The Dance Without End
The dancers were guided to this place by the echoing laughter of their trickster-god, their mocking saviour. The sky above them burns, bruised colours shifting and alloying. The bones of wraithbone cities litter the blasted landscape before them, forever haunted by the laughter of daemons.
One of them stands alone. The others have formed a rough circle around him. Most face outwards to the hell beyond, their expressions hidden beneath leering masks, but a few train their weapons on him.
He can hear She Who Thirsts in the howling of the wind, feel her pulling at his soul and calling out to him despite the stone that adorns his breast.
Screwing his eyes tight-shut, he opens the secret door within himself. The doorway to the darkness without. The whispers flood in and the pestilential light and the distant echoes of the crone-world fade into darkness.
A heartbeat echoes in his ears.
He opens his eyes. The gem on his breast glows dimly and he stands in an islet of light, his shadow spreading and swelling behind him into void, midnight on all sides. Though he can discern no detail, he can see movement in the darkness beyond.
From the blackness they emerge, clothed the bodies of eldar. They are lithe and beautiful, their every step balletic. The harlequin knows he could never hope to rival the fluidity of their movements.
Now their bodies are bloated and distended, and yet the grace of their movements is undisturbed. They circle him, like dancers, predators; ichor-slick claws opening and closing with every step, with every pounding of the heartbeat.
Before his fascinated gaze their bodies ripple and shimmer like smoke, heat-haze. Touching fingers become talons, mottled carapaces soften into feminine curves. Plumps lips give way to sucking lamprey-maws, coiling tendrils to flowing hair. Only the eyes remain unchanged.
They sparkle with desire, amusement and something deeper, darker and altogether more primal
“We are She Who Thirsts,” says one.
He winces; the voice is a symphony to his ears and agony to his soul.
“You have come to us, creator. Few of your kind dare.”
“Do you accept us?”
“As the true god of the eldar?”
“Damnation and saviour.”
“As your very own child?”
“Yes,” he replies, simply.
Perhaps they are smiling. Perhaps they merely bare their fangs.
“So few do.”
“We are your orphan.”
“Come, Marb’ailtor. Come, corpse-dancer. We see everything you have desired, all you will desire and we can grant it all.”
“You reject us?”
“We who can grant your every desire. We who are your every desire.”
“I do not wish these things.”
“We see through you.”
“We see the darkness in every one of you.”
“We are the darkness in every one of you.”
“You deny our gifts, and yet you come to us. What is your wish?”
“I want none of your false gifts, Serpent-God. All I desire of you is freedom. From you.”
“A noble sacrifice,” says one, its voice childish and sing-song.
The others shriek and laugh as one.
“You amuse us. Do you believe the Laughing One will save you? How did you think he earned his name?”
“You offer your soul, but this is not enough. We have this already.”
“Then what is your price?”
“We do not want your soul, Marb’ailtor. We want your desire.”
“If you will not accept out blessing, you will accept our curse. We will take your dreams as our own. No longer will you feel love, pleasure, pain. These are ours now - your soul and your heart.”
“If that is what must be done to be rid of you.”
One reaches out for the stone on his breast and it sputters and dies in its claws.
Marb’ailtor cries out in pain. The heartbeat falters and dies and a chill seeps into his body, an emptiness, a wound that will not heal.
The dancer realises, coldly, that he will never again delight in the company of another, or even himself. More importantly, he knows that this no longer matters.
“I... I see you now, Serpent. I know you.”
“As we know you.”
“You are ours, now, Solitaire.”
Solitaire. This is his name now. Marb’ailtor is dead, torn free of this body, for what is a man but the sum of his dreams and desires? The Solitaire remembers him as he would a stranger.
There is wetness on his cheek. He brushes it away. Tears. He is weeping. For the man he once was? Is it sadness that weighs his heart so? Or has this, too, been denied to him?
“Leave me,” he says.
They laugh once more.
“I have paid your price. Leave me.”
“You think we made a deal, Solitaire? What need have we for compacts?”
They close in on him now, pincers tightening on his arms, tendrils twining gently around his legs.
“Your body and heart are but an empty shell. All that is left is a ghost. A memory.”
“What is there to stop us? We have taken away everything you were and now we shall fill you with ourselves.”
“No,” he whispers, struggling free.
With feral roars they attack, clawing, grasping, lashing. The Solitaire weaves aside, evading their blows without effort or emotion. In time to a dead heartbeat he dances the dance unending.
Now their grace falters while the Solitaire moves like smoke, fire. They have no doubts to nourish them, no fears to thrive upon. Now their blades and teeth pass through his flesh.
“You dance well, Solitaire. We shall allow you to walk free.”
He smiles beneath his mask, out of remembered habit more than humour.
Allow. As though they have any power over him.
“But know you have already lost.”
The Solitaire must learn silence; he offers no response as the ghost-images fade and the dawn light of reality breaks through.
Last edited by Eremite; 10-23-10 at 12:26 AM.