(From the war diary of Lt. Stafford Brookshire, United States Army)
August 9, 1899. Cotabato Valley, Philippines:
They came over the eastern wall last night, led by a wild eyed devil in ragged yellow robes. The bastard was ferocious as a mad dog and some of the boys gave way and ran from him. I came within pistol range as he was dismembering a private from Ohio with his great curved knife, I fired 2 rounds into his upper back and as he turned from his grisly work to face me I fired 2 more; one of which tore apart his lower jaw and another into the neck which ruptured the large artery. He stared at me for a moment, his face horribly disfigured and the lifeblood gushing from the neck wound, and then he fled back to the jungle, scrambling over the 7 foot wall in a blur of yellow robes and splattering blood. That broke the attack but the crazed chanting continued throughout the night.
Another attack last night, they did not make the walls this time but I spotted the yellow robed man again near the tree line. He had wrapped his lower face in a yellow scarf but by his bearing I know it was the same man, he did not take his eyes from me during the entire episode. I ordered corporal Smithson to sniper him but yellow robe faded into the jungle before Smithson could get a bead on him.
Something is not right here, how he survived the 4 rounds I put into him is beyond imagining. The 38 long colt is a much maligned cartridge but it will surely kill, and this man should be dead considering the amount of his blood still staining the eastern wall.
Severed head of Smithson found near main gate this morning, eye sockets and mouth stuffed with yellow rags. How Smithson was killed outside the walls of the camp is impossible to guess. He must have left willingly; there is no way he could have been taken by force unless we have traitors among the Philippine scouts.
Talked with some of the boys who were close to Smithson, they told me he had been sleepwalking and was found standing at the wall the last 2 nights before his murder. He proved very hard to wake and mumbled that the yellow robed man was whispering to him from the jungle.
Some bastard left a yellow rag in my coffee cup this morning, I almost swallowed it. When I find the fellow behind this prank a few days locked in the tool shed should convince him this is no joking matter.
Dreamed of Yellow Robe whispering to me last night, couldn’t understand the words but I know he wanted me to come into the jungle.
Sleepwalking last night, dreamed Yellow Robe was calling to me and I attempted to leave the camp. Vaguely remember fighting with Baker and 2 others when they tried to restrain me, finally came to myself when someone gave me a crack with a rifle butt. I will not end up like Smithson; tonight I will handcuff myself to my cot and give the key to Baker.
(Note: Lt. Stafford Brookshire disappeared the night of August 22, 1899. A trail of blood led from his quarters to the eastern wall of the encampment, he had apparently severed his thumb with a pen knife to free himself from handcuffs. Missing and presumed killed in action, Brookshire’s thumb was shipped to his family and given a proper burial.)
Natat was pleased with the spot he had chosen to perform the Black Lotus Ritual. It was a one room hut on the edge of the wastelands. Once the home of a madman who wandered the hills talking to shadows and oddly formed rocks, that hermit had disappeared one night during a sandstorm and the place had been shunned since. The hut had a single window facing south and that too was a good omen; for as a boy Natat had glimpsed an ice bound mountain in the grip a fever dream and had known it was in the southern most reaches of earth. Perhaps the visions that the Black Lotus granted would allow him to see that mountain again or even the things that slumbered beneath it.
Natat seated himself in the midst of a complex series of circles and mystic symbols drawn in white chalk on the floor. He chanted the Dho-Na formulae as he lit the brazier. The dried Black Lotus began to smoulder and lazily the blue smoke rose, tendrils coiling and twisting like serpents. As the smoke drew near his face, Natat inhaled deeply.
The lotus fumes struck his brain like thunder, he had a brief but terrible sensation of falling down an endless tunnel, then he was standing, staring at his still chanting body, Natat’s astral form had been freed from the cage of flesh. He turned toward the window and could see countless paths leading from it. Natat stepped through and began to travel.
He flew through nearer astral realms and beheld spirits of the dead, some lost in false bliss and others lost in equally false torment. Those realms could not hold him and he probed beyond the nearer realms and glimpsed the maelstrom of time itself. Lean and hungry Hounds of Tindalos stalked the edge of the maelstrom; he spoke to those things, telling them the time and place to slay his earthly enemies. That vague scent was enough for the Tindalosi, they leaped into the vortex to find their prey.
Natat guided his spirit sideways into the lands of dream. There he marvelled at great shanpaks on the wing and was briefly entertained by the antics of playful zoogs. Then he watched as the zoogs devoured a lone traveller and his amusement became revulsion.
He left the dreamlands and returned to the plane of earth. He sent his spirit to the very bottom of the sea where he stood with Mother Hydra and her daughters before the sunken tomb of Great Cthulhu. He felt a call from the sepulchre and he entered within, his spirit passing through the stone like mist. There he beheld the corpse of Great Cthulhu, a mountain of alien flesh that was dead but still dreaming. That dreaming essence of Cthulhu flowed out to touch him and something attached itself to Natat, pain ripped through both his astral and corporeal forms.
The agony shattered the spell and sent the sorcerer’s soul crashing back to his body. Natat came to his senses with the morning light, the black lotus had long since burnt out, the sigils and diagrams on the floor were smudged from the convulsions that had wracked his body through the night. But something had changed in Natat, as though a veil had been lifted from his eyes, he perceived certain angles were corridors leading to other worlds where other things gazed hatefully upon mankind. There were also changes in his physical form, but Natat decided it would be best to hide those from curious eyes and bound himself with rags as though he were a leper. For those new parts of him fought for control and they were so very hungry…
The caravan had stopped for the night. One of the travellers the sorcerer Natat lounged on a fine rug, by the light of the full moon he studied the glyphs on some ancient scrolls contained in a codex obtained from a tomb in the crypts of Kre. His brawny servant Achmed and the other travellers had already drifted into strange dreams induced by the Black Lotus petals that Natat burnt during his evening meditations.
Natat could read the ancient hyperborean language however he was not certain of the meaning of the words he chanted from the codex. He suspected they were words of power for they seemed to linger in the air after being spoken. Perhaps the codex could summon up spirits of vast knowledge or some amusing imp from the netherworld. Natat had no fear of what the words might call up, his knowledge of the signet of Krit protected him from spiritual harm and Achmed was well equipped to handle any physical dangers.
The chant ended, apparently with no effect. Suddenly Achmed lurched from the spot where he lay dozing; clutching his stomach, he began screaming, bloody froth poured from his mouth. The man stood upright and Natat stared with horror at the source of his agony; monstrous taloned hands ripped open his belly from the inside and yellow eyes gazed out of the wound. With a final heave that tore Achmed apart, the demon stepped into the world of men through the gate the sorcerer had unknowingly created. Natat sank to his knees before the gore covered demon and pleaded for his life. The demon towered above Natat, staring down at his grovelling new master with blazing contempt, for he was bound into service to this human by words that neither he nor the sorcerer understood.
A morning came when Urse the Sorcerer walked away from his Tower of Echoes in the crimson city of Altar-Summit. He spoke no word to either servant or apprentice as he strode from his gardens to the city gates and towards the blue hills in the distance. The nobles, slaves, and watchmen all wondered at his purpose but none dared to ask, for it was known that Urse’s wizardry could kill with but a word.
High in the hills Urse built himself a fire to push the chill from his ancient bones. He sat watching the sun die in the twilight and drew a dagger from his robes. He tested the edge with his thumb and mumbled, “Sharp enough”. A whisper of wind disturbed his fire and Urse looked up to see a tall figure obscured in the gloom and a ragged grey cloak.
The stranger spoke, “Is this the last night of the world?”
“For some”, Urse replied and carefully rolled the sleeves back from his wrists.
The stranger seated himself across the fire from the sorcerer. His face shown oddly changeable in the glow of firelight, at times it was sharp featured and mask-like but at other times the flickering light cast demonic shadows across it.
“Do you know me, Urse?”
“I know not your name, but your eyes I have seen many times before. They are the eyes of rabid hyena as it devours still twitching prey, the eyes of a serpent as it waits for the venom to take hold, the eyes of a shark as it glides among the unwary. You are death, so greedy it lays claim to all in time.”
The stranger spoke softly, “When a man takes his first breath he owes a debt…I am merely the collector.”
The sorcerer replied, “Who do you collect for, what god or devil has claim to my soul?”
The stranger laughed softly, “No god will welcome you to their heaven, your sins and many betrayals have seen to that. And no devil may lay claim to you, your knowledge of their secrets has given you power over them. No Urse, you alone are an outcast in the afterlife and your shade is mine, it shall dwell with me in the outermost dark where there is nothing but endless waiting.”
They were silent for a while and then the sorcerer spoke, “I could live forever by means of my thaumaturgy, elixirs and potions.”
The cloaked stranger replied, “It is not lack of means to live that drives you to your end, it’s lack of will to live. I see all this; you have grown bored with sorcery, wars, and women. No enemy yet lives worthy of your attention, and so your race is run. Come now Urse, have done and finish the game, let me drown your soul in the depths of oblivion.”
“You are eager to claim me?” the sorcerer replied, a note of interest in his tone.
“Perhaps I am, you are the first soul vile enough to be rejected by both heaven and hell. It will be a new experience, to share the emptiness with a being so unique.”
Urse seemed to ponder the notion for a while, then stood and tossed his dagger away, “I think I shall live a bit longer, and perhaps I will seek to redeem the standing of my soul with the gods or devils who preside over such matters.” The sorcerer smiled wickedly at death and whispered,”I would deny you my soul, simply because it is all you might acquire.” Then he began the trek back to his tower in Altar Summit.
Death sat staring into the fire for a long time and Urse swore he saw a single tear roll down the reaper’s face when he glanced back.
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes-” the man whispered.
The beauty contained within his face was frightening and sharp. It would seem to Richter that if he were to look, mortal as it seemed in its existence, his eyes would become accustomed to the burning strength of the sun before being able to look easy at the striking contours. The skin was pale, the leeched colour of bleached parchment, though it held none of its expected fragility. It was stretched taught over high cheekbones, leaving desperate hollows in the flesh beneath them, shadowed by the faint flickering light overhead.
His nose was sharp, a dash of flesh that heaved his face in two distinct hemispheres. The eyes that rested at the bridge were sunken, the lashes long, shrouding the aperture behind them in shadow. They held no colour, or all colour depending; the shade of shadows at midnight-cold and lifelessly black. His hair hung limply tied at the nape of his neck, a few ebony wisps swinging faintly in his face. But it was the smile that was so awe encompassing.
The liquid heat smile that crossed his features sank deep within; pulling the unfortunate looking at it into his clutches. The lips were thin, like razors in his flesh; his teeth just on the edge of being bared if the smile were stretched any farther. It said he knew what is hidden, what things you wished no one to know, what sins you pined to commit in the darkest of dark. A taunting smile, begging to be given an excuse to feast on just what you wished not be consumed. It was arrogant and powerful and it told of knowledge far beyond what anyone else could possibly know.
At 6 .3” in height, his shoulders were broad and strong. From them swept a sweeping white cloak, the edges torn and frayed. Holes littered the main body of the cloth, tattered and worn through, though no dirt marred the perfection of its colour. His body swathed in shadow; though covering it a suit of purest white. Torn in several places; the knees and shins of his trousers revealed the flesh of his spread legs, the jacket’s pockets were a danger to any small thing entrusted to them, and pale naked flesh was visible through the upper portions of his pants and shirt. None of him was soiled in any way. A tie knotted heavily at his neck; it blew in the same breeze that toyed with his cloak. In rich contrast the colour of purest blood, arresting and loud against the rest of his attire.
“Hello, Richter.’ The voice that escaped soft and rasping was vaguely amused. He took a step to his right, the bare soles of his feet padding softly and unhindered on the rock-laden ground. He put a hand in one of his pockets, the cloak billowing out behind him despite the sudden stillness of their surroundings. A finger strayed to his face to stroke the skin beneath his lower lip, as if urging himself not to smile at a joke.
“Who are you?”
His steps did not falter even a fraction as he turned with a fixed his gaze. The smile was a secret he would not let him know, not yet. “Who would you like me to be?”
Richter’s brow furrowed, “I don’t understand.” His hand strayed toward the collar of his shirt; for some reason he felt like even a millimetre of skin was too much exposed in this one’s presence.
A grin spread over his face and he raised a hand to it. In a gesture no larger than a small wave, he brushed his palm over the whole of his face. The stirring of air began; tumultuous shivers of darker nothing against the light shining from the rest of the room. It encompassed the entirety of his body, without cause or noise. As the flesh of his hand rasped against his face the skin remoulded and melded into that of a woman. His body folded in on itself; the male musculature melting and meshing to reform that of a female. The body that strode towards him was lush and lithe, the muscles of her arms and legs left bare at the knee by the torn hem of the dress, prevalent and smooth. Her small stature, compact and lean, the dashing black of her brows were lifted at a hidden joke, a smirk tilting her rose coloured lips at one side. Her chin had a point to it, the line of her jaw sharp. She was as harshly and spectacularly beautiful as her male counterpart.
The suit replaced with a white dress, though in the same state of disrepair with holes baring pale flesh though to the light, was as pure as ivory; it contrasted darkly with miles of thick black hair billowing out behind her. The eyes were the same however, and the smile.
“If I were to say who I was,” she purred, a voice slides out like honey in June, one wispily thin hand trailing over Richter’s shoulder as she circled, “would it make you any more comfortable with my presence?” Richter followed the woman’s progress behind him, wishing his fear wasn’t so tangible. “Would it give you precedence over my existence, Richter?”
Richter scowled. “It would do better for me to know exactly what you are, I suppose.”
The woman smiled, her mouth curving with graciously heavy lips. “What I am. What an excellent question, my dear.” She pushed her hair out of her face with a hand, and as it travelled through the mass she was once more a man. “I am the one no one likes to think about.” He took a step in Richter’s direction, smiling.
Richter retreated, his hand falling behind him in search of a doorknob. “And the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and said; all this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.” Richter whispered.
“You think I am tempting you? Surely the point of temptation is to prompt a decision that’s not yet been made?” The man continued, circling him as a shark does a wounded fish. “I am one who is feared. I am the one who haunts the shadows.” He drew a finger down the bare flesh of Richter’s arm. Goosebumps shuddered across his frame and he took yet another step in retreat.
“What do you mean?” Richter felt his gorge rise.
“I creep after school children, hissing terrible things in the dark.” He grinned viciously and for an instant a darker face shadowed his, blazing eyes and dripping crooked fangs. Then it was gone. “I allot lovers to meet secretly, Richter. I whisper lust and jealousy in their ears. It’s great fun really.”
Richter felt his mouth go dry as naked want filled the man’s eyes.
“What do you stay alive for, that endless scurrying from bad to good to bad again, must be exhausting and each return to bad brought with it a little flurry of deaths. Tell me Richter, if you admired humans so much…why do you keep inflicting your failures upon them?”
Richter raised his head in defiance “Because I think…one day, I’ll win.”
The man smiled wanly. “And if the lion wishes hard enough perhaps one day he’ll become a lamb.”
“You have a whole army-why this interest in me?”
“For time spent, services rendered, bloodshed. But it is not just that, having one of the three on the outside, I don’t like the aesthetic.” He emphasised the last word pointedly.
“Then I could flee, I hid from you for five hundred years, I could do it again.”
The other smiled darkly. “Back to another Violet, with a new set of friends like Richter, whose skin you wear after doing him such a disservice?” He folded elegant fingers “Something about that format clearly appeals to you.”
“How did you know?”
“I created sin, Richter for the mere pleasure of taunting mortals with it. I am what Is dark, what calls for you in long stretches of the night. Oh, Richter, you weren’t hiding I was just giving you the afternoon off.”
“What do you want?”
The man stopped and stared at the floor, his eyelashes shrouding his eyes. His voice escaped in a whisper, an accusation almost. “What do I want -Why Richter, how kind of you to ask? I want you to run Out-world for me, when the hurly burley’s done.”
Richter felt the cold steel of the doorknob graze his forearm. Clammy hands gripped at it fiercely.
“Richter, you wouldn’t want to leave would you?”
“What are you waiting for? Just tell me to join you.” He said weakly.
“Why did you move to this city?” the other asked conversationally.
“My friend came here to die.” He said simply.
“And you stayed?”
“There was stability, of sorts.” Richter gestured weakly.
“And us, in time.” The chilled smile did not reach the man’s eyes.
“I don’t want any part of this!” Richter pleaded.
“A man who wants to stop gambling doesn’t move to Las Vegas.” The other shrugged.
The steel grew hot beneath his fingers; he felt it sizzling after he released it through the back of his shirt. Richter threw himself forward and collided with the man, whose hands slid up and covered his arms, his breath stolen; the feel of fingers climbing up and down his flesh.
“What do you want?” Richter whimpered.
“Never was someone so tortured for so long…so needlessly. But it’s over now. We’ve come to rescue you, as you knew we would.” he whispered softly “Why haven’t I told you to join me? Because I have you already, heart and mind.”
“And what will you do with the world, Leith?” Richter could not suppress the despair.
Leith stared down, eyes downcast. His smile grew broader “Nothing really, Phare.” He met his gaze and within, for a moment he saw fire and brimstone. Fear filled him and all thought of struggle melted. “Pluck it apart, like a child with a spider.”
The Symbol of Wrath (WIP)
…Arriving to the War Council chambers Larion sought to order his thoughts.
“King Larion, it is my extreme pleasure to meet with you at this time, I am grateful for your consent to attend at an earlier time, than was scheduled.” The Diak meeting Larion as he entered the Citadel smiled, momentarily taken aback Larion frowned. The younger, fine boned, bland faced muscular Diak bowed his half shaven cobalt coloured head.
“Lt Falden, it surprises me to find you here I was to meet with the Lords and War Council.”
“Yes my King, I have been voted to lead the debate on strategy for the Council after the passing of Lord Devron – my mentor.” Falden said coolly indicating that Larion should pass before him.
“None has arrived yet to this strategy gathering, where are the members of the War Council?” Larion enquired as he entered the chamber.
Falden was careful in his approach “My King I believe they will arrive shortly, as is tradition they are most cautious when coming here, these are dangerous times and we cannot allow ourselves to be complacent.”
“Your candour does you credit, lieutenant.” Larion nodded.
“It was the stated condition of my mentor Lord Devron, that caution must be the first priority.” With those words Falden moved nearer to Larion the other unaware of his action remained unmoved. “My King, I know these are difficult times I wonder if I might share my thoughts with you.” Falden continued his careful approach.
“Lieutenant Falden, I would be interested to hear your views, not only as King but as a fellow brother in arms, certainly you showed your worth when we faced many insurmountable odds, thus I would not deny you the right you so deserve” Larion stated, the other nodded.
“Then I must tell you a story.” Larion looked at him in surprise. “When my father, Beloc passed while in service, under Lord Devron, he was hailed as a fine warrior loyal to Effieron, and so to continue to uphold the great works wrought by him I too came into service for the greater good of Effieron. My commission was met by the noble Lord himself and it proved the most gratifying to my success. In times of uncertainty we held fast to the oath to Effieron, that our world would always endure, beyond the crisis posed by the Cayjuns. It held sway that the actions of our King would also fulfil the oath to Effieron, until recent events have caused all Diaks to question the path taken to secure our future. Now we are facing the worst crisis, dissension, deceit and betrayal of our tradition and our ways, the very principles that have kept our world strong and alive are now being drained from it like the vital fluids that keep us strong. We can no longer trust that our brother is our ally in the face of adversity.”
Falden paused, watching the King listening in silence. As he began to speak again Falden fingered the hilt of the short dagla Sabre concealed at his hip. “It is difficult to secure loyalty, when one does not truly know to what or whom to be loyal, indeed it is a certainty for further anger if the one that can prevent the event, have chosen by action not to unite with his believers that they all hold sway to the one and true belief – that is the action benefits all in Effieron.”
“Lieutenant your words hold much truth, although I am unsure as to whom they reference if not to me singularly, as your King I would warn against the notion to lay blame without first attributing thought as to why an action was taken, perhaps justice may be better served to this discussion if you were to vindicate your convictions openly.“ Larion stated.
“I believe that as King, you should act with sanction against those who would bring Effieron to ruin, by their compulsion to lead us without tradition, you should not allow a human here as a mate to our future king, the actions taken by Lord Devron was just, loyal and fair and was in service to Effieron, granted his methods may be questioned. Punishment must be meted out in accordance to our laws and cannot be averted or suspended because the lawbreaker is a future leader; it is for this very purpose that the example should be set.”
Larion spoke slowly “the age of change is upon us and Effieron, whether we choose to accept it or not, the inevitable consequence of our survival is now dependent upon others not just ourselves, we can no longer claim sovereign anonymity but acknowledge that an outsider holds sway over our doom. It may not please you and others but such is the truth of our existence, actions taken in this time will produce results that will define our future, as for Lord Devron there is substantial questions over the sincerity of his motives …”
Falden flew to his feet, snarling “Lord Devron is worth more to Effieron than you, my King,” he lunged at Larion with the drawn dagla. Lithe on his feet Larion dodged him easily, but Falden was not to be avoided, charging again.
Now Larion had drawn his own weapon, the two Diak at standoff facing one another assessingly. Falden felt the warmth of the evening against his skin, the clamminess did nothing to alleviate the tension looking to Larion the other was unmoved. Seizing the opening while Falden sought to reassert his stance-Larion moved with fluid efficiency outpacing the other Diak catching him off guard, the glancing blow landing on his shoulder causing him to step back apace, fuelled by his anger, Falden recovered immediately returning with an upward knee surge to Larion’s midsection, sweeping his hand downwards barring the full brunt of the attack, Larion brought his dagla swiftly upwards, plunging it into Falden’s torso. The other groaned from the impact, readjusting his weight, Falden shoved with his elbow, creating an opening large enough to move his dagla striking downwards, the blow struck home in Larion’s shoulder, driving him backwards, sliding awkwardly wrestling with the blade nestled in his shoulder Larion snarled angrily. Falden extended his protracted nails; the black stream from his torso coloured his robe and dripped to the floor at his sandalled feet. Both Diaks were breathing hard from their efforts. Larion wrenched at the dagla in his shoulder breaking part of the blade, staggering slightly from the effort, throwing the rest of the weapon to the floor he too extended his protracted nails. Falden smiled coldly his tone hard.
“To it then, my King.”