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Swamp Thing Vol 5 23.1: Arcane

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"The Patchwork History": Anton Arcane is in his own special Hell. He can barely remember ever having been anywhere else. What torments him most about this place is that nothing rots. He has tried to kill wildlife, and wait for it to rot, but the corpses just sit until his eyes wander


Quote1 To have decay, first you must have death-- or so I then believed. Murder seemed an appropriate way to pay tribute to the Parliament. It was simply a bonus that these activities coincided with my own interests so neatly. Quote2
-- Anton Arcane



Appearing in "The Patchwork History"

Featured Characters:

Supporting Characters:

  • Ilse (Flashback only)

Villains:

Other Characters:

  • Josh

Locations:

Concepts:

Items:


Vehicles:




Synopsis for "The Patchwork History"

Anton Arcane is in his own special Hell. He can barely remember ever having been anywhere else. What torments him most about this place is that nothing rots. He has tried to kill wildlife, and wait for it to rot, but the corpses just sit until his eyes wander, and as soon as he looks back, the creature is alive again.

One day, he is visited by his niece, Abigail, who, since his consignment to this hell, has become the avatar of The Rot. She takes a risk by allowing him to touch the rot, even for a moment, but all she wants is for him to remember what it feels like - to want more. The experience leads him to try to take the Rot from her, and she is forced to sever his connection.

Reduced to grovelling, Anton falls to his knees and wonders why she has come. Disgusted by him, she responds that she wants a favour of him, and in exchange, she will let him touch the Rot again. Grinning, he warns that she must be annoying the Parliament of Decay by consorting with their prisoner. Coldly, she states that she wants only to hear about her mother.

Abby does not remember her mother well. When her father died, she and her mother were taken in to her uncle Anton's castle in the Carpathian mountains. All that Abby has are four memories of her mother: she was kind, she was afraid, she was strong, and she sent Abby away. She had sent Abby away in hopes of protecting her from her uncle's sick plans for her. She had warned her daughter never to come back; to stay with her aunt.

Abby's aunt had lived in France, and from the moment she began living there with her, she never saw her mother again. And besides, it wasn't long before her uncle came for her. Her aunt's family had tried to protect her, but Anton killed them easily, and took the child back to his castle. Using his deceptive rot-flowers, he erased her memories of that time, and left her with only memories of living in the castle. It was only since she became the Avatar that her memories began to return.

Arcane insists that he did not kill Abby's mother Ilse. In fact, he had gone to extraordinary lengths to make her like him. He confesses that the story he has to tell is incomplete, but he will tell it, knowing that she will give him another taste of the Rot when he is done.

When he was twelve years old, the year was 1875, and he had been living in what is now known as Belarus, but was then part of the Russian Empire. He would spend time alone in the forest, and had once discovered a hunter's trap - which was illegal at the time - and what pleased him most was that there was a long-dead rabbit's corpse caught in it. He thought it was beautiful, and in his excitement, he ate the rabbit's rotting corpse. Initially, he thought he might get sick, but soon realized that he felt stronger. The Parliament of Decay came to him, soon, and made him their avatar, and he did their bidding for more than a century.

Arcane refuses to tell more of his story without another taste of Rot, and against her better judgment, Abby gives it to him, needing to know more.

As an Avatar of the Rot, Arcane's task - as is Abby's now - was to advance the cause of decay and destroy as many avatars of The Green and The Red as he could. He had thought, at first, that murdering was the simplest way to pay tribute to his Parliament - it was only happenstance that he enjoyed doing it. But over time, he began to think that perhaps there might be a way to spread the Rot without killing. He wanted to share his decay as an act of love.

In the service of that desire, he infected Ilse with a form of necrotizing fasciitis - the flesh-eating bacteria. The doctors cut out the infected tissue, and grafted on new skin to replace it. It was then that Ilse sent her daughter away to France. Anton was amused by Ilse's perseverance. She had survived the Rot, and come out stronger. He wanted to make her even stronger than that, and so, he infected her again and again, watching her survive each time. Eventually, Ilse was so affected by her infections that other donors' skin was needed for all of her grafts. The effect was that she looked as though she was made of patchwork, and Anton thought it was beautiful.

Angrily, Abby calls her uncle a monster, and he admits it readily, but points out that he never touched the girl's mother. Indeed, he had touched Ilse, but Ilse was not Abby's mother. She was a whore he had found to raise Abby when her mother had died. Abby still had no memories at all of her real mother.

Arcane explains how Abby had killed her own mother long before that by using her own connection to the Rot. She had been innocent, only wanting to touch, but her touch killed. Abby realizes, unhappily, that she and her uncle are no different. Angrily, she warns that he will never touch the Rot again, and leaves him in that place, reminding that neither she nor the Parliament will ever let him leave. As she goes, he mocks her warnings, plucking out his own eyeball, and throwing it through the doorway just before it closed.

Somewhere, a young boy prepares to bite into an apple, but is stopped at the last second by his mother, who notices a peculiar patch of rot on the fruit. She throws it into the garbage, unaware that she has just touched the vehicle of Arcane's inevitable return.



Notes

  • This book was first published on September 18, 2013.
  • No special notes.

Trivia

  • No trivia.



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