tagNovels and NovellasA Harlot's Tale Ch. 03

A Harlot's Tale Ch. 03




All Seasons' Eve, 680

Tomorrow is All Seasons' Day, the first and most important day in Agrond's calendar. On this day, the seasons join throughout the innumerable Spheres before going their separate ways. This year is distinct in that Myrha, Agrond's smallest moon, consumes the light of both our suns.

Our Matriarch, Selane, has been blessed by Necanta. During Myrha's dominion over the sun, she is to bed with K'Gahl, an incubus that the Mother has managed to seduce from within her prison. This joining shall produce a daughter. This sacred child is to be Necanta's avatar.

When the avatar is born to us, we will nurture her, secure her in her power. When she comes into her own, we will stand behind her as she lays waste to those that would oppose the will of Necanta. An end, thereafter, to the wars we wage with the elves. A beginning to that which was intended. The Mother will return to claim Her own.

First Cycle, day the second, 681

It is done. Myrha has danced before the sun as was foretold, and I have just been witness to the most significant and unsettling catastrophe of our age. I shall attempt to put it down as best I can on this scroll. These shall not be the witless words of conquering and thoecratical dominion. I am not writing now as the Scribe of the Shadoewatch, but merely as Iovane, a woman who is presently very afraid for herself and for the future of her people. Let it suffice to say that the words we are given cannot relay the depth of my wonder or the keeness of my fear at the spectacle I have seen this night.

It was very cold in the temple. Ten of us were gathered there, each priestess a member of the highest sect in the Order of the Shadoewatch, known with due respect as the Wraithguard. We stood in a circle around a shallow octagonal pit, which normally housed the like-shaped stone slab that served as Necanta's sacrificial altar.

I must take a moment to document the workings of this pit I have described. From hollow recesses in opposite sides of the octagon, four iron chains reached into its center, each terminated in a small shackle. A sturdy winch was set to one side which operated the chains simultaneously, pulling each one into its respective niche. It is easy enough to decifer the intentions of this device, so I shall leave it at that.

Our backs were turned to the pit as we reverently awaited our Matriarch. No one moved. The only sound was that of our breath as it turned to icy mists before our faces. I will not recount how long we waited, as it holds no relevance. I will only say that it was some time before we heard the deep, ominous rumbling of Necanta's ceremonial drums reverberating through the halls and rooms of Shadoeholde above us, announcing Selane's descention to the temple.

She was skyclad when she entered. We all bowed to one knee, as was the ritual when inside the Mother's temple proper. Behind our Matriarch, eleven young acolytes walked in measured pace, governed by the slow, steady rolls of the unseen drums.

DdddDOOM! Step. DdddDOOM! Step.

Each girl was wearing naught but a white satin choker, declaring the rights of motherhood. Each of these adolescent mothers carried their newborn child in their arms.

As Selane reached the dais in which the pit was set, the drums stopped their steady, rhythmic beat. The drummers were not in the chilling confines of the room, but the precise number of steps were counted and compared to the exact beat on which the drums would fall silent. So far, all was in due order.

A child began to cry in the discomfort of the room, and was soon joined by a chorus of wailing from his peers. No effort was made to quiet them.

We all turned to face the pit. Selane stood behind it...her eyes closed...lost in an unfathomable trance. It was at this point that I noticed that her breath was not visible as it was with the rest of us. Her chest rose and fell steadily, but as far as I could tell, nothing issued forth (at least not in this world).

Selane spoke, her voice carried loudly in the chill air, still her breath incited no mist.

'On this great eve Necanta sends Her blessings to us!'

'Bless Necanta! May the pettiness of gods be their undoing when the Mother comes to claim Her own!' we recited in unison.

'We offer up to You, our Divine Mother, the fruit of our wombs, that You might see our unerring devotion to Your service.'

'All hail the Whore-Goddess of Agrond! Blessed be the Mother of the Spheres!' Our words echoed in the expansive stone chamber, amplifying our voices.

Selane spoke now to the first of the acolytes, 'Come, Myna. Your time has come to enter the Order...as a priestess.'

Myna stepped onto the dais and into the pit. Tears streamed unchecked from her eyes. Her infant daughter screamed, sensing the distress of her mother, yet not comprehending its source. The young girl, all of fifteen summers, laid her wailing child in the middle of the pit and bound her wrists and ankles in the tiny shackles.

She stood, staring at Selane, unable to continue.

'Come, child...it is for you to do,' Selane's voice carried an edge of sincere warning to the girl. Myna stepped out of the pit and stood by the winch. Her daughter screamed at the top of her lungs. There was no attempt to comfort the child, as that was not our purpose.

You must understand that we are not evil by nature, nor are we heartless. Every one of us is human, furthermore we are women, thus we have an innate maternal instinct. Indeed, never before tonight has child sacrifice been committed by anyone of our Order. I assure you, it was no task of simplistic destruction that we practiced this night. I can only explain our motives in that in order to rip the very fabric of the Her prison, to allow enough of the Mother's essense to escape, there had to be a tremendous well of energy for Necanta to manipulate. This ceremony supplied that energy in its purest and most unblemished form.

I shall not plague you with sleepless nights by describing the sacrifices that were made in that pit. Only take to mind that at the completion of that part of the ritual, the pit was deep with the blood of eleven children, and with the tears of their mothers.

We waited now, for Necanta to open a rift in the Spheres, to send Her essense in the incarnation of Her consort, K'gahl. If he were to need only to arrive in spirit, such an extensive ceremony would not be required; however, in order for Selane to conceive, K'gahl would have to manifest corporeally. I had not imagined that it would happen as I saw it.

The pool of blood began to churn, only a little at first. As the turbulence became more aggressive, Selane motioned for us to kneel. The eleven former acolytes had been dismissed, to wait in the Hall of Silence for the ceremony to end. Only the Wraithguard and our Matriarch remained.

I stared into the pool, unable to look away. The blood had now formed a maelstrom in the pit, and slowly, from the center of that unnatural whirlpool, a bloody mass emerged.

I had often fantasized about being swept away by a beautiful incubus, his dark, well-defined form pressed against my willing flesh, his leathery wings wrapped tightly about me, cocooning me in his ravenous desire... It is the dream of many a young acolyte in Necanta's service.

The creature that rose from the pit this night has banished all aforementioned desires from me now. It was not the beautiful, winged spirit described in our ancient tomes. It was not the rapturous, breath-taking demon I shared my private moments with.

The beast stood taller than any man I have ever known. He wore no skin...only muscle, bone, and an intricate lace of bluish veins. His eyes were white and empty, yet they emanated an undefyable aura of command.

If I were asked, at this moment, if I would have entered the pit in Selane's stead...I would be lying if I said yes. That is if I were to be asked now, in the well-lighted confines of my study. A few hours ago, kneeling under K'gahls demanding presence...I would have done anything he had required of me.

Thus it was for our Matriarch when he leveled his unsavory gaze on her. She could not begin to try to mask the fear and revulsion on her face. K'gahl reached out one hand, dripping with infantile blood, and beckoned her to join him. She did as she was bade.

Selane knelt before him. K'gahl pushed her back into the bloody pool. He drew his fists together in front of him and then slowly moved them out to his sides. Selane's legs parted in compliance. She was completely covered by him as he mounted her, and when he impaled her there was an audible ripping of flesh from her groin. I did not understand until later, but Selane's scream was joined by eleven more from an antechamber outside the inner temple -- from the Hall of Silence.

K'gahl thrust relentlessly into Selane, paying no heed to her pained cries. I was hard pressed to maintain my composure as I watched that uncanny display. When K'gahl finally seeded, he bellowed a deep, mind-shattering cry. By this time I was trembling violently. Never in my life had I known such genuine fear...until the doors to the inner temple flew open.

They stood, eleven strong, in the shattered doorway, Myna at the head of their ranks. Their dead eyes stared at us from mangled faces. The girls' necks had been broken and their heads were cocked at odd angles. We did not move. The mighty Wraithguard of Necanta was completely helpless. I do not know how to relay the feeling that came over me, except that it was more of a total lack of feeling. Death has come here to Shadoeholde. He has come with a message, spoken from the mouths of eleven torn and disgraced young women. His message was this:

'Again your goddess has transgressed against the Order of the Spheres. The gods of Agrond have turned their backs on Necanta. Your goddess, yourselves and the following generations of your people will suffer for your insolence. There is but one among you that may find redemption. Without her, you need not seek absolution. You need not seek sanctuary. You will wither and you will die.'

In what I can only assume was an omen of our fate, the bodies of the girls decomposed before our eyes. I shall keep this horror to myself, it deserves no description. It is all together...unwholesome.

As I said when I began this recollection, I am very afraid. I cannot sleep but I have nothing more to write for the moment. I think I shall simply pray.

Fourth cycle, day the sixth, 681

Tragedy is upon us. This eve, our Mistress Selane died in childbirth. The demonchild was saved, but we could do naught for our matron. May she rest in the Mother's bosom. I pray Our Lady's grace in the days to come.

Fourth cycle, day the eleventh, 681

My fears have become manifest. There is descention in the Order. The Shadoewatch has split into two factions. A number of our priestesses rally behind Tevaar, who is our most senior. Tevaar speaks heresy against the Mother, claiming that we must seek forgiveness from the gods of Agrond. The remaining faithful sisters, myself included, have chosen to follow Danaise, who holds the child.

Tevaar has summoned a devil of frightening ability, which has trapped us here in the catacombs beneath the temple. Danaise, who is quite adept in the arts, has warded off the beast thus far, but it seems only a matter of time.

Fourth cycle, day the fourteenth, 681

We have found an escape route through the sewers. Danaise has chosen me to carry the child to safety within the city. Three of our priestesses have given their lives in order for Danaise to form a gate to the Abyss, which should draw the devil back from whence he came.

Tevaar has spent much of her energy and more than a few sacrifices to appease the great beast. Mistress Danaise plans to lead the rest of the sisters out through the sewers and wait for the devil to break through her wards. Once he has fallen into her trap, she will lead an attack on Tevaar's weakened company in the temple.

Fourth cycle, day the nineteenth, 681

I have fled with the child to a brothel in the Beggars' Quarter. I am presently masquerading as a Scarlet, awaiting news from the temple.

Fourth cycle, day the fifty-third, 681

The child is gone. A fortnight ago, Tevaar and eight of her followers found me in the brothel. They stole the child, burnt out my eyes, and left me for dead. A girl from the brothel lead me back to the temple, where I learned that Danaise had reached the temple only to find that Tevaar had fled. She had immediately sent for me, but I arrived as the messenger was departing. When I relayed the demise of our plan to her, I felt her rage like a burning of a heretic in the ages past.

Danaise, now Mistress of the Shadoewatch, sacrificed the girl from the brothel and gave her eyes to me. I am now able to see, though not quite as well as before; however, my unnatural eyes allow me to see beyond natural limits, with the proper ceremonies, of course.

So now my punishment for losing the child has been to shed my own blood in order to scry in search of the demon-spawned girl. As of yet my attempts have been futile.

Second cycle, day the thirty-seventh, 682

By Necanta's grace, I have found the girl! I have lost much of my blood and I suffer from a crippling madness, but I have finally succeeded.

Tevaar carried the child to a keep in the foothills of the Devilspine Mountains with a cluster of her followers. We are not aware of what her intentions were, but whatever they may have been, they are ruined.

It seems that the keep is now inhabited by a group of bandits. It seems they have taken the child into their keeping. Many of the rogues have died in the siege, but the broken bodies of Tevaar and her priestesses are very clear to me.

Tevaar has woven some sort of spell about the girl. None of our order have been able to decifer its purpose. We believe that the bandits assaulted the keep soon thereafter, catching Tevaar in a state of weakness. Danaise is...'

'The writing ends here. The rest of the scroll is just smeared with ink and blood.'

'Where's th' rest?' Thylisa stared at him, a blank expression on her face.

'That's all there is, Thylisa. Iovane slipped into madness and never returned to her writing,' Callous slipped the scroll into a tube before placing it into his pack.

'It can't be about me. I've never been in Corici 'til two cycles ago. I was born in th' plains, as a gypsy, not as some half demon avataress!'

Callous smirked. 'I see... and I assume that your antics this afternoon were some obscure rites of gypsy magic. Is that it?'

Thylisa continued her denial, determined to ignore the overwhelming truth Callous presented to her, 'Anyway, even if I was to be this 'avatar', whatever that may be, why would Danaise want ta kill me? I wouldn' think Necanta'd be very pleased with that.'

Callous continued packing as he considered. 'You're right, but Danaise doesn't care much about the will of Necanta any longer. She uses her position as Matriarch to weave her influence into the Citadel. She has Kaine grovelling to cater to her. She simply sees you as a threat. After all, you're the redemption of Coricia. If that secret gets out, she's no longer in control.'

'So why can't I jus' walk into Shadoeholde and claim my title?' she said as she lightly rubbed her bruised jaw.

'We have no proof. You must first understand and harness your power. That's why we have to-'

There was a harsh pounding on the door. Callous ran to a mirror which hung on his wall,' Follow me,' he said to the girl. Thylisa grabbed her pack as she watched Callous crawl straight into the looking glass. She touched her hand to the mirror, it was solid. Thylisa heard the front door splinter. Callous' hand appeared through the glass.

'It's an illusion. Take my hand. Trust me.'

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