An Afternoon with The Fates

nonanonymous Nov 12th, 2016 943 Never
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  1.     Armageddon Crater was an eyesore, a reminder of past wrongs. The site of the final battle between heaven and hell, between angels and demons. There was much that remained down there, preserved by a thick miasma of magical energy that made the crater look like a foggy lake. Relics and technology and magical knowledge of bygone ages were laid to rest down there. The dreams of dead gods resonated with the fog, bending space and time to their subconscious wills. Even causality had little place in the crater. Much of the layout was mutable, some days there would be terraces and platforms that made it look like a cross section of an underground city, other days it was a straight drop down to the bottom.
  3.     There were rumors about the contents at the base. Beyond the dreaming corpses of Lilith and God and their subordinates, past the cloud of magic so thick that the natural laws no longer applied. It is said that at the epicenter is a fissure in the very fabric of existence. Some say that beyond the portal was a true god, one that had omnipotence. Others say that nothingness was beyond that fissure. Some say that there was another realm on the other side that contained the secrets of the old world or perhaps worlds, before the Apocalypse. In the end, all these myths were true in their own way. For there was a place lurking down below. It was the beginning of all things. It was the end of all things.
  5.     White sand flew about like waves in the endless expanse. In the dark grey monochrome sky hung a ring of white light directly overhead. Buildings of every architectural style dotted the landscape, growing out in various and often impossible directions. A stone aqueduct was erected perpendicular to the ground, pumping water upwards to the sky. Next to it was an open stainless steel vault. Hanging upside down in the air was a quaint medieval style chapel with stained glass windows that depicted some long forgotten gods.
  7.     Two travelers trudged through the desert. One was clad in weathered and aged armor. An old bronze breastplate with hemispherical pauldrons and a ragged leather skirt that gave way to muddied greaves. Atop his head was a helmet with vertical slits where the mouth should have been. In the man’s hands was an old war scythe with a splintered wooden staff and a chipped metal head. The second traveler was smaller and wore a beige cloak and hood. A similarly colored cloth shielded her face from the wind and sand. The two of them wandered through the dunes and finally reached a door embedded in the side of a small mountain. The smaller traveler knocked on the door, and an irritated growl creeped out behind it.
  9.     When the door opened, a large and naked woman stood in the doorway, an annoyed expression on her face. She looked heavily pregnant, her belly so swollen the blood vessels were visible. Upon closer inspection, she had an arachnid rear, with eight brown hairy legs and a black thorax lined with several bulges on the underside. The area just below her human half and the area near the end of her arachnid half were wet with a clear sticky fluid that never stopped dripping. When she saw the two travelers, she glared at them and twisted her human half back into the cave.
  11.     “Vita! You’re research assistant is here!” The spiderwoman shouted. She backed up to let the two guests in before slowly plodding down a long and dark tunnel. The interior was covered in a seemingly infinite array of white threads that glimmered and seemed to lengthen, shorten, and move on their own. The main chamber was divided into thirds with distinct styles for each of the residents.
  13.     To the left was the arachnid reclining against a worn cushion and straining heavily. Every now and then, bundles of silk would emerge out of her, threads from the human half and egg shaped coils from the spider half. Both these expulsions were accompanied by wet squelches and a torrent of bodily fluids which stained the left third of the cave. When she was done, she would unraveled the eggs, bundle up the silk, and stretch it all out on a loom.
  15.     In the middle of the room was a woman whose legs were made of bark rooted to the ground. Instead of hair, she had dark green vines that made an imitation of dreadlocks. Her left arm was relatively human, although green in color and covered in a thin layer of hair from the elbow up. Her right arm was a bizarre myriad of vines and tendrils with some ending in points or pricks and others being flat and shaped like leaves. She was currently holding a string taut between two of her arm-spines and plucking it every now and again with a leaf. Her third of the room was covered in various books and satchels, although she had no furniture.
  17.     To the right was a woman in a jet black robe. The top half of her face seemed normal, if otherwise pale. The lower half however had no flesh, exposing a bony smile. Her neck had no skin, exposing the red flexing muscles and pumping arteries beneath. Her hands had stitches all over and the skin there was colored varying shades of grey. At her feet was a ledger that she occasionally glanced at. She was currently plucking strands of silk from the ceiling, balling them up, and gently placing them into a ladle before lowering it all into a boiling cauldron. When she felt satisfied, she would fill up a bowl and saunter over to the other side of the cave. As she did so, her footfalls made an alternating rhythms of wet splats and dry clacks. She presented the bowl to the first sister, who reluctantly took it and forced the broth into her mouth.
  19.     “Oh, Moira, you’re here. And you brought your lapdog too.” The tree woman said emotionlessly, not even bothering to turn around. She was engrossed with the shrinking strand of silk in front of her. “Poor, poor king. Giving so much and gaining so little. Look at this one, Moira. He thinks his alchemists’ elixirs can give him eternal life. And yet his death gets closer and closer with each drink he takes. It reminds me of another king who once drank mercury for the same reason. So, is today just another courtesy call?”
  21.     The hooded figure nodded. “It is, Vita. I needed a break from my usual routine. And also to hear news about the rest of the world.”
  23.     “Tired of your wish making, Fatestealer? Why don’t you go back to experimenting on your little lackey standing so imposingly back there? For twenty years you did everything to him, and he never once complained. Oh sure, he told you when all that demonic energy became painful to him, but he never left your side or doubted you. Anyways, let’s see what you’ve been up to lately.” The woman lifted her right arm and a tendril speared the ceiling, pulling down a meter long strand of silk. She held it taut and pricked it roughly near the current end. An image appeared in the air.
  25.     Depicted was Moira sitting on a smooth stone throne, her companion standing to her right. There was a man bowing before her. He presented an infant to her and her violet eyes were filled with disgust. The man had requested a wish, to never age and to be loved by all. Moira was more than happy to comply and the man began to turn to marble, uttering a brief scream before being completely petrified.
  27.     Next a young girl gave Moira a drawing on a piece of paper. It was nothing special, a drawing of her mom and dad and her done in crayon next to a house. Moira however smiled and praised the girl with a maternal tone. The girl said she wished for some candy, so Moira decided to give her some money and direct her to the local sweets store.
  29.     Vita used a thorn to prick a point slightly closer to the middle. Moira was still on her throne, but now the petitioner was a woman in a frumpy blouse and floor length skirt. She dropped a handful of gold coins into Moira’s hands and begged Moira to keep her from ever having to face the world again. The woman insisted that people in the real world were too complex and had too many bad points, unlike the perfection of fiction. After all, she said, reality was rather dull and hard compared to joy and happiness she found in books. Moira fulfilled her wish by blinding her.
  31.     “How karmic. I wonder, do you see yourself as an agent of justice, or was that all merely for your own amusement?” Vita commented with her usual passivity. “But I suppose that uncertainty keeps you from being a bore. Reminds me of the when you made a wish. Thinking so arrogantly that you can manipulate fate in such a direct and easy manner. It’s a rather amusing memory, don’t you think?”
  33.     After she said this, she moved her hands far to the left, near the beginning of the strand. She plucked the string there. The new image was of Moira praying, a simple wish was uttered from her pink lips, an end to the conflict between angels and demons. All it took was a little bit of demonic mana as an offering. A simple wish with a simple price. Although in truth it was a very complex wish with a very complex price. Next were images of rain and sandstorms, pushing the armies of heaven and hell towards one point. Towards the town of Megiddo. Then were images of circular maws in the ground opening up, revealing missiles. Humanity had decided to seize this opportunity and launched their nuclear arsenal. She got her wish, the war ended. After all, if there were no more people willing to fight, there would be no war. Megiddo became Armageddon as holy, demonic, and nuclear energy clashed like never before.
  35.     “Such a simple action that so radically changed the world. Quite exhilarating. From my eternal perspective, moments like those are the only ones worth remembering.” Vita turned to the left. “Wouldn’t you agree, Natalie?”
  37.     “Fuck you” she cursed between contractions. “Those stupid fuckers keep killing themselves, and that time was especially bad. And you were responsible for it. After all, you were the one that taught them how to wish, not me. But I had to fucking replace all their souls later.”
  39.     “I assume she loathes death as much as always?” Moira asked. Her companion remained silent as his job was to be a fly on the wall.
  41.     “No fucking shit I hate them dying. Guess who has to pick up the pieces every single time? But hey, if you’re going to give me sass, why don’t you take over my job. Try giving birth every moment of your existence while being force-fed Morte’s soul soup. Trust me, it’s garbage.”
  43.     “That’s our Natalie for you.” Vita said as she balled up a strand and tossed it over her shoulder. It landed near the third sister’s feet and she casually put it into the broth, causing Natalie to grimace in disgust. “She hates it when living beings kill each other. She hates them when they choose to starve together rather than kill each other. She hates it when plagues wipe out settlements. She hates it when people use antibiotics to stop plagues. And there was this one cult recently that worshipped her and saw her pains. So of course they decided that the best idea would be to end everything.”
  45.     “Oh right, those dumbasses.” Another “egg” was pushed out, causing Natalie to momentarily shut her eyes in pain. “For how much they said they cared, they didn’t think about all the work I would have to do to repopulate the world. For once, I’m glad the fleshpopper plague wiped them all out. Maybe one of these days they’ll learn to not die so quickly, but I highly doubt it.”
  47.     “Please, dear sister. If they all stopped dying, I’d be out of work.” Calmly said the third sister. She let go of a quilt that stretched all the way from the floor to the ceiling and covered a third of the chamber’s walls. It was made of the same shimmering silk that lined the rest of the cave, but the colors were varied compared to the uniform white of the normal strands. Every now and then, some of the strands would grow, causing the ends to fray or creating loops in the middle of the quilt. When that happened, she would yank out the offending strand and put it into the cauldron.
  49.     “Still working on that quilt, Morte?” Moira asked. The quilt in its entirety was full of color and very detailed. The top half contained pictures similar to pastoral paintings from the mortal world. Green fields and clear blue skies and azure lakes filled with people dancing and resting and playing. There were also peaceful tundra landscapes with people casually huddled around fireplaces and cabins. In another section was a fertile river valley that reminded Moira of her own home, populated by people lazily working the fields or fishing. Another depicted a rainforest filled with log cabins and hammocks with a dizzying array of wildlife, humans, and monster coexisting together.
  51.     “It would go more smoothly if people were content with where they stood. But then again, I can understand why mortals would become rather bored with eternity. And I can also understand why some people would want a second chance. So I shall give all of them what they wish.” Morte replied as she threaded a strand through a needle. She started to patch up the places she had torn threads from prior.
  53.     The bottom half of the quilt had far more disturbing images. One part depicted a charred landscape with rivers of lava instead of water. There were humans and monsters running away and hiding from some humanoid entities that had rocks for bodies and spilled lava out of every orifice. Another section depicted an icy landscape in the midst of a raging blizzard. The people there were colored an unhealthy purple and their extremities possessed gangrenous growths. Yet another portion was painted a deep blue, almost black. There, people were floating in the midst of the deep sea and the silhouettes of giant creatures were visible in the background. Another section showed a dull grey void where everyone was in a long line. When people reached the front, they were told to move all the way to the back again. The strings on the bottom half frayed and grew more frequently than those of the top half.
  55.     “Poor little Morte. Of course the youngest of us has to be afflicted with the insidious disorder known as idealism.” Vita condescendingly said with a look of mock concern. “Even if you give them a second chance, they won’t atone or change. Mortals never do. I’ve stopped intervening in the vast majority of people’s lives millions of years ago and no difference resulted. Ironically enough, just like us. But then again, we’re not supposed to change, they are. And yet only a select few do so.”
  57.     “Like me?” Moira asked.
  59.     “Well, you’re the biggest exception to the rule I suppose.” Vita answered as she tucked the mess of vines on her head behind her ear. “Imagine you were testing rats by making a maze and putting a wedge of cheese at the end. And since you’ve done this billions, if not trillions, of times, you think you have a good idea about every possible outcome, about which path each rat would take. And then one rat comes along and, instead of going through the maze like everyone else, decides to climb over the walls, circle around, and climb back in to get the cheese. The rat completely invalidates any observations you wanted to make but you’re not disappointed, you’re intrigued. Perhaps the rat is more intelligent then you thought. Perhaps it knows it’s being experimented on. All of that doesn’t matter, though. The only thing that matters is that the rat is different compared to its billions of predecessors. For the first time in a long while, you see something new, novel, something interesting and entertaining to watch.”
  61.     Vita pulled out a string from a small glass case and the image of a smug olive-skinned man in a wealthy gold-lined purple robe appeared. “Take this man for example.”
  63.     An image of a sickly boy being beaten up by other kids appeared. The boy was curled up on the ground clutching his stomach. “The son of a poor potter, nothing special. A lamia tricked him and stole his virginity when he was six. She was imprisoned later for pederasty and grooming, rather predictable and rather boring. After that, he prayed to whatever god would listen, hoping that divine favor could change his fate. I had some hopes for him.”
  65.     The boy, now a teenager, was holding a draft card in one hand and a lottery ticket in another, staring intently at a herald in the town square. “There was no apparent change. No shower of light or descending celestial servant as the boy had been taught. All he knew was that one day, he became very lucky. He didn’t get drafted and won the lottery on the same day. Meanwhile, his playground bullies found themselves pushed into a war in a distant country. He didn’t feel sorry, he laughed and laughed as he fantasized about the horrible ways they’d meet their ends day in and day out for weeks. That should have been my first sign that he would be rather dull in the end.”
  67.     Next was a young man in a casino, playing some dice game. To the side was a stack of coins that looked ready to topple. He was absolutely serene while his opponent was a nervous wreck. “Using his newfound luck, he gambled again and again. Winning every single time and breaking the old establishment, the complex and intricate hierarchy of the gambling world. That disruption was rather entertaining to watch, and he stopped gambling before it wore out its welcome. Turns out he had far higher ambitions.”
  69.     The young man was wearing a plain white robe now, standing next to a man on a throne and whispering something in his ear. “His talent for premonition as he called it had endeared him to his ruler, and he soon became a trusted advisor. Not bad for a pauper’s son. He was so trusted he was placed in the line of succession before even the royal family. He was still a rather interesting man to watch at that time.”
  71.     The middle aged man sat on the throne clad in the purple robe he had been wearing initially. He was flanked by two heavily armored guards and looked scornfully at someone prostrating herself in front of the throne. “He was crowned after years of faithful service, and started enforcing his laws more and more forcefully. By the end of his reign, the executioner’s list was constantly full. Families were collectively punished, even when their children committed minor infractions. He was especially harsh on children he heard bullied others, sentencing them and their families to death by harsh labor.”
  73.     “He had been gifted amazing powers, to have everything go his way.” Vita continued with the tone of merciless disappointment. “And then he dedicates his life to achieving some petty revenge or catharsis by proxy. Just like every other abused person who gains a flicker of power. Promising to never become the so-called monsters they hated. They never do, they fall further and become even worse, at least from a mortal’s morals. For, they are merely dull. Dull. Dull. Dull.”
  75.     The man’s robes were now tattered as he hid under his bed like a scared child. Outside the windows of his chamber was a gamut of guards, soldiers, farmers, craftsmen, and quite possibly everyone in the kingdom. “So, I decided that he clearly didn’t need his powers anymore if he would be so ‘inside the box.’ I’ve seen revenge plots over and over and over since the beginning of time. It wouldn’t kill people to be a bit different every now and again. The resistance movements across his empire became more and more powerful as people turned on him. Nothing new under the sun, but I didn’t expect any of those people to act differently.”
  77.     “When he died he cursed every god in existence. If he wanted to keep my favor, perhaps he should have been a bit more entertaining. A bit more unpredictable. I’d say the only fascinating thing about him now is that he won’t get to move on or be reborn, as I need an example of what not to do.” Vita said as she placed the string back inside her little glass box. “So, he’ll be repeating his life for the rest of eternity. Oh, but he can’t change anything anymore. And he’s aware of both those facts in his own personal hell.”
  79.     “And people call me a bitch.” Natalie complained as she worked her loom. The hooks on the ends of her spider legs aided the process greatly, allowing her to pull and tear apart silk with inhuman efficiency. “I’m the one that taught mortals magic, agriculture, medicine, craftsmanship. And what did Vita teach them? Philosophy, morality, politics, economics, deception. Morte, being the dreary runt that she is, taught them warfare, the arts, and religion. She’s not nearly as cruel as Vita, but she’s still pretty bad.”
  81.     “I do not appreciate people wasting my time or breaking the natural order of things.” Morte said as she wagged a bony finger at Natalie. The blood vessels on her neck undulated harder and faster as she got agitated. “There was once an entire country of necromancers. They experimented on their elders, on the people that settled the land before them. They used corpses like puppets. And worst of all, they worshipped me. They did horrifying rituals and sacrifices in my name, as if they could somehow appease me and stave off their inevitable demise.”
  83.     “That’s more my domain, and their quest for eternal life was hardly novel in the first place.” Vita added. “So, Morte and I decided to grant their wish. They could no longer die because they didn’t have bodies anymore. They couldn’t feel pain because there was nothing to hurt. But they still perceived everything. And then, since they were now undying like they wanted, we decided to drop them off in the empty void beyond the planet somewhere.”
  85.     “Yeah, I fucking remembered that. Had me working overtime to compensate for the loss of life force.” Natalie griped.
  87.     “And so their empire fell apart. And they will be forced to watch the absolute nothingness out there for the rest of eternity.” Morte said with sadistic satisfaction. “Which brings us to another lesson. Don’t cheat death, because I will find you and I will make you wish you were dead.”
  89.     “You were right, Vita. You three really are immutable.” Moira commented flatly. In all the times she had spent with the trio, they have never acted differently. “So, has anything interesting, by your primordial definition, happened lately?”
  91.     “Depends on what you mean by interesting. Come now, you’ve had experience as a genie, you should know to be more specific. But I think I know what you want to hear this time around.” Vita said as she pulled on a coil of strings that separated near the middle. “I believe you are familiar with this man. Or what he once was, before there became five of him.”
  93.     “The Fallen Messiah. King of Monsters. The Great Betrayer.” Moira said, her voice thick with venom. “I’ve clashed with one of his new incarnation’s armies multiple times. The one that believes he’s God’s successor.”
  95.     “Ah yes, that oaf. I’d like to see where he goes, but I don’t have high hopes for him. If he continues his pointless crusades, he’ll never hold onto his conquests for long, just like every other crusading nut in history. I can see two of them that are interesting though. Let’s look at the one to the far north of you.”
  97.     As Vita said this, the image of a burly man clad in furs appeared, flanked by winged women and bloodthirsty men on horseback. “He has created a society with the most interesting mating rituals. The valkyries there are outnumbered by men almost 1 to 300. So they go into battle with the boys, and pick one of the slain to be their husband. The lucky guy becomes an einherjar. The rest of the sods get reanimated as draugar and used as cannon fodder or training material for the next generation. Rather pragmatic. He was a foreigner to them before he completely overhauled their society from the divided raiding savages they were before. Now he’s the king of the most militant nation on that side of the globe.”
  99.     She tugged on the middle string and the image of a gentle looking man in yellow robes and a regal and holy looking hat appeared. Behind him were six light yellow wings curved upwards. “This incarnation is the one I like most. He’s taken control of a theocracy to the west of you, across an ocean. He was a human for some time, and then he went through some apotheosis ritual by accident. Then, he awoke to his true nature and became a seraph, I suppose he didn’t have enough holy mana to become a god outright. He’s making quite a stir there though. Preaching how demons and angels can peaceably coexist, trying to remove the caste and feudal systems. Even trying to diminish his own authority and the authority of the elite. His country is ready to tear itself apart, and I’m going to enjoy every moment of it.”
  101.     “I see.” Moira said as she looked sadly at the image of the man. “He reminds me a lot of the old king during the good times, when there wasn’t constant war. I suppose the only thing I can do is hope he succeeds, for everyone’s sake over there. I ought to return to my duties. There’s probably a line of people wanting to get their wishes granted by now.”
  103.     “To answer that question, there is. Damn it all.” Natalie spat out. “No sense of preservation amongst that band of retards, I suppose. Do me a favor, demon. Fuck these people up, real bad. Maybe if nothing but stories of atrocities get spread they’ll finally stop screwing themselves over.”
  105.     “Thank you for your time, all three of you.” Moira politely bowed and left with her companion. They wandered through the wastes for some time before reaching a simple white wooden door. She placed her right hand on her companion and the two of them glowed momentarily. When they went through the door, they found themselves back at the bottom of the crater. Moira surveyed the corpses around her. They were a very familiar sight at this point, the white wings of angels stained with dried blood, the crushed golden raiment of God, the preserved corpses of Lilith and her followers. The magic here was so thick even microbial life could not survive, ensuring that the corpses of her predecessors would stay immaculately preserved as an eternal testament to their failures.
  107.     “Busy day today.” The man commented as he looked up. He hadn’t spoken all day so his voice was hoarse and dry. The crater was currently filled with rolling hills and platforms and adventurers were littering the place, dropping ropes and ransacking anything of value. “Do you think any of them will make it out?”
  109.     “Highly unlikely.” Moira said indifferently as she conjured a purple portal on the ground. “If their predecessors don’t kill them, then all the radiation will. Come on, we’ve got work to do.” When they both jumped in, they reappeared in a small hall with a raised throne. When Moira sat on it, she saw a line of people eagerly waiting outside the door. Moira sighed, sad that so many fools still sought her wishing power.
  111.     Happenstance and destiny were fickle, often manifesting in ways mortals never desired. This was equally true for the once mortal Moira the Fatestealer, who found her new immortal duty, a blessing or perhaps curse courtesy of Vita, rather depressing and embittering to witness. As much as she despised Vita’s apathy towards living beings, she had to admit that the past millennia spent guarding the crater was starting move her in that same direction. Seeing people give up everything again and again for some easy way out, for some fool’s errand, it disgusted her. People risked everything for one petty wish or to retrieve some unknown artifact from the crater. They often got exactly what they wanted, and lost everything else. While she was mired in thought, her compatriot tapped her on the shoulder.
  113.     “Remember what they told us.” He said in a soft but firm voice. “They never change because they’re not supposed to. But we can. We’re here because we chose to be here. To protect this world from the fate of ours. That is the oath we made to each other on that day. If we weren’t here, this place would have many more fools. We could have taken the cowards’ route and just left the past behind, but we didn’t. Hmm. Perhaps that’s why she’s so interested in us.”
  115.     Moira weakly smiled underneath her cowl. “You’re right I guess. At least, I sure hope you’re right.”
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