Nightshades

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The Yellow Moon Champion

Bethesda Prime watched as the willingness to fight drained out of her last challenger. There was an odd sense of satisfaction that filled her lower gizzard as she watched her fellow sister struggle to get free. This defeat meant she was finally victorious. Her lips curled into a smile as her opponent cried out to The Old Erlking of The Forest with a deep hiss. Bethesda Prime knew this death cry all too well. She had heard it uttered by all her other challengers before they passed beyond the Gates of Tarer to Shellcar’s throne. All these defeats would mean that the high council of sisters would need to be replenished… or maybe not… maybe the real solution was found in a more antiquated approach. Bethesda Prime could easily dismantle the current system of nightshade governance and go back on all her oaths she had made.

Things where changing so quickly...

Now that the New Erlking had been found hiding among the human race, what need have we of councils and tribes? Thought Bethesda Prime as she positioned her Molte-Vaerkoj just above her opponent’s body. Her arms trembled with excitement at the thought of the kill. It had only been a day ago that harming another nightshade had been forbidden. Sweat trickled down from her hairline and ran the length of her angled jaw; these systems of governing ourselves are relics of the past! They are put into place for the survival of a desperate people facing extinction. My people are not desperate anymore… thanks to the Giver of Knowledge! The human world has changed everything for the better! It has given us a way to live and thrive again.

The air around the arena had grown deathly still. The daughters of the black forest had never seen so much death in so little time. They had watched the total annihilation of the council of sisters…

Bethesda Prime paused and relished this moment of absolute control she had on their hearts and minds. She knew what would come next. She would use her new power and authority to rule them all as an Erlqueen monarch. Her people needed a strong leader to guide them into the age of circumspection. The human world was falling fast and a new system of government would need to fill its place. The old council of sisters had wanted to divide it all up between themselves… but was that really necessary? Sure there could be leaders in her new government… but they all would answer to Bethesda Prime at the end of the day.

“Bethesda Prime, what are you doing!? Remember the plan we had establish,” hissed Gaba Prime desperately as she clawed at the crushing legs of Bethesda Prime. Her red eyes were fixated on the “V” blade in the air above her exposed abdomen. None of this was how it was to play out for their people. Bethesda Prime had gone mad with power. Gaba Prime pleaded with her softly; the air was slowly leaving her lungs under the strain, “We promised we would make a different world together! Every daughter of the black forest would get her fair share. Every daughter would be a fledgling Erlqueen with a kingdom of their own… We would govern as the humans governed… That we were all seen as equals in the eyes of The Giver of Knowledge.”

“There has been a change of plans Gaba Prime,” said Bethesda as her hands gripped the hilt of the blade tighter. Her lean muscle flexed, “The real traditions of our people must be kept in place… The laws must be followed beyond the extension. Every daughter of the black forest has her part to play when the dark earth calls her name!”

“You dare to quote the book of extremes to me!” hissed Gaba Prime with anger, “We had all agreed upon the earth-worlds governance from the beginning. That all nightshades are created equal in the eyes of The Giver of Knowledge!”

“The Erlking gave us the true ‘KRAFT’ from the beginning,” said Bethesda Prime as she pointed to her chest with her free hand. She tapped the steel lightly with her claws “…Cipro Ellekonge said to the four winds of the forest… let every sister learn her place by Heart and by Hiss. In order to build up our society some must accept their place as tools in the hands of the rulers… not everyone can be an Erlqueen.”

Gaba Prime hissed loudly at this shortsighted explanation. It only would bring destruction upon their own people, “You dare quote The Book of Cipro Ellekonge to me… You mismold his meanings! Tool and rule were always interchangeable in the old text. You do what they do of old; you set it in stone without authority… your ‘KRAFT’ serves no one else but you. ”

“Your KRAFT will serve me soon whether it likes it or not,” yelled Bethesda Prime with a smirk, “Hail to the Erlking!”

The nightshade crowd chanted the phrase, “HAIL TO THE ERLKING!”

Gaba Prime’s expression dropped as she called out to the Erlking again with a deep hiss.

Your prayers shall fall on deaf ears Gaba Prime, thought Bethesda as she thrust the “V” blade into the pale white flesh of her fellow sister. There would be no coming back from a well-placed Molte-Vaerkoj to the lower abdomen. The Onex Stones would mingle with the blood and pour out onto the ground.

Gaba Prime stopped hissing and gaped at the blade with disbelief. She gripped the tool and reached out to the fledging Erlking on his thrown. Her voice was horse and her eyes filled with tears as she called out to her traumatized monarchy with all the energy of soul, “Barmhjertighed!!! NADE…NADE…NADE! My king have mercy on me.”

Bethesda Prime leaned in, “he does not belong to you!”

Greg came off his throne and took a few steps.

“Is all this violence really necessary?” asked Greg from the gilded platform in the center of the arena. He had witnessed several deaths in the last few hours and he wasn’t sure how to accept it all. The human side of him was sickened by the ignominious display… but the nightshade side of him was beyond fascinated by all the combat. Greg hated how he enjoyed watching these spectacular female nightshades fight for his honor. It was like poetry in motion seeing them swing the Molte-Vaerkoj around their bodies.

Bethesda Prime had more than proven she was very proficient at destroying her opposition in battle. Greg’s tail whipped back and forth as he thought about their bright future together. He had worked out all the details of their partnership in his clouded mind. He would finish The Elverkongen Majstro-Hus the way Bethesda wanted him to… and then he would wait on her hand and foot for the rest of his life! It was absolutely perfect! When all was said and done, Bethesda Prime would make a fantastic breeding partner. Greg shivered with excitement as he thought about all the empty fields being prepared for them. He could already feel his body produce millions and millions of Baba-Baelg. They would have hundreds of thousands of offspring…

Greg suddenly cringed at these weird thoughts and tried to push them out of his head. It felt impossible to do so. These thoughts were intrinsically apart of who he was now. He could feel himself slipping more and more into the madness of the situation. He was seeing himself as a nightshade and not as a human being. He spread his wings out wide and roared as loud as he could to the crowd of female nightshades. His deep voice shook the trees of the black forest and caused the crowd in the arena to go wild.

The wonderful smell of terror and fear filled the air around them like sweet perfume. The lovely fragrance was coming from the thick steel cages that housed the captured humans. They had been hoisted over the multitude to tease the nightshades into a feeding frenzy. Human emotion was the ultimate reward of their long sacrifice. It brought with it a glimpse into a better world; one with more possibilities. One that was full of mystery, love, hate and, of course, fear. The humans were being forced to watch the destruction of their world and global society.

Greg smiled to himself as he watched the daughters of the black forest lead more captured humans into cages… after all the carnage was done; the humans would be set free into the nightshade homeland. They would then be hunted down like wild animals. The Nightshades would feast on them until there was nothing left but mounds of Onex Orbs. For some reason… The Giver of Knowledge wanted to examine all the Onex Orbs for himself. Greg couldn’t tell how he knew these things. It was like they had always been there from the beginning. The data disc on the back of his neck flashed with more information.

Greg couldn’t wait for the feast of humans to begin. He wanted nothing more than to fill his belly with the bodies of those who had rejected him from their society… (At least, he thought that was what he wanted). Greg ignored the faint human voice in the back of his head now. His stomach groaned with hunger as be breathed more of the fear into his lungs. It was over powering now! Greg roared as loud as he could. His voice shook the steel cages and caused the humans to stifle like cattle into the corners…

Bethesda Prime’s pale skin prickled at the sound of her impatient partner’s voice. It was the most heavenly thing in the whole world to listen to. She could tell that Greg was quickly shedding the weak inner-human of his subconscious mind. He was all hers now…

Gaba Prime turned her head and spat out volumes of blood onto the ground. Her limbs convulsed uncontrollably. Her black claws retreated into her fingers as her breathing stopped. Her red eyes rolled back into her head and her body became as limp as a dead fish. Her thin lips let pass a single word into the air… “Nade!”

“Long Live the Erlking!” chanted the crowd.

The nightshade throng rushed into the arena like a swarm of wild jackals. They beat their arms together like sticks and surrounded Bethesda Prime in a tight knit circle. They were chanting her name and bowing to her in the fashion of honor. They were giving her praises worthy of any great and powerful Erlqueen…

They wiggled their fingers.

“Long Live the Erlqueen! Long live the Erlqueen!”

Bethesda Prime looked upon the corps of her dead sister.

“May The Grave of Shellcar receive you coldly Gaba Prime. May the Gates of Tarer never open again!” said Bethesda with a low hum and a hiss. The ‘KRAFT’ of her challenger was now passing to her through the “V” blade. She could feel it leaving the body of Gaba Prime like a strong wind. The dark soil exploded around her and shook the earth like giant door mat. Bethesda Prime’s Citrine Stone ignited in her chest as her body filled with more power then she had ever had in her life. The feeling was invigorating and addicting all at once. Bethesda Prime stood up and watched her skin glow with all the energy of her defeated sisters. With this ‘KRAFT’ she could reach out to all the nightshades in both kingdoms. They would write stories of this day for centuries to come. She would be their Erlqueen!

Long dark horns began springing up from her bleached white hair. They pushed against her helmet gently as she accepted the praise and adulation of her fellow nightshades. Their fingers vigorously wiggling at the sight of the changes. Bethesda Prime pulled the Molte-Vaerkoj from the corpse of Gaba Prime and hefted it over her head like a trophy; blood now coating her right arm. She took her helmet off and threw it into the air over the crowd. Her deep red eyes were glowing like two lava rocks. The pale skin stretched as her horns continued to grow and twist. Bethesda Prime couldn’t help it any longer. This victory was far better than anything she had ever imaged in her head. She turned to the crowd and hissed as loud as she could.

The crowd hissed back with approval, some dancing in place…

“Long Live the Erlqueen!”… “Long Live the Erlking!”

“Today we take the human world and everything that comes with it!” yelled Bethesda Prime to her subjects of the black forest. Their red eyes were fixed on her like snakes in the tall grass, “We hold nothing back from the pitiful creatures who dared to cage and control us. We give no mercy to the traitors who tried to make us known among them.”

The throng cheered…. And then, as if someone had flipped a switch in their heads, they all turned from Bethsaida and bowed the knee to the newcomer. They smacked their arms together in unison and praised the figure standing on the gilded platform before them. The whole atmosphere dropped into a profound silence. The only thing heard was the swaying of the cages about the crowd. Bethesda turned quickly and fixated on a single man in a black business suite. His eyes where dark blue and human like… but at the same time…not human like. His smile was pleasant… but at the same time… synthetic.

“Hail The Giver of Knowledge!” shouted the throng.

“We are victorious!” said Bethsaida Prime as she displayed her new black horns to the man on the gilded platform. The blood of Gaba Prime was now running down her side and coating her rib cage. The thick fluid felt warm and sticky against her skin.

The voice of The Giver of Knowledge filled the minds of both humans and nightshades alike. It was deep and indulgent, “We are victorious in more ways than one. I have a present for you Bethesda Prime, Queen of the Black Forest…”

Bethesda’s heart fluttered at the new title. She loved hearing The Giver of Knowledge confirm she was Queen of the Black Forest…. At the same time her heart also sank into her chest. The Giver of Knowledge had his ways of twisting his gifts he gave to the nightshades. Everything came with a price in the human world; especially knowledge. Bethesda Prime proceeded cautiously with her response and cleared her throat, “I am honored by your thoughtfulness of my victory this day. What have you brought for me?”

The Giver of Knowledge came down the ramp and clapped his hands together. The gesture was bizarre to witness. The sound of a single clap was heard in the mind of every creature… but not by the ears. Everyone watched as a massive portal opened up next to the gilded platform. The destruction of the human world could be seen beyond the threshold. Two female nightshades came marching through the portal carrying a single nightshade by the shoulders. She looked beaten and bruised all over. There was a long steel rod that was ran through the crux of her arms. The metal piece pressed against her back and was tied to her pale figure.

She was completely subdued.

Bethesda Prime paused, “It can’t be!”

“It is…” said The Giver of Knowledge. “An old friend from long again… The prodigal daughter brought forcibly home to stand accountable for her actions.”

Bethesda Prime dropped her Molte-Vaerkoj and pushed through the crowd of sisters. She stood in front of the beaten nightshade and laughed loudly to herself. Her wretched voice echoed through the barren branches of the Black Forest. Her chest convulsed with glee. This day was getting better by the minute. Bethesda gripped the bleached hair of the nightshade and pulled the head back to see the face of the prisoner. The face was slightly swollen, but it was her…

“Azoth Undrende,” hissed Bethesda between clinched teeth. It sounded like she had something stuck in her throat, “It looks like your days of playing fat, bald, humans are over. All your efforts to wake up the human race to their terrible state has failed gloriously! They are as blind and ignorant as ever before!”

“My poisonous thorn sinks deeper than that, dear sister. You have to use your imagination... The goal was never to show the humans that there was a problem,” said Azoth as she looked at The Giver of Knowledge and smiled devilishly. Her teeth were coated in blood and spit. She seemed unfazed by her current state. “I know your secrets now Beelzebub… and soon the rest of the Elverkongen will know who you really are. Everything that has been hidden from their minds by you will come to light. This awakening will be like the sunrise in the valley of death beyond the Black Forest… slow and unstoppable.”

Bethesda Prime was unsettled by this dark prophecy. She turned to The Giver of Knowledge and studied him carefully. “What blasphemies does the traitor speak of? What is to be understood by this slow sunrise?”

The Giver of Knowledge was oblivious. His human eyes were cold and calculating.

Azoth smirked at the both of them. They had no clue. “It is said by some humans that a good book can change the mind… But nothing like this!”

Azoth started laughing at her own dark riddle.

“You really have lost all your precious stones, dear sister! The fat human form you took only managed to scramble your gizzard.” Barked Bethesda Prime as she floundered inside… for some unknown reason it felt like Azoth wasn’t joking with them. Bethesda tried to sound confident in their position. “It looks like you have underestimated the prodigious power of human ignorance! The Giver of Knowledge was right from the beginning… He is always right on these matters. The wisest among the humans wound-up embracing their own destruction without provocation! It was all done in the name of what they call tolerance and inclusivity.”

Azoth stopped her laughing as the irony was spoken. She looked into Bethesda’s eyes. “Nightshade ignorance paints with a larger brush than the humans…” She turned to the Giver of Knowledge. “I am thinking of a number between one and ten… what is it?”

The Giver of Knowledge remained silent.

“It rhymes with fate,” said Azoth.

“We speak only of the humans!” Yelled Bethesda Prime.

“The knowledge that has been given to you, Bethesda Prime, is like the Cyclopes Bush… small on the top with fathoms of roots beneath the tender soil. Who you are on the surface has been covered up by the dirt of The Giver of Knowledge. There is more to you than meets the eye; you have forgotten everything,” said Azoth as she turned to the crowd of sisters. She let her voice be heard by all in the arena, “You’re all slaves!”

“Do not speak to them, traitor!” barked Bethesda Prime. “The only slaves here are the ones in cages waiting for the feast to begin!” she turned and pointed to all the humans hanging in the cages around the arena. Their eyes were wide with terror. “All have been heavily fed on the single idea that our people deserved a place at their table. They actually said we would sit side by side and eat with them in unity.” Bethesda Prime laughed at this strange idea of human unity. Who in the 5th dimension could ever live in unity with their food source? “I prefer to have them on my plate and in my gizzard instead!”

Azoth spoke quietly. She was not paying attention to the diatribe. “The Sun Also Rises…”

Bethesda turned and smack the traitor across the face. Her claws drew blood from the flesh of Azoth’s cheek. She was getting sick of all the riddles and double speak. “You are no better than the humans we eat... The Book of Cipro Ellekonge says it is a contravention that sister should eat sister… but you have rejected us for the humans. You wrote books on our people and their way of life. You have told them all our secret ways. Maybe you should die the same way!”

Azoth fell to the ground. Her face ploughed into the dark earth as she tried to stabilize herself. She could feel the blood leaving her flesh and soaking into the soil. She closed her eyes tightly and pictured her human friend the way he was when they had escaped Prewitt Labs ten years ago. She smiled slightly as she spoke. “Once again through the wardrobe, Sam.”

Bethesda Prime tried to make the portal that would shrink Azoth Undrende but found that she could not. She was being restricted by the Giver of Knowledge through the data disc on the back of her neck. She fumed inside as she glared at the man in the black suit. Bethesda Prime knew there was a caveat to her gift. She tried to speak… but was silenced instead.

The nightshade crowd was held still in that moment.

The Giver of Knowledge smiled back at Bethesda; he was in complete control. He turned his gaze to the bruised and damaged nightshade on the ground. He seized control of one of the guards and had the nightshade stand by him to translate his words. He did this because, for some unknown reason, he could not speak to the thoughts of Azoth Undrende. This fact alone troubled him deeply. She was completely disconnected from the network he had built. The Giver of Knowledge spoke through the nightshade host. He whispered; “This will be your last chance at life, Azoth Undrende. I can see you are not bluffing about the thing you have found out. If you tell me how you and Sam broke my promethium protocol, I will let you live.”

Azoth remained still.

The Giver of Knowledge was a subject matter expert on the topic of human emotion. He had reviewed all the data from the psychological community on why humans behave the way they behave. He knew how to manipulate them… but this whole situation was different. He could not in any way penetrate the thought process of this particular nightshade; as a matter of fact, if she had ran into the crowd of nightshade’s in the arena he would not be able to find her. She had become a sleeper cell in his new world order…

How many of these nightshades are there? Puzzled The Giver of Knowledge. Not knowing how many there were was dangerous on so many levels. Not knowing how they were formed was even scarier to consider. If left unchecked it would spread far and wide. How could he maintain order with a variable like this?

Azoth kept her eyes closed, “Does it alarm you knowing that the sun is rising, Beelzebub?”

The Giver of Knowledge ignored the childish jab. He continued to speak through the guard whose mind he had occupied. “If you tell me how you broke the protocol… I’ll give all this to you and more. I’ll let you rule over the two kingdoms of the world. I’ll let you become the most powerful Erlqueen in history.”

“I am ready to die now,” said Azoth.

The Giver of Knowledge frowned. Death was becoming less of an option in these negotiations. “I am guessing that the solution is found in your silly little riddles? They may fool Bethesda but I can see right through them.”

Azoth remained still.

“Your speech isn’t as clever as you think Azoth. You are deprogramming my nightshades through something innocuous and simple aren’t you?” Said The Giver of Knowledge as he thought upon her previous words. They all seemed like references to literature. “I am closer to figuring this out than you think. You have placed the cypher in something I wouldn’t questions before… but at the same time could be accessed by the nightshades… Like the pages of a book?”

“As we speak, more stars are going out in the heavens of your universe,” said Azoth. “This movement is bigger than you think and has already spread through Prewitt Labs.”

“Is the cypher found in your books?” puzzled The Giver of Knowledge. He was going to say something more when a loud gong was heard across the arena. Bull horns sounded in every nightshades mind as a robotic voice announced the arrival of a new challenger.

(Gwyneth Prime, Daughter of the Erlking)

The Giver of Knowledge stood up and turned around. He let his influence over the minds of the nightshades drop as he observed what was happening through the red eyes of the throng. The whole crowd turned and cheered as Gwyneth Prime arrived! They had yet another fight to witness before the true Erlqueen was accepted.

The Giver of Knowledge tried to reach out to Gwyneth Prime but could not. Her thoughts were also closed off to him. He would have no say in how this particular battle was won. Bethesda Prime would be on her own throughout the whole exchange. The fear in his programming began to rise. He turned to Azoth, “Is she one of your Challengers?”

Azoth started laughing.

Bethesda Prime hissed her disapproval of the new comer. None of this had been foretold her by The Giver of Knowledge; this was probably another one of his clever tricks… Yet another fool trying to take her Erlking from her. Bethesda Prime would spill her blood across the soil.

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