Aesma and the Red Eyed King

Final Part

So it was that the Red Eyed King rode Aesma through star-winds and yawning gulfs of space-time to where the Temple of the Disc of the Sun stood glowing in its stately majesty. And when Aesma landed with the King astride her back, the priests from the temple marched out from between its columns in graceful stride. Their aprons were neatly pressed, and their collars were starched and spotless, and their gleaming rods of office rapped out a pleasing synchronous pattern as they came down the temple steps. For indeed, the priests were expecting Aesma. Their hearts were full of the pride of their victory, and anticipation to see what manner of man had conquered Aesma the Wicked so thoroughly. Already they had spread the word of Aesma’s forthcoming wedding widely across the world, and it had become table talk across all creation in short order. The temple at that time was for that very reason bustling with activity. Worshippers, gossips, and philosophers alike had all come to see the triumph of order, reason, and light over womanly discord, darkness, and wantonness.

But as the priests descended into the temple courtyard, they beheld that the throng gathered there around the new arrivals was recoiling in horror. There was no proud and virtuous man standing there, for as the King dismounted, and as he stood to his full monstrous height, the priests beheld that he he had a pure and perfect aspect of a destroyer. And at once, all their notions of victory melted away, for victory itself is of course a ridiculous notion.

“What is the meaning of this?” boomed the Hierophant.

Aesma made of herself a woman-shape again, and dusted herself off. “I have done as you said, oh great teacher!” she said, throwing herself to the dirt in joy. “It is so grand and great to be submissive! I have brought my husband meals, and darned his clothing, and he has even mounted me across the stars.” She blushed and looked demure as well as she could, which was to say quite terribly. “Now I am here to be joined in holy matrimony, and to submit to the will of my husband, as you have asked of me!”

“What has overcome you?” said the Hierophant, aghast.

“It’s love, I think!” said Aesma, “Isn’t it wonderful?”

The priests racked their staves against the King, and charged with a mighty battle cry. But the king swept up his shield, which was a thousand times heavier than stone, and their attack was dashed against it like water breaking on a cliff.

“I must thank you for inspiring this poor fool to free me from my long imprisonment,” said the King, in his voice like drifting ash. Aesma was too dazed to notice being called a fool and merely gazed upon the King through tears of admiration.

“Now that I’m free,” said the King, “These eyes of mine see a world even more putrid and insipid than in ages past. I ache for its destruction, and since I only deal in fire, fire shall by thy reward.” The king pulled his Roc-feather mantle tight about him, and drew into him all the dread powers and venoms of the night. He invoked his war forms of which he had ninety and two, enclothed himself in roiling smoke, and crowned himself with cinders. Planting his feet, he grew to such monstrous size that his flame-circled brow seared the clouds, and the earth shook and shuddered with his mighty inhalations. The crowd at the temple scattered before his majesty, and black clouds obscured the light of the Great Sun Disc as the king reached out with taloned hand and crushed it into a thousand splinters. The light and power of the Disc was exceptionally potent – a great beacon of strength and wisdom that had drawn in pilgrims from distant empires to bathe in its majesty. For this reason it seared the king just a little when he crushed it with his hand, but then its light was snuffed and it fell in shards to the earth. As an oily night fell upon the land about, the virtuous and manly priests of the Temple knew immediately that they had made a terrible mistake.

“Wife,” roared the king, in a voice that seared the mountain tops far away, “Bring my mine sword!”

And Aesma brought the king his massive sword of bone, that could cut thirty six ways at once, and he enwreathed himself in a dread black fire that could burn up the land, and immediately set about his rampage. First, he smashed aside the priests and roaming saints that came up to defend the temple, for their staves and starched aprons could do naught but turn to char beneath his onslaught. He toppled the white and stately columns of the Temple and he burned the altars to cinders with the mere heat from his body. Most of the crowd and congregation was slaughtered and torn to bits from the gale of his passing, and the Temple was consumed by hellish flame.

So satisfied with his work, the King turned his red gaze away from the temple, and found all the land about unspoiled and pure, which offended him greatly. He took five great strides across the land, and each stride burned a forest up and smashed its trees to matchsticks. On his fifth stride, he found the great domain of the king Mavamatri Io, which was a shining white city that had long revered the great Sun Disc, with orderly avenues and leafy boulevards of gilded paving stones. As they saw the King approach, the city guard blew the great horn of defense, and to its clarion call rallied five thousand men at arms in armor made from gleaming fish scales, whose chariots were drawn by horses shod in silver. The warriors of that city could draw a bow heavier than any man in five hundred kingdoms, and they were brave and righteous men, bearded and muscled from toil and training. They loosed upon the King their shafts, but once again he drew up his bulwark and dashed the rain of arrows into a pitiful shower.

The King struck out with his sword that cut thirty six ways, and it cut the air with a fierce and awful wind that blew the walls of the city asunder and killed seven hundred men at once. And in very short order, the King’s red gaze beheld only ashes were the great city had stood, and he was pleased. Aesma, for her part, was so lovesick that she could only sit in stunned admiration in the smoking ruins of the temple and watch as her would-be husband lay waste to the land about. But very shortly, it occurred to her that the marriage ceremony would still have to take place, so she staggered to her feet and skipped after the King, following the wake of his destruction.
And indeed, that wake grew very large indeed. On the first day of his rampage, the King razed ten cities to the ground, and slew a score of demigods. On the third, he had razed thirty five cities, and slew a hundred and thirty two demigods, and thrown twenty temples into ruin. And by the seventh day, he had razed ninety five cities, slew five hundred and sixty demigods, boiled seven seas to dust, burned the College of Stars to the ground, set alight the Ulaptis river, and slaughtered the god Un-Utram in single combat. And each day, Aesma would follow along, giddy with love, mend his battle-worn armament, sing his praises. But as the sun grew low and the only light was from the cities burning to the ground around the King, Aesma would tug at his ankle and say, “Oh husband of mine, will you come back to the temple with me? Have you forgotten our ceremony?”

This grew extremely vexing to the King, who truly cared little for Aesma and could harbor nothing so infinitely complex as love in his small and dull heart. And by fits and starts, the King made the exact same mistake as the priests of the Temple. He began to relish in his conquest, and he grew assured in his victory, for the swathe of carnage and devastation that the King had carved was visible even from YISUN’s speaking house, and it’s smoke was so thick that it blotted out the sun for near half of creation. Grand and imperious armies rallied against the King, and were dashed to pieces upon his armor, and everywhere he went he left a sea of dying men and horses. Even the meta-dimensional halls and transcendent planar-estates of the Gods began to pay attention to the King, and rallied their celestial hosts. War gods girded their loins and clad themselves in steaming armor and summoned their sword arts for battle. The Great Gods of Justice summoned the minor Gods of Justice from where they were harassing Ogam, and together they shouldered their spears and clothed themselves in molten law, and marched for the battlefield.

But even the Gods themselves could do little but slow down the King’s ferocious rampage. For battle as they might, they were unable to strike a single wound against the King, who was encased in his invulnerable armament. And the King did not sleep or tire, for his hatred of creation and his burning rage against the insipid beauty of the universe gave him the awful power of Want, which filled his limbs with unstoppable force. He shattered the smoking spears of the Gods of Justice, and threw down the Gods of Law with a strike from his shield, and did battle with Sivran, God of Conquest, for seven and one days before Sivran retired to his palanquin from exhaustion.

So indeed, the King’s victory seemed assured. And it was there at the height of his conquest that he decided to rid himself of Aesma.

“Oh husband of mine, won’t you come back to the temple with me?” said lovestruck Aesma, for the twentieth time. The King looked at her with his terrible red eyes and said, “Get thee gone, gnat! Thou hast served thy purpose, now play in the ashes a while!” And he took his sword that could cut thirty six ways and smote Aesma with a blow so mighty that it sent her hurtling across the world and blew all the love clean out of her. When Aesma landed, she was pouring tears again. She staggered around, sobbing, until she found herself trudging through the ashes of the Temple of the Disc of the Sun. By this point she had been crying for a good day and a half, so her eyes were very sore and blurry with fiery tears. But she could see just well enough that she made out the sorry and filthy figure of the Hierophant of the Temple, who was poking through the smoking mess that had been the mighty congregation hall with what remained of his staff of office.

“Oh teacher!” sobbed Aesma, and shook the poor Hierophant from side to side, “I did what you asked! I followed all the rules of your temple! Is it because I’m too wicked that I must be punished so?”

“You awful, wretched creature!” shrieked the Hierophant in rage, “Look at what your foolishness has wrought! Get up and set this right at once!”

“Oh I was struck by my husband,” said Aesma, “And now my heart is aflame with pain!” And she sobbed and rolled around in self-pity, covering herself in ashes and moaning. The immediately Hierophant saw that he had made a second, and far greater mistake than getting Aesma to marry in the first place. By trying to tame Aesma, he had inadvertently removed one of the only weapons that could be relied on to trounce pompous fools such as the Red Eyed King with any degree of reliability.

“Get up!” sputtered the Hierophant, “You have to fight!”

“Oh but that’s against the rules!” sobbed Aesma.

“You useless moron!” said the Hierophant, “The great Disc of the Sun is shattered! This temple is brought to ruin, and the world will ne’er see its like again, even in the whole history of creation! The stars themselves burn with the evil you have unleashed! Who cares if you were struck?”

It was true that the Temple would never return. But Aesma was not listening, for a sudden thought had hit her like a stone, and she stood up.

“Say!” she said, nurturing a growing anger, “If my husband strikes me, doesn’t that break our marriage vows?”

“You absolute dolt!” said the Hierophant, “You haven’t even been married yet!”

“Oh!” said Aesma, standing up, and becoming herself again. “I’ll beat him to a pulp!” She smacked the Hierophant for good measure, and felt fantastic. Then she set off in a dead sprint through the charred and smoldering landscape to where the Red Eyed King stood, wreathed in ruinous power, and laying waste to the world about him with great bolts of black fire and scorching ash. Five hundred gods were doing furious battle with him, and the light of their burning combat obscured the sky itself. Aesma instantly filled to the brim with an unstoppable berserk rage upon seeing his wicked face, and she began to tantrum, as was her custom.

“You!” she screamed, and laid hand upon the nearest thing to her, which was a large rock. She hurled it with tremendous force, where it struck the King in the thigh and made hardly a dent. Aesma was so angry, she turned to the next largest thing she could find, which was a stray horse. The horse was a well-bred steed that had once pulled the chariot of Mantos Am, God of Tax Law, but Aesma cared very little. She gripped the horse by its mane and flung it bodily at the king. It bounced of his thigh and he barely turned from his heated combat.

This so enraged Aesma that she turned to the next largest thing she could find, which was a boat – a mighty war barge a hundred paces long or more that had washed ashore when the river was vaporized by the king’s passing. She flung it at the king with terrifying force, and it glanced off the back of his hauberk and shattered into a thousand splinters of wood. This got the king to turn a little in Aesma’s direction, but at that point he gave her so little regard, so enthralled by victory as he was, that he spared here only the tiniest sliver of a sneer before turning back to his fight and swatting three Gods of war out of the sky with a swing of his hand.

Aesma couldn’t take it at that point. She dug her fingers in the earth, and with a mighty heave, flung part of the entire battlefield at the King. It struck the king square in the shoulder, and knocked him off balance as clods of earth, men, horses, and errant war machines went flying everywhere.

“What are you doing, miserable creature,” said the King. He threw off his combatants and turned to face her, and aligned all his aspects of war and mastery, armor states, and vorpal blade arts in her direction. He was an awe-inspiring sight.

“I think you’re the handsomest man I’ve ever met,” said Aesma, and she was quite sincere, “And you’ve got such a great work ethic! But you struck me with that sword that cuts thirty six ways, and more importantly you let my love for you pour out of me and die cold and withered on the floor. And that I cannot forgive!” She leapt at the king, and summoned up her destroyer form, and rained such ferocious blows upon him that the other five hundred Gods made a circle of their shields and gave her wide berth. But the King was a mighty warrior, and would not yield, so clothed in the invulnerable armor that Aesma had made for him. Any other warrior would have shriveled in dismay at the impossibility of victory in such a situation. It quickly became apparent that Aesma could not beat the Red Eyed King in battle. He was equally as fast as her, better trained, and his war aspects were more deadly. Most of Aesma’s killing blows bounced harmlessly off his shield, while others were rebuffed by the scales of his hauberk.

But Aesma did not cling to victory. Her lack of success merely filled her with a hot and infinite rage.

With a free hand, she groped around until she found the largest object she could find, which happened to a nearby mountain, and with impossible strength she tore it up by the root and dashed it across the Red Eyed King’s shield. The mountain shattered with a colossal rumble and the King was thrown back, but still he would not yield. So Aesma found the next largest object she could find. She raised herself up and reached into the sky and tore a passing moon from it’s orbit. And as the King staggered back from the mountain blow, Aesma ripped the moon molten hot through the atmosphere, and smashed it down into the King’s sword. Moon and sword both were blown into a million pieces, and the battlefield was rent asunder and turned into a maelstrom of screaming men, and gods, and horses, and chunks of stone and clouds of earth. Up and down ceased to have meaning, and the stars were blotted out by the cloud of destruction. But still the King would not yield.

So Aesma reached even further out, and pulled stars, one by one, and hurled them at the King. And the King hunched low and charged at Aesma through their fiery trails as they hurtled to earth in great explosions. He kept coming, even as his shield was blown into pieces, and gripped Aesma by the shoulders, so Aesma grabbed an Eye of Night, which was a star so large it had broken through space-time and collapsed into a hole infinitely more massive. She bashed the king over the head with it, and he was stunned and bloodied, but managed to knock it away from Aesma, where it flew off and devoured a nearby lunar kingdom.

“Yield!” said Aesma. But the King would not yield. He was exceedingly foolish, and still clung to his dreams of conquest. This allowed fear of losing to make its way in his limbs, which poisoned his grip. Instead of snapping Aesma’s neck, as he should have easily done, she instead squirmed out of his hold.

It was exactly then that Aesma did a truly impossible thing, since by then she was thoroughly fed up. She flexed her fingers, and planted her feet, an inhaled a mighty gale of breath, and reached out to grab the fabric of the world itself. And with a deafening roar, she lifted, and the entirety of creation shook.

“What are you doing?” said the King, aghast. And the other Gods who were hurled too and fro through that chaotic battlefield echoed his cry, for all could feel it.

“I’m going to lift the Wheel and beat you over the head with it until you give up!” puffed Aesma.

And the King saw that this was true. Aesma had indeed lifted the Wheel. He knew then that he had lost utterly and completely, and yielded. He lay down his shattered sword, and shuffled off his battered scale hauberk, and dispersed his dread aspect. If there was anything to be said about him further, it was that he was a graceful loser.

Even still, it took some convincing by the five hundred other Gods and the celestial hosts to get Aesma to put down the universe, but eventually she did. She remained upset all the while the King was escorted back to the Crucible of Punishment and locked inside an even tighter cage, and only cheered up once the key was turned in the lock, removed, and melted. Aesma was brought before Payam, who was foremost in YISUN’s Speaking House in those days, and sentenced to a hundred days as a scullery maid as punishment. Strangely, Aesma seemed rather meek about the whole affair and accepted her punishment gracefully as long as she was brought wine once in a while.

“You seem changed, Aesma ten Yondam,” said Payam to Aesma.

“I’m done with husbands,” said Aesma, who was despondent. “I think it’s time to grow up.”

“Oh?” said Payam, with great concern. The other Gods in YISUN’s speaking house also leaned in closely at this, for they were very worried at what could possibly go wrong next.

“Yes,” said Aesma, “I’m getting a dog.”