Fealty to the Silence
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41st day of Enu, 237th Cycle Post-Apocalypse
The sandstorm raged outside but the cave was quiet.
Seven men and women sat in a circle, surrounding a single lone figure. Their faces were gaunt, skeletal, full of hard lines and weathered scars. Their clothes were little more than rags, strips of beast hide and fur held together by more hide strips. The cave floor trembled lightly, reverberating rocks streaming sand in currents like waves.
The women in the middle of the circle was much younger than the rest, though just as haggard and worn. Her clear, sorrowful eyes gazed into seven distant ones, soulless, faces frozen in the same inhuman stillness.
"Seven souls." The seven men and women intoned in absolute unison.
"Pure." One whispered.
"Untainted." Another followed.
"Free." A third continued.
"Rebirth." The man directly in front of the young woman said, his distant gaze somehow seemed to fix on her.
"Where?" She asked, her voice shook as much as the ground beneath.
"Udu." The entity speaking through the man replied.
"Seven souls!" Their voice rang out as one, the force of it smashed into the cave walls, cracking open rocks and blasting a cloud of sand outward like explosive thunder. "The final salvation! Seeds of light!"
"Hope." One man said, and his eyes rolled back, his body slumping to the ground motionless.
"Hope." The woman next to him repeated and dropped as he did.
"Hope." One by one they fell, like puppets with their strings cut.
"Duty." The man before her met her eyes. For a second as the entity withdrew, a spark of humanity returned to his gaze, soft and regretful, and was gone. The cave floor abruptly ceased trembling.
A single tear rolled down the young woman's cheek. Her worn boots scuffed against the dusty floor by her fallen friends, her family.
The night was frigid, cold enough to freeze one's blood in their veins. She didn't feel a thing. The storm still raged, an ocean of murky nothingness, like all the stars in heaven descended as grains of sand. It hummed an overwhelming, destructive tune few could lived to hear in full.
With a wave of her hand the rocks shuddered and flowed into itself, sealing the tomb. Pulling her cloth tight around her nose and mouth, she banished all thoughts and warring emotions from her mind to focus solely on putting on foot in front of the other, and plunged into the sightless depth. The sand devoured her whole, ravenously.
Udu the Corruptor turned in its sleep. The beast's only vaguely humanoid features twisted in vexation, its gargantuan eyes fluttering as if about to open. Something troubled it. Something more than dirt Mages leeching off its Garden, or another preposterous revolution. No, this was something instinctual, subtle, like sensing the wind changing direction. A deep unsettling feeling gnawed at its slumbering mind. There's a word for it. Dread.
But of course that could not be. The very idea was laughable. For two centuries it had dominated the world from this dark hall, transforming, growing in power. Nothing could even force it awake, much less harm it. The only danger remaining were its siblings, and they would be trapped atop their own mountains of gold and treasure, intoxicated by the power just as it was.
A dream, then. The concept was foreign, distant, but much less ridiculous. Perhaps it was finally shredding the last of its humanity.
A dream. The beast rumbled and inhaled deeply. In a mere breath half of the King's Garden, thousands upon thousands of acres of plant life so resilient as to survive even the merciless desert withered and crumbled away, like forgotten memories.
The colossal body stilled, its eyelids relaxing. Soon. It could feel the end approaching, the final shattering of the realm, and its ascendance. Soon.
Few looked up at the sky in these times. So many were the slaves of the sand and dirt, so many more preoccupied with earthly pleasure and sins. Those who looked up were encaptured by the moon, ever-present, a pure jewel untainted by mortal suffering, as cold and indifferent as a slaver. Only some ever noticed the stars. On clear cloudless nights, as Nomads froze to death atop the sweeping endless dunes, they said the stars would dance before their eyes, a last kind farewell as tangible as fleeting dreams.
The stars didn't dance this night. They fell like rain.
Amidst the dozens of dead bodies casually discarded just outside Udu's City, the body of a young boy twitched once. The sand had swallowed the others and most of him. In the near total darkness, the tiny mutilated form seemed to warp and shifted. Black oozing bruises busted pouring foul blood, and new clean uninjured flesh grew underneath. Numerous whip and burn scars slowly faded, leaving smooth skin where they had been.
Only a few feet from him, already buried by the sand, air bubbled through a dead woman's lips. Under torn bloody clothes, the gaping wound on her chest slowly knitted itself back together, bone fragments and pieces of organs pulling themselves back into place.
Out far among the freezing endless dunes another boy stirred, an odd sight for a corpse staked to a weathered ruin, most of its body missing, eaten by desert beasts. Pus-filled balls grew into the empty eye sockets, and soon eyelids over the eyeballs. Bones materialized out of the sand, muscle flowing over to cover them. The stake in the corpse's chest snapped and was pushed out, the hole left behind filling in moments. The rag-worn near-naked body of the boy started to sink into the dune just as the new eyelids fluttered open.
On the floor inside a lavish mansion amongst more beautiful luxurious homes, the blood soaking the carpet pulled itself unnaturally up, like time being reversed. Dozens of ragged wound made by a dull blade absorbed the crimson and disappeared between one breath and the next.
In another home not far away, the same impossible scene repeated. Blood flowed up from the cold stone into the opening in a man's heart which trembled for a moment, and started to beat.
A young man jerked awake on the muddy ground of a slum alley, his body which mere moments before bore enough bruise marks to kill a man twice over was miraculously unmarked.
An old glowering Steel Inquisitor exited a doorway and slammed it behind him, snuffing out the candles surrounding the body of a woman inside an open casket in the middle of the empty room. Impossibly, unseen, her gaunt diseased cheeks filled out into a healthy visage, her skeletal arms and torso under blood red funeral gown expanded with muscle. A near imperceptible breath escaped her nose.
The wheel of Fate, battered, broken, burned, turned one final time.
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