This sixteen-chapter novel is a work of fan fiction based on the Stranger Things TV series and the Lost City D&D module. I do not profit from it. It’s a story set prior to the events of the television seasons, before the boys met Eleven. If I learn that the Duffer Brothers or Wizards of the Coast do not appreciate fan fiction of their work, or if either of them order a cease-and-desist, I will pull the story down.
The Lost City — Chapter Ten:
William Byers saw too much, heard too little, and did next to nothing. It came with being a god. From the moment the Eye had attached itself to him, the Sight was so overwhelming that it drowned the other senses; made usual interactions – hell, normal life – impossible.
He felt almost nothing either, except for the splitting headache that came and went. If he looked anywhere distant – whether into the past, present, or future – the headache vanished. If he focused on what was in front of him, the pain was so bad it was debilitating. The Eye wasn’t made for sights that simple.
And he spoke not a word. He was in sensory overload; he saw too much and processed it constantly. His mind had no room or time for speech. When he tried talking, moans were the best he could manage.
Needless to say, Will resented visitors; hated company, craved solitude. Isolation was the only solace to his omniscience and his agony. He got what we wanted. Auriga made his prodigy inaccessible (for his own nefarious reasons) and watched over him with a territorial eye. Will didn’t mind. He found Auriga easy to ignore. The man was self-absorbed, and talked to himself more than to Will. And Will had no concerns for his safety. The Eye defended him from harmful intent – with black fire. Any more “training accidents”, and his teacher would be incinerated. And the chief mage knew it.
But he was dangerous: Auriga Sirkinos had ambitions that went beyond anything Demetrius suspected. Will hardly cared. It was a drop of water. Will saw the ocean. He saw everything.
The day after the quest to the Isle, he lay in bed for most of the morning, trying hard to shut out his environs. A single glance at anything in the room – the ceiling, the walls, his desk – was a nail bashed through the left side of his head. He drifted and let the Eye carry him away from the pain. He wanted to see Mike… Mike…
… and saw him. He was with a girl Will had never seen. His omniscience filled in the details: a girlfriend, a new girlfriend, Mike’s very first. He had met her – no, been attacked by her – exactly a week ago down in the city, two days before Will’s fall. Mike and this girl – no, woman; Jilanka was her name – had fallen hard in love and ate mushrooms to feed their passions. They were naked on an altar now, clinging to each other, fucking (Will now understood the word’s full meaning), crying their pleasure, raking and bruising each other…
… then another vision. This one in the near future; it would happen in a few hours. Mike was in a room with a different altar. He stood before a crowd of women, offering them something he had no right to give away. Then he knelt before the Madaruan Champion. She was strong, beautiful, and stern, and she asked Mike hard questions. His answers were honest but self-serving. She took his offering. He took new vows. He received an unwanted gift. Disaster would follow days later…
… with Mike in another room, in front of yet a third altar. Wielding his sword against the Brothers. It played out the only way it could – and then turned worse. Will turned the tragedy off. Watching Mike hurt too much.
He looked elsewhere, submitting himself to randomness. His Eye gleamed and showed him:
… a rite that looked like Aztec sacrifice. Will had seen pictures of what the Aztecs did in his home world. But what he saw now weren’t brown skinned clerics chanting in the open sun. They were chalk white priests underground, wearing masks of animals and demons. The ritual was otherwise straight out of the American history books: a victim on an altar, held down as the high priest sliced open the chest and offered a still-beating heart to his god. Will left that room and coasted down corridors to sights just as ghastly. Activities of rape, torture, and cruel experiments – all for sheer enjoyment sake – went on everywhere in the Zargonite temple. Things far worse than what Mike had imagined as a dungeon master, when the Lost City was a game…
… the sheeple. He’d seen them before, in his weekly trips to the city: the vast majority of citizens who resigned themselves to Zargonite rule, working fields, tending livestock, retreating into dreams and nightmares. Walling themselves behind masks of alternate identities: a mammal here, growling on all fours; a demon there, assaulting a hapless fool; a king of old, demanding that passersby bow to him; a hero of legend, defending a widow, demanding a shop owner give her free food. All of them hoping to avoid the sacrificial altar; grasping for redemption in madness…
… the wider world of the Cynidiceans. The nation they were once part of and still technically were: the Emirates of Yshia, six desert regions under rule of a caliph, reminiscent of the Islamic Middle-East. The Yshians followed the religion of the prophet al-Kalim, and waged holy war on any who believed differently. The Cynidiceans had been out of contact with the Yshians for centuries. That was about to change. Last year the capital had fallen to a jihad, and Yshlimic Law was once again enforced strictly everywhere in the Emirates. Next year the Yshian forces would come to Cynidicea, and shatter its sense of isolated security. Will and Mike and many others would be swept up in the jihad‘s fires…
… the Isle he had just decimated. And from which they’d barely escaped. Will’s body had become a storm of wrath. But that had happened unintentionally, triggered when he was thrown into an army of undead. Right after the unspeakable surgery. Will couldn’t summon the Eyebite – the scream of annihilation – at will. And his omniscience was strangely silent on this point. The Eyebite was even harder to stop than start. Will should have gone on screaming until the whole island was blasted to bits and everyone died. Somehow Mike had brought him back. Whether by his embrace or his words or his thoughts…
… Lucas. The resurrected “zoombie”. He had divided the Brotherhood into not two but three camps, none of whom had any grasp of his true nature. Will saw that nature and the consequences it would bring. Saw why the Isle had accepted Lucas, while its savage inhabitants rejected him. And saw the seed of the problem: Queen Zenobia, whose touch had tainted him with paradox…
… the bird man. Except the bird man was dead. Mike had bathed a lounge in his blood. This vision was in the past, in a place that looked like a cellar, probably in one of the city’s communal dormitories. The bird man had a boy beneath him on the floor, and was thrusting his hips against the boy’s bum. The boy was crying. Will felt a familiar nausea. His anger rose, beating on the back doors of his mind. No. He refused that demon entry. He turned the bird man off – but not before his stomach knotted, and he leaned over his bed to throw up on the floor.
Seeing the vomit pool on the floor put a nail through his head again. He moaned for Mike and wiped his mouth. Then he lay back in bed, closed his right eye, and tried to sleep.
His meals were served by a Magi named Prist. Shanti used to be the one to do him favors, but Shanti had been eaten by zoombies. His leftover body parts were scattered on the ruined isle. Prist was quiet and punctual. The meals never came late. But Will dreaded mealtimes. The food was fine, and he ate it because his body required it. But it was hard to not look at his food when he ate it. It hurt badly enough to see anything within thirty feet. Closer than two feet was like a dagger going under his eye again.
He developed a strategy to eat at his desk with the door to his room left open. He regarded his food and utensils only peripherally, while looking through the open doorway down the hall that extended just beyond fifty feet. It was tricky, and sometimes he couldn’t avoid glancing directly at his food. At one point during lunch on the second day, he looked at his spoon while eating his soup. The pain was so bad he nearly passed out.
Later that day, he replayed his initiation ceremony, watching it as an outsider. He could do that with the Eye: see events from any point of his life, from a “god’s view” above. Prist was the one who had branded him during the initiation ceremony. Will had knelt before the altar and recited the pledge: “I, William Byers, do hereby pledge to serve and obey the great Usamigaras.” The Magi, led by Auriga, had hailed their new colleague, and Prist had burned the five-pointed star into Will’s right palm. Shanti had then given him his silver mask of the cherub and rainbow-colored robe. Will had rarely worn his mask since then, except during temple rituals (required) and when he walked the city streets (lest everyone stop and stare). He knew that Mike and Lucas had a minimal mask policy too. How the Cynidiceans wore them around the clock was beyond Will.
He dozed, then woke later as the candlelight faded. He needed new candles. The shadows made the giant spider look alive, even through his peripheral vision. Will was no spider. He hardly moved and couldn’t speak to cast a spell. The Eye had erased his achievements in a stroke.
I… am… a… mage.
He wasn’t even sure he was that anymore. What good was wizardry if he knew it but couldn’t use it? If the only magic he could use was too mighty for the world to withstand?
On the the third day after the quest, Auriga spent the evening with him. He was sitting at Will’s desk and had put Will across from him in the guest chair. Will tried not to see Auriga in focus, looking past him as if at a point through the wall. He saw Auriga every moment anyway, and nothing in that view was pleasant.
The chief mage was euphoric about the open clash between the Brothers and Maidens. Today he wouldn’t shut up about it.
“I may have to reward your friend Mike after all,” he said, opening a wine bottle. It was a good vintage he’d paid gold coin for. “He’s making our job easier.”
On the stone table Will had looked into Auriga’s heart and seen how black it was. Demetrius had been more than right in his suspicions. Auriga had not only murdered his predecessor Keldor (and buried the bloated body out on the desert surface), but he had also arranged the poisoning of Sinbar and the other two members of the Usamigaran stronghold. Different MOs, and enough collateral to confuse the scent of those, like Demetrius, who thought the worst of him.
“At first I thought Blackie was the smart one.” Auriga poured the wine into a goblet and waved the glass under his nose. “Hmm.” He took a long sip and smacked his lips, placing the glass on the desk. “Mike acted like a pussy on the Isle.”
Auriga’s stated goal, to use the Eye against the Zargonites, was a lie. His purpose was pure treachery: to annihilate the Brotherhood and Maidens. He hated his sibling cults far more than the Zargonites. Gorm and Madarua were authoritarian and thoroughly anathema to libertarian beliefs. Auriga wanted to eradicate their two cults, but could not afford to do that while they helped maintain the balance of power against the Zargonites. Without the Brothers and the Maidens, the Usamigarans couldn’t stand on their own; they would be easily destroyed. He needed the Eye to tip that power balance. With that kind of power in Magi possession, the Brothers and Maidens were superfluous. The offense of their existence could finally be obliterated.
“That negro is a tool,” said Auriga. “So self-righteous he makes me sick. The worship he gets is wholly unearned. But Mike – well, it looks like he has a pair after all. He saw an opportunity. Took the risk. I guess he’s just squeamish when it comes to you.” Auriga laughed. “Did you see his face go purple when I cut out your eye? I guess not; you weren’t seeing past my blade.” He sipped from the goblet. “But that negro – he has zero ambition.”
Auriga’s ambitions dated back almost two years, when he’d learned the Eye’s location on a fluke. There was a tome about Gaius in the Usamigaran library, and the part that described the resting place of the Eye and the Hand – supposedly the Catacombs – was actually a code. When deciphered, the text read that the Eye and Hand were on the Isle of Death. Auriga had been cracking codes since childhood, and was flabbergasted to have stumbled on this secret no other Magi had.
“You need to think ahead,” said the mage, swallowing more wine. “Seize the moment. And that’s what we’re going to do. I need to know what unlocks that scream of yours. You’re going to use it to kill every Brother and Maiden in this pyramid.”
Since he’d cracked the code, Auriga had thought ahead – with a vengeance. His scheme to retrieve the artifacts hinged on three things: (1) becoming chief of the Magi, so the Eye would fall under his charge; (2) acquiring a young student who could take on the Eye without dying or going insane; and (3) engineering a tip-off about the Isle from a source people would be inclined to believe.
“And then you’re going to kill every worthless shit in the Gormish and Madaruan strongholds.” Another gulp. “But not the Zargonites. Not yet. They’ve got their god on call, right in this pyramid. We’ll let them think we’re willing to share power. At least at first. Death has to be meted out sparingly. And shrewdly.”
He’d been shrewd in killing Sinbar and Keldor, and making their deaths/disappearance look unrelated. After many moons of study and proving himself in the Magi, he’d poisoned Sinbar (and some additional collateral) with a blackface mushroom. A month after that – when he’d acquired enough experience to ensure his succession as the next chief mage – he poisoned Keldor with a jellybones mushroom. Keldor’s skeleton had liquified into mush, and Auriga buried the pile of flesh in the desert, so that his disappearance would remain a mystery. Four months later came the arrival of Will Byers: a child of twelve years who showed unprecedented skill with magic. He was a godsend; the perfect Eye-bearer. Once he had trained Will enough, all that remained was to plant the bait: his forged letter from Sinbar to Keldor, explaining the true location of the Eye and Hand. Months of planning paid off at last.
“They have the Hand.” He barked laughter. “The Hand is irrelevant. Let the Bastards and Bitches fight over pennies. And over Mike too, while they’re at it. He played a good hand” – the mage laughed uproariously at his pun – “but in the end he’s a tool, like Righteous Blackie.”
The Hand had been a pseudo concession on Auriga’s part in his alliance with the Brothers. The legends made clear that the Hand was powerful – more powerful than most artifacts – but trivial compared to the Eye. Call the Hand a grade-5 mushroom. The Eye was grade-50. The person who wore it was the functional equivalent of a god.
“What was it Blackie said? That I’d sell my own mother?” He laughed. “He was more right than he knew. I did sell my mother.”
Will tilted his head. Mother?
Auriga gulped the rest of his wine and poured another glass. “She was a toothless fart. A zit on the ass of the world. I gave her to the Zargonites for fifty gold.” He slurped more wine. “Gods know what they used her for, or what experiments. Must have gone on for days if they paid fifty gold. So much nasty shit goes on in that temple. But I’m sure it ended with her legs being spread for half a dozen priests – and then a lance up her pussy and out her throat.” He guffawed, spitting wine over himself. He kept laughing, unable to stop.
Will turned his head slightly, but avoided looking at Augira, or focusing on anything that would drive the nail back into his head. He made faces with his lips, blew out huffs of air, and croaked Mike’s name.
Auriga’s laughter subsided as he filled another glass. “She was the stupidest cow in the city. She deserved to be raped and gutted.”
An image rose from the bottom of Will’s omniscience – an image he feared to confront. Auriga’s ugly remarks coerced it from the pit. An image from another world. His home world.
“Mothers live to be the death of us all. Mine died so I could enjoy life for a change.” He belched. “Wish I could have seen how they raped her on that altar.” He roared laughter again.
Wrapped in his visions, Will had become intimately familiar with everything of this world. Auriga’s derision threw that comfort out of alignment. He saw in memory a face, of someone who had meant everything to him; a face that left him vulnerable, and like a match ignited his blood. His Eye throbbed, suspending all pain, and his face contorted. He turned fully around to face his mentor, and bared his teeth. The one word sufficed. He gasped it with the voice of a corpse: “Mo-ther.”
Auriga frowned and looked at him. When he saw Will’s face, his eyes widened and he stood. “Will? What’s the matter? Calm yourself, boy.”
Will was no boy. He was a man of centuries old. Steeped in the darkest magic. And his name wasn’t Will – or at least it wasn’t right now. Could this dolt not see it in his Eye? He stiffened and shook in his chair.
“No!” shouted Auriga, holding up his hands. “Stop this! I am NOT your enemy! Calm yourself and desist!”
Will laughed like a ghoul, his body filling with tremors. “Caaaaaaaalm. De-siiiiiiiiiiiist.” Parroting his mentor for the last time.
“I say again, Will, I’m your friend!” The mage was sweating and looked desperate. “We have important things to do, you and I. For the Magi.”
Will had friends and this wasn’t one of them. No one who did that to his mother could be counted a friend. In the chair his body convulsed. Rage hiccuped in every muscle. And when he bared his teeth again like a rabid dog, Auriga bolted for the door.
“MOM!” screamed Will.
She would be appalled at what her son had become in this world – the avatar of death sitting here now. But surely she would approve the slaying of this matricidal trash. His scream arrested Auriga’s flight and suspended him above the floor. Then, as the mage begged for his life, Will let loose as he had on the Isle, with a violent scream that thundered throughout the whole tier. One minute and then two. Auriga’s legs shattered. His arms snapped. His teeth flew out his mouth. He was quartered while hanging in the air. Then, his body parts fell wetly to the floor.
The Magi were already shouting in the hall and pounding on the door. Will couldn’t stop the devastation. His desk blew apart in splinters. The tapestry shred; the spider dissolved. His bed mattress and pillow exploded – feathers rained everywhere. And still he went on, hurling his rage as if every square inch of his bedroom mortally offended him.
This time, Mike wasn’t here to bring him down.
Next Chapter: Farewell, Friend
(Previous Chapter: The Isle)