Symposium of Bad Ideas Part 2
There seemed to be no end to the secrets of the Nest.
Diodorus somehow knew how to find the secret chamber, its curved walls and doomed roof reminding Considius of a hypogheum; he could not figure out which way they came in, founding only side alcoves either hidden by shadows or illuminated by lit braziers. The barber coughed, his head dizzy by excessive alcohol consumption and smoke filling the room. His red eyes wandered, looking at the wooden animal masks that Diodorus had hanged alongside the room: a boar, a white and red horse, a lynx and some sort of waterfowl.
The barber covered his mouth, ready to throw up.
The Magus was bare-chested, his fingers mixing some green-blue glittering dust into paint. He drew a line from brow to breast; he replicated a similar shape on Considius, undressing him as needed. Diodorus finished with a lambda upon their chests.
“What.” Considius mumbled, but his tongue betrayed him, muscles bloated and lazy. Diodorus was holding his head, slowly and calmly giving him instructions that he could barely understand.
“Easy there… It is dangerous so never… There, call your spark… stop holding back… let it manifest…”
That last voice did not belong to the pirate. Diodorus could hear it inside of his head, bronzed as a horn, emulated female and speaking in a forgotten Greek dialect. The words were crisp, emotionless and barely understandable.
“Is the young female the only one with any sense? You have no idea what you are about to do, you are going to brave the most dangerous transmutative endeavor a mortal can aspire; a liar and cheater your only company. It will be a mercy if you just forget yourself. I fear a much worse road lies ahead of you, foolish Tribune.”
His head hurt; Considius closed his eyes. He opened them to find Diodorus staring at him, expectant.
“Are you ready?” He asked, worry tarnishing his tanned face.
Considius stared intently. The last Greek that had been this close sent him into the Underworld; every atom in his body screamed that there was something terrifying and transcendent in this experience - he needed no otherworldly oracles to tell him what his lizard and human brain kept pleading. Diodorus was a rogue - but one that had been on their side. The barber knew that if they were going to have a working relationship, he had to start to get used confusion, trickery and non-sensible requests.
Marcus nodded as confirmation.
“You are not, but that is part of the process.” Diodorus blew a handful of feathers and gold dust at Considius’ face, causing him to choke.
Breathing became harder and harder, Considius trying to reach into his mouth but finding his movements increasingly constrained. Even as he kept choking he found everything muffled, as if he was drowning in water; no, it was not water, it was too viscous and slow moving. Something warm filled his mouth and lungs - easing him and causing him to curl in a ball.
Sound was muffled, as if it had to penetrate something rigid and diffuse across a fluid blanket. He reached out, finding resistance. He tapped with both hands, pushing stronger each time, dreading and longing for an opening. An ominous crack, a beam of light. There was only one way out, so Considius kept pushing. He found himself surrounded by amniotic fluid and bone dust, broken egg shells lying in that messy pool. Raising naked from the mess, the Triumphant studied his surroundings.
It was a weird place: the bronzed sky and wine-red sea had been replaced by a beautiful mesh of impossible green and blue tones, the horizon misleading, the lack of curvature promising an endless sprawl of islands. Closer to him were fields of grapevines and grain, broken by apple and olive trees. Too much saturation, too much brightness; specially disquieting considering the meek light the invisible Sun provided.
A man approached, extending his hand and turning the grip into a hug. Considius blinked, his spark and mind short-circuited. He could feel Diodorus inside the man, overwhelmed by a stranger’s visage - and yet, a stranger that felt familiar; so familiar in fact that the Triumphant *believed* in his very soul that he looked just like himself - even if nothing could be farthest from the truth.
“Brother!” The voice echoed strangely, but still Diodorus. “Our sister is gone, kidnapped in the most vile act of mortal villainy and divine pettiness.”
What nonsense was this? He could feel something within relax, calming him, dissuading him from questioning the scene. Was this what a spark felt like? Flowing from the platonic realms, flooding cells and wrapping atoms? Apprehensive, he agreed to give up the reins of the narrative.
“Let’s get her.”
The waves parted away, debris turning into wood and wool fleecing itself into sails and ropes; a ship was there and not, peacock eyes blessing it and a hunting owl at the prowl. It was too ethereal, immaterial, unable to bear the physicality of the world.
And yet, Diodorus and Considius climbed on board with no issue.
Mists covered everything, separating the barber and pirate. Whiteness was all he could see, before finding himself in complete darkness. The blowing of horns, screaming of men and angry grunts of beasts spoiled the next vista: a vast vineyard rampaged by something massive, a being hunted down my a myriad of heroic figures. Considius had the same perception looking at them that he had when staring at a Triumphant: the immediate awareness of an otherworldly Triumph and a disturbing sense of familiarity and intimacy. There was something else; it seems he was bringing to this place - or time, or event - whatever baggage burdened his heart. He could recognize many of the Crows in the blurred hunting heroes, the corner of his eyes catching an archer that looked a bit too much like Lidia and a trapper with the intense stare of Sergius.
The only one that really felt real was his twin, a shining Diodorus, running and throwing him a spear.
Considius grabbed the weapon and turned with a spin, almost stumbling as he faced the beast they all hunted. It was an enormous boar, bigger than any animal he had ever seen - but prodigious size was far from its weirdest feature. The pig seemed to be made of scrolls folded within each other, folding itself back and forth closer instead of running or charging. It was on top of the barber one second, back down at the field, tusk-scrolls red; Considius looked down and saw his leg shredded with a thousand painful paper cuts.
“Be careful!” Diodorus shouted, waving to get the boar to chase after him. “Do not think about it or you will make it worse. Do not mind the apparent distance: focus on the boar, bare your spear and poke at it. Just a token effort will work. Do it!”
Considius narrowed his eyes, until the boar was just a blur. As it seemed to refold itself closer to him, the barber dodged sideways, rotating his wrist and aligning the top of the spear towards the animal’s flank. The head of the boar refolded to look back at him; somehow, in the inky eyes of the boar Considius found recognition - he could swear to be staring down at Pleuratus the Germanic. Cursing between his teeth, he could feel my hands slipping along the shaft, gripping the end of the spear with all his strength and putting weight against it.
Paper folded itself along the blade, trying to blunt the strike. In vain, as the barber used the spear as he had used rusty scissors against the human Pleuratus’ neck. The boar trashed between vineyards, blood and crushed grapes mixing with ink blots.
“No, no, no.” Diodorus rushed to Considius’ side. “I said poke. This was not how it was supposed to go.”
The hunting heroes stopped hunting and stopped being heroics. They approached the fallen boar, circling around the Triumphant duo; it quickly devolved into a brawl, each hunter wrestling each other as they laid claim to the kill and the trophies.
“Run!” Diodorus grabbed Considius by the arm, ducking underneath a shadowy uppercut that narrowing missed the barber. The very reality of the scene seemed to break down, Considius’ infraction eroding whatever internal consistency held it together. Space and temporal causality were going away bit by bit, making very hard for them to escape the quarrelsome hunting grounds. A hole opened, Diodorus stopped.
“This is not ideal, but we have to stay together. We can’t afford to get lost. Jump!”
Considius wanted to, but he found himself unable to follow. Powerful muscled arms wrapped around his chest, pushing him back. His heart sank as he saw Diodorus disappear within the unfolding space; twisting his head he found the empty wrathful eyes of the archer-Lidia. He struggled, managing to free himself just as everything collapsed into the same cycle of whiteness and darkness.