The differences between a holding pen and personal living quarters in the Epicentre are so subtle they seem imperceptible. However to Dean Coulter everything seems akin to a prison. Especially his own thoughts and feelings as memories and images of those once closest to him flash before his eyes.
Sam Braxton, who is probably as lost and alone as Dean is.
Jessica Matthews, his beloved partner who would never want anything to do with Dean if she ever finds out what he’s done.
And of course his own family. Dean can’t help but wonder what his father would think of everything that has happened. Though they had made some effort toward reconciliation, Dean’s father had never approved of Dean’s friendship with Sam, or the decision to not follow into the family business and instead pursue a career as a professional wrestler. Robert Coulter never saw pro wrestling as worthwhile. How would he feel now knowing that it was because of Dean’s involvement in the ‘trivial’ distraction that the Coulter matriarch, Sophia, is able to find a modicum of safety and comfort? Would he care at the great cost that was paid for this privilege?
The voice of the Ourboros Prophetess, Cassandra, pulls Dean into the present.
“Lost to your thoughts?”
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Well. What do you want?”
“It is time.”
Cassandra responds simply and silently with a coy smile. Dean sighs.
“Alright. Strewth. Lead the way.”
He is starting to get the sense that resistance is futile, his attempts at defiance and fighting back only proving to exhaust him more. Something the likes of Elisha relishes, so by giving in Dean is claiming a moral victory. At least that's what he keeps telling himself. They start venturing through the Epicentre.
“Have you lot finally gotten sick of me not pulling my weight and are getting rid of me?”
There is more than a little hint of hope in Dean’s question. Cassandra giggles.
“And I thought Sam was the funny one.”
“Don’t you bloody dare.”
“Oh calm down Dean. I was merely trying to get a reaction from you. I wanted to see if there is indeed some life and fire still within your heart. After all we will be fighting side-by-side at the next Evolution.”
“You and I…in a tag match?”
Not that the answer really matters.
“Mariella Jade and her new friend, the misguided interloper who got involved last week. You should really be commended Dean, if not for Eric Dane’s interference you would have beaten Mariella.”
“Only cause of you…”
Dean stops in his tracks and Cassandra turns to regard him quizzically.
“Bloody Oath! This is very wrong. I shouldn’t be teaming with you. Not Choronzon, or Elisha, or anyone else. There’s only one bloke I should be teaming with.”
Cassandra shakes her head lightly, her expression now one of disappointment and remorse.
“We have already discussed this Dean. You do yourself a great disservice by clinging so desperately to the chains of the past. They will be your end if you prove incapable of letting go. For then we truly will be done with you and will be forced to…get rid of you’.”
There is a very obvious note of finality in Cassandra’s words.
“Well excuse me for struggling to forget and let go of my dearest childhood friend and everything my entire life is founded upon.”
“If there was but a way to redirect these emotions…”
“Let’s just drop it and get whatever nonsense you need done, done.”
“Oh this isn’t for me.”
Dean pauses his step again, raising an eyebrow and looking to Cassandra with suspicion. She gives him nothing, no hint of what she could be inferring. Instead she meets him with her coy smile and extends her hand. Dean reminds himself of the futility and punishment for non-compliance and takes Cassandra’s hand, relenting control over to her and following her through the Epicentre.
Doubt over his acquiescence, and the ease of which it occurs, creeps through Dean’s mind as he and the Prophetess exit the Epicentre’s compound and onto the exterior grounds and into the bright, hopeful dawn. Off in the distance is the faint, ember glow of wood fires, complementing the early morning sun, and a series of reverberating chanting. One part of Dean demands he run, to get as far away as possible and not be part of what is to come, while the other part pointedly reminds him that this is his own fault and he deserves everything that happens.
“The time has come.”
The two draw closer to the ring of fire and the chanting. Elisha stands before a congregation of his Chosen, flanked by Choronzon, leading the chant.
“Come stand before us. Now is the time of your final tribulation.”
Confused and worried, Dean looks to Cassandra, nodding her assent, then to Elisha and over the Chosen. The Moonchild motions for the Aussie Battler to stand front and centre, between himself and the Chosen.
“I’ll be blowed…” Dean whispers.
“I said come."
In other words, as far as Dean understands, this is the point of no return. Despite this he still finds himself powerless to resist. With urging from Cassandra Dean takes his designated position and kneels before the Moonchild.
“On this night, in this place, I call to you, spirit of air. Of winds that chill, of tornadoes and hurricanes, devastating, remorseless and pure.
On this night, in this place, I call to you, spirit of earth. Symbol of bile and melancholy, abode of the dead and the dying.
On this night, in this place, I call to you, spirit of fire. Devourer of cities, consumer of lives, bringer of devastation and ruin.
On this night, in this place, I call to you, spirit of water. The cascading torrent that washes all else aside with terrifying force and unremitting power.
I call to you in the name of the Spirit, of Will and of Strength, of determination and unceasing force.
There shall be a great earthquake.
The sun shall turn black like sackcloth made of goat hair.
The whole moon shall turn blood red and the stars in the sky fall to earth.
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.
The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Moonchild.
During those days people will seek death, but will not find it.
They will long to die, but death will flee from them...I bid you rise, now reborn, free of your shackles and devoid of earthly ties of old. Rise and make yourself known to the world, utter now your True Name.”
Dean stares up into the star-pocked night sky. After everything he had done, everything he had been put through and had put others through, there was only one name that comes to mind. He pauses, knowing that if he fulfils this rite it is securing his fate. There will be no going back. With tears welling upon his face, Dean makes his choice and utters the name. One that perfectly explains the man he has now become.
“I. Am. Judas.”
Elisha smiles in malevolent glee, his signature expression, while Cassandra nods her approval. Chrononzon is not so moved and keeps an impassive face.
“Cassandra, my Prophetess, and Judas, my Hound, you are tasked with quelling the erroneous resistance building around Mariella-Jade Flair and her foolish lap-dog. They deign to interfere and threaten our undertakings. They cling desperately to their feeble way of like, built as a house of cards, afraid that we will blow through ,the winds of much needed change. How shall you respond?”
Cassandra walks over and places her hand upon Dean, now self-named as Judas, and helps him rise to his feet.
”We must do more than merely defeat them. In defeat they would become martyrs. No, we must do more. We must cream them! Humiliate them, shame them and bring onto them grave disgrace. We’ll break more than their bodies, but their minds, so they no longer have the Will to fight. That is our key to success, though it’ll not be a piece of piss by any means.”
Cassandra and Elisha looks at Judas, taken aback.
“…right…I was saying it won’t be easy.”
“But together we have the Will.”
“Eric is a rogue element in this equation, and is for all extents and purposes the weak link. MJ is a tried and tested competitor, worthy of world title acclaim, as she has proved. That is indisputable. But Eric…He’s not yet undertaken his proving. And they wish to bloody challenge me in the type of match I built my entire career? I mean fair dinkum? That is a whole new level of arrogance that I’ll gladly punish.”
“WE’LL gladly punish.”
“Indeed. However, when last you spoke of facing Mariella in the ring, your voice rang of doubt and hesitation. What of now?”
“She is a competitor of skill and talent that should be respected. To ignore what she is capable of would be doing ourselves a disservice. But after facing her I now have a better understanding of her, and what she’s about.”
“Dean may have faltered. Judas will not!”
“You speak so fondly and proudly of your experiences as part of a tag-team. I caution you, for that is a previous life that no longer exists. But the knowledge and experience gained is not to be ignored. Because of this I am inclined to request you, Judas, take the lead in this endeavour. Lead your team into ascension. Do as, and what, you Will to ensure our victory.”
“There is nothing now to stand in our way, and nothing to hold us-me back.”
“Then let us complete this ritual.”
Throughout this exchange between Moonchild, Prophetess and newly ordained Hound, Choronzon is reorganising the Chosen in a bustle of activity. At Elisha’s bidding Judas turns to regard the assembled acolytes. A small group are pulling forth a cart, packed to the brim full of stones, while others prepare a iron-poker, heating it over coals.
“Bring him forward.”
At Elisha’s command the Chosen part as a disgraced member, by the name of Heresiarch, is presented to them bound and gagged, whimpering at their feet.
“This individual has failed us one too many times. He is no longer fit to be amongst your number. Judas. For your succession to be complete you must take the proper action and take his place.”
The one now known as Judas balks at the implications. Though the poignant warning is also not lost on him. This is how they punish true failure within Ouroboros. This fate could be Judas'.
“We cannot guide your hand. But know that if you refuse, or prove unable, you will be joining Heresiarch.”
Dean is no more. That is what he keeps reminding himself as he slowly moves towards the cart full f stones. He grabs a rather weighty, jagged rock and looks over the spectating crowd. Elisha scowling in anticipation, Choronzon secretly hoping he fails and Cassandra nodding her approval and encouragement. Judas holds the stone aloft. Dean is no more…
With the sound of trumpet fanfare Judas and the Chosen are told to cease. Stepping back they admire their handiwork. Where Heresiarch once lay is not a pile of stone, a make-shift cairn for a disgraced member. Dean, turned Judas, fights to quell the sickness and unease building in his gut. He feels faint and almost doubles over.
But it isn’t over yet.
“Welcome and be as our brother, Judas. You are now fit to bear the mark.”
Choronzon roughly grabs Judas by the collar, grumbling, and draws him towards the Chosen holding the hot iron-poker. Judas’ sleeve is pulled up and in the blink of an eye heated metal is pressed against exposed flesh. The former Aussie Battler bites down hard on his lip to deny them the satisfaction of his screams. He tastes blood. Though in reality it lasts for only a few seconds, to Judas it lasts an eternity, before the iron is removed from his skin. In its placed, seared into Judas’ arm is the Ouroboros symbol, an atom within the snake eating its own tail. Cassandra is by his side in an instant, supporting him.
“I always knew you would not disappoint. You are one of us. Now come, let us see you rested and recovered in time for Evolution. Together we shall do away with Mariella-Jade and Eric Dane, then the rest of the CWF shall quail before us, their champions little more than dust in the wind.”
Judas grunts his acknowledgement and agreeance.
If nothing else the match will provide Judas a way to release pent up frustrations and for a time forget the war that wages ceaselessly in his mind.
In his current state there are few boundaries Judas will not cross. And that is of great concern…
Bloody: Used for emphasis
Bloody Oath: Damn straight! You bet!
Cream: Beat soundly/Thrash/Trounce etc
Fair Dinkum: Questioning or asserting authenticity, exclamation. Varies based on context.
I'll be blowed: Exclamation of surprise, being taken aback etc
Piece of piss: Really easy
Strewth: Exclamation of disbelief/surprise.