Rider of doom
A moment of silence passed which seemed like a lifetime in this bizarre keep under the sea. The albino smiled. The room was seized by a deathly quietus the creatures who were once jeering and jostling were stopped completely as if turned to stone. Bres felt suddenly small and inconsequential as if he were inside a leviathans belly.
“A shogoth has no will of it’s own, it is puppeted by my will alone” A grin rose at the corners of the albino’s thin lips “but as you noticed, there is a slight delay.”
“It can take whatever form you wish it?”
“Indeed it can”
Bres looked at the strange mass writhing on the floor of the crude arena “Is it dead?”
“That is not dead which can eternal lie.” The albino let out a small pitiless laugh and as he did so there was a flash of something. In the corner of Bres’ eyes he swore he could see the shadows of stygian tendrils climbing the walls. But it was fast like a flash of lightning.
“Your ring, take it” The albino extended his long gaunt white arm towards Bres.
Bres gingerly reached for the ring and took it from the albino’s cold hand.
“I haven’t seen that ring for a very long time”
“Then you are he?”
“I am Elatha, high king of the Fomor, and you are Bres the beautiful, once and future king of Tuatha’ de Danann.”
“Then you are my father?”
“I am millennia old, many things that walk and crawl call me ‘father’. But you may count yourself one of them” Elatha smiled with only the corners of his gaunt mouth. “Come my son” Elatha turned to walk up the strange steps into the deeper blackness of the eldritch keep.
What remained of the portcullis to Miach’s castle bubbled and cracked on the stone ground. A gaping hole where it once stood let in a whisper of dim torchlight from the mob outside. But it only punctuated an infinite of blackness that oozed through the hole. As if the night itself came to claim the keep, the stars in the sky, fine pointed spears flying from the hands of gods centuries past.
Ogma waited staring into the emptiness that stared back at him through the destroyed portcullis. For a moment he heard nothing but the night music. Then a stirring, like a lizard in a skull turning over, the warrior rose to one knee and reached for his weapons. But before he could rise to his full height the demon rider burst through the void it had made. It punctured the night with the white hot flaming sword overhead.
Ogma was stumbled to his feet, taken aback by the sight of it. The blade he once followed burning like the sun held in the imposter’s hand illuminating it’s waxy skin.
The rider showed no signs of slowing, barreling at the tuathan warrior at full speed laughing like a maniac. The sound displaced and bouncing off the castle walls sounding as if it was everywhere at once.
Ogma held his ground as the madman charged him down, the maniac spurred his horse, shouting and laughing as he sped towards Ogma. The tuathan’s mind reeling at the thought of being trampled by it’s hooves, too late it was upon him. Suddenly his thoughts were blank and he winced closing his eyes behind his helm readying himself for the mighty blow.
But nothing came, only the sound of clattering as the horse and rider leapt over Ogma leaving a streak of fire in the air above his head.
The rider continued on into the castle laughing like a lunatic. His strange upright posture jostling on horseback looking like a tailors dummy strapped in the saddle.
Ogma turned and watched not sure whether to pursue. As he hesitated the ramshackle army piled through the opening their leader had made. They crawled over eachother to get into the castle.
Then there was a low rumble of hateful thunder, Ogma turned again and there stood the firbolg. Almost naked his scarred muscles glistened covered in his own red blood. All except for the silver arm. It was pristine and glowed with a divine magic that was so mismatched with its current host it almost made the knight of the tuatha shudder.
“You face death alone” Cur cackled mockingly and breathed out slowly wheezing like a death rattle through his scarred throat.
For a moment Ogma was lost in thought, he looked back at the mob slowly advancing and then at the barbarian behind him.
“Perhaps today death fights by my side.” He said as he threw his sword like a javelin at Cur’s feet. Cur unflinching as the blade sunk into the loose earth lodging itself upright like a warriors grave marker.
Cur looked down at the sword and laughed.
The doomed rider coursed through the halls of the inner keep. The blasphemous thing laughing like a lunatic as he scratched the walls with the burning blade. The weapon vomiting fire over the tapestries and raw stone itself. The unnatural flames spreading like a disease through the keep.
“FATHER? WHERE ARE YOU FATHER?” The madman shrieked.
Outside the sounds of battle were louder than that of the now roaring flames consuming the castle walls and illuminating the once dark keep.
Ogma was measured in combat, always maintaining distance. He singled out a target and dispatched them dispassionately with his club. While always vigilant of attackers trying to approach his flank.
Cur on the otherhand was as brutal as the bone clenching mountain wind. From the moment he pulled the sunken sword from the suckling earth it drank deep of the milk blood of the tuatha. He launched himself at the crowd of peasants cutting and chopping and bludgeoning with the silver arm. Before long he was coated in the blood, as white as a ghost. The peasants now flinched and ran from him out of sheer horror, only the soldiers would engage him for fear of turning their backs.
“He’s a beast!” They shrieked as they fell over themselves to retreat.
“No treasure is worth this!”
“FATHER!” The rider shrieked as he dismounted his horse at the base of the spiral staircase that lead to the Miach’s study.
He shooed his horse which galloped in terror from the crackling flames. It fled through the halls of the burning castle to the freedom of the frozen night air.
The monster climbed the staircase, almost crawling like a beast as he continued to shriek “FAAATHERR!”
“Now my son, tell me why you’ve come”
Bres stared transfixed by a crystal wine carafe, the liquid inside seemed to dance as if it were alive. The king wondered how such a thing were to be possible at the bottom of the ocean. What eldritch made this possible? Too much thought on it could drive him mad.
“I thought you knew”
“I do, I wish to know if you do” Elatha smiled.
Elatha and Bres sat at either end of an elaborate dining table, laid out before them was an extravagant feast that defied explanation. Most of the food was from the deep, some recognizable, some not so. Some raw to be expected but others seemed cooked, but how this was possible Bres decided not to dwell on.
The room was vast but decorated in darkly coloured long hanging sashes that seemed to hang from nothing. The room was lit by some odd bioluminesce that came from beyond the fabric and disappeared into the dark corners of the room. This gave the space a strange feeling, as if the dining table were on a single flat rock floating in an endless void of nothingness.
“My throne- was taken from me”
“Taken? Or did you lose it?”
“Nuada, or something that looks like him returned”
“From what I’ve heard you lost your right to kingship long before that”
“Because of my face”
Bres touched his face and it felt smooth. He turned and an elegant mirror hung in the shadows and in it a youthful Bres the beautiful, his face unmarred and perfect. Was this all in his mind? It all felt rather dream like.
“The taxes your people wrought on me, I was blackmailed, I was your puppet on the throne and now they know it as the fomor rule from tory isle.”
“Not I, I seek nothing from your noble isle, your quarrel is with Balor.”
“Then my journey was for nought”
“Not so my son, I did not say I could not help you”
“You may stay here as long as you like. Take whatever you may need with you and when the time is right you will go to Tory and confront Balor as my envoy. He will be bound to you and in time your throne shall be restored”.
“Is that all?”
The albino grinned behind a crystal wine glass “Of course.”
“FAATHERRR!” The hideous sound from it’s malformed lips came through the solid oak door in a garbled mess of pain and shame.
Miach cowered on the otherside side of the door leaning against his desk which he’d pushed up against the door as a crude barricade. The door shook with a wet dull thump and each time it sent grotesque shivers up Miach’s spine. The door and the creature groaned as if in pain.
Miach had no pity for the creature, only dread and disgust. Then an odd feeling of heat as if he were under a giant magnifying glass. The door seemed to creak and expand, Miach crawled away on his backside like a turned over beetle. The sturdy oak door bursting open like a rotten boil, all black and orange and white.
Miach scuttled on all fours backwards towards the tank full of the strange liquid. “Help me!” He cried out hoarsely to no one.
Standing in the door at a strange angle as if its spine didn’t quite meet the shoulders, a gaunt bone white figure vaguely resembling Nuada. But not quite, just something ever so off, a copy of a copy. The thing shambled into the room wailing. It’s voice guttural and raw as if an animal that taught itself to speak.
“Father” It slurred. “I’ve returned”
“Get away from me!” Miach yelped helplessly retreating.
The abomination limped through the doorway, treading on the still molten ashes of the door and the desk. The creature used the magic sword as a crutch, starting small fires everywhere it touched.
“Father!” The thing slowly shambled towards Miach who had nowhere to retreat.
Miach was in a terrified frenzy, kicking and flailing like a child or a fallen faun. The thing dropped the burning blade on the lab floor as it reached for Miach, outstretching it arms. The blade continued to smoulder and burn everything it touched.
Miach struggled against it kicking and kicking at the stranger with the waxen face which didn’t seem to move at all.
Miach kicked at it’s strange doll like face and it’s head came flying off.
The weird head bounced and made a hollow sound like wood and rolled off into the flames.
The strange creature didn’t fall or even react at all, it merely rose to it’s full height yet again and said “Father don’t you recognize me?”.
Miach’s blood froze in his veins as he watched the creature reach into the strange bag on its hip and withdraw the fetid rotting head of Nuada Airgetlám.