It had been weeks since I had last been out into the world and I was becoming restless. Death Maiden was sleeping, resting up from her last outing, so I decided to go out. It began as an innocent stroll through the woods that surround her home. That would quickly change.
I had been walking and not paying much attention to exactly where I was going. The air had become thick, heavily scented with a vile odor that made my eyes water. When I looked up I could see a street wavering in front of me, like a dream coming to life. I blinked rapidly, hoping to make it disappear, it didn’t.
I found myself in an alley, surrounded by large metal bins filled with the source of the odor. Large bags of garbage emitting noxious fumes spilled over and onto the pavement. Dim lights flickered above my head. I could hear a most unusual noise, a symphony of mechanical growls, some low and rumbling, others high and whiney. I began to walk towards the sounds.
I came to the end of the alley and could see cars, the likes of which I’d never seen before. Shiny and loud, cruising up and down the road. Most were filled with men, young and full of themselves. Many years later I would come to realize I had been in the late 1960′s, watching what passed as fun on a Friday night.
I turned and headed up the street. There was a large area where several of the cars were parked. The young people were standing about, discussing a number of topics. “Can you believe Joey thinks his Chevy can out run me?” “Did you see what Mary Ellen had on today?”
They seemed not to notice me as I made my way past them. I was confident I could go by and disappear unseen. Then it happened. A tall leggy thing with dark hair piled up in an unusual manner noticed me. “Look at the freak show.” Her friends giggled, fueling her, giving her the confidence to continue. “Where’d you come from?”
I continued walking, not giving her the satisfaction of a response. “I’m talking to you bitch.” She accentuated this by placing her hands on my back and pushing. Still trying to remain inconspicuous, I ignore the shove and continue to walk. “You too good to talk to us?” Another shove from behind. The laughter of her posse is more than I can handle.
Swiftly I turn, grabbing her by the throat. “It would do you well to keep your hands to yourself” I growl at her. She smiles at me, thinking she still has the upper hand. Her friends are up and behind her, ready to attack, waiting for the word. She raises her hand to them, signaling to stand down.
“What makes you think I’m scared of you, freak show?” The words are rough and low as they squeak out around the pressure I’m putting on her voice box. “You’re in the wrong place to be so brave.” She has a wild look in her eyes that normally wouldn’t scare me but this….this being is unafraid and she has back-up. Four females that will do whatever she commands.
Slowly I ease up on her throat as I try to reason with her. “I don’t want trouble. Just let me go and I won’t hurt you or your friends.” Looking in her eyes I can see my words don’t faze her. Trying to come across as the malevolent force I am is not working. Her eyes are still alight with a darkness I’ve only seen once before. It is at this moment I realize I may be in trouble.
She smiles “go on then, get on down the road. But don’t come back.” I release my hold on her. Foolishly I believe that I am going to be okay. I nod and turn, picking up where I left off in my journey. My own thoughts fill my head and I don’t hear her tell her friends “we will get her at the cemetery, get in the car.”
It feels as though I’ve walked many miles, my thoughts heavy in my mind. What am I doing here? I know that generally when these portals open there is some one, or some thing, that needs to be taught a lesson, but who? What will it be? Will I know it when I find it? I’m beginning to think that I need to go back, find Death Maiden and then return to this place. After all she is better equipped for this than I am.
My nose begins to twitch as it fills with an odor I recognize, an odor of death, life long passed. I look up and see a it. A large cemetery, filled with old crumbling headstones. I decide to go in and see if I can clear my head. Maybe, just maybe I will be able to focus on what it is I need to find.
I slip through the gate and a feeling of home rushes over me. The air is cooler, filled with the scent of Jasmine. I can see a place in the center where I can sit. I make my way towards the benches, unaware of the women that are flanking me on all sides, preparing for an ambush.
Just as I am about to sit down I see her, the leggy thing from before. “You should have stayed wherever it is you came from.” Her words drip with venom. “We don’t like strangers here, do we ladies?” A symphony of no’s resound from her “ladies” and I look around. I’m surrounded by these women, all with hatred in their eyes.
My mind begins to show me pictures. Pictures of the leggy one. She is older but unmistakable. In some she has a baby, a beautiful creature with curly dark hair. In others she’s with a man, the babies father. These images flash before my eyes, showing me her life to come. The final image is of the child, beaten and bloody, tears streaming down her face. Standing above her is Legs, a smile on her lips as she prepares to deliver another blow. It is Legs that must go. She must be taught that you don’t do this to the innocent.
“I told you, I don’t want any trouble.” I speak these words as my hand goes into my pocket, searching for the card Death Maiden had given me. If I can find it and speak the incantation that is on it, I won’t be alone. She will come and together we will make them pay.
I pull the card from my pocket and begin reciting the words. The air begins to swirl around me, blowing my hair around. Leaves lift up and dance in the air. Legs is the only one not frightened by this. Her eyes are on me, burning with rage. The other four have stepped back, scarred and rightfully so.
To my right a whirling portal begins to open up. A window to the world from which I came. All at once, much like a magic act in reverse, Death Maiden is there, standing beside me with Scythe in her hand.
The air settles back down. Once again it is quiet. Legs speaks, “Who the hell is this?” She is unaffected by what has just happened, her only concern is us.
I smile as I tell her “This is your worst nightmare come true.” Scythe begins to sing as Death Maiden and I step towards Legs.
I wake from my slumber, stretching as the feline that stalks the wilds that surround my dwelling does in the last rays of the displeasing light of day, feeling my back arch and pull deliciously. Some time has passed since my last Journey, and my body is yearning to feed once again. I am ravenous more frequently as of late, each slay driving me to feed more often. I muse on this as I slip bare as the day I was made from the warm coverings I slept in, my unnatural blues still half-lidded in the still bright day. Scythe stands in Her place, Her mirrored eye reflecting my bonecover, it’s sparkle illuminating the markings left from the bites I received on a Journey, making them glow in the dimness of my home.
Prey paid a heavy price for the resulting injuries on my flesh, his ocular orbs still floating in Jar, watching from their place with their brethren. They are still Treasure to my black heart, their own blue pigments faded from the prolonged swim in the preserving fluid. I enclose my bonecover with the fabric I wear, fastening it tight against me, running the bristly contraption through my night shot ember hair, its curls tightening around my wrist as I pull the tangles free. The creature that stalks is close by, watching me as I preform my rituals, it’s curiosity nearly palpable in the its presence.
Raven has wandered from my dwelling, presumably to slink through the shadows. She has been quiet and reflective since our return from our last slay, choosing solitude to my company as she works through whatever preys upon her mind. She has learned her Lessons well and it pleases me, and yet she seems unsure and watchful as I administer the Final Indignities, much like the creature that lingers, and without the heavy disapproval that emanates from its stare.
Scythe moans from Her place, softly singing her discontent to my ears, quivering and rattling against the wooden embrace that holds Her upright. Her voice rises in urgency, pitch noticeably higher as Her anxiety increases. I retrieve Her, holding Her smooth stalk to my breast and whispering my promises to feed to Her quicksilver blade, placing my lips to her cool surface.
The room ripples and an enormous shuddering bang shakes Jar, jostling my Treasure around and causing them to bounce off one another. I am drawn through and find myself in a place of strange smells and loud moving wagons without horses to guide them. Scythe moans her lugubrious song as i spot Raven, nearly snarling with pleasure at a woman nearly naked in her fabrics she wears to hide her bonecover.
“Who the hell is this?” the disaffected creature asks, her tone to my ward most distasteful as is her attitude. Raven smiles at her, all teeth and deadly intent, as she speaks, her voice that of tolling bells, “This is your worst nightmare come true.” Scythe sings as I approach this creature, joining Raven in her approach.
Raven greets me with her snarling smile still firmly upon her lips as she places her hand upon my arm, daring much in her current state. She comes closer still, murmuring her discovery to my ears and bringing a growl of fury to my own lips. This creature must be disposed of, her heinous deeds must not be allowed to continue, and I nod to her, pulling my arm free from her increasingly tightening grip and turning to this disgusting creature and her gathering of darkest sisters.
“What are you looking at bitch,” she spats at me, as I gaze upon the mask she wears, the fear leaking through in the smallest expressions. Scythe is unusually quiet, and would be as an inanimate object but for the trembling that causes Her blade to shimmer in the failing light. The one Raven calls Legs flickers her eyes to my unnatural blues and back to Scythe’s beautiful sickle smile, and straightens her spine. Every nuance of her moment screams warnings to my mind, there is no flight in this creature, she will fight and she will taste defeat.
One of the others charges me, a sneer of contempt on her lips, and her claws bared to dig at my flesh. I whirl low and feel Scythe’s smooth stalk slide through my palm, catching her where her head meets her neck and severing it. The shell remains standing, taking a further step as the lovely crimson jets from the stump that used to hold her mind before collapsing at my feet.
Legs looks on in incredulous horror, watching as her sister’s head flies over her own and lands in the small silver trashcan that stands against the wall. Scythe growls her pleasure at being fed, Her edge sparkling with rubies in the fading illumination. Raven smiles at me, her visage beautiful and lethal as her teeth are bared in the direction of the remaining women standing before us. “My turn,” she speaks in low tones, advancing on the grouping, hunger in her eyes.
I watch, delighted by my companion’s actions, as the crimson sprays around us. The four of them are stunned, horrified by what they have witnessed. This makes my job so much easier. Legs will be the one to catch the full on fury of my powers but she will have to wait, I want her to see just what we can do. I hold her in place with my minds arms as I approach her friends. The fear is sweet and ignites my inner demons.
I grab one of them and sink my teeth into her neck, keeping my eyes locked with Legs. I want to make sure she can see that this is something I take great pleasure in. I feel the life drain from this creature as I drink in her very existence. Her body goes limp and I drop her to the ground.
The others are still in shock and make no movement to help their friends. So I grab another, feeling the rush of power I get from feeding, loving the ease with which I can take them. I take her quickly as well, these pawns are not my main target and there is no need to anything other than dispatch of them in a hasty manner. Once they are out of way I will have such fun with Legs.
Two down and one to go. The trance they have been under is lifting and Legs is beginning to struggle against my hold. I will have to concentrate harder on keeping her still. I look to Death Maiden, using my eyes to tell her that I can’t take the last of Legs posse and to please be so kind as to take care of her.
I turn my full attention to Legs. Stepping up to her I snarl in her face “You will learn a most valuable lesson tonight. I will make sure of it.” She tries her best to wriggle free of my grasp. Her attempts are fleeting as I use both my mind and my body to hold her. Standing behind her, my mind holding her tightly to me, I use my hands to hold her head. One on her throat, clenched and ready to tear the flesh away. In her ear I speak, softly, soothing her, “watch and know that what awaits you makes this look like child’s play.”
I can’t help but giggle as I watch Maiden and Scythe approach the last of the others.
The last of the one Raven calls Legs sisters stands frozen in place, her eyes the colour of spoiled grave dirt wide in fear. She is correct to fear me, for her life is now mine to dispose of as I see fit. This creature watched Leg’s theft of a child’s innocence with no thoughts in her addled head to stop it, and will pay most dearly for her transgression.
Raven has her Prey held firmly in place, her teeth sharp as Scythe’s blade close enough to puncture the flesh should she incline her head even slightly, the desire to feed warring with the pleasure of forcing Legs to watch her dark hearted sister’s demise. She shall have both.
I drift close to the lone woman, who’s eyes are fixed upon Raven and her Prey, left unaware of my closeness to her, and so is startled as I grasp her throat with my own hand, squeezing the supple cartilage in my talons as she begins to struggle to draw air. Her arms flail about, her hands desperate to find purchase and cause me injury in order to gain her freedom. She will not, for my fabric flesh covers are as second skin, and her hands have not strength enough to tear them from my bonerack.
A low and throaty bubbling sound escapes Raven’s lips, pulling them back to expose the sharpest points of her teeth that glow in the fading light. My Prey staggers slightly, the fight gone out of her as she realizes the die is cast and her fate is no longer in her palms but in mine own. Scythe is softly singing, her voice ringing and echoing in empty street, and Raven adds her growl to it, creating a brutally beautiful harmony.
I smile into Prey’s distasteful eyes, pushing her back until her shoulders meet the wall behind us. At her feet, the head of her dark sister lies with its still oozing stump lies staring up at us, mouth agape with the last moments of terror her brain felt as she passed into the Clearing. Scythe bristles in my grasp, displeased with being placed away from my hand, where she will stand and regard my administrations. My hands will provide the necessary punishment that this creature will suffer, and it will please me to do so.
I lean close to her ear, and whisper her fate softly, releasing her throat slightly so that she may sing her aria of pain to my heart. She instantly inhales to scream, and I thrust my talons into her flesh, tearing away the soft tissue of her breast as I drive them deeper, feeling the cage that encloses her black heart shatter under the weight of my fist. Raven breathes deeply from behind me, the scent of this monster’s lifeforce igniting the hunger in her once more. She is insatiable as she feeds, discarding the shells of many before she’s had her fill. It fills me with delight to watch her as she sates her need for nourishment. Prey begins to shiver and shake as I feel my fingers grasp the warm and meaty muscle in my hand, pulling it with a hard yank back through the hole I’d made in her bonecover. It beats still, drooling its crimson lifewater through my hand and landing with a soft pattering noise on the ground between us. I hold it before her eyes, allowing the tendrils of veins and tissues to trail behind, close enough for her to smell the rotting flesh that was the pump of life that kept her diseased body and mind afloat, the tang of the deep red claret it holds within, heartsblood.
Prey stares at me, her ocular orbs flickering from the heart and back again, in disbelief and terror, their light going dim and disappearing as I rip the muscle free of its moors, shredding it with my talons before dropping it beside the head of her sister. Her shell falls hard, in an untidy heap, as I turn to Raven, sucking the still warm fluid from my fingers. She smiles at me, a most savage and gentle smile, and begins to whisper to Legs.
Legs begins to squirm, horrified by what she has just witnessed. I tighten my grip on her neck as I whisper “That will pale in comparison to what is in store for you.” I can’t help but smile as she stutters, “Wh..wh..why? Wha..what did I do?” She is almost crying as the last words escape her mouth. I spin her around and pull her to me. Our noses are touching as I look into her eyes, through them into her soul.
“What have you done?” I can barely control the rage that boils inside of me. “What have you done? What did the child do? Hmmm? That beautiful, innocent child. What did she do that was so terrible? So terrible that you felt compelled to beat her?” Her eyes are wild with fear as she tries to figure out how I know. I inhale deeply, the fear is intoxicating.
I can see Maiden, silently slipping up behind prey, ready to help should I need her. I nod at her as I push Legs back, right into Maiden’s arms. A squeal makes its way out of her as she realizes she is trapped. Maiden has her in her arms and she is fighting. Flailing about, trying to get free, Maiden laughs. The sound of it stills Legs.
I pull the leather strap from my waist, wrapping one end around my hand. She knows what is about to happen yet she is helpless, unable to run, she is at my mercy. I bare my teeth at her and begin administering the lashings. Her clothes tear open as the leather whips across her torso. Small red lines appear almost instantly, blood poppies form and glisten in the moon light. She tries to scream but it is of no use, Maiden has her talons dug deep into her throat, choking off any sound. I lash out at her, her chest, bare legs, arms, not stopping until all of her body is covered with red welts. Tears stream down her cheeks, making her look just like the image of the child that I had seen earlier.
Stepping to her, I drop the strap and run my fingers over the marks on her flesh, smearing the blood. My mouth is watering with anticipation, but I’m not quite done. I touch Maiden’s hand, hoping she will relax her grip so Legs can answer the question I intend to ask. She doesn’t want to, I see it on her face, but she releases her grip slightly. I take hold of Legs hair, it’s fallen down around her face, and pull her head to the side, exposing her neck. “Tell me, did that feel good?” An almost inaudible no escapes from her. “I didn’t think so.” I pull her hair harder, her neck taut, vessels pulsing, I can take no more. I sink my teeth into her flesh and begin draining her lifes blood.
The blood of those who do evil tastes so very sweet, it’s hard to stop, but I do. I leave her with just enough to keep her conscious. She should be conscious for her final moments. Licking the crimson from my lips, I look deep into her eyes. Gone is the fire that raged there. I place my hands on her face and kiss her. “I hope you enjoy the hell that awaits you.” I drop her head and step back. She is Maiden’s now.
It pleases me to observe Raven administering her Lesson to Legs, the lashing from the strip of hide has broken that fierce pride that rested inside this horrid creature that I hold in my arms. I release my grasp, allowing her to fall at our feet, all strength gone from her legs she lands hard, scraping her knees on the stone below.
Raven licks the sweet crimson bouquet from her lips and teeth, her hunger slaked for the moment, and meets my unnatural blues with an eyebrow raised. A silent question asked hangs in the air between us, and I flick my orbs to the dark and dingy passage that runs between two buildings. She reaches down, clasping a handful of Prey’s hair in her delicate hand and barks at her to stand, pulling her up as she stalks away.
Prey squeaks her pain, what once was a proud roar of a confused lioness now the minute whine of a broken woman. This pleases me immensely and I hear that black sound of joy bubble out of my mouth once again. We have an audience, it appears, a dark shadow sitting upon the strange metal staircase that slithers up the wall up one side of the passage. A small red eye appears, blinking on and off as its breath curls in the air. It matters not to me that someone watches, perhaps it too will Learn.
I reach to touch Raven’s shoulder, calling halt to her progress. In the shadows a shadowy eye has opened in the poorly lit passageway, a doorway that would afford some privacy from all eyes, save the shadow on the staircase. Upon the portal to the inside, a single word has been carved, its ink glowing scarlet in the darkness: Sinner. An appropriate place to administer the Final Indignities, as though it had been marked for Prey alone.
Raven hangs back, after slinging Prey headlong into the alcove, a snarl on her lovely face that ripples her upper lip up enough for me to see the pink that lines it. This is confusing to my mind, and I stare at her as a low groan drifts from the dark place. This building makes her distinctly nervous, her jaw muscles clenching and bunching beneath the surface of her bonecover perplexing.
Prey has risen to her feet, and is ineffectually pounding her fists against the portal, screaming in her newly cracked voice for help. From behind me, Raven growls close to my ear, startling me into grabbing her throat and throwing her to the ground. She is on her feet once again and close to me in a blink. I touch her cheek, nodding and see her visibly relax. My companion had informed me of these places, houses of deities, not fearsome to my black soul, holding only air and the memories of voices raised in union.
A faint rattling noise draws my attention back to this reality, and the lush flowing essence that would feed me as the blood feeds Raven. Prey falls silent the moment my gaze falls upon her, lips trembling along with her flesh as I take in the despicable creature before me reconsidering my meal. She should suffer further for her crimes, anything less would not be a lesson learned and no perspective would be gained from a quick death.
She begins to scream, nearly leaping at me with her nails and teeth bared. Scythe lashes out, catching her in the torso and slicking a wide swath of flesh and blood from her bonecover, showing the cage her black heart is encased in. She stops mid launch, pressing her hands to the open wound with her mouth hanging open. With my talons I pierce her tongue, digging deeply into the muscle before ripping it free. Never again would she be able to raise words to spit at another.
Raven darts in front of me, leaning close into her face and whispering a question with barely contained control. Legs nods vigorously, the blood splashing from her mouth as she attempts to speak. I find this amusing, and toss the flaccid bit of useless flesh at her, watching it bounce off her forehead and into the pool of blood that lies at her feet. Raven turns to look at me, her head cocked and a smirk on her lips, sending me a vision that both delights and saddens me. She saunters off, giving the tongue a kick into the passageway before leaving me to my work.
Prey whimpers, a sound that grates on my ears, holding her bloody hands up in front of her, begging me to spare her. I will not spare her. Scythe’s sharpest point enters her body at the pubis bone, sinking deep as it tears up, spilling her insides onto the doorstep, painting the walls with the most delicious claret before tearing the tender hollow that held her breath and her voice. She sinks to the ground, slowly leaving a trail down the door, her legs folded beneath her as her eyes glaze over and her essence evaporates in the cooling air.
I chose not to feed on her, though she had reached the understanding of her wrongdoing, there was no sign of remorse at her end. She will not reach the Clearing, but will wander, impotent to the End of Days. Raven appears at my side, watching the life depart, and pensively so. She turns to me, taking in my blood splattered visage before speaking of her musings.
A million questions run through my mind. I know that Maiden will provide the answers I seek but I believe I will wait until we return to her home. This place is giving off a weird vibe and I’m more than ready to be gone.
Maiden senses my trepidation and puts a hand on my shoulder. Her touch makes most tremble in fear but for me it is a great comfort. She leads the way towards the path that will take us home, out of this strange time, back to where we both will be more at ease. Once there I will try not to overwhelm her with my curiosity.
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