12: King of the Netherworld

When spring came with the sun and chased the darkness away, the Devourer made himself known. One day he walked up to the Gates of Bone and demanded to see King Chyron of the Obsidian Fields. A moment later the gates swung open and there he stood naked like his mistresses surrounding him. Their breasts were leaking with milk that dripped onto and ran down their plump bellies.

Welcome back, old friend, Chyron said emotionless. This man saved mine and the first woman’s life from the Storm of Shards, He told the women.

The Devourer nodded in response.

Go and prepare the hall, Eoz, Chyron said, and the women left them alone.

Which one of those women is Eoz? The Devourer asked. I didn’t recognize her.

None and all, Chyron said, still without any emotion in voice or face.

Where’s the Woman in White? The Devourer asked.

Don’t mention her.

Where is Eoz?

She had to go.

Where?

When that infant’s brain sprayed out the hole in its head, I knew she was lost to me, Chyron said and continued, I only did what had to be done.

The Devourer looked at him in silence.

Chyron stared into the Devourer’s eyes and said, For seven years, you’ve been gone. You left us to fend for ourselves in this forsaken land. You said you would find a way to communicate with us. You never did. We searched for years, especially Eoz, she couldn’t let you go. We needed you.

It seems like you did well without me.

What do you want from me?

I want nothing from you, Chyron.

Then why did the recluse come out into the light?

I came to say a last farewell. I’m leaving the fields to look for other lands.

Why do you think there’s anything else to find? Aren’t these fields the all-encompassing scabs of the earth?

No.

How do you know that?

I’ve seen it. Forests, oceans, snow, and mountains.

Humans?

No.

Why haven’t you told us about this before?

I’ve lived here for so long that the memories faded into distant dreams in the back of my mind. When I remembered, I’d already left you. That’s why I’m here, to tell you about it before I go.

We’ve built a life here, Chyron said. We’ll stay.

A young girl came from the other room and said, It’s all finished for you to eat. Her gaze was fixated on the floor as she spoke.

Good, Eoz, Chyron said and motioned for the Devourer to follow them.

They walked through multiple long and dark corridors and halls before they stopped in one larger than the rest. In its middle, there was a giant but low table of dead and obsidian. On it lay human legs, some raw and glistening with blood. Others roasted with blackened and cracked skin. They all seated themselves on the floor around the table as more women and girls came into the room. Hundreds of them. All but the youngest and oldest had swollen bellies and breasts.

Chyron rose when everyone was seated and said, This is my first friend and ally in this paradise. Hail him welcome to our feast.

The women’s voices amplified between the high walls and ceiling as they greeted him. The Devourer rose from his seat and bowed in response.

Eat! Chyron said and clapped his hands together. All legs were gone from the table a moment later. The women ate in silence. Chyron turned to the Devourer and said, We’ll prepare a room for you in the tower where you can rest after your journey.

I appreciate your hospitality, The Devourer said, But I have to move on.

No.

I can’t stay, Chyron.

Why? Isn’t what we do here tasteful enough for you? Is it below your morals?

The Devourer was quiet for a moment before saying, I understand why you’re doing it, but I don’t think it’s worth the suffering.

Not worth the suffering? The survival of the human race isn’t worth the suffering of a few brave martyrs?

I don’t think so. I’m sorry.

Don’t you think I find joy in doing this? I’ve spent many sleepless nights since that first innocent human I killed and took the bladder from. If I hadn’t done that, Eoz would’ve died followed by me. You will be escorted to your chamber after the feast.

No. I’m leaving.

Don’t be ridiculous, Nihil. You can do far more good here than dead in the fields.

The Devourer rose from the table and turned to leave, but Chyron seized his arm. The women swarmed them and lifted the Devourer from the ground.

Cut off one of his arms and take him to his chambers, Chyron said, and they followed his order and began cutting and hammering away at his limb until it came off. They carried him deep down into the Netherworld as his stump squirted a trail of blood. There they threw him into a pit. His arm they hid far out of reach in the top of the tower.

Chyron stood at the edge of the pit and looked down at the Devourer as he looked back at him. You do understand why I’m doing this? He asked the Devourer.

Yes, but I do not like it.

That doesn’t matter. We’ve to put ourselves aside for the greater whole.

And the greater whole is to mutilate them and make them dig?

Do you think that’s what I’m doing?

Yes.

I’m sad to hear that.

While the Devourer was imprisoned, Chyron used his disposable workforce to dig through the tundra and deep into the bedrock where he created his kingdom. Only the best suited of his wives were allowed to bear children. The others played the role of midwives and fed the brood fat and strong. If a slave were found to have extraordinary capabilities, he was made to impregnate the women. Generation after generation continued the tradition long after King Chyron of Netherworld was gone. The practice became a religion and code of conduct never to be broken. And with time their dark caverns and halls twisted its inhabitants into something inhuman.

The Devourer stayed in the depths of Netherworld until he was long forgotten and became invisible to his keepers.

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