Friday, 11 November 2011

On Immortals

Inspired by Tim Brannan's recent post over on The Other Side I wrote a bit of my own opinions. So much so that I realised I had a post of my own instead of just a comment. I'm going to illustrate my points with some fiction my wife and I have been working on and I'm going to be doing it out of sequence. Sorry, it's an early draft and I'm not going to go into any detail or explanation as to what may be going on.

I've always made learning difficulties a symptom of undeath while the undying (ie Immortals) are stereotypically afflicted with ennui.

Recently I've given up on ennui. Now my immortals struggle less with learning new things but more with filtering out the relevant stuff from all the experiences of centuries of life.

Kadia pulled off the highway in to Cluj-Napoca, Romania's third largest city. 
    "Why are we stopping?" Igor asked her.
    "It's lunch time," she told him, pointing at the dashboard clock, "And I need a wee."
    "I used to know a great place in Cluj to eat," Igor told her. He bit his lip for a while trying to remember where it was.
    "That was in the eighteen nineties" Gabriel said.
    "No you're thinking of that place down in Varna," Igor said. "This was the place with the barmaid with the absolutely huge breasts, did fantastic Paprika Chicken... oh where was that?" he paused again. Gabriel rolled his eyes.
    "Seventeen thirty three," he said, "if I remember you took the barmaid in question up to your room after the meal."
    "Oh yeah, I used to do that a lot." He smiled.  Kadia pulled the car over to the side of the road and turned off into the car park of a highway service station.
    "You know what this place would be called in Britain?" Igor asked the car.
    "Little Chef" Kadia said and climbed out, heading for the little cafe.
    "I was going to say Hungry Eater" Igor said as Gabriel pushed open the passanger side door and followed.

They also all tend to go through a process I'm thinking of as "the Horrors", wherein they get that realisation that everyone and thing they know and love is going to wither and die before their eyes. Some people can put it off for centuries but in some cases, usually the more empathic and compassionate ones, it can hit almost as soon as they learn they're immortal. It drives them mad. They lose focus on what it means to be human and mortal. They can become monsters who think no more of killing a mortal person than that mortal would think of swatting a fly. Many do at least for a while. In the end most find some sort of cause, duty or focus to sustain them. Usually multiples thereof down the ages. Those that don't remain monsters.

Their focuses can be used to manipulate them, but at the same time they give them reason to remain human.

Kadia polished off what was left of her breakfast before taking the plate and mug to the sink to wash them.
    "So the question is what are we going to do now?" Gabriel asked Igor over the sound of running water.
    "Well we can't just let her walk into Saden unprotected."
    "Why not? You brought her into this with all your code's and cyphers. And she wouldn't be the first relative of a dragon to become undead." Kadia recovered their empty mugs and washed them too.
    "When the enemy realise what she is..." Kadia walked past them into the bedroom, slamming the door closed behind her.
    "She'll be dead, one way or the other." 
    "I can't let that happen. We worked so hard..."
    "You worked so hard Grigori, I spent my time seeking redemption in the love of our Lord. Not galavanting around sleeping with any woman I could find and practicing any and all sorceries I could learn. If you and I walk into Saden then we are giving the enemy exactly what she wants. Dragons!" The door to Kadia's room flew open. Kadia stood there in motorcycle leathers, her jacket open to show a pale blue t-shirt with the motto "I'm a Slayer. Ask me How." above the image of a stake. She looked at them.
    "We're going to Saden" She said. Gabriel opened his mouth to protest but Kadia kept talking, "Rather I'm driving to Saden and the two of you can come with me. If you have the guts."
    "Young lady..." Gabriel managed to say.
    "Don't you young lady me," Kadia interrupted. "You've always been a hero to me; the elderly man who went through hell to save one life, one soul. Now I find you're just a scared old monk, talking it up but too scared to go and face his foe. Giving up in the face of an opponent because they're too hardcore for you. And you call yourself a knight, but the truth is you're just too scared to do anything that you can't get someone else to do for you. You couldn't even raise Igor by yourself, you had to get Tara to find you a victim to sacrifice."
    "This true?" Igor asked. Gabriel hung his head.
    "We're going to Saden," Igor said. Kadia moved towards the door. Igor turned to Gabriel. "We're going to Saden and if you mean a word of what you've always claimed to believe in you'll come too. Unless, as this young lady claims, you're too scared." Gabriel glared over at Igor.
    "Don't you judge me..." he began.
    "Prove me wrong." he leaned in close, "you didn't have the strength to save her before, old friend, save her now." he whispered and then headed for the door. Gabriel stood for a moment before following, his face unreadable.

This can be why immortals gather together, they can sustain each other, but the downside is not even true love can last forever and given enough time even the closest of people will drift apart. It can easily happen in a mortal lifetime so with immortals much more so.

Even more so as the Horrors will invariably leave an immortal, at least inwardly, cold and distant.

The tall woman seemingly ignored her, focusing her attention on the rakish vampire. She strode towards him and swung her blades at him. He parried both with his wrought iron candelabra. Again and again she struck at him, seemingly without emotion. Each time he parried and was forced back a step. She was a fast as him, if not faster, and he found each attempt he made to strike back was blocked before he could even begin to make it. The tall woman regarded him with distain mixed with boredom. Even John could see that he was only delaying the inevitable. Then the rakish vampire took his last step and found himself backed against a pair of the coffins arrayed around the room. The tall woman struck with her blades. The centre of the candelabra struck the floor and the coffins behind the vampire shattered. The vampire was wide eyed with surprise as the sickly scent of corruption and decay seemed to erupt around him. he fell into three parts, his legs and torso dropping separately to the flag stone floor as his head bounced across it the floor making a noise not unlike a melon or coconut striking a hard surface. The broken coffins behind him were empty and the tall woman seemed mesmerised by the sight. Then Suzi screamed, a fearful wail that rose up to pierce the night. The tall woman turned to regard her, as if noticing her for the first  time, puzzlement crossing her features along with something else. perhaps concern, possibly annoyance, John could not be sure. The skull of the rakish vampire had come to a rest before Suzi’s feet and her cry was from watching it wither to dust before her. The tall woman cocked her head, like a raven, as if waiting for the noise to abate. 
It was then that the female vampire struck, plunging the oaken stake into the tall woman’s back as she stood watching Suzi. The tall woman cried out and twisted away, the stake emerging from her ribs below her left breast, her swords clattering to the flagstones. She struck at the female vampire with her fist, breaking her nose and sending her staggering back. As the vampire tried to think straight with her nasal bones embedded in the her frontal lobe.  The tall woman took this opportunity to grasp the oak stake with both hands and, with an almighty cry, pull it from her chest. There was blood, but not as much as John had expected, and as he watched the flow stopped and the flesh began to knit itself back together. In a matter of moments bare unbroken skin could be seen through the tear in the tall woman’s leather cat suit. She grasped the blood stained stake in her hand and advanced on the remaining vampire.

Finally my immortals always have a vulnerability or curse, usually related to the method they gained immortality. Or are encoded in mythology surrounding their form of immortality. Pretty standard fare I know. But, for example, if someone became immortal from eating a Peach of Immortality from the Heavenly Jade Palace they themselves may perish if their heart is cut from their body and consumed. Even if they'd already proven to be able to recover from the loss of their heart. Thus the Emperor of the Jade Palace could have an army of immortal warriors at his beck and call, any of whom he could slay by eating their heart, already removed and put in a place of safe keeping. The emperor's own heart is hidden amongst them but only he knows whose heart is where. Eating your own immortal heart may free you from the emperor's control but eating the wrong one could very well slay a friend.

So. A bit of a stream-of-conciousess and look-how-I-write post. Sorry about that.

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