Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Psychflare: The Arbiter

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The Arbiter

The landscape had a shifty, changing quality to it. At the moment, it resembled a peaceful meadow, next to a small stream, but the very background felt alive, barely contained, as if it could become anything else at a moment's notice. An ageless woman rested there, her back against a tree, contemplating the scenery and pondering her existence.

The calm was not to last, though. A part of the world twisted and vanished, the ground replaced by an expanse of clouds, holding twelve gates of pure pearl. As they opened, a man in a simple robe walked through them, surrounded by an aura of light. He stopped in front of the woman, who looked up and greeted him.

“Why, hello there, Yeshua. What brings you to this corner of the overworld?

“I'm sorry, I'm looking for the Arbiter.”

“Well, you're looking at her. What can I do for you?”

“You? I'm sorry, what happened to...?”

He was interrupted as the landscape altered itself once more. An endless extension of primal darkness could be glimpsed through a rift in the world, where eldritch spheres of pure light manifested themselves. Their very nature was incongruous with space and time as we understand them, as if they obeyed the rules of a universe beyond the universe. The sounds that issued forth were as if spoken by multiple voices in unison, covering tones that could not exist.

These visions of madness made little impression on the other two figures, however, both of them quite used to the rather fanciful appearances denizens of the overworld took at times. The Arbiter in particular had not changed her expression at all since the first arrival, but Yeshua now sported a look of utter disgust and contempt.

“Oh, you're here,” he said. “I was just trying to find out what happened to the Arbiter.”

“Hi, Yog-Sothoth. As I was explaining Yeshua, the Bosses decided that maybe Siddhartha was not the best choice for the job. A few shady events here and there, souls changing hands under the table, that kinda thing.”

Yeshua was taken aback by the news, but recovered his composure quickly. Yog-Sothoth seemed more amused than anything else, if the preternatural snickering was any indication.

“So the Bosses say, we need someone new, I get the offer, and I take it. But enough 'bout that. I gather ye have a dispute and need some sorta arbitration?”

That would be correct,” Yog-Sothoth replied. “As you know, Yeshua has been referred to as “The way, the truth and the life”, whereas I adopt, as one of many titles, “The opener of the way”. This conflict...”

“Now hold it for a sec,” the Arbiter interrupted. “You're telling me yer dispute is 'bout who get t'use the word “way” in their title?”

“There's a number of elements in play,” Yeshua said “but the basic problem is around the fact the use of that word for both of us can lead to misinterpretation. If I am “the way,” and this... being”, he spat, “is the way's “opener,” then one might be inclined to believe it to be some herald of mine or prerequisite for my appearance, which he most certainly is not.”

“But, more importantly, if I'm a mere “prelude” of the humanoid,” Yog-Sothoth interjected, “then I'm reduced to a minor figure within his cult! I shall not be reduced to a simple detail in the cosmology...”

“Silence, both of ye. By the name of the Nameless, I had hoped this job would involve somewhat more interesting disputes.” The Arbiter's expression remained calm, but a tone of exasperation was clear in her voice. “Ye really think any significant number of mortals is gonna be stupid enough to think both of yer mythologies are s'pposed to be the same?”

“With all due respect, Arbiter,” Yog-Sothoth said, “mortals are idiots. Yeshua has a habit of incorporating lesser known deities as “demons” in his cult. I will not stand by and let my brethren suffer that fate.”

“And I,” Yeshua said, “will not let a true path towards righteousness be corrupted by the influence of such perversions”

“Ye are worse than mortals... fine, I'll do an arbitration, it being me job and all. Now, the usual test for cases like this one would be seniority, so I'd have to determine which of the titles in question was taken first....”

Both started talking at the same time.

“It should be obvious then...”

“Certainly that means...”

“Silence.” The Arbiter's voice had a finality none dared challenge. “As I was sayin', there's the problem that yer last dispute was over this very fact, and no satisfactory conclusion's reached. So, I think we should decide on an alternate method.”

“Perhaps a mortal judge could be summoned...” Yeshua started to suggest.

“And you believe than a mortal is more likely to get the right answer than the Arbiter?” Yog-Sothoth replied. “This is an obvious trick, trying to play on your popularity with them. Do not take me for a fool.”

“Well, then, what do you suggest?”

“Perhaps some sort of argumentation of worthiness to use the title based on...”

“Bah. That will get us nowhere!”

“I do have an alternative both of ye might like...”

The landscape changed completely this time, into a barren wasteland, punctuated by rock formations and deep canyons. The heat would be beyond bear for any human. Desolate visions was not what one was used to in the overworld.

“This will set the scene nicely. How'd ye feel about trial by combat?”

“It's... unorthodox, but not necessarily a bad idea”

“I'm not opposed.”

“Good. Now blast yer brains out and don't bother me for a while”

The Arbiter left for a far off rock that had a decent view of the fight with a single tree that was the only vegetation in the area. As she rested her back against it, a joyful figure, dressed in a monastic robe, made its appearance.

“Why, hello, Siddhartha. How was the meeting?”

“Nothing too troubling, thankfully. Did anyone come seeking arbitration while I was gone?”

“No, no-one came up, luckily enough”

“Say, you wouldn't happen to know why Yog-Sothoth appears to be devouring Yeshua?”

“Not a clue; I'm just enjoying the show.”

1 comment:

  1. Another last-minute finish. In my defence, or maybe not, I only figured out how to end it on Monday. Before then, I had no idea what was going to happen. Well, not strictly true, a small part of it I figured out during the weekend due to a suggestion over IRC, but how I was supposed to get there, nope.

    I find that it easier to write when I know the ending. That's probably how Heinrich Lull seemed so easy, I already had the ending and was woking backwards from there. I suppose that might help me get the next one finished early, though probably not. More Vurok City next Wednesday (if I finish it by then), in a story titled Pythia.