Quotes: Wondrous


“Sometimes he could lose himself for hours in the joy of filling the sky with storms and soaring through the air as one bolt of lightning among many.”

He sorts through the week's pile of fan mail. Much of it is laced with arcane runes of ensnarement or gory details of rituals gone awry in his name. Every one is read but while exerting a powerful devouring force over them to disarm each feeble love spell.

Evelyn's workshop is not a pleasant place. It tries to be, most of the time, but it just isn't. It looks like the TV set for a shopping mall, with too few racks of clothing, and unconvincing background at most angles. It is also filled with far, far too many mannequins. Some move, but most are eerily still. They don't look right, not even for mannequins. Proportions are wrong, facial features are badly painted, it's all just off. They have a wide range of constructions, too. Some are plastic, often damaged articles collected from the real world, some are painstakingly but poorly carved of wood or bone or stone or whatever else Evelyn could find that day, some are forged of metal, and all are unique. They're not all human shaped, either. There are dogs, and squirrels, and rabbits, and flowers, and lizards, and beetles, and all other forms of life in artifice.

The secrets rolling on top of each other in thick layers through out the Chancel fight amongst themselves briefly, a miniature rebellion and revolution within the ranks of unspoken taboos. Each secret was well nourished, carefully maintained, and drew on the nature of The Night to become thick, black and powerful. It was from them the sorcerors of the Cult drew their might.

She started to see the actors behind things; the wall-spirits holding up the walls. The garbage-elementals protecting the dumpsters. The city-gargoyles patrolling the metropolis. And the sunlight that Canaan rode was like a glowing golden horse, a steed as swift as light and as bright as The Sun.

With a warble of physics and a passing of personal boundaries, the Powers of Society and Lightning find themselves in the welcoming foyer of The Sun Itself, Locus Raphael, home of the Powers of The Sun, Victory and Gold and the Bright Archangel, Raphael himself.

There was a large contingent of welcoming chancelfolk. Golden automatons bent knee, played triumphant trumpet fanfares and a few threw golden confetti at the Nobles.

Riddles are strange things. They twist into your mind. They defy logic. They demand answers, but when the answers don't come, they can consume and infect your thought process. Everything you see reminds you about them. You dream about the knot your brain has been tied into, trying to solve this knot. Teja is a master riddlesmith. She spends eternities in the emptiness of space whispering her maddening riddles to the nothingness she calls home.

I cannot repeat this riddle. Were I to type it on my computer screen I should never find the courage to hit "Submit Reply", I would just stare at my screen forever consumed by it. Nor if I could would I ever submit to you, dear players, the horrible fate of hearing one of Teja Heimerich's riddles is simply that horrible. It would kill a human as surely as automatic gunfire at point blank range. This riddle is no schoolyard word game, but a logical weapon!

He wanders backwards and slowly fades away into a nearby automaton. Its face goes blank for a moment. Then a logo pops up in its eyes - 'TIF4193 OS, pirate edition', with a cartoony image of Tifon giving a double middle-finger to a mock chibi Excrucian. He's incorporated himself into the Sun's network - the complex network of inter-reliant gears and pieces working toward a common goal of survival. A computational Society.

The first snake circles round and bites its own tail, shaping its loop into a simple heart, invisible, it turns to pink.

Three other snakes float out, they pass through the heart, and their tails join at the ends, to one point. They snake their way on, elongating, reaching through the air. Two heads dart to the false statues of water and steam, the last for Darla. The intangible snakes lash out, sink their fangs into their targets.

The two false creatures move forward, straight to Darla, following the snakes. They move effortlessly toward her, and when they arrive they hug her tight and whisper in her ear, begging her to calm down.

It's alright, they say.

Everything will be okay.

We love you, Darla.

Each claim is a lie, just as Jezebeth would have it. They do not love, they merely think they do.

It's a scene right out of a soap opera, and acted accordingly.

The emotion that filled Darla, fake though it may be, was more warm feeling then she had ever experienced. In the brief time the emotion hit, the icy woman thought she understood Cora. For the first time in her existence she believed she understood why others cared about things…anything for that matter. She thought she finally understood.

She turned to the glimmering sculptures of herself.

"I think I feel…love."

She could feel the love penetrating within her. She could feel the pain she had caused and her own pain as separate entities. It filled her up it was like two waves colliding, one had always over-powered the other, but in that one second she saw the other side. She didn't really, but she believed she felt something other than rage and hatred. She was still doubtful but the fact that she was even questioning things at all was a huge break-though.

The love continued flowing everywhere in her, searching. It was tedious but it continued downward looking for her heart. It searched long and hard, refusing to give up. Love never gives up. It went down, down, down, but Darla's heart was nowhere to be found. It looked everywhere until there was only one option left, the one place it had avoided. But love is brave and so it took a leap of faith and went into the darkness. Against its better judgment it dove in head first. It searched so hard and went so far, it got lost in nothingness.

Still its perseverance should be admired, it continued going deeper and deeper until it was too late to turn back. The love drowned before ever finding its destination.

The worm-bus continued deeper and deeper underneath the city Benjamin had seen up until now. He usually thought sewers would be under a city, and he was right. But after a few kilometers of twisting cavernous hallways dripping with foul liquids and crawling with intelligent rats and hungry tentacles, the sewer gave way to a vast subterranean garden.

It had a dark beauty, and seeing it through the bus window made Benjamin gasp with awe. It was like a jungle from a comic book, lit only by luminescent fungus. It was very hard to see, like a moonless night. It took a while before Benjy's eyes adapted; all the other kids had more trouble with bright light, and were already prepared for what came next.

While waiting for her to process his request, Tom climbs onto the bow. He waves downwards at the people in the cabin, before he reaches out to grab hold of thin air. It is still accelerating, its current trajectory slowly eroding its earlier upwards momentum. Tom seizes that initial inertia of upward movement and whispers to it. "Think you can," he urges. "Think you can!"

And slowly, the ship's fall begins to slow, and then reverse, as it glides on unseen currents towards Atlantis.

It is no ordinary blue whale. For one, it's not blue anymore. It's entire frame is rotted, scarred and covered in garbage and graffiti. There isn't an inch of the beast that isn't dessicated and defiled. But it's still the largest animal in Earth's history.

When it surfaces, it opens it's mouth wide for all to see. It looks like a stage surrounded in teeth. Upon the creature's wretched tongue, plastered over in coffee cups, plastic bags and cigarette butts is a horrible smile with a man attached to it.
-Meon’s Whale

He had drawn a picture of himself, his Mom, Cora and Evelyn's head around a table. He drew a feast on the table around them (even though it was mostly scribbled mashed potatoes).

But there was something in the picture he hadn't meant to draw. He looked at it with crossed eyes, unsure how Phil had slipped in there between Cora and his mom. Cats shouldn't be on the table. And his eyes were still more ophidian then feline.

"Hello Benjamin," the drawn cat said, not sounding at all like Phil to Benjy. To Evelyn, who had heard that bloody voice before, it was immediately recognizable. She only knew one Fallen Angel who sounded like that.

"Art is about expressing something, about moving people. It is the most sublime form of communication, a means of mass emotional transmission. Art is the purpose of Life! More than that, Art is life! Life imitates Art! All of this world is a brilliant masterpiece of Cneph, everything from the mountains to the piles of garbage are a crafted wonder. When people attempt to make Art, whether by imitation or by creativity, they are imitating God in their action. They are striving to create something more than simply what they are imitating."

Instead, the headless mannequin moves to look out over the world, and see what has become of its Estate in this new reality.

The Estate is strong, now. In some ways stronger than it has ever been. It is important to the world, necessary for its continuation. It is felt palpably, strongly, directly, in the lives of every single person, it resounds across the world, all art strives to capture Darla, construction has bent to an image of her mind, the people themselves strive to be better reflections of her, everywhere. The whole world an Imitation, and Evelyn knows it can reach out and hold it in its hands.
It doesn't want to.
It simply wants to watch.

It watches a young woman portraying Darla upon the stage, being beaten, whipped and cut by two women playing Cora and Ophelia. At the end of the play 'Darla' rises up and kills them. But, the pain isn't imitation, the blood isn't a copy. Evelyn cannot feel it.

It watches as a group of children play. They fight about who gets to play Darla, and who must be relegated to the insane cultists of Night and the false Society. The shouting turns to fighting. A girl, bruised and bloody, comes out of the fight, a rock in her hand, dripping red, and claims the right to pretend to be Darla.

It watches the televisions of the world, flat imitations of what they record. Documentaries of the life of Darla play, in mutual contradiction but all espousing her suffering and rise to power, interrupted by advertisements claiming the grandeur of Darla and the benefits of loyalty and obedience towards her.

It sees none of the familiar celebrities or political figures, only Darla.

It strolls through the art galleries of the world, filled with statues and paintings of Darla. It rifles through library upon library filled with histories and prophecies of the great Darla.

It finds no section labeled fiction.

Clinging to the underbelly of society, it does find cultists still emulating Blake and his grandeur, but they are few. And the cults to other Powers and Imperitors are fewer still.

She sees the faces of millions of children as they struggle to say their first word, to repeat the persistent sounds of their parents. The children do not smile and laugh, because their parents do not smile at them. They repeat the sound, over and over, and yell at the child when it fails. The children cry.

Somewhere a dog , big and black and terrible, yawns, and another dog nearby follows suit. The humans do not yawn.
If Darla yawned, perhaps they would, but no one is following anyone else's lead when sleep is near.

The Estate was strong, it was everywhere, but everywhere it was the same, among the humans.

Benjamin's dreams are exceptional. He imagines himself as a super-hero, as the president of the world, and as a barbarian warrior. He flies on the back of a pterodactyl and swims the bottom of the seas from the inside of a whale. His mind races, almost incapable of keeping the torrent of ideas from bubbling on top of each-other.

The Saint's smile is sad and also horrible, the vestiges of cosmic abomination in its nuances. It is accepting beyond the point of morality, of ethics; it is universal in its love. The ugliness it hides and protects and coddles would make a charnel house of reality and cast the weeping Angels in chains into the furnace at the roots of the Ash, there to have their beauty and moral mission smelted out of them.

"If I don't, who will?" And it is Hell that speaks through Tom's lips, for a moment tingeing the air with sulphur and rot.

Something is happening.
The guppies don't know what, but they can feel it.
They are afraid.

They sink down to the depths.

Where red leaves the spectrum. Where the great corals grow into sprawling cities, entangled forests, teaming with life.


Where not even the great whales can dive down, where the human skulls crack.


Where no photon of light can reach, where plankton and anglers glow like stars in the dark.


Where the volcanic ruptures instantly freeze in the supercool water, where even Ophelia's steam is quashed in cold. Where archaebacteria are born and live and die free of the complexities of life above.


Where the caves beneath Atlantis open up in the stony ground.


Where no guppy can dive, where they refuse to go, but where they would go.


Where Evelyn Adams, the headless guppy, is the only thing in a in an endless space of inky water.


Where the headless ghost of Blackbeard paces the dread halls of the grand Treasury where the greatest relics of Atlantis are locked away, and where Barakiel sealed the Excrucian Davy Jones away in centuries past, locked in chains and bonds that not even Darla's meddling in history could break.

The headless guppy becomes a copy of Blackbeard, and for once being headless doesn't seem such a problem.

The headless men stand before each other and silence.

The missing Mirror hangs in the air between them, threaded through the silence.

Barakiel is not here. The spirits linger without his guidance.

They have a duty.

A duty to Barakiel.

A duty to Atlantis.

The Mirror is in the hands of the ruler of Atlantis.

The wrongful ruler.

A Noble appointed by Barakiel.

A Noble who removed Barakiel.

The Mirror is no longer in Atlantis. It has been taken to Earth.

And, in that silence, the ghosts come to a decision.
This deep, dark place at the bottom of Atlantis stirs. The bodies of the drowned rise up, moaning in the black waters, shuffling their chains and concrete shoes, gasping great gulps of water. Water that is warmer than it has been in a long time.
The ghosts and revenants move with will and vigor they have never before had, never before known. Even the dead can feel the effects of Ophelia's gift of life.
With new vigor, new life, reborn purpose they rise.
A single word is upon all their lips… those that have lips at least:


Dinner smelled awful.

Festering meat crawling with maggots. Bowls of cockroaches clamoring over each-other. Possum babies, blind and pink, lightly smoked over saurkraut. It was a nightmare of a table.

And sitting at the head of it was the Darkest Lord. He leaned back on his black throne, flanked on either side by massive tapestries of his symbol, black thread sewn on a black background. He held an eyeball in one red hand, blood dripping down his wrists and arms.

It hung in the air for a moment, catching the Flying Dutchmen in it's glass. And then, as the ghost ship got closer and larger, so did the mirror. It swelled, expanding to a mirror large enough for the entire ship to fly through.

And one did.

It was the opposite of the Flying Dutchman. The name written on it's side were in backwards letters. The white-bearded captain of the ship commanded a huge contingent of life-filled young pirates. And on the deck were five beings.

Five Nobles.

One was the Lord of Obedience. He stood before the rest of them, ready to lead them, but knew his words never reached their target.

More worth listening to was the clearly quite real Lady of Originality. Everyone in some way imitated her every action.

Glowing with something falling just short of actual confidence was the gosh darned God of Day.

Between the two men was the withered Regal of Dryness. Her ugliness was draining, it made you thirsty and parched.

Lastly was the Queen of Crime, a sultry, whip-cracking trouble-maker who stretched a finger out as if to say 'come and get us'.

The body of Evelyn Adams becomes its own again, a plastic mannequin. Then cracks run down it, and it breaks apart. The fragments then become whole untold worlds and unheard music, stories with barely imaginable plot twists in brand new languages and fantastical creatures so obvious upon seeing them but unthought of by anyone else, and everything else under the skull of the Lady of Originality, and all of it brand new and creative. Except, of course, they aren't. They are each failed and derivative in their own way, their colors are wrong, and they are pale. They are poor imitations of the true thoughts that are welling uncontrollably out of the Lady of Originality.

Who could help Cora now? Nobody. There's a funny thing in that.

Nobody cares.
Nobody stole the remote.
Nobody gets to the bus in time.
Nobody can lift the universe.
Nobody can know everything.
Nobody can do anything when time moves too fast.
Nobody can help a little girl cope with losing her world.
Nobody can do things without miraculous power.

Tifon had seen the coming troubles. Tifon had, upon realizing his mortality for the first time, did his best to become Nobody. Because Nobody gets shit done these days.

He would become Nobody to save Somebody. And would a plan like this work? Pffft, in your dreams, buddy boy.
-Tifon… more or less

The calmness recedes ever so slightly as the Dar-Swiss landscape shudders. A tree topples by itself. Another explodes into wooden shrapnel. Sometimes they make sounds, other times they don't - empiricism is for the weak.

Nobody was around for miles. An exponential number of arms and legs frothed into unbeing beside the pond. Each of the spindly legs cut through the ground and the many arms traced delicate webbing from one hand to the next.

The haze of indistinct trauma cleared. She was no longer in a closet, a murder-scene, or even her home. She was on the island that was floating high above during her earlier memories. She was surrounded by all sorts of people, human beings of all ages, sitting in a circle with their legs crossed. She stood in the middle with the man who had put an arm on her shoulder.

He was beautiful.

He was awesome, kind and majestic, filled with mystery and magic. He was the ocean that fed her tiny stream, what her waters ran from and to. Compared to him she was a tiny drop in the Atlantic, but in front of him she felt safe and assured.

The blood was gone. Here there was only sunny days, green grass, and smiling faces.

And Barakiel.

"Please, don't be upset, Dominus Aqua," her Imperator said with an uncomfortable smile. He was tall, taller than any man she had seen outside of a basketball court. His finely tailored suit and his massive wings were as black as night. A halo of crackling lightning floated above his head, symbolizing his enlightenment. A fishing rod rested over his shoulder. He was bare-foot. His voice was as smooth and as pure as the cleanest spring-water.

The husk, once shed like a Russian doll, was now occupied by the strange darkness. Beneath its eyes crawled long, silent fingernails and the idea of clothing itself on the being had metabolized into an improved version with an astronomical thread count made of the same vile webs that filled the space behind its eyes and neatly patched up the grotesque wound in its gut.

As the Angel's miracle shook the fragmented life line the threads of Nobody had been spread thin across its machinations like a nervous system. The motions were swiftly reported to its master. The drone reached inward, scrapped up an old memory from a fishing trip, and through itself it shook Barakiel's fishing lines in a masterfully subtle twitch that broke another mental vertebra beneath its skin. And for every bit of subtlety it was immeasurably powerful. The lines of Barakiel would become knotted and hopelessly looped with noose-like tangles. While the lines may stretch far and true, those to either side would become hopelessly choked in his reach. The more he angled in affairs, the more his touch would flense bystanders until Nobody was left. Familia Barakiel would indeed survive yet at the expense of countless others.
-Nobody's Fool

The Power of Law turned to face the crowd, looking once furtively at Tom before opening her heart to everyone there. It was a guarded heart, one with many chambers chained with locks and keys, certain portions cordoned off by laws she had erected to keep herself loyal, but a path opened up between her atria that led to the dog-flanked Gates of Surolam that lay within her, within every sentient creature.

They opened, leading into the Chancel of the Divine Ymera of Willpower, Law and the Broken-Hearted.

The Locust Court.

A mannequin stood dressed in the latest summer wear, watching the world go by outside the window.
Only, it wasn't watching.
It was just a mannequin.

Then, suddenly, there was a bolt of lightning, it tore through the sky and cracked the ground. It shattered the windows and melted asphalt.
The mannequin did not see it.
But, a moment later, it did see the man, emerging from the flash, his clothing burnt and smoking, his flesh toned and strong, his eyes blazing with lightning.
The mannequin saw him, and a moment later it was him, standing in its own burning clothing.
-Evelyn and Canaan (insertname)

The Long Hall stretches on into infinity. People of all sorts, vagrants, madmen, white collar and blue collar criminals, those who run black markets and those who run supermarkets, all laying about infinite rows of church-pews in this dimly-lit hallway. All of them had insects crawling all over them.

Most of them slept. The few that did not never swatted the bugs off. There was a truce between the large and the small in Chancel Surolam. Peace reigned between the two. Not a single insect was ever stepped on, nor a single disease ever caused anyone discomfort.

Here everything felt at peace. Any problem could be solved with enough patience and a nice long … *yawn* … nap.

He picked up a jar with his heart in it, which instantly began to crackle to electric life like one of those fancy static spheres they had at the museum of science. The heart beat with a primal life in the angel's delicate yet blessed hands.

"You must eat this heart," the angel said holding the crackling organ in a jar over to the detective.
-Barakiel… with Canaan's heart

Lightning's eyes are black. They are not empty, but full of emptiness.

The stars outside sang of mirrors and of narcissism. The God of Night realized with long familiarity that all of the tiny balls of light were reversed, as if reflected backwards.

It was odd. All the constellations were running backwards. All of the futures were ominous.

The Gateway led into a huge open-aired chamber. All of Locus Surolam had an aesthetic that resembled a beautiful Greek temple that had simply grown naturally out of the unnatural landscape. Ivy and strange fruit grew from most surfaces. The roof opened up like a flower to show the bright sky above. The buzz of bugs everywhere was a constant drone.

The Power of Censorship, Causaubon Reyes, wore a finely pressed suit as black as marker ink and a bowler. The Power of Insects, Eugene Stockman, wore a swamp-muck incrusted suit, and of course the skin of human flesh they wore over the mass of bugs crawling to escape that lay within. Dianne Spinnaker, Power of Illumination and first among the Powers of Heaven, sat down with a wave to the audience. The Power of Drugs, Jude Slakes, entered with a cannabis cloud about him like an aura and dark shades to hide his red eyes. The Power of Science, a super-smart hard-take-off artificial general intelligence named Singularity, floated in with it's program running on a small hovering supercomputer that hung at head-level to the rest of the jurors. Lastly, The Morrigan, tall and raven-shrouded Power of War, entered last and returned a sombre serious mood to the courtroom.
-The Jury

The Power checked his watch and frowned. He always frowned at the sight of it. It was gold and silver on black leather. The face was blank but there were seven kris-shaped hands and thirteen interlocking circles that moved across it. Darla's extensive time abroad had wound it down so the device no longer ticked. There were a few knock-offs on the market but no one knew how to read the thing.
-Tifon's Watch

That latter one, another simulcrum crafted of shadow, follows the signs toward the Swamp of Precedent. It's a bubbling mire of melted paper and ink. Old texts bubble up from the surface and melt away. The smell of truth and timelessness waft up from the mire. Strange trees grow, dangling calligraphy fruit that crawl with mantids.

Anything spoken here can become a binding truth. Watch out.

Heaven is the most private club in Creation. Only the truly, cosmically beautiful could get past the bouncer. Micheal stood with a blade of flame, which was at the same time a poem, a nuclear detonation and an army of cherubs, ready to deter the legions of souls who spend an eternity climbing the Tree only to be sent back.

"Sorry, you're just not the right type for Heaven. Try some world other than the Brightest Realm."

But Tifon knew he was special. He was welcome anywhere.

"Tifon Leer!" shouted Micheal, his voice knocking over many spirits. "Come here, come here, pass these no-class shades and come to the front of the line!"

The angel looked Leer over. Tifon knew it wasn't his human appearance that earned him such immeasurable favor with the Heavenly Ymerae. It was his true nature; they respected his celestial form, even found his inescapable spiraling event horizon beautiful in it's own way. He was grand and dark on a scale the angels could respect.

Her Chancel was accessible through any major metropolitan art museum, or by setting fire to a blood-soaked cardboard box in a back alley and whispering into it a lie. The box will become a gateway to her Chancel, a sprawling, burning post-apocalyptic duplicate of Los Angeles, where the palm-trees burst into flames at the passing murderwinds and the streets run with human blood. It wasn't a pleasant place but not everyone there was awful. Marie Swift was the Power of Art, and though a follower of Hell and a tortured artist in the most literal interpretation of the term, was not a bad person. You're more familiar Graf Orlock, Power of Blood and the first vampire.
-Aincumis (Locus Barakiel)

A strange vision has taken over Roy's perception.

The ambulance is alive. It hungers for the sick people, to feed it, to give it purpose. The paramedics are attached to the hungry vehicle by tethers.

The shadows are singing and dancing. They show the trail the vampire walked, like a passageway through the darkness out of this world. The water that rains down is also singing, playing a chorus of notes that resound as each water drop falls to the ground.

"Our new queen is in court!!" the water-droplets cry out as they hurl themselves against the pavement.

The city creeks. The streets are re-adjusting to a more comfortable position. A sigh of relief emanates from the sewers.

Flannigan calls out; "Thank god that maniac on PCP ran away, he was scarier than that Leer magician." But then his words trail off. Human spirits say different things than human mouths. His spirit says "I'm terrified out of my mind."

The umbilical paramedics pull Hannigan into their hungry truck. It howls a red and blue battle cry and charges through the streets, other cars leaping out of it's way.

“It’s eating him.” Roy says, weariness turning back to terror. The adrenaline Roy thought he’d lost after that thing had retreated returns, and this time Roy can hear the scream of his own spirit over his words. ‘FightOrFlight! FightOrFlight! FightOrFlight!’


Roy’s revolver is in his hand before he even thinks. The bullets in their chambers salivate at the thought of upcoming violence, and the trigger is smeared with bloody saliva, pleading with Roy to release them into the world. The bullet mucus mixes with the sweat on Roy’s hands. It sings praises to the new queen even as it prays to her for murder to occur. The gun itself is an old soldier though, willing to kill if needed, but not without orders. Unfortunately Roy is well beyond being able to think things through. He aims the gun at the ambulance-beast’s flashing siren eyes and pulls the trigger.

Blake Beta rode a murderwind on a flame-retardant airship towards the looming Gothic spires of the Cathedral of Blood. There the first vampires were spawned, and there Graf Orlock holds his hideous court. The castle was beautiful though, and the gargoyles that lurked atop it's many perches were all alive and hungry, and regarded the Skiff Artistic with uneasy eyes.

Roy shivers as he walks through the morgue. He half-glimpses the face of a housebreaker he’d once collared as the shade flees round a corner from the light of Sol incarnate, bleeding shadow-matter from a spectral head wound. Cowering under the table, his face half smashed-in was a detective Roy had once worked with on a drugs-related homicide, guy had been beaten to death by his wife’s lover over three months ago. He flinches away, not even making eye contact with Roy as they pass.

All at once, with but a single fatal bite, Detective Brannigan had his spirit ripped open like a body bag, and the most powerful part of Canaan Reyes was crammed into it. It was enlightening, the very breath of God electrifying his every cell. Roy could feel the storms across the Earth, feel the hum and pulse of electricity throughout the power lines around him, he could even feel the Angel watching him as he ascended and smiling.

It was empowering to say the least.

Amidst the massive explosion of sensory information conveyed to Roy were other noises. Many Songs rung out, some complimenting and opposing each-other, all conveying a wealth of philosophical and spiritual weight behind each note. Among them, like the black keys amidst the ivory ones, the new Power of Lightning could hear other things calling to him. His friend dying in a hospital bed. His gun and badge, symbols of his power and authority on Earth and beyond. His sister dropped her pen, gasping for air as a shock comes across her body. All about him the things he held dear cried out to Roy, and he knew he could answer them back as easily as he could breath.

Blood. Everywhere.

More than that, the blood had formed a lattice, an interlocking net of scab and clot. Everything in the house was splattered with a sticky, red goo that seemed to hungrily move towards the detective as he entered. The entire blood-web began to quiver and tighten as it sighted a new prey. Tendrils of animate red ichor reared up like serpents ready to strike. The blood pooling at his shoes tried to hold him like quicksand.

Above him, the stars softly sing a hymn praising the God of the Night.
Perhaps, in far-off lands, others can hear it; maybe Isis hears the song of the night as she walks under the night sky, while Ra is guided by her brother Set through the halls of the underworld; perhaps Athena looks at the stars and in her wisdom hears the song (or, perhaps, Typhon, trapped in the mountain, hears the soft song echoing throughout his prison); maybe Frigg, wife of Odin, looks up at the night, and knows the song is heard.

Maybe, somewhere, Teja hears the song as well, and pauses, on her horse, wherever she may be.
Or maybe not.

A black lobelia blossom.

"The Flower of Evil," the old armoured Hebrew said with a resigned humph. "Such a rare bloom, one of the few even Lord Entropy appreciates and has us prepare. But the ones that grow in Evil World are rarer and purer than Earthly versions. This one, the supreme blossom kept in Entropy's Palace, will bloom in six years for exactly sixty-six seconds, and then it will wither and die.

The sight is so beautifully corrupting it transforms one's brain into spiders who come crawling out of your ears and nose. Those spiders than crawl into the mouths of sleeping people and turn them into serial killers over night. The nectar from the plant makes unbaptized baby-fat a flying potion and widow's tears a salve of long life. Sprinkled on a salad it turns any dinner into a murder-mystery."

Canaan Reyes never had a girlfriend; he lied to his family and friends and said he did. He said her name was Bethany. Canaan never really loved her, and he never really had any prospects beyond the auto-body shop. He had told her he had some big things coming in one day, and he had just wanted into her pants.

They weren't on fire back then. Not that she existed.

This lie persisted for years. He led everyone on, everyone sure he had a real girlfriend. And for her part, she believed what she told him, the lies a young man will say to part a girl's legs. But there were consequences for every action, even false ones, and soon Bethany had a child.

Only the child wasn't a lie. She's in foster care now. Canaan doesn't know. How could his imaginary girlfriend have ever had a child?

Nowhere was the fear of any great leader - that their people should fall into nothingness from which they could never recover. It was a land of vagrancy and rust. Those lost in the alleyways of the world, who became less than nothing to the gaze of their fellow man, ended up here - slipped here - as if dragged over a cliff by the weight and sins of Society. It was the wound down clock, the place where things accumulated and weren't fortunate to simply die. Ghost towns roamed the hills, the corpses of things that had once been the subject of great growth and decline. Once great places were slowly consumed by the dunes of Nowhere and their majestic shadows were forever bound to stagnation - Detroit, Chernobyl, parts of war-torn Libya to name a few. There was no potential here, no dharma, no way beyond the crushing bleakness of it all. It wasn't Hell, there was no purpose to any of it, no malice or regret or intent for any of what it perpetuated. It was horrifyingly neutral, indifferent - the kind of senselessness that made one's suffering only worse and absolutely pointless. If there was strength in adversity you would not find it here. Even if Entropy himself did stalk these lands he could not enjoy it, it would become monotony.

The place was, to be perfectly clear, a total bummer.
-Nowhere (Maerok)

The peculiar thing about them, aside from being a set of ghastly ribs projecting two feet from an open wound in the Nobody-infected heartland of a rusted out existential wasteland, were the fine strands of gossamer binding each rib to its counterpart. In short, the being's twisted anatomy included a hellish double-neck guitar - half rhythm, half bass. The rest of the walking abomination was intact except for its face which contorted into a toothed abyss of a maw.
-The King (Maerok)

The darkness embraces him with its maddening host of howls and whispers, but he remains proof against mere horror, following a familiar scent. It was similar to but yet not quite Astraea's perpetual freshness: this had undertones of artfulness and deceit, of beauties stolen and hoarded, of a design to reave one of their senses and inhibitions. It smells like law defied, like sin and sex exalted and sanctified on a hundred heaving, illicit bed-altars, of limbs intertwined in forbidden geometries. It smells like transgression, seductive and insidious.

Shapely arms clad in skin-tight leather shoot out of the cell, seizing its bars. The light of his cigarette-tip glowing in the dark reveals her face, the stately beauty of Astraea's reflected features spoilt by the petulant pout of those lips and the glassy wideness of those eyes.

"Hey there, baby doll. What say we blow this joint and head back to your place?"
-Aertsa (Delacroix)

Barakiel radiated a team-spirit, a unity between the three of you. It was through him you were given the pure powers of Creation, and it was through him you were all linked. Invisible thread, the fabric of the Angel's soul, tied you together inextricably. Under the sheltering darkness of his wings you were a Familia Potens, a family of powers, and though there was no genetic connection, in the face of the Angel it was almost palpable how spiritual the connection was. He was a very aspect of reality. You were his but he was also yours.

You would never have another Imperator. Darla could love him or hate him, but she couldn't question that axiomatic truth. He was Barakiel, and he was her Lord. She could rebel, but it would always be rebellion against her proper ruler. Tom knew that, that the very act of denying and defying Barakiel's will was itself an act of Barakiel's will. There was no getting around it.

The crackling lightning halo above his head declared to all present the sacredness of the Angel. He had literally come down from Heaven and chose you above all others. It was intoxicating in these moments when he made his will clear. It was what you were made for.

Evelyn remembers the strange new tattoos Tifon had… they were just what she needs.

She taps her foot on the Obsidian floor… and it cracks, just slightly. A small crack that moves and forks like a bolt of lightning. It grows, spreading out in jagged lines. It circles round the myriad reflections of the mirror, and as it passes reflections it carves sigils of what it sees into the glass, two symbols of each Estate, one clear and jagged, one dark swirling, one for Creation, and one for the Not. As eyes and pools and windows and mirrors reflect trees and hearts and space and misery and the world ash itself, each thing is written and unwritten, side by side, across the entire Manor. The cracks entwined and enfolded with each other, converging and departing, overlapping each other, even the marks of the Lands Beyond overlapped those of Creation in places, where the great deep crack of that represented the Weirdling Wall grew thin or absent.
By the time the cracks stopped growing, they formed a symbolic map of the entire World Ash, and everything within it etched across the floors and walls of the Manor.

Like Tifon's marks, these were brands of kinship, not merely to Excrucians, but to Ymera and Nobilis alike. The Valde Bellum would have no place here, and neither would the petty rivalries between Ymera and Nobilis. This would be a place where all could come free of provocation or fear. This would be neutral ground.

That was the theory, anyways.

The victorious dead lie where they have fallen, but something grows from that soil that is unique in all creation. Kelp forests erupt from beneath the mother-of-pearl cobblestones, spreading tendrils towards the stars that hang eternally over the impossible city. Each strand is a banner proclaiming defiance in the face of all adversity, extolling the triumph of those who have purchased freedom with their lives. One of those streamers, soaked in salt water and then bound over the eyes as a blindfold, will surely lead one to the rescue and liberation of another: star-crossed lovers don them when fleeing oppressive parents. Dried and smoked, or powdered and made into jellies (slugged back with a healthy shot of your favourite liquor), the kelp brings vivid dreams of struggle and liberty: artists use them copiously, when searching for ways to exceed their own limits. They are a magical, wondrous thing, unleashed into the world by their creator.
-Defiance in Atlantis (Delacroix)

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