Aesma and the Red Eyed King

Part 2

Ogam was perplexed, but he was saved when Boratus of the Silver Scales smashed into him with his six-wheeled chariot and knocked him off his feet, sparing him an answer. The other ten gods of justice leapt upon Ogam at once with their clubs and staves and holy rods, and began to beat him savagely. Aesma found this uproariously funny.
“You, wicked one!” said Ys-Perator the Crown of Truth, “How can you stand there and cackle? Begone. We are punishing the tyrant Ogam for his drunken transgressions with the Mistress of the Petal Tower.”
“You’re doing a terrible job of it,” pointed out Aesma, snorting with laughter. It was true. Ogam had grown ten stories tall, so that the strikes of the gods of justice were like matchsticks upon his mighty hide. The gods scramble to pin him down with shards of moonlight, but before they could impale him he grew a score of arms and plucked them by their cloaks and rained blows upon them that would have pulverized normal men into gruel.
Perator gripped her stave with white knuckles and gave Aesma a scornful look. “Well, go off then. Don’t you have better things to do?” she growled. She was of half a mind to drive Aesma off with the rod, as she had done many times before.
“Not until Ogam tells me who my equal is!” protested Aesma.
“Fool!” said Perator, “Anyone would be hard pressed to find your equal in wickedness. There are none with such a soul stained with evil save the Red Eyed King who is kept in the Crucible of Punishment, and he is singular in his accomplishments!” Perator realized her mistake a moment too late, for Aesma had already leapt into her chariot and taken to the skies.
The Crucible of Punishment was a terrible place. Once, the old god Muam was discontent with the angle of the sun upon his mountain lean-to. To this end, he made an arduous journey to the end of the universe, where he found one of the ancient trees that held up its corners, and stripped one of its branches into a mighty pole two and a half billion leagues long. He trudged all the way from the edge back to the center, where he thrust the pole deep into the earth, and using it as an axle, turned the world by five degrees, and was content.
The world-axle was withdrawn, but the hole it left remained. And halfway down that hole, was the Crucible, which was steeped in perpetual Chthonic gloom. It was a mighty fortress, an iron vessel full to the brim of the worst and most despicable beings to defile the earth, and for this reason it was kept deep and out of sight of the innocent. The Crucible was lashed to the walls of the hole by great chains large enough for a man to walk on, and it had one hundred and five watchers – powerful saints of justice clad in white funeral robes. Each saint had dipped their eyes in quicksilver, rendering them blind to worldly concerns, but able to keenly discern the impurities within the souls of any visitor. It was for this reason that when Aesma arrived, all one hundred and five scrambled with great speed from their watch towers and arranged themselves in battle formation.
At first the saints were aghast, for they perceived very clearly that a being of tremendous evil was upon them, and wondered for a second if one of their prisoners had in fact escaped. But then they recognized Aesma, and a collective groan went up among them.
“I’m here for the Red Eyed King!” proclaimed Aesma.
“The King shall ne’er see the lands above again,” said one of the saints. “He has proclaimed his enmity against the forces of good in clear terms. He is a sun swallower and a world destroyer, a tyrant and a demon of pure malevolence.”
“He sounds dreamy,” said Aesma, “when can I see him?”
The saints narrowed their silver eyes and set their spears as a thicket of blades against Aesma, for they knew her well. “Never!” they said in unison.
“Great saints!” wheedled Aesma, “Please, have pity on a poor and desperate girl! I merely want to lay eyes upon this wicked king. Surely there must be some task I can accomplish to prove my worth to you?”
With great reluctance, the saints raised their spears a fraction of an inch, for there was an air of true desperation in Aesma’s voice. They entered into a hushed and grim discussion, for there was among them a general belief in redemption, no matter how small the chances. It was considered among many of the great gods of justice that Aesma was in fact an idiot, and shouldn’t be blamed for her wide and colorful list of transgressions against the common good.
“Very well,” said one of the saints, “Here are your tasks. First, you will find the names of forty two men who truly have not sinned. For if you do not have the discerning eye to find purity amongst the decay of this world, then you do not have the means to pass through these halls with true intent.”
“Ok,” said Aesma.
“Then you must bring us the heart of a leviathan, which is only given to those righteous of purpose.”
“Ok,” said Aesma.
“You must know,” continued the saint, “You can not cut out the heart, or bring it by violence alone. It must be living, and we must see proof of its offering. Even the greatest of questing knights have been turned aside by one of the mighty beasts, for the smallest of evils.”
“Next, you will travel to the holy mountain of Saboth-Ur, where the monks of the Empty Voice keep the silence. For a year and a day you must dwell on that mountain and utter not a word. You must discard your possessions and go about naked as the day you were born, but rid yourself of all lustful ambitions and aspirations of the flesh. You must cast aside your battle consciousnesses and ancillary violence forms. You must rid yourself of the poetry of destruction, break your weapons, and purge the breath of death from within your lungs. Bring us then a token from the abbot there that proves you have undergone these trials. With the heart and token both, we will let you in to lay eyes upon the wicked King.”
“This sounds too complicated,” protested Aesma, “Let’s fight instead.”
So they did, to their great dismay. The battle lasted a day and a half. So much of Aesma’s molten blood was spattered above that it melted through three of the iron chains that held the Crucible in place and caused it to tilt. Later this would cause the Crucible to swing against the wall of the pit and crack, releasing a hundred and fifty of the world’s most evil beings onto the surface, who caused so much trouble that it took several wars and the participation of no less than twelve supreme gods of battle to recapture them.
The saints were very powerful, and were able to slay at least five of Aesma’s war forms, but by the end of the fight, Aesma had hurled all of them into the pit, where they fell for seven hundred years before hitting the bottom and starting their arduous trek back up. She plucked the spears from her flesh and caved in the iron gate of the crucible and limped into its cramped and labyrinthine interior. There, inside, in the deepest pit, she beheld a tiny prison cage with bars made of red hot iron, so that they constantly burned their inhabitant. And kept inside that cruel cage, with charcoal-like flesh smoking, was the Red Eyed King.
He was truly, as Aesma saw, a being of quite singular evil. Though his skin was black from the fire, and cracked and red-raw from his prison, he did not flinch a bit from his torture. Tendrils of dark and oily vapor rose from his charred body, and he had the cruel face of a tyrant. But by far his most notable feature were his eyes, which burned with an insane and hungry red light. As Aesma saw his eyes, she saw instantly that they were sparks of an awful dark flame that would grow to consume the world if they were given kindling.
They were pinpricks of the light of destruction that would shine at the end of the universe. It was for this reason that Aesma instantly fell in love with him.