The descent into the dungeon was slow going, as the cart had to be pushed onto an elevator, which shook unsteadily. Groaning beneath the weight of the cart, Blue-eyes walked over and stood by the crank used to lower the elevator.
“You know the rules,” he said as if warning Mei of her choice. “I can’t raise this until the first gong of the bell. That’s at least nine hours.”
Mei shrugged as she slumped onto the elevator. “They have to be fed.”
The simple statement seemed to stump the hunter, who merely began cranking the crane to lower the elevator down into the crushing, frigid depths of the mountain. The sheer amount of Darkness that permeated the air seemed to make the area more disturbing to enter, figures and faces dancing at the edges of Mei’s sight, while whispers in an ancient language licked at her ear. The elevator eventually hit the flat platform, a stone slab with a ramp that led into a room bearing a statue of Elohim, the angelic part-human always a source of inspiration to Mei. If the figure could be revered by a group dedicated to protecting humanity, perhaps they could accept her one day.
No, she thought as she pushed the cart slowly, best not to get that thought in my head. Like father says, I’m to remain hidden as long as he lives. Then I’m to go into hiding in the forests on the other side of the mountain.
The other side of the mountain was covered in snowy forests near the village of Kongga, a Tibetan village of monks and priests. They didn’t get along with the Order, and the Order rarely ventured over the mountains because of this. Father knew that they would accept her for who she was down there.
They had to.
Shaking her head, she pushed the cart down the ramp. A fetid pond surrounding the statue made the dungeon damp with a fungal smell. There were four hallways, two going down into the mountain below the statue and pond, along with two going opposite ways from the shrine. Choosing the one going North, Mei pushed the cart onward and made her way down what she knew to be the ward of the possessed.
The possessed were a unique group that held entities within their minds, creating compulsive actions that was usually violent towards entities that didn’t reek of Darkness. Needless to say, Mei was safe. Using the key to open the door to the large cage holding forty skeletal humans, all dressed in sheets and untanned furs. Their nails long and sharp, with darkened, sunken eyes, these men and women were horrifying to look upon.
“Breakfast!” Mei called out, using her own voice.
They knew her down here.
Several of the figures moved in the outer recesses of the darkness of the stone cell, eyes glowing as they eyed her. Several more came scrambling up on all fours, nails creating sparks on the stone as they moved. A young girl, ivory locks long and bountiful, crawled up and stared up at Mei, eyes converted into violet triple slitted orbs.
“Hello Anna,” Mei greeted the child, smiling as the hair crawled up around her body, caressing her leather clad arms and body.
“You have yet to awaken child,” Anna replied, her voice far away., hollow.
“You say that every night Anna,” Mei smiled as she opened one of the ceramic vases and began ladling pork and rice into bowls. “Now here, eat up. I know that you’re just possessing that body but if you want it to live you’ll need to feed it.”
Anna blinked once before taking the bowl. “I forget the limitations of the feeble flesh. Thank you Mei.”
“Anytime,” Mei smiled as she passed a bowl to a tall figure who only spoke French. He slurped the rice and pork past sharpened teeth, eyes rolling back into his head in glee.
Mei spent the next ten minutes feeding the eighty to ninety possessed. The engraved runes in the floor barring the entryway made it impossible for them to cross the line, something that Mei was immune to as she possessed a human soul. She packed the dirty bowls into the ceramic jar as the creatures crawled back into the corners and onto their beds, pulling threadbare blankets over their freezing bodies. Only Anna remained.
“Is there something you need Anna?” Mei asked, knowing what would come next.
“A man blessed by the dark God of Knowledge, he comes to the mountains in a time of flying carts and fire spewing bows. He brings with him one of us who have abandoned our ways, one of you who has embraced our ways, while he is a man who has accepted our ways while turning from yours. They seek to contain the Father. They will be the key to turn the lock.”
Mei sighed. Another prophecy… Anna was possessed by a former holy man that had turned to some unknown Darkness, growing mad in the process. She could see into the past, the present, and the future. It was often surreal speaking with her.
“Thank you Anna, now why don’t you go and take a seat on your cot and just rest, okay?” Mei said. Putting a hand on Anna’s shoulder, Mei got a horrid shock as she was plunged deep into an inky darkness. Feeling as if she was pressed through a narrow tube, she closed her eyes and struggled to breathe, fighting the feeling with all her might, Mei could hear the buzzing around her and struggled to fight her way free of whatever had happened to her.
Anna’s voice echoed throughout the world. “When the time comes, show him where you were banished from.”
“Show who?” Mei whispered, struggling for air.
“The Nymph, Devil, and Seeker of Knowledge will need access to the door. Grant them what they seek and leave before it all comes to pass.” Anna’s voice bounced, her voice sounding slightly pained.
Just as suddenly as Mei had been pulled into the tunnel she was back, holding onto Anna’s shoulder. Only now the child was being held up by Mei, her body slack and swollen as red wasps swarmed around Mei, stinging any who came within reach of her.
“No!” Mei cried, willing the insects to calm down. She pleaded with them to calm themselves, that she was safe.
Come back my friends, Mei thought desperately. Please, don’t hurt anyone!
But the cries of the possessed around her were only drowned out by the pops of wasps being swatted, the small explosive power within them blowing fingers from hands and chunks from bodies. Mei shucked off her cloak and lifted her shirt, baring her back. The honeycombed openings of what should be a smooth white expanse seemed like bleeding wounds that red and violet wasps crawled in and out of. Slowly, as the possessed moved to the far end of the long cell, away from Mei, the wasps calmed and began returning to her back, crawling into the holes and filling her back. She could feel the Feeders, the violet wasps, were full of meat that they’d taken from the possessed.
She wouldn’t have to eat for a few days at least.
Looking down at Anna, all Anna could do was choke back a sob at the swollen child’s cooling corpse. Her throat and face were bloated purple, leaking clear fluid from where gnashing teeth and claws had torn from her. Her violet eyes were a pale gray, the spirit within her having pulled away with her death.
Mei sobbed for the child, hugging her body as she thought of how this could have been stopped. The child would have been exorcized at one point… and now she was never to know the peace of the afterlife… no doubt the possessing spirit pulled her soul to whatever pit within the Darkness it dwelled. The girl would languish as the demon thrived on her life essence.
But it’d started the encounter by pulling her into the Ether, preaching a prophecy to her that she had no clue on how to interpret.
Pushing the thought to the side, she dropped Anna on her cot and pushed the food cart out before closing and locking the door. She ignored the cries of glee and the terrible, terrible noises of ripping flesh and spattering of blood. While she knew what was happening, she couldn’t bring herself to admit it aloud.