• Joshua AK

The Wages of Disorder

Updated: Jul 20

A young warrior detaches the sword from his hip and kneels before a small sapling, emerald green in its early stages of eternal bliss. “I will miss you brother,” he says, “But I thank Elohim your Vile did not claim victory over you. I will continue to fight that we may reunite in Aeon.”

He looks around the forest at the range of trees towering as far as his eyes can see. He hopes desperately that he can fight as long as Vex, his fallen brother did, to one day feel Elohim guide him through the beautiful death as well. Until then, he and his fellow Vanguards will continue their mission of finding and persuading the Nomads to return to Elohim’s Forest.

The warrior, Aiken, rises and returns his blade to his side. Here, in the forest for those Vanguards still fighting for their day, to be in the presence of the mighty Oaks gives enough strength to fight many battles. Each giant reaches to the heavens, soaking in the warm sight and presence of Elohim. Their flawless, rich dark brown bark and glowing emerald green leaves are a promise: fight the good fight until your day and Elohim will plant you in the only soils on earth that will lift you to the heavens.

He begins walking to the end of the forest line. At the edge of the clearing Aiken sees nothing, but hears whispers, the deceptions of the Fallen Spirit ramming against the barrier, sounds only consistently perceptible to a Vanguard’s gifted ears. As soon as he steps out of the forest, his daily battle will wage again.

Aiken is exhausted from the week-long fighting with Vex against the man’s Vile. It did not surprise Aiken that Elohim took Vex as he was as old as many of the greying Vanguards. While he was sad to lose Vex to the beautiful death, it gave Aiken peace knowing he helped his friend maintain the integrity of his journey.

As he walked the plains, the thought of Vex’s death prompted Aiken into a morning of deep reflection. He was a young Vanguard, younger than many who still walked the plains. Those aging shepherds continued to seek the Nomads and fight Viles even after decades of brushes with evil death and painful wounds. And yet still, every morning as the Vanguards knelt before the First Son to center their minds for the day, Aiken remained in awe of their resolve to follow their orders. Despite his youth, Aiken understood the truth to their vitality and it was this: As long as one believes Elohim’s promise is worth fighting against one’s Vile, the tongue will speak with the wisdom of the First Son and the body will fight with the power of the Maker of Aeon.

The further Aiken walks from the Forest, the louder the whispers rise, quickly reaching the level of berating shouts that press against him like the winds of a gale. Aiken tightens the crimson cord of his black cloak, raises his hood, and readies to draw his sword at a moment's notice.

For miles Aiken sees nothing but rolling hills covered in decaying grass. He looks for the shallow path many Vanguard’s wore into the earth, a path that leads to a well known pool at the bottom of a valley a half day’s distance from the Forest. It is a place to drink and rest. Finding the path, he follows it, alert and eyes scanning over the tops of the hills and in the shadows of crevices where his Vile might spring from. Just as he breaches the horizon, he sees the pool and his adrenaline spikes. He sprints towards the bank closest to him to take stock of what he is seeing. On the opposite side of the water, a middle aged Vanguard is kneeling on the ground, hands dropped to his sides. Above the man towers a bright colored Vile, mouth agape and fangs flaring to bite into his collar bone.

“Fight back brother! Don’t die this way! Fight back!” Aiken presses forward at a breakneck speed, but he is too late. This fight was lost well before he arrived.

The Vile bites into the man’s shoulder and rears its head back, ripping open a foot long gash in the man’s flesh. The Vile screams in delight. It winds its head back again and rams it into the open wound, pouring into the fallen Vanguard. With a horrifying blend of panic and regret, the Vanguard cries out for help. Soon his cries are muffled into gurgles. He clutches his stomach, thrashing from side to side. In seconds, it's over.

A substance like diluted black tar explodes from him and covers his whole body. He, no—it is bigger now. The Weeper holds its head and cries out in regret, convulsing from side to side until the creature that devoured him reaches his mind. Before it finally overtakes him to fill his soul with sweet lies for the rest of eternity, Aiken hears the haunting sound that makes every Vanguard’s skin crawl: the gnashing of wet fangs. Then, the area falls silent and the only sound is the repeated mumbles of the Weeper.

“Freedom...Free...doooom...I...am finally...free…”

Aiken skids to a sudden halt. Perhaps the Vile was too occupied overtaking the Vanguard and transforming to have noticed him. The Weeper continues to face away from the pool and at the ground in front of it. Cautiously, Aiken, step by step, sneaks back to the river’s edge on the opposite side of the pool where he arrived. If he hopes to have any water to drink the whole day, this is his only chance at the closest pool for many miles.

He kneels, keeping one hand on his sword and using his free one to carry small amounts of water to his mouth to sip. His eyes never leave the motionless, inky creature. Aiken’s legs feel sore, but he knows he needs to rest somewhere away from the pool, at least today. Wiping away the water from his chin, he draws his sword an inch from its scabbard and walks slowly up the hill and out of the eyesight of the Weeper. At the top of another bluff a few miles away, he waits to make sure he wasn’t followed. After a few minutes, he breathes a deep sigh of relief.

Aiken pulls a dagger from his hip and presses it into the ground. He unties his sword and sits down for a brief rest. The long shadow cast by the dagger tells him that unless he presses on to find a Nomad village to rest at, it is nearly time to return to the Forest for the night. But, his Vile hasn’t appeared yet. He knows, however, this delay in combat follows its recent patterns.

Over recent weeks, his Vile had taken on a new set of tactics: striking at dusk in the loneliness of the journey. It was a cunning way to fight knowing Aiken’s weakest state would be at the end of the day after speaking with Nomads or helping other Vanguards. Tired and alone, separate from any fellow warriors to help—That was the perfect time for any Vile to strike. Many Viles craved Vanguard flesh too greatly and lacked the patience to wait all day to strike. His, however, had no such issue.

The day’s events nearly worked perfectly in his Vile’s favor. But, perhaps at the protection of Elohim, Aiken was too late to help the Vanguard at the pool. Unsure of how vicious his Vile would be, or when it would strike, Aiken knows he needs to take this time to rest for the inevitable fight.

Aiken closes his eyes and centers his mind on the sensation and sounds around him. If a Nomad, Vanguard, or Vile approaches, he will know. Rhythmically he breathes in deeply and exhales slowly, controlling every bit of air leaving his nose. He can smell the faint aroma of the Forest, meaning he did not travel far today, but that could be addressed tomorrow with early rising and a longer journey. The shouts of the Fallen Spirit begin to grow quieter with every exhale, distilling down from a whisper into silence. As if Aiken was sitting right next to the Tree of the First Son, he feels at peace.

He begins to imagine the promise of the First Son, the day he is fighting to see either alive, or beyond in Aeon. He pictures the First Son rising from his tree to lead the legions of living and dead Vanguard into a final war against the Fallen Spirit, his servant Viles, and the Weepers they claimed. It is an encouraging thought and Aiken feels his heart surge with courage.

Then, his mind goes black.

Out of the darkness, a glowing hand dressed in fine gold jewelry reaches through the shadows and calls to him, slowly and methodically motioning towards a figure still cloaked in the blackness.

“But the day of the First Son is so far away. Why not enjoy what you could have now?” Sapara, the Fallen Spirit’s bride.

A silver haired woman steps forward, hand still calling to Aiken in his mind. She looks young, almost his exact age, perfect in complexion and figure. She moves towards him, step by step. “Is there not a beautiful Nomad woman who would adore you, Vanguard? Who would throw herself at you?”

Aiken feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. His Vile has come to fight.

She steps slowly towards him. “Why return to the forest when there could be a chance for real, physical ecstacy roaming the plains?”

The question slithers up Aiken’s spine and over his shoulders. Instinctively, he rips his sword from its sheath and swings it in the direction of the flattering voice.

It hisses in frustration and leaps ten feet in the air before crashing on to the earth, kicking up dirt and blades of grass. Aiken’s Vile, spectacular in its array of vibrant and unnatural colors, crawls around on its four hulking legs. Towering at twice his height with limbs of equal proportion, the Vile slowly begins to circle him.

Aiken raises the hilt of his sword to his cheek, aiming it at the beast as he keeps his distance, matching his steps with that of the Viles’. “Only a fool would trade a king’s inheritance for a single bowl of gruel.”

“Oh, but we’re not speaking of the same kitchen. Elohim sets the standards, why not experience what it’s like? What it’s like to have all the control?”

Aiken smirks, a simple and basic lie. Was the Vile trying to lower his guard, trick him into thinking its faculties had weakened?

“You’ve never felt that, have you? The rush of controlling another person?” The Vile groans, “Decreeing what their love should look like?”

“Can’t truly call that love, can we?” Aiken took deep breaths, doing his best to remain in the calm and focused state he felt before his Vile appeared.

“But hasn’t Elohim locked his love behind servitude and surrender? Why should you have to die to experience his deepest love? That sounds like manipulation, not love.” The Vile stops and sits on its haunches. It grins a horrid smile of slick fangs dripping crystal clear drool. “And if Elohim wants you to be like him, then why not enjoy the fruits of manipulation now?”

Aiken hears enough. The Vile said nothing new, nothing to cast doubt against his resolve. He had heard those words years before, words that nearly stole his beautiful death. But by Elohim’s power, he still stood today, sword cocked, and now ready to pierce the beast before him. With a quick crouch, Aiken gathers himself low and explodes toward his Vile. It seems surprised at his speed and jumps to the side just as his blade moves past its belly.

Again, Aiken lowers and begins running at the beast, hacking at its limbs, blocking its strikes, and waiting patiently for an opening to strike it down. Back and forth they battle until Aiken finds his first opening.

The Vile slams a fist downward into the earth, creating a small crater. Aiken slides to the side of the strike and hops onto its hand. With another step, he jumps from its forearm and swings his sword across its chest. The Vile screams in pain, black ink spewing between the claws that clutch the wound.

He doesn’t know why, but the Vile truly seems weaker. It stood as big as ever, but its words, its skills...they felt lesser.

Feet planted, Aiken raises his blade, ready to deal the final blow for the day’s fight. This time, he would go for the hand covering the wound and cut it clean off. Then, he would strike at its chest again. If the Vile tried to use its other hand, he would cut that one off too. He would cut it down to its last pieces before running it through its heart just so it knew he was not a Spirit that would be conquered by the lusts and desires of the physical world. He began to run at the beast, anticipating the end of the fight.

Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, the beast vanishes and instead stands Sapara.

“But Aiken, is Elohim really enough? Does he truly restore the energy you give fighting for others when you could horde it and fight for yourself?”

Aiken slows from a sprint to a slow jog.

“You fight so hard for others, Aiken. Who’s fighting that hard for you?”

Aiken feels his heart start to race. These words, unlike the others, are connecting.

“No one, that’s what I see. No one fights out here for you.”

Aiken’s jog slows to a sheepish walk.

“Not even Elohim.”

Aiken stops, his sword still at the ready, but the tip bent towards the ground.

The woman grins, a small drop of drool sneaking out of the corner of her smile. “You deserve protection. You deserve rest. You deserve love, Aiken. But who’s going to love you when you need it most? To love you in a way that restores your aching bones?”

Aiken feels his defenses fading. His sword slowly drops to his side. He loses control of his breathing and his chest heaves. His heart beats erratically. The adrenaline of evil is starting to flood his veins.

“Elo...Elohim will.”

The woman steps closer. “But only after a long journey back to his forest.”

“That is where he dwells. Where...where his love is at its fullest…”

“And not out here? Where Viles roam the land? Why not be with you out here? Why not cast his love this far?”

Aiken’s arm is growing weak, He can feel the fatigue from weeks of fighting finally catching him in the moment. Evil has not overtaken him, but he feels his heart beating with the rhythms of two opposing forces. His chest feels like it might explode. “The forest...be...because….”

The woman reaches Aiken and cups his face in her hands. “Perhaps on nights past when you defeated your Vile, Elohim was with you. But where is he now?”

“I...I don’t...he’s in Aeon…”

“He has abandoned you!” She yells. “Left you for dead in this wasteland, loveless and alone.”

Aiken’s vision begins to go black. He feels the darkness beginning to crawl up his corneas. If he doesn’t find a way to fight back now, he will become a Weeper. No beautiful death, no eternal Aeon—just a meaningless wandering in regret.

“So come, Aiken,” The woman whispers in a sweet and soothing voice an inch from his ear, “Let’s keep wandering and find the kind of love Elohim refuses to give you. The physical love you deserve.”

His eyes are black. He coughs a thick liquid. It’s in his lungs. This is it. He lost. Elohim had abandoned him to his Vile and here he would become a Weeper. “Please Elohim...I...I can’t win…”

Do not be afraid. I am with you.”

In a flash, the ink clears from Aiken’s eyes.

“Do not be dismayed, for I am your Maker.”

With a gut wrenching heave, he vomits a heap of black ink over the ground. The woman lunges backwards with a guttural shriek.

“Be strong and courageous, fight the good fight.”

Aiken begins feeling the strength in his arm return.

“Have faith.”

Aiken grips the hilt of his sword and rushes backwards, forearm protecting his face.

You are never alone.”