• Part 2: a macabre plan

    I was awake.
    Gulls. Waves marched dutifully onto the beach, faltering in their steps and finally falling. Despite the sunlight it was cold.
    My mouth was sandy. I forced myself to my feet and was overcome by dizziness reminiscent of darker, now forgotten moments. I must have been on the beach since high tide. Around my feet was tangled kelp. The sun had parched my clothes and lips. When I noticed scattered planks of wood along the beach, fear rose sickeningly inside me.
    Several lengths up the beach my feelings were confirmed. One of the sailors of the Syntyche lolled at the edge of the water. As the surf crashed around him his arms dug rigidly into the sand, preventing him from turning for a second, before the waves found purchase on his tattered clothing and pulled him back into the ocean. His eyes were as blue and as vacant as the morning sky. My heart beat quickened, nausea rising. I coughed, vomiting a salty, caustic mucus. I dropped to my knees in wet sand and breathed heavily, focusing on the calming noises of day until my stomach had settled.
    When I rose I noticed smoke to the north. Perhaps the others had survived? I set my will to walk towards it and allowed my feet to tramp mechanically one after another. My mind wandered.

    It appeared first in my dreams, silent and troubled. Later it came to me from shadows and pools of dank water. When I saw bloodied hoof prints on the temple floors, and awoke to the tingle of its breath on my cheek, I had had enough. My visit to the Seer on the far side of the mountain was a necessity.
    “Why has he appeared?” I asked.
    The Seers eyes’ were unfocused.
    “Can you not tell me the meaning of these dreams? I come to you seeking understanding.”
    She grunted, “Many come. Just before, a young boy, like yourself. The price was dear.”
    “I am not interested in a young boy. I am telling you of my dreams.”
    The Seer raised her head. “I can tell you of your dreams. I need ingredients. You know of the herb-lemon? Bring me it. A good handful.” She pulled her atrophied muscle into a black-toothed sneer and laughed.
    I stood, angry, and went to collect her herbs. When I returned, my efforts were unceremoniously thrown into her cooking pot. She cackled at my frustration and sipped her tea. I could barely hide my disgust at the old hag’s dismissal. I would have left, but a thought came to me.
    “The dream is of the Holy Bull. He talks of a coming anger... of Enesidaone.” I said slyly.
    The old woman snapped to attention. When she spoke, her leering tone had gone: “Enesidaone? More ancient and inscrutable than the others. More powerful. What does the Holy Bull tell you?”
    “Nothing, Seer. Not to me, but to some one else. His teacher. The Holy Bull talks of fleeing. I don’t know how the Holy Bull is a student, Seer. I know it only in dream.”
    “When do you have these dreams? When you are asleep? No. When you are awake.” I nodded affirmation.
    The sinewy old woman stood and rambled slowly to the rear of the cave. When she returned the pot had boiled dry and stars shone feebly from behind the veil of dusk. In her claw she grasped an ancient tome; it was a wonder she could carry such a book. She set it down with a resounding thump, and began to turn translucent pages filled with indecipherable lines. Her nails, yellowed with age, fell still when she had found what she was looking for. She read.
    “‘The Holy beast will warn in daylight, and the messenger will be shunned.
    So shall be the Exodus.
    Fire will pass to recklessness.
    Air will pass to smoke.
    Earth will pass to fire.
    Water will pass to steam, ash, mud and all other things that are combinant.’”
    “Enesidaone’s fire...” I breathed. The Seer looked at me shrewdly and paused in her recital.
    “The Holy Bull tells more than just a name, I see. You have been chosen for this time, Phaedrus, although I know not why.”
    “Chosen for what?” I asked.
    The Seer shook her head and continued reading from the darkly bound book.
    “‘First must arrive the fifth and one amoung their number will become a pawn, to tread the crash of waves for an age. And the pawn will endanger the Holy Beast’s plans if the prophecy is not thus enacted.
    And so will end the age of the Exodus.
    The fifth will call another from the homeland. Thus the Bones are gathered.’”
    She closed the book reverently and was quiet. After a time she spoke: “Go to the Council, tell them of the dream.” She hesitated, uncertain whether she should continue, then added “There are glyphs of this tome that I have not explained. You will understand later Phaedrus. Too late? Too late for you, I think. The Holy bull does not falter in his stepping.”
    “Too late for what Seer? Tell me, please?” I pleaded, but she was mute.
    The Holy Bull had indeed warned in daylight, and the messenger had indeed been shunned. I knew the truth of that ancient script in half.

    While I walked the sun had been steadily falling behind mountains, snow-topped and majestic, to the west. Now, as if in the clutches of descending fire, orange light fell across sand and trees, elongating shadows ominously into the dark waters of the ocean. For a second the world was transformed into a bed of blazing embers, and was dark. The chill of night returned me to my body, and the strangeness of the land became starkly apparent.
    For as far as I could see in each direction lay shore, bordered by briny, squat trees and hairy shrubs. To the west a spine of mountains could be faintly seen, starlight lingering on boney extrusions. The land smelt strongly of damp earth where the sand made way for spears of dark grass. An unfelt wind rustled tree tops sedately. The storm that had destroyed the Syntyche had obviously affected this land also: torn up trees bobbed on the crests’ of waves and in the distance, where the smoke arose, was the entrance to a great river, swollen and muddy.
    I approached the delta with caution, knowing that the citizens of Thera could well harbour their anger towards me. I caught myself in this thinking: we were no longer citizens of Thera. And perhaps, I wondered, no longer citizens of Earth; in the clear nights sky, two luminescent moons sent fresh waves of nausea through me. Where was I?
    From the beach I could see the glow of a bonfire, but decided to wait until morning to confront the others - the darkness of a strange land can destroy mans’ reason and loosen his sword.
    I chose a place among of a copse of bushes that looked relatively flat and curled myself into a ball to sleep. I was at first restless, worried that some creature would come upon me while I slumbered, but fatigue quickly overcame me. For the first time in many months the Holy Bull did not appear.

    A persistent, wet tugging on my hair woke me. For a moment I was confused, and thought that the tide must have risen to drag me into the surf. I leapt up, startling a goat that had evidently been ruminating on my clothes and the grass around me. Other goats trotted swiftly away from me and back towards their shepherd, an elderly man. He had been gazing at the mountains, but turned, astonished, to face me. I must have looked truly bedraggled. He yelled a greeting and ran to support me. “Where did you come from lad? Sit down, you look terrible.”
    I followed his instructions and sat on a protruding rock. The old man bent to look into my face. His eyes widened, and his voice dropped into something hoarse.
    “You’re Phaedrus, aren’t you?”
    I nodded.
    “Exiled.” he stammered “The Council, two days ago... you have been exiled.”
    “Why?” I asked.
    “You were the one who brought Enesidaone to Thera. If it weren’t for you, we would still be safe at home.”
    I shook my head and did not understand. “I warned them. If it wasn’t for me more would have died. At least we escaped with our lives.”
    “You haven’t heard? Only five of the boats survived the storm. Only four hundred odd citizens are left.” the old man bent averted his gaze and drew a sharp breath. When he looked at me again his mouth was set into a grimace. His eyes were rimmed with tears.
    “My wife was aboard the Zosimus. My son was a sailor on the Paramonos. My daughter Charis breathed in a lung full of poisonous ash and fell overboard. Cleon, my first and only grandchild, was crushed by a loose anchor; and you’re telling me it wasn’t your fault? You’re telling me that your exile is undeserved?” The old man’s voice was soft, but beneath his almost whispered words I could hear anger and anguish.
    “I’m sorry to hear that, please understand I did only what I thought was right.” I said.
    He continued icily, barely able to contain his fury “Sorry? Only four hundred. Four hundred! because of you. Because of you I will die alone, with no one to coin my eyes. Because of you my family will never make it further than the near shore of the Styx. And you’re saying it’s not your fault? You’re saying that you deserve anything!?
    In rage and sorrow the old man swung his staff at me. There was little force behind it, but the blow caught me off-guard and knocked me to the ground. I threw my hands around my head to protect me from the hail of blows he delivered with sobbing shouts. I tried to scramble beyond his reach, but felt suddenly pinned.
    The Holy Bull had returned.
    He stood above me with a single hoof extended to crush my chest. From behind him the sun shone brightly, but somehow avoided illuminating the Bull’s mighty black frame beyond a few tufts of shiny black hair made gold. My momentary struggle was futile. The Bull’s head moved slowly to lock its eyes on mine. They were startlingly human, darkly intelligent, and unfathomable. The Holy Bull’s hoof pressed me harder into the ground. I could feel the skin on my back splitting on small rocks, my blood flowing. From the corner of my eye I could see the old man approach. He spat on my face in anger and said something I couldn’t hear. He was oblivious to the Holy Bull.
    My vision began to pulse strangely, bordered by blackness. I knew I was going to die. The blackness of my vision and the dark of the Bull merged until only two deep eyes remained locked on mine. I realised I was being studied, not as a human, but a tool. Somehow, my death was an essential move in a macabre plan too ancient to comprehend. The Bull applied a final, precise, thrust with his hoof. Three of my ribs punched themselves through my skin (two on the left and one on the right). My heart continued to beat slowly and purposefully, but my lungs had been shredded with fragments of bone. The right half of my sternum had cut through the superior vena cava, allowing red, oxygenated blood to pool inside me. I could no longer breath.
    The Holy Bull faded from my sight.
    My thoughts ceased.
    I died.

    This post has been edited by dusk : 09 September 2006 - 01:55 AM

  • Again, very good—very detailed and well-written. Having two moons for Cythera is an interesting idea by the way. (Is that drawn from something in the game, out of curiosity?)

    I'm curious to see where this will go and if the boy is really dead or dreaming again.

  • @selax_bot, on Sep 10 2006, 05:36 AM, said in Exodus:

    Again, very good—very detailed and well-written. Having two moons for Cythera is an interesting idea by the way. (Is that drawn from something in the game, out of curiosity?)

    I'm curious to see where this will go and if the boy is really dead or dreaming again.

    Thank you for your compliments Selax :).

    You will notice that in the little bar-picture down the bottom of the screen, very ocasionally two or three solar bodies can be seen, so this idea is drawn from the game. However, I seem to remember the extra moons are only visible during the day.

  • I love the writing of these chronicles, very detailed and are interesting. I cannot wait to read the next one, it sounded like it ended though.

  • Posted the 9th? I should have posted here earlier.

    Anyways, I must admit that I cheated and read the 3rd installment before replying here, but I think that of the three, this one is still my favorite. The writing is good; the length is good; and the story is the good.

    Of course, I did find the "I died" part a little surprising, but, as I say, I've already looked at the 3rd :D

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