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The Pit and the Pendulum


Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
The pendulum swung back and forth, back and forth in the chambers evanescent light. He studied its sharp contours, the blades razor edge, watching, as with each sweep of the hand it inched ever closer to his breast. His breath caught in his lungs. Delirium overtook him. The chain that suspended it let out a low, serpentine hiss as it swayed to and fro in its murmurs dance, its hypnotic vibrations seducing him, confusing his senses, even as it forced him to contemplate his own mortality.

Peter lay there, sprawled naked across the sheets of his massive bed, vain comforts usually reserved for princes and kings. The chain hung, suspended from his hand as he allowed the pendant to dip and carve a swath through the bronze hair that gathered at the center of his chest. For a brief, grim instant, he imagined the sharp edge splitting him open, his organs, his lifeblood erupting from his flesh and across the imported damask. The vision was so vivid that it caused his stomach to churn in protest, even as beads of sweat pearled up from his pores. His jaw clenched a snarl as he lifted the pendulum up, and fought to dismiss the vision.

It had been a gift, the pendant, fashioned by the hand of the Sorceress, and delivered to him in the heart of midwinter. The ornament, a ruby at its heart, was surrounded by a disk of steel and embossed with some eldritch, arcane script. It would bear him into the void, she promised, and into the heart of the place called the Astral Plane. To others, it was the Pit, that ancient inferno where demons are born, and the corrupting magics of man are given life.

It spun on the end of its chain, as the ornament languidly swayed across his breast, its alluring dance arrested only by the swell of his lungs, which bulged outwards to meet the cold steel.

It was not the first time he had entered the Pit, he reminded himself, that hell where sinners are tormented and blasphemers lie. Face down, he had risen from a river of boiling blood. He could still feel the acrid taste filling his mouth, his nostrils burning with the stench, as his eyes studied the infinite expanse before him. Darkness, going on forever. It was a place of no light, but it was as though he could see unto the ends of forever.

And it was there he beheld him. His brother, his mentor, Kessell, lashed at the foot of some macabre altar, upon which blasphemies are committed, and sacrilege was carved into the stone. His manacles were like serpents of fire, coiling around his wrists, his flesh blackened and cooked beneath their grip. Kessell, the brother he loved, who in his quest for knowledge had succumbed to the Darkness. The brother their father had Hunted, and slain. How he hated Nicholas for it, the man who had driven his sword through the Sorcerers breast, and cast his own son into the Underworld. Would he turn on him too, Peter wondered to himself.

Kessell would have remained there, tortured, until time ended, or until whatever Celestial host had thought he had paid his dues, if not for her visions. Maggy, the adopted ward of Magdalene, had beheld a man garbed in black standing on the edge of the Village of Golden, waiting for her. And again at the foot of Justice Falls, beckoning. She knew who it was, she told him in trembled whispers one night. The Shade seemed to be reaching out to her, it wanted her. Peter would have dismissed these visions, he thought the frail girl had gone mad, but then something changed. She disappeared one night, and under the auspices of the moon shed fled, to the depths of the Mountain of Avarice where the Well lie hidden. He remembered little of that night, that nightmare, save that she had been offered an apprenticeship. He would not believe it happened, had she not returned to him, clutching the Sacred Rod of Tezinwrath. Kessell's Staff.

He had to do it. He had to raise up his brother. The erstwhile young man had summoned all the alchemical knowledge he possessed, pouring over the eldritch codices and alchemical grimoires of the northern villages, hoping to find the secret amongst the witches there. He had spent himself in the tutelage of the underworld, risking the wrath of the Inquisition as he purchased rare ingredients and forbidden tomes for the ritual. He would damn his soul, but how could he sit idle knowing his brother lied in the bosom of perdition, with no hope, no chance for absolution?

He would not admit it to himself, not at the time, but there was another reason for his quest. He raised his hand towards the ceiling, and studied the chain as it weaved between his fingers. It was he, not her, that was suppose to be Kessell's apprentice. It was he, Peter, who should have been the one to learn at the feet of the Cabal of Darkness, to learn the nature of the void and share in the alchemical secrets of man. Why had he chosen this girl, this dunce, over Peter, his own brother? He needed an answer.

And that is where he stood, before his brother in the Pit, the boiling blood filling his boots, splashing around his knees as he stared at the man. Kessell had looked up at him, and it was then that he realized the horror his brother faced, the fullness of his tribulation. It was a fitting punishment, however cruel, that a man who would steal knowledge from the demons of the void, would be carved open and devoured each night, to be regenerated and reborn that he might suffer again. O' Prometheus Bound.

You cannot come here, Kessell warned him. Peter could see the sadness in those cold blue eyes, the one thing the two had inherited from their mysterious, absent father. And it was then he knew that Kessell had seen the blackness in his heart with regret, and had paid the price for his crimes. For what reason he reached out to the girl instead of him no longer mattered. This was his brother, his flesh and blood, and he would save him.

He rushed to free his brother, but something stopped him. A light pierced that eternal dark, and clutched at him, radiant, angelic hands that refused to let him further. Repent. Repent. He screamed, tried to fight them, as he was dragged upwards and from his brother. Yet, though he were miles off, he imagined he could still see his brother, and the melancholy smile he wore.

He stood in a plane of white, one that seemed to go on forever. It was at once cold and bleak, but also warm and comforting, as though he were near a place of painlessness. And there he beheld a figure, what seemed a figure, who sat at the foot of a great throne. And a voice came from no where, one that seemed to reach into his mind, as the weight of its displeasure broke upon him. “I am Metatron, and you are not where you belong.”

He rose from the sheets and let the pendant dangle there. He had paid a price with his magic, and his sacrifice had failed. That it wasn't enough. He racked himself with guilt, and had retired from the world to learn a new trade and avoid the shame of what he had become, renouncing his name for a time. But then she, Maggy had found him on the corner, and had learned his fate. She vowed to rescue him and restore his powers, out of some sense of guilt or pity. He now understood why she possessed what she did, and he did not. She was more pure than he would ever be, and he was a monster for what he had done.

He had not believed it when he heard. He listened, with an ear pressed to the door as his father told Lynne of Kessell, and that a man who wore his face and commanded his power had been seen in the Southern Capitol in Trammel. He listened in disbelief as his father repeated the same tale to Proserpina, and revealed something to her that he hadn't to the Magincian. It was Dante, his other brother, and not some random stranger that had beheld the Master of the Scholomance, the Arbiter of the Dark. And he had witnessed something else. The man who wore Kessell's face traveled with a student, a girl with blue eyes and flaxen hair.

Peter rose from his back, and studied himself in a mirror that hung on the opposite wall. A pair of high cheekbones framed a face that was sharp, angular and unblemished. His lips were full, and his cold diamondine eyes stood above an aquiline nose that was sharp and prominent. The braid he often wore had come unknotted, hanging over his shoulder in a loose weave of bronze fibers. He was the imagine of his father, someone had once told him. But his face, it was also the face of a monster. The face of a murderer, a coward and a liar, and he could not look upon himself without loathing.

He raised his hand, and gazed again upon the jewel dangling from his palm. These hands, he thought to himself, have done murder. His hand whipped upwards, and snatched the pendant up, clutching it tight between his fingers. It's time to end it.