Saturday, October 17, 2015

Rite of the Revenant, Chris Part One

I could hardly believe this was happening! Here we were, after digging up a book from the attic in my house, performing a ritual that claimed to be used on “the vilest of ye enemies…” and it was actually working! We’d all contributed in some manner, but me; I was the only one who could read the archaic script the spell was written in.

I guess my summers spent at the Church learning Latin weren’t a complete waste of time.
We’d selected the grave of the Mossy Grove’s most infamous witch, one Samuel Graves. He’d died in seventeen eighty seven, tried for heresy and witchcraft. His wife and two sons had been killed before the town had managed to collect him, dragging him to the ancient oak that stood in the center of the graveyard. He’d hung there for weeks, food for the crows and a reminder to the people of this fair town the straying from the path of the Lord was not allowed.
What he’d looked like then, Chris and his friends had discovered a portrait in a book about the town’s history. Unruly black hair with green eyes, he was a farmer who’d grown from a few small acres to over a hundred, indentured servants and Irishmen helping with the labor of planting, maintaining and harvesting his crop. Stephanie, the shy book worm that she was, hadn’t been able to locate records on where the wife and children were buried. Some records said they were burned at the stake until they were mere ash, while others said they were tossed into a mass, unmarked grave.
Who knew where that could be?
So Chris had set his studious friend into locating Samuel’s grave, which took her a mere two days. Turns out that it was in the town graveyard in the “Undesirables” section: the place where suicides were buried. Chris, who’d been practicing the exercises the front of the disturbing text described, had immediately felt the sorrow and pain that radiated from this section of the graveyard. While his few weeks of practice were hardly enough to make him a true sorcerer, he was attuned enough to know a place suitable for a ritual when he found one.
And so he’d ordered the necessary ingredients for the ritual online: an animal bone knife, several loose gemstones, and some rare herbs. He’d tasked Brad, the worst off of his friends, with supplying the sacrificial victims. While Chris was hardly a nerd or weakling, but his unusual love of the macabre kept him out of the social circles at school. The popular kids labeled him as a “Goth” and a “Freak”.
Brad had it worse.
He was someone who tried to fit into the popular crowd. He went and tried out for football, and by some grace of God had made second-string running back. He went to practice, where the bigger kids ignored him, or mocked him for his poor reflexes. Then, one day, it all changed.
Brad had yet to reveal who it was, but one of the football players had trapped him after practice, and raped him in the showers. He was terrified to report it, and he was terrified that he was a homosexual now; he’d been brought up a strict Baptist after all and his parents would rather he be dead than be gay. Chris often caught his friend staring off into space, and knew his grades were slipping. When Chris had suggested this course of action, to enact “divine punishment” on all of those that had done them wrong, well, Brad had leapt at the chance.
Brad had been the one to offer his younger siblings. Stephanie had been sickened by the thought, but her years of being teased by the cheerleaders had been enough to get her to go along with it. Monica had never wavered, as she had been with Chris since the beginning, studying the book with him. It didn’t make as much sense to her as it did to him, but she understood the principles behind it all.
Jacob had been the wild card, a transfer student from a larger city. The only Moslem in all of Mossy Grove, he was targeted and bullied openly. Racist remarks were spray painted on his garage door while straw men were hung by the neck from the branches of the tree in his yard. Chris had sought him out, knowing the boy would be a natural ally.
And that had completed the requisite five practitioners the ritual required. And now Chris stared at the… creature they’d pulled from an earthen womb. He’d torn the hearts out of two of the three sacrifices, devouring the organs with teeth that resembled jagged fangs. His pencil thin fingers and withered muscles had filled in considerably after the second heart was devoured, white hair sprouting from his skull and pouring down his shoulders in waves. His eyes, which Chris knew had been green in life, were now small dots of blazing red hidden in the darkness of his empty sockets. He was gaunt, and pale, with tattered clothes covered in dust and dirt, his shirt spotted with stray droplets of blood from when he’d pulled the still-beating hearts from the children’s chests.
But he stood, tall and proud. Chris could feel the undercurrent of power swirling within the creature’s body, and knew that the only way he could maintain control of it was to keep the book at hand. The Revenant was a creature of pure vengeance and hate, powered by the desires of those that pulled it from Hell.
So long as Chris and his friends did as the ritual called for, they would get what they wanted.
“So,” Samuel said his voice thick with mud. “I know from my own research a little about my abilities. I would prefer you have a fresh list of victims for me by tomorrow night. I’ll keep the boy,” he placed a grey fingered hand on the shoulder of Brad’s last little brother, who barely even flinched at the contact, “in case I need more energy.”
“Where will you go?” Monica asked, her voice strong and demanding.
Samuel smiled, his skin crinkling audibly from the gesture. “I knew this land centuries ago, hunted game in the woods. I know of a few caves that I doubt anyone has bothered to check in on.”
“So we contact you by what, merely burning a list of names for those we want you to kill?” Stephanie asked, looking pale at the idea.
Samuel turned at the hip, staring at the girl with his ember-like eyes. He didn’t answer at first. “If you must call upon me personally, call my name into a mirror three times. Then I will be able to hear you. You five are the witches that have granted me the semblance of life once more, by rite and ritual alone you have command over me.”
He turned suddenly and looked at me, a wry smile cracking his features. “But the Loremaster is the one that holds the key.”
Chris winced at this. He’d read how the witches would sacrifice their own power to fuel the creature back into a state of life. He hadn’t shared that with anyone, our of fear they would back out of the ritual. Chris had been confident that they would have a pliant killing machine that would exact their revenge for them before they sent him back into the ground.
But Samuel seemed to know something Chris didn’t… and that worried him.
Pushing his thoughts aside, Chris waved out over the graveyard. “Go on then,” he said, trying to sound commanding. “Find a place to call your own. You’ll have your next meals soon enough.”
Samuel’s smile ratcheted even wider, revealing yellowed fangs. He bowed slightly at the hip towards Chris and chuckled darkly. “As you wish Loremaster.”
And like that Samuel was gone, Brad’s brother Michael gone with him. All that was left to mark that anything was amiss was the coffin that had risen from the earth during the ritual. Chris held the writhing book close to his chest, his thick sweater doing little to keep him from feeling the crude stitching of the leather-bound book as it twisted. As if on cue, all of his friends walked over to him.
Brad was silent – how couldn’t he be, he’d just watched the majority of his family first lose their eyes and several pints of blood and then aided in their murder – but Jacob was loud enough for the both of them.
“What the hell was that?” Jacob hissed, his darker skin blending in with the black clothing he’d donned for the evening. “You said we were going to get someone to punish people for what they’d done to us! That was… I don’t even know what that was!”
“A Revenant,” Monica supplied before Chris could reply, “Samuel is a being that exacts revenge at the whim of those that have summoned him. He’s going to get rid of those racist jerks that have been tormenting you Jacob, you should be happy!”
“I would have been if it didn’t feel like we unveiled Death itself from some forgotten tomb,” Jacob snapped back. “That thing was dark, twisted… it almost seemed happy to be assigned victims.”
“Victims?” Stephanie repeated. “We all knew what we were getting into when Chris found the book. Those people have been systematically abusing us for years now. Maybe you just don’t realize what kind of asshole we’re talking about since you recently moved here, but trust me, whatever Samuel does to them will be fitting.”
Jacob shook his head before looking over at Brad. “And what about you, letting him kill your little brothers and sisters like that? Hell, who knows what he’s going to do to Michael!”
Brad, in as flat a voice as Chris had ever heard him speak, replied. “He’ll inevitably kill him. I was the one who brought them here tonight knowing I would be mutilating them, and I’ve made peace with that. The fact that he killed two of them just means they’re spared a lifetime of pain and regret.”
Chris winced at the words and spoke up before Jacob could say anything else. “What’s done is done. We’ve summoned Samuel, and we’re going to each call upon him tomorrow night before burning a list of names. Nobody speaks of this, understood?”
Chris glared at Jacob, daring him to challenge his word. Jacob’s brown eyes were alight with defiance, but he looked away after a moment. “Whatever…”
The group dispersed after that, saying their good nights to each other as they went their separate ways. Chris lingered on for a while, his eyes closed as he tried to make sense of the energies that had been pulled forth tonight. The section of graveyard no longer felt weighted down with sorrow and pain.
That had all been consumed when Samuel had risen.
Now it felt strangely at peace, like the souls of the damned had finally been given the closure they needed. The fact that summoning a creature of darkness calmed the restless spirits of the past didn’t comfort Chris. It made him clutch his spellbook closer to his chest, desperately holding onto the rough edges as if they were a lifeline.
 Looking over at the now cold corpses of Brad’s little brother and sister, Chris paled. We knew the police would find the coffin, he thought, but now they’re gonna find bodies of children! What am I going to do?
Looking around the flat expanse of the graveyard, pockmarked by the occasional tombstone or statue, Chris struggled with himself over what he could do to hide the bodies. It wouldn’t do to have the police involved in an investigation yet. Walking over to the slumped over bodies, Chris lifted the smallest one up, wincing as the moonlight lit up the hole in the little girls chest. The ribs were cracked and the muscles were torn, dried blood caked around her bare chest.
Setting her atop the coffin, Chris pulled his book out and flipped through a few pages, trying to find something that could possibly help. There were spells to curse people with ill-fortune, rituals to empower one’s body with unnatural strength but nothing to help with his current predicament.
Then he turned one of the thick pages, revealing a diagram of a human body. At the top of the page, written in a stylish cursive script were the words “The Beginnings of a Soul Thirster”. Eyes racing down a paragraph describing what was required for the spell, Chris was amazed that the materials were all within reach: grave dirt, a corpse that has been dead for less than an hour and a mixture of blood and saliva.
“Soul Thirster…” Chris muttered, looking between the bodies. Reading over the pages once more, he didn’t find anything detailing what exactly a Soul Thirster was exactly, just that they were “protectors of the Darkest Arts.”
“I suppose I qualify as a practitioner of the Dark Arts…” Chris muttered, reaching to his belt to pull the sharpened bone knife free. “Well, in for a penny, in for a pound!”
Setting the book down on the coffin next to Brad’s little sister, Chris picked up and positioned the other corpse next to her, using the rotted wood as an impromptu altar. Cutting along his palm, he squeezed his hand into a fist, dripping several droplets over the faces of the two children. Looking to the pages, he licked his thumb and made the appropriate symbols with his saliva on their foreheads. He grabbed a handful of dirt from the churned earth at the base of the coffin, stuffing the children’s mouths full of the grainy mess, before he began to slowly recite the words written out next to a diagram of a dissected human body.
For minutes, he slowly incanted the Latin while waving his bloodied knife over the prone bodies, watching as the blood sank into their skin as if they were suddenly sponges. He didn’t falter when their limbs twitched, or their single eyes opened wide to reveal inky darkness. He watched, fascinated, as their skin grew taut over their frames, as their nails extended and hardened, turning into dark talons. The holes in their chests began to fill with what appeared to be dirt, and still Chris continued his incantation.
When he reached the end, he wiped the bloodied knife over each child’s forehead, doing his best not to shirk as the sticky fluid bubbled on their skin. Slowly, the bodies began to move. Twisting bonelessly, the little girl crawled along the coffin like a spider, her pale hair hanging limply around her face, the ragged hole in her chest leaking chunks of blackened earth as she moved. The boy climbed to his feet, slouched over with knees bent to such a degree that to any living human it would be painful.
Chris smiled; if the bodies were still animate, could still move about, then the two children would just be listed as missing. Clearing his throat, Chris sheathed his knife as he began to speak.
“Go into the woods at the outskirts of town,” he ordered, amazed at how fast the little heads could turn to gaze at him as he issued his commands. “Approach no one, leave no tracks. If you encounter Samuel Graves, run away. Do you understand?”
The little girl stared blankly with her one eye while the boy nodded slowly. Together they dropped to their hands and knees and took off at a sprint that would make a wolf jealous, heading towards the woods. Chris hoped they wouldn’t be seen by anyone, and that they would just find a place to roost and stay there until the end of days.
Sighing as felt the weight of the night press down upon him, Chris picked up his book and began his long trek home. While he had no school tomorrow (thank God for weekends!) he knew he was going to be busy over the next few days. He would have to call Stephanie and have her research what exactly he’d just turned the two kids into.
“I hope Brad will be okay with what I did,” Chris muttered to no one. He’d known Brad for years, and considered him one of his closest friends. Despite that, he knew next to nothing of the boy’s family life; he didn’t know Brad’s parents’ names, nor the names of his former siblings. All he really knew was that they were Evangelical Christians and that they would often protest at rallies in neighboring towns.
Gazing up at the moon as he walked, Chris held out a small hope that all of this would work out for the better. Samuel Graves would act as his tool of retribution before returning to the grave. The man, if you could call him that, had seemed cooperative enough; he’d told Chris and his friends what he needed of them, and how they could call upon him.

Now all they had to do was send him their lists.

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