Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chapter 1

This is a very, very rough draft. I haven't really proofread it at all, and there are a few section I want to flesh out. I just wanted to get it out and on paper so to speak, and since no one really reads this (except you, Dad), I figured this would make a good scratchpad. I'll probably spend the week cleaning this up.

Another visitor had come, and Nai'Bezot was listless. One more intrepid individual was approaching, and all the interest he could muster was counting the footsteps reverberating in the hall. The motives, whatever brings these lost ones treading down the caverns, they use to occupy the idle time between the arrival and the introduction. Now, these thoughts merely grazed the forefront of his mind. You see, over the centuries, there's really only been two types of people to find there way to his home. There were thought who weighed the possibility of power against the price Nai'Bezot would ask. Then there were those for who the power was a bonus, a perk of throwing away a great burden. For them, the benefit was twofold, and servitude was of little cost.

Nai'Bezot is, in one sense of the word, a demon. Whenever you hear of those that give there souls to evil, creating dark covenants with beast of fire, chances are that story is a bastardization of a real encounter, a tall tale spun from threads of truth. Beings like Nai'Bezot have been in the human perspective since man has been able to sign a metaphorical contract, granting them many worldly rewards, usually asking only one thing in return…


It seems foolish, gaining such rewards only to lose the freedom to use them. But the compendium of literature is litters with these stories. Desperate souls, grasping as their last, fleeting chance at hope, shake hands with the fiery figures, hands searing with devious intent. Like that, their lost, free in life to enough their compensation, but bound in death to serve. Is it any surprise most end up dead so soon after these pacts? Fortunately, Nai'Bezot and his kin aren't like those demons of fantasy. For starters, humans aren't any good to them dead. If life beyond death were within their grasp, they wouldn't have to rely on us, building an army of meat shields.

No, demons (and I other refer to them as such for lack of a better term) aren't as mystic and wily as those stories would portrait them. There's really only one thing that they understand better than we do, and it's why these contracts are so lucrative.

Nai'Bezot's contract was a relatively simple one. It was the same promise of power, same bonds of servitude, but he didn't sell it that way. His invocation was enough to see that:

Without fear, without regret, without sorrow
Know no pain of mortal coil
Strike the root of all human despair
And gain much more in sacrifice

Come to me, in humble tone
Of conviction or distress
No matter the reason, only the cost
A symbol of your forfeit love

The problem is that so many that read the invocation take it at face value. There isn't much real substance in the spell; it's merely for show. Most of the truth of the agreement comes in the before and after; the fine print, so to speak. Practicality begs that the letter of the law be separated for a quick and painless summoning, but few seem to give much thought to this, and this was Nai'Bezot's problem.

He'd seen so many centuries and comparable number of adventurers come down his hall, and no matter what the reason, no matter what the walk of life, they all make the same, simple, stupid mistake.

A symbol of your forfeit love

In Nai'Bezot's eyes, it could be seen as a added bonus or the most minor of setbacks. There was something of an untapped market in this matter of business. He'd seen enough of our ways, to know that for some, love was more than an affliction; it was an infection. Or better yet, an appendix; some sort of obsolete appendage that's been outgrown and on some occasions, have caused great annoyance and pain. So it's no wonder that so many, either through a weighed decision or a case of lovesickness, have come to offer up themselves, and the prospect of love, for something of true value.

No matter the reason, only the cost

Everyone comes in prepared to give of themselves. In the context of invocations, that's what sacrifice means. As with the invocation, there's little more to the sacrifice than show, but in the end, it's kept anyone from Nai'Bezot's employ.

The sacrifice is more of a tradition that a necessity, a relic from the times when humans had little more than to offer themselves. The power is the prize, the subjugation the cost, but the sacrifice is a vote of confidence, a declaration of devotion. Little ill can be said of the commitment of a man that would give a valued part of himself, but it says nothing of there intelligence.

It's more of a cultural misunderstanding, if anything. Human society has assigned an unfortunate connotation to the heart. For so long, when we think of our emotions, especially love, we speak of how it affects the heart. So ingrained is the notion of this muscle producing our emotion, that we can physically feel our mood swings in our chest. So of course, when we're asked to pledge a token, casting a part of us away as we cast away are chances of love, it's no surprise that we reach deep within ourselves and pull out a bloody, pulsing mass.

At for, the metaphor was no more than an irksome quirk, an irony joke that resulted in dead prospect after dead prospect. Nai'Bezot could grant power, but not life. So when a deal seeker comes to stand with a knife in one hand and their heart in the other, they never stand for long.

The first few seekers were a slight amusement at best, ripping their hearts out in all matters of gravitas, only to collapse in all matter of death. It was a silly detraction at a time when hopes were still high, a few amusing diversions before a real customer arrives. But when century after century went by, and heart after heart piled up at his feet, he began to see this as more than a misunderstanding. It was problem; an unfair, irreparable problem.

This one would be no different; he could feel it. As the next would-be corpse appeared in the archway, he could just imagine the tired exchange. There would be the formal exchange of greetings, the harrowing story of the personal journal that brought the seeker here and then the unwitting suicide. Nothing new, nothing changed. Another disappointment.

"I'm here to make your deal." He wasn't fully in the room yet, still obscured in the shade of the passageway. "I've read the invocation, and I'm ready to pledge. Now."

Just as well. The less time the better. "Very well. I assume you have something to give me?" He turned away, not out of disrespect or malice, but boredom. Who cares what this one looked like. He was no different than the others in the end; just a little more terse.

"I suppose I should get you my heart now." Nai'Bezot's eyes rolled. Make it quick, he hoped, and relatively clean. Back still turned, he motioned to the knife.

In the middle of the room, laid a simple dagger. No circle of candles. No pentagrams. Again, this is not like those stories of old. Nai'Bezot was a businessman, and you want to be professional. It wasn't just the table that was unassuming. The cave was lit, brighter than you'd expect a demon's home to be. There were no bones, no rocks. There wasn't much of anything in the room besides Nai'Bezot, the knife, the table and the seeker.

It wouldn't be that way for long. He had been unstirred before by this new arrival, but now, he couldn't contain his anticipation. He couldn't wait for the familiar sound of steel piercing flesh, of arteries tearing, of bodies collapsing.

And just like that, it had begun. He closed his eyes and absorbed it. There it is, the tearing, the silent scream of skin giving way, bit by bit. He could almost feel the cool steel himself. It was almost enjoyable. Not enjoyable; comforting. It was a familiarity, a tradition now, something to count on. The only bit of this ritual he could enjoy was the predictability of it all. Ah. A vein ruptured. And another. and another. And then…

"I mean, metaphorically, of course."

Nai'Bezot opened his eyes, turning quickly to see a puddle of blood and body. Only the body wasn't slumped over, gasping in surprise and angry. It was standing. It was alive. And it was offering something.

He approached the seeker, still not sure how this could be. Of course he could see what was missing, what his visitor had torn from his body, but the truth wouldn't hit him until the seeker dropped it into his hand. It wasn't his heart.

It's not his heart.

Nai'Bezot looks back at his visitor, his pledge. He raises his occupied hand to his head and turns it over slowly, letting the sacrifice roll from his palm, careening from the edge of his hand. And there it hung, dangling from the end of the optic nerve, between Bez's fingers. He met its gaze straight on, and, for the first time in a long while, a smirk found it's way across his face.

"Well," he said, his arm advancing towards the seeker, palm opened and waiting, "shall we begin?"

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