Observer Compendium I-4
rating: +1+x

Observer.Protocol(*034)//title("Her Shade")

//narrativeprose.faerie.infernal

//date.CE.2022.06.22.22:22

There is a certain irony in the "Christian" dogma of our era and a pending peril in apprehending the lesson. Our generation must face the horror of this shambling, headless, lifeless "body" of Christ; its countless members unwittingly disenfranchised, violent, and afraid. How do you kill something that has no corporately accountable life? Something that has no executive will, understanding itself to be enslaved and waiting on an external salvation for all fulfillment and transition? But this microcosmic critique is only a rhetorical feint: a ubiquitous example of the existential incoherence - and resultant post-apocalyptic terrors - plaguing our world's collective understanding of what it means to be Human.

-John the Revisionator, from, 'If God is Dead then So Are You'

It went in those days, “On the third Saturday in the oddth month of the Year of the Weasel…” Or, that’s how the love-dealers would start their bark, musical accents twisting their lines magically oddwards, reeling all nearby to their offerings. There are rumors of counterfeits but who would risk drawing that kind of attention in such a place? And so you may find yourself there one night, feet strolling the shadowed aisles. A table full of mirrors evoking a shudder as you breathlessly mouth label texts; at the next shop fingering the runes and aghast to consider who would look for “Sight-of-His-Eye” or “Lashes-of-Her-Fury” or “His-Best- -inger.”

Ahh, here you are! Fresh from a drink at a local bar, having flirted with any number of bold individuals who inevitably approached. You feel alive, emboldened - like your fruit juice and well liquor has evolved some victorious spirit within. Something stops you, pulling your gaze: a quiet man (well into his years), only a single bottle in the whole stall. The air shifts and pulses, though nothing visible moves except the shadows cast from without. You stare at the bottle intently, unable to make out any significant details in the dim light.

“You’ve come for His heart’s Shade, have you?” a Voice rings from nowhere in your mind. The vendor rests cross-legged and silent on the floor behind the curious object. He does not acknowledge you.

“Don’t you mean, ‘His-Heart-Shade’?” you try, in the off-hope that just deflecting the strange energy will prevent it from cracking your newfound vigor.

“Cads swallow and you’re the Right One, aren’t you?” Without warning, a bony fingered hand grabs your wrist with feverish intensity; eyelids opening ominously wide as the man speaks, voice dripping condescension.

The other Voice comes again. This time you place its origin - it's coming from the bottle! “Aren’t you going to ask what It’s worth?”

You want to tell the Bottle about how that is all the wrong way to phrase the question in a faerie dickering and that their contents hadn’t even been fairly disclosed yet. But, alas, it is just a bottle and you know better than to ask it anything. Yet…

The words pour out, each one making your teeth itch as it bubbles into the night air, “What is It worth?”

Your would-be-salesman coos in response, “Oh, to know what it’s Worth, my also-worthy Champion, you must know how it is procured. Really feel it…” The lilting tone and foreign cadence tickles secret parts of your brain with novel fires.

He pauses and stares at you as if this was altogether enough information. It is entirely not enough information. You affix an expression as close to a glare as you can manage until he continues, “If you are to share with an Other, the bond must be set in the right place…” *dramatic pause*, “for each.”

With this declaration his hand finally lets go of your waylaid wrist and you gingerly check for bruising. The Bottle undergoes no discernible change, but the pulsing from before returns. It fills your mind with dancing visions of solar systems in myriad shapes and colors. Something pulls from deep inside your chest, magnetizing you toward it with mounting force.

Urgent, unbidden thoughts and emotions wash over you: Any cost would be justified seeing now how perfect it is. Ask to touch it, to see it closer! Could I get away if I grabbed it and ran?

“My esteemed Champion, when you vie for the Shade of His Heart, you will travel deep into the Unchartable Places of His Fae. There are no guarantees there. This is likely the most perilous adventure you will ever undertake.” It's the monkish man again, his speech a low droning, pleasant and hypnotic, “The first Trial is a breeze! Kind of a pass or fail endeavor, ya know? Both Bodies must be…” He dons an aire of conspiracy, presumably to keep you at ease, but a more alert mind might hear subtle malice, “compatible. No noticeable costs for failing this first one.”

Light strobes from the Bottle, blindingly intense. Simultaneously a phantom bell rings from nowhere as a pulse of energy passes through you with force: being touched, examined, seen! Everywhere! ALL AT ONCE! Words from somewhere echo loosely in the warm pool of sucker in which you swim. Sounding waves, “Now you must quest through the Wilds of the Minds, battling all the best and the worst of your shared Dreamings. If you survive that, the path will bid you travel deep into the Barrens of the Lone Hearts. At their Center is the Nothing. There, your He will Be, reposed or indisposed or being disposed of in the infinite Darkness of Contention."

"No guarantees, remember!?”

Who do they expect to answer? You couldn’t speak if you wanted to. You don't want to. Guarantees? Of what? The Bottle is worth any risk.

For some unknown and entirely unconcerning reason, fear begins seeping into your consciousness from all directions.

“Once you find Him in that shapeless Sea of Infaenite Soul, construct a Snare of your Wit, a Shield of your Devotion, and a Net of Your Lust. Lay upon your hapless Other at once and, without His Knowing, swap the Shades of your Heart. With just these small feats, all of His Magic shall be as yours.”

“In what follows, you must be absolutely sure to never release him - no matter what he claims. If you do, all the Magic will be unDone and the Cost will be paid once, twice, thrice. Not even the Queen herself could afford that!”

“All Choice. All Chance. All Consent.”
Say the words.
“All Choice. All Chance. All Consent.”
Say the words.
“All Choice. All Chance. All Consent.”
Your own voice chimes each response without hesitation.

What used to be a stable world begins … turning? Yes, it is definitely turning and the turning is accelerating. The edges peel up like wrapping paper cut with a razor, rounding lines shifting your vision into novel geometries. Infinite, timeless moments bleed once-full-color-realism to black-and-white-impressionism. You are spinning down now, mind lost to dark shapes racing patterned madness from within and without all things.

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