Will you accept your fate or will you fight against the system?
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Posted: Feb 20 2018, 11:52 AM
He’d come with the body, because he had to. No one had forced him. It just didn't feel right to abandon him like that.
Hell, if it weren’t for the fact he’d been at the right place at the right time, he may not have found out about it at all until it was too late.
Decius had always been pale, even before he died. Sandy haired. Light complexion. He’d been taller than Rawson too, though not quite as heavy. He’d worked on Starships before he’d come to the Grand Arena, giving him that washed out look you could only develop when you hadn’t seen solar rays in months. Now that the blood no longer flowed beneath his skin, the body had turned an unearthly, haunting shade of white.
Pallor Mortis. Rawson knew the term. In another hour, the pooling blood beneath his skin would congeal in the interstitial tissues and turn his back a deathly mottled mix of reds and purples. Livor mortis. Hypostasis. Whatever fancy word you wanted to call it.
In the cold light of the Temple, he looked almost translucent. The body was lying back on a slab, still dressed in old bits of leather and armour, caked in sand and blood. Reds had pulled his body from the Pit. The Whites had come within minutes of Rawson making the call.
Rawson knew he wasn’t supposed to be here, in all likelihood. He was expecting to get kicked out at any minute, but it required more guts than the two teenage Acolytes who’d collected Decius' remains possessed to tell a stubborn Obsidian “No” when he'd already made up his mind.
Decius had been young, too. Only a relative newcomer to the Arena, but an Obsidian to the core. He’d had potential. He’d had promise. He and Rawson had even fought side by side in the team mêlées, enough times to count.
That was, until a blade had caught him under the chin, and damn near cut his head in half.
That was the part that stung. The insulting part. The cosmic joke at his expense.
Decius been an uncommonly handsome man, as far as Obsidians went. He used to laugh about it, and joke he couldn’t quite call himself a Gladiator until he’d fucked up his face or broken his nose half as many times as Rawson had.
He’d been sliced open with an undercut that ripped through his jaw, across his mouth, nose, and almost up to the eye on the other side. The blackening blood across his mangled face stood in stark contrast against deathly white skin.
If he could see himself now, he’d probably laugh again, and call himself an overachiever.
That was the thing about Decius. He was always smiling, even when it drove everyone else crazy.
He wasn’t smiling now.
Rawson’s back was starting to hurt. As was his shoulder, and... honestly? Nearly everything else. His face was still a fading patchwork of bruises and scrapes from his last fight, but despite it all, he couldn’t sit. It was cold in here, but with his hooded black jumper, he felt like he was burning up.
An attendant would be out soon, they told him. A White to take care of the body and attend to the prayers. In the meantime, he’d taken to pacing, striding over every inch of the room like a caged animal. Fists clenching. Unclenching. Running through his hair. A coiled spring of nervous tension ready to explode.
Probably because the longer he had to wait, the longer he had to think about it. And the longer the simmering anger that this had been allowed to happen continued to gnaw at his throat.
None of this was fair, but nothing in life ever was.
Posted: Feb 21 2018, 03:51 AM
There was a buzz about the Cathedral, which was strange as it was quite late at night. Hye-Jin who was inexperienced with technology was unaware that they had received a call and her brothers of the Church had been dispatched already to transport the body of a deceased Obsidian from the Arena to the Cathedral. It wasn’t until there was a knock upon the door in which she shared with several other priestesses that she was requested to perform her duties as the priestess of death. Technically she was the priestess of burial rites and funerals, but shorthand it was written as death and she often referred to herself as the priestess of death.
Jin rushed to change from her lounge attire, some loose-fitting sweatshirt and sweatpants, to her traditional priestess attire – nearly tripping over her own two feet as she stumbled to get out of her bed and dress appropriately. A floor-length sheath dress made of the purest white silk with a floor-length capelet of the same color and material of the dress. She slipped into her sandals and rushed out the door of her dormitory to meet the acolytes who retrieved the deceased from the Arena.
Her heart stung as she witnessed the deceased being carted off to prepare for his burial. Since she frequented the Arena on her scheduled off days, it was obvious this was Decius, one of the younger Gladiators. Jin was nauseous after witnessing the gruesome death he faced, having to stop in the hall and balance herself against the stone-cold wall in an effort to deter vomiting. She was thankful that it was not her job to clean up the body. It was in that hallway a senior priest notified her that someone had accompanied the body to the Cathedral. This was quite an unusual practice, as it would take at least a day to make the body presentable for a funeral service and in that time, it was used to contact relatives to discuss burial options and their associated costs.
She regained her composition and entered the main floor of the Cathedral which was home to the traditional furnishings you could expect such as multiple rows of seating in the nave, a chancel and an apse. While she didn’t know who to expect, she found comfort in the appearance of another Obsidian. The sounds of her steps echoed through the near-empty Cathedral as she drew closer to the Obsidian. It was simple to determine an Obsidian from the other colors that made up the caste system as they were much taller and bulky than any other color. It helped that Jin spent a lot of her free time at the Arena too, so she knew who this particular Obsidian was as well. But was she supposed to address him as Mr. Lynch or as sir?
Jin debated the formalities as she grew closer to him, the sound of her presence even greater with every step she took. “Sir?” She mustered finally, settling on the professional greeting rather than an informal greeting. His pacing was unsettling, but grief affected everyone differently. She had stopped in one of the many rows of the nave that was closest to the gladiator, but was quickly left behind due to his pacing. She wasn’t even sure that he had heard her.
“Sir.” She repeated louder in an attempt to draw his attention to her position in the rows of the nave. While she didn’t exactly want to have the discussion of burial rites and funerial services and prayers pacing the aisles of the Cathedral, she would do so if it was required of her. Jin just hoped that he had heard her the second time she called for him.
Posted: Feb 21 2018, 06:36 AM
It wasn’t until the second time he heard her voice called that he looked up. He’d heard her the first time, yes, but the words seemed to have ghosted straight over him. Quiet. Fleeting. Invisible. As though they were directed at someone…
One thing. It was quite possibly the first time he’d ever been called ‘Sir.’
But the voice did its job. Gave him something to ground on. He looked up, focusing on her for a moment with a stare that was eerily penetrating. First impressions came on quick. She was pretty. Brown hair. Big eyes. For a split second, that nearly took him aback. It wasn’t the first thing that came to mind when he pictured a White, and that seemed to make it more difficult. The words were jamming in his throat, and he was suddenly nothing if not starkly aware of how he must look.
He looked away quickly, eyes darting, as though he wasn’t sure where to let them rest.
His voice was heavy. Tired.
“Sorry ‘bout that.”
He hadn't meant to...
That didn't matter now. She was here, and that was a start.
He’d stopped near the body when he heard her voice, and without thinking, he clasped his hands behind his back, feet parted, heavy boots and all. Damned near Parade Rest, albeit less rigid.
He didn’t seem to have noticed, but it helped keep him still.
This had to be the White he was waiting for, but now that she was here, Rawson’s mouth had gone dry. He looked back at the body, and that was easier than looking at the White. He was no stranger to blood. That part, in a way, had always been easy.
Rawson knew enough about burial practices, but such decisions were usually left to family. It was loved ones who choose the style of burial. Chose the funeral. Choose under which God. People who’d actually known, and loved, and cared for the person the corpse had had once been.
But Decius was an Obsidian, and no one loved a monster.
Rawson frowned, staring at the slab, and tried to find his words.
“... He don’t have anyone else.”
Words wanted to stick in his throat. He swallowed them down.
What else was he supposed to explain? That Decius’ Sponsor had decided to leave the body to a mass grave? That he had no other friends or family? That Rawson wasn’t even sure how in fuck’s name he was supposed to pay for this?
“... It’s just me.”
And he deserved better than that.
Posted: Feb 21 2018, 06:55 PM
Jin thanked the gods that the grieving Obsidian had heard her the second time. The penetrating stare was common for Obsidians and while it would put the fear of Pluto into the heart of anyone else, she could only see sadness. A crack of thunder and the pit pat sounds of rain beginning to fall against the rooftop of the Cathedral began to echo in the silence of the main room in which they stood. It was befitting that Pluto would weep for the loss of one of his children. However, the silence between the two was broken as he looked away from her, apologizing for something that she wasn’t quite sure of but she had assumed it was for not responding to her when she first called for him.
“here is no need to apologize,” She dismissed his apology lightly, slowly making her way towards him as he had stopped in the crossing as the acolytes had returned Decius’ body to the crossing on the main floor. Usually when a body would come in, it would be at least a day before a family would enter the Cathedral to discuss burial options and it seemed that having someone here so quickly confused the acolytes. In the short time, they had done their best to clean up Decius’ face of blood but was unable to sew up his wounds. Despite doing their best, it still made her nauseous to gaze upon him so she avoided looking directly at his face.
Jin stepped besides Rawson and the mortuary stretcher in which Decius was resting peacefully on. Since the acolytes didn’t have much time with the body, a black sheet had been draped over the rest of his body but his head, neck, and upper body was left uncovered. She listened carefully to Rawson as he explained the situation about his fellow Obsidian. She was very aware that Obsidians didn’t have family and that the only family that did have were their fellow Obsidians. The situation was very similar for Whites, as many of them were orphans given up by parents who didn’t want them or had died. The obvious difference between Whites and Obsidians was their positions in the color caste system. Whites were respected while Obsidians were treated like cattle – as like much of the lowest tier of the color caste system. Why waste resources such as healthcare on the lowest tier when it was cheaper to just let them die? It infuriated her, and she did her best to provide food, clothing, and medicine to those who couldn’t afford them. Most of the money she earned as a priestess went towards helping others. She only kept a small amount for herself for necessities such as shampoo and toothpaste. But even then, she was frugal with her spending as she wanted to help more people each month.
While she wanted to reach out to touch Rawson, to comfort him, after he explained that he was the only one that cared for Decius, but she refrained from doing so. Instead, she reached out to hold Decius’ hand. It was as cold but it didn’t faze her. “We will do our best to honor you, Decius, as you honored Pluto and let it be known he is proud of you as he is all of his children. ” Her voice was soft against the sounds of the angry rain clashing against the roof of the Cathedral. She returned his hand to the stretcher and raised her head to look at Rawson. “Please do not worry about any of the financials, as it will be covered by the Church. Would you prefer him to be biocremated or traditionally cremated? I am deeply sorry that we cannot offer you any other options for burials. ” Jin sighed, as it was tough enough on the church to even offer these options freely for those who could not afford any of the other burial types. She was obligated to offer cremation, despite the church’s stance on moving towards eco-friendlier burial methods. When she passed, she would be biocremated as well. She will just be another White in the community mausoleum as well as she too has no loved ones.
“Each process will take several hours, but you will be able to leave with Decius’ ashes to honor him in whatever manner is befitting. Another option is to leave him here with the Church and he will be given a place in our mausoleum where you may visit him at any time.” She made sure to take her time to explain the options available for the both of them as she was unaware of which was best to honor the gladiator. What she had assumed was anything was better than what would happen to him if he was left in the Arena.
Posted: Feb 23 2018, 01:31 PM
She came to stand close. Rawson didn’t move, but he could feel the hair on the back of his neck standing up. When she called Decius by name, he couldn't help but glance in her direction, just as enough to be surreptitious.
He didn’t remember mentioning it. Nor did he picture Whites as the type to religiously follow bloodsports on the Broadcast Network or VR. In fact, the only time he’d mentioned it was... well…
When he’d made the call.
It was a small gesture on her part, to remember his name. No doubt she hadn’t given it a second thought, but it was one that he appreciated all the same.
He wasn’t sure when, but Rawson soon realised he was staring. He looked away sharply, fixing his attention to where she was holding Decius’s pale hand. Her own looked small, clutching his broad, enormous fingers. Decius had been close to seven foot in life. He didn’t look it now.
He was a Warrior of Pluto, and would have wanted to go out in fire.
“Do you, uh…” Rawson frowned, moistening his lips. The words wanted to catch, but he forced them through. “Do you got a name? You know. Somethin’ I can call you?”
Something other than White. He usually had no qualms about calling others by colour, but it didn’t feel right. Not this time.
Posted: Feb 23 2018, 05:56 PM
In a split second after she explained the burials covered financially by the Church, she remembered that there was another burial type that was sometimes requested by Obsidians. It was a type of cremation that was practice centuries ago during the time of Ancient Greek. It wasn’t exactly free as the Church had to pay a tax since it contributed to greenhouse gas emissions as at least 1,500 pounds of wood were required to burn a body completely. In most cases, these funerals were covered by Golds as they often sponsored Gladiators in the Arenas. But the Church was allowed to host 12 of these burials per year as long as they purchased the wood and paid a tax for the emissions it would create. Jin would have to mention this as an alternative later in their conversation if she remembered.
“You may refer to me as Jin if you wish.” She smiled as she looked up at Rawson’s face. Their obvious height difference caused one to look up while the other had to look down. He appeared to be at least a foot taller than her which was obvious to anyone looking at the two from a distance. “May I call you Rawson or would you prefer sir?” Jin returned the favor by asking if she could refer to him by his name rather than a formality. Looking at him from so close was very different than looking at him afar when spectating the Arena.
While sponsors had their own sort of VIP boxes where they could watch the gladiators, Jin paid to enter the Arena to spectate just like everyone else. She couldn’t afford a spot in one of the VIP boxes and while most of her time was surrounded by others in which she said prayers with or for she was able to catch a portion of the fights. Dressed as she was now, it was easy to pinpoint her in a crowd of lower class citizens as she was a light surrounded by darkness.
“Oh, yes!” She began, almost shouting as remembering the alternative burial option suddenly after forgetting it. “Would Decius have prefered an open-air pyre?” It would have to be performed tomorrow as it was currently raining but it was still an option. Jin had never performed this burial herself but she had watched it while under the guidance of her mentor once. If one was concerned about what the ashes from the pyre would be used for, most would be shipped to Ventria as wood ash made excellent fertilizer. Some would be kept at the Church where it would be used in their own garden as a fertilizer and the rest would be given to the members of the Church who made goods in their spare time as ash was a component in wood-ash soaps.
Of course, it wasn’t important for someone to know where the ash was going as it didn’t concern them but if asked, Jin had no problem telling them how they recycled the ashes from the pyre. But she didn’t think that Rawson was particularly concerned about the recycled wood ash from an open-air pyre burial. "It would have to be performed one the rain settled, of course." She nodded. The Church would preserve Decius' body in the mortuary and the acolytes would be able to clean and sew his wounds and dress him appropriately for the burial if Rawson agreed to this particular burial.
Posted: Feb 24 2018, 12:44 PM
That was… different. That surely couldn’t have been what she said, but Rawson was pretty sure he’d just heard her call herself ‘Gin.’
… Like the liquor?
He couldn’t help but throw her a curious look, but thought better about mentioning it. Or at least from cracking a joke about how she looked more like a Tequila.
Gin. It suited her. Oddly. It had a sort of pluckiness to it.
“May I call you Rawson or would you prefer Sir?” she asked, interrupting his thoughts.
That was an easy question.
“Nah. I was never an Officer.”
Not that Obsidians even could be Officers. Obsidians were limited to Enlisted ranks. The fact that she might have been asking out of respect and not simply as a Military formality didn’t even occur to him.
That was the end of that, anyway. Gin seemed to have caught on to his line of thinking, and interjected, bringing up the option of a pyre.
Rawson didn’t reply for a moment. His jaw clenched. Unclenched. Eyes flickering over the body in the same, unsteady way. The sound of the rain punctuated the air; a steady drumming on the roof, and the incoming roll of thunder.
“Didn’t think they still did those…” Rawson said after a moment, frowning. His index finger was starting to tap rapidly against his thumb behind his back, almost nervously. “I always wondered if they, uh…”
That was blasphemy to even be thinking it. He knew that. Yet he couldn’t seem to stop himself. He'd thought about it often, in the years after the wars.
“Pluto wants you burned, right? That’s what… that’s what they always told us. You know? Fire. Burns hot. Destroys everythin’ in it’s path. And that’s what we were, right? We were soldiers. It’s what we did. It’s what we do. And when you die, there ain’t no half measures.
“We burn too.”
Rawson was almost shaking his head. His voice was still calm, but something was clearly getting to him.
Ashes carried away the soul. Purified by fire, purged all weakness, and released into the afterlife in smoke.
“I always thought it, uh…”
This wasn’t the time or place to be seeking religious absolution. Even from a White named Gin.
“... I think he’d’a liked that. Yeah.”
Posted: Feb 24 2018, 04:51 PM
The only response that Jin could govern was a nod as Rawson stated that the formality of Sir was the wrong option in which to address him. Something about how he wasn’t an officer but she was unsure of what this meant. In the Cathedral, everyone was referred to as Sir or Madam unless they introduced themselves by name. If they introduced themselves by name, then they were referred to by name. However, she didn’t waste time asking about the officer part as it probably had to do with military and she was very unfamiliar with the logistics of the military. She was pretty unfamiliar with the majority of how Novas operated but she knew the color caste system and how it treated people worse and worse as you got lower in the tier. It was because of the caste system she lived her life on basic necessities and donated the rest of her income to helping those near the bottom of the caste.
There was a silence between the two for only a moment but it felt as though it lasted forever. She didn’t feel the need to fill it despite being excited about the idea of hosting her first open-air pyre burial. She would make her mentor proud with this particular burial, even if she paid for it herself. Rawson eventually ended the silence, which is what she was waiting for since it was his decision after all when it came to Decius’ burial. “They are very rare.” She spoke softly, with an additional nod. It had been so long since the Church had its last open-air pyre but it seemed fitting for a child of Pluto to be buried in this manner as a celebration of his achievements.
Jin wasn’t quite sure what Rawson had began to ask but he quickly moved on. He began to question the burial of Pluto’s children and he was correct. While Pluto raised his children in the shadows, he honored them with fire. It was with this fire that they conquered planets and were victorious in wars. Fire ran through their veins so it was important that their burials appeased their god and Pluto was most honored by fire. However, she didn’t dare to speak as he talked. Not only was it rude to interrupt someone as they spoke but it was her duty to listen and to understand. She didn’t want to make any decisions that would upset Rawson, or any other grieving loved one when it came to burials.
Yet it was obvious to her that he had questions. He had begun to ask her another question but stopped once again. While she couldn’t force him to talk she hoped that he would. She could see the weight of the world upon his shoulders and while they were broad, he would stumble with every step he took until he sought the comfort of confession.
“I will make the arrangements.” She smiled, a twirl of her hand summoned two acolytes from the shadows of the cathedral hall. It was a mere whisper of which she spoke to the two but they rushed off to being the process.
“Since it will have to be done once the rain ends, you are free to leave or stay.” Jin explained. Decius’ body would be preserved in the mortuary until then and everything else would be taken care of on her expense. So necessarily Rawson did not have to stay at the Cathedral but he was more than welcome to and she hoped he did. She wished she could speak more to him as she had only gotten to watch him in the Arena and he was much more than a gladiator. He appeared to be an entirely different person outside of the Arena.
Posted: Feb 28 2018, 03:16 AM
That feeling wasn’t going away. That rising tension that was creeping up, amplifying every second. His finger was still tapping his thumb behind his back, more urgently now, until he had to curl his hand into a fist to stop it, squeezing the fingers so hard they hurt.
Pain was grounding. Kept him present. Pain, and the sound of the rain splattering on the Cathedral windows.
He was still staring, over at Decius’ mangled face. He seemed to have heard her, even if just by the almost imperceptible nod, but his mind was still lingering on the unasked question.
“I always wondered, you know,” he continued hesitantly. “What if… what if that’s just what they told us?”
His fist was clenched so hard he could feel the tendons in his forearms standing like chords, and a lance of pain running up the arm.
“On Caedria, you know. They, ah… sent us into an ambush up in the mountains. And it was...” A bloodbath. They’d sent Rawson’s team in first, to draw enemy fire. Act as bullet sponges to lure entrenched hostiles to give away their positions, so that the main NAF Expeditionary Force could sweep in to overwhelm what was left.
No one had anticipated the scale of resistance.
“— It was a mess. Bodies everywhere. Us, aliens, it didn’t matter. We all died.”
She probably didn’t know what he was talking about. Caedria was one of those no name planets no one ever gave a shit about. Another battleground where he hadn’t even known what he was supposed to be dying for.
He had to consciously force his grip to relax. He wanted to move. Hit something. Snarl. Roar. Anything. But he was consciously trying not to scare the girl.
Gin didn’t deserve that.
“And they’d get the Grays, right? They’d find them; send their bodies back to Earth. Full military honours, all that shit. But us Obsidians… Nah.”
He shook his head.
“They just... They’d strip us clean, throw us in a pile, and light us up. Burn us all. And this one on Caedria, it was... it was somethin’ else, Gin, I gotta tell ya. It really was. Fire, it... lit up the damned sky.
“And I remember thinkin’... you know? What if... What if it ain’t Pluto that wants this? Maybe Pluto don’t give a shit, so long as you die fightin’. What if this is just the Novas Government who don’t wanna spare a dime. ‘Cause it was easier for 'em to stick us in a pile and douse us in kerosene than it was sendin’ us home.”
A White would know. Had to know.
Or maybe the lie had spread to the Church too.
He didn’t know.
He didn’t know.
Posted: Mar 8 2018, 10:07 AM
It seemed that her wish had been granted by the Gods themselves that she could spend even a few more minutes in the same room as Rawson. They had stood in silence for several minutes before Rawson spoke. But she didn’t understand what he said. Outside of the practices of the Church, she had very little knowledge about the world. By the time he had asked her a question, she had figured out Rawson was former Military of some sort. But the question he had asked her was rhetorical, and so his story continued. Jin stood much like a statue, without movement and staring, which was off putting to most people. She was often picked on by her brothers and sisters that she was weird, and they had a point - because she was - as she idolized the children of Pluto much more than any of the other Gods or Goddesses that blessed Novas and the other colonies. And here was Rawson, stood in front of her, talking to her.
In the corner of her eye she saw several acolytes, waiting for her signal to transport Decius body to the mortuary where he would be cleaned up and his body preserved until his funeral. But the signal wouldn’t come. With every word Rawson spoke, she grew angry. Pluto don’t give a shit, so long as you die fighting...How dare he? How dare a child question their father in such a manner. Jin was furious as her brows furrowed, she didn’t hesitate to reach up and strike Rawson with an open palm against his cheek. The gasps of the acolytes hidden in the shadows of the main hall could be heard prominently and the sound of their steps exiting the main room followed.
She had witnessed one of the horrors of a mass burial for the fallen gladiators of the Arena, which was similar to what he had described in story. It was because of Jin that she fought for proper burials for gladiators and more specifically Obsidians like Rawson. Pluto cared how his children were sent into their afterlife and the fire in which they burned was an important ritual to her and the Church. An open air pyre was a celebration, in which stories of the deceased were shared and laughter and joy was emphasised. But a mass burial was disgraceful. It was painful to see persons treated like toys, discarded once they were no longer entertaining. It was mere seconds after her hand made contact with his face that she exclaimed:
“Don’t you ever say that again.” There was fury in her voice, a usual low whisper was now a tone of confidence. Don’t you dare even think that she wanted to desperately say, but everyone questions the Gods at one point in their life. Jin felt as though she was on fire herself, “Surely there is honor in battle, but it is through the flames that Pluto celebrates his children’s efforts in life.” The struggles of Obsidians were much greater than the struggles of herself, as she was a respected member of Novas mostly through her philanthropy but also because she fought tooth and nail for proper burials for all members of the Arena even though most could not afford a proper burial. But she had no control over how the Military would perform burials on outside planets as he had described, the inspiration in which he questioned his faith of Pluto.
“You think you’re worthless due to the mistreatment of everyone around you, you’re broken and confused as you’ve lost your way from the flames that guide you back to Pluto. But it is through these flames that you’re reconnected and your strength returns. Even in your death there is light because of Pluto, because of these flames.” Jin had wished she brought down one of the many tomes of the guidance of Pluto that occupied her nightstand. “In the shadows you were born and with every battle, the flame grows brighter until it is extinguished much like a candle. But the flame can only return with fire. Through this fire, you are welcomed home.” She explained, slightly more calm than she was mere moments ago. “And it is through the flames that Decius will be welcomed home by Pluto.”