4/7/2022: More Than Death, Part I
A break from the diatribe I’ve been on. I was busy this evening and I’m tired. I’ll try to complete all of that story this weekend. Please enjoy this old-school horror story.
Weeping sores oozed dark red ichor onto the creature’s shattered frame. Human no more, the ghoul quivered and spasmed with the pain that racked its entirety: body, mind, and soul. The only part remaining vaguely human, its heart, pumped the ichor through its broken body. Bone and flesh and tendon knitted themselves of their own accord. Unnatural speed yielded unnatural pain, and the ghoul yowled like a cat struck by a hot poker. Tears filled the dark pools that remained for its eyes.
What passed for a man sat across the chamber from the creature. A tome lay open on the floor in front of him. Arcane symbols covered its cover and spine, similar to the ones that decorated the stone vault’s floor. The blood came from another sacrifice as it took the lives of two to bring back the one.
“I know you’re in extreme pain,” the man-thing said. “That will pass. Soon, you will be more powerful than you ever were in life.”
The ghoul looked up at its master. It made a pitiful sight with its tear-stricken face and bleeding, broken limbs. Its pain and shock and sadness manifested into something else the longer it looked into the eyes of its tormentor: rage. The ghoul’s backbone finally completed its self-repair, and the creature shoved itself in the direction of the man. It hissed and swung a large, taloned claw at the man’s head. The man raised his left hand, non-plussed. The ghoul’s arm stopped its forward motion and fell back to the floor.
“None of that now,” he said. “I’m your master. You cannot harm me, but I can cause you great pain if you disobey me. I can tear you apart and let your body put itself back together again. Do you want that?”
The ghoul shook its ponderous, globular head.
“I didn’t think so,” the man continued. “I created you for a purpose, a very great purpose.”
The ghoul remembered nothing of its living life, but fleeting images of what life had been passed through its mind. Faces, places, sunsets, fireworks, and birthday cakes danced within its mind. It understood the man’s words as well. Whether due to the arcane magic that linked it to the man or from its previous life, the ghoul was surprised to find it could reason that it did not know.
“Usually, common folk hire a warlock or other dark sorcerer to raise a ghoul for revenge or to murder a rival,” the man said. “My purpose is not so base. No. You are much more than just an instrument of death. You are more than capable of rending a man apart and scaling a wall undetected, that is true, but there is something else I know about your kind that most do not.”
The man stood then and waved the ghoul closer. The ghoul put one foot forward, as if testing the temperature of a bath, and then the other. The man put his hand on the ghoul’s head and closed his eyes. Words the ghoul did not understand passed the man’s lips. The ghoul wondered if this was because the man did not wish it to know them or because it didn’t know them when it lived.
The man’s hand warmed exceedingly, causing discomfort to the ghoul, then a burn. It tried to pull away but could not. The pain paled to what the creature experienced during its birth but pain was still pain. Its eyes watered again, and its head and shoulders shook with fury at its impotence. At last, the man’s words and the pain died away.
“I’m sorry to have caused you more discomfort,” the man said. “I think you will appreciate the gift I have bestowed upon you.”
“That so?” the ghoul said. Its hands flew to its mouth. “I speak?”
The man nodded his head to one side. “More or less,” he said. “You will find it much easier to complete the task I have for you if you’re able to talk.”
“Task?” the ghoul said.
The man waved his hand and said some more words the ghoul didn’t understand. Then, he showed a looking glass to it. The creature saw a young woman with dark hair, dark olive skin, and a red and gold sari covering her body. She wore elegant jewelry in her ears and nose and upon her fingers.
“What’s this?” the ghoul said, surprise dawning upon its face in the looking glass. Its voice was high and lilted, where it had been a hoarse baritone a moment before.
“Well, children are generally afraid of monsters,” the man said. “This will suit the task much better.”
“Children?” the ghoul said.
“Yes, children. You will bring me children from the nearby villages. I’ll need many of them for what I intend.”
The ghoul looked up from the glass to the man. Concern worried its features.
“If I’m going to live forever,” the man said, “I’m going to need the blood of many children.”
The ghoul dropped the looking glass, its shards darting around the stone floor.
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