When Death Knocks, Who Answers?
The cell was cold. Freyja could feel the chill of the air sinking down into the marrow of her bones, it seeped through the rags that she had been giving to wear to replace the armour that she had been stripped of. Her exhales were visible in the air around her, clouds of almost transparent as they dissipated in the air. She counted herself lucky. She had been imprisoned for coming on a month and had not been sent to the guillotine in that time. She had heard them, the other prisoners as they wailed, and cries of mercy as they were hauled in front of the vicious audience. They were no better than the monsters they feared, teeth gnashing, primal roars and cheers, and frothing like an animal at the sight of prey. It was the sound that haunted her, the sound of the whistling blade as it came hurtling down.
The wails stopped abruptly.
She roused herself from her sleep not a moment before dawn, hearing a few other prisoners singing quietly amongst themselves. One was rapping their knuckles against the bars keeping the rhythm of the song alive as the others found harmony with one another.
Follow the stars home,
For Astrid hung them in the sky,
A guide for a peaceful roam,
Just aim that weary head of yours high,
Beware! Beware! the gnarly beast,
That of Troijple her lover of fear,
A man with teeth made to feast!
If the darkness whispers, he is near.
Freyja thought about sleeping again, it was the only thing she could do to pass the time. She had been gifted a small slither of chalk to keep herself busy, but her crude drawings of naked men and of the murders she had committed had been met with serious consequence and had been unceremoniously wiped away. Thus, her chalk had not been allowed back into her hands, for that she was grateful, she could not think of anything worse than documented her time in the form of tallies.
On the first day of the new month, she received a visitor, a man by the name of Emilio, he had a rather nice face and caring eyes, but his proposition was nothing short of disappointing. “Allow us insight into your employer,” he had been less than persuasive. “And we shall ensure your death is quick and painless for you. Our methods can be brutal, but not as brutal as your people’s I’m sure.”
She ignored him, and merely used the remaining slither of chalk to draw him naked at the head of her bed, behind her relief bucket. Aside from being naked, he was also littered with knives and pox. What a poor man, she thought, giggling quietly to herself. Such sad state of affairs.
She had been given a date for her death not a moment after his departure. Scheduled for the guillotine the next morning, she wrapped her blankets tighter around herself. She had been expected not to show fear, or any emotion by the Murder. But, she had had her soul coiled around the knife of revenge for so long she knew it was only a matter of time before it was severed.
She relieved herself, ate her sad excuse of a dinner, and crawled into bed. If she was going to face a crowd tomorrow, she ought to be well rested.
She was stirred by a low noise, the sound of what she thought was the belltower, the toll of midnight echoing throughout the empty halls but no-one else acknowledged it. She got her bearings, feeling as though the darkness was pulling and tugging the blankets away from her. She tried batting them away, but they were stronger, tendrils of black snaking around her wrists and neck and hauling her from her bed. She sat up, blinking wildly, unable to see in the dark, though her eyes should be adjusted from sleep, the darkness looked too dark, as though it was sucking all light into it. She decided to follow it, feeling oddly comforted as it grew in size to accommodate her height and broadness.
She looked back at the cells around her, everyone else sleeping peacefully in their makeshift beds, some even snoring quietly. She thought her best option was to explore the darkness.
After all she was dying tomorrow.
The darkness was all around her, sticking to her skin like wet leather. She clawed at it with her hands but felt nothing physical blocking her way. When the darkness finally parted, she was greeted with her home, a village in Manoria, though its buildings were perfectly standing. The houses that she had seen burn were upright and bustling with lights and people. She could see them speaking, mouths opening and arms moving, but she could not hear their words. She felt as though she was underwater, her ears blocked, and her other senses overloaded, it was only after a polite cough sounded from her left, that she focused on the man sitting awfully close to her.
He was in a suit of armour, an old set that she had not seen since that of the Old Gods but it still looked older. Ancient. Hair elegantly styled back, though short enough that it reached his pointed ears, and a face all chiselled lines. She could not determine his age for his face and skin were radiant and youthful, but his black and soulless eyes held a wisdom that seemed to span lifetimes. He beckoned her toward him, and she obeyed, coming to rest only a foot away still weary of his twitching fingers.
He smiled at her, prominent canines protruding from behind his upper lip. “Freyja Cavanaugh,” his voice was deep, though sounded like a whisper and a shout, a myriad of voices joining him like a choir of demons. “I was wondering when I would meet you.”
Freyja remained silent, enamoured by this man, no, this God. He continued sensing her resevered state and said, “I wish to help you Freyja.” He adjusted his armour, the intricate patterns of gold caught the lone light on the horizon line, sunken faces and screaming skulls becoming visible. “Do you know who I am?”
She cocked her head, a name already in her mind, though it was foreign on her tongue, “Muerdod, the Almighty God of the Dead.”
Muerdod smiled, deep-set lines appearing in his face, truly showing his age. “That’s right,” he finally stood, and he towered over her. “I want to allow you to escape death, by granting you abilities. Abilities that no other Motier can ever dream of having.”
She inhaled deeply, his intentions were distastefully masked behind his vague words. “And what do you want in exchange?”
Muerdod clicked his tongue, lips drawn back, unhappy with her questions. “No exchange,” he explained, his voice echoing throughout this world. It was as though he stood in front of her, and danced around her all at once. “Only, anyone who accepts powers from the Almighty are to end up cold and alone. That is the only curse of true power. An Empress would know that well. I have never seen a being with the world being presented to her, and yet be so afraid to take it in her hands. And it seems you know it too.”
Freyja only nodded.
“Perfect," he purred, adjusting himself to sit once more. "Leave it all to me.”