Monday, October 26, 2009

(Something I wrote for Sheray's music industry assignment - she needed a press kit for her false band, SOPHISTICATED NOVEMBER, and since she was a little panicked about the workload of her course I promised I'd write something to contribute to it. Here, for your pleasure, the pseudo-reviews in question..)

AN INTERVIEW WITH NOVEMBER

THERE’S a certain sense of style that comes with most punk rock bands.

Ties, scarves, dyed hair, combat boots – it is that image, that look, which earn most punk groups of the scorn of John Lydon and the enraptured, undying love of their fans. It is that package, so to speak, that most people think makes punk.

Not so, says Sophisticated November, Melbourne’s chart-topping, premiere rock band. It is two hours after November performed their Sydney show, and lead vocalist Cheray Wait is sitting in front of me, sipping meekly from her champagne.

Definitely not the screaming, chanting - almost hypnotic - woman who’d just performed in front of six thousand people. She seems almost shy, but when she talks there is no hint of timidity. She knows what she wants to say, and she knows how to say it.

Like how she dresses?

“Well, no,” laughs Cheray. “Maybe. I mean, I dress how I feel like dressing – I’ve always liked blue sequins, for example. The red coat is almost – almost symbolic of Sophisticated November now, like Nathan’s glasses… wouldn’t go into a show without them, you know?”

Sophisticated November isn’t your typical rock band. Yes, there’s Wait’s red coat, or Nathan Revolver’s signature glasses – but that’s it. Revolver is fond of suit jackets and nice jeans. Jard Hard – drummer – enjoys the humble hoodie, and Elise Veebee keeps it simple. But it’s not plain.

Just simple enough to spark curiousity.

“Exactly,” says Wait. “We kind’ve went into this thinking, ‘We don’t need to dress crazily to be punk… no, punk’s different. Punk should be in the music. In the philosophy. We’re all a little bit different… the glasses, for example – Nathan’s glasses. He likes to claim they were John Lennon’s.”

We both laugh at this. As if called, Nathan Revolver wanders into the room, shirtless. As he gets closer, I realise he is also sans pants. He sits down next to us, dropping something heavy and white onto the table. I try not to stare at any of the fleshy bits. Cheray smiles apologetically.

“See this skull?” says Nathan Revolver, lead guitarist and self-proclaimed percussionist extraordinaire. He is, I see, holding a human skull in his hand. “This was given to me. By an African conjure man. So the spirits would watch over me. They watch, too. He was right. I thanked the man, and if I could I’d thank him again. This skull is my success in music.”

What about the glasses? I ask.

“No, no.” Revolver shakes his head. “You’ve got it all wrong. This is the skull. This is King Solomon’s skull, and with it I shall cut all of the children of the world in half!”

He cackles at this, like a maniac, and wanders off. Despite my vow to keep my eyes, I notice that he has a nice arse. I attempt to casually bring up the rumour’s concerning Revolver’s drug use…

“Ah, well, see… they’re wrong there,” replies Cheray, mischievous look in her eyes. The look that made Sophisticated November’s debut album go triple-platinum. “No drugs, no booze… he does a lot of meditation, though. Stuff like that. Mystic stuff. But no drugs. Not a lot of women, either… he’s just weird like that.”

Insane?

“A little. Maybe.”

She remains tight-lipped about it.

I ask about their Melbourne gig, and she smiles again.

“We save the best for last,” she says. “We all grew up here, and – well, you know, before the band, Elise got married here…”

She’s referring to Elise’s 2004 marriage to Reuben van Bemmel, author of The God Illusion and Sophisticated November’s manager and spokesperson. They were wed before the group of disparate performers even thought about forming their own band…

Hang on a second, I say; didn’t Cheray Wait once date Nathan Revolver?

“Maybe,” she says, and there’s magic in her eyes.

Sophisticated November is just that – mysterious, esoteric, similar but different, noble, a little quirky. All this forms to one of the greatest bands to come out of Melbourne’s eclectic music scene, and one of Australia’s best-loved group of all time.

Their third album, Sexy Testshot Lachlan, will be released on September 3rd.

Sophisticated November will be playing at The Forum August 23rd, 24th, 25th and 28th. Tickets on sale now through Ticketek.

AFTER THE FORUM GIG

THERE are crashes and then there are crashes.

Sophisticated November played at The Forum on the 24th of August, and their performance was a crash.

In a very good way.

Playing most of their songs from November’s first two albums – Sophisticated November and The Word Lakushna – as well as a smattering of surprise tracks from their imminent album Sexy Testshot Lachlan, the audience couldn’t help but walk away satisfied.

There was an electric tension evident as Cheray Wait, lead singer, threw words into the microphone – as if the entire venue had been struck by a bolt of lightning. There were roars, screams, cries of adoration.

Then the thunder - Nathan Revolver struck the guitar, Elise Veebee following closely behind. They started with “Tulu Luvin’”, and it couldn’t have been a better choice. The fan-favourite brought the place down.

Fears that Sophisticated November weren’t as great live as they were recorded were quickly crushed. Male fans swooned when Cheray smiled their way, and the crowd couldn’t help but be stunned in silence as Nathan Revolver played the melody of “Harnessing Margarita” with his toes.

Then Jard Hard took his shirt off… and the adoring screams continued.

Sophisticated November deserves the love. They deserve the acclaim. There was no insecurity in Wait’s voice, and the pyrotechnics kept everyone pleased. Veebee’s sweet, melodious voice in “Dangerous Mister Big” was nothing less than divine.

The Forum was ablaze with fresh sounds and the rapture of thousands. Sophisticated November handed out free deluxe programs with the lyrics of every song printed out for all to chime along to. A hundred and sixty minutes of proved, once and for all, that Sophisticated November knows, as Revolver continues to claim, that music reigns over the Earth.

“I’d like to dedicate this one to my Mum,” said Elise Veebee at the beginning of “Danger Danger Danger Oh No”, “And, of course, to my beautiful husband.” It didn’t sound forced, and it didn’t sound cheesy.

It was sincere, and that sincerity is Sophisticated November’s greatest strength. Easily one of their best shows yet – tickets for the 28th show have almost sold out, so hurry; you don’t want to miss out.

Snippet

The gig was good.

Very, very good.

Songs from Sophisticated November’s first albums – The Word Lakushna and Sophisticated November – were freely mixed with a handful of advanced hearings from Sophisticated November’s soon to be released album, Sexy Teshot Lachlan, there were no complaints heard.

The quality of the music almost made you want to sing along. Lyrics were given, in free programs, just incase you wanted to give into that urge. I know I did.

The new album – containing songs such as “Danger Danger Danger Oh No” and “Cigarettes of Constantine” – will, it has been decided, be better than the last.

And that is no mean feat.

The air was filled with energy. There was a huge amount of care and passion evident in the performances. Nathan Revolver shocked, Cheray Wait awed, Elise Veebee summoned a cacophony of ‘awwwwws’ from the audience, and Jard Hard continued to be the teenage heartthrob of 2009.

“Move over, Robert Pattinson,” whispered Jard Hard at the beginning of the show, “Move over, you creepy-lookin’ pale-faced hack. There’s a new guy in town. Baby, I don’t sparkle in the sunlight… I fuckin’ explode!”

Suddenly, the venue suddenly got much warmer as throngs of girls screamed their admiration.

Sophisticated November is the best Australian group of 2009, and this concert matched that with a rare ease.

Five stars out of five.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Oasis of the Blackened

(More Theogenesis stuff, this piece being a flashback of one of the character's - his first meeting with the Dreaded Lord of the last piece - that I'm a little fond of for reasons I'm not entirely sure. Enjoy.)

It was cool when the hooded figure came to see him.

Sura, upon his return from the Urth, had been dabbling with the principles of Western Alchemy, an idea popular during the renaissance which had hit Europe during Sura's visit. The Door was shattered, and Sura thirsted for the world which had shown him such miracles as gunpowder, the printing press, true architecture..

He was desperate to restore it. He knew the Europeans had the answer. They'd built the door themselves, after all, and it was their Highest Immortal who had deemed Sura worthy of worship. For a single precious year Sura had ruled the Esoteric Order of Iunpu, had a hundred score powerful magicians willing to do his bidding, had unleashed the strangest fires upon London..

But it was gone. The gate was broken, taken by worms in the Plains that Stirred. He had tried digging for it, but to no success. The scraps had been devoured by creatures of soil.

The hooded figure was ignored by the ten thousand ceremonial warriors that lined the black sands of the Oasis of Akhenatan, the great desert paradise which encompassed the entire Realm. He'd found Sura in the pyramid, and watched him work at the furnace for an hour before Sura even realized he was there.

Sura saw something of himself in the figure.

"Hello, my friend," spoke the black figure. "I see you are working on something. Might I inquire as to what it is?"

"Alchemy," said Sura. "From a world long distant. Dead, for all I know. You wouldn't understand."

"Perhaps I would," replied the figure. "Have you heard of the World-Tree, Yggdrasil, and it's splendor?"

"Only in the rantings of madmen," said Sura, turning back to the furnace. "Supposedly the thing that holds the universe together. Myth. Odin's cult.. popular, yes, but nothing compared to this." He held in one hand a small lump of gold which he'd been able to transmute this morning. "Nothing compared to the Great Work."

There was a silence for a moment.

"You rule over a beautiful kingdom, friend," spoke the figure.

"I am the God of the Oasis," replied Sura. "Is it not natural that my oasis, my desert retreat, is the finest?"

"Lovely, nevertheless. Sura.. what if I told you your efforts were futile? That the so-called 'Western Alchemical Tradition' of the Europeans was a weak thing, with one success every thousand years? That there was a faster way to Earth?"

Sura suddenly leaped to the side, grabbing his curved scimitar and swinging towards the intruder.

Osiris only stared as he turned the thing to sand.

"I.. I don't believe it," said Sura, through gritted teeth. "It doesn't make any sense. You're telling lies, friend."

Osiris smiled as he waved a hand, and Sura was attacked with visions of the World Tree; of the Real of Anvils; of the City of Alkan; of Ratatosk; of the true Greatest Work; finally, of Earth.

Sura collapsed, crying manically.

--

The hooded figure only watched as Sura took the Dagger of Imminence, accepting the change. He knew what would happen. Sura gripped the dagger, raised it as high as he could, and called for the ceremonial warriors to commit their ritual suicide.

It was done quickly, with a minimum of screams.

Finally, the Dagger had done it's work, and Sura stepped down.

Once more he wept as the most beautiful Oasis in the Realm Supernatural fell to white sand, destroying all life. The ceremonial warriors remained. They would serve the Realm in undeath. The hooded figure cackled as the entire realm collapsed upon itself, devoured itself, became the fine white soot fell.

There was only the Oasis of the Blackened left, the tiny shrine to a world before.

Sura knew that when the time was right, he'd be forced to destroy that, too.

"Show me Yggdrasil," said Sura, through hardened tears.

Osiris complied.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Roberston and Mass 2: Poetry and Cupboards, Part One

(Part One of Two for the second Robertson and Mass story, written to please Anthony, insult someone else, and to train my 'fast-writing' skills for Nanowrimo. Enjoy.)

They’d caught the bastard.
Twenty-three days they’d spent playing around with the board, asking the spirits silly questions, such as “Is anyone there?” To be fair, though, they enjoyed cursing the hypothetical ghosts with ridiculous threats. There was a certain amount of fun about the whole thing, like insulting your best friend’s mother.
Tony’s favourite by far was the inscrutably dramatic: “O thou wicked and disobedient spirit Callum “Calm” Flint, because thou hast rebelled, and thou hast obeyed nor regarded my words with which I have rehearsed; they being all glorious and incomprehensible names of the true God, the maker and creator of thee and of me, and of all the world; the power and the names of which no creature is able to resist, curse thee into the depths of the Bottomless Abyss…”
When Tony first incanted these dreaded lines, Nicholas put down the knife and let the struggling chicken roam free for a bit. He was, frankly, unimpressed.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” said Nicholas, his expression distasteful.
“I’m invoking the true incomprehensible names of God, who,” said Tony, “may I remind you, created you and me and everything. So if you could try not to interrupt…”
“This is ridiculous. Incomprehensible names of God? How, exactly, do you plan on invoking them if you can’t even comprehend them, let alone speak them? It sounds great, yeah, but even the stupidest spirit is going to switch on to the fact that you’re full of shit.”
“I know plenty of names of God!”
“Oh yeah?”
When it was proven that ‘Jesus’ and ‘uh, maybe Barack Obama’ weren’t the True Incomprehensible names of God, things moved along much faster. The threats went through a slow change, changing from the baroque and hideously occult to the rather exoteric and vulgar.
“Come on you little bastard,” said Tony, prodding the Ouija board. “Worthless sack of shit, if you don’t show up now I swear…”
They got proper results soon enough. The planchette moved by an unseen hand, going from I to A to M and finally spelling out: I AM HERE AND I HAVE RETURNED. WHAT IS IT YOU DESIRE?
“Ah! Christ!” said Nicholas, his voice a shrill scream. It wasn’t meant to do that!
“Bloody hell, mate,” said Tony to the board, “Couldn’t you give us a bit of warning? We’ve been trying for weeks, and then you go and start chatting away as if nothing’s happened. This is Calm, right?”
“Calm Flint?” added Nicholas helpfully.
YES. THIS IS CALM FLINT.
“Oh, nice,” said Tony. “How’s it going?”
“Hey, hey, hey,” said Nat, his voice betraying his suspicion. “That could be anyone. We’ve got no proof it’s anyone.”
“Hmmm.” Tony thought for small while. “Okay. We’ll try some free association. We can figure out whether it’s Calm or not by the way he reacts to certain words. Hopefully his mind’s intact…”
“Yeah, the Kabala’s a little bit iffy on that one,” said Nicholas. “But it’s a good enough idea. Go on, Tony, you start.”
“Right. Calm, you there? Good. Great. Now, when I say Star Wars, you say…”
ORIGINAL SAGA. PAZAAK.
“Oh, yeah, no, I think he’s…”
“Anyone could’ve gotten that one. Come on,” Nicholas’s tone was abrupt, sharp, like an impatient rattlesnake, “anyone could’ve gotten that one. We’ll try something harder… Calm, how’s your Spanish?”
EL BOGO EL BOGO YO ADORA EL BOGO.
“Hmmm, close,” said Tony. “He’s doing pretty well… one more. Calm, can you tell us anything about, say… an ex-girlfriend, maybe?”
FUCKING SOCIALIST ROBOT-EMOTIONED –
“Ahahahah,” said Nicholas, quickly putting his hand on the planchette. “Okay, it’s you… I’m pretty well convinced.”
“Good to have you back, Calm,” said Tony.

They were eating lunch. Well, kind of. Nicholas had devoured his sandwiches, and Tony was gazing absentmindedly over a fizzing can of Pepsi Max. They were still waiting for Calm to finish eating.
Being an incorporeal being apparently didn’t do much to dissuade the appetite, and Calm had expressed, with much disdain, that Nicholas was to make him a sandwich. White bread, mayonnaise, pickles, salami, fresh salad and onion… it was, once, Calm’s favourite.
It sat there, decomposing – slowly.
Tony expressed raised his eyebrows, giving Nicholas the signature “What the fuck?” look that came up so often in their line of work. Nicholas returned the gesture, hoping that the invisible smear upon reality that was Calm Flint couldn’t see.
The sandwich remained, the Ouija board placed slightly behind it expectantly. The planchette did not move.
“You, uh, you there, man?” asked Tony.
YES.
“Oh, good… good. We’ll just, um. We’ll just wait for you,” he said weakly.
A few minutes passed. The crisp lettuce became simply lettuce, the sweet mayonnaise went sloppy. The tomatoes remained tomatoes, but look even less appealing than before.
Nicholas had enough. He opened the laptop, showed the ethereal being summoned within the board as best he could. He wasn’t even sure that Calm could see…
The planchette moved.
YOU HAVE A BLOG, TONY. VERY GOOD. I SHALL ENJOY READING IT. I LIKE YOUR THOUGHTS.
“Uh, yes, well,” said Tony, looking a little ashamed. “It’s just for when I feel a little down, when I need something to rant…”
“Not important,” said Nicholas. “Yes, he has a blog. Tony-has-a-blog.com… it’s very popular, despite the whiny bullshit he shows off to the whole world. Despite the poetry, it racks close to five million hits a month. Five million. It’s insane.”
“I dunno,” said Tony. “I like some of it. Some of it’s nice. ‘A rose like your nose, never tasted as sweet as some cheese for your knees…’”
‘AND I WAKE UP IN A POOL OF MY OWN BLOOD. JEEZ!’ finished Calm, quoting the second line of the poem.
“Again, not important,” said Nicholas. “A few months ago… when you, uh, when you…”
WHAT?
“When, um…” said Tony.
“When you, like, went dead,” said Nicholas. “We crossed the threshold. We became major players. We’d entered occult Melbourne, and I don’t think we can ever return.”
OH.
“Yeah. Actually, I’m… I’m sorry about that,” said Tony, his eyes down in shame.
“Yeah, uh, we shouldn’t’ve called you…” said Nicholas.
IT’S OKAY.
“No, really,” said Nicholas. “It wasn’t on.”
REALLY. IT’S OKAY.
“Wasn’t polite,” finished Tony. “I mean, we just kind’ve left your body…”
DID YOU KILL THE LITTLE SPINED BASTARD?
“Yeah. I think so. Maybe. Hit it with a hammer. Put it in the freezer.”
“Ran like all fuck,” said Tony.

It is often commented among the hardened occultists of Australia that a truly capable sorcerer cannot be arrested. It is a physical impossibility. The theory goes that since these magicians have already broken all of the physical laws of the universe, replacing them with their own, vaguer ‘guidelines’, human-made law gave up.
This was the reason the police never got involved in monster killings, or in ritualized human sacrifice, or why ‘there is no evidence for the existence of child-abuse in most Satanist cults’. The evidence was clearly there. It was obvious, for almost everyone, to see. You can’t hide, say, the group suicide of a thousand cultists. But the justice world had no interest in matters magical and arcane…
Still, it was very, very close for Robertson and Mass.
Nicholas only passed because he’d read enough books to pass the literacy tests, and cast a few minor conjurations – mostly adequate sorceries designed to get him a few girlfriends, but never quite enough to let him keep them. He was also reasonably good at casting the Tarot… but reading it was another matter entirely.
It was Tony who had the major success – the heavy magic that Nicholas secretly envied. It was mostly a fluke. He’d drawn the pentacles in chalk, killed a toad on the full moon, masturbated over the sigils… and then, deciding that nothing would happen, decided to joke around.
He’d summoned the spirit of Adolf Hitler within the magical circle.
It wasn’t he’d greatest moment. Something had happened that night, something horrible… Nicholas had found him a gibbering wreck, locked within his own closet. He was wearing his sister’s lingerie – the special pair that her boyfriend enjoyed – and singing Follow the Yellow Brick Road off tune. It seemed Hitler had a sense of humour.
Still – Tony had done something real. He’d accomplished something, as batshit insane as it might have been. He’d seen the real, true face of the occult… and it had winked at him.
The police didn’t question them. As far as the two budding occultists knew, Nikita Richards would be serving life in prison for killing two innocent males – one Calm, the other her brother – without apparently laying a finger on them. They were never connected to the crime.
They had nothing to worry about.

The point was, one pathetic slice of the internet shouldn’t be stealing five million views a month. That was a little excessive. Hell, two hundred would be excessive, especially considering what Tony was writing.
SO WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
Calm didn’t understand. How could he? He hadn’t tried reading it…
“The problem,” said Nicholas, patiently, “is that Tony is the next Aleister Crowley.”
Silence. The planchette didn’t move.
Stillness.
“You, uh, there?” asked Tony, nervously.
Nothing happened.
WHAT?
“You heard me,” said Nicholas. “His poetry is worse than Aleister Crowley’s, and both are written in a very specific way. They’re not even bad, per se… it’s just that… well, they’re written for a very specific audience.”
“Mmmmn,” said Tony. “We’re talking Lovecraft audiences, here.”
I DON’T QUITE UNDERSTAND.
“A certain poem,” said Nicholas, patiently, “entitled My Love for You is a Slightly Wilting Rose in a Vase of Very Nice Water is available, thanks to Tony, online – free for everyone to see. Upon taking it down, a simple Google search,” he tapped the laptop a little, as if to prove his point, “shows that it has spread about the internet, stored on websites we have no control over, copied and mutilated… impossible to get rid of…”
“So we put it right back on tony-has-a-blog.com, because it feels nice to have so many people reading,” said Tony, his smile betraying the slight wonder at his own poetic abilities.
Tony, of course, had created something magical.
Oh, if you listened to Crowley and studied basic occult theory you’d soon learn that, according to the Ascended Masters, almost anything a magician could do was a magical act, and thus everything was magic.
In reality, this theory fell flat. Nicholas had been trying to do real magic for many years. He’d drawn all the magic circles – with the squiggly lines and all – and butchered the cat and chanted to Satan and all the rest, but it never seemed to help.
Tony had gone and done it twice.
The poem My Love for You is a Slightly Wilting Rose in a Vase of Very Nice Water had somehow channeled invisible entities of one sort or another, and Tony had found himself writing on of the internet’s finest occult grimoires. In the finest tradition of magical tomes, it was encoded – in the form of one single diabolically shit attempt at poetry – and was so esoterically occult that even the writer didn’t know what he was creating.
Five million hits – every greedy little occultist who’d realized just what My Love for You was and just what it could do. It could be assumed that half the sorcerers on Earth had downloaded and printed out a copy of the verse, and were tapping its eldritch powers for reasons unthinkable.
When Nicholas had figured out just what Tony’d done, he knew he had to try it.

SO THERE’S SOMETHING IN YOUR CUPBOARD.
“Yes, that’s essentially it,” said Nicholas.
“We’d used our best candles,” said Tony.
“And somehow, using whatever grimoire Tony’s cooked up, we’ve evoked something into the cupboard,” said Nicholas.
DID YOU TRY EXORCISM?
“Of course!” said Tony. “We bought as much incense as we could, and Nicholas went and filled his water bottle up from the Church’s taps…”
“You’d be surprised,” said Nicholas, his voice echoing mysteriously, “to know that Roman Catholic holy water tastes exactly like normal water.”
DID YOU TRY THE LESSER BANISHING RITUAL OF THE PENTAGRAM?
“What little bit we could remember,” said Tony, “but we kept pronouncing the angels wrong. So we kind’ve said fuck it.”
“We’re much better at summoning than banishing, anyway,” said Nicholas.
“Oh, yeah, we can summon almost anything! We’re really quite good at it. But when it comes to banishing…”
“It’s all ‘Uh-oh! What are we going to do now? There’s a hobgoblin in our cupboard and it won’t leave!’”
HOBGOBLIN? YOU THINK IT IS A HOBGOBLIN?
“Well,” said Nicholas. “Probably not. Hobgoblins are a little silly. I don’t know what it is, frankly. We open the cupboard and something slimy slithers around and says something bad in a language we don’t understand…”
“And then we close the cupboard, Calm, because it’s pretty goddamn scary,” said Tony. “It’s occult weirdness of the highest kind!”
The Ouija board nodded in agreement.
CAN YOU LET ME HAVE A LOOK AT WHAT’S INSIDE THE CUPBOARD?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Birth of Osiris-Ra

(A piece I wrote, very quickly - at six AM, so let's get all the excuses out've the way, huh? - for a roleplaying game I write and run, Theogenesis. It's quite a hit in some internet circles. It's the first actual non-rules writing I've done for it, and it was very enjoyable. Anyway. Osiris-Ra is the Big Bad Guy of the setting.)

As the doomed prophet had known, on the sixth day the Star of the Eye had shone a blasted red. It was an omen, and the omen bid him continue the purification rituals. He was completely confident that it would work. They would get a day of light, now.. twelve hours, more than the paltry sixty minutes they'd been granted last time. He was secure, ecstatic, but scared. He knew what the ritual would mean.

He would have to die.

Die, so that the Dreaded Lord would live.

The star twinkled in the cold night, casting its evil stare upon the hooded cultists. Each had the mark of Osiris-Ra tattooed in scathing ink upon their backs - an eye within a star within a sun. They had all been groomed, trained for this night. The prophet was of the fifth degree, one of the few chosen rulers of the Cult of Osiris-Ra, and he wished - secretly - that it was proper for a lesser being to be used. One of the first-degree acolytes, perhaps. But no. No. That would be an insult to the Dreaded Lord.. one he would not stand for. They needed someone who had mastered the invocations of the sun, braved the seventeen nights of the arid salts, conjured the demon Barvasaul and spat in his face, murdered an Isubanite..

Completed the initiations. He was right. It was his turn.. it would be his honour. Joy filled him again. He was a deeply conflicted man. The prophet would always be deeply conflicted. The stars were right.

"Ready?" he rasped, beneath the iron mask, to a first-degree. The acolyte nodded.

The sacred spot had been chosen by consulting the spilled innards of Bravus, God of Merchants, abducted as he was from the pathetic marketplace of the Conclave. White sand, white stone. Grasping the eight other fifth-degree masters by the arms, they thanked him in their way, slapped him, spat at him and cheered him on. He was lashed, seventeen times.. the number of Osiris-Ra. The lashings didn't hurt. He was used to worse.

He removed the black cloak, and noted the deathly chill of the night. It was never this cold in Tushmuthut.. another omen. They brought the torches, and he was held down as the scorpions stung his back. It was to be a scar, a permanent tattoo that would become irrelevant before the hour was over.. they tattooed the binding invocations, the calling evocations, the summonings, the blasted glyphs, the mark of the Red Star..

He screamed. This was necessary, to show proper respect to the scorpion-folk.

Finally, it was done, and the prophet turned to his fellows - his fellow masters of the fifth-degree, the overseers of the fourth.. down to the acolytes of the first-degree, who - unknowingly - would be slaughtered after the return. He grinned with unseen malice; the mask kept his face an iron image, caught in a scowl.

It was easy enough to get the Holy Desert on this eve. The Lord Councilman Lictros - rat servant of the Conclave - was easy enough to pay off. His duty was to watch Tushmuthut and to guard it from all invaders, but tonight a sudden illness had struck most of the Conclave guards, and the others were easily murdered. The True Sons of Metatron, typically easily to manipulate, had been turned so that they'd raid the Shrine.. three enemies down. The Servants of the Nuclear Eye didn't care either way about Osiris-Ra, and left the Cult well enough alone.

Suddenly, the prophet's brother stabbed at him with the consecrated silver blade, and he fell, gurgling. It was not his place to scream here, unless it was with joy. He gave a verbal oblation to the Dreaded Lord, and was slashed again and again and again. He knew, though he would never see it, that he would be chopped into five pieces, symbolic of the five cut pieces of Osiris-Ra..

And he was dead.

A minute passed. Another. Sixteen.

They Cult waited. They knew the sacred number. The sacrifice was given, the stars watched..

Seventeen.

The corpse of the prophet stirred.

There was rejoicing among the brothers and sisters of the Cult of Osiris-Ra.

The five pieces of the doomed prophet stirred some more, stopped. A rustling.. and they turned to fine black sand.

The cult yelled in dedication, screamed their love.

The sand rose, formed into a humanoid figure, took the black robe and the iron mask. He waved a hand in acknowledgment.

Every first-degree cultist - those who had not mastered the Invocations of the Sun - turned suddenly to white sand, the fine powder gushing out of their robes. There may have been a smirk beneath the iron mask.

"I have returned!" boomed Osiris-Ra.

It was only temporarily, and in twelve hours he would be blasted to oblivion once more.. but for now, the Dreaded Lord had returned. Twelve hours was a very long time. A lot could die in a sun's day.

--


It was the seventh hour, and Osiris-Ra had returned to his ancient realm.

He'd done much this day.

Now he looked upon the desert, accompanied by the fourth-degree overseers. He waved a hand over the sacred spot, where he was reborn, and looked upon it.

"Tushmuthut.."

The words were like daggers, castrating the Conclave, cutting the throat of Metatron, and blinding Isuban.

Another hand, and a violent motion with his palms.

The sand rose suddenly, swirled. The Dreaded Lord was lost in the swirl. It rose higher and higher.. a tempest of white sand, obscuring the sky. Finally, it settled. In it's place was the lost city of Tushmuthut, labyrinthine, made of white stone and designed to kill all intruders..

It would be here where the Black Callisti of Isuban would be gathered, and where they would be shattered. Here where Metatron would have his neck cut, where the 'Highest' would have his blood pool. Here where the bastard Roid would have each of his eyes burnt out with a white-hot flame..

Here where the Cult of Osiris-Ra would seize their headquarters. The profess-houses of Niborkerese would not do. This was their new home. When Osiris-Ra would be blasted to oblivion once more, they would continue the work, and resurrect him once more upon this place..

He stood, now, outside the City of Tushmuthut.

"My children." His voice was a single boom. "Come here and inflate your ranks. Secrecy is no longer needed. Come here and draw all those who would fight for me! Smash your fist upon the enemy!"

He saw with pleasure that the cultists were more than eager to have an entire city to themselves.

"Now!"
he cried. "I call my generals. Gather before me!"