The Strife: Part Three
It’s that time again and we’re picking up right where we left off. What’s waiting for Zhev behind that door? A well-deserved reward or something more akin to what he saw in the lobby?
Enjoy, and I’ll catch you on the other side!
The two men eyed Zhev impassively and allowed him to step through the now-open door. Within it the scene changed. The lighting of Strife Lord Desire’s office wasn’t nearly as stark as that in the rest of the building and seemed to radiate warmth. Zhev stepped in and the door clicked shut behind him, causing Desire’s gaze to shift to where he stood. She smiled, though there was nothing resembling joy in the expression.
Strife Lords did not experience emotion in any way which humans could understand and, he’d heard, any emotion displayed on their faces was an acquired reaction. That was something else he’d never really believed, but after seeing the Held in the lobby, he was beginning to wonder what else was true about Strife Lords.
“Come, sit.” Desire motioned to the chair in front of her and Zhev crossed the space to it swiftly, trying not to look over-eager. Silence fell as Desire studied him, wearing her same smile. Zhev resisted the urge to shuffle about uncomfortably under her scrutiny, but only just. Then she leaned back and seemed to stifle a yawn.
“Zhevicra, D.” She commented.
“Yes, Strife Lord.”
“You’ve done commendable works in my service.” Her voice was like nothing he’d heard before and he couldn’t quite make out whether it was female, male, some mixture of both or neither. It sounded, ridiculously, like… Earth… moving?
“Thank you, Strife Lord.”
“Tell me,” she continued, almost cutting him off. “Does it pain you to harm your fellow man?” Her eyes glittered with what he would have called malice in a human. Zhev considered the question. Of all the things he’d ever felt whilst interrogating people he doubted that pain was one of them. Perhaps disgust was the closest approximation.
“No, Strife Lord.” He concluded.
She took a long pause which seemed less like purposeful intimidation, and more like she’d forgotten his existence. “And why not?” The Earth moved again.
“They disobey the natural order of things.”
Desire seemed pleased with his answer, her smile beginning to resemble something more genuine and she shifted gracefully in her chair, taking a curl of her hair in hand and caressing it. Zhev thought she looked like a cat, languid yet vigilant, ready to explode in a disproportionate display of power at the slightest provocation. She certainly didn’t seem very human, though she’d chosen for herself a very curvaceous form and wore little to hide it from the world. Zhev wondered if she was capable of feeling cold as he noted that the temperature of the room had him rubbing his hands together for warmth. Desire continued to watch him intently and he attempted to avoid her gaze when it roamed to his face.
He knew that almost all who saw Desire fell under some strange spell of lust for her, and he’d anticipated the event. Yet now, as he sat and took in the scent and sight of her he felt nothing more than the mundane, mostly conditioned stirrings which were so much a part of his life he hardly ever noticed them anymore. The Strife Lord seemed to pick up on his thoughts and laughed softly. She leaned closer to him. “I’ve no need to cast spells,”
She let the curl she’d been toying with fall from her fingers and twirled her hand gracefully. “Do you not know my name? I am desire.” Rocks somewhere underneath the Earth were grinding, grinding, grinding against one another. How could he hear that? Was he hearing that? Or Her? “If I chose it, you’d be abasing yourself simply for the privilege of breathing this air.” Desire held out a hand, accentuating her point by sending a small shiver of longing through Zhev’s body.
The move felt like what it was – the cheap parlour trick of a magician who called the cosmos her stage.
Still, the alien sensation jarred Zhev, who leaned deep into the back of his chair, recoiling from her and from his own body. He wondered if this was all it had taken to rouse Desire to enough anger to Hold those who now decorated her lobby. In the time it took Zhev to regain control of himself, the Strife Lord had fallen silent, and looked contemplative. She shifted her gaze to him again and yawned, taking a curl of hair back between her fingers and twisting.
Zhev stifled the urge to shift in his seat.
“You’ll undergo the rite tomorrow.” She said. “I don’t recommend you do anything strenuous, tonight.” Voice flat like clay disks, eyes laughing like streams. “You must be strong, to survive.” And now, again, grinding rocks.
Assuming that to be the end of their meeting, Zhev got up, bowed deeply and moved to the place where he remembered the door to have been, again trying not to appear hurried. His heart beat loudly in his ears and a chill crept into his mind and then outward to his fingers. The wall parted silently and Zhev suppressed a gasp when he saw the figure on the other side.
She was similar to the Strife Lord in some manner he didn’t understand, since they looked nothing alike. She wore a severe black dress, her skin and features appearing to fade in and out of the various shades of human complexion. Her hair, which was every colour and possibly none, was pulled neatly into a ponytail and swayed like a whip as she moved past him. Zhev took a sharp breath when she cast him a sideways glance, and it suddenly seemed imperative that he leave before he lost… something. Something vital and alive.
So he willed his legs out of their langour, and walked out of the Strife Lord’s office. As the door clicked again behind him, he breathed out a lungful of air he hadn’t been aware of holding.
Linda, AKA TAGG herself, loves great music and terrible movies. Find her being boring on Twitter @ThatLFM