Who is Deserving of Fear (Bloody Revelations)

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Who is Deserving of Fear (Bloody Revelations)
Date of Cutscene: 24 March 2018
Location: An Unknown Manse
Cast of Characters: 1124
Tinyplot: Dead Man's Panopticon

The Abyssal Exalted named Strangling Sable Web lies slumped against the wall, inside of a furnished cellar room dimly lit by ruby red candles. Her chirugeon's coat and mask lie in a crumpled heap in one corner. Half her clothes lie in the other. Her wrists are bound in manacles of whorled golden orichalcum and black soulsteel, and chained to a spike in the wall. Her bare skin is a mosaic of angry bruises, burns, and lacerations, some a week old and fading –tokens of her ill-fated tangle with the Multiverse that ended with her here– but most of them are only a few hours old at most. The most recent blow to the face causes her to spit blood into one of the many small, scarlet pools surrounding her, which have multiplied alarmingly over the course of the night.

“I don't have anything to say to a dead woman. They're going to kill you when they find out about this.” she says, though she has not the strength to look up and say it directly.

“When they find out? That would imply they don't already know.” comes the reply, delivered with no small amount of creeping amusement.

“Don't get so full of yourself. If they had any idea, you'd be dead already –worse than dead. When they learn of your betrayal, you'll be lucky to grovel for mercy at my master's feet. Not even you can get away with this.”

“Again, that would imply I've done something wrong, you poor, deluded, idiot~ Has it really not occurred to you that you might be on the wrong side? That I keep “getting away with it” because it so pleases them to see it done? Or are you just determined to be weeded out with the rest?”

“You're a wild animal, nothing better.” spits Sable Web, shortly before another blow fractures her cheekbone.

The elder Abyssal Exalted, named Bloody Revelations Spilled from the Nightmare, sits on the edge of a table, one leg over the other, and briefly immerses her hand in a shallow bowl of ice, held out by a stoic ghost dressed in domestic finery. She waits for the cold to soothe her sore fingers and the meltwater to wash the younger Exalted's blood from her knuckles, swinging Sable Web's stripped Hearthstone pendant in lazy circles around her opposite finger –the only means she had of recuperating her mystical energies in this place.

“Even your attempts at derision speak to your ignorance. Anyone knows that a feral wolf can sense things that a whipped, domesticated puppy could never comprehend; it has instincts sharpened from long years prowling its natural domain, rather than wasting its life fawning over its owner. I suppose you're a failure even as a trained dog though, since you couldn't even bark loud enough to defend your master~”

“You're a fool if you think the Mask of Winters needs me to defend him! When I learned of your involvement, I thought that maybe Sixteenth Night's Silence had some plan to move against him –some credible threat– but knowing now that you came up with this scheme on your own, I just want to laugh! Your puppets are dancing obliviously into his trap, and after they've been obliterated, he'll come for you next. That is if they don't get to you first. Honestly, what were you thinking?”

“Mmmm, maybe that your master had his chance? He had every chance, actually, and he blew it. That he's useless. That he's a failure. A joke. That he ruined everything for his moment in the spotlight, and hasn't done anything worthwhile ever since. That even the Neverborn have limits to their patience, and that they've grown tired of him and his grandiloquent little self-aggrandizing charade. That they'll see they no longer need him, nor any of his petty, squabbling, corrupt and impotent peers, after I dispose of him, and that when they do, all of their hopes will lie with me instead. That I will become their avatar and their champion and their will made manifest.”

Even in her badly beaten state, Sable Web finds the energy for exhausted laughter of disbelief. “You're an even bigger lunatic than I thought! You expect a reward for this treachery? You expect their gratitude? Their “hopes”? Those things couldn't conceive of any of those things if they tried! I've heard them too. We all did, on the day of our baptism, remember? Those things are nothing but hatred. They hate everything alive, everything that exists, including you and me. They can't comprehend anything but spite and horror and malice, and neither you nor I nor anyone else are exempt. They-”

“They are in pain.” Bloody Revelations interrupts. This time the amusement is gone from her voice, now like a frigid razor. “They don't need your ignorant, childish terror. They need our help. She needs my help! You heard the whispers once, and shrank away in fear, clinging to your master's robes at something familiar. I hear them still, every second of every minute of every day! I hear her every murmuring thought and see every figment of her death-dreams, and I know her better than anyone!”

“Is that your story? For why you talk to yourself?” Sable Web replies. “I can hear it down here you know. At first I thought you were just talking to the ghosts, but really it's like every second you aren't with someone else, you're gossiping away with thin air. You really can't stand being alone, can you?”

“I'm never alone.”

Bloody Revelations' tone is so deadly serious that even the younger Abyssal finds herself unable to gainsay it. There is much that Sable Web had heard of her –the woman is something of an urban myth amidst the servants of the Deathlords– but face to face, it is her lucidity, more than anything else, that unnerves her. Someone like her has no right sounding so functional. Nothing she says could be true, but they are spoken with that sort of ineffable spark that is missing in all of her compatriots –subtly damaged on a psychological and spiritual level by their black Exaltations, as all Deathknights are.

Bloody Revelations continues.

“While you were kept busy endlessly stitching corpses together to swell your master's armies, being drip fed the bare basics of the Shadowlands Circle of Iron and jerked along as a minion instead of the avatar of the Void you were meant to be, I did what all of you were too afraid to do. I sought out that thing you squeamish infants put out of your minds and try so hard not to think about. I looked into that which horrifies you to your core, and so you try to ignore as much as you can, going on day by day as the petty servants of maniacs, because at least you “understand” them. I looked it in the eye –I embraced it– and in it I found the truth, and with it, power.”

“I don't care” says Sable Web, unable to contain her weariness. “I don't care about whatever part of your soul you sold to somehow enter the Circle of Obsidian, I'm not so stupid as to take that bait.”

“You're jealous.”

“I'm sane.”

Bloody Revelations sighs patiently. “Then what you should do is renounce your oaths to the Mask of Winters and join the winning side while you still can. I won't give you until his inevitable destruction to make up your mind, you know. It doesn't mean anything if you change your mind only when you have no other choice.”

“Nobody in this universe is more powerful than the Deathlords and you know it. Even with your gaggle of suckered cat's paws, it's insanity to challenge-!”

Sable Web is swiftly choked off by a vicious kick to the throat, casually aimed in the time it had taken Bloody Revelations to exchange which knee crosses the other.

“Gods you're pathetic. The Neverborn have already spoken to me of the day the Deathlords outlive their usefulness, and as a Deathknight of the Dusk Caste –a Child of Ash– it is my solemn duty to hurl them into the Mouth of the Void when the day comes that they no longer serve their masters well. It just turns out that day came sooner than expected, what with my being a prodigy and all. The only thing that prevents me and my darlings from destroying them are the oaths that bar servants of the Neverborn from directly waging war on each other. You grossly underestimate the potential of the black Exaltation if you sincerely believe a shard of the Neverborn's very own Essence to be no match for a mad ghost king barely propped up by their patronage. They were murdered once, at the height of their power, by Exalted far weaker than myself. Even those people should be able to take care of him, with my guidance.”

Sable Web struggles to breathe for several seconds, pausing to cough up another spray of her swiftly dwindling blood. “If you really thought that, then you wouldn't need me, would you? If you truly had the power to topple the Mask of Winters, you wouldn't have me chained up here, trying to torture me for the information you know you need to even scratch him.”

“Information?” Bloody Revelation responds with genuine surprise, looking up from heating her knife over a candle flame, with sincere confusion. “Oh no no! You're very much mistaken.” she says, twirling the red hot blade between her fingers.

“I'm doing this because I don't like you~