Have you ever wondered what takes more effort to create – a rope or a nail? There are two answers, one simple, and Wrong, one complex, and Correct.
Rope takes time. You need multiple strands of material thread, the time and knowledge to weave it. The mighty hawsers that fasten the great anchors of Chantris’ heaviest vessels are the work of many months, weaving Tar-caked cables of Steel and Hemp into wide ropes capable of holding a man of war fast in the roughest of storms. On the other hand, a nail? Heat metal, hammer the point, flatten the head, quench and cool. Iron nails are even simpler, and nails of wood – used by many cultures – simpler still.
This is in fact incorrect.
Think first of the Coals used to heat the forge that warms the iron and steel to red hot. That charcoal has been slow burnt for nights on end, a skilled task in itself. Wood that has taken years, even decades, to grow and mature, must be cut, chopped, and placed in a specially made stove, sealed to burn for days at a low heat, never allowed to flash over. In the many Shadows that are stitched into Arden’s dark and gloomy Weave, there are entire Culture’s whose primary stock in trade is the making of good charcoal. Vast quantities of this fires the Forges of many worlds; here it is used to smelt and make steel and iron. Then, once again, that new metal meets old wood again, and the blacksmith plies his trade, first making a simple rod of steel, then carefully clipping the nails, then shaping the nails, then quenching them. In all this process every Element is bent to the will of the Smith: Fire, Air, Water, and of course Earth, it’s smallest bonds broken and reformed into new things.
At it’s simplest, a rope still has the memory of what it once was, the flax and tar that goes into it. Even the simplest iron nail is a nigh Alchemical thing of vast potential. Unlock all the Energy that goes into it and you could destroy worlds.
Have you ever a killed a being? I have. From the Lowest to the Highest, from the Few to the Many, from the Righteous to the Vile. Sometimes it is easy, sometimes… not. An easy death is one that is fast, and as clean as such a Negation of Life can ever be. A slit throat; the bolt from the Shadows; a fast-acting Poison. Or there is the clash of armies, the drawn out torture of a single lone victim. There is the Death of entire Shadows, and this too can be accomplished in the blink of an eye, or drawn out by the Darkest of Arts.
But I ask you this, Dear Reader? Have you ever set about the Killing of an entire body of soldiers, not in a group, but individually, one by desperate one? Have you ever done this in a manner so that their death is long and lonely, but still Horrifically intimate and shared? I have, some few times; examples to be made, every time. It is no small thing, and it is not a Thing that I would amplify to my Credit.
And like many, if I wanted to truly make a display of such Horror, there are certain time-honored means. Through-out Shadow cultures with no other thing in common use these ways. One might, from this, Assume that the true shared Experience of Creation is pain, but even I am not that Grim. I think, merely, that certain minds think Alike. The Treefolk of R’en, the Romans of Shadow Earth, the Horr-ki-TI of the Shadowed Realm and many more all use one method – Crucifixion.
Have you ever crucified someone? It is a terrible thing, that delivers a slow death. You take a Cross of, most commonly wood or something similar; you lay your Victim upon it, arms spread out; you hold him or her or zen down, and you bind them, hand and foot, with course rope; you raise the cross, place it in a post-hole. Then you Watch as pain wracks the shoulders of someone’s son; you see the laboured breathing of someone’s daughter as the weight of their body hinders their breathing, and their lungs fill with fluid.
I ask you these questions – and give you these Answers – not to horrify, but to establish a certain Understanding.
I and my Companion of Many Years came upon such a sight that set even our long hardened Hearts to action. Hagen, a Dark Lord of the House Venway, a creature of both remarkable Strength and of Blackest Night; I, a Prince in many Shadows, Luce, Lucifer, the Witch King of many Rumours and Legends. We came upon a string of soldiers, Weirmonken, and their state moved even Hagen – the Weirmonken’s most tireless foe – to anger. To Righteous Revenge. To a trail of Slaughter the irony of which even I am not immune to.
Have you ever seen a road stretching through Shadow, one made real not by a Black Way, or the long tread of a Prince of the Blood, but by the Quality of the Suffering that joins the many Souls that are as its paving stones. A road by which many thousands of Weirmonken stand Crucified, close enough that their fingertips can almost reach their fellows, so that they may Touch, and so not die Alone. Almost… but not. Even that denied them. The echo of it was still in the air of this Road of Woe, of the cries of pain, of the fear as the dwindling host watched, but even more the Fell Will that drove it all. To hold each one down and quell their struggles; to fix them to and raise them up upon their Doom. To do it all while holding the Survivors in check, and while saving their Captain until last, so that she may see every one of her People brought low.
Because she made an Honorable Surrender to a Lord of Amber.
And all of it done not with rope; rope is too easy, too simple. It can remember being a living thing, like the cross at their backs. It was done with nails of Black Iron, forged for this one Purpose. All that Time and Power, hammered to a Point, driven into Flesh, nailed to Wood.
My Lord Hagen and I are resolved – there will be a Reckoning.
It shall make Shadow quake.