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Badar Consultant Agency
Co-Writer Blondemaverick*
Beta Reader HalenNikole
Beta Reader Heywood Williams
Co-Writer Z
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Badar Consultant Agency
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1 - Entropic Spiral - 4A
Apr 6, 2018
8 Mins Read
No Plagiarism!FxFmQdiQIPH1ChXSwpRXposted on PENANA

Two Weeks Earlier… copyright protection19PENANAh8fILSzfYs

The magic users in The Dareklind Circle of Magi surrounded themselves with trusted magical and non-magical associates alike. Their ranks were burgeoned with powerless daughters and sons; paper-pushers praying to their gods for some miraculous magical breakthrough that would also grant them the ability to bend the laws of nature.copyright protection19PENANAGDZlZQziGh

Jude thought it was all very cruel and narcissistic, the way the magi set themselves on pedestals of their own design. Mostly though, he was disgusted by their flippant, superior attitudes because it reminded him of what he’d been before he’d died: Fucking Invincible.copyright protection19PENANA7njKFgDbGu

At least now he could admit that much to himself.copyright protection19PENANA8YDoGoggEe

The awful thing was, it made him respect the Crimson Circle magi all the more.copyright protection19PENANAIkSHGRxf9e

When he was called to stand before the Red Cleric, he’d felt a deep seated sense of dread upend itself inside him and evaporate. Was the deception finally over? Was this walk down the southern corridor his own Green Mile? He should have felt terrified. Instead he only felt relieved. Woody would get to remember him as he’d been before--marked, but pure. He’d felt tainted in this place. Dirty, and uncomfortably comfortable with being dirty. As he made his way down the hall, he heard the misstep in his gait. He was missing two toes. The glove on his right hand was stuffed in three digits. Yesterday, he’d pulled a clump of white hair from his scalp, unsurprised. The roots had been black, crunchy. He didn’t know what to make of the changes anymore. He didn’t know why he was falling apart. He’d vaguely wondered if anyone else had noticed.copyright protection19PENANAxhCQ2h7FsO

He was dead, and what was dying to something like him?copyright protection19PENANAaBMOZsdgJR

No, Jude Holland wasn’t afraid that they’d destroy him like he’d destroyed Black Heart.copyright protection19PENANAvrcn9TfH9o

He was afraid they’d revive him. He was afraid they would worship him.copyright protection19PENANAWGGywIQEoj

He was afraid that Woody wouldn’t accept him if he went that far to survive.copyright protection19PENANAsyVemUHzbq

Would he go that far?copyright protection19PENANArHSD41xjJG

Fucking Invincible.copyright protection19PENANAIFnpeU84yw

All these thoughts and a thousand others flitted behind his eyes before he got to the cleric’s private study. He knocked. There wasn’t an answer on the other side, but he could sense the faint scent of a consciousness on the other side of the iron-bound oak door, like how one might catch a whiff of perfume in a space. He knocked again, but before he could call out, the door was opened.copyright protection19PENANAo05jfreW1q

A woman with steely blue hair stood before him. She wore a pinstriped skirt and a white blouse. There was a blue rose pin on one of her lapels. She had dark green eyes, the ones that seemed brown in dim lighting. Her hair was pulled back from her face into a bun, giving her a severe, taskmaster appearance. She smiled warmly then, and all the wrinkles of her evening face crinkled in all the right places. There was a life written on her kind of face; a life full of equal parts sadness and joy. She gestured for him to come inside the comfortable study and Jude almost forgot where he was, deep in the literal underground of an abandoned subway station.copyright protection19PENANAns7f6chEv0

She was like a doting grandmother. She led him to a chair before the fireplace, set a cup of hot chocolate in his gloved hands, and drew a warmed blanket around his feet. As soon as he set his spine against the back of the chair, she nodded in satisfaction and sat in the chair beside his, taking her own mug of goodness from a side table between them.copyright protection19PENANAkeFHEUBMZa

They sat like that for a while. She stared into the fireplace with a hauntingly serene smile on her face while Jude openly stared at her, soaking in her out-of-time-and-place appearance. He noticed them then: the marks on the backs of her hands, the hints of shiney blue spirals on the back of her neck where the whisps of her bun collected, the wedding band with obvious soldering work on one side. These details popped out at him, but his rattled mind didn’t know what to do with them. She was breathing evenly. There was a bandage around her left wrist. She knew he was looking at her, but she didn’t seem to mind. She sipped at her drink and looked into the fireplace.copyright protection19PENANAjnaoHqQWmR

A voice came out of her like wind blowing through a field of dry maize. It was a voice that brought men to their knees decades ago. It probably still could, given the right circumstances. The steely lady said, “I am your Red Cleric, Jude Holland.”copyright protection19PENANAmJktZrFg5b

It was no secret they knew his real name. That had been discovered within the first couple of weeks. It wasn’t so troublesome. They had his war record. They knew about his relationship with the Dareklind police. They knew about Badar Consultant Agency. The only thing they didn’t know was his true purpose for being there. They didn’t know about his ties to The Circle. They didn't know about Glenn Sherwood. His secrets.copyright protection19PENANAgpqW74QJRQ

“The Red Cleric protects the Crimson Circle from outside threats,” Jude said numbly. The hot chocolate was tasteless, tepid. It felt like a mouthful of flavorless gelatin going down.copyright protection19PENANATad4yVuoRR

“I do,” she confirmed. She turned to study him. “You are a threat.”copyright protection19PENANAgdBAGA1mQ6

“Yes, I am,” he confirmed in much the same way she had. “All of us have to trust that each of us is who we say we are. I trust you all as much as you trust me… We’re at each other’s mercy here.”copyright protection19PENANAx6wY3E2UoU

“I’m glad you see it that way,” she said in a companionable way. She turned back to the fire. “I too was taken by Sukki Attabaya, back when I lived in Guinea… He was killed in Mardenhar. But you know all about that, don’t you?”copyright protection19PENANAKi4YmDTR2L

“You knew Atty?” Jude asked, his face unable to betray his shock because he had to tell it to in any case. “Then… I’m sorry. He was a great man.” The words were carbon copies of a phrase he’d used before many time. This time, they felt sincere.copyright protection19PENANAJiYkSFUU2K

“He was a great man, wasn’t he? He was an even better mage. He had honor.”copyright protection19PENANA1ARyyVdAPB

“There was room for honor back then.”copyright protection19PENANAuATzygcs8e

“You were his attending physician, weren’t you?”copyright protection19PENANAeRwcbpS6kV

“I was the one who tried to stop the bleeding and couldn’t, if that’s what you mean. He died in a granite quarry while we were still under fire.”copyright protection19PENANAQlvIT3D7Et

“Under fire from your own squad mates.”copyright protection19PENANAI83CICTV51

Jude forgot to pretend to breathe for a moment. “You’ve read the classifieds,” he finally stated.copyright protection19PENANA9jTGw56pbq

“It sounds different, coming from the source.”copyright protection19PENANAk2MPKGSoNw

“Different?”copyright protection19PENANASvFW8oz1jE

“It sounds damning on paper. A mission to protect a region's religious artifacts from being destroyed as war condenses around it, squeezes it. Another mission to destroy those artifacts to send a message… Both missions being sold to the same mercenary protection firm. Friend against friend, unknowingly… Then the dust settles and sixteen civilians and twenty mercenaries are dead and there are a lot of questions… In the middle of it all, a field medic is shouting above the chaos, threatening to kill anyone who gets near his father, who is clearly dead.”copyright protection19PENANA2sYW9u1fUc

“My father…” Jude looked down at the thorn marks on his wrist, the way they looped around and around forever. Ties that bind, Atty had called them, laughing so his missing teeth were exposed. Johnny Cash! Get it? Any time they’d been in camp, Attabaya had sat close to his white apprentice, dragging one of his shirt sleeves up to put his bare arm against the medic’s. See? My ties. Your ties. Same ties. They bind the same. Now sleep, stupid. You make me tired.copyright protection19PENANAGees4Z8WoV

“It sounds damning in black and white. Out loud, it just sounds tragic. It's no wonder your company was disbanded” the steely woman said. “Attabaya was a fool… but you are no fool, Jude Holland. You know about sacrifice. You know about loyalty. You know the importance of secrecy. You know all these things… but you’re just a child, aren’t you?”copyright protection19PENANAthr9dzxMAQ

This got a reaction out of him. He scowled, setting his mug of half-consumed hot cocoa on the side table. “What do you want, Red Cleric?”copyright protection19PENANArDjpztUAJO

“I want you to rule us,” she said, standing. His eyes went wide as she took a knee before him, pulling the wrap off her wrist. As she pressed her fingers against the wound there, she said, “These idiots in the Crimson Circle are blind to everything the world nurtures into maturity. They don’t know the definition of power. They smell it. They taste its bitterness and then spit it out. You play with tin soldiers… But that doesn’t make you a general, does it?”copyright protection19PENANANq32S7214q

Invincible.copyright protection19PENANAXyIoHVYfIy

“Then what does?” Jude asked as the blood welled in front of him like a tiny fount.copyright protection19PENANA6acqALUvmD

“Everything is about to change for you. I need you to trust me above anyone else.” She put her other hand to the back of his neck and pulled gently at his hair, making him crane his head back. She pressed her bleeding wrist to his mouth and said, “Secrets, Jude. Secrets make us Gods.”copyright protection19PENANAk94nbWvdYA

Fucking Invincible. copyright protection19PENANAEV8mjQih61

In the end, the Red Cleric did kiss the feet of her messiah.copyright protection19PENANAQdc2DNOyia

And she wept joyously before she went, for she had been blessed.copyright protection19PENANAcCkg0vcwJa

He watched her leave, watched her disappear out the door like the shadow of a ghost. He had hopes she would return, but for the next two weeks, he didn't see her again. copyright protection19PENANA6o6fLp64Hd

And the Crimson Circle swallowed him whole like the Eucharist they thought he was.copyright protection19PENANA6xqiA45oCo

Comments ( 1 )

Blondemaverick - Edited that last bit because more than three peeps thought the Red Cleric killed herself. Nah, she's still alive. #mybadyo 
2 months agoreply