Exalted: In A Mirror Darkly
The messenger had traveled a long way, at the behest of his master, to the city of the dead. He had come to deliver his master’s words, verbatim, to the Lord of this dark place. The messenger was hardly a coward, but still, he feared the Lord of Death greatly. The Lord is feared all over the world. Mention of his name is enough to make the weak of will faint, and decent people dare not speak it aloud. Even the bravest of men will not, in their heart of hearts, claim to seek him in battle. And in mere moments, the messenger would stand before this… thing. Within sight, within reach of it. And worse still, death was not the worst of the horrors it could inflict upon him.
After hours of stillness, the charnel guards in front of the entrance to the Lord’s chamber moved. They opened the heavy, black metal doors for him, and he walked though the portal to the room beyond. And not, he prayed, to his doom.
The Lord sits in his throne in the city of the dead, a place of his own making. So great is the messenger’s fear that he dare not even look directly at the Lord, deciding instead to keep his head bowed at all times, fixating on his own feet.
“Come.” the Lord says to him. The messenger moves forward, and stands mere yards away from the most feared being in Creation. He must stop himself from shaking. And for the sake of the divine, he must not stammer!
“I come to you, most honorable Lord, with a message from your servant, the One Who Sleeps Forevermore.”, the messenger says at last.
“Speak.” says the Lord.
“My master wishes to know the reason behind your lack of movement in r-recent”,
“years. And he has sent me here to,”
(oh spirits, I really have to say it, don’t I?)
“Y-yes, Lord. He insisted I use that word exactly.”
The Lord looks down on him. The messenger doesn’t seek this gaze, of course. He’s looking at his feet, which, gods help him, he should have thought to clean before coming here. But he feels the gaze, like ice water on his skin. The messenger felt a strange urge to laugh. Perhaps his mind was railing against the stark fear he was feeling, moving to the opposite emotional extreme. Perhaps he was just going mad.
“Approach.”, the Lord says.
Oh Gods. He dared not disobey, so slowly, he moved forward. The messenger shuffled his feet before him, watching each half step as his traitorous limbs brought him closer to Death personified. After shuffling for what seemed like an hour, he stopped at the foot of the obsidian stair upon which the throne sat.
“Closer.” says the Lord.
The messenger, shaking now with fear, dared not even raise his eyes even to the general direction of the Lord, keeping them locked instead on the floor. He ascended one stair. Then two. Slowly, deliberately, he forced itself toward the Lord. At last, he stood before the throne, an arms-length away.
“Raise your head, messenger. You have nothing to fear from me.” said the Lord, his voice softening slightly.
The messenger does as he is told. He raises his head, and looks straight into the metal face of the Lord. That mocking silver demon’s face, half grin, half grimace. Something out of a nightmare. And yet, the soft tone of the voice the Lord used calmed his fears. He began to feel like he might yet make it out of this intact.
“When again you find your master, tell him this: Life is a lie. One that I will inevitably conquer. We lose nothing with the passage of time, and gain everything. Buy my patience, while formidable, is not infinite. The time for action will be soon. Now go.”
Relieved, the messenger has to restrain himself from smiling. He bowed his head again, and began to back out of the chamber. Away from the Lord!
He had delivered his message! And, more importantly, he had survived! All that remained was to return, and tell the One Who Sleeps of his successes, and Lord’s reply. He backed away from the Lord until he was half way out of the chamber, then turned to walk out those huge metal doors, and to freedom.
At the foot of the door, a corpse lied curled up, and cooling on the black marble floor.
His corpse. Struck dead of fear the moment he entered the presence of the Mask of Winters.