Ahead

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The clouds were forming again.

It had been happening with greater frequency of late, and no one knew why. The obvious thing to do, were you an outsider, would be to ask Aghaidh. The Custodians who tended to Aghaidh knew better. No one had attempted to talk to the Great Head, as it was also known, for centuries. Legends told of only one who had been foolish enough to try such a thing.

A man who proclaimed to be an acolyte of Aghaidh made the trek to speak to his God and divine what he would have done in his name. Some of the lesser members of the temple went with the acolyte as he stepped in front of the massive face jutting from the desiccated landscape but kept their distance out of fear. Its eyes were thankfully closed.

The eyes only ever opened when the clouds formed and swirled above it. It would start slowly at first but pick up intensity and speed, until finally a great cone of clouds and wind spun violently above it. The top of Aghaidh’s head would then peel back when the tempest was at its crescendo, light flooding upwards and bathing the storm in brilliant eerie light. His eyes would turn a crystalline blue at the end of the gathering, squeezing  shut with a great thunderclap, and the storm would shoot into the sky at impossible speed to a destination unknown to the Custodians. Finally, he’d resume his slumber as his head returned to its original form.

The acolyte knew this and so planned his quest when the sky was cloudless.

He approached the Great Head warily. He was grateful that the followers stayed back, as it was far easier to hide his fear with their distance. He held his head high as he approached, forcing a smile upon his face, hoping it was a reverent one. At what he deemed a safe distance away, he stopped. Still in the shadow of Aghaidh, the acolyte was dwarfed by the Great Head, only adding to his trepidation. He summoned his last bit of courage and stretched his arms in the air in worship. He spoke with an authority he didn’t feel.

“Aghaidh! Great and mysterious one! I am Maon, acolyte of the Temple of the Unheralded. I have come to learn your ways and to serve your will. I am but a tool for you to use as you see fit.” Maon bowed, feeling like that was what he should do in the presence of something so unknowable and powerful.

The Great Head stood silent and still.

When he heard nothing, he raised his head slightly to look at the mighty Aghaidh. Confusion overtook Maon. Why was the Great Head not responding? He was certain that he – the most devout of all that worshipped in the Temple – could learn the mysteries of the Great Head. In turn, he would share the wishes and dogma with his fellow acolytes and followers. Perhaps, even the Vicar throne was within his grasp, if Aghaidh would speak to him. Since no one had ever heard the unexplainable being speak, he would be special. Exalted, even.

He tried again: “I humbly submit myself to you, Aghaidh. Only tell me what you decree, and I will be the servant of your will.” He kept his eyes locked ahead, hoping for a reaction, a sign.

But there was none. All remained silent.

Confusion morphed in anger within the acolyte. How many years had he sacrificed in supplication to the Great Head? All the taunts of the villagers, the insults, and the accusations of insanity – he’d suffered countless indignations, all in the name of worship. But this? To be ignored by the very thing he had spent his life devoted to and dedicated his every waking moment to honoring was the greatest of insults. How could this happen?

The acolyte screamed, a flood gate of frustration escaping him. “Why won’t you talk to me? Do you have any idea how much I given to you in adulation? Years! Nearly all my life I’ve defended you, despite not fully comprehending your ways, and this is how you would reward your most reverent follower?”

The eyes flew open. A baleful glare from brilliant blue eyes. A menacing scowl appeared on its face. The acolyte took a step back in fear, but moved no further, rooted to the spot by the stare of his God.

The clouds came from nowhere, fast. They circled above Aghaidh, moving in a ferocious circle, darkening the skies. A loud whine grew as the gale of the storm increased beyond the force anyone had seen before. Some of the followers who came with the acolyte stood in horror watching the scene unfold. The rest ran as fast as they could back to the village, an occasional glance back to the Great Head as they raced.

The Great Head’s scalp peeled back, shooting a brilliant shaft of light into the sky. His scowl never wavered, nor did his gaze move from the one who had disturbed his slumber. Until it did, when he closed his eyes and clenched the lids tightly. A tremendous boom came, as the storm shot a lightning bolt from within the maelstrom, incinerating the acolyte. Immediately after wasting Maon, the storm cast off to the Temple of the Unheralded. It crashed down on the structure, decimating it and all the inhabitants within. All that remained was a small crater.

That crater stands as a reminder of the power of Aghaidh. And to this day, no one has ever attempted to speak to the Great Head. The Custodians built a fence around Aghaidh to prevent unwary souls from approaching it and unwittingly unleashing doom another time.

Every time a storm brews, the Custodians cower hoping that they are not the target of Great Head’s wrath once more.

Photo Credit: Wallpaper Awesome

 

 

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Game Master

How he loved to move the pieces. His own game that he created to occupy his lonely mind lay before him, having grown beyond anything he had ever imagined. No one else could move the pieces, but the pieces could and did move themselves, often in random ways that surprised him. That was the fun of it though. He knew too much, and relished any time that chaos and chance happened. It pushed the boredom back, even if only for a few moments, and made him feel alive.

Since the game began, he watched as it grew. Slowly at first, then picked up steam, and now was bordering on being too much to manage; too many pieces on the board. That was bullshit though. He got off on the challenge of such a complex thing. The more pieces in play, the better. There were times when the pawns made plays that he could not have come close to anticipating that almost ended the game, but he was gifted at restoring just enough balance insure that did not happen. This was HIS GAME, dammit, and if anyone was going to end it, he was. And so he watched and schemed, enacted complex plans and introduced twists that altered the course of the game. He was completely engrossed in his creation. Nothing else mattered but the game. It was his life, his purpose. He was consumed by it, in all its sprawling glory.

He looked at each strategy he was employing and how the pieces were reacting. There were some scenarios that were not going as planned, but he knew that he had it under control. He could introduce a new player to tame the ones that were causing upheaval in places he didn’t necessarily want to worry about at the moment. Another tactic he used with great efficiency was to enforce the rules that had been laid out at the beginning of the game. As always, time had a way of blurring the concrete necessity of these rules, and truth be told, he sometimes became so involved in the game and its intrigues that he neglected to penalize the guilty ones who took liberties with his guidelines. When he finally did police the members of the game, he was swift and harsh in dealing with those who played loose and fast with the rules. Banishment was not uncommon, but was reserved for the most atrocious offenders. He was not above torturing players in order to understand the level of their transgressions and know who was complicit in their treachery. He wielded vengeance as righteousness, and woe to those who questioned his methods or laws.

One of his greatest tools was doubt. Sowed into the minds of specific pieces, it made for interesting outcomes. He sometimes chuckled at his genius in introducing this as an element of the game. Such was the subtle power of this weapon that it could creep into those he chose to raise to a level of importance and obliterate their very existence, causing them to spiral downward into despair.

He would, on occasion, allow cooperation and compassion to take hold of large swaths of the pawns in the game. This had benefits that suited him; vast societies were built, measures taken to help those in need, and happiness spread enough that the idea of hope was a burgeoning concept.

He could not let that sort of thing stand, though. He needed things like fear, and worry, and distrust, and hatred to have sway. It was so much more FUN when the pieces were at odds with one another. Peace was boring, and he could not suffer any more boredom. So he made certain that unrest was near constant. He stoked the fires of feuds. He changed physical elements of the game without telling the players. He especially loved adding natural calamities to the mix because they allowed a small bit of cooperation and empathy to come forth, but the devastation and unrest that resulted were too delicious to ignore. He giddily clapped his hands when violence erupted as a direct result of his modifying the elements of the game itself.

Once, on a whim, he decided the game needed a full reset. He decided to take an ironic tact; the board had substantial water pockets. What if he just…added more water? The chaos that would make would be absolutely beautiful. He entered the change, and within minutes pain and death filled the board, and he was pleased with his ad lib. With but a few pieces in play, however, he grew impatient and bored. In a fit of brilliance he decided to make himself known to the participants. But he did so cryptically, and in vastly different locales, and awaited the results.

Rather quickly, different versions of his story (which he imparted to each group of players in the exact same manner, to see how or if it would take) were recounted and written down. To his complete and utter surprise, the pieces of the game closest to each place he downloaded his story began following the version that was regaled by the recipients, even citing it as the only version of the story that could possibly be true. The factions argued and fought. Violence escalated beyond anything he ever saw. There were battles, great and small, and outright atrocities committed that even he, in his constant state of depravity, could not have envisioned. He reveled in his ability to manipulate the game, to make the pieces move as he wished.

He contemplated the names he was festooned with from the players: Yahweh, Mohammed, Odin, God, Satan, Jehovah, Allah, Krishna, The All, Alpha, Omega, Osiris, and a host of others. Strange and wondrous they all were, and how lovely that they made the game so much more fun and interesting for him.

He moved the pieces as he always did, and adored the chaos that ensued.

Oh how he loved to move the pieces.