Title: Silence's Cradle
Meisha Aisha - November 8, 2011 06:00 PM (GMT)
There were few pains more potent than the silence.
It wasn't just a calm before the storm. It was a calm within the monstrosity that they wielded as their own. In another time and another place, Meisha would have known horrors throughout her childhood; and as a result, she would have been inured to them. Or perhaps she would have been made all the more sensitive to them and struck to her silences so resolutely that none had been able to truly discern between the two. The silence had seemed to hold a strength to it that few thought it wise to challenge, but Nicoletta had imagined that strength to be a stalwart barrier that was well constructed but concealed a truer frailty. Whichever of the two held true, Meisha had allowed none close enough to distinguish. Another time, however. And another place. This time, this place contained those who would not permit such horrors - not in the north, at the least - and unlike some within this world, Meisha had no knowledge of other worlds and other possibilities.
In this world, her youth within what would have been known in other times and other places as the Gaza Strip was a comfortable one. In this world, she was never pressed into the ironies of strength through silence when one's powers were those rooted within the sounds of violence. Dissonant cacophonies and charming symphonies; all of which were powerful enough to bring a building crumbling to pieces. In this world, Meisha Aisha had found her comforts within the sonatas, the opuses, the concertos. The music of it, the sound had been her constant companion, her strength, her salve when she had needed it. It hadn't been enough when she had tried to stand against Fereydun; and the first thing that they did was plunge her into the silence in punishment for daring to ever rally against Fereydun - and for the stupidity of doing it by herself.
They had other tortures. Inventive ones, most of which traced along the realm of the physical. But none hurt her quite as much as the silence.
The girl lifted her head, glancing over the dank cell, her eyes straining to find any hint of light through the darknesses that seemed to encompass the cell's expanse. She lifted her hand, first running her fingers against the cracked walls, then brushing her fingers back through lank, bedraggled, worn strands of hair. She parted her lips. Not a sound came out.
It never did.
Illyana Rasputina had placed severe enchantments over the cell. Not a vibration could she draw for herself. Not a sound could she make. Whenever anyone came to the cell, the sounds were allowed – for once – to ring out through the confinement. Words. Murmurs. Sharp exhalations. The crack of bone on bone and the dull sounds of bone against flesh. But the enchantments still kept her from drawing on any of the sounds, and it was never long before the visitor left and Meisha was cast into silence again.
She parted her lips. Not a sound came out.
Esther Tselel - November 9, 2011 12:28 AM (GMT)
Dressed all in black, every inch the Black Apostle of Fereydun, for that was the name humanity had given her, Esther Tselel made her way down the steps that led to the cells. These were not the vast pens that held the common herd of humans, no. Those were hardly cells, barely prisons by any stretch of the name. They were merely vast spaces, ringed by fences and other more potent securities and filled to overflowing with the cattle. They were no more prisons than the farms that humanity itself had built for the animals it had reared and then consumed. Esther somewhat doubted that they appreciated the grand irony. She doubted that many creatures were able to appreciate their own insignificance in the grand design – although perhaps humanity should have come closest, given the gifts with which their great Creator had endowed them. That they did not merely proved her point. They were simply animals, no better or worse than the goats of the mountains or the lions of the plains.
But no, she did not waste her time with the mass of common humanity. Every so often, she did step into the pens, to drain the souls of the dead and the dying, her power growing each time. As a rule though, unlike others of Fereydun – and she made a soft sound of amusement at the name as she often did – Esther did not find any particular pleasure in toying with them. It was beneath her. However, she did visit these cells, the underground labyrinth that held those prisoners who required special accommodation. Her magic, potent as ever, still required certain reagents and particular ingredients to reach its full measure and the cells beneath the citadel held all of the beings she could desire to take samples from. Many of them might claim to be ‘Over Man’, but she knew better. There were those of that breed, true, but many were monsters, beasts, creatures lower than the humans they fed upon.
It was no wonder that she believed there to be no God. In a world like this, a world filled with monsters and demons that pretended to be human, how could there be a God? Humanity might claim to rule, but she would show them what they truly desired. She would fill the vacancy in Heaven’s throne and then she would set all to rights. It was easy to accept the need for a few sacrifices along the path to salvation. And, for all that Man worshipped Science, it had given him nothing. She would show them the truth of the world again.
She passed the first cell without a glance, but Esther paused before the second, considering the enchantments that shrouded it. This one was the screamer, as she recalled, recognising Rasputin’s work in the magic. The girl had some skill although they all relied on strength over skill. It was a failing in so many in this age, she found, and it was one she had to resist allowing herself to fall prey to. Simply because she had the power of all those souls released so long ago, it was no reason to allow herself to become... undisciplined.
For now, the necromancer simply gestured, motioning for the guard behind her to unlock the door and to allow sounds within. He did so and she stepped inside, glancing at the occupant with pursed lips as she did so. Within the confined walls, the First’s power was nearly apparent to even those without mystical senses, seeming to pulse in the air around her like the first hint of a storm, laced with the taste of blood and . But she still wore a polite, gentle smile on her face, her hands clasped daintily in front of her. “Good morning, Meisha,” she said in an almost motherly tone. “Did you sleep well?”
Meisha Aisha - November 9, 2011 05:35 PM (GMT)
It was the ripple that she felt first. There was enough of her power for her to always feel that; a taunt, a tease, something that Rasputina had left there as just enough of a hint of her powers to graze the considerations of freedom against her thoughts. Enough to dangle that notion of the music before Meisha's eyes, like a morsel of food being held just out of a starving man's reach. The vibrations ran along the floor, racing toward Meisha. A silent sigh slipped past her lips and she ran her fingers free of her hair, pressing her back to the rough wall behind her. She always hoped that the cold of the wall would take charge of her senses and her mind, freeing them from any thought of the sound that she was bereft of every time she caught the hints of the vibrations that could weave into them. She should have long since realised how senseless attempts at sanguinity were for someone in her position; and she should have long since learned to no longer hope.
The vibration drew closer and closer, and she closed brown eyes that could not see anything within the darkness of the cell anyway. She remembered the warmth of the sun, and perhaps that was the only reason that hope seemed like too precious a commodity to cast aside. She remembered her grandmother's voice and softly hummed songs in Farsi and Urdu that would put her to sleep every night. She remembered the lack of any such thing now and how far away she was from that world. Meisha pressed her hand to the wall again and used it to help her slowly rise to her feet. The vibration came closer still. Whoever was coming, they were almost at Meisha's cell. There was the thought of hope again; but a different manner of hope altogether. One born of violence, earned through spilled blood and shattered bones. She had been within their captivity for so long that the notion of her trying anything was long since disregarded, both by them and by herself.
Maybe that would give Meisha her opening. The confidence. She wouldn't go so far as to make the accusation of overconfidence - there was very little overestimation required of their abilities for them to find confidence within their standing, particularly relative to Meisha's - but it was still something that could be manipulated. Capitalised upon. It was a typical, perhaps even clichéd gambit, 'rushing' one's captor when they came into the cell, but there were clichés for a reason, and it would, if nothing else, be worth a try. All that stood between Meisha and her freedom was broken bones and enough distance between the rooted enchantment and herself to bring her powers back into effect. Then she could flee before any of Fereydun's other Overmen knew what had come to pass. She licked her lips absently, swaying unsteadily on her feet as she watched the door, the vibration coming ever closer, inch by inch by inch. It would just be a moment before they opened the cell door.
She remembered the feel of bones shattering under the force of her blows.
Her stomach churned.
And then she tasted copper on the back of her throat and the crackle of burning ozone.
The blood drained from Meisha's face, and all foolish hope - hope that she knew was foolish, but simply trying, even if it meant that she would have to endure the consequences of the effort, would have helped her be able to live with herself and live with her situation; she would know that she had tried at the least, and that was something - of a contrived effort to earn her freedom flooded from her mind. Her legs suddenly felt much weaker beneath her, buckling abruptly and sending the girl crumpling to the floor with a silent gasp. She waited for the Black Apostle to open the door, and there was finally sound within the room. The sound of her heart thrashing in her chest like a wild animal caught in a death trap.
There was light; sharp and abrupt enough that it seared her eyes. It took a moment for her to realise just how dim the light actually was; that it had been the time in the darkness that left her seeing any touch of light as something so much more. The same way it was every other time. She blinked profusely, trying to do away with the dark spots that would spend the next long minutes occluding her vision; a refrain from something that came into use just as infrequently as her voice.
She parted her lips.
No sound came out.
She shook her head.
And the rest of the enchantment parted; enough that it wasn't just the sound of Esther's voice and her own heartbeat that had reign within the room.
"It was cold." The words came out hoarsely, pressed forward by a voice that hadn't been used in weeks. "I ache."
Esther Tselel - November 12, 2011 12:39 AM (GMT)
Others of Fereydun might take the sudden blossoming of fear within the cell as they entered as their due. They might almost feed on it, drawing themselves up to their full height, as if it somehow empowered them, causing them to swell into creatures of darkness and authority. But Esther almost seemed uncaring about the terror her mere presence inspired. No one would dare suggest that she did not notice, but the Black Apostle seemed above such things as mere dread. In fact, the almost motherly smile that nigh-constantly adorned her features would seem to argue against her wishing it. Despite that, fear seemed to surround her, seeping from her form almost as perceptibly as the sheer power that her merely human flesh strained to contain. It marked the world around her, so much that it no longer even required an awareness of magic to sense.
But regardless it was not unusual for a prisoner to simply crumple as Esther’s presence simply filled the room, her reputation, the dread she inspired and the unimaginable power she held crashing down on them all at once. It certainly was not a surprise to her when she found Meisha Aisha crumpled on the floor, pale and weak and blinking away the light that had stabbed into her dark prison. Nor did it surprise the guard, who remained outside, patiently. He knew that he was not needed. Even if the words ‘Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'entrate’ had been carved above the archway of the gate, the prisons of Fereydun could be no closer to the Nine Circles of Hell than they already were.
Within the cell, Esther stood patiently, waiting. She knew that it had been some time since Meisha had been allowed to speak and she also knew that it took a toll upon the body to use an organ that had been idle for so long. So, she simply smiled tolerantly at the girl when her lips separated and her throat moved but no sound emerged. Slowly, the First crossed the room, moving to crouch before the prisoner, anticipating that any reply would be quiet to the point that she would not hear it if she stood by the door. Nor did she fear the girl. Instead, she simply waited, her black robes pooling around her as she did so, until finally the croaked words came from dried lips, the voice that of an old woman.
In the silence that followed, Esther raised one hand and traced her fingers gently over Meisha’s cheek, brushing lank hair back behind one ear in a perversely caring gesture. “You did not answer the question,” she chided. “In any case, my dear, you had to know this was all that you could expect. You defied us, you tried to rescue your dear, precious friend and in so doing, you damned yourself.” Closer now, the necromancer’s power was near-tangible. “If you were to cooperate, perhaps things could be different. Even as the God you no longer believe in claimed, there can be forgiveness for you, Meisha. Simply forsake those unworthy of your faith, rise up and follow me. That is all. Then you can leave the ache and the cold and the silence behind in this cell.”
Meisha Aisha - November 15, 2011 05:35 PM (GMT)
There was a slow, steady patience that Meisha knew to afford to any one of her visits. She was a reasonably intelligent woman, and for the most part, intelligence was just pattern recognition. That said, even the densest of beings could recognise this particular pattern. They would come in whenever they wanted. They would talk to her as they wished, grant her as much knowledge or liberties as they wished upon that particular moment, grant her as much pain as they wished, they would leave her waiting for as long as they wished. Then they would plunge her into the darkness once more, leaving her to waste away within it with the scant exception of meals that were shoved through the door without ever letting any light fade through or the sound of it to ring out.
If she hadn't learned patience by now, then she would have been either riddled with frustration every time that they came upon her, or taken quite firmly into the embrace of insanity. Neither one of those prospects were particularly appealing to Meisha, and she had grown weary of the frustration after the first couple of visits from Fereydun members had made it painfully obvious that the only purpose of the visits was, for the most part, to serve their amusement. So she stayed perfectly silent even as the Black Apostle spoke to her. She stayed as still as she could, with little slip ups like the chatter of her teeth from the cold that wrapped around Meisha on the cold, stone floor as if it was a blanket of its own kind, woven delicately from cruelty and amusement.
She didn't try to rise, leaving her hands rested lightly against the cold, coarse stone beneath her, and she didn't strain to see the Black Apostle - for she knew that she wouldn't be able to see properly until the black dots and faded away; and why would she wish to see something that she was so afraid of? People had always told her when she was growing up that the monsters left unseen were the most terrifying, but had the Apostle been borne only of malice, horror and monstrosity then Meisha would have not feared her so much. It was the gentle, easy touch that she could afford when she wished, the polite, dulcet tones with which she spoke and the elegant manner with which she comported herself that made her so frightening when you knew who she was and what she was capable of.
She was terror and power wrapped in a human guise; perfectly eloquent and erudite, almost flawless in manner and appearance. Had she been human of heart and soul, men would go mad trying to make her theirs and women would either seethe and rankle of jealousy or wish that their daughters could grow to be such a thing. It was the very human perfection - which was unnerving within itself, since humans were, by nature, anything but - that she seemed to bear as her countenance and her demeanour while all the while you knew what lay beneath it. Upon the chiding, Meisha simply tilted her head down, a shiver rippling along her skin upon the woman's touch; and she didn't dare either draw away from it or lean to it.
The Apostle hadn't deigned to ask her again, nor had she implied that Meisha should correct her little mistake aside from within that single, simple chastisement; so Meisha remained silent. And she continued to listen as the Apostle chided her again. She had expected to be reminded of that single, crushing mistake regardless of whom it was that came to see her. It was what came after it that Meisha hadn't quite been prepared for. Dirt-flecked eyebrows furrowed slightly in confusion as she tried to make sense of the words; tried to ascertain that she heard what she believed she had - all the while as part of her tried to push the thoughts that accompanied them back, to keep them at bay, to not consider them.
It was made slightly easier as confusion seeped into her thoughts also; a lack of basic comprehension upon many of the words that the Apostle had used. God. Damned. Belief. Faith. They went cleanly over Meisha's head, not recognised and not understood. Still... forgiveness. Cold. Silence. That much she understood. And there was no mistaking the notion of freedom. She bit her lip and tilted her head up, her occluded, obscured vision swimming over the Apostle's silhouette. "I would be free of this?" the girl asked quietly, considering for a moment just what that meant. And all the while cursing her own weakness for allowing her to even contemplate it.
Esther Tselel - November 22, 2011 11:18 PM (GMT)
The Apostle’s fingers lingered on Meisha’s skin for a long moment, seemingly uncaring of the tremble of fear that had run over the girl or the way her head twisted downwards, as if the girl wished to burrow into the floor or the Earth itself to escape the ancient necromancer’s touch but dared not actually move. Of course, there was no escape for her. And still Meisha was silent, saying nothing as Esther rebuked her in the mildest of tones for her failure and her presumption. Then, as she went on, the inevitable confusion came, the lack of understanding that all of those here shared, indeed all of those on the planet with one single exception.
When it occurred to her, the notion that she might be the only one who even remembered the concepts of Faith, of Belief, of Damnation and even of God amused Esther in an utterly perverse way. That she, the Apostate, the woman who had turned her back on everything her own people held sacred, had been the only one of them to survive the holocaust that had burnt them all to ash and dust blown away before the wind... it was unspeakably ironic. Of course, every soul whose body had perished on that day lived on inside her, an eternal hell made by mortal hands for those who had gone to their deaths believing in a divine paradise. And so she lived on, the last survivor of an age beyond the comprehension of the humans of today, the First of Fereydun’s new breed. Esther was truly unique in this world, a being beyond any definition.
But the lack of understanding she saw in the eyes of the cattle as she spoke of God, of Divinity, of worlds beyond the merely physical never stopped her speaking of them. For while a girl like the one cowering before her might not understand those words, there were others which were all too familiar. Cold. Silence... Forgiveness. Freedom. So many words with so many meanings, and all of them leading to the small flame almost burning in the girl’s gaze as she tilted her head, looking up at Esther – Hope. It was humanity’s greatest strength, Esther had observed over the centuries of her ages-long life, for it allowed them to keep fighting when a mere animal would submit and lie down to die. It allowed them to look for the light in the darkness, the smallest chance that they would be able to win through and take the prize at the end. But it was also their greatest weakness – the dichotomy that could have made them masters of a world, but instead brought them to their knees.
If the mere hope of freedom, such a meaningless, unimportant thing, dangled before her, with no hint of what it would include, could bring this girl to the state that she was in with a single mention, then perhaps it was just as well that humanity knew no God. For there was nothing to give Meisha Aisha hope except Esther. And someday, she knew, she would bring them all hope. The world would know the meaning of God once again. Humanity would see that they and the Overman that the Lady of the Flame would have them worship were far from the pinnacle of Creation. She would restore Truth to them and show them that, by her own will, she had surpassed them all.
For now, though, she smiled down at the broken girl before her, her expression still motherly, as Meisha asked quietly if she would be free of this. Although Esther knew what the girl meant, it still amused her. ‘This’. So imprecise. This cell? This prison? This life? She could be free of them all with a wave of the Apostle’s hand, her mortal form ripped apart, her spirit dragged out to join the host of its brethren in the vortex of torment within Esther’s very soul. But no, that was not what she offered. Indeed, in some ways, it might be easier for Meisha if that had been what Esther offered – the embrace of Oblivion or at least the mercy of Death. But it was not.
You would be free of this,” the Black Apostle confirmed, one hand gesturing around her briefly to indicate the cold and the silence and the cell that held both in overflowing measure. ”You may have warmth, food and clothing. Nor will I ask you to betray those who were once your friends. Simply take my hand and you may leave this place with me, now. All I will ask in return is your loyalty. Esther smiled kindly. ”Not so much to ask for a new life, is it?”
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