It is boring, she decides. All of it. Every mass, every prayer, every ritual. So much boredom, she’s certain it’s going to bore a hole into her skull. Zzzz.
A swift hand lands on the back of her head, sending her head first into the bench in front of her with a thud; pain splinters through her cranium though she doesn’t make a peep. (It’s as if the person attached to the hand can read her thoughts about god being boring.) (A hand that would look quite interesting detached from its body, she decides.) She looks up at the sister, rubbing the sore spot on her head, her face a question mark. The sister gestures around the chapel. It’s empty. Oh. She had fallen asleep.
“Go clean up,” the stern woman orders, her tone colder than the frost that clings to bored woman. The bored woman nods and wordlessly rises from the pew; the only sound made comes from her breaking the ice that formed while she sat and the soft scuffle of her shoes against the marble floors.
As she walks towards the chapel exit, she decides that she likes sister Joan, the stern woman. She’s cold and openly despises Iseul, but she never has her sent for penance and for that, perhaps, she will spare her.
...Of course, her stroke of good fortune (i.e., running into a ‘kinder’ sister) only means that she must serve twice the punishment to balance it out. As she is hurrying away, you see, she runs into sister Cathy. She hates sister Cathy. The feeling is very mutual. (How would her face like to meet a cheese grater? This, she wonders often. Without a doubt sister Cathy will not be spared.)
“This is not the way to penance, sweetie,” sister Cathy smiles. (Though it is said that frowning takes more muscles, Iseul has to wonder if the old crone has to work more to lift those wrinkly, drooping jowls.)
“Yes, sister,” she whispers, head bowed, and turns around back into the chapel. (Dear God, she prays for the day when her fingers will wrap around sister Cathy’s neck like snakes and she can pluck out those bulging eyes like forbidden fruit.)
It would be easier for them to kill her, she thinks. And Lord knows they have tried. She’s tried too. But somehow being no good at anything also means she’s no good at dying. No one has ended up happy and they make sure she knows. The scars on her hands and feet only remind her of their most glorious failed attempt. (Dark swirls of energy had danced around Iseul’s hanging body, becoming bigger than the woman––so large her darkness covered the entire sky. It dove down into the crowd of witnesses... There had been so much screaming. Rivers of blood ran through the streets. She would have gotten away had she not collapsed only five minutes after the darkness abandoned her. There has been nothing like it since, and still they are too afraid to try killing again. They do get as close as they can, of course. They can all rot for that, she decides.)
She heads down a dark spiral stairwell, spinning endlessly down into the underbelly of the church. (She has a room upstairs where the sisters live, but this may as well be her actual residence. She probably spends more time here than her room; not that her room is a room at all. It’s a closet, converted into a room with only a bed, a glowing cross, and a small chest for her belongings. It has no windows and that makes her sad.) She adjusts her headband and hops down the last step.
It’s early in the morning when she is released from penance. She tiptoes back towards her room, not because she is trying to be courteous to the sleeping nuns, but because a step more forceful will send shocks of pain through her. Her back is raw, pulsing, and wet. Her arms look like barbeque. A masterpiece or a mess, that she has not decided.
No. No, she has not. Sigh.
The only thing she has decided is that she can take this no longer. It’s not that penance was any worse than normal. It was that she was there at all. When they sent her into Purgatory, a realization dawned on her: it will never end. Forever she will be used to atone for others; bleeding for them, screaming for them, burning for them, bruising for them, having her mind torn apart for them, begging for them. They will never allow her to marry (not that she wants to be paired with one of those vile and ugly creatures). She will always live to be tormented by those who preach love. But she knows getting away is not going to be as simple as escaping. This cage is bigger than her ‘home.’ It is why she has always known the whole parish will need to perish. (Ha.) It is why she has dreamed so peacefully of their violent deaths. She just never knew when the time to jump would be.
However after tonight she arrives at the simple conclusion: the time is now. It is time for everything to go. Bring them to the Hell they fear. Or bring the Hell they fear to them. Either way, they will burn.
She peels her dress off her body and it lands on the ground with a wet slap. Despite her tender body, she moves quickly and flattens herself out on the floor, reaching under her bed for the few supplies she has gathered over the week. It’s nothing much, but her plan is simple: bring Hell to their precious cathedral. Send a message of warning. While it all burns, she will watch the neon glass spark and the guardian angels melt. She will shove the priests and sisters into the hungriest flames for every scar they have ever left on her––physical and not.
The street clothes she was able to scrape together are an ill-suited concoction of stolen children’s clothes from the donation bin. They cling too close to her gangly form, but she doesn’t care. They’re just clothes. She then stuffs the mobile device she stole from a parishioner into her pants, along with a lighter and the few scraps of food she was able to save. (It’s pathetic what she has, but her mind is set. She is suffering no longer.)
It’s a Sunday morning when she sets out on her mission. The air is crisp and the dome’s virtual sky is clear; clear except for the Eye of the Lord that watches over them. (Though it never seems to notice her.) She carefully slithers through the cathedral courtyard and past the guardian angels that all fly overhead. Out of habit, she rubs Saint Peter’s foot before entering the chapel that houses the Promised Land. (She has not been allowed to explore the Promised Land since the darkness rescued her at her crucifixion, but she was wise enough to steal Father Daniel’s access card while he slept and so technically it is not she who enters, but Father Daniel. That is what the records will show anyway.)
The pews are filled with zombie worshippers. That’s what it looks like to Iseul. Blue halos hover around their craniums. Their eyes are glitched out. She’s pretty sure she could push one over and the rest in the row would topple over like dominoes, but she is not here to mess with the (soon to be) perishers.
She walks down the aisle towards a large neon dotted cross that towers where an altar would have been in a traditional church. It blinks little flashes of twinkling blue, doing whatever it is that servers do. Overhead, more guardian angels float peacefully, the eyes covering their multi-wings shift in all different directions and none bother or seem to suspect Iseul. She may as well be invisible. Once she is in front of the cross she stares at the circuit panels and listens to the soft whir of the server. She clutches the lighter in her pocket and then takes it out, flicking it a few times, and…
She forgot gasoline. ‘Shoot.’ Okay, where––
“Iseul.” A cold clammy hand slaps down on the back of her neck; thick sausage-like fingers dig into her skin, bruising her meat, and forcing her to recoil away (or attempt to). “You are not supposed to be here. A vile and corrupted soul like yours will never enter the Promised Land.” He squeezes on her neck and somehow she can feel the smirk in the gesture. “Have we not made it clear that you are less than the worms that chew on the soil of this dead planet?” He yanks her backwards and then slams her into the cross, apparently not concerned that he might damage the monster server.
Her nose cracks, becoming a faucet, and Iseul makes not a peep. ‘This is not what I planned. Hmph––’ She gasps out as the Father wraps an arm around her neck, squeezing, squeezing, squeezing until the oxygen is gone from her lungs and her lips start to blue.
“Ah, no demon today? Then it must be Hell’s lucky day, for that is where I will send you, creature.”
Nobody. A speck of dust. A fly caught in a spider's web, floundering uselessly. You expected that to be the end of the story, didn't you? But, you know, it didn't have to be. Not necessarily. In a world where pots of gold were glittering at the end of the cybernetic rainbow, and where promises were more binding than laws, even a fly could change into a fellow spider. (...if it tore itself apart, that was. If it allowed its belly to be opened, and let the spider lay eggs within. But, haha, what was she if not fertile soil? A caterpillar, with beauty encoded into her DNA? Nobody. Neamh.)
No, they hadn't given her that name. They hadn't actually given her any name at all. Neamh was pretty sure that, if they learned how she called herself in her thoughts, there would be hell to pay. She could hear the storm of insults already: 'Isn't Worm good enough for you?' 'Aww, the thing is having thoughts! How cute. What's next, being able to recognize yourself in the mirror? It's, like, watching evolution happen in real time. Less cute, though, because she's still herself.' 'Little human bitches don't need names, sweetie.' And, the thing was, they were right. Little human bitches did not need those, or anything else. They were there to serve. Neamh reminded herself of that little factoid as she lay spread on the table, knives stuck in her belly, a thin sheen of sweat covering her forehead. (A funny thing, wasn't it? The way they fit so perfectly, as if they'd always been meant to be there. The missing components of a circuit. The empty space between her organs was to be filled, and if that wholeness pleased her masters? Neamh was happy, happy, oh so happy!)
As usual, the fae were holding a feast. It seemed that, when you were a fae, there was always something to celebrate-- an alliance forged or broken, the birth of a child, the death of an enemy. Neamh didn't really understand the intricacies of that, though you know what she did get? That nobody wanted to look at a stupid bitch who didn't even have the decency to smile! Just, how awfully inconsiderate. How selfish did you have to be, to ruin an occasion as joyous as this one? So, despite her consciousness hanging at the thinnest of threads, Neamh did smile. Sincerely, too. A-ah. I cannot believe that they would choose me. Out of all the human filth, they reached for me, me, me! Always, the woman had known she was special-- the way they treated her proved it. That they'd never shattered her fragile shell, and allowed her to breathe? A blessing. A great gift, too. (Perhaps she would end up on the pile of broken bones as well one day, but if that were to happen... why, it would have been her own fault. Her punishment for forgetting her place.)
Síofra, the fae with dark, shiny hair and even darker eyes, fluttered her long eyelashes. "Hey, little one," she pinched her cheek. "Having fun?"
"Yes," Neamh moaned. "My lady."
"Good," she pulled out one of the knives, to the amused laughter of everyone else. (Blood poured out, causing Neamh to roll her eyes. Ugh! How embarrassing. Every droplet, every pained sigh, pointed to the conclusion that she was human, human, human, and the label felt like a firebrand against her skin. A dark prophecy, told by some wizened, ugly crone. Why had her mother bothered to give birth to her, again? Seemed like so much work for something so useless.) "You're going to enjoy what shall come that much more, I can tell." With her forked tongue, Síofra licked the wound, and Neamh shivered. "After all, I do think that you deserve some fun before your graduation. If you truly become one of us..." she laughed, her voice clear like a bell, and Neamh... ah, in that moment, Neamh loved her. (She always had. Síofra, and Aoife, and Ceanna as well, and everyone who wasn't her.) "...I won't be able to do that to you anymore. Can you comprehend how sad that is, with that empty head of yours?"
"You will!" Neamh insisted. "My lady, I will... I will always let you. Forever." With her hand, she grasped Síofra's wrist, and.. ah. She'd crossed a line, hadn't she? Touches were meant to be received, not given! And, indeed, the woman swatted her away, as if she was but an annoying mosquito. Gulp.
"Don't be silly. If you become one of us, there will be different games for you to play."
Graduation. You know how, if you played your cards right, a pawn could turn into a queen? Well, it was something like that. Was and wasn't, really, because Neamh had never even touched the playing board-- she was filth, rot, the crumbs under the table. A replacement of a replacement, the lowest of the low! But her masters were wise, and not a molecule of potential escaped their attention. Oh no, no, no. Iseul, she thought, exploring the name in her mind. Iseul, I sure hope that you're trash. A piece of shit. A butterfly whose wings I can break, and hang on the wall. And, to be completely honest? The chances of that were pretty high. After all, they were bound by fate-- by that invisible thread, linking all which was meant to be linked. Wasn't the girl bound to be a fucking disaster, then? I also hope she tastes nice, Neamh thought, as the gates of light were being opened. (The were large, large and looming, and pulsing to the rhythm of the Undying Heart. If she was lucky enough, it would absorb her as well one day.) And not at all like mushrooms. I hate those so much.
Humans and their stupid cathedrals. Why did they feel the need to build those? To forget just how insignificant they were, if only for a second? Pathetic. The cables were pathetic, the server lights as well, and, ugh, Neamh wanted to go home! Just being there continued infecting her with the gross human-ness, and she felt weaker for even existing on the same plane. (Weakness osmosis. Ew.) Still, smiling was the way to go, so Neamh did smile.
"Hello? Are you Iseul?"
The girl didn't respond, mostly because she was being choked by a disgusting horde of flesh that most likely called itself a man. Understandable, she guessed. It seemed that even the fae's vocal cords had some limitations...? Gently, almost shyly, Neamh tapped the man's shoulder. "Hey. Would you kindly step away from my Iseul?"
Finally, the man noticed her presence, and turned around. ...huh. Was his vein always pulsating so wildly? Seemed wildly unheathy, if you asked for her opinion. "What are you...? Blasphemer! I don't remember your face. I know not who you are, and thus you have no business being here. Do you wish to call forth the god's wrath?" Ah, the thing insisted on talking. How disappointing. Again, was humanity infectious? Because, honestly, given the amount of human DNA in her already tainted shell, Neamh could afford to take no risks.
(Thud, thud. His heart was beating in his chest, loud like a thunder. Fucking annoying, wasn't it? And so the not-fae reached into his chest, and squeezed. Heh.)
A waterfall of blood burst from his mouth, so much of it that it could have been its own river, and Neamh... Neamh laughed, joyfully, like a child. She twirled in delight as well, washing her hands in the warm liquid. Sometimes, life could almost be beautiful! "Nothing better than this," she tilted her head aside, and then, without thinking, smeared some of the blood over Iseul's lips. "Goodness gracious, are you not a beauty? I would love, love, love to eat you. Right here, and right now. What do you say, Iseul? Will you grant me the honor?"
No. No, this is not at all what she had planned. This entire place should be burning, smeared in orange and yellow; there should be screams filling the air––the guardian angels should be scrambling and yet, there is only the strange gurgle from her throat as she makes a feeble attempt to breathe. Oxygen is fast leaving her lungs and her lips are bluing, face paling, and vision spotting. Some last ditch instinct causes her filed down claws and fangs to grow, and she does not even bother using them. It doesn’t occur to her to fight against the holy man, so used to her struggles being futile and so used to being tossed to flames if she resists their touches. She doesn’t fight and the darkness doesn’t come to save her. (It’s abandoned her, she thinks. Just like everything else it has given up on her.) Maybe he will succeed. Maybe she really will be brought to Hell and burn in the lava river for eternity. ‘Mother of God, be with me, a sinner, now in my hour of death…’
She gasps out and sputters and does not realize there is someone addressing her. Her vision is too spotty to see the other anyway and she only realizes something is wrong when she is unceremoniously dropped in a heap, as if she were no more than someone’s dirty laundry. Though released she only blinks, remains calm, and carefully fills herself with oxygen again. ‘Did the darkness come?’ No, she knows that is not right rather immediately because there is no power surging through her veins; she cannot feel the pulses of all the bodies in the room acting like targets and there is a distinct lack of screaming. She rubs her neck and looks up in time to see some stranger—a savior? (Has the Lord decided she is worth saving? Is this a sign that her mission is holy and blessed? The guardian angels do not stop the assailant so either they agree or perhaps she is a guardian angel too?)
Her eyes sparkle watching the woman sink her hand into the man’s chest, as if she were reaching into sand. Then she gasps when she rips out the prize inside, his heart, like it is one of those toys hidden in cereal boxes. The corpse drops to the floor with a thud and only when he is free of the other do the guardian angels float down to inspect the carnage. Again, they pay no mind to Iseul or the other angel (?). 'Have I been chosen?'
When the angel (?) brushes her lips, she shudders so unused to being touched. So unused to the gentleness of the actions. ‘Angels are kind messengers, of course. Of course.’ The blood just touches her tongue and lightning shoots down to her toes; her eyes––two dark abysses––flash electric blue for the briefest moment. “Ahh,” she practically moans. The noise is hoarse and confused and Iseul knows not what to make of any of this. After a few seconds she decides likes it, the blood, and already she craves more. (Taste! She wants to taste the heart, the supposedly purest of muscles. The container for all feelings pleasant and wicked, according to the poets. She imagines the heart must be quite tough, being so lean. One would have to be careful cooking such a piece of meat–– Ah, and those are sinful thoughts. She knows this because she remembers the consequence of eating a classmate's finger all too well.)
“Is it... Is there nothing better?" she asks, her voice low and hoarse. Her brows knit together as she considers this, a great effort clearly happening behind her eyes as she mulls over the possibility that, according to this angel (?), there is nothing better than ripping hearts out. But maybe only ripping hearts out is okay. Maybe Iseul crossed the line wanting to taste more. ...Though it does also occur to her that the woman before her might be the devil in disguise sent to tempt her faith, not an angel. That does make more sense. Hmm. She should resist. She should. And she doesn't want to. She is done with God and His little tests, she decides. No one ever has come to save her. They all claim she deserves her punishments and yet, she cannot figure out why. Never was she given an explanation and so never could she repent properly. It is their fault she is so evil, she realizes. She'll take the devil's hand, then, if only because she is the only one who has offered.
She also called her pretty.
Never have those words been used to refer to Iseul. For a second she wonders if the devil is referring to someone else; some people are quite overcome with the cross when they first see it. Though she guesses the devil might not be that impressed with it given, you know, everything. So it must be herself who the other woman is calling a beauty. Her cheeks color instantly and she stumbles trying to get up from the floor, wondering if she really is pretty or not. Mostly she thought she resembled something closer to barf on the sidewalk, since that is how most people look at her. "I am a parishioner of the cathedral, but a beauty? Not to my knowledge, no," she insists politely. Then she shakes her head at the idea of being eaten. "I know you have just saved me and if eating me is the price to pay, it will have to wait. I have a mission. See, I nearly failed and then you saved me. Because I am still alive I must try again." She had been so close, after all. Not close enough to taste it, because she doesn't believe that victory has a taste, but it had been enough to electrify her heart. She wants to feel that way one last time before she dies, she decides. "In my second chance, I will not mess up. I will remember the gasoline." She fidgets with the lighter nervously, unsure of whether or not the devil is keen on waiting for her meals. She guesses that if she decides to eat her here and now, that she won't be able to do much about it. But she really would rather that not happen. "I know where there is a lamb for you to eat if you are so hungry, in the meantime."
“Also, I am called Iseul,” she clarifies, recalling what the devil had asked earlier. Iseul is not her name, she knows, and she also knows that her true name is something to never utter. That is such a deep seated instinct that she can barely even let herself think it. (The memory of her name is one of her earliest. She is a baby––a newborn, most likely. Her eyes must have been closed, because there is no image associated. Just the feeling of her chest pressed to her mother's and the gentle caress of her fingers through her soft pitch black mane. Her mother had soft lips, she remembers. They pressed to the shell of her ear and whispered––) "And you? Are you, perhaps, the morning star?" She tilts her head to the side, curious.
'Look with your eyes,' they'd told her. 'Even a stupid human bitch can handle that.' And, oh, Neamh did exactly that-- with her own green eyes, she took in Iseul's perfect skin, ink-colored hair, and the soft, soft features of the fae. Beautiful? Beautiful didn't even to describe her. (Especially with the blood dripping from her lips, each droplet a shining ruby. Ah. How, hmm, evocative. The sweet nostalgia leaking from her subconsciousness, reminding her of all the times they had taken her in that way? Of the times she'd been useful? God, such a potent wine it was! From that cup, Neamh decided, she would like to drink again. She would like it soon, too. Now.) "Not to your knowledge," she repeated, sounding genuinely baffled. (Iseul, the daughter of the fae. The chosen one, her bloodline a gem amongst the sea of mediocrity. Did she really not see it? Had the darkness consumed her vision?)
"Is that so? Perhaps you just... haven't seen yourself from the right angle yet. Covered in blood, you are divine. No," she shook her head, "something even greater than that. After all, what was it that God created? This world? Not much to be proud of, I think. You, on the other hand... well, you haven't earned my respect yet, either. But within your veins," Neamh took the girl's arm and caressed it tenderly, sending sparks of electricity down her own spine, "there's potential. A great gusto for destruction. Oh, I can tell, I can tell!" (All of the fae were like that, you see? Laughter, and sugar and spice, but underneath all of that, a storm, waiting to be unleashed. Something primal, which the silly human fairytales warned them from. What for, though? Neamh didn't get it. Wasn't it oh so satisfying, oh so beautiful, to serve one's purpose? ...livestock, bred for meet, didn't fucking get to complain. She wouldn't, either.)
"I wish you could see yourself through my own eyes," Neamh mumbled, placing a small kiss on her wrist. (There, too, the woman left a bloodied stain, and she couldn't help but marvel at the wonder of it. Ethereal. Stunning. Stunningly stupid, too, and she couldn't wait to tear her apart, limb from limb. Iseul, she repeated in her mind. Oh, my dear Iseul. Will you please, please let me taste you? You will never want anyone else. I will be so good to you.) "I know you'd be amazed, my beautiful, beautiful lady. My fate. My reason for living." If the guardian angels scared Neamh, then she was remarkably good at hiding it. But, really, it didn't seem that the woman had noticed them at all-- as far as she was concerned, only her and Iseul existed. (As for the others? Pale shadows, worthless imitations. Soulless fucking husks.)
"Ah? Is it an inconvenient time for you to be eaten now?" Neamh tilted her head aside, looking genuinely concerned. "Are you hurting, perhaps? I can make the pain go away. My mistresses always said that hurting me made them feel better." Seemingly out of nowhere, she procured a knife-- an elegant, silver blade, with runes carved into its hilt. ('Nobody.' They hadn't allowed her to learn the fae script, deeming it too pure for her filthy eyes, but that was one of those symbols she had become all too familiar with. In her life, it was a constant presence. Nobody. Neamh.) "Wound me if you wish," she said, fluttering her eyelashes. (A blushing maiden, offering her first kiss to her one true love.) "Just promise me your flesh, so that I may eat you later."
When Iseul stated what her plan was, though? Neamh laughed, her soprano voice echoing endlessly against the walls of the cathedral. "Iseul, my beautiful Iseul. Is that what you want to do with your life? Burn a meagre cathedral, and leave your footprint in that pile of ashes? Disappointing. Such a goal is unworthy of you." A fae, a higher creature, didn't think like that. Sad as it was, it seemed the humans had tainted her with their mediocrity-- etched their wretchedness into her skin, with nails and needles and knives. (In that, they were sisters. One had been born in filth, the other raised in it! Both different flavors of doom, certainly, but... well, Neamh could see the parallels. Easily, too.)
"Promise me," she repeated, caressing her hair. (Touching her, the woman had decided, was everything. Salvation and damnation, wrapped in one convenient package. Good.) "Promise me, Iseul, that you'll be mine, and I will show you what you were made for. What you were born for. Together, we will lay waste not to the cathedral, but the entire city. The world as well, if God dares to defy us." And, as for who she was? Well, well, well, if that wasn't a question she had been trying to answer for years! (Trash. A piece of shit. A leech, hoping to transform into a colorful butterfly. The easiest way to explain this, though...?) "No, not the morning star. I am you, Iseul. Or will be, if I'm lucky enough. But before I become you, you may call me Neamh. Now, will you give me that lighter of yours? You don't need such pathetic props. You see, the power has been sleeping within you all this time. Wouldn't you like to awaken it, hmm?" The knife, previously offered to Iseul, ended up in her hand again-- with a practiced flourish, she cut into the soft flesh of her arm, and watched it drip, drip, drip on the floor. "Drink," Neamh commanded. "Let me be your gasoline."
Green eyes. Deep emerald eyes. Her memories of her mother are few, and she remembers how upset she had been that Iseul's eyes were not green anymore. ("There is something wrong with her," her mother had said in a hushed tone as she spoke with the priest. "This is not my daughter. She is not Iseul but some... Some imposter. The babe is not right––she speaks in full sentences, Father. A demon, I fear, has entered my house. Help me get my Iseul back.") They're beautiful, she decides. She understands, now, why her mother had not been pleased she did not have green eyes. Back then, she had tried to change them to appease her mother but that had not worked. Her mother just screamed when she showed her the green eyes she found in the park. Still, in spite of everything, she wishes she could make it up to her mother, for having such ugly depths, but she doesn't know where her mother is and hasn't since... "You have pretty eyes," she whispers, blinking, and fighting off the temptation to steal these eyes, too.
When the devil takes her arm and smoothes her hand over the soft inner flesh, she shudders (again), her breath hitching in her throat. 'Ah, so gentle.' The devil is supposed to be cruel, evil incarnate, and yet Iseul wonders what else Catholics have been wrong about because this mystery in front of her is so lovely. "You really think so?" her eyes widen, taking in everything this woman says without question. 'She believes in me.' "I... I don't know what to say to that." The priests and sisters would never associate divinity with Iseul, because she is corruption; the perfect example of what happens to those who stray from God's light. She has tried to repent for her sins, to get closer to His holy image, but nothing has ever been good enough. No amount of bleeding or screaming has been good enough, but this woman? This woman, the devil, believes her to be divine with blood, like lipstick, staining her lips. She likes the praise, she decides. "I cannot recall the last time I saw myself in a mirror, so perhaps I have not seen myself from the correct angle. What... what else do you see?"
Once again, her eyes widen and she gasps softly as the devil kisses her wrist tenderly, as if she is worthy of tenderness. It feels wrong. It feels right. Those lips against her skin remind her of the train tracks and. She doesn't want to think about that so she jerks her arm away, a great storm brewing her chest. She shuts her eyes tightly and holds her breath, flexing her chest to quell whatever nameless thing she is feeling. "C-careful, you might die if you do that." Kiss her, that is. Kissing her is a death sentence, obviously. (Then again, maybe the devil has nothing to fear in kissing her, for the devil is evil incarnate and already damned. A kiss from her probably is nothing, but she doesn't want to think of that at all. She doesn't want to risk it.)
The offer to harm the devil also confuses and startles Iseul––never has someone given her permission to hurt them. It is also not lost on her that the devil claims to have mistresses and the sinner wonders who evil incarnate might bow to? Unless, perhaps, she is not evil incarnate and thus not the devil. An interesting thought, but she doesn't know what to do with it. She only knows that she does want to follow this woman, to the ends of the Earth. Through Hell and back. If only because her laugh is pretty and she believes in Iseul; believes in her ability to reach for the stars and pull them down to Earth so that everything is swallowed in fire. She leans into the caress, unable to help her greed, her lust, her desires for affection. "Y-yes, you can have me," she promises and as the words fly from her mouth, she feels their power forming metaphoric shackles to the other woman, binding them together. "Show me my destiny, Neamh, and you may have Iseul." She never liked being Iseul that much anyway. If the other woman wishes to have her identity, then she is happy to give it away; even happier knowing that she might unlock her potential by losing the only identity she has ever known. She nods and obediently hands Neamh the lighter. "Yes, yes, show me my power," she breathes, watching the ruby liquid drip from the other woman's veins. Her mouth waters and her fangs seem to sharpen at the sight. Hesitantly, she takes the other woman's arm and looks at the gush. It's so beautiful she could weep. She squeezes her arm, more blood pulses out, but Iseul is not wasteful and before another drop can fall to the floor her mouth latches onto Neamh, her tongue laving over the cut. Her eyes shudder close. Against her will, she moans, electricity flying through her veins as she drinks from this holy fountain. The whites of her eyes become pools of darkness; her irises shine electric blue behind her eyelids. 'Yes, yes, yes! More, more, more!'
(How long has been starved?)
As she drinks from this heavenly chalice, inky tendrils slither across her skin––crawling up her arms, neck, transforming her body into the darkness. Ego, as it likes to be called. Raw, untapped power surges through her veins the more she drinks and drinks and drinks, becoming blood drunk. She doesn't want to stop. She doesn't. Ego keeps her feasting on Neamh's arm, but she she can sense the woman's pulse dropping the more she takes, giving away her fragility. 'Ah, don't kill her,' she reminds herself, pulling herself away with a great amount of reluctance. She licks her lips clean, making sure not to waste any drop of Neamh's gift. Despite the drink she's just had, she craves more. Ego craves more. With her body turned into an amorphous inkblot, she swirls around her savior and something about the action makes it seem like a sweet embrace, a caress, especially the way the shadows comb through her hair. "I will not let this sacrifice go to waste. I will not let this go unappreciated," Ego and Iseul assure, their voices layering over one another. (It's not that Ego is really a separate entity from Iseul. It is still her on a fundamental level; it's just her with less reservations.)
When she sets her gaze on the pews, she can feel the pulses of the parishioners calling to her like an invitation to the contents of their veins. Naturally, she accepts. With her current figureless form, she turns herself into a violent dark wind and whips through the pews, shredding into the zombies and drinking from their bleeding faces. One by one, their neon halos go out. (The cross-server starts to blink red as church-goers are abruptly ripped from the Promised Land. The neon glass images that had been playing the stations of the cross all freeze and melt into vehement shades of bright red. An alarm blares through the cathedral.)
At that moment, the guardian angels whip around; the eyes sprinkled over their multi-wings shift from the dead priest over to the server. Then they scan the room for the culprit, ultimately landing on Neamh who stands alone while Iseul's rips through the patrons, invisible to their many eyes. The way that mouths with sharp teeth replace half the eyes on their wings is probably nothing. As is the way they descend on Neamh.
Well, well, well. What did she see, in those dead, beautiful eyes of hers? “The sea,” Neamh replied, allowing her thoughts to roam free. “Something too deep for the minds of worms to comprehend. A forest, too-- older and more sacred than any of the cathedrals those morons toiled to build. A single rose growing in filth. But most importantly of all, my dear Iseul,” she caressed her cheek, wondering silently whether her skin would be as smooth, as perfect, once she claimed her place, “I see you. And that is more than I have ever asked for.” (Iseul, Iseul, Iseul. Such a pretty name, wasn’t it? It rolled off one’s tongue easily, like a curse spat into the face of God, and she… ah, she could imagine it. Being her, that was. Calling herself by that name, looking at the world through those eyes, and shredding Neamh to pieces.) “I wonder,” she giggled, “will you let me keep your hair? I love your hair. It’s so smooth and silky, I could wrap myself in it and fall asleep.” So, the concept of personal space? To Neamh, it seemed, you might as well have been explaining it in Chinese. Immediately, her hands were in Iseul’s hair, combing through it gently, and pulling her closer at the same time. (Closer, closer, closer, ever closer. No, it wasn’t enough-- it never would be, not until the moment her teeth sank into her flesh. Ah. I wonder, how tasty will she be? Thinking it would be funny, the mistresses had made her savor human flesh before, but that… that had never been any good. In them, Neamh could taste the same mediocrity that was coursing through her veins as well. Disgusting! Iseul, though… ah, her beautiful, beautiful Iseul would help her ascend. On the stairs made of her spine, she’d walk towards the heaven.)
“I hear your promise,” Neamh whispered, feeling… well, some type of way. Both overwhelmed and overjoyed. In this place teeming with filth, she felt, a true miracle was born. Did the witnesses realize just how blessed they were? Their false God still sat his golden throne, and yet, yet they were allowed to glimpse something real-- something holy, despite living in lie. (A precious gift, she thought. Far too precious for the likes of them, indeed, and so they had to pay! Their blood, as impure as it was, would suffice. Iseul, being the pretty little flower that she was, needed it to bloom.) “I hear it, and I acknowledge it. For as long as your vow to be mine, I shall be your guiding star. Let it be known, to the soil and the sky, that our deal has been sealed.” Sacred words, for a sacred event. Most appropriate, wasn’t it? Her baptizing it with her own blood was as well, for every celebration, every feast, had to start with an appetizer. “Drink of me,” she once again commanded. “Don’t waste a single drop. This is only meant for you, my Iseul-- don’t let it feed the beasts sleeping beneath the cathedral.” Hmm. Beasts sleeping beneath the cathedral? Surely, that meant nothing! A pretty phrase, meant to mask the distinct lack of meaning.
When Iseul’s lips touched the wound, though? Neamh moaned and grew limp in her arms, docile like a lamb. This, after all, was her place. Her fate. The fate of those born from human mothers, only good for one thing-- to give, give and give, till their veins were empty and their bones cleaned of flesh. How should she not find joy in this? When birds soared the skies, their hearts sang, too! (Briefly, Neamh wondered what would happen if Iseul let herself get carried away. Death, her logical side supplied. Death, cold and lonely, and a broken promise. You know what, though? That would have been fine as well. Still, still she would get to be a part of Iseul-- she would have her, in the most intimate of ways. Indeed, the not-fae was wise enough by now to know that only the relationships forged in death were eternal. Those who were still alive… hmm, let’s just say that they had this unfortunate tendency to disappoint. Iseul, though? Oh, that didn’t apply to her. All this time, she had been an eagle, with her wings bound by barbed wire. Barbed wire that Neamh had cut. Was it any wonder, then, that she took to the skies?)
“Your true form,” Neamh clasped her hands, reverence written in her eyes. “It’s so beautiful, my Iseul! I was mistaken, though, for you are not the sea. No, you are night itself. Drown them in your darkness, my lady. Teach them all what true fear means.” Because, no, fear wasn’t in not following a made-up god’s made-up rules-- it was looking into the eyes of someone better than you, and recognizing how little you were worth. Knowing that you’d never rise above your filthy bloodline, because your hands were bound by it. Oh, they knew nothing, nothing about it! …but, together, they would teach them. Hmmm, Neamh pursed her lips. How rude. My Iseul is giving the performance of her life, and they don’t even have the decency to scream?
…perhaps she would scream soon, though. With anger. The mechanical messengers surrounded her, their mechanic wings flapping in the wind? The sight of it caused outrage to rip through her, like an electric current through a lake. “Have you no shame?” Neamh asked, her voice resonating through the cathedral. (The alarms blared, but she saw them not. She heard them not, either.) “You are witnessing the birth of your true god. Stay back, and kneel!” The words she spoke were true, truer than anything any mortal had ever uttered before, and oh, there was great power in that. Those who lived in lie often forgot, you know? The might of truth, uttered without fear. (The sound was born in her mouth, but as it left it, it transformed into something else. Into a shockwave, shattering the stained-glass windows into pitiful fucking pieces. The shards rained down upon them, a glittering geyser, and ah, wasn’t that beautiful? Dust you are, and to dust, you shall return.)
And as for the angels? The pitiful things whirred, becoming sort of… stuck in the air. Motionless. (Had Neamh known something about electronics, she would have concluded that the shockwave had disrupted some of its delicate sensors. She didn’t know any of that, but she did, in fact, understand one thing-- that the reprieve was momentary.) “Iseul, my sweet,” she called out. “Have you ever been to Promised Land?” If not, it was certainly her lucky day. With her right arm, Neamh touched the wall. Was it a wall, actually? Because her fingers seemed to blend with it, revealing cables and wires and, yes, thorns, and then… then they were both sucked inside, like helpless swimmers into a whirlpool.
When Iseul finally came to, a million years later, she found out she had returned to her human form. And Neamh? Neamh was kneeling at her feet, a wild spark in her eye. “My sweet, I promised you to show you the way. That is what I did, so now you find yourself in the very heart of the cathedral. To break its spirit, you only have to devour it.” But, you see, something about this felt odd. If this was Promised Land, why were rivers of fire scarring the soil, and why was the sky covered with dark, dark wings? Why were there whispers, invading her ears? ‘Get out, out, out, sinner. Get out!’ “Tell me what you would have me do, my Iseul.”
"My Iseul." Her Iseul. Hers. A woman born to no one, finally belonging to someone? It is much too overwhelming for the woman. The emotion is so powerful that it rips through her chest as powerfully as she rips through her victims in the pews with her figureless form, her darkness. Ego. The night, as Neamh had said. She is the night itself, she believes, and she will plunge these miserable cretins into the darkness where they belong. The bodies all collapse where they sit, not so much as screaming or protesting in their zombie state. She doesn't wonder whether or not they understand what has just happened to them, because she does not care. To her, in this frenzied state, they are hers to feast upon so that she can become strong. So that she can stretch across the virtual dome sky and rip this city in two. Never ever did she think she would have ambitions so large, but this Neamh, who she has only just met, believes herself capable of such destruction and even wishes to be her guiding star. Nothing has ever belonged to her––not herself, not her name, not her anything––and now she has a star. A guiding star! (A guiding star who would look wonderful lit aflame, she decides.)
To think that just this morning she had nearly settled for burning the church. Of course, she also intended to destroy the server that houses their precious Promised Land, but how paltry that is in comparison to this. Destruction and feasting. Oh, she had been wrong to assume the darkness had abandoned her. The more she feeds, the more she realizes she had abandoned the darkness. She had neglected its hunger and let herself starve. How dare those rotten nuns and priests selfishly prevent her from culling their followers. For that, they will pay and she has her guiding star to help her. Her guiding star who sees her, who cherishes her, who believes in her. She will not disappoint Neamh and once she has finished her mission, she will lay her body out on Neamh's table to feast. 'I do hope she likes the flavor of my meat.'
Vaguely, Ego is aware of the guardian angels crowding around her guiding star, but so preoccupied feasting on the limbs of the parishioners, she fails to go and protect her savior. Not that it seems she needs to, because soon neon glass rains down upon the cathedral, falling through Ego's form. She barely registers the shockwave or any of this, but she does recognize Neamh's voice cutting across the cathedral to beckoning her back to her side and, both Ego and Iseul knowing no better than to follow, return to the woman. (The carnage she leaves behind is beautiful. The corpses all lay strewn about the aisles, missing limbs and hearts; the air is thick with the smell of blood and all the wall, Ego has left her warning: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. Ha.)
Has she ever been to the Promised Land? Yes. Twice. Once on a school trip and a second time, on accident, when she found a hole in Purgatory and wandered there on her own. (Sister Cathy had been so mad. Father Thomas, likewise, had not been pleased. They handed her that whip with spikes all over it, the very one she hates, and ordered her to repent. Lash after lash, she imagined what it would be like to peel their faces off and feed it to the starved dogs howling outside.) The idea that she might go there again without permission, without having earned it, would ordinarily make her cower but as Ego she feels it is her right by birth. Who is more holy than the woman who repents for the sinners? She thinks, no one.
The vortex they're sucked through, however, does not seem to agree with her amorphous state and forces her back into the shape of a woman. Of Iseul. Ugly pathetic Iseul. Iseul who is gangly and gaunt and always smells of frankincense and myrrh because she lives at the church. She hates her.
First, when her void-like eyes flutter open, she recognizes that this is not the Promised Land. This is Purgatory. That is obvious. A flash of anger surges through her, coupled with hurt and betrayal, because Neamh, her guiding star, took her here! 'Why? Was I not good? Did she hate... Does she hate me?' Her heart twists like it's a towel being wrung out and her face contorts with so many nasty thoughts at once, she's pretty sure they are going to explode from her head and cause a tornado and then.
Neamh speaks. And when Iseul opens her wretched not-green eyes again, she sees the woman kneeling before her. Her. A woman of no merit or talent. (But Neamh sees something in her worth encouraging and that is everything, she decides.) Like a summer storm, her worries and hurt disappear in a flash. With a great amount of effort, Iseul sits herself upright, feeling dizzy and weak even if she has just fed. (This is how she felt the last time Ego got so big.) She rubs her head, smearing the blood coating her skin and looks to her companion. "Do I look... divine?" she asks shyly, remembering what the other woman had claimed before. She also remembers all those bodies she consumed and wrinkles her nose. "You have my favorite blood. Don't make me drink from those foul receptacles again. Yours is like the wine Jesus made from water and the rest of them were all swill. Bleh."
Blinking, she looks around them, at Purgatory, and grimaces. "This is neither the Promised Land nor the heart of the cathedral." She pushes herself up to stand, sticking her arms out for balance. The whispers that invade her ears are angry, she thinks. They are angry and loud and she wishes they would shut up. "And I'm not a sinner," she protests against the whispers and their insistence, "I was given no other way. And my guiding star will show me my way." She spins around, looking for the accuser but there is no one other than herself, Neamh, the flames, and wings. This is a barren land. This is not Purgatory, she realizes. (Purgatory usually has more denizens, more screams, more fire, more everything. She also does not recall either of them plugging into the net.) So where are they? Where did Neamh take them?
That question doesn't get answered, but the wings in the sky do fall to the ground before them, kicking up dust in their faces. Iseul covers herself and coughs and once the dust settles... She has no clue what she is staring at. A woman? A giant woman if that is what she is, with grey-purple skin and long ebony hair. The woman is bleeding from the side of her ribs, but rather than blood, fire leaks from her. Fire and ice and winds. She moans, belabored, but doesn't do much more than that. Iseul frowns. "You took us to the incorrect location, Neamh," she informs her companion. "I want you to get us out of here. This creature is unwell and I cannot devour sick flesh." She imagines that would make her own flesh foul and she cannot have foul flesh when she has promised herself to Neamh.
"I said," that same voice from earlier says, her voice filling the air. It becomes obvious that the voice belongs to the giant winged woman when her hand shoots into the air, sending sparks into the sky that shower back down over them. "Get. Out." And on the last word, the ground shakes. Several metal arms punch through the scorched Earth, with metal claws attached. They pull themselves up, revealing themselves as these half-machine, half-flesh monstrosities with broken, battered wings all bent out of shape. Those that still have mouths have their lips sewn shut and most have had their eyes removed; that doesn't seem to be an issue with all the eyes covering their broken wings and bodies. One of the mouthless sacks makes these strange garbled noises and its eye speckled body all stare Neamh down.
"Yes, get us out of here now. These robots won't taste good." She's not particularly concerned about the threat. Neamh will protect her. She is her savior. Nothing can harm her or touch her while Neamh is near.
“Yes,” Neamh replied, so much reverence spilling from her lips that it might as well have been a prayer. (Perhaps it was. A true prayer as well, not the empty pleas those cowards feasted on. The humans’ relationship with their God? It was laughable, the not-fae thought-- just whispering wishes into the void, and hoping, oh so desperately, that someone would hear. Seeing signs where there were none, too, for the truth of it would smash them into pieces. They knew instinctively that their God didn’t care, didn’t they? Neamh’s god, on the other hand… oh, she was there. She was there, piercing her with those haunting eyes of hers, and, instinctively, the woman knew that she depended on her as much as did on her. …with a single word, you see, she could have crushed her. ‘No,’ Neamh could have said, ‘you look awful. Ugly. I hate you.’ And her wings, colorful like those of a butterfly, would shatter. Fragments would be all that was left of her, those holy relics strewn upon the cursed soil, and oh, how she would have loved to collect them! To put them together once again, and create the god in her own image. …such a fragile, fragile thing. Godhood, that was. Neamh liked it, she decided. “The spark of divinity lives within you, my Iseul. You were born with it. As such, you cannot not look divine. Will you allow me to bask in your light?” Because, damn, there was nothing that she wanted more-- not now, and not ever, not since the moment she’d been old enough to comprehend what desire even meant. (She’d asked herself, over and over, why she had been born in the first place. Her, the ugly, paltry thing, made of weakness and vice, shaped like the beasts that had ruined the earth. The rag meant to absorb everyone’s filth. What was the point? To be the universe’s biggest joke? Though now, oh, now Neamh understood! The true god was asleep, and she was to be her first apostle. So far, her eyes were still sewn shut, but wasn’t that its own kind of honor? To witness the moment they fluttered open, and drowned the world in its magnificence.)
“Please,” the not-fae fluttered her eyelashes, and hugged her leg. (More. Ah, she needed much, much, much more than that! To feel her warmth, her hands on her skin, her teeth on her throat-- to walk that thin line she’d walked so many times, between ecstasy and death. …then, and only then, was she allowed to feel something. Her mistresses had made that excessively clear, the first time they’d shown her what her place was. Of course, Neamh was thankful for that. Always, always was she ready to accept anything they were willing to give her! Especially when they were compliments, wrapped in that silky smooth voice of hers. To think that it was her blood that she preferred the most, despite the concerto of violence earlier… ah. How meaningful. The blood harvested during the hunt was always the most savory, the fae had told her, and yet, yet she preferred her! Neamh, who was otherwise nobody. Neamh, who could now be someone.)
“Please, drink of me whenever you like. Allow me to worship you properly, too. To take care of your needs. I know you must have been struggling, my beautiful Iseul.” Somehow, as she spoke, the hug turned into something else-- she was rubbing the girl’s calf now, and slowly, her hand was working its way up to her thigh. (If her surroundings bothered her, then she did a good job of hiding it. More than likely, though? It just hadn’t occurred to her to be frightened, with the god at her side.) “None have been worthy enough to touch you, and they wouldn’t even know what to do with god herself. I do know, though! I have been studying. So that I could one day drink from the holy grail, I have emptied many, many, many cups.”
When Iseul finally started to protest, though? Neamh looked up at her, uncomprehending. “But this is the heart of the cathedral. See how rotten it is? Beneath the shiny surface, it is nothing but emptiness, and cruelty, and fires hot enough to turn your bones to ash. Iseul, my dearest Iseul! Haven’t we come to destroy this place? To show all those blind fools just how powerless they are? You are a god, and gods do not run.” Her doing so would mean that she wasn’t a god, and Neamh… no, Neamh wasn’t ready to accept that she’d been wrong. Already, Iseul was everything to her-- her life, her light, her reason for being. How could she throw that away, the single jewel that made her existence worthy?
When the monsters emerged from the ground, Neamh seemed annoyed more than anything else. Just!!! Did they not know better than to interrupt a holy moment? The only response, then, was to annihilate them. They deserved that, for scaring her beloved Iseul. For making her doubt herself, and her true sacred purpose. Another dark pulse cut through the air, causing the electricity to spark through them-- the deformed ones screeched, oh so loudly, as rust claimed their metallic bodies. (They were like leaves in autumn, she thought. Were leaves still to be found upon this wretched earth?)
“No,” the bleeding woman shrieked. “No, no, no my precious children. My little angels. How dare you?! You will know, you heathens, the depths of true suffering. You will know what faith demands of us, and the scars it leaves behind.” Beneath their feet, the earth then cracked. Dead, grey vines rushed from it, like the depravities from Pandora’s box, and wrapped around their legs! (The thorns they were covered in? Oh, they sank into the tender flesh, causing Neamh to moan in pleasure.)
“You call yourself god, sinner. Very well! We will see whether you can carry the same burdens He did, back when He walked the earth. A crown of thorns is in order, I should think.” A scanner, strangely bird-like in its construction, flew to the woman. It perched itself on her rotting finger, fixing its metallic plumage, and then? Then it started to sing. (The sound burrowed itself into Neamh’s brain, cold and sharp. It made her think of crosses, for reasons beyond her comprehension. No, she thought, get out, get out, get out--)
An electronic halo was summoned above Iseul’s head, blue and iridescent. The thing kept morphing-- stretching and turning, as the wires living in the veins of this odd world added their buzzing to the melody. (A kaleidoscope, that was what it was. She could see numerous shapes in it, both holy and profane, and… and it settled on a crown of thorns, predictably enough. The thing was being lowered, inch by inch, and about to touch Iseul’s perfect skin--)
“Iseul!” Her shout was carried above the melody, strangely enough. It must have been the desperation, Neamh thought. “My Iseul, remember who you are. Remember that suffering is yours, and make it into your whip. Turn it against her!”
Iseul is divine. Divine. The claim feels wrong. The scars that litter her flesh are proof that she is steeped in sin. All the mantras drilled into her skull creep up to the surface and remind her of her place, beneath the shoes of man. Yet as wrong as Neamh might be... Iseul likes the false prophet. She likes what she says and how she makes her feel. That is undeniable. If this is a test from the Lord, she is failing. Happily, too. Oh, so happily that she cannot find it in herself to be bothered. How can a damned soul like hers even have anything to fear? The holy fathers and sisters all made it clear there would never be a place for her in His heavenly kingdom, try as she might to bleed the sin from her veins. She should have realized their proclamation had been nothing to cry over, because knowing the fate of her wretched soul? That is all the power she ever could have asked for. A blessing, she decides. It is control of the narrative and now she will finish the scripture with their blood as ink.
She swallows hard at the acceptance of her new role, the fate of becoming a new idol for lost lambs to flock to her (like Neamh, her precious Neamh). She swallows hard again as the woman at her feet hugs her legs, rubs her calf and travels places no other hands have been, like she's reaching for heaven. Her mouth parts as electricity tingles beneath her clothes; the touch, the heavenly... No. No. She places her palm against the woman's forehead and pushes her away. No. "I am not for touching." Her tone is cold and stern and in that moment, frost covers her legs to ward the woman off. (It's for her protection, she believes.) "No amount of studying can prepare you," for death, she might have added had she thought it important. In Iseul's head the implication is enough for she does not... She does not want to scare off her new friend. (A friend with pretty, pretty emeralds stuck in her head. She could pluck them like grapes if she really wants. She does. She resists.)
Then at Neamh's insistence that this is the heart of the cathedral, she looks around again and squints, considering what her new friend (and only friend) has just said. Her brows furrow together and she frowns, trying to pick apart what she has been told, what she knows, and what seems more true and trustworthy. (The heart of the cathedral, if it were even real, would not be so disgusting. It cannot be for it is the house of the Lord, the one true Father, and so how could it be a place full of depravity and sin? On the other hand, she knows the church to be rotten and full of hate. It is not love they preach, she realizes, but fear. Fear of God and His judgment. Why would the heart not reflect such an ethos?) She knows the cruelty of the church, so of course its heart mirrors reality––the hearts knows not how to deceive. Her eyes darken and despite the heat pressing against them, the temperature drops by several degrees as ice crawls out from beneath Iseul's feet, creating a fast spreading circle around her. Her fists clench at her sides and a storm marches through her chest. (What is this feeling? She knows not its name, but she likes it. She wants to become drunk on it, she decides.) "I am a god. I do not run," she affirms, staring down the monster who dares show her ugly giant face in her presence. Neamh is the only one worthy enough to bask in her presence.
And Neamh seems to understand this when she forces the cyborgs to atrophy. For that, she must make this woman, her prophet, proud. She must live up to these expectations. There is no other option because anything else would be a disgrace and she is done living in disgrace. She threads her fingers through Neamh's hair, surprising herself and also plain surprised by how soft her tresses are. "I am here. I am here and I am here for you."
Her dark eyes set back on the beast before them, unbothered by the vines that wrap around her legs. For all the ways they have inured her to hurt, this is nothing in comparison. And the noise that Neamh makes in response? Ah, she wonders... she wonders a lot of things that she tries to silences for fear of the unknown. Ignoring those things turns out to be easy with the song bird reciting Latin psalms. (Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me.) It brings a sense of calm over Iseul and her hand does fly up to her heart, mouthing the words that have been etched into her skin several times over. 'So beautiful,' she first thinks, but as the vines tighten around her and tug down her legs, she amends with, 'So false.' Her hand falls back to thread into Neamh's hair, her claws raking over her cranium almost tenderly. "Have no worry, I never could have forgotten." (The truth, her truth, may have been buried under layers and layers of religious scripture and Bible verses, but the knowledge that she is different from all men has always been there. It's just before she thought it made her less than. Now she thinks... She thinks she's been lied to and lying is a nasty sin.)
As the crown lowers towards her head, her claw extend as if they are eager to cut. She doesn't need Neamh's encouragement, and it doesn't hurt to have either. Easily, she swipes through the fragile cable, letting it fall to the ground. "Stupid. Stupid, stupid," she growls, baring her fangs at the woman. "If suffering is all it takes to be the messiah, then I am Him thousands of times over." The words are sacrilegious, she knows, for claiming to be anything akin to the Son is blasphemous and yet this woman started it. "My burdens would break His back. If your God is powerful, he will strike me down before I lay my fist in your eye socket."
"Neamh," she whispers, looking back at her new companion and dragging one of her claws under her chin, "Watch my next miracle."
She picks the broken, sparking cable from the ground, apparently not bothered by the shocks, and approaches the giant woman, unafraid of defiance. The bleeding woman, weak as she is, can only push herself backwards, but it doesn't do much to stop Iseul from pouncing on top of her and digging her claws into her face to hold her down while she takes the broken crown and whips it against the woman. As promised, she does also land her fist in the woman's socket, causing her to howl more than she already had been while Iseul closes her fist around the ugly eye and rips it from her head. She crushes it in her fist, shaking her hand of the goop. "God gives mercy, so beg me for it," she says as the whites of her eyes disappear and blend entirely into black abysses. She lowers her mouth to lick at this woman's wounds, but notices bile now leaking from her in addition to the odd concoction of elements. She recoils and drags her claws further down the woman's face, causing her to squeal and Iseul to smile. "How dare you judge me when you live in filth. In Hell. The damned cannot judged the damned."
"But I," the woman smiles, though it's a weak thing, "am the queen of the damned and so this is my very job, Iseul, and you? You are a rotten thing with corrupted blood, child. Make a home here, because you can only ever hope to usurp me. Kill me."
The thought had been in Iseul's head before the queen even gave the order. The utterance of corrupt blood had been enough to rip her chest open with flames of her rage, so it's really only seconds later that she slashes through Lilith's neck. She gasps, as if surprised by the action and maybe she is––never has she killed someone like this. She cannot decide whether she likes it with Ego or with her claws more. She marvels at her stained hand and rises from the corpse to return to Neamh. "Splendid," she sighs, and offers her free hand to Neamh. "Have I done it? Have I slain the heart?"
The answer comes before Neamh can answer. See, the bird from earlier starts to hum a new tune and snakes start slithering out of the woman's wounds––hundreds, millions, endless vipers!
Not for touching. Not for touching! Ah, just how wrong Iseul was-- a god she might have been, but stained with falsehood, born in sin. Broken, by all the humans who had left their sloppy fingerprints all over her beautiful mind. No matter, though. No matter. Didn't you know that what was once shattered could be reforged? And Neamh... ah, Neamh would collect the shards, oh so lovingly, and put them back together. (The morning star, Iseul had suspected. Well, no, she wasn't something as grand as that! Still, her light could guide, and her words inspire. Her hands could give pleasure, too. A Pygmalion she was, in blood and flesh, but with ambitions far greater than making a mere queen. And the puzzle called Iseul? That, she knew, would be her greatest masterpiece.) "Do you really think so?" Neamh looked up to her god and licked her lips. (She was kneeling in the snow now, the cold biting at her feet, but that, too, the not-fae treasured. 'Does it hurt?' her mistresses her chuckled, their voices crawling under her skin. 'Good. There's your proof that you're still alive, you little bitch.' And, ah, she was alive! Alive, and holding the power of possibility in her hands. A golden shining leash, to which god herself was tied.)
"Because a woman this perfect was made for touching. For kissing. I... I can make you sing the sweetest psalms, my Iseul. Please, please, let me drink of you! I will show you just how empty all of your prayers were. That all you ever needed was me." Yes, Neamh, with her eager fingers and insatiable mouth. (What was it like, to have god writhe beneath her? To hear her moan her name, all her thoughts reduced to splinters? Neamh knew she couldn't do much, the speck of dust that she was, but she could, at least, do that. To give herself to her, in the same way Iseul would one day sacrifice her own flesh. Ah, how lucky, how blessed she was! To create a symmetry this meaningful with a god... why, perhaps Neamh could be called beautiful one day, too. Not due to her mundane features, but to the sheer proximity. After all, what was a prophet if not the reflection of her deity? Now, if only she could reflect Iseul, her wonderful, breathtaking Iseul! ...one day, Neamh would be her. It almost filled her with regret, the idea of Iseul's soul sinking into the great, dark abyss, but she also knew that she deserved it. Of course, of course. How not? Their fates were tied, two scales balancing each other out, and if Neamh were to become something... well, then Iseul had to disperse into nothingness. Such was the ancient law.)
It shocked her not that the god didn't forget, though. How could she? Just like a wolf could never forget it was a wolf, Iseul, too, remembered her true nature. Always, it had slept somewhere within her. (The taste of flesh was potent, wasn't it? Memory of an entire species, locked in a single bite. Ah, Neamh couldn't wait to feed more and more and more to her, till the human filth was gone! They'd infected her with it, caused her limbs to grow weak and gangrenous, but... well, there was an easy cure for that. To cut them off. A god had no need of those anyway, Neamh decided. A god only had to be loved! And love she could give to her, enough of it to wash away the lies of the scripture from her mind. To fill it with the truth instead.) "Yes," the not-fae nodded, oh so eagerly. "This is you. This is Iseul. My, is your true form magnificent! Are you ready, my dear, for others to fear your name? As they utter it, they shall tremble with fear, and ask you for mercy. And when that happens? I ask you to not grant it. You see," she giggled, and twirled playfully, "the old god was merciful. Loving, even. What they did with that mercy is that they sharpened it, and stuck the dagger in his heart. Don't make the same mistake, my Iseul. Always, the message of peace will fall on deaf ears! As you are here for me," her, her, her, and the thought filled her with ecstasy, "I must advise you honestly. Don't give yourself to the unworthy swine."
The demoness, the ugly, twisted thing, then proceeded to insult the god. "Silence, creature," the not-fae hissed. "I will not have you taint the name of one true god. How dare you speak to her that way?" Although... hmm, hmm. Did it not make sense as well? (This place, Neamh knew, must have been Hell. She knew so instinctively. The fire raging in the rivers whispered it to her, as did all those corpses. Each mark on their mutilated bodies spoke of torture, of suffering so deep that not even death could end it, and it seemed only wise that god should rule over this domain. Who else? The devil? No, they would not hand out precious territories to an enemy! Iseul, you see, deserved everything-- not just a crown of thorns, but the whole world, placed in her dainty, elegant palm. It was hers to crush, hers to burn, and in that... heh. In that, her and the world weren't so different.)
The wretched Lilith perished, like a leaf in a volcano, but Neamh knew it wasn't over. Not yet. "No, my Iseul. She wasn't the heart. She was but a guardian, and now that she's gone, you may proceed." ...except that, no, she couldn't. That would be hard to do with all those vipers! (Vipers, the not-fae knew, were connected to temptation-- to the apple of wisdom, plucked away from that cursed tree. 'Eat from me and you shall know yourself,' that was the message. And, really, wasn't that a proof enough of the fake god's impure intentions? That He wanted to rip that away from them, and keep them in eternal darkness. Like lambs for the slaughter, Neamh thought. Good, for that is what humans are. They just haven't grasped yet whose stomachs they are meant to fill. But, ah, once they knew, joy was bound to fill their hearts! Of that, she was certain.)
Within the blink of an eye, Neamh was at her Iseul's side. She made a few quick movements with her arms, and whispered words in a strange, silky smooth language-- wind itself then wrapped around the pair, forcing the vipers to fall everywhere but near them. Whenever they tried to get closer? They were thrown away, as if the field around them was magnetic. Perhaps it was, too! (The tears of blood that began to drip from Neamh's eyes, like liquid rubies? Surely, that was nothing to worry about. The sheen of sweat on her forehead must have meant nothing, too.) "Iseul," she said, with great exertion. "Divine Iseul. To get to the heart, you must first lift its defenses."
The vipers continued to fall from the sky, but they weren't the only thing that dominated the landscape now. The earth groaned, and from its depths, a tree emerged! (A tree, heavy with apples. All of them were red and shiny and perfect-- a direct contrast to the desolate nature of the place, like a single rose among thorns.) "Walk with me, my Iseul, and know yourself. Come." The snakes hissed at the trespassers, but nevertheless, they parted before them like the Red Sea.
And, once they reached the tree? "Iseul," the tree said, her voice gentle like a summer rain. (Somehow, it resembled barbed wire, too. Barbed wire, and all those lashings she had suffered, sister Cathy's smile, and--) "Pick wisely, Iseul. Your past, or your future? Peace, or war? Human, or something else? Tell me who you are, and I will decide what you shall feast on today." Curiously enough, they could also see now from up-close that the apples were rotten. Hmm.
The words that fall from Neamh's lips are so tempting, so delicious, that Iseul is made weak and forced to lap them up like a starved dog finding water in a meager puddle. Except, a starved dog she might be, but these words are more than a puddle. Or a pond. Or anything really, because they are everything. Perhaps more nurturing than the manna God fed the Israelites when they fled Egypt. Definitely more nurturing than that, she decides. The words swirl around in her head, cracking the pillars that were her former ideals and beliefs, and she soaks them in until they are in her veins. She swallows them eagerly. "I am. I am ready," she nods, taking Neamh's hand in her own and clutching it as if it were a precious pearl. "I want them to know what I am called and..." she hesitates, frightened by her own desires and yet emboldened by this magnificent woman who has done more for her in these precious minutes of knowing her than her God ever has in the years she has turned to Him for guidance. "I want them to tremble. I want to fell their empires and all that is precious to them. I want them to beg for mercy that I will not give. I won't." Because Neamh has a point. God has been far, far too lenient with His lambs. For now they think they have teeth and claws as sharp as wolves and oh does Iseul want to prove to them that she is the wolf meant to devour them. They may have kept her in a cage, fed her rot, forced her to see a different image in the mirror but there is power in her veins. She knows that now. She knows that because Neamh has told her so and Neamh would not lie to her. She just wouldn't, she believes. "Their hubris will be punished. Punished many times over." For all the times they punished her for the simple act of existing in difference. For never seeing her as their superior. Yes. She curls her hand into a tight fist, picturing in her head how they will be the ones begging, not her. Never her. Never again will she beg, she decides. "Guide me, my star, and we can... We," oh, how nice that sounds on her tongue! We, because no longer is Iseul alone when she has Neamh. "Will tear this world asunder. We can push them back further than the dark ages." Sparks dance in her eyes as images of this future unravel in her mind's eye––she can see it so clearly. Ego ripping through the city. Ego felling churches. Ego breathing ice winds over the lands. Ego. (Where is Ego?) "I will not disappoint my disciples," she curves her claw over Neamh's cheek, offering just the faintest smile.
Eager to finish this task, she listens to her Neamh so that she may carry out her duties as a god. The God. (No, no, no! She cannot claim His title. She cannot. For that will damn her and... Well. She supposes she doesn't know why she feels this way when she has always known her damnation is an incurable affliction according to the markings on her skin. The rings around her wrists. The scars on her hands and feet. Yet still, still, she cannot be so bold for a twinge fear still exists in her. She must snuff it out, she decides. She must, because Neamh's god must be stronger than that.) But more temptations make themselves known as the sky rains vipers, as a tree emerges from the ground with apples looking as sweet and delectable as candy. Already Iseul knows they are rotten. (How often have the sweetest smiles been turned against her? "Iseul," Father John had once said, "Mrs. Wagner tells me you performed a miracle today. She tells me, you made her the most beautiful ice sculpture. Can you demonstrate that for me?" He had offered such an encouraging smile with that round, pink cheeked face of his. And for what happened after, she has long decided, he deserves to squeal like a fucking pig.)
Of course, her Neamh takes care of them both and so Iseul must take care of her. Naturally. Her God failed to care for her and she will not fail Neamh in the same way. Carefully, she swipes the blood tears from her eyes and then, surprising herself, she leans in close and kisses the tears away; sticking out her tongue to savor them, even. (So close to her eyes, she is tempted, so tempted, to capture them. But she won't. She won't.) "Rest easy, I will take care of you." At least as best she can.
The tree whispers to them and Iseul can feel the barbed wire noose around her neck, knowing not to trust this tree. She scowls at it, recognizing it as temptation and while she needs not bow to anyone other than herself, needs not fear anyone but herself, it irks her to see this. A representation of the old way. Of little games and tricks of faithfulness. Oh, how He loves to toy with His followers and punish them for not knowing the rules. Iseul, she decides, will not be like that. She will be far more transparent with her followers. They will always know to fear her. "Disgusting," she sticks out her tongue upon seeing the rotten fruit from up close, noticing how it's candy veneer is missing from up close. "Never will I play your games again. They were not fun and I did not enjoy them one bit. However, you, tree, can play my games."
What does she even mean by that? Quite honestly, Iseul does not know. But her body seems to supply the answers (an ancient instinct awakening inside a girl). Protectively, possessively, she loops one arm around Neamh's waist, and she lifts her free hand. "Be gone," she commands as her arm is eaten away by the darkness and shadows launch from her outstretched appendage to cut the tree down with a thundering crack. It splits and falls in two, causing the fires of Hell to burn brighter and hotter in response. But Iseul cares not for this or perhaps she does not notice. One couldn't blame her for not noticing as the darkness consumes more and more flesh until she is, once again, Ego. And she is fiercely wrapped around Neamh. (A sweet embrace or a warning?)
The voice from earlier shrieks, sending bolts of lightning towards the two girls, the two gods. (What is the difference?) But none can touch them. None dare to touch them as Ego drinks each spark, becoming larger as she does so. "This too is a choice, child! And you have chosen wrong. This sin shall follow you––" The voice starts to break up with static, it's message being cut up as Ego rips through the landscape, and tears up the vipers that had been sent to destroy them. Those two electric dots that make up her eyes grow wild and frenzied. (She can't stop! She can't stop! She doesn't want to stop.)
"Halt!" some inconsequential voice shouts, appearing through a door that distinctly had not been there before. Though Ego does not listen. She does not have to bow to anyone and so she continues to destroy, exposing the cables and lights that make up this simulation. She even rips through whoever had been speaking to her before, leaving only his legs behind. Three more men file in after their fallen brother, though they take a very different approach than the last fool. Their eyes widen with rightful reverence and they fall to their knees, pressing their heads to the ground. "The dark mistresses have arrived," one whispers, tears streaking his cheeks. "Sinners will be culled, at long last!" Another cries.
Ego encircles the men, but unlike how she had been with Neamh, this feels far more dangerous. She drags the three men by the collar of their shirts towards her wonderful savior, her meaning. "A gift, for you, for you must be famished." Those blue dots stare at her partner, eager for her approval. Eager to show her thanks for all she has done. "Feast so that we may continue."
One of the men looks up at Neamh, his eyes shining as if it would be his honor. "Please, please––you have finally arrived and The Supplicants are here to serve our dark mistresses. Let us make you strong so you may carry out your holiest work."
Ah. Ah. Never had Neamh thought she'd be worthy enough to know god's love-- to be wrapped in her embrace, to be casually kissed. Come to think of it, had anyone kissed her before? Had they bestowed such a gift upon her? (The mistresses' tongues she had tasted, yes, though they were razor-sharp, leaving behind tiny wounds. For each scar, Neamh had thanked them profusely, but it hadn't been... well, like this. With Iseul, she felt safe. Cared for, too. She never wanted anyone else but her to kiss her again, she decided.) "Yes," the not-fae whispered. "I will guide you, to hell and back. We will create worlds and destroy them, my Iseul, and all shall tremble when they hear your name. We will weave destruction as if it was a flower wreath. That shall be your crown, not that ugly thing made of thorns. You deserve much, much, much more than that. Just... kiss me some more. Please. It seems to me that I exist to be kissed by you." Strong words, perhaps, though that didn't make them any less untrue. The revelation had struck her like lightning, you see? And now, after all those years, she knew, knew, knew, as all those puzzle pieces finally clicked in place. No wonder she'd been so incomplete before-- drifting, like a leaf in the wind, carried into whatever direction her mistresses had chosen for her. (That had been wrong of them, she decided. Sinful. They should have prepared her for receiving Iseul's holy word, instead of using her for their own pleasure like that. No matter, though! She was a cup, a holy grail, and vessels existed to be filled. Everything would be fine. A worthless bitch she may have been, but Neamh would not fail here. Never.)
"Will you carve your name into my flesh? the woman asked, almost bashful. (Instinctively, her fingers wrapped around Iseul's wrist, as if to prevent the girl from leaving her. A foolish idea, right? To try to restrain a god, a being with wings so powerful they could rend the sky apart! ...still, this god was hers. Hers, and nobody else's. Iseul had promised, hadn't she? And now that vow bound her to her, like the sturdiest of chains would.) "I want everyone to know that I belong to you, Iseul. That my skin is your canvas, and that the words I speak are your words as well." What was the difference, really? Iseul may have been Iseul, but she, too, had a claim to that name. Perhaps a claim stronger than hers! At this point, the fact that they resided in separate bodies was a formality. (The fake god had three identities, even. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Why couldn't they be a single soul, then? A single soul, split apart by some cosmic accident? Indeed, that would explain why she felt this... this drawn to her. Why she wanted to sink herself into her, like a mermaid into the deep, dark sea, and let those waves be the salt in her wounds. ...without pain, none of it would be worth it. None of it. In suffering, the greatest stories of her miserable kin were written. What better proof, then, that humans were meant to be shattered?)
When those men came, wrapped in the filthy shroud of humanity, Neamh hissed-- protectively, she stepped closer to her Iseul, and let the magic ripple around her in dark waves. (More bloody tears streaked down her cheeks, more rubies, more cherry petals. More delightfulness. Finally, the not-fae felt, she could be beautiful! Ah, how to thank Iseul for bringing that side of her to life? For unearthing the potential, sleeping in her mortal bones? They reinforced each other, she saw that now. If Neamh was the gasoline, then Iseul was the spark-- without the other, they were both meaningless. Together, though? They would set the world on fire, and feed the sinners to the flames. For the crime of disrespecting Iseul, their dreams would turn to ashes!)
"My Iseul," she cried, her voice on the verge of breaking. (Shaking with anticipation, too. Human flesh... ah, the most sacred of meals! They'd let her have it, from time to time, but always, they'd stressed that the occasion was special. A reward, most often. The last time she'd tasted it, it was with the girl who had confessed her love to her-- who had urged her to escape, and betray her fate. Pfft, love! As if she could look in her dull eyes, at her thin, bloodless lips, and be anything but revolted. As if her heart could belong to anyone but Iseul! ...back then, she had carved her into small, pathetic pieces. Pieces as small as her devotion. Her screams had been sweet, and Neamh knew in that moment that she had chosen well. Nobody could escape their destiny, anyway.) "My Iseul, thank you for these gifts. I cannot appreciate them enough. But," she gave the trash kneeling on the ground a long, hard look, "you could use followers. You see, it's important that others recognize you for what you are as well. Can I eat them later? First, I would like to see how far they can carry us."
The men were touching the ground with their foreheads now, shaking in the presence of their gods. "It would be my honor, Mistress. If my own blood ought to be used to water the tree of apocalypse, then I will serve you gladly. Come, come with us, please. We've been expecting you. For generations, we've been praying, and finally... finally, you are here. I can scarcely believe it."
"Touch me not," Neamh snapped, the second one of them tried. "Only Iseul may do that. Lay a finger on me, and I'll rip it off."
"Ah, of course, of course," he nodded, clearly sorry that the idea had even crossed his mind. "My most sincere apologies. Walk with us, then?" And walk they did, through the landscape of cables and wire, sparkling with electricity. The simulation reached far and wide, it seemed, for when they emerged back in reality, they didn't find themselves in the ruined cathedral-- instead, they were in a sanctuary of sorts, with thousands and thousands of candles flickering on the walls. Broken crosses lay there in a pile, telling so many stories without words. And, in the center? In the center, there was a pond, its waters sparkling invitingly.
"Please, take some time to clean yourselves, mistresses. It is imperative that you wash away the filth of the sinful word before your holy work begins. Worry not-- we shall stand vigil, and avert our eyes. No dishonor will come to you."
And, no, he didn't have to say that twice! Already, Neamh's hands were taking off Iseul's boots, and caressing her feet gently. "Beautiful," she whispered. "Iseul, may I wash you? I want to take care of you, the way you have taken care of me. I... I want to serve you." There were many, many, many other things she wanted to do to her, and most of them involved her tongue. Oh, god! She wanted to drink from her, like the nectar she was, and--
"Our saviors," one of the men said, making her realize they were still there. Ugh. Did they have to be?! Neamh would have preffered had corpses watched over them, but alas, such a blessing was outside of their reach now. (At least they really, truly, didn't dare to look. Which, good. Iseul's likeness was for her alone.) "Your heart is in the right place, but the cathedral is an enemy too powerful for you right now. First, your own strength must grow. Do you remember sister Cathy, oh great Iseul? Sister Cathy, and Father John? They are tethered to the cathedral's spirit, and so they must die first. The more brutal, the better. You see, if they die losing their faith... why, that will be a big blow to the defenses of the cursed place. What do you think would hurt them most?"
Kisses. Kisses!? What even has come over Ego that she would engage in such a dangerous act, such a dangerous embrace, and put her Neamh, her loyal and dearly devoted Neamh, at risk of being smitten by Go... Her electric eyes widen when it occurs to her that she is a god now. She is in pursuit of godhood. She has already smitten those unbelievers in the church. She has struck down the tempest tree. She can protect her darling this time. (Before... Before she had been weak. She hadn't known. She hadn't had her Neamh to show her the way. She had not yet had a believer. Still, still, certain precautions must still be taken for surely He will retaliate against her, as He has others who dare challenge His dominance over Heaven.) Her chilly, shadowy fingers sift through Neamh's hair, nuzzling into her cheek and sapping up her warmth. "My lips are someday to be yours, no?" Though she knows not the details of why Neamh sought her out (nor does she question how the woman found her or where she is even from), she cannot and has not forgotten her request to eat her so that she may one day become Iseul. (This is why she must do right by Neamh; this is why she must become a suitable Iseul for her to usurp and not remain this pathetic, unseeing thing that she is––barely a star in her own life.) "In that, they are yours already. These lips and all of their kisses." It's easy to make these promises. They fly out of her mouth without thought or regard, because she knows how true they are and how she would not betray these sacred words. She would not betray Neamh, for she belongs to her so wholly. Holy. (What is a god without her followers? A god belongs as much to her followers as her followers belong to herself; the relationship is symbiotic and He may have forgotten that in His eons long reign.)
Her tongue once more slides up the woman's cheeks, cleaning away the blood that continues to spill from her eyes. Her lips close over Neamh's eyelids, kissing them with a tenderness she has wished for herself. (Do unto others, the scripture says, and that is one law she can get behind. She has waited for so long to deliver unto the Holy members of the church, of the faith, after all.) "Yes, yes," she agrees, "Let all know that your word is mine, and mine yours; that we are two bodies with the same soul, brought together by the holiest miracle. This is our covenant. I will leave my mark––"
Oh, right. Ego turns to scowl at the men who dare interrupt their sacred moment. 'Destroy them. Destroy them, Neamh, my believer. I wish not to hear their ugly voices,' she thinks, hoping that perhaps the prophet will pick up on the will of her god. Though already Neamh's words are suggesting that she will disappoint her and Ego is not quite sure how to deal with that...
The shadow woman considers this for a moment, her electric eyes reducing to slits as she narrows them to think, scratching her chin. She supposes a god ought to have more than one follower––after all, is that not where they draw their power? Their legitimacy? Ugly these ones may be, certainly not as dashing as her Neamh, but all must start somewhere, she supposes. The girl, the god nods in begrudging agreement, "Fine. Fine. If this is what you advise then I trust your guidance to not lead us astray, blessed one. Do not kill them without me," she commands. "I want to see you enjoy their meat."
"You will not be disappointed, my mistresses!" one fervently promises and Ego casts him a glare to silence his harsh voice.
These... followers dare not touch their dark mistresses after Neamh's threat, which good. They are not worthy. Too many unworthy hands have been on her body already and she need not taint herself anymore. No, no, no––there can be no more of that, for she belongs to Neamh and only Neamh's hands may touch her, caress her, bless her, she decides. That is how she will keep herself pure for the day Neamh rips her of her skin suit and wears it for herself.
When they enter this underground mausoleum, Ego's form slips back into the weak, pathetic Iseul, and she is forced to lean against her partner as the darkness has taken her strengths from her. The pond, with its crystal waters, sparkles in the dim lighting and when Iseul looks up, there are rows and rows, spiralling rows, of flame lit torches that all go upwards. The walls are engraved with various scenes of destruction and violence, but before Iseul can look at them any further she feels herself set down by the pond and Neamh taking off her shoes. Shivers run down her spine at the touch and her mouth runs dry, looking down at her follower like this. As her suggestion fills her mind with ideas. Her eyes shutter closed, content enough to let the visions play out rather than make them a reality. Though before she can even consent or reject, one of those followers calls her back to reality. She glares at him.
Though mere mention of those names drops the temperature of the room, enough that the pond starts to freeze, ice crystals spreading across the surface. Her chest rises and falls as whirlwinds rip through her––fear, hate, vengeance––powerful enough to snuff out the candles on this level of the sanctuary. "Remember? How could I forget?" she seethes, squeezes her hands into fists. So many parts of her body burn with memories that she may as well be on fire. "Demons, they are. Demons wearing human skin," much like how she is a god wearing human skin except they are much worse. "Do you know how to rid one of demons?" she asks Neamh, refusing to address the men in the room for they are not worthy of her acknowledgment. Her faithful believer, however, is most deserving of her attention. She smiles, and leans her head against the other woman's shoulder. "You must rip it out of them. I fear their hearts are where their demons reside. We ought to cleanse them of those filthy things. Ah, but not before," she fiddles with Neamh's hair, wrapping a lock around her finger, "Knitting their entrails together or perhaps we can use them as nooses and hang them from the rafters?"
Her eyes spark and glint when she looks up again into her Neamh's eyes, clutching her hands. "To shake their faith will not be hard. The word of man is enough to cause them to tremble as it is. They have no relationship to their God, they only fear His judgment. All we must do is haunt them and show them who they should have been making their prayers to."
Reluctantly, Iseul looks to the men, contempt written on her face even if she only stares at their backs. 'Oh, Neamh, how long must we suffer their presence? They reek of weakness and insecurity. I hate them. Hate them.' (Oh, yes, she is under the impression that her believer can hear her thoughts; that they are already one with the sacred covenant that they share. That someday, she will close her eyes once her mission is complete and Neamh will carry on her holy work as Iseul. She is only the first claimant to the name and so she must build the reputation so that it is suitable for her dearest Neamh, her guiding star, her fate.) "Filth," she addresses the men. "Have our chambers prepared for us. My sweet and I," she swipes her thumb under one of those delicious green eyes, "require rest before we can gift those non-believers true Sight."
"Of course, your grace," one of the men replies. "We have reserved our best chambers for you both to retire. I shall send a servant up there immediately to prepare the room. Sacrifices shall be sent as well, to nourish you so that you can become strong again and bring us closer to purification."
"Good," she replies, sticking out her arms so that Neamh may continue undressing her. (Never has anyone taken care of her like this before; so tenderly and with reverence. This is how it should have always been; this is how it will continue to be, she decides.) "Keep those hands chaste." For as much as she wants Neamh's hands to wander, she does not want her to come to be harmed either. Still, still, she will enjoy those hands cleaning her and let it inspire... No. She will let it inspire nothing. She is a god and she does not need those temptations. No. She must remain pure, but if there is one indulgence she will allow herself...
"I still must reward you for earlier, for everything that has happened and what is surely to come." Her dark eyes bore into her believer, suggesting a thousand things at once. Once in the pond with her, she lifts one of her talons and brings it to her own neck. "Drink of me, Neamh, as I have you. This blood is someday yours. You deserve this gift for finding me." Her true self, not just the costume of Iseul. Weak and ugly Iseul. Iseul the sinner meant to be broken so that her body can be stuffed into the smallest role her former superiors assign to her. No, Neamh has already helped her break from that confinement and is teaching her how to soar. She can think of no better reward than sharing her blood with her devoted. "Become drunk, my blessed one. Recover your strengths."
The water in the pond shimmered, sparks dancing across its surface. A staggeringly common sight-- a mere symphony of shadows, playing out again and again everywhere where there was light. The one thing that made it not mundane, though? Iseul. Iseul, with her dark hair, porcelain-smooth skin, and lips that yearned to be kissed, kissed, kissed, by her only. (She’d promised. She had. Neamh was shaking with anticipation, but… hmm, wasn’t this nice as well? Knowing that she was hers, hearing it from those full, rose-red lips, and nonetheless waiting, like a spider waited for its prey. The not-fae was good at that. After all, hadn’t she spent her entire life waiting? Waiting for herself to hatch, for others to treat her with respect, for this whole existence to make a semblance of fucking sense! …but, oh, it did make sense now. No wonder that it hadn’t before, with a piece of her own identity missing.) “Do you like it, my Iseul?” she whispered, her caresses softer than silk. “The way I touch you, I mean. I could give you much, much, much more than that, too. Say the word, my sweet, and I’ll show you that heaven is a false promise. That the true paradise is here, on the tip of my tongue.” And, ah, was there a better way to serve her? Humans had had been cruel to her, running on the fumes on their own significance, but Neamh… oh, Neamh knew how to treat a deity. She knew to worship her properly, the way they’d taught her when she’d ripened. (Even worthless human bitches, as it turned out, were good for something. A small solace, in the context of everything else.) “You know you want it,” the not-fae giggled into her ear, helping her cast off another layer of clothes. (Pointless, she decided. Sinful. Why, oh, why would you lock the door leading to the temple? For her, Iseul should always be bare, always expectant. After all, that body was hers! What did it matter what she did with it? The only difference between ‘kissing’ and ‘killing’ was a single consonant, and that could not have been a coincidence.) “You’ve wanted me since the moment you laid your eyes on me. In your wisdom, you recognized your prophet. And, Iseul, didn’t you want me to lead you? I can take you to places nobody has taken you before.”
Yes, yes, she could! If those men hadn’t interrupted her spell so rudely, that was. Sigh. Neamh looked up and glared-- glared so intensely that the fool could feel it in the back of his head, even if he dared not turn around. “I… I’m sorry, my mistress,” he stammered. “It had to be said, for your own holy cause. Mistress Iseul needs to harness the power of her anger, and for that, it has to be nurtured. Vengeance is the best nourishment.”
“Has to?” For the coldness in her voice, Neamh might as well have turned into a glacier. “Hold your tongue, blasphemer. Do you not realize that you’re talking to god herself? The only thing she needs to do is to punish ungrateful cretins such as you.” How rude of him to monopolize her Iseul’s attention, too! She’d been blossoming under her touch, like a flower under the gentle care of the sun, and the bastard had taken her mind to such unpleasant, unpleasant places. He’d crushed those fragile petals! For that, Neamh decided, he had to die. (That being said… Iseul did appear invested. Hmm. Perhaps she could make a marimba of the wicked woman’s ribcage, and play something sweet for her god-- surely, such music would not go unappreciated. Sister Cathy, they said? Sister Cathy, and Father John. The first sacrifices on their altar, but certainly not the last ones-- mere harbingers of things to come, singing their hymn with agonized wails.) “No,” Neamh smiled, putting a stray strand of hair behind her god’s ear.
“You are wrong, Iseul. Do you think that humans couldn’t possibly be as wicked as they are? That they must be demons, because of all the things they did to you? That’s where you are mistaken. The rot in their hearts is the very essence of humanity, spread through their bodies like cancer. This is why you must bring an end to this. This is why humans need to perish. In Granting them mercy, you would just be creating thousands and thousands of sisters Cathys. You wouldn’t want that, now would you?” The god’s question then brought a smile to her lips, as wide as that of a shark. Carrying the tainted blood in her veins did have its advantages, you see? Such as her understanding, more than anyone else, their wicked, wicked ways. “Oh, I am than aware of that. In its core, it’s actually easy, my Iseul. Like snapping your fingers. They only believe in god because they are too fond of wearing that blindfold over their eyes. Once you force it down, though? It’s over. Show them a picture of innocence, and contrast it with the deepest, darkest of sins. The shock ought to make them see the truth.”
Speaking of shocks, though? Neamh shivered, quite visibly, when Iseul offered her to… to let her drink of her blood. Tentatively, the not-fae licked her lips. (Was she truly allowed? Should she? The god may have been testing her-- offering the forbidden fruit, and then yanking it away upon seeing she was rotten enough to actually take it. ‘Begone!’ Iseul would shout. ‘Lukewarm followers are poison, you worthless little bitch. Do you think you can just pour it down my throat?’ Except, you see, Iseul had promised. She had, she had, and so she wouldn’t! This reward was hers, just like the woman herself. Where was the harm in tasting her?) “I will take more than that,” Neamh whispered, caressing the line of her neck. (What a perfect, perfect spot. A wound would look nicely against it, she thought-- red against white, like an exotic flower. A holy stigma, left behind by her filthy mouth.) “One day. For now, I shall accept what you are willing to give.” But, when her teeth broke the skin? Blood flooded her mouth, fresh, fresh blood, and Neamh’s green eyes turned black. Black like coals, black like her heart, black like-- (Hungrily, she pulled her closer. Her nails were digging into the girl’s soft flesh as she lapped the blooded up with her tongue, every drop of it. How long had she gone without water? Weeks? Months? No matter, because now her water was Iseul.) “Iseul,” she moaned, smearing her blood all over her face. “Now I’m you, and you are me. My beautiful, beautiful mirror.” Wouldn’t she be even more beautiful dead, though? Neamh had promised to guide her, that much was true, but she hadn’t specified where the destination was. Her staying alive for the duration of the journey also wasn’t one of the conditions! After all, hadn’t Son died to become truly divine? And if she did die… ah, she’d have all of that delicious blood for yourself. Blood, and flesh, and everything Iseul had ever been.
Neamh bit down, harder than necessary, on her artery. A fountain of blood burst from her throat, more and more and more, and, oh! God, she couldn’t stop if she wanted to. (She didn’t.) “This is what you need to truly fulfill your potential,” the not-fae caressed the dying girl’s cheek. “To discard that shell of yours. Thank me, my sweet. Thank me, and revere my name.”
Hands have never been this gentle with Iseul. Not that she can remember at least. Can she even remember a touch at all that has been soothing and electrifying all in the same stroke? Even the wind, who she has always thanked profusely for being so gentle with her, has never set her blood on fire or turned her pulse to lightning. But Neamh, oh her gracious Neamh, is tracing her body as if she were an artist trying to sculpt something from the broken heap that is Iseul. Ah, how eager she is to be molded, squeezed, laved over––no. No, she is not for touching. Not. Not like that. This, right now, is fine, she supposes, because Neamh offered to wash her and that is all this is even if... even if it inspires carnal temptations. (Yet her blessed one says that she could give her even more. Show her even more. That heaven is the tip of her tongue and oh is Iseul not curious to know what that could mean? To know where this woman could take her? Already she has lifted the veil over Iseul's eyes and shown her what true enlightenment looks like and so why should the woman not trust her to take her where no other has? Of course, she knows not what Neamh means, not entirely anyway, but she knows that she trusts her. She knows... She knows she would let her do anything with her, if her safety thereafter could be guaranteed––especially knowing that without Neamh, there is no Iseul.) "It's on your tongue?" she whispers, her mouth both dry and watering all at once. The pools of her eyes darken thinking of all the possibilities––all the unknowns that may finally become known––but she resists and instead focuses on Neamh's other wisdom.
That humans are damned creatures is not something she has ever considered, but oh does she like it. Oh, how it makes sense! Has she ever met a human who is not a wretch? She does not recall. (No, she doesn't count Neamh for Neamh is a holy woman and built from something else. Something rare. Something divine. She is an outlier and she is hers.) (Even her own mother was a wretch. Her mother could not even be bothered to keep her. Iseul had waited for weeks for the woman to return. The woman promised to return. And. And. And.) Her eyes eagerly soak in the wonderful distraction in front of her. "Yes, they all must go––that makes sense. So much sense. My," she gasps in awe, "how have we been so blessed to meet each other in this life? Truly, I... I see clearly now that you are here. You have granted me Sight, my blessed one." For however long this will last, she will be grateful. Whether it only be this holy hour or longer, she will consider herself blessed, she decides.
And, ah, it does seem that Neamh has decided now is the time to feast. The woman, the god, supposes she does not find it all that shocking. Or disappointing. When her blessed one's teeth had first sunk into her flesh, she had done nothing more than gasp and wrap her arms around the other woman. Now, with her teeth tearing further into god's neck, god sucks in a breath and breathes it out as a moan. "Don't stop," she begs, her embrace around Neamh becomes weaker the more that is taken from her. Tears shine in Iseul's eyes, joyful streams (and she'd be happier to see her green-eyed reflection but that rapture won't be hers). 'Is this heaven? Is this...'
"Mistresses!" one of the men shouts, and when Iseul makes the great effort to open her (green) eyes to shoot one more glare at the men, a flicker of anger passes over her when she sees that he is turned around. Turned around and looking with his sinful eyes at their sacred covenant. "Mistress! I implore you to cease." Weakly, Iseul tries to lift her hand to cast the man away, but weak as she is, she is unable to do much. She tries to get Neamh's attention, but consciousness is slipping from her grasp faster than she can even mutter a warning. Faster than she can protect her Neamh from that man and the darts he shoots from the tips of his fingers into her savior.
The bodies collapse into the water, still embracing one another.
Iseul rouses some time later. There's no indication of how much time has passed and she doesn't care to find out. She doesn't care to marvel in the silken sheets or the soft mattress (luxuries she has never known). When she notices her bed empty, her mind is set on finding Neamh. Neamh, a woman she has only just met, who feels like a dream and yet cannot be. She exists too clearly and with too much sharpness to be something feeble Iseul could have conjured with her imagination. The other woman lingers in her memory and––her (black) eyes narrow and she growls, remembering what was stolen from them. From her. How they robbed her of salvation. (She had been so close. So close!) 'They will pay. Impudent little rats. They will pay.'
"Ah, mistress Iseul. You're awake."
The woman, the god, snaps to look up at the mousy girl who has entered her (lavish) chambers. Iseul bares her fangs and the girl squeaks and bows. Good. As it should be, she decides. Everyone should bow to her so that everyone might someday bow to Neamh, her sweet Neamh. Reminded of her blessed one, the god pounces from the bed to tackle the girl to the ground. She hisses, "Where is Neamh?"
"We... We don't advise that you two see each––"
"Where," she grabs the girl's throat and applies pressure against her windpipe, "is she? I am a god. Tell me where she is, rat."
"D-down the hall!" the girl gasps out, tears squeezing out from the corners of her eyes.
Iseul stays on top of her for a few more seconds, fascinated by how her eyes start to bulge and how the canvas of her face begins to change from pasty white to a soft lilac. Or maybe it's lavender? She will have to ask Neamh. Right. Neamh. She lets go of the (passed out) girl and rushes to make her way down the hall. 'My savior, I am coming.'
When she had found Neamh, she had been lying in a bed. Lying in bed with thousands of insufferable machines and tubes and wires and patches stuck to her. Iseul took care of those, however. There had also been some guards standing watch outside the door. Iseul took care of them, too. They're sitting in the corner, bound together with... someone's entrails. They sit quietly. Probably because they don't have tongues. Probably because they bled out a while ago. 'They should not have gotten in our way. They should not have kept us apart.' (No one has dared to enter the room after the last servant ended up splattered across the walls. Privacy, apparently, is not something these rats are familiar with. She hates them. Neamh was wrong. They don't need followers. They only need each other.)
Iseul lays curled up at the foot of Neamh's bed while she waits for the woman to wake from whatever chemical concoction they had pumped her with. The woman, the god is not asleep. She stares at the three tied up men. She isn't sure if these are the ones who disgraced them or if those men are still roaming the estate. Iseul cannot tell the difference between men. They all look the same to her.
When she feels Neamh stir, the woman, the god turns and crawls over to her. She strokes the other woman's face and threads her fingers through her hair. "My beautiful, precious Neamh," she whispers, lifting the covers of the bed and sliding in next to her. She presses her nose to her neck, feeling the quiet pulse against the tip of her nose. "We will destroy them. They stole from us both and so we will steal from them. If they have hurt you, tell me so that I may smite them properly."
Outside the door, Iseul can hear the sound of whispering and she smiles at her precious one, moving to lay across her chest. "Are you famished, my promise?"
Emptiness. Emptiness vast and far-reaching, like a black hole in the middle of her chest, growing larger with each breath she took. Growing more powerful, too. With teeth and claws, sharper than any razor, a single thought was ripping her soul to shreds: 'She is gone.' Who was? Why, her god. Her Iseul.
Neamh was no stranger to pain. In pain she'd been born, in pain molded-- indeed, to free her from the constraints of her filthy, tainted blood, they had had to cut, cut, cut, so deeply, into her very core. For that, she was thankful. For all of it. Every wound, every scar she had ever received, was a gift! A holy picture painted upon her skin, giving her the hope that maybe she could be beautiful, too. That the umbilical cord still tying her to humanity could be severed, in the same way a snake cast away its old skin. There had been a sense of purpose. This, though? Ah, just agony for agony's sake! (What was a prophet, after all, without her god? A cup without a bottom, cursed to spill any wine that might be poured in it. Neamh hadn’t known before, but without Iseul, she was a… a shadow. A mannequin, with no will of her own. A piece of meat just sort of existing, and waiting for others to take a bite. A worthless human bitch. And with Iseul… oh, she was still all those things, of course! Because, you see, you could dress a human in the finest silks, but you could never, ever make the weakness go away. It clung to them, like stench did to the most putrid of swamps. To her as well, despite The thing was, she Neamh had the inkling that Iseul liked that about her. Maybe because she was even more pathetic than god herself? Oh, Iseul, her sweet, sweet Iseul! Neamh could still taste her on her tongue-- the blood that reminded her of strawberries, the flesh made for devouring. And, sinful as it was? She couldn’t help but wonder how other parts of her tasted. You know, the ones that she had explicitly forbidden her from touching. ‘Chaste,’ Iseul had stressed. ‘Pure.’ But really, was there anything purer in this world than making a woman scream with pleasure? Self was the root of all evil, and in losing yourself to ecstasy, you just… abandoned it. Let it melt in something greater than yourself. Ugh, why wouldn’t Iseul let her bestow that gift upon her?! It would be such a sight-- her god, lying between the sheets, covered in her own sweat. Bloody fingerprints would cover her all over, and with her pretty, pretty mouth, she’d only make one sentence: “More. More, more, please!”)
These thoughts, and many similar, kept her sane while she struggled in her restraints. The bastards had put wire in her, wire and cables and tubes, and for what? For the crime of serving her god? For being closer to her than any of those cretins could possibly dream of? These believers, Neamh decided, were false! Small, ugly men, incapable of seeing past their noses. (Oh, none would escape her wrath. None. It had been boiling within her, over weeks and months and centuries, and once that hellfire was released? It would scorch them all-- all those morons that dared to stand between her and her Iseul.)
Of course, that had been a fool’s errand from the very beginning. After all, how could you separate a moon from its sun? A mirror from its reflection? You couldn’t, couldn’t, couldn’t, and, as if following Ariadne’s thread, Iseul found her way to her again. “I should have killed you faster,” the not-fae whispered, wrapping the god in her embrace. “Then they wouldn’t have been able to take you away from me. Would you like that, Iseul? You’d be with me, forever. Never again would you have to suffer the gazes of the unworthy ones lingering on your perfect face.” Casually, led by a half-forgotten instinct, she burrowed her hand in her hair. Wrapping a single dark lock around her wrist, Neamh then pulled-- enough for it to hurt, but not enough to actually tear her hair out. (That body was hers, and it wasn’t for breaking. Walking the line between pleasure and pain, though? Expecting one, and then being given the other? That, Neamh felt, could teach her a lot. Indeed, the whispers of the earth only reached the ears that knew how to listen.) “Never abandon me like that again, Iseul. You are my god, and it’s your responsibility to stay. If you don't, I will be very, very, very displeased with you.” Didn't she know that vows were to be observed? Didn't?! Loneliness had walked with her for far too long, and Neamh would not bear its dreadful company for a second longer. "But yes," she pressed a small kiss on her forehead, "I forgive you. You are far too sweet for anger, Iseul. Far too sweet, and far too precious. Let us save it for those who pollute the Earth with their vileness."
Ah, how thoughtful! A home-cooked meal. Neamh's lips spread in a wide, wide smile. "I am. I am always hungry, Iseul, but for you. Having to eat other things is like shoving dirt down my throat. Do you know just how deep my suffering is? My desire?" Inconspicuously, her hand wandered under the duvet, and squeezed her ample thigh. (God. The way her nails sank into her flesh? They belonged there, as did her hands on her throat. Like the earth and the sky touching one another on the horizon! ...often, you also couldn't tell where one ended and the other began. A great metaphor.) "You may reject me now, but mark my words: you will beg me for it one day. Perhaps sooner than you'd like. See, there is nobody else who can make you feel this way! And that's because I am you, dear Iseul. That is how I know what you need." Also, speaking of which? Neamh knew, in the very depths of her ugly, twisted soul, what Iseul craved now. "You've been starved for far longer than me, though," she pointed out. "Starved for vengeance, starved for justice. You'll get both tonight, my sweet." And, with that? The dark wind enveloped them, carrying them... somewhere. Far, far away.
That far away, as it turned out? Iseul's church-- the glass stained windows, the pews, the confession booth, the whole unholy package. Silence was their only companion, as all the good citizens were already asleep. Which, good! Their work would require some... hmm, some privacy. Neamh twirled joyfully, watching the skirts swish around her ankles. "Is that where you grew up, my Iseul? My, my, such a dreary place. I'm thinking that, to liven things up, you should nail me to that cross. Will you do that for me, my dearest? Please, please, make a masterpiece of me," she batted her eyelashes. "Show sister Cathy what true horror is."
Rightfully, her blessed one is angry. Neamh not only should have killed her faster, she should have died faster so as to not create this dreadful inconvenience. And since she did not die fast enough, she should have woken up faster. She shouldn't have spent so much time smiting those servants, those supposed followers. Her stomach tenses when her hair is pulled, understanding that this is entirely her fault and that she deserves much much worse for her transgressions. For worrying her Neamh, for making her think that her god abandoned her as Iseul's has. Such a wretched feeling that is, it causes tears to spring in her dark eyes, her remorse like a noose on her neck. Of course, she won't apologize. No, no, no––paltry syllables could never express her regret. A waste of words. A waste of breathe. For her transgressions, something must be done to prove the sincerity of her apology. "I do not wish to displease you," she whispers, "I should have died faster. Now, we cannot be together because I am such a wretch. So unworthy even death continues to reject me. She hates me, I think." Why else would she have been rejected so many times? "I will not take your forgiveness for granted. I will do right by you and become a god you can be proud of, for you deserve that." That and so much more, she decides. She smooths her hand over the inside of Neamh's arm, imagining what it will one day be like to occupy her veins. What it will be like to live in the safety of her blessed one. No one else will be able to hurt her if she is with Neamh. No one else will be able to hurt Neamh if she is there to always protect her. Ah! How frustrating it is to live as herself. (And even then, is she even herself? She has not a clue.)
It's difficult to think properly with the other woman's hands all over her body, with her words tangling themselves in her mind––all the implications both obvious and unknown coming to the woman, the god all at once and she knows not what to do with all of these overwhelming thoughts. It scares her. It excites her. It frightens her. It's too much! Her eyes squeeze shut and she starts the first part of the rosary to soothe her. (Where are her beads? Her precious beads.) She does not want to disappoint Neamh, and she does not want her touch. It's too confusing. Ice starts to grow over the other woman's hand in response to pathetic Iseul's discomfort. (For this, she must die. She must die and die quick so that she can be free of these earthly temptations. So that she can remain pure. A god, she may be, but even gods need to remain pure for their followers. If they are steeped in filth, they will only lead their followers to ruination. She will not be like Him. She cannot do that to her blessed one.)
When the dark winds wrap around them, Iseul finally opens her eyes again and finds herself oddly comforted by where they end up. 'Home.' The thought is automatic and so she does not question it. Her fingers brush against the pews; she grabs one of the holos filled with the heavenly texts for each service, and reads the reading displayed on the deck. (Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned. How apt, she decides.) She sets it down, gently, and picks up a discarded plastic rosary, clutching it tightly to her chest before she pockets the prayer beads and looks up to stare at the stained glass, lit with neon lights; she watches the moving figures play out their scenes over and over and over again, toiling for nothing. (Once, Iseul felt much like them. Stuck in a loop. Then Neamh came and she broke her from that yoke. Strange to think that was only a day or so ago, for she feels as though Neamh has been in her life for much longer. Is this what destiny feels like? Fate?)
"Yes," she whispers, but from the front of the church, standing at the altar, it carries easily through the cathedral. "I grew up right over there," she points to the bottom of the steps leading up to the altar. (When she had been thirteen and still looking three, she heard the deacons and priests talking about how unsettling it was. So she grew up. Right there. All at once. That unsettled them even more, unfortunately.) She looks around the rest of the cathedral, bitter and sweet memories flooding her at once. Mostly bitter. (The confession booth she'd been locked in by those rotten school boys. The baptism pool her classmates had tried to drown her in. The pews where the school girls tackled her and stripped her bare. Their laughter fills her head, drowning out everything else. Everything else except for Neamh and how she twirls in the middle of the aisle looking like an angel. Ah, her sweet Neamh.) Frost has grown around her, outside of her awareness, and Neamh brings her back from those desolate memories that prove her worthlessness in His eyes. Had she been worthy, He would have protected her and punished those rotten kids. Now she must do that for Him.
"Are you certain?" she asks, craning to look up at the hovering cross, decorated in the finest golds and jewels with the likeness of the Son attached to it. Her own scars start to burn at the thought––pleasurable and not. (The thought of Neamh spread out like that... Restrained... Her breath stops.) When she looks up at her blessed one, the whites of her eyes are gone and two black holes stare back at her faithful follower. 'Delicious. Delicious, she would look.' "Yes, what a divine idea." The woman, the god presses a button at the side of the altar to lower the cross. It hisses and whirs as it is brought down, eventually settling on top of the altar. The plastic Son who sits on top is easily removed and once it is gone, she helps her blessed one onto the cross. "Once," Iseul starts, grabbing one of the nails that had been in the plastic Son's hands. She presses it to Neamh's palm and as it plunges into her, she continues, "They tried to crucify me. I thought it would work. We all thought it would work." She sighs, wistfully and remorsefully all at once. "But Ego decided I was not to die that day. How wise, too, for had I died I would have been a lost wandering soul. But when you kill me, Neamh? I won't have to wander. I'll have someone to haunt. Forever." Something about the prospect does fill Iseul with something close to sadness, though she is not sure why. She decides, she will not think about it.
When Neamh is fixed to the cross, she gathers some of her blood on the tips of her fingers and draws a cross on her forehead. Then she takes her sharp talons and carves Matthew 24:28 onto her chest. 'Perfect.' "Beautiful." She takes the rosary from her pocket and places it around the other woman's neck. 'Heavenly.' "Are you ready to put on a show? A spectacle? I won't be far, my dear," she coos, fixing Neamh's hair and placing a chaste kiss on her cheek. The woman, the god walks over to the electronic pipe organ, adjusts the settings, and starts playing one of the recordings much too loud. Loud enough that it ought to draw someone's attention. Most likely sister Cathy as she never was great at minding her own business. This will teach her. It will, of course, be her last lesson, she decides.
The woman, the god then ducks behind the altar to hide (muttering the psalms that should accompany this particular number).
True to Iseul's assessment, the wretched sister does bolt into the cathedral. Her eyes are bleary, but they widen rather immediately when she sees the altar. When she sees the cross. Whatever remnants of slumber were still clinging to mind are awash as she rushes (stumbles) over to the front of the church. The old woman gasps upon seeing Neamh up close, nailed to the holy cross. "My word," because she never uses His name in vain, being the pious woman that she is. "Child, child," she continues, brushing her papery hand over the crucified's face. "I will send for help at once, you poor lamb! What has happened?"
"What a tragedy," Neamh whispered, her voice full of reverence. "They weren't prepared to witness your greatness, my Iseul. Their eyes were weak, and so your brilliance blinded them. They deserved it." Still, how was any of that fair? They were a mirror and a reflection, two sides of the same coin, and yet, yet... "I grew up in a paradise, you know? My heart aches for you so, you cannot even imagine." With her hand, she caressed the god's cheek, and let her fingers end up on her lips. (Ah, those lips! Neamh could imagine so, so, so many things better than talking that Iseul could be doing with them, right now. Wouldn't it be oh so poetic, with their beloved Son watching? With all the damn congregation present, their mouths agape? Finally, they could see something truly holy-- an apostle serving her god, in a way only she could.) "But, see, that means I know how to get you there. I will show you the way, my Iseul, and litter it with the corpses of your enemies. Follow them, and you will never go astray." Ugh! How she would love to lift her skirt, and show her it didn't matter how fucking long it was. Always, she would find her heaven, and--
Not now, though. We have work to do. "Indeed, I am certain. Do it, Iseul. You may harm me whenever you like," she giggled, happy sparks dancing in her eyes. "It will be an honor to play such an instrumental role, too. Please, please, may I drink sister Cathy's blood? Of course, you ought to claim the first gulp, but I would like to taste her as well. Sharing a meal with you like that... it fills me with joy. Feels almost like a marriage vow, doesn't it? For there is no greater promise than one sealed with blood." Ah, how blessed she was! To think that Iseul, her beautiful, beautiful Iseul, would be the one to nail her to the cross... Neamh's heart raced in her chest, her mind was bursting with the possibilities. (No, it wasn't a coincidence that 'punishment' started with the same letter! The mistresses, too, knew some... hmm, interesting methods to make it a little sweeter for her. Like the combination of chili and chocolate, really. Could you even speak of enjoyment if you weren't burning inside? ...she wanted to be ashes. That way, at least Neamh wouldn't have to look in the mirror and see herself, the ugly, pathetic thing that she was.
"Yes," the not-fae whispered. "Make me beautiful. Sweet Iseul, let's compose our first symphony. What do you think about the screams of your enemies? I believe that... that they'd be, ah, a lovely instrument." Iseul then drove the nail into her flesh, and Neamh? Neamh couldn't help but cry out in ecstasy, imagining all those other things she could in her instead. (The idea was rather delightful, wasn't it? Being at her mercy, powerless to stop her. Not that she wanted to. Oh, if only Iseul would take, take and take, like all the others before her!) With a half-lidded stare, and her lips glistening, she looked at her god. "Such fools," she rasped. "Of course that a cross cannot kill you. You were born to bear it, Iseul! What they don't know yet is that you are meant to... stab them with it." Indeed, indeed! Where it once brought salvation, it would only bring damnation now-- the reverse Pandora's box, essentially. The bastards had had their shot at paradise, and with their filthy hands, they'd ruined it! No, the universe had run out of second chances. "Yes. Yes, you will stay with me. Even if you try to leave, I won't let you, my Iseul. See, if you ever did, I would have to kill you."
The music rained on her head, and, thinking to enhance the scenery, Neamh summoned black snow. From the ceiling, they were drifting, all those perfect snowflakes! (And covering her in frost, not that dissimilar to the one that belonged to the god herself. Perhaps she could imagine that they were hers? Because then, then she could believe that she was hugging her-- wrapping her in that tender embrace, and soothing her fears. When the wretched sister came, though? Neamh cast aside her fantasies, for it was time for the performance of her life.)
"Sister, my good sister!" she cried, tears streaming down her face. "It was..." the not-fae shuddered, causing more warm blood to drip, drip, drip, down on the marble floor. "Thank the heavens that you are here. It... it was..." the not-fae's lower lip trembled, her limbs shook. Dammit, did it hurt! But in the right way, like a claw ripping her stomach apart. "The god," Neamh finally stammered. "The god herself. She said I was the messenger of darkness, and impure, oh so impure!"
"She?" The expression of confusion looked natural on her face, and so Neamh could only assume the sister wore it a lot. "Child, you must be confused. The god isn't a woman," she spat the word out, as if it was an insult. "Let me get you off the cross now. I'm sure that thinking will come much, much easier to you once you aren't in pain."
That, of course, was the moment black tendrils tore through Neamh's belly-- like a parasite wanting to come out, like a dark promise. There was blood, blood everywhere, and... "Oh? But god wants me to stay here. She wants me to eat you, too. How would you like that, sister? Maybe, instead of putting me down, you should join me!" Cathy screamed, but, as Neamh had learned so many times before, that actually did very little to sway the fate. (It hadn't saved her, either. Not that there was anything that she needed saving from, of course! She was very, very, very thankful.)
With her tendrils, she lifted her high into the air, and watched as the woman kicked the air. (A marionette, Neamh thought. All her life, she'd danced according to the tune of the false god, and now she would do the same for them. How very fitting!) "My sweet Iseul," she sang out. "Would you like to join in on the fun?"
The ghost of Neamh's fingers still rest on her lips and Iseul hovers her own fingers over them as if she is actually holding Neamh's hand. With her back pressed firmly against the altar, she wonders what it would be like to lick those fingers, to taste them and know they are hers. A wicked thought in His house, but perhaps that is why she does not stop her thoughts from unraveling. If they are to desecrate this holy place, then they might as well do it not just in body but in soul. They should bring all wretchedness to His house. (Perhaps that will get His attention? Ah, no! She cannot think of that. She wants not His attention, for He has never bothered with hers. What would her Neamh think, even, if she knew her god was praying to another? Gods don't worship gods. They only have themselves to serve.) Her breath frosts in front of her while heated thoughts consume her, enough to make her mouth water. She almost misses the wicked sister's entrance as a result, but the old crone's voice easily shatters everything she had been thinking about prior. (Some part of her is relieved.)
A smile traces across her lips as she listens to her Neamh speak, finding her voice soothing, something she could surely fall asleep to with the woman wrapped in her arms. Perhaps naked, if only because nakedness is as close as they can get to one another before Neamh consumes her flesh and makes them One. She listens to the splats of blood hitting the floor, wishing she could hop over and lick the precious substance so that none of her Neamh is wasted. (Her mouth waters at that thought, too.) She wants so badly to give away her position, and yet she know she must wait and not waste their opportunity to damn this entire church and bring down the wicked sister once and for all. (Thousands of bloody images cross her mind at once––sister Cathy with her eyes plucked out; sister Cathy with her entrails turned to a noose; sister Cathy losing her head; chopping her up into tiny bits; breaking every wretched bone in that body, and so on.) Her blessed one plays her role and plays it well (for that, she will get a reward, she decides). And while she cannot see any of this, she can imagine perfectly how her face contorts and how righteous she likely feels trying to save Neamh. As if Neamh needs any saving. Her god is right here and will protect her. Where is sister Cathy's? No where.
When her blessed one calls her forth, the woman, the god crawls out from behind altar. Her long silky hair shrouds her face, but it's not as though she needs to hide. She's already been announced. She stops in front of the small red puddle and licks the holy floor, inhaling sharply as Neamh's sweetness hugs her tongue. She looks up at the crucified woman and opens her mouth to catch another few drops, taking her sweet time before addressing the frightened nun. The woman, the god rises to her full height and smirks. 'A masterpiece will be made of you, wicked sister.' Though she doesn't address this woman first, instead she turns to her blessed one and places a kiss to her calf. "You have done well, my sweet. You never fail to impress me."
"You, on the other hand," she looks to the floor as her anger grows and snaps her head to look at the struggling hag, "Have only ever been a disappointment. A rotten woman with only a cross on her neck. Yet you, a holy woman, wear it like a noose. Like a threat. Tsk, tsk, a divine woman would know not to fear her god, for gods love those who are faithful," she strokes her blessed one's leg as she says this. Her eyes darken further, making it appear as if she has two holes in her head in the place of eyes. "Something tells me you lack faith, wicked sister."
"Iseul," the nun struggles, sweat rolling down her forehead, "Iseul, what is the meaning of this!? Call off this witch at once if you wish to seek salvation––is that not what you want, my dear, sweet salvation?"
"Oh, so now I am worthy of your god's salvation?" she hisses, her fangs and claws elongating, icy winds whipping around them and cutting into the old woman's cheeks. "Penance never revealed to me His divine way. It taught me my unworthiness. Why would I follow that god anymore?"
"That god? How can you speak in such a blasphemous way, Iseul? He is the one true God. This woman," she juts her chin out to point to Neamh, "has infected you with her poison. You have only been missing three days and we have searched fervently for you, for we worry for you, sweet child. Diligently, we have turned all stones wondering where our lost lamb has gone. Three days and you have turned to false idols."
"There is nothing false about me," she points out. Then her brows knit together, her gaze downcast as she thinks. They searched for her. They cared care about her? 'Of course they do, you dolt!' one part of her says. The other counters, 'Why would they hurt you, then?' Neamh hurt her, however, and she knows that the woman does care about her. Maybe... Maybe they do care?
"Yes," sister Cathy says, her desperation masked with promise, "Yes, it is not too late for you. It is never too late in His eyes. Do not walk this path. You can come back to the light."
"No more penance?"
"No more penance."
The woman, the god thinks this over. The winds die down. Her claws and fangs retract. Her eyes stay their dangerous void. A conflict rages inside of Iseul––one where the promise of forgiveness in His eyes is desirable and the other where she wants her rightful vengeance. (Then another where she knows vengeance is wrong. And another where she knows they have more than earned it. And on and on and on.) Her lip trembles as her mind tears itself apart, not knowing what to do. (What kind of god is she if she knows nothing and not all? Clearly a false idol. Clearly.) She turns to look at Neamh, frowning. "This is... wrong?"
"Yes, yes––very wrong, Iseul. Stop this, and we can enjoy milk and honey and in the gardens. We can even assess your suitors––there are men who have asked about you, you know. Would you not like that peaceful life?"
Have you ever had a favorite trinket? A pretty little ring, perhaps? You know, the kind of ring that went perfectly with anything that you decided to wear, and so you never took it off. By a certain point, it was a part of you-- something that might as well have been sewn into your skin. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that you loved it. Still, when that ring broke? When it shattered, and you watched the pathetic pieces of metal glimmer on the ground? Oh, it was hard, so very hard, to remember what made it good in the first place! (...because, with its purpose gone, it was actually ugly. A mockery of what it had once been. A parasite feasting on its corpse, crushing all those precious memories into fucking dust. And, when her Iseul broke? It was so, so hard not to draw parallels! Hard enough for Neamh not to even try.)
Electrifying, like the touch of lightning, anger flashed through her green eyes. Forgotten was sister Cathy-- forgotten, much like her own fear, much like her own reverence. (She was Neamh, yes, and thus nobody. A speck of dust to be wiped off, her very presence a stain on the face of the universe. The good thing about that, though? The one who was nobody could also be everyone, in a way! Shapeless, much like water that always accepted its fate to change, change, change, according to the container it found itself in. And Neamh... oh, Neamh could feel that the crucible in which she was about to melt would grant her some very sharp edges. ...phoenixes didn't exist, the not-fae knew. Still, wasn't it so tempting, to let herself be consumed by her fire? To let all of it burn away, and wash herself in the unworthy bitch's blood? She didn't deserve it, Neamh decided. Not her perfect skin, nor her midnight-dark hair, nor her anything! All of it was hers, and it was time to pay the debt.)
The tendrils ripped her off the cross, tearing fresh strings of flesh off her back. (Ribbons, Neamh thought. Beautiful, beautiful ribbons. I wonder, would Iseul like me wrapped in them? Except, you see, what Iseul wanted mattered no longer! A guiding star that watched in compliance as her god went down a dark, dark path was no guiding star at all, she knew. The girl was relying on her to show her the way, and... well. Without pain, there was no learning. No wisdom, either. Was that why they'd crucified their first god, perhaps? So that He understood, at least a little, how much His betrayal hurt.) Neamh walked closer to Iseul, leaving behind bloody footprints in the dark snow. (Crunch, the substance went, and she thought it apt. It paired well with the sounds of her world collapsing, all the continents crashing together. ...was it any wonder, though? Iseul may have been her own reflection, but Neamh was still a human bitch-- a thing to be used and discarded, like a dirty rag. With the precious, precious blood running in her veins, Iseul must have sensed that. Like a wolf to its prey, huh? But this prey had teeth, and a lust for meat. This prey was given a promise, forged from sacred trust!)
"Is that what you want?" she asked, her voice liquid honey. (Honey, yes, but hidden in it, there were shards of glass. Who would dare to taste? Who wouldn't?) "Acceptance from those who spat upon you, as fake as their promises of paradise? My, my, dearest Iseul! I didn't think that you'd be as worthless as I am. It does make some sort of sense, but still! I really should have killed you back then, huh? Before you took my gift, and showed me exactly what you thought of it. Was it all a game for you? A pointless little rebellion, right before you returned to His embrace? Because it is not one for me. And," she smiled, showing her perfect teeth, "I guarantee you, I will ruin you. Your false god doesn't love damaged goods, and he won't love you. He never has."
"Silence, demon!" sister Cathy shrieked. "I see you, and I know who you are. Stay away from us, Devil. You targeted the most vulnerable of our lambs, but you will not have your way. You will not! Faith will protect both me and Iseul. In the name of our lord, I ask you to--"
No, Neamh did not wait for that pearl of wisdom. Instead, she grabbed the god with the tendrils, and held her firmly in place. "My heart hurts, Iseul. It hurts so, so much, and I should think it would only be fair for you to sample some of that agony. You like it, no? Otherwise you wouldn't want to return to your owners. Well, I can give you something way, way, way more intense than they ever could!" And, with that? Dark flames erupted from the abused earth, licking at the girl's ankles. (The fire was a saw, and it cut, cut, cut, deep into her core--) "Is it to your liking, my dear?" Neamh asked, inhaling the scent of burning flesh. Ah. How... hmm, appetizing. "See, it's for your own good! Because fire cleanses. Once you emerge from the pyre, you will be a new woman, free of weakness." That, or you will be fucking dead. Both acceptable alternatives, the not-fae decided.
Hot. Searing. Her skin blisters and then it melts like the ice from which Iseul was born. But the flames are nothing in comparison to the force of her world being broken in two and the pieces crushed to dust. 'Fool.' As always, the woman does not scream when this undue punishment is dealt. The flames caress her ankles and she laughs, sweet like windchimes. What? Does Neamh think she has never burned for before? Does she not think she has not already been cleansed with flames? Well, she supposes, it no longer matters what Neamh think; what that nobody thinks. 'All humans are wretched and evil. Even Neamh. Especially Neamh,' she decides. Her eyes spark and while the tendrils hold her still, they cannot hold a shadow and so a shadow she becomes. Her form dissolves into the nothingness, the darkness that is Ego. Ego will not be treated in such a flippant manner by a mortal with pretty green eyes. 'Neamh will not be spared,' she decides this as well. For a woman who turns against her is no woman she wants, but she does not think the rat before her will mind. After all, she once told her to have no mercy against vile humans and, last Ego checked, the bitch is still so hopelessly human. "Who are you to say what is and isn't for my own good!?" she shrieks, her formless body whipping violently around the room, cutting into Neamh, cutting into sister Cathy, kicking up the dark flames and encouraging them to march over the pews.
"I will be your end. Your downfall. This is not where you begin, Neamh. Nobody," she hisses, tackling the other woman to ground, ensnaring her, fighting with her tendrils. "There is nothing for you in your supposed paradise. I will personally see to that, you rotten bitch!" It feels good, she decides, hurting Neamh. It is what the other woman deserves for turning her flames against her. For daring to strike her, a god. And for what? For nothing, as far as Ego is concerned. "I should have known to not trust you. You even warned me that all you humans are rotten. Are all the same, no matter how much you play pretend––I see who you are now, human."
She continues her struggle with the woman, feeling better with ever blow she lands, for she does not deserve to be hurt; she is the one meant to deliver the hurt, she decides. It is unfortunate it took this false prophet betraying her for her to realize this forgone conclusion, but it makes sense. All she has ever wanted is to stop being an instrument for someone else's pain. (Sister Cathy even promised to never force her back to penance were she to return under Eagle's wing. Still, it's not that she cannot find the truth in the ugly bitch's words. The promise that fell from the crone's lips had been... it had been everything the woman has always wanted to hear and in that, she knows it must ring false. Perhaps, had sister Joan made this promise, she could have believed it but sister Cathy? The woman who forced her to wear iron chains despite how much they burned? Despite how sick they made her feel? And even laughed at the young Iseul for spilling so many tears? Sent her to penance for keeping all the nuns awake with her anguished cries? She had been a fool to latch onto that promise. Still, Neamh betrayed her. Her guiding star is a black hole who will only consume her and reduce her to nothing were she to have her way. Ego decides, she does not want to be one with someone so rotten. A promise, she may have made, but it had been contingent on Neamh showing her her destiny. And a worthless death, she decides, is not her destiny. Her destiny is far greater than her pathetic and feeble human mind can even comprehend. Cities will crumble under her electric glare; kings will bow upon hearing her dreaded and wicked name; there is no inch of His earth that she will not bring Hell to.) Ego realizes, now, she is destined to become the incarnation of Destruction.
"You see," sister Cathy coughs, as smoke replaces oxygen, "A devil, Iseul, a devil she is––"
"Silence!" Ego shrieks, taking her attention away from Neamh, even releasing her as her shadowy form darts over to the nun. She grabs the woman by the collar and hovers her face over the dark flames. "You are not to speak to me, filth. Unholy woman. Do you not know lying is a sin? All my life you have lied and lied and lied and yet no God has struck your tongue or lit your words on fire. So I will and if I am wrong? Let your God strike me down, but we both know He is not showing up. He never does." She presses the crone's face into the flames and holds her here there, not even having to do much to combat her struggles. 'She is so weak. I always knew this.'
As the dark flames consume the woman, a howling shriek erupts through the cathedral and, at first, Ego believes the guardian angels have arrived. That is not so. The shriek comes from sister Cathy's charred corpse, a glowing blue spirit fighting to free itself of its vessel. It does not, however, flying out of the church. Instead, it dives into the dark flames and fuses with them, turning them white with blue edges. More shrieks fill the room and Ego has to release the wretch's corpse to cover her ears, reverting back to Iseul in the process. These new flames are drawn to the two remaining women in the room. In fact, they whirlpool around them, herding them as dogs do sheep until they are shoulder to shoulder, then back to back. Iseul blinks as the flames do their dance, morphing into different shapes––a gilded ark, the head of a incorruptible saint, a wooden staircase, a cross with drooping arms, and so on. The flames get ever closer until they're needling under their eyelids and filling their head with visions––a world torn apart by fire and ice; cathedrals burning; purges and cullings; the rise of dark religion; the dome falling. (And it all fills Iseul with pure ecstasy.)
"To bring this corrupted earth to true paradise, you must be incorruptible yourselves," a voice from the flames whispers, almost too beautiful for Iseul to even comprehend. "Do you surrender to the flame? Or are you its dark mistresses?"
God’s mercy, they said, was the most beautiful thing in the world-- the single rose among the thorns, ruby red and fragrant. You know what was even more beautiful than that, though? God’s fury. Neamh knew that all too well, and she confirmed it for herself anew when Iseul attacked her, fire blazing in her black eyes. (The principle behind that was simple. God, the bastard that he was, was supposedly all-loving, all-forgiving, all-everything, the goody two shoes. The epitome of perfection, like a pearl shining in the darkness. What, then, would it take for god to lose her cool? To taint herself with anger, the messiest of emotions? Oh, Neamh was aware now! It took her. She alone had that power in her hands-- the power to rip, and tear, and bring the bitch to her ruin. The entire world with her as well, the dirty soil that had given birth to such rotten fruit. …did they think they knew what true suffering was about? Oh, they didn’t, they didn’t! Not until they looked, truly looked into the mirror, and recognized who the true enemy was.)
“You, my downfall?” the not-fae laughed, her voice ringing like a bell. “Ah, my Iseul, you always have been. I’ve known that from the very beginning. Have you, though? If you want to scare me, you’ll have to try harder.” And, ah, wasn’t she exquisite? They were surrounded by old masters’ statues, by centuries old paintings, and yet there wasn’t a sight more majestic than Iseul, controlled by the storm of her own anger. Yes, Neamh thought, yes. This is how I imagined you, my sweet. The timid girl, the shell that she had once worn? It had cracked, like an egg, and from its alabaster remains, a phoenix emerged. Of course, of course! The mistresses, too, were like flames-- kind and merciful, ready to warm your bones at one moment, and hungry for your flesh in the other. It was no wonder that Iseul carried the same duality within her. (Would she ever look at her with the same eager eyes? With her mind’s eye, Neamh saw herself tied, her hands bound with barbed wire, and kneeling in front of her god. ‘You’ve displeased me, human bitch,’ Iseul would say. ‘And there’s only one way for you to make this better. Do well enough, and you may be able to keep your tongue. Well? What are you waiting for?’ Then she was lifting her frumpy, annoyingly long skirt, more and more, and Neamh’s mouth was watering, and… whoopsie. They were still fighting, weren’t they?) Lazily, with the kind of consideration one usually gave to a fly they were swatting away, the not-fae deflected another blow.
“Don’t be so boring about this,” she reprimanded her opponent. “I know that you can do much, much, much better than that, Iseul. What, you want to destroy the world? Try destroying me first, so that I see that you are not all talk.” The insults she flung at her? Oh, they flew right past her, harmless like autumn leaves caught in the wind! ...aside from the one that was an arrow, cleaving her fucking heart in half. “I am not human,” Neamh bristled. "What do you even know about that?! You're nothing, bitch. Not a human and certainly not a god. A sad little hybrid, torn between those two halves." You see, kind of like herself. Still, still they were the beginning and the end of the same story-- Neamh had just misjudged which was which. "By what right do you claim to know me? A sparrow doesn't understand the thoughts of an eagle." No, this god was false. A false idol, a false savior, a false everything! With her own two hands, Neamh would bury her corpse, and let the worms feast on it. (She didn't even want to eat her. Not anymore. From rot, how could true strength be born? There must have been some kind of mistake, Neamh decided. This woman, this fake, couldn't be her ticket to paradise.)
Sister Cathy's death wasn't the climax it should have been, but a boring, drawn-out affair. Yawn. Maybe Iseul could have recited some Bible verses to accompany it? Because mimicking the nonsense they'd taught her seemed to be the only thing the bitch was good for-- that, and for disappointing her. (No, not getting any bonus points for that. Everyone and their mother excelled at that sort of thing.)
The aftermath, though? Oh, that wasn't boring. Not even remotely.
Flames rose all around them, flames dark like ravens' wings, and Neamh... ah, Neamh was drunk on the visions they carried! For they were even darker. Yes. Yes, grant me the destruction. Take this world, rend in it half, and feed me the screams of the so-called innocents. They existed, didn't they? They existed, free of the burdens that she had to bear, and that alone was an unforgivable sin!)
"I will not bow before no other but my mistresses," Neamh hissed, lifting her chin. "Not even when it comes to you. You should bend the knee before me, because the true flame is in my heart. You are but a paltry imitation." Indeed, it was! The desire to destroy, to hurt, to tear them apart-- to make them taste a little bit of what she'd eaten all her life, this cursed diet of self-awareness. The ultimate truth? Humans were cattle. Cattle that was meant to be slaughtered, and feed its true masters.
"Hmm? It seems you have chosen, then." Did the voice sound annoyed or amused? Was it an indictment or praise? Neamh couldn't tell, and neither did she care. "But, see, with leadership, there comes great responsibility. Had you chosen to be my slaves, you might have experienced true bliss. As it is, though..." The flames went out in an instant, leaving behind heavy, suffocating smoke. Dammit! Neamh couldn't see it very well, but... there was a silhouette in the background? Something that hadn't been there before-- something large, too. Something so evil that it made her shudder with joy. When the smoke finally dispersed, the not-fae could see that it was a white horse, staring at them with what could only be described as contempt. "As it is, you need to prove yourselves. Behold, the first of my horses! Conquest. Go forth, dark mistresses, and conquer. Show me that you belong on the throne, rather than on your knees.' And, before any of them could do anything about it? They found themselves sitting on the horse, and it was barging out of the cathedral, into the neon-lit streets...!
Streets that were, naturally, full of guardian angels.
This must be some kind of mistake. Must be, she decides. The flames showing her visions and the flames challenging her to take the throne, both make sense. Naturally, most naturally! However, folding that worthless rat Neamhinto the mix? What sort of insult is this!? A woman who knows not her place does not belong at her side, she decides. (What does it matter how long she has known her worth? The truth is the truth no matter when one finally accepts it as theirs and this is her truth. The power that rests in her veins like a slumbering beast is her birthright; in that, her birthright is to be athe harbinger of destruction. Her and her alone––that rat is a ball and chain around her ankle, dragging her down. If she must chew off her own foot, then she will. Anything to rid herself of that black hole.) The thought, of course, does come to her to show the rat her place and wouldn't that be delightful? Should she not at least be given the chance to learn? What sort of leader would she be if she let those who cross her get away unscathed? 'I will cut out that tongue she loves so much and nail it to the wall. I am so tired of her voice.' That, to Iseul, seems to be an apt punishment for whispering lies and trying to use her tongue to cut her down. Perhaps she will also cut off her hands so that she cannot continue to point people in wrong directions. And why stop at her hands? Her legs should go as well! And, and, and–– 'False prophet. She will lose everything.'
The flame's challenge is herdark prophecy to fulfill, she decides. Not Neamh's.
When the white horse emerges from the thick black smoke, Iseul recoils in disgust, curling her lip at the beast. 'What a filthy animal.' And that she (and Neamh) is expected to ride such a creature must be a joke or another mistake. 'Whoever is pulling these strings ought to die as well. I want a blank world. No voices to follow.' Still, whether or not Iseul actually wants to get onto the back of this beast is not up to her as they are she is teleported onto its back and it goes charging into the streets of the neon jungle.
The dome reflects a night sky that existed many eons ago (when there were still stars) and the ever watching Eye. The eye revolves around the city, shifting to look this way and that as it moves across the sky. He is always watching and if not Him, then His guardian angels. Their razor-feather wings gently clink together as they float overhead. Their eyes all look in different directions and shift in such a pattern that makes it seem as though they never miss anything. Except they always miss Iseul.
Barreling out of a flaming cathedral is enough for even Iseul to grab their attention. A flock of them dive towards the horse and Iseul bats them away with her claws, slashing into their eye-covered wings. A bow and arrow set manifests in her hands, as well as a crown, but honestly? She is not interested in putting on a costume, so she tosses the instruments to the side, opting for her claws and fangs. (She's found that she quite enjoys using her hands.) She also hates being on this stupid cursed horse. (There's a reason they were all slaughtered for meat during the days that followed the first holy purge.) Ignoring Neamh behind her, she rises to stand on the horse's back and then jumps into the air to attack another guardian coming towards her. Nevermind that this leaves her supposed counterpart wide open for attack. As if Iseul cares for her any longer. In fact, this is a divine opportunity to get away from the one who only serves to drag her down. 'Down into the pits of Hell if she had her way.' That is what Iseul believes, at least. (Not that Iseul wants to end up in Heaven. Not anymore. It will be the last kingdom she burns, of course, but she will make an empire of her own. An empty one with no chance for dissent or disappointment. Once she has achieved that, she will have her peace. Death can come for her then, if it finally decides she is worthy.)
Blood, sparks, and bodies rain from the sky as the woman slashes through the cybernetic monstrosities––tearing one's throat out only to hop over to another and snap its neck, break its wing, and on and on. The hour is late, so there are hardly any witnesses, and the few who are out record the entire event with their enhanced eyes and clutch prayer beads to their chest, in the hopes they are not spotted. Unfortunately their fear is something that prickles the Iseul's senses and she darts towards the streets, turning her outrage onto the citizens of the dome, feasting on the flesh of non-mechanical men. (Disgusting. Where's Neamh?)
While the woman enjoys her private destruction, Neamh is not left alone. She is given her own flock of guardians to take down. One in particular comes down to challenge her directly; he still has most of his former body, inlaid with violet colored eyes. Though his head has been replaced with six wings and on the sides of his neck, two mechanical lions' head have been installed. Rings of fire circle him, like electrons orbiting a nucleus. Then two golden swords extend from his wrists, sparking with electrical charge. He raises his arms up into the air and then catapults the charge towards Neamh and the horse.
The two mechanical lions' heads open their mouths and a holy man's voice implores, "Surrender now and Judgment may be kinder to you!"As if. ...Though fighting may be futile. The guardians don't stop coming, see. In fact, for every one struck down, three more seem to come to replace their fallen brother. This is also coupled with the eye, His eye, stopping its orbit right over the two women; its pupil opens to shine a bright spotlight on the carnage, making them easy to spot targets.
Imperials––A.K.A. military dead-brains––then march in from all sides. Most have blasters imbedded in their palms and others have barbed whips that come out of their wrists. "We have you surrounded!" The man points his weapon towards Neamh. "Don't make this worse for yourself, girl. Hand over the fugitive and I think we can figure out a deal."
Angels. Angels all around her, filling her ears with soft, metallic clicking. Oh, how beautiful, beautiful they were! The perfect fusion of steel and flesh-- humans that had transcended their own meager form, and shattered their chrysalis. Broken out of their prison, too. (They were the enlightened ones, Neamh decided. Not the priests muttering their useless prayers, or the nuns clutching their rosaries! They alone peered into their soul, and understood, truly understood, just how fucking disgusting they were. That something had to be done, if they wanted the right to breathe. There wasn’t anything quite as ugly as demanding that which you had no right to, you see? And, oh, humans were the experts on that. With their dirty, sweaty hands, they’d seized the planet, and poured poison into her veins! It had been a gift, but they’d mistreated it so. In their eyes, it had been a dirty rag, not a precious painting. The earth had wailed in agony as they’d torn her apart, as they’d taken and taken and taken, all the treasure buried in her holy entrails, and now… now there was no going back. Even magic had its limits. You couldn’t revive that which was already dead, no matter how hard you clutched at the lifeless tissue. The Mistresses had told her the story, over and over, and made it clear that she, too, was responsible-- that the sins of her ancestors were clinging to her form, tainting her, growing in her like a kind of cancer. That she was a cancer, in a way. ‘This is why you are such a useless bitch, dear. I mean, a dog will not give you kittens, will it? No matter how sweetly you coax it, it can only work with the DNA it was given. As such, you also cannot expect greatness from one with such rotten lineage. Don’t worry, though! We still love you. So, so much. Even someone like you has her place at our hearth.’)
So, in a way, Neamh could understand the creatures. Wanting to escape wasn’t a sin-- it was a proof of awareness, a badge of honor. In fact, they knew better than anyone else what they truly were. After all, what were humans if not the most vicious of beasts? The transformation they’d gone through only revealed their rotten core, much like when you carved an apple in half! For that, the not-fae decided, she would kill them off swiftly. Torturing the sinners who were already bearing the full weight of their sin would be like bringing wood to the forest. (Pointless, and Neamh hated pointless things. You know, kind of like what Iseul turned out to be. The sweetness of meeting her fate had turned to ashes in her mouth, to wormwood and an ant’s sting! Still, she supposed, that was only right. Twin flames both burned together and went out together, bound by a connection more intimate than the umbilical cord was. How could she expect to become beautiful through someone so close to her, the filthy human bitch? …no, Iseul had to die. From her bones, perhaps Neamh could sculpt something that wasn’t totally revolting, too. After all, wasn’t the death of a creature this depraved a cause for celebration? Indeed, indeed! The false god would not give her her salvation, but her warm blood on her lips… oh, it could still give her something, alright. Something far more precious than her own life had ever been.)
The monsters flew to her, free of any conscious thought, and for a moment, Neamh yearned to be like them. Ah, what a relief it must have been! To strip yourself of the trappings of the mind, and surrender your will to the basest of instincts-- to hunt, to eat, to kill. To exist, in the most visceral sense. She could return to the roots then, like a wandering daughter who had finally found her compass. (A part of the cycle, not a fool trying to defy it. Had the humans accepted their place in the food chain, none of this would have happened! They would have been happy, and loved, and free. Instead, they suffered in this sham of a city, running around in their concrete fucking mazes. Rats, Neamh thought. Rats, with their silly little brains hooked on all those fancy drugs. Self-importance, faith, ideology-- all distractions, shiny candy wrappers with nothing inside. She would know. Oh, she would, she would! See, the not-fae had tried to embrace them as well… but always, her arms had wrapped around nothing. There had been nothing but her Mistresses, always so willing to forgive her mistakes. How lucky, how blessed Neamh was!)
The angels fell, one by one. The dark wind ripped through them, deactivating the circuits and cutting the wires-- they ended up on the ground, their wings still flapping, but in slow motion. It… almost seemed as if they were fighting some invisible pressure? Water that just wasn’t there, as far as the eye could see. “Look, Iseul,” Neamh smirked, her lips uncomfortably close to the god’s ear. “This power could have been yours, too, but you were too busy being a little bitch. Were that nun’s boots that tasty?” And, again, you should ignore the bloody tears streaming down her cheeks! Neamh was fine. Magic just… demanded price, that was all. Everything of any worth always did.
Ah, there they are. The blind that lead the blind. Did they think they could use mercy like a carrot on a stick, and make her go to her own slaughter? Foolish, foolish, foolish! “The fugitive,” Neamh thundered, wrapping her hands around her waist, “is mine. Mine and mine alone. If you want her, try to take her from me. And if you do, pray that your puny god helps you!” Of course, they interpreted this as the command to fire. Lasers flew at them, lasers that looked like tamed lightning, but the air around them shimmered, enclosing them in a protective shield. And, the horse? Despite being overlooked as far as orders went, it rushed into their midst, crushing the unbelievers underneath its hooves. Ah, there was so, so much blood! So much delicious blood, and screaming that tempted her ears. (Would the false god scream like that, too? Above her or beneath her, or with her organs scattered through the streets? All of a sudden, the not-fae couldn’t decide what she wanted. Couldn't, couldn't, couldn't!)
“Isn’t this breathtaking, Iseul?” Neamh whispered, all her hatred forgotten. “And all of this flows from you. Honestly, I wish you weren’t such a stupid bitch. Say,” she caressed her back, teasingly slow, “what can I do to awaken the god in you? We shouldn’t be like this, you and I. We’re meant to be one.”
The soldiers around her screamed and died, but the priest fell to his knees in prayer. “Oh my Lord, purify the unclean ones! Come to save your faithful in his hour of need!” It seemed that god wasn’t his greatest fan, though, because all that happened was that the corpses were set on fire. Flames danced across the dead flesh, red and orange and green, swaying in the wind like skirts! (Stunning. Lovely, oh, so lovely.) “Ah, indeed, you’d be good mistresses to me,” the voice from before chuckled. “I can tell that you’d feed me, and that you’d feed me well. All that blood, though… Such a waste. Blood is both life and death, Iseul. You shouldn’t claim it all for yourself. When the old god, the one that now rots in the earth, was angry with his followers, he gave them rivers of blood. I wonder, can you top it? Give them something meaningful, so they know to fear your name. Something more beautiful than just directionless violence.”