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Tous Saluent le Roi

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Axel walked through the abandoned subway tunnels once more. It was darker than he remembered from his youth but even though it had been 20 years since the last time he had ventured into the bowels of the Earth the path was still fresh in his mind, it was like walking through a memory. As he continued forward Axel found himself unable to recall which subway station he had entered the tunnels from, each time a name slid to the tip of his tongue the darkness of the tunnels sucked it away again. It may have been darker than he remembered but the smell hadn't changed, it was still that musty, old, sickly bitter rotting that forced you to breathe through your mouth but coated your tongue and sat heavy in your lungs until your brain was forced to push it into the background before it suffocated you. It used to be easier to ignore the stench and the darkness but back then he had his friends to help him forget- now he walked alone.

Axel continued walking in the dark until he came to a split in the track- left or right. He glanced down the path to the right, it was illuminated by a brilliant clinical white light, Aphelion Industries, the name of his company pushed its way to the front of his mind as he gazed into the light. He blinked, of course that's where he had been heading.

Axel couldn't quite remember why he had chosen to walk the rest of the way to work this morning but he had. Axel continued walking towards the crosswalk that would lead him onto the company grounds but as he took the first step an oppressive weight descended on him nearly forcing him down to his knees right there in the middle of the sidewalk. People with blurry faces passed by completely oblivious to his silent struggle to move. Axel looked to his left a darkened alley stretched before him, a faint silvery blue glow covered the sides of the buildings a few feet past the alley entrance. Axel began to move towards the alley, he had to get away from the crowd, he found it easier to move that way than to try and head towards his company. Entering the alley Axel found himself able to breath again, he began walking farther into the alley his curiosity now piqued by the faint glowing on the walls.

Axel walked his footsteps echoing around him, as he went he examined the walls, there were carvings that seemed to be the source of the silvery blue glow he had noticed at the cave entrance. The carvings depicted the story of two men. Brothers, his mind supplied though there was no evidence in the drawings themselves of that sort of connection- it just felt right. As he continued forward a third figure joined the brothers- a woman. At first he didn't mind the new figure but soon it was only one of the men and the woman depicted- it was now their story and not seeing what he had felt to be the older brother in the story felt wrong, he began to distrust the woman she would be the cause of untold misfortune for the younger male figure.

On and on Axel walked for what felt like hours- or maybe minutes, the story on the cave tunnel walls had ended and taken the light with it leaving him in the darkness again, his sense of the passage of time lost to the echoes of his footsteps. Axel had stopped paying attention to the story on the walls long before it had disappeared he didn't want to know the ending, he had a feeling he wouldn't like it. Finally Axel came to the end of the tunnel, at least he assumed it was, the sound his steps had made changed from the harsh clicking to a wider duller sound as if he had stepped into a very large room.

The air had changed as well: it was sweet almost- somehow. It reminded Axel of the time he had attempted to roast marshmallows with a lighter in the kitchen for himself and Peter... it hadn't turned out very well. The sweets had either simply been warmed by the flames or they were covered in a layer of ashes- neither of those options had appealed to Axel after tasting them. The warmed ones were pointless as they tasted like regular old marshmallows and the other ones had a delightfully gooey center but the acrid taste of the burnt sugar tainted the sweetness- ashes weren't meant to be eaten. Axel had decided to stick to the small marshmallows in hot chocolate and Peter had agreed with him though Axel knew Peter was just agreeing to be agreeing and had liked the burnt ones best- even as a kid Peter hadn't been big on anything too sweet.

Axel took a few more steps into the new space before the floor changed, the hard clicking of his shoes turned to a squelching noise straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon. The squishing noise had triggered something and Axel froze as the room was suddenly illuminated. Axel was standing in a spacious cavern. He blinked against the sudden brightness and looked around- in the center of the room was a throne atop a raised dais both seemingly cobbled together by chunks of large crystals, jagged pieces poking every which way. The floor was covered in this thick green slime that seemed to be moving as if it were filled with giant maggots. There were two others in the space besides Axel, a man and a woman at the base of the dais. The woman lay on the ground eyes opened but unseeing, whatever covered the floor draped over her in tendrils like thick green pulsing ropes; the man stood over the woman staring down at her arms hanging limply by his sides. The woman looked so familiar to Axel but he couldn't place the name it kept just twisting out of his reach.

"It didn't have to be this way."

Axel nearly jumped when the man spoke in a painfully familiar voice. Axel opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out; the man turned and suddenly the weight from what seemed a lifetime ago was back and Axel did sink to his knees this time- the floor squirming and writhing beneath him.

"P-Petey," Axel's voice came out faint and raw, he looked up at his baby brother. Peter's sikn was cracked as if it too were made of crystal, chunks were missing and the dark slime like substance that covered the floor and the woman oozed from the wounds. "Petey, I'm sorry. I didn't want..."

"Yes you did and you don't get to be sorry." Peter took a step forward his voice like broken glass. "You did this. This is your fault. I wanted to stay in my lab where it was safe but you... you insisted. It didn't have to be this way but you just had to get your way. Whatever Axel wants Axel gets- the king of the castle. Congratulations Ax, you won, here's your prize."

Peter continued towards Axel as he spoke; Axel tried to move, tried to stand but the ooze grabbed at him, pooling around him, coming together keeping him in place.

"Petey, please I didn't know." Axel pleaded as the slime coiled around him like it had the woman, Chel. He felt hot tears run down his face as he struggled against the tendrils of slime that kept pulling at him. Peter stood there broken and oozing, just watching. "Petey... Peter, please."

Axel was sucked under the writhing green mass of dark green, it filled his mouth choking out his screams. He could feel them slithering down his throat, filling him and everything went black.

Suddenly Axel found himself floating, everything was still. He was still in that cavern doubling as a throne room but it had changed. Crystalline statues in the shape of people littered the floor, hundred of them posed as if prostrating themselves before the throne- they were made from the same crystal as the throne and dais upon which it sat. Two of the statues, a man and a woman, closest to the throne almost touching the jagged steps of the dais were shattered as if something had exploded from their middles.

Dead. The word although sourceless echoes through the silent hall, caressing the broken statues- forever branding them.

There was a man sitting on the throne, reclining almost bored upon the seat, surveying the masses.

Axel. His own name laid claim to the figure on the throne much like the word 'dead' had claimed the two shattered statues. A crown made from the same crystal as everything else sat atop his head, piercing his flesh. The Axel on the throne looked up staring directly at him, his skin was cracking like Peter's had been pieces flaking away but except for where the jagged crown forced it to come oozing out instead of leaking from the chunks of missing flesh the green goo stayed writhing underneath the surface. He spoke in a cold empty voice that was echoed by hundreds of deafening cracking, shattering sounds as the rest of the statues began to break open and Axel watched in helpless horror as from them began pouring out that same writhing, twisting mass of dark green.

"All hail to the King."