Oct. 14th, 2010

interrogoiterum: (who are you Renee?)
Inputting the coordinates into her GPS leads Renee to a dockyard in Bangladesh. A long inactive dockyard that now shows little activity other than the odd savage artist carrying girders and steel work away from the rust-encrusted carcasses. Having hiked all the way from Chittagong, Renee is hot, stinky, and tired, but her stomach skips in excitement. She's here.

Charlie's hat protects her from the unforgiving sun and uninvited insects, and she hikes towards the ship with the most concentrated movement on it. She's sure this is the place, but she still has to haul her own ass up the hull.

"Permission to come aboard?"

 She is surrounded by men and women of various builds and backgrounds, mostly youngish, all physically fit, and all shaved clean. Wearing generic loose pants, the women have their brests bound tight with bandages across their chests – a motif continued on the arms of the men. They stand, alert to a person, proud and ready to fight. Renee reflects that she wishes she'd brought some nun chucks.

 She wishes she owned some nun chucks.

 "I'm looking for Flay?" she hazards. "He's expecting me."

 They do not stand down.

 "Praise Cain? All Hail the High Madame? Greed is good? No wait, don't tell me, I've got it... Hooray for Crime!"

 They do not stand down and they're not impressed by Renee's razor sharp wit.

 Alright.

 Renee ducks her head and rolls out into her palm the ball of pseudoderm that makes up her mask. As she stretches is out, she recites:

 "And the caitiff gazed upon her, and saw then that she was without faith, and empty. And too, he saw the reflection on her face."

 With her mask on, she lifts her head, and every single cult member bows to her.

 "Faceless," they say in unison.

 The woman in front of her, an disarmingly cute woman with a piercing and who, renee has to admit, is really rocking the bald monk look, introduces herself as Shard, and invites Rnee to follow her to their leader. Down into the metal hull of the vessel, two pairs of boots clumping hollowly in the corridors, sending out echoes in all three directions as they approach the hold. There, Flay sits cross legged in front of a bloood soasked stone; an alter. He dismisses Shard with the order to "get things ready for the trial" – and that doesn't leave Renee exicted for the conversation.

"I confess to imperfect faith," Flay says as Shard leaves. "I was not certain you would come."

 "You threatened to murder everyone I knew if I didn't," Renee points out. "That kind of offer is hard to refuse."

 "And even harder to fulfil. We both know that is not why you came."

 "I came for answers."

 "You have all the answers. Whether you choose to heed them is your choice alone. But self deception is a sin aginast Cain and unworthy in a devotee such as yourself."

"I am not a member of your dark faith."

 "Yes you are, and much more," says Flay, standing up to be level with her, face-to-well, no face. "You have come to know the word and have been changed by it. Do you deny it?"

 "No."

 "It has been a rare pleasure, teaching you the lessons, watching as you have gained mastery of each in turn. You have practised deceit."

 "I have sought the truth."

 "You have succombed to lust."

 "And I regret it."

 "You have acted in greed."

 "For the charity of another."

 "You have committed murder."

 "I offered mercy."

 Flay holds her eye – a difficult thing when you're looking at someone without eyes, Renee knows. He smirks, slowly, knowingly.

 "You cannot unknow what you know, Faceless. The only question is what you will do with this knowledge. They are waiting for us."

 And with that, he leaves. Renee, of course, follows.

 They are indeed, waiting for Flay to emerge with the Facless. He stands infront of his crowd of kneeling cultists, reeling off a speech about how he is the weapon, the rage, the pride, the rock stained red with blood. Renee knows every word; it's right out of the Book.

 Thunder crashes, and it starts to rain.

(Of-fucking-course thunder crashes. Of course it starts to rain)

 "They wil bear witness to what comes next," Flay address the Question once more.

 "What does come next?"

 In answer – and entirely expectedly, it has to be said – he swings a kick at Renee's head. She evades, without difficulty.

 "One of us dies. The other lives and leads this order into the new darkness."

 Eh... "Neither of those options really works for me, I gotta tell ya."

 "You speak as if you have a choice. You do not" Flay throws a quick succesions of hand and foot attacks at his opponent. Not one makes contact.

 "Sure I do. I can refuse to fight."

 "Then you choose death, not only for yourself," Flay's gaze flicks away from Renee, to something behind her, and above her eyeline. She turns as he continues, "but for the daughter of Lilith, as well."

 There, on a platform above the cabin of the ship, stands Elicia, clothed in white, blindfolded with her hands and feet bound. The woman who introduced herself as Shard is also up there, a knife at her throat.

 "Renee, is that you? Renee?"

 Renee's heart leaps, but that part of her that pays attention now, that noticed that it leaps as hard as she'd expect it to when an innocent life is in danger. She instantly hates herself for noticing that it's nothing compared to when Kate was stabbed, or when Huntress...

 ...alright, when Huntress does anything, if she's honest.

 That rend in Renee's soul? That's guilt.

 "Don't move, Elicia! I'm coming!"

 "The object of your lust." Flay stands in Renee's path. "Would you kill me to lie with her again, Faceless?

 "You have wrought this. Now you fight not only for your life, but for the whore's as well."

 He's got her right, at least. Renee can't leave Elicia to be killed. She'll have to fight. Of course, she starts by continuing the theme, by letting him throw a number of hard offensive strikes in her direction, and not letting a single one hit its mark.

 "Your skills were adequate when we met in London."

 "I got better."

 Not as better as fast as when she was training with a Bat every day, but Renee's had plenty of time to train and meditate, and even more time to actually fight, since she got back. She's certainly better enough to knock Flay head over ass with her first offense.

 "Yes, you have."

 He lands inconveniently next to a pole that might have been a mast or some piece of salvage, which he lifts up in one hand and swings at Renee's hip, before using to vault into a kick at her head. He was holding back; now he ups it.

 "Just not enough."

 He hits her firmly under the chin and sends her hard onto the floor; she has to roll to avoid being skwered with his pike.

 "Was I wrong, Faceless? Are you unworthy to lead this order?"

 Renee rolls and leaps to her feet, but he has her backed against the rickety railing of the ship; there's nowhere to go. So she kicks out that railing – the wood snaps away from the rusty nailings and she catches the flying railing, giving her a convenient home-made bostaff fo deflect his attacks.

 "Dunno. Do you have dental?"

 She fights him, but she's on the defensive, always. She won't kill him – she won't, but she won't let him kill Elicia, either. So she fights. She takes his hits, she hits him back, she somersaults into the crowd and she merrily walks – literally- over their heads, racing to Elicia and Shard

 "Enough running," Flay has finally had enough, and he throws his staff like a spear. The trajectory turns it around, and it hits Renee flat in the back, knocking her into a pit of torn steel pipes and wooden shards. It's a regular deathtrap, and it's only through grabbing a pipe and controlling her fall that she's able to prevent herself from stabbination.

 "Though it pains me to say it, Lilith's vision failed her," Flay continues, throwing a flying kick into Renee's midsection. "You are not the one."

"See, that's what I've been trying to tell you," Renee argues.

 Flay stands above her, bringing his foot up again to smash into her head, to finsih it. "Consider that lesson learned.

 As his foot plummets down to her, Renee reaches up with both hands and grabs that foot, stopping it's fall. She absorbs the force into her arms and pushes straight up and back, converting all his force right into throing him back into the wreckage, where steel teeth tear into his legs, pinning him.

 "Good," Flay remarks, when he realises he's lost. "Oh, very very good. Take what is yours. Finish me."

 Renee stands over him, looking down at the man who's haunted her thoughts for so long, and she realises – she doesn't want this. She shouldn't be here.

 She turns away from him.

 "I wouldn't kill the man who murdered my partner. What makes you so special?"

 Shard is still on the platform, still holding Elicia, but she offers no resistence when Renee demands her freedom and steps forward to remove the blindfold covering the eyes of the woman she once loved, however fleetingly.

 "You won?"

 "Call it victory by decision."

 "No."

 Goddammit, some people just refuse to stay down. Somehow Flay struggled off his stake and followed Renee up, hardly able to stand on his bleeding out leg.

 "One of us..." he throws himself at Renee, a knife at her throat, "dies, one of us," she deflects under instinct, hardly thinking iof anything beyond not dying this second, "leads..."

 Flay falls back down again, into the spikes. This time, they pierce him through the torso several times in a way he was only lucky to miss the last time. His body spasms, and goes limp.

 The cultists around Renee slowly lower to their knees. Elicia walks up behind Renee, and cups her face as if to kiss it.

 "I knew you would do it. I always knew."

 She slowly sinks to Renee's fee, joining Shard who is already on her knees.

 "Master. Command us in Cain's name."

 

 

 

Lesson Five: The Parable of the Faceless.

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