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    The Thayne Tantalus

    EXP: 106,923, Level: 14
    Level completed: 20%, EXP required for next Level: 12,077
    Level completed: 20%,
    EXP required for next Level: 12,077

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    Lysander Anall

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    Cut My Life Into Pieces (Vignette)

    Duffy had lost count of how many years it had been since the fall of Y’edda. He had given up keeping track of all the times his family had saved the world, only for nobody to care or sing songs in their name. His ego had curtailed all sense of self, leaving him adrift as a hero without cause or causation. Though they had tried to keep the old ways alive by returning to the stage, it was a short-lived fanfare trodden to dust by the ruination of their homeland. As the Thayne of Scara Brae, what use was he without that scattered isle?

    “You’re crying…”

    The bard opened his eyes, drifting in eternal night for an eternity. He mouthed silent surprise when he saw that he was no longer alone.

    “Who are you?”

    Floating opposite was his younger self, though he took a moment to make the necessary connections. Where once he had been a boy, now he was a man staring back at himself.

    “I’m Duffy. Who are you?”

    “Hang on…”

    The bard unfurled from his fetal slumber, stretching his tired limbs till bones creaked and muscles burnt themselves to life. He shed the anachronism of an age spent wallowing in misery and looked at the stranger with distrusting eyes.

    “You can’t be Duffy.”

    “I am!” Pouting, the boy folded his arms across his chest. “Duffy Bracken, scamp and all-round artist.”

    “But I’m Duffy.”


    “So if I’m Duffy…you are…what?”

    “You don’t remember?”

    The bard cast back to the last time he remembered being whole. Being alive. Being loved. He saw the fiery convocation of the Tap bursting through the mantle of the world and his family by his side ablaze in glory. Then he remembered the long winters spent peddling tall tales to make ends meet, long before gods and monsters loomed.

    “I was sleeping. For a very long time.”

    “That’s right. You drank so much and cried so hard you disappeared.”

    “If I disappeared, why are you here?”

    The boy, who wore the same clothes and brandished the self-same swords on his belt mimicked the larger Duffy’s stretching and mewing. Like a boy risen from a perfect dream he righted and floated before his older self with renewed charm.

    “People stopped believing in you.”

    Realisation struck the bard. The fiery imagery of Scara Brae sinking beneath the waves wrenched his stomach and his heart galloped with fear and disgust. The volcano had erupted, casting darkness across the world and crushing continents with the weight of soot and sadness.

    “So…I’m dead?”

    “Bollocks are you. The part of you which is godly is dying, but I’m here to bring you home.”

    Duffy looked at his other self with scrutiny. He had lived so many lives, taken so many names he struggled to remember where they had met before. When it struck him, it felt like a hammer to the forehead.

    “That means we’re split again…”

    “Ding, we have a winner!” Young Duffy smirked. “I had to wait for ages for you to have enough energy to risk waking up.” He pointed to the bard’s chest.

    Looking down, Duffy found a familiar amulet hanging around his neck. A silver locket with spider silk thread pulsating with energy. He had not seen it for decades.

    “You were nowt but a ball of dim light in ‘ere for the better part of ten years.”

    “Balls, I’ve been dead ten years?”

    “More or less. The world’s a much different place now, but it needs you. It needs us.”

    Looking around, Duffy struggled to pierce the seemingly endless abyss. The more he looked, though, the lighter it became. A slow fade to silver that brought him peace.

    “You know what this amulet does, right?”

    “Yep! You told me only to use it if you absolutely had to.”

    “I told everyone else to never ever use it.”

    “That’s okay, caus’ I’m you, so not everyone else.”

    “I forgot how much of a little shit I was…” Duffy turned his frown into a smirk slowly, to give his other self-pause for thought.

    “Oh, ha-ha. You’re such a comedian.” Young Duffy clicked his fingers and pulled at the aether. Into the darkness came a black handled katana, vibrating with the songs of ages. “You never told me how to use it, though, so you’re up!”

    Duffy reached for the blade and tensed when his fingers grasped the hilt. Energy roiled through his bones and raised goose bumps on his skin. The amulet began to sing, faint feminine choral tones that spoke to your soul.

    “I’m not sure I can remember how.”

    “I’ve been scouring the world for these relics for ten years and you’re too old to remember why?” Young Duffy frowned.

    “It’s not that simple.” Duffy was silently grateful he had not hidden them too hard, or worse still, destroyed them. “But if you managed to find the Reliquary, that means their guardians…”

    “Yep. Your friends are dead. Apart from Ruby, who kicked me so hard for trying to steal it I still limp.”

    “She’s alive?” Duffy felt hope spark in the vortex of emotions he was feeling. Life returned to his body slowly.

    “After you sung that stupid song, she was the only one who remembered you. It took her a while, but when she saw me, she gave it up easily. She needs you.”

    The darkness was all but gone now, leaving them suspended in a silver sea and falling slowly and gently down towards a familial rickety jetty. Duffy watched as it drew nearer, readying for the explosion of sound and song that came with a return to the Aria.

    “Then I’m only alive thanks to her.”

    “Aye, that’s about the gist of it. When the song was finished it tore all of you away from the mortal body. It left me the exact same as I was the day I found your grave in Scara Brae six hundred years ago.”

    Now Duffy remembered. In the days before their lives became intertwined with the Forgotten Ones, he had been a scamp of thirteen, living in the underbelly of Scara Brae barely keeping alive. Ruby Winchester found him one sunny afternoon, then the matron of the Tantalum troupe long before it rose to infamy. That evening, she had taken him to a temple in Market Square and changed their lives forever.

    “That’s impossible. You can’t be.”

    “Can’t be what?”

    “The same. I never took over your body, you took over mine.”

    “You thought all this time that a god possessed you?”

    Duffy hesitated. Free of his duality, the truth came to him with force. The dusty temple to the Thayne of bards had left an impression on a younger Duffy. The very idea of creatures so powerful as to be called gods had changed his worldview, and soon he was the most faithful of all. He believed in Tantalus so much he practically drained the long slumbering Thayne of his power. Eventually, Duffy ceased to exist, and Tantalus walked in his stead.

    “I…I had no idea.”

    “Tantalus’s corpse remains in the ruins of Scara Brae, his mind long dead and eternally to be. You believed in the idea of him so much you transcended mortality. You became a god because you believed people needed him so damned much.” Young Duffy smiled softly. “And now, they need you again.”

    “To have spent all those years trying to be myself, to be a man free of a god’s selfish whims only to find it was me all along…”

    “Gods, you aren’t half maudlin’. I’m glad we’re apart.”

    “If Tantalus didn’t consume you, why are we twinned?”

    “I was hoping you’d work that out on your own.”

    Duffy’s boots touched the jetty and lightning broke the silver sea asunder. All at once, every poem, song, and play to ever exist rushed into his head. The jetty rocked wildly, barely kept afloat as the mercury waves turned into tidal vortexes. Then, as quickly as it came, it went. The sea became lifeless, and the skies fell silent.

    “I did…”

    Reconnected to the Tap, Duffy stood cocksure and with a stern grin. He clicked his fingers and summoned the remaining artefacts to the air around him. They vibrated amidst whorls of blue ribbons and circled around him.

    “Your name is Duffy Bracken. My name is Tantalus.”

    “About bloody time.”

    Still afloat four feet above the jetty, Young Duffy cheered as the relics of Wainwright Jones gathered about the Thayne. A ring settled on his finger. A blade sang in his hand. A necklace shone on his nape. A dagger spiralled in-between his off-hand fingers. A crown appeared in a blink of an eye and nestled on his brow, spiralling silver bands holding aloft seven shards of amber glass. A book burnt into existence and fell open before him, and a scintillating glass orb that showed all the many worlds crashed onto the jetty from on high.

    “It has been six hundred years since these artefacts were combined. The last time they were used by the Forgotten Ones to slay a Thayne.”

    Overhead, flashes of memories formed in the delicate clouds, showering terrible wards and wicked folk plotting against the gods. For their part, the Forgotten Ones had succeeded, and the world was changed for their scheming. These artefacts had cut the Tap from the world wellspring after wellspring, until those who could harness its power transcended the might of the Thayne themselves.

    “The fact you and Ruby found them that afternoon was no accident. It is time to stop fearing them. They are a blessing as much as a curse.”

    “I’ve always been afraid of what they can do.”

    “Enough rhetoric, Tantalus. Do it. Set us both free.”

    Drawing on his burgeoning power, Tantalus channelled energy into the katana and reached out with his voice to the remaining artefacts. He wove them together into a tapestry of power that even angels could not match. The song was perfection and paradox combined, neither heard nor sung but touching the soul all the soul.

    “Go home,” they said to one another in unison.

    Tantalus swung the blade between them, cutting the fabric of reality atwain. In a simple, silent moment they were gone. The jetty watched the memories of triumphs and tribulations shown overhead with self-aware triumph.

    In a small house in Salvar, Ruby Winchester readied herself for a laborious night of entertaining. Now that her husband was out of the house, she was free to spend proper attention on her appearance, changing her comfortable red dress for more fur-traipsed affair suiting their new social circle. It scratched and itched something terrible. She sat at her dressing table applying her make-up, staring at the faded photograph of her and the troupe she had tucked into the mirror surround.

    Go home.”

    Ruby blinked.

    “Is someone there?” She looked over her shoulder to the door.

    Go home.”

    Scared, Ruby set down her eyeliner and reached for the rapier leant against the mirror and drew it. The sound of it is blade gasping for air was quashed by a thunderous crash out in the hall. She bolted to the door and rushed to the landing.

    “Fuck me.”

    She set her gaze on a sphere of untarnished silver that had appeared in her hallway. The air stank of sulphur and lavender and vibrated all around her. In a flash, the sphere disappeared, and two figures revealed themselves within.

    “Duffy!” Ruby dropped her sword and sprinted along the landing to the stairs.
    The two figures were laying on invisible altars, arms limp by their sides, faces cold and expressionless. But as the spell singer approached the air seemed to draw inwards around them, and with an almighty, catastrophic eruption vented all the pressure like a mind exploding. Ruby formed a sphere around her in the nick of time, as the explosion shattered the floor and buckled the walls. Glass, plaster, and wood splinters rained down onto her dome summoned from her heart and added percussion to her hasty aria.

    “You came home…”

    The two figures overhead rocked to life, and free of their magic dropped to the floor of the sphere with a thud. Ruby stood centre, maintaining the spell even against the crashing weight of her home as it collapsed. The smaller figure opened his eyes first, and smirked when he saw his sister overhead.

    “I promised I’d bring him back.”

    “Your timing, as fucking ever, is abysmal.”

    Tantalus groaned as he awoke, pushing himself upright with unsteady hands. Like a new-born babe he surveyed the world with wonder.

    “Who the fuck is that?” The spell singer regretted discarding her weapon and took a furtive step back from the stranger.

    When he turned around, her eyes widened.

    “That, Ruby, is no way to talk to a god.”

    Silence fell. The sound of debris crashing against the sphere stopped. Ruby, eyes locked on the older Duffy pulled at the threads of her magic and the sphere faded. They stood as a trio, in a perfect circle of maintained marble flagstones preserved amidst the sudden, calamitous arrival of too much magic into a confined space. The centre of the house was gone, leaving skeletal spires of splintered wood on the fringes of the devastation. Snow drifted down from the night sky, swift to burry the ruins in ice.

    “Haven’t you heard?” Ruby frowned. “The gods are dead.”

    “I promised you I’d bring Duffy back, and I kept my promise.” Duffy gestured to his younger self.

    “Wait, you did what?” Young Duffy pushed in between them and demanded an answer.

    “Which of you is actually Duffy?”

    “I’m not sure anymore.” Duffy pointed to Young Duffy again. “I think that is me from before Tantalus. A preserved memory of a life unlived.”

    “So who the fuck is you?”

    “I’m the live lived. The Thayne who has fought by your side all these years. But…also not. It’s like our lives have always been intertwined but now they’re not.”

    Ruby was seldom found perplexed, but her head hurt trying to make sense of her circumstances.

    “Younger me said after the song you were the only one who remembered me.”

    “I was…” Ruby felt her heart sink. “I came so close to forgetting altogether. Only the book kept appearing no matter how hard I tried to lose it. Every time it did, I remembered some fragment of your life.”

    The artefacts, now lifeless, floated free of their wielder and vanished into blue whorls of ribbons. Only the book remained, flapping its pages to keep aloft on its own volition.

    “I think I know what happened.”

    “I’m glad somebody does caus’ I just went on a merry goose chase for no good reason.”

    “You remembered who I was before the Forgotten Ones. Which is why he is here,” Duffy pointed to his younger self a third time, as though he still didn’t quite believe he was looking at himself. “Back then, before I became a Thayne, the only thing I believed in was you and I as leading man and woman. It makes sense he’d do anything to see us reunited.”

    “But there’s no escaping who we are…” Ruby realised her mistake.

    “We wanted so much to be free of our past, to live our own lives, but none of our heartache stems from the Thayne.”

    “What are you saying?” Ruby pursed her lips.

    “Young me made me realise something about my past. We always thought it was Tantalus who possessed me in the temple that day, but he was already long dead. Forgotten, in a way that is final.”

    “It was Oblivion who possessed you, Duffy. How can you forget?”

    “Oh, that little bastard got his claws on our memories for sure. But we thought he made us forget who Tantalus was. He was trying to stop us believing in me, so he made us think I was no longer myself.”

    “My head hurts…” Young Duffy rubbed his forehead.

    “Shut up.” Ruby sniped.

    “He made me forget that in the shrine, Tantalus didn’t possess me. He made me forget that for the first time in my entire life I had something to believe in. The very idea of Tantalus was powerful enough to make me become him.”

    “That doesn’t explain why there’s two of you still.” Ruby looked at each of them in turn.

    “You believed so vehemently in my memories they gave birth to the fragmented image of the man you once knew. Young Duffy here must have sensed your disappointment when he was not the man you wanted him to be. He remembered what happened in the shrine and sought to replicate that ascension.”

    “You never disappointed me, Duffy.” Ruby looked to Young Duffy. “It was the idea of living with all those memories without anyone to share them with.”

    “But it’s fine now, caus’ I brought him back proper.”

    “Him?” Ruby pointed at Tantalus. “Are you Duffy or a Thayne?”

    “The answer to that isn’t so simple. I think I am still the man you remember, from when we sung the song and started life anew. But…I am also not. I spent centuries fighting between god and bard, never true to myself. I guess this is me accepting who I really need to be, not who I want to be.”

    “Thayne, then…” Ruby smirked.

    “What does that make me?” Young Duffy looked worried.

    “You, my little friend, are so much more than just a memory.” Duffy walked to his younger self’s side and patted him on the back. “From this day forwards, you are Duffy Bracken, leading man and all-round scoundrel as fate intended you to be.”

    Young Duffy puffed out his chest with pride.

    “I’m not calling you both Duffy,” Ruby pouted.

    “You don’t have to. My name is Tantalus. Firstborn Thayne in the new age of gods.”

    “Your ego sure sounds like Duffy.”

    “Tantalus,” the Thayne bowed. “Or as they called my forebear in the days of the Illar, my name henceforth is Lysander.”

    Ruby swallowed her pride and buried her growing wrath at the sight of her new house laid asunder. She ran to Lysander and hugged him, ten years of painful and silent remorse at nearly forgetting her oldest and dearest friend finally laid to rest.

    “If you ever leave me again there is no grave deep enough to hide in,” she said between sobs.

    Lysander smirked and returned the hug firmly.

    “What about me?” Young Duffy sobbed.

    Ruby waved him in, and they embraced in a sea of tears and laughter and awkward joy.
    Last edited by Duffy; 05-23-2020 at 11:30 AM.

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