Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Wither The Vain: Lost Cities Part 1


What a sorry sight the members of The Council were. You’d think that they’d be a little better kept. I tossed my hair over my shoulder in annoyance. I was expecting a meeting of gods, not a high school reunion in a lightless, almost windowless tower scavenged from the sunken continent of Mu. Boring.

I put my feet up on the table, mud falling off my boots as I waited. Delilah rolled her eyes and smoothed her skirt next to me. I looked across the creaky banquet table to survey the attendees. Dozens of impish tribal deaths milled about near the buffet line, occasionally snapping off one of their companions’ limbs. Shinigami of various sizes, genders, and pallor stood quietly in another corner of the room. Among their younger members, cartoony features were the order of the day. Each of them would barely have the power to crush a city block. Somehow, that had garnered them a place on The Council. Others wandered about as well. Aboriginal Australian ghosts paced in place as tropical deaths sat near to the bar, drinking mai tais until they burst into flames. It was like the damned U.N. in here.

We were still waiting for some of the heavy hitters to arrive. Kostucha was one of the few that had already arrived. She was seated the main table, watching the proceedings from her bloody, yellow eyes. Delilah had gone over to speak with her but to no avail. Kostucha was just as antisocial as always. That was probably why she presided over these meetings. Azrael was late, per usual. He never arrived on time, always claimed he was too busy. The Australian ghosts were still waiting for the great bat of death to arrive. He would be bearing with him Kali, Yama, and Thane. I didn’t want to know what those four had been up to.

Samedi and Anubis weren’t going to come. It had come as a surprise to learn that they had both defected from The Council. Samedi had several pockets of devout followers doing his bidding throughout Chrysalis. His machinations at least were obvious.

Anubis was a problem though. No one knew where he had gone after sending a last message resigning from “the wilting rose of our past failures” that was The Council. I had to give him points for being blunt. This was a pitiful sight.

A screech at the skylight signaled the bat’s arrival. It was nice. They’d finally be letting a little natural light in here rather than the eye ravaging combination of torches and wisp-fire they had been using. The bat pulled its wings in tight and dropped into its seat, shrinking in size to that of a normal human. Thane, Kali, and Yama slowly floated down into their respective seats as well.

Thane waved to me and I grinned, giving him a mock salute in return. Kostucha rolled her eyes as the blood tears continued to drip from them unabated. She rapped a gavel on the table in front of her, the table wobbling under the thud thud thud.

“I call this meeting of The Council of Kismet to order! Take your seats!”

There was a rush of wind as the smaller deaths fled to their positions. When Kostucha spoke, they listened. It was a wise move. She was one of several scythe deaths and even Thane had warned me of her prowess. Meh. The damned things were too unwieldy. I preferred my hands.

It was unlike her to call a meeting to order without Azreal present though. Things were starting to chafe within the inner circle I reasoned.

Then again, they would’ve had to wouldn’t they have? The Scavenger’s ashes had barely dispersed before the owl came bearing an invitation for Delilah to this meeting. The six of us had returned to Delilah’s Alcatraz Inn near the wall to plan for the future. The second owl came for me there, to let me know that I was to be invited as well.

I grinned and looked at Delilah. She was almost as sexy as I was in that tight little skirt and low cut top. My hands were still infuriated that I had let her live, but I didn’t regret it. She had made it far easier to bring down the big bird. I didn’t mind her letting us use the Alcatraz as a headquarters either. The rendezvous point in the sewers smelled, looked, and did I mentioned smelled, like a marl pit. I’d take silk sheets over filthy cots any day. Besides, her helicopter was the only one allowed by Morelli's forces to leave the city and come out past The Bastion dam this far. At least when they bothered raising this hunk of dirt from Mu, they thought to put in a landing pad for modern guests.

Oh. Kostucha was talking again.

“This meeting has been called for an express purpose. We are faced with a dilemma. Some of you may have noticed Mr. Barrabas in our presence.”

Head after head swiveled to stare at me, often without bothering to turn their body as well.

“He was the one that killed The Scavenger.”

Oh holy hell. The place burst into an orchestra of pissed-off screams and howls of fear. Delilah pursed her lips at me as I put my hands behind my head. Kostucha rapped her gavel on the table again, putting a hole in the cheap pressboard.


And there was.

“As I was saying, The Scavenger is dead. Specifically, it has been erased from any future existence. Eli is here because he was the one who absorbed The Scavenger’s power. I have invited him here with the endorsement of Kali, Thane, Yama, and myself to brought inducted as a full member of The Council.”


I lifted my head to hear who was interrupting K this time. Azrael was floating down from the skylight. His wraparound shades barely contained the burning light that emanated from his eyes. He adjusted his leather vest as he dropped down among the rest of us, wrapping his one white wing and one black wing around himself. That had been fun to drain all the color from that wing. Azrael had always had too big a head. He thought he was as good as me.


“I’m glad you come be bothered to join us Azrael.”

“Don’t waste my time Kos. If this meeting’s about inducting that piece of shit, you can forget it. I’m not about to bring the hired help into the fold.”

There was a twitch in my neck. It was unpleasant.

“The Scavenger’s dead Azrael. Anubis is aligning himself against everyone. Samedi abandoned us for guerilla tactics. Do you think I like this? He has spit in our face more times than I can count but he is the only one that can kill a death. I’d rather not have to worry about fighting him as well.”

“He got lucky, just like every other time. Between him and the whore, there’s not enough talent to scrape off my shoe. Now get him out of here before he gets some of his ineptitude on me.”

“My, that’s a pretty black wing you’ve got there, rock star. Where’d you get that? Oh… wait… Wasn’t that as you were trying to horn in on my action back in the Middle East, during those cute little Crusades your supposed God was so fond of?”

If he wanted this to devolve into a schoolyard fight, so be it. But I never bothered to take my feet off the table. Azrael drew his sword and stood there shaking.

“You want a piece of me you blue collar piece of shit?”

“I’ve already got a piece of you Azz-kisser. Or are you asking if I want some more?”

There was a flap of wings and he was soaring across the room, his seven-notched blade swinging for my head. I let myself fall backwards and caught his wrist between my feet. I gave a twist and changed his flight path. He smashed into the ground, his glasses shattering. Azrael stood; little chunks of black plastic embedded in his cheeks, the Light burning within his eyes.

“You will die for that.”

He lunged for me again and I caught his sword with one hand. I squeezed and crushed the tip like stepping on a beer can.

“I think you better sit back down Azz-kisser before I get serious.”

For the first time in existence, I saw him blink. His grip on the sword was shaking. Azrael pulled the blade back and futilely tried to slide it back into the sheath at his hip, but it was too badly crinkled to fit.

“Would you like some help with that?”

I took the tip in both hands and pressed it flat. I grabbed his right hand with my still gloved left and slid his blade into the sheath with ease. Azrael stumbled back to the head table and took his place next to Kostucha, staring at the table. There was not a single word being breathed in the room until Kostucha spoke.

“Are you two quite finished?”

“Yes madam chairperson.”

Kostucha touched her temple for a moment, breathing slowly, before rapping her gavel on the table once more.

“The first order of business is a vote as to whether or not we will accept Eli J. Barrabas, the Death of the Four Horsemen, to The Council of Kismet. Afterwards, we will discuss what will be done in regards to Anubis’ defection. Now then, all in favor of inducting Mr. Barrabas, raise a suitable appendage or scepter of power.”

No one opposed me. I leaned back and put my feet back up on table. For once, Delilah was loyal, my power wasn’t running out, and I was getting a little well-deserved respect.

The end of the world HAD to be coming.

And about damn time too.

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