Tag Archives: short stories

The Strife: The Rite

Hello my pretty darlings! We’re here – the last installment of this run of The Strife. Are you ready?

The Rite

Desire and Rava were standing in the vast office, and seemed to be discussing something though neither was speaking. When She saw him, the Strife Lord gave one of her conditioned smiles and clapped her hands together once. Without seeming to move, the three were now in a stone chamber. Torches lit the space and a large platform stood in the middle of the room, between the two gods and Zhevicra. He wanted to speak, to ask what was going on, but something told him that it would be best to keep silent.

“It is time to perform the rite.” Desire’s voice filled the space. Without a word, Rava turned to Zhev and his breath died somewhere in his throat. Her lightning-amber eyes shone in the torch light and her skin absorbed the warmth of the room, glowing in all its many changing shades. He watched the light reflect within her, following the waves of her skin as it took on every shade of humanity, and some shades between and outside. His feet carried him slowly forward, but he was unaware of the movement.

Her compulsion was less overwhelming than Desire’s had been. More insidious and familiar… it felt like his own need.

Even as Zhev climbed the carved stairs onto the platform, his eyes remained fixed on Rava’s changing skin. Something about her was everyone. He stared, and saw the faces of all the people he’d ever known.

He saw his mother’s hardened eyes and his father’s lying smile. He saw all the siblings he had hated so long, and the faces of all the women and men he’d ever thought to want. He saw Desire, and the receptionist; strangers on the street and neighbours to whom he’d never spoken. The more the light fell into her, the more Rava looked to him like everyone under the Sun.

There, poor, dead Cilla; then, free Oyi. Flayed traitors, revered leaders, Fiends and outlaws all. More light. More faces, and he wanted to join them all, under the glowing of her skin.

For a moment, everyone who’d ever lived hesitated before him.

“Go.” Desire’s compulsion forced Rava into motion and She moved to join Zhevicra on the platform. She looked into his eyes, and saw Herself reflected back. Rava blinked and looked again, this time seeing only the shining of his eyes.

This is not… The thought almost found purchase. “Go.” Came the Strife Lord’s compulsion. Go, concluded the thought.

Desire began a slow and rhythmic chant, Her voice flowing through the walls and flames on into Zhev’s skin and into his bones. He didn’t know when he began to chant along, nor when Rava had joined their chorus but soon all three were lost.

They chanted and swayed, and deeper and deeper into his body the sound dove, and dug out pieces of soul; and Zhevicra could not remember when he had begun to speak these words:

There is chaos before you

There is chaos after you

he said, his voice and his body floating in the power of the rite.

You are morning and you are night

You are darkness and you are light

You move all to wake and still all to sleep

On and on he spoke words he could not remember speaking, all the while conscious of nothing but Rava and the every being that flowed beneath her skin. She floated with him, in that chamber; holding onto him by a force he could not see, flowing into and out of him, taking more and more of him into herself.

Zhevicra wanted to understand what was happening but all his mind could fathom was that he knew Rava in a manner so profound it seemed that they had always been this way. His mouth continued to move, saying words he wouldn’t later remember; and his eyes were now transfixed on the colour of her eyes. Familiar, like…

You are the rising of the tide

and the phases of the moon

He remembered abyss and conquest, as Rava placed her hand on his chest, and felt his beating heart. Slow. Life’s dawning. Soft. Starlight over new species. Rava almost couldn’t tell that it was there. They looked at each other, and were connected by eons of slumber.

You are the waking, She whispered,  

And the sleeping, He boomed,

Of this world.

Zhevicra collapsed, lifeless, to the stone floor.

Author

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

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.

Continued…

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… 

Remembered…

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.

Prepared…

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.

Author

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

Afemi: One

HR Vanguard Unit 4, a part of the seventh unit designated for Human Reconnaissance, maps the area to be swept and opens its Uplink to the collective, sharing the information with all other units in its squad. A few seconds of inter-unit discussion of areas to be covered and the search begins. Unit 4 moves swiftly, perhaps too swiftly, examining large rock formations for signs of hidden entrances, discoloured dirt patches for signs of blood. Sometimes the humans are very clever and do not leave any evident signs. Sometimes they set decoys and an inexperienced unit is lost in a rain of fire. But on the whole, humans aren’t too good at evading HR squads.

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