[Ca] Week 356: Bleeding the Orchid

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Several Zombies

Zombie Overlord
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A swift sea breeze swept through the serene valley, tossing about leaves and dross. An endless field of green stretched onward, seemingly infinite in all directions but one. There, the emerald expanse was halted by deep blue. Rolling azure waves crashed against the beach head steadily, depositing silt and stone upon the sandy division. With a heavy, metallic clank, something else was tossed to shore.

Ethereal threads tugged at the edges of perception. A prone figure lay supine on the packed grit, one not clad in armor but seemingly made from it. An automaton. A Demvir.

Whether it was the churning of the waves against it or simply just a matter of time, something inside the being clicked over, and gingerly gears began to turn. Slowly at first, almost discordantly, as though each cog had forgotten its purpose in the greater picture. Soon however, they found their rhythm, and with them the great and ancient bands of caelitium that ensconced the core of the Demvir began to inch forward. As the antediluvian clockwork began to gain in tempo, hints of pale blue light could be glimpsed from between the revolving aperture of cogs and gears.

It seemed the world was not done with this particular machinae yet.

With a tinny, distorted groan, the figure made an attempt to move. First a finger, then a hand, and soon an arm. With a grunt, heaving against its water-logged limbs, it sat up. Four orange, aperture-like eyes opened slowly, beholding the mid-afternoon sun. Pulling at the sodden, hooded cloak wrapping its figure, the automaton rose unsteadily to its feet.

How long had it been since it had seen the sun? Months, years? There was no way to tell.

What had happened? There was a ship.

A ship and a crew.

And a man of pure black.

The figure shook his head. It all felt like a lifetime ago. They had been sent into battle by that trumped-up hellion. They'd been tasked with raising a ship from the sea floor. The Demvir's eyes surveyed the packed sand at his feet. Hands wandered to the figure's hip below the cloak, where one might find a scabbard. Instead, there was nothing.

Artanis grunted in frustration. His sword was still down there somewhere, it seemed. If he was washing up here...

He surveyed the horizon for any signs of battle but found none. The sea, like the vibrant valley to his aft, were calm and peaceful. It seemed that the battle had not worked out in his favor. He was alive, but at what cost? What had become of his precious few comrades?

A rolling clank echoed from behind his steely visage, a gesture of ignorance or perhaps even indifference.

They weren't children. Surely if a broken-down old Demvir like himself had managed to escape the fray, they would have as well.

Heaving himself up from the beach and collapsing onto a soft patch of greenery, Artanis took in his surroundings. In the distance he could see what he believed to be the port town of Navale.

He had no way to be sure, of course. For all he knew, he'd been asleep at the bottom of the ocean for years and years only to be belched up upon these cursed shores by sheer happenstance. But heading towards what appeared to be a city of some kind seemed like the right choice to make.

Collapsing back into the grass, the Demvir let out a frustrated sigh. He'd have been happier to remain forgotten in the muck, but it seemed this world was not done tormenting him yet.


Days and nights seemed to sweep by in an instant as Artanis lay in contemplation. His armored body was showered by rain and baked by the sun as he pondered his unusual predicament.

Finally, with a mechanical groan, he moved, clambering to his feet and setting his sights on the single mote of civilization in the distance. With trepidations, heavy steps, the ancient Demvir began his journey anew.

Would his comrades be waiting for him when he returned? Would they even know he'd been gone? What had become of the archdemon Ego or the forces that were invading the corporeal realm. If they had won, Artanis could see no hallmarks of their influence anywhere around him.

His mind began to wander.

It was a strange sensation. He felt that somewhere down there, he of all people had made the decision to return. To live. Something had willed him forward, brought him here. What was it that he was hoping for?

A tinny guffaw echoed from behind his steely visage. It would have been better if the sea had taken him, lest he suffer any more idiocy from these fools.

His thoughts drifted to Seneca, Notus and to Noi; the small assemblage of what the antediluvian machine might call 'friends'. A small pang of regret echoed within the Demvir's caelitium heart. He'd done everything he could to shake that nonsensical bunch and yet they still insisted on roping him into their schemes.

Trudging onward, he made a mental note to shake his danger pay out of Martinov, if he could find him. Finally, he found himself upon the threshold of the city he'd seen in the distance, but something was off.

The city seemed entirely devoid of life. Empty. Abandoned.


Striding cautiously through the streets, the only thing Artanis could be sure of was that this was not Navale. Makeshift stalls lined the streets, backed by sprawling complexes of brick and mud houses, stretching upward several stories. Colorful banners hung from posts over the roadway, displaying words in a language he could not recognize.

Slowly however, the landscape shifted. The vibrant architecture of this strange city soon gave way to more green as vines and brush encroached. But still the route continued onward and downward. Trudging down the jungle path, Artanis spotted another building. It was alone and clearly far more ancient than the others.

A pulse sounded, loud and deep, so loud that the metal of his frame rattled and hummed. Still he felt compelled to move forward.

Climbing up the ancient steps, he could see into the pillared edifice. Vines had nearly overtaken the place, and the floors were caked in dust and grime. Staying low, he moved deeper into the building, keen senses trying desperately to pick up any signs of life.

At the dark end of the chamber he could see some kind of ceremonial seat or throne. Heading towards it, his vision began to clear as the sun faded behind him. The throne was carved from the same ancient stone as the building; an off-white and dusty-looking sandstone. A figure was slumped in the chair, its head on its hand. A heavy hood obscured the features but that's not what interested Artanis. Skewered through the corpse's chest was a blade, if you could call it that, hewn from some kind of rock that shimmered and danced like gold as the last, scant few rays of light caught it.

Without thinking Artanis took hold of the blade. Another pulse sounded, shaking the throne room violently. The hood fell back from the slumped figure's head.

Stumbling backwards, the strange blade still in his grasp, the Demvir struggled to process what he was seeing.

It was him. Sitting there in that throne with a sword through his heart. It had been him all along.

With a gasp Artanis' eyes snapped open as a cold, azure wave smashed into his side. He was back on the beach. The sun beat down upon him. He turned to where he had seen the city in his dreams but there was nothing and no one

But he was left with a distinct impression. He couldn't explain how or why but something had been impressed upon his heart when he had touched that blade.


Head into the West.
 
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