The Incarnations Chapter 4

The Battlegrounds of Man

When Lady Hate and Sir Happiness finally take their leave, Lord Dread turns to his own Lady to explain everything to her in a more well-mannered tone. Much to his surprise and dismay, she runs from him past the doors of his throne room and to the side of his hurt servant to care for any wounds Lady Hate may have left him.

As she kneels down to care for the damaged servant of Dread, Lady Love scolds her Lord, “Do you not care for your own?” 

The Lord then realizes his mistake. He was so consumed in protecting the Lady and maintaining her trust that he had forgotten his own servant. He vanishes and appears instantly besides his fallen man, opposite his Lady. 

The Lord places his hand upon Vrezen’s chest. “My deepest apologies, old friend. You served me well in your attempt to protect my Lady.” Then the power of Dread flooded into the servant, healing him of all wounds. 

Vrezen, now capable of speech, assures his Lord, “I deserve no thanks nor apologies for simply doing what is expected of me.”

As the servant seeks to sit up, the Lord, now seeking to prove rewarding to his Lady, dismisses his servant’s claim. “Nonsense. For one, it is no easy feat to survive a blow by Lady Hate. I know that truth firsthand. Know that your effort is appreciated. Crainte and others shall cover for you for the day.”

“Day?” Lady Love questions, simply unimpressed as she assists the servant to his feet.

Vrezen, in an attempt to cure the disappointment towards his Lord, informs the Lady, “I can not bare to be useless for a day, let alone anything longer.” The Lady stares upon him with a face full of suspicion, but it gives in for one of appreciation. 

Before anything else, she embraces the servant, which rocks him to his core. Never has he known such warmth. 

When she dislodges herself from the servant, Vrezen finds his cheeks to be a color that has never once touched a servant of Dread before. He takes a liking to it.

Then the Lady asks of the servant, “Please find Crainte to help you, and tell the other servants that the Lord and I need privacy. There is assuredly much to discuss.”

Vrezen nods his head, and makes away from the Lord and Lady, leaving them to stand apart and alone in the hallway. 

Before another word can be said, Lady Love walks into the throne room, and Lord Dread follows at her heels. He takes much notice and worry of how his Lady’s hands clutch to her forearms. How they rub up and down, but lack the shivering to signal that she is cold. Her head towards the floor, speaks to him of a sadness deep within. An inability to turn to meet his eye convinces him to believe that she feels betrayed, and she can only feel betrayed by him.

In a sudden sign of affection, one that touches the Lady in her soul, the Lord appears in front of her, and places his hand behind her head to hold her against his chest. To many, this would seem to be a meek gesture, but to her, it means everything in the world.

The Lord swears upon his soul, “I promise you, Lo, I did not invite her here.”

The Lady immediately realizes the falsehood rumbling in her Lord’s brain. She assures him that he is not the cause of her ill emotions. “I never thought that for a moment. Even so, I should not have been surprised, for the Duchesses too paid me a visit.” The Lord moves his hand to the back of her waist to more easily carry their conversation. “It is their warning, and our game that ails me so.”

Now as he holds the truth, the Lord disconnects from the Lady. He reminds her, “We still must continue.” 

“I know, but…” Lady Love tries to speak, but she finds herself at a loss for words. No, that is incorrect. She finds herself without a want to say them. “… but the Duchesses made light that much terribleness and plight could fall upon us and our brethren…  if I fail to stop you.”

Lord Dread grows concerned with such a warning, wishing in this moment that he could know anything at all like his Lady. He brings his hand to her face, and touches her chin between his fingers so that she does not look away. “Lo, do you fear for yourself?” She gazes into him and she can already tell that he is looking to steal away her fear, even without truly knowing.

“I fear for us all. Dread, even if I fail to prove to you that I do not contain all the love that exists, I believe the humans must be spared. I’m sorry if that hurts your word.” She tries to look away, still in his clutches, for she fears spurning a feeling of betrayal in him. The Lady knows what she insinuates… that he should break his bond, that he sacrifice one of the only things he truly and deeply cares for. She knows to ask such a thing should be insulting.

“Look at me, Lo.” The Lord’s voice shows no signs of insult as he moves his hand to her cheek. “I will not have to break my word, for you have nothing to fear. I will never let anything harm you.”

“Oh, Dread,” she hums as she closes her eyes and holds his hand tight to her face. Soon though, she hits upon a realization. 

He makes no mention of ending this dreadful competition. 

With that thought, she releases his hand and realizes their impasse. “I should have thought of my third attempt before coming here. I apologize for not thinking of a human’s love beforehand.”

The Lord, so very silently, exhales in grief. Still softly, he asks for something from this Lady. “Lo, all this time, all of the past two days, you have been proving something to me. You have been trying to convince me, to change a notion I have held since the beginning of mortal life. Never, have you thought to understand why I feel this way.” 

When the her Lord tells her this, the Lady realizes how much his statement lacks of lies. How she truly has never made the effort to understand her Lord’s disbelief in her power. Then she realizes, if she knows why, she may learn how to prove him wrong. 

The Lady offers him her hand. “You are right, and I have wronged you so unfairly. Show me, Dread. Show me how humans unbecome before you.”

The Lord takes her hand, and thanks her. “I appreciate this chance.”

Then they disappear, to the battlegrounds of Man.

They appear upon the frontlines, but all they see is smoke and a charred ground of ice around them. A mist blocking their view of both sides, making the battleground seem quiet. A mile away, the mist makes it seem as if nothing is coming.

Lady Love grows nervous, and frightful, clinging to Lord Dread. “What is this place? Where have you taken me?”

The Lord tells her, “I’ve taken you to where they fight, and kill their own.”

Then to their left, from the mist, stands a quadrupedal contraption tall enough to make the gods seem small. It’s four legs taller than buildings, and it’s square feet break the earth with every step. The legs all link to a rectangular prism, with a cannon weapon on it’s top. As it walks towards the other side, puny men with guns of light storm out from around and underneath it. Then filling the Lady’s dread, several more mechanized monsters appear. 

From the opposite side, a weapon of war of a different kind comes from the mist. Smaller but more plentiful, tanks that hover without touching the ground, men combing all around. When the tanks first take aim upon the lead quadrupedal monster, they all focus their fire. 

The tanks light a blaze with their cannonballs of light, shooting forth barrels of power to explode a shining fury against the monster’s hide. The monster stands tall, it stands firm, and it holds its own, but only for so long. Eventually a tank’s shot pierces its hull. An explosion is caused with so much fire and smoke, it seems to make a cloud grander than the monster’s body itself.

As the quadrupedal monster trips and falls to its side, it crushes men beneath it. Killing many instantly, but snapping some few and trapping them to die slowly. Their screams of pain, of horror and dismay, all reach the ears of the dear Lady, as she watches on horrified by the landscape.

In retaliation, the cannons that lie upon the backs of the quadrupedal monsters seem to energize a deep red. They take some time, but unlike their leader, they do not give the enemy the time to reload and strike at one of them again. When the cannons fire, one strikes the ground, and the explosion rumbles the Earth. A crater forms, and the ground warps, incinerating most as the explosion spans kilometers. The men caught are obliterated, if they are lucky. The others are thrown by the force emitting from the blast’s epicenter. Their bodies are thrown against the hard ground, snapping necks, breaking backs, and causing bodies to ragdoll across the ground before the blast expands to reach their corpses.

The Lady falls to her knees from looking upon the agony. 

The other shot, does not fire so close, but much farther away, and because of that the mist that once covered the opposite side dissipates. It reveals the miles of trenches, lined with men and tanks, awaiting their deaths, and nightmares ahead. 

The blast from the second quadrupedal is as large as the first, but it only destroys a fraction of the landscape of trenches. What is most deafening and destroying, is how the blast forces the lands to roll, how the dirt and the earth around the new crater moves to crush those in the trenches. The ground at their backs, sometimes their fronts, and even their sides, move to slam them against walls where their bones are squashed, their insides ruptured, and their blood soaks the earth.

All this death, all this screaming, the Lady cannot bear it. Her hands combing over her ears as she screams. Her eyes squeeze shut so she does not see. The warriors, the killers of each side, now come to meet. Their weapons shooting forth blasts and rays of death. Vaporizing limbs and removing heads. The screams and the yells do not know who else hears, who else they run towards. 

When blasts come towards the Lord, they are enveloped by him, incapable of harming him, so at first he does not move. But when such shots seem to go towards the Lady, the Lord does not stand by. He throws himself over her, her sworn shield. Receiving the damage himself, not that it hurts him, but stop any risk that they may hurt her. 

As the men are about to clash and fight with their fists and knives, Lord Dread takes his Lady up high to the sky, where they watch over the battleground below.

Lady Love has her face buried in his chest, but slowly turns her head to look down. The Lord tells her, “This is what they are, they are ferocious, and murderous, and heartless. They end the lives of their own with their hands and weapons, for no cause but victory. They don’t know what it means to spare another, to surrender, to give in.”

“I have left this horror for you to oversee alone, haven’t I?” the Lady asks her Lord.

The Lord assures her, “I never meant this for you. I never will leave this for you. I shielded you from this for so long, I swear you did not leave me alone. I ventured alone.” He raises his hand to brush aside the wild hairs in front of her face. “Now I know that you must see this at least once.”

The Lady wonders how much death war can create. She wonders if they will find this war worth it when it ends with the day. “So many will be lost.”

The Lord informs her, “Many more will be lost from the destruction like this around the globe.”

The Lady becomes shocked. “Around the globe? Around the world? How can there be more?” These questions cull the other thoughts in her mind, these ideas cull her naivety and her uniformity. She knows not how long wars last. To her, they all began and ended in the blink of an eye. A few years is nothing to her when she can be distracted elsewhere. She knows not that this day is the start of a war that will go on for years… without Incarnal intervention.

“This war of the world may be even longer than the last, for there is far less for peace to be built on.” The Lord’s ramblings prompt fearful thoughts in his Lady’s head. 

She wonders, she guesses, no it cannot be possible. Humans cannot possibly endure such destruction for so long. Their spirits and their hearts cannot possibly go on and continue this way.

She gazes upward to her Lord’s face and asks of her Lord, an answer she most fears, “How long did the others last?”
“Each several years.” That new knowledge, that revelation of her foolishness. That sign of dying life. The Lady’s mind becomes translucent and broken for how much of a fool she has been. She pushes herself away from the Lord, and floats above on her lonesome. Her hands go to her face, as her back faces the world. She realizes it has always been this way, and she is ashamed. She thinks she will cry, but she finds her eyes dry. The Lady knows she does not deserve such release.

Lord Dread knows not what he must do, and arises aside her to hold her head and her legs. He tells her, “This was a mistake. I should not have taken you here.”

Lady Love pushes him away, but does not see the hurt on his face. “No, I don’t deserve you near me. I must see this,” she cries as she removes her hands from over her eyes. “I must see those who I have abandoned.” She looks down upon the sea of death. She watches as the men club, and shoot, and stab, and harass each other to no end. She watches as their bodies pile in violent and bloody disarray. 

The Lady watches as the quadrupedal monsters overtake the tanks of old game. As the trenches are defeated, as the men of an old country scream and run in defeat, she watches, she strives to see, how do they still stand to disagree. 

She looks upon them all, and she finally sees how terrible humanity can truly be. The Lord comes up behind her, and rests his hand upon her shoulder, as he believes, he has won. He believes that she will cede completely.

Then there are soldiers who catch her eye. Soldiers of the trenches, ones who failed to hide, ones who failed to escape. No, only one failed. One with his leg gone, and with no way to keep on. Another, fully capable, fully able to abandon his brother in arms to save his own life, doesn’t abandon anyone. 

The men of the other army, somehow pass them on, or do not head for them at all, but the Lady soon realizes why. The two men stand in the wake of one of the monsters. It walks its way towards them. The men of the enemy army know to not stand in the monstrosity’s way, so they do not see the soldiers ahead of it. 

The able soldier kneels down, and cradles that of the fallen one. He does not abandon him, and he waits as the monster lumbers closer. A monster who’s one foot would crush them into paste. A monster whose foot can crush dozens if they were to lie in wait. Now, for today, only two wait for the end. An end that can undo them most quick.

The Lady becomes confused over why the soldier who can escape does not abandon the other. She wonders why, she wonders how, how can such a selfless action be possible on the battleground. The Lady almost forgets herself, almost forgets to hope, to feel the very thing that makes up her soul. As the monster walks slower she begins to think she knows why.

The Lord asks her, “What is it that catches your eye?”

Simply, she says, “My third attempt.”

With that, she flies like a shooting star from up so high. She flies down, she flies by the eyes of the monsters who cannot yet see her. She flies to the soldiers who wait for imminent death. She flies before them.

As the two brothers of war cling to each other, awaiting the end, they find themselves watching the mechanical monster’s foot coming to crush them. Then suddenly, in a blur of light, and a blur of love, a woman beyond even their wildest dreams appears before them. 

She encompasses them, embraces them close. They find solace in dying in her arms. They close their eyes and wait as they feel the shadow of death come for their souls. The amputee slips away before the foot even comes.

Then a grind and a halt sounds off before the head of Lady Love and the surviving soldier. They feel the shadow, and the soldier feels the coldness of the being standing over him.

The Lady looks up and behind her to see her Lord, standing at her rescue. His arms over his head, holding the monster’s foot over him, now incapable of finishing it’s step. He holds it without shaking, without sweat. No man made monster can cause him to struggle. Effortlessly, Lord Dread tosses the leg aside, and causes the monster to tumble.

“Why have you saved this man?” the Lord asks, in an almost annoyed and cold tone.

The Lady informs him, “For what reason could he possibly stand by his comrade?” Then she turns to them with a warm smile, and looks upon them to realize that one is already dead. Her smile disappears. She asks the living man, “Why did you come to die alongside your friend?”

The man, or really the boy, is speechless before the Incarnations. He knows not what they are, he understands nothing about them or their power, their alignment, or their purpose before him. He forgets to answer. The Lady must repeat her question. “Why did you come to die alongside your friend?”

The man looks down and then up again, pondering her question. He admits to the goddess before him, “He wasn’t my friend. I don’t even know his name.” His accent strong and representative of his motherland.

“You came to die alongside a stranger?” the Lord questions.

“I-I, I guess,” the boy utters. 

The Lady places a hand of warmth against his cheek, and assures the boy, “Never worry about us, we will never seek to harm you, no matter your answer.” He doesn’t know why, but he believes her without doubt.

He begins to explain, “I saw, this man… as I was running away. So many others had gotten ahead. I was running alone! I was going to die alone… Then I saw him, lying in pain. He was going to die alone too. I thought we could die together.” Then as he looks at the corpse in his arms, he remarks, “Now it’s just going to be me.”

The Lady and Lord stand silent for a time, not really sure of who this man proves right. The Lady thinks to ask him, “What was it that propelled you forward? What emotion? What feeling?”

The boy asks bewildered, “What do you mean?” The Lady feels guilty having expected the mortal to understand her meaning right away. They have only just met in person for the first time, how can he possibly know what she needs him to do.

Lady Love blatantly asks him, “Was it love that made you act in this way?” 

The boy believes he now knows what the Lady wants to know. Clearly, he admits, “No, I act out of dread.” 

The Lady is defeated, and she rescinds from the boy.

The boy calls for her. “I am sorry! I do not wish to hurt you!”

The Lord kneels down before the boy, and lays a hand upon his shoulder. The boy shivers in fear of the Lord’s touch, but he assures the boy, “It is not your fault that she is distraught. It is mine. I reside in you where she wishes to be.”

“I don’t understand,” the boy admits. 

“That is alright.” Lord Dread does not wish himself in this boy any longer. He leaves an invisible mark that no human can see upon the mortal. He promises him, “When I take the world, I will be sure to lead you to Paradise, for your bravery and your honor.” The Lord may lack a belief in love, but he does not believe it impossible for a man to do some little act of good, so good men should be rewarded. “Spend the rest of your days at home in peace.” Then suddenly the boy is warped away to his bed at home, asleep, devoid of dreadful nightmares.

The Lord goes to his Lady, and offers her his hand. “I have lost yet again,” she whispers, “I am at a loss.”

“Let us go home for now, to finish tomorrow.” The Lord does not have any want in his being to continue this upon his Lady, but his Lady does not feel the same.

No.” Her words come less as her response, but more as her command. “This ends tonight. I will not sleep fearing the rising the sun. I will know before the day is over, if my humanity takes its last breath.”

“But Lo-”

I said no.” She is so grave in tone, the Lord feels his breath snatched from his throat. He fears this challenge, this contest is hardening her, like existence has him. He has never wanted to meet another like himself, let alone his Lady.

He offers, slowly, and fearfully, “May we at least wait at home? Surely, you can think better in your chambers than here.” Then he gestures outward to the land. “Here among Death.”

The Lady is thinking, and remembering, and devising her plot. She informs her Lord of her train of thinking. “Today, I almost lost humanity. I almost lost my ability to care and love for them. Now, as I truly stand to lose them to you, I know I also stand to lose them to themselves. My love, and my care, and my duty to protect and fix them, is now more apparent than ever.” 

She walks up to her Lord, but not to embrace him, to bring her lips close to his, and face him. In a whisper, “I have learned that nearly losing love, makes you realize how much love you stand to lose if it is gone. Knowing that, I fashioned an idea from something I learned from our brethren.” 

As her lips stand so close to his, he feels her breath, and fears what it can do. “I learned from them that Guilt, is greater than Gratitude. That we truly, and epically fall apart when we completely and utterly lose something. If I found it in myself to love humanity more, as I almost lost them, imagine how much one comes to love when they do lose someone most precious.”

Lady Love’s manner of speaking intimidates Lord Dread. He finds that he dare not speak, that he dare not argue against her. He dreads her conviction, he dreads her power.

With finality, Lady Love promises, “I will not lose to you, Dread.”

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