Chapters

The Lord of Lightning

III. FATE

(pages 20-25. )

When the Overseer – whom the people thought to be the Lord of Lightning - left his tower behind his people followed, packing their measly belongings they walked across the plains with him. Their king halted in a valley, there in an instant sprung up a castle made of white limestone that radiated with a faint glow. They carried their burdens around it and with great effort they filled the place with life, building towers and houses and inns and colleges and nurseries in the matter of days. They heard the news of the maddened Guardian’s massacre and tried to ask the Lord’s help. When they approached the massive gates of the castle they were greeted only by behemoth wardens. Wide shouldered, thick armed, stone like creatures.

Their helmets lacked any openings and they refused to answer any question, they emitted no sound aside from the creaking of their joints as they shooed the visitors away. They were machines, robotic slaves, naught but a cadre of dying flames compared to the raging inferno of the Guardian. Every few days the Lord of Lightning sent a few of these white giants to patrol the streets near the castle. These pale enforcers were frightening enough to keep any trouble makers away. In case of aggressive behaviour they struck down any scoundrels brave enough to instigate a fight. Their thoughts however concentrated on very narrow threads, not in the slightest ever straying from their orders. They stomped and creaked and crackled and left a trail of dust behind as they marched. The people saw them as a necessary obstacles in life, nothing more then simple beasts of burden.

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Before the founding of the city people lived in small hamlets and villages, for some it was hard to adjust to a life so large. Others blossomed in the cradle of a greater community. Markets opened, stages and arenas formed for arts and theatre, whole rows of pubs littered blocks of tenement buildings. The unnamed city burst and throbbed with life, her inhabitants walked with purpose and went on their way like busy worker ants. At night concerts reigned and joyful boasts were sung. One morning stone tablets shroud in white light flew to each building. They were declarations and policies, demanding to stop the nightly exploits and festivities that often turned rowdy binge drinking.

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The people took these new laws to heart, only the smallest of things had their Lord restricted and life was better with clear rules. The Lord of Lightning knew everything better, he did give them the safety and community of the city in the first place. The streets were now flooded nightly with hundreds of hulking mute guards. They roamed the quiet desolate streets in groups of six. Children cried in the night, scared from the stomping thuds of their oversized legs which also disturbed the dreams of many adults. But no one said a word, none complained. More and more declarations and rules came. Every other day new tablets dropped from the sky. Boots were forbidden, no pork could be prepared or eaten on Saturdays and all income was taxed by ten percent, the proceedings to be used for monthly sewage cleaning and peacekeeping efforts. The people didn’t even notice they had sewers until then. Walls and white sided towers, small and grim fortifications crept all over the city during the nights. Streets with cobblestones snaked between houses and new fences cut trough spaces previously free to walk on. Sparkling fountains grew across the skin of the metropolis, popping up like cancerous growths on the squares. On them were plaques with a name:

Pale City

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New, more agile and smaller servants walked out from the castle to fill out the ranks of the behemoth guardians. They collected taxes and gave orders, gravely voices boomed from behind their reflective masks, they said they spoke the word of the Lightning Lord. Every citizen had to work, leaders of tenements were elected into council, production and housing taxes were determined, subcommittees formed for income calculation and to oversee the founding of new coin mints. Wearing white clothes was mandatory, no man could sport a beard and women could not cut their hair short. The people still stayed, in fact more and more came every day to live behind the zigzagging walls and guard towers. The Pale City grew three size larger since the day of it’s inception. Bureaucracy and ceaseless supervision was a net that laid beneath it’s misleading surface. And behind all the meddling in life’s tiniest details, behind shadowy doors of power stood the Lord of Lightning’s once removed shard: The Overseer.

Silence reigned over the Pale City. No birds flew between it’s walls and no fishes swam in it’s rivers. People walking around the market stalls spoke with hushed voices. Nobody ran, everybody walked with steady but reserved pace. On the corners giant guards stood unmoving, without eyes and ears they stood watch, any transgression was met with their immediate retaliation. Only three levels of punishment existed: warning, exile and death. There were no children walking on the streets, all of them spent their days locked in square built, windowless institutes labeled as schools. Their parents toiled away in occupations that often made no sense and gave scarce rewards. Their allocated salaries were mostly spent on taxes, but they were well fed, they slept in comfortable beds and woke every day to the same order. They knew for a fact that the restless attention of their Lord protected their lives and their city. At first they paid no attention to the winds that blew unnaturally low. Invading gusts blew skirts high and sent pants into ripple. Suddenly black clouds blanketed the sky above the whole town swirling like a thousand eels drowning in a shallow pool. Occasionally azure strokes of lightning licked the earth under the edge of the clouds, leaving behind small fires and the smell of ozone. Trouble was afoot.
  The streets emptied, the market stalls closed, doors and windows slammed shut. Rain began to fall and the water of the fountains overflowed. Sounds of thunder shattered glass and a violent flash rendered two towers asunder. The oversized guards watched impotently, falling rain drummed on their armored skin with ominous beats. A ship descended down from the black whirlpool above. From it’s deck a blinking whip swept down on one of the Pale City’s squares. Every sluggish warden there got burnt to a crisp. The ship landed near the castle’s gates, it’s mast folded and a plank released from it’s side. From it a figure with hair fluttering in the wind walked down.

Every step of the Storm King was met with thunderous roars from the heavens. Every stomp of his foot was paired by a knock of a lightning banging the castle gates. The fancy doors began to smoke and then they fell from their hinges. A dozen pearly white guardians armed with giant axes and swords attacked the intruder. Rolling wind toppled them over and they flailed about trying to get up like bugs tipped over. A blinding, brilliant thread of light ran trough their ranks. By the time the shimmering sword’s flame burned out in the Storm King’s hand all the guards had exploded in a flash fire.

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A shaking mass of storm came down from the sky and swallowed the city whole, it laid over the cobblestones like a thick black eiderdown. The storm’s master entered the castle. In the main hall the guards already retreated to the walls and granted him free access. Steep and wide stairs led up to the throne. From the chair of authority a cloaked figure stood up, he looked down on his guest from an elevated position. When the Storm King approached him it was clear that the Overseer was shorter then his soul brother. They stood in front of each other, one filled with zealous rationality and the other tortured by subversive emotions. First the Storm King spoke:

   – It seems no lightning grows on your tree any more, no whispering winds trail from your sleeves. They call you my name in vain, no more are you but a bureaucrat, an overbearing busybody living on borrowed time sourcing delegated power! I saw what you made with your hollow egg like head, what perverse choking of freedom you’ve created. The blindness of our father’s hubris gave you birth, you calculating troglodyte, you usurper stuck between rules and numbers. From my little finger’s nail I can release a greater discharge than your whole self. Bend the knee, give me the throne before my winds sweeps you off like a flea.

The Overseer did not quiver, he raised his hand and pointed his finger at the Storm King without fear! He spoke with an angry voice:

  – If there ever was a word in ancient dictionaries kept on tattered pig hides that defines our father it would be this: Hubris! Lord of Lightning, this name can only be a curse or a joke, it could not describe what he was. He wasn’t even master of his self or his own emotions and neither are you. Call yourself what you wish you are still his heir and mirror image. Neither one of you could you lord over these lands and people. Did our creator care about the luckless paupers around us? Did he wipe clean the monsters emerging from the fog on their behalf? Did he chop his soul apart to make me and the you for them? Did he chip off a piece of his greatness and shove it in a women’s vessel for the people? No! He only thought of himself and so do you. You inherited his endless selfishness and store it in dark clouds that trail you as hounds of war.
  I am the only side of his wretched, worthlessly egotistical, demented being that ever cared for anyone else. I made everything here for the people, for the countless men, children and women who he only used as nameless bystanders in his maniacal fable about self discovery. And you, you’re only a walking god complex incapable of self reflection, wallowing of youth encased in a black armor of self loathing! Leave us be and go back whence you came! Run back behind the fog. Whatever you found behind it’s veil will be a hundred times more welcoming than me and my people, I am sure of it! If you disgrace the throne with your senseless desires then only catastrophe and devastation shall be your prize. How many days will pass until you get bored of the people? How long will it be until you storm and fulminate and try to split yourself up like our dear Lord had done? You have enough power as it is, go on and get yourself off in the fog, leave us be in peace.

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The Storm King staggered. His anger faded and his eyes opened wide. The Overseer’s words slapped him awake. With a smile he said:

  – You are right Overseer. All of your words ring with truth. You know what I found on the other side of the mist? A heap of minds circling in liquid trance. A thousand lost souls lured into it’s waters forming a black ocean. An immortal, isolated and self indulging hive mind, a sea of essential liquid arrogance. I cannot be like that, I need to run on the ground with the people around. I cannot create love for myself, nor fragmented puppets to control from afar. I’ll be alone with myself. Don’t need no throne, no kingdom, no subjects to protect. I shall take my leave for good.

The Storm King turned his back on the other shard and started walking away. The Overseer watched with tension as the bottom of his soul brother’s spear kept rhythmically hitting the steps as he walked down. The figure clad in black armor turned back one more time:

  – I almost forgot one thing, you have to come with me as well.

The Overseer recoiled, at the bottom of the steps his roundish servants began running upwards. Sizzling snake like whips of lightning crawled out of the Storm King’s eye, his hair whirled and the surface of his armor got wet from the vapour of heat around him. The blackness that had settled onto the streets of the Pale City suddenly erupted, in the sky it circled into a seething storm’s eye. A multitude of white bolts fell down from it, their thunderous discharges wrought tremendous noise and finally the eye erupted. A wide and fat column of lightning rained down onto the castle. The roof immediately exploded, yet the strike lost none of it’s force. And eye-watering wave of bright light burned the ground to ash and gluttonously swallowed walls whole. With a whimper the castle’s finely crafted body fell down. As a final step a tornado danced wildly over the corpse of the Overseer's palace. After the systematic destruction was complete a hurricane flew up and stormed off with crackling thunder-strikes. Slowly falling spray of ash rained on hushed houses. In place of the once magnificent palace fires were burning while the sky appeared as a colorless wound. Finally the patchy blanket of clouds healed itself and began to cry. Rain smothered the fires and the people again dared to walk the streets. The Pale City was on her own.

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The first few days were spent in grief and panic. People stood puzzled next to the bodies of the motionless guards whom immediately fell all throughout the city after their master disappeared. There was no king, no lord to protect them or to enforce the myriad of rules they were now accustomed to. The ladder got yanked from below their feet, they couldn’t continue following someone blindly any more. The ruins of the castle were cleared with hard work and sweat and the people also towed the guard's shells away. Old men and women came forward and gave orders which the young ones welcomed like soft caresses. Councils and work brigades formed. Life went on a bit different, changing day to day and with a bit more freedom. The castle was rebuilt but only men lived in it, the age of heroes had came to an end. The Pale City kept it’s traditions and rules for a long time, after a while even the oldest citizens couldn’t remember how the regulations came to be.
  The Lord of Lightning’s name remained, many of his fountains still stood although laying sad and dried out. Children knew the legends and myths told of him. They said he still lived somewhere far, covering mountaintops in endless storms and drying up whole seas. The fog evaporated, beasts crawled out of it’s shadows no more. Caravans of explorers raided the land once lost behind the veil. They found nothing over there besides a desert and a giant ocean floor now only flowing with sand.

The King of Storms truly went away. He rode his ship on wings of winds. Anonymous he walked lands far away, bringing with him light showers of rain and distant thunder wherever he travelled. Perhaps he lived among the people there, perhaps he even had children and a wife. One thing is certain though. On a distant plateau in damp blades of grass near a flickering fire sits an old man. A spear rests on his shoulder pointed towards the sky. When the old man – who hadn’t spoken for hundred’s of years – looks up at the clouds, his eyes glow with the bright cyanide hue of lightning.

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FIN