Waste Not, Want Not (AQ)

GM: Gretchen
Players: Oz
Summary: Oz proves his willingness to serve Ghede and is rewarded in kind.


The Gods - the Loa - were not like the small gods that others touched by les invisibles used. They were not commanded; They were not slaves. A houngan, or a mambo, who made such an error found themselves soon whispering to nothing as the wind of spirits was drawn from their ears. Empty echoes forever more. By the light of the single candle, the shadows of Oz's 'garden' seemed to dance and move. Bodies taken, one by one, from runs where he could; Preserved. Stored, here, with curious etchings and salts to preserve them. Piles of incense and powdered dusts to keep the small aside. And in that flickering light, the thick arms of the tusker rise and fall with wet squelches.

Splatters of sanguine drip from his hook as he prepares the loa fete - a feast for the gods. The butchered carcass carefully separated into its vital organs; Lungs for Damballah. Captured blood for Agwe. The leg bones of the animal for Legba, the studious liver for Obatala. The eyes for Shango, the teeth for Ogoun. Ah, but the heart? This - this is for Ghede. A broken tusked mouth opens, twisting as he bites into the thick and raw meat with a hard squish. It takes quite a bit of tugging to take even a small portion, the wet scent of copper dripping down his chin as he places the ruined organ before the veve of his Gods.

Next to the bottles of beer and porno sims, of course. Life and death, held hand in hand, the gluttonous delight in a temporary thing. Made all the more precious by the ticking of time. The thick ork murmurs slowly in Or'zet, lowering himself to his knees, palm resting face up while his hook lays across his thigh. Slowly weaving forward and back, his head easing backwards as thick dreads slide off his bared shoulders. Louder, snarling words in that thick tusker tongue - begging, flattering, cajoling.

Emptying himself to follow the line of life, back to the beginning, back to the waters at the edge of space and time. Back - to the Astral - while his mind focuses on the curious maze-like veve he had written for this newest -trick-.

The veve hypnotizes as you trace its lines with your mind. You cannot recall the distance traveled as a proper memory, though you possess the knowledge of having covered some intangible amount of intervening time and space as you crossed the veil between worlds.

A richly appointed Parisian-influenced parlor surrounds you; a decent-sized room crowded with red fabrics and dark, aged wood. Old cameo-style portaits line red-painted walls in clusters, each antique frame round and ornate, with black and white photos of unknown individuals. The furnishings are lush yet aged, with red leather, velvet and linen, and heavy crimson curtains drape down over windows on the far wall.

The dimly lit room seems to be arranged for a viewing of the dead, with a humble casket laid on a long table with spotless, narrow tablecloth that reveals more aged wood on each side of the oval tabletop while the ends of the white cloth hang down gently. Upon the table, and even on top of the half-opened casket are platters of delicacies, fruits, sliced meats, breads and all other manner of foodstuffs.

A figure in black leans one hand against the wall by the curtains, very still, seeming to watch the world outside in contemplation through a narrow space between the floor to ceiling velvet. The figure's free hand holds a glass of clear, brownish liquid, and a lazy plume of smoke slowly drifts up from their head, above and around a black top hat, though the source of the smoke remains unseen, obscured by the figure and the angle they stand at.

Breathe; Breathe in the air, first. Taste and scent and sound, the aspects that tie one to life. After these things are sampled do the houngan's eyes finally open on a face littered with scarring; Ritualized and simply incidental, one spiderwebbing away from the broken tusk on the left side. The thickset vodun ork flexing the broken, blackened shadow of his right hand - a memory of what it once was, rather than the vicious death it now represents. The memory and the lesson of gnarled, knotted scar tissue with a razored hook screwed into the cap.

He takes a moment to study the figure peering through the window, before his gaze naturally turns towards the coffin - and the spread. A twist of lips around his broken tusked grin as he moves over, looking to gather up something with soft skin and full of juice. ".. skraa, cerri." He begins, before turning his eyes towards the man. "I've come hunting the path of les invisibles, ah? May I pass this place to hunt?"

"Please, indulge while we chat," the figure croons from his position at the window, gesturing toward the table with his glass without turning, causing a slow slosh of the golden-brown rum to attempt a miniature whirlpool. "You hunt the path, but you and I should speak. Indulge yourself while you indulge me, mon ami."

Within the coffin is the figure of a white woman dressed for burial, with plugs in her nose and a fine dress, but her ribcage has been parted, and like the other platters on the table, there are morsels missing, and major arteries and organ connections have already been cut, enabling easy selection to suit one's tastes.

The figure turns, revealing a richly dark face, nearly skull-like at some angles, visible as they approach, yet powerful and fleshed fully when viewed at other angles, under layers of shadow in the dim viewing room. "What makes you think I should let you enter my garden, hrm? Disturb my revelry, disrupt my thoughts…"

A long, slender cigar is held in the figure's lips, the cherry brightening at rare intervals between comments.

"Ya bledjeax-" Begins the Ork, a brief apology, Or'zet coming far easier to him than english. "-but I must, Loa. There is a strength to seize in your gardens, ah? To drag back to the world of flesh with me. If you would have me as the houngan, the cheval to mete tete, a proper mount for the above." The flesh and blood of the exposed ribcage are not taken - sacrifice is precious, after all. Not something wasted on mere hunger. Rather, it is the fruit that the ork bites into, the juice dribbling down his chin as he snars it to the core. Leaving the half eaten thing dripping from fat and ritually scarred fingers as he speaks again.

"Give me pass, and take ambor mabas lufut.. " The liquor after the war. "Give me pass, and I will clean your veve in hurlq. Give me pass, ah? for there is iron in my blood, ang gijak-ishi, and it sings for power. Power to me, ah Loa! This is strength for you to use."

"Seeking power to better serve," the Ghede figure questions, continuing with a glint in his dark eye and a hint of a smirk on thick, cigar-holding lips, "or to better usurp for your own fiendish machinations..?" He bobs and dips from side to side as he speaks, spreading arms wide in what might look like something of a welcoming gesture if he weren't combining it with movements that resemble that of a snake on the verge of striking.

"No, don't tell me, I know your way…" He holds in place, mere feet away, head and shoulders gliding first one way then the other, creating swirls of smoke, and swirls in the glass of rum as well, as he stares the houngan down.

A moment of narrow-eyed soul-staring passes in this way until the black man laughs uproariously to himself, then puts his cigar down into an ashtray and fetches himself two grapes from the table, plucked from a platter atop the casket, and a small pinch of offal from the woman's presented chest cavity. He pops each morsel in his mouth as he turns toward the long crimson curtains. He wipes the residual blood from his fingertips on the velvet as he parts the window coverings. "I tink I let you roam. Your path, it amuses me."

Below, through the window is Ghede's 'garden' a vast cemetery extending out into the distance, populated by markers and mausoleums, headstones and concrete pillars of dedication to the once-living.

"There is a difference, ah," comes the broken tusked grin as the thick bodied ork chuckles, his voice hitting a bassitone that most flat faces could never touch. Thick hand spreads, palm up. "Snaga nar baj lufut, met tete. Slaves do not make war, ah? A good servant is a strong servant, a servant in love with life. A servant to crack the bones and suck the marrow, who joyously serves. To give you power, ah? I must take it first." He stands as he is tested, that shit eating grin on his features - knowing, here, his quest may fail and he may perish, lost to wander les invisibles, another voice in the wind, another broken ghost in the fever swamps. But he has faith in - well - his faith. Eyes drop to the grapes as Ghede speaks, Oz quietly taking two grapes of his own. A glance over his shoulder, a broken tusked grin - a careful twist of a hook that can't decide whether it'll be a broken mass of scar tissue or a hand or a weapon in this place. Two eyes drawn from the corpse, reverently disposed. Two grapes in their place, carefully turned to let the 'pip' point upwards. Then aside and crooked from one another.

There. Corpsey googley eyes. Sucking his last remaining thumb, the houngan tips his head forward at the amusement he brings the loa. Knees to the carpet, hand as well, all the way down as his dreads swing below him. The Loa are not commanded. The Loa are served, as a horse serves its master. He is disruptive and large, his laugh is explosive, and neither death nor life are taken seriously - for what's the point, when the end is final no matter how often you held back? But here, before the Gods, he is reverent. Waiting the appropriate amount of time before he'll move towards the window itself, looking for a way to unlatch it.

Front doors are for normal people and small gods. A houngan must make his own doors.

Ghede turns to observe the subservience to his status only after a long delay spent idly tasting the fruit-sweetened blood upon his lips and washing it down with a sip from his glass. He himself presses fingertips to a pane of the ornate window which swings outward effortlessly. The thick scent of earth enters the room, and gravetenders can be seen slowly setting about their work in the cemetery, whether digging in the soil, drawing bodies on sledges that scrape along the ground, or hefting tools on their way to the next grave.

As the window reaches its full extension, swinging out on silent hinges, Oz finds himself down among the graves and their infinitely distinct markers. The only sights are those of the cemetery and its keepers, though a footpath extends off into the distance, and on the wind is a familiar scent; that of the swamps once thought of as home.

The Fever Swamps; The bones of his line laid in that muck, feeding the dark and the light alike. From moss to gators to worse, the tiny gods that roam about and make a tusker go mad. Made sense that his path backwards would take him here. The houngan straightens his shoulders, tonguing the broken tusk as he is wont to do in moments of contemplation. His left hand opening before he breathes deep. Past the gateway and into the garden. Now the real fun begins. A bark of laughter, an explosive single 'HA!' before the thickset ork begins walking along the path set for him. There was a time for being clever - and there was a time to simply move forward.

If he survived, he survived, and he'd wash the veve with the cheapest, most rot-gut, mouth burning synthol he could get his brutish fist around. A proper forty send off to the Gods. If not? Then at least he was already in a cemetery.

Along the path, the undertakers somehow seem to always be at the periphery of sight, disappearing or appearing just beyond the forest of carved stones. Their faces are always somehow turned away from the visitor, but never for convoluted reasons, they simply have bent backs, bowed heads, or are traveling away from the houngan coincidentally.

However, with a lungful of swamp-tinged air, Oz finds the representation of Ghede once more, gently caressing the face of a corpse as it is pulled irreverently by the arms by one of the black-clad workers. The corpse's feet drag on the stones of the walkway, through this intersection of the path, and as the master of the head's fingers leave the cheekbone of the ashen face, the body putrefies, flash-rotting in an instant to overpower the scent of the swamp-rot.

The worker does not react to this, and Ghede turns, offering a proposal before Oz passes out of his garden.

"My hospitality… Excuse me for not offering before, but should you need a place to rest and gather your thoughts…" He steps near, extending his free hand out toward the ork's face while the glass of rum is waved toward a freshly-dug grave. "Take all the time in the world…"

"You will have my bones soon, ah? For a mortal's time is brief, Ah Loa…" Begins the Houngan, reaching up to scratch beneath his chin with the nails of his left hand. Those scars always itched; Glowing lines of power written into the flesh of his body, channeling, focusing his aura. Not so visible here, perhaps, not until the word is breathed and Les Invisibles changes again. He licks that broken tusk again, eyes turned towards the earth. To lay himself in it? To give up his grip on breath? For once, the ork's heavy heart thuds a bit faster. But what is a man but temporary? The evidence is all around him, here in Ghede's garden - so much bigger than his own. Infinitely bigger. And who is a man to a God, to refuse his hospitality?

Pressing the palm of his hand to his chest, the thick houngan turns once to move towards the proffered grave. "What is a man to do but accept what a God offers, ah? No matter how bitter the cup run.." A low chuckle, a last ditch humor, listening to the dirt crumble beneath him as he stands at the edge of the precipice. And then? With the smell of earth and rot in his nose, he begins lowering himself down-

Oz settles back in the grave, feeling the moist earth compress beneath him. But before he can even question, the first shovel full of dirt strikes him in the face. He sucks it in, coughing and gasping as more and more dirt rains from above. Panic strains at his connection to this place, the dirt falling faster than he can dig it out, his breath turning to fire in his lungs as he holds it with the shit-taste of rich, fertile, life readied grave dirt-

And then he squeezes the panic down; A fist upon his own heart, forcing it to slow. To focus. To get away from the meat and bones and find his way out. A houngan doesn't use the front door - a houngan makes his -own-…

Intense focus on one's path can turn anything into the next branch, the next door, the next opportunity. And as the light is blocked from Oz' sight and the breath blocked from his lungs by shovelful after shovelful of thick soil, a period of void-consciousness sets in. This faux death within the realm of the Loa is broken by the sound of scrabbling, of fingers scooping up earth to uncover the ork's face. With nostrils now exposed to the outside world once again, the scent of swamp is thick upon taking the first breath in a seeming eternity. Corpse-diggers, orkish swamp-dwellers that would fit perfectly in a snapshot of Oz' personal past uncover him from a shallow grave in a mound of earth deep within a cypress swamp.

Like a strange Lazarus rising from the grave, the first thing to snap out and grip the edge of this smuggler's grave is the houngan's hook hand; The rest of him drawn upwards as biceps bulge, shaking his head and blowing rotting muck from his nostrils. He breathes deep, raggedly, getting the cool stench of oxygen back into his lungs even as his eyes fall upon the other tuskers. A sideways twist of a lip before he speaks, bassitone voice ragged with lack of breath and the seep of brackish water.

"Skraa, cerri." A simple hello in or'zet.

There is no light from the apparent sky now, only that cast by a lantern set beside the unmarked grave. The figures who allow Oz to rise from the resting place offered in Ghede's garden are not familiar faces, yet at the same time they could not be any more familiar than if Oz were to gaze into a mirror.

Recoiling, snarling in surprise at the apparent resurrection, they immediately scatter into the marsh-forest of cypress and tupelo trees, leaving tools and lantern behind. The greeting is not returned, except by the sound of hasty splashes and grunting of labored breathing through thick, tusked lips.

Until… the sounds are present no longer, replaced by the sounds of swamp insects that soundtrack the nights of Oz' past.

The thumping, heart rending headache starting to squeeze Oz's brain - to leak down the front of his broken features in faint lines of red mixed with the rot-brown and green - flips that small toggle in the back of Oz's head. As the other orks snarl and run, Oz lumbers out of the ground, his word dragging out further.

"Skraa…sKRAAAAAaaaa…" He bellows, letting his jaw hang open. Hello, hello, screamed in or'zet, mixed to a zombie's drooling, broken gargle. He even goes so far as to drag a single foot behind him, pants soaked and earth splattered. Why not? If you couldn't find the humor in being buried alive, you weren't trying hard enough.

One of the corpse-diggers has retreated into an opening at the base of a stand of swamp trees in an attempt to remain hidden from sight, but is unable to remain silent, panicking, stuck in their hiding place as the unexpected zombie closes in on them. They begin whispering in Or'zet, reciting words of banishing in an effort to defend themselves. The others of the group have seemingly escaped, and only this trapped beginner, low in the rankings of their group, remains behind. The sound of their whispering blends with the sounds of the night, the white noise of innumerable nocturnal insects, and the faint light of the forgotten lantern in the distance is the only proper light visible, though orkish sight makes use of it well, defining the trapped practitioner who alternates between trying to cower deeper into the burrow and attempts to squeeze back out, though they are apparently trapped due to their orkish girth.

Ah, the folly of youth. Zobop dig up corpses and sell the parts; Or trick the unwary into following them beyond the safety of the ramshackle homes and cities. Fresh meat for the ghouls. The truly desperate and damned, for it's a vicious living, and even the rats will despise you for it. With his foot falls slushing through the blackened water and the moss clinging to his shins - and his headache throbbing away behind his eyes - the broken tusked trog grimaces as his scars light up with ethereal light; Something trying to push him -away- from this, the swim in dark waters towards the source of blood and life - of power. A low and dark chuckle rolls from the elder houngan as he spits words of power of his own; Or'zet that flows and snarls, old as the knife-ears, real as the blade in a rib.

The cowering zobop's voice shudders as he attempts to renew the chant, to break this zombie's link to whatever caused it to rise, but in the dead-end hiding place, panic seems to reign supreme, and the orkish wording of the misunderstood banishment incantation begins to waver with every sloshing, foot-dragging step from Oz, who begins to glow with a power unrecognized by the non-initiate.

The astral form steadies at last, finding its anchor in this strange false world, as Oz's sloshing, slow steps continue to carry him forward. Each whimpered word of power shattered with a snap of the houngan's own, a vicious smile of predation spreading upon his face. He did not take joy in cruelty - well, not much. But there was power to be had, and objects to be removed. To gain strength was to take it from another, by force or by tongue. Feeling the resistance break at last, Oz pauses when the other falls silent.

Simply a young tusker, staring upwards - empty, now. The houngan grips the young ork's right hand, shifting until he has a single finger exposed.

The crunch of tusks and powerful jaw working echoes dully in the night.

".. A man will take you with me, ah? In spirit at least. Sleep, small god, and a man walks on."

The tusker takes a moment to wipe his chin upon the sleeve of his muddy jacket, and straightens up. To find the path once more.

A single star is visible through the tree canopy above, and before Oz travels far enough to be out of earshot of the now-deceased zobop, another ritual chant can be heard in an amused tone. Following that, the sound of cracking bones and the sound of waterlogged earth sloughing. The figure forces itself from its hiding place at the expense of shattering its own collarbone to fit broad shoulders awkwardly back out of the opening in the roots of the grown-together swamp trees.

The zobop rises, expressionless, though its eyes still retain the look of fear it died with. Its left side slumps due to the breakage of bones as it forced its way back out, and it is coated in mud - a zombie facing its master - and Ghede is just at the edge of the circle of lantern light, strolling casually on the solid ground where Oz recently arose.

"Dis da power you after, mon ami?" Ghede grins to himself, still holding his rum glass lazily as the the lantern light glints from his face at peculiar angles, casting the skull like visage when seen one way, and not at others. He wordlessly draws the zombie to him, animated by the power of the loa, something man can only hope to glean a fragment of for themselves. "Eat a man's finger straight off da bone…" Ghede chuckles in the shadows. "Tha's some righteous hunger dere, man."

"You knew my hunger, met tete, when you first whispered to me in les invisibles; In that damned cult, ah? Your promises were far darker then," comes the chuckle from the houngan, even as he suddenly doubles over; It appears that the corpse wasn't the only thing that woke up. With his guts roiling, Oz hooks that nasty piece on his wrist into the tree trunk. Sinking it in deep to hold himself upright as he watches the action; Despite his words, there is something like wonderment - and pain - in his gaze. It would take him weeks - WEEKS! - of preparation to even do something like this, to make a proper house of the body for a small god to inhabit. And here? Here, Ghede does it with a word and a smile. Spitting the taste from his lips to the side, Oz reaches up to wipe his lips with a forearm.

"Are you still laughing, ah? Then I am doing well."

The single star above that winks through the canopy of the swamp trees grows brighter as Ghede laughs in return, sipping from his neverending glass of rum before lighting up another long, slender cigar. "Are you doing well? Look like shit to me." He laughs, expelling a cloud of smoke as he eyes Oz up and down, covered in blood and mud, clinging to the trunk of a cypress tree with his hook. With a smirk on his lips he gestures with his glass toward the houngan while flicking his cigar-holding hand in a sort of underhand lob, bending at the knees almost as though tossing a softball.

The animated corpse is propelled toward the weakened Oz, staggering on unsteady legs as though struck by a mighty, blow from an oversized hand. The star glows brighter even, and the zombie begins to lose its stability with every forced stagger toward Oz. "Catch!"

The corpse is now on the verge of collapsing into Oz with its full weight. Dead weight. The power that holds it upright and mobile has clearly been revoked in an instant, and it falls on the hook-handed ork to retain some semblance of control over the body or fail his loa.

This time, the thickset houngan is ready for the Master's joke. When the zombie staggers towards him, the houngan is already stretching out his good hand. He doesn't have to, of course; But it helps. Smoked glasses flicker into place upon his broken nose, a top hat upon his head. Just for a moment, the mask of Ghede is upon him; And the Zombie jerks upright, held in thrall to the invisible hooks of Oz's awakening. His broken tusked grin is a vicious and victorious one, even as the mask fades away. But the hooks in the flesh are there, tied neatly to Oz's own soul, holding the meat marionette up.

"Caught," comes the reply, and a barked laugh of joy.

"Da's good, very fucking clever," Ghede chortles. "Good look, too, ah? Never seen an ork look so god damn tres charmant," he says in his thick Creole accent, nodding his own top hat to the appearance of the same on Oz' dready head. "You make a spirited steed. For now…" He nods to himself and turns, disappearing impossibly into the darkness of the swamp without a sound other than a lingering laugh that sounds in time with the twinkling of the sole star up above. The power over the corpse vanishes with Ghede, the bleeding, mud-coated body finally collapsing to the muck like a marionette with strings cut, but that instantaneous knowledge of what was done is still there in the back of Oz' mind…

Dreaded head bows; Why Ghede choose a flat face appearance this time, Oz will never understand. Honestly, it may have been to poke at the houngan himself. He always hated that creole slang, the mushy faces without a proper pair of hez to push out the lips. Like maggots given legs and arms, these soft smoothers. Oh, he'd learned the joy of their body here in Denver, of course. Gotten more used to the appearance, especially around his ethi. But he never could shake the innate feeling of -wrong- that the shorties, knife-ears and smoothers gave him. Hell, even the trolls were pretty by comparison. Good pair of horns to hold onto while you bump tusks, and a lady that could bench press you against the ceiling and breasts twice as large as your head? Mm MM, yes please.

At last, with a creak of wood, the houngan draws his hook hand back from the living tree. Slumping slowly to his knees as he studies the dead thing before him. Feeling the buzz of insects nibbling to get through hard orkish flesh, the scent of - well - rotting swamp. Something that always decays but never dies, a new life cycled through even with the stink of disease and hurt.

Home, some deep part in the back of his head cries. But the past is no place to be tethered as Oz feels his pants soaking through by brackish water once more. Nevermind.

Nevermind.

He growls and murmurs the words in or'zet, a language built for tusks and deep throats. Praising the wisdom of his met tete, flattering the skill and power of Ghede. Praying, even as his hook lifts and falls with wet squelches. Just because he's in Les Invisibles, riding the winds of soul, is no reason to not do this proper.

Waste not, want not.

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