Chapter 9 ; Suits of flesh
Darkness came swiftly that day. He felt strange thinking of that notion. Darkness… Was there more meaning to that word now ? He couldn't remember, though he tried. Much of his old life was dead and lost under a mountain of fleeting ages, and what remained was still adjusting to his new body. In time, this week human flesh would change back to what it was, and his memories would return. Most of them. A human mind was not fit to store information. It was insufficient and feeble, another testament of their inferiority.
Once more he observed his master's work ; A black pillar rising to the sky, blocking the light from reaching the earth. Fools in the camp were terrified, running around as fast as it was possible for them, swarming like ants or some other insignificant insects. He smirked at that ; if a simple illusion could spark such chaos, he could barely wait to see the results of his master's next move. Memories were hurting him.
The pillar and the shadow were just a magical projection, streaming from the altar where his master's will sacrificed a few mortal girls to fuel forces of the sky into his design. A simple flow of eyes-deceiving magic, yet enormous, stretching across the clouds for a hundred miles. He wanted to get down on his knees and worship such strength.
Sadly, he couldn't. He wanted to do a lot of things, to feed again, but the voice in his head beckoned him, demanding otherwise. That skinny girl in white clothes was not enough to sate his hunger. For a moment he wondered if her dry body was well hidden. He did not expect to find so many humans here, and it only took one to make his work more difficult. It was a fleeting thought, as much from certainty in his skill, as from the disorientation that held him since he opened his eyes. At the moment, few thoughts had a solid foothold in his head so he forced his attention on the abundant cattle.
These mortals were so preoccupied by fear and their tasks, he almost wanted to start killing them just to see whether they'd notice. Men in strange green suits of comfortable materials were running all around him in turmoil. They were packing their supplies and wares on horseless carriages of green metal which rumbled loudly and wafted repugnant smoke about them. It was hard to adjust to such a sight. Hard, for it caused anger.
Cushy – that was the word to describe these sights. Everything here was made to make humans feel more comfortable. Their clothes were soft and comfortable, their dwellings were sturdy but light, their tools were complex and brilliantly simple in their usefulness. He loathed that luxury. Because they didn't have it in their time ? Perhaps, but he loathed it none the less.
How long had it bean ? An age ? A millennium ? A blink of an eye ? Did this new world even remember who its masters were ? Memories he found at his rebirth were scarce, most still too slippery to grasp, but what he did know was that the timing for the Awakening was perfect ; This world was in a state of war ! Men struck down other men for nothing more than skin color or religion. It was so delightfully mad he couldn't stop the devious smirk from curving his lips. Whatever time has passed, this Age of Lunatics was the perfect soil for the Empire's roots to dig in.
No one noticed him any more than the next man, as he boldly paced through the darkness, a solitary reef of calmness in a sea of running, trembling and moaning. If they'd only knew that their death was in their midst… Yes. The Darkness ! He remembered now. He knew what he had to do. The enemy was already moving, but he knew his place, assigned to him eons ago. Soon the six Sires shall walk again, and when they bring forth the Overlord, this world too would remember that which was forgotten.
Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. It was time ; the Master was calling to him.
" How did you do it !?"; Field Marshal Gunter practically screamed at the woman in the cage. She was quite different than she had been a few hours ago. Her skin had gone pale like chock, her hair became even darker than before, and when her eyes would flash out trough those long streams of black hair, one could tell they were completely red like smooth spheres of rubies. Though he would never admit it out loud, such a change frightened him. She was degenerating rather than elevating and he had no intention of undergoing such a transformation if that was the price. In that case, it would be enough to control those who did.
Those bloodied eyes stared back at him almost frozen. She tiled her head a bit as if studying him, mouth half opened and those two teeth sticking out. Fangs. They seemed longer than before. And sharper too. She didn't seem to understand, reduced to this animal, yet he knew that it was her doing somehow, this theft of the sun, and even now greed in him overwhelmed fear and revulsion by far. Greed for this power. He burned with the desire to own it, to make it his to wield.
They brought her cage to his tent soon after the spectacle in the sky, and she was surrounded by 500-watts reflectors which kept her at bay. Five of his men were in the tent too, ready to kill her the moment she'd move. Even so, he didn't feel quite safe with her around. He didn't think that safety was achievable.
The tent itself was a large space of white sheets, with many luxurious items, predominated by rare stuffed animals on numerous pedestals. He liked these animals ; they were his own hunt, and now his trophies. There was no bed, for those like him seldom slept more than a few hours a day. Instead, there were many shelves filled with occult books and literature on ancient lore, which Gunter used on many occasions. Next to the eastern tent-wall, there was an expensive writing desk with a stand-lamp and Gunter's personal diary, and next to it stood a chest with his personal possessions.
With so much light in here, the tent seemed like it was on fire when viewed from outside. The hum of the gas generator which powered the bulbs was distant but it still gave safety to the men around the cage. Few people were unafraid by the omen in the sky. Gunter's tent held his own omen, however, a Nazi Cross on a huge red carpet and another one on a banner hanging from a pole opposite the dour, so all who would enter might see and revere the symbol of the Fatherland. And fear it more than that which was outside.
" Answer me !"; he shouted again, but it had no effect. She could be staring trough him for all he knew. Taking out his gun, he slowly aimed and fired a shot an inch below her foot, splintering the wooden floor of the cage. She didn't even twitch. Instead she started to drawl, a drop of spit leaking down her chin. But he wasn't going to give up yet !
He presented the artifact, dangling it before her cage, just short of her grasp. It still surprised him how well this tooth in a bond of feathers was preserved considering all the time it passed. It was the source of her power ! It had to be. All the texts agreed on that ; The Spirits of the Nataraja, as they were referred to in the ancient scrolls, were bound to the artifacts, awaiting those worthy to assume their powers. He was worthy ! And he was going to make this thing see it !
The sight of the necklace seemed to get trough to her. At once she seemed as if she was fighting something, almost snarling with effort, her eyes fixed on the tooth and her head quaking in a chaotic shakes. Once she settled she looked back at him with a different expression, one that could almost be sadness…
" Pppprrrrr… "; she coughed before it came out
" What ?"; he asked almost snarling :" I want the secret ! Tell me !"
" …Prrrleasssse… "; she mumbled :" … khillllmhe… khillll… me… "
The hand which held the tooth-necklace was trembling, making it dance on the bright lights. His back hit the edge of the writing desk and he realized he was backing away. Letting go a loud sigh he collected the necklace back into his fist and turned around, trying to appear unshaken, while pretending to be turning pages in his diary. The girl was just weak. She was unworthy. That was all… But his gloved finger glistened with sweat as he passed it over his forehead.
Suddenly she started to laugh. She tossed her head up and was laughing with rich melodic laughter, spoiled only by those long fangs. This sudden change in her behavior put a frown at Gunter's face as he faced her again, and she started to whisper a tune staring strait at him :
" I once knew a man with thoughts of fame… His head was stone his heart the same… Of an 'Angry Cross' he was a part… And he was a fool who thought he was smart… "
It had the most insulting and offensive tone, teasing his every fiber :
" Stop that !"; he yelled, but she only laughed more, singing on, goading him with each word
" His clothes was green, his blood so red… "; Gunter reached for his gun again and fired a bullet just next to her shoulder. It had no effect :" … In the deepest grave I made his bed… "; the next shot tore her right sleeve :" With the blackest earth did I tuck him in… Oh, what fool, what Fool he had bean… "
Her mocking sneer was making him quiver with rage. But he couldn't kill her. Not yet.
" Bring more lights here !"; he ordered instead :" Two more ! We'll roast her if we must !"
She was just laughing, crouched in her corner. Laughing in his face. But when those reflectors arrived, he imagined she wouldn't be so amused.
" Get those spotlights now !"; he shouted at his men. What was wrong with those idiots ? Why were they not… moving…
" Blind he walked, and thought he could see… And high above all he wanted to be… "
Someone else walked in the tent then. It was that soldier who managed to capture her and hold her down ; Jorgen Brenner. He had been hurt in her capture, bitten on the neck, but the nurse said it wasn't serious. Just shock to his mind…
A light bulb in one of the reflectors popped in a spray of glass and sparks making Gunter jump. The reflector went dead.
" Jorgen, send word to bring more light here and… "
There was something strange in Jorgen's eye, a hungry spark he had come to associate with predators he had hunted down and that were now decorating his dwellings. Another bulb went dead in a burst, fueling Gunter's unease. He couldn't seem to make his gun stop trembling in his hand. In a slow move, as if he was in no hurry, Jorgen approached one of the guards in the tent, and as his lips curved into a smile, a pair of sharp fangs fell out. In a flash he plunged his jaws into the neck of the nearest soldier, growling like… like Professor Barker ! The other four guards seemed to be frozen in time as heart's blood of their fallen comrade sprayed over Jorgen's face.
For the first time in perhaps forever, Field Marshal Gunter Von Hanner felt the kind of fear a trapped animal would, the fear his pray surely felt in his greatest triumphs. But years of service to the Fatherland thought him better than giving into it. Instead he considered his options ; He could shout for help, or he could kill Jorgen first, and than Frau Barker. He was trough playing her games. As long as she was trapped in the cage…
His eyes bulged.
The cage was empty. Without explanation, an unfilled space loomed before him, seeming to take in all of his attention and devour it. The lock was untouched, the bars were in place, even the dust on the wood was unstirred ! Quickly he aimed at that thing that used to be Jorgen, to kill him at least and maybe buy himself more time, but his heart almost stopped dead as he met a pair of crimson eyes in a ghastly pale face. She was close enough for a kiss, her hot breath burning his neck and chin. Crimson eyes, deeply set in her chock-white face stared back at him freezing his limbs on the spot. He should have shouted… He should have screamed… should have…
" Now is the time to pay the price… The greatest of men… The smallest of mice. "
No ! There was still time ! All he had to do was shout ! He just had to shout, and his men would come to his aid. Instead, something small and pinched came out of him, hardly resembling his voice. The rest of the spot lights went out too, plunging the tent in shadows, yet her eyes remained, bright-red and burning, to make him bathe in freezing sweat. All he could was to flee in some dark corner of his mind, cowering before the creature which turned his bones to ice, but somewhere in that corner, he also had to admire such power – the power of Fear. He wanted to scream, to cower, to beg, but he also wanted to get down on his knees and worship his Mistress for but a small taste of that which she possessed.
Reaching to his pocket, he managed to present her with the artifact, his token and offering to his new goddess, dangling in his quivering hand, and she presented him with a human heart, still beating in her claw… He saw no more after that.
The last of the guards fell limp to the ground, now resembling a hundred year old carcass with no body fluid what so ever, just like the others. The man who had once been Jorgen Brenner was not a man at all any more. His hand was already becoming more to his liking ; pale, with black nails, sharp as a scalpel. Scalpel… what was that ? That word drifted into his head seemingly out of nowhere. A bit of memory from the mind of this Jorgen no doubt. But Jorgen was no more, and he was. Now and forever ! He was Sardas Ecnematim, Slayer of the Innocent, and the First Guard of his Lord and Sire Dumah the Unstoppable. His Sire…
His Sire was feeding on a heart he had ripped from the body of this human-lord, and was doing so with great delight. His Sire… There was no strength in comparison, and he cared not for the other clans, or even Kain himself ! His Sire was the only God he worshiped. Falling to his knees, Sardas crawled to him, just to feel himself bathed by his God's presence, to drink in the redness of his eyes.
The vessel his Lord chose seamed unsuitable for one such as he ; a frail human girl in yet another style of futuristic garment that seemed fit for repelling the sun and allowing the flow of air trough to the skin. Sardas could only imagine that a human would find it useful in this hot land. But he knew his Master's aura, even now gleaming trough every inch of the girl's skin, dimming Sardas by its radiance ; a shroud of shadows prolonging in a mass of swarming black tentacles that fizzled angrily, filling the entire tent. Some were stretching for miles, others were so short and small even Sardas couldn't see them. Night was a living thing in his Sire's grasp.
" My Sire… "; he whispered with reverence in his heart :" … You have found me… At last, you have found me. "
" It is time my child. "; he spoke in an echoing tone of a man and a woman speaking simultaneously :" Sands of the hourglass have all but trickled away. The time of the Awakening is upon us at last. "
Unshed tears glistened in Sardas's eyes :" What is your bidding, my Sire ?"
" What was will be. What is will be no more. The shadow will fall across the world, and all will come to darkness ! Blood of man shall flow in rivers unending, for I walk the earth once again !"; suddenly he swayed a bit, gripping a strange necklace in his hand ; it was a tooth in a bond of red feathers on a leather cord. It was as if he wanted to let it go, but his fist only clenched it tighter.
" … Sire… ?"; Sardas asked with concern
His lord steadied himself and gazed back at him. " She is strong. Most unusual for her kind. A shame that I have to devour her, rather than embrace her. "
Sardas did his best not to frown. He was able to devour his host within seconds, but his Sire was still struggling for control ? It had to be a powerful soul, to endure for so long, and against one such as Dumah the Unstoppable. Perhaps he chose her for it. He did have a tendency to take the most special of the cattle. In their age, the whole clan would sometimes search for months before they could find those exceptional enough to please his appetite. Perhaps this girl was one of the Wise in this age, to poses such endurance of spirit.
" Come my child. "; he spoke at last, gripping the tooth tighter in his claw :" My Brothers await their Bearers, and I know just where to find them… "
The air around him rippled and the Seal reappeared around the girl's neck – a round medallion of black-wrought silver with a bright flow of copper to sign their Clan's mark. It was a 'pocket of ether', a simple but useful spell to store items in, where no one but the caster could retrieve them again.
Within seconds after the light in the tent died out, the men outside rushed in to make sure that the creature was contained, but it was far too late. The place was a nightmarish scene with bits and peaces of what used to be stuffed animals, broken and shattered all over the floor along with ash of half-burned paper, wafted in the draft. The flag of the swastika and many of the tent sheets were torn like by a giant claw, and some were stained in blackened blood.
But the most disturbing sight was the body of Field Marshal Gunter Von Hanner, hanged by his ankles, naked and with a huge hole in his chest where his heart had once been. Blood was poring from it over his face, shoulders and arms, dripping from his fingers on the carpet beneath, and placed around him, were five skinny green carcasses, facing five directions so that their feet were conjoining below Von Hanner's gaping head. Withered like mummies, and also naked, they were recognizable only by the uniforms, neatly folded beneath their heads like pillows.
Sigmund was one of the soldiers who rushed to help, and now he could only wish to wake up from this fever dream. He couldn't speak for others, but he was already deeply regretting their coming here. And he was willing to bet his life that he was not the only one by far.