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 Hush - an abyssal tale

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Posts : 899
Join date : 2010-08-10

PostSubject: Hush - an abyssal tale   Thu Sep 09, 2010 4:05 pm

By Cthulhu_Wakes
Submitted on 09 Mar 2008 at 11:24:21 PM EDT
Last updated on 14 Apr 2009 at 04:47:13 PM EDT

Category: Fiction
Another big revision. If WW ever gets off their ass and makes a new Quarterly, this piece will be shot their way. The complete (for now) Hush.
The man in the shredded cloak paced up and down the line of chained humanity.
Truly, they were the most pathetic rabble he’d seen yet. Those in line gave nothing but whimpers and tears, keening for home and a warm bed. The man offered no sympathy to the few quiet pleas that went out to him specifically, nothing but a cool gaze at those that even dared to grab his hand, pleading to go home. To wake from this nightmare that did not end.
He inspected the ones that reached out to him.
Deft fingers check to see if their flesh is supple, their limbs flexible and the like. The master would be ill-tempered over a defective product. From how they looked, broken as they were, chained, they would suit the man’s, and ultimately his lord’s, purposes. All was well. The road they stood near was black, only the moon’s light illuminating the plains for miles around. Not a thing moved. He would have heard it.

A crisp night air brushed his cheeks. Wonderful. Though his cloak was shredded, the cold bothered him not. The supple coat of mail beneath his cloak gently moaned when the wind brushed it, boiled leather and woolen pants kept him warm, and leather boots were shinned to luster on his feet. Beaten links of soulsteel glimmered on his mail shirt in the moonlight, almost absorbing it. A soft cry ushered from his being with each step. The man tightened his moleskin gloves as he strolled for another look.

Pale lips curled into a grin as the gentleman listens to the mewling of these little prisoners. Such sweet children. Almost as sweet as hearing the jittery whispering of the slavers who brought him his prizes.
Turning with a flourish, The Shivering Blade of Ten Agonies, Cerannos the Dollmaker to mortal acquaintances, leveled a gaze at the slavers. They stood in ragged order next to the wraiths. Those war ghosts still as statues, dressed in the ancient regalia of armies they had served in life.
One of the shaggy men set his eyes firmly with the deathknight, trying to still shaking hands. “So,” Cerannos’s voice broke into the silence, “you assure me that you were not followed?”
Igniz, nodded quickly, his greasy hair stuffed in a half-assed topknot. Linowan disgusted him, especially when they took on the trappings of more civilized men. His filthy garb clung to his gaunt form like oily skins. The pathetic creature disgusted Cerannos. For now, that didn’t matter. The transaction was all that required attention.
Cerannos went on, “Are you absolutely certain? These children will be searched after and the hunters have methods much like I to find them. And if we were to wake one morning to find the Hunt bearing down on us…”
“I tell you, deathknight, my men and I fled the city without being found. We had to stall the meeting because we took two extra months on the road to get ‘ere. You know this! They may be children of the Blooded, but they weren’t lookin’ for us.” The slaver huffed, his motley band nodding along with him.
- He is a liar -
Allowing a snort, Cerannos peered back at his prizes. “Yes, and know this: if we become engaged in any of that baggage by your just happening to give the Hunt the slip long enough to have them find us, know that I will find you and each of your families one by one. I will add your faces to the wall of my sepulcher. That do I promise.” The men paled in the reddish hue of the moon overhead.
Cerannos waved for the ghosts. They moved past the band of slavers, bringing up a covered wagon that waited a ways down the road minutes later. “Ten talents—jade—as promised. Take it and get out of mine sight.” The men stood in place for a moment, then leapt for the silky appearance of milk-colored jade sheets.
The horse wuffled and reared a little as the savages piled in, turned about, and quickly disappeared off into the night. Cerannos shook his head, mildly irritated by the creaking of the axels, the glimmer of the looping wheels, and the laughing of the men as they celebrated.
Mortals were an irritating nuisance, no matter how vital his master made them out to be. He shrugged; it was not for him to care. Master would send The Umbra in Garments of Putrescence to silence them and reclaim his monies. Damned fools most likely had a tail. Ah, well, their Dragon-Blooded saviors wouldn’t dare put the children in danger. They could follow him into the shadowland if they were mad enough. Then the fun would begin.
Enough. He clapped his hands, moistening his lips in anticipation, “Well, now, we’re all alone.”
Silence. Like a tomb’s. Making a fist, his knuckles popped, and Cerannos waited for one of them to lose their inhibition. A few of the males even deigned to give him defiant looks. Cute. A design for a battering ram entered his mind and left loping with amusement. He chuckled, looking at those few stalwart lads, imagining those grim faces, full of piss and vinegar, screaming slurs at their countrymen and fathers from the head of a battering ram made of muscle and sinew, tainting the very earth. Knock, knock, anyone home?
Suddenly a shuddering sob broke from one of the little girls, her clothes soiled and dirty, breaking him out of delightful daydreams. A straw doll clutched almost fiercely in her little fingers stared out into the night with black eyes. A mirthless smile spread across Cerannos’s lips. Kneeling before the weeping adolescent, Cerannos silenced her with a finger. Pressing ever so gently on her lips, she froze, looking at him like a caught animal in a snare.
These children were fragile, even for exalts. They were barely a season, maybe a few winters, into their power. Perhaps they sensed they were merely lambs caged with a lion. Gods in the dark, he hated children. Maybe that’s why he relished his work so much as his lord’s Prime Instigator of Tragedies. His musing was cut short when he remembered the finger lingering on the girl’s lips. He sighed, “Worry not, little one. What is thy name?”
“Melissa…” Cerannos smiled at her squeaky voice, at the red-rimmed eyes, the tear stained chubby little cheeks.
“Don’t worry, Melissa, soon, your eyes will be as glossy as yon doll’s. You shall not feel a thing as you fall into sensations not unlike being dipped in warm hot springs. You’ll sleep for a while; then you’ll wake up and not remember a thing. Take heart!” Laughing in her face, new tears slipped from unbelieving eyes. The man stood and clapped his hands together, waving on the wraith contingent. “Now…march. Oh, and don’t worry about screaming, we’re leagues from anyone who will hear your cries.”
A thick, wet glob of saliva smacked into his cheek. A delighted cry let out from one of the taller males. The Abyssal smirked as he whipped the phlegm away and spat himself. He sighed, staring at his hand. “Defiance is always an admirable trait. Futile, yet admirable.”
The line stopped, Cerannos raised a hand to still his wraiths from doling out punishment on the boy. “I was defiant once,” he went on, slowly his mind traveled down the rivers of time, “a child by the well of the Void, I stared at death and the End once. Much like you all right now looking upon me.” Pausing, gaze swept over his captives, the little tools, went on, “I stared deep into the black. There were things down there, writhing, terrible, glorious things. They lie deep near the rime of the Void. And in that unknowable blackness, they touched me, filled me; became part of me.
- We thrive on you -
“And so touching me, I drew back, screaming, even whilst my body was stilled by the hands of mine master. They entered me and filled my mind with such wondrous things. I have seen worlds boil over and blacken like pitch, I watched babes torn from the breast of their mothers and cast against stone walls by freakish, golden beings! I have seen a sun in the sky grow dim and heard the calls of the usurpers baying for blood. I was afraid! The defiance was life itself and my audacity soon bled away…” His fingers tightened, moleskin gloves taught over his skin as he began to look across his frightened cattle. “Then the silence…that amazing…horrific silence. I recalled when I awoke, near the Well, what filled that silence.
- And what was that, child? -
“The audacity to believe that being alive, that truly being alive, and not passing myself along quietly into the night was some how the better course. No, my children,” Cerannos closed his eyes and heard the soft gurgling sound rising up and up from the depths of his mind, “give in. And…never fight what you can never escape.”
The choking bastard clawed at the Dollmaker’s iron grasp. Eyes bulging, the boy whimpered, hacked, and coughed up spittle all on the moleskin vise. Cerannos smiled wickedly, his fair visage pulling tightly into something horrid and seething. His teeth shone blue in the pale moonlight. A foul something moved inside the Abyssal’s eyes. In his free hand, shadow coalesced, elongating and softly sighing into existence as a sharp blade. Releasing the boy to gasp for air, the vise clenched the nape of the youngling’s neck. The blade went to work with a sure hand behind it.
The children began screaming, high and wonderful. Blood seeped down the boy’s neck, staining the already dirty tunic the highborn wore. With a deft cut and quick work, the boy’s screams were no more, only thin wheezing and crying every now and then from the hammered soulsteel of the knife as the deathknight pulled back. Pleased with his work, the Abyssal banished his knife back to the nether of Elsewhere, along with the boy’s voice.
“Remember, pissant, your parents taught you be silent and respect thine elders, consider this a…reaffirmation of their noble ideals.” Messing up the boy’s hair, he saw the dim look in his eyes and the blood pulsing from the wound. A glance told him everything, cut too deep, severed the artery. And all he wanted to do was sever his vocal chords. The rust would have to be expunged from his movements.
Cerannos sighed, “Pity.” A wraith appeared beside him. “Throw him in the other wagon, let him bleed out. I may use his skin for the master’s new riding reins. The bones and organs, harvest them later.”
The dull eyes of the other thirty-odd children watched the once defiant child dragged to the other wagon on the road. The corpse twitched a little every few feet. It made a dull thud when two of the ghosts chucked his body into the wagon. A thick trail of blood seeped into the dirt; foul river that it was. Some of the kids began to sob, while others began dry heaving; some of the older children quietly whispered prayers to whichever of the Dragons would hear them.
“Once more.” Dozens of pairs of eyes looked to their tormentor, “March.” And so the slaves did. It had been midnight when the delivery had occurred, the Maidens were arching across the heavens with streamers of blue and red following them. The stars are gods, Cerannos had been told in his early teachings with the master.
He wondered if the babbling little fools who were praying knew the true gods had absolutely no love for the Terrestrials. Not even their Dragons.
The benefits of a “classical” education, he mused.
Better to let them have some hope, another lesson, he mused. The defeat of the mind and soul is a key step in conversion to the philosophy of the End. To embrace the Void wholly is to know nothing living can save you.
He wandered.

As they walked, the artist began to observe his cuts of meat more closely. Some of them had excellent muscle mass and builds despite their youth. Perfect for living battering rams or vozhd war machines. He’d use a number of the girls for Bellows. Their little lungs conjoined like freakish twins would put a deep, black fear in the enemies of his lord. Their voices will rise to glorify the Void and sing anthems to his lord, The Walker in Darkness.
Except perhaps one.
The idea filled him a private joy, an almost erotic elation. He shivered at the thought of being in his workshop again. The halls would report with the dull screams of mortals being torn from their useless corpus and being thrown headlong into a wondrous afterlife. He would forge beautiful, alien implements of war from their flesh and bone and tie their souls into a glorious mantle for his king.
His gaze wandered to the sky. The change had already started; green and yellow stars were taking on alien and otherworldly constellations above them. As they walked, the Maidens vanished. Bands of spectral green streaked the sky like banners in the wind, dark thunderheads roiled in the east with soundless violet lightning scorching the earth.
The shadowland waited with open arms to swallow them up. Cerannos stilled his quivering body, feeling detached from the living world and feeling the black touch of the Void.
A hunter’s moon greeted them, blood-red and shrouded with tatters of thin clouds masking its countenance. The soil became barren, rough, and as ash. Wind whipping from the east blew dust in their faces, the Dollmaker covering his face with a kerchief. The plains gave way suddenly to dank, stinking moors. Every so often a flash of green would burst forth from that wasted land. Seelefeuer, it is called, gases of the dead buried inside the moor. Only the causeway was safe now.
There was more to worry about out there than the fear of falling through the peat. Barghest packs roamed out in those murky black moors. And worse, as a sudden shriek from deep in the moors told, the ghillies were out this eve. The party walked on, the children nearly ran in blind fear. Shapes moved in a growing mist here and there, strong and powerful. Ghillies loved lean pork. Their pungent, rotten-egg scent filled the air when the beasts came too close.
Thick fog soon blanketed the elevated road. Some of the prisoners began to cry out in fear, the wraiths moved closer in to keep them on the road and the ghillies from dinner. After a few miles and a rest, the scavengers vanished with the fog, leaving the party on the causeway. The moor was silent, fireflies danced in the distance weaving in and out of the dead lights.
They walked. A barghest’s howl pierced the night. The village was quiet when they came upon it. A palisade wall kept the creatures of the moors at bay, sullen guards in mail let them alone as the deathknight ordered the gate opened. The children cried out for help at lone faces peaking out onto the street, only to have shutters close in their face. So like souls in want. Cerannos smiled; at least they had some spirit left.
Besides, these local people would be damned fools to betray their liege lord. They had been broken years ago.
And so the village passed, onward and onward into that cold night. The deathknight nodded to himself when the lands began to slope upward, almost as if they were walking up to the bloody moon’s grim visage. The Bloody Huntress stared down at them with her milky eye. A glow ignited on the horizon, like a furnace being stoked back to life. Life’s end was over this hill for the kiddies and he felt no pity, only anticipation.
His fingers would soon be plying their trade in sinew, muscle and flesh.
There stood Cerannos’ home, the Sepulcher of Twisted Designs. A gift from his master: an ancient factory-cathedral far from the Walker’s Domain. It loomed, dark and warning, as the troupe crested the hill. The children started screaming as they came closer seeing blasted iron bent into cruel, wicked shapes greeted them. Huge iron gargoyles faced the flying-buttresses holding the gigantic structure aloft. Oily glass windows stretched high, over fifty feet, along all sides of the palace of art. Its bronze doors, the Portal of Thrall, alone were twice the height of the great Bonestriders guarding it. They opened with a gasp as the party approached.
The Bonestriders stood aloft, silent, ever watchful.
- These offerings shall sing crimson canticles -
“Welcome to your new home, children.” Cerannos said softly, putting his arm around tiny Melissa, stroking her shoulder. She wept, clutching that doll to her nonexistent breast.
“Oh, come now, my dear. It won’t hurt much at all. Only light, sudden pain as you warm up and then fall into a merciful sleep. Then you’ll awaken again, someday, possibly back home, possibly in the chambers of my lord, even my own, whichever is chosen for you. Be grateful…” The Abyssal trailed off, the girl completely silent as they stepped into the deep silence of the factory-cathedral. An ancient hall stood before them, clean and cool, but the flickering darkness before them stayed their feet.
“Now, now, fear not and go forth. You shall not be harmed.” A vile smile crept across his lips, finishing his sentence in his thoughts. The motley band shuffled inward along cool limestone floors polished smooth by the labor of a thousand virgins long ago, when this place was still sacred and under the light of the sun. A thick, almost palpable stench wafted down in a warm breeze. A guttural wretch came from the front of the line and a soft splish echoed. A sickly yellow puddle expanded from the shadows only a few yards away.
Cerannos ignored the bile when he passed it and ushered them on. Then they entered the grand hall, the Abyssal’s work chamber. The cutting floor waited.
Cerannos took a deep, appreciating breath of the musk. It was good to be home.
All their little eyes comprehended adjusting to the dark were streamers of flesh hanging from long chains on the ceiling, noses only able to absorb the fetid scent of clotted blood in giant iron tanks, of the shit of the twisted creatures lingering in the shadows around them, ears only able to hear the tinkle of water draining in one of the many outlets in the floor, the flicker of the great braziers threatening to drive them into the darkness at a moment’s notice and of something breathing all around them.
They began to see too. Gleaming motes of light hung in the air, blinking out and reappearing all around the shadows.
Cerannos sighed and walked forward, the wraiths jostling the children further into the depths of the cutting floor. They cried out as their feet stuck and slipped in pools of liquids most foul. Beyond the light of the braziers stood dozens of metal tables, lined in perfect order under a singular light somewhere high in the ceiling. Tall machines of unknowable design loomed around them like quiet sentinels. The limestone floor was stained brown and yellow. The stench was so thick and horrible that two of the children passed out. Those two were thrown bodily onto tables. The rest began to add their tears and vomit to the detritus of the floor.
The man remained smiling, collecting his thoughts.
“Now, my little Terrestrials, it is time for us to begin work on your union and ascensions to serving far greater powers than your pathetic lizards.” He bid the little Melissa, his little doll, forward. “Come, darling.” His voice resonated with Essence, his eyes luring her out of fear and toward him.
The doll she held in her hands slipped to the floor with an imperceptible thud. Its porcelain head rolled near the shadows, snatched into the dark by a gnarled hand.
The little bastards began shrieking in terror. Something howled from the deepening shadows. The wraiths went to work knocking them unconscious with the blunted butts of their spears, taking care not to damage them too much.
Cerannos paid his lackeys no mind and saw the innocent fears of a child slip away from Melissa’s eyes. Only to be replaced with horrors none could even name. Those intelligent little eyes, darting back and forth, no doubt looking at Cerannos’s other creations that lurked in the shadows, suddenly focused on the shimmering object in his fingers.
A long, slender knife, carved with ancient and terrible sigils. It gave a soft cry in the howling tongue of her dead kinsman.
“A masterpiece I will make of thee.”
It hovered right under her eye. Her shuddering turned to sobbing as it came closer, closer…until it pierced quivering pink skin. Tears mingled with blood. Convulsing, her red-rimmed eyes rolled back in shock as the knife wound down from her eye. Screams finally tore from her throat, choking, lovely screams. Sweet music.

“Hush now, my love.”
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Hush - an abyssal tale
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