Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wither The Vain: Lost Cities Part 2


It was four in the morning and I was bored out of my beak. Wandering through a theme park prison was not what I had in mind when I had been roused from my sleep two hours prior. A Council owl had arrived bearing Wither’s message that he had been inducted to The Council and that he would be another three days as the meeting continued. After the owl had departed, it had taken me a moment to gather exactly why Wither had bothered to wake me at this deathly hour of the bloody morning to tell me he would be gone another three days. Then it occurred to me.

He was gloating.

He had become unbearable to be around since he his hands had devoured The Scavenger. I was only rescued from him repeatedly regaling his part in the operation by reminding him that I had gotten to kill Boyd; something he had not been able to manage.

That had been golden. Wither went mum and pouted in Delilah’s arms for over three hours that his big, bad, eldest brother had made fun of him. I was unmoved. This was payback, wasn’t it? I’m special because I’m Death and you’re just one of my assistants, so nyeh.

Well to Hell with him. Not that I had any to hang around with at this time in the morning. Natalie hadn’t come with us to Delilah’s Alcatraz Inn here in Eden District. She said she had a couple dozen small children that would be worried sick about her and that she best not disappoint them. Arturo had secured himself a private suite and apparently was trying to flood the damned thing with cheap vodka and expensive pencils made from the last of the redwoods.

He claimed he was in a “creating” kind of mood.

I had seen those trees. Their branches had been called widow-makers because they could kill a man when they fell. And that little twit was all too happy to support the people who had lopped them all down and turned them into modern consumables.

Meanwhile, Christoph was off to visit with the inmates working the place. He had worked here as Geri’s right hand tree before and had old times to catch up on with several of the indentured laborers.

How nice. One brother taunting me, one pickling his self in alcohol made from potatoes of all things, and the other was off to fraternize with the dregs of society.

Some nights I wished I had been an only child.

I wandered past The Workshop Bar. The merest glance told me all I needed to know about the seedy bar. It, like everything else here, was despicable. The same stools we had sat on; the same tables we had made our little wooden timewasters on. Oh yes, they had spared no expense had they? Never mind the fact the men had lopped off their fingers in despair on these tables. Never mind the fact that this was where the hated and cursed and despised were sent to never escape.

Never mind the fact that some of us did.

I kept walking, struggling to keep the bile down in my throat.

It was amusing. I had been nearly inconspicuous on the streets of Sho. Here I was boring. Here, among the tourists and the crooks labeled redeemable, a crow man was so passé as to not even warrant a glance. Oh no, we’d go to the Dirty Laundry Room instead and watch the performers ravage each other for our entertainment. Good thing they’re here to be reformed. Who knows what sort of vanilla sex they’d be having if they were loose on the streets.

I spat at the feet of a young brat who was whining into her phone about not being able to choose what waiter to take back to her room. Her hulking boyfriend bothered to take his hand out from underneath her skirt to ball up a fist at me. I sneered and he backed away.

I was tired. My eyes were still full of sleep crud as I stumbled through the throngs of people waiting to enter The Yard. I wagered Christoph was there, guest bouncing the most active nightclub within thirty miles. They didn’t consider it a properly busy night unless over five people died trying to get in. How would that look when you met up with the other souls in hell? “How’d you get here?” “I was carving a path through a horde of flesh-eating, bat-winged monstrosities, when one of them got a lucky shot at my throat. You?” “I fell into an air duct fan and was sliced to ribbons.” “Stealing secrets?” “Finding a place to dance.”

Idiots. War had purpose. It fulfilled needs. It wasn’t meant for trivial nonsense like this. It wasn’t intended for fighting over nose candy and strippers.

I found a park bench and lowered myself into it. It was shaped like a mess hall bench. The same one I had sat in before. Wither had abandoned me that time too. He had left me to rot in that damn jail while he was off gallivanting with Thane. I had tried escaping. Too bad Shuck had found me in the bay and dragged me down.

I leaned back against the bench and closed my eyes. What were we doing here? The Scavenger was dead. That was new. Rather than killing humans or binding other forces, we were finally killing off the competition. I could handle that. It was, after all, what I was intended for. Yet, something was still missing.

It was Wither’s lack of a plan. Really, it wasn’t his fault, even as much as I loathed admitting it. He wasn’t to blame for our misdirection. He had his own bosses to answer to. He was just to bloody vain to admit it.

An old scent wafted past my nose and my eyes jerked open. That couldn’t be right. He was here too? Just how many of the old crowd had made it into this damn city before the world died?

I scanned the passing crowd for his face and came up with nothing. Oh there were plenty of lizard men and women, both Sleeper and not wandering the streets. How the peace was being kept, I didn’t know. It seemed Delilah had as many treaties going at once as Morelli did. That still didn’t tell me what I wanted to know.

I wanted to know why the hell an old god-killer was loose in Alcatraz.

There. There he was. The four-armed lizard with only a fuzzy loincloth and four sword sheaths strapped to his back heading into that alley. It could only be him.

I was on my feet and pushing through the crowd of nutcases and loose ends. I wrapped my wings tight around me and pushed myself through the sea of people and lunged into the alley.

Where the hell was he? Footfalls. Ahead of me.

I charged down the alleyway. It was a stupid idea but I needed to know. I needed to know if he was here.

“Nandin! Nandin God-Killer, Scourge of Atlantis, show yourself!”

The lizard slipped from the shadows in front of me, brandishing four shimmering scimitars, one in each hand. They gleamed in the dirty light the dribbled in from the alley entrance.

“It isss not wissssse to call for sssssomeone like me by name. Who issss it who knowsss my full name?”

“I am the red horseman, War.”

He smiled the way all reptiles do. Coldly and with many teeth.

“It has been many yearssss. How are your brotherssss? Good yesss?”

“They are like they always have been. It is your presence that I am curious about. The last I knew, you had sunk with Atlantis and the rest that were sealed within Ang’ Dormu. I had run you through with the finest spear I had ever held and pinned you to the altar.”

“When your back wassss turned, I ran away.”

“The last I knew, there was quite a difference between running away and dying. Explain how you did the former without doing the latter.”

“You and Wither are not the only ones who have… patronsssss. I sssssurvived through many miraclesssss. Your ssssspear misssssd my organs. A hole in the temple wall allowed for me to ssssslip away unnoticed before they were sssssealed in. One of the sssssea gods granted me the breath to make it to the sssssurface once the city sssssank and another sssssafe passssage to the ssshoresss of my home.”

“Luck has favored you Nandin.”

“No, it hassssn’t. Unlike you, I am not free to come and go asss I ssssee fit. I am forsssed to perform menial tasksss for a Fae of all thingssss until the opportunity comessss for me to begin killing and eating Godlingssss again.”

“I have no pity for you. You should have died a thousand times over and slipped away each time.”

“I have no pity for you either War. You have died a thousand timessss, but this sssshall be your lasssst. You ssssee, I was ssssent here to ssssee who my tasssskmaster’ssss competition wasss. And I find you. It isss my luck sssshining through again. That I will finally get to eat the great red horssssseman, War.”

I cracked my neck back into place.

“I will break you slowly Nandin, just to remind you how it is done.”

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