Thorüsa: Our Divine Mission/Greatest of the Fiends
CHAPTER FOUR: OUR DIVINE MISSION
“I HAVE TO help Galinicus be acquitted. After all, I’ve come to Thorüsa for his sake, and can’t fail him!”
Salek’t tilts his leech head toward me. “What did he hope to achieve by sending you here? Also, if Galinicus thinks this is so important, why didn‘t he put himself into such deep sleep and enter Thorüsa?”
“He’s too old. Galinicus is seventy, and he knew that if he drank the sleeping draught, it would kill him. He sent me because I’m young and healthy, and he wants to discover if living people can pass through the doorway into the afterlife. Our church claims they can’t, and that Thorüsa is only meant for temporary punishment of celestials who don’t obey our god completely. However, if that’s true, why are cèli here searching for fugitive spirits? Secondly: can souls repent of their wrongdoings after death? Again, our clergy say that they cannot. ‘What would be the point of repenting while you‘re still alive,’ our priests have asked, ‘if all can be forgiven in the next world as well as this one? That would be a mockery of our god’s justice, and an insult to his laws.’ Still, Galinicus and I believe it can be done! Thirdly, and most importantly: can our Great Foe and the Abyss be defeated via rescuing those who are to be damned?”
Salek’t sighs wearily. “What has our faith always taught? ‘Both Elysium and the Abyss are invincible‘.”
“Invincible to immortal souls. However, our god could certainly vanquish the latter if he wanted to.”
“Then why doesn’t he?” Salek’t’s question hangs in the air like a thick fog, and neither of us can answer. “Regardless, I know firsthand that our god and the Great Foe are locked in stalemate. Neither side has an advantage, but if we can pluck condemned souls from the fiends’ grasp and guide them to repentance…”
“…Perhaps this stalemate will break in favor of our god.” A sense of urgency suffuses my spirit, but then I hesitate. “Wait a moment. Even if we accomplish this, what about Galinicus? He could be executed!”
“True. However, if we succeed in our divine mission, the ecclesiastical court will have no choice but to free him. Do you remember how shades in Thorüsa can communicate with those who are still alive?” I nod. “If we can help to save even one lost soul, and have him or her speak to the court’s judges along with us, the judges will know that Galinicus’ theories are true. They will acquit him, and he won’t face the stake.”
“I hope you’re right. However, even if we are victorious, what if the judges don’t believe our evidence?”
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially for the souls who are headed for the Abyss if captured here. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say we’re wrong. None of the condemned souls in Thorüsa can be saved, or repent of their sins. Let’s also say that the Abyss cannot be defeated, either by those living or dead. We will still be right on one point: the living can enter Thorüsa if they’re put into a deep-enough sleep, under the circumstances which Galinicus has discovered. You are proof of this, so they’ll have to concede it. Since Galinicus is correct here, and we go and prove it, we have absolutely nothing to fear.”
I embrace his wriggling form, even though my arms can scarcely do so. “We can’t lose!” Another thought comes suddenly to mind: “Also, if our priests ever lie, even one word, they’re sent to the Abyss while still alive. Can you imagine?” Salek’t shudders. “They can’t say they don’t believe us - unless they speak truly.”
“How? They’re sensitive to spirits, so they cannot plug their ears and pretend they’re not listening. That would be a lie, and they would be immediately condemned. You are correct, my friend: we cannot lose.” He winks. “What are we waiting for? Let’s get started, and I have a plan in mind.” He and I finally leave the shade of the evergreen tree in Galinicus‘ front yard. I’m careful to avoid the swarm of glowing leeches beneath me. Salek’t, however, travels among them as a false ally. Hopefully, they’ll never sniff him out! “I’ve been searching for my sister, Anya,” Salek’t tells me. “Not long after I died and entered Thorüsa, I heard hundreds upon hundreds of these leeches hissing her name! They do not speak as we do, but since I’m in their guise, I can understand them. Apparently, they haven’t found Anya, either, but I hope to first. She’s already dead and headed for the Abyss, of course, but such is the fate of false priestesses…”
CHAPTER FIVE: THE GREATEST OF THE FIENDS
I WISH TO know more about Salek’t’s sister, but his anxious expression stops me from investigating further. I follow him as he travels with the other leeches, although I float above the river of their wriggling, writhing bodies. They swarm everywhere, like honeybees inside a hive, although these creatures are after fugitive souls instead of nectar! I try not to be afraid of them, but it’s absolutely impossible. “Where are they all going?” I attempt to ask my new friend, but Salek’t lifts his head up and jerks it as a signal for me to remain silent. From the front yard of Galinicus’ country cottage, and my home, we head toward the heart of our city. I wince: If the leeches seek easy prey, then they couldn’t pick a better place to find it…
Faster and faster they crawl, gaining momentum as they sweep over the dusty streets in a great flood. No one else notices, however, but Salek’t and me. After all, we are dead (or, at least I am for all practical purposes), and they are still alive. The fiends of the Abyss are no more visible to them than faeries. I consider this a blessing, because if I had seen them when I was awake, I would have gone mad! It’s so strange to me that life is going on as usual - merchants hawking their wares, people talking and laughing, and workhorses whinnying as they pull carts - while unspeakable horrors squirm right at everyone’s feet. They have no sense of what’s going on beneath them, on the other side of Thorüsa’s mystical doorway!
Once the fiends sniff the intermingled odors of horse manure, sweat, approaching rain, and a hint of a nearby tart’s perfume, they stop crawling and realize their journey’s over. Although blind, they seem to know our city by heart, as do Salek’t and I. The creatures slide over and around each other for a minute, conferring in worm-murmurs, and begin to move again. This time, however, they climb as well, and I float up as high as I possibly can. They swarm over the walls of every available building, upon rooftops and awnings, and in every single crack. In a matter of seconds, there are leech-fiends covering every surface I can see, even those of human bodies! They crawl in people’s mouths and dangle in their living eyes that do not yet see. As if this spectacle were not vile enough, the fiends hiss over and over in a chant of rage.
I almost yelp when a certain leech does a backflip so high that he lands right on my shade’s shoulder!
“Calm down!” Salek’t squeals. “I’ll pretend that I’m collecting you. Stay with me.” He latches onto what would have been the meaty part of my left shoulder had I been awake. Dragging me quickly but gently, my new friend takes me to ground level, and the fiends surrounding us don’t seem to mind. They have their own souls to locate. Still, I’m quivering uncontrollably. “Don’t worry. As long as you stay quiet, these brutes won’t even notice that your shade’s not fully here. Do you know why you can’t touch your ethereal body?”
Startled by this sudden and seemingly-irrelevant question, I shake my head.
“Part of you is in the mortal world, and the other part is in Thorüsa. You’re unique, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. The fiends can’t drag you toward the Abyss, because you’re not dead yet. However, if they find you, they’ll certainly try.” I nod, stunned with worry. “As for me? I’m counting on the fiends being driven by two things: hunger and obedience. They probably won’t eat me as long as they’ve been assigned other lost souls to escort to eternal damnation! They take their marching orders from our Foe.”
“What about the three gigantic leeches, whom I saw devouring other ones as fast as they could?”
Salek’t shudders. “They are the greatest of the fiends, or at least that’s what I’ve found out in the year that I’ve been wandering in Thorüsa. You don’t want to get near them, or let them get near you. They feed, and grow stronger, only when an incredibly wicked person is dying. They need such power in order to latch onto that person’s soul and pull him or her down to the Abyss. As I recall, I haven’t seen them since…” He shuts his eyes. “…since I was at the stake, and flames were licking my clothing. As acrid smoke began to fill my lungs and scorch them, my eyes watered, and I saw the great leeches before me. Their horrid, eyeless faces stared into mine, and I began to wail and cough. However, it turns out that they weren’t after me, but the Imperatrix who lit my pyre. Unfortunately, it wasn’t her time to die, and there they are again!”
Without another word, he gently latches on again and pulls me forward. We can’t afford to lose the three glowing leviathans, at least if we want to have a chance of reaching the condemned soul before they do…
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