URSULINE TALES 03: THIS MEANS WAR;
Act 2 of 2
The City Of Eden, Pangaea.
6 weeks after The Strike
It did not take long for the humans themselves to recognize the ocean storm’s disappearance as well. A close watch was kept from the city’s only surviving belltower both day and night; it was a fine young lad who first noticed the waterspouts withdrawing up into the heavens when he rang the alarm at sunrise. At the first boom of the great brass bell, every human soul in Eden looked towards the ocean with a gasp and a sigh - they all knew that the time allotted them to prepare themselves for battle was now over. Now or never, six weeks after The Strike, without the protection of the cosmic storm, it was only a matter of time until the sorceress would return to face them. Alexzander had foretold all in Eden to congregate beneath the Tree of Life and Death at the sign of the first alarm, and there they gathered around him in the company of their dearly beloved ones, whispering and worried. Amidst the smells of flowers and fire oil, all of them, warrior-monks and merchants, clergy and housewives and even the children themselves wondered at how different their lives might be by sundown.
The King himself led the congregation in prayer as he held within his hands the sacred Urn of Eternal Fire that would aid his forces in battle. He watched with his own eyes as the hurricane dismantled like vapor across the seas, leaving the waters as calm as ever they had been before. As the first cycle of chanting came to an end, Alexzander set the Urn solemnly before him at his feet, pulled a sacred blade from his pocket and kissed it in blessing. As the second cycle began, he used it to sever the olden dreadlocks from his scalp, casting each one by one into the sacred blue flame as he cut it off. The assembly appeared amazed by this strange ritual but did not stop their prayer until they were finished, at which time the shape of Alexzander’s skull became completely apparent beneath a thin layer of black fuzz. He thus turned to them proudly and spoke with a booming voice as loud as thunder:
“People of Eden, we find ourselves fated to live in a new era of history. Our Goddess has given us six weeks to let go of the past and prepare ourselves for the future. Praise be to Gaia! Now comes the time for holy war. Let us pray.”
After the third cycle of chanting came to an end, three hours after the hurricane’s cessation, Alexzander was approached by a gathering of his most trusted advisors escorted by Chaltier himself. “Your majesty, we beg a word with you… there is an important matter which really must be addressed before we go any further. Please, allow Ignatius as the war machine’s pilot, to take your place within it.”
“What’s this?” Alexzander frowned. “I have built this contrivance, and I am the only pilot for it. There can be only one.”
This reply made his allies appear dismayed, yet Chaltier leaned towards him and became even more grave as he whispered, “Alexzander, please - this is really important. Listen to us.”
Eden’s eldest priest then stepped forward, who proved to be none other than the man who had enthroned Earth’s first monarch, to beseech the King himself. His name was Argentus Terrazzi, and he placed his hands tenderly upon the King’s shoulders as he gazed fixedly with his softly stirring eyes. “Alexzander, my son, I have cared for you since before your dear departed mother entrusted you to my charge. You must remain safe, because you are the King of Eden. And the King must have a Queen in order to produce an heir for your lineage to survive these dangerous times. Please, my son, preserve your people, but do not be reckless! We cannot bear to lose you on such a dangerous mission.”
Suddenly, the second alarm bell rang clearly through the air, and all human eyes espied the mechanical fortress breaking through the waves far off in the oceanic distance. Many cried out in terror and the entire assemblage became agitated with fear, but Argentus quickly bowed to the King. “Your grace, we are finally running out of time. If you fall victim to the enemy, Eden will have no chance against the sorceress’s evil. You are our last hope!”
Alexzander took all of these words to heart, and nodded in compliance with their wishes. Ignatius then stepped forward and spoke meekly with a bow. “I am capable of piloting your war machine, majesty, if only you will show me the way.”
“A Hellion using machina? Absurd!”, Brutus scoffed. But the King smiled and clasped fists with Ignatius anyways, much to the merchant’s inner chagrin.
Then Alexzander turned and gave his instruction to his people. “The Evil One has returned! All hands to your stations! Conceal the children and their guardians within the catacombs! Everything as we have practiced! HURRY!”
They all scattered in their proper directions, the civilians with their families towards the Silver Mountains, and the warrior-monks with the Hellion militia towards the seashore. Everyone set to work getting ready to face their adversary, loading the massive silk-wrapped spheres of heavy orbs up onto the catapults and aiming them towards the oncoming threat in the sea. As a priest blessed the most devout of soldiers, The Urn of Eternal Fire was brought forth to light the wartime torches. The silken spheres were doused with the fresh napalm oil, which smelled quite pungent but reminded everyone of their hope for survival. Once all became ready Chaltier nodded towards the King, and Alexzander shouted his command: “Let the fireballs fly!”
Each of the spheres was quickly set aflame and launched immediately towards its target. The fireballs flew through the air and hit the invading fortress like a deadshot, causing a slight indentation within the hull but without any signs whatsoever of burning it. Within the fortress the Marsians cried out as it rocked to-and-fro momentarily, but then they laughed as they easily regained their balance. Caina studied the human beach using a telescope, remarking to the Empress that their defenses had improved. “Impotent, but they’ve made their point loud and clear,” Ursula replied to her. “Continue on course. I’m headed to the rooftop.”
Ursula left the main control room and climbed a ladder to the outside. As soon as she opened the hatch door she was greeted with the delicious air of Earth’s atmosphere tousling her hair in the form of wind. A new day was dawning and the golden clouds above her reflected that new day’s glory. Water splashed all around her as the fortress sped forward through the sea. She glanced towards the East from whence she came, and smiled to see the hindering storm which had caused her such anxiety had now completely disappeared. She then focused her burning red eyes towards the West where she was going, at the green and beautifully lush mountainous land before her. Indeed, the humans had developed fire oil as well as the trebuchet, and she watched intently as they continued to hurl giant fireballs against her massive mechanical fortress. She held onto the railing and remained rigid as her vessel rocked from the impact, but she smiled and shook her head as the fireballs slid into a boiling sea without even so much as melting the vessel’s hull. They have no idea we demons are naturally immune to fire, she thought as one of the fiery missiles flew close enough to catch her hair aflame - would she had been a human, that is.
After some time, as the barrage of burning fireballs failed to destroy or even deter her fortress, the humans stopped launching them altogether. Ursula scanned the beach, eagerly searching for Alexzander amidst the human confusion. Although she couldn’t yet be sure, she thought she could see his dark, sombre eyes glaring at her from across the closing distance.
And although he couldn’t be sure, Alexzander thought he could feel her menacing gaze upon him so acutely that not even a thousand forests between them could have shielded him from her scrutiny. He felt disappointment cascade over him as he realized that his napalm fireballs hardly damaged the sorceress’s vessel, and barely even slowed her assault. He turned towards his comrades and frowned, looking into the eyes of all of the people around him. The same thoughts were on their minds, too. He had hoped he could spare everyone from the throes of battle by sinking the demonic fortress into the sea before it could land, but now it became obvious that the unavoidable war would touch everybody - there was no escaping it. His best efforts bought safety for no one.
Suddenly his eyes fell upon a young mother with her small child hiding together just behind him. Alexzander pleaded with her to escape with her little girl into the catacombs with the others, but the mother refused, preferring instead to stay close to her King. “Never!”, she cried when he beseeched her again, “You have Gaia’s blessing! We must be near you, majesty!” He did not know what to say. Then he remembered his own mother… how she had died, how he had tried to save her, how he had longed to bring her back to life. She had believed in him, as this woman now did.
Whipping back into the present, Alexzander knew he had to lead quickly, and so he stood decisively and shouted to his fellow soldiers: “This is NOT how we are to die in the tales of cosmic history! We will have to fight for everything our ancestors have built for us, but we will fight as free people! Mighty, and proud!”
“That’s right!”, Ignatius added fervently.“Gaia created this world for us, and we will not allow The Evil One to invade it! We shall prevail by any means!”
Alexzander nodded. “Destroy the alien machine, along with whatever there is inside of it. But remember to leave the head of the snake to me - I will destroy the sorceress myself!”
As the other men and women set to work preparing their weapons and their war lions for imminent battle, Alexzander pulled both Chaltier and Ignatius aside and spoke closely to them. “This is it - the moment we’ve been waiting for. All of our schemes will now come to fruition. Ignatius shall lead the Hellions and all warrior-monks against the machine… Chaltier will lead our assassins against the sorceress and bring her to me subdued. You both know where I’ll be. Without the sorceress, the invasion must cease. When our plan succeeds, we shall rendezvous beneath the Tree. Should we fail…”
“We won’t,” smiled Ignatius, “Failure is not an option here.” Alexzander smiled in return, yet continued.
“Should we fail… we shall meet in the catacombs with the civilians. Now go, everyone! May the forces of Nature be with us.”
The three men clasped their hands together in unison, then each took off running in the direction according to his duty. Alexzander and Ignatius headed toward the industry sector’s forge where the war machine lay dormant, yet soon they both realized they were being closely followed. It was the mother and her small child, eager to remain within proximity to her blessed King. But he hardened his heart, and commanded her to leave him instead.
“Madam, it is far too dangerous for you both to remain by my side! You must head to the catacombs with the others!”
After she fearfully refused yet again, Alexzander quickly scanned the surrounding crowd - and found exactly who he was looking for. He called to the bard by name, and charged him with the care of the woman and her child along their journey to safety. The bard readily agreed and gently dragged the crying woman away toward the catacombs, attempting to soothe her with his melodious voice. Alexzander sighed heavily, shook off his worry, then turned to Ignatius. “Come, let us prepare you to meet the enemy.”
The Hellion chief stood beside the massive humanoid war machine and marveled at its elegant, yet rough-and-ready frame as Eden’s King filled each of its reservoirs with liquid napalm. The former climbed readily into its cavity and allowed the plated silver armor to be closed all around him and each of his limbs, forcing him to see through the narrow eyes of a heavy metal mask. “This machina will follow your every movement, and will grant you incredible strength, while fused with this gemstone,” Alexzander exclaimed as he inserted an impressive glowing crystal into a special slot on the machine’s anterior. “Although you must beware, parts of its circuitry remain incomplete. Your flamethrowers will be your greatest ally in battle. You can make everything happen with these simple controls and a clear mind. Now, go forth and protect our land!”
The war machine seemed to breathe to life, pulsing and infused with the crystal’s magnificent power. Ignatius was amazed at the strength and versatility of the exoskeleton surrounding him, even while the machine felt crude in its mobility. He raised both fists and smashed them into the ground, creating a shockwave through the Earth. The Hellion warrior-monks yelped and howled atop their lions merrily as their courageous leader held flaming gauntlets to the sky in thanks to Gaia before bounding across the landscape towards the sea, where the enemy made haste to greet them.
The alien machina sped towards the beach, crashing nonchalantly through a wall of stone built in the sea, barely losing speed. Inside their stronghold the Marsian army was all in a frenzy getting themselves ready for the impending takeover. The air itself was teeming with excitement as armor was forsaken in favor of weaponry. Everyone agreed that Earthly humanity was a weak species who posed little threat, and eagerly anticipated their immanent landing with dreams of excitement, riches, and slaves. As the fortress neared the beach, Ursula climbed upon a statue in a major hallway, high enough so that she could see above her warrioress’ heads as they scrambled to ready themselves for invasion, and over the uproar she shouted: “Enjoy the war, my devil sisters! Kill, raid, and conquer, but remember to bring the shadow-man to me! The human leader is MINE!”
At long last the alien machine dashed against the seabed and crept onto the beach, spitting fire as soon as it emerged from the sea. Its bay doors opened and the entire Marsian army came spilling forth like a waterfall, screaming like banshees with their weapons held high above their heads. The humans, setting aside their shock, greeted their unusual new adversaries with another barrage of napalm-soaked fireballs, forcefully knocking them to the ground. Hellion archers lit ablaze the tips of their arrows and let them fly down upon the demons, successfully wounding a small minority of them. Ignatius charged relentlessly towards the enemy with flying fists of flaming geysers, trouncing several Marsians as he thrashed and hurled them through the air with the war machine’s aid. But these soldiers were not fallen, they returned to the battle with renewed vigor and not a trace of biological damage via burning. They merely continued their war-cry and fought while aflame.
In a matter of moments the calm setting of Eden became consumed with all-out war. All of the human warrior-monks rushed forth to attack their oncoming enemies, most of whom were a head taller than themselves and proved to be utterly immune to fire. No matter how much napalm soaked their garments, when caught ablaze it did nothing to melt the Marsians’ skin. No human had ever before seen the sinuous, horned, primarily female Marsian warrioresses, yet now they found themselves fighting for their very lives against this aggressive alien species with little chance of survival. Only their enhanced silver weapons and quickened wit sustained their human lives in this, their first battle of their own history.
As the Earth became red with human blood, Ignatius fought harder to destroy the alien war machine. Since fire proved ineffectual, he resorted to pummeling the contrivance with his great metal fists while narrowly avoiding searing streams of flame. One gigantic Marsian warrioress seemed particularly determined to put an end to his endeavor, as she made fierce assault upon him multiple times using a massive metal axe. She made faces at him and mocked him cruelly every time he barely escaped her clutches. “Who are you? What business have you here?”, he finally asked her indignantly.
“I am Malebranche, the teeth that shall consume you!” she answered him. “All that you possess is now mine!”
“Is that so?” replied Ignatius, and as they reached a dangerous impasse in battle, he let out a scream that was the anguished cry of his soul.
That scream was heard by Ursula, who descended to the battlefield with a party of three including Caina and Perfectae. She observed the chaos around her and smiled, her violet domino flapping in the wind, knowing that Eden would soon belong to her Master. She immediately began searching for Alexzander, scanning the crowds for signs of his movements and gait. As she scrambled through the battlefield’s pandemonium with her chaperones, Ursula secretly speculated upon her strange love for the shadow-man, wondering if there were any way he could possibly feel the same way about her. Whenever she saw a human hand she noticed the darkness or the lightness of its skin color, and felt disappointment whenever the color was not black as night.
At last she arrived with her party at the gates of the Temple ruins, but Ursula could sense that within them her prize was nowhere to be found. Thus she ordered her chaperones to leave her and search elsewhere for the human leader on their own.
“There is an ambush in there waiting for you,” Caina protested, “They mean to assassinate you.”
“They will die showing me the way to him,” her Empress replied, “Now go from me.”
Ursula entered the ruins alone, surrounded by the sound of silence. Not a single soul stirred in sight, although she could hear their breathing. Suddenly she espied the sacred fruit she had offered to the shadow-man, withered and dried, and she remembered dropping it there on her previous visitation. Just as her enemy thought she was distracted by this memory, his blade came down upon her from the shadows, but she parried the blow and slit him in half. Within an instant she was attacked by the human squad from every angle, but she tore through them all like a dagger through paper, and did not cease her bloody dance until only two of them remained half-alive.
One of them smelled vaguely familiar. Seizing him, she realized that he smelled faintly of the shadow-man’s sweat, as if he had recently been close to the man she was looking for. Immediately she broke his arm and pinned him against the wall. “Where is the shadow-man?!” she bellowed, her red eyes glaring menacingly into his icy blue gaze.
“I’ll say nothing, demon witch!” Chaltier spat at her, shaking his head. She then broke his arm in a different place, yet still he refused to answer her request. In a fit of frustration she ripped the glove off of her spirit-hand and wrapped its glowing blue flesh firmly around his throat, which she knew would cause him great pain.
“Where is the shadow-man?” she demanded emphatically as he choked and shrieked in anguish. “You will tell me, or you will die!”
Suddenly his last human comrade, a scurvy fellow, stood and spoke to the sorceress- “He is in the funeral shrine to the North by the sea.”
“NO!” Chaltier shouted in reprimand, but it was too late. Their enemy had obtained what she wanted. Ursula abruptly released him, dropping him to the ground as a weakened, coughing heap.
“I’ll allow you both to be alive, for now… one of you to tell the tale, and the other to corroborate as a witness. Be grateful, as this will not happen again!” she declared as she flounced sprightly out of the Temple ruins towards the North. As soon as he recovered his faculties Chaltier shot a rueful look towards his human comrade, who helped him to his feet.
“Scarmiglionet, why did you tell her of the King’s whereabouts?” he asked angrily. “We could not possibly subdue her ourselves, what makes you believe he will-”
“She would have tortured you to death!” the man retorted, interrupting mid-sentence.
“She will do worse to him!” Chaltier snapped back, then sighed heavily as he perceived the inefficacy of their continued argumentation. “Come on, comrade, we need to get to Alexzander before she does!”
Ursula raced towards a tiny edifice which stood alone beside the coastline, far from the thick of the bloodshed. There was not a single soul in sight, nothing but the wind stirred the tree-boughs, but she could SENSE his presence there within the hut. She drew in a sharp breath and proceeded to enter the shrine, past the silken curtains and the vases overflowing with blossoms. Amid the wickerwork coffins and copper urns a dozen life-sized statues held offerings of diamonds and crystals, but the black man was nowhere to be seen. The distinct scent of his sweat hung heavily in the air, and it made her blood boil, yet he remained in silent obscurity until the moment she heard him speak.
“Here lies the outcome of your destruction,” he declared. “All of these bodies are so because of YOU.”
“Destruction of humans is my purpose, as well as my birthright. It is my heritage, and I embrace it.”
“Then I must destroy you.”
Ursula chuckled softly. “My Master wishes a word with you, you know.”
“Then tell Him to come speak with me Himself.”
Ursula laughed more strongly this time. “These things don’t work that way… as His ambassador, I will have to do.”
She peered eagerly into the darkness searching for him, but as she finished her sentence his blade came down upon her from behind. In a flash she turned and parried his attack with a counter strike, but he in like manner sidestepped her offensive maneuver and continued his vigorous assailment. She easily defended herself against his blows for several minutes, until finally she stopped in her tracks and ordered him to wait, their swords kissing in mid-air. Ursula eased her weapon first, assuming a rigid yet peaceful stance, and so Alexzander followed suit. He stood half-concealed in darkness, so that his face could not be made out, but his eyes seemed to glow in the shadows, intently affixed on her. He wore different armor this time, making no effort to disguise the color of his skin, which glistened in the firelight. Ursula caught her breath as she watched a bead of sweat rolling sensuously down his wrist, and then she calmly asked him to identify himself.
“I am the King of the land of Eden, and your human nemesis,” the black man answered.
“What is your name?” Ursula inquired further.
“Alexzander Infinitus the First.”
“The First?” she scoffed. “There is no way they made you their monarch, when democracies and republics rule your social sphere.” She cocked her head and squinted to make out his face, but she could not. “Step into the light, if you speak the truth.”
Alexzander acquiesced to her request, revealing himself fully to the sorceress. She nodded with humble understanding as soon as she observed the sacred torc around his neck. “I see they have indeed made you King. I suppose you cast quite an impression upon your people during our last encounter… and you cut your hair.” She fidgeted uncomfortably, but she could not cease staring at him. In fact, she was markedly mesmerized by him, as if she could not help herself.
“Now you must answer a question for me,” Alexzander demanded solemnly. “Why do I love you? Is it some kind of spell?”
“What!? No…” Ursula asked, visibly stunned. She could scarcely believe what she had just heard him say. She became literally breathless for several moments, then asked, “Is this true? Are we really in love with each other, or is this just one of your tricks, Alexzander?”
It was now Alexzander’s turn for bewilderment, as he had not expected to feel such a cool rush through his spine upon hearing his own name spoken by this inexplicable mystery lover from the stars. He had never expected someone so evil to have such real feelings of love for him, but there they were in her eyes, and he had to know if she was being honest. He practiced an old art, known as telepathy, to see what lay most heavily upon her mind in that moment. The results were weak at best, but he strained hard to make something out: It isn't fair, but I love him. It's just not fair. I love this man. For this I'll pay dearly.
“So you really do love me,” he whispered, taken aback. “And there will be hell to pay… for both of us.”
“You just read my mind? Oh...” Ursula put her hand to her forehead as if she were in feverish pain, and shook her head incredulously. “This is all so strange.”
“Strange? Is it strange for you to love?”
“Not at all. It is strange that a human can read my thoughts, while my Master currently cannot.”
“Then you are free of Him!”
“Not so. That can never be possible.”
Alexzander wanted to prove her wrong, but a glimpse of her spirit-arm reminded him that he knew virtually nothing about the Marsian alien race. He sighed deeply. “I understand, just… say my name again. Please.”
At this, Ursula couldn't help but crack a smile. She repeated his name aloud sensuously, deliberately, emphatically, her melodious voice absolutely dripping with the essence of raw lust. “Love me, Alexzander… Love me now and let The Devil take me later.” Again Alexzander’s spine tingled and flared with cool desire, this time more strongly than before, as her gloved spirit-hand slithered up his right arm while she drew closer and closer to him.
“I don’t know how it is that you kindle my heart… but I cannot deny that you are the only woman I desire… I must have you, Ursula.”
“If we do this, then we both commit high treason against our own people,” Ursula whispered into his ear.
“That may be true,” he breathed, “but to not love you is to commit high treason against my own heart.”
Suddenly they kissed. It was as if an explosion had occurred, as something snapped deep within them. Once their first kiss drew to an end Ursula looked at him frankly with longing eyes, her arms draped gracefully around his neck. “How can this be possible? Is it Fate?”
“Everything changes when Love takes over, even the atoms of the universe rearrange themselves by its command” Alexzander found himself saying in reply, as if he were divinely inspired. His coal-black eyes penetrated her, but it was not enough for him: he longed to make love to her, and he resolved to do so.
She allowed him to lift her by the buttocks and she wrapped her legs around his hips, releasing a groan as Alexzander pushed his sex deep inside of her. Together they consummated a bond of forbidden love they had never expected to find within their lifetime, a bond that few lovers in the history of the universe have ever known. It was as if there were a hole in each of their hearts, a hole sized perfectly for the other to fill and no one else ever could. They had never known such a large piece of them was missing until they found it within the other, and now they joined themselves together in an effort to regain these pieces for themselves.
Behind the curtains, Chaltier and Scarmiglionet crept cautiously into the funeral shrine, trying to be ready for whatever lay in wait inside. Neither of them were prepared for what they were about to secretly witness. They were both silent, but shocked. Their presence hadn’t been noticed yet.
“This should not be happening!” Scarmiglionet whispered in a panic.
“He must be under an evil spell!” Chaltier whispered back, similarly stunned by Alexzander’s lovemaking with the alien sorceress. He then took Scarmiglionet aside. “This does not bode well for us… we must rescue him, and speak of this to no one!!”
Next Sunday don't miss
URSULINE TALES 04: SAINT BECAME A LUSH