Holy to the Damned (by Subetei)

His beauty always stilled him for a solitary moment , and yet the cavernous depth of his Mark repelled him. A living contradiction, he was the epitome of all that men thought great and yet he and all his race were condemned as Falsemen, to look the very image of youthful beauty and yet be burdened by ages uncounted and dimly remembered. He spoke with the strange intonations of his people, “I see that you study. This is good” he punctuated his declaration with sideways head nod that signalled assent. “Knowledge is power. That is what your school believes, yes?” He paused for a tepid instant, as if to consider the import of his next words. “The power over ones self, the power over others, and if with enough knowledge, power over the very world itself,” his pale skin gleamed in the shambling light of the scriptorium, marble white struggled against suffocating blackness across his upper torso, a field that shifted with random gusts of wind. “Power?” he tried to imbue this single word with derision to mark his incredolusness, and to mask the feelings of awe that the presence of the Quya master evoked in him. “I come here daily to read old tomes about ancient wars and peoples long diminished,” his confusion about his purpose splayed across his youthful face, at the meaning he failed to grasp,” I have duties that I can scarcely finish without trekking daily to this city of parchment.” Human hands waved to the greater room about them, cold stone and dry parchment loomed in every direction, such that a single man seemed a hot blooded intruder in a forest of a higher order.

Nonman lips pulled back across fused teeth, strange that one could almost believe that a pale man stood before him istead of an ancient from a dead race, little details seemed to tear away such comforting fables of their own accord. “You are San-Kaujalau are you not? A prodigy of this age dark age,” again the simple gesture of assent, ” your School will indulge your curiosity, especially at my request. Mortals may burn intensely then fade away, but they will not have forgotten my contributions. Gin’yursis was not the sole sponsor in teaching Men the sublties of the Gnosis.” Once again the wooden bench which had become his closest companion over the last weeks pummeled his backside, sending jolts of outrage across the small of his back. The man who was not a Man stepped smoothly foward his hands clasped behind him, once again his presence assailed the Schoolman. Here was a being that was so much more than a man, and yet so much less, human lifetimes could be creep and there passing scarcely register. A nimil surcoat flowed around his powerful frame shimering like blessed water, a heavenly waterfall to complement his angelic contenence. With each measured stride the individual links drew his his eyes like brilliant lodestones, a million interlocking cranes the width of an eyelash that danced in the flickering light. Not for the first time the sense of wonder that a race that could create such marvels had walked across this very land, they were a stupendous shout compared to mannish growls. The miracles that those eyes had seen and simply forgotten because of the even greater immensities lay stamped across his soul.

“You are a Schoolman and this is the great library of Sauglish, a wonder of the mannish world,’ he spoke as if he doubted the truth of this statement, ” you should be as one with this place. With my brothers I helped raise this place from the wilderness, a crib to hold the summit of your knowledge.” He learned foward, bent at the waist like a like a falling oak. “What have you learned from our madnes and our heartbreak?” he could feel the warmth of his breath cross his lips. Again he wondered at their first strange meeting, when the Siqu had approached him in the hall of his school with a seemingly simply request. To read the grand history of the Cunuroi embodied in the Isuphirya and so pull away the sheaves of millenia. It was unusual but the ways of a Nonman seldom moved according to mannish expectations. Such a request from one who gifted mere men with the Gnosis, taught them the paucity of analogy compared to the essence of meaning. No, his brother Schoolmen would never deny this being, even the Mangaecca respected the writ of Nincama-Telesser. “Come now, the language should flow for you, all schoolmen are now taught are holy tongues instead of mannish barking,” again grand arrogance mixed with stunning insight, such insults would have to be borne by all who conversed with Nonmen.

“No Great One, I could never forget your hallowed tongues, Gilcunya has raised one such as myself to wield the very power of creation. And Ihrimsu has allowed me to plumb the depths of this world.” Ardor fairly leapt from him as he spoke, a sense of things long concealed within finally being unleashed upon their unsuspecting creator. “Even the rulers of Umeria fear to be in my presence, their guards scuttling aound them like ants. Me,” he gestured violently with his hand to his chest, “the son of a fuller elicits terror in the heart of the God-Kings.” The emotions of his humble origins animated his face, disgust that one such as he could come from such people, and relief, relief most of all that his grasping of the onta had allowed him to escape that such a fate. Again the strange gesture of assent, his head still hovering mere finger lengths away. The Nonman spoke again, “yet this power comes at an immortal price,” there it lay spoken, the hard seed to the sweet peach of sorcerous power, “damnation,” they spoke in unison of the bond which all sorcerors shared. A sense of inward turning was the only signifier of the terror that word evoked where before only arrogance beamed forth.

Perfect features draped in white nodded their understanding, as one who will also share the same fate as the condemned. Then he spoke, “is it fair for the world to condemn what the world itself has bestowed upon you? It has made men small in a titanous world, the land , the animals, and even the seasons dwarf lowely Man.” Chalk white lips parsed in contemplation, the spoke again, “only the intellect of Man makes him greater than the that which encompasses him. And what is sorcery if not the ultimate expression of that intellect overcoming nature. And yet we are forever damned for using are greatest gift, and these are the gods to who you pray?” The last question simply one of base sanity. As if the condemned could worship his executioners. A mask of fury contorted the face of the sorceror, “I long ago gave up that special brand of madness, rational men do not give credence to the Outside, only the foolish harken to such fables as the God!” Crimson shame bloomed across him that he should show such weakness before the Siqu, yet the Nonman betrayed no sign of discomfort. Instead truthful words, “your fears animate your beliefs, for there is a God shatterred across the Outside and your actions will see you forever damned,” a look of absolute pity accompanied this admission, a loving father decsribing the realities of a cruel world to a loved child.

“Why?’ he struggled to control his roaring emotions, “why would you come here to tell me this? Do you think I do not already know? That I do not war with nightmares of burning when I sleep?” A sorceror became a beaten dog in the space of a few heartbeats, the mask pulled from even a sorceror of rank. A strange smile animated the haunting face, the perfection of his features became more stark as he backed away, satisfied that pupil had taken the final step toward kwowledge. “Indeed it is not fair,” his teeth seemed a great gate that opened and closed a path to oblivion, “to trade mere heartbeats of unequal doses of pleasure and pain for the certainty of eternal torment.” The Nonman turned and not for the first time he admired the utter absence of imperfection in the Quya mage. A back and forth pacing before the desk such that his torso hovered above the pages of the ancient tome. A pause in the pacing, a decision reached, “does a just father kill his son for using the tools he himself has provided?” A rhetorical question he decided not meant to be answered, once again he was at a loss in the depths of the Nonmans’ purposes, “a clever son would use the tools anyway and still find away to avoid punishment. Maybe even displace the unjust father, to rule in his stead as a more just ruler.” A conspiratorial wink, as if he emulated a poorly understood human custom. Althougth the words puzzled, dread crept up his spine, of waystations passed that could never be recovered.

“Replace the Gods?” his speach sputtered upon his lips, impossible words that should never be uttered, an idea that was to ludicrous to be voiced aloud. “Perhaps,” the Nonman now played coy with his intentions. “You have read the Isuphiryas,” with a gesture indicating the haunting pages that lay open before him, “how the mighty were laid low by the trickery of those who were deemed to be broken, I myself inhabit those those hallowed pages.” He fairly leapt to display the product of hard study, “you were a mighty prince of renown, Cet’ingira of the high mansion Nihrimsul, cousin to its king Sin’niroiha. You battled against the Nonman King of bardic legend, pulled mighty Wracu burning from the sky, and slew those creatures that were called Inchoroi, hurling their carcasses to the screaming masses of their progeny.” This brought joy to the man, to converse with one as great as this, a being older than nations and mightier than prophets. He relative even if a thousand generations distant, a brother who could also sing the song of creation.

“Yes,”a star pupil that had proved worthy of his mastres praise, “I who was once mighty now stands before you a shamble, a shadow of his former magnificence, as are all my kind.” For the fist time sadness overcame his beauty, his greatness transformed into a wreck clothed in princely garb. “All life is loss we are just the worlds most pertinent example,” a short pause as if to introduce another to a cabal, “what if there were others who also shared the same eternal prospects and yet did not simply wail at their circumstance, but conspired to change the very nature of the world itself. And throw the judgement of heaven back upon itself, defiant to the Outside, only held accuntable to their own judgements”. His tongue seemed melded to his throat, worried glances thrown across the abandonend gallery, as if such heresy could bring immediate damnation down upon them. A question that had selfishly lingered in all sorcerous hearts and yet never voiced.

He spoke, “who are these men who would shut out the heavens and their judgement? A shake of his hairless Head, “men? There are none as of yet, but there may be in the future. I do not speak of men mortal, but never the less their goals and yours may converge upon the same path.” Confusion arced across his soul, “if it is not men, then it must be the Cunuroi. I did not know that your kind also railed against heaven.” Immortal eyes peered directly into his own,” my kind have long since been leeched of such cares. There is more to this world than your short histories have written down. There is a third race upon this world, a race of lovers, although now much reduced in wars with my brothers. Forgotten to history, forbidden to speak of them by Nil’giccas himself, I myself helped raise the mighty glamour which cocoons it still, yet those hungry for knowledge can yet discover them.”

A pointed look at the great text before him, “it was called the Incu-Holoinas by my people before treachery cut out our hearts, golden horns which could pierce if they dared to approach,” a pair of tears equally shocking for the way seemed to enance his beauty as their sudden appearance. Diamonds placed upon a marble statue, mortal emotions running across an immortal face. A palm and fingers extended to the chest, “yet their is a great beauty in heartbreak, here the shadow of absense will forever haunt me,” with wide lucid eyes he looked past him as if sighting an old friend behind the figure of a stranger. “There is also beauty in degredation, perfection being dragged throught the mire. My new teachers have taught me that, a thing can only be truly holy if brought down from stupendous heights to the touch of base hands. I have fallen so far and yet will fall much further,” for the first the sorceror became to question the sanity of his newfound teacher, a cracked vessel showing its imperfection under the suns glare, “I may be the most holy of all this world. And I shall treasure the memories of my great fall.”

The world hung from a pin, there would be no stepping back from the precipice, a leap of faith must be taken. “I will take your brothers to them, to my teachers.” A pin that lay far to the north, shrouded by the accumulation of ages. An angel wreathed in flesh spoke of defying heaven, nothing it seemed to the damned could be more holy.