For Action

For Action

Take me to one more mortal soul to rescue. Just one more for today. Please. I have to try. I have to make up for my failure.

Static engulfs his senses, then fades as quickly as it arrived. He doesn't know where he is. It's all completely dark. It's too hot. He feels like he's cooking himself alive in his own armor. He wants to take it off, discard all his possessions and fade into a SH-

NO!

He snaps himself out of his stupor and looks around. It's still too hot. It's still too dark. But he knows himself now. He knows not to give in to the urges. He will keep moving forward. Keep moving forward…

"…until I can't keep moving anymore," he finishes out loud, slowly walking along the… the void. His very body feels like it wants to lose cohesion and fall apart on the atomic level. He wills it not to. His atonement is not yet complete.

It never will be.

The Red Knight pauses. He feels another presence with him, but it's not mortal. It's not the human he came to save. It's not human at all. It's godly, decayed and rotten, twisted into an unrecognizable shape yet still so familiar after all these eons.

At least, it feels like eons.

As he attempts to assess the identity of the presence, he suddenly hears a loud, maniacal cackle surround him. Suddenly, it clicks in his mind what sort of environment he had just walked into. He swiftly stretches out his hand and creates a rift in the wall to the side. As he runs towards it, he feels something grab his leg from an unknown direction. He claws the burning ground and goes towards the rift. Just as he barely gets close enough to touch it, he sees the rift turn purple. Before he can react, his hand touches the rift, and everything goes black.

The Red Knight opens his eyes to be greeted by a dusty wall of bricks. A cacophony of loud machinery is all he can hear. He stands up and regains his bearings. He feels ashamed of his failure to save that human (second time's the charm, right claudius?), but he knows that salvation was simply not possible, not after he heard that familiar laugh. He had entered into a place where nobody leaves, and barely made it out alive. Shaking the thoughts away, he stands up and looks around, realizing he was in the dreaded Level 3. He sighs, assuming that he's safe (oh how he'd love for that assumption to be true just this once), at least until he feels the same dark presence as earlier, only slightly weaker this time.

He swivels around, nearly unsheathing his blade at the sight that greets him. A charred, burned, black skeleton appears and stares at him from the dim, eerie darkness of the electrical station. It wears a tattered cloak that seems to billow from an invisible wind, somehow audible over the loud machinery.

He tries to find his words, working his jaw to say something. Anything to break the dreadful silence that has engulfed them both. He's so 4FR41D.

…of what?

No matter. He stares at the skeleton, and it stares back with burning purple orbs, no, flames, in its sockets. It recognizes him, too. They know each other, he remembers it falling, rising from the ashes, killing him after scraping his godly flesh against the realms they built-

"So that's it? After everything, you bumble into the prison you made for me, completely oblivious of what you're doing, and then have the audacity to leave without even saying hello?" the skeleton whips. It wheezes, slightly raspy, yet high-pitched with insanity.

Finally, he manages to speak. His voice is quiet, he's unsure of what to say. "Augu-" The knight doesn't even get to finish the name before the very walls of Level 3 contort around him and begin to crush him. He groans in pain as he feels his armor begin to crack from the pressure. The dark figure approaches slowly, staring at him apathetically.

"The one you seek is dead," he replies monotonously. Then, the walls retract, relieving the Red Knight of his pain. The skeleton contorts its facial bones to form a smile underneath the darkness of the hood, and with a more playful voice then says, "you killed him."

The Red Knight stares back with a hurt look underneath his helmet, invisible to anyone but himself. Although, judging by the way the other god's smile widens, he sees through his steely facade all the same. "I… I don't know what to say to you. I do not know if you even want to hear it," he replies softly, almost as a whimper.

It- he rears his head back, laughing into space as he gestures around them with his arms. "Oh, spare me the remorse, the pity party, all of it. Let's chat, it's been a good damn while since I've had someone to talk to. And to think that it would be you, of all people, oh, what a sick fucking joke…"

He reluctantly walks over to him, trying to not clench his fists as he slowly takes in Augustus his old friend's new form. "You… you look… decayed. Destroyed."

"A very funny joke, too," the skeleton mutters, turning to look at him with a feisty grin on his face. "Hm, destroyed. Funny, I wonder who I have to thank for that."

"Me," the knight replies without missing a beat.

"Atta boy, Claudius. With all the hypocrisy and lying you spout from beneath that tarnished helmet, it's almost a wonder you haven't gaslit yourself into forgetting after all these years of being the hero you never were."

Asshole, he thinks, but keeps the opinion to himself. It's his fault his brother-in-law is acting like this, after all. It's all his damn fault.

As if hearing his thoughts, the skeleton smirks at him with an infuriatingly-pleased grin. "Oh, stop being so tightly wound, buddy! We've got so much catching up to do. Don't you agree? Come on, sit." He beckons the Red Knight around the corner, and he hesitantly follows. Claudius is flabbergasted to see a broken train locomotive, set in the middle of the hallway for seemingly no reason. A large hole is blown into its side, allowing anyone to enter and sit on the seats. "I knew I left that part of that joke of a god's body here." Claudius feels hesitant to enter the locomotive. The other god scoffs without even turning to look back at him. "Bravery is one of the most important traits of a knight, and yet you consistently fail to show it. You try to hard to present yourself as a warrior, a role model, but deep down, you're the same old unstable coward." A part of the wall extends to push Claudius into the locomotive, causing him to stumble into the seat.

Icarus circles him for a few seconds, hovering in the air and watching him try to get comfortable before practically throwing himself onto the seat in front of him and sitting with a single leg crossed over his knee.

After the shock of it all wears off, the Red Knight finds his words again. "So, you can just leave that place?" the knight asks, despite, once again, already knowing the answer. Just making sure.

Despite lacking any internal organs to speak of, the fallen angel coughs awkwardly. "Oh, no, I can just create apparitions that can interact with things and carry a fraction of my power wherever I please. Temporary freedom." He idly makes a circle with his hand. "Think of it like playing a video game, if that video game was distracting you from the horrifying reality that you are trapped forever. Speaking of, thanks, Claudius."

The Red Knight clicks his tongue in displeasure.

As if picking up on this, the skeleton glances at him with narrowed eyes. "What, do you expect me to use that pitiful nomenclature you now identify yourself with? You are no knight, and to expect anyone, much less me, to refer to you as one is insulting."

"Claudius is dead," Claudius the Red Knight grumbles. "I am what remains, Aug- er… Icarus."

"Hah." The skeleton grins, although it's forced and doesn't quite reach the sides of his head.

"…I-"

"Right," Augustus 1C4RU5 starts, cutting him off and sitting down comfortably. "What remains, huh? If you were to take a ship, and replace every individual plank until the original ship is gone, is it now a different ship? Is the pile of old planks the ship…? If the pile was reconstructed into another ship, which is the original? Is 'what remains' really even you?" Claudius remains silent for a moment, processing his words. Icarus smiles at his confusion. He stretches his bony legs forward in a relaxed stance. "On that note, how is the fragmented ship I married doing?"

The knight goes still at the mention of his sister. "…You still care?" he quietly asks.

For once, the skeleton seems truly offended, truly angry. That must've struck a nonexistent nerve. "I care for what was, before all the planks were replaced. All this time, constantly repeating 'what if' in your mind, it would at times make one wonder what they're missing, if anything. If I could've found out myself, I would have long ago. Humor me, it's the least you can do."

He thinks. He ponders on how he should break the news of his sister's dull, cold hatred for him, and how badly she's been twisted by both of their deaths. He decides to take the simple solution.

He won't break the news at all.

"She's doing good."

Icarus grinds his teeth as he smiles at him menacingly. "Liar," he hisses. "I'm not stupid, you asshole. I can tell you're withholding something from me. So, I'll ask you this again. How's. My. Wife?"

Claudius gulps and shifts nervously in his seat. His hand closes itself, as if he's clutching the hilt of his sword even though it's still safely in its sheath. "She's…" He pauses, seeing the skeleton hunch over, as if he's about to leap out of his chair and start trying to strangle him with his own bare hands. "She's not so good."

The skeleton sighs, tapping his fingers on the chair he's sitting on. "Yeah, yeah. Don't soften the blow. Just say it. I've got enough of a reason to hold a grudge against you anyways, not like whatever you're gonna reveal to me is gonna make a difference." He jerks his skull. "So, spit it."

The knight crosses his arms, trying to hide how much he's shaking underneath all his armor. Breathe. Breathe. If he attacks you, you'll survive this. You've survived worse, after all. "She's been going around kidnapping people and turning them into mindless followers. Her heaven's also fallen into disarray, and it's… not in a great shape, after all this time. Also, she hates me."

"Thought so," Icarus simply replies. "I've heard enough rumors from those explorers and encountered one who tried to seek her own answers… to her own detriment. Naive little imbeciles, all of them." He gives a heavy, disappointed sigh. "You'd think people would learn after the first few mistakes. Apparently not."

"There was also a human," Claudius quickly adds.

Icarus raises an invisible brow at that. "Uh huh? So, why should I give a damn about some random mortal stuck in heaven against their will? I'm no longer involved with that fragmented-"

"Hir name was River. Does that name not ring any bells for you?"

"The skeleton pauses, seemingly taken back by the mention of the name. He clenches his jaw as he looks around. "I… do, actually. What does ze have to do with anything?"

"Ze's stuck to Gaius like glue and seems to be fused with her."

Icarus is mildly taken aback by this. "Ah," he mutters. "Quite poetic they ended up together. They were more similar than one could think. That foolish human who ignored my advice, River was her friend." He thinks for a bit. "Or probably something more. No matter, it's all in the past now." He tries to suppress a broken laugh. "You know, I'm almost jealous. My wife at least has someone to talk to, even if she doesn't want hir around."

"Gaius seems to treat hir like a nuisance," the Red Knight drones on. "Seems that this single mortal's been holding my sister back for… I don't know how long. Willingly sealing her away…"

The skeleton nods at that. "Hm. Interesting. I'll need more information about that, that's for sure. Maybe steal one of those explorers' tablets for myself…" he trails off, thinking to himself as he places a bony finger on his chin.

"Yes… on another note," the knight says, pausing as he clears his throat. "You're not mad at me?"

"Oh no, I'm furious." Icarus reels his head back and laughs, completely uncaring of the unsettled expression on the other fallen god's face. "I'm just… I'm so tired, Claudius. Being angry won't do anything for me now. Besides, you're not worth it. I've heard of what you've been doing all this time. You think it'll atone for your mistakes."

"It has to," Claudius answers automatically, almost fervently as he clasps his hands together. They still feel hot to the touch. "Otherwise-"

"It won't!" Icarus exclaims, raising his voice. "You can't make up for what you did to me. To my wife. To our son. And yes, I know about how badly he's spiraled thanks to your actions. This is your punishment, and frankly, I don't think I mind it at all." He leans back into his chair, relaxing. "You're free, sure, but you're still burdened by everything. You're going through hell and high water just to save a few mortals who'll probably die anyways, when you're not there to save them. You might not even save them at all, you're just one man in a suit of armor with a really good sword and a really good healing factor. You want to play hero? Be my guest. I can't and I won't stop you."

The knight doesn't give a response to that, merely slumping in his seat as he feels the air leave his lungs. His arms hang limply at his sides, as if he's too shocked to even put in the energy to sit properly.

"That isn't necessarily a bad thing," Icarus mutters. "You're naive, you're chasing after an unreachable goal, but you still keep moving forward. I almost envy you. I… no, you don't deserve any more praise." The burning purple orbs in his sockets stare into his very soul, almost intensifying as Claudius slowly stands up. "One more thing, before you go on your little self-appointed task."

Claudius stares at him blankly.

"Tell SHALTOKOL that I love him the next time you face him, alright?"

He nods. "Very well. Where's the human?"

As if the earlier moments haven't transpired between them, Icarus cackles madly as he rises into the air, pushing the chair back into the darkness below. "Okay, now I definitely know you're an idiot. You can't bring someone out of the TH3 3ND! You can't even perceive them anymore! They're literally reduced to atoms, which have been broken apart into their separate particles from how much the layers of reality have pressed down on them! You're chasing after a specter, a ghost of their life force!" He huffs, his arms falling to his sides as he looks coyly at the knight. "Honestly, did you even read the level on their archives? Or did you neglect to? Because I have no idea how you even missed something as important as that."

"Augustus. Where are they." Claudius stands ramrod straight, with a white knuckle grip on his sword as he pulls it out of its sheath.

"Are you even listening?" Icarus floats over to him, not even reacting to the fact that he used the wrong name. "Oh, wait, I forgot, you're the foolhardy underdog! How could I have forgotten that irritating aspect of your personality? Alright, fine. Say that you find the particles that used to constitute them before gathering it all in a nice little container. What'll you do then, o valiant Red Knight? They've gone through literal hell just to get to this place. How will you fix them once you're out?"

Upon seeing the sharp look that the knight gives him, the skeleton adds, "Oh, did you forget? I can't fix people. I've lost my life-weaving abilities after you let me fall into the void. Once again, your mistakes come back to haunt you, at the worst possible time." He snickers. "What a grand, cosmic joke."

Claudius growls angrily, pacing around the cracked and rusted metal floor as he drags his sword against the broken locomotive. He feels hot, and it's not just because of this wretched place's properties. He's angry that he failed a second time, that he walked into impossible odds again and expected to win after his luck already ran out earlier. He's such a fool. My sister was right about me…

"Hey, if you keep beating yourself up, you might join them." Icarus sighs, floating beside him and smacking his helmet with a charred arm. The knight snaps his head around to glare at him, and he promptly floats back a bit to avoid any sort of retaliation from his murderer.

"Why?" the knight hisses. "Why are you so hospitable to me after everything? How?"

"Like I said," the skeleton replies, grabbing his sword arm and holding it high, "you're not worth the effort. I think it's more entertaining hearing about how badly you're stretching yourself thin just to try and rescue all these fragile little humans. And how can you do that if you're dead?"

Claudius sighs, looking down at the void beneath his boots before glancing at Augustus. Augustus Icarus smiles back, all teeth and bones as he grasps onto his wrist and flicks it in a motion. A portal opens up in front of him.

"Goodbye, Red Knight," the skeleton singsongs, floating beside him and shadowing him like a physical manifestation of his guilt.

Icarus enters the portal with him to return to his first grave. The Red Knight winces at the wave of heat exiting from it. Icarus turns around as his apparition begins to fade. He waves at the knight in a mocking manner, his piercing purple flames glowing beneath his dark hood. "On second thought, maybe you should have the human you came for. Here ya go." Icarus reaches into a nearby flame and tosses something at the Red Knight. Catching it with his godly reflexes, he looks down at the object in his hand and is promptly horrified to see a mess of skin, organs, muscle, bone, and clothing, all meshed together into one disgusting blob. As the mad skeleton's deranged laughter echoes around the tunnel, the knight snaps his head back up to glare at Icarus, but both he and the portal are gone.

Slowly, he sheaths his sword, turns around walks through the tunnel. He's too far down from any safe level. He'll have to trudge along for hours just to find one. He reluctantly retrieves a container from his belt and gently places the human's remains inside. Perhaps, with this whole ordeal over, he can find a nice place for them to be buried in.

It's the least he can do. It's the least I can do for them, after my wretched failure.

Shaking the thought away, he sighs and continues to walk forwards. Until he reaches his goal. He'll keep walking forwards, no matter what.

forever. F0R3V3R.

Forever.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License