Gretchen, cultist of the Forgotten Bliss
My life felt so inadequate and unfair. Here I was again repeating another dull day of sorting out clothes.
“Gretchen!” snarled Markus. “Why are the cotton shirts from Ostermark hanging at the window instead of the silk ones from Riekland!”
Over pompous windbag. “Because I checked our inventory and found that the cotton shirts were selling almost four times as much as the silk ones.” It made sense considering the cotton shirts were four times cheaper.
“So you did it intentionally?”
“Yes. As I said, the cotton shirts are selling faster so I figured they’d be selling just as fast if we made it more obvious.”
He squeezed his hands. “Not consulting me about this first is undermining me.”
“Well sorry, but you never listen to me.”
“Because you come up with things like this. Those ragged low-quality shirts make us look like some petty market that only offer to the poor. We want to attract the rich! Make money off them!”
As if that was going to be possible. But there was no point arguing for someone like Markus. “Fine, I’ll go and fix it.”
“Forget it. I’m suspending you for today.”
“I have very little tolerance for undermining and you know that. I’d be a lot less lenient if it wasn’t for the respect I owe your father, as well as how I owe him for saving my life while I did my time in the militia.”
I was almost scared what Markus would’ve done if it weren’t for those reasons. “Fine!”
I stormed out of the store and out onto the streets. How I wish I could leave that miserable store forever and watch it burn to the ground, but it was the best work I could find to support me and my brother. There simply was simply not enough available respectable work for uneducated poor class girls in my town and didn’t have the money to start-.
I had knocked into someone, someone wearing a heavy coat and tall brimmed hat. The man twisted around and showed is menacing scole and scarred face.
“S-s-sorry.” I looked at the assortment of gear and holy symbols strapped to his chest; this man was a witch hunter.
“You in a hurry somewhere?” His voice was like a cackle of flames.
“W-w-well not-not in a hu-hurry. I’m just going ho-home.”
The witch hunter’s eyes searched me. “Have you noticed any suspicion?”
“Uh, no! Definitely no!”
His brooding face was an inch apart from mine. “If you should change your mind or find any… Report it to me.”
He turned away and vanished into the crowd.
I wanted to cry. I knew of the witch hunters and their tenacity to hunt out the impure and I had an idea of what they did if found guilty. The way he looked at me was as if I had already been deemed guilty and my head was clenched with the very ideas of what he would do to me.
I wiped away the tears and just hurried to get home. This day had been awful. It was like any other days, but I had been suspended and met the most horrifying man of my life.
I burst into my crummy house and made for my room up the stairs.
Who was that? I didn’t know that person’s voice and Peter wasn’t home yet to have allowed any guests in. Just when I thought this day couldn’t get any worse, there was an intruder in my house.
I looked to the door, but the person’s footsteps told he could cut me off at the door. I had to go and hide. I needed to hurry though before he stopped me.
“Wait!” shouted the man. “Sister is that you!”
I froze. Peter was my only sibling, but he had a lisp that prevented him from ever speaking clearly.
This was foolish, but I stopped at the stairs to see the person. When I saw him, it was somehow indeed Peter.
“W-was that you, br-brother?”
“Yes sister, I no longer have a lisp, I can speak clearly now.”
“Im-impossible, you’ve had th-that lisp… never mind!” I rushed down to him and embraced him. “By Sigmar it is a blessing!”
He picked me off my feet and spun me around. “Yes! I can speak clearly for the first time in my life!”
Just when I thought this day had gotten awful, it had become perhaps the greatest day in years.
We had later arrived at our favourite tavern to celebrate. Sadly it was just the two of us, but that would hopefully change now that my brother was no longer impaired by that accursed lisp. It was so strange though how clearly he spoke now, but I had become too drunk to care.
“Now that I no longer have that lisp,” said my brother for probably the hundredth time. “I can be what I’ve always dreamt of being, an actor. I will be quitting that accursed job of mine and go onto become famous. I’ll become famous enough to provide for two of us and you’ll no longer have to work for that rascal Markus. Now that he can hear me clearly, I will tell him what I’ve always thought of that cheapskate.”
I knew my brother was not thinking straight with the beer taking over his mind, but if I didn’t say anything then the fact he went unchallenged would make him think it was actually a good idea. “Take it easy Peter. Uncle John tried being an actor and failed and he failed a lot more when he had already thrown most his life away that-that.” I tried to remember what happened to him, oh yeah. “He committed suicide.”
“You-you have no worries. The people who fixed my lisp told me I could get anything else I wanted. All I have to do is go to them and they’ll help me.”
“Wha- who? Wh-who fixed your lisp?” Our dad had all kinds of people look at his lisp, healers, teachers and priests, but none of them came close to fixing his lisp. Peter had even done a lot of research trying to fix the lisp himself.
“W-wait, I shouldn’t tell you, n-not unless they say so.”
“The guys who fixed my lisp?”
“But who were they?”
“I can’t say. N-not unless they say so.”
I leered. It was hard to keep a straight face on with the alcohol in my system, but my mind flashed with that witch hunter asking for suspicions. “I want you to not go near these people until I’ve met them.”
My brother turned away and tapped his fingers against the table. It was enough to tell me he couldn’t do that. The fact I was powerless and reasoning him was hopeless made me only able to hope these people weren’t that bad.
“So sister… Perhaps I can finally find someone.”
I then figured out he was looking at the girls. Peter had never had anything to offer someone to be with him. But then neither did I. I looked at the men the girls played with. I had been with a man before, a couple of times, but those relationships had never been anything besides them wanting to fill out their intimate needs. My nose was too big, my hair too bristled and I was too thin to be beautiful, had no father to help arrange a marriage and men found my intellect too annoying for some reason, how was it that people was so affronted to reasoning? But really I had nothing for any decent man to want to keep me.
“Actually I should wait until I become a famous actor. That way I can choose any girl I want. Perhaps I’ll find an interesting friend who wouldn’t mind getting to know you.”
Did he mean friends with a fellow actor… or whoever he was talking about early? “Peter… You no longer having that lisp is blessing enough. I’ll- We’ll both be happy… without any help from other anyone else.”
My brother glared, but he knew better than to argue. I should’ve known better to try and reasoned with him.
I had prayed to the Gods that they would keep my brother out of trouble before I went to work. But as I made my way, I felt tense, like someone was following me. But who would follow a poor class unattractive girl like me… besides the witch hunter from yesterday… Unless my brother had already got his attention. If my brother had got his attention, it almost made me want to curse him. Had he gotten so desperate to remove his lisp that he was willing to condemn both our lives?
Only thing I could do was hurry. I rushed through the streets and charged into the shop.
“Gretchen!” snapped Markus. “Careful with that door or I’ll make you buy a new one before you have chance to break it!”
I was too winded to properly reply, but I noticed that with Markus was the Jacob Fansworthy. Yes. The one person that Markus bowed down and heeded most was the undeniably rich merchant Jacob who was responsible for most of our goods. I had no idea he’d be turning up today, but I was glad he had.
“Greetings,” I said to both but I bowed to Jacob and Jacob bowed back. “I’ll get on with my work now.”
I wanted to share my ideas with Jacob, idea that would save this business, but I knew there’d be no way with Markus backing me off. However, Jacob was always accompanied by his wife, Bella, who had clothes shopping as a hobby and I knew she’d be browsing our wares from other merchants with keen interests.
I already found her studying the Ostermark trade with fascination.
She almost fired into the roof. “By Sigmar!” She almost glared at me. “Is there something you want?”
“Yes, I’d like to discuss some business that you could maybe pass to your husband.”
She gave a befuddled look and peeked over the aisles to make sure Jacob was here. “Tell him yourself,” she spat.
“I-I can’t, my boss will not let me if I try.
Bella gave no sympathy, rather disgust. “I can see why.” What did that mean? She then just went back to her browsing while I was stunned.
“Could you just listen to my ideas?”
She rolled her eyes at me and then paced towards me like stalking cat. “I have no time for discussing things with someone that dresses up like a rag doll, someone who has her hair like that or with anyone who is just a low class shop maid.” She stood over me, I didn’t realise just how tall she was. “People like you don’t get talk to people like us because our world is just that much bigger than yours to comprehend. So get back to your menial chores like you’re meant to.” She then strutted off back to her husband.
Her words had felt like they had tightened the jar lid that sealed every potential I had. Why was I cursed with being so smart and yet so wasted…
After another harrowing day at work, I left straight to the tavern. It was rare I came without my brother, but I had become so depressed. It was bad enough that Peter had gotten himself into trouble that could cost both our lives, but now my only hope of saving our business felt flushed down the drain thanks to an even bigger pompous than Markus. I should’ve know she’d be a bigger one with the size of her butt.
I guess I couldn’t give up though. We were only at risk of losing business, the only business that would give me any really coins. At the moment things were stagnant and it would take time before Markus would come up with another money ‘losing’ scheme of his. I just had to think of a better way of getting my message across to him.
“Hallo there,” slithered a voice.
I lost control of my breathing as these tall slender bald men with pasty skin sat around my table. One with piercings on his lips gave a particularly hungry look. What he hungered for I had no idea. But there was something mesmerizing about him.
“Alone I see.” I wanted nothing to do with them. I took my ale and pretended to down it, hoping they’d grow bored waiting for me to finish. “Normally you’re here with your brother.”
I coughed, almost dropping my tankard. “Peter?”
“He’s the only brother who sits here with you.”
My tankard trembled. They couldn’t be. “What’s he to you.”
He spun his head, probably juggling whether to answer me or no. “Friends I guess.”
I took a few deep breaths and looked to the door until I noticed one of the men rest his hand close to me.
“Look,” spoke the leader. “We’re just here approaching you because we know your job’s miserable.”
“You heard wrong.”
“I take it you lie to your brother then?”
“I don’t know what my brother’s told you, but I’m fine with my line of work.”
“You sure? Because we’re willing to offer you some new work with a respectable pay.”
I-I was tempted to say yes. Not because of what he was saying. But those eyes, they were strangely mesmerizing and comforting. But that alligator grin freed me. “N-No.”
He smacked his lips. “I get the feeling that you’re maybe a little afraid of us. You shouldn’t be. As I said, we’re friends with Peter.”
I heard the door forcibly open. By Sigmar I felt relief when I saw step in was the witch hunter. He didn’t come in for drink, instead he was patrolling the bar, observing everyone sitting down. I needed him here.
“I-I don’t care right now.” I looked back at them and saw they weren’t all that caring about the witch hunter, they probably didn’t know he was one. “I’m happy with my job.”
“Well you’d probably be happier with this one we’re offering.”
I didn’t know what to say or do. All I could do was to wait for the witch hunter, come on over. Why wasn’t he hurrying?
“How about you just come girl?” hissed the man creeping across the table. “Get a peek of just what it is we’re asking you to do?”
They began to slither up. I looked at the witch hunter, he was close enough. I stormed up.
“Sir! Sir!” I yelled. The witch hunter glared. “These men are harassing me.”
He fixed his grim eyes onto the them, they just gave a bashful innocent look in return.
“Just trying to offer the lady a job.”
“What sort of job?”
The man threw up his hands. “Sorry sir, but that’s classified business.”
The witch hunter looked at me and then gestured for me to leave, thank Sigmar.
As I hurried out, I looked back to see the witch hunter sitting them down. I hope he was going to be alright, but my primary concern was just getting out of here.
About five days went by. As I secluded to my house, only leaving for work and house supplies, I did not want to find out what had transpired at the tavern, I didn’t want to risk seeing those men again or find myself questioned once more by the witch hunter. He may have saved my life, but who knows what those men had told him or what I had gotten myself involved.
But as I remained locked up in my home, my brother remained just as much away from home. I hated it, not only because I worried where was he, but I needed him. Those men, that witch hunter, could come crashing through the door and there’d be no one to protect me, no one who would care.
On the sixth night, where I laid locked in my room, I heard the door bang open.
I shuddered as I hid beside the wardrobe. I considered screaming out the window, but I felt the intruder would be done with me when I yelled.
“Gretchen!” That was my brother and there was something wrong in his voice.
As I rushed to unlock the door, I heard my brother scream and slam to the floor. “Peter!” I undid the door and then found my brother at the foot of stairs. I got to his side. “Brother! What’s happened to you!?”
“Nu-nothing, just happy is all.”
He almost didn’t seem to notice that he had fell down and just gave a drunken smile.
I hauled him up carried him into the living room and rested him onto a chair and sat opposite to him to catch my breath.
“Where have you been going brother?”
“Do you really want me to tell you? Because if you do, you’re going to have to give me time to think about all the places I have been.”
“How about telling me who you’ve been with then? These so-called new friends?”
“They fixed my voice, shouldn’t be so hostile to them.”
“They came up to me five days ago and tried to drag me out of our favourite tavern.”
“Yes. Fact you don’t know tells they weren’t planning on telling you what they had in mind to do to me.”
“No-no, those were probably some other friends.”
“What other friends? Before you lost your lisp you had no friends.”
“Well these friends would never do that.”
“And how can I be sure when I’ve never met these friends?”
Peter was moping now. He got up and just began to leave.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
“Somewhere I don’t have to put up with this.”
I stormed up after him. “Do you realise how much I truly need you at the moment?” My brother paused. “I’m left in my room scared, scared that you’ve gotten us into some kind of trouble that I can’t fathom! And even though you’ve gotten us both into this mess, you’re the only one I can count on to protect me.”
My brother stood for a minute before he answered. “There is no reason to be afraid of my friends… but if it’s causing you causing you this much bother… I’ll-I’ll try and get them to see them tomorrow.”
I was glad to be getting through to him, finally, but it wasn’t enough. “And just what if your friends still don’t comfort me.”
“Trust me... you will have no reason to fear them.” My brother continued on walking. “Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to be seeing them right now.”
He then left me and I was left all alone again and vulnerable.
In the afternoon, my brother took me to see these friends of his. We went into what was actually the noble district, a place where only the rich and privileged were welcomed. It made me feel more uncomfortable why people like these would take an interest in Peter.
We stepped into one of the buildings. I felt my nerves dampen from the powerful exotic smell that filled its hallways, but I wanted to be scared. I didn’t want to trust the people inside here or let my guard down.
My breath was taken when we entered one of the rooms. It was spectacular, but haunting. Its walls were painted in multiple bright colours that swirled and danced across the room. There these serpent-like statues both beautiful and terrifying, one that drew me was this one this person, I think, with crab-claws and bird feet.
There were people who just lounged here on the carpet and laid out pillows, smoking happily on some strange substance, probably the thing that affected him last night.
“Greetings Peter.” A woman, both gorgeous and yet creepy, like the statues, prowled towards us. She wore brightly coloured dress, her hair waved around her like living snakes and her eyes were almost venomous. “Is this your sister that you have spoken so fondly about?” She gave me both a charming and sinister grin.
“Yes Bella Mortiff. This is Gretchen.”
“Ah.” She put her hands on my face. “You are such a sweet sister. You are welcomed here my lovely, you are welcomed to the Forgotten Bliss.” She came uncomfortably close. “And to anything you need.” I didn’t know what to do, what was she going to do. She eased off and stroked my head. “Aw, you’re a frightened wee lamb aren’t you? Peter told me that Gertrude and the others were probably a little too… intimidating when they were just trying to help you.”
They were more than just intimidating and now that I knew that Gertrude really was in league with these guys I looked to Peter, wanting to leave now.
“Trust me though. The Forgotten Bliss is a group dedicated to fulfilling the desires of everyone that embraces us and as you can see…” She looked at my brother. “Or heard we have almost no limits.”
“Listen to her sister,” insisted Peter. “These people are willing to help and all you have to do is become one of them. Just by saying you’re a Forgotten Bliss, they can get you a new job or someone for you to marry, anything thing.”
“He speaks the truth.”
It was tempting, but the allure in this woman’s voice was unnatural as if only a goddess could speak like she could. “I am happy enough.”
“You are not sister,” snapped Peter. “You complain to me about work and always wish about being married and now you live in fear. These people can fix all that.”
“Right now all I want is for us to go home.”
“Your strong will holds you back from what you truly want,” Bella criticised. She smiled. “But I believe it is because you’ve reframed yourself from embracing those huge desires by burying them deep such inner strength that he has such interest in you.”
She chuckled. “The being that removed Peter’s lisp so that he could speak beautiful. A being that comes to you dreams each night, beckoning you to embrace him and in exchange he will provide you with whatever you want.”
Was she insane? Was this some kind of metaphor? Or was she truly talking about a being that could do that? A being that could enter your dreams and beckons you to embrace him. Something like that sounded too hard to belief, but priests warned us of such great evil, but I always believed that was something to make you go to church.
“Sister!” Peter grabbed my shoulder. “These people are going to help us, give us better lives.”
He was hurting me! My brother never hurt me!
“Easy Peter.” My brother began to loosen being soothed by Bella’s voice. “We’ll let your sister leave. But know Gretchen that no matter how far you run away or push us… Our offer will always stand and in time when you’re ready to accept… He will have great things in store for you.”
What did she mean… Whatever it was, I did not want to find out, I was just glad to leave, but as I hastened towards the exit, but the realised. “Brother?” I turned and saw him glaring at me.
“Continue going home sister.” He walked away into the shadows.
Please Sigmar no… Had my brother abandoned me?
It had been three days and my brother had indeed not come back. He felt disappeared from my life and it was the loneliest experience I had ever felt. I had no one but him, I only ever really needed him. He never left me, he always listened to me and he would always protect me that was all I needed, he was the only person that made me feel like a person.
My father was so scarred by his time in the military that he stopped being like father. The rest of my family lived in Talabecland. We had been no use at making friends. It was the sort of thing that made having just that one person so badly needed and without him… I was so empty…
I didn’t want to give up. I made my prayers to both Shallya and Sigmar and went out into the street. I hoped there would be someone that could perhaps fill my brother’s place, just until something could bring Peter back, maybe this person could help me get him back or at least give me the strength.
I didn’t go to my favourite tavern. It wasn’t the same without my brother and I was worried Gertrude was waiting for me there. I believed only reason he hadn’t come for me yet was because he didn’t know where else I went but that tavern. It was the only place I knew that he knew I went to. So I went to a different one.
When I walked in, I walked cautiously.
I felt so unsafe. This just didn’t have the feel that the Briskwall tavern did. It was darker, the people were quiet and the tables not as clean. I didn’t turn back though, I didn’t know what the other taverns would be like and I had already stepped in.
“What do you want?” growled the taverner moving some empty tankards.
I was almost knocked back by the shock from his aggressive tone. “Some-some ale?”
The taverner smirked. “Really?”
The taverner rolled his eyes. “Fine, two brass.”
I paid him and got my ale then shuffled away. I looked around and could see all the suspicious looks. I had never felt so out of place in a tavern. I was dressed like a housewife, all by myself. It also hurt when I had to admit I was unattractive and didn’t have the personality you’d find a girl having in a place like this. But that shouldn’t bother any of the men that wouldn’t mind coming to my place for tonight, I had no problem with it so long as I wasn’t alone.
I sat and had my ale. It was either time had passed that fast or I had downed it, but my ale was gone just like that. I wanted to get some more, but I didn’t like that taverner. In fact I didn’t want to move. The idea of trying to meet someone here wasn’t my main concern anymore and if I felt if I got up, I’d draw too much attention.
By Sigmar, how had this happened, how had I become such a wretch.
Two tankards boomed onto the table. “Good to see you still alive.” The witch hunter passed one the drinks across. “I wasn’t able to apprehend the men that harassed you.” He took a swing of his drink. “Somehow he evaded me to have the consciousness to deem him guilty… Always hate someone actually able to sway me with words.”
“H-he’s not dangerous, is he?”
“If you mean their leader Gertrude, no doubt,” growled the witch hunter. “I’ve strung and burned many men with eyes like his. People like him are dangerous indeed. Which is why I hired men to keep an eye on you. Although I didn’t have the sense to just condemn the man and I doubt I can do much to prevent him from causing more evil than he probably already has. I’m at least happy to know he won’t be getting his hands on one soul.”
Or you were maybe using him as bait. I had always heard Witch hunters were quick to condemn people of guilty just because of the look you gave them and the stories I was told of them just made it even more sense. Still it felt assuring I had someone looking out for me.
I took a sip of the tankard he gave me and spat. “This is wine!”
“What was that you were drinking before then, water?”
“Ale? I normally find girls drinking or another kind of beer, but not ale,” criticised the Witch hunter. Well obviously you weren’t from around her I wanted to tell him. But I didn’t want to cross a man who could nail me to a post for crossing him. “But never mind, I’ll go and get you ale then soon as I’m done drinking mine,” he grunted. “So tell me that man that enters your house, what is he to you.”
Peter? “Wh-why do you ask?”
“Just give me my answer.”
What choice did I have? “H-he’s my brother.”
“And he lives with you or does he just stay the night?”
“He lives with me… But he’s been out more than usual.”
“Do you know why?”
“He-he’s started becoming really ambitious about his acting career that he just goes out a lot to practice and find out options.”
“I see where he goes.” Oh no. “He goes to the Forgotten Bliss in the noble district. Why, I don’t know, but I have a feeling you do.” He leered at me. It became clear he wasn’t here to comfort me. “The Forgotten Bliss is a club for people to lounge around in and enjoy exotic tastes. Why would your brother go there so frequently if he was so ambitious about an acting career?”
Come on Gretchen, you’re a smart girl. Think. “I-I… Because most the production and directors there are open to talking to people from our class, which means then he has a chance of persuading them to let him be in their play.”
The witch hunter raised his eyebrow in an impressed way. “He seems to spend a rather lot of time in there. As I know, he’s not returned to your house in three days.”
“Th-that’s because.” I lowered my head. “W-we had a fight,” I snivelled. I hope confessing a partial amount of truth would throw him off.
“Over what exactly?”
I wanted to say it was personal, but that wasn’t something you could say to a witch hunter. “I was getting upset how much he was investing into his career… I was being selfish I guess.”
The witch hunter leaned over the table. “I know you’re protecting him girl.” I was frozen. “I can tell it’s me you’re protecting him from. The only reason I’m playing this game is to let you repent yourself…” He wasn’t, he wasn’t going to actually ask me. “By giving me what I want to know. Now try again, why is your brother spending a lot of time with the Forgotten Bliss.”
What was I to do? I was caught. I felt like bird caught underneath a cat’s paw. Unlike a bird though, I could give the cat something he wanted, but the problem was it was handing over the only real person I had left… But what I had to consider… Did I honestly have that person left or… had his soul been lost?
“He-He thanks them for removing the lisp from his voice.”
“Yes…” I wasn’t sure how far to get into it, but the witch hunters glare told me I hadn’t started. “He-he’s had it all his life and w-we thought it was incurable… until the Forgotten Bliss.”
“And how did they cure it?”
“I.. I don’t know. Something always stopped me from asking, b-but…” The last thing that made me think Peter could be saved was in me… But the last image that I got of him… Told me I could only save myself now. “They mentioned it was being… not a person that fixed his lisp.”
The witch hunter stared calmly, then finished his drink and slammed it to the table and got up. “I’ll tell the taverner to send your drink over when it’s ready.”
Wh-what had I done.
For the past few days my life had felt empty. I had been locked up in my room letting myself wither away hoping Shallya would offer respite from the pain I was going through. But nothing would relief me, nothing could, the one person who could ever could’ve help me I had now condemned.
Desperate to find something that would break me free of this self-destruction, I had pulled myself across the room to open the window. I looked out into the sun and realised it was Backertag! I was meant to be at work! I was meant to be at work yesterday and the day before and perhaps the day before that!
I had missed out on so much work, oh Sigmar no! Hadn’t I been ravaged enough! I rushed my things on and went outside.
I burst out into the streets and hurried. As I went however, I noticed everyone around me… They were staring at me! I had wandered if it was because of my hair or my dress wasn’t on right… But I then realised word had maybe passed and the guilt of my brother began to run through me again.
I picked up the pace, wanting to get away. I found the Golden star fabric shop and bolted in.
“What the!” barked Markus.
“Sorry!” I huffed. I tried not to cry. “Sorry!”
“Oh Gretchen, should’ve recognised that door slam.”
“Sorry, sorry, I’m here now.”
“Here for what?”
I looked up at him with puffed eyes. “For work.”
Markus stamped out from behind the counter. “I’m afraid you work here no longer.”
“You heard me girl. You were missing for days.”
“Y-yes well I’m here now.”
“Here now, late and in such a state.”
“I’m sorry, I’m really sorry.” I tried tidying myself and subtly wiped my tears.
Markus stared at me as I wouldn’t leave. He sighed and paced towards me. “I’m afraid that isn’t the only reason.”
“I know it’s not fair on you, but it’s important for my business that I let you go because of this.”
“I don’t… I don’t understand.”
He gripped my shoulder and gave me the best sympathise look he could. “I heard about your brother, the whole town has. Keeping you here is just to leave us both in a sinkhole mess.”
“I’d help you Gretchen, just as your father helped me, but… I’m afraid the price involved helping you with this…” He turned away. “Is too much.” I screamed and threw over a clothes stand. “Hey!”
I kicked the door, opened it and stormed out and screamed again. The pain just wouldn’t stop. I fell to my knees clenching myself. Why wouldn’t the pain just stop?
Later that day, I made my way home stumbling.
Businesses were closed so the streets were empty. It had stopped all the people judging me. What had I done? So what if he was my brother? He was deemed guilty by a witch hunter and that made him an enemy of the Empire! Oh how could I think that?
I fell to my knees again and snivelled.
“Aw, you’ve become such a damaged little thing haven’t you?” I knew that voice! It was Gertrude. I fell back and tried to scamper in reverse. “Steady girl.” He paced after me as patiently as a cat. “You have my word that if I dare put a hand on you, Bella will crush all feeling from them and trust me.” He showed me his hands. “Feeling with your hands is something I love doing.”
“Th-then what do you want.” I tried searching for something to defend myself.
“To give you the message that even though you betrayed your own brother and almost handed us all over to the witch hunter.” He then sat himself down in front of me playfully. “Our offer is still open to you. You still have a place open to the Forgotten Bliss.”
I couldn’t trust him, but his voice made me believe him. “W-why.”
“Because he still desires you, he desires you more than ever at the moment and I can tell,” he slithered. “You desire him. He can make the pain you’re having, a sensation. He can give you all you desire, all you want. All you must do is come with me.” He licked his lips. “And embrace him.”
I had no idea what to do or say. “I-I don’t know.”
“Just come along. I swear you won’t come any harm. You’re a damaged and broken kitty that just needs repair from the only needs someone like him to take you in.” He came closer and reached out his hand. “Face, if Sigmar or something like Shylla were going to do it? Why not now when every other mortal but us has abandoned you.”
I looked around and the scene described just as he had said. I was abandoned… Just for doing my duty to the Empire and trying to survive. They were the only ones offering to take me in.
I reached out and took his hand.
“Good girl,” he hissed.
I was brought back in the Forgotten Bliss, a place I wished to never dare return to and yet fate had forced me here.
“Good work Gertrude,” sang Bella striding through the hallways. Gertrude did not respond to the welcome. Bella hugged me. I felt a huge sensation, possibly of the powerful smell or the unnatural feel of her skin. “You may return to your luxury now.” The man turned and left, leaving just me and her to stroll through the hallway. “I am so glad you have come my dear. Have you come to embrace him?”
“I-I haven’t decided yet.” Was I actually considering this?
“I understand, but just so you know, he did everything in his power to save your brother. While he provided me with the strength and charm to convince the Witch hunter to avoid his absolution to judge us, I’m afraid he had enough… evidence to resist any charm we might have used to persuade him otherwise.”
So were they aware it was me who handed my brother over? A Witch hunter didn’t really need evidence to convict someone. What came into my mind however was imagining him being dragged while everyone here stood by. It made me think that while I didn’t have him… he didn’t have me… He would’ve been all alone. “H-how did he suffer?”
She looked at me and said calmly. “You’d best not think about that now my dear… Just understand that he is now one with him.”
She stroked her fingers along my cheekbone, calming me. “Hush child and calm. When he cannot... or does not protect us in this life… he protects us in the afterlife. He is a true guardian as he is our provider.”
I wish she’d just say it, say it that this person was-was some kind of dark god, one that I was warned never to go near. What was I doing here? “I wish to leave now.”
She smiled. “You’re scared child and I understand. What those fools that say that he corrupts our minds with lies are the ones who spread false truths.” Her voice became more aggressive. “The person they tell us to look to, the person they tell us to obey, what does he offer? Protection? All Gods provide that, but some do better than others. Trust me when the person I speak of tried everything to save him, while the one we’re told to obey let him be taken.”
“Y-you speak of Sigmar,” I dared to say. “The protector of mankind and the founder of the Empire?”
She repulsed at the mention of that name. Her twisted face made me regret saying it. “I do and what the so-called god did in life, no longer does in death. Let me remind again that he left your brother in the hands of one of his devotes followers made to hunt out people who conflict with the Empire’s common values. This madness that the cult of Sigmar has wrought has made us paranoid and afraid to embrace what this world has to offer. These delusions of what is wrong and what is right has been set by priests trying to keep what faltering power they have left as beings truly more caring takes his place.”
I could- I could feel her words slither into me, but I couldn’t let her. To abandon Sigmar was to let your soul be left vulnerable to the depraved beasts from other realms tear it apart and devour it! “Sorry, but I really want to go now.”
“Go? Go where child? Out amongst the other sheep of Sigmar? The sheep now shy away from you that make your life cruel.” She forced eye contact with me. “I know the witch hunter give you the information he sought to convict your brother. It’s understandable or he would have made you share your brother’s fate. But look what it’s done and all for the sake of Sigmar. You have no family worth caring, no job, just nothing and just because of him.”
She-she was right. Every day I had prayed to him, offered to him and stayed devout. But in just one week that had all been taken. But. “I-If-.” I had to say it. If she was going to do something about it, she may as well. “Peter had never came here, none of this would’ve happen.”
Bella smirked, why? “My dear, your brother came looking for what every human is entitled to, his desires. He had you, a sweet loving sister, but what else? He was an outcast with menial job not worthy of him all because of the way he spoke. It made him suffer, his life bitter.” She came closer. “He probably would’ve killed himself if not for him. Was your brother not happier when his lisp was removed?”
He had never truly been happy, but he was safe, but did that make it worth living? “I-I-.”
“But let’s think what he could do for you.” She circled around me. “You’re an intelligent, outspoken and good soul, but look at you. With all that potential and great meaning, you’ve been born into a low class as a woman with some features that make her even more undesirable for people to care about. If that wasn’t a fact you wouldn’t be here right now, needing the one being that truly wants you to get what she wants.” She stopped in front of me with her fist clench. “Think about it, you have nothing left, soon as I let you walk out of her, you’ll be some outcast waiting to die, but here, if you embrace him, you’ll have a life your soul was truly given birth for.”
I thought about it. I thought about how even though I had my brother, it never made up for all the things that had befallen in my life simply because I was an ugly woman with no father. Every time I confronted Markus, he’d disregard my opinions, no one wanted to be friends with someone so smart or unappealing and people were too put off by the fact I was working girl with no father to provide to be willing to marry. It was flawed social norms I had always hated. I looked up at her. “F-fine.”
“I’m going to need more than that girl. If you are truly to embrace him.” Her grin widened. “You have to be sure.”
I felt as if I was exchanging my soul, I probably was, but what use was it if all I was going to do was suffer in life and perhaps the afterlife. I felt as if my brother would be waiting for me to ask how could I? Perhaps even my father that had stopped loving me, the mother I had never known and everyone else who just didn’t care. Perhaps Sigmar or Shylla never had truly cared… But these people and… their deity… they seemed like they truly did. “I am sure.”
I was escorted to a lavender door with shocking golden emblems.
“There is much desire in you Gretchen. So much sensation needed to be given that if we want every ounce of that to come true we must start here.” She pressed her hand to the door. “In here I have made preparations to tear open the veil that separates you from him so that he can bestow as much as you are both willing.”
Her smile couldn’t get any wider. “I knew it was only a matter of time until you accepted him.” She pulled me inside.
I became even scared as I was in room lit by purple flame candles and had this acidy charcoal smell that was just awful. When I thought about running, I not only felt Bella’s grip tighten around my hand… but this invisible force that wrapped around my body.
“Now rest here my child. Don’t be afraid to move but do not leave this room until I can say it’s done and most of all.” I felt her breath closer. “It’s alright to be afraid… Fear can be one of the sensations that he can offer if you choose it.”
Bella stepped away into the darkness and the door closes. All I could see were the candle lights, just what was about happen to me!?
I heard people, people whispering.
The ignored me. I took a few paces near to one and began to realise they were doing some sort of chant. What kind of chant I didn’t know, but each word that whispered spun a nerve in my body as if enchanting me… or cursing me. I wanted it to stop, but what could I do beyond this point?
I felt imprisoned in my own grave. A grave that had locked away my very soul.
When I continued listening to the chants, there was one word that caused my whole body to spasm. “Slaanesh.”
I crumbled to the floor. I had lost consciousness and felt my whole body twitch and jerk.
I don’t know how long this had gone on. But there had been moments where my consciousness would return. I could feel my face snap, the roots of my hair prickle me and my chest crack. It was somehow… both horrifying and refreshing at the same time. I didn’t know what to real feel as these were just for brief moments.
(This is only the beginning)