Chapter 4-X: "Requiem in Samarra"
Amethyst Lashiec laid curled up in the blood-flooded floor of her prison, tears streaming down her face. Her golden eyes were lost of all luster, instead now were dull and lifeless-- signs of a person who was pushed to the breaking point. Her seafoam pink hair, usually short cut and wild, rested flat on floor, soaked in the blood.
She knew her father Royce Lashiec was sadistic and self-serving; after all, he had no trouble using her as a sacrifice in pursuit of power (the scars indeed left their mark many years later). To think he would go this far... casting Dominate Demon on his own flesh and blood, leaving her locked in this mental prison while who knows what-- or perhaps who-- was guiding her body at this moment. Worse, to get Lutz and Suko involved in their little spat; this was a new low, even for him. The thought of Suko jolted Amethyst's heart with another painful clench. He... no, she had hurt Suko, her younger sister. The only person in Asgar she had any love for, and the only family member who treated her with nothing but kindness. She had hurt her, almost killed her even. Royce may have cast Dominate Demon, but it was not his hand that struck the grievous blow at Suko's head; it was Amethyst's. The sickening crack of her skull and the squelching of the soft matter that lay underneath it...
I am so sorry, Suko, Amethyst thought through a new wave of tears. I couldn't even protect you from Royce. I ended up hurting you in his stead. I'm not fit to be your sister or any relation to you. This is where I belong now, trapped in my own memories for the rest of my--- Amethyst stopped and lifted her head, gazing down the darkness that greeted her in this tunnel. She thought she had heard something within the darkness, enough to break away from her thoughts. Perhaps she had imagined it in her grief?
.... thyst... It was faint, but Amethyst distinctly heard it this time around. Slowly she picked up her naked form from the floor and began trying to pinpoint the source of the noise.
Amethyst... Was it a new memory readying itself to torment her? That didn't seem right; there was no blinding flash of light to engulf her and lead her down the avenue of memories of a much simpler time. Not to mention the voice was not one she recognized; was this another effect of Dominate Demon?
Amethyst, there is little time to explain, but I need you to trust me. Head down the tunnel just a bit further; you will find me there. We must speak away from prying eyes and ears. It's time to stop being your father's prisoner once and for all. The voice was much clearer this time around, much in part of her being more alert. Maybe this wasn't a trap... or that was what Royce wanted her to believe.
No, Amethyst thought. It's clear what Royce wants of me. The memories were the torment he planned, not this. I don't have much to lose, not after what happened to... She pushed aside the notion of Suko's fate from her thoughts. It would do no good to be wrapped up in those thoughts right now. She began briskly walking down the tunnel, the only light being the red haze of the blood that enveloped the prison constructed from Dominate Demon's effect. Other than the wet sloshing from the floor with each step Amethyst took, the prison remained fairly silent.
The sight of a door to the right of the tunnel greeted Amethyst after what felt like hours of walking. Made simply out of some wood Ame could not identity, it stood out uncharacteristically amongst the stone masonry of her mental prison. Miraculously it managed to remain untarnished with any stains from the blood dripping off the ceiling and hazing throughout the length of the tunnel. Ame slowly began to reach for the handle, only to pause before her fingers touched the round brass surface. What if this was another trap by Royce? Who, or perhaps what, waited for her on the other side?
“Doesn’t matter,” Ame muttered to herself. “Royce already took everything from me. I have nothing to lose.” She grasped the doorknob, surprised at how cool the metal was, and turned it as the door slowly swung open inward. A wall of grey mist greeted the succubus, swirling and slowly cascading before her like a waterfall. She was mildly surprised that none of it spilled out to begin mingling with the blood haze of her prison. Ame slowly reached out to the mist, thinking perhaps that something was obfuscated by its presence, only to grasp nothing but emptiness.
You’re almost there, Amethyst, the voice echoed in her head, having been silent for quite some time. Just step on through the door. We will be safe from Royce’s prying eyes. After all, what Royce doesn’t know won’t hurt him… much. The word hung with some weight, as if it was the punchline to some joke Ame’s mysterious speaker knew but wouldn’t divulge.
Here goes nothing, I guess. With a deep breath, Ame stepped through into the mist and began walking forward, into the vast grey sea of bleakness that greeted her, slowly embracing her. She felt more naked and vulnerable than how Royce left her in that prison, the sensation of being watched ticking in the back of her mind. She almost didn’t hear the door behind her softly swing close, the faint click of the latch echoing in the void of mist. Where was she even to go?
Ame’s bare feet found themselves touching a cool, smooth surface. She noticed as the mist dispersed to reveal a small study, similar to the one from Castle Asgar. Black lusterless marble was the floor she now stood upon, with shelves full of books in the back of the study. Crackling could be heard from the fireplace to her right, the remnants of a once roaring fire still fiercely burning. Ame looked behind her only to be greeted with the sight of numerous framed paintings lining the back wall. Each painting depicted macabre and distracting sights; she did not recognize any of the works. She soon caught herself glancing at a large mirror in between some of the bookshelves across from her; staring back at her was a young naked succubus with golden eyes and seafoam pink hair, looking just as confused as she was feeling right now.
“I was beginning to think you wouldn’t show,” the calm voice of a man spoke. Ame lightly jumped at how close it was, as her gaze fell upon the voice’s owner, who was sitting in a chair before a round table between her and him. The man’s wardrobe did not reflect anything she had seen worn before by humans up in the mortal realm. He was dressed in a black formal jacket with matching pants, the glow of the dying fire reflecting off his brown leather shoes. A light grey shirt embraced by a mahogany vest could be seen from underneath the suit jacket. An odd tie could be seen snugly embracing his neck, consisting of two black cords fastened by a small silver skull. Shortly cropped brown hair streaked with silver crowned the stranger’s head, swept back save for a few strands of his bangs resting on his forehead. Cold steely eyes bore into Ame with a calm stare; it was if he were staring into her Heartcore. She never felt such an intense stare from an individual before. His hands were loosely wrapped in what appeared to be burial cloth, leaving his fingers on both hands exposed. A dull silver ring with a pale white stone could be seen on his right ring finger. Leaning on the chair’s arm on his left was a cane, carved of polished dark wood and topped with a silver skull for the handle.
“I can’t believe this,” Ame muttered, “to find myself summoned before a mere---“
The stranger held up one his hands. “I hate to interrupt your little tirade, but I expect a level of modesty from all my guests. Being a succubus does not exempt you from the decency that is wearing clothes, given your current state of dress.” He pointed to something behind Ame. “I suggest you get dressed first before carrying on. This should more than suffice for you.”
Ame turned to see a coat hanger she had somehow missed upon entering the room, a simple robe of maroon occupying it. She managed to keep her the retort she had ready for the stranger from taking surface. After all he did help out of the prison her father seemed content in keeping her locked in. Perhaps it was worth listening to what he had to say. Ame strolled across the black marble floor to the coat hanger, removing the robe and putting it on, surprised at how comfy it was and how snugly it fit, strongly emphasizing her curvaceous physique. Once dressed she made her way back to the stranger, sitting down in the unoccupied chair across from him on the other side of the table.
“’Out of the frying pan and into the fire’ is how the saying goes, right?” Ame sneered. “I thought I’d have found a means of getting out of that little prison Royce set up for me. Instead I find myself summoned by a mere human. It’s insulting.” The stranger chuckled, bemused by her remark and gave a small half smile. Now he dares to laugh at me. Arrogant bastard.
“’Mere human,’” the stranger mused, folding his hands together as he rested his chin on them. “I was warned about your inflated sense of self-importance, Amethyst Lashiec of Asgar, but to experience it firsthand… from a lower lifeform barely high up on the hierarchy, no less… it is mildly amusing, in its own way.” He noticed the succubus glaring at him at the thought of being called a “lower lifeform” and rested his hands on the table. “How can I explain this… to something like me, something like you… well, how would you feel if a bacterium sat at your table and began being snarky?”
“Something like me.” The phrase filled Ame with a sense of dread. Was the stranger truly more than what he was letting on? She felt the weight of his eyes bearing down upon her as he awaited her response. Ame was never one afraid to speak her mind, yet she couldn’t help but wonder if tact—a quality she severely lacked, as she had been told on more than on occasion—would be wise here. Suko always knew how and when to respond appropriately to the situations at hand; what would she do in this situation?
“You come from one plane of existence,” the stranger continued, “a small piece of a system of nine planes all co-existing together in one planet. A planet part of one solar system, a little segment from one galaxy, a speck of dust in a universe barely in its prime. All part of a collective multiverse of realities meshed together in one patchwork of creation.” The stranger leaned forward on the table, his steely gaze locked onto Ame’s eyes; she had to resist the urge to avoid that gaze. “I am old, Amethyst Lashiec, older than your mind can even begin to comprehend, yet alone understand. If you insist on projecting this amusing bravado of yours, I advise you to take a moment and contemplate how insignificant I find you in the grand scheme of all things.”
“What an impressive speech,” Ame remarked, keeping the rising snark she wanted to let loose in check. “Y’know, it’s customary for rescuers to introduce themselves, after all. You seem to know so much about me but I don’t even know your name. A tad rude, if I say so myself.”
“A fair point,” the stranger smiled. “To be honest, I have gone by many names over the eons and I’m afraid I’ve stopped keeping track of them all. Most people have come to know me as Joseph Blake; it is a name I’m particularly fond of.” Joseph looked down at himself. “Though I suppose with a name like that in this form, it does make the transition far easier...”
“Hold up,” Ame interrupted. Something about the way Joseph said “transition” sent a chill to her Heartcore. She did not like the implication behind the word. “’Transition?’ What do you mean by a transition? Is there something wrong with me?”
“You mean that you’re not…” Joseph’s brow furrowed as his voice trailed off, his eyes closed in mild concentration. “Hm… that is interesting.” His eyes opened back up to stare at a now confused (or perhaps it was worry?) Amethyst sitting before him, waiting for an answer. He rested his hands on the table and took a deep breath. “Try this, if you will…
“You are Asgar royalty,” Joseph explained, “daughter of the realm’s late queen, Lilium Lashiec, and its king, Royce Lashiec. You have grown up living a life of privilege and opulence. You’ve had it rather easy compared to most, even with the passing of your mother Lilium.
“That is until a few years ago, during that messy affair that was the Beastmen War. Your father, in an attempt to bring the war to a swift victory, uses his own daughter—that’s you in this situation—to bolster his own phenomenal power at your personal expense. Something you’re no doubt rather familiar with.” Joseph pointed to the scars that covered Amethyst. “Having to live with that reminder every day and being reminded of that night, thus began the ever growing grudge you bear against Royce; the relationship ever growing more antagonistic. Only a matter of time before that emotional powder keg would explode.”
“Explode it did, I’m afraid,” Ame humorless retorted. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t be in this situation I’m in: trapped by my father in my own mind, forced to relive memories that I’d rather leave buried.”
“All the more reason this little sordid affair is more concerning,” Joseph replied. “If you were dead, this would less of a hassle, but since you’re still alive…” He paused briefly before continuing his train of thought. “Fast-forward to now: your father has declared you a traitor, offering your title and rank as a reward to anyone who can present to him your Heartcore. After an unsightly affair with that Slade fellow, you make your escape with both your sister and the castle’s young Gatekeeper in tow. You do not get far, however, as Daddy Dearest appears before you and decides to punish your ‘treachery.’” Joseph leaned closer on the table, his steely gaze never faltering as it fell upon Ame’s bewildered gold. “Now comes the most puzzling question of this little situation. If you, Amethyst Lashiec, are trapped here, then who—or what—is guiding you out there?”