Dekker's Dozen: A Waxing Arbolean Moon, p.1Christopher D Schmitz
Dekker’s Dozen: A Waxing Arbolean Moon
Copyright 2016 by Christopher D Schmitz
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Cover art used by permission from Sebastian Hue
see https://www.shue-digital.com/ or https://erikshoemaker.deviantart.com
Dekker’s Dozen #000A
Long before time…
The Divine Gardener scattered seed upon the fertile soil. All creation held significance to him, though none of the others were quite like his Earth.
He sowed as he pleased. Dipping his hand in a satchel pocket he grasped seven seeds. These seeds were special, he knew. Sprinkling them, they landed in a perfect circle: the special, chosen seven. They were not yet mighty timbers, not yet chosen, but still the gardener knew them as he knew all creation.
In time, they would choose themselves from among their peers, for who else was there to choose? The eldest, the first to root, would elect herself chief.
The Gardener knew he could walk among the rows of this garden for only a short time. He could only wander as desired until his great freedom was blasphemed, torn by the violence of humanity and freewill: a deviation in the operation of a cosmic machine.
For now, as soon as he chose to spin reality into motion, the gardener would provide their light. And he would shine there until the redness fell, until the blasphemy at the great tree. He knew of their eventual betrayal, but he loved them anyway.
Dione watched from her station upon the great engine. She’d remained perched, dedicated to her astral post for what felt like time eternal—though she knew how foolish her thoughts were. Only the machinist was eternal.
Deep were her thoughts and far-flung her vision. Ambition had begun to well up within her. The Light-Bringer, Asmodeus, had earlier come to her with unjust words, words not accurate of her: a lexeme of flattery, and she secretly enjoyed it and secretly hid that flattery within her heart.
It was different than the adulation given to her by her comrade Leviathan—the baal who longed to become her suitor—for Leviathan ranked a grade below her station. But the Baal of Light? His esteem was unwarranted, desperately desired, and yet altogether welcome.
For all his beauty, perhaps the Light-Bringer was right in his private doubts against the Machinist? Asmodeus was undoubtedly canny, as well as majestically handsome; did that blind her to reality? Perhaps dissention was possible; perhaps Dione could abandon her place overseeing the machine without consequence. Could they really divert the great plan and enforce their own desires within the confines of the engine?
As she speculated, something awakened inside her. A seed of malevolence birthed deep within her core, resentment for her assignment—antipathy against her place and purpose.
Asmodeus would soon call an assembly before the Machinist; he would present his case. She considered joining him. Perchance she could sit at his side? She coveted him just as Leviathan desired the same from her.
She brooded over those secret thoughts and kept watching over the saplings growing within one of the distant gardens far removed from Eden. The arbolean children had just recently discovered themselves, begun to understand their own significance and sentience.
If she abandoned her post for new purposes, perhaps these secret children would be of use to her? Light-Bringer’s game might need pawns, disposable pieces in a game pitting the nature of life and reality against itself.
So many options blossomed in her mind—she was especially good with plants. She could nudge the race of star-farers towards them and grant them freedom. Dione could build a new race from their material. If Asmodeus was right, she strongly considered him; desire welled up within her, some new sense of carnality.
It was already decided deep within Dione’s bowels; she’d already chosen. If Asmodeus asked her, she would follow him.
She could ask her associate, the would-be lover, Leviathan, to infiltrate the distant star-farers and guide them to Rico. She knew that, above all else, she could entrust him with this.
Dione smiled, still assuming that her thoughts remained as pure conjecture. She did not realize it, but she had already fallen.
* * *
La'ibum left the tent where his woman nursed their newborn son, Sargon. The tribal cleric had prophesied mightily over this child and over La'ibum as well. He claimed the child was touched by destiny and La'ibum had sealed those words up, afraid that anyone knowing Sargon was a child of fate might be prompted to murder. Many might smother the babe to avert his destiny: raising up the men of Akkad into a powerful empire.
La'ibum’s task was to protect his child, teach him to navigate the ways of men and keep him safe. In that task, La'ibum, chief warrior of his tribe, felt utterly confident.
He did not find his tribesmen at the central pyre. Something had drawn them away. La'ibum figured it must be a matter of primary importance if it had lured them all off. Nervous suspicion crept into his heart and he dashed through the settlement searching for any of his brethren.
Just beyond their camp a ring of fire burned in the sky. The women had recently traded stories about the rhinoceros-men from the fiery, floating circle. He’d thought it blind superstition until now.
The young warriors fled the light, screaming warnings and pledges to any village deities if they should deliver them. La'ibum skidded to a halt, watching a shaft of light snatch up his best warriors from among the young men. Yanking them into the sky, it pulling them into the scorching ring above, La'ibum spotted Kriegen, his best footman.
In an act of discretion, not of fear, La'ibum turned and fled. He had to think of the child; Sargon had to be protected, and he couldn’t do that if he was dead.
* * *
The seven alien warriors loomed above the primitive, trembling men of the Akkadian village. The largest of the seven abused the captives who cowered under the massive, strong arms. Red, paint-like markings on its gnarled, root-like head set it apart from the others.
Red shook her massive head. Though humanoid, the seven could not be mistaken for homo sapiens. Larger, bulkier bodies had been transformed as they played host and avatar to the Arbolean Council, the circle of seven trees who tricked the ambitious star-travelers into joining with them; a long tusk protruded from the cranial break at their brows, and their thick, mottled skin grew xyloid scales like woody armor. The other six wore pates colored green; they watched as Red shook the dust off her horn, forcing the earthling captives to breath in the particulates that fell.
This was the second tribe they had visited. The first of them readily fell to the apothecium, although a small minority of them proved immune to infection. Those with resistant bodies had been kept confined to the spacecraft, which now hovered high above the clouds, for further study.
Their captives’ initial uprising proved futile. Natural body armor and superior physical form easily overmatched the earthlings. Here, they were gods, in fact—ascension was nothing less than Red’s plan.
Sisters, that is our very course of action! See those cowering ones, those immune to the apothecium? We shall train them up; form a cult for us with them dedicated to our worship! In this, we shall find a greater use for, something more than fertilizer.
Five nodded their assent. One of the green ones protested. What of the ancient one? The gardener who once walked
Red drew herself up and squared off with Green. She struck her sister to the ground and continued to beat her until Green fell limp. How long have you envied me, weakling? I’ve watched you jealously eye my red crown centuries now, at every turn you have advocated dissention! We were given ultimate freedom from our stations—who do you think engineered that but the gardener! He granted us this magnificent mobility and you seek effacement rather than glory? Here then, become the least of we sisters! Red snapped the horn from Green’s head, breaking it cleanly; she tossed the wooden chunk aside. The sisters could feel intense pain ripple through their psionic bond. Red wrapped her powerful arms around the wounded one’s head, flexed, and stretched until she broke the avatar’s spine.
Red pointed to another sister. See to the education of our cultus. These ones are special, reserved for our worship, meant to preserve and protect our seed and legacy through the ages. They are granted immunity to the blooming. Have them watch our new captives germinate through death and become drones. Then, as benevolent lords, we may release our reverent ones back to their homes where they will worship us!
* * *
The desperation in La'ibum’s voice convinced enough of the warring tribesmen to assemble and unified force against the god-like intruders. His tribal seer had guaranteed victory with the proper sacrifice to the village Baal. La'ibum had sent his own wife to die upon the altar in order to guarantee the outcome; such was his resolve towards his son.
Ur-Zababa, the young upstart, heard of the Akkadian’s determination and sent a contingent of his own men from Kish in support. The men rallied around La'ibum who led the rally against these foreign invaders. Moving secretly through the night, the Akkadians and Kishites surrounded a mustering army within the valley. Several villages had already fallen to the sky-borne ones in the past months, and their numbers promised to continue spreading unless a resistance arose to stop them.
Day broke and La'ibum signaled the attack with a horn blast; warriors charged into the valley. The six alien giants, clad only in their armored skin, stood naked where they lorded over their minions: mindless, slobbering imitations of the Akkadian peoples. They too had grown sharp spires and skin like that of a rhinoceros; their eyes burned hollow and vacant. Despite that, La'ibum recognized Kriegen on the distant battle line. La'ibum’s resolve hardened all the more until a giant metal craft dropped out of the sky.
Like a god of death the giant metallic fish floated above the valley where it fired bolts of holy fire and lightning into the human armies. Dirt and flesh erupted as the pandemonium broke their ranks. Both Akkadian and Kishite fled back up the valley.
One of his own tribesmen shouted at La'ibum as he passed, “Your cleric was mistaken! There is no Baal who can give us the power to defeat this threat!”
La'ibum fell to his knees, defying the Baals and all gods of this world. Desperately, he invoked any higher power and cried out to the one who must have made the Baals—for surely even they must have a master. He pleaded with this unknown maker and asked for a deliverer—a hero—he would even forsake the bonds to all his tribal gods for the sake of his child, Sargon!
He looked up amid the anarchy and spotted a strange man cloaked in strange clothes. “Are you the hero?” he demanded. The foreigner appeared calm despite the surrounding anarchy of the retreat; they obviously spoke different tongues. “Are you the hero?” La'ibum shouted again.
“I am Ezekiel,” the stranger replied, barely managing the rehearsed Akkadian words.
As the fish-god’s lightning magic tore through his fleeing comrades, the hero calmly pointed an odd metal tube at it. The tool erupted with dazzling light, concentrating the power of gods much stronger than the fish-thing’s; it intensified into a light beam and the shaft slammed into the sky-fish. The monstrosity spun and lilted until it slammed into the earthy valley where it belched smoke and fire. A landslide half-buried it in stony rubble.
Smiling, the hero slung his weapon on a leash and opened his purse. As the frenzied throng of rhinoceros-men charged towards them, a buzzing cloud of beetles poured from the hero’s bag. The insectoid plague ignored the men and began feasting upon the enemy. They first devoured the eyes and horns of the foreigners, and then they chewed from the outside-in, leaving behind pulpy sacks of skin before the beetles settled down, eventually falling dormant as if they’d died.
La'ibum searched frantically for the hero from his new god. He needed to thank the him and pledge his life and obedience to him. He would devote his whole tribe to the hero’s worship. But he could not be found
* * *
“A most excellent gift, my dearest Benaiah!” Solomon clapped his hands with glee, gleefully prancing around his lavish, private chamber. Benaiah, the king’s captain, had seized the demon king Asmodeus and forced the blazing behemoth to bend a knee before King Solomon. “Truly, your gift is the best I’ve received upon this wedding.”
“Indeed,” Benaiah stated as he glared into the eyes of the humiliated demon, “as I served your father before you as one of his Mighty Men, so I will follow you—even through the pits of Sheol if necessary.” Benaiah returned Solomon’s precious ring to him. Borrowing the precious Ring of Aandaleeb from the king, even for a moment, was a demonstration of complete trust.
Solomon grinned and turned to Asmodeus who still kneeled, bound to the floor. Only months prior the demon had disguised him and taken Solomon’s place atop the royal throne while Solomon wandered the deserts. He thought he and his lover Naamah, the Ammonite princess, would die as a result of Asmodeus’s trickery. “That this gift comes to me at my wedding to Naamah is especially delightful.”
Narrowing his eyes, he turned to the chief of demons. Solomon made a demand. He consulted his personal notes and scrolls the wisest of sages had collected on his behalf and made sure he performed the rites accurately. “Asmodeus, I invoke power over your name and demand you grant my petition.”
The beast chuffed indignantly, but resigned himself with a nod. “What is your request?”
“My beloved Naamah misses her gardens. I’m sure you know how beautiful the plants grow east of the Jordan. You will summon for me a Baal whom I may seal within this lead vessel, a demon who can commune with plants and spur their growth. It will be a wedding gift to my Naamah.”
“You must open the earthen chest and make your mark within it to bind her there. Baal Dione will answer my call if you invoke her. Use my name for the purpose of attending a royal wedding. She will come at my bidding, thinking her time has finally come; but do not let her escape. She will be a vengeful thing.”
Solomon began preparations for the summoning. “You may go now, Asmodeus, until I need you again… I bind you to my service.”
King Asmodeus bowed low. His eyes narrowed to slits. “This contest is far from over, King Solomon; someday, either your wisdom or your god will fail you.”
* * *
Solomon sat near Benaiah’s bedside. The warrior’s sweat had soaked through his sheets despite the cool night air. Benaiah looked as healthy and young as ever, a byproduct of his king’s mystic dabblery. Solomon waved a scribe into the room. “Tell me what you saw in this vision of yours!”
“I saw horrible things yet to come, a tree—burning red—the stripping of her green sister’s leaves and an army of metal demons fighting a war against briar bushes. Men are caught between them in this war, tricked by six old women and a djinn! The whole world burns—man, woman, and child. None escape.” Benaiah gave the story in great detail, point by point, with great clarity of narrative.
Solomon’s skin faded ashen as his friend described a vision that could have only come from the divine. When Benaiah finished
He described the method, the key to wielding his magic ring’s powers and how his artifact, a celestial gadget, drew upon great power. “This ring, my seal, might be of critical importance to preventing this war.” He turned to the scribe and rolled up the scroll, “Have an artisan inscribe warnings upon Naamah’s chest—the one she keeps in her garden. It must never again be opened now that I am parted from the ring!”
Solomon turned to Benaiah. “You must prevent this thing from happening. Form a secret corps of loyal men to watch over your words and ways. They must hold safe the power to protect life in the face of such horror. God Yahweh will see this thing through if He wills it!”
Benaiah nodded as the king thrust into clammy hands his royal sword and the Ring of Aandaleeb. “I shall keep them safe all my life, my lord, as will my children and all who take our oath.”
* * *
Ezekiel walked down a trail outside the hills of Anathoth. The brass serpent medallion jangled on the chain around his neck. He wore it as a constant reminder of the exile—the past wandering of his people and the powers he served: the almighty God of fallen Israel.
A rumbling in the distance caught his ear and he turned to locate source. He found it there again, a burning portal, a gateway to the spinning chariot wheels of the divine engine.
The voice was the same as previous encounters: the voice of the great machinist. Within the orb of intense light, spinning like a wheel, it called to Ezekiel.
With his senses overwhelmed, the exiled prophet stepped through the mysterious doorway and slipped off the dimension reserved for mortals. Ezekiel bowed low and waited upon the majestic.
“A new task is set before you,” the voice boomed like thunder. “You have faithfully stewarded my words and served as my mouth. Yet now I have need of a hand.”
Ezekiel dared not look directly into the source of light. “I am yours to direct.”
Dekker's Dozen: A Waxing Arbolean Moon by Christopher D Schmitz / Science Fiction have rating 3.8 out of 5 / Based on30 votes