Surrender (1 of 2)

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“Sometimes, things just are,” Micah says.

He’s sitting in front of his house. He’s waiting. It’s been about two hours.

“There used to be gibbelins,” he says. “They lived outside the world. They ate people. And to lure people to them, they had a cellar of emeralds, and a cellar of sapphires, and a cellar of gold.”

He has surrendered, and so he has no power. His mother has phoned the monster. The nightmares will come for him, and take him away. The air is very cold.

“And a man carved down into their cellar,” he says, “from under a river, and flooded it, to raid their emeralds without going to their door. And he emerged from the water with a sack full of emeralds, and there were the gibbelins, and without saying a word, or even smiling, they killed him. It didn’t make anyone happy. He died, and the gibbelins weren’t even particularly pleased. But sometimes things just are.”

A car pulls up. A man gets out. His nametag reads “Thysiazo,” and below that, “Acceptance.”

“Micah,” he says.

“Why?” Micah asks him. “Why do I have to do this?”

Thysiazo blinks. Then he shrugs, and gives an honest answer. “Power,” he says. “For a monster, power is defined as the point where they no longer need to create gods of their own—when they can conjure them forth from others. The monster has desired to break you to his will from the moment that Liril made you; and only certain failings on our part prevented it thus far. It is generally a benign process,” he adds, “although there are unfortunate circumstances at present.”

“Oh.”

Micah hesitates at the door, thinking about something else to say, but Thysiazo casts him an inquiring look, and Micah bitterly climbs in. Thysiazo sits in the driver’s seat and starts the car. There’s a long and quiet drive.

“What are you?” Micah asks.

“A demon,” Thysiazo says.

“No horns,” Micah points out. “Also, not red or ugly.”

“No,” Thysiazo admits. “I’m more of an easy-on-the-eye evil.”

Micah frowns.

“Not as a person,” Thysiazo clarifies. “In my own person, I’m capable of both goodness and hypocrisy, and through one road or another I find myself a morally acceptable creature. But it would be a mistake for a demon to deny the fundamental evil of his nature. Folly has no merits.”

“How are you evil, then?”

“We’re going to Tina’s home,” Thysiazo says. “Do you remember her?”

There’s a long pause. “Vaguely.”

“Are you all right with going there?”

Micah is silent.

“There’s a little place in you that’s terrified,” Thysiazo says. He turns the wheel gently as the road curves. “You won’t admit it, but it’s there, in your heart, and it’s casting out a radiance of emptiness. It’s asking the rest of your mind for help. It’s asking the world for help. It’s calling out to the gods. And this is my answer: that you should sit, and wait, and accept what comes. You have to, Micah. You surrendered of your own free will. To protect others. It’s just a necessary sacrifice, something that you have to live with, something that’s part of your world now. I can’t help giving that answer. It’s what demons do. We teach you to accept whatever is necessary to bear. And our answers go straight into your soul.”

“Oh,” Micah says.

“See,” says Thysiazo, “if I started pretending that that was a good answer, then I wouldn’t be a demon. I’d just be a dork.”

“Please let me go,” Micah says.

Thysiazo drives.

“I’ll make you finger sandwiches?”

“Yum,” Thysiazo says. “But, no.”

After a while, they pull up in front of a house. It’s white. It’s got big brooding windows and a little fence out front. Its roof is painted a light blue. It’s got a small grassy yard. Thysiazo leads Micah to the door, and knocks, and then leads him inside to a small fuzzy brown-green-gold couch.

“Sit,” Thysiazo says, and then fades away to lean against the wall.

Micah can hear someone washing their hands in the other room. There’s a swish of fabric. Then she comes out: Tina, a woman with pale blond hair and a white lab coat.

“Hi,” he says.

She tilts her head to one side. She stares at him for a few moments. Then she looks up at Thysiazo. “He spoke.”

Thysiazo shrugs.

She looks down at Micah. “Don’t speak,” she says. “Not without being asked. You’ve gotten ill-trained.”

Micah chews on his lip.

“Why did we leave him alone for so long?” she asks Thysiazo.

“Liril,” Thysiazo says.

She tilts her head to the other side.

Thysiazo shrugs. “It was cheaper to farm her for gods than to use the kind of pressure we’d need to get her or Micah away. We tried, but …”

“Ah.”

She looked at Micah. “You defended her?” she says.

“Yes.”

“How?”

“When I tried to fight,” Micah says, “it usually worked. Liril helped a lot.”

She nods towards the wall. There are shackles dangling from it.

“You’ll want to put your wrists in those,” she says. “So you don’t fall down.”

Micah blanches. “I thought … there’d be the monster,” he says.

Thysiazo drifts away from the wall to stand by the couch. He offers Micah his hand. Micah takes it, and Thysiazo helps him rise. Leaning on Thysiazo, Micah goes over to the wall.

“He’s supposed to be here,” Micah insists.

“He’s gone,” Thysiazo says, comfortingly. He locks Micah’s wrists to the wall, one by one. “He went to a show a few weeks ago, and he hasn’t come back.”

“He’s supposed to be here,” Micah says. “I was going to denounce him. Wait.”

Tina disappears into the next room. Micah can hear a metallic ringing as she drops something and it skitters across the floor.

“Please,” Micah says.

“Would you like me to save you?” Thysiazo says.

“What?” Micah does not hesitate for long. “Yes!”

Thysiazo nods, and sets his hand on Micah’s forehead. “Peace,” he says.

The world goes out of focus, and the air shivers, and Micah cannot think. Then there is fire, and a blond woman smiling, and he thinks his limbs are tensing in great convulsive unity, and lightning dancing in his mind. He tries to fight, but when he reaches for his power, Thysiazo speaks a word, and it all spins away.

Then there is fire, and a blond woman smiling, and he thinks his limbs are tensing in great convulsive unity, and lightning dancing in his mind. He tries to fight, but when he reaches for his power, Thysiazo speaks a word, and it all spins away.

Then there is fire, and a blond woman smiling, and he thinks his limbs are tensing in great convulsive unity, and lightning dancing in his mind. He tries to fight, but when he reaches for his power, Thysiazo speaks a word, and it all spins away.

In the end, he wakes, and Thysiazo is there.

Thysiazo reaches for him, and Micah cringes away.

“Peace,” Thysiazo says, and Micah relaxes. Thysiazo strokes his hair.

“It had to happen,” Thysiazo explains. “You’re a threat, as long as you know how to fight us. But I can keep you from feeling the pain while it’s happening.”

“I know,” Micah says.

Thysiazo unshackles Micah, and picks him up in his arms, and carries him down to the basement. It’s concrete and bare, with a couple of mattresses on the floor and a few old bloodstains on the walls. It’s dark, and it has a door, and Liril and Tainted John are there; and they are still and quiet and dressed in grey, and for a moment Thysiazo does not process their presence. He sets Micah down, and says, “We’ll take you to Central soon, and then it’ll get a little better.”

Then he looks up, and frowns. Tainted John has no eyes, only wells of blood, luminescent in the darkness. Without saying a word, or even smiling, he cuts Thysiazo apart; and when a third of Thysiazo falls to land on Micah’s side, there is a moment of peace, and Micah does not scream.

(See also The Hoard of the Gibbelins, by Lord Dunsany)

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