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Author of the Saga of Ukumog discusses the challenges of being an author, the tools and processes he uses while writing, and sometimes posts something completely unrelated. This blog is the author exposed.

Shadow of the Pyramid, Chapter 1, part one.

Louis Puster

Behold!  Below you will find the first 1800 words or so of the short story I am working on.  Keep in mind, that this has been placed here mostly unedited.  Please feel free to post your thoughts as a comment!  Enjoy! 

Chapter 1

At first, the hard soapy bristles of the brushes stung his flesh as they scratched their way over his tough skin. Maybe it was the repetitive motion of the brushes in the hands of the trained acolytes that changed it from scraping to soothing. Or maybe it was the hypnotic mixture of the incense in the room and the drugs in his blood. Either way, it didn't matter to Moriv. The pain became pleasure and put him into a trance. His life prior to being here in this dark chamber had been full of nothing but toil. As a slave, there was no time for any joy. The pleasure in this bath was a whispered myth among the other slaves. Two days before he found himself here, Moriv’s life was changed.

In the shadow of the Great Obsidian Pyramid there lay the city of Shatter. The denizens of the city live there, always protected from the searing rays of the sun. There are many types of people who live in Shatter. Most of them, however, are slaves. Each person owes their existence to the Great Obsidian Pyramid and so everyone in Shatter is a follower of the Mari'Andi, those who speak to the secrets in the stone. Everyone in Shatter worships the Pyramid for all it has done, and all it will someday do for them. It is their divine lord.

The day on which Moriv’s life was changed was a holy day. Most of the city was gathered in the Obsidian Plaza which lay at the feet of the Great Pyramid. The black stone of the plaza was darkly gleaming in the light that was present on that day. Moriv, before he was Moriv, found himself kneeling in a sea of slaves near the back of the plaza. The lines carved into the plaza made sections which determined how close to the pyramid a person was allowed to be. Common slaves like Moriv, being the most unworthy, were all the way in the back of the plaza. Chimes and chanting from the priests on dais where the Pyramid itself rested drifted out over the assembled crowd. From where the man who would become Moriv huddled he could barely hear them. There was a certain amount of excitement in the crowd that day. News that the priests had been given a divine vision had already permeated the layers of the Shatter. Everyone, even the slaves, expected something special.

First it was the normal parade of priests all dressed in fine black silks with silver chains tied around their waists. The more important priests had nine-tail whips with shards of obsidian looped into their length. Still more of them came. The next priests wore faceless black masks decorated with glinting silver veins slithering through them. On this particular holiday, slaves of the Pyramid’s temple carried large fragments of the Pyramid through with the priests. The slave that would be Moriv always tried to imagine where the individual pieces fit into the colossal cracked structure that they all worshiped. He had even heard one slave say, one that was shortly thereafter never seen from again, that the temple itself was held together by the lingering shadows of the ancient lords of Shatter. And that in those deep places, all the history of the world could be seen; but that no single person, save the Scion of the temple, could weather their storm. Still, the slave who would become Moriv could not help but wonder how his divine master had suffered the wounds in its massive stone form.

“Keep your head down, slave!” Then followed the expected crack of a leather club on the slave Moriv’s back. He had been staring again and it was only his place to worship, not to look.

The procession that day was twice or three times as long as the normal ones. Many of the powerful guilds from Shatter made their presence known with some theatrical display. Unfortunately, Moriv the slave had his face to the ground, and could only feel the heat of the fire as the entertainers went passed, or see distorted ghosts of their likeness reflected in the patterned obsidian mirror upon which he knelt. He dare not look up again, else face more beating.

Next to last to go up the wide aisle of the plaza that day was a slave pulled chariot. Each of the slaves were tied to the chariot with barbed silver chains. Their eyes replaced with carven images crafted out of the darkest obsidian. You see, these slaves were the property of the High Priest of the Mari'Andi, Konrix, and they must pay with blood for their direct contact with the Pyramid itself. It is an honor to serve the Mari'Andi and therefore the suffering of those who are unworthy is never ending. Konrix stood atop the chariot which was drenched in silks and velvet. On the tier below him, lounged the circle of his concubines, each of them tempting every slave to look up at them.

As the chariot rode past, Moriv could hear the dying screams of those slaves who dared to look upon the glory of Konrix or lust after his harem. Their deaths would not be a waste, as the slave knew. Their blood would be used to glorify the Great Obsidian Pyramid, and any souls sacrificed in the plaza would be absorbed into its bosom. He had been given the duty once of cleaning up the bodies of those who had willingly offered their lives in the plaza after a day of faith. The bravery of those that silently bleed themselves dry in the plaza amidst the crowd was something he could not help but respect.

“Brothers and sisters! May you always walk in darkness!” Konrix’s voice bellowed out over the crowd. “Our Scion has returned from the light to us. Praise be to the almighty Pyramid! Praise be to the ancestors!”

“Praise be to the almighty! Praise be to the ancients!”  The crowd responded in complete unison. The slave who would be Moriv was no exception.

One last cart rumbled down the aisle. Surprised by this unusual addition, the slave had to try and catch a glimpse. Through the kneeling bodies that surrounded him, he could just barely make out white silk robes, partially soaked in the blood of the slaves who wore them. As the cart shook the stone and passed by, he caught glimpses of white wheels with images of pyramids carved into the creamy surface and then it was out of view. The temptation to lift his head was burning within him, but the fear of displeasing his master was greater. That is, until he heard the gasps and applause from the sections where those who were allowed to look. Grinding his teeth together and tapping his forehead to the ground he was able to resist the temptation.

Nearby, one of the plaza pacifiers sensed the energy of this one unruly slave, and started heading over to where he knelt. The leather club in his hand creaked with glee at the prospect of reminding the slave of his place. Slowly the pacifier crept up on the disrespecting filth, as he drew closer he held his breath to steel his body in preparation of the righteousness he was about to deliver. Though he had done this countless times each chance to give praise to the Great Pyramid by doing his duty made him excited and nervous. That, and he really enjoyed it.

The Moriv slave’s curious compulsion to lift his head and gaze upon the pristine shape of the Scion was a battle he could not win. He knew without a doubt that there would be consequences, but he could not help himself. He lifted his head.

Flowing white silks trailed the cart. They were so thin that the lightest breeze made by the cart’s movement caused them to dance behind it. The sides of the cart were high and latticed with ivory windows, but the back and top remained open. Inside soft shining folds in lush velvet made a thick bed for the man who was sleeping deep within. Slave Moriv had never had a bed, nor had he ever even heard whisper of a bed that lush. Briefly he imagined himself swallowed in that silk and velvet. Embraced by the cool comfort of the soft fabrics within that cart.

Whack!

Pain did not come at first. The leather clubs of the Pacifiers were designed to deliver long lasting pain that would not cause unnecessary damage to those they ‘pacified’. By the time slave Moriv had figured out what had happened, the second the third blows had come down on his head and back.

“Face to the ground. You are unworthy. Face to the ground!” The Pacifier shouted.

Moriv tried to comply with the Pacifier’s will, but even after he was huddled to the ground with his forehead touching it the beatings still came. By then, the pain from the first blow had started to throb through him and the rest were in line to show the club’s belligerent affection for Moriv’s actions.

The cracking of this particular club on this particular slave seemed no different than the other five slaves being beaten at that very moment. Furthermore, the pacifier had beaten at least thirteen other slaves on this very day for various offenses. After all, he was just doing his duty and slaves tend to misbehave from time to time. Something about this beating, however, was not normal.

A voice called out and the white ivory cart stopped moving on the gleaming obsidian plaza. “Stop. Stop beating that slave.”

At first the pacifier didn’t hear the voice and continued his work but when the silence of the entire plaza was only filled with the sounds of his particular club, he realized his mistake. With hesitation, he looked up and found the gaze of the Scion upon him. There stood the Scion, wrapped in white silk fiercely staring at the pacifier. Anxiety filled the crowd. From on the dais Kronix looked on confused and uncertain as to what would happen next. Each Scion had been different. They live outside the rules. Being declared the direct child of the ancestors who bring power and life to the Pyramid - they are like living gods. Konrix knew that this Scion’s time was ending. But he did had not been given instruction as to exactly what was about to happen. As high priest of the Mari’Andi, he had seen many Scion’s come and go, but this time something was different.

“I said stop. You will not beat him anymore,” the Scion spoke with soft yet thunderous words.

The Pacifier fell to the ground. His palms slapping the obsidian ringing out like two cracks from his leather club. “Forgive me master. He was trying to look upon you. It is forbidden—”

“Not forbidden to this one.”