Part 5. The Blind
“Good boy, Gimpy, good boy.” Lorgex tussled the sweaty fur behind Gimpy’s third ear and stood proud as a papa over his newborn babe, personified in this instance either by a four-foot-tall mutant rat with a severe leprosy problem or an adolescent boy who lay shackled, muzzled, and pilloried on the ground.
“Alms Acolyte Spew, you may enter.” The High Wrackolyte Diathama Sneering. Beautiful in a demanding way. A cold, stern, sadistic, horribly demanding way that bespoke of an evil not only that came natural to her, but was also worked on, honed, trained relentlessly in conjunction with endless hours of mechaniacal machines specifically designed to heighten and intensify one’s own innate cruelty. “Abzgorn. The door, please.”
“As my lady wishes.” Abzgorn’s hooded head bowed low before he drew upon a great onyx chain. The door shuddered as it opened sidewise and up like the maw of some great insect about to take a bite, the black rune-hardened steel screeching in protest.
Spew inched through, careful not to impale herself upon one of the many barbs or hooks. The gallery of skeletons and eyeless steel masks adorning the walls watched her.
Lorgex stifled a guffaw, and Gimpy immediately started thrashing his naked tail. “Bitebite, froggy frog,” Gimpy growled low in his throat. Good. Spew would bear witness to his accolades. Or perhaps the granting of a slave? Perhaps even multiple slaves! Or, dare he dream, a promotion? No, no. That was too much to hope for. But then, he glanced down at the boy, was this not the Chosen One? What award commensurate to the bearer of such a prize? Mayhap the High Wrackolyte would deign to let him caress her? Just once… Lorgex dabbed at the pink foam congealing at the corners of his maw.
In any instance, it would break Spew, crush her spirit to know he had won. Stolen her thunder. For her to see him raised while she — Ha! — she would be condemned to a life of alms collection, an indentured pauper forever spelunking through goblin trousers for subsistence.
“And so this is the reason thou saw fit to disturb me within my private chambers?” The High Wrackolyte’s voice cut the ether like an obsidian knife. “And during the very zenith of the hedonistic hours?” Pebbles upon the crypt floor vibrated as she spoke. “A pig boy…?”
Lorgex’s smile died right there. Wilting. Wasted. Withered.
“Explain thyself,” the High Wrackolyte demanded.
“I … ahem. The b-boy, my Lady, is q-quite special. I assure you.” Lorgex dabbed at his suddenly dewy forehead and glanced at Abzgorn for affirmation. The torture crypt was suddenly unseasonably warm. He tried to swallow but couldn’t. He glanced at the door, gaping wide open, then at Spew, whose face was now a shivering rictus of barely suppressed impish glee, then back at Abzgorn who raised a bored eyebrow.
“Hastily, decrepit one.” The nail of the High Wrackolyte’s forefinger gouged a curl of mahogany from the arm of her throne. “Explain thyself. Thy answers are not etched upon the Ribspreader’s succulent flesh or I would know them intimately already. Is that not so, Abzgorn?”
“It is, my Lady.”
“The boy,” Lorgex blurted, “he is the Chosen One of Grimnir. The one who shall marshal forth Grimnir’s horde—”
“Every babe festering in the Craw knows the story of the Chosen One.” The High Wrackolyte chopped him silent with a hand. “I see a pig boy. A pig boy and nothing more…” Her voice rang through the crypt. “Abzgorn, my lust-muffin, perhaps mine eyes hath deceived me? What is it thou sees?”
Lorgex’s stomach nearly dropped out his backside. It all rested on Abzgorn now. Lorgex stared at him, pleading with bloodshot eyes, begging silently for mercy, understanding, salvation, from the Black Temple’s head torturer.
“Your assessment appears correct, my lady,” Abzgorn said with the finality of a headsman’s axe falling.
“Gulp…” It would be a death sentence. And not a good one. His bald head reeled. His gaze fell to Spew who, grinning, surreptitiously drew a thumb across her neck.
“And Acolyte Spew,” the High Wrackolyte turned, “what doth thou see?”
“Ahem, my lady, I see a palsied old relic fit only to finger-dig plogs wrist-deep from the tightest of goblin arses.” Spew adjusted her bone tiara. “Lying on the floor next to him, I see an overgrown rat and a pig boy.”
“Your tiara, Acolyte Spew, I simply adore it.” The High Wrackolyte’s lip twitched a smile at the corners for the briefest of moments and was then cold hateful alabaster once more.
“My lady.” Spew curtsied low.
“M-my Lady, I was told that the b-boy was the Chosen One,” Lorgex pleaded, the last vestiges of his dignity fleeing into a girlish whine. “It was said—”
“Said by whom?” the High Wrackolyte’s voice cracked like thunder. Chunks of ceiling rained down. All in the crypt ducked except the High Wrackolyte herself. She merely stood, pursing her lips, eldritch energies emanating in dark tendrils from her voluptuous form. “Said by WHOM!?”
The very floor quaked—
“By Abzgorn the Ribspreader, my Lady!” Lorgex pointed with one hand, covering his head with the other. “He told me, my Lady. Him!” He stared at Abzgorn. Accusing. “Do you deny it?”
“I deny nothing.” Abzgorn shrugged. “Nothing more than an entertaining jest, my Lady. Lorgex had come unprepared to torture times too numerous to count. And his skills? The Eyes?” He shook his head. “The Palsied Hand might be a more apt name. Or the Tepid Constitution. At any length, my patience with him met its end. Long ago. And the dotard obviously thought my ridiculous story true.”
Lorgex’s acid glare at Spew confirmed Abzgorn’s assessment.
“Whose dark eye watches over Acolyte Spew, I must wonder?” Abzgorn started forward. “I’ll have my boy, then, Lorgex.”
“No, thou shan’t.” The High Wrackolyte picked Malving up and broke the pillory from his neck with a Word. “I have spoken with him this past hour while we waited for Acolyte Spew. He proves a vile, wretched young thing. Evil courses through his very bones. It was through your own machinations that you lost him, Abzgorn. The Temple shall appropriate him. Raise him. Thou shall need abscond with another human for your delvings.”
“As my lady wishes.” Abzgorn bowed.
Lorgex started edging his way toward the door…
“A thought just occurred to me, my Lady.” Abzgorn nonchalantly pulled on the door chain — the doors fell like two axes, screeching shut together, slamming just before Lorgex could escape. Whimpering, he clawed haplessly at the seam between the twin mandible slabs of black iron. “Mayhap Lorgex might fill that position?” Abzgorn offered. “He has proven inadequate at all else. It is doubtful, but might he not in pieces prove the use that as a whole he could not?”
Lorgex oozed down the wall, expanding puddle-like across the cold stone floor…
“Abzgorn, you naughty scamp.” The High Wrackolyte waggled a scolding finger. “Thou knows it is most unseemly to dissect fellow Wrackolytes.” She shook her head in droll mirth, “I could never allow such an abhoration to occur … in normal circumstances, of course … why, only under the most dire of transgressions would I even entertain it … a transgression most difficult at best to incur … a transgression whose level has admittedly been met by Lorgex’s brash intrusion to my chambers … which hath forced me to consider and now reconsider … and, finally, yes, to acquiesce to thy most reasonable request. Thou may have him to whatever be your design, Ribspreader. May you achieve in his death, what he failed to achieve in his life.” Darkness spewed in writhing tendrils from her mouth as she spoke, “%!@#LORGEX, LAY UPON THE SLAB#@!%”
“Eeeeeeeee—” Lorgex’s screech stifled as the High Wrackolyte’s clarion power-call took hold, seizing him. Herky-jerky, golem-like, Lorgex jittered, fighting fruitlessly, and stutter-shuffled his way zombiefied to the torture slab. He flopped his frail body down — SLAP! — upon its cool smooth expanse.
“Acolyte Spew, restrain him,” commanded the High Wrackolyte.
“As my lady wishes.” Spew waddled to the slab, clomb up, and plopped her torture bag down at Lorgex’s head. She ran her slimy fingers through his sparse wisps of hair. “There, there, sweet Lorgex. Hush…”
Fifteen various straps she drew, fastened, then cinched down across Lorgex’s torso. His head. His neck. Finally, his arms and legs.
“Spew! No! Have mercy!” Lorgex’s limbs were his once more, and he strained against his bonds. “Please. I’ll do anything.”
“Acolyte Spew,” the High Wrackolyte said, “it seems a position in the Wrackolation of the Craven Lord shall soon open. Imminently. Dost thou wish to fulfill that position and become a full Wrackolyte? Or dost thou wish to maintain thy present station at the Obsidian Gate accosting drunken thugs?”
“I accept the appointment, my Lady,” Acolyte Spew said without missing a beat. “I shall serve none other than He. I shall live for He, shall kill for He, shall die for He, shall rise for He. I shall crawl back up through the earth in death and shall die once again for He.”
“Excellent,” the High Wrackolyte beamed. “As of now, I rename thee, Madam Spew, the Misery Whip.”
“Please, Madam—” Lorgex hissed. “Save me. Ask a boon of her. It is ritual. She shan’t refuse you on your naming day. Please, I’d owe you my body. My life. My very soul.”
“And what use could any prove?” Madam Spew sneered.
“Heh. Perhaps,” Madam Spew considered. “Ahem, my lady, might I spare Lorgex the Eyes?”
The High Wrackolyte fixed Madam Spew with a numbing glare. “Do what thou will with him, Madam, so long as Abzgorn the Ribspreader agrees,” the High Wrackolyte said. “Lorgex and all of his innards are his property now. Though I might rethink thy appointment should thy first act as Wrackolyte be one of mercy.”
Madam Spew nodded, then, expectantly, looked to Abzgorn.
Lorgex strained his eyes to see.
Abzgorn studied Madam Spew intently. “What is it you intend?”
“I wish simply to rename him,” Madam Spew said.
“And to let him live?” Abzgorn asked.
“Yes.” Madam Spew looked down. “Would those terms be agreeable, Lorgex?”
“Yes! Those terms — I would be grateful, M-Madam Spew,” Lorgex blurted. “Eternally. A chorus of demons shall sing your praises, echoing within the cavern of my soul!”
“And I accept the debt I will incur for your loss, Ribspreader,” Madam Spew said, “in addition to that of the absconded boy.”
“No matter.” Abzgorn dismissed it with a hand. “They are nothing to me. Uninspired specimens at best.” He raised an eyebrow. “But … what is it you intend to rename the Eyes?”
“I intend to give him back his old position as Alms Acolyte.” Madam Spew petted Lorgex.
“W-What?!” Lorgex gagged on rage. “No!”
“You would grant him two acts of kindness?” Abzgorn glanced down at the struggling Lorgex as though he were a bug he might consider pulling the legs off of. “You would grant him life, and some modicum of status? However slight an alms collector’s might be? Think wisely.” Abzgorn studied Madam Spew. “They will call you soft. Such a white mark might follow you all your days. It might prove the end of you.” Abzgorn looked down at Lorgex. “Is he worth it? He was a failure at even this one position suited to cripples and dotards.” Abzgorn raised a finger. “And alms collecting is a repositioning, Madam, not a renaming.”
“Release me, she-demon!” Lorgex railed.
“I am aware of all of those things, Ribspreader.” Madam Spew reached into her torture bag. “I understand that those with physical ailments are more adept at chiseling alms from the weak of heart and loose of pocket.” She pulled out a padlock.
“What?! What do you intend?!” Lorgex screamed, trying to see.
“Perhaps his physical ailments at present are inadequate to the task?” Madam Spew offered. “Perhaps he needs aid. Grimnir’s aid. My aid. Perhaps … a modification to the Eyes?”
She placed the lock down next to Lorgex then reached for an iron mask on the wall.
“What is it?!” Lorgex struggled. “Release me, Spew! I don’t want your help — you stunted wartback! Fly-eater. We had a deal!”
“It’s Madam Spew,” Madam Spew unstrapped just his head and neck, “and our deal is I get to rename you.”
Lorgex craned his head up, biting at her fingers with broken teeth.
“Tsk… Tsk… Lorgex the Eyes. Hmmm…?” From within the claustrophobic confines of her torture bag she retrieved a jar full of goblin eyes. “What ever shall we rename you?”
“YOU!” Lorgex’s eyes bulged near to bursting on seeing the jar.
“Were you looking for these?” She set the jar down and took up the eyeless iron mask.
“For Matilda,” Madam Spew slid the pitted eyeless mask over his bald head and locked it with the padlock, whispering softly into his earhole, “Lorgex the Blind.”