vengefulseven

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

It's that time of year!

I like to occasionally write some short scary stories for r/shortscarystories on reddit. I highly recommend you check out the sub. There are some incredible authors on there who have done amazing things with 500 words or less.

Last year, I squeezed four volumes out. I probably only have enough for two this year.

**WARNING**

I like to write about things that are scary to me. Having a baby has changed my perception of fear and what I am afraid of, so some of the stories may hit too close to home for some readers. Don't worry, not all of them are like that, and I've labeled what I think is a sensitive topic so you can skip if you would like.

*Routines* (Sensitive Content)

**Monday

**

When you have a young baby that has yet to start sleeping through the night, you have to routine yourself. You are often far too tired to recall small details throughout the day, so the easiest way to compensate is to make those small details a part of your every-day routine. Make it so you don't have to think about it.

I drop the baby off at my mom's house every morning, and then take myself to work. The routine has simply become part of who I am.

*Brush my teeth- Get Dressed- Get the baby up- Give her a bottle- Lock the front door- Strap her in the car seat tightly- Double check for my phone, keys, wallet, coffee- Carefully back out of the driveway.
*

**Tuesday

**

I actually got a good night's rest for once! Wifey gave me the night off from taking care of the baby! I love that woman.

*Brush my teeth- Get Dressed- Get the baby up- Give her a bottle- Lock the front door- Strap her in the car seat tightly- Double check for my phone, keys, wallet, coffee- Carefully back out of the driveway.
*

**Wednesday

**

Last night was not so good. I'm guessing the kid is teething on top of everything. She was up about seven or eight times. Could barely keep my eyes open this morning.

*Brush my teeth- Get Dressed- Get the baby up- Give her a bottle- Lock the front door- Strap her in the car seat tightly- Double check for my phone, keys, wallet, coffee- Carefully back out of the driveway.
*

**Thursday

**

Shit! Forgot to put the trash out last night. I passed out as soon as the baby went to sleep. Had to scramble to get it all together and on the curb. The truck was up the street and they do not give a shit if you are behind. They will drive right past you as you scream for them to stop. Wifey will kill me if I miss trash day again!

Ok...running late now.

*Get Dressed- Get the baby up- Give her a bottle- Put her in the car seat- Double check for my phone, keys, wallet, skip the coffee- Back out of the driveway.
*

**Friday

**

Woke up in a hospital bed. Not sure how I got here. Everything hurts. There's a nurse in the room.

*What happened?
*

*...Trash day
*

*...no coffee
*

*...backing out of the driveway
*

*...something hit me.
*

“Mr. Johnson?”

*...Oh my God
*

“Mr. Johnson?!”

*...the car seat
*

“Mr. Johnson...you've been in a terrible accident.”

...Oh God Please No

Overtime

*Knock knock
*

“Hey Jim! How's your day? Any big plans this weekend?

“Hey Greg. I'm so sorry to bug you this late on a Friday, but I need a huge favor...”

“Sure, what do you need?”

“They dropped a file on my desk five minutes ago. Cindy will murder me if I miss another one of Carlee's dance recitals! Can you please cover it for me?! Intake already worked it...I don't think it should take too long.”

“Ah, say no more. I got you covered. I know how wives can be.”

“Oh man! I owe you big time!”

“Just buy me a beer at happy hour next week. We'll call it even.”

“You got it, Greg!”

“And none of that cheap junk! I want a draft, not that piss water you like- haha!”

“Ha...I'll buy you five for this one!”

“Now get out of here! Tell the wife I said hi.”

“Thanks a million!”

*...
*

*...
*

*...
*

*“...sigh”
*

“alright...Siri, call Michelle.”

*Calling Michelle
*

*...
*

*...
*

*...
*

“Hey honey. I Might be running a couple hours behind today....yeah another late request. Would you mind calling the restaurant?...Just tell them more like 8:00 tonight...Thanks babe...yup...I'll stop at the store on the way...yup...I love you too!”

*...
*

*...
*

*...
*

“Alright...let's take a look.”

*Pages shuffling
*

“Target: Javier Gibson...Warning: Hemophilia, handle with caution....Ok, I gotta be careful working this one.”

“Preliminary work-up...Sensitive around the ocular region, fear of needles, extreme fear of clowns- Oh geez Jim! They practically handed this one to you on a silver platter.”

*Loudspeaker beep
*

“Hey Susie?”

*...
*

*...
*

“Yes Mr. Grayson?”

*...
*

“Susie, can you find me the bag of needles, and one of the clown get-ups from the supply closet. Just drop them off at Interrogation room B.”

*...
*

“Right away sir.”

*...
*

“And you can take off when your done! Have a great weekend!”

*...
*

“You too Mr. Grayson!”

*...
*

“Siri, call Michelle again”

*Calling Michelle
*

*...
*

*...
*

“Hey honey, so I don't think this is going to take as long as I thought. Probably an hour max!...yup...can't wait to see you...I love you too!”

The Dream Realm

We all dream, well most of us do anyway.

Only a few of us really understand what dreams are. It's not your mind projecting a world around you. Its actually your mind trying to make sense of a world it can't comprehend. From what we've learned in our research, a dream is a window into a realm beyond our understanding that only our subconscious is capable of accessing.

Even those of us who have researched the dream world struggle to grasp it. Our laws of physics simply do not exist there. The idea of life in the dream realm is nothing like we know here, so our brains will lie to us in an attempt to make sense of what we are seeing. Projections of random people, loved ones, animals, familiar buildings; its all a desperate attempt by our minds to understand their reality.

They can't see us when we're there, because we're only observing when we dream. Well that was until recently. We had a breakthrough a few months ago. Dr. Dhakal was actually able to establish a line of communication with some of these other-worldly beings. Communication was initially rudimentary, as they do not speak in a way that we can fully translate, but we were able to let them know we exist. It was all rather exhilarating, until about three weeks ago.

The tone of the communications shifted drastically. Something sinister found its way to Dr. Dhakal. He started to become paranoid, afraid to sleep. He was in perfect health, and only 37 years old. He died in his sleep three nights ago.

Reports are flooding in now. Thousands of sudden deaths.

All in their sleep, just like Dr. Dhakal.

We spent the last decade studying what dreams were. I wish we would have studied the nightmares.

We should have never told them we were here

One more for subscribers below!

Image Credits

-Routines: By Corey Brickley – https://coreybrickley.com/

-Overtime: Screen shot from Hostel: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0450278/

-The Dream Realm: By Stefan Keller https://pixabay.com/photos/fantasy-spirit-nightmare-dream-2847724/

Read more...

Note: The first book in the series, The Fires of War: The Tyranny of the Archangels is here on Coil for subscribers! Check it out here.

For previous chapters: Table of Contents

<– Chapter 16

Faded Memories

THUD!

A cloud of dust kicked up around the spirit's translucent form as it crashed into the dry, dirt covered land.

Who was it?

What was it?

Questions swirled around the spirit's mind. It knew it was here for a reason, but what was it?

If it could just concentrate...focus...think.

The spirit was weak. The journey was long. It could feel itself fading.

All it could recall was a lifetime of speeding through nothing, yet somehow seeing everything. Unending images of other worlds and other lives. The spirit saw colors that should not exist, realities beyond its understanding, and yet somehow, it also felt trapped in an inescapable darkness. It's as if the spirit's mind was shattered into a million pieces and glued back together.

Why was it here?

The spirit looked around the desolate land surrounding it. There was a reason it came to this place.

Something was here for it.

“You see that?” a voice called out.

The spirit scanned the area to find the voice. Something that once looked like the spirit was speaking.

“Probably just a dust devil. Get back to the truck.” another voice responded.

Humans...it knew what these were. It was human once. There was something it was supposed to do...something important. The spirit remembered that is was once a man...not an it, but a he.

He was here to save someone from a horrific fate. These men had something to do with his quest. The spirit approached the first human, who was staring straight ahead. He reached out touching the human. His ethereal form merged with the human, and he took residence in the fleshy shell. The spirit could feel his strength slowly returning.

Jared Nolby was the human's name. The spirit could access his memories...his thoughts. The human leaned over and vomited. The spirit could feel the discomfort, even taste it. It was not pleasant.

“Corporal! You alright?” the other voice called.

“Yes sergeant.” Nolby responded while wiping his mouth off.

“Get back into the truck then!” the sergeant shouted.

Sergeant....corporal. The spirit knew these terms. They were labels. Labels he once wore. The spirit accessed the mind of his host, hoping to remember what it was here for.

Jared Nolby...nineteen years old...born in a place called Frankfurt, Kentucky. An older man screams at him to volunteer for service...a woman in tears as he leaves. “BE A MAN!” the old man screams. He looks back as the older man strikes the woman for speaking out. He's angry at the old man but does nothing to stop it. Boot camp training is intense. The boy is constantly being scolded by superiors. They call him a fuck-up, a dumb country boy, worthless. It makes him angry, but he just takes it and says nothing.

The truck started moving. The spirit could feel Jared getting sick again. He leaned over and vomited out of the back of the moving truck.

“Jesus killer.” one of the others laughed. “You need to see the medic when we get back.”

Killer...it's what they call him now. Ever since... He hated the nickname, but liked finally having everyone's respect.

“Yeah...maybe something I ate.” Jared said back as he took a swig of water from his canteen in an effort to get the taste out of his mouth.

“I told you that pork was nasty.” another said.

“Maybe he ate some of your mom's pussy last night, Stevens.” the first voice said back. The group of soldiers cackled and howled in laughter. Jared laughed along.

His mother. His thoughts drifted back to the woman being hit the day he was leaving for boot camp. The memory upset him. His step-father constantly hit her. There was nothing he could do to stop it. The New World Order says that a man can control their house by any means necessary. He hates them, but he can never let anyone know it.

“Hey, at least you got the day to sleep it off tomorrow!” the soldier next to him said slapping his back.

“Ugh...yeah. You know how long until we're home?” Jared asked, trying to hold down more vomit.

“About a half hour.” the soldier said.

“Oh Christ.” Jared doubled over feeling another wave of nausea coming on.

“Fuck...just point it out the back, man.” the soldier warned.

Control. The spirit needed to gain control. He was starting to remember what he was supposed to do, but he still could not figure out why. The New World Order...the name angered the spirit. It had something to do with why he was here. He needed to dig deeper into Jared's mind. The answer was in there somewhere.

His unit shipped out to to some small base in New Mexico, outside of a little town called Jarales. Jarales was smaller than his hometown of Frankfurt. It was very boring. The base was used for some kind of education program for kids. Sarge warned him not to ask too many questions. The classrooms were filled with little girls in plain beige robes. Everyone knew what the re-education was all about...turning them all into obedient wives for future husbands. The NWO said this was the only way to stop the pregnancy crisis. It was not his problem. He just needed to get to his next posting, hopefully somewhere tropical.

Re-education. The pregnancy crisis. Why did this upset the spirit? These were familiar concepts to him, but the spirit grew frustrated, unable to remember.

There was another memory. Something buried deeper, a memory Jared was hiding from. The spirit fought hard, trying to pry the memory out.

A raid...a raid on a town harboring NWO defectors. A small community near the Rio Grande River. He was there with his squad. There was no resistance. They rounded up the men in one group and the women and children in another. The sergeant ordered Jared to shoot the men. The onlookers screamed. The children wailed. Some of the men begged. Jared fired into the group of men until he ran out of ammo. The woman and children were stuffed into trucks and sent away. He still hears them sobbing in his dreams. The sergeant congratulated him for finally having some balls...started calling him killer. He never once looked at the bodies he left behind, but he's been treated much better since that day.

All those men were executed. It made the spirit remember.

The blood...so much blood.

That's right. It was coming back to him now. They kicked his door down, and fired a dozen rounds into his chest, but why?

He was protecting something...something the NWO wanted. What was it?

No...who was it? It was a who, not a what. It had something to do with the re-education camps. The memories were coming back to the spirit. His service in the Marines. His time in special forces. The failed raids to capture Al-Syed. His downward spiral into alcohol. The woman who saved his life.

Michelle...he remembered her name.

His beautiful wife and....Cassie.

THAT WAS IT! He was here to save Cassie from the NWO.

Jared puked out of the back of the truck yet again, likely due to the spirit's excitement.

The spirit remembered everything now.

His life.

His death.

The after-life.

His mission.

His name was Cason, and he was here to free his daughter from the NWO.

He needed control.

He had to gain control of Jared's mind and find her. She was somewhere in that camp.

Chapter 18 Coming Soon!

<– Diary of a Start-Up: Certifications

Welcome to my ongoing, intermittent series about getting a start-up company off the ground. Today's topic is mainly focused on creating website for the company.

But first...

In follow up to the last entry, I did wind up passing my CPCO exam. I'm officially considered a certified compliance officer now, which is pretty sweet.

This is exactly what comes to mind when you think about compliance.

Second, the question everyone (no one) is asking!

What does my start-up actually do?

I've spoken in pretty broad terms so far, but now that things have progressed, I'm quite comfortable revealing what it is we're selling. The name of the company is C&S Healthcare Consulting. It is a small two man (well one man, one woman) operation, focused on billing compliance, clinical trial processing, and legal nursing consulting.

You don't need to understand the ins and outs of what the company is all about to get the gist of this series. Just know that my colleague and I can confidently say we are two of the best in the country at what we do, and we have a sincere focus on the ethics of what it is we're doing. These services do not come cheap. I cannot tell you how many big companies in this space sell sub-par “expertise” and bill premium rates.

Example:

Not to toot my own horn too much, but several years ago, I was hired as an individual freelancer to do some fairly simple data entry by a large hospital system in my area. One of the larger consulting firms in this field was also hired. There were well over 100+ research trials that needed financial data moved into an electronic system (called a CTMS). I entered the data faster than FIVE full time employees from the consulting firm and at half their rate. I'm not five times faster than any one person. I worked at a fairly reasonable, normal pace. The institution let me finish out the contract because they liked the work I did. All I learned from that experience was clients are routinely getting less than what they are paying for when it comes to these consulting firms.

My partner and I pride ourselves on the opposite. Premium rates get premium services, and I would happily compare my work to any one company in this space. Ultimately, our goal is to support our clients by...

A: Ensuring they maintain compliance with the regulations set forth by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

B: Ensure our clients are not taken advantage of by the pharmaceutical companies (You would be surprised how many providers agree to horribly unfavorable contract language terms and budgets for clinical research)

The Website

First here is the final product:

https://www.chestersandsllc.com

Let me start by saying website development has never been easier. Services like Wix and GoDaddy have made the process quite user friendly. I know nothing about coding, html, java, etc. I used Wix for the actual website development and GoDaddy to buy our domain name.

Why?

I just like Wix's web development interface better, but GoDaddy is the king of domain names.

Purchasing a Domain

This had more to do with needing a professional email than anything to do with the site. blahblah@gmail.com doesn't sell as well as blahblah@mycompany.com when courting professional clients. So, we sucked it up and purchased a domain for a year. Finding a domain that fit was a lot tougher than I thought.

Yes...Domain names can cost thousands of dollars. The more premium the name, the more money you pay. So, something simple like C&S.com is pretty much unobtainable. Of course, all guides advise using a ”.com”, and not one of the other options for the simple fact that we are all prone to type “.com” and give up if nothing shows up.

Having a ”.com” also adds to the expense.

Fortunately, I was able to pivot and use our last names to make chestersandsllc.com, which is where the C&S in our name comes from. I paid for one year and for some basic protections for a grand total of $27.16 USD. Not too shabby.

I could probably write a separate blog on developing the logo alone. Blood sweat and tears went into this thing. I probably drafted about a dozen alternatives before we finally settled on this.

For this type of work, I recommend Canva.com. Memberships are pretty reasonable, and there is a free trial period. If you only need to do some basic stuff, you can get away with not paying anything.

Color schemes were important, and we settled on a soft orange with black and white. You never want a logo to be too busy, so we felt this one was nice and simple. The caduceus (spiral thing) represents medicine and the folded paper represents the consulting aspect of what it is we do.

Fun Facts: The cadeceus is derived from the traditional symbol of the Greek God, Hermes, the protector of human heralds, travelers, thieves, merchants, and orators.

Oddly enough, despite the Greek origins, the symbol is generally only recognized for medicine in the United States. The Rod of Asclepius is recognized just about everywhere else.

Leave it to the US to use the symbol of a God of merchants to represent medicine.

Building the Web Site:

The website exists to give legitimacy to the business. in our overly connected world, not having a website can be a red flag.

https://giphy.com/gifs/steveharveytv-steve-harvey-red-flag-kym-whitley-26tPqTOGf3MMAaJR6/links

My goal is not to drive a ton of traffic to my site like a commerce site. My goal is for the site to exist as a reference for clients that we have probably already engaged. That being said, I wanted it to have a smooth, professional, almost legal feel to it. A simple color scheme was used, because again, we're not trying to sell something particularly exciting. We're more-so selling compliance. I don't generally think of in your face colors like bright red or neon yellow when I think of compliance. Simple beige's, with some interesting accents did the trick. The goal was for our services to be front and center. I personally hate when I have to dig for what I'm looking for, so my goal was to keep it clean and simple.

At the bottom of every page is a simple contact box so potential clients do not have to search around for how to reach us. Each link directs you to a more detailed description of the services offered with the legal nursing consulting being temporarily disabled for the time being.

The About Us page was a huge pain, though. Finding a head shot that works is hard enough (Fun story about mine below for Coil subscribers), and attempting to sum up your entire career in five or six sentences is even more difficult. I think I spent more time on this then any other part of the site, but ultimately, I'm ok with the final product.

I will probably get a better head shot in the near future, though.

Not the gif I had in mind originally, but it made me laugh.

The last hurdle was removing Wix branding. Again, I cannot cheap out by having my brand new website marred with the brand of another company. It's not the brand I'm trying to sell. Having the user type wix.chestersandsllc.com and then have the Wix watermark all over my page is not going to be attractive to potential clients. All told, I spent roughly $200 for a two year subscription to the premium plan. I forget what the exact price tag was.

In summary, it took about a full week of dedication to get things working the way I wanted. I'm sure more improvements are to come, but I'm happy to cross this one off the list.

-VengefulSeven

Funny story about my head-shot below for coil subscribers...

Read more...

Note: The first book in the series, The Fires of War: The Tyranny of the Archangels is here on Coil for subscribers! Check it out here.

For previous chapters: Table of Contents

<– Chapter 15

A Common Enemy

Harut and Asbeel huddled around the camp-fire as it danced in the night air. Ma'at secured them a strange, bird-like creature with the body of a lion to transport their wagon. The beast appeared to be fast asleep, snoring as it rested on the chilled sands. They were alone, having separated from Ma'at and Twi'el days ago. It was to ensure the four of them were not spotted together on their journey to Duat. They were to head straight to the black gates to speak directly with Anubis, while Ma'at and Twi'el entered through a hidden cave-opening leading into the rear of the city. Ma'at and Athena properly warned them about the horrors of Duat, which hardly fazed any of them having spent most of their lives under the thumb of the oppressive Kingdom.

“Alone again.” Harut joked out loud, aiming to break the silent tension.

“Yes, such a surprise. We get to play decoy while her pet project does the meaningful work.” Asbeel answered, bitter about the past few days.

“Are you feeling ok?” Harut asked. Asbeel was always the quiet type, but this was different. The revelations about Athena had clearly struck a chord.

“She's a manipulative, lying, murdering, whore.” he replied, clearly not holding back his feelings.

Harut's eyes widened at Asbeel's answer. “Harsh...but yes, I admit the optics are bad, but in her defense, she never claimed to be a saint.”

“You heard it yourself. She was a blade for higher. No morals. No honor. No hesitation. She cut down this Serqet in cold-blood. If she could do that to someone she cared for, then what do we truly mean to her?” he asked.

“We would be long dead without her.” Harut argued. “We're all capable of terrible things, and we're all capable of change.” He was hoping the advice sounded as wise out loud as it seemed in his mind.

“Would we? Or perhaps, we would have left without her. Perhaps, we would not have involved ourselves in a war to save a people that care little for us. Perhaps, we would have journeyed to a new land, far away from it all. And perhaps, Marut would still be by our side.”

“Don't drag him into this.” Harut warned. “We all made a choice to fight.”

“What choice? I recall Athena dragging us to Lucifer's doorstep. There was no discussion. There was no vote.”

“She didn't hold an arrow to my head, Asbeel.” he countered.

“And what of Twi'el?” Asbeel continued, ignoring Harut.

“What of him?” he answered, growing more agitated.

“Do you believe he's capable of change?”

“That's different.” his tone was quickly shifting to anger.

“Is it? Is he really here to atone for his past, or was this his only option? Would he have ever seen the error of his ways had the Kingdom been victorious that day? Would he truly regret killing Seraphiel if he sat upon the throne of the Commander?” Asbeel raised his voice with each new question.

“I, uh-”

“And tell me, this same angel, the one who led the slaughter of an entire city of innocents under the cover of night...does he deserve forgiveness?!”

“No...I guess not.” Harut responded.

“And lest we forget, Marut died protecting you because of the poison Twi'el put in your body.” Asbeel's piercing gaze cut through Harut like a knife now.

“You've made your point.” Harut softly answered back.

“Athena and Twi'el share the blame for Marut's death. I blinded myself to the reality of who she really was. It was easy to do when death lurked around every corner, but think about it...”

“Think about what?”

“Think how quick she was to kill when confronted with confrontation. Remember how easy it was for her- how casually she could run a blade across a fellow angel's neck?”

“I suppose I never thought about it. It was always about survival back then.”

“Ha! survival...she enjoyed it.” he was sounding more and more bitter as the conversation went on.

“I don't think sh-”

Asbeel cut off Harut mid-sentence. “Do you recall the moments after Twi'el stabbed you?”

“It's a bit hazy. The poison was working through me quickly.” Harut answered.

“Well, I was nearby. I watched the whole thing unfold. Lucifer rescued you before Twi'el could finish you off” Asbeel reminisced.

“I recall that part.”

“I'm sure...but you missed what followed. An Archangel held Lucifer down and forced a blade through his skull.”

“So you've told me already.”

“And Twi'el just stood there, smiling the entire time. He enjoyed the suffering. Him and Athena...those two are one in the same.”

“Why are you telling me this now?” Harut asked.

“I don't know. I've grown tired of pretending this world is just. Maybe I'm tired of evil people getting chance after chance to redeem themselves while the innocent are left to bleed out on the streets.”

“I...erm.” Harut struggled to find the words to comfort his spiraling companion.

“After we finish our business in Duat, I'm leaving.”

“And where would you go?” Harut asked, surprised.

“Somewhere far from here. A place where I can be forgotten. Somewhere I can live in peace.” Asbeel closed his eyes, envisioning such a simple life.

“That does sound lovely.”

“You should come with me.” Asbeel said, prodding Harut to make a decision. “Athena is never leaving this place, and only painful memories await us back home.”

“You're not wrong...but I need more time to think it over.” Harut answered as he stoked the flames of the camp-fire with a stick.

The two of them spent another several moments trapped in tense silence. Harut opened his mouth, but just as he was about to speak, the bird-creature that journeyed with them stirred from its slumber. It made a a loud squawking sound, alarmed by something off in the darkness. Asbeel walked over to the panicked creature, attempting to calm it. It lashed out, swiping one of its razor sharp talons at Asbeel's chest. Fortunately, the swing did not connect. It was more of a warning than a direct attack. Asbeel wisely took the hint and backed away. The creature continued to squawk out into the unending darkness of the desert.

“What do you think it is?” Harut wondered.

A projectile launched out from the darkness, striking the loud creature in the throat. Asbeel and Harut drew their weapons, prepared to fight. The creature sputtered around for a few moments, gasping and kicking until it finally collapsed onto the sand, twitching as the life drained from it.

“LOWER YOUR WEAPONS!” A voice cried out from the darkness.

“SHOW YOURSELF COWARD!” Harut screamed back.

Asbeel summoned a flame, and shot a flare out into the desert to illuminate the area. The two immediately realized they were surrounded.

One of the attackers at the front of the group offered one last ominous warning. “Lower your weapons.” his raspy voice echoed, sounding familiar to them.

Asbeel and Harut threw their blades to the ground, knowing they had no advantage.

Several of the armored warriors ran up to grab the weapons. One touched the metal of Harut's blade and recoiled in immediate pain. He screamed as he held his severely burnt palm in his other hand.

“Hell-forged?” the raspy voiced leader asked, casually walking past his own soldier screaming in pain. He picked it up by the hilt and waived it around to test the weapon's balance. “It's as light as I remember. Quite the rarity these days.”

Harut recognized the garb these warriors were dressed in. These were soldiers of Aaru. The raspy voiced leader was the Overseer of Aaru's guard as Ma'at referred to him. Horus, if he recalled correctly.

“Why are you attacking us?!” Harut demanded to know.

“Restrain them.” Horus ordered. Two of his soldiers ran over to them, forcing them onto the ground. They tightly tied their hands behind their backs, and then held them down on their knees.

“Bring the other prisoner over.” Horus ordered.

Other prisoner?” Harut whispered to Asbeel, worried Ma'at and Twi'el were captured.

Out of the darkness emerged a guard with a woman. She was tied and gagged, unable to speak, as she struggled to free herself from her captor.

“Athena!” Harut said out loud.

The soldier violently threw her to the ground in front of them. “Now, where are the other two?” Horus asked Asbeel and Harut.

They remained silent.

“Noble, I admit, but four of you left the city. I only count you two.” He held the Hell-forged blade close to Athena's eye, threatening her. “Now I ask again, where are the other two?”

“NO! I'LL TELL YOU!” Asbeel shouted.

Athena glared at him, disappointed he was going to reveal the plan. She wanted to scream at Asbeel for giving in so easily, but was only able to mutter something incoherent under the gag.

“Just put the blade down...please.” Asbeel pleaded.

Horus cooperated and lowered the sword. “Go on then, I'm listening.”

Asbeel looked over to Athena who was still struggling to speak. She was clearly upset, but it was not within his nature to let someone die. “We parted ways several days ago. There is a hidden pathway into Duat.”

Horus chuckled out loud. “Would you look at that! They're delivering themselves!” The group of soldiers joined Horus in his mocking laughter. “Shame, though, I really wanted the chance to kill Ma'at.”

“Why are you doing this?!” Harut demanded to know.

Horus entertained the question, mocking them as he leaned in.

“I've been ordered to kill all of you. Ra wants Ma'at left alone, but I rarely get such an opportunity to remove a pest. As much as I'd enjoy following those orders, though, I have a standing business arrangement with Mistress Nekbhet of Duat.”

Athena's eyes widened in horror at that name. She was afraid- something Asbeel and Harut had never seen before.

“She requires four able-bodied servants. I was going to kill Ma'at and blame you all for it, but I think it would be more fun to let her suffer as Nekbhet's pet.”

“Why does Ra want us dead?!” Asbeel shouted as he struggled against the soldier holding him down.

Ah Ah Ahh.” Horus said condescendingly, bringing the blade back up to Athena's eye. Asbeel complied and stopped struggling. “That's better.” he said, lowering the sword again. “Your investigation into the primordial has shaken things up. The people are starting to wonder if they're in danger. We cannot have them questioning Ra's leadership.”

“But what if Duat conspires with the primordial?! Surely Ra must be concerned with that!” Asbeel argued.

“Do you really think Ra and Anubis have been at odds all these years?” Horus asked as he smiled. “Of course not. It's always been a ruse. It provides the commoners of both cities an enemy to rally against. A common enemy is a powerful motivator, and who else is better qualified to protect the people then an ancient angel?”

“These ancient types are all the same.” Harut exclaimed, shaking his head in disbelief.

“I've seen your kind fall before. You think yourselves above the people, but all empires built on lies fall.” Asbeel warned.

“That may be true, but I doubt any of you will be alive to see it. Nekbhet's servants are not known for their longevity, but as I already said, she only requires four new servants. Ma'at and her new friend will have to take two spots, which means I only need two of you alive.” He looked them over, wondering which one he was going to kill. “I'm open to hearing you all plead for your lives.” he joked as he pulled Athena's gag out.

Athena immediately spit in his face, enraging him. He quickly raised his arm and back-handed her across the cheek. The resulting smack was loud enough for all of them to hear.

“Kill me, you coward.” she said, refusing to break eye contact.

She was responsible for many evil deeds during her time as an assassin. The least she could do was spare her friends. She overheard the entire conversation between Asbeel and Harut before Horus apprehended them. Asbeel's words cut deeper than any blade or arrow ever could.

“Do it.” She was goading him now.

Horus smiled and pulled the Hell-forged blade back, prepared to thrust it forward. Athena closed her eyes, ready to embrace the release of death.

“NO!” Asbeel and Harut pleaded.

He thrust the blade forward. A pained gasping quickly followed.

Athena shot her eyes open. “No.” she quietly muttered. Horus pulled his blade back. Asbeel fell to the side with a gaping wound through his mid-section.

No-No-No-No!” Athena pleaded as she lunged forward towards him, falling to the ground, trying to inch her way to him.

Asbeel was nearly unable to speak. All he could do was mouth the words “I'm sorry.” to Athena as he struggled to gasp for air.

“No, I'm sorry.” She whispered as tears welled in her eyes. She laid next to him as the light faded from his eyes. Though it was only a few seconds, it felt like an eternity.

One of Horus's men grabbed her and pulled her back to her knees. “I didn't know she could feel.” Horus mocked, seeing the tears.

She looked back to the lifeless corpse of Asbeel- the pain now being replaced by rage. She met Horus's mocking gaze.

“You'll die for that.” she warned, before the gag was stuffed back into her mouth.

Chapter 17->

Note: The first book in the series, The Fires of War: The Tyranny of the Archangels is here on Coil for subscribers! Check it out here.

For previous chapters: Table of Contents

<– Chapter 14

Yomi-tsu-kuni

The waterfalls surrounding Bethrael were chaotic yet soothing. The thundering roar of the crashing water drowned out the exhausting thoughts constantly swirling around in her mind. Though a thick fog blanketed the air around her, she could still see the cascading water dumping into the reservoir, kicking up a wall of mist.

The Kingdom of Yomi, or Yomi-tsu-kuni, as the locals called it, was a marvelous sight. Built above the shores of a massive reservoir, partially surrounded by half a dozen forceful waterfalls, and constantly blanketed by a thick fog, one could easily be forgiven for journeying right past the impressive city. It was originally built by the ancient angels as a hidden retreat. Amaterasu and her followers claimed the land as their own after the schism that fractured the original council of ancient angels. They largely isolated themselves in the years following the Great War, refusing to get involved in the affairs of Asgard, the Kingdom, and Olympus. Amaterasu knew that despite the Archangels' unquenchable thirst for power, they would never be foolish enough to directly attack Yomi. The city itself offered no strategic value, it was difficult to reach with large forces, and every angel and mortal that was granted entry was properly trained to defend the city.

Something changed one year ago.

When Hachiman, the sole representative for Yomi within the Asgard remnant, sensed a shifting tide against the Archangels, he immediately sent word to Amaterasu to send reinforcements. Despite her initial hesitance to commit troops, it was actually her most trusted advisor, Omoikane, who convinced her otherwise. It was thanks to his insistence that Amaterasu finally relented and sent the reinforcements that wound up turning the tide of battle. Omoikane desired to see Yomi reunited in an open alliance with the other Kingdoms, and with the Archangels finally destroyed, a power vacuum was created. Yomi was well positioned to take the mantle as the most powerful and influential Kingdom.

Over the centuries, Yomi had been developed into a sprawling metropolis that rivaled the Kingdom in size. Mortals who followed the eastern religions of Kami-no-michi, Shen-tao, and Buddhism were processed at the Kingdom of Yomi upon their deaths. Unlike the Archangels who used their mortals as fodder for their power or as sacrificial pawns in battle, the mortals of Yomi were welcomed as equals. Over time, Yomi maintained the greatest population of mortals, boosting their ranks in every beneficial way imaginable.

The architecture of Yomi was remarkable. Buildings were simplistic, wooden, elevated slightly off the ground, with tiled or thatched roofs. Bold reds, yellows, and greens were the preferred colors of the city. Yomi architecture was nothing like New Eden with a focus on practicality over showmanship. It was no surprise that council meetings were conducted in a minimalist manner as well. There were no massive round-tables or gaudy furniture for everyone to be seated at. Representatives merely formed a circle on the ground. Bethrael did not mind it. The casual nature of the meetings felt more relaxed than their typical sessions.

It was widely speculated that Amaterasu had more cities under her thumb than just Yomi. Alas, it was only speculation that was adamantly denied and never proven as more than a myth. Bethrael struggled with the idea of trusting such a secretive leader, but there was little choice in the matter and little information to form a proper judgement on Amaterasu. In fact, Bethrael had hardly had more than a passing conversation with her. It was Omoikane who attended the council meetings away from Yomi and did the majority of the talking. Amaterasu rarely appeared, even when the council meetings were hosted within her own city. This is why today's meeting was so unique. Apparently, she requested to have the floor. A pit formed in Bethrael's stomach when she received the news.

“I'm sure another aims to take me out of power.” she thought to herself upon hearing the news. Fighting a war was easy. Governing was much harder. More and more cracks were forming within her own ranks. Kushiel was rotting New Eden from the inside, dragging it right back into the vile mindset of the Kingdom. Bethrael could not help but blame herself after the attacks. She woke up many mornings desiring to simply walk away from it all.

“It's time.” a comforting voice called out from behind her.

Bethrael did not take her eyes off the powerful waterfalls. “Do you think I'm failing, Hildr?” Hildr was one of the few left in her corner that she could still trust. Kushiel, Raphael, legions of her closest guards- all were plotting to overthrow her, and she was completely oblivious to it. Her inaction led to Imamu being assassinated, Zeus receiving grave injuries, and swarms people she was sworn to protect being slaughtered on the streets like animals.

“You've only failed when you've given up.” Hildr answered, hoping it provided some comfort.

Bethrael let out a deep sigh. Being away from New Eden during such trying times was not ideal, but the council refused to meet in the city with such an unstable situation brewing beneath the surface. “Let's get this over with.”

Bethrael proceeded back into Yomi's capitol building with Hildr following right behind her. Hildr had personally taken over as Bethrael's protection after the Loyalist attacks. It was a decision by Hildr which angered Tyr. Hildr had once again defied his direct wishes, but she was far too aware of the upheaval that Bethrael's death would cause for all of the societies. She would not allow all the suffering and death she had endured over the years be for nothing.

They proceeded down a hallway, eventually making their way to a set of bright, red doors adorned with ornate designs. Bethrael gently pushed them open giving way to a large room where dozens of representatives from Yomi, New Eden, Asgard, and the Valhalla construction project were scattered about. There was even a representative from the Mountain of Hell present, much to Bethrael's surprise.

The Mountain of Hell was New Eden's closest neighbor, but had largely been reclusive since the victory over the Kingdom. The death of Lucifer created another power vacuum, leading to infighting. The newly freed “demons” of Hell were struggling to adapt to their new life. After lifetimes of torment under the rule of the Archangels, it was difficult for them to simply be free. The council feared the situation was ripe for a charismatic and dangerous leader to seize control, someone just like Kushiel.

Seated directly to her right, representing the Asgard remnant, was Tyr with a scowl on his face, per usual. His advisor, Mimir sat next to him. Two surviving Olympians, Apollo and Helios, were present and representing Valhalla, which had become the new home for most of the surviving Olympians. Apollo sat across from them, jotting down something on his parchment. Helios was off standing in a corner making small talk with some of the other attendees. Ever since the massacre at Mount Olympus, the Olympian numbers were dwindling. The images of that night still haunted Bethrael's dreams.

“So glad you could make it.” Tyr snidely commented.

“I would not dream of missing a moment of your engrossing trade rants.” Bethrael quipped back.

“Hmph.” Tyr sneered, dismissing her remarks.

After some more pleasant small talk, the doors to the opposite side of the room opened. Omoikane entered first, announcing the arrival of Amaterasu. She entered behind him looking as elegant as ever. Her long flowing black hair contrasted against her pale complexion. Despite her advanced age, her beauty was unmatched in the room. Her intricate white robes, layered over with red and turquoise cloth, flowed behind her as she delicately made her way into the room. She moved with such grace, one would be forgiven for assuming that she was floating. She finally stopped at the head of the room and nodded to all of the attendees.

“Thank you for joining us.” she quietly stated.

Amaterasu spoke softly, but everyone listened intently. Her appearance may have been that of a delicate flower, but everyone in the room knew she was one of the most powerful angels still alive.

“What is the meaning of this summons.” Tyr bluntly stated, kicking the meeting off.

Amaterasu signaled for everyone to be seated, as she continued to stand. Bethrael's nerves were at an all time high. She was waiting for the criticisms to start flying.

“New Eden struggles, progress on Valhalla's rebuild has stalled, Asgard is a shell of what it once was, and Hell struggles to find identity.” she declared.

“We are painfully aware of these facts.” Tyr snorted back.

He was in a particularly foul mood this morning. Mimir whispered something into his ear. Bethrael assumed it was a gentle warning to be less aggressive. She smirked, knowing Tyr would never take such advice.

“The representative from Asgard would be wise to cede the floor!” Omoikane warned, standing up in an attempt to be more imposing. He was anything but an imposing figure. Omoikane was revered for his wise council rather than his stature. He was a small, feeble looking, elder angel, with a long grey beard hanging from his wrinkled face. But, as Bethrael had learned many times, looks can be quite deceiving.

Amaterasu gently waived her hand, ordering Omoikane to stand down. “There is no need for aggression. We strive for the same outcomes. I requested your presence to offer my aid, not to chide you.”

Tyr backed down in compliance, something Bethrael had not seen before. Perhaps Amaterasu carried even more influence than she initially guessed.

“Your numbers have been drastically reduced with the war.” she continued. “and with a dwindling population of mortals to refill your ranks, it is apparent you lack the manpower required to meet our ambitious goals.”

Tyr rolled his eyes, annoyed about being lectured on realities they were already aware of. Omoikane glared in his direction, anxious to defend Amaterasu should he have another outburst.

“I offer my citizens to live and work among you, and I offer up my soldiers to aid in quelling your rebellions.” she said looking in Bethrael's direction.

The offer was intriguing. Yomi had been relatively quiet in the past when such aid was requested. They had contributed much in the way of supplies and resources, not to mention their extensive efforts to reverse engineer portals for each city to use. Thanks to their efforts, trips that once took days, even weeks, were cut down to mere minutes. However, this was the first time Amaterasu was willing to offer the direct services of her people.

“Bethrael...” Hildr whispered in her ear. “The presence of foreign soldiers may only aggravate the situation.”

She raised an eyebrow at Hildr's warning. It was a good point. The situation in New Eden was already unstable. Introducing a third party could give off the misconception that Bethrael intended to rule by force, or worse yet, it could give off the impression that her rule was merely a front for Amaterasu's authority. She also had to wonder what Amaterasu's motivations were. Why else would she be willing to invest so much after remaining isolated for so long. There must have been something to gain here.

“We will accept aid in Valhalla.” Helios jumped up enthusiastically. “We desperately need the man-power.”

“Aye...and we could use reinforcements ourselves. Asgard has seen better days.” Tyr relented, swallowing his pride.

The lone representative from Hell remained silent, though no one present expected them to react.

All eyes fell on Bethrael.

“I must decline.” she said after a long pause.

“Oh?” Amaterasu said, surprised by the answer.

“New Eden has been through enough. Installing yet another body of authority will only lead to more division. Reasonable minds will prevail. Kushiel will not succeed. They will see him for the fraud he is.” Bethrael boldly stated.

Amaterasu glanced over to Omoikane who gave her a subtle, yet reassuring nod. “Young Bethrael,” she said, glancing back at her. “I admit that I respect your tenacity, but I do question the wisdom of turning down aid in your hour of need.”

“I am grateful for the offer, but it took my people centuries to take their freedom. Our independence must be protected for New Eden to thrive.” she said, refusing to change her stance.

“Very well then. The offer remains should you change your mind.” Amaterasu respectfully answered. “Onto the next matter.” she said, turning towards the rest of the room. “The Fire Soul is still unaccounted for. Reports from Bethrael's scouting team have been sparse, but alarming. Four ancient angels slaughtered like they were common mortals, entire villages wiped off the map, and we do not have a single trace of this being. I fear more resources must be dedicated to finding this Soul. The fate of our realm depends on the operation of the Soul Forge.”

“Athena and her people are quite capable.” Bethrael responded.

“The traitor, her lackeys, and the Kingdom soldier?” Tyr interjected. “Is that who controls our fate? This quest was authorized without any guidance from the council!” Tyr yelled to the room.

“There was no council.” Bethrael calmly answered. “We had a city to rebuild after the battle. Remember that? The one where you could not be bothered to send aid?”

“Insolent brat!” Tyr shouted, demeaning Bethrael's age.

“Enough!” Hildr had grown sick of Tyr bullying his way through these council meetings. “She acted swiftly and decisively. If Frigg's warning of Surtr is true, then it would mean a Primordial being walks among us. Athena is one of the most qualified trackers in all the lands. If anyone can find him, it is her.”

“So, we place our fates in the palms of the harlot who sold out Valhalla, and a magical spirit in this girl's hammer that only she can conveniently hear?!” Try shouted.

“No. I place my faith in Bethrael.” Hildr replied, staring Tyr down directly. “Without her, Asgard would still be cowering in fear.” The room grew silent as everyone nervously awaited Tyr's response.

Amaterasu broke the silence and intervened. “Your faith may be well placed, warrior. Be that as it may, we must have a contingency. We have not received a report in weeks. I believe this threat warrants a decisive response, and I will send one of my own to Athena's last reported location to pick up the trail.”

“Then I pledge two of my warriors to join them.” Hildr quickly responded, knowing she needed to ensure her own people were a part of this.

“On who's authority?!” Tyr demanded while shooting up from his seat. He was infuriated that Hildr would defy him openly like this.

Hildr rose from her seated position and continued to stare Tyr down. “My soldiers answer to me.” she quietly stated, refusing to combat Tyr in a battle of who can shout the loudest.

While the room simply saw a disagreement, Tyr knew that Hildr was making a threat. Asgard's protection was dependent upon Hildr's Amazon soldiers. Though he was boiling with rage, he bit his tongue and took his seat. Hildr followed suit.

Despite the intensity of Tyr and Hildr's exchange, Amaterasu never once batted an eye. She continued on with the meeting as if nothing had occurred. “If the council is in agreement, two of the Valkyrie's representatives will join our finest warrior to continue hunting for the Fire Soul.”

“Aye.” The room chanted in unison, confirming they were in agreement.

“Who is this warrior?” Helios asked, as curious as the rest of the room.

Amaterasu glanced over to Omoikane who gave another subtle, reassuring nod.

“Kaminari-sama is his given name, though he prefers the name the mortals created for him- Raiden.”

Chapter 16 Coming Soon!

~Prophecies foretold of a powerful warrior, born with the soul of a dragon, who would rise to vanquish the dragon threat from Skyrim in man's darkest hour.

This is not that tale...

This is the tale of Ned:

A broke, alcoholic vagrant with no discernible talents or skills trying to survive a land torn apart by civil war, under siege by dragons, and infested with dangerous foes that he is one hundred percent unequipped to handle.

This is his journal:

<-Previous Entry

~Turdas, 8:15 AM, 28th of Last Seed

Meeko and I moved to a small standing set of ruins not too far from Morthal last night. Even though this dog is mainly the reason I'm wanted for murder, I've come to appreciate his company. We've had to stay off the roads to avoid the patrols. They've beefed up their search for me, so we must remain cautious. The Imperials and Stormcloaks within the area have even set aside their differences to expand the local search parties.

As fate would have it, Meeko started barking early this morning, pointing out something to me that I must have missed in the darkness. An intricate mage's staff, just left behind, waiting to be claimed. I've heard of these staffs. They grant non-magical users the ability to wield a single, powerful spell. Fortunately, I'm not the type to become mad with power.

I see no way this could go wrong.

~Turdas, 9:15 AM, 28th of Last Seed

It shoots lightning...

I must be discerning with such power at my fingertips.

~Turdas, 11:00 AM, 28th of Last Seed

ALL WILL BOW TO NED THE VANQUISHER'S ELECTRIC MIGHT!

YOUR MEAGER PATROLS PALE IN COMPARISON TO MY POWER!

I came across an encampment of puny Stormcloaks rebels. The nerve they showed, existing so close to me! They all laughed when I demanded they bow to me!

WELL WHO'S LAUGHING NOW, DAD!

TREMBLE BEFORE NED'S AWESOME MIGHT!

~Turdas, 2:00 PM, 28th of Last Seed

I spent several hours, scouring the lands, electrifying all who would dare oppose Ned the Vanquisher. I came across a small encampment of bandits and necromancers.

They stood no chance.

On the body of the lead Necromancer was yet ANOTHER LIGHTNING STAFF!

I HAVE ASCENDED TO GOD HOOD!

I must explore more of Skyrim with my new powers! Untold riches await!

~Turdas, 6:00 PM, 28th of Last Seed

Meeko and I came across some magnificent ruins. We stood outside prepared to enter when we heard an echoing scream for aid! A fair, young damsel in distress in need of rescuing, no doubt!

Upon entry we found Anska, surrounded by the bodies of a bunch of dead, draugr zombie things. Apparently the screams we heard were her fighting off half a dozen of those things...and winning.

Also, she's in these ruins purposefully to find some scroll, so not quite in distress...or young...or fair...or very nice, but she did tell me that I could keep whatever treasure I found if I helped her find the stupid scroll.

Of course, Ned would never leave a lady to fend for herself in such dangerous conditions. I confidently told her to step back as I cleared the next few rooms of draugr.

I also found some bitchin armor to match my new found power.

I cleared the upper chambers with ease.

Anska asked to rest, as a powerful Dragon Pastor named Vokun awaited us in the depths of the ruins. She said we would need our strength to take him on.

Poor, sweet, weak Anska. I suppose when one does not have the power of a god at their fingertips, they need the rest. I humored her request. Vokun will fall soon enough.

~Fredas, 1:00 AM, 29th of Last Seed

Oh boy...

That did not go well.

Meeko and I were making our daring charge on Vokun's throne room despite Anska's insistence we come up with a plan.

She failed to tell me that the priest-demon guy also had a magic staff that could shoot exploding fireballs.

She also failed to tell me the thing could conjure up all sorts of crazy shit.

And, I learned this the hard way, but magical staffs are supposed to be re-charged regularly or they stop working. I probably should have tested that before charging in...

Anska took a fireball to the face as soon as she got through the door behind me.

Rest in Peace Anska. May your family know that you died bravely...for a piece of paper.

Of course, being the noble warrior I am, I fought for her honor until it was clear retreat was the only option.

I fled the ruins for longer than I am willing to admit. I quickly stripped off the armor after getting outside in case this thing was following me. Fortunately, I found a nearby shipwreck to hide out in!

As fate would have it, there was a barely soiled bed AND an unopened case of Cyrodilic Brandy aboard! Maybe ol Ned's luck is turning around after all!

And sure, I got Anska killed...and accidentally left Meeko behind...and never found any treasure...and still have a massive bounty on my head for half a dozen murders plus the attacks on the patrols, but I learned some valuable lessons about humility and friendship today!

That has to count for something!

Anyway, I'm heading to Dawnstar once the sun rises. It should be far enough away that I'll be safe from patrols.

~Ned

Note: The first book in the series, The Fires of War: The Tyranny of the Archangels is here on Coil for subscribers! Check it out here.

For previous chapters: Table of Contents

<- Chapter 13

The Void

“Quite a sight...” Mick said in awe as he stared up at the massive celestial gates.

Despite the lumbering Australian's obnoxious personality, Cason had come to appreciate his company over the weeks since the loyalist attacks on New Eden. Bethrael promised to help get Cason back to his family, and indeed did everything in her power to do so. She linked him up with an angel they called Sathariel, who was an alleged expert in traveling between the realms. Unfortunately, the process was not something that could be done overnight. Sathariel needed time to prepare and do research.

“You ready for this mate?” Mick asked with genuine concern.

Cason found Mick after the attacks, still passed out in the banquet hall. He woke up to see the casualties being dragged out of the street, exclaiming loudly that he needed to stop drinking and then inappropriately smacking Cason's back while letting out a booming, belly laugh. While others within an earshot looked down on Mick with disgust for his lack of decency in such a dire moment, Cason knew better. His experience in the military taught him that every individual processes stress differently. Some are stoic and reserved, like himself, and others attempt to find humor where there is none. He had many men serve with him who seemed to have a twisted sense of humor.

“Whatever it takes.” he replied in his usual brief fashion.

Civil unrest was rising within New Eden. The murder of Imamu had deepened the wounds of resentment between the mortals and angels. Kushiel was still in hiding. His supporters spewed conspiracy after conspiracy, shifting the narrative that it was Bethrael and her government responsible for the attacks and Imamu's death. They made outrageous claims that the attacks were all staged by Bethrael's government to provide a distraction. Other conspiracies painted Bethrael and her leadership as incompetent. Such is the nature of conspiracies and propaganda. Paint your enemy as both dangerously powerful, yet somehow incompetent and weak at the same time. Enough of the citizens were buying into it to cause massive headaches for all. More and more angels were shifting to loyalist ideals, while mortals were forming their own coalitions out of fear and anger. New Eden was being divided by an effective propaganda strategy. It was clear that Kushiel's plan was never to take the city by force. Those he sent to die were mere pawns in a much bigger game. Cason had seen this exact playbook implemented with the NWO's rise to power on Earth.

Step 1: Build tension

Step 2: Divide the nation

Step 3: Capitalize on a crisis

Step 4: Provide a scapegoat

Step 5: Slowly assume control

Kushiel was already on step five.

The NWO seized upon the birthing crisis that had afflicted Earth. Women suddenly stopped getting pregnant across the globe. The few pregnancies that were successful were not enough to stem the tide of the ever approaching population cliff. Science was unable to explain the phenomenon, and when the leading minds could not come up with a solution, religion stepped in. It was declared an act of God, a punishment for humanity. Many saw this as the beginning of the rapture. The crisis paved the way for extremist views to take hold. In a meager five years, the NWO had enough power to overtake the majority of the United States.

Cason did manage to learn what actually caused the birthing crisis. To his surprise, it was indeed somewhat of a religious phenomena. Over the past few weeks, Sathariel was able to explain the Soul Forge, the Fire Soul, the precursors, and the complex system in place to keep the Earth populated with new life. He explained the Great War, the rise of the Archangels, and the fall of the Kingdom. To Cason's confusion, the Battle of the Kingdom seemed to be roughly one year ago according to Sathariel. The birthing crisis began ten years ago on Earth.

“Time flows inconsistently between the realms.” Sathariel further explained. “One day here could be one day there, or it could be fifteen days there. Both realms exist within the Void, and the

Void is free of all time and space”.

“Are we talking time travel?” Cason asked, struggling to grasp the concepts being explained to him.

“Not quite.” Sathariel answered, trying to come up with an analogy to explain better. “Think of our realms as two snakes moving parallel in a field together. The field surrounds them, yet they move separate from one another, stretching and contracting at different paces, but always moving forward. Unfortunately, It would appear we are in an accelerated period where time is moving much faster there than here.”

The idea sent a chill down Cason's spine. It meant his wife and daughter may have been trapped on Earth for much longer than the few weeks he had been dead. Months or even years could have passed while he sat idly by, waiting.

“When's the bloke gettin' here?” Mick asked.

“I am already here.” A calming voice echoed from behind the silvery doorway of the celestial gate. Sathariel stepped out from behind the gates into their eye line. “I am finishing my last calculations.” Sathariel was elderly, clearly an angel who had been around for a very long time. His hair was bright white, and he wore eloquent, silk robes, appropriate for someone of his age and stature. It was clear to Cason the angel never saw a day of combat in his life. His hands gave it away. They were soft, a clear sign that the man did little in the way of labor or battle. He was a member of the ever shrinking population of elder angels still able to recall the peaceful times, when the ancient angels ruled together in one council, before the schism and the Great War. He served under the Archangels, though he never involved himself in the cruelties of their reign. He mostly kept to himself, too focused on advancing his research on the Void to get involved in the workings of politics. Bethrael swore he was the foremost expert on Void travel and possessions. To Cason's pleasure, she was absolutely correct. His knowledge on the Void was extensive, to say the least. The angel could spend hours discussing it, even when no one particularly cared to hear about it.

“Today's the day?” Cason asked, cutting to the chase.

“Are you sure you are ready?” Sathariel asked. “Void travel is incredibly dangerous for an angelic soul, let alone a mortal. I cannot guarantee your survival.”

“I'm ready.” Cason said, determined to do this.

“Ok then.” He let out a deep sigh. “As I've explained before, the protection enchantment that I place upon you will allow you to pass through the celestial gates unharmed. I've tuned a pathway for you to travel. This journey is nothing like walking on a road. You will be propelled through the Void at speeds you cannot comprehend. You will be beyond any time, space, and logic. It can shatter an unprepared mind. You must remain focused. If you veer off the path I've set, your soul will be trapped in the Void for eternity.”

“Understood.” Cason responded.

“Do you recall what to do once you arrive?” Sathariel asked.

“Find the nearest body, time is of the essence.” Cason answered.

“Good!” Sathariel answered. “You will likely be disoriented when you arrive. An angelic soul without a host will fade within hours in their realm. As a mortal soul, you may only have minutes, so you must collect yourself quickly. Find a suitable host, and your soul should be drawn to merge without any effort. Remember, bending the host to your will can take time. The ability to resist varies depending on the host's mental fortitude. Once you have completed your purpose, you must exit your host to return. The spell to do so is beyond mortal abilities, so you may have to simply kill the host to achieve this. Follow the path back to our realm.”

“Easy enough.” Cason said somewhat sarcastically.

Sathariel sighed, knowing he had one more warning to give. “I do not know if a mortal soul can survive one, let alone two trips through the Void. It has never been done before.”

“I have no choice.” he replied. “Were you able to find them?” Cason asked, switching the topic of conversation.”

“Yes.” Sathariel answered, but not with his typical enthusiasm.

“What's wrong?” A pit was forming in his stomach.

“Your wife and daughter are separated by a vast distance. I'm afraid you have to choose one location.”

There it was. The news Cason expected but did not want to hear. He closed his eyes, fighting back a tear, knowing the decision he had to make. “Send me to Cassie.” he said, knowing he had to save his daughter above all else.

“I can get you close, but you may not arrive precisely to where she is.” Sathariel warned.

“Sorry Mate.” Mick said, seeing the pain his friend was in.

“Mick?” Cason asked.

“Yeah.”

“I need you to wait outside the city, near where we first arrived after we died. In case I don't make it back, I need you to protect her. You make sure Cassie is safe.”

“Of course.” Mick said

“Promise me!” Cason raised his voice.

“You have my word.” Mick assured him.

“Are you ready?” Sathariel asked once again.

Cason knew what he had to do. Earth was most likely a lost cause. He could not protect her from the horrors of the NWO anymore. It was now on him to free her. He could only pray that he had the strength to do what must be done.

He had to kill his own flesh and blood to save her from a lifetime of torment.

“Let's do this.” he said looking ahead to the silvery portal of the celestial gate. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes as Sathariel chanted the incantation.

“Step forward.” Sathariel instructed once he finished the enchantment.

Cason made his way up to the silver portal.

It was now or never.

Chapter 15 –>

*~Prophecies foretold of a powerful warrior, born with the soul of a dragon, who would rise to vanquish the dragon threat from Skyrim in man's darkest hour.
*

This is not that tale...

This is the tale of Ned:

A broke, alcoholic vagrant with no discernible talents or skills trying to survive a land torn apart by civil war, under siege by dragons, and infested with dangerous foes that he is one hundred percent unequipped to handle.

This is his journal:

<-Previous Entry

~Morndas, 8:15 AM, 25th of Last Seed

I once again found myself waking up in some dirt. I can't say I recall much of the weekend, but I do remember being chased off by some of guards and a few citizens of Morthal.

They threw me out of the gates at some point. I guess I just decided to take a nap.

I'm not really sure of what I did to anger the town so much. Old Ned just likes to cut loose every once in a while. The citizens of Skyrim really need to learn how to relax. You'd think the town would be more appreciative of a guy who just saved them from a looming vampire threat.

Jerks.

Not sure how I can go from the hero to an outcast over one measly weekend. I wish I could remember what happened...

Well, at least this psycho dog is still sticking by my side.

I need to get myself cleaned up.

Side note: I'm having this really weird thirst for the blood of another human. Its probably nothing.

~Morndas, 9:00 PM, 25th of Last Seed

OK, caught a glimpse of myself in lake this afternoon. My eyes are bright yellow and I have fangs. Apparently Vampirism is much easier to catch than herpes.

And the thirst...THE THIRST...I just need a sip of some blood to clear my head.

I can't really get back into Morthal until the heat dies down a bit, and even if I could, I'm not quite sure how this vampire thing works? Do I just bite someone and drink away? Do I have to kill them? I really don't want to, but I AM SO THIRSTY!

~Morndas, 11:00 PM, 25th of Last Seed

There was a little mining community west of Morthal. A couple of the lizard people that work the mines just so happen to sleep outside. I figured since Skyrim is way racist towards lizard people, I could probably get away with just cutting one of them and getting a quick drink.

Just to be clear, I'm not racist to the lizard people. I have several lizard friends. I'm just so thirsty...

Not like it matters, an Imperial patrol caught me before I could even get started and chased me off.

~Tirdas, 2:15 AM, 26th of Last Seed

I NEED BLOOD!

Meeko Dissapeared about an hour ago. Not sure where the mut wandered off to. I hope he's ok.

~Tirdas, 4:00 AM, 26th of Last Seed

Meeko came back about an a half hour ago. He...uh...nudged me to come with him. Took me back to the miner camp. I...uh...guess Meeko felt the need to take care of my problem.

The blood...oh God...the tasty blood.

I don't know how the dog did it, but he killed every single miner.

He even got into their cabin...

Now, I probably only needed a sip of the stuff, but I mean, they were all already dead. Would be a shame to waste all that blood...

I'm not sure what to do about this serial murdering dog, though. Just going to put a pin in it for now and try to figure out how to get rid of this vampire curse.

~Tirdas, 9:15 AM, 26th of Last Seed

BY AZURA!

I remembered a conversation with the barmaid over the weekend! She mentioned that a Falion was quite versed in Vampirism! As luck would have it, Falion lives in Morthal!

I do hope I tipped the bar maid well!

I'm sure I did. Ned is always a gracious guest!

I'm going to have to wait until sundown and sneak back into town. I'm sure the guards are still waiting to beat up on poor old Ned again.

~Tirdas, 7:45 PM, 26th of Last Seed

I sneaked my way into town and broke into Falion's home. As luck would have it, he was sitting down for dinner. Surprisingly, he knew exactly why I was there. I guess my horrifying appearance is a dead giveaway.

Apparently, all I need to do is find a black soul gem, murder someone, trap their soul in the gem, and have Falion perform a ritual.

We'll figure out the murdering parts later. For now, I just need to focus on finding a Black Soul gem. Falion says they are extremely rare, and offered to sell me one for 32,000 Septim.

Yeah, I might be desperate and have a drinking problem, but I'm not that stupid. He was kind enough to point me to Fort Snowhawk which had been recently overrun with Necromancers. I'm sure one of those freaks has a spare black soul gem.

~Tirdas, 10:15 PM, 26th of Last Seed

I came upon Fort Snowhawk just as an Imperial patrol was storming the walls. Well...I threw a snowball at them to trick them into thinking the necromancers were launching ice spells.

Of course, I dove right into the action to help!

After the battle was over, and I signed a few more autographs due to my heroics, I looted some of the dead necromancers for black soul gems.

I found like five of them.

I'm starting to think Falion was full of shit trying to charge 32,000 septims.

Now I just need to figure out who to kill to fill a soul in this thing...

I'm going to sneak into the Morthal inn and come up with a plan. I'm sure I can catch a roving bandit or some expendable evil doer in the morning.

~Middas, 4:15 AM, 27th of Last Seed

I got the soul...well Meeko did while I was sleeping. I don't want to talk about it.

I'm on my way to meet Falion at the ritual site.

I'm so scared of this dog.

~Middas, 7:30 AM, 27th of Last Seed

It has been a long few days, but the ritual has finally been completed. It was completely underwhelming.

Falion just mumbled some nonsense and poof... old Ned was back to normal. Instead of craving blood, I only had my normal cravings for booze!

What a relief!

Of course, I'm now wanted for half a dozen murders thanks to this dog.

I guess I'll handle this the only way Ned knows how!

~Ned

But in all seriousness, there's a 7,000 Septim bounty on my head, and my dog has a blood lust. I...uh...should probably flee soon.

Next Entry –>

Note 1: Unfortunately, I wrote this chapter once already, but accidentally deleted it. I have to re-write from scratch, so I'm not entirely sure if I'll have all the details match-up since its been over 100 days since I last dove into this story.

Note 2: The first book in the series, The Fires of War: The Tyranny of the Archangels is here on Coil for subscribers! Check it out here.

For previous chapters: Table of Contents

<– Path of the Exile, Part IV

A New Plan

“Is everything about you a lie?” Asbeel asked with disdain.

“I never lied about who I was.” Athena responded. The shackles wrapped around her wrists clanked together with the chains hanging down from them.

“You never once said you were a murderer! Being an unwitting pawn is one thing, but to snuff an innocent life out, a life of someone you cared for...what kind of monster are you?!” He asked, beginning to uncharacteristically raise his voice in anger.

I...” She was unable to muster any defense for her actions. There were none, and she knew it. She murdered Serqet for a pittance, a reward she never even claimed. There was a lot of blood on her hands from over the years, but the stain of of Serqet's would never wash off. She bowed her head down in shame.

“So that's all, then?” Asbeel said. He shook his head in disbelief and began making his way to the exit, unable to continue on with the conversation.

Harut began to go after him. “No, let him be.” Athena ordered. “We have pressing matters to discuss.” She pushed her emotions towards Asbeel deep down to focus on the mission. She had to ensure they were prepared for the task at hand. “The three of you must embark to Duat for the answers we need.”

“The four of us.” Ma'at chimed in, reminding Athena that she was in the room.

Athena glared back at Ma'at, angered by her arrogance. “You may want to listen then. Your life most certainly depends on it.”

“Duat would not dare harm an emissary of Aaru. It would be open warfare!” She fired back.

“They certainly managed to take out Serqet.” Athena snidely remarked.

Ma'at returned Athena's glare, but silenced herself. Athena turned her attention back to Harut and Twi'el, who had been in a stunned silence since Athena returned in chains to confess her misdeeds. “Duat's entire society is predicated on strength. The weak serve the strong. There is no higher law. They do not respect subservience, nor do they respect the typical niceties of diplomacy. Do not bow. Speak with strength. Lock eyes and do not break your gaze when speaking with one of them.”

“Who exactly are we meeting?” Harut asked.

“Anubis.” Ma'at interrupted again.

Athena rolled her eyes in contempt. “Anubis will give you nothing. It is unwise for all of you to meet with him. He thrives by with-holding information he deems valuable. If he knows anything about the whereabouts of a primordial being, he would certainly not share it with Aaru.”

“What do you propose then, assassin.” Ma'at's subtle insult was low hanging fruit and she knew it, but it was hard to hide her disdain for Athena. “They are not simply going to let us wander the city and speak with whomever we please.”

“No, but there is a back door to Duat. Two of you can meet with Anubis, and two of you can sneak in to meet with someone who will provide actual information.”

“What back door?!” Ma'at asked. “Our scouts have scoured the rock formations surrounding the city. It is all solid, impenetrable rock. There is one way in and out.”

Athena smirked, taking a modicum of pleasure in Ma'at's arrogance. “Your scouts never had me.” she retorted. “There is a hidden entrance, sealed off by some kind of enchantment. I will mark it on your map.”

“And I suppose you would happen to know the enchantment?” Ma'at asked with an annoyed tone.

“No, but I'm sure a talented mind such as yours can figure out a way past it.” Athena said, taking another subtle jab at Ma'at.

“Ok then, assassin. Tell me, who should we be meeting with if not Anubis?”

“Set.” Athena responded.

Ma'at's eyes widened, seemingly with fear. “Are you mad? Set is a vicious beast. He'll rip our heads off for sport.”

“True.” Athena responded. “My people are more than capable of handling this if you are too afraid.” Athena mocked

“Only you would be allied with such a treachoru-”

“ENOUGH!” Harut shouted, cutting them off, surprising everyone in the room. “This bickering is not helpful!”

“Of course.” Athena said, somewhat embarrassed that Harut of all people was her voice of reason. She collected herself and rubbed her eyes still exhausted by the day's events. Her chains rattled against the cold, hard ground. “Set owes me a debt. He may be a beast, but he is principled. Tell him that his cooperation is his repayment.”

“Why would this Set go against his leader?” Twi'el wondered aloud.

“He never said it directly, but the last time we spoke, there were inklings that a fracture was forming between Set and Anubis. It has been a long time, but I cannot imagine the two have improved their relationship since I was last there. Use that to your advantage.”

This plan is insane.” Ma'at said to herself as she stormed towards the room exit, her frustration quite obvious.

Athena glanced over to Twi'el, taking note of the strange gauntlet he now wielded on the arm where his hand was cut off.

“A gift?” she asked him, nodding towards his new hand.

“Perhaps I should check on Asbeel?” Harut said, sensing Athena's desire to speak with Twi'el alone.

“Harut...” Athena said before he could make his way out of the room. “Please keep him safe.”

Harut nodded in silent agreement as he made his way through the doorway.

After a brief pause and subtle sigh, she turned her attention back to Twi'el. “I'm sorry I cannot join you...and I'm sorry I couldn't tell you.”

“There is no need to apologize. We all have a past to reckon with.” Twi'el was the only one in the room capable of relating with Athena's predicament. The actions of his past were no less reprehensible then hers. He was certain a debt was eventually going to be paid for what he did.

“Try as we may, we can never escape our actions.” Athena said, sounding defeated.

We can get you out of here.” Twi'el whispered quietly enough so wandering ears could not overhear.

“No.” she said looking back up to him. “I've grown tired of running. If this is how I must own my past, than so be it. I've made my peace with it.”

“But-”

“I'll hear no more about this, Twi'el. I've made my decision.” she held her hand out, motioning to see the gauntlet that had taken the place of his hand. He brought it up to show her how he could move the fingers dexterously as if it was his own hand.

“This is quite impressive.” she said, sliding her own fingers across the detailed hieroglyphs carved into the bronze plating. She could feel the power emanating from it. It was feint, but the energy from certain enchanted artifacts could almost pulse through the body if the room was quiet enough. “Twi'el, be very careful around her.” she said, referencing Ma'at. “She will go to any length for power. Do not trust her.”

Twi'el had barely had a chance to process the fact that Ma'at orchestrated Athena's arrest. It felt like a betrayal, but at the same time it was a justified move, all things considered.

She let go of the gauntlet and looked upon him with her typical intensity. “Do not forget our mission. Surtr must be found at any cost.”

“Understood.” Twi'el quickly replied, shifting his focus back to the primordial. He was the only one who personally witnessed the destructive, raw power of Surtr.

He was the only one who understood how dangerous this mission truly was.

Chapter 14 –>

~Prophecies foretold of a powerful warrior, born with the soul of a dragon, who would rise to vanquish the dragon threat from Skyrim in man's darkest hour.

This is not that tale...

This is the tale of Ned:

A broke, alcoholic vagrant with no discernible talents or skills trying to survive a land torn apart by civil war, under siege by dragons, and infested with dangerous foes that he is one hundred percent unequipped to handle.

This is his journal:

<– Previous Entry

~Turdas, 6:30 AM, 21st of Last Seed

I was jarred from my slumber by someone yelling. As I collected my bearings, I realized Azzada Lylvieve was screaming at me to get out of his home. His wife, Michel was sobbing incoherently about their cooking pot.

A guy innocently mixes up a cooking kettle for the bathroom one time, and suddenly he's as evil as a Dark Brotherhood Assassin. The guards arrived soon after, and I was once again asked to leave. They gave me a few moments to collect my things before quietly escorting me out of Dragon Bridge.

Fine. This town was terrible anyway.

~Turdas, 8:30 AM, 21st of Last Seed

The guards stopped their pursuit after I made it into the nearby woods. After a few hours of wandering my hangover off, I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a cozy shack. I was hopeful someone within could provide me with some clothes and food. Upon arrival, I found a dead man and his still living dog. The man appeared to have been dead for mere hours. A journal nearby says the dog's name is Meeko.

Meeko seems like a temperamental companion, and he does not desire to leave my side. Maybe my calling is to care for another life? Maybe this gentle soul can provide me the love I always craved from my father?

I respectfully rummaged through the dead man's belongings to find some clothes. Still exhausted from my abrupt morning, I decided to rest at the cabin for a while. Of course, I gave this poor man a proper Nord burial, prior to my rest, as is the custom in Skyrim.

~Turdas, 6:00 PM, 21st of Last Seed

Slept right through the day. Meeko never once left my side. What a loyal dog...UNLIKE YOU DAD!

We packed some supplies and made our way towards the city of Morthal. It is a small town built around a port. Hopefully no one remembers me from my last visit a few years ago.

~Turdas 8:15 PM, 21st of Last Seed

I was recognized immediately.

Being the master wordsmith that I am, I was easily able to convince the townsfolk that it was another ruggedly handsome warrior who killed all the town's chickens and painted their horses red.

In fact, they were kind enough to let me wash off and use one of their boats to change!

The kindness of strangers will never cease to amaze me.

~Fredas, 1:30 AM, 22nd of Last Seed

After collecting myself, I made my way to the Jarl's quarters where I introduced myself as a warrior.

She was not pleased with the hour at which I approached her. Her exact words were “I will have my guards gut you if you do not leave”.

Sensing her displeasure, I departed the Jarl's residence. Since all my money was left in Dragon Bridge, I was unable to sleep at the inn. Fortunately, there was a nearby abandoned home to take residence in. Even more fortunately, was the several dozen bottles of Skooma I lifted from that dead guys cabin.

The home was not much...in fact, it was missing several walls, a roof, furniture, and smelled of charred flesh, but it suits my needs.

~Fredas, 7:30 PM, 22nd of Last Seed

I WOKE UP TO A FUCKING GHOST CHILD STARING DOWN AT ME!

WHAT IN THE ACTUAL OBLIVION WAS IN THAT SKOOMA!?

*~*Fredas, 8:30 PM, 22nd of Last Seed

After spending some time speaking with the ghost child and most certainly NOT defecating myself in fear, I learned that her name is Helgi. Apparently, she died in this house when it was set on fire.

She wants to play hide and seek, but said to be careful of the “other one”.

Neat. That's not ominous at all.

After chugging three more Skoomas, I made my way up the hill overlooking Morthal to search for Helgi. After easily locating the not at all hidden coffin (this kid sucks at hide and seek), I was ambushed by a vampire lady, but after a brief struggle, I found myself with the edge in combat.

Meeko wound up landing the killing blow by biting her neck so hard she violently bled out in the streets...

I did not see that coming.

Maybe this dog is a little more intense than I thought.

As it turns out, the commotion attracted some townsfolk. The vampire lady was a local they called Laelette. Her husband, Thonnir, was none to pleased to learn his wife was a soul sucking vampire. He said Laelette was supposed to meet with another townee named Alva before mysteriously vanishing a few weeks ago.

Alright, seems suspicious enough. I need to have a chat with this Alva.

*~*Fredas, 10:15 PM, 22nd of Last Seed

So, this Alva lady only comes out at night, made about eight references to the towns people being cattle during our discussion, and apparently was directly connected with a vampire.

After bringing this information to the Jarl, she still demanded I find more proof...

Ok then...sure...I guess probable cause is not a concept Morthal has embraced yet.

*~*Fredas, 11:30 PM, 22nd of Last Seed

Since the guards cannot be bothered to search a home in a murder case, I was tasked with breaking into Alva's home to find proof. The moment I picked the lock and crept in, some guy immediately attacked me.

Uh...Meeko...viciously killed him, and then laid down in a pool of the man's blood.

Something is definitely off about this dog.

After some investigating, I found a journal tying Alva to a local vampire group plotting to take over Morthal. Fantastically convenient of this lady to leave such an incriminating piece of evidence just lying around.

I immediately rushed the evidence back to the Jarl, and rather than sending a large group of paid city guards to deal with the problem, she decided a ragtag group of volunteers from the town led by me was the best approach.

I'm not aiming to question her leadership skills, but I would think some trained soldiers would be more equipped to handle this situation.

Again, I guess it not Ned's place to question the quest.

*~*Fredas, 1:30 AM, 22nd of Last Seed

When we arrived at the vampire cave, half of the volunteers immediately got cold feet, leaving just a handful of us to deal with a lair of murderous vampires, which is probably why trained soldiers would have been better suited for this.

I'd like to say that there was a struggle, and claim credit for clearing out the cave, but the dog...

He just...went rabid and mauled them all to death.

We even had Alva ready to surrender...

Meeko just mauled her while she pleaded for her life. I begged him to stop, but he just kept going...and going...and going.

I'm not sure I'll ever forget Alva's screams.

I uh...walked back to Morthal slowly to clear my head.

I reported the “success” to the Jarl. I'm not feeling so good after a long night. I think I need to spend some of the reward at the inn and blow off some steam.

~Ned

Next Entry –>