- February 27, 2022
The Incarnations: The Incarnal War (Chapter 13)
Life & Death
Here comes the time when my inadequacies in war are shown to all. Where my failure to anticipate outcomes and hold my own warriors proves disastrous against Death’s ability to do both. When the thunder sounded, it marked the beginning of the enemy’s last-ditch effort, and went off nearly without a single hitch.
The armies of Evil and Death stormed all the Incarnal lands.
Death sent her Reaper, not Dood, not her right-hand man, not her protector, but the Reaper himself to Lord Dread’s door. The ender of worlds, Gatesman to Paradise and Oblivion, the one whose scythe inspires legends of terror across all worlds, was sent to face Lord Dread, the last a soul sees before Oblivion consumes them.
When the Reaper came to Lord Dread’s camp with armies of Death in his wake, they fought, valiantly. The Lord held his own, but only for so long. When it became clear that the Lord could not win, the Reaper pointed his scythe to Lady Love, and told Lord Dread, “Surrender, surrender the majority of your soldiers, surrender your will to fight, surrender your sword, or I will take her life before I do your own, and that will be the end.”
The Lord hesitated, the Lady did not want to see her Lord bow his head, but she was ready to embrace him with whichever choice he made.
The Lord bowed his head.
Onheil, the right hand of Evil, led her Majesty’s army over the Sands of Sadness. It had been a long time since she had fought in a war, but all were reminded quickly why she was once and should still be called, the Hellfire Queen.
She burned the sands to glass and slaughtered Soldiers of Sadness with a demonic horde at her back. She reminded all that they spell out their own doom when they aim their swords at Evil.
When she faced Madam Sadness she put her boot to the Incarnation’s neck, only to have her brother beg for her life. The Madam became a prisoner.
The right hand of Death, Dood, led the slaughter of War. He charged through the Duke of War’s armies while the Duke was still so far removed. He did not offer them the chance to surrender their numbers as the Reaper did, he downsized them himself.
When the Duke finally returned, Dood cracked his helmet with his bare fists, showcasing the hands that protect Death and tame wild souls. When Dood was choking the life from the Duke of War, Madam Honor was the one who saved him from his end.
The Duke was then chained with only the Madam to give him water.
The Duchess of Desire was ready to fight to the last breath, sick of being underestimated, sick of being forgotten and unseen. She was ready for open war in the light, no longer an assassin of the shadows.
Neither demons nor armies of Death came to her border. No one came to claim her or her Atlantis of pleasure. All that came was a letter, signed by her once old friend.
The letter from Evil said, “I’m sorry. Don’t make me more sorry.” She understood what the letter meant, she understood that it was a threat and an unspoken gesture that only she would receive from him. The Duchess ceded without a fight.
My son tells me that it should have been clear that it would always come down to me against Death. I never wanted to take heed, I ignored the mere mention of such action.
I tell him that it was always apparent to me that the war may come down to him and his brother, my favorite versus hers, and he ignored me just the same.
Now we are both faced with a rare opportunity. We are both right, and we are both wrong.
We must fight those we would never wish to.
The different lands of the Incarnations, for the most part, are all connected as if separate countries on a continent. With Sir Peace and Lady Love creating exceptions with their wandering and floating homes.
Each Incarnation borders two others. Some touch each other directly, some have an ocean between them, and some have space that one can easily see across from, but more or less they border each other.
Connecting them all is a land, barren from the armies and war that have ravaged it each time one had to travel. This land has been chosen as the last battlefield, the land that is largest compared to all the other sections. The land with the least to lose, now that it has lost everything.
On one side stands Death and King Evil, upon a mountain peak, with a demonic horde below and around them, waiting for the battle to start. On the other side stands my son, King Good, hovering above his massive army, collected from across the plains to stand against the equally numerous enemy. They wait for me, and I must decide if I am ready to go.
I stand from my throne and look down at myself for the first time. My cloak displays space and the stars. I should wear armor, but armor is for warriors, and I am no warrior. I will not fight Death.
I leave my humble throne to appear beside King Good. I appear as the giant, as usual, seeing Death across hundreds of miles to see that she too now stands a giant besides King Evil. Her white hair still flows, her eyes remain red and fierce. Little beauty is lost in the face of readiness in her expression.
She dressed for the occasion where I didn’t. Her silver armor resembles knights, but instead of a battle skirt, her legs are as armored as her arms. The only white I can see of her skin is in her face, even her fingers are sheathed in the black cloth under her gauntlets.
She speaks normally, but of course, I hear her. “Still, we all must wait on you. That changes today.”
I cannot help but agree with her sentiment, no matter what the outcome is. I tell her, “I will not fight you, I love-”
“Do not speak to me in such a way,” Death interrupts sternly. “Do not act like you have earned the right to say you feel such things, you have done nothing to prove it.”
I ask her, “Does my lack of armor not show it?”
She responds, “Your lack of armor only shows your inability to help yourself. If you truly refuse to fight, then I can promise you that this will end quickly. No more blood will have to be shed.”
“I don’t believe that you are willing to cut me down when I won’t fight back,” I assure her. “You are many things, but you are not without your heart, nor without honor.
“You are not your son.”
With venom, she hisses, “My son is with more honor than you’ll ever know. There is an honor when one stands by those they love because they love them. You don’t know honor, if you did, Honor would have been on your side.” She takes the moment to remind me of who is on my side.
“You have Dread, fear itself. You have War, the art of killing and ending. You have Sadness, which explains itself. I have Honor, Justice, and Peace. That should have justified me from the very beginning.”
I will not let her forget the most important of Incarnations. “You also have Evil, and I Good, so let us not cast stone, lest we forget that their terms do not mean everything we say they do. I think I’m starting to learn that.”
“First thing he’s ever said that I can agree with,” King Evil mutters.
My son, King Good turns to me to ask, “Father, allow me to speak to my brother. You and our mother will not change anything by talking, I see that.”
He is too right, and I nod my head in blessing. My son then slaps his wings and flies with a gentle speed, to not spurn hostility.
The betrayer turns to Death and asks of her more than a chance to speak. “I am going to speak to him, there’s no question about that, but mother I have something to ask of you.”
“Anything,” she is quick to answer, and she regrets it.
“There is no end where you don’t come out alive, mother. The same cannot be said for me,” he begins. Quickly her expression is one of growing horror at such a thought, and he does not give her the chance for hysteric assurances. “Don’t try and say it isn’t true, I just need you to promise me something.” She holds her tongue with an uneasy restraint and waits for possibly his last wish. “If I fall, do not let those I care for go with me. Onheil, no matter what, should raise my replacement, maybe she’ll teach me new manners if it comes to be.” Death purses her lips, finding it painful to hear her son’s last requests, essentially his final will and testament. “And my refugees, don’t allow them to die, even if you have problems with them. There’s three, Iridia Ellanto, the last surviving Regamorph, Ja’lock of Mother Retora, the last Dinoran, and Lilith, one of the first humans. I know you may not prefer them, but don’t let them or Onheil follow me.”
Half in a gasp and half in a mutter, Death replies, “Please Evil, don’t speak-”
“Mother, please just promise me,” he interrupts her.
She looks upon him with a heavy heart and sighs, and it must feel like admitting defeat. She grinds her teeth as she tries to say it. “I promise.”
“Thank you,” King Evil says, and then he flies off to speak to his brother, hopefully for the last time.
As soon as King Good notices that King Evil is flying to meet him, they both speed up to meet each other in the middle. They come face to face; unlike their parents, they speak to each other instead of at each other.
King Good speaks first. “You said you would stay neutral.”
“I know,” is all King Evil answers.
“You promised,” King Good repeats as if a slighted younger brother.
“I know,” King Evil answers again. His face is one of complacency and underlying self-hatred. Somehow, he finds the gall to give his brother a cheeky smile and clueless gesture of his shoulders as he says the words, “I’m Evil, aren’t I?”
King Good reasons, “Evil, you can still stop. You go back to neutrality, stand aside.”
King Evil does not retain the fake smile, and replies with added necessity, “I can, and I will if you do too.” King Good tilts his head and gives King Evil an annoyed glare. King Evil reasons, “I’m only here to fight you, and I don’t want to do that. This fight, with war, has been about Life and Death. Not us,” then he gestures between the two of them, “not you and me.”
“I can’t do that,” King Good says. I think I should be proud, but I feel nothing from this loyalty. I do not want my son to be at risk, I do not want to watch him do the difficult thing, make the Good sacrifice once again. I am thankful, but that is it.
King Evil asks him one more time. “Are you sure, Good? Are you sure, because I can. All you have to do is give the word, and my armies disappear, yours can go back home and do whatever they do.
“You and I can just go. We can just wait it out, the two of us, like always.”
“No,” King Good replies, “no, that chance is gone now. I made a promise, and I plan to keep it.”
They simply float in the air at that point. They float and wait, not sure of what comes next. Does King Evil respond, or do they just fight? The second they do, the armies will converge, and Death and I face off. If we do, I must take her away to the space of my plain. I can’t allow her to interfere and attack King Good.
I make this confirmation, but I still must wait for the Kings to begin themselves. They don’t say anything and just stare into each other, hoping for the other to break.
King Evil asks, “Sooooo…. How do we start?”
“With a blow and a holler, as these things always start,” King Good informs, then he does something not so good.
He blasts his brother dead in his face with a ball of concentrated light. Then he kicks his brother with such force that King Evil crashes to the ground to create a crater in the same second he is struck.
Death screams out in rage, forcing her army forward, and my son’s army attacks head-on. This is my chance I realize, as Death means to go to protect the betrayer, I must move to take her away.
I move with a speed and strength I haven’t felt the need to use, maybe ever. When Death moves to her knees to pick up King Evil as he rubs his head, I catch her off guard and grab her by the wrists. I lift them over her head and she is quick to scream and kick at me in a way rather undignified and out of animalistic fury.
Without a second thought, I bring us to a space only meant for us. I bring us to the space in between the worlds of the Incarnations, Death’s plain, and my plain. An empty space where we can go to create a new canvas…
A place of Nothingness.
It’s white all around, except for currents that resemble those under the sea. These currents aren’t anything, so much as a physical representation of matter and Creation. The currents deeply resemble a liquid form of Eden Pieces, as if this were where such matter was always meant to flow.
I would like to admire the beauty longer, I haven’t been here in a long time, but I must contend with Death’s fist.
She breaks from my grasp immediately after I bring us here, and slams her fist across my face. I fall to my back, sliding against the white of Nothingness. Normally I would appreciate how this realm appropriates to a visitor’s needs, but I would have preferred if it hadn’t manifested a floor for me to slide across.
I levitate my upper half to upright myself but do so only to be struck again. This time Death is using her power more appropriately instead of her hands.
As only she and I can, with a violent wave of her hand, literal matter distorts and heads towards me in a violent blast.
In the physical plains, it would look as if light bent, but still as if an invisible force struck me. Here in the Nothingness, where we are humored, the multi-colored liquid that resembles the currents, appears from nowhere and makes a target out of me.
The attack strikes my chest and it tears me apart. When the attack is done there is a hole in my chest to see my insides, which is simply glowing energy.
Then she makes another violent gesture and another attack strikes me. This time I block with my arms only to sustain more wounds. She keeps attacking me with a force that destroys the world of the living, these new currents appearing from multiple directions only to lay into my form. I am being pelted again and again, but I don’t strike back, I just withstand the barrage and wait out her anger. She has a lot of it, most of it certainly earned by me.
Eventually, I notice her guttural screams of violence meant as another outlet of her fury and pain.
I simply must withstand it, and wait for her to falter. Then with spectacular and fearsome power, she begins to form galaxies in her hands, she throws them at me. Each one exploding, leaving unnatural smoke trailing behind me for distances incalculable. She creates whole galaxies only to smash them against me.
I begin to realize that with each throw though, with each strike, with each step back she forces me to take, her arms move loosely as if they are losing the will that originally backed them.
Then one moment, she swings her arm across her chest too far, throws too much anger behind her attack, and I am given my chance.
In a span of time that can never be measured, I dash to her, dodge a galaxy, and grab her arms. I hold her right hand across her chest so her palm is aimed away from me, and her left against her own abdomen.
I try to tell her, “Death, stop! I won’t fight-”
I don’t get to finish because she blasts me with the same kind of power, only from her mouth. Death blasts me continuously for several seconds and I feel my face burn. By the time she’s done, I am missing huge portions of my chest, my forehead, and the point of my nose, which admittedly isn’t that bad considering how little power I put into protecting myself.
In this position she stares up at me, eyes full of rage, baring her teeth as she can’t help but growl. In a more calm tone, I tell her, “Death, I won’t fight you, we need to talk.”
Death’s brow arches and her expression is one of confusion. “Still?” she begins. “Still you think I want to speak? I wanted to speak last year, last century, last millennia, but I didn’t get a goddamn conversation, did I?”
I answer her honestly, “No, in the ways that really counted, really mattered… you did not. But now I will, now I need to tell you I’m sorry.”
Annoyed and dissatisfied with my words, in a burst of power she breaks away and shoves me back. She raises a hand to my face with the power to wipe me out ready in her palm. I stand straight and don’t move, because I know that it is a warning. If she really wanted to kill me she wouldn’t be hesitating.
“You’re sorry? Please tell me what it is you’re sorry for? Being terrible at your job, forcing me to clean up your messes, or leaving me to be the one who has to greet our children when they die?
“Every time since the first, do you know I’ve had to do that alone? Greet a child I raised all my own because they died. They never die peacefully, never were they ready. It’s always a violent, emotional, painful showcase as they realize that they don’t feel whole being cut off from the world that made them. Tell me, what are you sorry for?!”
I find it hard to answer her question, to find the right words. That’s not right, there’s only one word, and it’s insulting but less so than saying anything else.
“Everything. I’m sorry for everything, because I am terrible at my job, and I don’t clean up my messes, and I left you to bury our children alone. Most importantly I’m sorry that you feel the need to take my job.”
She lets my apology hang between us for a moment, and looks at my face in disbelief. After it all, all she can respond with is, “Is that it?”
Then again she repeats, “Is that all?”
Then the power goes away and her hands fall to her side but her eyes don’t. “What about leaving me with the harder job? Doing nothing but entertaining yourself and forgetting me?”
Then she raises her fist and punches my chest, screaming, “That can’t be it! That can’t be what this is all about!”
She continues as she beats my chest, not to hurt me but because she doesn’t know what to do. I raise my hand push the back of her head against my chest. As she places her head against it she cries. As she cries she asks me, “Why did you do this to us?”
“Because I’m stupid.” That’s all I can really come up with.
Death lifts her head and looks up at me. “What?”
“I’m stupid, really, really stupid. That’s all there is to it.”
Death looks up at me, dumbfounded, full of disbelief. “That, that can’t… no. That’s not it.”
“But it is. All this time, I just, I just don’t understand anything like I thought I did,” I begin, “I thought that you liked your place in the world at first. I thought that giving you sentient life to reap would please you. I realized that was wrong, but I ignored it, I realized how much I liked creating.
“But I’m a child. When my toys broke, I discarded them, turning my back to them to try somewhere else, allowing myself to believe that you would prefer them, but that’s stupid.
“When you were lonely, asking for me, I thought you would like to indulge in my fun. That me being happy was all you needed to be happy, but that’s stupid.
“I thought that when our children die, you at least get to have them forever, but now I realize, as you cry and tell me how terrible it is to lead your child after its demise, that my thought was stupid.”
In my final admittance, I tell Death, “In all this time I’ve been nothing but stupid, and have asked so many to fight and die for me. I don’t deserve my throne, I can’t handle responsibility, and I am sorry that I have wronged you.”
Then I take her hand in my own, and move her palm over my heart. I tell her, “For such reason, for such an immature and wasteful excuse, it’s not acceptable, so if you want, end me right here, with one blow. Just know this, I love you.”
Death is speechless as she stares at her hand placed over my heart. She could take my life with one blow, but she has other ideas.
She stands on her toes and whispers in my ear, “Death is lenient.”
Then she grasps behind my head, and drags me across the cosmos, to a dark place that touches Death.
Hell’s cold, dead, spiked hilltops travel for endless miles without end until the molten raging fires of the center. On the border of the worst fate a soul can bear in its eternal damnation of loneliness, thirst, and agony lies something worse than that.
Oblivion, the ultimate end, the darkness that consumes. To be consumed by Oblivion is to have the soul devoured. There is nothing left, nothing that remains. Nothing returns, nothing survives, not even an Incarnation, not even one such as I can return.
I would be gone forever, and I would not meet Death’s front door.
She holds me by my neck, edging me towards Oblivion. Next to Oblivion even we seem small. She holds me so close I can feel the shadows of the end tickling my head.
Death asks me, “Do you remember, Life? This is the place where we found Despair, at the edge of Oblivion. You wouldn’t remember, you wouldn’t know that this is where each and every Duchess of Despair asks me to take them after they die. Did you know that?
“The Duchesses don’t want a place in Paradise, they don’t want peace or rest, they ask me to give them the final end. I have to stand and watch each time, as my daughter decides that to not exist is more bearable than being with me.
“No, you don’t know that.”
Then she lets me go.
As I fall I clutch to her hand, I hold myself up, I beg her, “No wait! Not this! This isn’t fair! This isn’t fair punishment!”
Death responds coldly with, “But killing you is? Giving you an eternal afterlife where you get to spend every day with the one you love? That doesn’t sound like a punishment at all.” The way she looks at me, the empty gaze that stares down at me and feels nothing.
Where was the hesitation from before? The tears and the care, where has it gone?
“It’s gone with my tolerance for stupidity,” she answers as she knows me so well. “You must realize by now, Life, I don’t love you anymore. I’m not going to reward you with even Hell.”
Is this what it feels like to have one’s heartbreak? The mortals speak of this, but I never understood what it felt like. To just have one’s chest crack, and splinter. To feel the love empty out of one’s soul. Now I understand.
Now I understand how hate seeps in.
I do the unthinkable, I stop restraining myself.
I smack away her hand to stand straight as the God I am.
She watches surprised, as the look in my eye changes, and she feels a hint of dread. I am not the same.
I stand beside her, no longer willing to accept punishment.
She stands frozen, misunderstanding why I’m not simply going down easy.
I raise my fist.
She begins to shake.
And I punch her across her face.
Death falls to the ground, a mere foot from Oblivion, and looks up at me in fear, and I just feel regret.
I hit her. I hit the one I love. I’m not supposed to hurt her, to touch her like that. I’m not supposed to lay a hand on her to show anything but love, but I struck her.
I stare at my fist, at my opening hand and I don’t recognize it. I have never struck anyone. I give life, I don’t take it away, I don’t harm it.
I almost ended Death just now, I almost knocked her into Oblivion. I almost assured my loneliness, my end. I would have walked in after her. I almost did something so heinous.
No, I did do something heinous, the fact that I failed shouldn’t deteriorate my shame and guilt. I did something truly bad, I did something evil.
I did something Evil.
The thing that prompts all to do what is wrong. To betray, to kill, to lie, and manipulate. Evil is what causes problems, causes stupidity, causes sin, fear, and hate.
I wouldn’t have done this if there was no Evil. I couldn’t have. Without Evil, all the worlds would be safe, and I would never have hurt Death, never have I been so demeaning or inconsiderate.
If there is no Evil, why would anyone do anything wrong?
Without Evil, why would Death be able to destroy me forever? Without Evil, Death would not be fighting this war anymore. Without Evil, there would only be Good. Without Evil there would only be three as there should be.
“Life, don’t,” Death mutters. She looks up at me, with fear, but not for herself, not anymore. She wishes to protect what doesn’t deserve protection.
“Life, look at me.” I look at her face. “This, this was an accident. I know you didn’t mean to do it. You were angry, betrayed, like me. Don’t you see, now we have something to-”
I don’t listen to hear her finish, I turn my back to her. Behind me, she slowly begins to lose her mind.
“Life, where are you going? Life, please come back.”
I begin to walk away, knowing what must be done.
“Life, listen to me, please.”
I think I hear her begin to clamber to her feet as I hold my hand out in front of me.
“Life! Life don’t!”
I leave her, knowing she’ll follow, try to stop me, try to protect her favorite son, the son not worth her care or time.
I am ahead of her, going back to the battle between Good and Evil, the battle I intend to end. A battle that should have happened millions of years ago. Death will follow, but she will be too late.
When I return to the battlefield I left what feels like ages ago, I can do nothing but stand with my mouth agape. My mind, my morality shocked.
I see one of the evilest acts I’ll ever witness.