fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)

King Shannon slammed his splayed palm down on his fine oak table, desperately reaching for a glass of water to push aside the satchel of flesh rapidly swelling inside his throat.  "A king who cannot be trusted is a dead king" echoed inside his ears along with the pounding of his heart as he tried to draw breath and failed.

The wine! He thought as the nearest advisors rushed to his side and struggled to squeeze something out of him. One of the vintners must have--

After a few moments of stinging force being applied to his sternum, the king suddenly coughed in a sharp burst, sending a wide spray of frothy vintage across his table and onto the stone floor. Immediately he was able to breathe again, although the sensation seared every taut muscle in his body. Slowly, he became more relieved. His advisors shuffled away from him as he straightened his immense bulk fully upright in his chair. When he had regained his breath, he rasped:

“Bring me the man who prepared this glass of wine.”


An hour passed in tense silence. No one had ever seen the king this enraged before, although his scarlet visage could have been due to nearly choking to death. No one touched any of the remaining roasted geese, sharp cheeses, or mountain fruits. No one dared lift a fork.

King Shannon, the instigator of this fearful silence, eagerly awaited his own method of justice. It was all he could do to keep his heavy jowls from quivering with malice. Suddenly, interrupting the quiet came five sharp bell chimes, only a second apart, as quiet as a fork touching a knife. Loud enough only to be heard in this silent dining room.


And then his chair no longer existed, and he was falling. All was black, save for a perfect vision of his own body as he fell. His back slammed onto a hard surface that he couldn’t see. He could hear nothing, not even his own breath as it was knocked out of his lungs.

Moments later, he returned. He found himself sitting as before, though bewildered, in his high seat. None of the advisors or guests registered any awareness of anything amiss. Did I just experience a seizure?

The king leaned over and whispered to his first advisor, Duke Charleson. "I must retire. When the criminal arrives, detain him until I can question him personally."


Far removed from the now-familiar protests that dragged on in the city streets, the king slept cloistered within stone walls and silk sheets. His body felt mangled by his near-choking, the searing gout that surged through his joints after dinner, and the-


Just as before, the king fell into a dark world. His high down mattress evaporated as he plummeted to the floor, landing with a hard knock to his tailbone. The surface he landed on felt like stone, but he could neither see it nor determine a texture with his fingertips. He screamed, but he heard nothing.

Almost nothing. Faintly, he heard a sound like waves breaking on a shore, and he saw a dim light in the distance, like a candle engulfed in a cloud.

And then he was returned to his bed. King Shannon tried to reason why this was happening. It was in all likelihood the poisoned wine at dinner, but what kind of poison would leave its victim alive yet slowly drag him into a nether world of soundless dark?

Unable to answer the questions, even to save his own life, the king slowly drifted back into sleep.


He dreamt of the night eleven years ago when his family had met with the newly-crowned King Dosan, Queen Elizalde, and their councilors. He had been Governor Shannon then, not King. He dreamt of their discussions, calculating how long an idea could be made to hold in the minds of the population. Four years, they decided, based upon their collected experiences in leadership.

They would plant ideas in the minds of the citizens, invented notions of mistreatments at the hand of King Dosan that would distract the common folk from the true causes of their squalor. Then, a carefully-staged revolution would unseat the old king and install Governor Shannon as the new one. It would take four years for the new king to “fix” the perceived wrongdoings of the previous king. In another four years, he could create new issues to mislead and enrage the populace, before being dethroned in another staged coup. The cycle would repeat, with each new king being groomed by the previous one unbeknownst to the peasants. The old king would simply vanish into the fold of the rich, secretly dictating and pulling strings forever.

Being Governor had been an appalling occupation, but conversing with people with empty mouth due to poverty-rotted teeth could be tolerated for the promise of being king, and after that an eternal retirement in wealth. Because they would never die. No one ever died.

Truthfully, people did die. They died, but then they returned. Few people were willing to talk about the subject, lest death come for them, but it hung over their heads like a miasma. People who died became stranger after death. Perhaps the shock of death jarred people away from the things that had made them human. It made them more aware. The most vocal critics, the most cognizant individuals in the kingdom, the only people who could see through this façade of misleading politics, were those who had died.

Worse, people who had experienced death more than once could become violent public leaders in their own right. At times, Governor Shannon had had to travel through riots in a reinforced steel carriage.  On one such occasion, the leader of the uprising had leapt onto the side of the carriage and maliciously whispered through the thick bars into Shannon's terror stricken face:

"A king who cannot be trusted is a dead king."

Shannon sat bolt upright in his bed, face and sheets soaked with sweat. He shuffled over to the washbasin to cool his face, but it brought no relief. In the water, he beheld the pale, rasping face and sinewy hands grasping his shoulders as they had once grasped the bars of his carriage. He shuddered.

One of the last “reprehensible” measures that King Dosan had passed to his advisors, before quietly yielding his throne to King Shannon with a knowing wink, was the exile of dead citizens. Shannon would allow the exile to stand. But he could not banish the pale face in the washbasin.


The bells that heralded the abyss grew louder.  The faint sound of waves gradually became the howl of wind rushing through a cobblestone hallway. That thin, grey dot of light was no brighter, but it was closing in on the king.  Looking into it, he thought he could see a jagged pattern. What is that? Crenellations?

He returned to the real world with his hands gripped on the sides of the washbasin.  Once his heart had resumed its rhythm, he rinsed his face once more and stumbled back to his bed.


Mid-morning, the king awoke with a sharp rap at his bedroom door. His wife did not stir, having consumed too many glasses of wine the previous night.

"What is it?" the king inquired of the door.

"Your Grace, we have captured all of the vintners who have personally offered Your Holiness their wine over the last year. Would Your Grace deign to look upon them and offer judgment?"

This is not what I requested, the king groused. He began to arise, teetering out of bed and away from reassuring sheets.


With a chiming as loud as tower bells but far shriller, the king was swept into the shadow realm. The dim light rushed towards him with riveting speed. The roar of wind morphed into the sound of fire, burning down churches along with their shrieking occupants, incinerating entire farm fields in seconds.

The image in the light was a castle! The masonry was similar to that of Shannon's own castle, though it was hard to tell as it crashed towards him. The front portcullis opened just quickly enough to clear Shannon's head as it swallowed him whole. Shannon immediately lost his footing on hazy grey stones as an unseen force dragged him down the halls and upstairs. Shannon mustered the strength to reach out for the gaps in the stone work as they rushed past his limp, thrashed body, but his fingernails cracked and bled the moment he touched them. He was moving far too quickly to have any means to stop himself.

Crack! Shannon closed his eyes as if he was fainting from the agony of several dislocated limbs, but no relief appeared. This image was the same with his eyes closed.

Finally, the dragging stopped. Senseless with what felt like hundreds of injuries, Shannon rolled over in his own blood to see where he might have stopped.

It was a throne room, empty except for the figure sitting on the throne —It was an enormously tall skeleton wearing a cloak of ashes that fell like endless dust upon the floor. The skeleton came alive as it lowered itself to the floor on hands and feet. It whispered something in a sibilant tongue long lost to man but spoken eternally among the deities of death.  The skeleton grinned and grew eyes made of piercing light as it scuttled across the stone floor to the king's pallid, crippled body.

The skeleton opened its mouth, revealing endless rows of impossible scythe-shaped teeth. All the light in the world reduced to those two brilliant eyes, as the king's own body began to vanish into the nightmare.


When the guards finally broke into the room, they found the quickly-sobering Queen sobbing over her husband. Shannon lay sprawled out on the floor, vacantly slobbering on his own naked body, tears streaming from his eyes, while eight ignored vintners watched aghast from outside the broken door.

One by one, the guards fell in to try to resuscitate their king. One by one, the vintners moved their hats to their chests in solemnity. And one vintner with a far paler face than the others, a man who had died three times, allowed just a fraction of a smirk to penetrate his cracked lips while he whispered the words that had haunted King Shannon for three years.

fodschwazzle: (Sandy hole)

Before that golden eyed woman met him on the open sea, the old mariner decided to brace himself for death. His gloves gave his clenched fists an additional tightness equal to his resolve, if somewhat doused by the sea spray crashing against his small skiff. A small number of fishing spears would hardly be sufficient to stop the deep lurker who awaited those who traveled too far into the horizon. He was going to die.

But no one ever dies now, he thought, as he unfurled the sails. That's why my wife…

He could not decide what brought him to the ocean. It was well known among the very few people that Jonathan had met that the ocean signified death. The wind never changed, the weather never changed, even the time of day, a concept from Jonathan's youth before he himself  had stopped aging, never changed.  Only about fifty years past, death had stopped happening to people. The lack of fish, the silence in the sea, and the eyes of that creature proved this--the ocean was no friend nor tool of man any longer.

It was the way she would chop onions in the kitchen, eyes watering, but there were no onions, nor cutting board, nor knife- only her hand, jerking up and down, tightly curled around air while tears streamed down her vacant face. It was the way she had left doors open before and now silently closed them. It was the way she returned, mute and expressionless, living with her old husband--probably for several years, but who can say for certain--existing and living as if she was dead. Every morning, even as early as Jonathan could wake, he would see her standing at window staring inland, showing the only true expression he could remember from her now- a broad grinning, wide eyed stare, completely without context.

The water splashing against the boat seemed colder now.

Everything about her after he had lost her to the surf and pulled her out again, everything was wrong. She used to noisily trudge exhausted up the stairs towards bed, but, after being rescued several hours after falling into the water and being carried by that ever consistent outward wind and riptides, she moved with no sound when her husband called for her. And she always attempted to climb one more step than the stairs had.

Stumbling only slightly and yet soundless, her face made no attempt to register this mistake on any of the hundreds of times Jonathan had watched it happen.

It should have been no surprise to him, then, finding that note yesterday morning--always hard to determine the day when it is always dark--on the table. Only six words. Words that made no sense to a old man who had lived in a tall but narrow cottage with his old wife ever since the day the world had ended and aging had become obsolete. An old wife who had died and lived but never returned; this time, she was truly gone.

He wished he could understand what the note meant when it said-

a deep howl filled his ears and the sea split, just as it had the day his wife went missing. She was coming. Her golden hair and golden eyes on pale skin were all he had seen that day, her attention directed elsewhere. He could see her now, an enormous shadow darkening the black waves underneath his boat. The head began to peek above the waves in front of his skiff- before long, a woman who would have been beautiful were she normal size floated in front of the boat. She was many times larger than Jonathan's house, with skin so pale that it blinded him to the rest of the universe. Desiring an end, Jonathan hefted one spear in his hand and prepared to strike, when the eyes, as large and radiant as the sun he had once seen and vaguely remembered, wiped his mind clear.

He fell to his knees as the great maw of razors opened and began to drag seawater inside.

-"Find me in the silent city."


fodschwazzle: (Default)

May 2017

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