from the start.
Ours is not a Game that allows what David is attempting to create. Never has. Never will. No matter the reasoning behind it. Nothing I could do would change that fact, whether I wanted it to or not. They owned their position. No one else. And I wasn't about to support this level of foolishness. It was Fool's Game. I saw no further need to exploit it, but I wasn't about to place my name to it either.
A second later, David's knife sliced about an inch away from my throat. I grabbed his wrist and flipped us around. Slamming him back against the wall behind me. He didn't even pause. He twisted, ramming his shoulder into my chest to send me back. Freeing up his knife that I then deflected with the arm of my gauntlet. Even injured, he was fast. However... so am I.
It didn't last long. Personally, I didn't want it to last at all. David was needed back on the field. As was I. Either of us taking too bad of damage was counterproductive.
Hence why I had friends waiting in the wing.
When David started up, they were quick to move in to help me settle the matter as easily as possible. Requiem - having training in martial arts - joined into the fight with a shift through the Path and a solid kid. Diamondback took a shot before my company even realized he was there. A shot that took away David's knife. Though surprised, this only seemed to make David MORE determined than before to take me down.
The three of us were forced to make a point or two.
It wasn't a matter of proving myself better than him. If I had wanted that, it would be one on one.
However, letting his temper get to better of all of us was not on my to do list. I had survived too much to allow that. As had he.
At one point, Ronan joined in the scuffle. Personally, I would say him to be more skilled than David since he doesn't lose his head, but that is neither here nor there at this point. He seemed to ignore me completely during the "fight," only focusing on Diamondback and Requiem. They had some trouble holding their own against him... but then Ronan stepped out of the fight completely when David continued to push. Not willing to lose his ground.
Eventually, David stayed down. At least with Ronan's hands on his shoulders silently asking for him to stop.
I crouched down in front of the assassin at that point. Wiping a bit of the blood from his chin as I apologized for our adventure to end on such a sour note. I told him his request of me was impossible, since the only way I could possibly help to ensure Ronan's safety... was to kill David himself. As, no matter from what angle you viewed it, he would be the cause of any troubles when all is said and done.
I placed a kiss to his cheek before standing and repeating the gesture with Ronan. I made certain he had my parting gift. Just a recorder with a little something for him to listen to when he was in the mood to. I then bid him good luck before we took our leave.
With David's level of arrogance, he is going to need it.
And I. Officially need sleep. I feel like the walking dead.
Keep smiling, everyone.