|The sky darkened and drizzle dampened the streets as Martha looked out the little bakery's front windows. Her stomach rumbled as she watched the people in the street run, seeking shelter. This is no time to get sick, she said to herself, placing a hand over her belly and handing|
Olga Roth a loaf of freshly baked bread. The store wasn't nearly as busy as she had thought it would be. Aside from Olga, the shop was bare of customers. Must be the weather.
She put two muffins into Olga's basket and thanked the elderly lady as she accepted two small coins.
Olga turned and mumbled, "Bit o'nasty weather out there, it is." Then pulled the hood over her graying hair and stepped through the door and out into the wet streets. The tiny bell over teh door tinkled as it opened. Martha watched Olga scurry across the road, wondering if she should start delivering bread to the elderly woman on her way home from the shop. Malach wouldn't like that. He enjoyed walking her home at the end of the day, when they finished cleaning the kneading table, wiping the ovens and washing the dishes.
Malach and Martha's little bakery had been open for almost three hours. Usually the day started out busy, with people purchasing something to eat on their way to work. The sweet breads were everyone's favorite in the early morning snacks category. As the lunch hour approached customers would come in wanting more wholesome breads, wheat, rye, or just plain white. After lunch business would usually slack off a bit until around clossing time. At the end of the day mothers would send their children by to pick up a loaf of bread for dinner.
Business was slow. Other than Olga there had only been three or four other customers. That just wouldn't do.
Martha's stomach growled again, making an audible gurgle. The rumbling relieved some of the pressure building behind her naval, but the embarrassing noise had already caused one customer to comment on her health, and another client seemed to be suffering from the same malady and would look up in embarrassment when the noisy growl of shifting gasses reverberated through the small shop.
Placing the back of her hand to her forehead she frowned. Her skin flet like a loaf of fresh baked bread, warm to the touch - too warm.
She turned from the counter and walked toward the swinging door that led to the back of the building, where bread rose in Malach's ovens. The room spun before her eyes and she grabbed the counter to steady herself. The walls tilted and shifted, putting a surreal twist on everything around her. Her grip tightened and she focused on the solid wood beneath her palm, the stable wood. Her eyes closed tight, and her knuckles whitened as she willed the room to stop spinning. Sweat rolled down her cheeks like tears as everything tilted once more then stabilized. Releasing the counter, she stood upright, a quiver in her legs telling her that something was still wrong. Martha would have to tell Malach she wasn't feeling well, not well at all. He wouldn't like it, but she didn't have a choice in the matter.
"Malach," she called as she pushed through the swinging door. Her legs froze as she saw him.
He leaned over the edge of the dough-covered kneading table. His eyes bulged as muscles strained to push his breakfast back up his throat. Red faced and groaning, he stared at her with scared, pleading eyes. Martha forgot about her illness as her husband fought for breath. The terrified look in his eyes driving every other thought from her mind. Malach convulsed, his head dropping to face the ground and with a terrible roar he spewed the contents of his stomach from his mouth and nose. The floor became covered in a wet soup of eggs, soggy pieces of toast and slimy stomach acids.
Martha ran the short distance to him, but she swooned and fell against the table. The room spun, reminding her of when she was a child and her brother swung her around by her arms. The dizzy spell kept her from getting her bearings and before she could prevent it, her own stomach heaved, sending her breakfast splattering wetly on Malach's back. He didn't notice. He had problems of his own.
She started to straighten, to help Malach, but her stomach wouldn't allow it. Like a punch to the gut, her stomach clenched again. More eggs, toast and bile rose to splash across the already filthy floor. She could hear Malach echoing her actions nearby.
When the spasm ended, she straightened and grabbed a rag from the counter to help clean Malach up. She felt terrible about soiling his clothes; he was so careful about looking clean for the customers. Martha managed to grab the towel before the next eruption hit. This time there was nothing left to come up and she strained against the force of her own body. Her breath wouldn't come and she feared that she would suffocate. Panic overcame her when something gave way with a painful ripping and her mouth flooded with a burning copper taste.
What splashed onto the floor wasn't eggs and toast. The syrup-thick liquid painted the floor dark red and pooled into the cracks at a snails pace.
She had just enough time to look at Malach before another spasm clenched her belly. He looked at her, hand outstretched as if pleading for help, blood covering his mouth and white apron. His terror-stricken gaze was the last thing she ever saw as she bent over and sprayed blood over Malach's shoes.
The couple collapsed to the floor, hidden from the rest of the world. The rain began to fall hard, drowning the sound of blood dripping from the kneading table.
Labels: Chapter 4[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 3d: Wystia at the Well
ystia moved the wooden bucket to her other hand so she could be near her best friend Lindsy. Every day they went to the well in the mornings, and afternoons, each of them filling their buckets to bring back to their homes. Getting water was just one of the many chores forced on them by their parents. Her pa said it built character, but she didn’t see what character had to do with lugging the heavy bucket. Whenever possible, they tried to do this chore together. They were inseparable, sharing all of their secrets and dreams with one another. Wystia would do anything for Lindsy, and Lindsy would do anything for Wystia. They were the best of friends.
As they walked on the cobblestone road she leaned her head against her friend's shoulder and in a dreamy sigh said, "Do you think Kyle is handsome?"
Lindsy pushed Wystia's head off her shoulder and giggled. "Why Wist, I can't believe you're getting all starry-eyed over some brute of a boy."
Wystia stopped walking. Her face skewered into a mock frown as she put both hands on her hips, the bucket making the movement awkward. "Kyle is not a brute. Nor is he a boy. He is a young man and a gentleman."
"He told you that did he?"
They laughed as they reached the well. Wystia set her bucket on the stone lip while Lindsy tied hers to a rope lowered it down into the dark hole. The well handle rhythmically squeeked as she turned the old thing. They continued talking about Kyle's many charms as the bucket filled with water and Lindsy pulled it back up.
When the bucket reached the top, she grabbed its lip and set it on the edge of the well. As she untied the rope from the handle she made a sour face and put her nose over the bucket, sniffing the water. "Yuk. The water has a stink about it."
Not believing her friend, Wystia stuck her nose to the edge of the bucket and took a sniff. "I don't smell…wait….yeah, there's a little smell, but it's not all that bad."
Lindsy's eyes widened with shock. "Not that bad. Oh Gods. My father's feet don't smell this bad."
Wystia giggled at her friend, which made her friend giggle. The joke about her father's feet was used often, but it never got old.
"Oh, come on, Lindsy. It's not that bad. Let’s just get this chore over with and then we can go and sneak peaks at Kyle."
With a lopsided grin, Lindsy said, "After our little talk about Mr. 'gentleman' Kyle I suppose I do need to have another look at the strapping young man to see if I may have missed something."
"Well, don't be lookin' at my man too much. I don't want you getting any ideas." Wystia tied her bucket to the rope and began lowering it into the well.
Labels: Chapter 3[pP]>miranda invis
Chaper 3c: House of Drummen
rue to his word, Wellan walked from the training field to the seedy docks area where Drummen lived, hoping to find that the fiery tempered man had simply shirked his duties. The wizard didn’t know him, but according to rumor, Drummen behaved like a drunken bully. He drank heavily, fought with friends and enemies alike, and chased the women with little success, but he had never shirked his duties while working for the watch, not in his entire ten years of service. He hoped for the best, but feared the worst.
Wellan pushed Drummen’s fate to the back of his mind as he looked from house to house, in search of the correct one. He found the shack deep within the poverty stricken neighborhoods of the docks. Why a captain of the city guard would choose to live in such a poor section of the city was something he had trouble figuring out. The lower denizens of the city lived in the docks area, the riffraff. Surely a city guard of the lowest level could afford to live in a better part of the city than the docks. The pungent smell of fish was enough to make any sensible person want to live anywhere else.
As he passed through the uneven, hole-riddled streets ragged people stared and pointed. Wellan’s reputation as the wizard of Renier made him an icon throughout the city, leaving him few places he could go and not be recognized. Normally people didn't gawk so brazenly, but the Duke's wizard didn't often frequent that part of the city. Rumors would be flying soon, but that couldn't be helped.
Wellan shook his head as he stared at Drummen’s house, if anyone could actually call it a house. The entire wooden structure was smaller than Wellan's bedroom; he could have easily fit two of the houses within his study, though it would be unlikely that he would ever consider putting such a dilapidated thing within the walls of his study. The porch planks had split and crumbled with age and the posts were made of brittle logs, the bark still scarcely clinging in some spots. Observing the precarious angle of the roof he considered not stepping inside. Unfortunately his path led him to the ruin of a home. Fortunately he had survived worse.
The boards groaned as he stepped onto the wooden porch. I suppose that's how Drummen knows when his neighbors are sneaking up to rob him. The ungenerous thought crept unbidden into his mind. Wellan paused to take another look at the house. No, maybe murder, but not robbery. I think his neighbors probably have more than he does. Wellan heard that Drummen was a mean drunk and loved to gamble, but he never suspected such things could drive a man so low.
He reached to knock on the rickety door and halted as the hinge creaked with the ocean breeze. A slim black gap showed the door wasn’t closed. Not a good sign, but seeing the rest of the house he assumed it might be normal. He held the flimsy door in place and knocked. No one answered and he knocked again. "Drummen?" Still no answer.
The door creaked as he pushed it open, the gap widened and the sweet odor of liquor assaulted his nostrils. He stood in the doorway, letting his eyes adjust to the darkened room.
Filth covered the small area. Part of the room served as a kitchen, and mold-covered plates sat haphazardly near a tub scabbed with dry suds. Past the tub lay a large cot, filth-stained sheets wadded into a pile. On the floor lay a pillow that Wellan wouldn't have let the Duke's wolfhounds sleep on. A large wooden table sat in the center of the room, a chair laying on its side gave the scene a menacing aspect of something started and left undone.
As Wellan bent to pick the chair off of the floor he saw why the room reeked of liquor. A half-empty bottle of spirits sat on the floor. It had obviously fallen from the table, the spilled liquid evaporating during the night. He leaned over to pick the bottle up and saw something that was stranger than the bottle itself. Blood. Crusty half-congealed blood, splashed in large explosive patterns all around the almost empty container. He pulled his hand back without touching the bottle and backed away from the table, seeing more blood splattered there. With the faint light and all the other stains on the table, he hadn't noticed the brown splotches before.
Wellan didn't touch anything as he backed out of the house, stepped off the porch, and into the street, never taking his eyes from the structure.
Drummen had been infected. Now he roamed freely within the city. Wellan's eyebrows gathered together as he considered what that meant for Renier. The man had to be captured and captured soon or the situation would get out of hand, and Wellan didn't want to think about where that could lead.
|First he had to take care of the house.|
Wellan stepped back and raised his arms, as if hung on an imaginary cross with fingers locked and pointed at the dilapidated structure. Smoke flowed like wisps of steam from the palms of his hands. As the smoke thickened his eyes rolled back and his mouth whispered strange words. Onlookers backed away, not wanting to witness the the unnatural powers sorcery.
Within seconds the house began to disintegrate. The wood blackened and charred, as if burned, yet no flame appeared. More seconds passed and the roof collapsed with a thunderous crack. The walls became black dust that didn't drift with the breeze, but fell straight to the ground. Within moments the home had become a pile of black ash that seemed to be untouched by the wind. It was almost enough.
As Wellan brought his hands together in front of him, ashes piled together where the shack had stood. His fingers locked together. The ashes came together even more, forming a tight mound. With both hands clasped together, he dropped them below his stomach, and the pile of ashes sank into the ground leaving a clean area of dirt, ready for a new structure.
When it was done he opened his eyes and began a brisk walk away from the dock area. He needed to speak with the Duke.
Labels: Chapter 3[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 3b: A Hard Request
ellan arrived at the dew-coated training field moments before the morning sun crested the dark silhouette of trees. The damp air clung to his robes and chilled his exposed skin, causing goose bumps to form on his arms. The morning walk felt good though, refreshing after spending the night stooped over a table reading tomes by candle light.
He hadn’t slept, staying awake through the night studying books, scrolls, and ancient clay fragments. Most of the text belonged to languages no longer used or even remembered by the likes of men. Wellan knew them. He could read most as easily as he read the common tongue; he had been looking out for mankind for a long time.
Unfortunately, his sleepless night had turned up almost nothing about the foul creatures that had invaded Renier.
A sandy-haired man marched up to him as he walked toward a line of soldiers standing at attention on the dirt-covered field. Though he was the smallest of the group, his confident stride showed he held command over the other guards. He stopped and tucked a helmet under his arm then saluted Wellan. In a formal military rote he bellowed, "sir, I have gathered all of the men who were involved with the lepers last night."
Wellan looked around the field. "Where is Captain Patrell?"
"He commands the Day Guard, sir. He has worked two shifts back to back and went home to get some rest before reporting for duty again, sir." The man's hand never left the boiled leather armor covering his heart. The salute would remain until he was told to relax.
Wellan hated formalities. "What is your name, soldier?"
"Stiles, sir! Stiles Milo of the Night Watch."
Wellan put his hand on the young man's shoulder. "At ease, Stiles. There is no need to be formal with me." Wellan looked over at the men. "Is this all of them?"
Stiles glanced at the men and his tone became relaxed as he replied. "Almost all of them, sir. My captain hasn't reported back yet. He was pretty upset about the whole thing."
Wellan frowned. "That would be Drummen?"
"Yes, sir. He left right after dispatching one of the lepers."
"Yes, I heard about that." Wellan walked to the line of guards. "Were any of these men injured by the lepers?"
"No, sir. Not physically anyway. We're all a little shook up. We ain't seen nothing like that ever. Are all lepers that hard to kill?"
Wellan walked down the line of men, scrutinizing every man as he answered. "No. Normally a leper would be very easy to kill. These were special, and that is why I am going to have to ask you and your men to do me a favor. A very large favor, one that I don't think you will like."
An eager smile lit Stile’s face. "Whatever you need done we can do it."
Wellan paused for a moment, measuring the character of the man. With a weary sigh he said, "I am going to have to ask you and your men to incarcerate yourselves for a few days in the city dungeon."
The eager smile fled Stiles face and his eyes widened in surprise as he stumbled over his reply, "But… but my Lord Wizard….we have done nothing wrong! We…"
The other soldiers shifted and looked at one another as Wellan grasped Stiles shoulder with a supportive grip and shook his head. "No… No, it isn't that you and the men here have done anything wrong. No, far from it. It is for your own good and the good of the city. I am probably being overly cautious, but the lepers may have been contagious. It will only be for a day or two. If none of you have shown any symptoms by that point then you won't show any at all. You and your men will receive full pay, and you can eat and drink as you like, play cards, almost anything you all would like to…."
"Ale?" one of the men yelled. The brash comment put the men at ease as they started realizing that the next two days might not turn out as bad as they had thought.
"Women?" questioned another one, causing the other men to snicker with quiet laughter.
The comment brought a smile to Wellan's lips, a badly needed smile. "Yes, yes. You men can have all the ale your hearts desire. I will make sure a keg or two is brought down to you. The women….." Wellan shrugged his shoulders "I'm afraid that one is a little out of my jurisdiction."
Wellan recieved a hearty laugh from the men. Feeling more relaxed and assuming the talking was finished, they fell out of line and joked and talked amongst themselves. Wellan turned and left, walking across the practice field with Stiles in close pursuit.
"The men are easily bribed with promises of pleasure, my Lord Wizard, but this contamination you mention bothers me."
Any humor that may have lingered on Wellan's lips quickly vanished. In a lighthearted tone he replied, "Don't worry about it, my friend. I honestly believe that if any of you were going to be sick it would have already begun."
The reassurance appeased Stiles for a moment, before his eyes saddened as a new idea came upon him. "Do you think my captain, Drummen, may have caught it?"
Wellan looked Stiles in the eyes and said, "That is the next thing I am going to find out."
Labels: Chapter 3[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 3a: Breakfast with Martha
"It will begin as a single seed and grow among you, hidden from your very eyes. There it will nourish itself and flourish as the flowers in the spring until you realize it is among you, a great harvest. The harvest to end all harvests!"
~Secret Holy Scriptures of the Waken Book
"Are you using some new type of tea?" Malach said, a frown twisting his mouth as he questioned his wife.
She set a plate of scrambled eggs and buttered bread in front of him, wiped her hands on her apron, and answered, "No, it's the same tea I used yesterday. Why, does it taste bad?"
He set his cup down and scooped eggs onto his fork. "Well... it's just got a funny taste to it is all. A little bitter." He stuffed the eggs into his mouth and chewed.
Martha walked to the cupboard and lifted a canister, grape leaves and squiggly vines painted on the front. All her canisters were decorated with leaves of one sort or another; it was the latest style in kitchenware. She twisted open the canister and sniffed, drawing in a crisp herbal scent. The tea leaves didn't smell odd. She pulled a leaf out and stuck it to her nose, giving it a little pinch to draw out some of the scent, then sniffed again. It smelled fresh to her.
Malach frowned around a mouth full of eggs. "I didn't mean for you to start all that business. I just said the tea tasted odd is all." He pointed at her plate with a fork full of eggs. "Now forget about it and sit down and eat your breakfast. The market is gonna be busy today, and you're gonna need to eat something before we go."
Sighing, she put the canister back, making sure the leaf design faced toward the front. All her containers lined up to form a chain of leaves across the top shelf of the cupboard. She sat down across from Malach but didn't touch her food; instead she lifted her teacup and took a sip. She pursed her lips. "I see what you're talking about. It isn't bad, but it does have a bit of an aftertaste doesn't it? Sort of bitter."
Malach nodded and pointed at her plate with the fork again as he wolfed down a piece of bread. He was always in such a hurry, not listening to a word she said.
"Okay, okay. I'm eating." She stabbed a piece of egg with her fork and brought the pale, yellowed lump to her mouth.
They both ate in silence. Malach was right about a busy day at the market. In two days the festival of Gods Day would occur and people were preparing for a day of feasting, visiting, and giving thanks to whatever diety they happened to pray to. The holiday was created to keep businesses running in the face of well over a dozen temples to different deities within the city. If it weren't for Gods Day creating a common holy time, then every religion would have their own holiday throughout the year and things around the city would be sporadic at best. They would need to be at their little bakery before the sun came up, and they probably wouldn't leave until the sun went down. That was the way it had been their whole twenty-seven years of marriage, and Martha remained sure it would continue on like that for the next twenty-seven years.
Only a few morsels of egg remained and a corner piece of toast when she put her fork down and looked at Malach as he carried his plate and fork to the washing tub, "Maybe it was the water?"
He set his dirty dishes in a large sudsy bowl before turning to her. "What was the water?"
"The tea. Maybe the waters got some sulfur or something in it this morning."
Without much interest he replied, "Yep, I suppose it could be the water. It very well could be."
Following Malach’s example, Martha carried her plate to the wash tub, scraped the uneaten food into a wooden bowl for the neighbor’s chickens, and put her own bowl in the cloudy water. She frowned at the mess, but she would just have to take care of the dishes when they returned at dusk.
She didn’t realize she would never see the inside of her kitchen again.
Labels: Chapter 3[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 2c: A Meeting with the Duke
ould you please use the honorific when referencing Piet Lithor? At least do it when you address him directly."
"I am sorry, my friend. I didn't realize that it meant so much to him." Wellan replied. A mischievous smile twisted his lips.
His research into the prisoner's condition had taken more time than he anticipated, allowing Lithor to reach Duke Renier before he had gotten a chance to meet with him. It couldn't be helped. Wellan was thorough, as all wizards were, at least all who wanted to excel beyond the level of street magicians.
"Oh, you damned well know what it means to him. You do it just to get under his skin without appearing to do so." The Duke winked and grinned at Wellan as he added, "I find it rather amusing, but unfortunately I have to listen to his whining when you get his feathers ruffled, and I find that aspect of it far from amusing. So, if he asks, you have been officially scolded."
Wellan looked at the Duke and nodded with a feigned innocence.
The Duke chose to meet with him in the small chamber not far from the main audience chamber. He picked the room not only for comfort, but because it sat in a remote corner of the castle, away from prying ears.
After pouring himself a cup of coffee, the Duke leaned back in the soft, leather-padded chair. He sipped the coffee with both hands and propped his booted feet on a table next to the coffee decanter while giving Wellan a relaxed grin. The charming smile had closed many lucrative business dealings for the city of Renier. The same grin his father used and his father before him as the city expanded through three generations of Reniers. A knowing smile threatened to sneak past Wellan’s bearded lips. He had seen all three sets of grins but knew Duke Renier didn't realize it was a charming trademark of his hereditary line. It made him loved by the rich and poor alike throughout the city and even the neighboring kingdoms.
The Duke took another sip of coffee, dropped both boots to the floor and leaned forward. His smile vanished and in a conspiratorial voice he asked, "So… What did you find out about that unfortunate man? Piet Lithor said you want him burned to ash though he hasn't committed any real crime, other than running from the city guard. Piet Lithor also said the man is quite lively, considering his condition."
Wellan's expression grew serious as he set his coffee cup down and leaned forward on the couch, "I didn't order it burned because of any crimes that it might have committed. I ordered it burned to ash because it is a dangerous abomination."
"Hanging is an effective means of getting rid of most abominations."
"Not this one, my Duke. The thing isn't a leper. It is an undead. A walking corpse." Wellan leaned back on the sofa. "It can't be killed by any means other than total destruction of the body."
The charming smile disappeared from the Duke's face and his brows curled down with worry. "I heard the guards had trouble with them. I thought it odd, considering their sickness and all. Do you have any idea what they were doing inside my city? Do you have any idea why one was captured near my home?"
Wellan shook his head. "No, my Duke. That's the main reason I'm so late getting back here with a report. I wanted to look through my archives to find out everything I could about the undead."
"What did you learn?"
"Not a whole lot. Of coarse I didn't have a great deal of time to carefully study my documents because I was already late returning here to tell you what I had found. As soon as we're done I'll return to my archives and see if there's any other information to be gained about these creatures. In the meantime, with your permission of coarse, I would like to have the body of the abomination burned to ash and the ashes sent to me. They may aid me in learning what its purpose was, here in Renier. I would also like to meet with all the guards who were involved in the capture of the creatures."
Both men stood, knowing that the discussion was ended. Duke Renier put his hand on Wellan's shoulder. "Keep me informed, my friend."
With a nod Wellan replied, "I will, my Duke."
Drummen's eyes opened to stare at leg of his dining table.
Without grace he pushed himself off of the floor, shaking like a newborn calf. Whiskey, blood and bile covered the front of his armor, beard and hair. It was unimportant.
He walked toward the front door. The confident stride missing, his shoulders no longer straight and proud and his expression was no longer angry. His features had turned blank, his eyes a reflection of that emptiness. He looked straight ahead but didn't recognize anything as he shuffled toward the door.
The door stood closed, but that didn't prevent him from walking. He shuffled into it and stopped, clawing at the rugged wood.
"Lift the handle. Pull the door open."
Drummen looked around the door. He didn't understand. The only feeling he had was hunger, so very hungry.
"Lift the handle. Pull the door open."
Without any instructions from him his hand found the latch. He jerked and yanked on it until the door opened, hitting his head. He didn't notice.
He walked out the door and into the cool breeze of the night. Starvation clawed at his stomach and had there been anyone around he would have ignored the Voice and eaten, but the streets were empty. He listened for food, but didn't hear any.
"Do as I say and you will eat. Do as I say and you will feed, but not right now."
Drummen didn't care about the Voice, he wanted food, but the Voice couldn't be ignored. The Voice had to be obeyed.
"Good. Now go. I know just where to hide you until it's time for you to feed."
Labels: Chapter 2[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 2b: Drinking to Illness
nce the night watch had calmed Drummen down, he sat on the curb of the cobble stone street, yanked his gore-covered boots off, and threw them as far as he could. He didn't want any part of that...thing on him. Drummen wanted to forget the last hour and regretted showing up for duty at all, wishing he had stayed home drinking. The thought of getting ignorantly drunk and forgetting about this whole business appealed to him more than any coddling the guards had done. A half bottle of spirits wouldn’t make the nightmare go away, but it might make him forget how terrible it all was for a little while. Without saying a word, he lumbered down the street on bare feet. His men stared at his broad back in silence as he strolled into the night.
|Two hours later, Drummen sat at a food stained table in his dining room, which also served as his bedroom and kitchen, a half empty bottle of cheap liquor held between his beefy, calloused hands. The booze didn't help. The images and sounds continued to flash through his mind with unbidden regularity. The leper's wart-ridden face as he pushed himself off the ground. The rotter's gore spilling out of his side. The bastards severed hand flying through the air. The way he kept coming and coming at Drummen with eyes devoid of emotions, dead eyes. The severed head gnawing on empty air. That was the worst. He couldn't let go of that image.|
He brought the bottle to his lips, taking generous swigs. Bubbles floated up through the amber liquid as the liquor gurgled down his throat. The spirits burned, but not enough to sear away the awful memories.
Drummen set the bottle down and locked his fingers over his head, elbows out. A ghastly cringe full of horrors that would not be buried contorted his face.
The godsdamned thing was dead! It was dead! It had to be dead! He was sure of it. Yet it had moved. The severed head had rocked itself around to face Drummen, its teeth viciously gnashing together. Click…Click…Click…Click…Click…Click. Stop! Stop moving! Stop looking at me! Just STOP! What he saw wasn’t possible. None of it could have happened, but it did. All of it did!
Drummen ran his quivering fingers through his sweat soaked hair and reached for the bottle. His hand had almost grasped the neck when a chill coursed through his body and the room spun. He closed his watery eyes and put a hand to his forehead. The chill went away, replaced by uncomfortable warmth. The dizziness became nauseating.
“Cheap rotgut.” He mumbled and tried to stand, but only fell back in the old wooden chair, the room tilted and warbled around him. He couldn't get his bearings. Surely he hadn't drank that much.
Without warning, the vomiting started. All of the liquor he had consumed wasted itself across the dirty wooden table. He grabbed the edge of the furniture and retched another pint of liquor onto the wooden surface. The mucus filled liquid ran between the table boards and off the edges, pooling onto the floor and into his lap. He let go with one hand, but before he could gather his bearings he turned to the side and heaved again; stomach clenching up with a will of its own. Very little spewed out. The vomit was getting thicker, leaving dark strings that stretched from his bearded lips to the floor.
"What the Hell?" Anger and frustration made him let go of the table and slam his fist down on its edge. The bottle bounced before tipping over and crashing to the table. The liquor gurgled out the open bottle to mix with the bile-laced liquor already soaking into the table.
"Awe great. That's just bloody grea…" Again he regurgitated. He couldn’t catch his breath as his stomach contracted and his face burned red against the strain. A groaning rumbled in his throat as his stomach clenched, not releasing him to breathe for almost a full minute. The familiar taste of copper filled his mouth as his stomach finally unclenched. Thin strings of blood hung from his beard and glistened on his lips.
Gasping for breath he wiped the back of his hand across his open mouth. His hand shook as he gazed, wide eyed, at the thin film of blood coating the back of his hand. Fear crawled like a spider up his back. He had never vomited blood before. He retched again. This time the blood flowed freely, painting the front of his leather armor red and soaking into his vomit stained britches.
Drummen leapt from the chair, sending it crashing to the floor. The room tilted out of control. He couldn't tell up from down as he took a wobbly step forward. The world tilted and swirled with colors and shapes as a violent flash of disorientation struck him. He stumbled sideways and grasped for the edge of the table. He didn't even come close and crashed to the ground. Drummen lay on the floor twitching, his hand raising and lowering several times before becoming still.
Labels: Chapter 2[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 2a: An Unsavory Captive
"Without a soul he sits before you
What he whispers will seem like it's true.
Though you think he is the danger you fear
The true danger isn't that near."
his is the rotter that the night watch captured this morning." Captain Patrell announced, cocking his head in the leper’s direction. His voice horse with exhaustion.
A thin, balding man in black robes scratched his bearded chin. His soul piercing gaze studied the leper’s violent movements. Chains rattled as the inflicted creature roll and thrash on the cell floor, covering his broken body in straw and grime. "I heard there were five of them. What happened to the others?"
Patrell sighed, "The night watch did a hell of a job on them. Their captain, Drummen, beat one so badly that you wouldn't recognize him as a person no more." Patrell hated Drummen and wanted to make sure that he received full credit for his irresponsible behavior. He detested Drummen more than usual because the man had walked off duty after crushing a rotter's head to a bloody pulp, forcing Patrell to come in and work most of Drummen's shift after working his own shift the day before. The guard was no place for a mean drunk.
After a few silent moments, spent nervously scratching his head, he continued. "The other lepers didn't come out much better."
Without breaking his gaze from the thing flailing on the dirty floor the black robed man said, "I see. Yet this one was able to be captured."
Shortly after apprehending the leper, the soldiers began to talk amongst themselves of the rotters will to fight, of how nothing short of death would stop them. The stories spread like a wild fire across the ranks, the men gossiping like a bunch of old bitties. The story didn’t take long to reach the higher ranks and finally the Duke himself. After hearing the bizarre rumors, Duke Renier had sent his own wizard, Wellan, to investigate. The wizard made Patrell nervous. He couldn't read the man. The wizard didn't show any emotion and his thoughts stayed veiled behind his casual comments. His mind and spirit seemed to exist on a higher plane, separating the from those around him. Patrell was going to scratch a nervous hole in his head if this wasn't resolved quickly.
"Yeah. This one was seriously maimed when they found him. He was missing his left arm all the way up to the shoulder and both feet were gone, one all the way up to the knee." Patrell switched from scratching the top of his head to rubbing the back of his neck as he continued. "We don't know how he got like that. The guards used a net. Didn't lay a finger on him."
"And he was found just beyond the walls of the Duke's palace?"
Patrell swallowed, "Uh…well…you see, he hadn't made it up there yet. He was stopped and captured about two blocks from the main gate, near the Tristall estate."
A heavyset man entered the corridor and looked through the bars at the prisoner. His robes were regal with holy symbols stitched into the cuffs and shoulders. Gold jewelry adorned his fingers and neck. Looking over Wellan’s shoulder the heavyset man gasped, "Oh my!"
Wellan stepped back from the cell bars, allowing the priest a better look at the prisoner. He acknowledged him in a neutral tone. "Lithor."
Patrell’s nervous scratching intensified as he said, "Evening, Piet Lithor."
The priest turned to face Patrel, ignoring Wellan for the moment. "Good evening….Patrell isn't it?"
Patrell grinned; amazed and honored that the priest knew his name. "Yes, Piet Lithor."
Piet Lithor turned to Wellan. His pleasant smile vanished, and his tone turned dry and uncordial as he acknowledged Wellan, "Wizard."
The wizard stepped around the priest to resume his study of the prisoner, while Patrell went back through the events of the night before with the priest.
When Patrell had finished giving his summary of the night's events Piet Lithor turned to the prisoner, a quizzical look on his face. "I wonder why he isn't dead? Any one of the wounds appear to be mortal."
Wellan continued to study the prisoner as he casually replied. "He's as dead as any of the men you have said rites over before consecrating them to your god, Lithor."
Patrell cringed and a flash of anger crossed Piet Lithor’s face. No one referenced the high priest without including the honorific; no one but the Duke’s wizard. Piet Lithor gruffly replied, "Well, Wizard. He looks awfully lively for a dead man."
Turning to the priest Wellan said, "Yes. To the casual observer he does, doesn't he?"
Piet Lithor’s face flushed, and his nostrils flared. Wellan ignored the irate priest and turned to Patrell. "When Lithor is finished examining the prisoner, have him taken outside and burned. Burn him to..."
Piet Lithor gasped. "Wizard, have you gone mad! We don't burn men here. If they must be executed then they are hanged...in a respectable manner."
"If you wish to hang him you are more than welcome to. Just don't touch him and make sure and burn the body to ash when you realize that hanging doesn't seem to bother him a great deal." Dismissing the priest, Wellan turned once again to Patrell. "As I was saying, when Lithor is done with the abomination, whether he chooses to examine him, preach to him, or hang him, burn the body to ash. Don't touch it in any way. Use a rope around its trunk. Tying a rope around what’s left of his limbs will just cause them to fall off. Most importantly, remember not to touch the thing."
Piet Lithor was flabbergasted. His jowls quivered slightly. "You have no authority here, Wizard! I will file a complaint with..."
Ignoring the priest’s complaints, Wellan said, "I am going now to give a report to the Duke. If you don't agree with me then I suggest you do the same."
With that he walked up the stairs and out of the dungeon, leaving a furious priest and a distraught guard behind.
Labels: Chapter 2[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 1d: Leper's Mission
ne leper didn’t run very far before scurrying into an alleyway. The Voice compelled him to hide there until told otherwise.
He hungered, but he couldn't feed. The Voice wouldn't release him to feed. He could sense food everywhere. It walked in the streets all around him, ignorant of his desires. Oh, how he wanted it. Tender flesh. Warm blood, pulpy organs. He craved the elastic texture of the flesh as it parted between his clenched teeth. He needed to taste that coppery tang on the remains of his decaying tongue. The desired to feel skin stretch to its limits then rip as he bit down and pulled filled his cold chest and made his mouth water with excitement. He wanted these things more than anything but he wasn't free yet.
Voices tormented him as more food strolled by his hiding spot. His tongue pushed against the bandages with a will of its own, hoping to get a taste of the flesh he craved. The bandages parted and his gray and black-splotched tongue protruded past the gauze, swiping back and forth with a mind of its own.
A dozen tormenting minutes passed before the Voice spoke. The time had come to continue his mission. He stepped out of the alleyway and walked through a maze of streets. His gaze pointed to the ground, and kept his head hidden deep within the hood of his robes. He stayed on the side streets and moved within the lengthening shadows; the Voice instructing his every move. It was his master and he had no choice in the matter. Choices had been given up long ago. He didn't miss them. He didn't remember them. The Voice and his hunger defined his world. Sometimes the Voice left him and only his hunger remained to guide his actions.
Within minutes he arrived at his destination. "Wait!" The Voice commanded. He stayed in the shadows, just another dark form in a pattern of silhouettes. More meat moved nearby. He could see them, could sense their presence. Two women stood with buckets next to a well. The sound of their laughter drew him like a leach to blood. His tongue darted out through the gauze; a snake tasting the air for prey.
He stumbled forward, overcome with hunger. "Wait!" He stopped, hunger almost overriding the Voice. The desire for flesh buffeted him in painful waves, but he stopped. He could taste it. He could feel it. The smell of flesh drifted through the air tantalizing him and calling him forward. His jaws worked up and down. His mouth began chewing what remained of his lips, biting down on his decayed and rotting tongue. A black flood filled his mouth and soaked the bandages, spilling over the ragged slit where his tongue protruded through the gauze. He didn't notice. He didn't feel it. His own blood didn't help; an hours d’oeuvre held before a starving man. The chewing was neither a conscious nor unconscious reaction to his hunger, it just happened.
If he could have let out a gasp of frustration he would have, but his lungs had given up on the same day that he gave up having a choice about matters.
The women collected their buckets and walked away, their voices fading into the darkness. They became like wisps of smoke in the lepers mind, diminishing in proportion with their voices until they were forgotten about all together.
As commanded, he walked to the well and pulled a narrow black dagger from within his robes. He placed his boil riddled hand over the edge of the well. Without hesitation he brought the edge of the dagger down on the last two fingers, pinching them between the blade and the hard stone of the well itself. He pushed down on the knife and didn't stop until his fingers separated from his hand and tumbled down the narrow shaft. They hardly made a splash as they fell into the water far below.
"Good. Good. Now on to the next one."
Labels: Chapter 1[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 1c: Drummen's Rotter
rummen never lost sight of the rotter. The crowds parted as the leper passed through the street, making him easy to spot. Within seconds the other lepers had disappeared around corners and behind buildings, but he kept his eyes on the leader. That rotter was his.
The man moved faster than Drummen had given him credit for, weaving in and out of the crowded road, but he wasn’t fast enough to get away. Drummen closed the distance between them running just behind the leper. He gave the rotter a push. The man didn’t raise his arms to break his fall and crashed face first into the rough cobblestone street, skidding several feet before stopping.
Drummen towered over the rotter as air billowed in and out of his lungs and sweat dripped from his nose. Blood pulsed in his ears with the force of a drum and the acids in his stomach pushed against the back of his throat with more force than ever. He had reached the end of his already limited patience. “Get up.”
On his hands and knees the leper turned to Drummen letting out a hissing gasp of foul air.
The bandages on the rotter's face were skewed and for the first time Drummen could see the horror lying behind the mask. Two mucus filled holes dominated the face where a nose had once rested. Part of the bandages had fallen away from the man’s mouth displaying crooked, rotting teeth and gums peppered with rot and decay. The lips were a thick jagged line, chewed off at the base of the blackened teeth, giving the rotter a ghoulish grimace.
People screamed and back away from the disturbing site.
Drummen stepped back in horror as the leper stood and extended a gauze wrapped hand. He stepped toward Drummen, arms stretched out before him as if expecting a hug. Drummen stood, frozen in place with loathing and disgust. His eyes rolled down to watch the leper grasp his leather chest plate with bony fingers. The rotter’s saliva-dripping mouth rose to Drummen's neck.
The paralysis left as quickly as it started. Rage replaced Drummen’s fear. He pushed the rotter away and drew his sword. The leper stumbled back, but didn't flinch, and resumed his advance toward Drummen.
He didn’t think about what he did as his sword pierced the lepers stomach, meeting little resistance when the blade passed through the disease infested body. The leper continued walking, impaling himself further along the gore coated steel. A thick black ichor oozed from the wound and flowed down the blade, filling the air with the stench of hell itself. Enraged and reviled Drummen used all his might to jerk the sword sideways. The force of the swing spun the rotter as the blade ripped through organs and muscle slicing through the leper's side. More black ichor, slimy gray intestines, and other foul pieces gushed from wound.
The few gawkers that remained rushed from the scene. Drummen didn't notice them.
The mortal wound didn't bother the leper, with an awful limp he continued to lumber toward Drummen.
His heart pounded, threatening to burst through his chest as he swung the sword again, severing the leper’s hand at mid forearm. Little of the black substance dripped from the ragged stump, but tiny maggots fell to the cobblestone road, squirming on the hard surface.
Drummen could feel his sanity slipping away from him. His mind couldn't make sense of what he saw. A voice within him screamed Get the hell out of here. Instead he took a step back.
The leper took two steps forward.
With a roar of fury and desperation Drummen swung the sword again. This time the steel connected with the rotter's neck. The head tumbled away, landing with hollow thump a short distance from the body. The corpse swayed for a few seconds before collapsing to the ground.
Drummen stared at the lifeless mound. His dazed gaze moved from the body to his ichor covered sword. He slung it away. Bending over with his hands on his knees he began retching. Only bile and a thick stream of water dribbled down to mix with the dirty road.
No more gawkers stood about to see Drummen empty his stomach, only the sound of their presence several streets over gave any indication that he wasn't alone. Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement. Not wanting to look, but not being able to turn aside, he shifted his eyes to see. The rotter's decapitated head wobbled back and forth. Drummen gasped. The head continued to warble until it rolled itself onto its cheek, facing Drummen. The jaw continued to work up and down, chewing and biting what it could no longer reach. The sound of teeth clacking together echoed like horses hooves in Drummen’s mind.
"Oh…..Oh Gods no!" Drummen cried.
The living decapitated head and clacking teeth were more than his mind could stand. With a maniacal roar he ran to the severed head and stomped on it with the heel of his boot, cursing and screaming. The first stomp was answered in a satisfying crack. He stomped again and the crack became louder, accompanied by a wet, splattering noise. He continued to stomp, and stomp, and stomp until some of the night watch arrived to pull him off. It took them almost a half dozen tries.
Labels: Chapter 1[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 1b: Lepers at the Gate
enier was the largest city on the Gulf Coast, a gateway of trade and commerce. The city itself didn't manufacture a product, raise livestock, or farm the land, instead Renier stood as a trading hub for other communities that had products and services to sell; a gateway to a larger world.
The ever-growing city meant streets full of shoppers, vendors, hawkers and gawkers. People continuously bustled back and forth, running errands, delivering products and shopping.
Most people enjoyed the growth and commerce, but it only made Drummen’s job harder.
As Drummen and Stiles navigated through the cities fading light the crowds of people parted before them. Most made it, but many didn't. Drummen shoved the ones that didn't to the side. Everyone knew of the burly man’s temper so no one protested the occasional push.
"Just a little farther Sir. They came through the port gate." Stiles huffed as he squeezed between two citizens. Unlike his captain he didn't have the heart to push people around without a good reason. "They must have a boat moored out there somewhere."
Drummen didn't answer as he bulled his way through the crowded street.
They only traveled a few blocks when Stiles pointed at five figures in gray robes shuffling against the flow of the crowd, toward the Open Market. "There they are sir!"
As Drummen neared the cloaked figures he bellowed. "You. You there in the robes. I order you to stop!" The five gray shapes continued on.
Drummen turned to intercept them.
He sped up with Stiles in close pursuit, slinging people aside as they stepped in front of him. When he caught up to the little group he stood in their path, lifted his broad hand and yelled, "Stop!"
|The five lepers stopped and stared at him with pale milky eyes. Filth stained bandages left their faces blank other than a small hump in the center of their faces. A wet, sickening yellow stain around the nose-shaped hump tarnished the soiled bandages.|
"Didn't you rotters hear me?" Drummen roared.
Five pairs of milky eyes continued to stare straight ahead without fear or concern. Being shorter than him they didn't even stare at his face, but at the top of his chest plate.
Their lack of fear enraged him and he callously raged, "Have your blasted ears rotted off too? Maybe your tongue?" They didn't respond, not caring that Drummen had begun to scream and his face had turned a deep shade of red.
People stared and whispered as they passed, but continued to go about their business.
Drummen opened his mouth to start a cursing that would make most sailors cringe when the lead rotter said, "I'm sorry, my lord. We are just passing through." The bandages hardly moved as the leper spoke in a flat, passionless voice that sounded as blank as his eyes. His gaze never left the base of Drummen's neck, and the raspy voice sent a chill down his spine. Stiles stepped back, behind Drummen.
The chill made Drummen raise his voice, partly to make himself feel in control again, and partly to let Stiles and the crowd know that he wasn't afraid of these abominations. "You're sorry? No, you just think you're sorry." He pointed back at the port gate where the rotters had come from. "Your going to march your rotting, stinking carcass back through that gate, get on whatever ungodly transport that brought you here, and paddle your stinkin' asses back to whatever gods-awful hell you came from!"
The lepers stared straight ahead. He didn’t see the fear in their eyes that such a ranting should have made.
He became furious and began to take a step forward but stopped when he noticed the stench. He had heard stories about lepers, how they lived while their flesh festered and rotted away a little more every day. The odor confirmed the stories. The scent wasn't strong, but it carried a foul and decaying odor; the smell of death.
The emotionless voice of the leader whispered again, "My Lord, we merely wish to pass through your…"
The monotone voice stopped. His eyes still locked on Drummen’s neck with an eerie detachment. The bandage squirmed between the rotter's parted lips as its tongue worked through the gauze; making a wet circle appear around the rotters mouth, reminding Drummen of an eel he had once netted.
He had seen enough. He reached for the speaker but stopped himself.
Weren't lepers contagious?
Pulling his hand back he roared, "I said to turn around and get the hell out of here! You won't get another warning!"
With empty stares the rotters ignored the command. Again that little chill of fear shivered down his back. Fear was an alien emotion for Drummen, it’s presence enraged him and drove him to action.
He grabbed the speaker by his shoulder, fingers sinking deep into fabric. Soft, boneless meat rolled beneath the material as a wet stain formed below his hand and an unholy stench filled the air. "What the…"
"…..pass through your city." finished the rotter. Drummen’s vise-like grip went unnoticed and he spoke as though nothing had taken place since he started his sentence almost a minute ago.
Drummen yanked his hand away, holding it in the air so the slime on his palm and fingers wouldn't touch his clothing or armor. His eyes widened with fear, a fear of the unknown, and a fear of something he no longer understood.
The lepers burst into action, five lepers bolted in five different directions; their gray robes bobbing through the crowded streets.
Drummen watched them go, too overwhelmed by the encounter to grasp what had happened. He held his ichor-stained hand to his face and looked at it. A shiny yellow film covered his palm and fingers. The smell of wet puss filled his nostrils and made the stale whiskey rise in his already upset stomach.
Stiles voice shook as he asked, "Sir, should we go after them?"
Drummen stared at the foul stain on his palm, collecting his thoughts and getting himself under control. He wiped his hand on his britches several times and replied in a shaky voice. "Yea Stiles. Blow the whistle and get us some assistance. We can't chase five rotters down by ourselves." He ran after the lead leper, the shrill sound of Stiles whistle shrieking in the background.
Before he got too far away Stiles yelled, "Sir, why did they run? Why did they run away like that?"
Without slowing or turning Drummen mumbled back, "I don't know, but I'm damned sure going to find out."
Labels: Chapter 1[pP]>miranda invis
Chapter 1a:Night Shift
"The heart and souls of men are linked to the waters of life. Should the waters run dry whence then will men drink. Shall they die of thirst praying to their gods for something that is no more."
~Secret Holy Scriptures of the Waken Book
rummen’s brow throbbed with each heartbeat as his stomach churned, grumbled and percolated bitter acid up his throat every few minutes. To make matters worse every turn of his head brought nausea, forcing him to take deep breaths and think about anything but vomiting. He didn’t even want to consider what his bowls had to say about his pre-shift escapades.
He was the captain of the dock area city watch, night division. Gods blasted night division! He should be spending his evenings drinking and having a good time, instead he arrested those who were drinking and having a good time. Something just didn't seem right about that. Hell, he would have been arrested twelve hours ago if he hadn't been captain of the city watch. All the guards knew the hell they would pay should any of them ever take it upon themselves to arrest Drummen. He almost wished one of them would try it. Yeah, that would make for an interesting evening.
Drummen smiled to himself as he remembered the previous night. It had been one hell of an evening, and most of the next morning too. The fun started as a bit of rough-housing with some blokes at old Jon Geary's Tavern, which progressed to singing then wenching then…well, after that he wasn't sure, but he must have had a great time to feel so bad.
He reached across the knotty wooden desk and grabbed a mug of tepid water. Normally he would dump it out and get something fresher, but the stale taste of whiskey made his thirst almost unquenchable, and he just didn't have the energy to get anything better. He emptied the mug in three gulps. Liquid trickled down his bearded chin and dripped onto his leather armor. The warm water only made him want more. He needed something better.
He looked around the table and chair filled station, making sure no one hung about. The station was empty except for some loser the day watch had arrested, and he restlessly slept in a cot perched against a cell wall. Drummen reached into the shoulder section of his armor and extracted a metal flask. Taking one last look he tipped the bottle to his lips and took a deep, throat burning gulp. He belched to relieve the biting fumes that rose in his throat as the amber liquid met his molten stomach acids. A little hair of the dog that has bitten you was Drummen’s motto when it came to hang over recovery.
The station doors burst open. One of the night watchmen rushed through. In a 'you aren't going to believe this' tone the guard grinned, "Hey Drummen…Sir." Drummen coughed and spun away, stashing his flask back into his armor.
Glancing over his shoulder he growled "Doesn't anybody stinkin’ knock anymore!"
The guard noticed Drummen's bloodshot eyes, ornerier than usual look, and the faint whiff of strong spirits and his smile disapeared. Drummen liked making smiles vanish. Stiles was a good soldier but Drummen really didn't feel like listening to the guards cheerful yapping at that moment.
Running his large hand over his red bearded face Drummen asked, "What's so bloody important that you gotta come bargin' in here like that?" He spun around in his chair to face the guard.
"Lepers sir. Stinkin' rotters are inside the city gates."
Oh yeah, what a way to start his shift. Drummen sighed, "Who let them in?"
"Don't know sir." Stiles grinned. "Wasn't me."
Drummen would have to work on cowing this one down. The guy just couldn't take a hint.
Shaking his head Drummen replied, "Let's get this crap over with. Show me where the bastards are so we can give them an escort out of town."
With an eager stride the guard strolled out the door. Drummen grabbed his helmet and followed close behind.
Labels: Chapter 1[pP]>miranda invis
Prologue: The Darkest of Sorcery
"In the last days of the reign of men, when their sins have overcome them and they are choked on their own pride, she will come to put them back in their place and remind them that the Gods do reign on high in Heaven and in Hell!"
~Prophecy of Dokkien the Wise
Shadows hid the cavernous room in darkness. The flickering glow of black candles formed havens of light making the archaic etchings in the large stone columns stand out all the more, vile runes long since forgotten by the likes of men. The candlelight danced around the obscene pillars, casting wavy ghosts that undulated across the walls. Darkness competed with light for control of the room. Had there been the slightest sound it would have echoed throughout the chamber, but within the stone walls only the utter silence of the grave existed. Even the chilled air felt stagnant and damp with a stench of sulfur.
Image by Alex McVey
In the center of the room, alone and forbidding, stood a rune-etched pedestal. An obsidian bowl sat on the pedestal, black as the void of space. The dark object absorbed the light as the candles flickering glow danced like dozens of small souls offering their essence in worship.
A gray robed figure bent over the bowl; the dark hooded opening gazed into the dish. Tiny ripples pulsed across the surface of the liquid void as it gazed into the black water. A bony, clawed hand gently waved over the waters. New ripples formed, fighting with the existing ones for control of the liquid. The cowled form watched the pulses carefully, for in the ripples it could see things taking place far away, and could even control those events to a certain extent. As the ripples began to take on another ever-changing form, yellowed teeth gleamed within the darkened cowl like a wolf baring its fangs at an enemy.
"I'm sorry, my lord. We are just passing through," whispered the thing within the robes. The sound hissed with an odor of rotting meat and festering wounds.
Silence again gained possession of the room as the dark form stood transfixed before the obsidian bowl.
The quiet lasted mere seconds before the vile whisper began again, "My Lord, we merely wish to pass through your…"
"Maaasssster..." An emaciated man stepped out of the shadows, shattering the silence and severely hindering the hooded being's concentration. His milky eyes gazed at his master with empty intelligence and the slack jaws didn't have a great deal to add. The man continued speaking at a slow, lumbering pace without noticing the aura of menace radiating from the robed figure , "Eeeat. Food. Reeeeady..."
The eyes of the cowled figure continued to watch the ripples as a robed claw flashed up, palm facing the man with fingers extended like a spider ready to pounce. Without the slightest change in expression the man dropped to the floor in a heap.
In a rage the cowled being pulled its hand back to its chest and then flung it toward the heap of flesh on the floor. The body flew across the room, propelled by an invisible force. The man crashed into the far wall with the sickening crack of bones and the wet bursting of meat, adding a new heresy to the unholy quiet of the once silent room.
The robed figure again concentrated on the black liquid, waving an appendage over the void. The whispering began again, "...pass through your city."
The wolf-like snarl never left the darkness within the cowl, but it had changed, no longer a malicious grin. The snarl dripped with hatred.
The creature burst into movement. Bony hands waved across the dark water. Back and forth the hands worked. From one end of the obsidian bowl the claws traveled back to the other. Not a sound could be heard within the room except for the rustle of cloth and occasionally a shifting of feet.
With an angry hiss the figure stopped and spun away from the bowl. The yellow teeth gleamed within the cowl, and the eyes blazed with cold fury.
After a few moments to collect its thoughts the figure strode across the chamber. As the robed creature passed the body on the floor it extended a claw toward the corpse. The man's eyes opened, the dull orbs gazed at its master. There was still no intelligence in the slack-jawed look, only a semblance of life, a mockery of what it had once been. Its master closed the clawed hand into a fist, and the skull of the once faithful servant imploded likewise.
The robed figure stormed across the chamber and out into the corridors.
Labels: Chapter 1
Plague by Bret Jordan
enier is a port city that stands as a glorious gem on the edge of the kingdom. The people are justly ruled by their beloved Duke with the assistance of a benevolent wizard and a self-involved priest. Within twenty-four hours everything changes as a small group of strange lepers enter the port and cause a mysterious and deadly illness to rage through the city, killing most of the residents. Violent illness and gruesome death isn’t the end of the horror for the residents of Renier. Not by a long shot, as thousands of dead bodies rise from the cobblestone streets in search of living prey. Sword and sorcery battle against an unstoppable hunger as the few living residents try and escape the walls of an undead nightmare."Bret Jordan's Plague blends dark fantasy and zombie horror with genuinely chilling results. You won't be disappointed - get hooked on this serial!"~David Dunwoody, author of Empire"Bret Jordan has created an intriguing medieval world where blood & guts zombie mayhem is delivered with the brutal edge of a sword, not the barrel of a .45. Read it - you'll dig it!"
~Vince Churchill author of The Dead Shall Inherit the Earth & The Blackest Heart
Labels: Chapter 1, Chapter 10, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9[pP]>miranda invis