The Revenge of GilgameshThe revenge of GilgameshThe Revenge of Gilgamesh by dongzhongshu
The gods were so sure that they had won. Gilgamesh, great king of Uruk, had tried to defy them, and he had been crushed. His lover was dead and remained so, and he himself had trudged back to his capital in weary defeat, frustrated at every turn in his search for the secret of immortality. Sooner or later, probably more sooner than later, the mighty king of Uruk would be dust. The gods had made their point. Immortality was theirs, and theirs alone.
A few weeks after the great king returned to his capital, he went forth alone, in the very early morning, to the east gate of the city. He carried with him only a small cloth bag with something heavy inside. His step was light again; the guards wondered if he were starting out on another journey. In a manner of speaking, he told them, smiling. They did not dare ask him any other questions, which saddened Gilgamesh for a moment. He had so much to say now.
The king went only a few hundred meters from t
he cried because no one cried for himI found Death crying in the alleyway underneath my apartment window. He crouched, shaking and whimpering out his little mouse of a cry that was muffled by the rumbling cacophony of city night life. He didn't make himself seen and, like the child he was, huddled down and hid his face with his mitten-covered hands.he cried because no one cried for him by CelestialMemories
Death made eye contact with me as I watched him from the fire escape. He stared with bright blue eyes perfectly framed with long eye lashes. The chill bit and reddened his nose and cheeks, and his tears left frozen paths of black ice against his face. I didn't mean to, it was an accident, he pleaded with me.
I watched him as he shamefully picked up his victim, a tiny little kitten that was half frozen and curled tightly into itself. He tried to stroke it back to life, begging and pressing the small animal into his plush winter coat.
I'm sorry, he lisped, wiping snot onto his sleeve as he cradled the corpse like a beloved baby doll. My eyes followed his tiny
Slipping softly out of the bed to avoid waking Borrig – one of them had to be coherent during the day, and it clearly wasn’t going to be her – Prisa dressed hastily and hurried outside. At the first touch of the March wind, she realized that she had no idea where she was going, and halted for a moment. She looked around. All was dark and silent in the grounds of the abbey, all seemed as it should be, but her uneasiness persisted. Something had changed. She just couldn’t put her finger on what, not yet.
She began to walk down the slope and around, toward the door of the catacombs. Perhaps, before the image of the Lady in their private shrine, she would be able to think more clearly.
Reaching the ancient wooden doors, she opened them, and once inside, turned to pull them heavily shut behind her, and only then realized she was not alone. The torches and lanterns had all been lit; the staircase led down not into darkness but into light. And there was a low noise, continual and misery-laden, the noise, she realized, of some creature sobbing its heart out from grief.
Down the stairs she dashed, stumbling, taking them three at a time, nearly breaking her neck more than once, in spite of how brief the journey was. Her last stumble was the worst; she barely escaped falling full-length onto the pavement, and it took her a moment to scramble to her feet again, readying a spell for self-defense. Another glance, and she lowered her hands. No spell was necessary, at least not for her own safety.
There were two figures by a low table on the left-hand side, near the small shrine to Molag Bal. One was a girl in her late teens, wrapped in her favorite dark green cloak: her eldest daughter, Rielle, Prisa knew at once. The other was a massive figure, dark-skinned and dark-clothed, some creature of Oblivion, a Xivilai, Prisa realized after a moment of shocked contemplation. It was seated at the table, bowed over, its head in its hands, crying bitterly; inconsolable, though Rielle stood close by, patting it on the shoulder and saying something gently, trying to ease its pain.
The first emotion Prisa felt was pride. She had trained Rielle well, she thought, that she would reach out even to a denizen of Oblivion sunk in the depths of misery. Then she saw a curl of smoke drifting from the altar to Molag Bal, and pride yielded to alarm. What was going on?
Rielle looked at her mother and beckoned her closer. Then she bent over the sobbing Xivilai again and whispered to it.
Instead of going directly to her daughter’s side, Prisa walked first to Molag Bal’s altar. She saw at once that the image of the Prince was no longer there. It had melted, setting fire to the cloth that had covered it and pooling in a shining brazen dribble that had leaked off the front of the altar and splashed onto the floor before solidifying. The damage was very recent; the cloth was still smoldering and the spilled metal was bright in the lamplight, as yet unsullied by contact with the air.
Prisa stood before the altar for a long moment before the scene fully registered, it was so far beyond anything in her experience. The image of Molag Bal had been presented by the Prince of Cruelty himself and was imbued with his power. That it could be so completely destroyed was impossible, and yet it had happened. Something had been able to reach out and eradicate a sacred symbol of one of the most powerful Daedric Princes as if it were a snowman caught by the summer sun. Why? And what?
“Lord Molag Bal will be furious…” Prisa began, facing the altar still, talking to herself, trying to capture the event in a net of words and tame it, make it comprehensible.
“No, he won’t. That’s the problem.”
She recognized the voice at once, a voice she hadn’t heard for years. Her Coldharbor colleague, the Xivilai necromancer Manke Dagon. The Queen of Dusk and Dawn had called him the most capable worker with souls in all of Oblivion. What was he doing here, head down and crying, with a destroyed image of his liege lord the Prince of Domination a few feet in front of him?
Prisa turned to face the despondent Xivilai, who had finally mastered his emotions enough to sit up and talk to her. She shook her head violently, trying to dismiss a reality she couldn’t yet handle.
“What do you mean, he won’t? Has he been discorporated? That’s happened before, and the world didn’t end. A Prince of Oblivion doesn’t spend long in the Void before he’s back. Do you mean he died? He can’t die any more than you can. It’s just impossible.”
“No, he didn’t die,” Manke Dagon confirmed, and sniffled. “He just isn’t there anymore. He disappeared and no one knows where he went. No one can find him, no one can sense him anywhere, no one can get a message to him. He’s gone. The place is running wild, smashing itself up. My workshop was torched by a horde of pissed off vampires. I got a few of them, but there were just too many. I had to run. Coldharbor is burning, collapsing, under attack, under siege… and no one knows what or why. It’s just chaos down there now. Not even any rebel leaders, just mobs. They trash everything and don’t know why. You thought it looked bad before, you should see it now. Place looks as if it’d been redecorated by Vaermina on one of her bad days.”
Despite her growing anxiety, Prisa had to smile at the last analogy. That was more like the Manke Dagon she remembered. She looked at Rielle. “How did all this happen? Did you see anything?”
Rielle answered in a precise, quiet voice. Prisa momentarily wondered if she’d ever see her daughter flustered. The world turned upside down, and it hadn’t made a dent in her cool efficiency.
“It was my turn to take watch duty in the chapel, as you know. About two hours before midnight, something happened – like an earth tremor – but you felt it, you know, inside, not with your body. The image of our Lady in the chapel didn’t seem the same afterward… the Dreamshard stopped glowing and there was an… empty feeling. That’s the best way I can put it….”
“She got it in the neck too. Bet you anything,” Manke Dagon broke in. “Everything’s ending. We’ve been abandoned.” He began to sob again.
Rielle gave Manke Dagon a reassuring pat on the back, and continued.
“I decided to take a look down below. I’ve always felt closer to the Lady in front of her image here, anyway. It’s tougher than the one in the chapel. More of a spine to it. So I woke Hernanual to take my place on watch, and started down. And on the way here, I ran into Manke Dagon. He was stumbling around confused. I suppose he’d opened a portal to come here, but he says he doesn’t remember.”
“Kept a few of the old portals dormant,” Manke Dagon muttered, sniffling. “Just in case. Secret. Wasn’t supposed to tell you. Guess it doesn’t matter now.”
Prisa looked at her daughter. “Did either you or your brother ever consider waking me or your father? You’re supposed to sound the alarm if anything happens. And something seems very much to have happened.”
Rielle shook her head. “No fire, no obvious danger, everything was quiet. We decided we could handle it ourselves, for the time being.” Prisa sighed, but said nothing. After a brief pause, Rielle continued her account.
“Well, we came down here, and as soon as we arrived the damage to Molag Bal’s altar was obvious. I’d guess it happened an hour or two before I arrived. That’s about the time that Manke Dagon says that everything turned upside down in Coldharbor. So, I’d guess that something big happened in Oblivion about that time. Something that’s severely affected Molag Bal….”
She paused for a moment, and continued in a softer voice, showing her worry at last, “And it’s not been good for our Lady, either. It seems strange for a mortal to say this but… I pray she is safe.”
Prisa turned back to Manke Dagon. “I don’t suppose you know if anything’s happened to any of the other Princes?” she asked. “I can’t think of any reason to attack just Molag Bal and our Lady. We’ve got to find out more before we can do anything.”
Manke Dagon thought for a moment.
“There’s another old portal near here,” he finally said. “Up in that cave. One to Vaermina’s realm. That’s the only place to look around here, if you want to check on anyone else. But what do we get out of it? Supposing Vaermina’s been hit, too. What good does knowing that do us?”
“We don’t know,” Rielle replied. “We don’t have any idea what’s going on yet. We’ll just have to search for clues where we can, and hope. Now let’s get going.”
Half an hour later, the three returned to the entrance of the catacombs. The sky had clouded over, and the path was pitch dark. Their heads were down, and they did not speak. The expedition had been a failure. Nothing remained of the portal to Vaermina’s realm; all attempts to make contact had been futile.
As they reached the old wooden door of the catacombs, Manke Dagon shook his head.
“Her whole realm might be gone. Not a trace of the portal. Usually something remains, even if it’s too weak to use. But nothing. It’s all gone.” He looked behind himself, out over the old goblin camp, into the east. “Maybe we’re all that remains of any of it. All of Oblivion nothing more than a memory for two priests, their daughter, and a leftover Kyn from a destroyed court. Who would have dreamed….”
Prisa, who had been examining the lock, turned and cut him off with an impatient gesture.
“Someone’s been here. The door is unlocked. I locked up when we left, I remember clearly.”
She thought for a moment and then turned to Rielle.
“Get your brother and the others, and take them away from here. Down to the guesthouse at first. What did all this might be waiting for us down there. If you hear or see anything, don’t hesitate, get away, as fast as you can. Stay off the roads. Don’t come back for us. We’ll find you after it’s all over.”
Rielle nodded. She quickly embraced her mother, and then her father, and then she was gone, leaving her parents and Manke Dagon still standing in front of the catacombs door.
“Good girl,” Manke Dagon said, slowly. “She has honor. A credit to you and your husband, Prisa.”
“Far too willful,” Prisa replied, a bit sharply. “Ten to one she comes back to 'rescue' us. She thinks she’s invincible.”
Borrig laughed softly.
“Another way to say willful is ‘resolute.’ She has a lot of fight in her. Like her mother. She’d kill to protect her kin. It runs in the family, I think.”
Prisa grimaced. Then she turned back to the door and examined it more closely.
“Whoever did this had a very fine touch. It’s not forced. It’s been picked, and picked expertly. I wonder what that means?”“Not one of our guys,” muttered Manke Dagon. “They’d be more likely to take the entire door off its hinges. Maybe the one responsible for all this, come after us now. Go in at the ready.” He flexed his huge fingers and smiled grimly. “Was first in my class in Destruction magic back in the day,” he continued. “Let’s see how much of it I can remember an eon or two later.”
Early March, and the east wind has a cutting edge to it like the gleaming steel of a razor. It is day-into-evening time, Azura’s hour, when the faithful gather to meditate on the events of the day and give thanks to the Queen of Dusk and Dawn for her blessings. A communion time, day is done and all is well, the flock all together, home and safe, no wandering sheep left to the slender mercy of solitude and night.
The road to Wayrest is almost deserted, the walls of the city still too distant for patrols to venture this far, not that their presence is much needed in these days of peace. The only person to be seen is a single slender figure dressed and hooded in white, a very small baby in her arms, with a rough gray horse blanket over her shoulders as protection from the wind. She walks along the side of the road with small, precise steps. The baby is asleep. The woman is tired; she stumbles occasionally, stops to adjust the blanket over her shoulders, and then moves on again. The blanket comes from a farmer’s wife whose house they passed hours before. She would have given it to them, but the woman in white had shaken her head and instead exchanged it for a fine gold chain worth easily twenty blankets. The farm-wife had protested, but the woman in white had simply smiled, shaken her head again, and walked on down the road.
Green eyes glow out of the darkness, and a pair of wolves trot onto the road, less than twenty paces away, to the left. The woman stops and looks into the eyes, a level stare, emotionless. One wolf begins to growl softly, but the sound lasts only an instant. Then both begin to whimper and retreat, unsteady footsteps, fear on them like a dark cloud, until first one and then the other breaks into a run, crossing the road to vanish into the bush. The woman begins to walk forward again. There is a soft wailing from the hills to her right, out of the darkness. It sounds almost apologetic. The woman walks on.
The sound of a cart approaching. Slow and steady, heard long before seen. The driver brings the horse to a halt as he passes, and asks the lone woman if she would like a lift. She nods and asks in turn where he is bound. Pariah Abbey is the reply. Climbing on board, she settles herself into the bed of the wagon with the friendly scent of apples and pears around her, and only then inquires what business takes him to that place in particular. Gratitude, he replies. His young daughter has been very ill. The healers had given up hope, but he and his wife had prayed to Azura, Lady of Roses, and his daughter has slowly recovered her health. She is well again, and he is bound to the Abbey to give thanks with an offering to Azura and her servants.
You have done that already, she says, softly.
He looks at her for a long moment, but says nothing. Then he turns his attention back to the road. The cart begins to move again, and the woman and child both seem to fall into a light sleep.
This became rather overgrown, so I have pruned it. I don't have the heart to remove the two poems at the end, though.
DA is primarily a site for visual artists, and so I don't spend much time here any more. I can't draw worth a damn. Most of my new stuff now appears first on my fanfiction.net site, which is linked below. If and when I get a sufficient number of illustrations done, I'll set the whole thing up into Skyrim-style type and post it here again as an Acrobat file.
However, DA does retain one advantage in that it will accept (albeit reluctantly) .pdf files. This means that I will still be posting finished works here, if they contain graphics or unusual typography.
Over the local stations, one by one,
Announcers list disasters like dark poems
That always happen in the skull of winter.
But once again the storm has passed us by:
Lovely and moderate, the snow lies down
While shouting children hurry back to play,
And scarved and smiling citizens once more
Sweep down their easy paths of pride and welcome.
And what else might we do? Let us be truthful.
Two counties north the storm has taken lives.
Two counties north, to us, is far away, -
A land of trees, a wing upon a map,
A wild place never visited, - so we
Forget with ease each far mortality.
Peacefully from our frozen yards we watch
Our children running on the mild white hills.
This is the landscape that we understand, -
And till the principle of things takes root,
How shall examples move us from our calm?
I do not say that it is not a fault.
I only say, except as we have loved,
All news arrives as from a distant land.
Mary Oliver, "Beyond the Snow Belt."
This land like a mirror turns you inward
And you become a forest in a furtive lake;
The dark pines of your mind reach downward,
You dream in the green of your time,
Your memory is a row of sinking pines.
Explorer, you tell yourself this is not what you came for
Although it is good here, and green;
You had meant to move with a kind of largeness,
You had planned a heavy grace, an anguished dream.
But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world;
There is something down there and you want it told.
Gwendolyn MacEwen, "Dark Pines Under Water," The Shadow Maker (1972)
Current Residence: South Vancouver
Favourite genre of music: None. My playlists would drive an analyst insane. They go all the way from Tanya Tucker singing "Delta Dawn" to the Scary Bitches with "Piss on your grave," to "Blackheart" and "For the Win" by 2 Steps from Hell, to "Sleep while I drive" and "I take you with me" by Melissa Etheridge, to.... well, ask me tomorrow.
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