Friday, 2 January 2015

December Pictonaut: Ascension

It's been a while since I managed a Pictonaut, and while technically I'm two days late for the December one I really don't care. I managed to do a writing, which feels good in the midst of my dreaded thesis. You know the drill; every month Glempy gives us a pictures to write a thousand-ish words about. I have called this months' effort Ascension because fuck the rules.

Ascension




The desert was cold at night, but it made a pleasant change from the oppressive heat during the day. It was also quiet, and the skies were usually clear. Tonight was no different. The stars were winking in the inky blackness and a cool breeze was helping to dissipate the residual heat from the sun. It was the perfect night for what was to come. The board had been set eons ago, and now it was finally time for the pieces to begin moving.

As the moon had risen steadily in the sky so too the chill had crept up. Zan had been forced to carefully and painstakingly build themself a fire, which took the bite out of the air somewhat. They only shivered a little as they patiently waited for the appointed hour to arrive.

The duty of waiting and watching for this day, this night, had been passed down from ancient times. All of Zan's ancestors had taken their turn at the watch, and Zan was honoured to be the one who would fulfil the oath that had been transacted so long ago. The night lengthened and Zan gathered the materials they would need for the ritual to come.

There was the robe that they had created for themself as a mere child. Their forebears had all made their own robes too; it was the first task undertaken to prepare for initiation. The headdress however had been crafted long ago, passed down for generations. So too the ceremonial dagger, the athame, with its beautiful jewelled hilt. The goblet, on the other hand, had been crafted in the last few centuries, the original having been lost when the temple was purged.

They took a sharp stick and used it to draw a circle in the dirt, such that it completely surrounded the fire they had built. Around the inside circumference of the circle Zan drew the signs and sigils they had known since childhood. When this was done they took a pot of salt and scattered it liberally about the circle.

As the moon reached its zenith Zan at last donned the robes and the headdress. The ritual could now begin. They stepped into the circle they had drawn earlier and took a deep, preparatory breath.

It began with chanting.

First came the salutation to the Master, chanting all of their names and accolades and achievements. Then Zan recited the oath, rededicating themself to the Master's cause and renewing the promise that would be fulfilled that night. After that came all the names of their ancestors from that first servant who had transacted the oath with the Master right up to the one who had given Zan life. As the moon began its descent down the sky Zan began the ritual that would set the Master free and allow them to return to the world.

The ritual was long and took most of the night. The moon was well and truly setting by the time Zan reached its feverish climax. Their hair was tousled and their headdress askew as they lifted their arms aloft for the final part. They took the athame they had laid out earlier and carefully drew it across their palm. Blood flowed from Zan into the ceremonial goblet as they shouted the Master's name three times into the night and the ritual was done.

Everything stood still for a moment, and the first sliver of doubt crept into Zan's mind. What if the ritual hadn't worked? What if Zan had been shown to be unworthy? But then a loud rumbling noise filled the air and the sky seemed to crack open. A jagged rift cut across the stars and opened, wider and wider as the dreadful rumbling got louder and louder. Zan gave a whoop of victory; they had done it! The Master would return.

The rift in the sky glowed red, and from its depths came unearthly noises. A fell wind rushed from it and Zan caught the scent of ozone and rotting bodies. It was glorious! From the rift came the Master themself, clawing their way back into the world from the oblivion in which they had been imprisoned. All their life Zan had been trained for this moment, yet they were not prepared for moment they finally beheld the Master.

Zan almost didn't have the words to describe the mater they had served their entire life. Out of the rift came a void, out of which protruded a writhing mass of tentacles. There was a body, somewhere, but it looked like nothing Zan had ever seen before. There were multiple limbs and wings and so, so many tentacles. And then the eyes; red and glowing and far too numerous, that could see straight through to Zan's very soul.

A great and terrible voice seemed to sound inside Zan's head. You have done well my servant, it said. You, and all your kin shall be rewarded for your service. Then the terrible voice was gone, and the Master, now wholly freed from their otherworldly prison, set off to begin devouring the souls of the unworthy.

The mighty rumbling sound eased and Zan sank to their knees, exhausted. It was done. They had kept the promise that had been made long ago; their watch had ended, their task finally complete. They had set the Master free from their long imprisonment and now the world would end. But they and their ancestors who had kept the faith would be spared, their souls would not be devoured and they would not know the agony of the Master's wrath.

Tears of joy ran down Zan's face. A great happiness bubbled up in their chest as they felt it beginning, the Ascension. Zan raised their arms to the sky, crying out in the Master's name, praising them. As the first light of dawn kissed the horizon, and the first screams of the Devoured reached Zan's ears, they Ascended. They left their lifeless body behind to perish with the world. Their spirit rose up, beginning the long journey to the glory of the Master's realm, where they would meet with all their ancestors all the way back to the first of the Faithful.

It was done and they had been rewarded. All was as it should be.

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