To defame to devour the.., p.1
To Defame, To Devour: The Prequel to a Time-Travel Adventure, p.1Lewis J Jones
To Defame, To Devour
LEWIS J JONES
Copyright © 2016 Lewis J Jones
All rights reserved.
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TO DEFAME, TO DEVOUR
— PART ONE —
The white of his eyes shone through the swirling fog that swallowed up the cold, abandoned alleyway. For the little they could see, they kept open and wide, their sight drifting to and fro. One way and then the next, they watched and they waited; unblinking, determined to tell if the path out onto the street was clear. Crime called from afar, caterwauling in the terrifying form of shrieks and cries of innocent people facing anything but innocent ends, and the man, whose piercing eyes now blinked slowly, paused to absorb them. Shadowy figures like Ardwick lurked in the most unnatural places.
Moving carefully forwards, Ardwick brushed his hand along the rough face of the wall barely visible to his side. With each step his feet landed silently between the broken belongings that smothered the muddy ground until he came to the end of the path. He peered out into the street. Further screams travelled to him through the eery stillness, and he listened to them with a thriving eagerness.
Although a few of the remaining streetlights were on, the black air feasted upon their light so much that they were barely visible. Never before could Ardwick recall the mists having been so dark and so fervid. The thunder had fallen from the sky long before and now it skulked through the ruins of the outer towns and remaining villages of London with a loud, grumbling growl. At odd times, from the corner of the eye, one could witness the blue sparks of lightning in the making; the clouds churning, ready to feast. When all fell silent it would attack, like a predator, with an all encompassing flash and an almighty roar echoing out across the lands. It was a most unnatural thing to have happened, but far worse had transpired and even worse still would surely come to pass.
There was a scream from somewhere further down the street, far closer than any other Ardwick had heard that evening. He paused to inhale deeply, the black fog streaming into his thin nostrils. The scream was cut short, followed by the sound of something heavy hitting the thick stones of the road. After a pause that kept Ardwick locked still, footsteps moved away and into the distance. Looking left and then right, Ardwick walked across the road lined with broken brick houses and into the alleyway opposite. He knew it wasn’t far away now.
Ardwick slowed his pace and checked behind him. It paid to walk slowly in such gloomy times. So much as a brisk walk or even a jog was almost guaranteeing the thick fog to swirl in your wake, leaving a trail that any person or any thing could follow.
The pathway he found himself in was very overgrown with large hedges that rustled and shifted amongst themselves. The edges of Ardwick’s coat pulled themselves together with the touch of his finger, and from the matching bronze rings on either of his fingers, fine material grew out, rushing across his skin and wrapping his hands in thick gloves. Knowing full well the damage and disease such untamed greenery could inflict, he was taking no chances.
Only the week before he had discovered the body of a plump lady with tangled red hair being dragged away by a nettled thornbush. With its barbed wire stems, its thorny tips were sharp enough to penetrate and poison the bones of their victims. It would have been impossible that she had made it out alive, a thought sparking great delight in Ardwick.
As he continued to ponder on the woman’s passing — in particular the hauntingly vacant expression upon her small, squashed face that he could recall — he kept moving along the path. Dodging the venomous puddles and sinking mudholes, he finally emerged into the murky gardens of Travesty Abbey. All other buildings stood scarred or had fallen around it, but the Abbey itself, with its thick walls and tall, cloud-piercing spire, remained immaculate. A monument to all things wonderfully wrong with the world was as pristine as the day it was built.
Climbing the stone steps up to the entrance, Ardwick stopped twice, his foot hovering over the next step, waiting to see if he was being followed. He was not expecting anyone to be chasing his shadow, but he could not afford to be wrong; second chances were an expense paid for with life and which guaranteed no return on investment. When he stopped the third time there was a loud rumble of thunder in the gardens to his left followed by a magnificent lightning storm. The forks of blue light struck the long-dead plants and greenery over and over, setting them ablaze with blue flames. The storm grumbled with a sulky temperament as it dissipated over the gardens and out across the fields nearby, stomping the poisoned soil with sharp lightning strikes as it went.
The large castle-like doors were open as Ardwick reached the top of the steps, and he looked up at the words scribed into the archway above them:
THEIR SINS WILL SHINE FOREVER MORE IN THE HALLS OF TRAVESTY ABBEY
Bracing himself for what he was about to find, he gave a final check over his shoulder and quietly entered. He pulled the doors closed behind him.
Within ten steps along the dark corridor, Ardwick emerged into a lobby that hosted many routes off through the Abbey. He began to look for the right path to take, but was quickly distracted by the contents of the space in which he found himself.
The entire room was largely empty, but hung upon the walls were over forty enormous painted portraits, each contained within entwined wooden frames. Every canvas portrayed a person, painted boldly with a typically arrogant-looking pose, with their eyes looking down at those examining them. All the paintings were different, with the only common theme being that all the individuals locked within them had their hands shackled in thick, black chains. Despite all the oranges, yellow, greens and blues of a long distant beautiful day that featured in every masterpiece, the darkness of their chains successfully, and undeniably, engraved the guilt of their crimes into the portraits. Most disturbing of all was the eyes, which in every painting moved, following Ardwick just like they had when he last walked past them at the age of ten.
Governors, Presidents, Madam Ministers, Captains, Priestesses and Dictators - almost every type of authority figure was captured, glaring from their portrait. Despite the name of each “Travesteer”, as they were known, being engraved onto a small plaque beneath each frame, Ardwick did not need to glance at them for he could recall all of their names off the top of his head.
There was Jocelyn Hyde, the Travesteer of Bane, who ordered her commanders to send clouds out to rain across the lands of her enemies, poisoning their cherished soils. Her painting showed her standing proudly on top of a white cloud, hands stretched out as black rain drenched the fields beneath. A few paintings along was Whittler Smitten, infamous Travesteer of the Sea, known for signing the closing order to send tsunamis across the seven oceans. Unsurprisingly, his painting had him sat on the cusp of a magnificent wave, black chains locking his hands together behind his back. On the next wall Ardwick spotted the familiar face of Veattra Hale, Travesteer of Politic. Unlike the others, Veattra had a much more grounded role, trading serpentine secrets and spreading convoluted lies betweens the each of the governments she served, and ultimately betrayed. Her hands were chained to every pair of hands reaching out
Every figure depicted had played a role in nearly bringing about the end of the world just over one hundred years previously. The Crowning Battle, as it was known, was the mightiest of wars waged upon the earth, and one which had pushed humanity to it’s deepest, darkest and most depraved moments. Ardwick noticed an engraving upon a circular golden plaque on the floor, and he walked around to read the words the right way up. In stark capital letters it reads: Our Versidgeous Kings and Queens. These words would always cause Ardwick confusion as a child — how a person could be the King or Queen of a war seemed a peculiar way to mark their time in history. Now he thought about it, if their acts were that deceitful and that magnificently wrong and caused such colossal disaster and loss of human life, then it made sense to recognise that they were the ruler of such deplorable operations. As for the word versidgeous, everyone knew that that term was saved for describing a person who committed the most disgraceful acts.
There was an echo from down one of the corridors leading off the room. Ardwick froze, his senses instantly heightened. When he was younger he would always believe the Abbey was haunted, and as he stood listening he realised that the suspicion had not aged like he had.
Now with even more cautious stpes, Ardwick made his way along the final wall of the room. Only three of the ten paintings, however, were present. Spotlights shone upon the seven empty rectangular spaces, with ladders standing beneath each.
Head drooping slightly, Ardwick sighed. He rubbed his forehead and then brushed his hand back through his short dark hair. ‘You haven’t made the wall yet. There is still some kind of hope left,’ he mumbled, looking around the deserted room, ‘somewhere around here . . .’
After a brief moment, and after checking that the doors he had shut previously were still so, he made off down one of the corridors in the back corner of the room with a quickened pace. Forty pairs of eyes watched him as he went.
Lights in the corridor flickered to life as Ardwick hurried along the sloping tunnel, moving deeper into the network of tunnels beneath the Abbey. As he went he passed by many rooms, each bearing a large plaque above the door naming one of the “Travesteers”. He saw large libraries and areas set out like museums for each of the forty individuals. Upon the shelves, in locked glass boxes and floating above the floor were all kinds of artefacts bespoke to the traitor’s crimes. He passed by the room for Wilbur Brackle, Travesteer of Reflection, and spotted in the room large replicas of the mirrors he had tainted against their observers, the same ones depicted in his painting in the lobby.
The corridor curved down, descending deeper into the earth. Sticking close to the wall, Ardwick couldn’t help but think of the reason why the Abbey was built in the first place. Constructed eight years after the Crowning Battle had come to an end, it was agreed that a monument needed to be created to disgrace and defame those who had brought about such injustice. They would not be allowed to escape the history books without their name being listed amongst those to blame for the war to end not all wars, but simply to end everything. It was thought that building the Abbey as a testament to the evil that had passed would cement it in history as being something that would never be returned to, however Ardwick knew that you only had to look outside to see that all over again everything was falling to pieces. However this time he knew that it was not forty people who had brought about the end, it was just one.
Corridors split off to Ardwick’s left and right but one in particular caught his attention and his feet skidded to a halt. At the end of the corridor to his side, upon the wall, was a gold plaque that was engraved with a very familiar name. He moved carefully towards it until a light clicked on above. The door next to the plaque was illuminated. Unlike all the other doors he had passed, this door was closed and, even more unlike the others, was wrapped in a net of black chains.
Ardwick brushed his hand over the golden surface of the plaque and the words engraved onto it: The Seven Evergreens. He sighed again. This was their room in waiting, ready to be filled with all the evidence of their crime and the heinous acts that had followed.
Studying the door, Ardwick saw that the chains were entwined around short posts protruding from the walls either side of it, creating a cobweb-like design across it and blocking any possible entrance. With his left hand he grabbed onto the chains and closed his eyes.
It had taken him a long time to track down the Abbey's locksmith, to find out the particular thought, more specifically the particular words, that would unlock the chains and the room thereafter. Upon finding the man, weak and next to lifeless on his deathbed, Ardwick had revealed to him the truth about the Evergreen family — the first people to have murdered since the Crowning had come to a spectacular and almighty end a century before. At first the man laughed incredulously, for the truth was so daring and so impossible to fathom, but with time, and as Ardwick explained, the man came to understand it, although he could never quite believe it. Although it had been a great risk revealing such a secret to the man, Ardwick remained by, watching closely until the secret had died with the man before setting his sights for the Abbey.
In exchange for this unbelievable truth about the Evergreens, Ardwick had received a whisper of the words that would grant him access to the unbreachable room: A heinous act, a hateful heart, which we do carry, until we depart. Focusing on the sentence and clearing his head, Ardwick repeated each word silently to himself.
A heinous act, a hateful heart, which we do carry, until we depart.
As he ran his hand along the chains they began to tremble, clinking at the metal fixtures upon the walls and rattling across the door. The two ends of the chains that were joined clicked and swung apart. Slowly, the chains began to unwind and fall to the floor, coiling themselves into a neat pile and revealing a stark red door before him.
Taking hold of the handle, Ardwick repeated the words again, prompting a loud series of clicks from within the door. Giving the handle a twist he pushed forward, and stepped into another cold, stone-walled room.
Leaving the door behind him slightly ajar, he backed against it to inspect the space before him. The room was relatively smaller than all the other rooms in the Abbey. It had a shallow ceiling and a large cobbled floor, in the centre of which stood a number of distinct items. As he moved down the few steps into the room towards them, Ardwick could see that beneath each of the black cloths stood an easel. There were seven in total, and upon each cloth was a large red letter which together chillingly spelt out the word ‘KILLERS’.
‘There you are . . .’ Ardwick said, knowing just who lay underneath each. ‘What have we done to you? How did we make you these people?’ he asked, reading the seven letters over and over again.
He ran his fingers over the black cloth of the first easel and slowly pulled it away. The fabric rippled over the large golden frame and fell to the floor. Ardwick continued to stare at the ground for a brief moment before facing the painting.
An elderly gentleman, with grey hair and a wise-looking face, stared out from the portrait behind thick, bottle-end glasses. Beneath his portrait, embedded into the thick frame it was encased in, was a plaque with the name Winton Evergreen engraved into it. The next cloth revealed Ambrose Evergreen, a lady of equal age to Winton, but noticeably shorter and with thick curls in her hair. She smiled, just like her husband did.
The next two portraits to be revealed were that of Evelyn Evergreen and Irwin Evergreen, evidently the second generation of the family. Ardwick studied Evelyn, who was a rather stunning looking lady with long blond hair and golden, glowing skin, and then Irwin next to her, who appeared particularly stern with short jet-black hair and a particularly strong jawline, similar to his own.
Knowing who was to come next Ardwick took a deep breath, and stretched out his hand. Before he could even grab the sheet however, the door slammed shut behind him and Ardwick whipped around to find standing before him a very familiar face.
TO DEFAME, TO DEVOUR
— PART TWO —
The Seven Evergreens
To Defame, To Devour: The Prequel to a Time-Travel Adventure by Lewis J Jones / Fantasy / Actions & Adventure / Science Fiction have rating 3.2 out of 5 / Based on19 votes