The guy who bolds the title text:
Undeath and Taxes
Prologue Chapter 4: Peering Beyond Heaven into Hell
As days slowly went by in the Holy City, the populace began to experience discomfort for the first time in living memory. A plague that no priest could treat had made its way into the Holy Land and all who were blighted by this demonic malady writhed in anguish before slipping into a comatose state, alive but on the edge of death. Still it was that nobody stopped the games and races. The brothels stayed open and the theatres still put on shows. There was, however, a slight gloom that pervaded everything, a sense of fear that was evident in the eyes of even the most boastful of nobles. Normally, any fear or doubt that things might not be perfect in the Golden Citadel was quickly dispatched by the copious amounts of food and entertainment. Now was not a normal time, as every day for the past 2 weeks a massive din could be heard from outside the walls and gates that surrounded the Holiest of Holies.
People inside the Holy City had been fed up with the noise for some time now, and had tried to climb the walls to see just what was causing such an unholy noise. For the first time in living memory, the guards did not simply smile and let the crowds do as they pleased, they attacked the mob while claiming that the walls were off limits to anyone but the priests and the guards. Oddly enough, for the past week and a half no one had seen a priest at the games or brothels or shows or feasts. Rumor had it that they had all taken their possessions and moved into the Papal Palace.
Maybe the reason they had gone to the Papal Palace was the same reason that the walls were now off limits to the masses and perhaps they knew something that they did not want them to know. Some horrible secret about the world outside of paradise was being kept from them, and after 2 more days of the noises getting louder and louder, the dam broke. These few remaining people, so accustomed to living in heaven with their every need and desire attended to could take no more of the inconveniences that were thrown their way. Grabbing decorative swords and knives and other implements they stormed the walls.
If the guard had been properly disciplined, equipped and had experience dealing with unruly mobs the result would have been a massacre of the poorly armed, overweight and sleepy townsfolk. However, that was a big “If”. The guards had been groomed to never ever harm a single hair on the inhabitants of the Golden City. They had never had actual combat experience, after all, who would be foolish enough to attack the place where God’s Chosen Voice dwells? And thus, when the angry mob barreled down on them they did what they had always done and were conditioned to do, they stepped aside and let them through.
John Kingson was a brave man, or at least he had been called brave his whole life. When he was 3 years old, his father brought him to see a gladiatorial game, a 1v1 deathmatch between two seasoned veterans. The 1v1 had been boring and over 200 slaves were made to slaughter each other for the amusement of his father and his friends. His father’s friends had brought their sons to watch the spectacle, but only John watched the whole thing without cringing or crying at the bloodbath. Throughout his life he had reaffirmed his bravery and masculinity time and again, all from the comfort and ease of the Holy City. Today, as he stood atop the walls looking outward, he realized he was nothing more than a fool and a coward.
He saw what could only be described as an unholy matrimony of the depths of hell and the grim reaper. A sea of shambling corpses, blasphemous war machines and abominations of flesh and blood surrounded the walls of his home like a sea of death and despair. He could see in the air there were floating castles that appeared to be made of a combination of stone, bone and the souls of the damned. Surrounding these floating “hell-castles” were dragons and pegusi. The closer he looked at the winged beasts, the more his despair deepened as the dragons and pegusi had gaping holes in them and were glowing with an unholy light. It was only after an unknown time that John snapped back to his senses, only to discover that his fine embroidered silk pants had been soiled by multiple foul things.
John began to realize something that scared him. The noise that was coming from these things had been building in intensity for at least two weeks and the priests had left almost a week and a half ago. They knew about this, but told no-one. Even the guards likely knew about this, no, they HAD to know! But why? Why were these demons here? What did they want? Who summoned them?
Only one answer came to his mind, an answer from a book that not even the priests believed in.
“This is it, isn’t it? The end of days…”
He had no idea who gave his thoughts a vocal form but the word quickly began to spread like wildfire. The people in this city had indulged in every one of the seven deadly sins to the extreme, and they knew that they were well and truly damned. Cries begging Lugus for mercy or forgiveness sprang up everywhere but none came from John.
John sat in his own filth stained britches and smiled. It was a self-defeating smile, but also one of courage. He was one of the minuscule few among over a hundred thousand who accepted his fate.
“No. Unlike these people I will make my last moments courageous and defiant. While they beg and plead to a god that will not answer their sinful prayers I will accept what I have done with every fiber of my being. A brave man accepts his judgement, his fate no matter what it may be. That… That is what it means to be brave.” (John Kingson)