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Beda’s Tale: Part One

By: Rachel DeFausse


            King’s Row isn’t exactly the prettiest place in the world. Between the Circle of Thorns cult grabbing people for rituals of human sacrifice and the Dr. Frankenstein wannabes trying to hack up unsuspecting citizens as spare parts for their horrific experiments, I find it amazing that anyone makes it more than a week in this section of Paragon city.

            As for me, being born and raised in the Row meant I had to learn quick how to survive. More than just surviving though, I learned what it took to thrive in King’s Row. The link seemed obvious to me. In King’s Row you were either predator or you were prey, the distinction separating the two seemed equally obvious, predators ran in packs while prey were picked off traveling alone.

            The solution to my survival was a simple matter of becoming part of the right group and finding safety in numbers.

            I made my choice; I was going to throw in with the Skulls. The Skulls ran most of the Row from what I had seen, they had the numbers and unlike some other groups, like the outcasts, they were willing to take just about anyone who was interested not just those showing potential for developing powers.

            I did have one issue to overcome however, the Skulls weren’t exactly known for gender equality. Usually the only women to be seen around Skulls members were their air-headed girlfriends who were usually too into their own looks to realize the mayhem their boyfriends were up to. That definitely wasn’t me.

            I had done my homework and I had found out that the Skulls initiation wasn’t that complicated a process. If someone was interested in being a Skull they went to one of the leaders and were given a target, usually someone from a rival gang or a person who had caused the gang trouble before.

            If I had gone to a Skulls leader with the desire to join no doubt that I would have been laughed out of the room simply because I wasn’t one of the guys. It knew what I had to do.

            Everyone knew the Skulls main rivals were the Hellions. As I took the butcher knife from the chopping block I justified my plan with the thought that by doing it this way I was not only earning my own safety among the Skulls but by taking a Hellion off the streets I was saving the lives of that Hellion’s future victims.

            The surprise in Skelter’s eyes when I dropped a bloodstained hellion jacket at his feet was clearly visible even through his mask. I knew at that instant I was in.

            Still that thought was little solace for the grief that would haunt me afterwards. Every time I closed my eyes I would see the agony on that hellions face and wake only to cry myself back to sleep hours later.

            Skelter accompanied the small group personally when I was taken to a nearby graveyard to get the mask that would finalize my admittance to the gang. It seemed that he was taking an active interest in his new “proactive” recruit.

            I had always thought the masks the Skulls wore were realistically made plastic or ceramic simulations. Tonight I was to learn just how authentic they were as I acquired my own. It was disgusting, but my new mask was the final symbol of my acceptance into the Skulls and the protection they offered.

            Skelter and I spent a lot of time together after that. I knew he didn’t love me, I doubted he was even capable of the emotion, but truth be told I didn’t love him either. To him I was a interesting little oddity, a toy to be played with and discarded, to me he was extra security, not only was I a Skull now but I was the girlfriend of one of the Skull’s better known bosses.

            I had my spot in the Skulls, but it turned out be more work than I had expected. Getting in was one thing, maintaining my spot was another.

            I volunteered for most of the robberies, doing so gave the illusion that I was exited about committing the crimes while at the same time people didn’t take as much notice when I passed on the more violent endeavors.

            Between my seemingly high self-motivation, being a female member of the gang and being an item with Skelter, my reputation grew faster than I was comfortable with. It took only six months before I was promoted to the rank of Death’s Head, and three months after that when Skelter came to me with news I hadn’t ever expected to hear.

            “There are some people that want to meet you,” he said in his usual emotionless tones as he came through the door.

            “Again?” I sighed. I had become a bit of an attraction for new Skulls and members from other cells that were in the area.

            “It ain’t like that,” Skelter stated flatly, “The Petrovics want to meet you. I’m to bring you to them next Saturday.”

            “The…the..” I stammered like a busted recording. The Petrovic brothers were the founders of the Skulls and they only saw people for two reasons, promotion or demotion, and demotion was the more common and usually fatal option.

            “Relax,” Skelter breathed in my ear as he came up behind me, “They are offering you a promotion and your own cell to lead. Your goanna be a Bone Daddy, or I guess Bone Mamma in your case.”

            My knees felt weak, I had sought security when I joined the Skulls and being a Bone Daddy was about as secure as you could get, not only would I have an entire cell of Skulls between me and anyone else, but I had seen Skelter summon up shadowy tendrils of power and knew that ability offered even more protection for me. Besides, even if I didn’t want, the Petrovics weren’t people you said no to when they made you an offer.

            Four days later I was brought into a ritual chamber. The Petrovic brothers were there and I had to swallow down my nervousness.

            “Relax,” Skelter whispered to me as we entered, “The pain won’t last long and the power you will command afterwards is well worth it.”

            He lied.

            Pure darkness was forcing its way into my body. I could feel it in my eyes, burning in a way that would have made pepper spray feel like saline drops in comparison, my throat filled with it to the point that I gagged wanting nothing more than to vomit it back out but I couldn’t. Rhythmic chanting was lost somewhere in the background as the darkness forced its way into my ears.

            The feelings were nothing however in comparison to what I saw. As the darkness entered me it brought with it visions of where it was coming from. Some call it the netherworld, others say it’s the void, and still others call it the abyss, I call it hell.

            All the while the darkness was ripping at my very soul. It was as if there wasn’t enough room in my body for it so it was trying to destroy the very essence of what was me in an effort to make room for itself.

            I fought back in my mind with all the willpower I could muster. The very essence of what it meant to be human was being torn away from me and destroyed like paper through a shredder.

            I awoke the next morning in my own room. I don’t know how I got back there. I presume Skelter took me home, but I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

            I could feel something welling up in me. I felt nausea at first but also something else, something deep in my being, something cold and dark.

            My eyes must have gone wide as diner plates with the realization that came next. That darkness was still in me, it was like a slimy pool of ooze diluted throughout my whole being, except it was a living thing fighting for dominance and it was hungry.

            The door opened and Skelter was there with a young woman who looked like she was probably a first year student from the university of over in Steel Canyon.

            “I remember how I felt right after I changed,” Skelter stated flatly as he pushed the woman into the room, “You need to feed.”

            I remember looking at the woman as she lay scampered across the dirty floor on her knees to cower in the corner. She looked completely helpless as she trembled in terror with tears streaking her cheeks.

I felt truly sorry for her, but part of me, that shadowy, dark, slimy part of me that had forced its way into me during the promotion ritual felt something completely different. It felt hunger; it wanted her in a way that was in part like and animal closing on wounded prey while partly it looked on her with a strange feeling akin to some sort of a twisted lust.

            For an instant I could see myself in her. Not the woman I was, but the victim I had fought so hard not to become. I saw in her the fate I had strived to avoid for myself.

            “No remorse,” Skelter said as he slowly stepped in from the doorway, “You need to feed.”

            I looked on Skelter with new eyes. I had always thought that a violent life had taught him to be so cold and emotionless, but now I knew the truth, Skelter was what happened when the darkness was allowed full control of the human housing it. Everything around Skelter was just potential prey.

            “Dana Carols died last night,” Skelter whispered to me, “She dosn’t exist anymore. You are death incarnate. You are Beda.”

            Skelter was right about one thing though, I needed to feed badly. The longer I fought it back the stronger the desire got. I had to feed the darkness but unlike the Bone Daddies, who had given themselves over to the darkness completely, I was able to meld my own emotions with the desires of the darkness crawling through my mind.

            I struck out with the hunger of the darkness, with its warped lust, but I also struck with my rage. Rage that I had been subjected to the torment of that ritual, rage that I had been turned into the same type of monster that I had been seeking safety from, rage that Skelter thought I was the kind of beast he was and that I would feed on this poor innocent woman he had brought to me.

            The darkness welled out of me, and straight towards Skelter. My arms came up instinctively hurling bolts of pure darkness at him with reckless abandon and draining away portions of his life force to invigorate my own body.

            Skelter was thrown against the wall by the force of my assault and as I vented my anger my attacks slowed and I watched as Skelter slumped down the wall unconscious. The darkness called for me to finish him off, but the part of me that was still me held back.

The darkness had been fed. It still hungered, but it had been sated enough that I could again reign it in.

I dropped to my knees, tears welling in m eyes at what I had allowed myself to become. The woman Skelter had brought me thanked me for saving her and I think I mumbled for her to go, I don’t recall, but nonetheless she did go and I was glad of it.

I shattered my bone mask against the wall, no longer would I be a Skull, but somewhere deep inside me the darkness still lurked, and I knew it was only a matter of time before it would surface again, and when it grew hungry enough I knew without a doubt I would eventually have to give in and feed it.

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