Chapter 25 - Book of Fates



The Fates decided the knight will let Dawn disguise the arm. See the results here.


Even the best laid plans have an element of luck to them. The most solid risk management strategems can be scuppered by ill fortune, and let’s face it our Eternal Knight’s forté is not risk management. Especially when there are lives at stake. Which means that the success of our knight is more reliant on luck than many others -- despite his own firm determinism. Well, my dear fates, the question I have for you today is, do you feel that Ren is a particularly lucky man?



***

Ren Londaar flexes his new abyssal arm, the jaw of the demon face stretching and cracking.


“What do I think?” asks Ren, examining it, “I think no one will be fooled by a mere cape on this dark creature. We should do this properly or not at all.”


“Does that mean?” Dawn gapes, wide-eyed with glowing enthusiasm while her voice rises to a nervous giggle.


“Yes, you have my permission to disguise it,” says Ren, trying to ignore the growing presence of the demon in his mind. It had begun as a faint burden somewhere at the back of his metal mind, but it was rapidly taking up more and more of his attention.


Dawn, used to feeling dismissed for her enthusiasm, doesn’t notice Ren’s new distraction, “What can I use to decorate it?” She looks around at all the offerings the villagers brought her, the plethora of materials to be turned to her artistic endeavor. “Are flowers and face powders and jewellery and chains alright to use? Cato always said I must be an artist because she didn’t get me, but I think she really understood me better than I might know myself. I’ve never had a chance to push my creativity like this. According to the imperial order, it’s not what a battle mage is supposed to do with their spare time. I’m really, really, really excited about having this opportunity. Thank you, sir prince knight!, After I’m done with this demon arm, Nitanna will adore it even more than I do!”


As Dawn speaks, the Knight feels the demon arm whisper inside his mind -- its voice sharp, painful. Its demonic speech, ancient and otherworldly, makes no sense to Ren, but it seems resentful of the direction its time in this dimension is taking.


Ren holds its aggression in check, but he begins to worry about how long the demon arm will be unhappy. Ren doesn’t need to rest in the same way a frail human or elf would, but still… he cannot constantly fight a battle in his mind to keep the arm from lashing out at those around him.


“Just do whatever you think is best and be quick about it. This plan of ours hinges on Nitanna not being suspicious of the arm. Or at least, not too suspicious. Hopefully she’ll just give us the orb, but either way we need her to get close to it.”


“Don’t you worry, sir prince knight! Hmmm… let’s see. Where to start? Just look at these flower bouquets, aren’t they romantic? I can weave them together into wreaths and hang them like so… they’ll cover a lot of space in no time. And see this spice dust? It must an exotic plant because it smells divine and colors anything it touches this beautiful red. I’m just going to use it to brighten up those cheeks and make the skull look a bit more alive and less… transparent and otherworldly. Isn’t it fantastic?


Ren couldn’t see the elf’s work particularly well, but the parts he saw look like less of a mess than Dawn herself did. The spice did indeed stain everything it touched a vivid red -- and Dawn had smeared it across her forehead with a careless hand. To make matters messier, Dawn was sweating in the close confines of the chapel, so that the red dripped down her cheeks. Fortunately, it didn’t show up on her black uniform.


Ren’s arm feels heavier and discontent by the minute. It seems offended, irritated by Dawn’s disguise. Ren is torn between telling Dawn to hurry up and what that might reveal to her. He keeps silent. He’s kept the arm under control so far.


“Oops,” Dawn grimaces.


“What happened?” says Ren. If he had a heart, it would’ve sunk.


“Umm, sir prince knight, can you tell this arm of yours to stay still? It’s... swirling? These foods are not sticking on as I thought they would. I’m trying to get some of these lovely biscuits to stick on the spikes. I’ll stab myself if I’m not careful. Also, I think that it’s absorbed some of the jewelry I put on already. What kind of magic is this arm made of?”


“The abyss-kind.”


Despite this revelation, Ren notices no new hesistence from Dawn as she continues to decorate the arm. She says: “Well, it’s not the best canvas an elf could hope for. But don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll please Nitanna, especially when I put the final touch on it - the frosting, so to speak! Just a gentle touch of my magic to hold it all together...” Dawn concentrates, holding her shining hands around the demon arm, “I did it! That ought to hold everything in place. Wait… that’s not right.”


Nothing falls off the arm exactly, but all Dawn’s carefully arranged work squishes together. The demon arm appears to be smeared with a brownish-red mush of spice, crumbs and flower petals -- and no less terrifying than before.


“Oh,” says Dawn, hands coming up to cover her mouth, “Oh no…this might not be my best work.”


The arm screams inside Ren’s head, its burning rage built up to an explosive point.

“What if I take away the magic and put some cake on it? You know, proper frosting!”


As Dawn reaches for a lovely basket of beautifully decorated miniature cakes, Ren can hold the fury of the demonic arm no longer. The monstrous face twists and expands into a horrid shape and screams with otherworldly emotion.


Dawn falls to the ground, startled, and just out of the demon arm’s reach as it swirls violently in the air.


The Knight curses Compie in his head. Of course the wretched box has given him a defective demon arm! He prays that Nitanna is across the village -- far away from him and Dawn and the demon arm’s screams.


A moment later, the doors to the hall open and Nitanna surges in with two guards.


“Lady Cirus, we heard a ghastly voice, are you alright? Wh-- what is this?” Nitanna shouts with horror when she sees Dawn on ground, her face streaked with red and her eyes wide with shock while the demon arm’s skeletal jaws struggle to reach her.


Ren curses, trying to focus on regaining control of the arm. He knows he can force the arm to behave as he wishes, he just needs a few moments to calm it down and bend it to his will.


Nitanna has never seen anything like this demon arm. She fought the Noxis for years, battled the cultists in one skirmish after another and survived mutants, curses, and other humans. But this blue ghost is beyond her ken and she answers it in the only way a warrior can: by facing it in battle.“Th-The-The metal man has betrayed Lady Cirus! Gatekeepers, protect your God and cut down the enemy!”


Nitanna and her two companions are seasoned veterans. They surround Ren Londaar like three wolves preparing to strike. Their attacks, when they come, are precise -- striking where the demon’s neck would be. If it had a neck. Their swords are repelled by a shocking magical force. Only Nitanna stands her ground, while her gatekeepers are thrown back violently against the chapel walls. Nitanna swings her sword again. This time it penetrates the demon arm, cutting into its summoned flesh. Where it sticks. Nitanna pulls on her sword, trying to get clear.


“Lady Cirus,” Nitanna cries, “get yourself to safety! I will take care of this monster!”


“No, no! It’s a misundersta--!” says Dawn, trying to get to her feet. One of the gatekeepers had knocked her off her feet a second time and she was only just managing to get clear of the armored soldier. The Knight, consumed by trying to keep the arm in check, is distracted. He wants to warn Dawn to stay away -- but the lapse in concentration gives the demonic arm the opening it was looking for.


The skeletal face morphs and its mouth unfolds gigantic jaws that envelope Nitanna. In one smooth motion, it bites her in half -- leaving her legs and lower torso standing briefly on their own. Dawn and the Knight stare at the swaying legs, at the sudden stump of Nitanna’s spine, and the blood gushing from… the arm takes a second bite, swallowing Nitanna into the abyss and leaving behind only one of her feet.


Satisfied by its meal, the arm’s presence recedes from the knight’s mind -- allowing him to retake control. It still hungers, still craves flesh and blood -- just more gently than a moment before.


The two gatekeepers and Dawn turn horrified eyes to the Eternal Knight.


Does anyone know how to say ‘oops’ in the demon tongue? Everyone makes mistakes, but Ren Londaar seems to be an expert in them.


How ever will he stumble his way out of this one?



Option 1: The Eternal Knight tries to talk his way out of this. Beginning with an apology.


Option2: The Eternal Knight is tired, he gives into the arm’s desire to eat. After all, it’s had an appetizer. Why stop now?


Option 3: The Eternal Knight focuses on his initial mission. Now is the time to make a mad dash to the orb and just be done with this cursed place.


***

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Author's note:

This week we're going to give a shout out for Hanna, our editor, who shouldered a big portion of the writing while I (Kaya here) was swamped under freelance work. Thank you, you're the best! :)


Usually, Silver and I take turns with the text until we feel it works, then we pass it to Hanna for a clean up and a sanity check. Since I was unavailable, Hanna filled in for me and took the opportunity to write some next level gore. In response, Silver doodled Nitanna's bloody stump and -- asserting that he never kids -- proceeded to paint it into our weekly illustration.

Hope you enjoyed the turn for the worse this week. See you next Friday!


See you next week!

Love,

Kaya & Silver





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