He was very old, older than you might conceive or believe. Once, he must have been a tall man, his bones showed this still, sharply outlined beneath dry tautly lined skin. His back was stooped from sheer age which made him appear smaller and his eyes were unbearable. He knew everything there was to know about pain. And then some.
And he taught me by example.
I can hear his voice, dry as leaves being crushed in your hands, I can feel his voice everywhere, within and around myself -
“You need to understand each possible pain on a personal level, for if you do not, they will have the advantage over you. You will look upon their suffering and not know what is happening, how they feel and what is inside their minds. You will be unprepared and unpreparedness is a recipe for doom. So let us begin now.”
He burned my eyes in a dozen different ways and have them re-grow in the night so he could start again the following morning. He cut my skin and dismembered me, then re-grew me and we would move on to the next lesson.
I tore my vocal chords with the screaming and he re-grew those, too, so I could scream afresh.
I was seven years old.
I cannot go on with this.
You spineless coward. You said you wanted to know, so now KNOW.
I can not go on with this. It is too much.
It is nothing. What’s done, is done. It was nothing then and it is even less of a nothing now. Continue. There is always the next dawn. One after the other. And then some.
One day, one day I was screaming as I did. Then something new happened. There was a new and fresh strand to the oceans of pain in which I drowned each day afresh, a bright white blue vein. I touched it and I knew that it was the end of suffering, right there. Right there was my salvation. It was salvation. There was no other word for it.
I went inside it and it was beauty and perfection. I embraced it and I grew it lovingly and carefully with every torture, every session, looking forward now to the pain because each day brought me closer to the time when the white and blue was complete and all there was.
When I had built the bright ice inside of me so it was my totality, I looked up at my master and smiled as he put a pointed stick through my eardrum with gentle pressure.
He stopped and smiled back at me.
“Congratulations, young Lucian,” he said. “You have finally learned your lesson. Now, we can move on.”
Some years later, and just before I killed him, I asked of Sephael why he had not just shown me the way to the blue white ice. It would have saved a most considerable amount of time.
He laughed and coughed and told me that it was only true and right if it was born out of yourself.
“In a hundred thousand men, Lucian my boy,” he rasped with his failing breath, “no, in ten times a hundred thousand men you’d be lucky to find just the one who can find their way. You will see for yourself, in time.”
And indeed, he had been right again. I tried to show others the way to the blue white, the perfection beyond pain that renders you utterly immortal, utterly invincible, but I never succeeded with a single one. For half a century or so it became an obsession until I had to finally admit that Sephael was right.
Up until then, I had always had the suspicion in the back of my mind that my title did not belong to me by rights, that I was an impostor, wearing a cloak a few sizes too big for me.
After that I laid down my remaining doubts. I had been born rightfully to be what I was. There were no more questions left to be answered.
I was, indeed, the one true Lord Of Darkness.
I lay retching on my side, my knees drawn up high, wearing these women’s clothes and feeling my breasts against my arms, my body frail and powerless, and all that was in my mind was, no, no Lucian, no, don’t you see, it was done to you, someone did this to you, someone brought you there, led you there, made you believe that. Oh my creator, what was this terrible evil that was done. I can’t conceive of this. This is too much. Too much to bear. I can’t take this agony …
…and from deep below, the blue white ice beckoned to me, a waiting lover, ready to embrace me and transmute my pain and anguish into force and pure volition, into beauty, into perfection beyond perfection, into stillness beyond silence, you can have this now, it can be yours and with it, life everlasting …
I had not earned this.
I had not earned it like Lucian had earned his right to create this space that he forged from his suffering.
I was not one of the one in ten times hundred thousand.
I would have to do the best I could with what I had.
I reached for the stone and took its purple bloody pulsing straight into my veins and into my heart, let it fire me with the opposite of the blue white ice, let it warm me and let it take me towards life and not away from it.
There was nothing to be gained for both of us to succumb to the devastating treachery that had been perpetrated upon him.
The purple slowly turned to inky blue and then to blue, and then to jade. When the jade began to move into green, I fell asleep.
It was pitch black dark outside and I could sense the children getting ready for their morning meal. Above and to the right, Dory and Chay lay entwined and slept with deep satisfaction, safe and warm within each others body havens.
I set a small light and rose from my bed, uncertain in my body which felt strange and new to me this day.
I wanted to dress differently to express outwardly something that was inwardly changing. I still had no different clothes of my own and would wear a shift that I had acquired at Farmer Mollen’s house when my jade Serein cloak was being washed. In the end, I impatiently reached into the pattern and it swirled and turned into a deep, velvety purple. I stared at the colour and myself in the mirror above the simple wash stand. My hair reached down to my shoulders once again. The dark purple made my skin seem even paler than it ever was, and my face seemed changed. I looked older, sterner, colder. Yet it was on that day that it occurred to me for the very first time that I was beautiful. Perhaps it did so because I saw myself not only through my eyes, but through his.
I brought up my hand to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear when my glance fell on the ruby ring in the mirror.
I turned my attention to the real thing and reached deeply into its pattern, laid down and imprinted by myself the night before the judgement. It was Lord Sephael’s ring, given to him by his own master so many years ago that it spun my head into the mists of time.
I had taken that ring off the wilted still warm finger as I held his body still against my chest, in the Kings Abbey at Pertineri.
I had carried it with me through every event, and every space I ever occupied was shared with it, and I offered it to the girl, who had not known its past, nor understood a thing about the true nature of suffering. It seemed a good idea to do it this way, to break the circle and the cycle, and when she accepted it, unknowing of what it was nor what it meant, trusting me – me! – to do the right thing, …
I snapped out of it and looked at the ring again. I reached into the patterns and undid them, flowing the metal like warm syrup and widening it so it would easily slip off my finger.
I took the ring and held it up to the light. It was beautiful, and it was very, very old. It resonated with many things and it was heavy, very heavy, yet I had never really noticed it to be on my hand at all.
He was right to have given it to me. I was the one, the only one perhaps, who could truly break the circle. I was not his apprentice any longer, and thus I would not by needs become the master, nor would I have to slay him as I stepped into his tasks.
I turned my head to the side and focussed on the stone. Its patterns were like nothing I had ever seen or felt, they were locked in so tight and forceful strong that they would be like that forever, self perpetuating, feeding upon themselves and growing stronger in so doing.
So tight and forceful strong, you are, you think you are, who do you think you are to dare suggest resistance? I raised my will just like you would raise a heavy sword and struck the patterns with such force that they disintegrated, smashed and shattered into all directions, tiny pieces screaming by at high velocity.
And who do you think you are that you can run from me? I caught the pieces and re-built them, stronger than before, re-created them afresh with my signature woven deep into their smallest junctions, and when I opened my eyes, the ring was exactly as it was but the stone had turned from ruby into diamond, shimmering white yet sparking many colours from within.
I took the gold and shook it out, cleared it, flamed it through and through so thoroughly until nothing, but nothing remained but the metal itself, innocent and fresh, brand new, wide open and empty, ready to receive me.
I looked at the ring and whispered, “Now you are mine indeed.” I returned it to my finger, set it tight as before and flexed my fingers once, twice to check its fit. It was perfect.
I turned swiftly on my heels and left the room for the kitchen and the morning meal.
The women and children were very subdued around me. I kept myself tightly cloaked and shielded and contemplated their thin arms, their tiny matchstick fingers and their fearful eyes.
Dory appeared and offered a welcome diversion, glowing Dory with her heaving breasts and round hips and red lips. She withdrew a little too but nothing could stem the satisfaction and the fire in her body this morning and the sparkle in her eyes. I noted that she had a child growing within her already and felt a rush of desire to tear into her soft flesh like a wolf will fall onto a newborn lamb.
I let the sensation wash right through me and out, neither judging nor resisting it in any way, safely shielded beneath a powerful cloak that would let not the finest strand of emotion, warning or sensation filter through to the others in the room.
Poor Lucian, I thought lazily. No-one ever showed you how to weave a cloak that spans the whole range of the patterns and right into Serein and even beyond.
I must go look what lies beyond Serein, an intriguing thought, a hot delicious thought and then Chay Catena walked into the room, so very young, so very easy in his manners and his body, handsome, charming, strong. Inside his muscular body, he was such a child, and he would always remain a child within, no matter what ravages upon his body or his mind time would bestow in time. I had known and killed a thousand of his kind.
He said something to me but it was most likely of no interest. There was no point in talking to any of them, they all were – unreal, entirely meaningless, of no more importance than the very floor upon which their feet and chairs were balanced at this time.
I rose and left without a word.
I returned to my room and softly shut the door on them all with a sigh of deep relief.
The winter dawn was creeping slowly, muddy grey across the skies as I re-arranged the patterns of the small stones that made the circle. I enhanced the shielding into all dimensions that I knew and instead of soothing, set them to energizing me.
Immediately, I felt a lifting and a tingle of power throughout my body that made me want to stretch and flex each muscle, one a time, puny things though they were.
I lay down on the bed, vibrantly aware and awake and closed my eyes. My mind drifted to Dory. What had Master Sephael said about desire?
Ah yes. It’s coming back to me now.
“Desires of the flesh, my boy, are a very powerful motivating force. They can make a holy man forsake his dearest oaths and level the lowest harbour harlot and the highest king of the realm to grunting beasts. They can turn a genius into a slavering fool and make a fool feel like he was the creator himself – if for a time. Only a fool tries to deny the desires of the flesh. Like all things, they are here to serve us and our outcomes if we know how to direct them in the right way.”
Before us in the black and silver tower room within the inlay circle writhes a young girl with perfectly spherical breasts as he speaks thus to me.
He has put her mind aside and filled her body with desperate animal longings; she is encaged by an invisible wall that confines her to the circle and separates her from us and her elbows are bound tight behind her neck.
She moans and begs to us, rotating her hips, spreading her legs wide, driven to desperation as Master Sephael continues to stoke her desires with light poisonous touches, here and there.
“How much do you want her, Lucian?” he asks of me although he is of course entirely aware of my painful erection and the energy that is bursting me at the seams.
I stand relaxed and continue to breathe calmly.
Master Sephael takes my mind and forces it into a link with the girl. Her hunger crests across every single cell in my body, knocks me off my balance and my breath becomes ragged and fast.
“That is a better effort,” says Master Sephael with the tiniest hint of amusement, then he reaches into me and takes what control I have left and I am absolutely helpless, rushing forward, my body throwing itself heedlessly against the barrier …
He switches us both off and simultaneously, the girl starts to cry in big, terrifying sobs and I lay my head against the magic barrier that buzzes mildly through my head and my fingertips.
Sephael shakes his head, disappointed.
“After all this time, and you still have not learned how to control your control, have you, my boy. But not to worry. We will get you there. We have all the time in the world.”
Exactly 17 days later, when he finally turns off the barrier, I tear the girl to pieces, literally, with my hands and my teeth what my penis alone cannot accomplish.
I am fourteen years old and nearly as tall as the Master by then.
I come to with a stabbing pain in my abdomen and my hands balled into fists so tight that my nails have drawn blood from the palms of my hands.
I can’t breathe for a moment and start flailing but then calm myself with deep volition and turn my breathing normal and deep, steady, steadying the beating of my heart, forcing to unlock my muscles and my tendons one by one, one of the many useful things I learned under Master Sephael’s tutelage.
But here is one I didn’t learn from him, I thought, and raised my bleeding palms up in front of my eyes and healed them with a thought. Smoothly, the crest shaped wounds knit together like quicksand closing over a drowning man’s head, and the blood is all there is to show that there had ever been an injury at all.
There is a knock on the door.
Stay away, I send to Marani.
She knocks again, for I told her to make sure to keep me to my schedule.
Plans change. People change. The sunrises and sunsets remain essentially the same.
I know the exact levels at which to restrain my commands to her. I know them well. I exceeded them on a few occasions in the past and nearly destroyed her altogether which would have been wasteful and would have denoted a lamentable lack of control on top of that.
Who are you trying to fool? You are fond of the woman.
That is preposterous.
You have had a liking for her ever since you first saw her.
A huge flash of black red anger roared through my mind and flattened me onto the bed for an instance.
Afraid of another failure, you miserable coward?
How many failures have there been across the centuries? How many? Why don’t you just admit it. You just don’t have what it takes. In spite of all the effort, all the training, you are still and always will be a hopeless coward and a weakling, clinging blubbing to the remnants of his dead mother’s skirts.
You might have fooled the Brothers. You might have fooled Sephael. You might have fooled the entire Serein council. You might even have tried to fool yourself.
But you cannot fool me.
I can see you for what you are.
Blackness arose all around me/him/us but before I lost consciousness, I still heard clearly the final condemnation:
You are nothing but a man.