GREEN NOTE: the illustrious Mark Gardner, Scorpio that he is, has beaten me to the punch and posted an amazing movie-style fantasy chapter 11, which stands as the official chapter, but, so and nevertheless, here, purely for posterity, and the fun of comparison, is what I was headed towards…
I locked eyes with the great, undead warrior. He towered above me, a mass of muscle girded with steel and grounded with congealed flesh and bone, yet I stood strong, stony and unflinching.
As the sky roiled with a bilious gray-green moisture, a war of positive and negative charges raged within me. New and extreme powers to create and to destroy surged through me, while wisdom—primordial and eternally divine—either attracted or repelled them.
A cacophony of voices stormed my head—instructing, guiding, blessing—the accompanying faces zooming in and out, their mouths, at first angelic, began to warp and become ugly in an agonizing struggle to be heard.
In mere seconds they were silenced, the necks of them choked into one feeble strand, bound by a bloodied, fetus-sized hand. Fingers and blind eyes flew at me, screaming-red remnants of Steve, commanding me to annihilate the warrior and all his men.
Disconcerted, I fumbled amidst the changing fields of powers and struggled to conjure a weapons system capable of such destruction. It was a feeling of being handed an alien set of controls and tossed without briefing into a life-or-death game.
“Faster, you idiot!” Steve bawled, veins bulging at his tiny, milky-skinned temples.
I thought to turn a handful of high voltage powers on him, but in my mind’s eye, I saw that his rage was fear. His very essence was melting back into the pre-universal womb and ultimately to the perfect bliss of impalpable existence, but he couldn’t know that.
“Kill them all!” he commanded me. And when I would not, the gory remnants of him sharpened and clawed after my vital force like a fiend, to imbibe it as a means to seize control of his body again.
A thin, hollow sound came, a voice, “Let go, Steve,” and with the voice came a nebula, its churning crimson mass of moon dust glimmering with particles of olivine.
“Luna,” Steve cooed. He reached for her and she took him up. “Come, my darling, I will see you home,” she said then drifted toward me. She spiraled upward around me, beaming, her voice tinkling, “Well done, Abraham,” and she spun off toward the warrior’s head. She hovered round it, said, “Look to him, Abraham.”
Still locked with the warrior, I focused on his staring-dead eyes, diaphanous, like a shark’s. They were unreadable, his intent unknowable without accompanying actions, yet he remained still with expectancy.
“Look deeper, Abraham.” Luna’s voice rose within her shimmering.
I increased the intensity of my stare. Still nothing, still the warrior waited.
Steve’s quintessence was fast diminishing and Luna stirred with urgency, a ruby dust glistening at her center. “Look with your heart, Abraham!”
I breathed deep and centered myself. When I looked again, I saw a spark, and the unblinking eyes came alive as those of the once commander of my elite forces at the Vale of Siddim.
“Good,” Luna purred, and she lifted, swirled round me, brushed my face like a soft kiss then sped across the boat deck toward the stern with the last of Steve. “I am ever with you, Abraham,” she called out and swept off over the gray, lifeless water, the silvery dust of stars spinning in her wake.
“Commander Manrei,” I greeted the warrior, “it is you! And even in death you still fly my flag, the flag of my beginnings. I am honored.”
“As I am honored to fly it, My Liege,” the commander said, bowing his armored head. And with that familiar motion came the remembrance of him as a strapping, red-blooded man, the two of us fierce in battle together, and my joy turned to pain.
“I mean no offense, Commander, but it grieves me to see that you have ended up among the Deadrise peoples, your souls having to animate dead bodies continually needing repair.”
No smile could form on that ghastly face, but I heard one in his voice. “Ah, but I chose this path, Your Grace. I saw in a vision that I could do more for the world in the undead realm. Indeed, there is far greater acuity, knowledge and mobility and thus, power. Bodily deterioration then becomes a small matter.”
“How shortsighted of me, Commander. All that you have said is true to your character, the Manrei I’ve known from my earliest memories. It is those with the greatest egos that cling to human life and so take over live bodies, as I and all the kings have done.”
“There is no dishonor in what you have done, Your Grace, there are many paths to greatness.”
“You are too kind,” I said and bowed my head. “But if I may ask, what of our quest, the one we were allied for since the beginning of time?”
“It lives, My Liege. I am Commander in Chief of the Deadrise peoples and their vast armies. We are a boundless nation, more powerful than any in the human realm and beyond. D-CIG, our central intelligence group, can see into and operate in all realms past, present, and future.” He paused and again came the smiling voice, “And you will be pleased to know we are innovating new and indestructible bodies to inhabit. Many of the men with me on this mission are inhabiting prototypes. If you look, you’ll see.”
I laughed from relief but the pain in guilt stopped me cold. “I beg you, forgive me, Commander, deep within I know you could never be untrue to…” The word “mission” finally sunk in. “When you say ‘this mission,’ exactly what mission do you speak of?”
“You will see, My Liege.” And with that he removed the steel gauntlet from his left hand and held his palm up to me.
My heart leapt at the sight: a branding of my coin in the ashen flesh of his palm. And when I saw that it was branded in the reverse of the one in my right hand, I drew a breath, knew instantly by some instinct to raise my hand and press it hard into his.
The coins, one against the other blistered and smoked anew, and we were held in the physical plane, hand to hand, eye to eye, in a sizzling, electric glowing.
On a causal plane, we were sweeping back toward the derivation of Abraham, the very first, the original, and we encountered as many journeyers as there are stars in the universe, from every other plane and realm.
Guardian angels, sprites, Madonnas, patron gods and such, they blessed us; and every evil thing from demons to vampires to hungry ghosts attacked us but were no match for Commander Manrei.
We slammed into the black mire of Timelessness and existed there in a state of perfect beatitude until we were propelled into Time again by an unknown force.
We swept forward, revisiting every of Abraham’s lifetimes, and I experienced each one until my brain was fully charged with Abraham’s very existence and no other memories besides his remained within me.
The instant we found ourselves back on bridge deck, locked as we were, eye to eye and hand to hand, I fully understood that Commander Manrei had chosen the realm of the undead so that he would have the power to guide and defend me through all my lifetimes.
Before a rush of love and gratitude could produce tears, a lightning bolt lacerated the angry sky, left a ragged gash, its edges on fire. Thunder cracked once and the fire turned to ash, and from the ash rose a great, garish bird on a ray of sun.…and on it would go on over a couple other sections or chapters to accomplish the following:
__expose Jezebel, who 1) had allied herself with King Zimron, the rogue king (incidentally, it was Zimron in chapter 10 who attempted to wipe out not just Jezebel’s fleet but Abraham, Zedekiah, and Jezebel herself because she’d struck a deal with him to lead Abraham to eternal death and in return to be Zimron’s queen and share the rule of the world with him once he’d annihilated the Master, and Zimron had no intention of letting that happen); 2) had bewitched Zedekiah and Steve-becoming-Abraham to denounce the Master and harbor a desire to defeat him (chapter 9); and 3) had tricked Zedekiah into sailing away from their destination (the Gate of Gods) to the Nahr al-Urdun river with the supposed mission to kill Zimron, first (ultimately to impress the Master), and foremost, to then sail unhindered to the Gate of Gods to make a plea to the Master to reverse his decision to destroy the world (stems from chapter 8)
__expose Zedekiah as being an utter failure in his mission to properly attend the Steve-to-Abraham conversion (to be a wise guardian, to choose safe passage for him while training him up in the ways of a true warrior and king), this failure raising question as to his allegiances, especially since he had a history of collusion with Jezebel and, as a king in his first lifetime, having led his own nation to destruction
__Jezebel and Zedekiah are seized by Cdr Manrei’s warriors, removed from the “Jezebel,” and taken to the ghost ship, their fate to be determined by future chapters
__while King Zimron and his forces remain at large, King Abraham, in the fullness of his kingly powers, earthly and supernatural, is sent off on his own in the Zebedee (which the Jezebel was trailing) to accomplish his mission, alone for the time being but heavily guarded by the unseen, ever-present Cdr Manrei and his vast forces and Luna and her Fae forces.
And at the end of all this, we see a legion of doves flying above the Zebedee and Cdr Manrei following the Zebedee’s path along the deck of his gargantuan ghost ship until his beloved king is out of sight…for now.