Camp NaNo excerpt

This is a chapter I just wrote before class this morning 😀 Obviously since this is nano it’s raw and uneditted. I hope you enjoy it regardless!

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ZATO

The damp cave walls echoed the distant sound of dripping. It’s always done wonders to sooth me. Occasionally I’d just wither away the hours deep in one of the tunnels, sipping at a cup of hot tea, waiting for my servants to return with news of the day’s reapings. On other days I’d sit and watch Nex’s pools, in a peaceful state of meditation, knowing that every splash was a demon findings its mark, and an angel seizing the moment. It always amused me how frequently the pools splashed, and indeed as I approached them now, the ripples were wild as ever. Droplets danced out of the center every few seconds like the final, exhausted breath of the poor souls that caused them, and as they dropped back down, they sang a choir to rival an angel’s voice.

Maybe I have a problem. But then again, in my line of work, one mustn’t worry oneself over the strifes of mortals. Hell, we’re all mortals anyway, but what most of them don’t realize is that any moment could be their last. These droplets are a heavenly reminder to relax and enjoy myself.

But the pools were queer this day. I sat and watched them and the in-between shakes of the pool were more than a slight disturbance. The waters were to be calm between splashes, the boundaries undisturbed, and yet I gazed on a miniature ocean between deaths.

“Lazarus,” I boomed down the hall. In a few moments he walked calmly into the pool chamber, his face deadpan as always. He fidgeted one of his wings.

“What is it, m’lord. Need your horns polished again?”

I matched his expression in blankness. “I’m afraid not. It’s the pools.”

“M’lord, I’ve warned you before, you’ll go mad before the damned thing.” Lazarus rolled his eyes, his pale irises shining for a moment from the light of his halo. “You wouldn’t want to end up like the man before you, now.”

“I’m well aware, Lazarus,” I said. “You needn’t worry. But see for yourself.”

He walked over and looked into the pool. “It’s Aqua, m’lord.”

It was my turn to roll my eyes. “Do you not know these ripples, Lazarus? Or does Ael forbid her people from sight?”

“M’lord, what do you expect? The Psyans are no doubt up to their business again. With some angels or lesser Runans no doubt.”

“But what should we do about it? I’ve had this post a short ten years and the ripples have never been this bad. Surely it must have happened with your last master.”

Lazarus turned and started walking away, saying “Perhaps you could talk some sense into them. Scare them with the black robe getup, if you wish.”

The last bit was a jest, but maybe he had half a good idea to begin with. I pulled an obsidian orb out of my pocket and began to open it, the dark vortex showing the twisting machinations of Shadow. I probed for a moment until I found my mark. I saw Lazarus turn back, and start to say something along the lines of “I was joking.”

But I was already gone.

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I stepped out of darkness on the edge of a plains and walked into it. It amused me to no end how tame and harmless this place was, for to a lesser mind the Psyans bent illusions of death and decay in an imaginary swamp at these borders. They liked very little to be disturbed. But they’d already sent ripples into my life, and I’d much wanted to return the favor.

As I walked into their village I mused that it must be my lucky day, for I saw several of the unconscious bodies huddled around a small child, goldening him. I couldn’t help but take a moment to stare, as the little boy seemed peculiar in his manners at the moment. He looked up at me with a gaze of fascination and fear. I suppose in these robes I look rather intimidating to child, especially one who’s not seen a Koran with horns as tall as mine. But that was not entirely it. The boy bore a sense of trepidation under his confusion. The Psyans were probably initiating him as their new keeper. I wonder what had happened to the old one, though old may be a relative term; as I recall he lost his head to madness before he hit the better half of his twenties.

I figured I’d break my staring contest with the child before I gave him a headstart to insanity; for the boy looked almost ready to soil himself. I headed over and slipped into one of the Psyan’s huts.

And just as I figured, I’d interrupted a binding in progress. Some poor fellow, Agran, from the desert, was hung upside-down on a board. By the looks of his garb he had been quite the important man, perhaps the chief of a lesser Paadahuo tribe, covered in bonetooth necklaces and decorative furs. All of which were now soiled of course, as the blood spilling from his throat covered it all in crimson. One of the Psyans had gathered the blood into a golden bowl, and it looked like the angel standing before me had just finished an incantation, her halo bright almost to blinding.

I cleared my throat. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything, Nerla.”

The angel looked back at me, her halo fading back down to normal. “Ah, Zato,” she said with a grin. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it; how are you?”

“I’m fine. Just a tad disturbed at… this whole business.” I gestured to the Agran’s lifeless body and the Psyan holding his blood in warm gold. “I’ve not come to exchange pleasantries, however. I’ve come to speak with them,” I said as I looked to the Psyan, who was a female no more than five feet tall, face completely covered in golden strands. But her features mattered not; none of the Psyan’s minds were their own, except perhaps the boy I saw outside.

The body spoke, in a voice rasp from non-use. “Of what do you ask us, reaper?”

“First, that you refrain from calling me reaper. I seldom perform the tasks myself, though maybe I should do so more closely, seeing as this affront is still going on. The Psyans haven’t yet learned their lesson about playing with souls, it would seem.”

“Come now, Zato,” Nerla said. “Don’t trifle over little details. Nex’s servants were all detached, I thought. I must have been mistaken.”

“And Ael’s servants preserved the sanctity of the body, last I checked.” I crossed my arms. “There’s at least one person present committing heresy, and I assure you it is not I.” I turned to the Psyan. “I think mortals and divines alike would appreciate the ceasing of this hubris.” I narrowed my gaze. “As soon as it’s convenient for you, of course.”

The body laughed. “Surely, reaper, you must be willing to devote yourself to living among us, that you may interrupt such ceremonies whenever it fancies you. Otherwise, we see no method of Death’s ability to stop our forward progress.”

“Forward progress into Hell, you mean. For I assure you the gatekeeper let alone the Five would not approve of these… corruptions.”

“Hell?” Nerla interrupted. “You honestly believe in it, Zato? Don’t be foolish. An old demon’s tale, that is.”

“Believe it or not, I shan’t care. It’s your soul, at the end of the day, Nerla.”

The Psyan turned to me and pulled her hair from her face and opened her eyes, wide, bright orbs of violet that stared into my own red eyes for a moment before I found sense to shut them. I was not sure if I could withstand Psyan infiltration under direct eye contact, it was hard enough to resist it without.

“What was your plan,” I asked, eyes closed. “To kill Death? And usher in an era of wandering souls to doom the Earth to turmoil? Surely the Psyans are wiser than that.”

“It was a message, reaper.” She closed her eyes and let her hair back down. “For I think you have quite forgotten you hold no power over us. We will not cease; you will not put an end to our goals, and you are a fool to try. Now if you would be so kind, your presence is quite distracting to our angel friend here, I am sure. Perhaps you should interrupt the others now; In our conversation you’ve missed catching seventeen other souls. You must have a guilty conscience by now.”

I glared down at her, then to Nerla, who wore a satisfied smile. They were right, though. There was scarcely anything I could do myself. I stormed out and opened another sphere, retreating back to my cave. I hope I was right about the Gods’ judgment.

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About eaode

Armando is a college student at RIT, an aspiring author, chronic singer, and a raging feminist. His hobbies include writing, gaming, and spending way too much time on tumblr for anyone's good.
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