|03-22-2013, 10:54 PM||#1|
Join Date: Jun 2006
In the Carnarium
This is a bit of shared world stuff I wrote over my Christmas break. I'd like your opinions and suggestions for improvement. Some terminology:
Gruul: Disenfranchised trolls, ogres, goblins, humans and centaurs who despise the Guildpact which governs the other guilds. They believe it is a violation of sapient nature.
Golgari: Farmers and recyclers. Zombies, elves and humans.
Rakdos: Madames, pimps, circus ringleaders, assassins, cultists and psychopaths. Demons, zombies, ogres, humans.
Azorius: Judges and lawyers who are responsible for the framework of the Guildpact. Sphinxes, vedalken (blue people, basically), wizards, humans. They have a small police force known as the Arrestors.
Orzhov: Ghosts, priests/priestesses, mobsters, thugs, paladins. They use their power over life after death to manipulate others to their own ends. They also provide lawmages, or wizardly lawyers, to the Azorius.
This is a Magic: The Gathering fan fiction.
Here's the story!
Borya knelt in the darkness of the old tenement’s lobby and unzipped the body-bag he had laid against the shattered remains of an ornamental centaur fountain. His eyes traced the burly muscles of the Gruul halfbreed—its prominent jaw and ears bespoke of goblin heritage while the size of the thing hinted at trollish blood—and felt a spike of anger. Borya briefly forgot Arrestor training as his thoughts turned to that night…
The thing’s filthy hands—no doubt covered in the blood of the innocent—running along Yulia’s slim form. The bestial grin, exposing jutting tusk-like fangs that had torn out countless throats to satisfy some base urge. Her throaty exultations to the Gruul halfbreed that quickly turned to screams when Borya grabbed an ornamental lance and pounded the Gruul into unconsciousness…
A tumble of debris dragged Borya from that unpleasant—yet oddly satisfying—recollection. The Arrestor glanced around and saw nothing out of place. He quietly rose and made his way to the arch doorway leading into the vine-chocked courtyard and waited. The minutes passed without any sign of Gruul, Golgari or Yore-folk in the area. Borya looked back and felt a pinprick of panic—the Gruul was waking!
The Arrestor hurried back to his burden—drawing a vial and cloth from a pocket within his cloak—and dabbed the cloth over the stopper. Borya quickly pressed the sedative to the Gruul’s nostrils. The Gruul twitched briefly then grew still; further down in the body bag, the other bundle stirred. The faint sound, like a mewling cry, enraged Borya. The Arrestor kicked at it with the blunted toe of his boot. A spot of blood appeared on the beige-colored bag.
“What am I doing?” Borya whispered. The Arrestor knelt beside the bloody spot and laid a hand over the lump. He dug in with his fingers, feeling the plump little arms and legs of a baby. Not a human baby, he knew. It might feel human, but it wasn’t his. There wasn’t any soft, pink flesh nor cherubic cheeks gracing the child’s face. Borya knew its skin was a sickly grayish-green and covered with a soft layer of scales…
Yulia’s labored screams were like daggers to Borya’s ears; they slowly stabbed at his brain, piercing the thoughts flying through his head faster than a roc in heat. What will the Elocutors say when they see it? Borya wondered. The Arrestor looked at his fellow Arrestors from the Lyev division of the Azorius Senate. They wore their civilian clothes—blue tunics with white pants—and chatted with their colleagues while their wives gossiped and took bets on whose baby blanket Yulia’s baby would favor.
The vedalken midwife stepped into the waiting room. Borya had turned from the window and felt his stomach drop out from under him even as his heart jumped into his throat. There, with the midwife, was another vedalken in Simic biomage attire. The bald, blue-skinned humanoid hurried toward Borya with an eager gleam in his eyes. Spidery fingers gripped the sleeve of Borya’s shirt, pulling him from the waiting room and down the hall to Yulia’s room. None of the biomage’s words registered with Borya; the blood spattering the midwife’s apron had sent his thoughts down a dark tangent.
It seemed to take an eternity for the midwife to ease open the door to Yulia’s room. Borya broke from the biomage’s grasp and ran into the room. He stopped at the foot of the bed and took it all in: Yulia laying there with the hideous, subhuman beast in her arms, a grin on her face.
She’s laughing at me, Borya had thought. He felt as if he had broken out into a cold sweat. His fingers twitched at the thought of strangling the abomination. You failed as a husband and you’d fail as Head Arrestor! Borya tightened his hands into fists then relaxed his fingers, feeling his tension and anger draining away. As a member of the Senate, I must maintain impartiality. A grin—forced, though Borya hoped Yulia wouldn’t know it was forced—spread across Borya’s smooth facial features. He extended both hands and walked toward his wife and his keyrune to the office of Head Arrestor.
Julia’s abomination stopped its squirming. Borya rose and returned to the arch doorway. All quiet, Borya thought. He took a closer look at his surroundings, picking out the crude graffiti of the Scab-Clan and Ghor-Clan. Which of you would claim that thing? Borya wondered.
A large figure rounded the stone gate post and entered the courtyard. Borya felt a twinge of fear at the sight of the burly Rakdos. It had to be an ogre—its body was far too large to be human, but too small to be one of their giants—however the stylized skull mask covered the cultist’s face, making it impossible to be sure. Borya’s trained eye marked the numerous chains; they seemed to be attached at the shoulder and ended with hooks. Rather than dragging the hooks along the ground, the cultist had attached them to metal rings drilled into the skin of the cultist’s upper back and arms.
In that instant Borya felt helpless, naked, without his arms and armor. This is what you wanted, Borya. All or nothing. Borya wiped at the sweat he felt on his back. He imagined that he could smell the sweat; certainly the cultist would too. The Arrestor stepped into the courtyard and said in a shaky voice, “Hail, Flailer.”
The cultist chuckled, throaty and deep. “Close enough. Are you our ambitious Azorius?” He crossed his thick arms over a chest rippling with muscle.
It could snap me in half with one hand, Borya thought as he backed into the lobby to retrieve the Gruul and its get. The Arrestor nearly tripped over the hem of his cloak as he hurriedly lifted the body bag and slung it over his shoulder. When he emerged into the sunny morning, Borya was drawn to the ogre’s eyes. Beneath the amused gleam was the undercurrent of violence that existed in all the Rakdos Cultists. It’s nothing but a belligerent street brawler in combat. Look at those chains; you could detain the dumb brute and slit its throat in a heartbeat.
Borya nodded in response to the cultist’s question. The cultist turned and motioned for Borya to follow. Borya studied the ogre’s posture for any indication that it was planning to lead him into an ambush and found his eyes drawn to the myriad scars and stitches crisscrossing the ogre’s back. The Arrestor’s fingers twitched; he tightened his jaw to stop the sudden tremors.
Borya’s free hand darted to the inner pocket of his nondescript cloak; his fingers brushed the stylized bird-wing handle of his keyrune. Borya cut his eyes to the rubble and ruin to either side and back to his guide. The ogre didn’t seem to give a whit for a twitchy Azorius; Borya slipped the keyrune free of the cloak pocket and held it down at his side. His fingers found the trigger hidden between the keyrune bird-ornament’s wing and body. A sudden breeze hit Borya, raking through shoulder-length black hair that framed his lean face. He shivered at the wind’s cold touch. It whistled through the decrepit dwellings and outcroppings of blasted road. The Arrestor’s eyes widened at the sounds carried on the wind; he heard their cries…
Borya crouched in the gloomy reaches of the old warehouse; a sneer crawled across his handsome features at the sight of the Boros priest and Selesnya cleric below. The corpulent priest was sitting cross-legged, stuffing his sweaty face with chocolate confections; the Selesnyan dryad was chained to a pillar of iron. Borya’s ears had gone deaf to her shrieks as the demon-forged pillar slowly burned into her skin. Thankfully the Arrestor couldn’t smell her singed flesh.
An imp with wrinkled flesh and a hinged jaw flapped into the center ring, pulling in a cart painted in black and red checker patterns. Borya set his jaw and drew a pair of keyrunes from the holsters slung about his hips. A petite figure in tight leather that called attention to her sensual, pleasing features entered the ring. Her ornate headdress identified her as a blood-witch. Borya felt a chill ripple through his being and his heart seemed to quicken. He squeezed the trigger on either keyrune, Cracking the casings of the Izzet-made mana cartridges in the keyrune’s blade.
Everything would be fine; there was no escape for Blood-Witch Valgyra, Borya thought as he gathered the gaseous wisps of mana about the steel fingers of his gauntlets and formed them into a pair of birds. With a flick of his fingers he sent them through a busted window just over his shoulder. Fortunately…nothing fortunate about it, Borya thought as he glanced back to the ring; Valgyra had stripped the Boros of his official robes and pulled him to stand before the thrashing dryad. Her screams leapt in pitch as the Boros screamed, “Chocolate! Chocolate!”, and dug into her shapely belly. The audience, sitting in the shadows cast by the wrinkled banners of cured flesh stretched around blazing torches, howled with delight and sensual ecstasy. Borya scowled and turned his attention to the jester-imp’s cart. He felt his heart leap into his throat.
That’s it, then. The Arrestor grabbed a discarded, dusty blanket and pulled it around his silver and azure-trimmed cuirass. He gripped the leather-wrapped handle of his ******* sword as he made his way down the flight of stairs between the packed benches. Borya noted several Azorius dignitaries among the audience; the senators and bureaucrats wore piss-poor disguises.
Applause thundered as Borya stepped onto the show floor. Valgyra turned from the snuff show—the priest currently shoveling the dryad’s innards into his mouth, drool trailing from his lips—and walked toward him. Borya tried to keep his eyes on her sallow face and thought of Yulia. Yulia’s gentle smile, her love of proper clothes that all nice women wore…The ripped velvet, satin and silk dresses and undergarments; her panting as she gave herself to the Aureliadamned Gruul…and the Arrester found himself drawn to Valgyra’s bosom, her sinewy arms that seemed to be all muscle, her coquettish smirk.
“Have you come with a grievance, sir?” Valgyra said. “Here you’ll not find cowards that reward your courage with a beating.”
Borya didn’t hear; the outrage, shame and embarrassment at his wife’s infidelity had seized his thoughts and rendered him speechless. Beneath the banners of skin, the meat hooks strung about with dripping lengths of intestine and tipped with spleens and livers, it hit Borya: Yulia thinks I’m a chancery dullard!
“So you find yourself in the same predicament as our friend?” Valgyra gestured to the Boros priest, who had fallen to his hands and knees, panting. “Problems with a female companion…a spouse or daughter?”
Borya gulped and touched his makeshift cowl. His finger came away wet and he glanced up; a spleen impaled on a meat hook had been dripping with bile. His gaze went to Valgrya’s hands; in the right one he she held a dagger stylized to resemble a horned figure with a voluptuous body. Its tip—the figure’s pointed feet—crawled with a black semi-gaseous semi-liquid substance.
Before Borya could draw his ******* sword, Valgrya leapt at him. In an equally quick, precise motion, she laid the flat of the blade against the spot on Borya’s cowl where the spleen bile had soaked in. Her eyes rolled up so that all Borya could see were the whites. He quickly looked to the imp’s cart—full of bewildered looking children—and tried to figure out what kind of families they came from.
A blur of bakers, smiths, haberdashers and welders flashed through Borya’s mind, wrapping around the memory of his shame at Yulia’s filthy hands. The chill intensified before a pleasant warmth began at its edges until Borya felt as if he had a fever. A sharp cramp—like he’d thrown out his back—dropped Borya to his knees. Valgyra followed him down and steadied him with a firm hand. Borya felt a number of sharp, pinprick pains all over his body as the Blood-Witch cut through his mental barrier.
“So it’s your trained whore of a wife, then.” Valgyra sighed. “You poor thing.”
She..she’s right, Borya thought has he heaved with nausea. She’ll be laughing at me, too. Borya managed rose on wobbly legs and gasped: men in skull masks framed with horns were lumbering into the ring with the cart. They were bound in chains attached at the shoulders, pulling a ash-colored dragon. Its eyes were an angry red and its wings were bound in similar chains. The pit-dragon’s nostrils flared and its head darted about, snapping and snarling.
“There must be some Izzet in tonight’s audience,” Valgyra said, stroking her chin. She glanced at the spectators; Borya took the chance to sidle away from the Blood Witch and began to slide the ******* sword from its scabbard. “My beloved isn’t usually this aroused.”
Valgyra returned her attention to Borya, grinned at the sight of him edging toward the pit-dragon, and grabbed a nearby length of chain. A deft flick sent it at Borya and around his waist. With a quick tug, the Blood-Witch pulled Borya to her and felt the press of his half-drawn blade.
“How exciting!” the Blood-Witch grabbed the hilt and thrust the blade back down into the scabbard. “We can’t jump the wurm just yet. Look at them,” she waved a hand at the audience. Borya didn’t look; he watched the handlers pull the pit-dragon closer to the imp’s cargo of children. To his slack jawed amazement, the children seemed enthralled by the hellish beast. A strong hand grasped his chin and turned his head toward the spectators. “They wait with baited breath for the sort of salvation only we can provide.”
Hurry up, Aureliadamnit! Borya searched for any sign of his fellow Arresters. Where the Hellhole are you slugs? He glanced back at the kids; the first of them had climbed over the edge of the cart and was toddling toward the pit-dragon. She stumbled, fell, and started crying. The imp-jester picked her up, kissed her and whispered something in her ear.
“Look now, all of you!” Valgyra screamed at the spectators. Borya was taken aback at the honest rage he saw in the Blood-Witch’s clenched fist and the throbbing vein in her forehead. The Blood-Witch pointed at the little girl, standing beside the pit-dragon. She was barely able to pet the top of its head, though its chin rested on the ground. Its lips quivered and Borya felt its snarl deep in his chest. A red mist had begun to leak from the pit dragon’s eyes.
“A child left orphan when the Orzhov evicted her parents from their hovel of an abode!” Valgyra dashed up to the girl, pricked her palm with the stylized knife, and licked the blade. Her eyes rolled back into her head. The pit-dragon’s snarl deepened as the child began to cry. Borya saw it in his mind: blood and body parts everywhere as the dragon rampaged, killing, slaughtering at random. He shook his head to dispel the morbid fantasy.
“Sold into the flesh trade by deluded Yore-Cultists and finally rescued by our Splatter Thug mercenaries.” Valgyra’s lips tugged down into a frown and her eyes began to shine with tears. “All she ever wanted was to see a real life dragon.” Tears fell from Valgyra’s eyes. “Why would this child and indeed, all these children—” she indicated the other children climbing over the sides of the cart and, with an imp’s help, reluctantly approaching the pit-dragon “—wish to be in the presence of such a magnificent killer?”
Borya took in the spectators: some had stunned, guilty looks or were looking at their neighbors with narrow eyes, veins throbbing in their temples with clenched, shaking fists while others were leaning forward expectantly. He scowled at the sight of the good people, turned savage by the demon-*****’s witchery.
“I’ll tell you why,” Valgyra swept the audience with her imperious gaze. “You!” she pointed at the audience. “Your games and Guild-driven agendas created these broken souls.” Valgyra snapped her fingers. The men hauling the dragon thrust out their arms; clouds of blood burst around them as spikes ripped through their skin, breaking the chains. The pit-dragon shook its head and lunged at the flock of children.
Borya drew his ******* sword and ran at the dragon as its jaws clamped tight on a pudgy leg and began thrashing with its powerful neck muscles. His strike was thrown off as one of the handlers tackled Borya. He struggled against the man, spitting, digging his gauntleted fingers into the raw flesh of the man’s arms and chest.
The man spoke a guttural word and Borya was sprayed with blood as spikes tore free of the man’s flesh, hitting Borya’s armor and stunning him. He lay helpless; the children’s shrieking was soon overtaken by a loud roar. He craned his neck and saw the audience had fallen upon one another. Sinewy Rakdos cultists were moving among the audience, tossing hooks, blades, scythes and pitch-forks out at random.
“You look upset, Azorius.” Valgyra knelt beside Borya and traced his jaw with a slender finger. “Better they get this out of their system than create more of those—” the Blood-Witch nodded her head at the broken bodies and glistening red, pink and white masses. “Or those.” Valgyra indicated the Guild-folk who were ripping one another to pieces with either their bare hands or their Rakdos-supplied implements.
The pit-dragon’s frenzied butchery began to kick up some dirt and dust. Something wet landed beside Borya. The cacophony of the snuff-show flooded Borya’s ears. He cried out and thrust his head to the side, burying it into the foul-smelling mass to drown it all out. The children don’t deserve this; Borya thought as he sought the reassuring deafness and darkness of the mass. They need the Conclave’s healing houses. They need the Combine’s medical knowledge.
Borya finally lay still; the screams, the shrieks and wet ripping sounds weren’t as bad now. The pile of flesh, bone and blood he’d found refuge in moved. It let out a low, bleating cry. Borya let a scream rip from his throat until it was hoarse. Afterward he lay there until he heard the rhythmic beat of his fellow Arresters marching down the aisles and onto the snuff-show floor. Strong hands pulled Borya up from gore-spattered floor. He blinked as he took in the carnage; the words of those Arresters at his side faded into nothing as he saw the faces of the children and the Guild-folk. Some were still attached to skulls, which were in turn still attached to their bodies.
Borya felt himself being dragged from the snuff-house; before his rescuers rounded the corner with him, he saw her: Yulia tied to the demon-forged pillar, burning as he took what was rightfully his.
"..the mere intimation that there might be more to a heroic narrative than the heroes are the Good Guys, the villains are Bad Guys and the heroes should Win a rousing Victory appears to be in itself such an offensive contention that it arouses a kind of defensive knee-jerk hysteria just by surfacing." - Richard K Morgan