Interlude 12 – Fossor

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Several Thousand Years Ago, Somewhere Very Far Away From Earth

The boy’s name was Merakeul. Barely nine years old, he was an unimpressive sight. Slightly less than average height for his young age, with a very slightly chubby build yet not exactly fat. His brown hair was worn long, with a pony tail that matched that of the pretty girl who stood beside him. Where Merakeul was average, his twin sister Rahanvael was decidedly not. Her own features favored their very attractive mother far more than their father as Merakeul’s did, granting her an impish appearance that many said would lead to great beauty once she grew old enough for such things to be noticed.

Both of the twins, Mera and Rahan as they went by, wore the traditional mourning whites. They were shapeless, sack-like robes that society dictated be worn by the immediate family members of the deceased for at least one week following such a loss. After that, they would wear a simple white sash or armband denoting their grief for the remainder of the year. None but those grieving the death of dear loved ones ever wore an all white ensemble, or even the white sash or armband. It simply wasn’t done.

Staring straight ahead through the small, entirely empty and undecorated room at the single metal door set against the wooden wall, Mera struggled not to let himself squirm too much. The mourning robes were hot, and these ones clearly hadn’t been washed properly, because they had been itching since he put them on. Still, he tried to remain quiet and motionless, waiting as patiently as a small child could for the door to open. That was the right thing to do. It was what his mother would have wanted.

But it was just taking so long. And now his forehead was itching. Slowly and carefully, the boy lifted his hand, just to give his head a tiny scratch. Yet before he managed to get any relief, there was a whistle of wood, followed by a sharp pain in his knuckles that made the boy yelp in spite of himself.

“Be still,” Ozinar, father of the twins, ordered while lowering the cane he had used to discipline his son. The man was tall and heavyset, with a plain face that was well-lined from years of working in the fields. Like his children, Ozinar wore the traditional whites, though his were old and had been patched several times from previous mourning periods. The last had been his own father three years previously.

Flinching from being caught (and still itching), Mera lowered his stinging hand. Beside him, Rahan took it gently, her fingers cool as she used Mera’s body to shield her actions. With a tiny smile that only Mera could see, the girl gently rubbed the sting out of his knuckles, just as their mother would have.

The sting had faded by the time the door ahead of them opened. A figure in a red robe stepped into view. A golden hood obscured part of the man’s face, leaving his features in shadows. This, again, was tradition. The idea was that person who guided a mourning family through their final rites should have no real name nor appearance, as far as the family themselves were concerned. Their identity was unimportant. They were anonymous. Only their work, their gift to the surviving family, mattered.

The golden-hooded guide said nothing. He simply stood there while Ozinar gave his twin children a little push. Together, the two nine-year olds started to walk that way. They passed the silent, robed figure while their father fell into step directly behind them. Through the doorway, they found themselves in a narrow corridor that was cold enough to make Mera shiver. Why did it have to be so cold in here? Tradition again? Why did tradition dictate everything they did? It didn’t make any sense.

The corridor slanted downward, leading the group deep under ground. They had been walking for ten minutes, and both children were tired by the time the slope leveled off and the corridor opened up into a large circular chamber. The room they were in now was enormous. The ceiling, if there was one, was far out of sight through the darkness. The chamber was lit by spotlights positioned along the walls, focused on two bits of furniture: a small wooden table and a stone coffin that lay directly behind it.

Those two pieces, the table and the coffin, were the only objects within this massive chamber as far as Mera could see. Other than that, the room was empty. Which made the boy wonder why they needed a room that was this big anyway, if all that space was wasted. Tradition yet again? Did it really matter?

Their guide strode past, moving to the table on the same side as the coffin. As the hooded man turned to face them, he laid his hands on the table and spoke clearly for the first time. His voice was deep, but purposefully plain and forgettable. “You who have lost, come to pay respects to they who are departing this world. You who have lost, step forward and bid farewell to those who must dwell no longer.”

Together, the twins and their father moved across the chamber to join the man at the table, standing on the opposite side. Ozinar positioned his children to his right hand side, as was expected. Descendants of the deceased stood to the right of their mate or closest living relative, while other family stood to the left. As they had no one else save for the three of them, the space to Ozinar’s left remained empty.

Once they were in position, the hooded man spoke again, reciting the words exactly as Mera had seen them written many times. “Those who are prepared to depart, show yourself here one final time so that they who remain in your wake may bid you farewell. Come forth, one last time, to say goodbye.”

Then… Mera felt a tug. It wasn’t quite physical. Yet it was more than just a thought or an imagined feeling. Lifting his head, the boy looked to the source of the tug: the stone coffin that lay behind their guide. There was a sort of energy there, a feeling that he couldn’t explain. But it was growing stronger.

“The boy,” their guide broke from the established script for the first time. It was surprising enough to break Mera’s concentration, and he looked up to find the hooded figure staring at him while continuing to speak. “He has the gift. He can feel the energy of life as it gathers here. He will join the Order.”

“He will farm,” Ozinar stated flatly, his voice brooking no argument. “As I have, as my father did, and as all of our fathers have for as long as the fields have taken our seeds. That is how it shall be. It is–”

“Tradition,” the hooded man finished. He clearly didn’t agree, yet had already broken the ceremony too much to risk continuing the argument. His head turned slightly, and Mera felt eyes on him from under that hood before the man turned to gesture with one hand. The energy that had been steadily gathering suddenly peaked, coalescing into a single bright point of light that flared up almost painfully bright.

When the light faded, a translucent figure floated there atop the coffin. As soon as he saw it, Mera gasped in spite of himself. Beside him, Rahan did more than that. Her mouth fell open and the little girl blurted, “Mother!” She even made ready to fling herself that way before their father laid a hand on her shoulder, stopping her without speaking. Yet there was no reprimand. Stern as he was, even Ozinar recognized the situation. He simply put his hand on his daughter’s shoulder to stop her, then nodded.

At the nod, the hooded man waved his hand, and the ghost of their mother crossed the distance from the coffin to the table. She floated there, beautiful and smiling. When she spoke, it was quiet and sounded as if the sound was coming across a vast distance. Yet even then, there was love in her voice.

She told them how much she loved them, how much she missed them already. There were tears from mother and children, and even the stoic Ozinar dabbed at his eyes. The family held one last, final meeting. They spoke of school, of what the children were going to do and who would ensure they made it to school on time while their father was working out in the fields. They reminisced and spent their final ten minutes together talking about as much as they possibly could in such a limited time.

It couldn’t last. There were too many others waiting to have their own final rites, and only so many members of the Lerikan Order, those precious few with the ability to summon the recently deceased before they moved on. Ten minutes was all that Ozinar had been able to afford. Yet that was more than many. Some only managed the law-mandated two minutes to say good bye to their dead loved ones.

Astinel clung to her last few seconds, smiling in a way that didn’t quite hide her fear. “My family. My beautiful family. I love you. I love each of you. Rahan, Mera, mind your father. Be good, my beautiful babies. Be careful and live your lives. Be safe. Be prosperous. Grow old and be loved.”

She made a motion as though to run her hands through her children’s hair while smiling at her husband before beginning to fade away as the hooded member of the Lerikan Order stopped using his energy to anchor her. The figure faded, growing harder and harder to see before entirely disappearing…

And then reappeared, solidifying as much as she had been at the beginning of their meeting. Both ghost and the hooded figure gasped, and their eyes moved together to the single small figure who was holding his hand out.

Mera could feel the energy. He’d spent the entire meeting with their mother’s ghost testing it, reaching for it, until that final second. Just before the energy, his mother’s energy, had faded away entirely, he grabbed for it. He grabbed and held onto it, feeding his own strength into the connection.

“Merakeul!” his father snapped, the horror in his voice turning it hoarse. “Stop this now! Stop it at once!”

“I can hold her, father,” Mera spoke calmly, eyes wide as he stared up at his mother. “I can keep her here. She doesn’t have to go. She can stay. I can hold it. It’s all right now, it’s okay. We don’t have to–”

Something was tugging at his mother, trying to tear her away from his grasp. Mera turned his gaze to the hooded figure, whose own hand was twitching. The man spoke calmly, yet there was a strain to his voice. “It is not done,” he tried to explain to the boy. “Holding the deceased beyond their death is an affront. It is against nature. It is against the will of Ysoldeh. We say our goodbyes and allow them to depart. That is how it is done.”

“No,” Mera argued. “It doesn’t have to be that way. I can hold her. You don’t have to do anything. I can do it. I know I can. Just let me–”

His father’s cane rapped hard against the knuckles of his outstretched hand. The pain made Mera yelp and recoil, grabbing his hand. Too late, he felt the energy slip from his grasp while he was distracted. When the boy looked up, the ghost of his mother was gone. And he couldn’t feel her anymore.

Rahan grabbed and held him, hugging her twin brother tightly while crying openly. Mera let her hold him, turning his gaze away from their father and the hooded man. His eyes were lowered contritely, his shoulders shook, just as his sister’s did.

Yet where Rahan was shaking from her tears, Mera’s emotion was different. He felt grief, yes. But far more than that, burning deep within him, the boy felt a very different emotion toward their father. He shook not from sorrow, but from hatred.

Pure, unbridled hatred.

******

Seven Years Later

“Okay, okay.” Sixteen-year-old Rahan’s laughing voice filled the woods on the edge of their family’s property as Mera dragged her on through them. “I’m coming, already. What’s the rush? You never want anyone to come with you out here.”

“I’m ready,” Mera announced. The intervening years had not made him any more handsome nor distinctive. The teenage boy looked just as unremarkable as he had as a child. He all-but carried his sister toward a specific clearing, where a table stood with a cage set in the middle of it. In the cage there was a pella, a small rodent with pale green fur and a long snout that was used to stick into holes to find the bugs that were its primary diet.

“Ew,” the pretty girl made a face while staring at the rodent. “Please tell me that’s not your new pet, Mera.”

“It’s my demonstration,” Mera corrected her. “Just… stand there, Rahan. Just stand there and watch, okay?” When the girl reluctantly nodded, he reached out to open the cage. The pella made a bid for freedom, but he caught it in both hands. As it struggled, he turned to show it to his sister.

And then he swiftly broke its neck.

A scream of surprise escaped Rahan. The girl stumbled backward, eyes wide. “Mera!” she blurted in shock. “What did you—wh-what did you do?!”

“It’s okay, it’s all right!” Mera insisted. “Look, look!” Focusing on the energy, he made a gesture with one hand while using the other to hold the dead rodent. Before his sister’s eyes, the ghost of the small creature rose up, looking terrified and confused as it floated there in the air between them.

“Y-you killed it. You killed it,” Rahan stammered. “That’s its… its… ghost? But… but why–”

“Watch.” Mera held the pella’s corpse up, then gestured with his other hand. The translucent ghost-figure floated that way, scrambling against the invisible force controlling it until it was shoved back into its own body.

Then the rodent’s eyes opened and it jerked a little in his grasp, kicking and squeaking its little head off.

“You…” Rahan moved closer, staring in shock at the creature. “You brought it back. But—but how?”

“It’s not hard,” Mera explained. “Not now anyway. I’ve been practicing for years. But it only works if I do it within a day of the death. After that, there’s not enough energy. The spirit’s just… gone. And watch.”

He put the rodent down against the table, holding it steady while producing a small knife from his pocket.

“Don’t!” Rahan objected, moving to grab his arm.

He looked back at her. “Trust me. It’ll be okay. I promise. I know what I’m doing.” Extricating his arm from her grasp, he carefully exposed the animal’s neck before plunging the knife into it.

Rahan screamed again and jerked away… but there was no blood. There was almost no reaction at all. The rodent squeaked, but made no dying noise. Nor did it flail about in pain. It yelped a little, but seemed mostly unaffected.

Mera stabbed the thing twice more before pulling the knife away, showing her that there was no blood. “When I put it back,” he explained, “they’re different. They don’t die unless I want them to. They’re immortal, Rahan. Really immortal. As long as I want them to live, they will.”

“Mera,” Rahan managed, staring at him with wide eyes. “We have to tell father. We have to go to the Lerikan Order and show them what you can do. They can–”

“No,” Mera snapped. “Don’t you remember? I could’ve kept mother. I could’ve helped her. They wouldn’t understand.”

“But we can’t just keep it to ourselves, Mera!” Rahan insisted. “This is—if you can… this is too big for us. We have to talk to someone. We have to tell father.”

“Father is a–” Mera started before stopping himself. Taking a breath, he turned to put the pella back in its cage. Closing the door, he gestured to it. “Help me take it up there? He’ll want to see.”

Breathing a sigh of relief that her brother was being reasonable, Rahan stepped over to help pick up the cage. However, even as her hands closed around the handle, Mera caught her wrist. When she looked up, he stared into her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I didn’t bring you here just to show you. I brought you here to help you.”

“Help me?” Rahan blinked. “Help me with what? Mera, what are you–”

His knife found her neck, stabbing deep into it. Tears filled the boy’s eyes as he plunged the blade through his twin sister’s throat. She made a strangled noise before starting to fall, and he quickly caught her.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he frantically apologized. “I love you, Rahan. I promise, it’ll be okay. It’ll be all right. I’ll bring you back and put you in your body again. Then you’ll live forever. You’ll never die, not until I want you to, and I’ll never want you to.”

She lay collapsed against him, gurgling her last breaths while he cried for having to hurt her in order to save her. “I can’t lose you, Rahan,” he whispered. “Never, ever, ever. I won’t. I won’t lose you like we lost mother. I’ll bring you back and you’ll be immortal. You’ll be immortal, Rahan. I promise, it’ll be okay. It’ll be–”

A noise behind him. Mera turned his head that way, just in time to see their father racing across the clearing, his cane held high while a bellow of rage tore its way past his lips.

“Father!” Mera blurted while holding his sister’s rapidly dying body. “Wait, it’s okay! I can–”

The cane whipped around, slamming into the side of the boy’s head. He fell sideways, releasing Rahan. The girl fell to the ground, her wide, sightless eyes meeting Mera’s own.

“Wait!” the boy screamed as he struggled to get up, trying to reach out for the energy that was his sister’s life-force. “Stop, sto–”

His father’s foot hit his stomach, driving the air out of him. Then there was another kick, and another. Still, the boy fought to remain conscious, reaching out toward his twin. The energy. He could feel it. He could reach it. Right there… he was so close. Everything would be all–

His father’s cane came down hard against his head, and the last thing Mera saw before his consciousness fled was the ghost of his sister, slowly fading away.

******

Seventeen Years Later

“Fah-Twen!” The guard of the prison where Mera had spent the past seventeen years of his life, ever since his father had stopped him from saving his sister in time, stood two cells down. Two more guards, each armed with stun weaponry, stood a safe distance back. The man called again. “Fah-Twen! Present yourself.”

The prison assigned each inmate numbers in the old world style, from one of the nations that had existed before the great unification.

Grumbling, the massive figure that was prisoner Fah-Twen (thirty-two in standard numbers) stood up from his bunk and stepped over that way. He stood there, allowing the guard to first cuff him, then search him before letting him out of the cell to head for dinner.

Next, the guard and his two companions moved to the cell beside Mera’s. “Fah-Kwur,” he called the next number. “Present yourself.”

Again, the prisoner did as ordered and was eventually sent to the meal. Finally, the guard moved to Mera’s cell. “Fah-Seur!” he called. “Come on, you know the drill. Front and center.”

This was it. Years of planning, of favors, of missed opportunities, and everything else had led to this. He had only this one, single opportunity. If he failed, there wouldn’t be another.

He stood from his bed, shuffling that way as he had every day for the past seventeen years. Shifting his feet apart, he put his back to the bars and allowed the guard to cuff him before starting to pat him down.

“Turn,” the guard ordered, and Mera obeyed. He pivoted, letting the man pat up his front while straightening. “Open,” he instructed, waiting to check the prisoner’s mouth for contraband.

Instead of obeying that time, Mera pursed his lips. A moment later, a small straw appeared, pushed into position by his tongue.

“What the hell is–” the guard started, just as Mera blew into the straw. A small, crudely fashioned dart shot from it and hit the man in his exposed neck. He recoiled as if he’d been struck by a bee, slapping his hand up to the wound.

As the man collapsed, the incredibly fast-working poison doing its work, both of his fellow guards lunged that way. One raised his weapon to take aim at Mera while the other checked on their companion.

The guard facing him fired a shot, but Mera was already diving to the floor. He landed awkwardly and painfully with his wrists cuffed behind him as they were. Yet the stun shot still missed, passing directly over his head.

By that point, the man he had shot the dart into was already gone. And as the guard by the cell fixed his aim, Mera rolled over while reaching out with his power. Immediately, he felt the dead man’s ghost. Tearing it away from the body, he forced the thing to obey his will, the way he had practiced with various dead animals for nearly two decades.

The ghost lunged upward, turning just solid enough (thanks to considerable effort from Mera), to rip the stun rifle away from the first guard. While he was still recovering from his surprise, the ghost dove onto the second guard, wrapping its hands around his throat and choking him. It took more effort than Mera would have liked to force the ghost to remain solid for that long, but it would be worth it.

Meanwhile, the second guard straightened from the dead body and spun that way. A cry escaped him as he tried to shoot at the ghost to save his co-worker. Yet the shots went right through it. The ghost was only solid where Mera wanted it to be.

Then… there were two ghosts for him to work with. Both caught hold of the remaining guard’s shoulders, slamming him backwards against the cell to bang his head hard off the bars. They repeated the motion again… and again… and again.

Soon, Mera had three ghosts to work with. Whistling to himself, he forced their spirits back into their bodies before ordering them to stand up and release him from the cuffs.

Then he stepped out of his cell, brushing himself off. In the distance, the alarms had already started blaring as the people observing over the cameras noticed what had happened. A voice over the intercom reported, “Prisoner Fah-Seur has escaped his holding and has taken control of several guards. Repeat, Fah-Seur has escaped holding and is in control of several guards. All units, report immediately to…”

The voice droned on, but Mera ignored it and began to walk, accompanied by the first of what would soon become many, many new companions.
No. He paused, shaking his head. Not Mera. He hadn’t been Merakeul in a very long time. This prison had shaped him over the past seventeen years. Since his father had destroyed his chance to save his sister, since the man had ripped his twin away from him because of his pathetic lack of understanding, Merakeul had died in this prison. It had shaped him, reformed him, and now he was more than he had been.

He was Fah-Seur. Thirty-four. And he was done trying to explain himself. He was done trying to make people understand. He’d lost his mother because they wouldn’t let him try, and he’d lost his sister because they were too stupid to let him finish saving her.

From that point on, no one was going to stop Fah-Seur from doing anything he wanted to.

No one.

******

Present Day

“Don’t think that I don’t know what you did.”

It was evening, and Fossor was sitting in his ornate dining room (one of several throughout the mansion, which itself was one of at least a dozen spread throughout this world), enjoying the meal that had been prepared by the reanimated corpse of a chef who had once been renowned throughout high society. His eyes were not on the delicious meal, however. Instead, they were focused at the other end of the table, where the beautiful blonde woman sat, her own plate untouched.

She had been watching him, waiting for the man to speak. Now, Joselyn Chambers arched an eyebrow. Her voice was calm. “What I did?”

“You,” the man replied while carefully cutting into his steak. He took the bite and savored it briefly before continuing. “Told our son how to break into Crossroads to visit his sister.”

The woman didn’t bother denying it. “You did say that I should do all that I could to let our son enjoy his birthday. I believe your exact words were, ‘no matter how much it disgusts or horrifies you, make sure our son has anything he asks for.’ And I do have to obey you in all things.”

Fossor took another bite, shaking his head. “Yes. And somehow, what our son chose to do just happened to expose their weakness to that school. And may even have drawn your not-so-little girl toward more answers than she deserves. Answers that you know full well she would not have found without that little bit of aid from Mother-dearest.”

That time, Joselyn said nothing. She simply sat there, watching him.

“It won’t matter,” he informed her after taking a sip of wine. “When the time comes and Felicity reaches her eighteenth birthday, she will join you here.” Setting the glass down, he added almost casually, “Perhaps she’ll provide me with another child, as you did. I’m sure that Ammon would appreciate having a younger brother or sister.”

She stood up at that. Surprisingly, the woman forced herself up against his previous order to sit. The magic that bound them should have kept her in her seat until their meal was done. Yet, despite that ancient, powerful magic, Joselyn rose to her feet.

She could go no further than that, only managing to stand and go no further. Still, her eyes were as hard as they had ever been.

“If you touch my daughter, in any way,” she promised him, “I will end you.”

For several long, quiet minutes, Fossor simply continued his meal. He said nothing, not addressing her failure to sit as ordered, or her words.

Finally, after setting the fork down on the empty plate and dabbing his mouth with the nearby napkin, the man looked up to meet the woman’s gaze.

He spoke quietly, calmly. “I have subjugated worlds, eradicated entire species, domesticated legions of once-brave warriors who thought to oppose me, yet now serve my every command. One of those is you yourself. And you say you will somehow end me if I touch Felicity? My dear Joselyn, it has never been a question of if.

“Only a question of when.”

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33 comments

  1. Well. I’d say that was fun, but… yeah. *shudders*

    I hope you guys at least appreciated getting a chance to see where Fossor comes from and what his backstory is. Thanks to all the donators who voted on who today’s interlude should focus on. You guys are the very best.

    And for anyone who has already donated but is not on the mailing list (and thus didn’t get a chance to vote), please, please send an e-mail to ceruleanscrawling@gmail.com with your name and how you donated so that I can add you.

    Can’t donate but still want to help the story? Spread the word to your friends, and/or just keep us as high as possible on Top Web Fiction by voting right here. We’ve dropped a bit this week, but that’s okay. I still love and appreciate all you guys. You’re all fantastic, and I don’t deserve readers as attentive and cool as you are.

    Anyway, here are today’s tags: Fossor, Free Hugs For Anyone Who Needs One., Here’s An Idea. When Your Brother Murders A Small Animal In Front Of You Just To Show You He Can Play With Its Ghost – Try Running Away As Fast As Possible., Joselyn Chambers, Merakeul, Ozinar, Rahanvael

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    1. Maybe I’m just evil, but I don’t think things would have gone too badly wrong if Fossor hadn’t been interrupted when making his sister immortal. Unless the process has unspecified awful side effects, or something.

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      1. He wasn’t making her immortal, he was turning her into a zombie. I think he couldn’t tell the difference because he had only ever use the ability on animals before.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hendy is right. He was basically making her into a zombie and didn’t realize it. The first type of zombie that Flick learned about, the kind that are slow and clumsy because their bodies weren’t prepared ahead of time. She probably would have retained some of her personality, but it would have been messed up, like a corrupted computer program.

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  2. So basically, if Fossor’s dad hadn’t had such a stick in his ass about tradition and just let the little bastard leave the farm, he would have grown up and probably died as one of those priests.

    Really interesting that his name just means thirty four. I guess that means his pride isn’t a particularly big deal for him. That’s unusual for guys like this. I like it.

    He still needs to burn.

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      1. He clearly has a lot of pride, but it seems just as clear to me that it doesn’t define him to the level where it’s his fatal flaw.

        To me, that little spiel at the end didn’t really come across as proud boasting as much as it was a statement of fact, nor he did he get insulted or angry when Joselyn defied his orders twice. And after thousands of years, he still calls himself “thirty-four” instead of picking a new name for himself.

        All of that is unusual for these types.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Pride is more than loud boasting. The easiest way to look for pride is to look for hubris and he has that in spades.

        —-

        From that point on, no one was going to stop Fah-Seur from doing anything he wanted to.

        No one.

        —-

        That right there, this is a classic example of pride.

        —-

        He spoke quietly, calmly. “I have subjugated worlds, eradicated entire species, domesticated legions of once-brave warriors who thought to oppose me, yet now serve my every command. One of those is you yourself. And you say you will somehow end me if I touch Felicity? My dear Joselyn, it has never been a question of if.

        “Only a question of when.”

        —-

        Yes, he made several statements of fact. It’s also massive evidence of pride. It’s basically the speech Ghengis Khan’s envoy gave regarding the great Khan.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. For the second time, because apparently

        He clearly has a lot of pride, but it seems just as clear to me that it doesn’t define him to the level where it’s his fatal flaw.

        wasn’t clear enough, I am not saying that he isn’t proud, just that his pride doesn’t drive him. It’s not his defining trait, and it won’t be the fatal flaw that ends him.

        And here’s the thing, both Temujin and Fossor’s boasts are largely true. The difference between hubris and pride, arrogance and confidence, is claiming things that are beyond your capability. Hubris is when you’re proud of things you didn’t or can’t do, but Fossor really has done everything he just said he did, and Ghengis Kahn really was one of the most, if not the most, successful conquerors who ever lived.

        It’s the difference between Augustus and Commodus claiming to be the greatest emperor Rome ever had. When Commodus made that claim, it was hubris. When Augustus makes the same claim, it was just true. It’s still proud, but true.

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      4. I feel that I may have misrepresented myself with those last two arguments, so let me clarify what I mean one more time. When I said…

        Really interesting that his name just means thirty four. I guess that means his pride isn’t a particularly big deal for him. That’s unusual for guys like this. I like it.

        … I was trying to say that it looks like his pride doesn’t rule all of his actions. I don’t think he’s like, say, Lex Luthor, who lets his jealousy towards others control his actions and would name a conquered planet after himself; or Doctor Doom, who demands constant veneration to the point of worship from his subjects and couldn’t ever bring himself to acknowledge fault or failure until the second Secret Wars. Those two men do things like that because their egos are overblown and fragile.

        By contrast, Fossor’s pride in the present day (not so much when he started out), while enormous, appears to be much more in check than it is for characters like Luthor or Doom. It looks to me like he doesn’t let it rule him the same way they do. If he did, he wouldn’t be calling himself something as mundane as thirty-four.

        So while he’s clearly very proud, that pride isn’t big enough that it’s a weakeness. He’s not going to be goaded into leaving a safe position by insults to his pride and honor like when Morgoth was goaded out of leaving Angband by Fingolfin, and he seems to be capable of admitting to himself when he screws up and learn from his mistakes.

        What drives Fossor is his hedonism and sadism, not his pride.

        That’s what I mean.

        Also, what I said about Augustus was poorly worded. Of course that statement would have been true when he said it, he was Rome’s only princeps when he was alive. I meant that if you were to bring back all the Roman Emperors now, and they all said that they were the greatest ever, Augustus has the best case to make, though a number of others could also make a strong argument.

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      5. “demands constant veneration to the point of worship from his subjects and couldn’t ever bring himself to acknowledge fault or failure”

        I think that’s exactly what he’s like, and I think that’s why he’s calling himself 34. You’ve heard of someone angrily saying, “You can’t fire me, I quit!” I believe he’s chosen to “own” the new name he was given, “You can’t degrade me by giving me a number and taking away my name, 34 is my name now!”

        We may have different opinions, though. I think anyone who pointed out an error to Fosser, though, would find themselves thanked and then summarily humbled and crusted by him, because he wouldn’t suffer anyone else to have noticed any possible point of imperfection.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I think that’s why he’s calling himself 34. You’ve heard of someone angrily saying, “You can’t fire me, I quit!” I believe he’s chosen to “own” the new name he was given, “You can’t degrade me by giving me a number and taking away my name, 34 is my name now!”

        Fair enough. I disagree, but I can see the logic.

        “demands constant veneration to the point of worship from his subjects and couldn’t ever bring himself to acknowledge fault or failure”

        I think that’s exactly what he’s like

        The inherent problem with asserting that Fossor demands the same level of worship as Doctor Doom is that the entire last scene has not doing that

        Even if I’m wrong and Fossor does do all the things I’ve described, the last scene of this chapter proves that he isn’t as bad about it as other villains that occupy the same role. If offered the same kind of defiance as what Joselyn did there, Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor, Annihilus, Megatron, Visser Three, Morgoth, Sauron, Commodus (from Gladiator, not history, though the historical Commodus would probably react this way as well), Joffrey Baratheon, Ramsey Snow/Bolton, Balon Greyjoy, the Penguin, Marlo Stanfield, The Master, most of the Goa’uld, the Kingpin (the MCU version at least), the Red King (from Planet Hulk), Norman Osborn, Stryfe, most of the Greek gods, Baron Harkonnen, Donquixote Doflamingo, Glorificus, Vulcan (the third Summers brother), Rachel Duncan, High Lord Kalarus, Cherie Vasil, Coil, Cronus, Voldemort, Commander/Captain/Admiral Zhao, Firelord Ozai, the Shadow Broker, or Kilgrave/The Purple Man would respond by flipping their shit right then and there (to varying extents), or holding it in while seething long enough to start ranting in private because their pride is brittle and they are fundamentally insecure about themselves.

        Fossor didn’t demand worship or even respect from Joselyn in that scene. Nor does he flip out when she doesn’t do what he wants or because what she did to plug up Crossroads’ security hole. He is, at most, mildly annoyed by her actions, and his immediate response is calm and measure. And while he’s a control freak and undoubtedly going to do something to punish her, he’s not meeting her defiance with the same uncontrolled rage (again, to varying extents) as all of those other villains would.

        It’s possible that the story will eventually prove me wrong, but Fossor’s brand of megalomania looks to be more… stable, if that makes sense. It seems to be tempered by enough self-assuredness and genuine competence that he’s not going to be provoked by simple insults the way those villains would, which makes him more like Nicodemus Archleone, Lara Raith, Cowl, David Xanatos, Brood War era Kerrigan, Ba’al, Scorpius, Hans Gruber, Mayor Richard Wilkins III, Visser One, Marquis, or Grand Admiral Thrawn than all those other villains I just mentioned. And while pride is important to all of these people, it’s not the most important thing to them. Most of these people have lost their shit at least once or twice, but generally for more complicated reasons than being insulted.

        These are the villains that are willing and able to learn from their mistakes because they’re capable of acknowledging when they make them. These are villains and antagonists that are not insecure about themselves, which is generally the exception rather than the rule where villains are concerned. Everything I’ve seen from Fossor so far reminds me more of the second list than the first. Especially Nicodemus. I’m pretty thoroughly convinced that Nicodemus in particular is one of the inspirations for Fossor, given that The Dresden Files is an established influence on this story.

        Of course, the only explicitly acknowledged influence on Fossor is the Trinity Killer from Dexter, who as I understand from reading his TV Tropes character sheet did turn out to be one of the brittle types (I think Cerulean said that Trinity was an influence, I could be misremembering something).

        So I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. Either way, it’ll be awhile before we find out one way or the other.

        Like

      7. Some day Fossor will read the Evil Overlord List and spend several minutes facepalming. And then he’ll become really dangerous.

        Like

    1. So basically, if Fossor’s dad hadn’t had such a stick in his ass about tradition and just let the little bastard leave the farm, he would have grown up and probably died as one of those priests.

      Quite possibly. Alternatively, he may have learned to use his power more quickly and started killing other priests because they wouldn’t do things the way he wanted (such as when he wanted to keep his mother’s ghost and they wouldn’t let him).

      On the other hand, he wouldn’t h ave spent almost two decades being shaped by one of the worst prisons on the planet, so there is that to consider.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. tearlessnevermore is correct. Joselyn made a magical binding agreement with Fossor. He doesn’t go after Flick until she’s ‘no longer a child’ and Joselyn ‘obeys him in all things.’

      Like

      1. Did Jacky make the deal, or did some other spirit riding in her body, using her lips, make the deal?

        See, if I answer that, I either give something away, or I end a line of speculation that could be interesting even if it’s not true. So I don’t think I will. 🙂

        Not yet anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. “Mera stabbed the thing twice more before pulling the knife away, showing her that there was no blood. “When I put it back,” he explained, “they’re different. They don’t die unless I want them to. They’re immortal, Rahan. Really immortal. As long as I want them to live, they will.””
    Me: Oh dear. He’s already learned how to create liches/zombies.

    ““Help me?” Rahan blinked. “Help me with what? Mera, what are you–”

    His knife found her neck, stabbing deep into it. Tears filled the boy’s eyes as he plunged the blade through his twin sister’s throat. She made a strangled noise before starting to fall, and he quickly caught her.

    “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he frantically apologized. “I love you, Rahan. I promise, it’ll be okay. It’ll be all right. I’ll bring you back and put you in your body again. Then you’ll live forever. You’ll never die, not until I want you to, and I’ll never want you to.””
    Me: …What the f-?! Okay, he’s clearly got more than a few loose screws in his noggin.

    “His father’s foot hit his stomach, driving the air out of him. Then there was another kick, and another. Still, the boy fought to remain conscious, reaching out toward his twin. The energy. He could feel it. He could reach it. Right there… he was so close. Everything would be all–

    His father’s cane came down hard against his head, and the last thing Mera saw before his consciousness fled was the ghost of his sister, slowly fading away.”
    Me: I can understand the father’s reaction here. It looks to him like his son out of the blue decided to murder his sibling. Which is true.

    “He’d lost his mother because they wouldn’t let him try, and he’d lost his sister because they were too stupid to let him finish saving her.”
    Me: *rolls eyes* yes, because you’re entirely blameless for not explaining anything to anyone before shanking your sister in the throat.

    “My dear Joselyn, it has never been a question of if.

    “Only a question of when.””
    Me: I will remember these words. I would dearly love for Joselyn to be able to throw those words back in Fossor’s face when, not if, he is brought low like he has done to so many others in his madness/cruelty.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me: …What the f-?! Okay, he’s clearly got more than a few loose screws in his noggin.

      He definitely didn’t start with a full deck.

      Me: *rolls eyes* yes, because you’re entirely blameless for not explaining anything to anyone before shanking your sister in the throat.

      Clearly this was the very best plan. Everyone else just fucked it up. 😉

      Like

  4. I wonder if Prosser? The other alien possible-possessor who boosted Jacky. Anyway, whatever his name was, I wonder if this could have been the possible series of events:

    Bubba (or whoever) possesses Jacky, gives her strength, etc.

    Fosser comes.

    Jacky and Bubba have a quick conversation, then Bubba makes the supreme sacrifice. Using Jacky’s voice, Bubba offers himself. Jacky then plays the long con and usually allows captive Bubba to be the slave of Fosser and in the driver’s seat.

    But Jacky is constantly monitoring and can take back control at any time. Or maybe Bubba is in control. Who knows.

    Like

  5. Well, not surprised Fossor turned out to be a total whack job, even as a kid. Wonder if he wouldn’t have been quite so crazy or at least not as destructive if his father had let him join that priesthood after he showed the ability to pull the spirits of the dead like that… but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a monster who needs to be put down yesterday.

    Though wonder if the reason why an escaping prisoner was able to take over his world like that was because the authorities didn’t take the threat he could pose seriously enough until he had zombified enough people to become unstoppable (or did he subvert some of them first)

    Hmm, and whatever it might mean here, Fossor is basically a corruption of ‘Prisoner 34’ in an old language of his world.

    And now I’m really curious as to how Joselyn is able to resist Fossor to the degree she does, and it would be fitting if she was able to shank him because he tried doing something to Flick.

    Here’s An Idea. When Your Brother Murders A Small Animal In Front Of You Just To Show You He Can Play With Its Ghost – Try Running Away As Fast As Possible.

    Yeah, that would have been a good idea, though wonder if Rahan would have known just how big of a red flag that was, since even if it was known on that world, their father doesn’t strike me as the type that’d allow his children to learn about the classic warning signs of budding psychopaths & serial killers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t forget it’s a prison on a different world with entirely different ideas of what is common or not.

      That said, he had 17 years to get the favors and resources necessary to get a fast-acting poison. I think that’s enough time to do enough favors for enough people to get it the different ingredients he needed smuggled in and then mix it.

      Like

    1. Always remember that Fossor’s chief motivation in life is essentially “fuck you, I do what I want.” If he decides he wants something, he wants it and it doesn’t matter to him what anyone thinks of it. He wants Flick, so he’s going after Flick. Period. Why does he want Flick in particular?

      Because she was born.

      That’s really all she did. She was born. Fossor’s interest in Felicity Chambers is derived almost entirely from the simple fact that she is the daughter of Joselyn Atherby. At first he wanted little Felicity because he appreciated the irony of turning the innocent child of Joselyn into a weapon against Heretics after what they did to her mother and siblings.

      At this point, it seems that he still wants her even after taking Joselyn simply because he still wants her. Because “fuck you, I do what I want,” is what Fossor does. And because he is very, very sadistic.

      There is undoubtedly more to it than that, but other reasons Fossor might have haven’t been revealed at this point in the story.

      Liked by 1 person

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