Excerpt - Balance in Chaos

Lilith K. Duat

Act I

War.

It had to be war. The faces in the line, waiting to be judged, were unlike the faces of his people. The unfamiliar came in droves, waiting for his judgement.

Anup felt as if he had been weighing hearts of these dead invaders for centuries, but it had only been decades. Decades of the greatest slaughter to which he had ever bared witness. He was exhausted. It had to end.

He very rarely left his realm, his Underworld, yet now he allowed himself repose from the parade of souls, and rose up to the world of the living. All around him he saw the catastrophe. Ruined homes, strange, unnatural floods. Paths awash in blood.

War.

He could not abide this. He followed the trail of blood, which flowed from somewhere in the streets. As he tracked it, the streams of fluidic crimson grew and became thick. No longer were they small rivulets or meandering flows, but now well trodden paths and alleys between homes sank below the blood. And where there is blood, there is a heart.

Among ruined huts he saw her, standing atop a pile of corpses which were recently set aflame, the fire tracing a slow path from the ground up to where she posed. Her black wings playfully fed the fires and made them grow. She was laughing, a gilded, calm, aloof laugh.

“Discordia,” he said with displeasure. “I might have known you were behind this chaos.”

“What chaos is not my doing, hmm?” She turned her head, and her gaze slowly rose from the playful flames, her pale blue eyes now focusing on him. The wind picked up and made her white hair dance until threads tangled around the antlers on her head. The fire rode the wind from one hut to the next, leaping from roof to roof on the gusts. The flames lit the glistening red and brown path between them further and slowly started the destruction of the homes that surrounded them.

She laughed once again as a howling man came running out of a building with fire clinging to his back like a wet cloak. Screams came from the open door behind him. The man’s family was trapped and all he was able do was thrash on the ground before the house, screaming along with them as his flesh cooked and sloughed from his muscles. He rolled and twisted his body in the mucky streets, putting out the flames as the roof of his house collapsed and the screams within were silenced. Unable to make a sound, he sobbed. The gods watched as the man began crawling, clawing his way slowly through the muck back to his silent household where he rested his head on the threshold.

Anup looked at the burning buildings, the screams and howls echoed from within the walls. He didn’t seem to terribly disturbed other than mildly annoyed. He looked back at Discordia.

“I understand we cannot fight our nature. But we can practice restraint.”

To that, Discordia rolled her eyes. “Restraint is no fun. This war is the only thing capable of entertaining me as of late. They’re already being ripped apart by their own kind, I’m merely using their war as a canvas.” She smirked, crossing her arms as she stared out past him at the bloody chaos.

“Yes, and you’ve made my existence hellaciously busy. I happened to be enjoying the quiet ages. The steady flow of births and deaths. The balance, the reliable constant. And yet, here you are, causing a backlog, clogging the arteries of my sacred halls. When Egypt dies, her people come to me. And I simply have no more patience for the strain.”

She let out a short laugh. “Oh, you’re very boring, shouldn’t you be glad to be kept busy? The busier you are means the less bored you’ll get.” Discordia stretched then once again crossed her arms over her stomach. “I have no reason to stop, so go back to playing the good little god and return to your halls.” Discordia turned her back to him. The long flowing skirt of her draping, sheer red dress swayed around her legs as she moved.

Anup narrowed his red eyes. “I need a rest.” He said curtly, biting off each word.

“You’ve already rested enough for how long? Peace is boring, try to have some fun.” She began walking, bent on raising more hell elsewhere. He followed her, stepping on the blackened corpses and through flames as if they were air.

“We are not finished with this discussion,” he growled. He reached out to take her wrist and turn her to face him. “You’re not used to being contradicted, are you?”

“And you’re not used to actually having to deal with war. It will happen enough for you, you’ll learn to like it.” She tugged her hand out of his grasp.

“You believe that you are able to read me so easily,” his muzzle was a mass of angry wrinkles and folded skin as he bared his teeth. “But you cannot even fathom. You would never be able to comprehend the absolute discipline my sacred role requires. You cannot even comprehend the very notion of discipline!”

Discordia smirked and flicked the angry god’s nose. “Discipline is boring. I do not care to comprehend it nor will I ever try to. I like how things are for me, I am entertained. You are being nothing more than a downpour on my fun. The war will end in a few decades. Go back to where you came from.”

Anup lunged for her and Discordia felt her back press against a ruined wall. She could feel the heat from the flames but her godly form was immune to being burned.

“Do not touch me.” He snarled. “Do not ever touch me. You haven’t the right or the grace to lay those calloused hands of yours on me.”

"Someone's in a bad mood," her laugh was bold, and her face was inches from his snarling muzzle. "If you're so high and mighty, then why does a little clog in your stream of souls bother you so, hmm?"

Anup only continued to sound out a low growl of warning. His hands gripped harder on her shoulders, his claws pricking at her skin.

"You need to loosen up, Anup." She smirked at him. She tried to slip out of his grasp but the wall was a hinderance.

“Why would I take advice from an immoral girl such as yourself?” His voice shook with disapproval. Anup, and all the others gods of Egypt, had heard the legends of Zeus’ unbound virility, of Zeus’ many bastards, of the trickery he engaged in to create his offspring and make unwilling whores of Greek women. The unsavoury carnal appetites had tainted Olympus and dripped down to the bath houses where Greek boys serviced their men. It was no less surprising that Discordia knew only the same tactics.

"Morals are such a heavy burden to bear all the time, especially the number you seem to be saddled with. Slipping out from their yoke once in a while would be good for you, you might actually have some fun."

“This is not about you or I! These are my people you are toying with and you have no right to send them to the one that judges the souls of your kind. Even if you had such rights, I’d wager Hades would appreciate this flood of souls even less than I do. Go back to where you belong and play your games there, leave Egypt in peace.”

She grinned impishly at him, "Mm, no? After all, I was banished. I'm free of rules and rulers now."

    “You shallow, callous, careless, narcissistic shrew!” The red eyes of Anup stared into Discordia’s own blue ones. His voice turned low, sullen and his gaze transformed from hateful, to full of pity. “To cause all this suffering on innocent lives… I cannot even begin to imagine how much hate and sorrow you must carry inside.”

Her careless, laughing expression quickly reverted to anger. "I don't need your pity! And I have no sorrow." Her wings burst forth from her back as her struggle to be free of his grasp turned frantic.

    “So she can be compelled.” He sounded almost amused. “She can be bothered.” The wings didn’t seem to trouble Anup as they burst from her back and fanned the flames, causing them to swirl in small, scorching dervishes. “Why shouldn’t I pity one who sees so little merit in the balance of nature?”

"Balance is nothing more than an Illusion you boring old fool!" She glared at him with narrowed eyes as she continued her struggle. "If you stopped trying to maintain the illusion and open your eyes, you might have some fun in your work."

“My job is far from ‘fun’. My role is serious. And you aren’t leaving me time for fun even if I wished for any.”

She blinked and her struggle slowed. Her blue eyes adopted a sparkle as an idea crossed her thoughts. Her expression softened and she smirked. "Well maybe I should give you a quick taste of fun," she purred, tilting her head up to him.

    He hesitated, puzzlement clear on his face.

Discordia only snickered. "You poor thing, you don't even know what I'm talking about, do you? Well then..."

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