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 Urban Nocordia

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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:55 pm

89 including the prologues and epilogues ... i know it's long ... but oh well ... here are more ... ur just soaking this up! cheers

Chapter 14: Phoenix Screams

First things first; pain. Most of it is coming not from any physical location but rather from the core of my metaphysical self. That’s my own bloody doing, though. Still more is coming from my stomach, and the oozy sticky feeling down there doesn’t exactly fill me with mountains of joyous joy.

“Uurrgghhh…” Very experimentally I open my eyes; everything is black. This is somewhat disturbing since, while I am technically blind, this has never actually interfered with my ability to see. Maybe I just need some time to warm up.

My left arm scrabbles impotently for purchase on the rocky ground for a while – I think I’ve manage to break my other one somehow. Eventually it comes into contact with something kind of round and rubbery. I get a good hold of it and my fingers feel leather and canvas; a shoe.

“A li’le help maybe?” I slur.

The shoe pulls itself away and I feel strong fingers cautiously probing at my back – it’s still dark out, I guess – before looping around my shoulders.

“Oof,” says the disembodied voice of Miriah in the dark. “You’re heavier than you look…”

Eventually she manages to get me turned over, and slowly the blackness begins to swirl gently into focus, I think before I must’ve been staring straight at a wall. Now it’s a roof. Miriah’s face comes blurrily into view.

“Jesus,” she says. “What the fuck happened?”

“I was, ugh, hoping you could tell me.”

“Not much to tell. I can’t exactly see down here. Got jumped by some… things, near as I can tell after you dropped like a stone. What happened to you?”

I use my one good arm – now that I’m awake and thinking about it my other arm is doing a smashing job of fixing itself up, but I still won’t be moving it for a while – and feel my abdomen. My fingers sink right in.

“Oh,” I say, slightly flatly.

There’s a click and before I can mention that it might not be such a good idea, the cavern is flooded with light. Miriah lets out a horrified gasp when she sees the mess of my stomach.

“Fuck we have to–”

I wave my bloodied hand to cut her off. “It’s not as bad as it looks–”

“Not as bad! You’ve practically got half your insides hanging out in the dirt!”

“Stand back,” I tell her, thinking that this is going to hurt. More than it already does.

I hear her move a few feet away from my head. “More,” I say, and she obeys wordlessly. “Okay, this might look bad, but trust me, I’ll be fine.”

“Alright…”

I reach down, deep inside, to the very pain-wrapped core of my being, unravel the ties holding it together, and press the metaphoric reset button.

––

Fire, mud, wind and corn. All watched over with green green eyes like pools of poison. A tinderbox of symbols and metaphor waiting to burn.

And burn it does.

––

Being caked in mud and left out to dry in the sun must feel something a little like this. With minimal effort I force new-made joints – still with factory stiffness – to move and the shell cracks and shatters like so much ash.

I sit up, look around pitch black tunnel, rough-hewn from the earth by claws and teeth and shored up by broken rubbish and magic.

I am not alone.

“Miriah. Right.” My voice is rough and creaky from disuse, and the statement isn’t quite a question. My mind hastily assembles a report; where I am, who I am, what happened.

“W-what was that?” Miriah stammers. She’s had a big day, poor girl.

“Self-immolation,” I explain. “You know, like the phoenix? Quicker than waiting to heal naturally.” And much more strenuous. It’s been a big day for me, too.

“But, but the noise… And all the walls started shaking…”

I shrug. “I didn’t say it was fun, just quicker.” I stand, test my legs carefully until they remember quite the right way to stand. Ash continues to crack and fall off, and I shake myself down like a dog.

“Uf! Careful!” Miriah shields herself against the flying debris.

“Sorry.” I continue testing joints and muscles; everything seems okay, and I don’t even have a scar. Good, seeing my stomach is just about the only place on my body that hasn’t been cut to shit already. The immolation has left me rather naked, which is not too bad considering I’m furry enough that it doesn’t matter and it’s easier to move like this anyhow.

I have a feeling I’m going to be needing to do some moving very soon.

Miriah, however, is trying very hard not to look. I grin in amusement.

“We should get moving,” I say. After screaming down the walls I’m surprised we haven’t already attracted attention. Then again, the place still smelt like gunpowder when I first came ‘round, and I can’t imagine Miriah going down to anything without a fight, even in pitch black.

“Right,” she says, shining her torch down the length of the tunnel that doesn’t go out to the subway. The torch is going to be a bit of a pain – either I’m using night vision or I’m not, and switching back and forth all the time isn’t really agreeing with my already tormented head – but I can’t exactly expect her to walk around blind. I could conjure a flame, easier on my eyes since it’s an extension of myself, but the thought of even such a simple task is making me feel nauseous. Pride keeps me from letting Miriah know exactly how weak I’m feeling, and stupidity is telling me to press on regardless. It’s been a while since I’ve had to exert myself like this – honestly everything back home is pretty calm right now – and even though I like the simple life, getting down and dirty is still fun every now and again.

We start walking.

“So where does this go?”

“On for another few hundred meters before hitting a set of hand-gouged ‘stairs’. After that it’s literally a subterranean warren. Or was back in my reality, anyway.”

“Great. Whose idea was it to come down here anyway?”

I keep my mouth shut and my legs moving.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:56 pm

Chapter 15: Ugabug

In the back of her mind, Miriah was compiling a list of things she could expect to be in her nightmares from now until the day she died. Entrails and self-immolation, words that before now had only the vaguest of pictures to accompany them, were at the top of that list.

From the corner of her eye, she watched Loki press onward. To anyone just glancing at him, perhaps, he looked tiptop. Closer observation would show, no matter how he tried to hide it, that he felt as bad as the earlier uglies had looked. Still, she supposed it was better than him dragging his guts along behind them, and that was a plus.

Miriah choked back some bile and cursed herself for letting the image of him dragging his guts behind them get into her brain.

The pair plodded along, slowly at first, Miriah’s torch showing them the way. Occasionally Miriah would feel something crunch or snap beneath her feet; however, as there was no real possibility of those things simply being dead tree branches, she forced herself to not look down when she felt them underfoot.

It was just as Loki said; eventually, the pair came across a set of stone steps. Miriah had almost started tumbling down them, and would have, if Loki hadn’t pulled her back.

“I’ll lead,” he said, and Miriah shook her head.

“No way,” she protested, “If I’m behind you I won’t be able to get a clear shot off. At least you can make fire appear wherever you like without it having to come off you. You stay behind me. I don’t want to hit you.”

“Fine,” said Loki, shrugging, “And then when one of those things rips your stomach open, we’ll stick a band-aid on it and call it a day.” Miriah blinked.

“You’ll lead.”

“Good call.”

––

Oh good show Joseph, Joseph thought as he dropped along the side of the building, not only are you falling quite fast, this building has a face of glass. Care to try and scrape your way down it?

He had assumed a skydiver’s freefall position as he plummeted; above him he could hear the Fallen, swooping on him like birds of prey. They had, amazingly, uncased their wings – even at night, it was unwise to do so in public – to follow him when he jumped. The ground was coming up awfully fast. The angry shrieks above him clued him in to the fact that, though they didn’t particularly want him alive, they had wanted to be the ones responsible for his end, not the pavement below. Joseph forced himself not to think about this; nor to think about the upcoming mess he might make; not anything at all. Joseph’s instincts were in the driver’s seat now, and with luck that’s how he would scrape through this.

Coming up fast was a flagpole, stuck like a splinter in the side of the building. It was no more than three levels off the ground. He snatched at it as he passed, and suddenly the world was upside-down… then normal… then upside-down again… then normal and the pole snapped under the stress, and Joseph was falling forward, not down. He wrenched his whole body around, putting his back to his airborne path; in his hand, the broken pole remained, but not for long. He heaved it as he spun, jagged end out, at the Fallen who was closest to him; Joseph recognized that this one had been Yomyael. It was true to his mark, and punched through the Fallen’s chest and right wing. Yomyael, who was quite surprised at this painful turn of events, fluttered in the air for a moment and dropped. Two of his compatriots swooped him out of the air and away from the chase before he could hit the ground; the remaining four continued their pursuit.

Joseph, continuing his spin, lashed out and grabbed a traffic light post and used it to turn sharply to the right. Beside him, a city bus passed; he jammed a clawed hand into its side, and clambered to the top of it. He crouched low upon it as the wind rushed past his body; behind him, the angry calls of the Fallen followed. He got to his feet and ran along the length of the vehicle, waiting at the head of it. Ahead was a bridge, and below that were rails. Joseph could hear the underground train coming towards them; in this state, he could practically smell the grease of it, feel the electricity coursing through. He readied himself for the jump.

Horns blared and drivers panicked, nearly causing a massive pileup, as the people below watched Joseph make his jump, only to be followed by the four Fallen. Joseph, who would later note that his timing was incredibly goddamn lucky, fell towards the train as it exited one tunnel and entered another; he got a hold of the final car, jamming his claws through its metal skin as though it were paper. With his other hand, he took hold of a bar that ran along the side of the door, and pulled his feet down to rest on a small lip. He turned his head and saw the Fallen all swoop down too fast; two collided into each other, causing one to hit the fabled third rail, which at this time was a previously established plot point. He smoked and sputtered on the track, and while Joseph knew it would take more than that to kill him for good – heart, always pierce the heart – he knew the upcoming vivisection-by-train would probably get the job done. That left three, and he wondered just how fast they could fly. He waited until they got closer to make his next move.

––

Loki stepped down from the final stair and scanned the area quickly. Miriah didn’t know if it was as he had seen it in his world, but apparently he figured it was safe enough to enter. Miriah followed, scanning the area with her torch. Something was wrong down here; she could feel it in her gut. She may not have had the instincts or senses of a Slayer, but something in her was screaming big bad. Something about the walls… and the ceiling. Something above them was moving. It was quiet – barely a whisper – but she could hear it now. Slowly aiming the torch upward, she saw it. Strands; thousands of them. Milky white cables, crisscrossed and shiny, like they were frosted with dew. And where the light was, the creatures weren’t. They skittered away from the beam like it would cause them pain to see it. Lots of them, more of the uglies from the tunnel, she guessed. Further in front of them, he could hear the same sort of noise; only louder; heavier; more solid. Whatever she had seen in the tunnels was nothing. This, this was the big bad.

She was very, very glad that she had reloaded when coming down the steps.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:57 pm

Chapter 16: Down the Dark

Miriah is tugging on the fur on my arm. It sort of hurts, but I think she doesn’t quite realize that it’s attached to me and not, in fact, a sleeve.

“H-hey, you might wanna–”

“Ssh,” I quiet her, reach down and gently snap off her torch.

“What are you doing! Are you insane!” She’s not quite yelling, not quite whispering, but very much trying not to attract attention.

“Yes,” I tell her. “I’m quite mad; I thought we’d established this earlier.” She grumbles indistinctly, and I manage a grin despite myself. We’re still moving but very slowly now because Miriah is effectively blind in the dark. And because I’m concentrating very, very hard on not stepping on the webs – and making sure she doesn’t either. The… things up there are blind, I can tell that much from the fact that they do, in fact, have no eyes, but they can smell us and know we’re here somewhere.

I really, really hope they’re actually uncertain and not just waiting until we get far enough into their webs to take us on.

As I lead Miriah through the dark – mostly to keep her from looking at our companions more than anything else – I consider my options. I don’t come up with much, other than my tried-and-true method of charging in like a lunatic and relying on sheer dumb luck. I’m good at that one. Usually.

The cavern isn’t too extensive, and we get most of the way across the floor – weirdly flagstoned in charming black hexagonal pavers – without incident. It’s only about now that I realize that there’s no way of going any further without running straight through a very fine mesh of webs laid like invisible tripwires.

“Ah.” I stop.

“What? What’s going on? I’m turning the light back on.”

She does so; under the beam the stands all-but vanish.

“What’s wrong?”

“Look very, very closely… From this distance.”

Miriah peers forward, squinting almost comically. “What, I don’t s– oh.”

“Run or fight?”

“I dunno, why then hell are we down here again?”

“Beats me. Run or fight?”

“How many are there behind me?”

I look over her shoulder. “Five that I can see.”

“And are they close?”

“Yeah, pretty close,” I say, trying very hard not to notice I can almost see the thing’s internal organs through it’s waxy-pallid skin.

“Right. Why aren’t they attacking?”

“Don’t ask me; you’re the big monster-hunter expert. Maybe they like creating drama?”

“Why don’t you just blow them all up with your magic explodey fire?”

“Well, I dunno about you but I love setting bonfires in enclosed spaces. Nothing like a mass intake of carbon dioxide to really liven up the day.”

Miriah pauses for a bit. “Right, here’s the plan; we turn, I shoot, you cover me.”

“And you try not to shoot me. Right.”

“You’ll be fine. One…”

“Two…”

“Three…”

––

What happens next is fast and hard and really, really gross. Miriah, as promised, turns on three and lets fly with both barrels. I have a moment to consider that maybe these things just want to be left alone before they let out a hellish shriek and leap forward towards us. Miriah takes out one with one well-placed shot and another not-so-well but good enough. It’s thrown backwards in midair to land with a sickening crunch on the floor where it waves nine suckered legs above it like a dying fly. But now is not the time to be poetic, now is the time to do damage.

I reach and find – much to my delight – my gun materializes easily into my hand. I didn’t lie when I said I don’t like them, but that doesn’t mean that sometimes they’re not useful. A smoldering, scythe-like blade appears in my other hand and, roaring somewhat subconsciously, I leap forward and into the fray.

Four are still up. I empty four bullets into one and drive my blade straight through the gut of another. There’s another round of shots from Miriah – one goes wild, the other blows off a leg – but I’m too busy getting crushed under two of the damn things as they come crashing down on top of me. One still has my knife in it’s gut, the other is missing two legs and an ear (yeah, okay I’m not a great shot as far as these things go). They’re also effectively pinning both my arms. Even still, I let off another round of bullets that slams into one of the things heading for Miriah, and thrust up further with my knife. Indescribable goo gushes out of the hole I’ve punched through deceptively soft white flesh, and the whole cavern is flooded with a putrid stench. Despite the hole in its gut the thing is still writhing madly – kicking its friend in the face and side while it does so – and I’m running out of things to do. The floor is too slick to try and stand up with these things still on me, and it’s all I can do to move flail my head around to keep myself out of the jaws of the only mildly injured one. I resort to beating it impotently on the side with the butt of my gun, which doesn’t really seem to do much more than annoy it.

“Oh, screw it.”

I drop the gun – useless things – and instead grab a handful of milky flesh with thick, tough claws. They sink in like butter, but my hand’s not big enough to cause serious damage to the thing through it’s round bulk. So I use my last resort, and bite it right in the face.

It doesn’t taste as disgusting as I thought it would, which of course signifies that it is much, much worse. Keeping in mind that I’ve sat through being fed burning poison for a thousand years, this still makes me want to retch, but I bite down on both the feeling and the thing’s face. I feel the cartilage of it’s piggish snout crunch under my jaws, and it tries to pull back, screaming as well as it can through it’s destroyed face. Which leave me in the odd position of having a tug of war between the thing – that also is having trouble getting purchase on the slippery ground – and myself. I wonder how long it will take it to bleed to death or pass out, because I really don’t think I an do much more to it than this.

And then a gunshot sounds and puts me out of my misery. From the corner of my eye I see Miriah crouched on the ground leveling her pistol at the thing’s bulbous body, which is just big enough and just round enough to give her a decent shot without hitting me. Assuming she’s actually trying not to hit me.

At any rate, the thing dies, which doesn’t help me much since now I’ve got two deadweights on top of me. Miriah comes to my rescue, rolling one of the things off me. I pull my hand out of the other – the knife and gun are back in the nullspace they go to whenever I drop them – and roll it off too, eventually pulling myself to my feet.

I must look an awful fright, covered in blood and gore, mouth open and teeth barred because–

“Eurgh!” I spit hopelessly, trying to get the taste of blood and bile and dark places out of my mouth. Unfortunately I have nothing to wipe the mess off with but myself, which isn’t particularly effective. “Bleh! Bleh!” Each noise accompanied by another round of spit.

Finally I stop before I start spitting out my own teeth. I shake myself down in the dark, but it doesn’t serve to do very much and I’m still covered with drying shit from the now-dead leggy-cave-things; I refuse to think of them as monsters. I’m a monster for godsake.

“You look like you just walked out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” says Miriah drily.

“I love you too.”
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 5:06 pm

this is amazing, i had to print it out cos its so long and i hate reading something long on computer.

but wow!
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 5:09 pm

wee, thank you!

~king~
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 5:34 pm

Loki's fun. He's like the most twisted yet awesome character. The story is awesome too. But there is one thing I have to say... 89 CHAPTERS!!!!
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:00 pm

ur actually reading this at a very fast pace, u should have it doen in no time if ur interesting in finishing cheers

Chapter 17: Picture This

“I would very much like to be going home now, Loki,” Miriah said, hoping that no more of the creatures would show up as they spoke. Loki was covered in filth, and she didn’t look all that shit-hot either. She had wandered into a strange nest with a strange god and she was fairly certain these were things one was not supposed to do. At the moment, she very much wanted to have a cup of tea and soak in the bath for the next ten years. She wasn’t sure how Loki planned on getting washed up, but she imagined it must be akin to washing a sort of shaggy dog.

She had to suppress a giggle when this image popped into her head.

“Aren’t you having fun yet?” Loki asked, dryly. He started back toward the corridor they had entered, kicking aside what was left of the ugabug bodies.

“Wait, wait. I need to do something first,” Miriah said, rummaging in her bag for a few moments. Loki peered over at her as she withdrew a small cell phone from the satchel. She flicked it open and its dim light illuminated her face.

“Shit… no signal. Damn, damn, damn…” she said, and Loki closed his eyes.

“Check again,” he said, after a few moments. Miriah did; the signal bar was now completely full.

“What the… how?” she started, and he smirked.

“You need to start paying attention, hon. Many things – like cell phones – work, though most don’t know or care how and why. People know that they send and need a signal, but they don’t know why. And magic…” he starts, when Miriah grins, remembering.

“Magic is just the exploitation of the unknown,” she said, dialing.

“She can be taught,” he said, gesturing towards her with outstretched arms as if he were showing her off to a vast audience. Miriah placed the phone to her ear and waited. Loki could see her smile when the person on the other end finally picked up.

“Eliza? Hi! No…no, I’m fine. Yes, Joseph is with me. How’s he? Ahhh…” she grimaced, embarrassed, and smacked her forehead, “he’s fine! Doing really well. No, he’s not with me right now. Listen, I need your help,” she said quickly, stopping that line of questioning in its tracks, “yeah, I’m lookin’ at some big uglies here. Hah, yeah, you know it. Look, I’m gonna send a pic, okay, can you give me an ID when you find something? Yeah? Excellent, thanks luv. Hold on a tick,” she said, taking the camera and pointing it towards the most intact body she could find. A quick flash came from the phone, and Miriah tapped a few more buttons. Satisfied, she put the phone back to her ear. “Did it come throu– yes, yes, they are disgusting aren’t they. Just be glad you don’t have to smell ‘em too.” Or taste them, in Loki’s case, she thought. “So you’ll let me know? That’d be boss, wonderful. Okay then, I’ll wait to hear from you… Joseph? I’ll tell him to give you a ring later, sure. Right now… what’s he doing now? Ah… he’s just off taking care of stuff, you know how he is,” she said, grimacing. The pair had started back into the tunnel with the staircase, on their way to the subway platform they’d left from.

“I’m sure he’s safe, whatever he’s doing.”

––

I am in so much trouble, Joseph thought as he held onto the back of the speeding subway train. Most people in the car he gripped had, surprisingly, not noticed his presence. With his back to the car, he watched as the remaining three Fallen moved in on his position. He wondered how the hell they were moving so quickly, but put it out of mind. To think on it too much would cost him valuable time. They were close now, close enough to smell; he turned around, supporting his weight now on one foot, grasping a steel bar and hanging from it. He swung with the whole force of his body, punching the claws of his free hand through the door of the back train. Grunting, he tore it loose; the metal shrieked as he did so, along with a great many of the passengers. The door hanging from his claws, he peered into the car full of horrified passengers.

“Run, damn you! Get into the next car, fast!” he shouted, and they ran, getting bottlenecked in the far door that connected the two cars. He turned his attention back to the upcoming Fallen, who were close enough to touch now. Roaring without thinking, he hurled the jagged chunk of steel that was the train’s door at the closest one, striking him squarely when the neck meets the shoulder; there was a great gout of blood and he dropped. That left two.

Joseph pulled himself into the now empty subway car, its lights flickering on and off as it rolled along. He tore a steel pole from the train ceiling, and waited for remaining two Fallen to arrive.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:01 pm

Chapter 18: Eaten

We’ve limped our way to the top of the rough-cut staircase by the time anyone says anything.

“So… please don’t tell me we have to run the rails again to get out?”

I shake my head. “No, only the entrance is protected, to get out all you have to–”

“All you have what? What? How does that make any sense?”

“Something’s coming…”

“Yeah, a train. I can hear it too.”

“No, something…”

I concentrate, there is a train, sure as shit, but that’s not the problem. Because there’s something else there too, something…

“Run!”

“Wha–?”

But I’ve already grabbed Miriah’s hand and started dragging her towards the mouth of the tunnel, slowly growing brighter and brighter with the approaching train. Outrunning a subway train is one thing, jumping onto one is quite another, and something we’re just about to do. It’s easy, for me. I don’t know about Miriah, but there’s not a hell of a lot of choice. I can’t exactly leave her down here, and while the way out is easier than the way in, it’s not that easy.

The train is already speeding past as we approach, doors and windows flashing faster than the human eye can follow.

Luckily, my eyes aren’t human.

With a harsh tug I pull Miriah towards me – this is so much simpler when the kids don’t come along – swinging her up and over my shoulder. She tries to protest, but my feet have left the ground before she can get a word out, and a second later we’re crashing through some very solid but suddenly very broken steel doors.

I protect Miriah as best I can from the impact, but when we hit the ground – even my balance isn’t good enough to survive crashing through steel doors – in a shower of bent metal and broken safety glass, and there’s not much more I can do after that.

“Up, up. No time!”

My claws scrabble for purchase in the glass and shrapnel. I find it, haul myself up and Miriah after me. I thank the luck of the gods she’s not too badly hurt, but waste no time pulling her down the length of the train.

People scream as we pass – half stumbling, all bleeding – try to climb the walls to escape. No-one wants to be a hero, to save the girl from the wicked monsters, even without my meddling.

And then we’re there, bursting through the very last connecting door, just in time to see a blue-black shape blur past and smash into the rear wall.

“Joseph!”

There are two other… things in the car. I guess they’re angels, or demons or whatever the hell they’re calling them nowadays. They smell a bit like Joseph, smoldering incense and blood-red sin. They smell good, and I know the grin which twists my face is not a nice one to behold.

Miriah has stumbled over to where the featherhead is trying to pull himself back up again. She gets one hand on his tattered back when he looks up and cries.

“No! They’re after the god!”

Which of course immediately draws the angels’ attention to me.

Good. I like a rapt audience.

Joseph is standing next to me before I know it, breathing heavily and smelling of divine vitae. Miriah takes the other side, un-holstering her guns.

“Stand back,” I growl. “They want me? Then let’s play.”

Put on some nice grindcore and pump it up to eleven, close your eyes and picture a speeding subway car, rear door ripped out showing the fast-moving tracks behind, and the lights, flickering on-and-off in Hollywood rave glory. The fight is in slow-mo, but only for some bits, while the camera spins to show the flawlessly executed kung-fu.

You’ve seen the movies.

Except… it’s not quite like that. It’s much, much quicker.

I launch myself at the least injured angel, who’s not quite prepared for such a viciously feral attack and falls over backwards, sliding along the lino-smooth floor until his head is all-but hanging out the hole in the back of the car. He has just a second to look worried, just a second to try and stammer out a deal, when my jagged teeth close on his neck.

It’s been a big day for yours truly, and I am very, very hungry. The taste of angel – of raw divine power – is like opium to an addict, sliding deep into the core of my being like bright vicious tendrils. Raw, undiluted belief, and with it come the flashes.

(burning gold sun in endless desert… a black gash, a wound in the earth… abyss… down down deeper and down in dark and dank where nothing lives nothing breathes swirling black with the sin and pain of a thousand generations… sin and pain and dark dark black no sun no light no love only thoughts of… thoughts of…)

The body disintegrates in my claws, a shower of pixie-dust glitter and bright bright feathers. Nothing left, and I am Loki Laufeyjarson but in that moment I am also Exael, grigori and lost son of Paradise, teacher of man in the ways of metals and gems and perfumes, and I know… I know…

It fades quickly – I’m better at this than I was when I first tried it on Baldr all those years ago – and soon I’m simply myself again. Whatever that implies.

Bright white-gold angel-blood in slowly drying down my chin and the fire in my eyes burns. I feel better than I have in years.

I turn to the remaining angel in the train car – he stumbles back, afraid – but I’m not going to kill him.

“Go to your master. Tell him to come, and I will hear him out.” For I too have been to the dark place, felt the burn of sin on my brow, eye-blind and held for eternity.

The angel nods, and with only a brief glance towards the train car’s other occupants, makes himself scarce.

Covered in blood and wreathed in power I throw my head back, let loose a primal roar and feel the flame burst out on my skin. But these are to cleanse, not to burn.

When I turn back to Miriah and Joseph, I am Lain again in everything but eyes.

They leap into outraged action. “What the hell–”

“Shut up.” I push past them, reaching the doors to the wracked train car just as we pull into a station and they painfully grind open. “Follow me. There are things you need to know.”

––

“I am jötun, and quick flick through a book will tell you that much, but the word means so much more than you think.”

We’re back at the hotel. The trip back was uncomfortable to say the least, any tentative trust from Miriah having long-since evaporated. Joseph never liked me to start with.

“My people, the jötnar, in books we are usually described as giants, and so the word is translated. Jötun, giant… sounds similar. But the comparison is a lie; it’s from the Greek. A race of non-human being who fight the Gods. In the end we all wind up with the same name; giant. But it means nothing. In other ages you have given us more descriptive names; ettin, eoten… variations on a verb. ‘To eat’.”

Miriah’s mind works fast. “You mean like… vampires?”

I give a bark of laughter. “Yes and no. Midgard had no vampires as you know them – they’re a much later invention – but I suppose the idea is… similar. My peoples’ magic is blood magic, soul magic; we know how to rip the essence from mortals and make it our own. Gently, by slowly devouring prayers and belief sent by shivering devout, or rough and fast, like you saw. This is the power that was taught to Odin. This is where the Æsir came from.

“Before I was a god I was the prince-priest of the jötnar. The keeper of all knowledge of my peoples’ magics. I’ve forgotten much, but some things are more instinct than ritual.”

I’m standing, staring out the room’s small-grimy window as I speak. Miriah and Joseph sit in various levels of discomfort behind me, unmoving, watching and waiting to see what I’ll do next.

“Where I come from, there is no ‘good’ side and no ‘bad’ side. Good and evil are excuses for men to hide the real reasons they kill; jealousy, hate, survival, fear. I’m an old, old god, and our role was not to judge morality. I kill because I want to, because it’s easy or convenient or fun; and I will never, ever hide it under any pretense that it is for a greater good.” I turn, my eyes bore into the room’s other occupants. “Killing is killing. It is the final violation, no matter who is dying. No-one ‘deserves it’, and you never do it because you have to. It’s always a choice, it’s always something you do and none other.”

I turn away and start pacing.

“You have to understand,” I say. “I’m here, and I’ll help. Partly because I have to, partly because you just amuse me, or if you’re lucky because I like you. But that is all. No greater good, no higher power. I am the greater good, I am the higher power.

“The creatures on the train–”

“Fallen,” Miriah cuts in quietly.

“Right, the Fallen”– I make sure to pronounce the capital –”on the train are looking for me to help their leader; Azaza’el. When I ate Exael I gained some of his knowledge as well as his power. Azaza’el is trapped underground, held and tortured for eons. He wants me because I’ve broken free of just such punishment.”

“And, what, you feel sorry for him?” Miriah sounds angry, and not just a little disgusted.

I sneer. “One often does not wish to inflict one’s own tortures on others. Try it sometime.”

“But you can’t! He’s…”

“What? Evil? The enemy? The ‘big bad’? Well, I’ve got news for you kid; so’m I. Don’t you get it? I am Azaza’el. Just as I am every bound god before and since. Bound because we dared disobey.”

I turn back to her. “I’m going to meet with Azaza’el and I’m going to make my own mind up about what he wants. Help me or try and stop me; it’s your decision.”

Miriah holds my gaze. Joseph is silent.

And I wait for the universe to drop.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:01 pm

Chapter 19: All Laid Out

“If I thought it was within my power to stop you, old one, I would have attempted to do so five times over in the space of this very conversation,” Joseph rasped; he didn’t even attempt to hide the growing dread he felt. Miriah at this point was livid.

“You don’t get it! Yeah, okay, you’re Azaza’el and every other bound yadda yadda yadda. You’ll do this, you demand that, you do what suits you and god damn it you just don’t understand. This is not your world, and you are planning on something that will fuck it over completely! You stand there and accuse me of doing what I do because I’m ‘good’ and they’re ‘evil,’ and that’s wrong because you’re what we would call ‘evil,’” Miriah was shouting at this point; Joseph and Loki both looked a little taken aback at the ferocity in her voice. “Yeah, okay, you’ve got the bad boy thing going on. But that’s not enough for this girl. Especially since you’ve got the hugest fucking ego I’ve ever had to deal with; and I grew up in high society! You’re the greater good? The higher power? Maybe on your side of the coin, Loki,” the final word was punctuated by a rather unpleasant tone, “but here? Here you should maybe really consider playing by our rules.”

Loki looked as close to furious at this point as Miriah had seen; she could feel the divine presence ebbing off of him and knew he was, for the sake of this discourse, toning it down as best he could. Somehow, though, it didn’t lock her up like it had before; hell hath no fury, so they say.

“You say we stop them because they’re ‘evil’. In Joseph’s case, sure, that may be true. But you have ignored the circumstances of this decision! The Fallen were cast out of their plane long before Joseph was a tingle in his father’s balls! They went unchecked; they weren’t bothering anyone besides the people who had cast them out.”

“Then what, pray tell, gives you the authority to end them?” Loki sneered as he asked.

“Survival, as you said earlier,” Joseph cut in. “They had begun to turn on the peoples of this plane. Azaza’el, it would seem, doesn’t have your constitution for punishment, and has for the last millennium been quite mad. And his Grigori are still loyal to him; many of them are just as mad. They ransom the people of this plane for their return to the higher worlds; but such requests have never been entertained. There is, quite simply, a reason Lucifer and Azazael were never readmitted. This was the decree of the powers – our powers – and it must be upheld.”

“And it never occurred to you that it may have been just a tad overkill?” Loki, again, looked less than impressed.

“Whether the decision was just or not is not for me to decide. What I do know is this; when Azaza’el was cast out, he took on a new purpose. One similar to your own; to mark the very end of existence with his release. Azaza’el is to us what you were to Midgard. This connection I can see quite clearly. What you seem to be missing is this, knowledge-keeper,” Joseph spat, “while you marked the end and a new beginning, he only marks our end. Do you understand? Game Over, as my young friend here would say. The Grigori, in their attempt to hasten the release of Azaza’el will leave this world in ruin. It will be unmade, and he will not plan on rebuilding.

“That is why I fight. That is why I kill. And that is why I must insist – implore – that you not assist them on some foolish whim!” Joseph was now standing at his full height; still not as tall as the jötun, but for the strength of will he displayed it was of little consequence. The pair stared uneasily at each other, a tableaux of the eve of some terrible fight. Miriah interrupted with a voice so quiet she may as well have been a mouse; if her earlier fury was still in her, she hid it unnervingly well.

“But that’s Joseph’s fight. Would you like to know, Loki, why I do what I do?” she said, thumbing through her wallet. She didn’t look at him as she asked, and she really didn’t care what his answer might have been. Gently she slid a worn photo from its sleeve; it was old, but cared for extremely well. It was small, no more than three inches by two inches, and she held it toward Loki. Her face was expressionless, and her eyes were fixed on the god. He took it gently and looked.

In the photo was a much younger Miriah; years younger. She was 18 here. With her was a not unhandsome boy who also looked her age, and another girl; Chinese like Miriah, smiling brightly. She was quite pretty, with neatly styled black hair and eyes that were striking. The trio was huddled close together on a hillside in what looked like spring. They all wore smiles; Miriah and the girl had their arms around each other in an embrace that was easily recognizable as that of very good friends. Loki looked away from it, back to Miriah. Her eyes were wet.

“The boy is Guy. I’ve known him for years now and I love him with all my heart. But he is not the reason I fight. The girl,” she cleared her throat and continued, “the girl is Ziyi Lien. I knew her since I was seven years old. She’s one of the few who knew me as Xiong Yi Lian; a name I use very little today. She had it in her head that she wanted to be a model… there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that she could do it, too,” Miriah took the photo back from Loki and put it back in its place; she had to do something to keep from following nostalgia lane to its end. She wiped her eyes and continued. “When we were eighteen, she had managed to be just that; a model. Things were looking up for her. At this point I had enough money to live comfortably, and we shared a hotel suite. A fancy one, over Central Park… that lasted less than a year.

“I know you’ve seen what happened to me in 2007. But what you probably might not have realized you were seeing was the death of the person in the world I was closest to. One night, on her way home from a shoot…” she put the back of her hand to her face, just beneath her nose, and stared at a corner of the room, “I don’t know if he’d been following her for a while, or if he was just out for Chinese food,” the joke’s darkness was not lost on either listener, “but… she was killed. Violated, by one of those godforsaken things. A vampire. I don’t know if he made her suffer, or if he fed and went on, dropping her like I would a can of pop… but I know that I tracked it. I followed the investigation of the NYPD, and I found that thing and I made it pay. I had these,” she held up her pistols, “made special, and I made him pay. And then I went out the next night and did it again. And then again. And again, right down to watching you slaughter those things in the alley. With each one I dust, I make him pay.”

Loki watched her as she spoke; with the exception of her lips, she had been totally still. Now, though, she turned her head to him. The old anger glowed like embers.

“And you say I fight as a matter of good? Or evil? No, Loki, I know better than that. That is the fight of others. I kill for a darker reason, and it makes me ugly inside. I take revenge for her death with each shell I fire. And I know it makes me just as bad as them. No one will question that badness, and may even look upon it as good. Often I tell myself that it’s for good that I do it. But I know that I work not out of good intentions but vengeance. A selfishness that puts even your motives to shame, I should think.

“The demons I’ve faced… they came for me, to end me, out of fear, or because circumstance would have me face them. The Fallen, because I crossed paths with this one,” she said, indicating Joseph, “They all regard me as something which should be dealt with, and so I respond in kind. But I do not kill anything that would not endanger the life of my kind. I have demon allies, demon friends. They are truer than most humans I’ve met. This is not my destiny; it is a purpose I have stolen from other, more powerful people than I. One of whom, I believe, I must summon into this matter. For if you intend to speak to Azaza’el, then I have two things I must do. And only she will be with me for these things. Prepare yourself however you must, then, and I will do the same,” she said, rising to her feet. From her bag she once again withdrew her cell phone, and walked to the door of the adjoining room. She opened the door and looked once more at Loki. “So please, don’t ever accuse me of doing this lightly, like it’s a matter of black and white. That’s only the surface. Remember that everyone has circumstances. To ignore that is foolishness. I know you just want to get home; do not take the path to it that would leave ours in flames. I know how fond of them you are.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to call someone.”

“The woman in white,” Loki said.

“The woman in white,” Miriah said, and she closed the door behind her.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:20 am

Yay, backstory. Now we know why the kill the peoples they kill. Loki has some pretty cool godly powers.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:36 am

yep ... i'm glad ur getting attatched to loki ... that will make the ending more effective ... WAIT ... i didn't say anything! Rolling Eyes

Chapter 20: Unjustified Justification

In Midgard, no matter which one it is, I am always a monster. I dress in Armani and drive a Jaguar, but underneath, behind the glass and steel and good intentions, I am still a monster. And, when it comes down to it, I don’t care. Humans are cattle, food, believers. They give me the strength to live on, and the power to do what I do, and I’ll tend to them like the proverbial Good Cowboy, but when it comes down to it… I don’t really care.

Sigmund, Dee, Wayne, Ed… even Esia and Elijah; were I to unmake Midgard again tomorrow they would survive on. The spark of divinity each holds is enough to admit them to Ásgard, to turn the Golden Fruit ripe and succulent instead of cold hard metal. I suppose I’m insular like that, Esia is perhaps the closest thing I have to a human friend, and even she carries her great-great-great-grandfather’s spark within her still.

The end of the world holds no fear for me, not there and not here, where my own power would not be nearly sufficient to remake it. Because the end only means change, something that terrifies humans as much as it excites me. Do I want to see this world burn? Maybe, maybe not. But I am not afraid of it should it happen.

And Miriah, Miriah who fights for vengeance and believes all that TV garbage about it making her less than human, more monstrous. Is it more human to want revenge for the death of a loved one or to watch the death of no less than four of your own children and shrug it off as necessary? To kill for no purpose other than pleasure or to prove a point. Next to that, revenge looks like sainthood.

I tried revenge once and was punished for an eon. Now all I feel is… Now all I feel is that I don’t think about it very much. My brother was the introspective one. Thinking too hard only drives me to madness; I know, I had a thousand years to do it.

And, really, is that what it comes down to? Do I think I can save Azaza’el? From his punishment, certainly, but… from himself? That’s not me talking. That’s…

Joseph is still here, staring at me with unmasked contempt. So be it; I don’t care what he thinks either. Do I? Would I, were he someone different? What would Sigmund think or, worst of all, Dee? Would Ed come along for the ride or throw me down for taking it – he was always unpredictable. Miriah reminds me of Esia in a way, does that make a difference?

She accused me of having an ego, but I think what she doesn’t realize is that ego is all I am, by very definition. And why not; incalculable wealth and power, lord of two realms and god of a third. This is not an atmosphere that breeds humility, and I have always cleaned up my own mess. Well, mostly always.

Joseph says he sees my connection to Azaza’el, but I don’t think he does. Not really. We are both avatars of the Bound God, whose release brings destruction, but even in Christian mythos the end still brings a new and better beginning. Azaza’el and I are avatars of change, and Joseph, bound to the old order – no matter how much of an outsider he sees himself as – will never accept that. Destruction does not always mean the whole world will be shot down in flames, either. Sometimes it’s as simple as just getting a shiny new hammer.

“Maybe you haven’t realized,” I find myself saying out loud. “I destroy things. Beyond merely what I do, it’s what I am. But I wouldn’t worry,” I look straight into burnt-black eyes and grin. “It always turns out alright. In the end.”

And it does. And I am not afraid.

I’m ready to do what I was bought here to do… whatever that may be.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:37 am

Chapter 21: Half Baked

Miriah collapsed in a heap on the bed, her teeth clenched against the assault of tears she could feel fighting their way out from behind her eyelids. The cell phone pressed to her ear droned as the dialed number made its connection; eventually, there was the anticipated click of someone answering.

“Hello, Templeman speaking,” the woman on the line answered. Her voice had a pronounced upper-class English accent, a smooth sound from years of living in the best parts of that country. Miriah’s voice, in comparison, was raspy and choked when she answered.

“Cassie? Cassie, it’s…”

“Miriah! My god, are you okay? What’s wrong? You sound terrible love,” Cassandra’s voice was sharp with concern.

“It’s… it’s a long story, Cassie. I need your help, real bad. I’m in a mess of trouble.”

“Of course. Shall I bring Guy?”

“No, no please. I want to spare him the trouble. He’ll be okay. Tara’s gone underground after… yeah. You know all that.”

“Where are you?”

“Pandemonium City.”

“I’ll be there in a few hours. Meet me at the airport, okay?”

“I will… thank you, Cassie,” Miriah said. It was the first great relief she had that day; someone was coming to help her.

“Chin up, dear. You’ll make it,” said Cassandra, and that was it. Miriah clicked the phone to its closed position and dropped it to the bed. She stood, despite the fact that all she felt like doing was sleeping, and checked her guns. She loaded each bullet separately, with the explosive shells she kept for real danger. As she performed this task, this pseudo-ritual, she prayed. Not to any particular deity – especially not the one standing in the sitting room – but to herself, and her loved ones; both those who had passed and those who were still by her side. She snapped the chambers of the revolvers shut with a flick of her wrists, and dual wielded the pistols. She felt the weight of them, spun them in her hands and on her fingers – gunplay usually reserved for actors and cowboys.

You’re in it now, Gunslinger. They always told you never play with dead things, to leave those who had passed and honor them at the right times. But you went chasing them down alleyways and dark streets, and now it’s coming back for you. Loki is your cross to bear, Miriah, and he could be worse than anything Tara put you through, or Cain, or Eishi, or even yourself. You may as well be in bed with the Fallen and be unlocking the chains of Azaza’el with your own hands as let him get close to his counterpart in this place. His world is not yours and yours is not his; and soon, yours may not even be yours anymore. It could be something new. Something you’re not a part of anymore. The world could move on, as an author you know has said, and leave you behind. The new order may not decide to replace “Miriah” Xiong Yi Lian, not after all she’s done for this world. It could be one of Slayers and Demons and Old Ones, but not rich Chinese girls whose daddies hate them and whose best friends get taken by the night.

Miriah spun the pistols one last time and jammed them into their holsters on her belt. The phone chirped loudly, and Miriah snatched it up.

“Hello?” she said. The number displayed as it rang had been Eliza’s.

“Miriah? You may want to sit down.”

––

Joseph rolled Loki’s last statement around his mind and found that he wasn’t quite sure if he liked or disliked it. It unsettled him, the idea that Loki was ready to end this world if he felt it was necessary, but the idea that it wouldn’t be out of malice… that’s what tripped him up. Of course, he was still the proverbial hot potato that Joseph would like nothing better than to be rid of. He had been fighting for more than one thousand years to stop the exact thing that he may be leading this god to do, and it turned his stomach.

He’d decided. No, he did not like the statement one bit. At least it was an explanation without the usual grandeur, though, and that was something.

He didn’t have a chance to think on it much longer, though, because it was around this time that Miriah spilled back into the room, looking quite concerned.

“Half finished! We left it half-finished, God damn it!” she yelled, looking at Loki. He quirked a brow.

“Excuse me?”

“Those goddamn things in the subway tunnel! They’re called Cirraks, spidery sort of thing. They…” Miriah put a hand to her forehead, laughing the laugh someone who’s about to snap uses, “They were just little ones. We missed one. The big one. The…” she laughed again, “The mother, of course.”

“So? I don’t see how it matters,” Loki said, crossing his arms. They were quickly uncrossed, however, when they building began to tremble. He steadied himself on his feet; Miriah and Joseph both braced against a wall. It was a small tremor, but enough to get noticed.

“That’s how it matters! Eliza just called and gave me the 411 on it; apparently, it can get downright ornery when people like us come knocking…” Miriah said, “I can’t deal with this thing, even with the guns. You said you’re here to help, Loki? Then help. It’s time to clean up our mess.” She paused, then looked at Joseph. “Joseph, go with him. God or not, he’ll need help. The memory of his guts hanging out his stomach is enough to tell me that.”

Joseph and Loki looked uneasily at each other, and back to Miriah.

“Go! Before it shakes the fucking city down trying to find us!” she said, waving them towards the window, “I’ll be fine! There’s something else I have to do.”
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:38 am

Chapter 22: Shadows Move

“Well, bollocks.”

Joseph kind of quirks an obnoxiously blue eyebrow and looks at me sideways. “You could say that.”

There’s a crack right down Irvine Drive, one of the central feeder streets in these parts. It’s not a big crack, as far as cracks go, but it’s long, and it’s a good thing it’s getting so damn early in the morning, or more cars might’ve found themselves half wedged into the thing.

I hate bystanders.

I walk casually up to the first; there’s a young couple trapped inside, the car door is just warped enough that it won’t open. I gesture for them to move back and simply rip it off it’s hinges. Not particularly subtle, but effective enough. The woman all-but screams.

“Shut up and get out,” I snap. “Before another tremor hits and you fall straight in.” I yank the man right out, depositing him none-too-gently on the ground. His woman follows shortly after.

“Now scram,” I say. One look between myself and Joseph and they don’t need to be told twice.

Speaking of whom. “Not a good time to be Edward Scissorhands, is it kid?”

Joseph glares, and looks about to reply when another tremor hits and suddenly I’m no longer standing on car but on nothing at all. Instinctively I open out wings, but they don’t do much except get painfully bashed on the sides of the crevasse as I drop like a seven foot un-aerodynamic stone.

I stop my plummet – the wings are, truthfully, only for show – at about the same time as sharp pain travels up my arm. I look up, Joseph has made a dive for me and managed to catch my arm just before it vanished. Unfortunately, as far as Joseph is concerned, ‘catching’ means pinning me to the rocks with his claws like a butterfly right between the bones of my forearm.

“That,” I say. “Really hurts.” I swing myself out of the pit without too much trouble, and we stand on the edge, peering into the depths for a while.

“Can you see anything down there?”

“No.”

“Me either. Did you know I have perfect vision in every single light spectrum? And some that aren’t?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Is it just me or does the pit look like it’s getting… shallower?”

We double take at each other, jumping backwards just a second before something black gushes upwards from the pit like an oil strike. And, like an oil strike, it comes down again.

“What the hell is that?” There’s no option to dodge, so I put a wing up to shield myself. When the black rain hits it evaporates instantly into smoke, as if it never existed. I look at Joseph, into Sandman-black eye sockets.

“Darkness,” he replies.

“Is it dangerous?”

He scowls, considering the question. “Depends on how much you get on you, I suppose. Don’t often see it like this. What do you think?”

Whatever I actually think is cut short as a dreadful screech, and a giant waxy suckered leg, appear through the abyss. The crack isn’t wide enough for more to emerge, which both is and is not a good thing.

The darkness has stopped gushing and is now simply kind of oozing from the hole. Deciding that it can’t be that dangerous, I pull my blade from the nullspace and launch myself at the only enemy.

“What did your mamma tell you about playing in the road!” I punctuate my cliché by driving the dagger deep into the grasping foot. There is a strange fizzing noise, and a half second of realization, before I pull the blade back; it’s been totally extinguished. Suddenly all I’m holding is a hilt dripping black shadow muck. I have just enough time to swear, when the foot connects with my solar plexus and sends me flying backwards, straight past Joseph who is making his own lunge for the thing.

I skid backwards in a puddle of liquid darkness, it doesn’t make me wet so much as cold and with a chilling shudder I realize that maybe going for a swim in a pool of darkness isn’t so good for a god primarily made up from sun and fire.

Darkness was there first, and it will be there last.

I scramble to my feet, and launch myself into the air, shake down like a dog, and dive back towards where Joseph is madly – and somewhat comically – stomping on the giant foot every time it tries to get a grip over the edge of the street. He’s ankle-deep in darkness, unconcerned. Lucky bastard.

Another foot has gotten it’s first few suckers over the lip now, and the whole street groans as the thing beneath pushes outwards.

“Oh no you don’t!” I say, diving towards the second foot. Something tells me keeping this thing wedged in is probably the best way to beat it. This time I go in the old fashioned way, teeth and claws, grab the whole foot like a cat and kick and bite at it. There’s a dreadful gurgling screech and I go rolling backwards again, arms wrapped around one suckered toe.

“Urgh!” I wrench the thing off my chest and throw it to the side, ready to launch myself in for another if I have to.

I catch Joseph’s eye once more. His brow is creased, and it takes me a moment to figure out what he’s worried about. Ripping off toes is all well and good, but it never killed anything. We need something more permanent, unfortunately that something is buried blind under gallons of thick wet sloshy darkness.

Damnit.

“Keep it underground,” I yell to Joseph. “I’m going in!” And before he can protest – if, indeed, he wanted to – I’ve executed a perfect running dive into the abyss.

––

I have never been this cold. Cut off from sun and fire and the earth itself I find myself floating in a disorientating pool of entropy. No sight, no smell, no sound, no current. Total depravation. I’m not even sure if I’m still falling, or if the blackness has suspended me, water like, within it. Maybe this is what it’s like when gods die; really die, not going to Niflhel die. When no-one believes anymore, and you become nothing but old memories, no form, no influence.

… I was doing something. I think… Once.

Here in the void all I have are memories. My memory is patchy at the best of times, but I suppose now I will finally have the time to sift through it all. Sift through and…

(… stars…)

Something hits me in the chest like a bucket of ice water.

Not dead. Right.

I grip onto it, the one sensory input in this whole place. It feels not unlike a giant toe. A giant suckered toe, attached to a giant suckered foot. And now I remember.

Claws in, I drag my way up the length of the foot and up a long ropey leg. I reach one knee, then another, the leg thickening the whole way. Movement is slow, the blackness seems to pull hard against my body, insinuating itself into joins to convince them to stop moving. To be still. Stillness is easy. Stillness is…

Entropy. I’m floating in a pool of pure entropy, and I’ve seen this before. A long, long time ago, back when I was someone else. A thick black lake with one tiny dot of starlight at its center. I’m in Niflheim, young – younger than I ever remember being – and there are robed figures around me. This is some kind of test. Mastery over void. I have to swim out and pull the star from the lake; it’s supposed to be impossible. No-one has ever done it, and if I can, it means…

My memory-self grins my familiar half-grin, reaches out…

… and pulls back a handful of starlight.

––

Joseph finds me unconscious at the bottom of the abyss sometime later. He rolls me over, and lets out an unconscious gasp as for a brief second glossy black eyes like his own stare back at him, before the entropy recedes back into my skull, X-Files style.

Later he tells me that I was gone five minutes, maybe ten. More and more of the creature had slowly pushed itself from the abyss, he had fought it well and viciously, but that it was tricky and quick in the darkness that had started to evaporate into the air like smoke.

Until the darkness itself had simply vanished, and he’d landed the killing blow.

We climb out of the hole slowly and somewhat painfully. My hair has gone ash-white like a burnt down fire, and I am stone-cold for the first

(not first…)

time in my life. I can feel the warmth building up again with every step, but it will take a few hours before I’m back to normal, I think.

For a while Joseph and I stare down at the fast-rotting carcass of the dead thing. It really was huge – perhaps the size of a small house – but most of it is wedged firmly inside the gap. Scattered toes and feet lie around the edges, souvenirs of Joseph’s wicked work. Suddenly I really wish I had a smoke.

“Well, that was fun,” Joseph says dryly.

I stand there in silence and think of purple hair and the deep dark abyss.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 1:13 pm

Hmmm. Very good. This story gets violenter and violenter, which is good. Everyone loves violence. And gore. Me wants more!
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:05 pm

haha, ur comments just get 0dder and 0dder! cheers

Chapter 23: Arrival

The airport televisions that hung beside a board with arrival and departure times broadcast the latest in local news; the reports were mostly concerned with the unusual tremors that had struck the city that morning. Most people ignored them, but Miriah watched intently for some clue that Joseph and Loki had been successful in their task. She was pretty sure that any police investigations would pull up a lot of stuff they couldn’t exactly broadcast to the public. Even the events on the subway train had been glossed over quickly, chalked up to an attempted hijacking and bombing; people were warned to look for a taller, muscular man with blue hair and black contacts. They had omitted the large claws and tattered wings, of course, and there was no mention of a cute Chinese accomplice or a large unruly angel-eater, either, so it was no skin off her nose.

She flopped down in the seats for people to wait for their loved ones to arrive and stared up at the arrivals/departures board and saw that there were only two flights coming in from New York that day; the earlier one, which Cassandra had been on just as she promised, had been delayed but should be arriving shortly. Of course, this left a still unnerved and increasingly bored Miriah to do naught but wait for the jet to reach its destination here in Pandemonium. And she hated it.

Reaching in her bag, she felt around for her DS between the empty casings, quickloaders, and various scraps and items that always found their way into her purses. She pulled it out, flicked it on, and began working her way through a Final Fantasy title. She could have sworn that she’d been playing only a little when she noticed the growing noise of people getting off of a plane; she shot a glance up at the clock and saw that almost two hours had gone by.

She threw the device back into her bag and stood just as Cassandra walked out of the gate. She was dressed in white, as was her usual custom; a ribbed, zippered high-necked sweater and white leather trousers covered a muscular form that had, when they first met, made Miriah jealous of her. White, heeled boots clicked with authority as she made her way towards Miriah, a single carry-on bag hanging from a strap over her shoulder. Her hair was jet black, a stark contrast to her white clothing, and was long and straight; she’d let it grow out since Miriah first found her two years prior. They exchanged short bows, then embraced. She was taller than Miriah by a few inches, and eight years older. Miriah buried her face in Cassandra’s shoulder.

“Ni hao, Miriah,” she spoke softly.

“Ni hao, Cassie. Xie xie.”

––

Miriah had explained the situation to Cassandra on the taxi ride over to her hotel room, and she had listened with an increasingly grim look on her face. While Miriah had only in the last few years picked up the mantle of a monster hunting, Cassandra Templeman had been raised for it. It was, more or less, in her blood. And she had studied enough about the Fallen to feel the same concern that Miriah and Joseph felt, so as Miriah’s story continued she completely understood why she had been asked to help.

However, she was still taken aback – if only for a moment – when Miriah had opened the door and she got her first look at a God she had only ever read of in books. She quickly recomposed herself, dropping her bag onto the kitchen counter, leaning against it, and crossing her arms.

“Loki Laufeyjarson, I assume,” she said, looking at him.

“The Snow Bitch,” he said, standing. Cassandra had seen taller creatures in her time, but not many.

“You can address me as Miss Templeman, please and thank you,” she replied. His eyes narrowed a little at this. He sniffed lightly and looked between the two women.

“You smell similar,” he said.

“It must be our perfume,” she retorted dryly, and Miriah looked towards Joseph uneasily.

“So! I trust you didn’t have too much trouble with the Cirrak, then?” Miriah said, changing the subject. Loki and Cassandra were still staring each other down, though Loki did answer.

“It took some doing but we set it right’,” he said, turning to her. “And now it’s R&R time.”

Miriah looked and saw that, somehow, the God was lesser than he had been when she left them. Paler, almost. Most of his colour was still there, however he had an almost faded look to him, like a shirt that’s been through the wash too many times over.

“You look like shit,” she observed, genuinely surprised. Loki huffed skeptically.

“Our friend here, it would seem, has a genuine reason to be afraid of the dark,” Joseph said from the sitting room, sounding unusually candid.

“If you need more time to recover your strength, old one, you may take it. If we are truly about to go to Azaza’el, as you intend, Miriah should come with me and prepare herself. Joseph has more experience with Azaza’el and the Fallen than any of us, so he can stay here… in case you should need someone to watch over you while you rest,” Cassandra said dryly. She turned to Miriah next, arms folded over her chest.

“Come on, let’s go. If we’re to meet this Azaza’el, I do not think I’d like to do it without having a drink in me first,” she said quietly. Across from them, Joseph stood and stretched.

“Loki, I’d actually like you to come with me,” he said, Loki turned and looked, curious.

“What for? And where?”

“I think maybe it’s time we went to Church.”
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:06 pm

Chapter 24: The Death Card

Churches don’t bother me, but they don’t send me into spasms of goodwill, either. A church is a holy site but in truth, to someone like me, it’s no more or less holy than any of the thousand and one other temples people find and use. Everything from backwater glades to casinos to weird rock formations to movies theatres and clubs – where, as far as spiritual R&R goes, I’d much rather be – have just as much potential, and often more, to resonate belief as an honest-to-God church. I like theatres, clubs and comic book stores best myself; shrines to the modern gods of the media. Christian churches don’t have much for me, the greatest religion in the Western world and it excommunicated it’s only culture hero to the position of the root of all evil. Bah. Christ doesn’t even laugh, did you know that? Only cries. There’s no place for humor or subversion or deceit with the Children of the Book, which leaves me dead and cold and bored out of my skull.

I voice as much to Joseph as we walk through the slowly-waking city. He says very little in reply

“They turned me into Lucifer, did you know that?”

Apparently he didn’t, because he looks up. “What?”

“Yeah, when the Christians swept out Midgard – it was much smaller in those days, mind, nowadays everywhere is Midgard – they wrote down the old tales and in doing so they changed us. They reshuffled the Æsir until we were thirteen, same as the Disciples, and put Baldr in the role of Christ. I figured out how to kill the bastard, so that made me Judas. But I’m also Satan – though Lucifer sounds much more classy, don’t you think? – because I lie and cheat and steal and kill. So does my brother, mind you, but he was the boss and so was cast in the mould of Zeus or even the Almighty. This was back in the eleventh century, they really got us mixed up, you know. Because changing the tales of a god changes the god himself, and most of us forgot or at least got confused about who we were supposed to be. The real kicker is this is one of the meanings behind the tale of my binding under the earth. It was symbolic of the lockdown on the old, wild ways. Christianity has no room for people like me. Ever wondered why Lokasenna is the last epic poem? Before Ragnarökk, that is? What’s so special about me that, when I get thrown out of the picture, there’s nothing left but to sit around and wait for the end times?”

I pause for a moment, thinking. Because this is where what was recorded and what wasn’t differs somewhat. It’s not entirely honest to say that the gods are only what people believe them to be. We have our own lives, too. When the sun goes down at the end of the day, there’s still a million chores to be done – even somewhere like Ásgard – and we all still had lives outside the eddas. It’s all a bit chicken and egg, really. What came first? Gods, or belief in gods?

Some of the best stuff we kept solely for ourselves. Unchanged but barely remembered, because the memories of gods are notoriously fickle.

Apparently, Joseph has been thinking, too. “Then, for you, Ragnarök wasn’t the end of the gods, but the rebirth of the old ways.” Apparently he’s not just the muscle around here.

“More or less, and it’s no coincidence it happened when it did. The whole house of cards had been waiting to come down for a long, long time. Partly it was political; church attendance had been dropping ever since the government took over the provision of social welfare services. Where once the peasants used to have to pretend to believe in God to get a hot meal during the lean times, now all they had to do was believe in the State. And what is the State but the first of the New Gods? Then you had the whole spiritualist revival of the late nineteenth, early twentieth century… plus immigration, telecommunication… people started to learn there were alternatives. All it needed was some violence, to stir everything up, and we got that with the Wars. No wonder the Æsir thought the end was nigh; so did a lot of other people. And then the world did end, and no-one noticed. Life went on, but nothing was ever the same again. It was a metaphor, like everything else.”

“This is why you don’t fear Azaza’el?”

I think for a bit. “No, it’s why I don’t fear apocalypses. I don’t fear Azaza’el because he’s bound to a rock at the bottom of a desert and can’t do squat.”

Joseph frowns a little at that. Maybe I should, too. I’m so good at lying sometimes I can even fool myself. Almost. Because, when all is said and done, this still isn’t my universe. Oh, I know the apocalypse there will, nine times out of ten, not actually end the physical world itself. But here? Things work differently here, I know. They’re much more Biblical, for starters, something for which metaphor fell out of fashion a thousand years ago.

In the end, I sigh. “I don’t want to end your world, Joseph. Not in the way you think of it, anyhow. But all things change in time. Like Death, from the Tarot deck, you know. Things move on.”

“Maybe,” says Joseph. “But into what?” I don’t have time to say that it doesn’t matter, not really, because Joseph interjects. “We’re here.”
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 2:07 pm

Chapter 25: Palaver

“You know, I met Lucifer once,” Joseph said as they stood before the large wooden doors of the Church. He grasped the handles in his claws and had stopped just short of opening the doors when he said this.

“Did you, now,” Loki said, smirking. “And?”

“He was so human it terrified me. When I think back on our conversations – because we have had several in my time here on the Earth – it’s no wonder he holds so much sway over these people.”

“Come on, you know that deep down everyone loves the antiheroO Jesse: Well, I actually only went with that term as a synonym for antihero, but no big. Dee: Ah, but ‘bad guy’ and ‘antihero’ are two different things in the literary sense. An antihero is not a villain in the sense that ‘bad guy’ implies; the term implies someone who is still the protagonist (as opposed to the antagonist), but who is not ‘good’ or ‘heroic’ in the traditional sense. It’s a subtle difference, but important in Corner lingo (any Lokean will tell you Loki is not the ‘bad guy’ in the eddas, but he’s no hero, either). -->. Who’s more popular; Cyclops or Wolverine?”

“I do. I just like to make sure they think that’s their only option, though,” Joseph said, then paused and held up his own hands, “I was always partial to Wolverine, myself,” he said, and Loki smirked.

“Told ya you so.”

Joseph swung the doors open at this point, and stepped into the mostly empty church. The rows of pews were a familiar sight to Joseph, and he breathed deeply once inside. A fountain of holy water was near the door; Joseph dipped a claw in, kneeled, and made the sign of the cross over his chest. Once he was back on his feet, he moved towards a row of candles and began to light some of them. Loki had been on the verge of saying something about this; Joseph shot him a glance that made it very clear that this was a very dear ritual and its interruption would be more than an annoyance. It would be an insult Joseph would not soon forgive. The gestures were uniquely human; to the powers, these were merely actions which signified nothing. There was no greater meaning to them. It was merely what the humans did, and a habit Joseph had picked up over the years. One habit of many. Once the candles were lit, he turned back towards Loki.

“For those who are fallen,” he said quietly, and moved up the aisle between pews. Loki followed. “The world may move on, but there are still those of us who would remember those whose tales have ended.”

“You really don’t like what you do, do you?” Loki asked. Joseph didn’t answer. “Feh. You should just give them your two weeks notice and be done with it.”

Ahead of them, in one of the front pews, a nun sat praying quietly. Joseph moved towards her, and Loki who had only just seriously taken into account Joseph’s lack of any disguise, grinned dryly.

“Oh yeah, let’s give the good sister a heart attack,” he drawled. “Man, if I had known this was what you did for fun, I’d have brought a camcorder.”

“Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not like that Loki. Relax,” Joseph said coolly, and slid his arm out of Loki’s grip. He continued his walk up the aisle, and soon he was at the woman’s side. Loki followed, if only out of sheer desire to see what happened next.

“Dear Sister, I beg your pardon,” Joseph said, and Loki realized that he was speaking Latin. Latin, for god’s sake. What surprised him more, though, was that the nun, presented with the sight before her, looked more surprised at the sight of him – even as Lain – than the sight of Joseph.

“You would bring a being like this in to God’s house?” she said, and Joseph looked like she may as well have just rapped him over the knuckles with a ruler.

“Dear Sister, these houses are open to all, are they not? We’ll not trouble you long. We just need to hold palaver in your wonderful Church, but the matters discussed must be discussed in secret,” he said, bowing politely as he made his request. She sighed and nodded, standing.

“Hold your conference, but then I must ask you to escort your friend from this place,” she said, and went to the back rooms. A heavy lock fell into place; Joseph moved to the main doors and slid their bolts across. They were tucked in tight now. Loki flopped down on a pew, reclining.

“Well, she was rude,” he said, pouting. Joseph stood facing the pulpit.

“She only knows what she believes; and while that is no excuse, no, it’s at least an explanation.”

“Don’t go overboard apologizing for her, there. Wouldn’t want you to sprain something.”

“The bitch about free will is that they use it as they see fit,” Joseph said, and Loki snorted skeptically. “Now sit up. We have company,” Joseph said, looking to the rafters. Loki didn’t need to look; he’d felt them since they found their way in.

“Hope they’re in a friendly mood.”

––

Miriah sat on a stool that was more comfortable than it looked, and couldn’t see much more than what was right in front of her. A spotlight shone into her eyes. She could hear well enough, of course, and the crowd in the club wasn’t too shabby. She knew that Cassandra was sitting at the bar, getting any information she could about the Fallen or what else may be going on in Pandemonium. The club itself was a small haven for demons, though humans who wanted to enter were welcomed. Cassandra had long ago learned to recognize such establishments, and had heard about this particular one a while before. And now Miriah found herself on the stage of the club, holding an acoustic guitar lent to her by a musically inclined demon that had been playing earlier. Apparently, her name had carried far enough into demon circles that they knew her immediately. The host had barely gotten her name out before the crowd reacted. Some, of course, were less than impressed; others, and Miriah had been surprised at how many of these others there were, seemed happy to know she was there.

So now she strummed the guitar, a little more nervous than she thought she’d be, and put her mouth to the microphone.

“Take my love. Take my land.

Take me where I cannot stand.

I don’t care, I’m still free.

You can’t take the sky from me.

Take me out to the black.

Tell ‘em I ain’t comin’ back.

Burn the land and boil the sea.

You can’t take the sky from me.

Have no place I can be since I found Serenity.

But you can’t take the sky from me.”


It was short, but Miriah found that this song – several years old and not all that well known – calmed her nerves. And hey, the crowd seemed to like it. Miriah smiled at the applause, and strummed the guitar once more.

“Okay, one more!”

––

Miriah sat next to Cassandra at the bar, smiling. Cassandra smiled back.

“Feel better now, then?” she asked, and Miriah nodded.

“A little. I haven’t done that in a while, it was… refreshing.”

“I thought you might enjoy it. Did the host say anything to you afterwards?”

“Hmm? No, no, he didn’t.”

Cassandra acknowledged this quietly, then smiled again.

“Oh well. No worries. I’m sure he was thrilled with your performance all the same,” she said, and sipped her drink. Miriah ordered a pint for herself, then turned back towards the stage.

“So, find anything out?” she asked, still looking away; she applauded when the next person took the stage – a demon who promptly began to murder the song ‘Hey Jude’ – to be polite.

“Nothing you didn’t already know. I have to say, this is an odd turn of events. Loki says that he was summoned to you and probably by you, correct?” Cassandra asked. Miriah swallowed a gulp of her lager before she answered.

“That’s the story. Though damned if I can recall anything I may have done to trigger this sort of thing.”

“And now you’re off to Azaza’el, right?”

“Yeppers. Why?”

“Well, I just find it odd… this business with Azaza’el only started because of Loki coming through; he wasn’t pulled through because of the business with Azaza’el,” she mused, and Miriah furrowed her brow; she was right. All this stuff with the Fallen happened because the Chainbreaker, as they called him, had been pulled through. Before that, it was business as usual. But if that was the case…

“I want you to be careful around that one, Miriah. I’m not entirely sure we really know why he was pulled in – I think this business is just an unfortunate symptom of it.”

Miriah took another large sip of her drink, thinking hard.

––

Inside the Church, things were going a little worse than Joseph had planned.

If Loki had thought Joseph and Miriah were being unreasonable about his plan, the people he and Joseph spoke to now must be driving him to drink. By entering the church, Joseph had sent up a sort of flare to the people he needed to talk to, and they had come. Had they ever.

Gabriel, Metatron, and even Michael himself had come to answer Joseph’s call, and now the group was in the middle of the shouting match that would shake the building to pieces if they kept this volume up – admittedly, most of the shouting was coming from Joseph’s companions. Loki was, as Gabriel had said, “irritatingly calm about the whole matter.”

And to make matters worse, Joseph could tell that Nelchael, along with two other Fallen that he could catch scent of, was going to arrive shortly. This many Angels of such stature gathered in one place – a church, no less – was sure to attract attention. Hell, it could grab the attention of Lucifer himself, if they did not disperse quickly.

Maybe it already has, a voice said in his mind.

He shut his eyes against it and hoped that it was not the case.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 6:06 pm

I want to see Lucifer! And it's always fun to be irritatingly calm about something. Continue... if you please.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 6:53 pm

haha, ur comments are just getting so ... humorous for some reason! cheers

Chapter 26: Not Much Like Jesus

As a general rule, I hate priests, no matter what religion. I never had priests back in my day – hell, even worshipping me in my own right is a new invention – and just as bloody well. Gods need no-one to stand in the middle of us and our food. By which, of course, I mean believers. Angels, I’ve decided, are a bit like priests. Except worse, because instead of just thinking they’re right, they know.

I don’t believe in God. Where I’m from, I can’t believe in God, because to believe in God would be to deny my own existence, and that has the potential to be quite painful. There is an… unnamable, indescribable thing, but it is not God per se. And, in his own little way, Jehovah is no better or worse off than me; all gods are born when humans personify something, even if that something is the nature of god-hood itself.

I’ve never met Jehovah. I wonder now whether these Angels have, or whether they’re just as mixed up as the rest of us.

Gabe, Mikey and the Metatron don’t really look like I’d expected them too, which is to say they don’t like much like Christopher Walken, John Travolta or Alan Rickman respectively. I suppose that’s not particularly surprising. I don’t really look much like my pictures, either. And if I thought Joseph was bad…

It’s almost amusing. To look at him, Joseph looks like a rogue agent. Angel or demon or Fallen or whatever, he looks like the kinda guy who’s picked his own side, his own agenda, and is doing it his way. I can respect that, even if I don’t particularly like the sanctimonious little shit himself. But to find out he’s still taking orders from the big guys… Bah. Not to mention I have no idea whatsoever he thought this little screaming match would accomplish.

Though, I suppose on a scale of one to god, if these three decided to lay into me seriously I’d likely be hard pressed to stop them. At the moment I think I’ve still got people scared by the word ‘god’, but really it’s a job description, not a cheat mode.

I am pretty good at cheating, though.

I’m also pretty good at playing it cool, mostly because it pisses people off. When people shout at you they want you to get angry, to shout back or back off. Sprawling out on a pew and treating the three most powerful Angels around like a bunch of squalling little brats, keeping it cool, gives you power. Speaking of which.

“Are you done,” I sigh, voice laden with velvety boredom. Mikey has paused in his speech about How We’ve Always Done Things and how Upsetting the Order Will Doom Us All But You Especially. I’ve been to church, I’ve heard it all before. “Look, sorry to burst your bubble, kids – and I have no clue why the Black Eyed Pea over there thought this was a good idea – but I ain’t on your side. This isn’t about right or wrong or good or evil. I don’t like absolutes, I’m more of a little of column A, little of column B kinda guy, you hear me? And, more importantly, I’ve been down there, bound under the earth in eternal agony. It really fucks a guy up, you know. Took me fifty years to sort myself out, and I had help. Apocalyptic help, actually. And, when it comes down to it, what the hell did Azzie even do that was so fucking bad anyway? I mean, shit, I killed a god, crashed his wake, wasted his servant, insulted everyone, went insane, brought about the doom of the gods and made a nice metaphor. Azaza’el did… what? Taught the secrets of Heaven to men? Big fucking secrets they were, too; how to use tools and cosmetics. How to defend themselves and not die in the winter, or starve, or get eaten by lions. And fuck you all if you think that’s his only crime, because at least he had the balls to go Prometheus while you lot sat up in your ivory towers watching the mortals writhe in the mud and the cold and thinking that but for the grace there you’d go.”

I lower my gaze, deep and dark and dangerous. I don’t really expect these three to be bothered or afraid – though fear is what they are, what they live and breathe, it’s not fear of me myself – but equally I want them to know they don’t bother me, either. “Or maybe I’m wrong. I’m new here, sure, but so far not one of you sanctimonious little pricks has given me any decent reason to see a man trapped in eternal agony and not help him out. ‘Because that’s the way it’s done’ doesn’t cut it. I change things, kids, and this place smells like so much rotten hubris and shit that it needs a change more than anything else in the world.”

I stand up. “Now, I’d ask you to excuse me, but honestly I don’t give a flying fuck whether you want to or not. See ya ‘round, kids. Get back to me if you ever think up a better excuse for your callous indifference.”

I make sure to sway my hips on the way out, the long white fur coat I’d conjured for the occasion swishing seductively down the aisle. I fuck men, too, as well as lie and cheat and steal and murder… does that bother you more or less, I wonder?

There’s a donation box near the entrance, and I drop the contents of my pocket – about eight hundred in cash – inside. I pick-pocketed the lot on the way here; Joseph didn’t notice. Take money from the devil to feed the poor; sit at my table and tell me there are absolutes. I dare you.

Outside the little old nun is sitting on the steps, cigarette between her teeth, trying desperately to get an old silver lighter to work. I sit down next to her and snap my fingers; the cigarette comes to life. She starts and eyes me warily.

“You, I respect. You’re doing it your own way in an institution that’s long-since buried any of its women under veils of sin and lies. Which makes you a dumbass, but one I respect. Can I’v’a smoke?”

Very reluctantly, she hands me one.

“Thanks.” I light it by sucking on it. “Sorry for crashing your church. Wasn’t my idea; the featherbrain got it into his head I needed some yelling at by his bosses.”

“And?” the little nun prompts.

I sigh. “I dunno how much apocrypha you’ve read, or even if it is apocrypha here, but there’s this guy called Azaza’el, leader of the Grigori. The fallen angels, you know, not demons, just… fallen.”

The little nun nods.

“Right, well, this guy, he got punished for, I dunno, teaching the secrets of heaven to mankind or some shit – you know, stealing fire from the gods and all that – and got chained underground in eternal torment for his trouble. Now the way I figure it, that’s pretty fucking unjust. He went against the word of God, maybe, but you wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t have this”– I gesture to the church –”if he hadn’t. The worst part is I think everybody knows that, but they need someone to vilify for it, and they’re all just fucking glad it wasn’t them, you know.” I sigh. “Anyway, I’ve been there, done that – chained beneath the ground in eternal torment, I mean – and blow it for a game of soldiers but it’s not something I’d wish on anyone else.”

“And you want to let him out?”

“Well, I think he wants me to, but at the moment no-one’s given me a good reason why I shouldn’t take this guy’s side, you know. Eternal suffering is a bitch, maybe you have to have been there to understand it.” I slump down on my knees, morose. Much to my surprise, the little nun pats me sympathetically on the back.

“And what will happen if you let him out?”

“Honestly? I have no idea. Everyone’s telling me it will end the world, but that’s what they said about me, too, and, well, it kinda did in a way, but only in a good way, you know? But that was back where I’m from. A long, long way away. Maybe things are different here. Maybe, I dunno.”

“So you’re hoping that, if you do this deed, you will not only end the unjust suffering of another but change the world for the better?”

“I guess so…”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Then at least I would have tried.”

“Do you think you’re doing the right thing?”

“I…” I turn my head to look at the nun, letting her see my real eyes as I do so. She meets my gaze, unphased. “Honestly, I like to say I don’t care. That it’s not in my nature to worry about good or evil or right or wrong, that I just do what it’s in my nature to do, but… Yes, I think it’s the right thing.”

The little nun thinks for a moment. “God is not opposed to change,” she says. “If you believe He sent His only son to us, to bring about some of the greatest changes of all. Nor is God an unforgiving God, for that was the sacrifice His son made for all of us.”

I bark laughter. “I’m not Jesus, no matter what they might try and say. And I don’t believe in your God, either.”

“But you believe in Fate?”

“I’ve met Fate.” Physically and metaphorically, for that matter.

The nun – it surprises me somewhat to realize I haven’t bothered to find out her name – pats my hand gently. “Perhaps, to you, these things are not so different; my God and your Fate.”

“… maybe.”

“Do you believe in Hell?”

“Oh yes.” Probably not how she means it, but the idea is there. Both temporal and emotional, and I’ve been to both of those, too.

“Then perhaps you should remember what is said about the road there, as well.”

I give another grim bark of laugh. “Story of my life, Sister.”

The nun nods curtly, then surprises me. “I know who you are, Sky-walker. Many years ago, before I came to this country, my grandmother used to sit me on her knee and tell me tales of the All-father and his companions.” She looks away. “In all my years I have searched and searched but never yet seen your kind, only the Choirs of God have appeared at my doorstep.”

“I think… I think I don’t exist here. I’m from… er, somewhere else. It’s kind of hard to explain.”

“A parallel universe. Like in the movies.”

“… or not. But yeah, something like that.”

“You are not much like I expected, brother of Byleist.”

“No, I get that a lot.” I tap the ash off the end of my almost-gone cigarette. “It’s a long story. I’ll come back and tell you sometime, if I can.”

“I… I think I would like that.”

We sit in companionable silence for a few moments. Eventually, the nun looks as if she is going to say something more, but is cut off as the door to the church opens. I start to turn, but my attention is drawn by a soft, “Oh dear,” at my side, and instead I look up.

Down the church steps, past the short path and neat garden, stand four figures. Or, more rightly, three figures and a…

(rivers of blood and the stench of old old earth and dark dark sin)

Azaza’el.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 6:54 pm

Chapter 27: In His Defense

“The arrogance of that one puts even Lucifer to shame,” spat Michael, leaning on the pulpit. Joseph just threw up his hands and flopped down on a pew.

“You know what? Fuck it. Fuck it! I’ve half a mind to just let him do it, if only to spite you lot. I didn’t call you here for a sermon, and certainly I didn’t call all of you. I needed to speak to Gabe, to Revelation. All we wanted was the Fallen’s whereabouts. But you can’t even give us that? Lord! After all the messes I’ve cleaned up for you,” Joseph said. He was quickly succumbing to a rather intense stress headache.

“You chose that path on your own, Centurion, so don’t go blaming us for the scars on your person,” Metatron said.

“And to give you the prison of Azaza’el, hell… Jeez, Joseph, would you really have me play my tune for this world so soon?” Gabriel asked, disappointed – not in Joseph but in himself, the tone of a man who despite his wishes cannot help a friend in need. Joseph sighed.

“They would have found him and led him there regardless, you know that. I had hoped that if we knew, even if for a short while, where he was before they intended it, we could stop this madness before it really began. I know this isn’t how it goes; the breaking of Azaza’el’s bonds are but one of many signs that signify the end… the change,” he said, using one of Loki’s terms, “Loki himself, while he may have once been, is not entirely evil. We can feel that. There’s no malevolence to his actions.”

“There’s certainly some malevolence to his thoughts. His opinion of us seems formed by man’s Church… what he thinks he knows and what he actually knows are night and day, and his ignorance of our situation could be catastrophic,” Michael said, still not looking at Joseph directly.

“He considers the judgment of Azaza’el to be harsh beyond measure,” Joseph said. If you had asked him if he thought he would ever come to the God’s defense mere hours ago, he would have balked at the idea. Now he found himself doing it.

“Because he thinks he’s being punished for giving man knowledge that they would have learned in time. Azaza’el is practically the root of war in mankind. In a time when words and compromises were more than token diplomatic tactics, he showed them the bloody end of a sword was the solution. We had hoped that our wars would not spread to these people. And then, he and his watchers took women as their own and forced upon them children of such stature and longevity that we had to wash the earth clean of them with floods,” Michael continued.

“Which kind of pisses me off, as I did make sure to write all that down,” said Metatron, almost sulkily – like many authors whose words were passed over.

“Mankind ill needed that knowledge so early. And look what’s been wrought from it today; they have learned the split the very atoms that hold them together, and scar their Earth for generations. But his real crime was the Nephilim, and the hindrance of the Powers – God, if you prefer,” Michael finished with, “Who knows what a newly released Azaza’el would do.”

The conversation would have continued – as would have Joseph’s defenses of his uneasy alliance with the disturber of their peace – were it not for the collective chill which ran down the spines of each of the quarreling men. A great pull, which forced their attention on the large doors leading out. Joseph was up and running in a heartbeat; he faced the doors and flung them open. The Angels were not far behind. In their minds there was a sound like that of a pit of hissing snakes, and their insides were wrenched. Before them, three Fallen. Three Fallen and an apparition; close to corporeal but out of sync with everything around it. Loki sat with the nun from earlier, and stared at this quartet.

“Azaza’el…” Joseph started; he had never seen this Fallen before – his exile was before Joseph’s time – but he knew by instinct, by the hair that rose on the back of his neck. Only Lucifer had gotten this reaction from him before, though this was not as strong a feeling as then. But it was close. Azaza’el’s cheshire grin was the least unsettling thing about him, really.

“Chainbreaker!” he hailed Loki as such in a wavery voice, like he was merely mouthing the words while the sound came from several out of tune speaker cabinets. When he moved to salute the god, Joseph saw that his actions were ghosted before he performed them, and when he was not still the two bodies – for this was how it looked – faded, becoming translucent. Nelchael, his eye now patched – with a cross design, Joseph noted sourly – stood to the Azaza’el-Ghost’s right, looking like a child who had just brought his parents a perfect grade report. Loki stood; Metatron had slipped past Joseph and was now leading the nun away, back into the Church. She shot a concerned glance at Loki and took a hold of Joseph’s arm as she passed.

“He’ll do you right, in the end,” she whispered to him.

“I hope so, for all our sakes,” he replied, patting her on the back lightly. She went off with Metatron, the doors of the Church thudding shut behind her. Joseph slowly went down the steps of the Church, going to Loki’s side. Loki stood and adjusted his coat, matching his pace.

“We must look totally badass right now,” he said, “We just need some music to back us up and we’re set.”

“Mozart’s ‘Requiem’ was always a favorite of mine,” Joseph replied.

“Oh sure, but can you dance to it?” Loki said through a smirk.
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Thu Aug 17, 2006 6:55 pm

Chapter 28: Revelations Before Breakfast

I step forward, stare point-blank at Azaza’el’s ghosted reflection. I wave a hand through it – feels kind of dark in there, but not much else. Azaza’el looks mildly amused.

“Hump. Astral projection. You’re one lucky bastard, back in my day I didn’t even get that.” I turn to the other, corporeal, Fallen. “All right, Peepshow, this is how it’s gonna work. I’m here to talk to Azzie, and that’s what I’m going to do. And you are going to sit here and shut up. After I’m done, I’m going to leave and think about it. If at any time you get it into your featherbrained little heads that this is not the way it’s going to happen, if you so much as squeak of shuffle or look at me wrong, I’m going to rip off your heads and stick them on the church steeple, and you’re never going to hear from me again. Capiche?”

The Fallen glance between each other, then the Azaza’el. He nods, curtly, once, and they follow like a puppet choir. All in synch. Nothing like people all moving in synch to really creep you out.

I half-turn to point behind me, “Same goes for your lot, Joseph. We’re gonna do this really quick and peaceful and quiet like. Then we’re gonna go home.”

Joseph nods. The others just glare. Dumbfucks.

I turn back to Azaza’el. “Now, what – exactly – is it you think I can do?”

Azaza’el’s voice has that grandiose, lyrical quality that all the angels seem to possess in greater or lesser degrees, but it’s cracked and fragmented somehow. Like an out-of-tune pipe organ. I like out-of-tune pipe organs.

“You are the Chainbreaker,” he says simply. “Once bound and now free. You know the pain of lying, chained and in agony, the weight of unjustness–”

I wave a hand. “Don’t presume to think you know anything about what was and wasn’t just in my case,” I say. “Skip the sermon and get on with it.”

Azaza’el’s eyes narrow. I get the feeling angels and Loki don’t mix, no matter their affiliation. “Very well. I wish what all things wish, Chainbreaker, simply to be free.”

“And you think I know how to free you?”

“You’ve done it before. I simply wish to know how it was done.”

I laugh. “Shit, luv, there’s no secret. I didn’t even do anything, the Ragnarökk happened, and I was let out. Exactly what was supposed to have happened.”

Of all things, Azaza’el looks… sad. “But, you are alive still?”

“That’s a longer story,” I say. “The easy answer is my wife knocked me out when she saw my bonds dissolving and took my place in the battle. The hard answer is I survived because I’m not actually who I pretend to be.”

“… what?”

“I had myself fooled for a long time, too, so don’t worry. But, see for yourself.”

This, I don’t like doing. I reach deep down, past the fire, the earth and wind and corn. Past snakes and smiles. Down to the dark, hidden core, and grab the sun.

A flash of white-hot sunlight, and I feel my body change; getting shorter and broader, shoulders filling out, hair unraveling and changing colour. The worst is the eyes; when they change it burns.

Azaza’el takes a step backwards from the transformation, probably more out of habit than actually being able to be harmed. “What is…”

“I survived the Ragnarökk,” I start, in the voice that is not my own yet is. “Because I was supposed to survive. Everything happened like it was supposed to; except for me. Baldr, the Dying God, to be reborn beyond the End Times to retake the mantle of the Æsir into the new world. Except I spent so long as Loki I forgot myself. When my father and uncle worked this plan they didn’t think that I would want to stay in the form of the man who killed me.” I shrug. “But, bad boys have so much more fun, you know.”

I revert back to my regular self. The transformation back is easy, instant, and unspectacular. Like slipping into an old sneaker.

“I’m sorry, kid, but that’s all there is to it. I fulfilled my prophecy, and now it’s just me and the Brave New World. No stories, no curses or fates. Just me.”

“No! There must be more… there must…” Madness born of desperation flares to his eyes.

I hold up one hand, a pacifying gesture. “The Three Stooges back there seem to think if you get out there’ll be an apocalypse, anyhow.”

Azaza’el snorts. “Fearmongering nonsense,” he says.

“And what would you do, were you to be freed?”

More hopeful, now, talking of freedom, Azaza’el lifts his gaze to where the Heavenly Trio are standing behind me. “Perhaps some think I should take vengeance, that I would seek to visit upon those the pain that has been wrought upon me.” He turns back to me. “What do you think?”

“You know, that was the funny thing about eternal torment. When it ended, all I wanted to do was go home.”

Azaza’el smiles, sadly. “Yes, perhaps that,” he says.

I nod. “Where are you bound?”

“Ah, now that is a dilemma. A place than can only be found, not shown.”

“Oh, I hate those.”

“You ask many questions for a man who cannot help me.”

“I never said that I couldn’t, only that I don’t know how. Yet.” I grin. “I’m very resourceful, that way.” I clap my hands together. “Right, well, I think I’m done.”

I turn to Joseph and the others. “Anyone else got any pearls of wisdom before breakfast?”
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:33 am

Very Happy i really like this story the way u set the scenes is great, earlyer u said about people not commenting i think its becuase you've posted quiet long bits... Its gd thou cant wait for you to post more

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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Fri Aug 18, 2006 10:12 am

tehe, probably, i'm not too worried, it's not like a great tale anyway ... it's not a very creative ending either ... so yeah ... lol
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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Fri Aug 18, 2006 10:50 am

Chapter 29: Defiance

All in all, Joseph – while quite relieved for the moment – found it all to be rather anticlimactic; then surreal; then, and this surprised even Loki, extremely funny. He couldn’t help it. Laughter welled up inside him and before he knew what he was doing he’s already collapsed to his seat on a stone step and was laughing so hard that he shook. He’d tried this hard to prevent Loki from saying what was pretty much “Sorry buddy, shit happens and I can’t really help you out. But hey, chin-up!” Loki didn’t seem to mind this amusement, though he did regard it with the manner of someone who was growing weary of his company but accepted them regardless. To Gabriel, Michael, and Metatron, he looked like he’d gone mad.

Azaza’el, however, was less than impressed with this display.

“Centurian, Yosef of the latter days… I am amazed that you find cause for mirth. Especially when you are not all accounted for,” he said in his odd, broken voice. Joseph’s laughter subsided quickly. Azaza’el’s chesire cat grin returned, and his eyes were livid – and fixed on the hunter. “Ah, yes, we have forgotten someone, haven’t we. But I’m not so foolish that I had forgotten your little companion, no I’m not.”

At this, even Loki looked displeased. Joseph figured that he was thinking a God whose roots were in trickery should have, perhaps, seen something like this coming. Azaza’el continued to stand, grinning. Joseph found himself wanting to smash those perfect teeth down his damnable throat. Joseph got back to his feet, glaring furiously at the Fallen. Though as angry as he looked, he felt infinitely more sick.

“What do you propose, Azaza’el?” Joseph growled, and Azaza’el shrugged in a devil-may-care manner – a gesture designed to evoke the same response from Joseph that Loki had been pushing the three Angels towards.

“She is a pretty young thing, of course, so we hadn’t quite decided,” he said, turning away from them, “Chainbreaker – I suppose it’s up to you, now. You have two days to figure out how to break my bonds. I refuse to believe that you cannot. Two days; or else I’ll make a decision about the girl, yes.”

And that was it – he faded in his odd, double-bodied way, and walked away into nothingness. The Fallen looked at Joseph, Loki, and the Seraphim then turned – again, in unison – and began to take their leave. Joseph, still fuming over the matter with Miriah, knelt and picked up a small stone. He whistled.

“Nelchael!” Joseph called, and Nelchael turned. Joseph held up his empty claws in a familiar rude gesture. Nelchael’s good eye was fixed on it, angrily. “How many fingers am I holding up?”

Before Nelchael could retort, Joseph had flung the stone he held from his hip; his aim was true, and Nelchael’s eye exploded with a soft pop that was suppressed by the crack of the stone hitting his skull. He bellowed in pain and anger, fingers scrabbling blindly to remove the small rock. Joseph spat in his direction and turned away. The other Fallen began to move forward, and Joseph wheeled around on them again, this time unsheathing a small curved dagger he kept tucked into the belts of his forearm. The Saraphim behind him and Loki all stepped forward, and the Fallen thought better of attacking. They took their wounded companion and went on their way, quickly.

“Well that went splendidly,” said Michael dryly, and in a flash Joseph was on him, pinning him to the doors of the church, blade to his throat.

“Where. Is. Duda’el?” he growled. Gabriel and Metatron stood stunned; Loki looked almost impressed. “Tell me, damn you, or I’ll send you to the same abyss I’ve sent countless Fallen, right hand of the Powers or not.” A thin trickle of blood fell from where Joseph’s blade met Michael’s throat. Joseph’s teeth were completely bared, and he spoke through them. His demon look was at its finest.

He was thrown back rather violently once Michael had had enough. Loki caught him as he flew through the air before he could dash his brains against the Church’s iron gate, and dropped him back to his feet. Joseph shook his head clear; most of his chest has already started to take on the colour of a fresh bruise. Michael wiped the blood off of his throat and grimaced.

“If the Powers will it, you’ll not need our help. After that display, you’d be lucky to have it anyways.”

“Remember, Michael, that when I started my path you believed it may end in the same way!”

“I did. And in light of current events, I still think it may. Go now, aberration. Go and tend to your champion,” Michael said, and opened the Church doors; behind them, Joseph and Loki saw not the dimly lit pews of before, but a bluish white light; the higher realm. The Seraphim trio entered and were gone; a flash forced Loki and Joseph to look away, and when their eyes returned to the doors they were just that; two sealed doors. Joseph grimaced and tucked his knife away. Joseph looked to Loki, who held his tongue for the moment.

“We need to track down Cassandra, if she still draws breath; and for Miriah’s sake, I hope she does,” Joseph said. Loki closed his eyes and went blank for a few moments. Joseph watched, concerned, but relaxed when Loki’s eyes fluttered back to seeing.

“Just gotta keep the faith, dear. Lucky for us, she has a bit of power yet. Let’s go.”

––

It was around this time that Cassandra Templeman, a woman who had been doing this sort of work since the day she had first become a woman, started to stir. The word came into focus slowly, and she saw that she had been thrown into an alley. Her head ached, but she imagined it would fade quickly. Something had gotten the drop on her, her and…

“Miriah!” she slurred loudly, “Miriah, where have you gone, love?” she asked, hoping for a response.

All she found was Miriah’s gunbelt, revolvers still in their holsters, laying next to her.


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PostSubject: Re: Urban Nocordia   Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:08 am

Woah, that was the same as the first chapter. Did you mean to do that? Weird...
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