“Minis, come back to me. Minis!” His body, stiff and cool as a statue in my arms had not changed no matter what words I hurled at the Ten, no matter how I stroked or called or kissed the marble skin of his still face. I closed my burning, overwhelmed eyes and raised my face to the Temple ceiling above which the highest Selestialis surely still shone. Though he turn to a still golem in my arms, though he become flame that burns so very close, though he become the airless heat between stars, the fire that burns flesh from bones without light that men can see, still will I cling.
It might be that the city did not hear my oath in the days that were not, to defend my husband. But surely the Ten did. Just as he swore to defend me. Surely the Ten would not let him die at the moment of his triumph?
“The hands of men in the world are the power. Gods, if They are Gods of creation, must obey Their own rules and cannot touch their creation once set in motion.” The voice in my head made no sense to me, held fast in a gigantic flaming image of the God’s power on the earthsphere.
“I do not believe that.”
“Temples are not raised by Gods.”
...temples are built by men, the Fenjitza said. “Minis is lost or... something... in this statue of himself and You are... taking the time to argue with me? May I ask Who I am addressing?”
The voice chuckled and it sounded exactly like the roar around us. “You would defend your husband? Sing for him, then.”
I flew into light and end up standing in cold and darkness. I think it is rough stone beneath my feet. Bare feet. There is a cold, black valley stretching across my path. It is full of fog and smoke and even wisps of airless cold. I hear voices in the fog and in the water running down the cliff on either side of me.
It is an Arko that is all black where the earthly one I know is white. The lake below is white as milk, as bone, as corpse’s eyes, as white as balls of chalk that leave necrotic smears upon warm flesh.
The bells ringing are not metal, but bones and teeth. I know I must go down into that dark city, smelling of burning and gangrenous blood, sack and corruption and rot and my feet find the steps down that are razor edged with the teeth of rats.
There is no light here. The Avenue of Statuary is filled with coarse, vile statues depicting the basest acts that humanity does and is, and tears and shen and blood flow in the gutters and in the washes and the rivers are full of corrupt and pulsing flesh.
My cut and bleeding feet cringe from it all but I force myself through it. The Presentation Fountains pulse sluggishly with semen and I try to add my own vomit to the evil surrounding me, but I cannot feel my stomach. I cannot bear to see the Temple behind me in this black place and I wrap my arms around me.
I remember this. I remember this darkling majesty, where humiliation and death are like fine wine. Where someone else’s pain is the greatest of pleasures, orgasmic. Where orgasm is triggered by someone else’s helpless writhings.
I turn to see the Black Temple and find it is as dark as I feared, as dark as some part of me hoped. As I once was the prince of murder, I could be the Spark of Darkness here.
The Ten were all there. In hideous mockery of Themselves They wear the Divinely beautiful smiles of blood-drinkers and eaters of the dead. Lewd. Wanton, from Their overly lush lips to insanely seductive lines of hip or breast or crotch. Lascivious. Even Risae whose pallor stands in contrast with black marble Gods, her lips dripping the blood and pain of those who worshipped this face of her.
“So, are you our True Son?” It is the silken, deadly persuasive, seductive voice of the One who perverts Muunas’s face.
“If You are truly the Gods of Arko then yes. I submit. But if this is what You truly are, fiends in Divine form, then my submission is forced, for I find You vile.”
The brow of the dark Muunas creases and His finger comes down to point at me, and a spear of darkness touches my chest. My air is gone and I can only shudder in the attempt to scream.
I raised my voice, singing. I sang ‘Beloved Fortress’ and then ‘Golden Soul’. In my arms, the statue of Minis began to soften, and tremble and twitch in my hands. I held tight that he not writhe into the wall of lightning. I held tight and sang.