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Of The Cathedral

Of The Cathedral

The Dimmer has always been Hell for the sinners of the Overworld, but this was not always the case for its own denizens - the Demons, Imps, Wraiths, Reapers etcetera. The source of the problem? People stopped dying, allegedly. Eventually, the last sinful soul left the Dimmer and transcended to Heaven, and the Reapers were deemed useless by the higher-ups of Otum. The Afterlives fell under panic, the Dimmer’s economy collapsing due to their royal families going bankrupt. The Reapers confronted the Valen, stating that if their world should be left to crumble, then the Dimmer-born peoples would forcefully march upon the world of Otum. The Valen, the very gods and overseers that kept watch over the Universe would not allow this - for it was their purpose to keep things exatly as they were intended, and if the Dimmer were to decay then so be it.

“But This is not how things were supposed to be, surely!” Argued a Dim voice long gone, and unto Otum they marched, and so began the Reaper-Valen wars.

Ink sat on the stone-cold stones by the side of the road - they were cold, and stony and uncomfortable to sit on. He grumbled weakly and shifted his weight, deciding to cross his legs for the twentieth time, then got uncomfortable again and went back to hugging his knees to his chest.

If only he had known how to squat, and all this discomfort would have been avoided.

Cars and lights whizzed passed on front of his eyes, and Toven and Rose were in a similar position, all waiting for Coda to get done fixing the car engine. She had been over there for around ten minutes now, not doing much other than shining a crimson light about the inside guts of the vehicle’s hood to no avail.

Rose didn’t know what the Hero expected to happen - was it supposed to just magically come to life or something? She questioned Coda on the matter.

“Trust me this worked on a dead horse before.” Replied the Hero. Rose let this digest for a moment, and decided to ask no further questions.

The road lights above seemed to be getting colder every minute, and Ink was getting impatient. Why couldn’t they just sit in the car or something, or go to wherever Rose had suggested that they go!?

The Reaper collapsed onto his back, closing his eyes. He was well and truly sick of this crap. His head hurt, and they were all doomed to freeze to death in a rock desert. Great.

Rose stood by Coda now, and pointed into the engine with a small, freezing hand. “have you tried shoogling that bit?”

Coda shoogled it. Nothing happened. “Huh, maybe I’ll try… Breaking it?”

There was a flash of red light, and a rusty crunch, but nothing else.

Ink had had enough. “Alright, look can we please just go wherever you were wanting to go now!? Forget about the taxi!”

There was a silence.

“Dude, chill.”

Toven was taken aback by the sudden sad look in his eyes. “H-Hey Ink are you ok-oka -”

“No, I am not okay!” He said, feeling rather upset, evidently. “things were bad enough, ever since I got here it’s just been one confusing thing after another, and now this… Bleeding… Car… Tacky… whateveryoucallit isn’t working anymore!”

Coda and Toven didn’t know what he was talking about, for they had quite enjoyed their journey so far.

Yet Ink continued. “I don’t know what’s going on anymore, I don’t know where I am, I don’t know why I’m here, who you all are, is this even real!? And that dog thing!” Ink pointed to Parallax. “I don’t even know what the bloody gutmuffins that is! We need to get that manuslubbing sun to Atlantis, I understand that much, which by the way is still cosmilogically far away! And to make things just that little bit worse, we are now being hunted by a gaggle of hornswoggling Otum thugs! And yet here you two are without a care in the world!?” Ink growled, clutching his head, which ached excruciatingly and oozed gunk from the eyes.

tssh, look dude, I don’t even know my own birthday.” Coda quietly said after a while. “I don’t know my favourite food, I can’t even remember what my own room looks like, I don’t even remember all the things I should remember. I don’t even know my own parents, man.”

Toven looked off to the side as Coda said this and kicked the stones at his feet anxiously. And for a small moment a twinge of sadness glazed his eyes.

“Look man, ’point is there’s no point getting all moody about it.” Coda said.

The group fell silent after that, as nobody had much else to say. Rose led them on, leaving the car behind and walking close to the road, a curved line of light in the dark granite plane. No features were visible on the horizon, but Ink supposed they must be passing by some sort of large hill (not quite a mountain, but bigger than an average sized hill) as the stars kept disappearing along that side.

Soon they stood under the mass, and Rose glanced upwards, but there was nothing there yet.

“Reaper child.” She said after a while, “Is it true that one of your kind has entered this world before?”

Ink was too tired to be surprised by the question, but it was definitely a strange one. “I highly doubt it.” he yawned, “I didn’t even know this place existed until just recently, actually.”

“Oh.” Rose replied, and it sounded to Ink like she had been expecting a different answer.

“But it’s strange that you ask. My great great great grandfather abandoned the Dimmer and apparently got up to a little bit of genocide in the Overworld. We never saw him again.”

“Oh, dearest me.” Rose said, and cupped her hand to her lips. “What was his motive?”

The circles of black mascara around her eyes widened.

Ink shrugged wearily and said, “I dunno. Probably just went bloody mad, why do you think I’m here?”

“Gosh.” She said, and returned her eyes to the sky. “I don’t suppose you will be getting up to any genocide any time soon, will you?”

Ink doubted it. “I doubt it.” He was far too sleepy for that.

Now the Reaper looked to the sky, and actually saw something this time - a circle of luminosity in the sky, a glass window that spilled white light out into the night and drowned a couple stars.

Far below that, at ground level (as if emerging from under a black sea) there appeared a little lantern attached to a very big door. Such a big door, the lantern failed to illuminate the whole thing. Coda shone some light on the oversized entryway, which dwarfed even Mulberry’s millhouse door. It was a double-door, arch-shaped and painted green, though much of the paint was flaking off in thick sheets - a pile of it lay on the stone floor.

But that didn’t really matter, as nobody ever noticed the giant Cathedral on their usual drive-through of the rock desert.

The Cathedral, as Rose told them, was where they would be staying until the Automobile Securing Service get the taxi fixed. It was also the home of Father Normonty, a good priest who Rose at least seemed to trust, but right away Ink wasn’t so certain of the man.

Rose knocked lightly on the heavy doors, and a couple of paint flakes dislodged themselves and fell as a quiet car whished by behind them. The doors opened shortly after with a rattle of heavy chains and a rustle of paint flakes showering down from above, and out poured a sickly golden light. They were all hit with a rush of sensory information - as their eyes attempted to adjust to the light, a loud, searing instrument like an organ started playing, and before their ears could adjust to the earth-shaking sound, their pupils caught up with the dramatic change in light and the room became clear. See, it was the sort of room that looked a lot smaller from the outside.

And from the outside, it was bloody massive.

The arched windows and columns on the walls extended upward until they were covered by a golden light. An aisle made of opaque grey stone and brownish marble bore long withered stone benches that sprouted from the path down the hall like the limbs of a fern, and each had intricate carvings on the backs and green fabric cushions on the seats. All faced forward, towards a high platform where a man stood behind a gigantic megaphone, playing a harmonica. Behind the man was a huge, silk green curtain that stayed shut.

“You see,” began Rose as they walked down the aisle, dusting green flakes from off of her big stupid red hat, “Father spent all his money on making this place as big and as pretty as can be. He hadn’t enough left to buy an organ afterwards, so he opted for the next best thing - a harmonica and a really big megaphone.”

“Mh.” Ink said.

“H-He’s qu-quite good at playing th h-harmonica.” Toven complimented.

Coda was busy staring with stars in her eyes at what looked to be some sort of huge golden serpent that hung from the out-of-sight roof.

“Oh don’t let him hear you say that,” Rose smiled, “It’ll go straight to his head.”

They kept walking, and Father Normonty finished his tune, only to stick his grey head out from behind the megaphone, realise that his guests were not even halfway down the alley yet, sigh and resume his playing, only this time backwards for no good reason whatsoever.

“Father N-Normonty live here?” Toven asked.

The Taxi Driver nodded, “Peculiar, I’m aware. He doesn’t like small spaces - such as houses - though sometimes I fear that not even this place is big enough for him. He tells me it gets rather stuffy on warmer days.”

“I s-see.”

Finally they were within talking distance, and Father Normonty ceased his backwards playing and stepped out from behind the oversized megaphone.

“Good morning, Father.” Rose tipped her hat.

Normonty bowed his head and smiled calmly with eyes as grey and empty as a hollow stone thing. “Same to you, my child.” he stepped down from the platform via a grand staircase. “I see you brought some, er… acquaintances? Are these new attendees or… sacrifices?”

Both the Priest and the Taxi Driver shared a snooty laugh, and under a black sky the Cathedral echoed, the echoes of laughter coming back tainted with the scent of something unpleasant. But only Ink seemed to notice. He had a strange, slightly nauseating feeling about this man, this Cathedral. Perhaps it was the fact that despite the joking manner in which he had said it, Father Normonty had just suggested that they all might be sacrifices.

Rose cleared her throat. “Well, you see father, they were my passengers. I still drive the taxi from twelve to eight AM on weekdays, and they were my final passengers before I came off my shift. That was until we broke down not a five-minute walk from here. How lucky.”

“Indeed! So you seek refuge within these walls then, my children? I don’t suppose you desire sustenance? Perhaps a hot beverage. Crisps?”

Ink didn’t understand - he was not one of the Priest’s offspring, and he assumed that neither were Coda, Toven or Rose. Well, maybe Rose. She did refer to him as ‘Father’ quite a bit.

The Priest was slender and very monochrome - grey and white robes without any silver lining, grey hair, even greyed skin. A strange black lens covered one eye, and a leather strap sat around his dull head - a peculiar-looking circular eyepatch that Coda desperately felt the urge to try on. He came down the stairs ever so gracefully like a well-trained reptile and led the group around and through a door beside the staircase into another big hallway, this one had walls lined with portraits of men and women that were just as sketchy looking as the sinister minister himself. And out onto another staircase they came - this one went down. Down onto a checker ballroom floor, square in shape and absurdly great in area like a god’s chessboard. Its edges were lined with a couple meters of green carpet, with fancy quartz tables and chairs perched on top. Between the carpet and the diamond-patterned floor, ornate quartz pillars stretched upward like monoliths for no reason other than to catch the eye. The whole room smelled like nail clippers or igneous rock.

“Welcome to my humble lobby” announced Normonty.

“Yeah, really humble!” Joked Coda, “I’m actually a little underwhelmed right now, so good job!” she gave him a glowing thumbs-up.

The Priest scoffed, and guided them to a nearby table where he made sure that Coda, Toven and Ink were seated, but stayed well away from Parallax, for he didn’t like dogs let alone whatever the hell Parallax was. He asked everyone what they would like to drink, to which Ink replied with ‘anything’, Coda with ‘Creature™’ and Toven with ‘I’ll just h-have a gl-glass of w-wwww-water please’.

Normonty’s remaining eye twitched as he left, Rose following to help him with drinks. Toven had offered to help, but Rose had replied “Don’t be silly I’m your taxi driver, and this is part of the journey. You are paying me, of course.”

He sat back down and watched Rose and the Priest leave through a probably expensive doorway in the wall that probably led into another massive hallway.

The Trio (plus Parallax) were left alone again.

“I don’t like this place.” Said the Reaper once the footsteps had faded into oblivion.

“Why?” Asked Coda, “Cuz it’s awesomely huge?”

“Not really. It’s more just that, well, that minister doesn’t really seem like the sort of man anyone would ever want to be around.” The Reaper yawned, “Besides, denizens of Hell aren’t really supposed to enter places of worship. It’s er… disrespectful.”

“If you say so.” Coda shrugged and searched her bag for a packet of cinnamon rocks to share with Parallax, who was silent the whole time.

“I’m s-sure it’ll be fine. We-We’re only staying here unt-til the tax-xi is fixed!” Toven assured.

“Yeah…” Though the tiring effects of forcefield creation were wearing off, the Reaper sighed tiredly. “I want one of those cinnamon pebbles.”

Time laboured on, but soon enough the Priest and the Taxi Driver returned carrying: a tea, a coffee, two fancy chalices (one of water, one of ketchup) and a can of Creature™.

“Is this ketchup?” Asked the Reaper. He had tried some back at Pier.

Normonty smiled, “Mh.”

His attention then turned to Coda, “Rosaline tells me that you are the Hero that the prophecy foretold, child. Is it so?”

“Of course it is!” She replied.

“Show me.”

And so the Hero stood up on the quartz table and shot a crimson laser beam into the center of the square floor. Where it hit, a small red explosion occurred, and an ugly scorch mark was left on the very expensive floor.

The Preist scratched the back of his shoulder, Ink could tell that he was not impressed. In fact he seemed irritated. Not by the damaged floor but by something… Else.

“And you, Reaper child.” He said with a hint of repulsion, “Is that truly your name?”

“Yes.” Ink confirmed. “Prince of the Dimmer world and such. Of you want proof you’ll have to wait until I feel like showing you. I’m a bit tired.”

“Why, no need to exert yourself mister Reaper! You have come a long way indeed! Just relaxed and, well…” He motioned to the chalice of ketchup, “Drink up!”

He then turned to Toven, “And you’re just along for the journey, are you, my child?”

Toven pulled on the fabric of his sleeve, “U-Uh, y-yyyy-ye-yea-”

“’Course not! He’s like, our navigator, tour guide, frontman all in one!” Coda corrected. “Broomstick warrior too! Ain’t that right, T?”

Toven gave a bashful smile.

“I see.” Said Normonty, “Forgive me, my guest.”

All sat around the table for a while as beverages were had and biscuits were snacked on, and Normonty stayed well away from Parallax. Soon, the Preist cleared his throat and declared, “I say, I must give you all a tour of this great domain to pass the time!”

“Good idea, Father!” Agreed Rose, “I don’t think even I have seen all of it.”

In truth, neither had Normonty, but he’d make it up as he went along. On the minister’s lead they all rose, drinks in hand, and followed the man away from the ballroom and down yet another long hall that lead deep into the mountain from which the Cathedral was first carved. Looking back towards the ballroom, Ink got the feeling a worm might get when being dragged from it’s hole by a crow, though there were no crows in this castle - they only watched from far above and far, far beneath with yellow eyes.

It wasn’t long until Coda looked to the man and asked, “Can I try on your eyepatch?” And got only a stern look of intolerance out the corner of his remaining eye in response.

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