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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 1:58 am 
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Seasons of Dusk
An Innistrad Anthology

Volume 1:
Table of Contents
PDF release
eBook release

Volume 2:
Table of Contents
PDF release
eBook release

Volume 3:
Table of Contents
PDF release
eBook release



Table of Contents

Volume 1
  1. Childhood’s End

    by Tevish Szat


  2. Rising Moon

    by RavenoftheBlack


  3. Bell, Book, and Candle

    by Tevish Szat


  4. Sublunary

    by turnip_song


  5. The Cellar Door

    by Tevish Szat


  6. Nephalia Rains

    by RavenoftheBlack


  7. To Purge the Wicked

    by Tevish Szat


  8. Blessed be my Guilt

    by Heliosphoros


  9. Creatures of the Night

    by Tevish Szat


  10. Dear and Decorations

    by Heliosphoros


  11. Through Darkness

    by Tevish Szat


  12. Blasphemous Act

    by RavenoftheBlack


  13. Dear Namior

    by chinkeeyong


Volume 2
  1. Requiem for an Angel

    by Cai-ann


  2. The Butcher’s Cleaver

    by RavenoftheBlack


  3. Hollow

    by Aaarrrgh


  4. Danse Macabre

    by Tevish Szat


  5. Thirteen

    by RavenoftheBlack


  6. Crucible

    by Skibo_the_First


  7. Ill Met by Moonlight

    by Tevish Szat


  8. Allo’s Fortnight

    by RavenoftheBlack


  9. Getting Ahead

    by Skibo_the_First


  10. Night Watch

    by Tevish Szat


  11. The Maid and the Gentleman

    by mUrielw


  12. Consummare

    by Jason Valdor


  13. Through the Eyes of Might-Have Been

    by KeeperofManyNames


Volume 3
  1. Therapy

    by Deckhopper


  2. Tongue of Frog, and Eye of Newt

    by Skibo_the_first


  3. Occurrence at a Moorlands Manor

    by Tevish Szat


  4. The Unlife And Times of Gorin Halvarsson

    by Aaarrrgh


  5. A Company of Death

    by Fakeartist


  6. Justice

    by Tevish Szat


  7. Cathar’s Prayer

    by RavenoftheBlack


  8. Blessed

    by RuwinReborn


  9. Truly Cured

    by Heliosphoros


  10. Falkenrath’s Seat

    by Tevish Szat


  11. The Banker and the Geist

    by Skibo_the_First


  12. Parable of the Stars

    by RavenoftheBlack


  13. The Fateful Hour

    by Tevish Szat



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:00 am 
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Childhood’s End
by Tevish Szat


When Adrianna Moore was very small, she had an imaginary friend. It was harmless fun for a shy and intelligent girl, though her parents were not very fond of her behavior. Only when she admitted that Mr. Raven was a game and didn’t actually exist did they relent and let her have her fun.



The fantastic Mr. Raven was an excellent friend. When she spoke, he would of course listen very quietly to what she had to say, and never did he disagree or argue with Adrianna in any way. And, sometimes when she ran with her arms outstretched, it was almost as though she was flying alongside Mr. Raven.



On one night, though, Adrianna prepared to blow out the candle at her bedside, and before doing so, said “Good night,” intending those words to be for Mr. Raven.



“Good Night.” A croaking voice chortled in return. At first, the sleepy girl ignored it, but before she actually doused the light, she realized that it was not Mr. Raven who spoke. After all, he couldn’t speak.



“Who’s there?” she asked. A strange, sinister chuckle was the only reply.



“Really,” she said, “Who’s there? Thomas, if you’re in my room…”



“No.” the voice croaked. Definitely not Thomas either.



“Who are you?”



“We want to be your friend.”



“All right.” Adrianna said, “But… I don’t know who you are.”



“Wither…”



Adrianna held her candle close. “That’s your name? Wither? I’m Adrianna, Wither.”



Wither chuckled again. “Will you play with us, Adrianna?”



“Some time.” Adrianna answered, “But not right now, it’s late and time to sleep, Wither.”



“Sleep, yes.” Wither hissed. “We will talk again.”



Adrianna laid down in her bed, but she didn’t dare let darkness fall that night.



***


Two days later. While Adrianna was in the back yard of her home, she heard that croaking, reedy voice again.



“Adrianna,” it whispered, “It’s time to play, Adrianna.”



Adrianna looked about, but saw nothing. The voice seemed to be coming from the house



“Mr. Raven?” She asked, “Do you think that was Wither?”



“Come, come.” Wither said. “We have many games.”



Warily, Adrianna approached. “What kind of games?” she asked.



“Games without names.” It said, “Come, we play.”



“You have to tell me the rules first.” Adrianna protested, now speaking at the entrance to a small crawlspace, “Otherwise I can’t play.”



Wither seemed to think about the matter. Though Adrianna had still not seen her strange new friend, she did suspect that he was less kind than he appeared at first to be.



“Rules.” Wither hissed, “Rules rules rules… yes. Must catch a bird, yes. Then take candle to its tailfeathers. More birds, more fun.”



“You’ll be happy if I do this?” she asked. Adrianna did not want to harm a bird, and did not know how Wither’s game was supposed to be fun.



“Find a bird, yes.” Wither said.



“All right,” Adrianna promised. “But you have to find the candle. After all, it has to be both of us playing.”



Wither cackled, but Adrianna thought herself the winner… if he played along, she would see Wither’s face.



“Meet me in the kitchen.” She said, and after a hissing chortle of agreement, she set off to find a bird, lest the strange voice be offended when she arrived.



***


The kitchen was dark when Adrianna entered, its windows shuttered. The sparrow the little girl held in her hands did not struggle, but it did seem to share her trepidation.



Then, there was a hiss in the shadows. “Little bird, little bird.” It said, “Fun to burn.”



“Come out, Wither.” Adrianna said, “I want to see you. Did you bring a candle?”



“Candle?” the voice said, “Who needs candles?”



At once, the shadows were banished, and the kitchen lit in lurid red. Grinning from the open oven door was what must have been Wither.



He was an ungainly creature, stretched limbs folded around one another, twisted and hunched, face just human enough to stir a primal sickness in a young girl. More terrifying than his gangly appearance, though, was the fact he was now wreathed in flame.



Adrianna did not scream. Its toothy grin seemed to tell her that screaming would only provoke it.



“Little bird.” Wither said, “Too little, maybe. Bigger things burn better.”



“Wither.” She said, “I’ve done what you asked.”



“It is good to burn,” Wither said, “See the flames. Join me.”



“I’ll die.” Adrianna protested, “I’m not like you, I can’t burn and not be burned up.



“But it will be so much fun while it lasts. So much fun you’ll scream.”



Adrianna did scream, tossing the bird up into the air and trying to kick the over door shut. It slammed in Wither’s face, and a gout of flame rushed past Adrianna’s ankle. From there, she began to run, but Wither was faster. The devil struck her and sent her sprawling through pots and pans, singing her dress where it touched her. As Adrianna reeled Wither was upon her. A bony claw grasped her ankle, and she screamed in pain. Her mother might hear her from the well but… how much time did she have?



“Ungrateful little human,” Wither spat, “They never understand our fun, never play our games.”



Adrianna clawed at the counter, tossing a pot one way, a whisk another direction, madly trying to get away from the abomination preparing to burn her alive. It was at that moment, losing hope, that her fingers grasped the handle of a pitted old carving knife.



What followed was instantaneous. With the limber strength only the young can muster, Adrianna turned like a snake, and struck blindly at Wither through her tears of pain. The knife met resistance, and a new shriek joined hers. The searing grasp of the devil on her loosened as did her own upon the knife. When she could clear her eyes and see again, Wither lay still on the stone kitchen floor, his flames guttering and failing, knife protruding from his angular forehead.



The priests came before nightfall, and the cathars the next day. They searched the house, and found no other devils nor unclean spirits of any kind. On another subject they agreed: Adrianna was a very fortunate child, to survive such an encounter.



But as Adrianna saw it, she was no longer a child. There would be no more imaginary friends, nor idle play. Though it had not taken her life, the devil Wither had stolen something almost as valuable: another light of innocence in Innistrad’s long night had winked out.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:03 am 
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Rising Moon
by RavenoftheBlack


A chilling breeze cuts through the night,
And fans the fires of the fight,
Which rules the sky at dusk and dawn,
Between the givers of the light.

The Moon, which rules when day has gone,
Combats the Sun's indignant brawn,
And crafts herself a royal seat,
A shrouded throne to sit upon.

Throughout the daylight's desperate heat,
The Sun flares on in vain conceit,
Pretender to that lofty throne,
He waits for twilight, and defeat.

But once that golden bird has flown,
The silver swan makes night her own,
And underneath her rich facade,
The world will harvest all its sown.

By light of day, all things are flawed,
The strong are weak, the normal, odd,
But by the Moon are wrongs made right,
Within the dark of Innistrad.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:04 am 
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Bell, Book, and Candle
by Tevish Szat


The church bell rang, loudly proclaiming the dawn, and Arthur Harolds stirred from where he had fallen asleep at his reading desk. It was time for another day of fruitless labor.



Arthur was the miller’s son, some day destined to be the miller himself. Every day he had to watch the millstone slowly grind away at bags worth of wheat, slowly listen to it grind away at his mind. To be bored beyond comprehension, dull as dishwater, and resented all the same – that was the miller’s lot.



Arthur was determined that it would not be his long, had been determined since he could understand. As a boy, he had dreamed of becoming a Cathar, but he had grown up too weak and scrawny to maintain the hope of joining their order. For a short time, he had thought the priesthood might be his calling, but though he prayed to Avacyn his words were hollow and unanswered. Faith was not his calling.



For some time then, Arthur had despaired at finding any place in the world that was not the one he had been born to, but then he had found the book. By day he worked in the mill, but at night, by candlelight, he studied the tome.



His father had called him wrong-headed for buying the tome of supposed magic from that ‘mountebank of a trader’, and even his little sister, who adored him despite all his ungainliness, thought he was foolish for continuing to attempt to understand the arcane gibberish.



And yet, he had made progress. Following decoded diagrams, he had made a small bell of bone, supposedly an implement of magic. And the night before, he had discovered what magic – the power to hold back – no, undo – death itself! Arthur had dreamt of unhappy geists, of how they would flock to him in Flight Alabaster’s worrying absence, to lead them not to the blessed sleep but back to life. He had made the bell, discerned its use… and tonight, he would use it.



A day at the mill went by in a haze, Arthur not recalling any incident save one, when the family cat, Archibald, had laid a dead rat at his feet. That alone stirred him from his daze. That alone provided the material for his test.



When the sunset and the moon began to rise, by candlelight Arthur worked. The rat lay in state upon his table, the bell held between his thumb and forefinger, and the book – that wondrous book -- in his other hand, open to the fateful page.



He rung the bell, spoke the words… and a rat began to breathe. Arthur, unable to control himself, cheered without looking well at the vermin, and before he knew it, the creature scampered off. Even without the first of the resurrected there as proof, he was ecstatic. He had discovered his calling; defeating death.



***


Further nights brought further resurrections. Always rats and mice – they were the easiest to find dead, and Arthur had no desire to employ an unpracticed technique on larger creatures. At the same time, he was blind to the happenings around his house: Skittering in the walls, no doubt the scrabbling of his released subjects, kept his family up at nights, yet he did he did not notice.



Too absorbed was he in his secretive studies to notice at first when Archibald the cat went missing. His sister cried for hours, for though it had been an old and sour cat it had been her closest friend. For a little time only Arthur tried to comfort her, but soon enough filial love was replaced by annoyance, for her nagging presence was keeping him from his studies and experiments.



A week later, she went missing, and Arthur could no longer be bothered to break from his routine to worry about her. Much bigger and more important things than family were on his horizons, and if the worst had happened, well, he would be able to fix it.



No doubt by the time she was found by scent, bits and pieces, gnawed halfheartedly and then left to rot in the walls, Arthur had come to realize what he was doing, understood the magic he commanded, its price and the hatred the world would hold for him for pursuing it. And yet… the art he was practicing, the Ghoulcaller’s art was irresistible. It was worth more to him than a pathetic miller’s life would ever be, no matter what happened.



Priests and Cathars came to town after the gruesome discovery in the walls, and quickly identified first a rat problem, and then from that a Ghoulcaller problem. Two or three of Arthur’s specimens were captured in his home, but that was fine by him… there were always more rats, and he had graduated up to crows.



***


There was no pounding on the door when they came, no warning that would allow Arthur to flee in peace. The Cathars had broken in, and before he knew what had happened they had taken his book and his bell from him. As he scrambled to get the implements back, the burly soldiers wrestled him to the ground and bound his hands behind his back.



Disgusting they said. Horrifying, evil claimed the villagers. ‘Not son of mine’ said his father. The Cathars took him to the church and locked him in a cloister, there to await his judgment in the morning.



There could be only one sentence, he knew: burn at the stake, and his book with him. Couldn’t they see what he had wanted to do? Couldn’t they understand that they were the same? They were human – they ate the same bread, lived in the same houses. And in these dark times, the monsters, real monsters that howled at the night and drank human blood, were closing in around good men and supposedly bad ones alike.



At midnight, the church bell rang, and a ceremony was conducted before him. A book was closed, symbolizing that Arthur should be stricken from the records of men and angels. A candle was blown out, representing the loss of light for his soul.



The priests left, and Arthur was alone in those last, dark hours until, before the barest hint of dawn, he heard scrabbling at his cell’s door. Soon enough the handle began to turn, and what pushed open the way was a shriveled, rotted rat.



More came after it. How they had so silently and swiftly gnawed the Cathar guarding him to bones he would never know, but when they came to him it was rope that their teeth bit at. The swarm, stinking of the grave and chittering like mad, seemed to speak to him with a single voice.



They were his children, called to life by his work. The tide of undead rodents brought with it a very particular tome. And the despair Arthur had felt at his capture and the ruination of his work turned to pride. He had created these rats, and his creations were grateful for their existence. As he fled into the night, trailed by a veritable plague of the filthy things, he wondered if humans would be as happy for their continued existence as his small friends.



***


A year later, Arthur stood in the graveyard of his home town, looking at headstones for his sister whom the rats had slain without understanding, and his father whom the mob had lynched in the wake of his escape. There were plenty of other graves besides, far too many of them quite fresh as the Harvest moon waned.



Fresh ones were always the best, and his cawing, chittering servants brought him the tools of his trade.



Arthur lit the candle, providing a light to read by. He rang the tiny bone bell, its hollow voice calling an ethereal audience no normal man could perceive. And, at last, he read from his book. The soft earth beneath his feet groaned and shifted, and soon enough friends and family and neighbors once lost to him dragged themselves from their long and unfortunate sleep.



By bell, book, and candle they had cast him out of their church and their lives. By candle, book, and bell he would welcome them into their new lives. Many came: eager, ready to breathe the free air and taste fresh meat and do Arthur’s bidding.



He looked at the town and smiled. Before the night was over, there would be many more waiting for his call.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:04 am 
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Sublunary
by turnip_song


By then I always started out under the moon. Time was we'd meet at night sometime before setting off, but I'd heard too many stories of crooked twins -one bitten, the other pure- to trust that men swearing fealty at night meant a wolf-free team in the day. Because of this our trip began in the deepest dark, not far from Mount Sadak at the edge of the Kessig Pass. The core of the team was just me and the twinner, but on a job such as this I knew we'd need men as good with a sword as we were with a hex. We'd employed five of Kessig's most skilled fighters as protection, and promised them more of the bounty than protection normally deserved. A tenth of the moon, you see. They'd each stand to gain a tenth of the moon.



For it was a legend we were hunting, and my experience is this: when a town is willing to pay in gold for the investigation of a tale, it becomes very probable that the story in question is true. In this case it went like this: In the pass there once lived a group of werewolves who had tired of being men, and had schemed to bring an end to their humanity forever. Crafting, they took into their services a mage, whose skills with silver were unequalled across the whole stretch of known Innistrad. With metal stolen, transmuted or wrenched from their fallen kin, over years they made a silver ball pocked with holes and symbols, which was great enough that it could be thought a moon. Under it the men shrieked as their bodies erupted in hair and fangs, before each retreated to a cave where they could be wolves forever.



As a result, the mayor of our client town had told us, his people feared to go out whenever the moon was high. After a lifetime under that false sphere, the werewolves of the story had become far more vicious than those normally seen, killing and butchering in the night enough to keep full through their underground day. The village had resolved to raise money to employ the best and in so doing came to myself- for my past was an advantage here, they said, and I had skills no other man could put to use.



What skills are these, you ask? A good question -you know that in the days before I hunted werewolves I spent some time in their employ- but I have not gone into detail about the tasks I would carry out for the beasts. My magic, you are aware, is aligned with the forests- whose world above all else is one of the ordered chaos that we call growth. The magic of the green abhors the unchanging in all its forms, and so has a particular aversion to silver- for leave a lump of this metal alone for a lifetime and it may barely change, even as the pulse of life roars bright red around it. I had learned to tap into this aspect of the forests to blow silver objects clean apart- even as they shot through the air towards the wolves under my protection. My unique ability became famous across all Kessig, and it was thanks to my wages from it more than anything that I could eventually turn my mind to nobler ends.



I could not, though, blow a thing as large as the false moon apart on my own, and for this I required the services of a twinner. Unlike me he was not particularly notorious for his work - there were many on Innistrad who could increase the power of spells both more quickly and more dramatically than himself. He was, however, both cheap and skilled with a blade, and I trusted the strength of my magic enough that I prized these traits more than another employer might.



We travelled, then, with our five hired brutes, towards the cave where the wolves lay. Were my story less dramatic, I would invent perils and horrors to encounter along the way, but in truth we were in little danger as we made our way to our destination. Even the entrance to the cave was unguarded, and I remember thinking that the fear of the creatures within must be such that there was no need to protect them with anything more pointed than a story.



The way, however, was not uncomplicated, and as we reached the point where cave became cavern we were each both scratched and soiled from our decent. By then it was clear our quarry was more than legend; the rocks were lit with a lunar glow, and we had no need of our torches. Scrambling up a pile of gravel and debris we felt the light get brighter, and looking upwards we saw our prey for the first time. As one who fights monsters, the fear of first encounter has never left me, but staring at the wolf before me struck more than terror into my heart. Shorn of humanity, I reasoned, the beast had grown into something more monstrous than even the worst werewolves I had seen lurking in the forests above. Fur was matted into hard spikes, claws curved silver like Markov fangs. We drew our swords, yet the wolf remained unmoved: rather we stared in horror as creature after creature joined it at the gate above. We had no choice but to charge, and did so in a rush with no coordination - thrusting our swords before us like useless claws...



...But I realise I have said too much. I have told you before that only those who have never seen battle take any delight in its detail, and the carnage that followed should, I think, remain unspoken. For my purposes I need only describe the outcome: though injured, six of us still stood, having fought our way to a natural chamber deep within the cave. Our fight had bought us brief respite, and for a minute or so we were blessed with the sight of what we had come to destroy. I confess I forgot myself in that moment, staring up at that moon. Though smaller than its brother you would not know it- pocked with runes and craters it stretched high over what I thought of as the underground sky. Lit like a church lay a spire of rock below, and I saw in a trance the figure of a man, arms thrust hungrily at the moon above.



So the wolves had their own Mikaeus! He did not bother us as we thrust our way forwards through the dogs that still bit and tore at our armour. I think he remained unaware of us even as we began our incantations, only stopping when the first of my twin-blessed blasts hit the moon above him. I remember being aware that he was running towards us at the back of my mind, paying him as little attention as I could as I focused on the moon, burrowing my spells as far into it as my mind would allow. As swords smashed into howls and men roared into claws, the battle became little more than sound around me as my vision and my mind were filled with the breaking of silver. Only when I heard the twinner cry my name did I look up, to see the man running towards us with an expression of terror upon his face. His voice cut through the noise like a slice of dawn, and as he looked into my eyes I felt as though silence had fallen.



“Not only men turn into wolves,” he said in despair.



Overhead, the moon exploded.



The man collapsed before us and groaned, and I noticed for the first time his leather-thick skin, his muscles that bulged in ways like no other man I had seen. He tried to talk to us once more but only gargled, and I spun round to see the wolves surrounding us keeled over in similar agonies. As all were stunned, already I was beginning to run, but even as I reacted I saw the man's face explode into a mess of eyes. I flung myself towards the exit as I heard the howls of the wolves turn into something worse, deaf to the cries of the rest of my group. I saw our strongest fighter turn white before me, legs crushed by fallen silver, and I heard the crunching of bones behind me that spoke not of transformation, but of a feast. As I scrambled out of the cave I heard a roar like the wind between worlds, and I did not turn back until I had escaped that place.



My curiosity was great, however, and in the end it overcame my fear. I saw little of the creatures that had been wolves as they stumbled out into the breaking day, but what I did is forever imprinted upon my mind. Tangles of spines and insect legs, a blob of eyes that ended in mouths- what emerged was a pack of creatures like none that walk upon this world. Looking upon them I thought my end was near, but they paid me no heed as they stumbled into the wider forest. I heard many tales of them in the following days, and for all I know they walk there still.



I did not return to the village I had failed until a season had passed. Arriving I saw it had been reduced to a ruin, the streets torn up by footprints unlike any familiar to the world. About the fate of the moonsilver and my team I still know nothing- although I would say since that day I have heard no stories of men in the forest come suddenly rich, or any word of the team I abandoned in escape.



I tell you this story, my son, because I want you to know three things that would have saved me when I was young like you. First, the village that hired us survived before our coming, no matter how terrible its monsters seemed. Do not be like them, and assume that your present situation is dire enough that you would risk loosing the world of hell. Second, the wolves we fought were more fearsome than anything else I have seen, yet wore their forms for reasons noble as a prayer. Do not think, as I have done, that anything in this world cannot behave as it does out of good heart- even when you are recoiling in fear.



Thirdly this: the things I saw were so terrible that I cannot believe they were ever bitten by anything as weak as a wolf. Rather, I can only guess they were blighted by an angel, cursed to spend the night less monstrous, sublunary. If that is so, then ponder this: that man we saw, who made that second moon, whose words came so close to staying my party's hand, was in true form more monstrous than any of his kind. The shreds of his clothes still flap from shrieking legs in my dreams, and his thousand eyes each wept the sun in blood. He stands, I think, as testament to the most terrible truth of all: that in their might and wisdom, even our angels have limits. Against one such as him they were powerless to change him into something as noble as a wolf, and so had to settle for a beast as brute as a man.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:05 am 
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The Cellar Door
by Tevish Szat


A swarthy man stepped into the room, his coat stained with soot and goggles long ago blackened. With heavy booted strides, he marched over to the bar, taking one stool and casually tossing his clanking, metal backpack into the other.



“Jonathan.” The woman behind the bar, a raven-haired lady of perhaps twenty years, sighed. “I really don’t have time for you right now.”



“Come on, Laurie,” he whined, “No time for your brother? Really? I’m on something big.”



The woman, Laurie Blake, covered her face with her hand in shame.



“What is it this time?” she asked, “What do I need to bail you out of?”



“Nothing!” he exclaimed, “This time, it’s all going to pay off for sure.”



Jonathan Blake laughed, and took a cigar from his coat, and, failing to find a candle within arms reach, picked up the rod attached to his backpack. A small flame and a distant whisper appeared, then vanished

.

“Really,” she said, “You never cease to amaze me. When did lighting a cigar become a good use for the raging souls of the dead?”



“When you didn’t get me a light, sis. Anyway, I was talking with this mage.”



“Oh, this is going to end well.”



“Now, the mage, he says there’s this stuff called mana. It’s all around us, in the ground!”



“It’s in the ground.” She repeated in dull disbelief, “Yeah.”



“So, I got a bright idea myself, something some of the other boys were already talking about, it seems.”



“Jonathan…”



“We’re going to mine for mana! Dan’s getting us some equipment right now. I figure we dig straight down and if some stuffy mage can tell its there, we’ll find it soon enough.”



“You can’t mine for mana, Jonathan.”



“How do you know?”



“Because this is your idea, and your ideas never work.”



“This time, it’s a sure thing.”



“You said that last time.”



“Last time wasn’t a mana mine.”



“No,” she said, “It was a silent werewolf whistle last time, and before that it was vampire-repelling garlic cologne, and before that-“



“Look, I’m not asking you to take out a share in the mana mine. You think I would hit up my sweet baby sister for money?”



“Not until things have gone horribly wrong, I suppose.”



“I know how tight things are for you.” He said with care. “But I’ve got something for that too.”



“Please, don’t-“



“It’s not my idea.” He said, “I just thought you’d want to know.”



He reached into his coat, took out a folded paper, and handed it to her.



“I know you’ve always wanted to get out of this dive, now here’s your chance, sis.”



“Help wanted.” She read. She couldn’t place the address exactly, but the neighborhood meant it would be one of the houses on the sea cliffs, and the offered pay was… exciting. “contact Lur Sahknochen. Jonathan-“



“Don’t say anything.” He said, “I know it’s probably too big a change, and you don’t want to be a housekeeper, and-“



“No, Jonathan… you did something right.”



***


The high house on the hill loomed over Laurie. She straightened her dress, swallowed, fought back her fear, and knocked on the door.



She waited a long moment, and then a voice answered, hollow, rasping, and deep.



“Who is there?”



“I-“ she began, “My name is Laurie Blake. I saw an ad – I’m supposed to ask for Lur?”



The door opened slowly. A tall, thin man with hair grey but body not yet decrepit from age answered. He stood silent for a moment, her eyes seeming to judge her harshly, as though considering whether to squash an insect or let it go.



“Excellent.” He said, “I am Lur. Come in.”



He made a small motion, and Laurie stepped in the door, which Lur slammed behind.



The grand entranceway of what could have once been a palace for all its opulent splendor was silent and empty, white sheets cast over old furniture, creaking floorboards releasing small puffs of ancient dust as Laurie walked over them.



“I keep no one,” Lur said behind her, “And nothing in my presence that I do not strictly require, or that does not bring me some measure of joy. I trust you see why I now require another set of hands, another pair of eyes to look over this place.”



“You live here alone?”



“I have had other housekeepers, in the past.” He said, “They become bored of this place, or find some other reason to move on, or they give me some reason to send them on their way... Good maids, young miss Blake, are far easier to find than they are to keep, at least here in Nephalia.”



“Well,” she said, “A little company probably wouldn’t hurt.”



“Company.” He scoffed, “What need have I for company. Follow me.” He lead her into a hallway, and then pushed open another door. Behind it was a library – there were probably more books here than she had seen in her life!



“All the company I need is in here, miss Blake.” He said, “I do not care for the vapid prattling of youth nor the senile ramblings of age. If that is a problem, I suggest that you search for other employment.”



“No,” she said, “Not a problem.”



“I see. If you are attempting to curry my favor, you are doing quite well.”



“Glad to hear it.”



“Then you should also be glad to hear I feel no need to carry this any further.” He paced back towards the door. “If I find your services unworthy of my coin, I may simply dismiss you from my household. You will be accorded the keys to every door you need to concern yourself about, and may roam them and take advantage of what you find in my halls freely. Gather your things and return here, you may begin immediately.”



“My… things?”



“I can’t have you wasting hours each day walking to and from your place of work and a home in the city. For the duration of your employment, miss Blake, you are both my servant and my guest.”



***


It took Laurie Blake several days to explore the old high house, dusting and rearranging as she went, interrupted as she was by average chores. She rarely saw her employer, the grave and commanding Lur, for it seemed that he preferred to spend his time in either the library or in his basement study, and by dumbwaiter received his meals there as well.



That study, delved into the Cliffside beneath the manor house, was the one place in the mansion she found she did not have a key for, having tried the entire ring in its lock, and then found every other locking door and a matched key. At first, she thought it was an oversight, and asked her host and master. He insisted, then, that his study was private, and that she ‘did not need to be concerned’ about what went on there.



Over weeks, her interest in the study that was forbidden to her grew. She left the manor less and less, until once her brother left town to pursue his ridiculous mana mine scheme, she only ventured forth when given coin to restock the larder. Her spare time grew as a backlog of work was worn out, and with it her curiosity about the study in the cellar grew as well.



By and by she found herself testing the handle to the cellar whenever she passed the intricately carved door that led down to it, while at other times she would sit at the upper end of the dumbwaiter for some time after lowering food to her employer, hoping to catch some snatch of what was happening down below.



Whatever Lur’s occupation was, it was not one that created a great deal of noise, for Laurie never heard so much of a whisper from up the shaft until the bell rang for her to recover the dishes by the same means as she had sent them down. This only made her more curious still, wondering now not just about the contents of the cellar that was forbidden to her, but also about how the man came into the money he so generously gave her.



Whatever it was, it surely had to be done in that cellar, for though occasionally visitors would come to the house and confer in that place, Lur departed even less than Laurie herself did, and so she resolved to discover what secrets lurked below her feet.



There were, after all, times when Lur preferred the comfort of his library, or slept uneasily in his chamber, rather than attending to matters in the cellar, so the matter was not so much how to avoid his notice, she believed, but how to gain entrance to and then an exit from the place.



It was a week after she first resolved to enter the cellar that Laurie realized the answer had been staring her in the face. The dumbwaiter was very large, and for a grown woman she was very small. Certainly, the contrivance could fit her as well as the silver platters, and she trusted her arms to bear her weight, at least on the way down. For the return, she hoped that the cellar door would be able to be unlocked without a key from the inside. Otherwise, it might prove a difficult matter.



It was in the dead of the night, her employer dozing in the library, when Laurie decided to lower herself into the depths, beyond the door. Her only companion for the trip down was a single candle, secured so she could light it in the dark, and into the dumbwaiter she went, and down from there to the cellar.



Down below, she lit her candle, and found it only pushed back the gloom enough to inspect what was close to her.



The first thing she noticed was a table, wooden though it was, this was no craftsman’s bench, nor did it belong in such a fine and high house as it was in. The rough surface of the thing was pitted and scarred, and on it were bands of iron – for what purpose, she dared not guess.



Other tables were placed haphazardly throughout the chamber, and they were adorned with all manner of instruments, metal things that made her brother’s geistflame-thrower look simple and understandable by comparison, beakers and spiraling glassware, things of malformed asymmetry and things of terrifying perfect geometry.



At last, Laurie came to a raised dais in the center of the room, surrounded by machinery. There was a form on it, one that looked almost… human. She approached, and raised her candle into the shadows

.

A woman’s face was there, young and fair, eyes closed peacefully, crimson hair pulled back into a tight braid. Who was this woman in the cellar? She seemed to be alive, at least at first inspection: though Laurie could not hear her breath nor see her chest rise and fall, the woman on the dais had all the color of life in her skin. Laurie reached out to touch her, when there was a grand thud of the cellar door behind her being flung open.



Immediately, Laurie recoiled, and lights came up in the laboratory as Lur descended the stairs into his sanctum.



“Beautiful, is she not?” he asked, his hollow voice more alive and interested than she had ever heard. “Truly, magnificent, in every form and proportion exact and admirable. What fine and detailed work is man!”



“Master Lur, sir…”



“But now, how did you come in? Was it the door in the cliff face? You did not take my key nor try the lock – ah.” He looked, “The dumbwaiter. Very clever of you, I did not guess it for your ingress.”



“Sir?”



“Do you think I didn’t know you would find your way here? Everyone lusts for the forbidden, it was only a matter of time. In fact, you impress me with your speed. I saw the fire burn in you. As you walked, as you glanced, as you held still and prayed I did not notice – you betrayed your intentions thoroughly. Miss Blake, you do not disappoint.”



“What is this?” Laurie demanded, “And who is she?”



“She,” Lur proclaimed as he walked up to the dais where Laurie stood, “Is my great work, the one thing that has always brought me joy. There’s not a skaberen in the world who hasn’t laughed or scoffed at Lur Hackbones and his pursuit of loveliness, but there’s not a skaberen in the world who has ever done such a thing as I, and made a skaab that could pass for human!”



Laurie tried to keep herself from gasping, from screaming. How – how had she not noticed, even in the dark? She glanced at the woman again. Only knowing did she think she spotted fine needlework about the hairline, or upon the wrist, and even then she could not be sure.



“My life’s work!” Lur shouted, “But she is still incomplete. She needs eyes yet, and a brain of course. The brain must come last, such things spoil in but little time.”



“This… This is an abomination!”



“Look!” he roared, lunging and grasping Laurie by the wrist with one hand and her hair with the other. He turned her and forced her to gaze on the skaab woman. “Look at her and tell me again that it is abomination! Tell me that I have created a monster! You cannot – for I have taken the crude skills of the stitchers and perfected them into a masterful art! I have created beauty!”



“It’s evil!” Laurie shrieked, “But if you let me go I will breathe not a word. I’ll leave you be, just – just let go of me!”



Lur laughed, a deep rumbling laugh that chilled Laurie’s heart. “My dear, if I meant to release you, I would not have provoked your invasion of my sanctum in the first place. I told you, my darling needs eyes, and yours are lovely and green. She also needs a brain, and unless this is a fluke, miss Blake, your haste has proved yours inquisitive and clever.”



“No!” She shrieked, thrashing desperately, “No! Let me go!”



But Laurie Blake was a smallish woman, and Lur Sahknochen – Lur Hackbones, a strong man despite his age. Shortly, she felt a prick in her neck, and her world began to darken.



***


The storm reached its crescendo. Every machine hummed, as Lur stood over his finished creation.



“I take this power from the gods!” he roared into the din of the storm, “I will bestow life where only death has trodden! I will shape it in the image I desire!”



Though he had raised his skaabs before, Lur Hackbones could not help but feel renewed by doing it again. As he brought life, so he lived, and tonight of all nights was special. Tonight, the creation he had labored his entire career on would be complete. She would speak to him, and his work would be done.



The machines roared and crackled, lightning arced from pillar to pillar, and finally struck the dais. It glowed with energy, and in the silence that followed, Lur counted under his breath.



One. Two. Three. Four.



His skaab, his creation – no, his daughter gasped for her first breath of air. She sat up and clutched her neck, and for the first time in his life Lur truly smiled.



“Can you hear me?” he asked. Slowly, hesitantly, she nodded.



“Can you speak?”



She looked at him for a moment, licked her lips, and then with hesitation, said “Yes.”



The singer’s vocal cords served her well – her every word would be music!



“And… do you remember your name?”



“… No.”



More music! More glorious music! Everything had gone according to plan, a blank slate to teach the ways of the world. Slowly, gracefully, she stood.



“Then I shall call you…” he hesitated. One thing he had not decided on, in all his years, was a name. There were so many choices! But which one?



“Una.” He said finally. “It means first. Do you like it?”



She nodded, and he slowly turned from the dais, tearing his eyes from the vision of loveliness he had created. At last, at long last. He listened to the light beats of her footfalls among the sound of rain and the crashes of thunder as she walked behind him, and reveled in the glory of all that he had done.



Then, he felt the hand at his throat, and the sudden, sharp pain in his gasp. Lur gasped, and tried to reach for it. His fingers found the end of a scalpel as he fell forward, but could not grasp around it. However she had struck him, he couldn’t breathe.



“For the record,” she said as his vision faded “I do remember what my name was. I know what I am, and what you are. Were. May you never find peace, Lur.”



***


‘Laura Sahknochen’ saw off the last of the officials from the house. The inquisitors had burned the things in her ‘father’s’ cellar study and seized books seemingly at random from his library. But they left her. The servants of the church, the hunters, shook her hand and passed her by, never noticing the tiny marks where two shades of skin perhaps didn’t quite match, or perhaps where the thread didn’t quite match the skin. They thanked the ‘daughter’ of Lur Hackbones for bringing him to justice, and even if they reproved her for not delivering the noted skaberen alive for trial, they did not notice that her sentence should have been surer than his.



Laura Sahknochen, once Laurie Blake, looked up at the high house after the last of them vanished down the road. It was hers, free and clear, a new life that she never expected to be able to have, much less have to endure. She looked at her reflection in a front window, at a face that had once belonged to another woman, but eyes… eyes that had always been hers. Laura knew she was a monster, a wretched thing made of bits of this and that, but for the first time since the second life she had expected to be brief had began, she thought she also might be something more than the sum of her stolen parts.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:06 am 
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Nephalia Rains
by RavenoftheBlack


Overhead is the veil of the thundering clouds,
That cover the city like funeral shrouds,
And hide every face from their pains,
They contort and they merge into monstrous shapes,
And delight at the knowledge that no one escapes
From the grip of Nephalia rains.

Far away from the coastline, the Dreadwaters surge,
While they rush to the shore as misfortunes converge,
And behind them the sea seems to drain,
Devastation is rumbling into the night,
As the sea starts to gather and strengthen its might,
With the aid of Nephalia rains.

Beware of the sands where the waters begin,
For the hands of the Griptide will drag you back in
To the souls that the ocean has slain,
They're the lost, hungry sailors, whose spirits are cursed,
To forever tread water, and sate their dark thirst,
On the drops of Nephalia rain.

And the ships sailing in as the thunderstorm looms,
Run aground on the rocks and the ominous tombs,
Of the Drownyard's impassable lanes,
And those manning the ships made of old, rotted wood,
Are like statues, and frozen in place where they stood,
In the chill of Nephalia rains.

You can gaze on forever in slumberless dreams,
But the light in the distance is less than it seems,
For it lacks what you wish it contains,
In these waters, you're drifting, afraid and alone,
Thinking Avacyn sits on her heavenly throne,
But down here Queen Nephalia reigns.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:06 am 
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To Purge the Wicked
by Tevish Szat


The approach of the carriage was the first good news in days. As soon as the massive, black thing drawn by a pair of high horses was sighted, the hunters ran back into town, shouting of the coming of the Inquisitor.



The ebony carriage stopped in the township square, and its driver climbed down, walking about to the door upon which the Collar of Avacyn was embossed in bright gold, and opened it.



The man who stepped out was ready enough for travel himself. He had a wide-brimmed hat on his forehead, and a sweeping dark leather greatcoat trailing behind. At his chin was a ruffle of lace, but at his hip a brace of large daggers. He carried the trappings of faith and war alike with him, the consummate hunter of evils in the flesh; by the time his boots struck the paving stones, the entire assembled crowd was staring in silent awe.



“Is the mayor among you?” he called out in a stern, commanding voice. “No? Someone tell him his inquisitor has arrived.”



“Here!” a portly man shouted, pushing his way through the crowd, “I’m here, mister your holiness sir!”



The mayor pushed, shoved, and apologized his way to the front of the crowd before standing, huffing and puffing, before the unfazed form of the inquisitor.



“I’m sorry I’m late, but my daughter, you see, mister – uh – ?”



“Denton.” The inquisitor replied, “Harvard Denton. And it’s quite alright, you made it here in good time.”



“Harvard Denton?” the mayor asked in astonishment, “The Harvard Denton who fought back thirteen devils at once in the hills of Stensa? The Harvard Denton who uncovered the dread werewolf of Avabruck and dismantled the Great Skaab of Glorifen Hill?”



“I don’t like to brag, but yes, that was me. And it was only eleven devils, unless there is another Harvard Denton who has outdone me.”



“I’m sorry, mister Denton, I had sent for an inquisitor, but I had no idea the church was to send such a distinguished personage to our neck of the woods. Why, I would have made arrangements! I would have-“



“Never mind that.” Harvard Denton said, “Whatever you have for me, that will be more than enough. Now, I believe there is a reason I was to called other than to enjoy the fruits of fame. So, perhaps, if we could adjourn to a more private location?



***


“So, that’s what we come to, mister Denton,” The mayor said, “Two dead, three missing, howls and night and not a man who isn’t scared out of his mind.”



“You’re a good man, Mister Teague.” Harvard Denton replied, sipping his tea, “And I really do hate to be the bearer of bad news, but such events are usually caused by someone, or I should rather say something, in the town itself rather than a simple monster in the woods and – ah, what have we here?”



Harvard Denton had looked up, and found himself locking gazes with a girl of perhaps eleven years in a white linen slip. Her icy blue eyes were fixed on the inquisitor from under mussed strands of chestnut hair as she stood in almost macabre silence and stillness.



“Oh!” Mayor Teague exclaimed, “My daughter.” He turned to her, and knelt down beside her, “Selene, honey, go to bed, it’ll be moonrise in less than an hour.” She stared for a moment, then nodded silently and scurried off into the house.



“You’re blessed to have such a fine family.” Denton said, “But I notice you muttered something about your daughter when we first met, and she was not at supper. Is she unwell?”



Teague frowned. “She has… spells, of a sort. Times when she isn’t herself. It’s that she’s sensitive, you see, to the geists.”



“Would you like me to attempt to ward her?”



“I had a priest out two years ago.” The mayor replied, “She said that it was unfortunate, but not dangerous. Happens with children sometimes, and she ought to grow out of it. By Avacyn I hope she does it sooner rather than later, or there’ll not be a young lad inside three parishes who’ll have her as a bride.”



Harvard Denton smiled, “I’m sure she’ll be a lovely woman some day, and you’ll have no end to suitors knocking on your door.”



“Let’s hope.”



“In any case, is it truly that late?” the inquisitor asked, “I’ve lost track of time myself.”



“Ah, yes sir.”



“Then I should like to be shown to my accommodations. The investigation can start in the morning.”



***


In the morning, there was more to investigate than a rumor. The butcher was found face down in a ditch, while most of his throat wasn’t found at all. Harvard Denton came to the scene almost with the dawn, and paced around it, examining the remains until noon when he permitted the man to be buried and hopefully gain the blessed sleep.



After that, the investigation seemed to come up against a wall. Everyone had heard noises, or of disappearances, but no one seemed to have any physical evidence or eyewitness accounts to tell the inquisitor, until he was searching the house of one of the vanished hunters.



“Beggin’ your pardon, mister Denton sir,” the young man who had shown him in said, “But now that we ain’t out in the crowd an’ all, I was thinkin’ I might be able to tell ya somethin’ that could help.”



The Inquisitor stood up from where he had been kneeling, inspecting a floorboard.



“Is that so?”



“Yes sir.”



“Then speak.”



“Well, sir, my house you see, well, it’s right across a yard from the mayor’s, and sometimes it gets awfully stuffy at night so I leave the windows open. It ain’t like glass is gonna stop anything really dangerous, anyway, if you follow me. Well, the last few nights, pretty much since master Teague called for you, sir, it’s been right abominably hot, and each night I’ve left my bedroom window open, I’ve been woken by the most horrible noises. Why, there’s all manner of shreikin’ and wailin’ like they say the banshees do down in the bogs in other places, all comin’ from the mayor’s house.”



“Is that so? Every night?”



“Beggin’ your pardon again, sir, but I don’t leave my window open every night, so I can’t rightly tell ya that.”



Harvard Denton made a show of thinking about this weighty news, then reached a gloved hand into a pouch at his side. He pressed a coin into the young man’s hand.



“Go get yourself a drink.” He said, “You’ve done more than enough as it is, and I am going to need some time to think about what you’ve told me.”



“One last thing,” the young man said as he walked to the door, “Last night, I caught a word among all the screamin’.”



“What was that?”



“Why, it was your name, sir. ‘Denton’.”



***


Mayor Teague started as a pounding came at his front door, then ran to answer it, only to find Harvard Denton standing in the frame, looking quite displeased.



“Mister Denton.” He said, “How nice to see you. Cup of tea?”



“I’ll pass,” Denton replied as he stepped through the door, “But you might be interested in knowing I’ve found a potential break in the case.”



“Then it’s nearly done? This nightmare is going to end?”



“I said a possible break.” Denton growled, “And again, I hate to bear bad news to good people, but I’m going to need to know everything I can about your daughter’s so-called spells.”



“Selene? Why, what has any of this got to do with her?”



“Nothing, possibly.” Denton replied, “Or everything. If it’s a decent hour, I want you to call on me the next time she has one. I need to witness one for myself.”



“Now see here,” The mayor said, casting off the whimpering demeanor he had formerly held. “I don’t know what drunken sots you’ve been talking with, but Selene is a good girl. Even at the worst times, she wouldn’t hurt a fly!”



“Then,” Denton replied, “You have nothing to fear from my investigation. You have to understand, I can’t take a thing I’m told at face value. What sets me apart from a madman with a tank of geistflame on his back and a bottle of whiskey in his hand is logic and moderation.”



The mayor looked properly cowed, his momentary display of steel supplanted by his former spinelessness.



“You see,” Denton continued, “Humanity’s greatest strength is in its reason. Werewolves are feral beasts, ghouls have not a thought within their rotted brains, devils are little more than animals and even the haughty vampires are ruled by their instincts. Every evil in Innistrad is primal and driven, so we must rise above that if we hope to rise above them. I understand your worry, a father’s worry that I’ve seen so many times before, but you are also a mayor. Everyone in this town is your child, and you are obliged to care for them. But, if it calms your nerves any I promise you that I will do everything in my power to see that Selene is better off for my presence here. That is, after all, what I do. I help my people.”



Teague swallowed. “Thank you, mister Denton. I’ll call for you if she has a spell.”



“No,” Denton replied, tipping his hat, “Thank you for your cooperation. I’ll be seeing you soon.”



***


There was another murder in the night, the young man who had tipped off the Inquisitor the previous day – Sure enough, a glass window had done nothing to deter or slow his killer, the shattered remnants scattered over the stuffy bedroom. Suspicious enough, but there was unfortunately little to go on: the corpse had been torn limb from limb, almost as though to disguise the nature of the killing wound. This time, it did not take until noon for something to rouse Denton from his investigation, as a runner came to tell him that mayor Teague had sent. Attempting to piece together the events of the night from blood spatters upon a wall could wait.



In the mayor’s house, he was quickly lead to a backroom, where Teague himself, with is wife along side him, stood at the door.



“Through there?” Denton asked. The mayor nodded.



Denton opened the door and stepped in. the girl was sitting up in bed, her eyes open but seemingly blind to the world, staring off into empty space as she muttered in indecipherable tongues and a maid pressed a wet towel to her forehead.



“You see?” the mayor said, “There’s nothing dangerous about it. Disconcerting, but it’s… it’s more of a trance than anything else, you understand?”



Denton took a step forward, and those blue eyes, now wild with fury, fixed upon him.



“Damn you!” a voice shrieked, a voice in no way belonging to a young girl, masculine, deep and husky. She tried to leap from her bed, but the maid held her back.



“Curse you!” she shrieked in another voice, the voice of a crone.



Many voices then shrieked at once. “Your soul shall be confined to the Helvault! You will never find the blessed sleep! Abomination – abomination and heresy are heaped upon your shoulders! Denton! Denton!”



“Begone!” Denton yelled, and brandished the collar of Avacyn. “By the law of Avacyn I command you to leave this girl.”



“Leave!” she shrieked “Leave! Leave! Leave and endure the torments of your abominable life! Leave and suffer alone as you must suffer! Leave!”



“All that is holy compels you, spirit!” Denton cried, pressing the holy symbol against the girl’s skin. “Return now from whence you came!”



“We will never! Never stop! Never Resting! Never Resting! Never Resting! Never…”



Selene convulsed and gasped for air, and Harvard Denton staggered back. The little girl had returned, and soon hugged her knees, sniffling and beginning to cry.



“So, that’s it?” her father asked, “It’s done?”



Harvard Denton looked at the girl. She looked up at him, eyes pleading, full of terror and sorrow and the shred of hope that in her dark hour Avacyn could save her. She was, perhaps, the image of humanity – lost and afraid, full of promise and in desperate need of a savior. Harvard Denton knew that well enough, he had seen it before.



He shook his head.



“As always,” he said, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that was no geist speaking through your daughter.”



With confident strides, he marched over to the curtained window. For a moment, he laid a hand on the velvet that was draped over it.



“And, in other bad news, I feel a draft.”



He tore down the curtain, revealing what was beneath: the window was practically gone, smashed and shattered, looking over a pleasant yard and another smashed window upon the other side.



The mayor’s wife gasped, and the mayor himself hung his head.



“A final peace of bad news.” Harvard Denton declared, “Once a demonic possession has gone so far as this-“



“My daughter didn’t do that!” the mayor wailed, “She didn’t hurt anyone, much less kill all those people!”



“Use your reason!” Denton shouted back, “This case is as clear as day. She may not be a murderer, but her body is an implement of murder all the same. And I am sorry, but as I was saying once things have gone this far, there is only one way to stop the demon.”



***


The town square was buzzing with activity. The mayor and his wife were in the stocks, the mob having decided that it was the only safe place for them until the deed was done. Their daughter, their dear Selene, was tied to a stake in the square. Cruelly, Denton reflected, right where her parents were forced to look as the townsfolk piled their wood and tinder about her feet, and poured their oil over her head.



Throughout the day, as the stake was erected, she had pleaded, and since being bound to it in the afternoon she had cried. When the sun set, Harvard Denton knew, she would burn. He, after all, was the one who would light the pyre.



As the sun sank to the horizon, Denton lit the torch.



“This is our somber duty.” He declared, raising it above his head, “Avacyn is mighty, but She cannot be in all places. So we, in Her name, do condemn to fire and commend to the Blessed Sleep Selene Teague, whose will is not her own. Let her be remembered as she could have been, as the mayor’s daughter and not the monster. And, above all, let her rest. By Avacyn, we will purge the wicked!”



Denton approached the pyre, and Selene convulsed. It seemed there would be one last episode.



“Fools!” she cried, “You blind fools! All of you will die, save for one!” She looked down at him and spoke in a new voice, the soft voice of a mature woman that shook the Inquisitor to his core.



“Harvard Denton.” The woman said, plainly unaccented by rage or hate, “May you live forever.”



Denton lit the pyre, and a little girl screamed. An inquisitor turned his back on it, and walked away. Before the last echoes of Selene’s dying screams had left the air, with her pyre still blazing in the center of the town, the sounds of merriment began to fill the air. They were celebrating – all of them cheering for the gruesome death of a little girl.



They would have put it differently, would have said that they were celebrating the end of a reign of terror, but to Harvard Denton it was all the same. The only thing that fazed him anymore was that voice… at the end she had spoken with his wife’s voice. Ten years in the grave as she was, he had at least hoped that her soul had found rest. That she had not stung almost as much as what it seemed she thought of who Harvard Denton had become.



Not a man in that town deserved to live, Denton told himself as he marched into the forest. The only good and kind soul there had burned to death at his hand. The rest, in a drunken stupor and with their guards down, were prey.



The moon rose, and Harvard Denton left his human shape behind, howling to his brothers and sisters. He had always looked after, protected, provided for his people, but ever since he had killed the pack’s alpha, and in the wake of that primal bloodshed felt the wild soul of the wolf calling to him, who his people were had changed.



He still regretted some things – framing a girl to produce the opening, murdering an inquisitor, a former colleague, to arrive in his place – but a werewolf needed space, and a werewolf pack needed far more space than a human town.



His people, his pack, crowded around him.



Now? They asked in their own language of bays and barks, scratches and yowls



Now, he told them. Now it was time to fulfill the prophecy the geists had cried from the mouth of Selene Teague. Now it was time to lead his people to victory and purge the wicked.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:09 am 
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Blessed be my Guilt
by Heliosphoros


I slide, ever so silently, across the moonlit air. On my left, the waves bathe the silvery beach, and on my right the fields extend, almost innocent in their own somber way. I extend my pale fingers, and I feel it again -- the light that Innistrad always tries to extinguish. I capture the flames, all of them to the last spark, and they're now forever burning, inside, safe from the cold and the sea wind.



I do not remember when all of this started. I do not remember where I began, just that I am here. There are, however, strange whispers in myself, strange lights of a past life, that sometimes flash whenever I move silently beneath the Sun or before open fire. Voices, you know, though I cannot tell anymore where they came from, since now I hear voices all the time, most of them from the flames. They are of little help anyways, and I do not think it matters anymore.



I do, however, feel guilt. An overwhelming feeling of guilt, of regret, of self-blaming for something I cannot even recall. My consciousness weeps for reasons I cannot understand, and I cannot help but to grieve for the happiness I never had. Maybe I have committed horrible sins in the darkness of the past, and this empty, grieving existence is my eternal punishment, to forever feel this without even understanding why. So I cannot examine the "why" and recover from it or justify it.



In a way, however, it has done wonders for me. This guilt of mine has motivated me, has kept me alert to the grievances of others. I feel cries, grief, fear, suicidal thoughts, despair and many more filling the cold night air, and I seek them. I feel myself in every one of these thoughts and emotions, each a small dagger cutting through me, and I come to assist. If I committed sins in the past, I might as well make up for the future.



I recall the first: a young boy, inside a flaming house. Devils had incited fires and murdered his family. They had broken his leg and filled it with pieces of broken glass, nailing him to a burning bed while they defiled the corpses of his parents. His skin was already beginning to die by the heat, but I saved him. I hastily entered the burning house and I took him out of there before he left his body, and now he lives forever, safe from the horrors of Innistrad, safe from devils and glass and horrendous visages. His salvation had for a moment lifted my grief, but it came down crashing again, as if something had been done wrong, and I set off, guiding by screams not too far away.



I have only existed for about an year like this, and I have saved 201 souls from Innistrad's darkness. At no point had my guilt been lifted, my hypothetical sins been atoned, and frankly I do not mind anymore. This has become my duty, and if I have to suffer so that others may be safe, so be it. I have come to cherish my water-less tears, for they allow me to follow the currents that lead me to castaways, to people whose tears are still water and salt and who need them softly wiped from their wonderful faces. And every time I help, every time I see their eyes bright with the prospect of rescue from the world's woes, I truly feel alive again. My guilt doesn't die, but my grief does, for I feel happy and warm even if for just a few minutes.



Yet, I cannot help but feel that there is some procedure I am misdoing. It is a thought that occasionally plagues me, whenever I save people, and I wonder sometimes if it is why my guilt has not been lifted. I shrug it off, for it seems nonsensical. One day, I felt a massive resurgence of light in the world, and while it empowered me greatly, it has left many small sensations of cuts, as if I was being reprimanded for something. It has lingered with me for several days, until I heard the screams and felt the pain of others again, so for the sake of Innistrad I forsook these pointless, probably delusional feelings.



The Moon is setting on the horizon. I hold the flames, alive and well, now safe from the perils of the skaaberen. Softly I raised the silvery waters of the sea, a calm wave rising to meet her shell and carry it to the open waters, away from scavengers and undead. She is now safe, now enjoying a Blessed Sleep in the most pure of all graves, and a life ever free from pain.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:10 am 
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Creatures of the Night
by Tevish Szat


It was nearing dusk when Hugo Baker came to the crossroads. For him, they were usually uneventful places, just another milestone telling him how far he had walked among the Stensa foothills or Kessig woodlands, and he had traveled long enough that milestones had lost all meaning. There was only the road, and whatever happened to be on it.



At this crossroad, however, a bright set of eyes emerged out of the mist to meet his gaze. The woman they belonged to was stopped at the crossroads, looking intently at him. She had probably heard him coming, Hugo realized, and he knew well enough that turning your back on a stranger wasn’t the best idea in the world.



The woman smiled, and Hugo forced himself to do the same.



“Good evening, miss.” He said.



“I don’t know,” she replied, voice smooth as silk, “Is it?”



Hugo laughed, just a little.



“What’s your name?” the woman asked.



“Ladies first.” Hugo replied. Something about the woman made him tense, and he couldn’t quite tell if it was her bearing – confident though alone in a threatening world – or her figure.



“It’s Allison.” She replied. “Are you always so formal, mister…?”



“Hugo.” He replied, “And only with strangers at night.”



“Well,” she sighed, “I can’t do a thing about the night, but perhaps I shouldn’t be a stranger?”



Allison smiled, and Hugo found himself smiling back. The tension was gone, and though there was something nagging at him, he tried to ignore it.



“Which way are you going?”



“My own way,” She answered, “But I know a place not far from here, just the way you were walking. It may not be much, but it’s fair enough to pass a night.”



“Are you offering to show the way?”



“What do you think?” Allison asked, and started a slow walk along the road



***


The house was empty, seemingly abandoned though little if any dust having settled since the last passing travelers had come through. Why there was no landlord, nor any other sign of human habitation, Hugo couldn’t begin to guess. He was more concerned with his company for the evening.



If she had meant any harm, he told himself, she easily could have taken a chance along the road, but still he wondered and worried. She had been nothing but charming, winsome glances and passing innuendos since they had met, and one pearl of knowledge had served Hugo in good stead, it was that if something seemed too good to be true, it probably was.



“I think it will be a clear night outside.” She said, “After moonrise. Until then, the wine cellar is stocked, there’s plenty of firewood… the perfect start to, yes, a good evening.”



“What is this place?” Hugo demanded, now more worried than ever, “How did you know it was here?”



“Do you take me for a rogue?” she asked, “Some sort of bandit?” she laughed, “Mister Hugo, this is my home, and though I may wander from it at times, I always come back. I enjoy its little pleasures, after all.”



“It seems awfully large.”



“It is.” She replied, “But I have my ways.”



“Like inviting strange men into your house?”



“Plenty of wine for a traveler, and plenty of warmth from a good fire, enjoy it if you’re able.”



***


Hugo leaned back into the velvet chair, head swimming. He had enjoyed too much wine, that was certain. With each cup he had measured what he stood to lose against how much he thought there was any danger. By then, he had stopped caring that he had not witnessed his hostess drink a drop.



“Now,” she said, standing herself and walking towards him, “I think I've been ungenerous. Perhaps I should correct that?”



The suggestion brought Hugo a bit closer to sobriety, and he managed to mutter “No.” He knew that he was drunk, and so passion might bring out something dark within him.



“Why not?” Allison asked, “We are what we are, and there's nothing to be ashamed of there..”



“Allison, I don’t want to-“ he stuttered, “To alarm you.”



“Me, be alarmed? Why would I be?” She placed a knee between his legs and leaned over close, breath full of anticipation. "I know exactly what I'm getting myself into."



She closed the last inches between them with a kiss, an embrace, and Hugo felt his human side lose its grip. His eyes changed first, becoming dark and vivid. The last shreds of his fear melted away as his hands elongated to claws, tearing at the arms of the overstuffed chair. His bulk increased as fur covered him, shredding his travelling garb and making way for the wolf's tail and strength. he raised his lupine muzzle up and howled to the moon no doubt above. Hugo, the werewolf, then turned and glared with savage yellow eyes at his hostess.



Allison just grinned broadly, revealing a cruel set of fangs.



“There, there.” She said, walking over and kneeling beside him, “Take a sniff. You want to eat me even less than I’d like a bite of you.”



She smelled of nothing but perhaps a faint perfume, no fearful sweat or sweet, fresh blood to pique a natural hunter’s interests. She reached over and scratched behind his ears, the vampire tempting her fate by treating a werewolf as some common domestic pet.



“You’re very fortunate,” she said, “That my sense of smell was better than yours. It’s not often I get prey, and when the sun still shone, well, I could have mistaken you for it.”



Hugo growled, and she simply laughed.



“Now, now, I think we can get along just fine, you and I.” She said, “We both like fresh meat, take pleasure in the hunt, and revel in the airs of the night. There’s room in this house for two, and I have so often heard touted the strength and loyalty of dogs.”



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:10 am 
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Dear and Decorations
by Heliosphoros


In Innistrad, the Sun is the gold to the Moon's silver. Paler than in countless other worlds, it wasn't as white hot as much as it was of a more golden, milder tone; it was more certainly a more obvious source of life than of order. Still, it was strong enough to push aside most vampires and undead, during the season of mankind at least.



Still, in its glory, and while certainly the harbinger of safety, it did not hold as much cultural importance as the Moon. The Moon became sacred to Avacyn, the guardian angel of Innistrad's humans, bearer of the holy mark of the heron and of the sacred silver to kill all monsters. Yet its light also revealed werewolves amidst men. It was a vicious cycle, the silvery light that created hope and despair. It is perhaps why it was more relevant in these struggles against the predators of mankind; the Sun was an illusion of comfort, the Moon was the reminder of brutality.



It was this relevance in the struggle why the leader of Avacyn's church was designated Lunarch; the highest servant of the angel observed the phases of the Moon, empowered the silver weapons and their bearers, and reinforced the spiritual strength of the faithful under the light of the Moon. In days now gone, he was the single most powerful cleric amidst all, his faith in their angel allowing him to commit many holy banishments of beasts and undead alike. Yet, perhaps ironically, his strength began to wane, as did the strength of all of the church; several seasons ago, Avacyn was gone, and with it the most obvious enhancer of their faith powered magic. With her departure, the magic of the clerics lost much strength, and eventually they too fell prey to the horrors.



The current Lunarch, Mikaeus, knew all too well what happened to his master, but the reason of her disappearance was sealed shut within his lips.



Daily did he practised the rituals teached to him, attempting to revitalise the might of his holy warriors and priests. An entire room in the Cathedral's tower was exclusive to him and his magical practises. There, thousands of candles provided a golden light not unlike the Sun's; for quite a while had Mikaeus been experimenting with them. It started as something of an unorthodox take on his usual rituals, and now had expanded into a few new spells of his design. He wondered if this was heresy, although he did not find it very likely; the mana for his spells was drawn from the Moon and from the Cathedral itself, sources of holy power. He had recently began drawing power from the flames of the candles, and they felt similar, although more intense in quality; he was aware that fire was associated with chaotic types of magic, but ultimately so was the Moon to some extent, what with turning people into werewolves and destroying protective spells. To him, it felt like both order and chaos were closely tied, that they were both represented in the light of the Moon and of the flames; so much potential to be found, and required in these dark times.



Suddenly, a bell rang.



Footsteps could be heard, nervous in tone.



A youth kneeled.



"G-great excellency, we need you."



The Lunarch turned. While he was not a particularly tall man, his holy aura was definitely important, and the person kneeling before him was a young teenager, a boy training to become a member of the cathars dedicated to protect the Cathedral. The youth was for the first time in front of the leader of Innistrad's main religion, a great honour infected with the possibility of humiliation. At best, that is.



The Lunarch raised the youth's chin, and gave a reassuring smile, relaxing the youth somewhat. The boy had a silver dagger in his left hand.



"I suppose we are under attack, are we not?"



The boy nodded. Mikaeus motioned for him to rise, and lead the way. They walked up the tower, climbing the spiralling stairs, until they reached the highest place available, a balcony right under the golden surface that covered the top of the cathedral. The sky was dark, illuminated by the white light of the Moon; flying around were vampires, an unusual sight so far from Stensia. Battling the vampiric menace were griffins and archons.



"Any attackers on the ground?"



"Undead, but they haven't entered holy ground."



Mikaeus looked farther. Zombies were piling up around the gates; so far the cathars had been proficient at keeping them at bay, with the magic of the clerics empowering them and their silver weapons. Yet, one who had witnessed the might of the clerics when Avacyn was around could easily see how much might had been lost; what once took minutes to solve was now a legitimate battle.



Suddenly, a loud crash.



A vampire had landed in a roof above, and was climbing down. She was a newly sired vampire, her hair and eyes glowing with a red light, and her skin with a bluish/greenish tone. She did not have any semblance of a rational mind, something she had lost and would have to reacquire as a vampire. Little more than a mindless beast - like a werewolf, amusingly enough -, she bared her fangs, covered in the blood of a now dead archer.



Wasting no time, the Lunarch grabbed the blade of the boy's dagger, and chanted, his mind focusing on the cathedral itself. The blade began to glow. The hand went up the dagger and grasped the youth's hand.



The vampire jumped, landing on the balcony, inches away from the Lunarch. Her hands grasped tightly the balustrade, avoiding a slip. The boy whimpered in fear, too petrified to act. But it was not a problem. Before the vampire had the chance to leave the balustrade, the dagger was slicing her arm. Screaming in pain as her flesh burned, she carelessly fell down the balcony, not to be seen again, at least that night.



"You did great for a first kill."



"T-thanks" the youth blushed.



The Lunarch turned to the skies once more, and opened his arms, returning to his chanting. He could clearly see the Moon and its landscape, and drew white mana from it into the griffins and archons fighting the vampires. In times gone, this boost had made warriors extremely powerful fighters, able to slay the monsters with immense ease, and even now it was sufficient to guarantee the victory. Yet, he feared that this too would lose strength over time.



"Have the cathars warned you that you are too young to fight?"



"Well, obviously they did."



"Good. They have not degenerated into extremists yet."



They hurried down the stairs, passing through the main halls as quickly as possible. They are greeted by one of the cathars, the mentor of the boy, who hugs the youth. He then notices the blood on the dagger.



"Just so that you know, you're still staying here."



Strangely, the young cathar did not seem very upset about it. The Lunarch walked to the gates of the cathedral, the other clerics giving way. He decided at first to do to the holy warriors what he did to the griffins and archons, but recalled the still lit candles, and he began to draw mana from the cathedral once more. This time, the candles boosted to his spell.



The undead were now concentrated in a single spot by the cathars. A few had been destroyed by the holy weapons, but the process of killing them was considerably harder than killing werewolves or vampires, because their numbers were high enough to ensure that direct combat with them could make infection relatively easy. This strategy would now turn against them.



With a final word, Mikaeus finished his spell. Bright white flames burst in the middle of the undead plague, growing hotter as they expanded from zombie to zombie. An heron-like phoenix form could be seen occasionally in the flames, perhaps suggesting that they were every bit a predator as the monsters that threatened mankind. The living fire brought the zombies their doom, being utterly reduced to ashes in a matter of a single minute.



The ghoulcaller was captured and executed not too long after, as the Sun began emerging in the horizon. Mikaeus the Lunarch was more than satisfied with his experiment, and as the Sun began to rise he thought of ways of enhancing this new spell further.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:11 am 
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Through Darkness
by Tevish Szat


I was and am a Klarsch, of the Lowland Klarsch line, which had customarily resided in manor homes upon the moorlands, those lonely places where men of some sophistication could find peace and quiet not to be had in Havengul, Avabruck, or the Holy City of Thraben. I was also in those days a crofter by occupation, and tenanted a parcel of land that was scarcely fit for my own upkeep, much less the keep of a bride and family to come – which was at the outset of events something of the matter. This was owing to my father’s choices in life, which had led our ancient family to disown him and force the worst layabout in four provinces to fend for himself in the world. How he wooed my mother, I will never know.



Only once did I meet the well-to-do side of my house, making the acquaintance of those who had never known the feeling of earth beneath their fingernails nor the ache of a hard days labor, for they were blessed with old money and a penchant for ensuring that stock grew rather than depleted over time. This was with the death of my father, half from accident and half from the bottle, when it fell to me to see him interred in the familial graf he had been born for.



And while I did not think I had made a poor impression upon my uncle and cousins, I was still my father’s son, and it seemed obvious to me that the wealthy sort did not know what to do with me, being innocent of the sins that had cast my late father from their graces but at the same time being unfamiliar to their society.



This and more my love knew of me and my station. Her being the daughter of a master blacksmith, and therefore very well-to-do, did at least suspect that her parents would be against her marrying beneath her station. Thus at first we kept our trysts and meetings secret from them, or at least did not openly announce intentions of moving beyond walks with the sun at dawn and dances at the Feast of Goldnight. She suspected her father and mother would warm to me, or that I might implore my distant family for some pittance to elevate myself to worth in the eyes of my immediate peers.



It could never be, I was rather sure – though the Flight of Herons was said some times to watch especially the course of lovers and fools, I knew that even with a name that spoke of nobility I was a hair's breadth above the station of a vagabond myself, and though I’d won my love’s heart, I dared not hope to win her hand, but instead sought to savor these summer days that would be dear memories when at last the Hunter’s Moon came and the dream ended, as all dreams must.



It was in the latter half of the Harvest moon, past the Feast of Goldnight, when our secrets, ill-kept though they were, were beginning to weigh upon us and it seemed as though I would soon have to press or withdraw my suit, when news at once foul and fair reached me.



My aunt, uncle, and my cousins up in the family manner had, it seemed, met with bad ends. I mourned them, though I scarcely knew them, but found it difficult to remain dour upon learning that I, as their closest relative, was to inherit the fortunes of the family. Even if I could not manage to keep myself as they did, I could at least improve my lot in life and make myself worthy of my love’s affections and her hand. Thus, before departing to inspect my new possessions and look into the fates of my estranged family, I came to her home and presented my suit to her parents.



They were, at first, reticent. As I feared, they still saw me as the poor crofter, a man of virtue perhaps but not of means and certainly in no position to be a good husband to their daughter. But with my love’s words to them – vehement and sincere regarding our affection to each other – their countenances softened, and they decided that as I was now a man of some wealth and means and had not shown my father’s sins, to be liable to squander that wealth, they would give their consent at least to the match.



With that given, I knew I had to travel to the manor that was now mine, and make arrangements for what to do now that I was thrust into this new and grand situation. My love insisted to make the journey with me, for as her parents had given their consent, the manor was likely to become her home as much as it was mine.



It was not far, though it did take a few days on foot to reach the Klarsch manor grounds. For the second time in my life, I looked up at its strange, gargoyle-haunted parapets and wondered to what end it had originally been designed.



This much I knew: It had come into my family four generations past, which was to say that there was a time before it was the Klarsch manor, though no records survived to my life that would tell who or what inhabited the space before my house did. In those times, before my family, only the innermost part of the structure existed. That was a fortified building, ugly and squat, made of ancient stone.



To the base of the manor, my family had added several wings over the years. Each was finely appointed, and attempted to either accent or conceal the old structure at the core of the Klarsch manor, and yet each addition had failed in some ways to do so, such as you could still see the leering gargoyles and note the discontinuity of the architecture between the elder days and the more recent past.



Indeed, that was itself the most telling feature – masonry that might have predated Avacyn was encased in, surrounded by largely wooden construction that spread every way. Slits in the wall that let in precious little light were here, and there grand windows of many glass panes that would fully illuminate their halls if the sun ever burst through the fog of the moors.



With the passing of my relations, the only tenant upon the grounds was the hired groundskeeper, a man of indeterminate but probably advanced age who was possessed of at best half a normal person’s wit. I did not doubt that he performed his tasks exceedingly well, but he did not seem capable of speech and often had to be told a fact two or three times to comprehend it. Despite the difficulty, I acquired the keys to the manor and was able to enter.



As I recalled, the place was dismal at the best of times, when my relations inhabited it and had done their best to make it hospitable and welcoming to the guests they hosted within the walls of their home. Now, empty and silent, furniture covered over by white cloths no doubt placed in the wake of the tragedy to which my relations had fallen, it seemed as though it would be warmer were it a place haunted. Even the unnatural chill of a geist’s presence would, at least, be a presence.



All the same, we went about making the place something more of a home that evening, and when the hour grew late withdrew to adjacent bedchambers, for we still had our propriety. I would have slept well, and thought that we would fill the home with joy and laughter in coming days but for the fact that I was awakened in the dead dark of the night by a scrabbling sound outside.



The noise was quite a bit larger than I would have thought a simple rat in the old walls of the wing would sound, and thus I sat up as the scratching and scrabbling continued, and lit the lamp at my bedside. Hesitantly, I then opened the door, only to see something skitter out of the range of my light.



I only witnessed it for an instant, but then gave chase, making out its lines as I followed it through the hallway.



It was something like the depictions I had seen of the werewolves, but hairless, and possessed of a long and spaded tail that sometimes I glimpsed when swiftly rounding a corner. I pursued my foe into the old hall, where it outraced me to the grand old fireplace, and I caught one final glimpse of that loathsome tail as it scurried up the darkened flue.



I was not then, in the dark of the night, sure of what I had seen. Had I been certain, I should have quit the manor at dawn and not returned but with inquisitors at my back. Instead, I returned to uneasy sleep and the next day, while I spoke to my love about the perhaps-dream, told myself that the darkness would play tricks upon my eyes and ears, and the apparition was likely nothing but a prodigious and terrified rat.



We spent the day surveying the manor and the grounds, my love and I – it was then I found my relations were not lying in state, but already buried within the graf, as it was to mounds of earth I was brought when I asked the caretaker for their location. With the man lacking the power of speech, I did not ask why this had been done as it was.



Barring that unfortunate business, our day was happy enough, and though the great silence of the house still loomed over us, we endeavored to fill it with our words, our prayers, and our work.



When the sun sank beneath the horizon, though, what joy we had endeavored to create wore thin. I set a fire in the fireplace, to hopefully prevent any more nocturnal disturbances, only to be awakened by a thing far more dire and urgent than the scrabbling scratching. I heard screaming.



I leapt from bed and without any care burst from my door, and into the door of my love’s chamber. The topsheet glowed with an unearthly light, and formed itself into a figure of vaguely human shape. Its hands, malformed, grappled with my dear while a voice echoed from the linens



“Get out!” it shrieked, “Get out! Get out!”



At once, I leapt into the fray with the spirit, for though I knew I could do it no great harm I could at least remove it if it remained in possession of the covers. At least, that was what I told myself after the fact. The reality is, I was not thinking, did not care what I could or could not do. I simply acted.



The geist, for that is what it must have been, continued to shriek and wail as I wrestled with it, all its words demanding that we or I or someone it had mistaken my love for quit the house at all haste, yet eventually, after a brief struggle that felt like eternity in the heat of the moment, its ethereal presence dissipated entirely, and the room was left silent and dark once more.



My love and I did not sleep the rest of that night, too great was our fear, hearts pounding from the brush with the dead and perhaps with death itself. We rested somewhat when dawn came, for in the light of day it seemed as though we were impervious to the same sort of harm. When we awakened again, past noon, we had a dire choice.



It was clear that the house would need the attentions of a priest, for while we both knew our prayers we were simple people, and feared that our faith would not be sufficient to banish evil. Yet, our daily business opened rather than concluded, it seemed wrong to leave at once, and further more to depart the house in the wake of that attack would be to surrender to the will of the unquiet dead.



All the same, it seemed prudent to not sleep within the confines of the house that night, and so we intended to take up temporary residence at one of the smaller out-buildings. Yet, when we came to the door, we were met by the mute groundskeeper. He stood straight and tall, carrying a pitchfork with him. I said that it was good he had come, for we would need his aid to find secure lodging on the grounds.



And then… he spoke, but it was no human voice that echoed from his mouth. He said that we would never leave the house, and as he did he grew from a tall man to a true giant, skin turning black, horns sprouting from his brow. For a moment, my love and I stood transfixed in horror, but before the change from man to demon was complete, we turned back to the inside and ran.



My feet knew the way better than my mind did, for soon, with my love at my side, I found myself in the east wing and the small chapel to Avacyn that was within. The footsteps of the demon were close behind, and there was but the one exit from the holy space. There, with death bearing down upon us, we did the only thing we could do and prayed.



The demon entered moments later, and stalked towards us. It raised its pitchfork, and I shut my eyes and continued to pray for salvation with my dear.



At that moment, our prayers were heard. Perhaps there was simply some old magic in the chapel that the demon had not known about, but whatever the cause, a brilliant white light began to radiate from the altar and the effects about it. The demon that had been in the groundskeeper’s shape raised its arms and shielded its eyes, stumbling away from the holy Radiance, while we humans, faithful to Avacyn, looked into it to find one item so illuminated was a blessed replica of the Archangel’s own spear, made in its image.



My love was first to grasp the hilt. A moment later, seeing what she intended, I laid my hand on it as well. Together, with both our strengths, we drove it into the stunned fiend.



Light and blessed silver seared the monster’s flesh, and with one horrific scream, it dissolved into countless skittering shadows that were themselves chased out by the light that was our salvation. As it faded, and the moon through the high window became once more the only light within the chapel, we knew that the trial was over, at least for the time being.



For once we slept at ease in the manor, and the next day decided on our course: I would remain to make preparations, while my love would go to town and bring priests for the blessing of the house and whomsoever would come to celebrate, for she was of the mind that we might as well be wedded at the same time.



Sweetly she smiled as she departed our home, and the life that providence had given us, and promised it would not be long until we were wed… but that was the last that I saw of my dear.



What sorrow befell her on the road, none ever would know, for when she was found she was shrouded for burial, in no state to be seen by those who knew and cared for her in life. I was a rich man, my home free from the curse that had no doubt claimed the lives of my rich relations before me… but in many ways I was rendered poorer than I ever had been before.



Yet fate, or perhaps Providence, I do not think is so cruel as all that… for if you stay in my house, I suspect at times you shall feel a faint chill, or note a curtain rustling where there is no breeze, and in the dark of the night I know that I am not alone. Over the years I have grown more and more certain of this, so that now when I pray to Avacyn, I ask her to tell Flight Alabaster to let me be, at least for a time.



And though I am old now, and my constitution poor, my heart is filled with joy… for last night alone, I saw my dead love come in. She stepped close beside me, radiant as ever when she lived. Her geist stood beside me, this she said: It will not be long now, love, until we are wed.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:11 am 
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Blasphemous Act
by RavenoftheBlack


Through lies of day the Cathars preach,
They craft the holiest deceit,
They stand by pulpits, feign to teach
The words they mindlessly repeat.

But through the shaded tints of night,
Where winds will blow a colder breeze,
The truths of life that shun the light,
Are there for braver men to seize.

Golden coins hold darker sides,
And every lamp casts shadows gray,
And what, within that shadow, hides,
Is more than anyone could say.

The Church of Avacyn is weak,
They lean on prayer as though a crutch,
Forsake their path if you would seek
The power that you crave so much.

You wish to turn away from her?
You wish to join our growing ranks?
Then you must be a connoisseur,
Of all that gives the demons thanks.

This night is wild, smell the air!
And feel the heart within you lurch!
Our journey's end is waiting there,
Within that old decrepit church.

This ancient door is rusted through,
The hinges strain until they give,
The screech they make is nothing new,
They fill the dark in which we live.

The mark of Avacyn stands proud
Upon an altar, hewn of stone,
The crash of thunder cries out loud,
I feel it rattle flesh and bone!

We crowd among these pews of wood,
There are so many gathered here,
I see the place the Cathar stood,
Before he fell to mortal fear.

The walls seem made of colored glass,
Though most were broken, save the red,
It tinted all as moonlight passed
Through panes the color of the dead.

The eyes are windows, they speak true,
Their lattice bares no latch nor lock,
Mine narrow as they turn to you,
Yours widen as you stare in shock.

A flash of lightning from without,
Illuminates your dire fate,
You wonder now, with fear and doubt,
What sights you'll see upon hell's gate.

But you've a greater destiny,
Than dying softly in the mud,
For I shall write a dark decree
And sign it with your steaming blood

The words had scarce escaped my lips
When they began to take effect,
The moon had entered an eclipse,
And darkness blessed our faithful sect.

The blood around your body pooled,
But then leapt up like wafting mist,
And in my veins, my own had cooled,
My shaking palm had clenched to fist.

A laughter sounded through the air,
This was a game that demons win,
And now my body lingers there,
My face contorted in a grin.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 2:12 am 
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Dear Namior
by chinkeeyong


Dear Namior,



The weather tonight in Kessig is unearthly cold, with a forbidding fog that seems to pull at one's eyelids. It reminds me of the hour, nearly fourteen years ago, that I left our hometown. Pardon me for not writing to you all this while – my duties in this sunless place stretch longer than its nights, and each missing or dead man only adds to the work I must do. I pray you are sleeping well.



Time is a cruel master. I remember how I was but a boy when I left the crumbling mansion with Bruck, my heart clouded by his promises and empty hopes. And I remember how you were the tottering waif who lingered at the gate, waving me off into the moonlight. What conviction we found in ourselves then! What innocence of heart! Bruck and I hoped to find in the woods of Kessig a kind of escape from the monotony of our household, or asylum from our father's preachings. But in the darkness of the skeletal woods, we found fear more visceral than anything the Church could describe.



Away from the candlelight and torches that marked the safe streets of Gavony, only the shadows cast by the Harvest Moon held sway. I saw the places where Avacyn faltered – places where creatures stalked, roots clawed and the sky turned its face from the blighted earth. I lost Bruck then, when an errand to fetch herbs led him across a naiad's river. All I found was his battered hat, floating gently beneath blood-red falls.



Perhaps it is just as well that the forest hardened my young heart, for it was from that day forth that I learned to seal away my fear.



On the foggiest nights of the Hunter's Moon, I learned to shelter in caves behind crossbow and holy water; only when the moon had dipped below the horizon would I permit myself to slumber. I learned to spy slivers of silver within common earth and rock, and to chisel it out with shards of livestock bone. I learned to mask the scent of my blood with garlic and twilight orchid. I learned to bait, trap and kill. I was no longer content to run and hide – I would become the hunter of the hunters.



I travelled across the lowlands of Kessig for many years, coming across nothing but deserted farmsteads and the charred wrecks of former civilization. My beard grew, matured and frayed. I saw things deep in the woods that no living man would admit to seeing, and I heard things carried by the Hunter's Moon wind that would have turned the heart of any sane man. If I was insane then, I no longer remember – but if I was, it was my memories of you and my family that gave me hope

.

I came upon the refugees twenty moons ago on the Hangman's Walk – our name for the winding mountain path, fraught with unsteady footing and restless geists, that leads from Stensia. The poor souls were the survivors of an unthinkable devil-fire that engulfed their village, and the escape from the resulting mob of charred undead had stripped them of all but seventeen of their number. And what seventeen they were – four were women, seven were children, and all were half-dead of thirst! Should another day have passed, they would have perished without burial or rest.



Perhaps it was the sight of fellow men that reawakened the humanity within me, or perhaps it was an act of Avacyn herself. I took those seventeen beneath my wing and divided my stockpile of supplies among them. Calling on a strength from somewhere deep within my heart, I delivered them from those treacherous borderland spires, guided them down the Hangman's Walk, and led them to the closest pure spring I knew. As our party emerged from the moaning woodlands into the clearing that I had marked out for my campsite – with weapons, food and symbols of the Church in abundant supply – the spirits seemed to lift from the trees themselves, and with them the grievances from our hearts.



The days hence marked a new chapter of my life. The noble rescue I had accomplished spiraled into something beyond my control, as they always seem to. Despite the creeping darkness of Kessig and the ever looming threat of the werewolf hunts, we managed to etch out a kind of order in the wilderness. Wooden stakes became mortared walls, prayer circles became inspiring churches, and my tiny band went from stragglers to settlement. As we cleared the foreboding woods tree by tree, night by night, I named the village Avabruck – in the memory of my fallen brother.



Now a kind of uneasy peace reigns between us. We have all that we could ask for in a world of unrelenting darkness – protection, light and life. Our dozens of cathars and the power of the Church fights the horrors of the outside world blow for blow. Yet, deep in the darkest pits of my heart, I feel – and my citizens feel – that this peace cannot last. No man can fight forever, not even I.



Last night, I woke to find my window smashed, horrific gashes on my clothes and torso, and a smattering of ominous, inhuman hair on the floor of my bedchamber. I believe I was attacked in the night by a beast or werewolf – nay, I pray I was attacked in the night.



I cannot bear to imagine the alternative.



Sleep well,


Ederic Serhunde


Mayor of Avabruck



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:14 pm 
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Requiem for an Angel
by Cai-ann


"When angels despair, what hope can remain for mortals?”



'She is gone' For almost a year that had been the only thought that had travelled through her mind. At first she had continued her duty as an angel of Flight Alabaster but now she could not bring herself to give false hope to those the she would have appeared to.



'Avacyn, why did you order the Flight of Goldnight to stand down? Why did you take him on alone? You must have know he had a plan......No of course you didn't. If you had known you wouldn't have engaged him in combat.' Even in her mind the angel was hysterical.



For centuries she had served Avacyn with her entire being, and now their hope, their light, was gone. Pulled into darkness by the most foul of beings.



'Avacyn..... where are you?' For barely a moment, confusion reigned on the creature of lights face.



'She is gone.' The angel lay of the foot of a statue of their hope and wept.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:15 pm 
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The Butcher's Cleaver
by RavenoftheBlack



Mayri stared at the blade, her hands folded and resting against her lips, her head lowered as she peered through her unkempt auburn bangs. She occasionally wondered how long she had been sitting there, but always the thought would vanish as the hideous knife would catch another glint of the fading sunlight seeping through the imperfect walls. It had been hours, at least. A few hours before noon that day, they had buried Thaddan, her husband of eight years, in the church cemetery. Shortly afterward, they had gathered inside to hear his final will and testament. Thaddan had been the village butcher, and was much loved by the entire town. His will, however, perplexed everyone.



He had left her his knife. Of all the things he owned in this world, of all the things he and Mayri had shared during their life together, he had chosen to leave her nothing but his butcher's cleaver. Their home, their land, even the bed they had shared every night for the last eight years, none of it belonged to Mayri now. The house had been bequeathed to Thaddan's sister Nily, a pale, demanding woman who hated everything, Thaddan, Mayri and the village included. She had always been cruel to all of them, but now, after Thaddan's passing, the house he had built was hers. The land was given to the church, with the understanding that Nily could live there freely until her death. Their bed had been left to a young, thin woman called Lylla, who at least had the decency to act shocked at the reading. Mayri's reaction to the news was less subdued, but much more honest.



None of it made any sense. Thaddan had always tolerated his sister, but had never really cared for her. On the rare occasions of her visits, Thaddan had always been clear he wanted them kept brief, which Nily had always been happy to oblige. The fact that he left the house to her was illogical at best. Leaving the land to the church was equally strange. Thaddan had always been a faithful church-goer, certainly, but the business end of church dealings were always done by Korin, one of the few people in the town, in all of Innistrad, really, that Thaddan openly disliked. Mayri never fully understood why. Korin was youthful, handsome, kind and caring man, and was always well-liked. But Thaddan used to tell her he was not the sort of man he seemed, that he was a man of secrets and lies, and that he held too few of the virtues a church-man ought to. Mayri would simply nod her head in vague agreement and let the matter pass. But that was why it seemed so odd that Thaddan would donate land, since no one would benefit more from it than Korin.



Mayri's inheritance was listed last, and frankly she would have rather received nothing at all. Thaddan had left her only his butcher's cleaver and a note with three words scrawled on it: "Continue my work." That was all. All Mayri had to show for half a lifetime of genuine love and support. She had a knife and a demand. A few of the others in that small, awkward room had tried to be kind, to offer their condolences on both her loss and her insult, but most had laughed. She tried to hate them, but why shouldn't they laugh? Wasn't it all a joke, anyway? Cruel, most certainly, but a joke nonetheless. She had tried to hate Thaddan, too, but she just couldn't. She had loved him too much and for too long, and she had always been taught never to think ill of the dead. She should have hated them all, but she simply couldn't.



And so she sat and stared at the mocking insult that was her sole, remaining property. It was a large-bladed cleaver used for hacking through tough meat and bone. The blade was heavy, chipped and warped, showing its age and the repeated use it had been put to over the years. Most of the edge was stained red with the blood of countless creatures that had served to feed the village after being prepared by the masterful hands of Thaddan. The blade was fixed to a heavy wooden handle that had been smoothed and worn by those very same fingers that used to run through her hair. Had Mayri tried to hang on to that thought, she might have wept, but those eyes were otherwise occupied, transfixed in spiteful consideration of her beloved husbands final gift, if so it could be called. Since she had arrived home, she had not placed those eyes anywhere else.



Thaddan had always loved her eyes. Even before they had married, he would often tell her how surpassingly lovely they were. It was the most common compliment he paid her. Over the years she had grown more plump, her face had become slightly lined and wrinkled, her hair had lost some of its youthful shine, but her eyes, at least to her husband, were as beautiful as ever. But now those steely blue eyes were locked on her late husband's butcher's cleaver, the only thing he deemed fit to leave her. It was a puzzle, a grand mystery of his legacy, and Mayri would not allow her eyes, the eyes he had loved, to fall on anything else until that riddle was solved.



Finally, though, she was forced to look elsewhere when her contemplation was interrupted by a knock on the door. The knock was only a formality, however, as a moment later that door was pushed open to admit the unwelcomed and arrogant form of Nily. Mayri said nothing, but was able to force a sad smile at the appearance of her late husband's sister, now the owner of the house. Nily's smile was a great deal more genuine. Her eyes were brighter than Mayri had ever seen them. As the taller woman slowly made her way over, examining the house as if for the first time, Mayri tried desperately not to hate her.



Finally, Nily stopped and looked at the widow. "This must be a hard day for you, dear. Tell me, how are you holding up?"



"Well, to be honest, I..."



Nily interrupted as though Mayri hadn't said anything. "Yes, I remember the day I lost my brother, that was a difficult day for me. His wife didn't even pay me a call to offer her sympathies."



"Nily, I asked you if you were alright at the burial and you said..."



"Of course," she interrupted again, "I had objected to the marriage from day one."



Mayri took a deep breath and waited from Nily to continue. When she didn't, Mayri said, "Yes, I know you did Nily, but..."



"Don't interrupt, dear, it's terribly rude." Nily smiled as she spoke, then continued. "Where was I? Oh, yes, my objections. You see, I told Thaddan that his wife wasn't good enough for him, that she was plain, and a bad match for him. Not that you weren't lovely on your wedding day, dear, and the tailor did such a masterful job letting out your mother's dress like that, but of course, it was nothing personal."



"Of course," Mayri managed, forcing herself not to cry.



"And now here we are, eight long years later. Thaddan is dead, and he left your marital bed to some harlot from the village. Shameful, really."



Mayri said nothing. Nily was already enjoying herself far too much to interrupt her now. "And," she continued, "he left your house to his dear, bereaved sister. Now, of course, I need to decide what to do with it."



Mayri was expecting this. "So am I out on the street now, Nily?"



Thaddan's sister had the nerve to act hurt. "My dear Mayri, how can you think me so cruel? And on a day I've already been hurt so much, really, dear, you should be more thoughtful."



Mayri simply nodded. This day was becoming too much for her to bear.



Nily looked away, and when she looked back her smile was gone. "Though hard to imagine, Thaddan had even worse timing in death than he did in life. I was scheduled to leave for Thraben today, and this whole mess has delayed me. I'll be leaving first thing in the morning. I see no reason why I can't allow you to stay here until I get back. When I do, I expect you to have your things..." she stopped, looking at the massive butcher's knife stuck into the table. She laughed as she continued. "I mean, your thing, packed and ready to move out of my house."



Without another word, she spun around on her heels and headed back toward the door. As she left, she spoke a final time. "Now that I've said the last of my goodbyes to this idiotic town, I can get my beauty sleep and get back to somewhere civilized. I suggest you do the same, as little as either one would do for you."



She slammed the door shut as she left, laughing down the path to the street. Mayri wanted to cry, wanted to scream, wanted to hate Nily for her cruelty, but nothing came. All the widow could do was turn back to the cleaver her husband had left and pondering it yet again. It was probably another hour before a second knock sounded at the door, this one gentler and much more patient. Finally, Mayri pried her eyes from her knife and moved to open the door. On the other side stood Lylla, the woman who now owned Mayri's bed. The scowl on Mayri's face must have deepened, because the other woman's already downcast eyes lowered even further.



"Mayri, I know I must be the last person on Innistrad you want to see right now, but please, may I come in?"



Mayri snorted slightly. "It's not my house. I have no more right to keep you out than you have a right to keep me out. Besides, I expect you'll be wanting your bed."



Lylla recoiled slightly as though slapped, but entered the house anyway. Once the door was closed, she looked at the older woman, her eyes pleading. "Mayri, you have to believe me, there was never anything between your husband and I! I have no idea why he would leave me his bed, I swear it!"



"I have never even imagined a humiliation like that before." Mayri said simply. "If I could have willed myself to die in that church, I think I would have."



Lylla was fighting back tears now. "How do you think I feel? I barely knew Thaddan! He was no more than a butcher to me! But there, in front of everyone, he basically called me a whore in front of the entire village! I don't understand. Why would he do that to me?"



"To you?" Mayri said, trying to sound indignant but failing. "He didn't do it to you, Lylla, it was just another thing he was doing to me. I loved him, and he took everything from me, everything but a stained old knife and some memories to question. At least you got something useful from him."



"But I don't know why!" She exclaimed, desperate now. "Korin says he always thought Thaddan was angry, even hateful, but I never saw that side of him. He was always kind to me, making sure I always had food, even when work was scarce." She paused here, trying to decide on her next words. "Please, Mayri, I know that no one else in town will ever believe a word I say again, if you won't. Please say you believe me!"



So that was what this was about. If Mayri decried Lylla as a harlot and a liar, her life here would be over, but if she told everyone that Thaddan was crazy, or playing a joke, or any number of other things, and that Lylla was unaware and uninvolved, the others would surely believe her. So Thaddan had always been nice to her, uh? Mayri had to wonder just how nice. She stared at the younger woman for quite a while, and had almost decided to lash out at her, when she noticed Lylla's eyes. They were a bland shade of brown, nothing special, nothing fascinating. Nothing that would have held Thaddan's attention the ways hers had. In that instant, Mayri knew that Lylla was telling the truth, and somehow, Mayri hated her more for it. Had she been lying, at least part of Thaddan's last mystery would be solved. Now, she still knew nothing.



"I believe you, Lylla. I don't pretend to know what Thaddan was doing when he gave his final will and testament, but he wasn't being the man I knew, the man I married. I'm sorry that you were hurt by him, too."



Lylla lept forward and embraced Mayri, a hug that the older woman half-heartedly returned. "Oh, thank you, Mayri, I knew you were a good woman!" She broke off and bounded happily for the door before stopping and turning around, a big grin on her face. "Oh, and of course, I will not be taking your bed!"



Mayri nodded and gave a thin smile. "Thank you."



"Oh, and I almost forgot. I was talking with Korin earlier. I told him I was coming to speak with you. He asked me to tell you he will be stopping by tomorrow, to talk about the land."



Mayri just shook her head. "If you see him again, tell him that would be fine."



"Oh, I will." She smiled, and Mayri had to wonder just what that meant. "Thank you again, Mayri. And I'm sorry," she stopped to think for a moment, then threw up her hands. "about everything, I guess."



As she turned and left, Mayri watched her with envy in her blue eyes. A massive weight had been lifted from that poor girl's shoulders, but no such reprieve had been offered to Mayri. What had Thaddan been thinking? What was he trying to do with his final will, and why did he have to hurt the innocent people in his life, yet so benefit people like Nily? Mayri had known Thaddan all her life, and had been his wife for eight years worth of it. He had never seemed the least bit cruel or eccentric. He had been a kind man, a loving husband, and a pillar of the community, even giving food away when people were down on their luck. This sort of bizarre behavior was completely unlike him.



Mayri closed the door and returned to her seat, and her eyes immediately fell once again on the butcher's cleaver. The answer had to be there. She just couldn't see it. Thaddan had never been cruel to her, or even distant. If his final gift had been meant as a punishment, he had left no indication of what that punishment was for. If it had been meant as a joke, there was no explanation for it. That knife, that hideous, distorted knife, had to hold the solution. Nothing else made sense. Something in that gruesome apparatus would tell her the secrets that Thaddan no longer could

.

Before Mayri realized it, night had fallen, and for the third time, she was drawn from her intense musings by a knock at the door. This time it was a slow, deliberate knock that sent a chill down her back. The night outside was darker than normal due to the thick clouds rolling overhead, and although Mayri had no desire to open the door, she found herself unable to resist. On the other side stood a short, despicable looking man. He was only about as tall as her waist, but thick in the shoulders and chest. His skin was discolored and blotted with scars, moles and other blemishes that made him difficult to look at. He wore simple clothing dominated by grays and browns, and his wide-brimmed hat fell just above his thick, matted eyebrows.



"May...may I help you?" Mayri managed.



"I'm here for your order." He croaked. His voice was unpleasant as he was

.

"My what? Who are you?"



"Grisdolf." He said simply. "I need your order."



"I don't know what you mean," Mayri implored

.

"Look, I haven't got all night," he said with what she assumed was a scowl. "We both have our work to do."



“Is this some kind of a joke?" She asked. "Because I've had about enough of that today. Did Nily send you here?"



The little man-creature cocked his head to the side, then nodded sharply, once. "Nily."



Finally, Mayri could stand the craziness of the day no longer, and she slammed the door shut. She was hoping it would be slammed in the strange man's face, but he had already started turning away and moving off into the night. Mayri couldn't believe the nerve of Thaddan's sister, to have rubbed his death in her face earlier and then sent that hideous man to bother her, it was really just too much. She sat down in a huff and stared at her cleaver, losing herself once again in the reflection of the fire on its surface.



Minutes passed, or perhaps hours, Mayri couldn't be sure, until that same knock sounded at her door. Angry and frustrated, Mayri tore herself away again and marched intently to open it and confront the small man. When she did, she only barely stifled her scream. The man stood there, as he had before, but he was carrying the limp, twisted body of Nily in his outstretched hands. Grisdolf didn't say a word, he simply pushed past Mayri and into the now-dead woman's house. As he passed, Mayri could see Nily's neck had been wrung and snapped, and was twisted to the side, a look of horror frozen on her face. Grisdolf set the corpse on the table and smiled.



"Order fulfilled. My work is done for the night."



Mayri was breathing heavily, as if she had just run across town. "Are you going to kill me?"



Grisdolf looked confused. "Why would I do that?"



"You killed Nily."



He nodded, grinning. "Just like you ordered. Thaddan usually ordered things with more meat on them, wolves, bears, that blacksmith's son after he killed that girl, but hey, you've got the knife now."



"The knife?"



"Just remember the deal. I get you whatever meat you want, you give me the heart."



Mayri's eyes widened with realization. "That's the deal you had with Thaddan."



"Of course," the little man said, moving back toward the door. "You name it, I get it. I'll be back tomorrow night for the heart. Try not to damage it."



Grisdolf disappeared into the darkness, leaving Mayri to wonder if it had all been an exhaustion-induced dream. When she turned around to see Nily's corpse resting inches from her butcher's cleaver, she knew it hadn't been. She closed her front door and thought. She thought about her husband, and how he always seemed to have enough meat to go around. She remembered the disappearance of the blacksmith's son, and the rumors of his indiscretions. She also remembered eating well that week, off meat Thaddan had picked up from a passing hunter she had never seen. She wanted to be disgusted, to be offended, to be upset, but somehow she couldn't be. She thought of Thaddan's last words to her, left in a note along with her precious knife. "Continue my work."



She considered Nily, how cold, heartless and cruel she had been, how she had lorded Thaddan's house over her just earlier that day. She thought about Lylla, who cared more for her appearance in the village than for Mayri's humiliation. She pondered Korin, who would be visiting her the next day, and what Thaddan would think of that. She wondered what he would think if he knew Nily's corpse had been on her table the night before. She had known Korin for years, of course. He was a handsome man, well liked and sought after by the young woman of the town. Mayri smiled as she wondered if he would like her eyes. He had better.



Mayri walked over to the table and with one slow, deliberate motion, laid her hand on her glorious cleaver's handle. She grinned as she pulled it from the table and turned to stare at Nily's body. It was going to be a long night, but Mayri had work to do.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:17 pm 
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Hollow
by Aaarrrgh


Olav was lost. The town did not look like it used to. He walked from house to house, trying to find something he could recognize. He was scared, but he didn't know why. He couldn't remember how long he had been walking, but he didn't feel hungry or tired, so it was probably not too bad. If only he could remember how to find his way home. Mother and father must be worried by now.



None of these houses looked familiar, so Olav walked past a few to look on the other side. But that was the edge of town, so that must be the wrong way. He turned around and walked between the houses in the other direction. But on that side there was only a pile of rubble, so that couldn't be right either. He found the direction he had originally been walking in, and kept going. He was still scared, but it didn't feel so bad. And he still wasn't hungry or tired, so it had to be all right.



The farther he went, the more confused he got. Whenever he looked between the houses, he only saw the forest in one direction, and rubble in the other. So there was nowhere to go but forward, even though it felt like he was going in circles. He thought it was odd that he hadn't seen anyone, and he felt like there was something he had forgotten. But at least he wasn't hungry or tired. That would have been much worse.



It was getting dark now, and Olav still didn't know where he was. At least he wasn't all alone on the streets anymore. He had seen other shapes moving, but they kept being too far away for him to recognize anyone or ask for directions. But still, it helped him feel less scared. And he was proud of himself for not being hungry or tired. His older brothers would not tease him like they usually did if they could see him now. If only he could remember what it was he had forgotten, this would not be so bad.



It was almost completely dark, now, and Olav was getting scared again. The shapes along the street didn't look right, somehow. And he felt like he had walked along the whole edge of the town, and still he hadn't talked to anyone, or found his way home. He was sure that it was something important he had forgotten. There must be a reason he couldn't find the way. And it seemed like he should be hungry and tired by now, but he wasn't. He had never gone this long without getting hungry before.



There were no lights. That was strange, usually there would be lanterns and candles out when it was this dark. Why hadn't anyone lit the lanterns? Olav thought it had something to do with the thing he had forgotten, but he still couldn't find the memory. He could see more shapes now, and he knew they weren't human, so he tried to keep as far from them as he could. They seemed to be avoiding him, too, so it wasn't too bad. But he was still scared. In the distance, he heard a wolf howl at the moon. And then he remembered.



He remembered the werewolves attacking the town. He remembered Harald and Garan, his older brothers, dying while trying to keep one of the monsters out of the house. He remembered mother crying, and father kneeling with his lifeless sister in his arms. He remembered the shouts, and the fires, and the fear. He remembered the sound of the werewolves' howls as they used their strange magic and made almost the whole town collapse on itself. He remembered seeing the windows shatter and the glass and wood come flying towards him. And he screamed. He screamed until he couldn't scream anymore. He ran over to one of the still standing buildings, staring into the nearest unbroken window. He could see the reflection of the city wall behind him, and nothing else. That was what he had forgotten. That was why he wasn't hungry or tired, why he would never be hungry or tired ever again. And he screamed again, and he ran. He ran from the fear, he ran from the pain, and he ran from the memory, and he didn't stop running until he had left them all behind, and lost himself in the dawn.



Now he was lost. And he was scared, but he couldn't remember why. He walked from house to house, but he didn't see anything he recognized. He felt like there was something he had forgotten. But at least he wasn't hungry or tired.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:17 pm 
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Danse Macabre
by Tevish Szat


That night, the sea was very much like the sky above: infinite blackness, with streams and spots of white between them – in the case of the sea these were the foam of cresting waves, the bubbles in their wake, and the bodies that floated from the new wreck to the silvery strand by the light of the moon.



Those last motes, washing up alongside the driftwood, was why Lur the stitcher had left his laboratory to take a walk along the beach.



When it came to the Skaberen art, Lur was the lesser son of a greater sire, in that his father and teacher had once created a monster that ate iron, and once even assembled a skaab that could talk – no doubt a marvelous feat. While Lur practiced, he saw his uninspired creations as ugly lumps of flesh. Really, there were times when he questioned exactly why he was pursuing such a path, as the creation of crude horrors brought him no joy.



Still, it was young Lur’s duty, and thus he was to pick through the flotsam for choice body parts.



Somewhere around the fourth hour, as Lur hoisted the well-muscled shell of a pirate onto his cart, he heard something, eerie and ethereal, in the distance. Perhaps, he thought, this was the sign of some unhappy geist, but somehow that was itself an enchanting idea. Lur had never himself borne witness to a geist, and if there was one thing that he actually enjoyed it was obtaining some new vision.



What he found was very much something new, for as he passed over a mount of sand, he noticed there was a strange woman standing, in the surf, surrounded by the bodies of the dead. There, to the beat of breaking waves, she began to dance, and she was beautiful



At once Lur felt a strange thrilling in the air. It seemed as though the sky darkened, and the clouds that obscured the moon swirled in response to her dance. Never before had Lur seen something like this. It was magic, no doubt – but it had no place in the laboratory.



The sea as well rose in response. Waves curved around her, and trails of brine followed in her footsteps The dark sea and white spray answered, and each moment the tempo rose, what had begun as a stately waltz now gaining passionate vigor.



At last, she motioned, beckoning one of the corpses in the line. It groaned, it stirred, and finally rose to dance alongside the woman who commanded the elements and spirits so. At first it was ungainly, clumsy in its shambling, but as they danced hand in hand the zombie’s motions grew lifelike, fluid as though the poor soul had not drowned and been picked at by fishes, and it was beautiful.



As that first corpse fell in line to follow her through the swirling surf and whistling winds that played their tune, a second rose and joined her in the same manner as had the first. A third then came to its feet in response to the ever-growing music and rhythm of the dance, and after it in turn Lur counted ten more. Each one of them was beautiful – their fluidity, their form, so much more refined than rotted ghouls and lurching skaabs. This was the necromancy that Lur would learn! This is what he would create!



Lur rose from his hiding place and hailed the dancer as she danced with all dozen-and-one of her creations. He called to her, but she made no vocal reply, only continuing to spiral in and out, and weave amongst the undead horde. Yet, Lur noticed, a spot in the line had opened up. Dare he, who was among the living and desired to remain that way, join the dance of the dead?



If that was the risk it took to learn this art, to understand how to create beauty in the pale moonlight, then it was a risk he would take. Lur descended to the shore, boots leaving deep impressions in the sand, to take his place in the line.



For a moment, Lur tried to satisfy himself with this, following in the steps of the dead and leading them on, but he had no patience for the ritual, and soon spoke again, asking as politely as he could manage. Coyly she smiled, her eyes distant as though in a trance, and she made no reply to the skaberen.



Again he asked a moment later, somewhat more demanding than before, as wind and wave about them rose to a crescendo. Again she said nothing, engrossed in her art, her dance – which infuriated Lur. Did she not respect her fellow in the arts of reanimation, did she take him for a fool?



All the same, he let the dance conclude, and was then face to face with the mysterious woman when he again demanded how to be taught this secret, told how to raise the dead as she did.



You cannot be taught, she said, the contrition of her words not reaching Lur as she told him what he was – a man with a mind of potions and machines, unlikely to comprehend her art, for it came from the heart.



Beauty from the heart? Lur the reluctant skaberen, who had learned his profession despite himself unable to learn? This he could not accept, but the presence of her dead followers convinced him to mime mere sorrow at her judgment and express a desire that they should meet again. This she said she would happily do, adding that one who could appreciate what she did might some day reach closer to it.



They met again in two days time, after Lur had tipped off the church. They met when he stood in attendance in her execution. In the sunlight, she was still beautiful, and it pained Lur but a little bit to watch the axe fall, knowing it was his words, his deeds, that had guided it to her neck.



They met one final time the night after her execution when Lur, shovel in hand, exhumed her shallow grave. If he could not learn the dancer’s art, he would do better with his science. He would create something that was as beautiful as what he had seen that night on the shore. If true beauty came from the heart, well then Lur would have just the right heart to build his work around, even if it took him his whole life.



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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:18 pm 
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Joined: Sep 22, 2013
Posts: 888
Thirteen
by RavenoftheBlack


Thirteen rotten fruits on the branch of a dying tree,
Thirteen shattered masts breaking waves on an angry sea,
Thirteen metal pegs are the spokes of a gambler's wheel,
Thirteen hungry ravens are watching their coming meal,
Thirteen blinking stars in the cruel, unforgiving sky,
Thirteen somber prisoners, facing their time to die,
Thirteen sullen stones mark the graves with forsaken names,
Thirteen blazing torches are lighting the martyrs' flames,
Thirteen frowning children are singing an ancient dirge,
Thirteen hidden creatures are fighting a primal urge,
Thirteen holy cathars who can't find a word to say,
Thirteen vile acts for which someone has got to pay,
Thirteen silent prayers to the angels who've flown away.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 23, 2015 12:19 pm 
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Posts: 888
Crucible
by Skibo_the_First


“Life is a crucible,” Anton said to the squirrel outside his window. “You put in your hopes, your dreams, your worries, your fears. And you take from it your joys, your sorrows, your triumphs and defeats.” He fed the squirrel a nut. It perked up. “There’s a cosmic balance there though. You cannot take, without first giving.” The squirrel went about its work of cracking the nut, not listening to the words Anton spoke. “We all take from it, and we all must give to it.” And with that he slammed a wooden mallet down on the creature’s back.



~ ~ ~


Anton slipped down the inn’s stairs as quiet as an alley cat. The lithe, pale man stood average height, and wore plain clothing. He smiled on occasion, and never swore.



At the front desk, lady Zaria, the owner of the Inn, and Miss Chessa spoke about the news. “You hear about that man they found in the alley?” said Miss Chessa.



“Terrible shame,” said lady Zaria. “They said he owned a small pub on the other side of town.”



“Everyone thinks it’s a robbery, but my friend’s half-brother’s daughter knows a deputy, and he says the man had on all his jewelry. And what’s more,” miss Chessa leaned in close, “I hear he had an ear missing. Cut clean off with a knife.”



“Don’t be daft, who would want an ear?” lady Zaria said.



“I hear that’s what assassins do. They take an ear as proof of the kill.”



“Owning a pub is dangerous business Milendia, that’s why me and Conrad opened an inn. Its safer.” lady Zaria stopped when she spotted Anton, “Good morning lad. How’d you sleep?”



“Very well,” said Anton, “It’s good to be off the road for a little while.”



“And will you be staying a few more days?” lady Zaria inquired.



“Yes, I still have business uptown to deal with.” And with that, Anton left the Inn.



~ ~ ~


Sandor arrived at dusk. A bewitching hour that suited his quarry. Sandor stood six feet tall, with a cloak draped off to one side. He carried a bag in one hand. He stepped out of the carriage, and walked briskly to the nearest inn. After making arrangements for a room with the inn owner, a chipper fellow by the name of Pyotr, Sandor went to the nearest bar.



Sandor sat at the back of the bar and retrieved the notepad from his pocket. He observed the patrons of the bar, their patterns, and their defining characteristics. Hoping to see a flash of familiarity in the sea of drunkards. He wasn’t interested in the drunks though, he was interested in the one who hunted them. His target wasn’t a vampire, or a werewolf, but a man. And he had been searching for many months.



Sandor first noticed the pattern in his town, people killed at night, with random body parts cut off. Drunks mostly, though some women and children. But as soon as he picked up the trail, it went cold. The killer had moved on. But Sandor followed him, slowly, but surely he was catching up.



Sandor observed the ones who weren’t drinking, or weren’t drinking enough. Those were the ones he was after.



~ ~ ~


Anton sprinkled the squirrel fur into his cauldron. The liquid inside turned a dark green and emitted black smoke. He then reached into his pocket and pulled out the ear he had acquired last night. He dropped the ear into the mixture, turning it a lovely purple.



He just needed dog’s blood and a finger. And three days for the potion to cook before moving on.



He rummaged through his trash for the remnants of yesterday’s dinner, a bone covered in bits of loose meat. Attractive enough for a stray dog. He grabbed his knife and headed out.



~ ~ ~


Sandor moved from bar to bar. Observing, noting, watching, waiting. Yet his prey eluded him. In the morning he knew why.



No one would think anything of it. The dead dog found on the outskirts of town. Strays are often the target of wolf packs, and while this was an especially brutal attack, such things are not unheard of. But to Sandor’s trained eyes, he saw the tell tales signs. Knife, not fang marks, cuts, not tears. The thing had been killed and drained of blood, cut apart to look like an attack and scattered around.



Sandor observed the buildings nearby, the usual assortments of houses, taverns, and markets. But one building caught his eye, an inn.



~ ~ ~


Anton poured the blood in slowly, allowing it to fully mix into the potion before adding any more. It took a delicate hand to do alchemy, and an expert mind. At last the blood fully combined with the potion causing it to bubble. Anton only had a few hours to find a finger. Freshly severed.



He missed the days of grave robbing, alchemy that had no time limits, nor such restrictions. But powerful alchemy required tradeoffs. He grabbed his knife.



~ ~ ~


Sandor took stock of the men and women staying at the Inn. There was a business man from Nephalia, a trader from a neighboring town, a woman with her daughter that seem to just be passing through, and a young man whom no one knew anything about. Lady Zaria believed him to be a trader, though upon further questioning she admitted to not knowing his profession. As far as Sandor could figure, the stranger had no dealings with anyone in town.



Sandor stayed just outside the inn until nightfall. And when the stranger came out, he followed him. The young man walked quickly across town, passing many bars until he reached on in the run down area. He took a seat away from the other patrons and drank water.



Sandor moved to the bar, and began drinking watered down ales. Positioning himself to be able to keep one eye on the stranger at all times.



As the evening wound down, the patrons became disperse. Sandor saw the stranger leave and followed him. The stranger, moved down an alley after a drunkard, and Sandor followed several paces behind. Always keeping a distance, Sandor followed the stranger as he made his way through the back alleys. The stranger knew the town well. Sandor pulled his blade from its sheath, and readied himself to strike down the man if he when he attacked the drunkard.



At once, the sound of struggle erupted from around the corner, Sandor scurried around the dimly lit corner and ran down the alleyway. When he arrived, he saw the commotion. Two stray dogs fighting over a bone. Before he could react, Sandor felt a blow to the back of his head, and then darkness.



~ ~ ~


Sandor awoke some time later. Standing. He struggled, but it was in vain. He was tied to a tree with heavy rope. Off in the distance he could see the lamp lights of the town. But there was no hope of calling out and being heard.



“You impressed me,” Anton stepped from the shadows, “You almost caught me. Almost stopped me.”



“Release me!” Sandor shouted.



Anton smiled.



“You know, life is a crucible...”



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