Chapter VI

     Silently, the castle of the brothers Psycho waited, surrounded by a dense forest, but situated on a hill from which the immediate surrounding area could be surveyed for any who would dare approach. Until late, no one would pace these walls as a guard, for no one was fool enough to attempt such an assault.
     As a stronghold, the castle was near impenetrable. Yet, it was not the building's sheer walls which deterred offenders; that is, not so much as the castle's residents themselves did.
     There were but three banes known to inhabit this place. The eldest was recognized and feared throughout the land as Dangerously Psycho, whose skill with the broadaxe, aggressiveness, and quick temper made him prominent. Still, he was most greatly noted for his desire to bring some orderly system to his kingdom, which is a wish very few of the Bane World possessed. But then he was in a position from which to enforce this wish. Lord Psycho understood fear to have always been the greatest device for control, and he wielded this weapon almost as well as his mighty battleaxe.
     The younger of the brothers went by the name of Extremely. Also highly skilled with a particular blade, the younger preferred to swing a large sickle, also very proficient in a quick decapitation. He had not at first shared his brother's vision of control over the populous, but grew to enjoy the life of power. His interest, however, lay less in politics, but higher in warfare. The elder spoke of control over thousands as the younger spoke of strategy in battle, the chief difference between the Lord and his General.
     The third being of this fortification was not much known throughout any land. Few really knew of him at all, for he wasn't a commander or a warrior, but a man by the name of Jester. As most of this world, his name described entirely who he was. Also known as the Bane of Bad British Comedy (which, somehow, is a name more people have heard than "Jester"), he serves as any jester would. He wears a ridiculous hat, observes all which happens for the brothers, and is responsible for comic relief, which comes naturally to him.
     There were no other things known to live in the castle. Not even rodents, for even they in sport could not evade the blades of the brothers Psycho.
     A wagon slowly made its way up the path to the great stone structure. Pulled by a four-headed butabull, Lord Psycho directed his cart carrying the components of Ryan's body and the unconscious boy. Upon his approach, he found the gates to his home shut, and knew what must have occurred.
     "Yes, sir?" called the voice of the harlequin. The comic leapt up to the parapet where he could be seen.
     "It happened again?"
     "Unfortunately so, Milord. Shall I open the gate?"
     "Either that or bore me a new hole in the wall. Hurry up!" With this order, Jester jumped out of sight and the portcullis rose, allowing cart to roll through.

     SWOOP! Like a flash, the swinging blade separated the heavy bag from the armor suit to which it had been affixed. Before the thud of the pouch's collision with the ground could be heard, another swing was taken. SWISH! A second bag atop another armor suit was sliced, just at its base, allowing the grain it had held to spill onto the cold stone floor of the great hall. Another consecutive sweep, and THOCK! The sickle was instead imbedded within the breastplate, leaving the unharmed sack at the position of a head, and sending an echo reverberating throughout the immense room.
     "Dammit! Always the third one behind me! Every time, I swing too low," Extremely complained to himself.
     "Just keep working on it," spoke Dangerously, who had just entered the hall. "If we're going to keep our enemies away, you're going to have to perfect your skills."
     The boy looked at his brother distastefully. He didn't enjoy being critiqued on his combat abilities. "They attacked again while you were away."
     "I know," was the only response.
     "I finally got a good swing at one of them, but..."
     "Your reaper swung through it like an illusion," completed the elder.
     "You knew?"
     "I guessed. Had such an army been naturally assembled, we would have known about it already."
     "They have conquered other regions before this," noted Extremely.
     "Always leaving the site totally destroyed. It's not conquer, it's devastation."
     The two fell silent in their conversation about the mysterious army which had recently appeared in their land. Led by a man with a long, decorative sword, a militia of identical soldiers had marched across various regions of the Bane World, conquering large strongholds and those residents in power. The unusual aspect of these attacks was that after succeeding, the army would completely pulverize the site and disappear, coming forth again months later in another region to attack a different place. Now the army had begun trying to sack the castle of the brothers Psycho.
     "So all of the carnage to this point has been the free will of their general? One man has done it all?" realized the younger Psycho.
     "All of the soldiers are merely illusions created by his free will. They may be deadly and destructive, but merely manifestations of free will. What happened when you hit the soldier?" queried Dangerously.
     "He just dissipated," recalled Extremely. No change in expression, just 'poof.'"
     "So the army can be handled," thought the elder. "Of course, nothing can be accomplished until we oust the kingpin. The only way to put an end to the entire militia is to kill the general, and put an ultimate end to this intriguing use of his free will."
     The concept of creating illusions, even illusions which could fully interact with their environments, was not unusual. However, what no one had ever before seen or documented was so many illusions being created by, apparently, one person.
     "But how can one being possibly have so much free will?" argued Extremely. His brother turned and glared at him. "Oh, yeah." He had briefly forgotten his own brother to posses an inordinately high level of free will as well. While for many, this excessive free will would create some omnipotent lunatic, Dangerously had the ability to use his will to create mental links with members of the human society on Earth. "How is your current human puppet, anyway?"
     He's been incarcerated. Only got life, though," replied the elder.
     "I'll never understand their system of punishment," assessed Extremely.
     "It's ok, though. I've got my eyes on others. Some can get a few viciously evil ideas sometimes."
     The scene was interrupted as Jester bounded into the room. "Lord Psycho, those bodies you returned with?" he began.
     "Oh, I forgot. I brought back a body to despleen and... well, a living somebody. Something odd about him," recounted the elder.
     "They're both still alive!" disclosed the Jester.

     The boy slowly came to on a stone floor. "Ooooh, my head," he sighed. "Damn this mortal imprisonment!" Then he looked around. "Where the hell..."
     The room occupied was not small, but cluttered with numerous weapons which gave the place a cramped feeling. Rusted, long-neglected swords sat in a rack at the far wall, underneath a collection of maces and morning stars. These too were in horrible condition. On another wall, a line of longbows were splintering below worn, leather quivers of arrows with dissolving shafts. The room appeared to contain only useless, broken, and corroded arms, until he looked at the wall to his left.
     There, adorning the wall, were lines of bright, well polished, sharpened axes. Tremendous broadaxes, battle- axes, tomahawks, woodcutting axes, small hatchets, and more. There were even meat cleavers and tiny scalpels, all shining and in perfect condition.
     He turned to inspect the fourth wall, but instead of noting the collection of sickles, a heap on the floor gripped at his attention. There, two feet away from where he sat, was a quaking, headless body. His first reaction was one he could never have anticipated. Shuddering, the boy threw up onto the cold, stone floor.

     "I HATE regeneratives!" complained Dangerously Psycho. If I had known..." A regenerative is another type of being which had developed in the World of Affliction. All of the creature's free will is put to use only in death, when he is able to reassemble, or regenerate, his body as necessary. Regeneration of these creatures, unlike most inhabitants of the Bane World, takes less than a day, usually just a few hours with all the pieces intact. Also, these creatures generally don't age. To kill a regenerative (requiring the usual five-year regeneration of all banes) is possible, but not with a blade. All pieces of his body would have to be destroyed indefinitely.
     "I've despleened a few of them in my time, and gotten absolutely nothing out of it! The stupid creatures just regenerates themselves, and no matter how carefully I preserve the thing, the spleen just turns to dust in a few hours!" Psycho was approaching the armory where Jester had secured the bodies.
     "But didn't you burn the rest of the body once? I thought that did it," asked Jester, who was leading the way to the room. Muffled shouts were now audible from the room.
     "It did at first," explained Psycho, "until the damned spleen grew the creature around itself right there on my shelf! You just can't despleen a regenerative."

     The boy was watching the moving corpse beside him. Sinews were reaching out from the throat of the torso and attaching themselves like threads to the head one foot away. Just as the head began to drag across the floor, the door to the room burst open and two figures stepped in, the first crushing his foot right onto the threads the corpse had constructed. Immediately, the sinews retracted and the man punted the head across the room.
     As he observed this gratuitous act of violence, the boy was just as disgusted as he had previously been.
     "Jester, throw both the body and head into the river. I don't want any regeneratives running around in my castle!" spoke the man who had interrupted the regeneration.
     "Understood," the second man with a colorful hat adorned with bells sprung over and dragged the remains out of the room.
     "You'll have to excuse my poor introduction," spoke the man. "I trust that the rogue chasing you through town was not an ally of yours, or are you both regeneratives?" There was an idea Lord Psycho didn't think very highly of. Regeneratives killing each other with full knowledge that they'd be up and ready again in a half a day. No sport in it whatsoever.
     "Am I a what? Who are you?"
     The man looked down upon the boy angrily. At least he appeared angry. Either way, the boy immediately wished he hadn't asked.
     "You're... new around here, aren't you?" Here we go again. The boy would once more have to make up some explanation to avoid revealing his true past. "I know I've never seen you at the market before. You seem... different. There's some aura about you I can't explain. Just what are your powers anyway?"
     "Your abilities you use your free will for! Obviously you use them in some manner, or you wouldn't be calm enough to just sit there and listen to me for ten seconds," explained the man.
     "I..." he was going to have to stretch with this one. What abilities did he posses? He hadn't been mortal long enough to know of any talents, and if he had simply claimed to be a human as he did for Undecided, this man may try to use him somehow as a way to Earth. But wait... "Earth," he spoke, almost immediately regretting it. "I have... a lot of knowledge about the people of Earth." This was going so badly, he wondered if he should have just stuck to his 'human' explanation.
     "A prophet?" questioned the man.
     "Um..." He didn't know what to say. Were there prophets in this world? His knowledge was limited to Earth's history, and not present or future events. ", I just know a lot about Earth's... history." Where was he going with this?
     "Have a name?" asked the man. Wonderful. This question again. The boy figured he should settle on one eventually.
     "Not really," was his initial response.
     "Hm..." the man thought aloud. "No name, no apparent free will, you don't know who I am, some regenerative was specifically trying to kill you... I have a feeling you're not being quite level with me. If you really have knowledge of Earth, then tell me what you know about the Donner Party."
     The what? He couldn't mean... "Wasn't that some group of people in early America? They were... traveling west that resorted to... cannibalism," Why the hell would he ask him about that? He then became aware of the fact that this man apparently stockpiles weapons, and was brandishing an axe right now. Fortunately, however, having answered his question, the man put his axe away.
     "Well, you were right. I'm still not sure yet that you're not toying with me, though. You honestly don't know who I am?"
     He shook his head in reply.
     "I'm Dangerously Psycho, Lord of this land, and it would serve you well to remember that. Why was that man trying to kill you?"
     "I... I was warned that my knowledge of Earth endangers me. That certain people may suppose that I know how to go to Earth, but I don't," This was really not going well. The boy realized that he was practically telling his entire life story to this intimidating bane. What if he, too...
     "But to kill you? This does seem odd..." the man did not get to complete his statement before the harlequin bounded back into the armory.
     "Lord Psycho, the drumbeats!"
     "Dammit! You, uh, whats-yer name, follow me and hurry." Both characters left the room, leaving the boy to follow.

[Chapter V] [Chapter VII]
Last page update: 10-10-98