tagErotic HorrorNetherworlds: Night of the Hallowed

Netherworlds: Night of the Hallowed


Author's Note:

This is my entry to the 2004 Halloween Story Contest, and is my first submission in 12 months, as I am now working on mainstream horror and science fiction. This has been a delightful journey back into erotic horror, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed its creation. I appreciate all forms of feedback and will always respond if you provide your email address.

Please register your votes honestly so that the story may be ranked in the contest.

* * *

I inhale deeply, filling my head with the scent of my lover. The taste of Charli's sex is heady and musky on my tongue, and so, so sweet. Charli's hands entangle with my hair and grip my scalp, guiding my head up and down between her legs and urging my tongue's slow motion to continue.

Filled with a sense of erotic completeness, I let my tongue maintain its gentle task, encouraged by the sound of Charli's pleasured moaning and laboured breath. I would rather be nowhere other than here and now, between the legs of my beautiful slave, bringing her pleasure like she has never before received. Oh, how I love Charli – how I love every inch of her perfect body, every strand of her golden hair, every smile she makes at me and every word that utters from her sweet lips. Love, more powerful than anything else in the world, love that could bond slave and mistress tighter than tree and root, mountain and earth.

Sweet Charli, sweet moaning Charli, sweet panting, writhing, tortured Charli – twisting in my grip and keening as if she is about to come: yes, my pet, come for me, come now. I redouble the lapping of my tongue, patting my slave's heat-soaked clitoris as she tenses with impending orgasm.

Charli's moans catch tight in her throat and every muscle in her body feels so tight to my touch; my slave's fingers grip my hair hard and thrust my face downwards into the musky, milky flow of her weeping sex as her body erupts underneath me into violent, powerful spasms of pure delight.

Keira awoke with a start, instinctively grabbed a dagger from the recesses of her armour and jumped upright in a pirouette that took in all of her surroundings and assessed the immediate danger. There was none: it was a dream.

Sitting back down with a tired sigh, Keira sheathed her dagger and cleared her mind. It was just a dream. She became aware of a cool, silky sensation between her legs; yes, now she remembered. She had been dreaming about Charli. Again.

The same dream as always, Keira remarked to herself: doing the one thing she had longed to do since she and her slave had first become lovers, and the one thing that she would never be able to do. The progress of the poison flowing through her sweet body had been halted by the foul-smelling leaves administered by the shaman, but just one orgasm could be enough to release the monster that lay dormant inside of her; and so her own discovery of sexual pleasure, of private masturbation, had been cut forever short. Poor, sweet Charli, such a dedicated and devoted lover, such a skilled giver of sexual pleasure; such a sad irony that she may never receive it; so sad that Keira could never return all those wondrous favours.

It pained Keira every time they made love, and it pained her now after the vividness of her familiar dream. The ending to their lovemaking was always the same: stop giving pleasure before Charli's pleasure became too great for her to contain, gift one final kiss to her aroused clitoris, replace and lock her chastity belt while Charli looked on in sweet bravery. Such sadness Keira felt, to know that she brought her lover such torture every time they made love; and such pride for her lover, who never complained about the torture despite the tears in her eyes, and always thanked Keira for what pleasure she was given.

Pushing the sadness and the arousal from her mind, Keira lifted herself again from the damp ground. The day dawned bright and cold, but Keira had been sheltered through the cold night by a rocky outcrop hanging above her in the fresh morning air as she slept on her thick black cloak. She looked intently towards the forested western hills of Kendril and the hard grey rocks of the mountains to the northwest. The dark line of Kendril Forest's southern border stretched away into the distance, punctuated by the brown smudges of small villages and settlements along it, the nearest being Angara – her home village. Smoke signals billowed into the clear morning sky above the city of Pangaea, a distant brown smudge on the western plains, far beyond Kendril Forest and the mountains.

Autumn would have been Keira's favourite season, were it not that autumn gave relentlessly away to the cold frost of winter; it was the dawn before what the ancients called the Night of the Hallowed, a night where horrors were said to leave the confines of the mind and walk the Earth. A night which, in the current climate of fear and hatred, would put the villagers on a knife-edge of panic: one way terror, the other violence. For many cycles now the Night of the Hallowed had passed without incident, but Keira feared that this coming night would be different: she read the smoke signals above Pangaea with a sinking heart. The rangers were being called home.

Keira's red-brown hair blew in the gentle morning breeze, casting contrasting shadows across her pale skin, half-covered with a curving black tattoo that grew organically like a creeping thorn across her back, arms and face. Fierce brown eyes peered intently from behind her narrow angular lids, bordered with thin black lines that gave away her distant eldritch lineage, set above sharp high cheekbones, a narrow nose and full, deep-coloured lips.

For seven nights had Keira wandered the plains alone, sleeping under the stars, tracking a pack of werewolves that the rangers had driven from the forested hills above their villages; it hurt her instincts to abandon their trail, and yet, she thought to herself, it would be good to return home at last. The thought of a warm bath, a soft bed and a night in the arms of her slave lifted her spirits, but still she wondered what she would face on her return: not for nothing are the rangers called from the plains; any number of horrors could be waiting in her village.

Keira stood up slowly and adjusted her armour, tightened her crotch plate and breastplate, fastened her wrist protectors about her forearms, then stretched her arms, back and legs. She took a few deep breaths and drew her shortsword from its scabbard, parried with the breeze, slicing and spinning and kicking to the sound of tearing air. When she was done sparring she sheathed her sword, fetched up her cloak and shook it free of frost and loose grass, fastened it about her shoulders and set off down the hill towards the forest-side village of Angara, her home.

Called home... Keira let her thoughts dwell on the life of a ranger as she gathered her senses in the morning breeze that carried her down the hillside towards the village. A ranger had no masters, no employment, nor any obligation other than that of his morals. Nobody made a ranger – a ranger made himself, and when he had attained that status, he earned respect and gratitude, and a meal and a place to sleep wherever he stopped. The fact that Keira was female seemed to bother nobody who encountered her; rangers were a dying breed, and they were much needed throughout the land.

Keira felt that she was born to be a ranger. As an orphaned child she had preferred solitude to company and adventure to security – worthy traits for any ranger. At seventeen cycles she had left the cottage of her foster-parents, stolen a weapon and some provisions from the village stores, and set off across the plains to the far-off cities of Aradnu, Mithian and Marden. Her sense of adventure had taken her beyond even there, across cold, violent seas to endless icy tundra, where accents were harsh and the names of towns unpronounceable. On her travels she had learned a great many things; she earned money and bought things that her land had only dreamed of: weapons of a steel that would never rust; armour that looked like black cloth set in glass, as hard as steel yet as light as card; clothes made to fit her slight female form perfectly, to keep out the wind and rain and sunlight. She earned killing scars on her shoulder; she earned the respect of many of the foreign tribes she met; she earned the charmed, curving, thorn-like tattoo that adorned most of the skin on her back, neck, arms and the left side of her face. She learned to fight and to care for herself, and acquired the things she needed to become a great warrior.

On her return to Angara, over three cycles later, Keira learned that she was a ghost: there was even a plaque to remember her by in the Remembrance Field, and a dying bouquet across it from the third anniversary of her death. The villagers had stared at her in disbelief – what was once a teenager with dark-rimmed eyes and a foul temper was now a beautiful young warrior, armour-clad and adorned with killing scars and thorny tattoos on her back, arms and face. On that moment of return, Keira learned something else: she had passed the tests set for any traveller in the land: she was now a ranger. The villagers revered her, brought her gifts, begged her to stay, for she was skilled and powerful enough to protect the village from the horrors of the forested mountains. And so Keira had stayed, and become the protector of the village, and in return was given a house and the right to keep a slave.

Keira used the word slave out of a sense of propriety; for although the young girl had become more of a lover over the short years they had lived together, it was not proper for a ranger to sleep with her slave, or even treat her as anything more than a servant. Keira recalled vividly the day during a short sabbatical when she had come upon a lowly settlement amid the sound of terrorised screams, and had dashed through an open window, beheading with her sword a werewolf in animal form as it sunk its teeth into an adolescent girl's leg. The same wolf had already slain the girl's parents, and despite Keira's best efforts she could see the transformation taking place in the girl's body. There was no quarter given by wolves – they killed, or they claimed. But Keira had been adamant: this girl they had orphaned, they would not doom her also to a life of slathering bloodlust.

The nearest village had refused to take the girl when they saw the teeth marks on her leg, but the shaman of the village had come to assist, bringing the leaves which had spared her the torture of transformation into a bloodthirsty raging beast. But the poison could never be destroyed, the shaman said – it would always exist inside her, looking for a way to break through. Sexuality was the key drive of the werewolf poison, Keira had been told: it fed from sexual energy. Just one orgasm would give it all the power it needed to turn the girl into a heartless monster. The girl must never be allowed another orgasm, as long as she lived.

Take her with you, the shaman said. She will not be taken here; the villagers will not have wolf-blood in their midst. Take her with you, keep her as your slave, and keep her away from men: with luck, her sexuality will not develop, and she will be spared her torment

But in return, she had earned a new torment. Hormones were an unstoppable part of human development; poor Charli had only just discovered the pleasures of self-gratification when the wolf-attack changed her young life. Perhaps, Keira thought absently as she trudged over the damp grass, the reason she and her slave had bonded so well was because they were both sexless. Into Keira's bloodlines had somewhere entered a demon of some description, and she had been born with subtle differences to a normal human being – unnatural strength and resilience, superb vision and hearing, a wicked temper and, of course, the thin black lines around her eyes. But the biggest difference was beneath her clothes: between her legs, instead of pubic hair, grew an interlocking set of wickedly hard razor-sharp claws that curved from either side of her sex, completely across her opening. Like a cat's claws, she could extend and withdraw them at will, and yet, by some fateful quirk of hereditary irony, they would snap violently closed at the point of orgasm and not release until her body had relaxed. This she had discovered when her adolescent hormones had begun to rage, more than fifteen cycles past, and her childhood experimentation had given her a set of deep scars which she still bore on her left hand. Sex with a man was too risky a thought to entertain – if she came during intercourse, the result would be a penectomy.

But Keira had never found an interest in men. Her sex had been introduced only to expendable fruit, when it was available (while exploring the far-off lands she had tried a polished metal implement designed specifically for the purpose, but it had hurt her claws), and to her quickly-withdrawn fingers when not – until she had taken her slave.

Keira sighed deeply as a warm sensation filled her heart: she loved Charli, her sweet slave, she loved her more than anything else in the land: more than the open plains, more than her freedom as a ranger, more than the village in which she was born and now entrusted to protect. And she asked nothing of Charli other than that she kept the house tidy and ensured the stocks were always adequate to entertain a small number of visitors without notice. Charli would never leave, even if she were granted impossible freedom – of that Keira was certain. If there was one thing that was as strong as Keira's love for her slave, it was her slave's love for her. Keira knew, deep in her heart, that she would never allow anything to separate them.

* * *

The sun was almost at the top of its arc when Keira's path brought her into the village of Angara. The air was beginning to warm, although some frost still clung to the west-facing thatch of the village stores and other cottages where no fires burned. There were few villagers around – most would be going about their daily work, in the fields or the stables or the forest – but the few that remained within the village fence eyed Keira with strange curiosity: could it be that they had been made wary, even afraid of her?

Keira ignored the quiet stares of the villagers and made for the house of Godric, the village chief. She respected Godric for his ability to run all aspects of the village – the farms, the supplies, the stables – but she also pitied him. The air of terror in the lands under mountains had been high when she was first old enough to notice it, and it had been rising ever since: werewolf attacks from Kendril increased every year, a banshee had appeared around the nearby peaks, and vampyres were rumoured to be uprising among the highlands of the far distant north, over a moon's walk away. The villagers were frightened, and they looked to Godric for comfort – but he was no eldritch hunter. The time of warrior-chiefs had long since passed: villages were too big and civilised now to rule by the sword. Godric was now a pressured man of past half his lifespan, visibly tired when among trusted friends in his own house, and yet still he held a brave face full of life and energy when among the villagers or with other leaders. A failing lead with no bloodlines to follow him – a man stressed to leave his mark of immortality on the world in the success of his failing village rather than through his lineage.

Godric was entertaining a group of farmers in his meeting hall when Keira arrived. He closed the meeting quickly when he saw Keira waiting in the doorway; one of the men looked about to complain at the abrupt close of the meeting and the lack of a satisfactory resolution to whatever his problem was, but another man tapped him on the elbow and indicated towards where Keira stood. He quickly quieted himself and the group left the room, muttering under their breaths so that Keira could not hear them.

"Long have I desired to see you again, Keira, and yet I fear now that even you will not be enough to ease my worries." Godric said tiredly when the farmers were well out of earshot. Keira walked into the centre of the room and stood before his desk, near the open log fire that crackled loudly but seemed to do nothing to lift the chill in the cottage.

"Smoke rises above Pangaea." Keira replied with a serious air. "What are your worries?"

"Many are my troubles." Godric said with a sigh. "There have been... Attacks. People have been taken."

"People?" Keira raised her eyebrow, aware that underneath Godric's pointed words there was a flowing story to unfold.

"Girls." He said aloud, clearing his face and lifting the tired expression from his features to replace with one charged with energy. "Between fifteen and twenty-five cycles, mostly."

"Bodies? Traces?"

"None. They are taken quietly, always alone. None have been found."

"How many?"

"Four from Angara, so far. Two yesterday, two in the night. More still from settlements along Kendril's border, all the way back to Gorohul where it began; over twenty so far. I was there at a Council of Leaders, I left for home as soon as I heard of the first attacks; I arrived only this morning. It seems the attacks are moving east along the forest border."

"Have you any ideas what could be doing this?" Keira asked, leaning forwards onto the desk.

"None. Something from the forest, it would seem – but exactly what, we have no idea. I was hoping your expertise could shed some light."

"I..." Keira began, racking her brains for some idea, some clue, but there was not enough information to draw any direct conclusions. Something was moving along the forest border from the west, taking girls as it went. "Does not sound like werewolves. They take anything warm, man or woman. And the banshee cannot leave the borders of Kendril. If it was a rogue vampyre... No, the wolves would scent him out. They hate vampyres more than they hate humans."

Godric seemed to think on this for a moment, idly pulling at his thick grey beard. "If the wolves were tracking him, would he move east, taking feed as he went?"

"Unlikely. Vampyres are not at home in the forest – they move too slowly, too clumsily. He would not escape the wolves if he stopped to feed. In fact I doubt he would escape them regardless."

Godric steepled his fingers and stared distantly into the fire, lost in thought. Eventually he took a breath and began to speak. "Very well. Stay in the village with me, Keira – look after the villagers."

"What precautions have been taken?" Keira replied, standing up from the table. It was unlike Godric to make requests of her; unlike him even to call her by her name.

"I have sent warriors northeast along the border to Ronihul. If the attacker... Whatever it is, if it lurks still in this area then they may be able to spread warning among settlements along the way before it moves on. If it has already moved west then they may hope to catch up with it." Godric said, standing up and pulling on his fur cloak over his armour: Keira saw for the first time that he carried his sword on his belt, something she had not seen him do for a long time.

"Let me go. I can move quicker, I can fight it."

"No. The villagers are afraid, and you bring them comfort. Stay with them, stay inside the village. Nobody is to enter the forest, and nobody is to move in groups of less than four. Understand?"

"Yes." Keira said, nodding. A ranger took orders from no one – that she understood – but she also understood that Godric had a way of running the village that she could never hope to judge. Keira was a ranger, Godric was a leader.

"Go now, get some rest. I expect the attacker will not return before nightfall, if at all."

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