Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Monday, November 12, 2012

Uganda to Begin Killing all of it's Homosexuals

     While not a homosexual myself (death tends to stop you of any desires) this can only be something inspired by a man truly in tune with the idea of horror. Killing people just because of their nature is wrong, no matter how many ways you cut it. But just look at how the killing is to be done, and what inspires it.
     Like the old saying goes, "Why do we always hurt the ones we love?" A good question to ask the Christians that are secretly smiling at this measure their brothers and sisters in Christ have decided to break out to "contain" the spread of homosexuality, while preaching how they love the sinner but hate the sin.
     "But this isn't Christianity," Some genuinely nice person who happens to follow a zombified Rabbi will say.
     Yes it is. This is your religion, pure and simple. When you have a holy book that is written by men supposedly inspired by God, a book that is supposed to be the guidebook to your spiritual life, and it orders death for crimes such as homosexuality(1), children(2) and not producing fruit on command(3), then you have a religion that is evil. 
     Pure and simple. Take it from a guy whop spends his time thinking of tales of horror and suspense to thrill you with.
     This is why I loathe religions in general. 
     Oh, and before someone even begins to try and say "some of those rules don't matter anymore", well you're wrong(4).

1) "If a man lies with a male as with a women, both of them shall be put to death for their abominable deed; they have forfeited their lives."  (Leviticus 20:13 NAB) 
2)  Make ready to slaughter his sons for the guilt of their fathers; Lest they rise and posses the earth, and fill the breadth of the world with tyrants.  (Isaiah 14:21 NAB)
3) Go here to see Biblical Quote
4) Matt 5:17-20, NAB, a large section where it is revealed Jesus hasn't come to change anything but to fulfill it, and that everyone must obey the old laws until everything has been fulfilled. He goes on to say that anyone who teaches otherwise will not be welcome in Heaven. So essentially, the Old Testament still applies.

A Warrior's Tale, Part Three

The following days were even more surreal for James as he was touted about the underground complex like some sort of prophet. Whenever he would encounter any of the grey robed cultists, they would bow and scrape, pleading for tasks they could perform to please him. He’d had to give a standing order that he didn’t need any female companionship during the night, as he’d discovered two separate cultists offering themselves up to him over the course of three days. When he asked the disfigured priest (whose names turned out to be the Marred One), he’d only received a wide smile in response.
“You are now the acting voice for our God, by your actions he does speak to us, telling us what to do.” He’d explained with a tone of reverence. “You were able to slay those Chosen by the Horned One, thus marking you as his conduit for which we are to test his will through.”
“And by that you mean?” James had asked, once again over a small meal in the strange kitchen/dining area the cult had.
“The Horned One’s power is being channeled through captured men and women, through wolves and boar. The longer they are left with the energy, the more dangerous they become. Every New Moon, you will bear arms against the Horned One’s Chosen, testing their strength against the mettle of a true warrior. Those that are slain will only add to you and your personal power, while the ones that prove string enough to slay you shall send you on to live with the Horned One, blessed for all the work you had done in his name and honor.”
“Uh, right. Thank you Marred One.” James said, not really knowing how to respond to such a statement. I have to kill every month to stay alive? Well, that’s not terribly new to me but still! James thought bitterly as he strode through the carved halls of stone, the faint echo of his footfalls dancing about him and announcing his presence to any and all the lived within the Temple proper during the time when there wasn’t a fight.
Namely the undead.
Marred One and Spicer were pretty much the only ones willing to talk to him, among the intelligent staff to be shambling through the halls. Great long stone hallways, with walls that tilted and jutted at various points so as to successfully cause vertigo should you move towards them, dotted the honeycomb of entombed tunnels, broken up only by small living quarters where a few cultists would stay for a few days and nights.
The dead freely roamed the halls by night, when no living man nor woman would willingly walk about save for James. He’d learned early on the walking blight had no interest in him…
James had been walking down a corridor he’d come to call the Hall of Lord Marrow, due to the fact the walls, floor and ceiling were comprised of interlocking and mortared human bones, skulls with glowing phosphorescent fungi under the heel of your boot while arms dangled from the ceiling holding oil fueled lanterns. Pushing past a shambling corpse bereft of any eyes or a tongue, a young cultist had come rushing around the corner, James’s title upon his lips as he held a sealed scroll out to him.
He was never able to hand it off, as the very bones lining the hall had come alive, lashing out from the walls to slash and grab at him, skeletal arms wielding femurs as clubs or ribs like daggers, while the floor began cackling as his blood spilled down upon the dusty skulls, their teeth clattering as if they savored the taste of the screaming man’s death. James would have moved to help, if only to end the man’s life out of an act of mercy, but the shambling corpse was faster; with a lunge that belied its advanced state of decay, dirty fingernails raked across the cultists robes, ripping them open for the gap-toothed maw of the undead to sink it’s teeth into the fresh pink flesh hidden below.
What worried James the most was that the screams of the cultist, while truly screams of pain, were also cries of jubilation.
“T-take me Horned One! I o-offer myself to yo-urk!” He’d been crying as the very hall bludgeoned and tore at him, as a felsh-eating ghoul finally silenced him by tearing out his chest via the rib cage, splattering organs and splintered bones all over the floor while holding the sternum and intact ribs high above its head, drinking from the blood pouring from the bloody frame.
That memory, besides his one night in the arena, is what kept him up at night. Especially as the notice that the poor cultist had been carrying was merely a formality.
James would be fighting in three days’ time, for the glory of the Horned One. 

Authors Note: Thought I'd forgotten about this little gem, eh? Well think again kiddies, as this story has only begun! Wonder what James will be facing in three days time, and how in the world he plans on making his escape. The merchant is still alive at the very least, so at least James's resume won't have a blemish on it for being a poor bodyguard.
Just one that takes his time in doing the guarding!

Dark Eclipse Magazine

     Dark Eclipse Seventeen is available for all Kindle users out there drifting about this sea of life, just dying for a good bit of literature. For a mere $1.99, you can read several short tales of terror, read up on several good new novels and stories alike through the editorial staff's reviews (including my own reviews of what I consider to be some of the better "popular" authors within our delightful genre), as well as a delightful tribute and study of one of my personal influences, H.P. Lovecraft!

     Go on then, go get a copy! Help breathe a fresh breath of life into the horror industry and support those that truly understand the meaning of fear.

     As for me, I'll just go back to my own scribblings here in the dark. I have much to write and so little time for you all to read it all. For example, have any of you picked up the latest copy of the Digest like I have? I particularly enjoy the ending to "Wolf in Chains" myself, and "Orbital Decay" was frightfully fresh!

     Ah well, I digress... back to the pit for me. You know what they say... "No rest for the wicked!"

     Sweet Dreams

Plague pt. Two

The bitter winter winds whipped past Peter as the slowly made their way down the dirt-trodden road towards the hamlet supposedly in need, the utter cold seeping through his furs and into his skin, numbing his body with frost. Peter ignored it, something he was used to doing, and did his best to keep pace with his would-be mentor, the still as-of-yet named man he had taken to calling Raven. Their walk, which was now going into its second hour, was done with little conversation, just a few mumbled words from Raven here and there that Peter could barely make out. The brisk night air was bright with starlight which, despite the tall trees growing about them, was more than enough to allow them full visibility without the need for a torch or lantern.
Raven had told him the town was mainly a logging camp that had grown too large to be called as such anymore, developing over the last forty years into a farming community that grew barley and rye throughout the year, their fields ever expanding as the woodcutters cleared away vast swathes of forest for their farming cousins. Altogether, a fairly humble place home to fairly humble people, that rarely if ever called for assistance from the outside world. About a week earlier, a boy had stumbled into town, seeking the aid of the Church and their doctors, claiming that the town had been overtaken by the fast-acting illness.
Peter was a little surprised when he was told how the boy was quickly slain; his body burned before it even grew cold and stiff, in order to ensure the illness did not spread. A small detachment of armed soldiers had formed a loose perimeter around the village, isolating them and barring them from leaving the area, effectively placing them under quarantine. As they grew closer to the village, Peter caught sight of the soldiers, all wearing the same Raven-esque masks as his supposed mentor, though without the full leather suit that accompanied it. They walked like soldiers, stiff and with purpose, and all had longbows slung over their shoulders. One reported to Raven that they had already slain three men who had come stumbling from the village a few hours ago, to which Raven merely nodded as if this were acceptable.
“When we arrived, the entire village was practically deserted, with the sick cloistered within their homes, the streets littered with corpses.” One of the soldiers calmly explained. “We kept a good distance away, and made certain to track any movement we could find. So far there’s only been a few isolated incidents, though I imagine that will be changing soon?”
“I would hazard a guess that you would be correct. If my calculations are right, we are moving into the thirtieth hour of exposure, a rather pivotal time frame if I do say so myself.” Raven replied, pulling a long stiletto blade from his belt. Tossing it to Peter, he let out a dry chuckle. “That axe of yours should see some work today, but be sure to keep that close by in case of an emergency.”
“Against plague victims? Are you joking?” Peter snarled, mood still sour from his fate as a Church doctor. “What, will I be hacking the corpses into small enough pieces to burn then?”
Raven was silent for the briefest of moments before he let out a long, high-pitched whinny of laughter. “Yes,” he choked amidst his laughter, “Yes, you will be doing exactly that!”
Peter fumed at the very thought of the amount of disrespect he was being shown. He should be in the North, leading his people as his father had trained him! But due to the wiles of a religious zealot and his army, he was banished to the lowliest of jobs, in a faraway land, as a slave to some strange plague-doctor.
The town was buried deep within the Black Forest, a vast expanse of densely packed trees and darkened paths, trodden dirt paths acting as the veins to the whole of the forest, twisting and turning in an near endless series of spirals and drops. Raven took it all in stride, sliding down the steepened path when needed with the grace akin to the mountain goats Peter had grown near, leaping to and fro to avoid knotted roots and jutting rocks that would otherwise make this path a difficult one for him.
Peter merely tackled the path as any proper Norsemen would: headlong and with unyielding might. Thick leather treads crushed rocks beneath his feet and tore corded roots free of the cold-packed earth. He had abandoned all form of decorum and already drawn his ancestral axe, the heavy haft granting him a sense of peace that he had sorely been lacking the past few weeks, traveling amongst the “civilized” people. Raven had said nothing when Peter had drawn the large blade, his head only inclining a touch at the sheer size of the weapon, and probably in wonderment of how Peter had been able to conceal it as well as he had.
“The village is up ahead,” Raven said, breaking the silence of their march and coming to a sudden halt. Peter trudged up next to him, peering easily over the shorter man’s head and through the brush of the wood at the town that lay before them.
Ringed by barren fields of frost-ridden soil, a small cluster of squat stone houses sat quietly behind a low cobblestone wall. Several barns were visible from their vantage point, the doors thrown wide open… looters had obviously come to the weakened settlement in search of plunder. Peter had seen it often enough, hell, he’d done it a few times as a young soldier. His keen sight allowed him to see that beneath the soft dusting of snow there were several mounds.
Bodies, long dead if he was any judge of the matter.
Raven pushed onward, pulling a small crossbow from his side and carefully loading it, ignoring the drifting snowflakes that had begun to flutter down from high above. Peter smiled at his mentor’s line of thought, arming himself in case any looters remained. Now he could see why he was here! To defend this man as he cleansed the bodies of the living and dead of this foul disease, to protect him from those that would take advantage of the weak and ill.
As he moved to jog past him, Raven’s hand clasped his shoulder in a movement so sudden it caused Peter to spin off balance for a moment. “We stay together, no wandering off.” Raven ordered as he pulled a wide-brimmed hat from his satchel, fastening it over atop his mask.
“I can handle myself!” Peter growled, throwing the hand from his shoulder with a jerk. “No man can cross blades with me and live, least of all some puny looter or bandit!”
“And I fully believe you, but my orders remain: stay with me, no going off alone.” Raven said calmly. “Between the cover of snow and our small numbers, I would prefer that we work together. Besides,” he said with a low chuckle, “I could have sworn you are my apprentice, are you not?”
“Yes…” Peter growled out, hands tightening over the haft of his great axe.
“Than do not question me.” Raven ordered with a hint of cheer lacing his muffled voice. “Stay by my side, and keep that behemoth of a blade away from me; I’d rather not die today, and one wild swing will leave me as open as a broken door.”
They continued closer to the village, snow and ice crunching beneath their feet as they crossed the barren fields. Raven came to a halt some twenty yards before the break in the low wall, twin lamp posts rising from the worked stone dark, candle wax having dribbled out and frozen along the way. Guess with the plague they couldn’t spare anyone to put out their lights… Peter idly thought as he watched Raven root about in a small side bag. What the hell is he doing now?
“Tell me Peter,” Raven said in a conversational tone as he pulled a small wooden whistle from the pouch. “Have you ever used one of these before?”
Peter snorted at the stupidity of the question, but chose to merely shrug. “Nay, I was no shepherd, nor a watchman. I know enough to use it though, why? Why do you ask such a question?”
“Because of my mask, I cannot use it, obviously. So I would like you to do me the honor of taking it and blowing it as long and loud as you can.” Raven said, a smile clearly hidden behind his facial covering. “And to of course keep a cool head for me.”
Peter shook his head, snatching the offered whistle with his meaty hand. “I truly do not understand how your people have come to conquer all of Europe in such a fashion… utter morons, asking me to reveal our position in such a way.”
“Just blow the whistle for me.” Raven chirped, rocking back and forth on his heels happily.
Peter sighed before placed the simple wooden instrument between his wind-chilled lips, taking in a deep breath of frigid air and letting loose a shrill shriek that lasted well over half a minute. The cry echoed all about them, calling back from the darkened wood surrounding them, a haunting cry far different from the high-pitched screech he had let loose. He tossed the whistle behind him, ignoring Raven’s sudden intake of breath and glared at the reflective lenses that served as his master’s eyes.
“There! Are you happy now? Now everyone within a mile knows we’re here!” Peter cried, waving his arms high above his head, the heavy-ended blade of his axe digging a deep trench to his right as he swung it about. “Damn thing was loud enough to wake the dead, so we’ll not find anyone to hold responsible for the looting now!”
“Rarely have there been truer words spoken, my dear Viking.” Raven said with a long sigh, twirling his crossbow about between his gloves. “But looters and thieves are not what we came to seek, and are not what I brought you here to aid me with.”
“Than what then?” Peter howled, his temper finally flaring at the sheer stupidity of the entire situation. “I am a son of Odin and Thor, a warrior that was bred for the battlefield! I have no need for your false god nor his martyr of a child! I need only a foe to fight, and a battle to be won! No man can stand before me, and here I am, trapped as the servant of a cowardly healer that hides behind the face of death as if he can lay claim to its domain!”
Whatever Raven’s reply would have been was kept silent as a low howl of the winter wind whipped through the woods, the very trees groaning as if alive. A noise he had heard many times in his own native home, yet such noises were always accompanied by a gentle breeze. After a few moments of the groan growing louder, Peter could hear multiple different octaves within the noise, akin to a flock of birds crying as they flew from danger.
Turning, he watched the village as it seemed to be coming alive before his very eyes.
The slumped forms of the dead partially buried beneath the snow were rising sluggishly from beneath their icy covering, blue-tinged flesh drawn taut over their bones, pockmarked with countless open sores that leaked thin rivulets of dark molasses. Dressed in a mixture of night clothes to work clothes, to a few fully nude, men and women began to crawl from the recesses and corners of the village where they had lay hidden, jaws wide open, a distraught cry rising from their frostbitten lips. Stumbling woodenly, arms outstretched, the crowd of plague-stricken peasants began to advance upon Peter and his whistling mentor.
“Halt!” Peter cried, waving his axe in front of him to show them he was armed. “We’ve come to aid you! Return to your homes and we will begin treating your injuries, and tending to the illness!”
His cry fell on deaf ears as the crowd continued their advance, slowly gaining speed as their thin sheets of ice broke away from their flesh. One, a large man that easily rivaled Peter in size, stumbled headlong into the low wall, grunting in frustration as the cobblestone impeded his path. With a series of sickening cracks, the heavy man crawled over the wall, his thick fingers cracking beneath his heavy weight and the strain he was putting them under. He tumbled over the wall and, without pausing a moment, began crawling to his feet. A hideous moan wracked from his throat, wordless and primal.
“They won’t listen Peter,” Raven said quietly, moving to stand beside him. All humor had left his voice, which was now harder than steel. “The Plague that we came to cleanse is now before us, a curse that afflicts man and woman alike, forcing them to rise from the grave. We must prevent it from spreading, my friend. I hope you are ready to do what is needed.”
Peter studied the crowd slowly closing in upon them, hands outstretched with hooked fingers, mouths wider than humanly possible. He almost couldn’t believe such abominations could exist, save for when he caught sight of their eyes, set loosely back within their skulls, glazed over like the eyes of the monster fish he and his brothers would dredge from the churning waters of the Atlantic; cold and glassy, unfocused and dark.
These things were anything but human, and as one finally came within reach of him, a young woman naked from the waist up, he made his decision with a sudden snap of his wrist, his axe springing forth and connecting into her side just beneath her arm, a solid, wet noise cracking through the crisp night air.
She remained standing, arms flailing about wildly as she hissed and howled. Peter was momentarily stunned, staring at the head of his axe, how half of the hardened iron was buried deep within the woman’s ribcage. Something she didn’t really seem to notice, somehow. The strike had felt as if he were trying to fell a century old tree, her body as solid as rock for reasons he couldn’t begin to understand.
Her wild flailing ended as a slim crossbow bolt pierced her left temple, cracking through the thin section of bone with a sickening crunch. Peter turned his head to see Raven already reloading his crossbow, a long serrated knife held in a defensive position in his left hand. “Go for their limbs or their heads, winter has granted them a boon by freezing their insides!” He cried, unloading another bolt into the crowd, striking the heavy man with the broken fingers in the left eye, his body slumping to the ground with a crunching of ice as several more of the groaning dead crawled over his bulk.\
The woman at the end of his axe, now merely a frozen corpse, was quickly removed with the proper application of Peter’s thick boot, leaving his blade covered in bits of mottled grey flesh and tissue. The force of his blade leaving her body carried onward and, with a savage howl, Peter spun the blade above his head and through the neck and shoulder of another blue-tinged undead, ending its high pitched moans with a sudden screech.
Raven darted forward, long blade twirling in his hand almost playfully as he lashed outward, severing groping fingers and hands with brutal efficiency, his crossbow letting loose the occasional twang as he fired bolt after bolt into the approaching dead. The center region of their torsos was nothing but ice and frozen muscle, allowing the shambling horrors a strange amount of resilience; it mattered not to Peter.
Peter was Norse.
Peter was a soldier of Odin, a true follower of the Father-God’s ways and practitioner of his sacred teachings.
He found himself praying, in between gasps for breath, as he swung his axe into the frost-hardened corpses that were slowly overcoming him. His prayers grew louder when, due to a particularly fast victim of the plague (a young child, though the cold had caused much of its skin to fall away, preventing any way of identifying what its gender once was), he found himself separated from Raven, plunged headlong into the mass of frigid limbs and gaping, bloodless maws.
As the grey hands grew more and more fervent, grabbing at his furs and tugging at his pelt, his prayer’s became far louder, his screams rising almost as high as the chorus of moans coming from the innumerable horde pressing in all around him. Peter could feel their nails, cold as the grave, pierce and tear into his chiseled muscles. He howled in agony as their teeth broke through his boiled leather and tore into his corded muscle.
And still he fought on, swinging his axe in wide arcs, loudly crying to the heavens the prayers of his forefathers, and of theirs. As his blood flowed freely from his body, the warmth of life ebbing rom his very core, he cursed the name of Olaf, cursed his sniveling uncle… and most of all, he cursed the name of that damnable false god that had caused all of his misery, and lead to this horrible death. He prayed that soon he would be with his ancestors in Valhalla, and that all of this would become nothing but a tale he told to his fellow warriors in heaven.
His hands aching with fatigue and cold, his grip slackened just enough for his axe to go flying from his grip mid-swing. Peter idly noted with pride that even without trying, the blade was able to cut deep into the flesh of one of the attackers, lodging deep into the chest of a slack-faced man missing the right half of his face.
As the edges of his vision began to fade to black, his ears filled with the thundering sound of his own blood and the innumerable moans of the dead, Peter smiled. Smiled and laughed, as he knew he would soon be with his father, and his fallen brothers. He had fallen in combat, and while he had not claimed the lives of any more enemies of his people, he had at least escaped the clutches of the Church and their fool of a god.
And that was enough for Peter, as it would be for any true Norseman.

High above the carnage playing out in the ice-packed fields of Relmut, a lone child squatted atop the low, steeped roof of the town’s church, idly twirling the iron cylinder that dangled from a long length of chain from around her neck. Her flesh, paler than the untouched snow at her bare feet, twitched as the wind carried the scent of fresh blood up to her, carried the screams of the living as they slowly gave way to the inevitability of death. Smiling, she palmed the cold tube, thumb running over the frosted skull topping it, and murmured a prayer she had murmured many times over her long life.
The doctor was the first to go, pinned beneath a mountain of flailing limbs and jagged teeth as the dead she commanded had charged at him, moving around the gigantic Northerner in order to gain a better vantage point to attack. The young boy who had spit upon her, whose skin now hung over her like a sinister cloak, had served his purpose when she had mentally commanded him to sacrifice himself, tripping the Viking up and sending him deeper into her army of hungering dead.
Her smile grew wider as she could feel the doctor’s life essence drift from the mob, slowly drifting towards her and her phylactery. A flash of memories flew through her mind as his life, his very soul, joined the thousands of others trapped within her toy; Alice caressed the tube lovingly as she awaited the soul of her Viking friend to come forth, one she had yet to sample and, she hoped, would prove far more entertaining than the countless serfs and peasants she had supped upon so far.
“The Black Death…” She said aloud, voice honeyed and sweet like a summer’s day. “Death to all who would try and quell us, and our kind…”
She had cursed God for allowing her to fall prey to a similar fate, just as the Viking now was. She had screamed and cried as the illness robbed her of her strength, sapping away everything that made her human. The only difference between the two of them was that she believed in God, and was now serving the other side… her hatred of that mad God and his Church had allowed her to rise as something far more powerful than the Ghouls she commanded. Just as such hatred had done for all of the Reapers in the world, those that spread the true word of the “Lord.”
“There is no such thing as eternal life.” She intoned with a smile as the Viking gave his last cry, falling beneath the tide of putrefied flesh. “The only true eternity is found in Death… come serve him, and spread his word. Spread the truth.”
She watched as the Viking rose unsteadily from the crowd of undead, her mental call for them to fall back working faster than any bugle or drum. His dead eyes opened glassy, dull. With but a single thought, he wrenched his massive axe free from the chest of one of his new comrades, and began slowly walking into the village, towards her.
“Will you help me spread the word?” She asked him, high atop the church, knowing full well that he would. After all, he was now a devote follower of the truth. How could he say no?

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Peter was not a man of the cloth, at least from what you would guess by looking at him. Old far beyond his time, the young Norsemen was a recent convert to the Church, following his Fief’s wide swept conversion lead by their “benevolent” king. Olaf was many things, but kind was rarely one of them; he had issued commands throughout all of the North that all of his followers were to accept Jesus as their spiritual lord, or face the figurative fires of Hell, and the literal fires of Olaf’s wrath.
The conversion had little effect on Peter’s life, truth be told. He was still a soldier in the name of his Fief and King, he was still a mountain of corded muscle and tribal tattoos, face worn dry by the bitter winds of the northern seas. The only real difference was that he had more work now, as he was offered up by his King to the priesthood, as a token of goodwill.
Peter snorted at the very thought. Goodwill… Olaf was wise in sending Peter south, far from the beautiful peaks of his homeland. Peter’s father had been a strong rival of Olaf, been one of the last of the Fief lords to oppose him. He hadn’t surrendered in the face of Olaf’s larger armies, nor his exotic soldiers from the far-flung edges of the Christian world… he had stayed true to the way of the North, to remain as stalwart and strong as the mountains that bore them. A mere handful of Peter’s clan survived, and only due to the fact that the Christians were inclined to take captives.
Not as slaves mind you, though they had a fair share of those amidst their ranks, but as converts. Among the survivors had been Peter, a score of women and children, and Peter’s uncle Ulag. Olaf had offered Ulag the throne to the newly conquered Fief, on the condition that the region would convert to the new religion, and that they would pay large sums of tribute annually. A final, smaller note amidst the wheeling and dealing the weasels Olaf had sent as emissaries and his cowardly uncle had been to send Peter to the Church, to become a priest.
So here he was, clad in his traditional furs and leathers, strolling down the paved streets of Sankt Veit an der Glan, the home of his new patron and master, and of the church he would be serving. Peter did his best to console himself with the changes, though the wide eyed stares from the truly miniscule people surrounding him did little to ease his temper. Whereas he wore several layers of wolf pelts over a set of boiled leather armor, these doddering German fools wandered the streets in thin layers of wool and silk, their only armaments thin black sticks that seemed more for show than any real purpose.
Peter tightened his grip over the haft of his axe, the wide double-edged instrument fully covered by the aged bear pelt he wore as a cloak, his first kill as a man some ten winters earlier. His hand had yet to stray from his blade, something he merely shrugged off as a warrior’s instinct, choosing to ignore the small voice in his head telling him it was because he was afraid of all of this, of his new future as a man of God.
After asking for directions (as best he could, with what little German he actually knew) he was finally able to find his destination: Rabe an Basilika, loosely translated to be the Raven’s Basilica. Lovely name, Peter thought sardonically as he shoved his way through the crowd of dwarves meandering about the street, much to their consternation. Why these slovenly barbarians have to come up with such silly names is beyond me
While the rest of the city was crafted with thick slabs of stone and darkened wood, the looming figure of the Raven’s Basilica was one of dark iron and polished black marble, a high tower rising above the wooden roofs and columns of smoke that glinted faintly from the setting sun. Easily visible from the moment Peter had caught sight of the city, he had not even known what the building could have been, but upon learning that it was the home of the local clergy, he had let out a burst of deep laughter, so amused by the revelation. The very idea that the spirits would require such a luxurious home would be almost insulting back home, yet here in the so-called civilized lands, the Living God demanded tribute in such odd ways. What did he need such large buildings for?
Peter smiled as he drew closer to darkened building, shaking his head at the sheer audacity that these Christians showed; he had read their supposed holy texts, something that surprised many he encountered. Most assumed that since he was from the North, he was nothing but a ravaging marauder of men, more beast than human in the finer of arts. But Peter’s father had made certain he could read, so that should he ever find a need for it, he would have the proper skills readily at hand. He could distinctly remember reading in the texts how their prophet had warned against greed and opulence, insisting that if his followers wished to truly emulate him, they would divulge themselves of all worldly possessions and dedicate their lives to helping their fellow man, as God wished for them to do.
The gigantic structure before him was anything but humble, and absolutely reeked of wealth and power. Great metal doors, embossed with thousands of tiny birds in mid-flight, ascending to the heavens, stood before him, set into black marble walls and above marble steps. Twin gargoyles loomed overhead, both essentially gigantic Ravens carved with absolute care from a single piece of Obsidian. A slight layer of frost had already begun to settle over the doors as Peter pushed them open, the darkened skies above promising a cold night for any unfortunate enough to stay about to experience it.
The interior, a dark hall full of cold stone pews lined before a high crucifix set along the far wall, a morbid display of prolonged death, suffering and apparently salvation. Thick wax candles glimmered softly, a thousand glowing lights piercing the darkened cathedral, casting long, flickering shadows against the thick marble columns. A short line of robed monks, heads bowed in prayer, knelt before the tall relief of their Lord, their hushed prayers echoing along the high walls like the low buzz of marsh flies.
“A new convert, perhaps?” Came a low, grumbling voice from the shadows. Peter half drew his axe from beneath his cloak before a thin hand stopped him, resting along his forearm. “Ah, you must be Peter then?”
He merely grunted in acknowledgement, readjusting his axe and its sling beneath his furs, eyes locked on the arm that had snaked from the shadows, along with the man it was attached to. Obviously a man of the cloth if the numerous crosses sewn into his leather armor, though from the way he moved, as well as the strength he exhibited beneath his leather-clad hands, he was also clearly a warrior. Dark-dyed leather allowed him to blend into the shadows of the Basilica, the carefully stitched material covering every square inch of his body, hugging it like a mother would a child. While not as tall or broad as Peter, he was nowhere near as small as the insects praying to their false god, nor the dwarves wandering the streets of the barbarous city. His face was a mystery, trapped behind a full-mask wrapped about his head, a thick hooked beak drooping from his face in lieu of a mouth, a pair of glinting glass covers over his eyes acting as his only portal to the world outside his leather-bound bodice.
It was what plague-doctors wore, men and women who went to regions stricken with the Black Death, a horrid sickness that supposedly seeped into your very soul, corrupting you from within until your mortal flesh couldn’t handle the darkness within, bursting with a sour-smelling black ichor like an over-stuffed turkey. Odd that a priest would dress in such a fashion, but then again, all of the people in the South were odd to Peter.
“I had imagined you as a giant, but the reality is far greater than the idea!” The man crowed delightfully, slapping Peter playfully upon the shoulder, beckoning him to follow him into the darkness. The man disappeared through a darkened doorway that had so far remained hidden to Peter’s well trained eyes, another thing about this horrid structure he could add to the list of reasons it should be burnt down.
The hallway was narrow and lightless, a dim glow in the distance serving as their only guide. The man chattered on like a gull at low tide as they walked, speaking of the many adventures they would be sharing and of the lives they would save. Peter groaned internally at the very thought and cursed Olaf and his cowardly uncle once more… sending him to some distant church full of religious lunatics to become a healer for the damned! What a waste of his hard-earned skills and labors from years of military training. They’d probably ask him to even hand up his axe… what a thought!
The light at the end of the tunnel was from a large hearth, roaring flames instantly suffusing Peter with healthy warmth he had not even realized he’d lost. The room itself was circular in nature, with four smaller cubicles branching off to form small bedchambers that, while open to the center of the room and it’s hearth, were able to provide a notable amount of privacy for those lying down to rest. The walls between the bedchambers were lined with shelves, crammed full with tomes and scrolls, jars and artifacts. Several small globes hung from the high ceiling, all rev9olving slowly about the largest one along thin wires. Several small tables lay strewn about, artificer’s tools and books laid out haphazardly between them. Two other men stood in the room by the high flames, drinking deeply from simple wooden bowls. Both were dressed in the typical priestly vestments: flowing white robes decorated with red finery. One was older than most Peter had ever met a stooped vulture of a man that leaned heavily on a small cane. The other was a younger man, probably younger than Peter, and seemed to defer to the older priest as if he served him.
“You’re late.” The Vulture drawled, a thick accent almost making the butchered German completely useless.
The Raven bowed deeply, sweeping a thin cape that seemed to be connected to his elbows back dramatically, a long string of light, musical words filtering from his mask in a language Peter had never heard before. Great… he though miserably, am I going to have to learn yet ANOTHER one of these horrid tongues?
The younger man took the older’s elbow and helped him move to sit by the hearth, murmuring in the same lilting tones as the Raven in a way that seemed to calm the Vulture’s sudden spike in ire. The Raven continued speaking to Vulture, soothing tones mixed in with his garbled words as he handed him a wooden cup, pouring him a small measure of wine from a stoppered decanter. After a few slow sips, the Vulture once again turned his milky eyes onto Peter, a scowl gracing his thin lips.
“So he is to be your protector then? A heathen?” The Vulture spat, glaring at Peter as if he were some useless cow. “I suppose he could have his uses, but his Grace would still prefer it if you were to have a few Schweizergarde along with you as well; a measure of intellect can go much further than mere muscle can.”
“My dear Cardinal, I assure you he will be more than I truly need, and appreciate your concerns. I have only taken him in, as it were, due to his Grace’s wishes.” The Raven replied cheerfully, dropping to a nearby stool with a casualness not often displayed before such high-ranking officials. “I barely operate within the bounds of the Church, and while I know that is irksome to you, I would suggest you get used to the idea.”
The Cardinal scowled even further, heavy lines creasing his face as he set his cup down to the side with the deliberate movements of the old and infirmed. “If you choose to ignore our most gracious of offers once more, who am I to say anything over it? Always be aware that the offer stands, and that I could have three of our finest soldiers here within a fortnight to assist you in your… endeavors.”
“Rest assured, my endeavors will always be aligned with the goals of the Church and his Holiness. By your leave, I offer you a home for the evening before you wish to return to Italia; travel by night is rarely as safe as one would hope.”
The Cardinal waved away the suggestion with a disgusted face. “Bah, I will be fine. I’ve had enough of the cold North.” Turning a gimlet eye upon Peter, the elderly priest let out a dry wheeze. “How your kin survive in climes such as this is beyond my comprehension, especially without the grace of our Lord for so long. Truly, a miracle if ever there was one.”
Peter chose not to respond, merely staying silent as the two priests slowly made their way from the comfort of the hearth and into the darkened hall. Raven, reclining now along the low table with feet propped high upon an overturned cauldron, lolled his head to the side to look at peter through his rose-tinted lenses. “The Church has been hounding me for months to take on an apprentice, someone to aid me in my war against the darkness that has been consuming Europe these past few decades. They keep trying to foist onto me some of their own, someone that they can depend upon to report back to them about my actions and my methods. I have to thank the fates that you were sent to me at this time, to help me in my hour of need.”
“You can thank my treacherous family and their silver-tongued advisors…” Peter grumbled as he pushed Raven’s feet from the cauldron and dropped down upon it, snatching the cup that the Cardinal had left half-empty and taking the last swallow. “Blech, even the spirits of this land taste horrible.”
Raven chuckled, a low reverberating echo from within his hood. “It does take some getting used to, but we’ll have plenty of time for that later. Now that you’re here, we have some business to attend to.”
“Business?” Peter asked, already bored with the line of thought.
“Yes, we are needed in a small town due south of here, near the border of the Black Forest.” Raven said, rising to his feet with a practiced fluidity. “Relmut has been struck by the Plague it would seem, and we’re needed there as soon as can be.”

The Abyssal Maw

From darkness it rises,
All enveloping
Twin crescent pools of pitiless silver
That rest
Above an Abyssal Maw;
Needles and knives shift along
Chitin and bone,
Set deep back into a skull
Like so many men past
After years of six-deep rest.

The moons judge
Quivering yet unwavering
Seeking an answer to a question
Not yet asked.
The skull drifts closer, slinking along the warm current
A curtain of shimmering hair hovering silently in it’s wake.
The Abyssal Maw widens,
Teeth pulling back as the jaw creaks
A silent scream echoes through the water

The question now asked,
I try and find the words to reply.
The Abyssal Maw drifts ever closer,
A sinuous body of dreadful scale
And hardened bone that
Push it ever closer to me.
Closer to an answer I do not have.

This flower of the macabre is now close enough
For the moons to be mirrors
Showing me what I truly am
And for what I can be.
I have my answer, as does it.
If by the way the head rears back
Into a cloud of beauty can show me.

Like an arrow fired
Into a starless
The Abyssal Maw darts away into

A rush of warmth
And shame
Washing over me
As I watch it swim away

The Abyssal Maw
A creature as old as it
Is young

Has judged me
And I have