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Old 02-19-2010, 02:01 AM   #1
Wade_Gustafson
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Maiden Desmodus - Short Story "The Coming of the Ashmodus"

Orrin posted this up previously elsewhere on the forums, but I'm posting it up here to keep it with the others I've already put up. I hope you enjoy it.

She stood alone in the darkness, listening to the trickle of blood dripping into the bloodwell.


Her dominion, The Isle, had gone unchallenged for so long that she had almost forgotten what it was to be at war with those of her own kind.


Her own kind. Were the Ashmodus her own kind? Hadn’t she become something more over the years? Something greater. More powerful.


She had first felt their presence a tenday ago and she knew that she was no longer alone. The Ashmodus had honoured the pact, but not for so much as a day longer than they were bound by it. Now, with each rise and fall of the sun, she felt more and more of them drawing near.


Did they come to challenge me? Why else would they be coming here if not to supplant me and conquer these lands?


-----------


Breaus woke with a start and immediately noticed the metallic tang of blood in the air.


The sheets in which he slept were cold and wet against his skin. He reached over and struggled to light the bedside lantern, but as he did so he knew what he would find when the light pushed back the darkness.


He had not been mistaken.


Alone and frightened, he wandered through the house with the lantern held out before him. Silently, he cursed the predawn gloom.


He found his mother’s bedchamber empty. The sheets and wool-filled quilt that his grandmother had sewn before she passed away had been thrown haphazardly to the floor.


Mother?


He wanted to call out for her, or for Raum, the eldest of his three brothers. But a memory hung at the back of his mind, clouded perhaps by his own fear of recalling it. An image fluttered by for only an instant.


The barn. It had happened in the barn.


-----------


Rhoda felt the curiosity calling her down the narrow way known to the locals as “Last Stop Alley”.


She had grown up here in Viggport, and she knew better than most not to be alone in this part of the city. After all, they didn’t call it the last stop without good reason. People came here, and all too often they didn’t come home.


But it was irresistible. Something was down there. Something she had to see. It was as if her very future depended upon her being right here. Right now.


The way was cluttered with homeless vagrants that were as much a part of the alleyway as the overflowing trash bins and crates filled with vegetables that had turned to mould when the pestilence began two weeks ago.


City officials had first blamed the disease on crops tainted by the Defiler’s presence in the kingdom. As such, Red Guards under the banner of Duke Aeol de Vigg had run rampant through the city, burning homes, taverns, and vegetable stalls. Known for making rash decisions, the Duke had not foreseen the famine that would follow.


The throngs of those without homes seeking shelter where they could find it only provided a more wide-spread medium for the spread of disease. Now, half of Viggport lay empty, refugees seeing the Duke’s own passing as a sign that the port city had been cursed. Those that remained were the worst of the worst, the pestilence somehow seeming to pass over the foul and loathsome.


Rhoda held a kerchief over her mouth and nose as she came to a door near the end of the alley. It was slightly ajar, and the smell of corpses wafted out from inside.


-----------


Uzazel hadn’t been human for so long that the feel of skin surrounding him felt like a suffocating prison. Smothering. Unnatural.


His eyes struggled to see in the dark. There was a pain in his stomach that he had not felt in centuries.
Hunger?


For a moment, Uzazel regretted that he had forced himself into the first mortal he had found. It was an ill-considered decision, but he had drifted, disembodied for so many years that the surge of power he felt clouded his judgment. He took flesh for fear that if he didn’t seize the opportunity to do so, it would be denied him.


Skinny, malnourished, and dying. The flesh that trapped him would be dead soon enough, and with that death, he would be free to select a more suiting body to inhabit. One strong and fit. Regal. Resplendent.


He staggered as he took those first steps, and a scream escaped his cracked lips when he came to a door in the dark and found the blinding light of day on the other side.


As Ashmodus, he should not fear such things. Aversion of the light had become a part of him, a force of habit, for exposure to sunlight while disembodied was one of the few things that could destroy one of his kind. But now, he wore flesh, and he could feel his power returning like an almost forgotten dream.


-----------


Breaus stood outside the barn until the rising sun painted the sky orange, paralyzed by the fear of what might lay within, and too fearful to enter his nightmare in the dark.


He pulled the door open, pushing it wide so that the morning’s light would shine inside. He expected to see them all there, dead and torn apart, but the barn was empty. The horses gone.


He stepped forward, feeling a sickening feeling twisting his insides. He walked to the last stall on the right and froze. Hunching over, he vomited.


“I told you to stay in the house,” came a voice from inside the stall. Raum’s voice. “Go back inside!”


Breaus leaned against the stall door, crying. “What…”, he struggled to speak. “What did you do.”


“Go back in the house!” The voice was feral, bivocal, as if the Dark One himself was speaking with his brother’s body.


“Raum?”


Breaus opened the stall.


-----------


There was a corpse lying on the floor. It was a naked man, skinny and twisted into the position his dying seizers left him in. Most of his skin was gone, replaced by the fuzzy black mould that was growing all over him.


Rhoda skirted the wall, moving further into the dilapidated house, but trying to keep as far from the body as she could. She felt her way around a corner and almost fell as her heel caught on the bottom step of a narrow staircase. She spun and hurried up the stairs.


There were two doors at the top of the stairs. One was open, and inside she caught a glimpse of bedchamber furniture illuminated by the rising sun outside. There were more bodies there. A woman. A child. Both had succumbed to the pestilence.


She moved to the other door and put a hand on the rusted doorknob. Whatever was calling her here was waiting on the other side. She didn’t know how she knew, but she knew. A part of here was too terrified to open that door. Another part of her knew that she could not leave this place without taking those final steps inside.


-----------


By the time Uzazel reached the ship he had regained some measure of his former strength. He walked confidently, knowing that none of the mortals he strode past could do him any harm. It would take time for his essence to recover and his abilities to return in full, but already he had clothed his meager flesh in garments willed into existence with only a trace of power.


“You can’t come aboard,” a sailor said to him as he reached the top of the gangplank. “Go on, get out of here.”


Uzazel stopped and stared at the man in the eyes. He saw into his soul. He saw an aging sailor with aching joints who had mourned the passing of his wife two summers ago. The man began a life at sea when he was but a boy, and was generally an honest and good man if one overlooked the harlots he visited at every port and the young boys for which he had an unexplainable appetite.


“I am an honoured guest.” Uzazel said quietly. “You will arrange for me to stay in your quarters until we reach The Isle.”


The man twitched as Uzazel reached into him with a tendril of power. He was much too weak to resist the invasion and he merely nodded and stepped aside. Other sailors looked on with interest, but they said nothing as Uzazel passed them by.


-----------


Breaus brought his hands to his mouth to stifle a scream as he caught sight of his mother’s dismembered body. His brothers were there too, torn limb from limb, Raum sat beside them, leaning against the bloodstained wall of the stall. The sight of it flooded him with a memory of the night before. He had been here, he had watched as Raum did this.


“I’m sorry,” Raum said as he looked up at the boy. “I had no choice.”


Breaus stood silent, in horror.


Raum clambered to his feet. It took him a moment to remember how a body moved, for he had been without flesh for so long. He felt regret, but with the devotion of no mortals to empower his essence, the only way for him to regain his strength was to take it by force.


Breaus didn’t move as Raum walked by him and left the barn. He would never know that it was not his brother, but an Ashmodus that had killed his family. Through the years to follow, he would never understand why he had been spared.


-----------


The curtains of the bedchamber had been drawn closed, leaving only a scant bar of light shining through at one side.


Rhoda moved forward, shaking. She turned and surveyed the room, but there was nothing here that would explain why she was drawn to this place. Only darkness.


She turned to face the darkest corner of the room and took a deep breath, steadying herself. For a moment she thought that her coming here, the assurance that something important lay waiting for her was merely a symptom of the pestilence taking hold of her the way it had done so many before her. But then the darkness swept forward, pushing into her, leaving nothing of who she was as it claimed her flesh.
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Old 02-20-2010, 02:15 AM   #2
DurNominator
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Re: Maiden Desmodus - Short Story "The Coming of the Ashmodus"

You shouldn't make every sentence it's own chapter. It's nasty to read that way. Why not combine the sentences and make it a proper chapter?
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Old 02-20-2010, 03:43 AM   #3
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Re: Maiden Desmodus - Short Story "The Coming of the Ashmodus"

...I'm guessing, chapter==paragraph?
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