Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 12

Chapter 12.

The door opened. The shape that stood outlined in the faint light from the hallway was subtly wrong; something about the length of arm, joints, stance, said this was nothing that belonged in so mundane a place. But despite its alien nature, it hesitated, unsure.

“What news?”

The voice from within the room was a warm contralto. At first, a human might have found it welcoming. But beneath the voice was something else, as inhuman as the figure that waited in the doorway. “Come,” the voice said again, “speak.”

The creature in the doorway bobbed low, almost groveling on the floor before rising and stepping forward. Its features were stretched and hairless, with a crest that rose and fell like a fish’s fin, eyes huge and dark. Broad, clawed, webbed hands twitched nervously. “Bu’lekau is defeated. Its screams were heard and it speaks no more, and human responders are evacuating the building.”

“And do they speak of what destroyed a shoggoth?”

“A woman-child, of silver and light, so they say.”

“Tch.” The speaker arose, a figure nearly the color of the shadows surrounding her; a brilliant white smile, disconcerting in its brightness, flashed out. “Fear not, Arlaung. I had expected this failure.”

“I do not understand, Great Queen,” he said. “The powers move deeply on this world; a shoggoth of such power is far greater than any adversary the prior First Enemies have faced. I was . . . certain it would work.”

The Queen laughed; it was a sound that Arlaung found comforting, but a human would have heard cruelty and hunger. “You do not remember the other times, Arlaung. But there is a pattern, a way of these things. Surely, we attempt to change that pattern — and sometimes, we have succeeded — but it is by far its strongest in the beginning. As the others appear, their total power is greater . . . but so are their vulnerabilities. Our best chances of victory have always been when we took advantage not of simple combat, but the opportunities their weaknesses provided.”

She surveyed herself idly. “And this cycle may offer us some . . . most interesting opportunities.”

Without warning, a lurid purple-and-green glow emanated from farther within the room.

“Ah!” she said, and turned toward the light.

The luminance came from a strange, multifaceted stone within a box covered with alien runes in shapes that human eyes would have found difficult to observe without confusion or even maddening pain; for Arlaung and his Queen, the symbols were clean and clear and strong. “What does the Trapezohedron say, Great Queen?”

“It begins to clear, Arlaung. Soon it will be time for you to carry it.”

“Can I not be chosen? Let another carry it in the seeking, Great Queen! I would serve you well as one of the Cataclysm Knights!”

She shook her head, shadows moving like long tresses about her. “You must serve as you were made, Arlaung. The Knights must reflect the Princesses; you know this. You are no more human than I. Be the seeker of the Knights, guide them to me, and be content; for when Azathoth of the Nine Arms comes finally to this her throne, you shall be rewarded with the dominion of Y’ha-nthlei and rule the seas under her, and all your people will bow before you.”

Arlaung bowed again. “As you command, Great Queen. I merely wished –”

Another laugh. “Be not eager to take the field of battle, child of the depths. Better far to use humans — for their strength is nigh the equal of their folly, and far more easily bent to our needs.”

Her hand caressed the stone and it flickered like a candle for a moment. “We will gather the Knights, and through them find the weapons of this world that will defeat the Apocalypse Maidens.”

She straightened and looked up, past the ceiling to a limitless distance. “Yes, we have failed before, Arlaung. It is possible we will fail again. But numberless defeats mean nothing, for we will never die . . . and they need only fail once.”