In The Temple of Kaos Ch. 03byNamazu©
For a good moment the priest was silent, certain that the torture had already begun, that this was a mere trick of the mind. In fact the priestess Eris in her damning black robes had time to set down two chalices and fill one by the time he found his voice.
"Ah... not... not recreationally, no," he answered. "Wine is part of a few rituals, namely communion, but other than that, no... it isn't allowed. Like any vice, it can cloud the mind and impair judgment."
She only smiled in that odd way, the predatory way, but there was some hint of amusement there on those dark lips set into that marked and tattooed face.
"I know it is not quite...off limits here in my city, but you are correct in that vices do need limits. I do not permit free wine or liquor here unless it is a certain ceremony but those are rare and certainly very enjoyed. I am sure if the Covenant held a...celebration like the one I think of, recruitment would go far up."
"I know your vow, priest. Know that I am still armed, but for now, until I snuff it out under my staff, your soul is mine. So vices are allowed."
She did not even have to touch her staff, merely nodded at it, and the binds around him suddenly, as one, released. And she nodded once to his full wine goblet, taking a seat on one of the chairs near the torture instrument table, and then another larger chair close to him, if he dared to sit.
His hesitation was not from fear, but from utter confusion. Why was she trying to get him to lower his guard? He had already sworn his life to her and she had obviously accepted...
What was this strange game she was playing with him, and why? Still, any 'invitation' she gave was immediately interpreted as an order that was not to be disobeyed. His comrades were still in the Citadel and he had made an unbreakable vow.
Confused and cautious, he moved to the chair, rubbing his wrists before he sat down very tentatively. He looked down at the goblet for a long few seconds, his mind racing as to what kinds of poisons or toxins she had lined the goblet with it, what kind of internal organ dissolving venom was she about to force him to drink? A careful glance to her paleness drinking the wine without issue did not reassure him; the High Priestess no doubt had antidotes to any and every known toxin.
He dared not delay, and picked up the heavy crystal chalice, weighing it for a second before quickly taking a deep and rather rude gulp; the burning he expected, the aches and ashes did not come, and he risked a glance at Eris, still lightly drinking hers down. If she noted his fear at poison, she did not show it.
In fact, if not for her staff still floating near the table of torture tools, or the cuffs on the other tables....or the Cult icons all over the room, it would almost be pleasant. The incense was soft, and she herself sipped the wine, a rather sweet, almost sugary drink! In fact she kept drinking from her own goblet; whatever toxins there were in his, she was taking them down too, and after some minutes she turned her gaze back to him.
"My husband will not be back for several days, Sanctuary, and I am certain aside from your own life and soul in my hands and wondering how painful your death will be, you have questions. So if you have any, about me, the Citadel, whatever issues of faith against ours, go ahead and ask."
That smile again, almost mocking. If not for her tattoos and the predatory look to her, she would almost be beautiful. In some dark and dangerous way. "It is not in my nature to lie to those who so belong to me. If you have no questions then just enjoy your drink. If you do, ask."
"Yes... I do... have questions...High Priestess. " he said quietly. He was not one to lie, not even to her, and amidst his fear, curiosity was surging within him, about the Cult, the Citadel, her and the high priest. The information would die with him, but at least he would die knowing a truth his friends never had.
"What... what drives someone, prompts someone, to join the Cult?" He couldn't wrap his mind around it at all. The why. The whys of someone wanting to join such a place, with such a steep price as one's eternal soul? Was it wealth? Power? Control over others very lives? It couldn't be so simple.
The Covenant was easy - save lives, cleanse spirits and heal mental wounds, give aid to those in need, spread the word of their creator... but the Cult? A group dedicated to casting chaos and suffering throughout the very world. It had to be a sick person to willingly join such a place.
She finished her wine, setting the goblet down. "I largely imagine the same reason recruits join yours. Power, wealth in the higher levels, connections with political favors. Unfortunately the latter two do not apply within the Cult and the former is limited to a scant few. I am one of them. Kronos another. But I fear the rumors about the Citadel are overstated. We don't sacrifice infants and children every week or even every year. Adults to the same degree. We don't have orgies every Saturday or allow recruits or even those in higher levels to roam amok with power. Yes Kronos might keep his sex toys and no they cannot really say no, but that form of power is reserved for himself and myself. The Council to a degree.
"Yet I constantly hear of recruits who join so eagerly hearing of untold bloodshed, the rights to females or males for whatever they wish, of power to decimate buildings or rip out souls from the enemy and gorge their pale idiotic faces with them. Stories. Rumors. A bit of truth to every one, but please. Some of them read far too much into the rumors and believe more and more that joining the Cult will grant them godlike powers. They can show their personal enemies who has it. The real answer is not them. We certainly welcome sociopaths but there are rules here for a reason, and it is not to try to contain chaos, any more, I suspect, than your Covenant has rules to do the same.
"You spoke of ceremonial wine, and for the most part that is true here for the lower and new recruits: no contact with liquor and any form of sex is dealt with harshly. At their status they are here to learn and be damn grateful about it. Higher levels, yes, to be sure, but again moderation is key. Anyone found with private orgies or large amount of alcohol is disciplined, and most wouldn't dare. Anyone abusing lower level recruits or priests or prisoners is dealt with in the same way. There is power here, yes, but it comes with a steep price and you do not get it upon joining, despite what many think and hope."
She shook her head as if at the idiocy, that joining such a place would result in immediate powers to do such things. Blasting enemies to atoms with your hands. Raising the dead. And worse. "As for myself I was born into it and born in this very Citadel. As far as the records have shown it has been a very very long while that a high priest and priestess were not picked from direct ties and births in this place. Does that answer your question?"
"Yes, very clearly," Sanctuary answered with a nod, almost catching himself saying 'thank you' out of sheer habit. He never noticed before, how often he thanked people for information. He didn't want her to think he was mocking her. He had been honestly very curious. But to say 'thank you' would likely come off as snide, considering their circumstances. He was already walking on eggshells, to say the least.
"There is a lot of power in rumors and whispers."
He thought for a few moments, his prayers running through his head, a small source of comfort. "I imagine there are quite a few who wish to leave the Cult after they find out exactly how little stock there is in the fabulous rumors they have overheard. It might similar in the Covenant . Not as many as you would think make it through the frankly rigorous training to ascend beyond a simple acolyte. In our case, they are free to leave whenever they choose. I cannot imagine it's like that for the Cult though."
If Sanctuary wasn't so worried or nervous, he would likely find the whole situation hilarious. Here he was, having wine and conversation inside the Citadel of the Cult of Kaos, with the bloody Cult High Priestess herself. This was like the start of a bad joke or a silly fairy tale.
To be sure Ronin would not be doing half as well, nor any of his left behind companions, free at the price of Sanctuary's own life. It might have been easier, really, if she did get down to brass tacks, as she had put it, and simply started with the torture. This was almost worse. No doubt he could have handled that head Inquisitor easier, this femme was actually polite, so far, as if this was a business transaction, as if she didn't hold his soul in her hands to crush whenever she saw fit.
"I assume so. We do try to recruit only those who we feel will be assets, not liabilities. Even to reach the Citadel is tasking in terms of initiations. And those born here, well, that is no guarantee either. Just ask any of the other candidates for the High Priest or Priestess spots when Kronos and I were selected."
She shook her head, that quiet smile still at the clear joke. "At least those ones died quickly, if I remember right. I've read it wasn't nearly as easy in the past, but things change."
A small pause, and that smile again as she reached for the wine bottle, pouring her goblet full...and passing him the bottle to fill his own up. "I do remember one particular recruit who somehow passed all the screenings, only to get to the Citadel, and he wanted to know where the Covenant priests trained here. He was apparently under the assumption we, for some insane reason, trained both, like....like some form of sports teams. He was rather disappointed to find that no, we did not, and no, there would be no fantastic telekinetic lessons that would allow him to leap several mountains high to roundhouse-kick someone's head off. ......I swear, if the fables and rumors didn't make up so much, I imagine both your Covenant and my Citadel would deal with far less fools.
"....and then there was a time when some enterprising knowledge seeker managed to get here, pretending quite well to be a new recruit, and he was....hoping for an interview with myself or the Council or Kronos, to...how did he put it. Show the world how the Cult operated and that we were not as bad as the Covenant fanatics insisted. His words, priest, not mine. If I remember right Kronos kept him alive for some time, but I do imagine by then his opinion of the Cult had changed radically."
The idea of either of those situation was particularly mind-bending in their levels of stupidity. What, did people think this was some sort of game and NOT a holy war that had raged for eons? His surprise and incredulity showed in his face, before he shook his head. It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. Or stupid.
"I have to say, to my knowledge, nothing like that has happened before at the Covenant," he said. "That of course doesn't mean it hadn't. But then again, the Covenant is a lot more open about their procedures, for obvious reasons." Almost subconsciously, numbly, he took the bottle with a slight nod and filled his goblet. It was strange how he didn't find the conversation, despite its grisly topic and frankly frightening proponent, unpleasant. On the contrary, it was very pleasant indeed. Slowly, very slowly, his body was beginning to relax and calm. He no longer teetered at the edge of his seat and he no longer fumbled with his goblet, letting it rest on the table after he took a sip of the refill.
"If it is destined, ordained, why are the other possible candidates killed after High Priest and Priestess are selected?" he asked. "Surely they are still loyal followers... they wouldn't go against what is read in the stars."
"Likely not, but you can always expect extremists here, or anywhere, really. I believe in the farther past some who were passed over decided to, aha, take fate into their own hands. The Council decided it was best to remove such issues for the future. .....and as I understand to some it is a heavy blow to their faith and pride, so better a quick death than a slow pitiful one. As well there were issues chronicled in our historical texts of rejected bots seeking to murder one of the High Ones to take their place." She kept sipping her own wine.
"I realize this is probably not quite what you are expecting, Sanctuary, but in honesty I have not spoken with a Covenant priest while he was still sane enough to speak in some time. If you prefer a quicker death we can get down to it."
"'Not what I was expecting' has to be the understatement of the eon," said Sanctuary frankly, eyeing his goblet. "Prefer a quick death? No, I am not afraid of death. Nor am I afraid of pain. A quick death upon request would cheat us both, I think. Even if it is perhaps an inevitability, you will not hear me ask for death." There was a small pause, and then a smile, definitely a smile, came to his face, as small as it was. "Unless, of course, you demanded I ask for death. But that's something different entirely."
She only smiled again, finishing off her wine. "No, no, I much prefer this for now. I imagine with numbered days and hours, even an hour of life is still life, and you are rather decent with conversation. Especially considering our identities, ages, and the whole needing to kill each other in cosmic warfare."
And it was perhaps the wine, he would think, but really this priest was a good toy, so far. He had not mentioned her burning in the Pit, or really any begging or sermonizing. Quite interesting. "I am rather pleased you did volunteer for this. I doubt I would have had any entertainment with your comrades like so. I dare imagine most of them would have started sobbing by now or done something stupid." ....was that a compliment? "Most priests of the Covenant in the past have. I usually let Kronos take care of them himself."
"Well I can always start sobbing if you like, but I'm a rather pitiful actor. And it would be a bit of a damper on the conversation." He risked a small smile, hoping not to offend again. The sheer idea of the High Priest getting down to brass tacks was not a pleasant one, and he quickly finished his wine, refilling the chalice quietly.
She made no move to take the wine back, in fact relaxed more in her plush chair. So strange to see real furniture in a room like this, but perhaps after some hours of beating and cutting prisoners, you needed to relax. "I admit I am still surprised Ronin did not offer himself up first, truth be told. While the Cult is indeed cut-throat in status levels, it would be seen as poor form to let a noviate or young priest be taken prisoner rather than an older one. At the very least older and higher level priests here are trained in strict pain management.
"And no, I prefer no tears for now. Though it would be rather barbaric of me not to ask if there are any last requests you have before the end. I do get some odd ones."
"In contrast, we are taught that the higher ranks of priests are more important to survive situations such as this. They are the teachers. We are fresh, and expendable," he said simply. The truth of course was very simple: there was no way Ronin would have lasted so far with a wine bottle in hand here and now.
"Last requests?" He was obviously not expecting that. He stroked his cheek softly, thoughtfully, tipping the goblet back and forth slightly in his other hand as he considered her words. "I can't really think of anything. Except of course to not die, but that's a bit preposterous. I suppose the only think I would request is at least one good meal before my time is up. I'm a chef, by hobby only of course, you see. I might not indulge in many vices, but I do love making, and eating, good food."
She nodded. "I imagine that can be arranged." So far, so good. He hadn't even squirmed once, nor begged, nor fallen to his knees to pray for salvation. Very good for one so young.
"But rather tame still, I must say. Other final requests from Covenant priests have ranged from elaborate meals to reading forbidden Cult scrolls to witnessing a Cult orgy. ....there was even one rather foul-tempered captive who demanded a blowjob. I had to decline that request since he did specify me as the recipient." A dark smile again played over her face as she studied his. "For you I would likely make an exception to that though."
He stared into her eyes for a long shocked moment, and a hot flush that had nothing to do with the wine crossed his cheeks as he put down the goblet very quickly before he dropped it.
"Ah... no, that... that won't be necessary," he said quickly, biting his bottom lip. The poor young priest was embarrassed! Well, he was young and unmarried, and by his own admission, orphaned into the monastery where he had trained. He was likely the biggest virgin ever, and the bright blush on his face only deepened her smile. She HAD chosen well with this one!
"It makes me a little sad that some of my fellow priests would lower themselves to debauchery in their final moments, but as much as I, er, appreciate the offer, it is not necessary." He could not even look in her direction now, so startled and embarrassed he was.
She could not help but a small laugh, but it was not, for once, mocking. "Sanctuary, if someone were to tell me that tonight was my last night alive, pleasure is what I would seek, in whatever form I could take it. Cooking might well be yours, but....I imagine the Covenant keeps a tight lid on vices. Especially pleasures of the flesh, as my Cult does too. But I am the High Priestess and you are a prisoner slated to die soon."
And, she thought privately, despite his size and clear mature age, the simple word had caused such a blush, a quick drop of the gaze, so embarrassed at a mere word. Repressed. This youth was the definition of: that, and innocence. And if there was one thing that could not stand before chaos, it was the order and calmness of innocence unbroken.
Now her smile seemed to have more teeth in it, more force to the words. "Now, priest, here is a bit of a request. Don't forget your word. And don't look away from me."
To be her servant, to obey....and to be frank, as she rose to her feet, it was that look on his face that iced it. That horrible innocence. Perhaps the first torture would be a little less hooks into flesh and more viewings.
And without another word she removed her dark robe, revealing stark white skin, covered with the deep black tattoos nearly identical to her robe's markings and the etchings on the room's towers. Under it she wore a simple black gown, and her eyes staring into his shocked, almost terrified ones, her white fingers grasped the drawstrings, and she let the silk item open and fall into a pool at her feet.
The High Priestess stood before him, her skin snow white, cold white with gray nipples, her long white hair barely covering her bare breasts, and frozen, Sanctuary could not even glance down the long stretch of her body, the stark white covered by runes, vines, and a myriad of Cult marking tattoos. Not an inch of flesh was bare without them. And for several minutes their gazes were half locked.
It felt as if the world had frozen.
He stared at Eris, his face and indeed entire body hot with shock and embarrassment. He swallowed roughly, clenching his fist which seemed to be trembling, and he so badly wanted to look away from this, but he didn't dare when she had forbidden him to. There was no denying her physical attraction; even as nervous and resigned to his fate as he was, she was a shining example of a female, and even though he'd never seen one before, he knew it.
His teeth were clenched tight to keep them from chattering, and to keep any sound from escaping his throat, which he didn't trust himself not to do. He tried his best to keep his eyes on her face but despite the prayers stammering in his mind, he could not cease a glance down partially, seeing the runes over her breasts, and then forced his eyes back to hers.