The Despot's Unending Dirge
Recalling the Past
Who is The Despot of the Transcendent Bardo
Record of Incidents in Service to Ku
λ^18, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Core of Ixut
(Gate of the Eight Seals)
Master Ku lead the Sovan Assembly to the Core this day – I saw his daughter for the first time. Designated: Systematic Purifying Piston, her assembly members simply call her Sys, a humorous name in that Ku has kept her separate from anything that could be thought of as a sister. She should feel honored, the sole Angel to be ushered into this project out of my masters vast brood. Then again, I suppose I am her brother after a fashion. Now with the oaths sworn to the master, assembly mates as well. A strange thing after so long with only the weavers and Pan’ta’chik for company. The Void’s song seems quieter now, it begged me to consume the Soulsteel when he was wounded, but only as a whisper.
They are whole and strong – I would be lying if I did not admit envy. When Sys’ fists caved in the skull of Pan’ta’chik, forced her to become smoke and return to her lair, the pain across the spiritual link was bliss. The sound of the dark oily fluids falling across the dusty ground as my familiar cut into Bolt’s chest , bliss. The terror in their eyes when my master threw off his illusions and stepped out in his full splendor, I could not keep the tears from my eyes. So long with only my own contemplation and the song of the Void – turning those mournful notes in my mind in a battle between freedom and suffering. My time as an ascetic in contemplation has ended – time has begun to move again. These Sovan Champions have brought me a great gift and the master will be pleased by the greatness we achieve in his name.
λ^19, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Chamber 5
(Border Fort to Igris Exerbs)
I saw from the crawler-ship the blind flame of the Maker’s champions, or rather, the Champions of the vermin that feed upon his flesh. Champions of the Maker, Sys and myself are the only ones I know, the others blinded by their humanity and serving parasites. Those others, I heard them, questioning Ku and seeking to hold onto the chains that bind them to fleas and rats. I was sickened, but Lord Ku has known suffering and the foolish questions of children are nothing to him. They will learn. They believe they are champions of Sova? Lord Ku put all of that into motion – he is the impetus of their creation. The Despot breaths deeply, Lord Ku can defend himself and has transcended the need to shield his pride – I am only feeding my pain. I cannot afford to whip myself into a tantric union with the Maker’s suffering now, not with the short sighted cretins out in the dark all too ready to turn my body to ash.
The Despot brings out a heavy jar and sets it upon the ground, dipping his head and uttering a short sung prayer, the container begins to leak its living smoke. Pan’ta’chik solidifies from the roiling haze, dried purple blood marring her flesh. The pain is intensified with her in this realm – creeping along their bond like lightning and rust.
The Despot places a hand lightly on the crown of her head, just above her multitude of eyes, and hopes she feels his spiritual pain and dissonance. Taking the hand away, The Despot leads her deeper into the shadows, Darkling, the other Champions should be back in a few days’ time – but the vermin of Igris have set their guards upon the roads. We cannot simply wait in the open so long or we’ll be discovered. The thick chitinous mandibles dance as the massive lady-spider speaks, Master, I shall lay my thinnest webs upon the flesh of the Maker. When the Champions return I shall feel their presence and I will alert you. The Despot watches for several minutes as Pan’ta’Chik weaves hair-thin strands from her spinnerets and skitters back and forth across the narrow chamber. When done, the pair retreat to a large duct in the ceiling – sealing it tightly closed with essence charged steel webbing. Blind in the total darkness, The Despot spills more of his blood into a deep cup heavy with moonsilver tubing and softly whining gears made of deep green and black jade – again he feeds the massive shadowy spider beside him and her pains ebb away as the potent virulent blood courses into her veins humming with essence. The Despot leans against the wall wearily, Now all that is left, is to wait…
λ^20, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Chamber 5
(Air Circulation Duct)
I had to leave the company of the Assembly in ‘Chamber 5’ nearly a day and a half ago. Pan’ta’chik reports that the only movement through the tunnel can be attributed to individuals and sometimes pairs, their weight upon her threads suggests that they are Champions, or at the least mortals in G.E.A.R.s (General Essence Animated Reinforcement/s), but nothing in the line of a Sovan Heavy Crawler. Lord Ku gave me no indication as to how long my Assembly may take within the city. It’s been quiet and careful work – but Pan’ta’chik set out some snares and we’ve got a small store of the more common tunnel rats for our larder. Their flesh will allow me the strength I need to recuperate my own motonic fluid reserves – Pan’ta’chik wounds have made her ravenous. I do wonder how long we can stay hidden here – security has become omnipresent so near Igris. We’ve already experienced a close call with an Illustrious Conductor, in the end he cleared out the rat bones in the shaft and took our shadows around the corner as the form of some larger predatory rat hurrying into the darkness. Later that same day the air duct was flooded with some form of poisonous gas, fortunately it seems to be an inhaled poison only, with no dermal uptake properties. Pan’ta’chik escaped into her sanctum and rests there still, the gas lingers yet. Still, I cannot read the threads; she will need to take up her duties again soon.
When the Assembly returns it will be time to take them to the Shrin’Khal Aham’Kara. Lord Ku sent me dreams of what he saw there. A place awash in golden light and a sea of clear oil full of strange creatures. Blessed are we to have Lord Ku’s guiding hand over us as we prepare to embark on this most necessary and holy of labors.
λ^22, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Chamber 5
(Hold of the Tunnle Tug ‘Goldie’)
The murder teams left the area a burned out wasteland just a dozen hours before the Assembly arrived – my store of rats quite depleted. Truth be told, I’ve ever had issue calculating Pan’ta’chik’s unrelenting consumption. In the end, my sister was kind enough to seek me out – Tenacious Exemplar and Heralding Academician lingering near the grey hulk so cleverly named ‘Goldie’. The grim looks on their faces spoke volumes. No doubt they find it troublesome to deal with one so afflicted – I’m just pleased to have intelligent beings to speak to. I had the weavers spare some of the mortals of the Theomachracy, but the experience was too much for them, they were simply mad men and of no further use to me. Champions are more adaptable and Ku has chosen the agents well.
To better understand my compatriots, and the evolution of our relationship, I will be recording the interpreted interactions of this second meeting with great scrutiny:
Heralding Academician of Xenostudies and the Outer Reaches, or simply HAXOR, seems the most capricious of the assembly. Certainly Ku has attested to as much when he gave me a debriefing on my Assembly before we left Ixut. I greeted the group in a light-hearted and humble manner, stating that my dialitic systems were depleted, I felt it a proper way to break the air of malice. I asked if they could spare blood to heal the wounds they caused my dear Pan’ta’chik. I was rather pleased to see the stone hard stares fall away to confusion with a twinge of fear or perhaps disgust. My sister was all too willing to spill her refined purity into the black jade alembic. I have to wonder, why does she so eagerly seek to please me? Master Ku has told me of Aurnia and the relationship that Sys and she share. I can only guess Sys’ desire for familial love is being projected upon me in absence of her “mother” – for which I am sure I am a poor substitute. Still, I am glad she is here – her open heart is a great boon and even a comfort.
The second to share his essence was the golden Tenacious Exemplar of Ascension; however, he goes by Tex to the point of exclusivity, really. I had offered the alembic to HAXOR first, but he was quite shaken, offering him a silver dagger I use myself – he sought solitude and his own thoughts. Tex took this opportunity to offer his blood, I felt that air of malice return, but it felt different now. You can see into a persons soul when you fight them in battle – I’ve seen the nobility of Tex’s soul and his need to protect others. Yet, he allowed me to assail HAXOR with cruel barbs. I sense an unease there – something amiss. HAX did later return with an offering of blood, he simply had wanted to do so in his own way, sterile and with privacy. I can respect that – he is well suited to his position as Assembly doctor.
With the offerings made I was ushered into the ships hold, a tight fit with the many shelves of materials and workstations. With permission from HAX I have already begun to rearrange the contents of the hold to more readily accept my girth. When the others had left, HAX stayed behind to brief me on their Igris activities. HAX is a brilliant man and very capable – but his talk of these “In-betweeners” and ravenous souls, it is clear I will need to speak to Master Ku about expanding his capabilities. It is fortunate that the Sleeping Beauties are part of the Assembly, of they would have been woefully inadequate for their tasks in Igris. Those inadequacies seem to have troubled HAX greatly – driving a wedge between him and his vat brothers. I know not if these ‘In-betweeners’ are good or evil – I know only that they serve Ku and have a purpose. This debate over Primarch Hallin and his humanity, whether his actions are heretical, none of it matters. In so long as these damaged souls serve Lord Ku – I must support them as allies. I feel I bonded with HAX over this debrief. Tex and Shield are still wary of my loyalties, of my control over my condition. I can only be patient and show them that some monsters have hearts and loyalties as well.
The final surprise came with a familiar scent. I had expected the Assembly to find the girl-child a home in Igris, but she remains here. For that I am most glad. She feels almost a part of me now, all those countless hours watching her scurry in the streets of Ixut. She was the lone pool of steel in a sea of slag – I could not let the weavers have her. I hope in time I can show her the necessity of my actions.
λ^23, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Pole of Metal
(Hold of the ‘Goldie’ Tunnle Tug)
We are nearing our destination, Shrin’Khal Aham’Kara. Fortunately, the path is little changed since last I traveled it – the bowels of the Maker seem to have been at rest these last few months. I had hopped to make better time, but as an outsider and untrusted, I felt it would be wrong to have lead the group along these paths without their advocacy. Still, the time wasted upon the pocket of methane was most frustrating. As a being of the Reaches, and my sister as well, I had expected the others would simply defer to our wisdom. Lord Ku warned me that the other members of the Assembly would be wary of my advice and Champions are known for stubbornness. Adaptability is an important virtue in a world that is ever moving, ever changing.
On the the 17th hour of our journey I met the girl-child that I have gazed upon for so long. That steely strength I saw from a distance, in person she puts damascus to shame, the adamant flecks blazing through to make my knees weak. I hung upon her every word, that so many questions were about me, my mind reeled. However, it seems our Shining One has taken it upon himself to define my nature. Spreading hatred and fear to the innocent like an enfeebling cancer, I have heart that she will stand strong against this slander, as she has against so much else. I could never visit harm upon Nüt and I will not abide a liar and a villain to corrupt her. He likely thinks himself a father and a protector. I defied everything for her, what is another soul to Lord Ku, the Minister of all the Dead? Yet, to me, she is the personification of the Makers works and of his salvation.
Humanity takes so much for granted. Tapping the veins of our Maker, making war against one another and laying his body to waste, using each other for personal gain rather than cooperating in service to the Maker. As I have said, “the actions of man are selfish and unworthy of the servitude of the Enlightened,” however there are always exceptions. Nüt is such an exception, her selflessness and purity, nearly all nascent humans are focused on their own needs and their own gratification. Already she is worthy of servitude and protection – for now is a fragile time and she could be corrupted by those of lesser vision. When I look upon her I can hear the song of the Maker again in my mind – echoing up from the depths of my past. Everything depends upon her, she is the divine messenger that will lead humanity back to its proper path. With me by her side, one thought lost, they will see how far they have wandered from His vision. They will see what the corruption of Man has done to our Maker – that we still have time to make it right.
λ^24, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Otherworldly Plane
I lay gazing upwards, my back to this wall of dust and organic waste, staring into a clear blue emptiness that seems to go on forever. I hear the lapping waves of clear fluid less than thirty feet away, it’s smell fills the air, smells of death and life. Here, there are no walls and no ceiling – I can not feel the Maker here – the only cries of pain and anguish come from my own soul. To be truly alone – I find it terrifying. In place of the the pain of the world – nothing. That this place seems so endless and so empty, it only adds to my trepidation.
When I look up I see some small beast circling on wings, so much like the shaft speeders and steam crawlers of our world…yet so different. How much energy must it take to remain aloft so long – yet it seems so effortless. I can smell the cloying scent of the dead woman lingering on the moist breeze. A feast for any beast or man who would but seek it out, and only the ripples of water nibble at its form. She died resisting these Deep Ones, I wonder how many I have killed in service to my Maker.
Then in all of this newness we have a bit of mystery drop from the nothingness above, an adjunct of dead Ixut, the Champion AdAM. I know not how that place could have created a life – as its soul flits between our world and the next. I’ve heard her cries of anguish and the madness that grips the shattered mind of the spiritually sundered champion. It is a sound only the dead make, yet, here he stands. A child of Ixut, a servant to the sacrificial lamb – I wonder what words she whispers to him. He will bear watching, but Lord Ku would expect no less from me.
λ^24, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Otherworldly Plane
This world is unto sand through the hands – it slips and slides. The world we knew: deep seas, tormented slaves, deep skies of blue – all of it was a fleeting dream. Now there is only darkness around us, spots of light shining from across an unknowable expanse of time and space – as we stand on a stone path that appears thousands of years old even as it has only existed moments. The laws of the world are even more fickle and capricious than before. A thousand steps can take you nowhere even as standing still can transport you to the edge of vision and beyond. Certainly this place is not Creation, it is strangeness, a place of the Ishvara. A place of solitude and cold – a place for a prisoner to escape into oneself.
Lord Ku told me that this was the closest site to see a reflection of Creation, how many of these captive Ishvara are their within his body. How much power must they provide, and yet still his body weakens.These beings know events that transpired before the Maker fled beyond his Seals – this must be the reason for this journey. The Maker fled Creation and the Minister of Fear would have us know of that world and the events that lead to his departure. I only wonder, why could he not tell us himself. What stills his tongue?
Sitting upon these stone steps, a great white light pulses outward as a song. It is a steady powerful light, not a flicker, yet it seems to carry so much meaning and promises so much. Love, life, happiness, a freedom from suffering – at the same time isolation, solitude, a loss of self. All that this being yearns for, seeking to forget its millennia of torment but no matter how many shapes it takes, it is immediately reminded by the very confines of its prison.
λ^26, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Core
The Despot stares up into the dead Core of the shattered city, eyes two bloody pools with twin rivers of red flowing down his cheeks, watching the flickering movements of the deceased Champion. “O, I hear your cries Ixit, your pain has brought you madness, but I’m watching. I’m watching you and your “Chosen”, and I have many eyes ‘Yellow Flower’.”
While the Despot still stares up to the ghostly Champion – Divine Minister Ku and Technician Aurnia walk out from the darkness into the sickly yellow glow given off by the Core. Ku’s voice carries across the dusty earth, “My child, we will speak before the Assembly continues its journey at the end of the morrow. Aurnia has informed me of what she gleaned from the minds of your Assembly. Unsurprisingly, the Champion of Ixut was resistant and shielded from such, ‘Integral Xanthic Umbel of Theomachrology’ mastered the science of ‘Mind-to-Machine’ just after the Nuradi First Progressive Era, over two-thousand years ago. She can not act as long as I remain here with the Core – her current state is necessary for the salvation of our world and Creator.” Lord Ku muses a moment, “I do not need to tell you to keep an eye on him – Ixut is an elder champion and whatever is left in,” Lord Ku waves a hand at the macabre dance of the tormented champion, “she no doubt wishes to escape our purposes for her.”
The Despot bows deeply to the Divine Minister, “Consider it done Lord Ku, is there anything else you would have of me?” Ku gives a sad smile, his lips serrated metal and eyes of black oil, “You might be surprised, or perhaps not, to hear that Tenacious Exemplar of Ascension was quite open to Aurnia’s probing, she believes his lusts and wish to please mortals to be the reason. He has many doubts about you son, he is looking forward to the day he can destroy you.” Ku turns and looks up to the Core and the yellow light plays across his black steel and adamant form, “I know about the child as well Despot – how you kept her from me and this gate.” Despot stands still and says not a word in the cold silence, Ku breaks it after several agonizing moments, “I am glad, it shows that you’re developing a greater mastery over your S.E.S. You can care for those other than the Maker – she’s special to you. I am sad to say that the Exemplar wishes to take that from you as well.”
The Despots eyes run with something other than blood now, Lord Ku turns and places his cold sharp hands on the sides of his son’s face even as the tears streams over them, “Do not allow your hopes to die. I would ask that you not act rashly or sunder the tools in my hands, but anything short of that, you have my blessing.” Lady Aurnia gives the pair a moment, then steps up to them, “My daughter supports your Lord Despot, however I felt a desire in her for the Exemplar, please do not make her take a side. I trust in your power and reputation…but please spare my daughter the pain.” The Despot bows to the both of them, “Lady Aurnia I would not seek to visit suffering to my sister, I will not force her hand, but know that Tex seeks to turn the others against me. I do not have the strength to stand alone as I am persecuted for what I am. What cruelty resides in the souls of men that they would condemn another for having been born with Gray Scale or given in to the blight of Rat Rot? Tex does not know what it is to feel the Maker’s suffering as I do – he seeks to take away everything. If I could beseech you Lady Aurnia, touch my mind and show him what I feel.” A look of stark terror crosses her eyes but when she looks to her Lord Ku, he gives a stern nod, “Y-yes Lord Despot.”
λ^28, Third Shift of Steam, DA 4876, Capital City of Imtu
The closest I’ve ever been to the cities of Humanity was the dead city of Ixut. A city of lost souls and the screams of those found, be they by the phenomenon howling in the sky or those captured by my hand and bound into the ‘gate’ by my lord and master Ku. I’ve been to the shining adamant citadels of the Ministers, seen the people who work quietly in that austere glow, but they were more akin to drones than people. I thought I’d caught a better glimpse when the exurbs immediately around the core were scavenged for the living dead, but they hid and slunk in the shadows, they had only survival on the mind and fear. This Imtu is completely different. The people do not yet fear for their lives, many are angry, they demand and struggle for their ‘due’. Such teeming activity and energy in this place – everywhere people moving from to to a new task.
I saw another soulsteel across a plaza today, a Champion of Sova, he was dispersing some dirty hungry people from a meal line. A few even tried to fight back, they were so weak, I could see the skin hanging loosely from bones even so many yards away. Smooth as a well oiled machine, they were pressed face down on the ground and cuffed, human regulators coming in from the air only moments later to take them someplace. Just as quickly I could be forced down, detained, shipped off to die. All my masters plans for me dashed by these short sighted cretins. They do not look at each other as they move through their lives. They have no purpose, the few that seem to – their purpose is only to keep those without purpose in line and docile. A hollow purpose, these people are dying as surely as the Maker, all their resources and energy driven into maintaining order.
Would they have fled here? Or could Nüt’s blood have fled to Igriss – both cities would have been equally foreign. Each city is it’s own living thinking organism, learning all about a new individual, competing against those that have grown up knowing the flesh of the city beneath their feet. If they made it did they find work or did they starve to death in some alley unknown and unmourned? It would have been a safer thing if they had fled to the dark tunnels and offered their skills to the tunnel-folk. I did not see them in the ‘gate’ and no one has heard of them here, their names never entered the registry. I want to give Nüt closure, to know what became of them, so she can mourn them. Knowing the face of your pain, it makes it so much easier to bear, it becomes your closest companion and confidant. It is only in the endless and fretting wondering that one can become lost and broken. That’s the difference between the Gremlins and myself, I know my pain, it is all the difference.