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Apollyon

NaNoWriMo - WorkingTitle: Fate

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A solitary figure ambled down the street swinging a cane of flawless ivory, complemented by a perfectly cut, brilliantly white suit. The gutters cried out as the evening rain relentlessly pounded their barreled bellies, running and pooling and splashing down to the rough cobbled road beneath. The figure turned a corner, and for a brief second a lamp hanging from an unremarkable tavern illuminated his face, before the fluid gloom swallowed it again. It was a handsome face, harshly chiseled with oceanic, blue-green eyes peering out from below a tangled mess of silvery hair poorly imprisoned by a hat painted the same shade as the suit. A stately frown was splayed across that face with an almost visible attention to detail, and a farcical pose of deep thought. In the tavern warmly lit expressions rotated to watch the fleeting silhouette, heads disembodied by the street-level windows.

With the tavern passed by, the figure turned to enter the yawning maw of an unlit street. Grand houses loomed from either side, some imposingly turreted, others plagued by gargoyle infestations leering and laughing and pointing and- he tore his attention away and slowed his gait as, little by little, the oppressive dark engulfed the radiance of his clothes.

A slight glow, a faint memory of the previous road, slicked itself across the soaked cobblestones, rocking back and forth, and swirling as if to indicate that the stones themselves were liquid illusions. This was the only light. It was as if the world ended suddenly once removed a few inches from the luminescent stones, as if this was all there was: just a light dazzle, and the white noise of the rain.

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Well for some reason I'm unable to edit the original post (probably due to preformatted tags).

Therefore I will re-post the start here with paragraphs etc:

FATE

PROLOGUE

A solitary figure ambled down the street swinging a cane of flawless ivory, complemented by a perfectly cut, brilliantly white suit. The gutters cried out as the evening rain relentlessly pounded their barreled bellies, running and pooling and splashing down to the rough cobbled road beneath. The figure turned a corner, and for a brief second a lamp hanging from an unremarkable tavern illuminated his face, before the fluid gloom swallowed it again. It was a handsome face, harshly chiseled with oceanic, blue-green eyes peering out from below a tangled mess of silvery hair poorly imprisoned by a hat painted the same shade as the suit. A stately frown was splayed across that face with an almost visible attention to detail, and a farcical pose of deep thought. In the tavern warmly lit expressions rotated to watch the fleeting silhouette, heads disembodied by the street-level windows.

With the tavern passed by, the figure turned to enter the yawning maw of an unlit street. Grand houses loomed from either side, some imposingly turreted, others plagued by gargoyle infestations leering and laughing and pointing and- he tore his attention away and slowed his gait as, little by little, the oppressive dark engulfed the radiance of his clothes.

A slight glow, a faint memory of the previous road, slicked itself across the soaked cobblestones, rocking back and forth, and swirling as if to indicate that the stones themselves were liquid illusions. This was the only light. It was as if the world ended suddenly once removed a few inches from the luminescent stones, as if this was all there was: just a light dazzle, and the white noise of the rain.

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Very nice, it'll be interesting to see where he goes.  Now that my accursed prologue is done, perhaps I can go into detail as well.

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CHAPTER 1

      The oppressive fumes of Sanaltras exhuded a bittersweet tang as Crutrack sucked them in, letting them roll noxiously about inside his nostrils. A smile fattened his lips.

      No matter how acidic the smell of this place grows, I will never tire of it, he reflected. That is what it is to be home.

      "Halantar! Lord Crutrack has returned!" announced a distant bellow from far above. Crutrack let his gaze be drawn up to the origins of the cry, tracing, as he did so, easily two hundred metres of rock and close-packed earth that formed gargantuan walls all around the pit in which he stood. Directly above him, dwarfing even the chasm itself, towered an enormous tree, shod a dull, charcoal black. Indeed, the dead thing shot far out above the excavation's height, it's branches reaching distantly upwards, though not similarly outwards, since most beyond a certain length had been hewn. The hulking husk was even more vast than might have been supposed from looking on it then, since half yet lay buried deep in the arid earth.

      Metal girders erupted irregularly from around the pitwalls, each girder connected to another by thick cables, presumably so as to stabilise the man-made crevasse. Also supported by those girders, as if by chance, was a snaking staircase made of wood, metal and other nondescript items obviously tacked on in a hurry. Finally Crutrack stepped out from the hollow in the tree's rotundity, whereupon the petrified bark scraped quickly back into place, concealing once again the atramentous passage to the former Mrs Stubbing's dwellingplace.

      The tall figure, still fully clad in a white that had become somehow even more dazzling in the lazy sunshine of his home, pulled himself up to the first awkward step. His face was composed to a pure sheen of utmost serenity despite the tentative path that lay ahead; and the imminent proposal of a lofty plummet. A skittering of rocks from above drew his attention.

      "Sire! Be careful!" Starat Tell had kept an ambivalent vigil for his lord's return and now skipped dangerously down the makeshift stairs, his thick cloak billowing widely out behind his staggering silhouette. As a child Tell had been taken into a farsical kind of care by an organisation known as the Guild of Gentry, when the young Crutrack was only just beginning to gather together the power and influence that he now possessed.

      Yes, be careful, Lord, his thoughts spat, wouldn't want you to fall now, would we? Starat was a contat by profession; and by simple existence. The Guild of Gentry had subjected him to rigorous 'beneficial programs': a form of mental and physical conditioning. He had become the worst kind of slave: one unable to control even his own mental processes to any great extent. Crutrack had bought him at a high cost, and indeed Tell took pride in the lord's investment being more than worth it, despite his bitter resentment of the man.

      Tell stopped dangerously and nearly toppled over with excess speed while Crutrack strode powerfully on, passing him without a flicker of recognition and leaving his contat to hurry after him in his wake.

      "My lord, did the vein work as we projected?" Tell stumbled over the word 'vein' as if it were the name of some great religious icon, or something unspeakably horrible.

      "Of course. I do not make mistakes, contat. The vein excelled in its bringing me to the Other Place."

      "Of course, sire, please forgive me. And-" Tell stopped briefly to construct his questions in a way less likely to incurr his master's wrath. "And were The Tomes revealed to be true?" Again a hint of reverence and fear crept into Tell's voice as he uttered the last part of his speech.

      "You mean did I complete the mission successfully. Really, Tell, I have dogs that can communicate more efficiently than you."

      "Ahaha. Quite right, sire." One push. Just one simple movement, Tell's mind muttered through etherially gritted teeth.

      "Contemplating murder again, Tell?" Crutrack's smile was bereft of humour. "I have the item, yes, and I know it to be genuine, also. Great minds have senses that pitiful beings such as yourself cannot hope to fathom, my dear, dear contat."

      Starat halted quietly, letting Crutrack approach the pit's exit just above. Watching his lord's bonepale image grow increasingly smaller, Tell tried to smother his wretched tears.

      As the earth's deep wound vomited him into a sunbleached world, Crutrack let his eyes shake hands with the barren desert surroundings. They stretched, empty. It was a commanding handshake, and guardsmen that had been awaiting his return soon amassed before him amid shouts of 'halantar!', their swords sheathed, their bows slung loosely. Crutrack gave a sharp nod to the guard at the fore whose scalemail bore a crest emblazoned with a black chimera hunched as if to pounce, who in response turned on his heel and barked a series of orders in a clipped, gutteral baritone. Almost immediately the dark huddle of armour broke and scattered across the flat earth that lay all around except where it yawned frighteningly into the sudden abyss from which Crutrack had just climbed.

      A concerto of whistling resounded, muffled by locked visors, and slowly, as if charmed by their disharmonious tune, the sand began to shake and slither. Black stalks emerged through the cascading sand, their enormous lengths unfurling in a multitude of ballshaped joints. Soon the dark limbs uncovered themselves entirely, hauling a similarly uncoloured pod upwards as their ends found purchase on the flowing silt beneath. Fully revealed in the pale light, the creatures contrasted unsettlingly, their quadriped frames shifting easily on their huge, plate-like feet and emitting loud cracking sounds whenever they changed position. Their near-spherical bodies were only about five metres in diameter, with them being much flatter on top. Shaking the sand from their wiry legs and out from the grooves of their hairless torsoes, the beasts rose, towering at least twenty metres above the ground where they swayed imperceptibly in a light breeze. The animals had no discernible features of any kind beyond the ridges on their bodies and, both a staple of any expedition and an impressive beast of burden, they survived purely on nutrients extracted from the sand through tiny pores on their enormous feet.

      "The wailers are ready, mi'lud." Announced the guardcaptain through his visor as the dust settled gently around him.

      "I can see that." Crutrack replied, his turquoise eyes observing the creatures keenly. With that, he traversed calmly towards the nearest wailer and issued a shrill whistle. In response the creature seemed to collapse inwards, its vast legs winding themselves inward so as to bring the elliptical frame closer to the ground. Then, holding the grooves like long handles, Crutrack pulled himself onto the animal's rounded back, anchoring his legs between the same ridges. With its passenger seated safely, the wailer straightened its legs once more with a powerful grace. Following their lord's example, the guards called to their respective wailers, taking one between two and loading various equipment on besides, strapping it in place with thick plantmatter ropes.

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