CHAPTER 25 – II
Ohrmazdian art sold all over the country, yet the vast majority of sales came from markets in the western half. Aricame had a hard time penetrating the “Firen Curtain,” as Glendan called it. In the west, at least, his art was profoundly changing the culture. The reviews were nearly unanimous: artistically authentic, aesthetically absorbing, astonishingly aggressive, abstractly atmospheric, awe-inspiringly avant-garde, adroit and acclaimed. A new sculpture drew tens of thousands of fans; a new painting tens more; and a new novel tens more still; while his music sold yet tens more. The novels wove narratives of independence, freedom, expression, and they were all grounded in a real world setting. The sculptures, paintings, and music were all variations on the themes from the books. Wrapping them all together into a tidy package were his movies that were wildly experimental and genre-forming.
When Aricame first took the pseudonym of Ohrmazd, he did so to fight the established power structures while staying outside of the institutional strictures – hence the vigilantism. But that line of work was fraught with peril as others could join while bringing their own objectives to the work, often veering away from Aricame’s initial purpose. In the artistic realm, people could still project their own meaning onto his work (this was essential to bring in as many followers as possible) but he maintained greater control over the guiding message. And just as his band of wannabe superheroes did much to undermine the authority of Stievo’s legal establishment, so too did his music chip away at the pious foundations of Stievo’s latest authoritarian venture into religion. The artistic movement he created caused upheavals within congregations of all religions, but none more than the righteously rigid cult of Ahriman.
There was one church within Aricame’s sphere of influence that resisted the pressure, however, and it became a stronghold within Stievo’s network. It was located in San Francisco, just up the coast from Aricame’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Led by a beard-boasting, cigar-smoking radical named Bacu, the church and it’s followers repelled every cultural insurrection emanating from its south.
When Aricame felt Stievo level up, solving some aspect of Victor Strife’s Board that had eluded Aricame all these years, he panicked. He knew he was now the weaker of the two and he felt vulnerable. In order to chase Stievo’s surrogate out of his own sphere of influence, Aricame made Bacu’s church the subject of one of his most scathing books and corresponding musical releases, only to have the church incorporate the art into their own services thus defanging any potential bite it’s criticism may have had. In fact, the failure led to a backlash to the art itself, and a growing interest in dogma. The northern California church was a constant itch that Aricame just could not scratch. All the while, his Other grew stronger.
Then…an inflection point. After spending much time trying to telepathically infiltrate Bacu’s compound, he had a vision of Bacu with Stievo, who had secretly been living with him for the past couple months. Stievo had spent that time in California in secrecy, operating his ministry from afar. Based on his insights gleaned from the Victor(y) Board, Stievo was trying to transfer some of his solar power into Bacu, making him a vessel, so as to establish another weapon on Aricame’s flank. The Board had taught him the general technique, but he still required much practice and knowledge to accomplish the transfer. If successful, Stievo would theoretically be able to use the ultimate weapon on Aricame from two sides, thus limiting any response that his target could muster.
This, Aricame would not abide.
Portrayed to perfection
An abstract projection
An outright rejection
Of our own subjection