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Aberrant: Dead Rising - [DR End] God of Fire [Complete]


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The building stretched into the sky, poised on the rim of the caldera. The small party pulled their carts up the hill, the long trail of switchbacks starting to become overgrown with blackberry vines. Two teens swung machete blades, kicking chopped greenery down the hill. At a broad spot, they paused, taking a short lunch of meat pies and water before continuing. There were no beasts of burden to help them, only the eight men and women, pulling and pushing their way to the top of the volcano.

At last they reached the tower, stone and steel gleaming darkly in the afternoon sunlight. They stopped there, disrobing and using the rest of their water to clean the sweat and grime from their bodies before pulling clean robes from one cart and dressing again. Suitably attired, the teens set the blades atop their regular clothes, and moved forward to open the doors while the adults pushed the two carts inside.

The antechamber was wide, lit on one side from daylight coming in the doors, and on the other by the angry crimson glare of a pool of lava, hissing fitfully. The adults picked through the cart, arguing in fierce whispers, eventually deciding on a decorated blade, an embroidered silk shirt, and a bottle of wine. Bearing their gifts, they started up the stairs. They passed numerous doors, all closed, their way lit by a narrow groove filled with lava. Occasional whiffs of incense could be detected, where the servants had cast something into the lava to placate their Lord.

Reaching the top, they paused, all of them grasping hands and whispering a brief prayer before kneeling, and crawling through the archway into the throne room. “Great God of Fire and Heat, we have brought to you the best of our offerings.” The three members held out their chosen gifts in the direction of the obsidian throne. For several minutes they hold that tableau, until their arms and backs are trembling from the strain.

Finally, the Lord rises from his throne, moving forward, shadows dancing in the light cast off from His skin. “These are good,” His voice rumbles out. One hand reaches out, taking the bottle, the woman holding it barely restraining herself from yelping at a brush from his skin. The popping of the cork echoes loudly, and the first mouthful of liquid steams out around the top of the bottle. “Quite tasty. Ten years old, is it?”

“e-e-e-elev-ven, Fire Lord,” she stammers out. He nods, they think, but none are daring enough to gaze upon His face; the old sorcerer Jaks went blind from such a risk not twenty years ago, didn’t he?

“Very good.” The Lord walks around their group, examining each one in turn, before He reaches down and places a hand on the shoulder of each of the two teenagers, their robes blackening under His grip. “The rest of you may leave.”

The six adults exit as quickly as they can, only one man glancing back at the two, barely more than children, now chosen to serve the Fire Lord. His whims are unpredictable, and though He chose two last season why should He not pick two more now? Still, the old man can only be glad that when it comes time to bring the next offering, at the Winter Solstice, it will not be his task, nor anyone else from his family, though he will miss his youngest son desperately.

Once they are gone, the Lord knots his fingers in their clothes, burning the fabric off without more than a faint red sheen on their bodies. “Go with my other servants, and learn from them your tasks.” He departs then, leaving them kneeling and shivering on the stone floor. After a moment, they hear other footsteps, and look up. Two of the other servants have joined them in the throne room, both covered with skin regrown after horrible burns.

“Don’t worry,” the woman says, self-consciously running one finger down a set of lines that resembles an arm reaching around her from behind. “No matter how bad it looks, it feels glorious when He comes to you. And after He touches you once, the hold of the Dead can never enter your body.”

With much trepidation and fear, the two youths rise, allowing themselves to be led from the room to their new life of serving the God of Flames who protects their people from the Lord of Death, whose horde lies just past the volcano He raised to halt their progress. All for the low, low cost of a few youths put into the service of the flames.

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