Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Starsoul: the Artificer Enigma, excerpt 3.5

    Weeks went by, and the villagers’ attitudes toward her only got worse. They were angry and resentful, and Farynna was certain that it was only a matter of time before things came to a head. Kylie grew dull and detached, performing her apprentice duties with no enthusiasm and few words. Worse, there was an undercurrent of power, something strange and alien seeping through the village.  She was sure that the strange power was tied to the villagers’ temperaments.
    Something had changed; she could feel it. Farynna was in her garden, Kylie was inside, working on some herbal mixtures. Farynna looked up and saw, on the other side of the village square, one of the women held an object and was arguing with another. Both women suddenly stopped and looked toward the cottage. Farynna went cold.
    The woman holding the object snarled and raised it. Farynna felt sick. It was a bone, a human thigh-bone, sized for a child. She knew, in that instant…
    It had been Kevan’s.
    Farynna was certain she was about to die.
    “She let them die!” The woman screamed, and the villagers gathered, listening avidly. “She is our witch, and did not lift a finger to help them. Our smith, and his child. Kylie is orphaned! And for what? We are left only with a memory of horror invading our village! Kylie is left with only sorrow!  And SHE LET THEM DIE!” The words gained strength and volume, and the woman moved toward her. The rest of the villagers, men, women, and children, once her friends and family, moved with her.
    “Gods, let me pass with grace,” she prayed quietly, and stood. “Let me face this with courage.”
    It took them only moments to reach her cottage. Kylie had not emerged, and Farynna prayed that the girl stayed inside. She didn’t see Kylie standing at the window, dull eyes beginning to spark with a sudden rage.
    Farynna retained enough of her wits to realize that the current of strange power grew stronger and harsher the closer the woman… and her grisly token… came to the cottage. When the woman stopped, bone still raised, Farynna was certain. The source of the strange power was using the bone as a focus for the rage and hate, using it and the woman to impose the emotions on the villagers. The witch touched the power briefly, and terror touched her; it was the same power that had surrounded the creature that had killed Karavoss and Kevan.
    She was most certainly going to die. “Don’t do this,” she begged, her voice cracking. “You are being used and manipulated. The creature…”
    “See how she cannot even save herself!” The woman raved, her eyes gleaming with madness.  She screamed, then, and pointed the bone at Farynna. The villagers surged forward and seized their witch, forcing her down on her potting table. Farynna’s vision blurred; the power pulsing around her made it hard to see.
    “Punish her! Make her suffer as Karavoss and Kevan suffered, as Kylie suffers, as we all suffer. She could not save them! She could not save us!”
    Farynna could no longer see the woman, but she could see the bone in her mind’s eye. It was, in fact, the only thing she could see. The outpouring of rage and hate ceased, and it began instead to draw in the emotions around them. It stank of corruption, and grew stronger with every passing heartbeat. It absorbed the villagers’ fury and hatred; it drank Farynna’s fear and pain and sorrow. It took in the rape of the innocence of the children who had joined the crowd. No one in the village would escape the taint of this day’s actions.
    The crowd muttered angrily; she could no longer understand their words. She felt their hands; she heard cloth rip and tear and suddenly she felt air on her skin, everywhere. She was naked and vulnerable, and she began to weep. “Gods…” someone hit her across the face and she cried out.
    “You don’t get to call to the gods for aid, witch. You are beyond their touch, now.”
    She didn’t know who hit her, but she did know that it was no longer the villagers acting of their own accord; it was the creature’s will that worked this vileness upon them and her.
    Then the pain began, everywhere. They slapped her, and pinched her. They scratched and even bit. She felt every attack, and knew, somehow, exactly who had struck her. She knew when it was one of the children, felt their smaller, sharper teeth and nails, and sorrow overrode the pain and fear, just for a moment. Oh, gods, no. Spare the little ones this, at least…
    Children are the tastiest treats, Farynna. Do you think I’d let them go?
    She screamed at the invasion, the voice in her mind. It was that thing, that creature, she knew.
    Give me your pain and fear. Give me your grief. I will even take your anger, oh yes.  How does it feel, to be helpless and ravaged by those you trusted and called friend? Laughter sounded then, and a new pain between her thighs caused her cries to reach a new, panicked pitch. She screamed until her throat was raw and all she could manage was a hoarse, rasping cry, and still they continued to rape her, even as the others continued their assault. She was bleeding to death slowly from dozens of wounds all over her body. Please, let it end…
    An evil chuckle sounded in her thoughts. You want it to end, Farynna?
    Beg me. The tone of the mental invasion was deep, satisfied, and intimate- the sort of voice that lovers might use in bed. It sickened her, but her life would end one way or another. It could not get any worse for her.
    “Please, end it. Kill me.” Her voice was hoarse, but she managed to get the words out.  “Let me die. Please. I beg you…” Farynna continued in that vein for a minute or so more, before her voice gave out, and all she could manage were weary whimpers.  Please, please…
    I believe… I have fed enough, for this day. Know this, Farynna, even as I grant your wish…
The assault on her body slowed, and then stopped. The bodies surrounding her parted enough for her to see her death coming towards her.
    It was Kylie.
    No, oh no. Not like this, not her. Oh, gods, spare her this…
    Oh, no, Farynna, the creature told her.  The girl who knew you the best will be the one to grant your dearest wish. Just know this, before she rips your throat out with her teeth: I am going to continue to use this village and these people – all of them, men, women, and children – to visit horrors upon poor, helpless victims until I tire of the sport, and the taste of the horrors they can gift me with.
    Farynna’s eyes opened wide. She watched Kylie move toward her, the girl’s eyes wide with an almost feral rage, her teeth bared. The girl paused momentarily, standing over her teacher and staring at her with eyes devoid of anything besides anger.
    There was a flash, just for a moment, of something else in Kylie’s eyes, something resembling fear and horror, as if the girl was aware of what was happening, somewhere beneath the grip of the creature’s power.
    And then the creature’s threat became reality.
    Kylie moved, swift and sure, and tore her teacher’s throat out with her teeth.
    Farynna had just enough life left in her after that to have the sight of her twelve-year-old apprentice, covered in blood and with gory flesh hanging from her teeth, imprinted in her mind, the last thing she’d ever see.

1 comment:

  1. That last sentence is quite visual, and bloody... with bits dripping out of it.