Discipline in the Caverns


Lost Soul

Can't you face what you have done.
There was something but you just run.
Oh you are a fool.
Is there nothing that I can't do?
So you decide between wrong and true.
Oh we can't stay fools.
Little people drown their sorrows.
Then they wake up tomorrow.
If by chance heaven calls you to a place where you can question.
What would you ask, yeah, what would you do?
Cards and letters, I was overrun.
Things you'd mentioned, I'd left undone.
Well I took you for a fool.
So I answered yeah, I stayed cool.
Didn't notice what's in front of you.
Your lies swim in my pool.

Jan Johnston - Naked But For Lilies

The dust settled in the gloom of the antechamber, as the latest captive sprawled in the dirt began to move. They were three now, the most recent arrival slowly moved over onto his elbow and looked around. His ragged garb suggested he'd been either beaten or on the run for some time. The stained fingertips revealed at least an alliance with the Pardoners Guild.

Brushing the dust from his short brown hair - or at least it appeared brown through the grey dust that covered him - he stared at the woman dressed in garish gypsy rags. She sat on her cloak against the wall, hiding her features in the shadows of her hood. All that could be seen from under the hood were long, red rat-like curls hanging down, and the glint of silver earrings reflecting what little light they had on the pale coffee coloured skin of her chin.

Edward got up and went over to him. The young man looked vacant as drool trickled off his chin adding to the small puddle on his jacket.

"What in Stygia have they done to you lad?" he said quietly to himself.

"He's a Renegade Artificer. They captured him last month when he was caught in a system failure or so he claimed." drifted the soft tones of the woman's voice behind him.

Edward turned around to face her: "So you do talk then," a frown appeared on his forehead.

"Aye, I do." Came her calm reply.

"My name is-"

"Edward. Yes, I know - you said earlier when you picked yourself up out of the dust." she interrupted, calmly.

"You seem to have me at a disadvantage madam. You are?" he enquired again, hoping this time he would get an answer, seeing as she was already talking to him.

She sat forward, delicate pale hands encrusted in jewels folded back her hood. As she did, the bangles around her wrists slid over occult tattoos and up her arms, clattering quietly. Edward gaped at her as her moved closer to see her face better.

"I - you - you're -" he paused: "Sheayla Dawnchilde! Oracle to the Hierarchy of Necropolis Wyke. Overseer of the Oracles Guild. Why are you here?"

"I informed the powers that be of an impending assassination attempt of a Deathlord, only to find myself dealing with the very assassins themselves." She continued, brushing red locks from her face: "Hence my imprisonment here. By the time anyone finds me missing it will be too late, then my fate will be sealed too."

Before he could respond the antechamber door opened and a burly slaver entered. Ignoring Edward and Sheayla, he grabbed the young Artificer by his jacket and draped him over his sweaty shoulder. Edward began to make a move, as though to challenge the slaver, but Sheayla motioned towards the doorway. There in the shadows - just visible - was the deformed and heavily armoured shape of a Faithless Warrior, itching for trouble. As Edward reconsidered, the slaver left with his recovered goods.

"Thank you for the warning." He said, glancing back to Sheayla.

"I didn't want to see your Corpus needlessly shredded Edward," she answered, sitting up now, cross-legged: "You'll need your strength if you want to survive this place."

Edward smiled, touched at her concern.

"So what brings you here, Pardoner?" she enquired.

Edward paused for a while, obviously troubled by what had led to his imprisonment before looking up and answering her.

"Why I am here I am somewhat unclear," Edward rubbed his chin as he spoke: "I was travelling to a safe house owned by the Guild to deposit a large amount of rage I had absorbed from a troubled soul I was helping. I didn't make it in the time required for such a task, the rest is unclear.... I cannot account for my actions as I have gaps in my memory."

He looked at Sheayla,"You do believe me, don't you Lady Dawnchilde?"

"Is that important to you Edward, that I believe your tale?" asked Sheayla, calmly: "Or is it because your holding something back, something you desire to keep secret,'Brother' Edward?"

His glance revealed what she knew already: the burden in his eyes was as easy to see as those close to being consumed by their own Shadow.

"You're next, witch!" Came a mocking voice through the door" Make use of the Pardoner and get it off your chest before you dance to Oblivion! You don't have long - I hear they can't wait to get their hands on you..."

The voice trailed off as the laughter echoed along the passageway beyond the old door.

Edward stared at her undisturbed calm resolve: "Aren't you worried what is to come of you?"

"No, I sealed my fate a long time ago," She answered watching his face as he admired her strength: "I saw this coming years ago... I just didn't know when this day would come."

"Lady Dawnchilde?" he asked.

"Yes, Brother Edward?" She calmly replied waiting for him to get to the point.

"There is something I have to know." His burden bubbled closer to the surface.

"And what is that, brother Edward?" still waiting but refusing to let her patience slip.

"If I tell you, will you use your gifted sight and tell me what you see?" asked the troubled Pardoner.

"If you wish, what disturbs you so?" her voice was tender and soothing as she spoke.

"Lady Dawnchilde, it is not the fact I have helped the occasional lost soul escape the Necropolis that worries me. Nor the fact that since becoming a full member of the Pardoners Guild, I believe Shining Ones speak to me, in my mind." He stared at the floor as he sighed before looking up and continuing:"Lady Dawnchilde the young Artificer who was taken away earlier whose fate, if he survives his term as a Thrall in the mines, has crossed mine before. His name is Sean McKeever... and I know of his friends too."

He explained at great length about how he helped one of their number after a particular long raid into a"data-fortress," or so they called it. While he went about removing an enraged burden from one of them - his duty as a Sin Eater - he came to realise they truly were Renegades whilst listening to their conversations.

They met twice more, each time his abilities as a Pardoner were pushed to their limit. It was what he'd learned that disturbed him more than what would actually happen to him for knowingly dealing with Renegades even of a close Guild.

"And what was this heinous fact that even now troubles you, Pardoner?" she enquired softly, intrigued.

"They have not only been in contact with one of the Quick ,but deal with him openly. They claim to have struck up a deal that will guarantee them and others a permanent retreat within the Skinlands."

Edward looked at her; she said nothing, only waited for him to continue.

"They have brokered a deal with a software tycoon who wants to invest in his 'inevitable' future. Subroutines have been inserted into the software his company produces, allowing them safer access and routes of travel. They've been testing for months, that's why they were using me."

He almost looked ashamed "Soon, satellites will be in orbit compliant to their joint goal."

"And what is that goal?" she asked, thoroughly enthralled by his revelation.

And he told her.


Later - as she boldly walked to the door, in turn - Lady Dawnchilde paused: "Brother Edward?"

She turned, noticing that his furrowed brow had eased from his own burden, but now held regret for her, as plain as she saw his secret earlier.

"I have deliberated on what you asked, and I see only hope - eluding those that seek them before they leave."

Before he could thank her, he was alone in the dusty antechamber - alone and no longer worried. Whatever his punishment, he was sure it would be reduced due to the Sins he had eaten. At worst he would face a short term, possibly doing hard labour...


He awoke abruptly from the sudden jolt in his ribs. As the warped and armoured corpus of the Faithless Warrior stared down at him, the plasm in its eyes burned bright, like white hot steel.

"Get up, Pardoner. Now." came its cold inhuman voice."Your time has come."

Standing up, Edward was helpfully nudged down the dim corridor from the antechamber, and eventually into a large circular chamber. His kind escort left, closing the door as it left.

Four hooded and robed figures gathered in the centre of the room, once a cavern. Candles burned around the edge of the room, casting their flickering shadows across the black and white, diamond-patterned marble floor

"Brother Edward, the time has arrived for your Processing." Stated one of the robed figures.

Edward looked behind him, but the door to the corridor and beyond had gone. Whatever they were on about made him feel a little uneasy.

"Come, Pardoner - your deliverance is at hand." Stated another, stepping to one side and revealing a large crystal: about the width of an arm and perhaps three feet tall.

Edward's eyes widened: "What is going on here?"

As they moved towards him with fluid grace, his voice began to rise, as they paid no attention to his question: "I demand an explanation!"

Gently leading him by the elbows, Edward found himself in the centre of the room.

"Where is my Guild representative?" he screamed: "What do yo..."

His voice stopped as he stared in disbelief at his arm. The fingers of the robed figure on his right had sunk into it. And as he watched, they began to make his arm supple and pliable.

His fate began to sink in, quickly followed by panic: "In Charon's name... no!"

The four descended on him, their eager fingers grasping and clawing, needing away... breaking down his resistance, his very control over his own plasm. Within no time the four began working Edward's Corpus into such a malleable state that he could be moulded into anything they desired. And as they warped and twisted what was no longer recognisably human, Edward's screams warped and changed into inhuman gurgles, until the only noise was a faint whimper, like a wounded and dying animal.

"Do you suppose he feels violated?" asked one.

"As though he had been raped, beaten and left to die in shock, I would have thought more like." answered another.

When they had finished they forced what was left into the crystal, and left it there.


"Well, did you make your peace with the Pardoner?" Mercii the Helldiver asked, looking out at the beautiful gnarled spires and crumbling towers of the Necropolis. A tattered Haunter drifted by outside, riding the Stygian thermals.

As he waited for an answer, his attention changed to watching the tiny Wraiths on the streets. From here, they seemed like ants going about their business: scrambling around working, planning, or even plotting who knew what.

He turned around and stared at the Oracle who stood in front of the desk. Her long, red rat-like curls draped over her exposed coffee coloured shoulders. An arrogant sneer twisted the corner of her mouth with contempt.

"Aye. I did." She replied calmly watching him brush the dust from the window ledge off his finely cut black suit.


"Brother Edward had been openly operating with wanted Renegades, an act of conspiracy. As for the rest... well, he was also in contact with the Shining Ones and helped souls in their escape. Treason, I believe, Sir."

He looked up,"Anything else?"

"No, sir, whatever else he knew had been erased, probably with some form of Mnemosynis. You know how tricky Pardoners can be." She answered watching him lean against the edge of the desk from the corner of her eye.

"There'll be no vast amount of paperwork on this one," he said, taking and lighting a cigar from the cigar box on the desk: "They required Brother Edward buried and forgotten - another unfortunate soul claimed by Oblivion.

"That'll be all," he puffed: "Oh yes, thank you. Well done again, you two."

With that he walked around the desk and began to leave, enjoying the cigar.

The Oracle slowly walked over to the desk and sat on the edge. Lifting her hand she began to caress the cheek of the Helldiver, brushing the dark hair from her green eyes.

Raising an eyebrow at the Oracle almost in disgust, she looked at her ragged gypsy garb.

Sighing, the long rat-like red curls darkened turning black and straightened shortening to shoulder length. The coffee coloured skin altered to a golden light tan as the tattoos faded and disappeared, her eyes changed from brown to hazel and the garish clothes rippled and changed to a black knee length skirt and black silk blouse.

Smiling, she looked at the Helldiver. "Well Mercii?"

The Helldiver answer with a passionate kiss, glad to her lover back.


The pair lay across the desktop staring at the ceiling, glad to be reunited again. Mercii pulled her black combat pants on not bothering to tuck her vest top in and went over to the window, rubbing the glass attempting to see outside.

Black silken arms hugged Mercii, purring contentedly.

"Ok, what is it Jillien?" she asked.

"The Renegade Artificers Brother Edward knew, they're about to leave for the Skinlands, possibly for good."

"How?" asked Mercii, turning around.

"That's not important. It's the why that's the killer.

"Can you track them down again?" Asked Jillien, sitting on the edge of the desk now and lighting up one her own cigars.

"You know that should be no problem. So come on then... the why?" Mercii leaned on the edge of the window ledge.

Jillien repeated everything Brother Edward told her when she was disguised as the Oracle Sheayla Dawnchilde. She repeated everything, from beginning to end, in intricate detail - everything about the Renegades and their plan, already underway in the Skinlands.

Mercii, now smoking, leant against the window ledge still coming to grips with what Jillien told her.

"So theyíre going to create a digital city scattered throughout hundreds of computers in the Skinlands?" Mercii finally asked.

"No darlin' - bigger than that." Jillien started.

"Bigger than that?" questioned Mercii.

"Oh yes!" added Jillien.

"What the hell are they up to Jillien?" continued Mercii, troubled by how such people like the Renegades had already achieved so much in so short a time without getting caught. She was really shocked how they had so far got away with it. How they had done it? Their cheek and disregard for the laws of the Necropolis. What was Stygia coming to...?

Realising she was still waiting for an answer she asked Jillien again.

"What are they up to?"

Jillien paused looking at Mercii, took a deep breath and took a long drag on her cigar before answering. When she was finally ready to speak she looked Mercii straight in the eye and said.

"It's not a city their after darlin' - they're creating a whole new world."