Chapter 21- Caius Ashfall

Chapter 21- Caius Ashfall

A Chapter by Cynical_Art

Chapter 21

 

Caius Ashfall

 

           

            Yggdrasil’s branches reached out to the full moon like a demon hand from hell, blocking the light, engulfing the world in true darkness. Its life had been drawn from it but yet its presence remained, both physically and spiritually. Caius had never seen anything so beautiful and menacing in his life before. This is my enemy. This is what I’m going up against.

            The streets of Eden were vacant but for a few people. An unwelcome sight. In the light of the moon and shadow of Yggdrasil no one was ever truly safe. When the next person you encountered could just as likely be the last person you ever saw. When your best friend could just as easily be your worst enemy. When it was better to be ashamed than be proud. Beneath the eclipsed shadow, the only people anyone could truly trust were themselves.

            Caius hid his face under the hood of his mantled frockcoat despite there being no real reason for him to hide his face. Who would know him in this city so far from home? All that knew him were on his side. And if they weren’t, if they hadn’t killed him yet it was because they either weren’t planning to or it wasn’t one of their priorities, which was enough for him to sleep at night. The only ones he feared, really feared, were those he didn’t know, the people of this city. The people who claim to serve God above all else. The True Believers.

            The sound of pacing footsteps came up behind him and Caius instantly turned. A deacon reading a Holy Grimoire was passing by. Caius pressed himself against the stone wall behind him until the clergyman passed him. The man neither acknowledged him nor bothered to look back when Caius started following him. The fact the deacon was not as cautious as Caius made him conspicuously unnatural. Even the people of this city feared other people.

            Caius continued to follow the man through the curving streets indiscreetly. If the man had not bothered to look back now it wasn’t for lack of suspicion that he was being followed. He either simply didn’t care or wanted to be followed. That was enough to put Caius on edge but not discourage him.

            He continued following the man through dark corner after corner and alley after alley until eventually they reached a crowd of clergymen. The sight of so many men hidden under brown robes brought back the twisted memory of the Week of Lament. Although he slept through most of it, its aftermath was enough to be forever engraved in his head.

            The clergymen sounded like they were chanting in Illumian. To what though, Caius wanted to assume it was God, but they were speaking to something physically in front of them. He scanned the area for a higher elevation and found some short stairs by a closed store. As he climbed the stairs he looked to the center of the crowd. God have mercy…

            A dismembered man was laid out in the shape of a cross in the center of the mob. His arms and head were a foot apart from his torso and his legs were lined up in a straight line below. In the center of the torso the word atheist was carved out on his flesh. This was not the first victim Caius had seen, but it was perhaps the most artistic.

            One of the clergymen stepped to the center and spoke. “This man had strayed from the path of God and for it lost the protection of the Lord Almighty. But God is not without mercy. Let us send this poor wicked soul into the afterlife so he may embark in a journey of redemption. Praise the Lord!”

            “Praise the Lord!” they chanted in unison.

 

***

 

            Two years had passed sine the fall of Paradise Lost and the world continued to turmoil in chaos. While Caius and Charles had fought a war they thought would finally bring peace, the rest of the world was being divided into two. Those who follow God and those who follow the Fuhrer. There was once a time where one could do both, some still did, or liked to think they could. But as Charles often said, there were only two sides to everything.

            Eden still shined in the image of Judicium but its shadow was darker than Judicium had ever known. Two thirds of the city had become True Believers while the rest remained Loyalist, the newly adapted term for those that remained faithful to the Fuhrer. Black coats and brown robes meant little when their loyalties were uncertain. The few that proudly announced where their loyalties stood were dead within the week. No one trusted anyone but everyone was with someone.

            The war was happening, but it was not all the same. No official declaration had been made. Then again, how can you declare war on a belief? The True Believers were not a country signified by a race. They were the people of Judicium. A True Believer had the same eyes, nose, and mouth, as any Loyalist. The Fuhrer never planned for a day that Judicium’s enemy might be its own reflection. However, one like Charles would argue that the method of victory was quite simple and had been done by Judicium many times in the past.

            Judicium was no stranger to destroying beliefs. Between the Fuhrer and his father they had already successfully eradicated all other religions and declared the Holy Grimoire Church as the religion of the world, unifying all places of worship under the one name. The Church. Truthfully speaking, destroying the Church was still entirely within the Fuhrer’s power, for as long as the people still feared him more than God. It was the Fuhrer’s own faith that prevented him, much to Charles’s displeasure. The Fuhrer had decided to take the alternative, to destroy the True Believers from the inside.

            The True Believers were given strength in their cause by a self-proclaimed Son of God. His miracles gave them hope towards a Godly future. Find him, and undoing the True Believers was busy work from there. Unfortunately, the man was as impossible to find as God himself.

In actuality, the Son of God was little more than a figurehead. It was easy being perfect when no one knew who you were. For there to be any hope of victory, the Fuhrer would have to expose this man as the mortal he was to the world. A task best fit for Judicium’s Shadow. And Caius was at the center of it.

            Caius found himself far from home, deep in the enemy territory. The Azure Palace they called it. The size matched a cathedral but it was everything but holy. The Azure Palace was the biggest drug-dealing establishment in the world, named after the vibrant color of cryst, and public for the world to see. That sounds outrageous living anywhere in Judicium, but that was the kind of power Alistair Loucelles had amassed in Eden.

Many already said the Azure Prince owned the city. He definitely had the men and power to back the claim. But that power was only allowed to him by the Fuhrer. His fall was well within reach but disposing him and his business would not solve the bigger issue at hand. As things stood, The Azure Prince was the best chance they had at finding the false messiah, heretic, and self proclaimed Son of God.

The Azure Prince was not a man just anybody could see, which was to be expected given his line of work, and other not so known facts. With the days of presenting a Shadow locket to gain access to anywhere gone, one had to find other methods of gaining an audience. And the only way to impress a drug lord was with drugs. A trade Caius was well acquainted with due to his past experience with the Mother of Cryst.

            Upon entering, Caius was stripped of his revolver, the only weapon he carried to seem not conspicuously defenseless. He was then dragged to the Azure Prince. Seeing the palace from the inside, it definitely lived up to its name. The inner design on the first floor was much like that of a pub; only instead of liquor they served drugs. Cryst addicts rounded up around every table snorting azure dust and injecting azure fluids into their veins like their life depended on it. Caius didn’t get much of a chance to look at the other floors, as the two henchmen forced him up the stairs practically carrying him from his arms.

            When they finally reached the top they threw Caius on the floor and commanded, “Bow before the Prince.”

            Caius raised his head slowly while still on his hands and knees. “It’s an honor to meet you.”

            Four people were before him. A man on a throne-like chair, which was clearly the Azure Prince. A young girl by his side, presumably his daughter. An intimidating man with a longsword at his waist and a revolver sheathed into a harness over his vest. And an older man with not a hair on his scalp. Are they all Archangels, or is it simply the Prince?

            Your Grace!” instructed one of the henchmen.

            “It’s an honor, your Grace.”

            Alistair Loucelles was everything the stories claimed. An obese hippopotamus of a man sitting on a throne with a grimace on his face that made you think twice about looking for too long. He was wearing a blue vest squeezed so tightly that the buttons looked like they were about to burst, a black linen shirt underneath with black trousers to match it, carrying a golden cane. His eyes were thin beneath all the fat but inside the tiny slits you could see pale blue eyes looking through you. His dark brown locks of hair were straight as an arrow, as expected of Illumians.

            Illumians looked very much like Judicians for the exception of their straight hair as opposed to wavy. The two races were cousins to one another and their ties linked long before the Holy Grimoire was even written. When Judicium started uniting the world, Illumese was the first country to willingly join them through act of marriage. The current Fuhrer was half Illumian and half Judician himself. Eden was located roughly where Illumese used to reign, so the majority of the population was Illumian.

            “So this is the Judician who claims he has not only the best cryst around but the means to smuggle it past that accursed quarantine? Tell me,” said the Azure Prince. “How does one manage to get passed ten thousand White Coats surrounding the city? These White Coats are all Loyalist who are ready to shoot and kill anyone who even attempts to leave or enter the city.”

            Caius stood on his two feet. “I have friends in high places. Loyalist, they may be, but everyone loves drugs.”

            “Tell that to all the men I’ve lost trying to get outside these walls. And the only men who come in are the Fuhrer’s dogs. Now I’m going to ask you a question and you better answer with the truth. Your life depends on it, Simon Gladius.” The two guards behind him crossed their rapiers around his neck beneath his jaw. “Are you a Loyalist or a True Believer?”

            “Everyone who says either end up dead within the week.”

            “Answer the f*****g question, Judician.”

            This is the part where most men die. Let’s see if I can beat the odds. I’ve cheated death enough times before to die an unmemorable way like this. “I believe in God, and I live in a world where Judicium rules, but I would die for neither. That is the best answer I can give you.”

            “A f*****g middleman,” said Alistair, disgusted.

            “A businessman,” clarified Caius. “I move with the times towards my best interest.”

            “Fair enough. Still doesn’t explain how you can smuggle drugs in and out of the city or why I’ve never heard of you and your precious cryst.”

            “That’s simple. I used to work for the Mother of Cryst, you see. I’m sure you were well acquainted with her before her untimely death. Before she died you were always number two…ugh.” One of the men behind him hit him in the back of the head with the bottom of their sword hilt.

            “Stop!” commanded the Azure Prince. “Any man with enough audacity to tell me that to my face must be confident their life has enough value to not be killed. Let him talk.”

            Caius got back on his feet. “Everyone knows the Mother of Cryst had the best cryst. Well, I helped make it, or rather supervised it. I was the guy that made sure none of her engineers stole any of it. After the Shadow found her though, it was me who did the stealing. I got her best stuff along with some of her seeds and plants and fled with a couple of my guys. Took one of her engineers along with me too. Afterwards though, with all the cleaning the Fuhrer did, we were too scared to go mainstream with the products. So instead we only sold to selective clientele. Rich people, important people, powerful people. The rest is good business.”

            Alistair watched him observantly as he rubbed his third chin. “The Mother of Cryst’s product haven’t been in the market for quite some time. I hope you have a sample as proof behind your story.”

            “Would I be here if I didn’t?” One of the guards hit him again.

            “Best pray you do,” said the Azure Prince. “I’ll have you know I’m well acquainted with the product.”

            Caius got back on his feet, reached into the pocket of his trousers, pulled out a small bag with vibrant white dust in it, and passed it to the Azure Prince. “Pure white crystallite. There’s nothing more potent. Smell it if you think it’s fake.”

            Alistair opened the bag and sniffed it. “This is definitely white magic.” He passed the bag to the bald man. “I just have one more question, Simon. The Mother was a very cautious woman when it came to her products. There was a reason why no one could ever get a hand on her formulas. For you to watch over her engineers it must’ve meant she trusted you. A lot. Tell me, what was the name of the Mother of Cryst.”

            Could there be an easier test? “Elena Evermore,” answered Caius with a smile.

            The Azure Prince burst into a slow and booming laughter. “Well f**k me, it seems you may not be as full of s**t as you look. Very well, I’ll do business with you. I’ll buy your product, but only straight from your hand. I don’t want any of your men anywhere near my territory. I still don’t trust you.”

            “I would have to insist on at least one of my followers accompanying me. See, I don’t trust you either, and while it’s not much reassurance, I’d like to at least have one friend watching my back.”

            Alistair grimaced but compromised. “One person. I see anyone else I don’t know walking around my palace and they’re dead.”

            “That’s fine with me. I hope this also means I won’t have any trouble moving around your city.”

            Alistair reached into his vest pocket and pulled out a blue coin and flipped it to Caius. “With this coin you won’t have an issue moving around most places in my palace. Don’t go sticking your nose where you shouldn’t. That goes for my whole city as well. My shadow rivals that of the Fuhrer’s.” Don’t flatter yourself.

            Caius bowed. “As you wish, your Grace. Your city, your rules. You won’t hear any problems from me. Personally, I actually prefer keep a low profile. In my experience, I’ve found fame only makes you that much of a bigger target.”

Alistair’s glare unpleasantly reminded Caius of Charles. “Is that a threat?”

            “A warning if anything,” corrected Caius. “But I only meant it as a statement. The Mother of Cryst survived until her true identity was discovered. You clearly don’t have that issue, much like the Fuhrer, but us lesser people whose only real authority is over their own life don’t have that luxury. For people like us, fame only serves to draw our enemies to us, not away.” Said the Shadow in the light.



© 2013 Cynical_Art


Author's Note

Cynical_Art
This is the beginning of part 2: Faith. What are your thoughts on the new ark based off this chapter? What characters are you excited to see return after two years?

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I wish I could explain things the way you do. You just make everything fit together perfectly and not once did I get confused. I loved it. But I still have the feeling that Caius is going to die. XD

Posted 8 Years Ago


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Cynical_Art

8 Years Ago

It's funny, while I'm writing I feel I too often get lost in dialogue and I start thinking my chapte.. read more
Dark Rider

8 Years Ago

Yeah, I'm not good dialogue. And as long of Venir stays alive, I think I won't be too disappointed. .. read more

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Added on February 28, 2013
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Tags: fantasy, Religion, science-fiction, family, death, betrayal, sex, war, conspiracies, characters, love, psychological, development, God, hierarchy, order, cynical, victorian

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Cynical_Art
Cynical_Art

New York, NY



About
I am 21 years old, I got my Bachelors in Science Degree when I was 19. My career profession is computer animation (I am an Environment Modeler, for those that follow the profession) but I love to writ.. more..

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