Well‚ Kushiel/Hera Is Definitely Getting Crossed Off Of My Mother Of The Year Nomination List.

Interlude 31A – Lies

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Please note, there was a full bonus chapter posted on Wednesday to finish off the regular arc. If you haven’t seen that yet, you might want to click the Previous Chapter button above. 

Present Day

The cold, bitter rain came down in sheets as the hour-long torrential downpour continued inexorably onward. The top floor of the parking garage, only a quarter full of scattered vehicles, was almost as much miniature lake as it was asphalt. It was easier to count the small, wet islands than it was to count the puddles, which ranged from just deep enough to soak the bottom of a shoe, all the way up to the nearly knee-deep corner opposite from the ramp.

Through the downpour, six figures stood on the roof of that parking garage, five of them surrounding the last. The five were large, heavily muscled figures of dark green skin and prodigious teeth. They wore enough leather and chains to be seen by humans as a biker gang, though those immune to the so-called Bystander Effect knew them as orcs.

That name by itself was an oversimplification since there were at least a half-dozen different species that were generally thrown into the pool of ‘orc’. All came from different planets, had wildly different original civilizations, religions, cultures, and more, and most hated the simple term ‘orc’. But due to their similar appearances to the untrained eye, most species lumped them all in together under the name of the first that had been encountered, meaning that those who had come after, with the misfortune of looking too similar to the first, had no opportunity to differentiate themselves. They were all seen as orcs, regardless of how varied they were.

The figure these so-called ‘orcs’ were surrounding, meanwhile, was much smaller. The untrained human eye would have seen her as human. But she was far more than that, in many ways. And just as the outside observer would have been mistaken in believing that they were witnessing five human bikers surround a human girl, they would have been equally mistaken in believing that the bikers were the most dangerous figures on that rooftop.

There was no discussion, no debate, threats, or offers of any kind. As the five orcs surrounded the girl, they exchanged glances with one another to assure themselves that they were all ready for what was about to happen. Or at least, that they believed they were. Then they attacked. The one directly in front of the girl drew back his meaty fist before driving it straight for her face, even as the one directly behind whipped his chain up and moved to drop it around her neck. The two to either side moved to grab her arms to immobilize her, and the final one, slightly to the left of the one at her left arm, threw his own punch toward her exposed side.

******

Twenty-One Years Ago

An orange-skinned man with a scraggly white beard trembled and quivered. His arms were raised above his head and attached to chains that hung from the ceiling. “M-Momma,” he begged in a broken voice. “Momma, I can’t. Please, Momma. Please, I can’t do it. Please.”

His whimpers were met with the sharp thrust of a stun prod, and the man arched his back, his entire body spasming as his words were replaced with agonized screams. A dozen burns scattered over his exposed upper torso made it clear that this had been going on for some time.

“Step out of the man, now.” The woman holding the electrified prod was the very definition of regal. She stood just a hair under six feet tall, with long black hair that fell to the middle of her back and was done in a single, tight braid. She wore dark red pants and a black silk shirt, both of which were enchanted to repel blood and other stains for quite obvious reasons. Around her neck was a golden choker, and she also wore an ornate, beautiful diadem with several red and violet gemstones. The diadem, choker, and other objects she wore were all heavily enchanted.

“Momma,” the man begged, his voice cracking pathetically as he hung limply from the chains. “Momma, please. I tried. I s-swear, Momma. I tried. I can’t do it.” Tears flooded his eyes as he gave a violent shudder. “Please, Momma, no hurting. Please, I’ll be g-good, Momma, ple-”

Once again, the desperate pleas turned to horrific screams as the prod was jammed into the man’s stomach. The woman raised her voice just enough to be heard over the cries. “You have not earned the right to call me that any more than you have earned a name. Step out of the man now. You want this to stop? You wish to earn my forgiveness? Then do as all true Seosten can and step out of him. Step out and there will be no more pain. Prove you are my child. Do it.”

She waited for a moment then, stepping back and watching as though she believed that either her words or the threat of more pain would actually be enough encouragement to make the impossible happen. Eyes narrowed and prod held loosely in one hand, she watched expectantly.

For a moment, the man went completely still and silent. His eyes drifted closed, his brow furrowed, and there was a somewhat childish display of concentration as the tip of his tongue poked slightly out of his mouth. The frown deepened over the next minute of silence, and new sweat appeared. His trembles and shudders turned violent from the incredible effort that was being put forth, until the man finally jerked upright, gasping for breath while shaking his head frantically. His words were pathetic, shamed sobs. “I can’t! I’m sorry, Momma, I’m so–”

With the click of a button, a blade appeared at the end of the stun prod, and the woman slit the man’s throat with a single, blindingly quick swipe. As blood poured freely down his throat and his head jerked backward, a second figure appeared directly in front of him. This one was much, much smaller. A child. A female child, barely six or possibly seven years old, with light brown hair and brown eyes. She stood there, shivering heavily as tears continued to stream down her face as she babbled apologies. “Momma. Momma, please. I’m sorry, Momma. Please.” With a weak, pathetic hope that had not yet been fully dashed, she raised her arms, desperate for just a little affection from the woman who had birthed her. “I t-tried, I rea-really tried!”

But there was no affection to be had. The woman stood, watching dispassionately before turning on her heel to walk away. “You are no child of mine,” she announced flatly. “I will not be mother to a Lie. Learn to control your power. Stop possessing your host. We’ll try again tomorrow. I have more ideas of what might properly motivate you beyond this handicap. For now, you will stay with the body until the morning.” She tugged open the heavy metal door then. “Perhaps seeing the result of your failure will convince you to make an actual effort next time.”

Standing there, the seven-year old child stared after the woman longingly. “Momma,” she called. “Momma, I love you. I love you, Momma.”

Kushiel, the Seosten once known as Hera on Earth, didn’t bother looking back before she stepped through to the next room and closed the door on her daughter with heavy clang.

******

Present Day

As the orc’s fist swung for her face, and the rest of his companions launched their own attacks, the Seosten Lie smiled. That smile carried through to her current host, the werewolf-Heretic called Pace.

She pivoted to the right abruptly, moving so quickly that her figure was barely visible. Her right hand snapped up to catch the wrist of the orc whose fist had been swinging for her face. With her other hand, the girl caught hold of the chain from the one who had been behind her. A quick yank and twist put that chain around the other orc’s wrist before either realized what happened.

The two orcs who had been on either side of her managed to grab empty air where the girl’s arms had been an instant earlier, while the final figure’s punch toward her side whiffed as well. None realized what had happened for the next second, only that they had missed.

Holding the chain tight around the first orc’s wrist, Lies gave a sharp, vicious yank at both sides of it. The chain was no ordinary metal. It was enchanted, meant to hold against almost anything. Which meant that, strong as her host was (and she was incredibly strong), she couldn’t break it.

Unfortunately for the orc whose wrist it was wrapped around, his bones were not so enchanted. With a howl of pain, his bone was crushed as the chain suddenly tightened dramatically.

The orc who was holding the chain realized what had happened, while the other three simultaneously noticed where their supposed prey had moved to. The first tried to yank back the chain to free it from his companion, while the remaining trio turned to her with identical bellows.

Lies easily yanked the chain from the orc’s grip, stepping behind the one who had it wrapped around his now shattered wrist. With that step, she gave a sharp yank to force his arm behind his back, the motion forcing a pained, gargled scream from the orc’s mouth as his demolished wrist was heavily jostled and wrenched horribly.

Once she was behind him, using the orc’s body to block the others from getting to her, Lies caught his other hand and yanked it back. With a grunt, she wrapped the other part of the unbreakable chain around that wrist as well, before grabbing hold of the middle part that hung between his now-linked hands. One more solid twist and yank crushed the new wrist while simultaneously doing unbelievable damage to the already badly broken one. She yanked both of his hands together that way, wrapped the chain around them a few more times to secure it, then gave him a solid kick in the back that sent him crashing into the arms of the orc that the chain had originally belonged to.

While those two were disentangling themselves, the other three continued to come for her. And Lies welcomed them by reaching behind her back with both hands to grab for the weapons attached to her belt. At first glance, as the girl brought her hands back out in front of herself, she appeared to be holding a pair of metal tonfas or short batons. But a quick push of a button on each proved how wrong that assumption was. From the top of each metal cylinder emerged a long blade. Once fully extended, the blades snapped downward ninety degrees, forming a sickle. Meanwhile, from the bottom of each of the ‘batons’, a long metal chain dropped into view. At the end of the chain was a small, yet heavy metal ball.

Kusarigama. The original Pace, her current host, had used the much less dangerous (and thus less fun) weapon of a couple knives that were capable of copying the physical properties of any material added to them, as well as creating various gels that could accomplish different effects. Some were explosive or acidic, while others could actually heal those they were used on.

Stabbing someone to heal them was inherently hilarious, of course. But Lies had wanted something with a bit more bang, something a bit more fun than ‘knives’. Thus, these kusarigama.

With a quick, practiced flick, the girl sent the chains out. Each wrapped around one of the wrists of two of the incoming trio of orcs, the weighted balls at the end allowing them to lock tight. Her thumbs brushed over the indented button in each handle, even as she brought both of her arms together, criss crossed over one another so that the two men were yanked together by their trapped arms, subsequently blocking the third man who had been coming up the middle.

At the simple, light button-touch, a wave of incredible cold ran down the chain of one of the weapons, freezing the trapped arm of that orc solid. At the same time, a wave of intense heat ran down the chain of the other to set that orc’s arm ablaze. The frozen arm was instantly shattered, before the heat from the flames turned it and the rain that continued to fall into a wave of steam that blinded all three of the orcs.

******

Twenty Years Ago

“Mama, don’t make me. Please, Mama. Please, I’ll do good. I’ll try harder. I promise. Please, Mama. Please.” Tears blinded the now-eight-year old Seosten child as she held tightly to her mother’s arm, pleading desperately. “Please, Mama. She was nice to me. She was my friend. She’s my friend, Mama. Please. Please, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Mama, I’ll be good. I’ll try harder!”

Staring unmoved at her daughter, Kushiel gave a slight headshake before pointing to a red-skinned female child only a couple years older than the other girl. The older girl was unconscious. “You will possess her, Lie, and then you will be motivated to stop possessing her. If she is truly your friend. Because you know what will happen if you do not.”

“Mama!” A new wave of tears sprang forth as the unnamed handicapped Seosten grabbed hold of the red-skinned girl’s hand. “Please! Please, Mama! Please, please. She played with me! She was nice to me. I don’t wanna hurt her, Mama. Please, please.” By the end, her words were almost indecipherable as she sobbed uncontrollably.

“Yes,” Kushiel agreed. “And why do you think I allowed her to spend this past year with you, hmm? She is close to you because I allowed it. I allowed you to have this past year together so that you would be properly motivated now. I gave you a year with this dear friend. Now you will pay me back by proving that you are not a complete failure. You will not humiliate our name.”

“I wo-won’t do it!” the child declared, head shaking frantically. “I w-won’t, I won’t possess her! I won’t hurt her. Sh-she-she’s my friend! Please, Mama, don’t make me hurt her. Please, please, please! I’m s-sorry. I’m sorry, I’m really trying! I swear! I’m trying, but don’t make me hurt her, p-please, Mama. Please.”

Straightening to her full height, Kushiel glared down at the child. “You will possess her,” she ordered, “or I will have her eaten alive by the Tiyanak. Do you understand? I am giving you the chance to save her life. Don’t you want to save her life? If you don’t, I can simply have her taken to the Tiyanak now.

“If you care about your friend, you should try to save her.”

******

As the trio of orcs reeled and screamed, Lies threw herself that way. Three quick, vicious strikes from the bladed scythe end of her weapons opened their throats and left them lying on the ground, slowly dying and incapable of fighting back anymore.

By that point, the remaining two had finished pulling away from each other. They both turned, just in time for Lies to catch her weapons by the end of the chain and swing them outward. The chains snapped taut just as the scythe blades each embedded themselves in the middle of the orc duo’s foreheads. Their eyes crossed and then they collapsed to the ground.

As her blades came free, Lies yanked them back before triggering the change that shifted her kusarigama into their pistol forms. Extending them toward two of the three dying orcs whose throats had been cut, she fired. One of their heads froze solid before popping, while the other was melted into a bubbling pile of flesh.

The final orc, lying there choking on his own blood, twitched and gurgled a little bit as Lies moved to stand over him, pointing both pistols down at his face.

“Hi!” she announced cheerfully before dropping to one knee beside him. “Could you do me a favor?”

The orc started to gurgle a pained, desperate response before the girl suddenly dropped her pistol and drove her hand down against his chest. Her fingernails had elongated into werewolf claws, puncturing his body as the orc gave a choked scream.

“Don’t interrupt,” Lies chastised. “It’s rude. Now, I need you to do me a favor. You go back to Manakel and tell him to leave me alone. I’m not bothering him, I’m not interfering with his shit. I just want to be left alone. Maybe he doesn’t want my help anymore, but if he keeps sending fuckups like you after me, he and I are gonna have a problem. So you tell him that.”

Rising to her feet, she started to turn away before abruptly stopping. Her shoulders shook a little, and she giggled audibly. “Oh,” the girl announced, openly snickering. “I forgot. He’s got that whole necromancer thing going on, doesn’t he? Lord of the Underworld and all that. So, technically, he doesn’t need you to be alive to give him the message.”

The orc’s gurgling suddenly turned frantic and desperate, before it was silenced completely by a single shot from the girl’s heat-based pistol.

Whistling the tune from The Flintstones, Lies started to walk away through the downpouring rain.

He’s not going to listen. He’s going to keep sending more and more powerful people after you. After us. He can’t have you out here. You’re a loose end. He’s already been sending more and more of these guys. He wants you dead.

Pausing on her way off the roof of the parking garage, Lies slowly tilted her head. Or rather, Pace’s head. “Hmm? Is that my little Jiminy Cricket trying to offer advice? No sulking and crying over the poor dead orcs?”

They were trying to kill us, came the response. You defended yourself. But Manakel is going to keep sending people after you. We can’t beat all of them.

“Oh, but we can make them work for it, can’t we? Make them earn their pay, yes. We don’t have to be easy for them. Don’t have to roll over and play dead like good little puppies.” Lies snickered aloud at her own imagery. “I can kill them over and over again. Make him waste as much as possible. It’ll be fun to play that game until it’s over.”

We can do more than that, Pace insisted. We can actually accomplish something.

The girl was completely silent for a few seconds. Slowly, Lies made her host’s head turn to look back to the sky, closing her eyes and letting the rain fall over her face before opening her mouth to catch some of it. Finally, her eyes opened, and she gave a little smile.

“We?”

********

Twenty Years Ago

The body of the red-skinned girl lay on the floor, broken and empty, sightless eyes staring up at the ceiling. A jeweled knife had been embedded deep in her chest.

Beside her knelt the eight-year old Seosten child. Her hands were soaked in the blood that covered the nearby ground, and her shoulders shook. “I’m sorry,” she cried, shuddering heavily as she stared at the dead girl that had been her friend for the past year. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I tried. I tried to st-stop. I tried. I promise. Please. Please. I’m sorry.”

“Perhaps this will serve as a reminder for next time,” Kushiel coldly informed her daughter. “Think of this as motivation.” She paused then, frowning. “Clean yourself up, then come downstairs. It’s time to meet your new friend.”

With that, she pivoted on one heel before striding to the door, passing through and closing it without another word.

For a minute afterward, the Seosten girl just knelt there, staring at her dead friend, the girl who had spent the past year being nice to her. She thought of the games they had played, the stories they had told, the secrets they had shared. She thought of how desperately she had tried to stop possessing the girl, how much her friend had pleaded with her to try. And, at the end, how the girl had forgiven her. She thought of the feel of the knife plunging into her friend’s chest. She thought of her failure. Her total and complete failure.

And she thought of her next friend. The next one that she would spend time with before being forced to possess them. The next one that she would fail to save.

And the one after that.

And the one after that.

She cried for them. Cried for her friend, and for the ones she had yet to meet. Her tears fell freely as her shoulders shook with desperate, terrible loneliness. Staring down at the dead body, the eight-year old child sobbed. And as she sobbed, alone in every possible way, something within the girl broke. Something within her snapped.

“Heh…. heh… “ She went completely still, utterly unmoving to the point of being unnatural. “Heh…”

Slowly, the girl’s shoulders began to shake once more. But not from tears. Neither were the sounds she made those of a crying child any longer. Kneeling there in the blood of her friend, the lost, broken child did the only thing she could. She giggled. And then she laughed. Soon, her laughter echoed off the walls of the room.

She laughed because she could not cry any longer. She laughed because there was no alternative. She laughed because she was alone. Because no one cared about the lost, broken Seosten child.

She laughed because when all was said and done, laughter and tears were often not very different at all. Because tears were for those who had hope that their lives would be better, hope that their pain was temporary.

And laughter was for those who had none.

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