A short story by Feind Gottes
The gathered septet of ancient faces sat with heads bowed not daring to stare at the figure that had just risen to join them for their annual meeting. The seven members of this ancient board of directors, six men and one woman (technically six though the conjoined twins, Pleonexi and Pleonexio, were generally counted separately), waited patiently for their Chairman to take his place among them so they could begin. The elongated oval table they were seated at seemed just as ancient as the gathered mass though it had been polished to a mirror finish with the reflections of the board members faces’mere shadows in the dim light. The near black liquid slid off the Chairman like a robe falling to the floor revealing a face that seemed more ancient than those gathered before him. He slowly removed a pair of shades with dark circular lenses from the inside of the black robe enshrouding him sliding them up his long, slender nose before raising his head to address his ancient brethren.
“Good evening gentlemen and madame.” The Chairman’s low voice reverberated in the small room filled only by the table and his compatriots as he addressed the members one by one, “Cupidita, lovely as ever my dear. Lacomo. Avidita. Pleonexi and Pleonexio. Chamtivost and Ahnus. I’m pleased you were all able to make it. Cupidita, please make note of the attendance. I now call the Consilium Avaritia to order, make a note of that too my dear.” The Chairman spoke with authority that none questioned.
Rather than taking his place at the head of the table the Chairman began to slowly pace about the perimeter with his head bowed as if in deep thought. He had lost count of how many board meetings he had headed over the years nor did he care as time was of little consequence to him or any of the Consilium’s members. There was no urgency in his steps nor the steps the group took to steer the masses where they wanted them to go. They were as patient as they were ancient never panicking over current trends whether they were in their favor or not. They tended to take the long view on things. The Consilium Avaritia convened once per year, every year the same as they had done for not just centuries but millennia. They took the long view indeed.
The twins piped up first as they usually did with Pleonexio doing the talking while Pleonexi itched his nose perhaps picking it, “All is going to plan, sir. Those that have given us aid are doing quite well while the masses are as lethargic as ever. The environment is growing more hospitable to the Great One’s return just as predicted. By our next meeting we should be able to start planning for His eventual return. Once the last few chunks from Gronland and Antarktis go, the land will be ready for Him. They are well on their way but it will take just a bit more time.” Pleonexio spoke in a just the facts tone similar to Sergeant Joe Friday from the 50s show Dragnet.
“Thank you Pleonexio but did I not say new developments? Redundancy is for fools, Pleonexio. Please do bear that in mind prior to opening your mouth.” Both of the twins’ heads sank in shame at the Chairman’s chastisement.
The twins knew his somewhat pleasant tone shouldn’t be mistaken for actual pleasantness. The Chairman could be swift and harsh in doling out punishment for minor infractions as they all knew very well. Unconsiously they looked to the right side of Avidita’s face as proof. His heavily scarred, blackened face was a constant reminder to them all not to upset the Chairman. He had one concern and it was not for any of their well beings. His focus was on the endgame only, which is what brought them all together for this annual gathering. It had been Avidita’s mistake that had cost the Great One beginning his reign several millennia prior and none of them intended to incur the wrath of the Chairman for delaying it once again when they were so close.
None of the other ancient faces dared raise their voice to speak. They all sat heads slightly bowed with Avidita seeming to make every attempt to borough his chin deep into his chest not making any attempt at eye contact with the Chairman at all. It only became worse as the Chairman stopped his slow pacing around the Consilium’s table directly behind him. The skeletal hands of the Chairman came to rest gently atop Avidita’s shoulders though he attempted to shrink away from the touch as though spikes had just been driven into him.
“What say you Avidita? Any new developments from your contemptuous neck of the woods? Anything I need to relay to the Master? Hmmm?” While his questions were valid there was no denying the delight the Chairman took in tormenting the one here who had failed so miserably. This was a delight the Chairman took at every gathering since Avidita’s error though for the first few centuries it had been more than just hands laid upon shoulders and whispered sarcasm.
“All is well, sire. N-no problems. No presence has yet risen that would thwart the Great One’s ascent as last time, I assure you.”
“Very good Avidita. I trust you won’t repeat the mistakes of the past.
“Lady and gentlemen.” He addressed the group, “We have gathered for… Cupidita, how long dear?”
“This is our seven thousand five hundred and umm sixteenth meeting, sire.”
“For seven thousand five hundred and sixteen years yet we have never been closer to fulfilling our purpose than we are at this very moment. We have put the wealth of this world into the hands of a chosen few who will stand at our right hand when the Master returns. Those few ignorant souls have no idea what that means or what they will become but that is the most minor of details. We have reformed this entire planet for the Master to reign supreme for millennia unfathomable to the mere mortals who will perish beneath his might. Nothing had better stand in our way now, so if anyone of you is holding back one scrap of information, one tiny piece of minutiae that could throw the monkey wrench in the works like Avidita did once so long ago, so help me I will deliver you to feet of the Master for him to deal with your insolence! Do you all understand? (seven heads all bob up and down voraciously in the affirmative) Look to the face of Avidita. That, my friends, will seem merciful if any of you stand in His way again. Do not try my nor the Master’s patience or you will have an eternity of suffering to reflect on your wrongdoing. Do I make myself clear?” The Chairman never once raised his voice during the diatribe staying cold and serious start to finish.
The Chairman looked from one ancient face to the next looking for any shred of doubt, the slightest hesitation to nod vehemently in the affirmative and found none. He had missed Avidita’s hesitation all those years ago and was determined that it not happen again. The Consilium’s members thought Avidita had suffered unfairly for a minor error but they had no idea how he had suffered at the hands of the Master every single second ever since. Beneath the black robe he wore he was crisscrossed with scars on top of scars with wounds opened fresh everyday by the Masters whip. He could not withstand another failure.
The Chairman cast one last icy stare to each member of the Consilium Avaritia letting them feel the weight of his words. Not one of the ancient faces dared look away from that stare knowing it could very well be their last mistake. Satisfied, the Chairman very nearly smiled for a moment before turning his back on the table swiftly striding the few steps to the circular carving in the floor from which he had risen only a few moments before. He did smile slightly looking down on the center skull as he placed his feet upon it. The dark crimson tide rose up enveloping him, pulling him back to the depths from which he had risen as if the liquid had the mass of a sun. He was instantly back on the inverted cross he had been crucified upon for the last five millennia feeling the sting of the Master’s fiery whip on his flesh. The flesh burned and fell away with each crack opening a fresh wound to heal only to be torn asunder once more. The Master was well aware of his absence having permitted it.
“Welcome back Balaam. What news from above?”