The Strife: Part Two

Happy Sunday, all!

This week we get into the story itself. You’ve already read about the beginning, and have a cryptic letter written by a dying man… but what does that have to do with anything? Today, you’ll start to find out.

Enjoy, and see you next week for the next episode.

Preparations

Those who dared to speak of such things insisted that there was a time when the Strife Lords did not rule the world. They said that once, humans were free to govern themselves and that in those times, life had been good and peaceful. Because people, they insisted, are good and kind and peaceful.

This had not been Zhev’s experience of his fellow man. In fact, if he was any indication, the reign of the Strife Lords had done nothing more than channel human cruelty.  And so it mattered little whether there had been a life ‘before’ them. Zhev enjoyed his position of power over other people and noted, with scorn, that the only ones daft enough to say such things were those who had no power themselves.

All these things whirled around in Zhev’s head as he washed himself in preparation for the day to come. Born the runt of a family of six, he’d always been treated as though he was worthless and had been fully expected to die when he joined the ranks of Strife Lord Desire’s army. But instead, his subtle brand of cruelty had distinguished him as a man gifted in extracting truths from those who’d rather not speak them. This was where he’d heard many of these foolish sentiments voiced: from would-be conspirators and failed saboteurs.

He thought over his many interrogations, his many successes, and his heart filled with pride. He richly deserved the reward he would receive today.

Zhev scowled as he opened the doors to his scant wardrobe. Until now he’d needed, and wanted, little more than his uniforms and a few sets of clothes in which to train. For this occasion, he’d had a suit tailored and now looked at it with disappointment. Unlike those worn by the Fiends who’s ranks he aspired to join, Zhev’s suit lacked command and did nothing at all for his impressive form. He cast it aside, deciding it would be best to dress in something more familiar. Carefully he clothed himself in the uniform of an Interrogator. The red collars were decorated with all his many medals which he polished every week to keep in spotless condition.

Zhev looked himself over in the lone mirror which hung in his apartment and nodded approval. The uniform impressed upon all who would pass him both his rank and his stature, which, taken together, made him a rather menacing figure. He strode down the corridors of his apartment complex with his head held high, defying any to look him in the eye as they passed. None did, and he made his way undisturbed to the street.

There, a black car waited to transport him to the Strife Lord’s offices in Sector A. Zhev took in all the sights around him keenly as the car made its way slowly down the streets. A partition separated him from the driver so there was nobody to disturb his silent self-aggrandisement. When the car came to a halt, Zhev let himself out and found that he stood before a building which had no windows and no doors. The structure seemed to be composed of a metallic glass and when he approached it, a section slid silently open before him to reveal a massive entranceway. Zhev stepped in, trying to hide his awe.

Statues dotted the hall, which stood devoid of any other furnishings. Wondering how such human-esque figures had been made, Zhev stepped close to one and realised that it was a human, held perfectly still by some… something. He’d heard that the Strife Lords had the power to do such things but had never truly believed it. He shuddered, chastised himself for it, and continued on his path to the elevators, which he only knew to be there because of the black trim denoting the doors. As he approached, one set of doors slid open. He stepped in, and they closed behind him. He searched around for the button to the 80th floor and only realised after the doors opened again that the elevator had been moving. So, Strife Lord Desire did have a flair for the dramatic, Zhev smiled to himself. Seemed that sometimes, people were correct.

And why not? he thought. If he owned everything within sight he’d have a certain flair, too.

Zhev stepped out into a foyer. His shoes clipped out a rapid staccato as he walked to a desk where a secretary sat, looking both intensely absorbed in and bored by her work. He cleared his throat and she looked up at him. Her eyes, he noted, were purple. She wasn’t human. And neither were the two men who stood guard outside the entrance to Desire’s office, their silver hair lying slick against their heads. The secretary looked down, clicked away at her computer, looked up and nodded, more to herself than him.

Zhev had long ago mastered the nervous need to fill awkward silences, and that was just as well because he didn’t think this woman would respond if he spoke. So he held her eyes, she held his, and held. And held. Finally, she told him he could go in and then was once more absorbed in her tasks.

Author

Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM

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