The short story piece, The Sunstone, that I published last week is continued here.
This piece is a continuation, but it is also a piece written for an assignment. I mentioned that I was drawing inspiration from my Creative Writing, Horror & Sci Fi, and Mythology classes. Well, this one is horror inspired. We are responsible for 3 projects this semester, and one is a “creative” project. It was intended to allow students with less writing interest to express themselves through other forms–sculptor, painting, video, etc. But I asked if I could write a piece of fiction, and was given permission. (Yay!)
Yes, I won’t deny there are some Lovecratian influences here.
I hope you enjoy. I don’t have an assignment planned for the third part, but it will get posted here soon.
As Darkness Rises
Tendrils of darkness blotted out the climbing sun like a morning eclipse. They snaked around it, and constricted, until its light became a mere chilly glow. Yet still the sun hung there, though bloated and red, its rays diffused in the sudden ominous gloom.
The source of the creeping darkness spewed from a split in the soil, forming in the center of the battlefield. It swirled like sooty smoke. The ground seemed to fall away at the edges, disintegrating back in upon itself into the abyss below.
The sudden appearance of the crevice swallowed those closest in terrifying swiftness. The darkness below did not discriminate between elf or man–it ate any who had stumbled too near. Soon it gaped like a giant, hungry maw, its throat black with rich soil, crumbling clumps of earth forming its jagged teeth.
Mere feet from having been swallowed, a young elven soldier pirouetted his arms to regain balance and scrambled backwards from the edge of the approaching underworld. He first saw the dark talons that clawed the edges of the black hole. They looked wet, even slimy, catching the little bit of light breaking through the black fog and creating a sickening sheen on greyish skin.
As the glistening creature crested the edge of the maw, the young elf tried to scream at the sight of it, but the sound caught in his throat. A moment later, the sinewy nightmare reached out, a frenzy of slashing talons and fangs, and cut off any further protest in a gurgle of bubbling blood.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gennerd, commander of the elven forces and their allies, could not see the source of the first screams of terror. He could only feel the creeping chill they sent shivering down his spine as elves and men screamed and then were cut short.
Chaos built in the center of the battlefield. It rippled through the ranks like a dark wave.
Gennerd could not tell if the screams were elves or men, but it didn’t matter. From the change in the battle’s tone, it seemed obvious whatever had changed it affected both sides. From the darkening of the sky, despite the sun that still shone there dimly, he could tell it was more than the barbaric humans were capable of, even with their rudimentary grasp of arcane magic.
“Illandra!” Gennerd called. “Zenadi!” Neither of his commanders were close enough to hear him over the cacophony. Solace, his patience pegasus companion, shifted beneath him, sensing his anxiety, and ruffling the feathers of her white wings.
With a curse, Gennerd urged Solace forward, cautious. He did not coax her into the air, for he mistrusted the darkness gathering there. He did not like going in blind, for he feared what he could not identify, but his soldiers needed direction. They needed reassurance.
What reassurance he could offer, he was yet unsure.
The rainbow that had arched across the sky earlier could not be seen. Whether that meant it had disappeared or just been hidden from view by the smoky murk, Gennerd didn’t know. But the hope it had given him faded with it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
“Again!” Warlord Kerl snarled.
At his command, another volley of amethyst-colored bolts of energy arced high into the sky, the premature dusk–twoscore of them. The missiles fell among the elven ranks as well as among these new, darker creatures.
Kerl was certain they were some form of fairy-folk summoned by the hedonistic elves.
The commander of the human legion yanked the reins of his yellow palomino and the nervous beast turned, shaking its black mane anxiously. Kerl kept the horse pacing circles behind the lines forming his last hope of destroying the elves. These elves with their pathetic attempt at stalling him from finally eradicating them and their trees and their many gods.
As Kerl prepared to order another volley, he scanned the scorched, torn sod and the scattered bodies tossed around like rag dolls. Those bodies were only men and elves. The dark creatures seemed unaffected. In fact, they were grouping in slithering swarms of shadows, snaking through the remaining ranks of humans between themselves and Kerl.
His horse neighed in fear, its ears flattened, its eyes wide and rolling erratically. Kerl snapped the reins and tried to get the beast under control. Then he realized one of the dark creatures had slipped through the mages, slicing and half-devouring a few along its path.
It clawed at the leg of the terrified horse. As it grabbed a hold, the beast’s leg began to turn a ghastly grey, a sickness of the flesh that crept higher the longer the dark creature kept hold. The horse’s legs gave out, and Kerl rolled away just short of being crushed.
As the horse hit the ground, it shrieked, an ear-splitting sound that dissolved into a gurgling bray.
The dark creature that had brought it down gorged on its horseflesh, making stomach-turning slurping and crunching noises in the process. Kerl sat back in a horrified stupor, only shaking himself from it when the dark creature looked up and Kerl finally got a good look at it.
It resembled an emaciated man, one caught in a blistering fire. Charred skin, now dripping with blood, clung like saturated cloth to its bones. Its eyes burned with cerise hunger and dripping fangs lined its ravenous mouth.
Kerl stoically concluded in that moment, just before the thing pounced on him, that this was no fairy.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gennerd saw Kerl’s horse go down, shrieking, and grimaced. He may have disliked his adversary, but no one deserved such a fate.
He and Solace had reached the main fray, but the majority of the dark creatures had turned toward the humans and their mages. A viscous black wave of slithering bodies formed a wall between Gennerd’s elves and the remaining humans.
Another volley of fuschia bolts of arcane energy flew through the dark sky. Gennerd frowned. Even he could see from where he and Solace watched that the missiles were ineffective. The only thing they accomplished was drawing more attention to the casters.
Unknown to Gennerd, they also weakened the magical bounds of the Temple of Yargonae within the walls of Bethel.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Gennerd regrouped the remaining elves. He found Illandra, his second in command, and Zenadi, the commander of the fairy troops. Both he told to reorganize their soldiers and go wide around where the humans made their final stand–though, that stand was more of a failed attempt to flee without their warlord.
The elves’ only hope lay in leading the dark creatures the rest of the way from Bethel. Whether it would mean anything without figuring out how to seal up their hellish hole, Gennerd didn’t know.
The elves and fairies made their way around the wave of slithering blackness as Gennerd watched from Solace’s back. The dark creatures took notice immediately and divided.
They attacked the elves with a ferality like he’d never seen.
There seemed to be two different types of the dark creatures. One resembled an atrophied human, its skin charred and crumbling and clinging to its bones like wet cloth. They crawled with a dexterity that belied their frail-looking builds and ravenously devoured anything in their wake. The other creatures were half-man, half-snake abominations. They had dark greyish, slimy skin, stretched tautly over sinewy humanoid torsos and whip-like, snaking tails. They hunted with reptilian eyes and impossibly fast, slithering movements.
“Prepare yourself, Solace,” Gennerd whispered to his pegasus mount, but it was as much an encouragement to himself as to her. He patted her neck, and she snorted affectionately.
The diversion went as well as could be expected. The black wave slithered farther from Bethel’s gates, and the dark creatures seemed to have stopped emerging from the gaping, black hole in the open field.
But before Gennerd gave Solace the command to charge in and past, to draw the dark creatures farther still, his mount whinnied fearfully. The commander turned and froze in similar terror.
Several yards away stood the most hideous creature Gennerd had ever seen. Not even his darkest nightmares could have conjured this thing. It possessed a bulbous, slimy head and giant, milk-filmed eyes that looked blind. The thing’s face resembled a squid, multiple tentacles coming down and covering where its mouth should be. It was cloaked in a voluminous black robe with a tall collar that came higher than the dark creature’s squishy-looking head.
Solace, usually the most patience and steadfast of mounts, paced and whickered and tossed her head. She seemed on the edge of madness and too terrified to even flee.
Gennerd, similarly affected, wished she had bolted. Anything to carry him away from the squid creature.
Instead, it took several paces forward, and then made a gesture with one delicate, glossy hand. A number of elves stepped from the swirling black fog behind the creature. They raised their weapons and charged Gennerd and Solace.
The pegasus seemed mired to the ground. She stomped her hooves but made no headway in any direction. Gennerd’s arms were lead and would not obey him to guide her.
The elves, his soldiers, quickly swarmed Solace. She screeched in terror and pain as their weapons tore into her.
It was only then that Gennerd saw the empty looks in the eyes of the attacking elves. Even had he a voice to shout at them, he knew it would not have reached a rational mind. Their eyes had the same milky-film as the tentacled creature and their expressions were slack and vacant.
Somehow, this abyssal creature had stolen their minds.
Gennerd tried to scramble away as Solace fell beneath him. The elven soldiers grabbed him with dozens of fiercely biting fingers, and dragged him before the squid monster.
No scream would come to his lips, but it echoed over and over in his head.
The large milky eyes, from within the cephalopod face, drew his gaze into their depths and held him. He felt his mind seized as if by ice cold fingers and barred within a dark place. The frigid fingers plucked away his memories, one by one, piece by piece, stretching them out like stringy tendrils until they all floated in the air like dull streamers. The remnants of his strung-out memories were sucked away, and Gennerd was left with petrifying nothingness.
Then, a gurgling, sloshing voice filled the void, whispering things, and Gennerd’s shattered mind clung to every word.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.