An assassin who enjoys his work a bit too much, a magician who now finds herself with a fire obsessed servant, an inquisitor who picks up a blade to fight for the religion that saved her, an ambitious politician who sacrifices honor and virtue to build a better world for his children, and a mysterious witch who finds manipulation to be the greatest joy life can offer. It seems the land of Alsra will soon be littered with fresh corpses and horrible atrocities.
The Crimson Theatre
Book 1, Act 1: The Rise of Sinners
Damn it all, thought the beneficial but ambitious king, as he traversed the war torn field, covered with the bloody swords of his people.
“Damn it all…” said the deplorable, jovial killer, as he stared at the corpse of his last loved one.
“Damn it all,” mumbled the guilt stricken witch, as she grieved over the mistakes she had made to attain her desires.
“Damn it all!” cried the legend cladded in misery, as his very existence was devoured by darkness.
“Damn it all…” coughed the loyal romantic, as her lover threw her aside as yesterday's trash.
“Damn it all,” grunted the titanic and venerable old ruler, as everything he had built from the ground up crumbled to dust.
“Damn it all!” shouted the greedy father, son, and daughter, as they were betrayed by those they considered their pawns and as such expendable.
Damn it all, lamented she who embodies evil, as she was subjugated to humiliation.
“Damn it all!” squealed the tortured puppet, as her mind and body were submitted to unimaginable torment.
“Damn it all!” screamed the delusional pyromaniac, as his mind was torn between two lives.
Damn it all, apprehended the husk surrounded by darkness, as the plans he had constructed for his kind were crushed before his eyes.
“Damn it all…” replied the manipulative opportunist, as she found herself on the receiving end of her own forte.
Damn it all, concluded the nihilistic peacekeeper, as he smiled at the thought of the end.
Amusement for the Wicked
Boredom is a torture. To Cassandra, at least.
She sat at the head of her empty court, sitting there with a bored expression. She began to pick at the rose that sat on her head, then she began to twirl the bronze hair that hung in front of her left hear. She took the pipe that was in her other and embraced her mouth on it, releasing it along with a huff of smoke. Her miserable dark blue eyes followed every strand of the smoke until it completely vanished, leaving no proof of its existence. The strands curved and played with each other, slowly taking their time with every action. They curved around each other sometimes, and formed together other times, becoming one in the process, like two lovers becoming linked in marriage.
Her eyes fell upon the last strand, it’s seemingly flat and stretched body swaying back and forth like an indecisive king who is stuck between the choice of doing what society deems right or doing what is necessary, of which his people will not understand. The strand began to stretch in many directions, the king’s mind being torn between ideals and factions. The strand began to disconnect, the kingdom falling into chaos that stemmed from unforeseen results of a poor decision that portrayed itself as a sufficient, even strong one.
Cassandra scowled and swiped away the smoke violently. “Damn this to Hell! Is there really nothing to entertain me, nothing to grab my attention?” Surprisingly, her voice, despite the anger, was clear and refined. She took another huff of her pipe and blew the smoke out to her side. Right into the face of her servant.
He coughed a little and swiped away the smoke. “Thank you, madam,” he said with slight sarcastic intent, “That was exactly what I wished for today.” He poured her the tea he had fixed, the steam radiating out of the cup.
Cassandra took the cup along with a plate as to not stain her maroon velvet dress with an accidental drop. “Forgive me, Thomas. I had not seen you there.” It was the truth. Boredom had ironically distracted her, though it was more precise to say it had numbed her mind, leading her to carelessly do clumsy things. She even dropped her tea cup once because boredom dictated it.
Thus, Cassandra considered boredom a sort of torture, if a somewhat naturally created one. One could torture another physically or mentally, of course, driving that person’s mind to the brink of shattering or just shattering his or her ribcage. But there was a different style to boredom, a different approach. Rather than being sudden with immediate results like other methods, boredom will seep into one’s mind subtly. A man will find joy in a task that is in front of him, only for boredom to creep in. It will seem ridiculous at first, only negative thinking the man will think. But it will continue to grow and grow and grow until what he once reveled in is now only a tedious and menial chore.
As was Cassandra’s case. She took a sip of her tea and smiled, a rarity in these days. “I see you have changed your ingredients again, Thomas.” There seemed to be a sweater taste to it with a small compliment of honey.
Thomas gave a toothless grin. “I decided to change today’s ingredient. It’s a new recipe. A new combination of herbs and what not.”
Cassandra took another sip and showed she was quite pleased. She placed her dish down and leaned back into her chair, sighing. “At least you stay interesting, Thomas. I can’t remember the last time anything could claim that characteristic.”
Thomas bowed and placed his right hand over his chest, “I live to serve, madam, and also to please.”
“Oh, what would I do without my humble servant?” She held out her hand to him, and in it was what seemed to be a transparent grey colorless flame. It didn’t touch her palm but rather floated above it, not even a finger tip’s distance away from her fair skin. “How about a treat? A soul picked ripe from one of the common plains. I believe it to be woman, a farmer’s wife.”
Thomas’ smile became a wolfish grin, showing his white fangs. His literal white fangs. Sharp pointed, enough so to cut through meat easily. “My madam is most generous.” He took the soul with elegance and brought it close to his face. He examined it thoroughly and caught his reflection in it. What he saw was the bright blue shine that his lazy eyes presented with his black slitted pupils slicing through the middle of each. His irises were never still, even though they were not moving. The blue within them shimmered with countless lines that resembled the shine of flat edges leading to the top center of a diamond. The lines all led to the center of the slitted pupil, and from there the lines seemed like countless stars falling from one point in every direction. If his pupils had not been slits, their beauty would not be argued by any, but his pupils added an ominous feel to them, as if it wasn’t a beautiful woman that stood before their presence, but a hefty meal.
Thomas opened his mouth wide and ate the soul whole. He chewed for a bit, then swallowed. He gave a gasp of air as he felt the soul run through his entire body, not just his stomach. “A wonderful meal. Thank you, madam.” He gave another bow, similar to the one before.
Cassandra stood from her chair and began to walk, smoking her pipe. “I would have plucked a finer soul for you, as I know you could find those just by hunting near some farmland.” Thomas smirked at that, following his master and scratching his hairy chin. “But I could not for the life in me find the motivation to search for one.” She stopped at a portrait, one that covered nearly the entire wall. It was a portrait of herself, smiling. Cassandra blew more smoke out. “If only I could be like I was back when you painted this portrait, Thomas.”
She walked up and laid her free hand on the portrait, “To think, I, Cassandra Lopetus, I who hold supreme power over the ethereal world, I who weave and sow magic like an old widow with too much free time on her hands nits a blanket of artistic mastery,” her hand fell off the painting and she rolled its limbs into a fist, “am bored with nothing to do but sit around and get fat off of tea!”
The room shook slightly and a vase on a nearby table shattered into pieces.
Thomas began to make his towards the mess. “No, Thomas, I’ll take care of it.’ Cassandra then snapped her fingers, and the mess dissipated into golden orange shards of light.
Thomas chuckled to himself. “It’s a wonder that I’m even needed here at all, madam.”
Cassandra walked to a nearby chair with a side table next to it. She took the seat as her own and used the table to support her arm which supported her head as she placed her weight onto it. “Oh, Thomas. Do you truly believe I would clean my home myself? I could hardly find every mess myself in this gigantic mansion. Besides, without you here, I believe I would be nothing but cobweb reinforcement, doing absolutely nothing.” She gave a long and heavy sigh with a sullen face. “Then again, it seems I may start helping you with your duty if this damned stagnancy continues.”
She took another huff from her pipe. It had been a gift from Thomas a few centuries ago. He made sure everyday it was filled with the proper herbs to ease her mood. She tasted the sweetness of them, burning with the pipe, an eternal flame that lights itself until nothing is left.
Thomas gave his usual smile, full of pleasantry and the intention of pleasing. “Surely, madam, there are plains with the ethereal world that contain something to supply you with amusement?”
Cassandra scowled at that. “Yes, but it’s the same damned business every time. Souls in the afterlife are so stagnant, so dull. Torturing them, bringing them salvation then destroying that salvation, it all means nothing to me now!” She blew a cloud of smoke into the hair, which soon aged to strands, the aged to nothing. “Perhaps, what is it now, two millennia?, is too long for anyone to live.” She sighed again. Boredom, to her, was the ultimate torture.
“Now, now, madam, there are other places filled with opportunity for amusement. If the ethereal world has grown dull, why not turn to the material world instead?” Cassandra looked up at that.
It was true that she had had some dealings in the material world, though everything she did was to entertain herself. She laid her finger down only a couple of times. Each time she would watch the effects ripple through, causing chaos, everyone blind to whom they were being manipulated by. She considered them her best pieces of work. Boredom’s claws began to weaken. “Go on,” she said.
Thomas obeyed, as always. “I’ve seen the work you’ve done in the material world. Each time you enjoyed yourself, far more than you ever had with the ethereal world.” He cracked his grin, showing his fangs. His voice lowered. “You could ruin a heaven or two in the ethereal world all you want, but an endless joy is soon to always die. A revelry that happens only once, however, will never loose its charm, never fade away from memory.”
Cassandra took her time and soaked in the words. Return to the material world, eh? Her frowning mouth transformed into a slight smile, then grew wider and wider until the chains Boredom that had locked it with shattered and she showed full her teeth, revealing she had a tooth longer than her others off to the side. “Damn it, Thomas, but that is brilliant!” She lifted herself from the chair and stood with her arms out, as if announcing something. “For centuries, I’ve been preoccupied- no, distracted and blinded by the ethereal world’s offerings and secrets! It showed me its extravagant colors to deter me from the material world’s own, even blackening any thoughts I had of it, blockading any reminder that may come bearing tidings a news! Oh, how foolish of me!” She gave a short and childish laugh that echoed through the great hall. The candle lights seemed to quiver at its sound.
Cassandra’s pipe faded away and she fell back into her chair. Her chest beated with anticipation, each thump adding more excitement to her ebulliated mind. It had been far, far too long since she felt this rush, this euphoric feeling. Her hands now trembled with glee, her fingers gripping the chair tightly. The adopted child of some lowland farmer who dreamed of nothing but adventure and exploration would have told her, as the child’s adoptive parent would have said, to cool her tits.
“The question is though, my loyal servant,” she inquired as her shoulders lost tension and her body relaxed, as she rose her head with a less explicitly joyful smile, “what game could shall I play with the mortal realm?”
“That is entirely you decision, madam.” He bowed his head. “I am merely here for suggestions.”
Cassandra showed movement under her poofed skirt, movement that she was now crossing her legs in a fashion that befitted all women of her stature. “Then suggest something. Anything will do: a tragedy, a war, what shall I write into my play this time?”
“Well, madam, it would be of great and dear assistance if you were to relay some of your previous dealings with mortals to me.” His master let out a flustered laugh as he finished, one that suggested he had told a joke to win her favor. “What’s so funny?”
Her laughed passed away, ending its life with a joyed sigh from Cassandra. “Oh, nothing, Thomas. I just never thought you were interested in my days before I became what I am.” Thomas’ pale cheeks grew red as he predicted what his master would say next. “If you wanted this so badly,” she brought her hand up to her breast and gripped the clothe, beginning to gradually pull it down, “you need only ask, Thomas.” She spoke his name with seductive intrigue.
Thomas turned his head another way as not to see here reveal. “Madam… you are most kind to offer… but I had only meant your dealings… I wasn’t trying to pry...” He glanced back at Cassandra and immediately averted his eyes when he still saw her clothe in hand moving ever so slowly downward, her face filled with calm ardor. “Please, madam… I don’t fi… I can’t find any attraction or lust for you as I am… as you made me a demon...” His voice trailed off to silence, ending with, “Oh dear.”
Cassandra released her dress and it bounced back into place. She chuckled a bit and said, “Don’t worry, Thomas, I only tease.” Thomas sighed relief and turned his head back to Cassandra, only find her face with the same calm lustful intent. “Still, it’s rather comical how flabbergasted you seemed to get despite your argument.” His smile returned, however, as did his comfort.
“Perhaps a comedy should be made of the mortal plain then?”
“I’m afraid I already produced such a work and it was not my best. I changed it to a tragedy in the end, which made me laugh more than the weak satire it offered before.” She still remembered the renowned artist being tricked into stabbing his brother, his mind cracking even further when he choked his brother’s wife for fear of gossip. Cassandra smirked at the pleasant memory.
“Then please, madam, I beseech you.” He fell to his knee and his voice suddenly became dramatic, displaying a histrionic performance. “Tell me of your past associations with the easily manipulated fools, whom we call mortals and humans as not to hurt their overly sensitive feelings, so I may occur to you a grand course of action for this next show!” He looked up with a grin on his face, his eyes glowing in the shadows of his messy and unruly dark brown hair.
“A fair question, my theatrical servant.” She closed her eyes and recalled the few affairs she had in the material world. “When all of humanity were under the enslavement of the Burners, which was nearly a millennia ago, I planted the thoughts and ideas of a certain experiment to be carried out by their heads of magical research. This experiment involved taking dozens of their slaves’ souls and fusing them all together to see what the effect was. What they received was a grey skinned woman with black hair and black feathered wings. Her lips were unnaturally black and her teeth had fangs. Her eyes were like yours, Thomas, though not lazy shaped and a rosy color instead. She in turned slaughtered them all and devoured their souls.” The First Demon, Cassandra thought, Now there is a being worth my attention.
Cassandra continued her recollection. “Not long after that, I granted one of the slaves who had tragically lost his wife an overwhelming power that did not end well for the Burners. His story was quite interesting. Perhaps I’ll integrate him into the entertainment.”
“It seems to me, madam, that some of your old ‘acquaintances’ are still existent in the material world. Perhaps to showcase your return, you should include them as a reminder of your other displays of amusement.”
“Yes, but the question is what shall I do for this return show.” She raised her left arm up as if lifting something. “It must be grand.” She did the same with her other arm. “It must be beyond a doubt exciting.” She stood up from her chair as if she were announcing the very Heavens. “It must be of the finest quality. Not a single wound in its production. Only the most talented of actors shall be taken as to not deter from its excellence.”
“A splendid idea, madam. Might I suggest a contest of sorts? One where those chosen shall compete against one another for a grand prize?”
“A contest…” She began to pace back in forth, Thomas’ eyes following her. “No, too childish and predictable. I want a play of sorts, but what kind?” She stopped, as did Thomas’ ominous eyes, and began to think. Something bloody. Something vicious and invigorating. Maybe… Her mouth cracked open into a sickly grin.
She suddenly turned to Thomas and announced to her empty court, “A festival of plays! Ones that will tell a gamut of tales and adventures, of tragedies and legends!" She walked down the steps onto the same floor level as Thomas and continued on to her court table. “Each show will be about a different individual, one who will entertain his or her audience, being me, differently than the last. And to end this festival heralding my return, all these productions will intertwine and become one. Ideals will conflict, ambitions will clash. It will be a showing that will pull the entire world into its flames!”
She sat down in her chair at the head of the table. Her pipe came back and she relaxed into her chair. She hadn't felt this much excitement in centuries.“Thomas!” She ushered him over. “Search and root out individuals of interest. Don’t approach them. Just observe and gather information on them and bring it back for me to determine. Make sure they have the necessities to entertain and not bore me. Understand?”
Thomas bowed, with one hand over his heart, his wolfish grin returning. “Clearly, madam.” He began to walk away and exit the hall. “I shall be back with a list of those with the desired attributes.” The door shut behind him, leaving Cassandra alone with her empty and silent court.
Cassandra blew a cloud of smoke to her side. Her callous joyful dark blue eyes followed each strand of smoke, each competing with the other for its own existance, with one vanishing and another standing victorious, only for it to vanish as well. The strands curled and fought each other, taking their time with each action and thought, knowing it could well be be their last. They curved around each other sometimes and betrayed each other, while some linked together to form an alliance. One strand remained in the end. It seemed it was the victor, but them it too began to fade away, as if killing its brethren had been too much for it and it took its own life.
Cassandra gave a sickly and malicous grin. Tragedy is a joy.
To Cassandra, at least.