The Strife: Part Five
We’re revving up to the end of this run in The Strife. In this penultimate entry, we catch up with the actors in our play as they each prepare for the rite. Grab a cup of tea and enjoy the musings of Desire, Rava and our outmatched tribute, Zhevicra.
Rava considered the idea presented by her most loyal servant and sole Fiend. For the Strife Lords to meet there had to be something very important happening; that much was true. But older gods? That seemed absurd. If older gods existed, why had they waited so long to reveal themselves? And why were they still alive? Strife Lords disliked each other, and there had been hostile takeovers amongst them, but they would never tolerate a threat from outside their ranks.
Desire, her Mother – because there were no other words to describe their relationship – could survive a lot. In Rava’s time and in the time before, She had survived a lot. Memories of the Strife War faded in and out of Rava’s mind and she remembered each incarnation Desire had donned and discarded in turn. The ally of humanity had become the scrappy outsider had become the ruthless traitor had become the shrewd diplomat. Each was Desire and each, Rava could be sure, was only the face of a deeper consciousness.
And with the coming rite, that consciousness would gain more power. More depth. And she would gain…
Rava rubbed her temples, suddenly again tired, and still recovering from the encounter with Desire. She closed her eyes and attempted to retreat into a place of more serenity but Malorus’s words rang in her head.
Not the oldest, apparently…
Things were roiling. Things which hadn’t roiled in a long time. The Strife Lord now named Desire walked the corner of the earth She called Hers – visible to nothing except maybe the Roiling Things – and thought. She opened her mind, searched deeper, searched for that sensation which had reinstilled fear into the Strife Lords.
There it was, nestled beneath being. It defied closer inspection. Tonight. Tomorrow, when She had feasted on the elemental strength of the Earth itself, this fear would have edges that could be grasped.
Desire walked the borders of Her dominion. Several times, She brushed against the presence of neighbouring Strife Lord Serenity. He chafed in the way that those who are opposite to oneself often do. It reminded Desire that contemplation of the unknown could never be allowed to dwarf awareness of the known. Serenity overstepped his bounds, and the edges of his insolence were easily grasped, easily wrenched this way and that before being tossed back across the border.
“Wage war or maintain peace, you slithering wraith.” Desire spoke with power, permeating the soil. The air rippled in response. Acquiescence… and a hint of mirth.
Zhev had woken up several times in the middle of the night, restless and feeling as though somehow, the Strife Lord was watching him. It was insane, of course, but he couldn’t shake the feeling. People said many things about the Strife Lords and until his meeting with Desire he’d never paid much attention. It had all sounded a bit outlandish.
But with his own eyes he’d seen the Held in the lobby. His body had been invaded by foreign sensations he could not control and, even now, he felt as though there was some part of Desire still with him, curling that same strand of hair and yawning whilst watching him with inscrutable eyes.
How could he know for sure that this wasn’t the case?
The next morning, Zhev followed his normal routine as best he could. He prepared himself meticulously and put on his medal-strewn uniform, then went outside, where the same car from the day before waited for him. The drive seemed shorter this time, the changes in scene less noticeable and meaningful. He tried to distract himself with thoughts of the things he had seen. The Fiends at the doorway, the bored receptionist… the woman.
They came to a halt at that same strange building and Zhev stifled the urge to shiver. It was unbecoming, he scolded himself. Whoever that woman had been she was clearly none of his business and he was clearly no concern of hers. Zhev climbed smoothly out of the black car, which drove off silently. He looked up at the building and took a deep breath. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Desire smiled and curled her hair between her fingers. Zhev walked into the building.