Shipping up to Boston
The Ruler and The Devil
Thrice slightly grips his side as he climbs the stairs up towards the attic, “Now to make a deal with the Devil,” he weakly smiles, “and today was going so well.” He enters the attic, closes and locks the door behind him, and finally sits in the center of the room where the soul-stones reside. Thrice slumps down onto the floor, crosses his legs, and closes his eyes and breathes slowly. All sound to Thrice ceases to exist; he feels nothing as he heart beat starts to slow. Within seconds Thrice feels as though he is falling through open air, it unnerves him a little. He opens his eyes to discover that he was falling through open sky with an ocean below him, he starts to sweat but his resolve and adrenaline kicks in and he pushes forward regardless. As he closes in on the ocean Thrice shuts his eyes. Thrice opens his eyes and gasps as he finds himself back in the attic but he his drenched with water. He breathes heavily, “D-did I m-make it?” He shakily gets up, moves towards the door, unlocks it, and opens the door. Thrice was not greeted with the familiar hallway in the sanctum but instead into a lavish throne room where plum purple and blood red dominated. Lanterns on the sides of pillars illuminated the vast room along with the black throne and its occupant on top of a pedestal. Wrath claps, “Well, it’s about time you came for a visit Thrice.” Thrice flatly stares at Wrath who was wearing his normal royal clothing. After a moment Thrice shakes his head and turns around to find an exit. A few seconds later Thrice hears footsteps approaching and soon finds Wrath striding beside him. “You’re coming with me?” Thrice asks as he continues walking.
Wrath nods his head, “Unfortunately. I won’t go in with you but I can take you to the entrance, along with the others.”
“Others?” Thrice’s head cocks as the massive double throne room’s doors open to reveal Temperance and Innocence waiting on the other side.
Temperance meets Thrice’s eyes and slowly nods while Innocence does his best to show he is not afraid. “That encounter was too close Thrice,” Temperance spoke as he and Innocence joined Thrice and Wrath in their walk. Thrice gripped his nose, “I know, he was ready for us and we paid for that.”
“I’m just glad you are okay,” Innocence finally spoke up with a slight crack in his voice.
Thrice looked down to the little kid and patted him on the head, “Me too buddy, and now we are gonna make sure he can’t follow us or the others.”
“You really think this will work?” Temperance asked while his eyes stayed forward.
“We don’t really have any other options,” Thrice stated with a sigh.
“I say we just go back out there and kick that fuck’s teeth in,” Wrath exclaimed while he pounded his fists together.
Thrice weakly laughed as he glanced at Wrath, “With the condition I’m in? Fat-fucking chance.”
“Thrice is correct,” Temperance stated, “bullet wound and knife stabs are no joking matter.”
Wrath huffed angrily, “Overman could’ve healed you or even the team from before,”
Thrice looked forward, “Overman had to deal with the threat to the Embers and the team had more wounded to deal with, I’m alive and that’s all I need to be right now to help.”
“And yet you didn’t bring Galena, Slyth, or Silverwing into this assault on Abel’s compound,” Wrath coldly stated.
Thrice’s eyes wavered, “Because I was doing this to protect them, to prove that I could,” he laughs softly, “guess that didn’t prove much but I’m making up for it now.”
“Yeah, by selling yourself down the river you dumbass!” Wrath shouted.
“Now if you have a better idea of getting Abel and his goons off our trail then, by all means, please speak the fuck up,” Thrice gripped Wrath’s shirt as he met his eyes,
Wrath’s eyes grew fiery but soon they looked down away from Thrice’s gaze.
“That’s what I thought,” Thrice said as he released Wrath.
“I believe we have arrived,” Temperance stated.
Wrath and Thrice turned around to discover that they were on the corner of a city street surrounded by hundreds of bystanders. “Huh,” Thrice smiled, “the joys of astral travel.”
Innocence gripped Thrice’s arm and looked up to him, “Now what do we do Thrice?”
“Now,” Thrice said as he gazed upon the city street, “we go and find a train to catch.”
“A train, in this place?” Wrath asks as he and the others walk through the crowd.
“Yes,” Thrice states as he keeps his eyes ahead of everything, “but it’s a special train I had read about in the libraries of The Mysterium.”
Wrath shakes his head, “Ah, of course.”
“It does exist, I’ve heard the occupants talking about it,” Temperance said
Wrath turned to Temperance, “When did you hear about it?”
Temperance smirked to Wrath, “When we arrived in the city, you would be amazed at what you will hear when you pay attention.” Wrath’s face turns red but Thrice steps between the two of them. “Enough arguing,” Thrice stated, “we need to continue, who knows how much time we have.”
The group continued for what felt like hours traversing the cityscape from busy street corners to darkened alleyways. “Do you even know where to find this thing?” Wrath finally spoke up.
“Not exactly no. The train randomly appears anywhere it wants,” Thrice said as he continued forward.
“So we are on a wild goose chase then?” Wrath spoke as his shoulders slumped.
Thrice nodded, “Yes, but it is the only way to get to where we need to go.”
“Well,” Wrath raised his arms, “I think this is bullsh—.” Wrath’s voice was cut off when the ground started shaking and a train whistle was heard. “Bingo,” Thrice said with a smile as he started running towards the sound, the other three followed behind him. The group ran towards the increasing sound while the ground felt it was about to give way to the constant shaking of the oncoming train. As the group turned a corner they discovered a train station with patrons waiting for the train. The group stood among the patrons of the station and soon they saw the train approaching. The silver train glistened in the moonlight as passed between buildings. After a moment of watching, the train finally stopped at the station and opened its doors for people to enter and leave it. Thrice was perplexed at first for the train’s outer appearance was that of a modern day sleek bullet train while the inside looked like a fancy old timey locomotive. Thrice shrugged and him and the others proceeded to board the train. A patron behind the group was magically stopped at the doors and the man swore, “Hey what the hell is going on, I even have a ticket.” The speakers on the train turned on and a calm voice came over them, “No ticket takers are allowed on my train, now leave before force is needed.” The man swore again, tore up the ticket and stormed off. Thrice and the others found an empty room inside the train and sat down. As they sat down a speaker inside the room turned on and the voice came over it, “Welcome to the Midnight Train new travelers. I am the Conductor. Where is your destination?” Wrath, Temperance, and Innocence turned towards Thrice who looked at the speaker and spoke calmly, “The Realm of Death if it pleases you.”
The several hour long train ride was uneventful for Thrice and the others. Thrice gazed out the window in their room to see the city pass by in a quiet blur. Tall skyscrapers to floating dojos passed by in the distance and soon all traces of the city was gone and all that was left was a sea of red and in the middle of it was a defiant tower that looked covered in blood. Wrath seemed intrigued in the sight as the train passed the many realms in the Astral but soon it faded away as the train sped forward. The train stopped a few times but soon Thrice knew their stop was coming up; he didn’t know how he knew he just did. Within a few minutes the train stopped and the speaker in the room spoke, “Your stop good sir.” Thrice and the others stepped off the train onto an empty train station and soon the train started down its tracks. Thrice scanned the new venue, it was lifeless. Broken structures, bleached bones scattered around various places, not even plants were visible, and it was enough to unnerve a majority of people. Thrice reached in his pocket, pulled out his electronic cigarette, placed it in his mouth, and finally turned it on. “Well,” Wrath said as he stretched, “here we are, now what?”
“Now,” Thrice said as he puffed out vapor, “we go to the home of Death.”
“And how do we find Death’s home?” Wrath asked.
“I can find it,” Thrice said as he walked forward through the broken structures.
“But how?” Wrath confusingly asked.
“He is drawn to it,” Temperance spoke as he matched Thrice’s stride, “the Arcanum of Death is leading Thrice to the tower, like a compass.”
Wrath scratches his head, “I guess that makes sense.”
Thrice and the others traversed through broken cities and unnerving cemeteries for an hour or so until finally they came to a black road with trees that were made of bleached bones and on the far end of the road stood a tower made of bleached bones as well. “That’s one hell of a driveway,” Wrath said with a smirk.
“I suppose,” Thrice said through puffs of his cigarette, “now let’s go make a deal.”
Thrice felt nervous when approaching the tower but soon he swallowed that fear down and soon resolve and courage took over. Innocence gripped Thrice’s arm tight as they walked up to the tower’s entrance. The tower’s doors were pale and seemed to be made of dusty skin and at the foot of the doors stood a single ghostly guard. “Halt,” the guard held up a hand, “who seeks the council of Death itself?”
Thrice stepped forward and spoke to the guard while meeting his eyes, “An Awakened of The Mysterium seeking to make a deal with Death.”
The guard paused and soon stepped aside as the doors opened themselves, “You and only you may enter Awakened Scholar.” Thrice looked to the others and shrugged. “Bah,” Wrath waved his hand, “didn’t want to meet him anyways, probably all high and mighty.”
Temperance looked to Thrice, “You can do this Thrice, you’ve come this far.”
Innocence, with tears in his eyes, eventually released his grip on Thrice, “Please come back.”
Thrice smiled and messed up Innocence’s hair, “I’ll be back before you know it.”
Thrice turned towards the tower and entered it while the doors closed behind him.
Thrice was surrounded by darkness but his training with Death magic taught him to stay calm. Soon he began walking forward and found himself inside a throne room covered in black marble floors and walls and bleached bone pillars. At the back of the throne room stood a massive seat made of bones and seating upon it stood a pale woman wearing a black form-fitting dress. “Ah,” the woman spoke smoothly, “you have finally arrived my dear.” Thrice felt himself getting nervous at the sight of the woman, not out of attraction but out of unknown fear. The woman elegantly slid off the throne and strode towards Thrice, “So what is this deal you wish to make, it must be very important for you to travel so far from your companions.” Thrice swallowed hard as the woman approached and soon found himself bowing to her, “My lady, please hear my words and consider helping me.” The lady chuckled slightly, “My dear you need not address me as such, but it is appreciated. So tell me of this deal.” Thrice kept his eyes forward as the lady circled around him, “I have recently come into conflict with another Awakened and he had proved himself a greater foe than I have anticipated and in doing so I have endangered my fellow cabal mates.”
The lady met Thrice’s eyes which made him feel cold, “So what should I do to—help you?”
Thrice’s eyes averted themselves from the lady, “There has to be something you can do to have the Awakened forget about this incident and have something else come to his attention.”
The lady placed her delicate looking hand onto her face, “I suppose I could do that but,” her other hand lifted Thrice’s head to make him look her in the eyes, “what do I get out of this?”
Thrice’s skin slightly crawled but he stayed firm, “I am willing to give you a piece of my soul, a fair offer.”
The lady’s eyebrow arched, “Oh, sacrifice a lot for an escape. This must mean a great deal to you.”
Thrice nodded, “It is.”
“Then I require something more—personal to help you,” the lady stated as she calmly stared into Thrice’s eyes.
The lady’s eyes grew stern, “Your connection to one of your cabal mates.”
“I—I—I don’t know what you mean,” Thrice’s face went flush.
“I want to have the connection between you and the Awakened of the Lead Coin, along with the part of your soul. That is my price.”
“How can I give that to you?” Thrice’s head slightly cocked in the lady’s hand.
The lady smiled sweetly, “My dear, I am Death. I can take whatever I want.”
“How will that affect things?”
“She will not remember what you two had, the others will not remember as well.”
“And—me?” Thrice hesitantly asked as he gazed up at Death.
“You will remember everything my dear,”
“I see, then I have no choice but to accept,” Thrice breathed out slowly.
“Don’t worry,” Death stepped closer to Thrice, “it won’t hurt that much.” Death’s hands touched Thrice’s chest and he felt hot and cold at the same time and then finally pain. A moment later through blurry eyes Thrice saw Death holding a small globe of dust in her hands. Thrice found it hard to breathe as he stumbled on his feet. Death casually held Thrice, “Don’t worry, the feeling will pass.”
“S—so its o—over?” Thrice asked while his body shaked.
“Yes,” Death smiled as she held him, “you’ve saved them. You are a hero.”
Thrice weakly smiled as he felt himself slipping away. Death moved her hands around the soul and soon a small piece broke off from it and soon it started to take shape. “A small gift for your heroics,” Death coldly said as the soul took the shape of an iron ring on and iron chain and she placed it around Thrice’s neck, “wear it with pride.” Thrice looked down at the ring and then looked up to Death with tears in his eyes, “Thank you miss.”
Death smiled, “You are welcome, now go. Your companions need you.”
With that Death reached her free hand and touched Thrice’s forehead which caused Thrice to wake up back inside the attic in a cold sweat.
Thrice shivered away the cold as he stood on all fours on the floor. The ring drooped below his body on the chain. “So it is real,” Thrice weakly said as he inspected the ring. Thrice discovered that there was writing on the inside of the ring, it read Sacrifice. Thrice smiled as he read the inscription while he slowly stood up. “Now,” he said while putting the ring back under his shirt, “time to leave this hell hole.” Thrice slowly unlocked the door and shakily walked down the stairs.