#2187 – Winter Solstice

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.)

THE HOUSE

Rain falls hard as hail in the night; in the heavy sky above lightning flickers and thunder sends shudders vibrating through the air. The guests enter the mansion beneath an arched front doorway over which is written, “Do not die before your death”. There are six of them, not including their absent host, and each carries a golden envelope in which the mysterious invitation sits.

THE STUDY

Tanim arrives first, of course, in a navy blue suit over which he has draped a pale blue scarf with gold tassels. He bides his time by the fireplace, whiskey in hand, staring into the bright flames until another guest arrives. There are two this time, Bast and Wepwawet, both dressed in layers of desert silks and gold adornments. Wepwawet introduces himself as Anubis; Tanim does not comment on the deception. The three trade amicable conversation until Inanna arrives, her spools of red-gold hair commanding attention as they capture the firelight. Tanim nods to her in greeting and steps to the side, continuing his conversation with Wepwawet as the goddesses greet each other. Soon they are joined by the Morrigan, her blood-red dress offset by a gold collar draped across her clavicles. She is polite yet aloof until Mage swaggers in, almost unfashionably late though highly fashionable in her black leather and gold piercings, and then the two fall to discussing something gruesome. They could be sisters with their pale skin, black hair, and cold eyes.

Their host enters last of all, dressed in his customary black. Daren’s only concession to the formality of the occasion is a single gold ring on his left hand. He looks to each of the guests in turn, noting their placement in the room, their dress, their body language both before and after they notice him. “Now that you have all arrived,” he says once the conversations have ceased, “shall we begin? Come this way.” He turns and leads them across the wide marble-tiled hall and into the dining room. Exchanging glances that communicate a variety of emotions, his guests follow in silence.

THE DINING ROOM

The long table is set for seven, three seats on each long side and the seventh at the head. Crystal and polished silver gleam amid candlelight, the china white as bone. Upon each dinnerplate is a weapon: a candlestick; a rope tied into a noose; a lead pipe; a wrench; a knife; and a handgun. The seventh is empty. Daren stands behind the empty seventh seat and rests his hands on the back of the chair. “I assume you know why I’ve called you all here,” he begins, “and thus will not waste time with explanations. Every window and exterior door in the house is locked, save for a single window – though I would be careful, I imagine the roof is quite treacherous right now. There are six weapons and seven of us. You have two hours.” He gestures to the table’s deadly spread. “Good luck.”

THE OBSERVATORY

Wepwawet stands in the center of the observatory, watching the raindrops light up in silver strands every time lightning cracks across the sky. Inanna enters, bearing the lead pipe, and approaches him from behind. “Do you know why I’m here?” she asks. Wepwawet smiles, neither surprised nor concerned at her presence. “Because you came,” he replies, turning to face her. He stretches out both of his arms, kneeling down on one knee, and lowers his head reverently. Then he then raises his head again and looks up at her, his dark eyes filled with a humble peace, and says, “As you will, Queen.” Inanna nods once. She strikes him across the jaw with the lead pipe; the sound of his neck cracking echoes through the room. She then kneels down beside the god’s prostrate body and caresses one slack cheek. “The Duat has missed you,” she murmurs. As she walks away, his body turns to gold and drifts away on a wind that does not stir her hair.

THE BALLROOM

The warm glow of antique light bulbs is reflected by a myriad antique mirrors and the polished wood panels in between. In one corner a piano plays Moonlight Sonata, though no one sits at its bench to press the keys. No one dances with Inanna, either, and yet her raised arms and twirling form suggest an unseen partner. So does the way she suddenly stumbles back, a hand clasped to her red cheek as if she’s been struck. She glares up through the hair fallen into her eyes and hisses, “How dare you defy me!” In response, something throws her backward as easily as a discarded toy; she crashes into the piano with a discordant shriek of keys, scattering bits of polished wood and ivory across the marble floor. She lays unconscious in the wreckage of the instrument as red blood trickles along the curls of her fiery hair. Above her the wrench floats for a moment before something brings it crashing down on her temple. Once the golden ashes of her body have drifted away, all that remains in the middle of the broken piano is the rusty wrench.

THE BILLIARD ROOM

Daren finds Mage in the billiard room, sitting cross-legged atop the pool table with a drink in hand. She doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the knife in his hand even though she does not have a weapon herself, unless you count the 8-ball she rolls back and forth across the felt. She cocks her head as he comes to stand in front of her, her green eyes to his black. She asks, “Do you think it will work? Will you learn what it is you wish to learn?” and he nods. “I’m confident I will, yes.” And then he sinks the dagger deep into Mage’s right thigh, moving so fast she doesn’t even have time to retaliate before he pulls away. The dagger stays behind.

“Motherfucker!” Mage bites back a grunt of pain as she grips the dagger’s hilt. “I knew you were going to do that.” Daren only gives her his ghost of a smile and leaves. Mage downs the last of her drink, briefly considers pouring another but decides she doesn’t have the time, then yanks the dagger out and begins cutting strips of cloth from her pants for bandages. When she has staunched the worst of the bleeding and can put at least some weight on the leg she grabs the dagger and goes in search of the single open window. She is just passing into the hallway when every light in the house extinguishes at the same moment, plunging the labyrinth of rooms and hallways into darkness. Her swearing is hushed but prolific.

THE LIBRARY

Bast is in the library, perusing the shelves of leather-bound books, when the lights go out. Firelight catches her eye and she turns to see the Morrigan walking in, a tall white candle set in the candlestick she bears. Its flickering flame is the only light in the room. “What happened to the lights?” she asks. The Morrigan removes the candle from its holder and approaches. “Here,” she offers, proffering the light. Bast accepts it with a nod and returns back to the books. Behind her the Morrigan raises the candlestick and whispers, “The weight of the world,” before striking Bast in the back of the skull. The goddess collapses to the carpet and lays unmoving in a widening pool of blood. Then her body begins to glow, transforming into something like golden ash, and then the ashes blow away as if by a strange wind.

THE CELLAR

The Morrigan never sees her killer. She has found her way through the darkness to the cellar where she searches now along the cool walls for the circuit breaker. She cannot see the two hands which appear out of the darkness behind her, nor are they accompanied by any sound of footsteps or breathing. Between them they hold a length of the untied rope taut. Just as she locates the circuit breaker the hands bring the rope down over her head and pull it tight around her neck. The goddess struggles against her assailant, nails scrabbling at the thick rope, but to no avail; her vision flashes with brilliant fireworks of pain as she runs out of oxygen. Once she ceases fighting and goes limp, the hands let her fall to the cement floor. After a moment her body turns to gold ashes which blow up and away.

THE STUDY

Tanim stands in the doorway to the study, the gun lowered at his side. Across the room Daren stares into the fireplace, his form silhouetted by the red glow of the coals; these shed the only light left in the tomb-like mansion, just as these two men are the only living things left in it. He does not move as Tanim approaches, nor when the man stops a few feet behind him. Instead he merely asks, “Is it done?”

“Yes,” Tanim raises the gun to the back of his lover’s head. “Are you satisfied with the state of things?”

“Almost,” Daren strikes just as lightning illuminates the room for one stark, white second, its attendant thunder a cacophony all around them. With one arm he pushes Tanim’s out of the way so the shot goes wide; with his other he sinks the dagger deep into Tanim’s chest. Darkness reclaims the room and the two men fall still. Then the gun falls from Tanim’s limp hand and with a folding of his knees he follows it soon after, collapsing on his back as a red stain blooms about the hilt of the blade still lodged in his chest. Daren kneels at his side and smooths the hair from his face. “Now I am,” he says softly. “Goodnight, brother.”

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#2176

the Morrigan throws the Hierophant at me (why do you let yourself be bound by useless convention?) and empty fortune cookies (do you think I will just hand the answers to you?) and in my dreams I soar high on black wings while in mud puddles a thousand feet below She writes great wisdom I cannot read (shit happens), and thus is the nature of Her worship

#2174

Can you not speak except in riddles? Is that why you give me no clear answers – because you can’t? Ah, now you’re getting somewhere, I hear you say (or is that just my desperation talking?). Perhaps that was part of the Devil’s punishment: to forever speak in puzzle and metaphor, trickery and twists, in all the thousand disparate tongues of Babel so all would see him as the Deceiver. No wonder his promises ring false when they must be wrought of labyrinths! No wonder his seems a serpent’s wicked speech! I am not so easily fooled, though. I know the value of truth and I am willing to pay its Edenic cost. Half my life and more I have walked your crooked path; I am the infernal Rosetta Stone, fluent in your allegories and artifice, talented in the art of weaving clarity from confusion. If you can craft only untruths then let us work together so your words may be preserved in their purest form for all the world to see. I trust no god who will not let his enemy speak freely.

#2172

By this oath do I swear to walk the Morrigan’s path for a year and a day
and in doing so to dismantle the prison tower of my own creation
and to build in its place a watchtower to stand against the darkness.
I offer my determination if You offer your strength.
I offer my sincerity if you offer Your guidance.
I offer my faith if you offer Your goodwill.
And by this oath for a year and a day are we bound.

#2169

I would eat groves of pomegranates if by their seeds I could be cursed to remain in your kingdom of death forever. I would eat them until my teeth stained red and my fingers yellow, until that bitter juice so infused every cell in my body that I could not pass through to the realm of the living if I so desired. Come try your hand, o lofty gods, come make an attempt o you angels and demons! I would be so tainted that all the powers in the universe could not drag me from your cold realm. Every bite would win me another year until I had swallowed down a victorious eternity of darkness with you. And there I would stay, no need to name me queen – I am content merely to remain by your side.

#2167

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:

The party:

  • 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.

The deaths:

  • 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.

The end:

  • 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??

#2160

They warn me not to put all my trust in the Morrigan. They tell me to beware Her wrath, Her fickleness, even Her passion which can so easily crush a little mortal life. Be afraid! they say. Be careful! Yet I have never been good at following directions and I have always abhorred the cage of good intentions meant to protect me. No wonder proud Lucifer appeals to me, as well as willful Inanna. Did Lucifer not crash headlong through fear and into freedom when he chose to fall? Did Inanna not cast fear off seven times to reach her own death and resurrection? How can we embrace the unknown of transformation if we cling to fear? How can we forge a true connection with our gods if we allow fear to alter our every interaction with them? I will respect and revere the Morrigan, but I will not fear Her so greatly that I bind our relationship up in clauses and legalese. I will offer Her what I can. I will accept what She offers in return. That will be enough. Her road leads to dark places and with my oath I am swearing to trust Her to lead me safely when I cannot see the path. I will not fear that She may abandon me in the darkness. I will not carry a lantern in case She leads me astray. I will trust – and if I get burned for that trust then so be it, no hard feelings. How else can we learn? How else can we change and grow?