Making A Better World
RedMenace last edited by
The mood in The Circle’s hideout was finally befitting of the purple and black banners decorating its dark walls. Anton sat by the fire in sullen thought, his usual post-mission boisterousness completely absent. Clarice hung her head over the table, fiddling with her lock breaking kit anxiously, her sobbing finally ceased some minutes ago. Gabriel had slid down the wall to the ground, holding his head in his hands while his sister Elodie rested her hand on his shoulder in silent comfort. The only member of Gaius’ flock who seemed unaffected was his apprentice Valen, who stood in his usual position by Gaius’ side with a stoic expression. All of this should have been pleasing to Gaius, his cult to the Dark Lady had been too joyful for far too long, but this miserable atmosphere was not out of reverence for the Lady of Loss.
Gaius had been growing The Circle for a few short years, and to gain his initial membership he had carefully cultivated certain lies and omissions. At first it was simple, lonely outcasts and scared orphans searching for companionship and home. After that it was an appeal to their better natures, instill a sense that the world was wrong, and that they could do something to fix it. Then he introduced the enemy, the Moon whore and her followers, it took a whole year to push the fools toward killing them but it was worth it in the end. Every month the six of them set out together, finding and killing Selune’s children. And each time the five returned in high spirits, singing their victory and toasting to their goal. To defeat those who would keep the realm bound in suffering and create a better world. But tonight, there was no singing. Tonight’s mission had a variable Gaius had been unaware of, a child. Gabriel’s blade was wet with the young boy’s mother and Gaius had ordered him to finish the job. Gabriel could justify to himself that the adult had sinned, but not an innocent boy. The look in Gabriel’s eyes when Gaius’ magic ended the young life told him that he’d let his mask slip too much.
This was it, Gaius realized. The end of The Circle’s unity in friendship. The end of this grand delusion that they were the heroes saving the world. Gaius would have preferred a greater number before this, but Shar’s work could be done with four people.
“Gabriel...” Gaius began, stepping to the middle of the room so that all attention would be on him. Valen following dutifully. “You disobeyed my orders. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Gabriel looked up at Gaius, his eyes still wet with tears. His face contorted in disbelief at what he was hearing. “Gaius, that...That was a child!”
“That was a Selunite.”
“He had done nothing wrong!”
“His existence was wrong.”
Elodie’s hand squeezed Gabriel’s shoulder, bidding him to calm. But Gabriel stood to his feet, marching toward Gaius. Anton and Clarice began moving to the confrontation, ready to pull them apart if needed. Valen merely watched.
“You taught us that our enemy was stagnation and ignorance. We defeat stagnation by killing its agents. We defeat ignorance by teaching others the truth!” Gabriel cried. “What lesson did we teach that boy Gaius?”
Gaius resisted the urge to smile. “His death serves the Dark Goddess.”
“How! We’re supposed to be making a better world, how can we do that when we perpetuate the suffering of the current one?”
Gaius straightened his back and rose his voice; these next few words were paramount to the group’s continued development. “We perpetuate suffering so that we may destroy it. We perform cruelty and malice to foster grief in the hearts of all. This is how we lure others to the embrace of Shar. This is how create our better world.”
Silence hung in the air, Elodie gave an uncertain look to Valen, who kept his gaze straight ahead. Gabriel’s hands balled into fists. “No. I won't do that” he muttered.
The silence grew heavier, but Gabriel’s fury seemed to cool. Anton and Clarice visibly relaxed as it became clear they wouldn’t need to separate a furious Gabriel from their leader.
The silence was cut by Gaius seizing Gabriel by the throat. Negative energy coursing through his hand into Gabriel. Gabriel screamed as the dark power drained his life, before falling limp as his last cries choked out from him. Anton and Clarice recoiled in horror. Even Valen stepped away from the scene, his eyes wide with shock. Gaius released the corpse from his hands, the limp thing dropping to the ground with a thud. Elodie screamed, rushing to her brother’s side. The group stood still, unsure of what happened or what to do, the only sound they could hear being Elodie’s wailing as she begged her brother’s lifeless corpse to return to life.
“Let this...” Gaius declared, “serve as an example for the rest of you. I expect complete obedience for all future operations.” He flicked his wrist and uttered an arcane word. Gabriel’s body turned to ash in Elodie’s hands. She collapsed, shrieking in sweet misery. His task complete, Gaius turned away and retired to his study without a word. Valen stayed behind, guiding the grieving Elodie away from the room.
It took two nights for Elodie to become numbed to the despair she now felt. Her first sleepless night was spent in agonized disbelief. Her second was ruled by weak rationalization. Now her third night, through the clarity of her emotional detachment, was one of realization. Without a noise she took a travel bag, packing only the bare essentials, and her weapon. The bladed staff felt heavier in her hands now, and the excitement hefting it usually brought was replaced with recollections of the lives it had taken. Elodie was used to sneaking through The Circle’s hideout and she knew the perfect route to take for her exit. Even this deep in the forest, where not even the silvery gloom of the night sky could penetrate the treetops, she stepped with precision and confidence. She had traveled this secret path so many times, away to a clearing amongst the trees. A pocket of moonlight in this sea of shadow, unknown to everyone except for her and...
Valen stood in the middle of the clearing, staring straight at her. “What are you doing?” he asked. His voice low, he already knew the answer.
Elodie stared back at him, her stomach twisting. She began walking past him, muttering her response “I can’t be here anymore. I have to leave.”
Valen gently grabbed her arm, turning her to look at him. “El, please. Surely we can...”
“You what?” Elodie slapped Valen’s hand away. “You can fix this? You can bring him back? There is no undoing this Valen. No undoing what we’ve done.”
Valen was confused. “What we’ve done?”
“How many people did we kill Valen? How many did you kill personally?”
“They were Selunites!”
“They were people.”
“They’re the enemy.”
“He was my brother!”
Elodie’s teeth grit as she fought to keep her composure. She knew if she broke down here she’d be unable to get away from the hideout before sunrise. Valen’s hands hung at his sides, his shoulders sagged in defeat. “We’re making a better world...” he uttered, as if trying to convince himself.
“A better world for who?” Elodie asked wearily. “It’s not for them. And I don’t think it’s for us.”
The two stood in silence before a breeze blew through the trees, the rustling of trees signaling to Elodie that was time for her to go. Without a word she walked toward the far side of the clearing. Away from The Circle.
This was it, Valen realized. The end of their grand delusion. He turned around, calling out to her. “Elodie!”
Elodie stopped, but she didn’t turn to face him. Waiting for what he had to say.
“Please, don’t go. I-” But the words caught in his throat. He could not bring himself to say them. Because they broke the core tenants of a faith he still falsely clung to.
Love is a Lie. Only Hate Endures.
Elodie waited for a moment before she walked away again. This time Valen did not call to her and soon he was alone in the clearing with the words left unsaid.
Gaius looked among his flock as they gathered for their daily prayer, only three remained. Just as he expected.
“Where is Elodie?” He asked. It was time, he thought, one final test to forge these three into true followers of Shar.
Valen spoke up, his voice wonderfully bereft of any joy. “Elodie is gone.”
“I see...” Gaius was silent for a moment, to let the gravity set amongst the group. He then gave a performative sigh. “It is unfortunate...but it seems our next target will be her.”
The entire group gasped. Even Valen, which surprised Gaius. Valen's hands were tightly balled fists. “But why?” He asked. “We already took her brother from her, why can’t we just leave her alone?”
“She knows our names, where we hide. Just one slip of the tongue could ruin everything.”
Clarice and Anton exchanged a look before looking down at the ground. They saw the wisdom in it. Gaius turned around to hide his smile, enjoying their silent agreement. Finally, he would have a true cult to the Dark Lady. No more would he have to suffer their merriment as-
The silence was cut by Valen seizing Gaius by the neck. Panic took him as he heard Valen speak arcane language. “What is the meaning of th-” His words were drowned out by his scream as negative energy flooded his body, reducing him to a shriveled hush.
Anton and Clarice stared at Valen, struck with dumb shock. “Valen..?” Anton mumbled, unable to think of what to ask next.
Valen stared at Gaius’ lifeless body for a moment before he turned to look at the two, all who remained of The Circle. “He was right.” he finally spoke. “Elodie knows where we are. And she knows our names.”
Clarice’s face fell. “So then we’re going to..?”
“No.” He said firmly. “Gather your things. We leave. And we make new names. We’ll continue our work somewhere else. And we’ll do it our way.”
Anton and Clarice nodded and made for their rooms, leaving Valen alone with Gaius’ body. He reached down and took his spell book, glancing the tome over a moment before looking up at the symbol proudly displayed before him with grim determination. A black disc with a purple trim.
“We’re going to make a better world.” He said to himself.
PC Name: Elodie Rumae