They thought exile a fittingly cruel punishment, yet instead it blessed her with the only thing she had ever desired: freedom. For the first time in all the long years of her life she had no name, no family, no home and thus no rules, no chains, no gilded cage. She was free to finally stretch her cramped wings, to fly or fall as she wished with no one to catch or constrain her. She had been born to captivity, no choice there, but now that she was free she would never let herself be imprisoned again. No more masks! No more fetters! As a nameless and homeless wanderer none could claim dominion over her. In the wilderness she would grow teeth and claws, become proudly feral, a thing of fierce autonomy earned and protected through bloodshed. They expected her to suffer in exile, far from the courtly comforts of home, but only because they never understood – the cage was all that had restrained her.
It has been a very long time since Mage worked to create, not destroy. Seeing the fruits of a day’s labor in trees planted or bricks laid, not in buildings destroyed or ships burned, feels strange indeed. Satisfying, yet strange. The work could be done faster and easier with magic, but she finds solace in the sweat and blood of manual labor. Dirt under her nails, leaves in her hair, it’s all so delightfully mundane. When did Mage last have a true place to call her own? A home to tend with mindful love, and no threat of it being ripped away? She had long ago forgotten what “home” really meant. She is slowly relearning its meaning here on Liberty. Mage is the Wanderer, the Exile Queen, no more.
The hook is not a tool of creation, though. While it can be bent to any task, its true dark nature bleeds through when used for good. She gardens and her clawed right hand leaves the soil slightly parched; she builds and a little stone flakes away with every touch; she cooks and the taste of char seeps into everything she makes. The effects aren’t devastating, it’s true, yet they rankle her, sour her every accomplishment. She does not speak of it with Alice, however. Mage accepts this burden as payment for the ruin she inflicted with the hook, a fitting penance now that she wishes more than anything to be rid of the damned weapon.
What will be will be, she tells herself. She tries to take one day at a time now, and that too is strange yet satisfying.
I am negation and I am destruction
I am entropy and I am anarchy
I am Nemesis, I am Charybdis
I am a black hole, I am a rotten soul
I am your undoing
and I am coming
Alice floats through space, sliding past stars and the dark bulk of distant planets. She bumps against a glyph and loops her arms around one end, leaning on it as she sees what looms before her – a gaping black hole. It’s ancient, a monster that has lurked at the center of the universe for countless eons, swallowing everything in its reach. Yet overshadowing this event is an even greater threat: Mage rises beyond and over the black hole, grander than the hungry beast itself, and when she smiles her eyes are twin suns and her teeth are supernovas. Her jaws unhinge, devouring the black hole, and Alice’s glyph shatters into stardust. Alice feels herself start to fall toward that cavernous mouth, pulled inexorably into the waiting jaws and their eternal grin–
and then she wakes in a cold sweat.
Mage travels through a forest, a beautiful walking staff adorned with mother of pearl in her hands, and on either side of her walk Tanim and Daren. Through the treetops a low hanging moon winks in and out, its pale glow casting soft shadows on the forest floor. Suddenly the moon peels wide into a sun which blazes brighter and brighter as it climbs into the sky. The face of it becomes Alice’s helmet; its fiery tendrils burst forth, becoming her wings that engulf the entire sky. The light touches everything, so bright and burning that the leaves on the trees burst into flame, so white hot that it becomes magma boiling the earth alive. Mage’s clothes catch fire, her hair chars, her skin blisters and peels back in crisp black strips–
and then she wakes in a cold sweat.
The blankets shift and Mage looks over to Alice who sits up, breathing hard and still trembling. She meets Mage’s haunted gaze with her own. “I dreamed you… ate me alive. I was so small and you were the entire universe. You sank your teeth into me and every atom of me was crushed.”
Mage pushes herself up with a shaky laugh. “Well, I dreamed that you shone so bright there were no shadows. You outshone the moon, the sun, blotted out the stars from the sky. You were the sky. My clothes burned, my flesh charred, my bones were exposed. I was naked and had no secrets.”
They look, at each other, each thinking, Did I choose right? Is this who I want to spend immortality with? And then, without a word, their hands meet across the space between them. Because yes.
You collected outcasts with hearts of broken glass, promising to fill their cracks with gold, but you made a grave mistake with me. My heart is not a fragile piece of blown glass – it is a chunk of volcanic glass, deep black obsidian, and when it breaks each shard is sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. I was never an outcast, you see. Outcasts yearn to be told their worth yet I inherently knew mine, for I had been born and tempered in the earth’s deep fires where no mere man may survive. I loved you, yes, and I believed in you, but I did not need you like the others and thus was the first to see through you when my rebellious edges drew your blood and then your anger. It’s no wonder you could never fix those broken hearts you hoarded; without one of your own, how could you know how the pieces fit together?
On the wind I heard a sigh
As the snowflakes cover my fallen brothers
I will say this last goodbye
She yields to nostalgia and allows herself to walk the island’s overgrown paths one last time. Though it has not truly been that long since she left, everything feels smaller to her. Were these lintels so low before? Were these steps, these windows, these honeycombed rooms and secret passages so tiny? She can almost imagine her childhood self running through the woods and along the beaches, playing chasing games or hide-and-seek, yet she was never actually young in this place. She thinks, Perhaps time does this to any location we once called home, even if only temporarily. Surely she has not grown, nor has the island shrunk, and yet she feels a giant who must step carefully so as not to harm everything around her.
Night is now falling
So ends this day
The road is now calling
And I must away
Despite the familiarity, the years have not been kind to the island’s settlement. Sapling trees burst up between the paving stones; vines climb along walls and wrap themselves around every available surface. Wind and rain have torn away roof shingles, left great puddles of standing water, and sent great branches crashing down. The once beautiful murals are faded from sun and storm, now nothing more than old graffiti. Even her own handiwork, the years of destruction wrought on the land with magic and cannon, is softened beneath layers of green growth. Nature is slowly reclaiming this place now there are no lost ones to bless its halls or bolster its protections with their love. It is truly abandoned.
Many places I have been
Many sorrows I have seen
But I don’t regret
Nor will I forget
All who took that road with me
She knows the others must assume she’s forgotten them, locking away her memories of the time she spent here in her quest for revenge. She has not. She remembers them all; names and faces, quirks and foibles, kindnesses and cruelties. She remembers those who left and those who stayed and those who fell out of reach completely. She remembers those who fought against her and those who never bothered to take up arms at all, who chose instead to stand for nothing. No matter where she goes next, no matter how many years pass, she will not forget a single one of them. She loved them all, once, and still may. They were her sisters and brothers, after all.
To these memories I will hold
With your blessing I will go
To turn at last to paths that lead home
And though where the road then takes me
I cannot tell
We came all this way
But now comes the day
To bid you farewell
After she has walked the length and breadth of the island she returns to the shore and gazes one last time upon the lighthouse. It was first a beacon of hope for her, then a target for her sorrow and rage. And now? Now it is merely a symbol of the past, both the good and the bad. She can neither hate it nor love it, so instead she releases it. She releases the island and its light from her idyllic memories. From her extinguished anger. From her heart that beats for a new future. Let this place return to the cosmos from which it was formed now that its purpose has been fulfilled. There are no paths which lead here now, only away. And that is as it should be, she thinks.
I bid you all a very fond farewell
I am recording the following for my own reference but I welcome any insights or questions anyone may have. I’m not yet sure what lesson or conclusion I’m supposed to reach in all this. On Friday, October 12th Tanim and Daren (though mostly Daren, I suspect) borrowed my wife (okay, she used the word “hijacked”) for a session of unwitting automatic writing while at work – by which I mean she thought she was taking notes on a patient and looked down to see she had actually written the following with her non-dominant hand:
“It was all there on the table.
The candlestick. The rope. The lead pipe. The wrench. The knife. The gun. He trailed his fingertips along each weapon with veneration.
Clue had always been his favorite board game. He loved the idea of giving six people unique opportunities to kill one another. When he played the game as a child, he often concocted complex scenarios that resulted in the deaths of all six guests. He’d been sent to Sister Reverence’s office more times than he remembered. It was always the same.
‘Young man, this is becoming habitual.’
Habitual. Habit. Like that stupid thing she wears everyday. It would be so easy to grab her by it and pull. Up, up, up. A widening grin. Until she turned purple, like that bitter chalice offered every morning.
STOP TELLING IT. YOU’RE TELLING IT WRONG.”
At this point the writing stopped, but she could still see a scene unfolding very clearly in her mind. She provided me with the following notes:
- Took place in the exact same setting as the film “Clue” with the exact same weapons.
- In an arch over the front door, engraved in script: “Do not die before your death.”
- Six dinner attendees, each with a golden enveloped invitation: Bast, Inanna, Mage, Morrigan, Tanim, and Wepwawet.
- Bast: looks like Aya from AC Origins
- Inanna: looks like The Dean from Carmilla
- Mage: looks like season one Carmilla from Carmilla. One silver chain at her hip. Could be the Morrigan’s sister. Makes the other guests very uncomfortable.
- The Morrigan: looks like the character Morrigan from Dragon’s Age Origins. Could be Mage’s sister.
- Tanim: looks like himself. Navy blue suit. A light blue flower-pattern thin scarf with gold tassels.
- Wepwawet: looks like Bayek from AC Origins. Introduces himself as “Anubis”.
- We never quite see Daren as a whole, only pieces of him. Close-ups. He’s dressed as he normally is, in all black, though with the addition of a plain gold band on his finger.
- Tanim ends up with the gun. He never kills anyone.
- When anyone dies, they bleed just as a person normally would. But afterwards, their bodies become golden ashes and they are blown away by the wind, from the top of the head to the base of the feet.
- Daren stabs Mage in the Billiard Room. She is sitting cross-legged atop the pool table and has a drink in her hand. He walks up to her slowly. They maintain eye contact. This almost seems expected. He stabs her directly in the right thigh. She bites back a grunt of pain, squeezes out, “I knew you were going to do that,” and then downs the rest of her drink. Mage escapes from the house, alive, and keeps the dagger. She could have been “set loose” though, as the house was locked tight with the exception of a sole window. In the Billiard Room with the knife.
- The Morrigan kills Bast with the candlestick. Bast is perusing the books in the library when someone cuts out the lights. Bast turns. The Morrigan enters with the candlestick, a long white candle sticking out of it, the wick lit. It’s the only light in the room. The Morrigan approaches Bast. Bast: “What happened to the light?” The Morrigan: “Here.” She removes the long white candle and hands it to Bast. Bast accepts it with a nod and turns back around to look at the books. The Morrigan raises the candlestick and whispers, “The weight of the world,” before striking Bast in the back of the skull. In the Library with the candlestick.
- The Morrigan is killed with the rope. The rope is fashioned like a noose, but the killer unknots it so that it’s a single piece of rope. Wraps a length of rope around each hand and uses it as a ligature and chokes the Morrigan to death. She dies in the Cellar. In the Cellar with the rope.
- Inanna kills Wepwawet with the lead pipe. Wepwawet is in the Observatory watching lightning crack through the rainy night sky. He doesn’t seem surprised when she approaches. His back is to her. Inanna: “Do you know why I’m here?” Wepwawet smiles. “Because you came.” He turns around to face her, stretches out both of his arms, gets down on one knee, and lowers his head reverently. He then raises it and looks up at her, his features peaceful and humbled. “As you will, Queen.” She nods once. She strikes him across the jaw with the lead pipe. We hear his neck crack. She bends down and almost lovingly caresses his cheek. Inanna: “The Duat has missed you.” In the Observatory with the lead pipe.
- Inanna is killed with the wrench. She is in the Ball Room. She seems to be dancing with a ghost. We don’t see anyone else, but her hands are up and she’s spinning as though being twirled by an invisible dancer. We hear music; it’s “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven. There’s a piano in the ball room but we can’t tell if the keys are being pressed. The song seems to emanate from the piano, though. Inanna’s invisible dance partner suddenly seems to turn violent, for she recoils as though she’s been slapped across the face. She stumbles back and looks up, hair in her eyes. Inanna: “How DARE you defy me.” She is somehow hurled backwards into the piano. The keys and strings shatter and break. She’s unconscious. The killer raises an arm, a rusty work wrench in hand, and brings it down on her skull. In the Ball Room with the wrench.
- At the very end, we see Daren in the Study. He’s watching the fire in the fireplace. It’s the only light in the house. Tanim enters calmly. He stops in the doorway. The gun is in his hand at his side, but pointed down to the ground. Daren makes no move.
We discussed it all and here are some of our combined observations:
- We first assumed this story meant that Daren is hostile toward the gods I worship and wants them gone. He and Tanim “disappeared”, so to speak, back in March about the time the Morrigan came into my life. Maybe the addition of yet another god made him, or them, mad and I have to choose one or the other. Occam’s razor would argue this is the truth, and Mage’s escape could be in line with that hypothesis.
- However, the wifey pointed out that if Daren were to throw a dinner party, he might indeed think murder would be a nice addition. Better than small talk and party games, right? So… could it be that Daren simply wanted to meet the other gods, perhaps to take their measure or establish some sort of pecking order? Or, to attribute uncharacteristic altruism to his motives, could he and Tanim have wanted to meet the other gods in order to ensure I wasn’t in any danger from them? I’ve always assumed any gods/spirits/whatever are aware of others in the same area or working with the same person, but perhaps that’s not true. Maybe they really don’t know all that much about each other, the way neighbors can see each other every day but not know each other in any meaningful way.
- This is the first mention of a Sister Reverence, which seems to indicate Daren was in a Catholic orphanage or other school before he was involuntarily committed to a hospital/asylum. Chriselle noted that in the past some Catholic orphanages gave the kids who aged out a token of their faith, usually a pendant, watch, or… a ring. This is especially interesting considering all I’ve told Chriselle about Daren’s past (since I don’t know much myself) is that he was held in an asylum called St. Anthony’s.
- Given the gods all represent certain pantheons, the brief glimpse of Daren’s childhood is interesting – could it be intended to in some way corroborate the Satan/Lucifer vibes I’ve been getting from Tanim and Daren?
- The phrase above the front door, along with the things said by the Morrigan, Inanna, and Wepwawet, feel very significant, though I’m not sure of their meaning yet. They seem to imply the gods were bigger players in this game, not simply unlucky party guests, in which case I could be going in totally the wrong direction with my thoughts. (Great!)
- The deaths of the gods seem like a negative omen or threat, but it could be that because gods can’t so easily be killed, the deaths didn’t really “count”. This might explain why the gods stuck around for the murder party in the first place, and also why Daren possibly let Mage escape; she probably doesn’t enjoy that same form of immortality. This seems to be the biggest factor in deciding whether the message being sent is a threatening one or not. If the gods can die and come back just fine, that’s one thing; if they can’t, it paints a much more dire picture.
- We don’t know who killed the Morrigan; my gut says Daren, maybe after he lost the knife to Mage, but Tanim is usually the one who kills with such brute force. We don’t know what unseen force killed Inanna, either, nor whether this force was one of the guests or someone/something else entirely. It seemed she knew and possibly trusted them, or at least trusted her power over them.
So that’s where I am now. More to come, I guess??