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May 27, 2024

When Fairy Tales Come Alive 22

By Lydia Manx

The death-scented shadow beast chuckled at the men, then said, "I thank you for the voluntary bloodletting, but I need to have it differently." A hauntingly scary chuckle filled the space in the cell even fuller -- if possible -- than the beast's very shadow.

Their ripped-open arms -- now healed by the creature -- subtly pulsed with the dancing shadows behind them, poorly lit by the single torch that illuminated the naked, fake, future prince-namers. They had failed in their task and had also failed to successfully die in the scarce hour they'd been gifted by the king and his royal guards. The devil before them offered some sort of redemption; they had been led to believe that in the minutes since it had appeared. With their fear and stupidity, they hadn't analyzed the offer, or even bothered to examine the precise terms of 'redemption,' but instead took the shadow beast's word that they would not have to face their broken promises to their gods and goddesses along with the king. Even a blind fool would have questioned the word of the unknown creature's vague promises, but they were fixated on the shallow assurance from the sulfur-born. The chuckle still vibrated the cell and their heartbeat still pulsed with the shade.

"So what do we need to do?" The oldest of them asked with a slight quiver in his voice.

"Oh, just die." And with that the creature flared his very spirit out and over them all. And as one they gasped and blood spattered the walls as they all were slain. They fell like marionettes who'd had their strings abruptly clipped, and fell lifelessly down to the floor with arms and legs askew and heads lolling, tipping this way and that. There wasn't a single heartbeat from the three nor any breath left to escape.

Still laughing, the creature drank it all in and soon any signs of blood in the jail had been absorbed into his very shape. Then he went to each of the dead men and pinched open their dry, chapped lips and allowed a sickness to drip into their mouths. A sputter from each of the three and then there was a low vibrating humming sound from the shadow. The bodies puffed up as the evil that had been dribbled into the bodies ran amok and filled the dead men. One by one they struggled roughly up and shakily attained a standing position. Once they appeared to understand that they were in control of their meat puppets, they slapped each other and giggled at the bodies they now inhabited.

"Look at this!" One exclaimed who had been forced into the oldest of the seers. He lifted his face and pulled at the long beard the seer had grown. With little effort the creature from within casually ripped off the long, tattered beard. Having no heart to pump the blood to the raw wound the dead man now appeared to have a short bloody beard. The hair in his hand was tossed to the ground and the other two laughed, still slapping at each other.

"Master, thank you!" The one inhabiting the youngest body said while sketching a bow to the shadow.

"Stand tall and name the princes well. I want them to suffer like I have suffered." The voice boomed through them all, even though it was hissed out in little more than a whisper. The three creatures were still poking and prodding each other with delighted murmurs. They distracted their maker and he responded by cutting their strings and as one they all fell down.

The shadow filled the cell and loomed over the three collapsed bodies. Their eyes were blown wide open and they stared at the beast who had stuffed them inside the bodies now flopped out on the ground. Death was closer than any of them cared for and fearfully they watched and waited.

"I told you to stand tall. NOT play the fools. I will snatch you from those disease-ridden corpses in a single heartbeat and cast you back to Hell without a warning if you continue this madness." The angry shadow sighed and exhaled his poison back out and they all jerked upright but trembling. His point had been made.

The middle one who had been silent so far softly asked, "What names do you wish us to use?"

The hell-borne spawn laughed and said, "That's up to you three. You realize that you only have until tomorrow. Dig into your own dark souls and figure it out."

With that statement the shadow disappeared, and the door to the prison smashed open. In strode the captain of the guards. Pausing at the threshold of the prison cell, he tilted his head back and drew in a deep gulp of air. Something tickled his nose, but nothing precisely he could put a finger on -- he knew something outside his realm had been in the cell. He didn't see anything, but every fiber of his body vibrated with the idea that something had occurred while he'd been gone for a scant hour.

The three men were huddled in the cell, not looking at the other but somehow they rang false to the guard. He wasn't just human, but otherly also and he recognized in the back of his mind that these three were different than that ones he'd locked inside earlier. Part of him instinctively wanted to back away but he valued his job. Then an unknown goddess whispered into his thoughts, "Yes, do it. This is wrong."

Without a word, he pulled out his sword and opened the cell and began to swing widely and deeply without pause. He quickly killed two of the monstrosities before the third had successfully ripped his head off. Just like that everything had changed. The demon shadow didn't bother to come back to the cell, but instead fed the sole survivor with great power. The evil dark creature that resonated and strongly radiated his thoughts was not able to come back to the cell and change what had happened. The journey to the prison had cost him too much of what he had built up over decades for the naming event, and now it was left to his remaining spawn to fix what was broken. Times were changing.

The middle seer was breathing in and out carefully as he tossed the captain of the guard's head to a corner of the cell that didn't have another body already occupying the spot. The skin of the meat puppet was spattered heavily with blood, pieces of muscles and tendons giving him a monstrous, frightening appearance. With little thought, he screamed out for help and huddled in the furthest corner from the open jail.

The captain had come in unattended by his royal guards to make sure that the seers had survived the hour by themselves. He hadn't wanted to have to explain to the king why the naked men died on his watch -- so to speak. For that ill-thought out plan meant that he'd never have to worry about such things again. The king would've had him executed for allowing the seers privacy if they died while in jail. As he had personally dispatched two of them, it certainly wasn't a selling point for recorded history.

So now as it stood, his name wouldn't be remembered as the captain of the royal guard who'd let down the kingdom. No, instead he'd be remembered as the captain whose rather ruthless death caused two of his guards to go mad and many more to have nightmares until their dying days. The middle seer had alerted the others and they all had come running with swords drawn and magic spells at their very fingertips. The wet carnage they faced pushed the final button for more than a few of their psyches. So the naming ceremony for the two princes became an event on more than one level.

* * *

The remaining seer was slowly washed up by the king's guards away from the slaughter cell, then given a thick robe to cover his naked body. He was escorted back to the court and into the room that the dead mystics and seers had been living in for a long time. The court guards had naturally brought the man back to the court without a thought as to how it could disturb the recently-victimized man. They didn't know he wasn't the same, but that didn't detour them from their duty.

When the middle seer had been alive, he'd been actively entertained by many of the multi-talented courtesans. He had been a favorite of many, and after the gossip spread the fate of the others, many came forth and volunteered to assist. The newly revitalized seer was treated well, and given more comforts than the prior occupant of the body had ever enjoyed. There were few hours before the ceremony, but the demon-spewed creature savored every second of the time.

It was the first body this demon had been in for centuries, and the limitations, even fed with all the energy the shadow beast forced into his skin, burned at him. He wanted to slaughter all the creatures that lived in the light so effortlessly. They were petty, filthy little things that had no appreciation for what they had. Fallible and weak, but still able to walk in the sunlight and enjoy commonplace bits of the world. Anger was the demon's constant companion, but he knew he had to keep it together and figure out what names were needed.

Already tired of fighting with his true and violent nature, he told the guards he needed space around him. He found a thick piece of charcoal and sketched a large circle in the middle of a fine piece of marble in front of the massive fireplace, leaving a small gap, not completing the circle. He pulled candles from their holders on the mantle and lit them one by one. Each time he had the flame hot enough to melt the wax, he dribbled it on the marble just outside the circle and fixed the candle in position. The royal guards had drawn back to the furthest corner they could, and still be able to see what was happening in case there was another suicide attempt.

The four candles were placed precisely at the four points of a compass and the center of the circle had been put over one of the stronger ley lines in the kingdom. Once he had the candles where he wanted them, he shed his robe and walked into the center of the circle after completing the charcoal line. Holding his hands out flat, looking towards one of the candles he began to sway and murmur. A haze began to build in the room that had nothing to do with the flames, but instead the soft chanting that was coming from the spawn and the very heavy air in the rapidly cooling room. The ley line began to ring out sounds that weren't of the kingdom above the soil, but deeper down in the world. The middle seer muttered incantations not of the kingdom, but of the shadow beast's rule. The guards grew tired and began to stumble to the ground. At the end of a particularly hissing set of words the seer smacked his hands together and watched all of them fall asleep. Had he used another set of words they would have all died, but he had decided it was best if he obeyed his master.

Looking down to the center of the circle he said, "I offer all I am to you. I will do your bidding within the hour. For this I was pulled out of darkness and I thank you." He spit dryly from the dead man's lips, having nothing else really left. His skin had begun to take on a greyish hue, and he knew he would not be able to stand too much longer. A pulse of power flooded him and he bowed and broke the circle. Now he had to make a choice.

Article © Lydia Manx. All rights reserved.
Published on 2015-03-16
Image(s) © Lydia Manx and Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
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