Harvest of BloodbyDarkniciad©
This story is Erotic Horror, set in a fantasy world of magic. As the category should suggest, this is a dark tale. There will be disturbing scenes within these pages. Proceed with caution. You have been warned.
Denethia walked hand in hand with the handsome man who had stolen her heart the first night of the autumn festival. He was dressed in mouse-colored robes, with a comical pointed cap sitting rakishly off-center on his head. A false beard hung from his square chin down to his leanly muscled chest. He carried a fanciful, feather-adorned staff in his other hand, the costume unmistakable as that of a wizard. The garb seemed to suit him well.
Denethia's costume also suited her perfectly — her willowy form wrapped in a white dress, green leaves painstakingly stitched into the hem and neckline by her mother. Her lustrous blonde hair, flowing freely down below her shoulder blades, had flowers and leaves woven in with the golden tresses. A bow and quiver slung over her shoulder, and points made of wax attached to the top of her ears completed the costume. Denethia's friends remarked that one had to look twice to be sure that an elf warrior-maiden did not actually walk amongst them at the festival.
She knew her parents would disapprove of her seeing a man that was ten years or more her senior. The townsfolk whispered amongst themselves whenever the couple passed, as well. None of that mattered to Denethia. Almost from the moment he had introduced himself, her fifteen-year-old heart was his. The previous night of the festival stood out as her most wonderful memory, and this night promised to overshadow even that pinnacle of her life.
She was nervous, of course, walking along nibbling on a sweet with her gorgeous wizard. Darkness was settling over the town, and soon she would be creeping away under the cover of night to discover the wonders between man and woman. Celdin had promised — amid passionate kisses — that he would take her away and remove the mystery surrounding the things boys and girls did off in the shadows when their parents weren't around.
When darkness fully descended, Denethia's heart started to race. Celdin led her ever farther from the flickering torches and bonfires, toward the edge of town and the woods beyond. There amongst the trees, in the light of the full moon, Celdin would make love to her.
As they walked toward the trees, Denethia's nerve nearly failed her. Despite her excitement, and the tingling between her legs, the cold fingers of fear gripped her heart as well. Cloaked in darkness, the woods looked foreboding indeed. She remembered the stories about this night, when the veil between this world and the dark was thin — and that only caused the trees to appear even more sinister in her eyes. The adults all warned their children that this was a night when evil sought to smother the light, and thus the festival had started to counter that black power. Celebration and shared generosity kept the darkness at bay, saving the world from a fate unimaginable.
A squeeze of his hand, and a smile, soothed Denethia's fears. In the face of that smile, and anticipation of what was to come, feelings of love and arousal smothered all thoughts of evil spirits and black magic. She smiled back, and they stepped onto the trail leading into the forest.
It was not the pleasures of the flesh that greeted Denethia in the woods, however, but the cold flesh of the walking dead. The clammy hands covered her mouth before she could scream, and held her tight so she could not run. Terror and the stink of death overwhelmed her, and Denethia slipped into unconsciousness. Her last thought before she fainted was to wonder why Celdin was just standing in front of her, watching the dead take her captive.
Denethia cringed and trembled, her skin covered in gooseflesh. Though the air of the cavern — her prison — was cold, and tinged with the stench of corrupt flesh, it had nothing to do with the chill that permeated her body. Buried now, deep in the bowels of the world, for five years, she barely noticed the mundane chill seeping from the stone any longer.
The frigid bite of the spell's mastery rushed through her, filling her with a perverse mixture of revulsion and accomplishment. She despised her study of Necromancy, the magic of death, but it was only through mastery of those foul spells that she continued to live. Although her life now was one of hopeless despair, Denethia could not face the price of failure. Death would be only the beginning of her eternal torment if the Master decided she was of no use to him.
More disturbing still was the fact that some part of her rejoiced in the power she had just attained. Magic burned brightly in her blood, as it did in all of her line. Her soul sang in exaltation, even as it screamed in torment.
Denethia slumped as the sensation faded, her tangled blonde locks falling to hide her face, and her chin coming to rest on the stained canvas smock she wore. She sucked in short, gasping breaths, trying to draw air into her deprived lungs, having involuntarily held her breath as her body reacted to the mastery of the magic.
Placing her hands on the rough stone table, carved from the rock by the tireless hands of the undead, Denethia raised her head and opened her brown eyes once again. All around her, the others continued their studies, their faces masks of concentration. They knew as well as she the cost of failure. None of her fellow prisoners acknowledged her as she stood, picked up the scroll before her, and climbed back over the bench behind her.
Walking around the table, her legs and bottom aching from sitting on the hard stone for hours, Denethia made her way toward the Master's desk at the back of the chamber. The sickly green light of the magical globes that chased back the darkness almost seemed to retreat from Celdin, seated at his desk engrossed in his own studies.
He sensed her approach and looked up, hints of a smile twitching his lips. She had to fight the urge to turn away from the piercing stare of his dark green eyes, and yet she had to battle the attraction to him as well.
Denethia bowed her head and held the scroll out in front of her when she reached the Master's desk. The desk that was the Celdin's throne was a masterpiece in granite, covered in intricate carvings depicting death and the undead. Directly in front of her eyes was a carved scene of a skeleton ripping open a pregnant woman's womb to drag out the unborn babe. Her stomach rebelled, and she closed her eyes tight while awaiting the Master's pleasure.
"You have learned the spell," Celdin said. It was not a question, just a confirmation of what he already knew. His deep, cultured voice was the same one that had stolen her heart as a girl, but now it aroused fear in Denethia.
"Yes, Master," she responded, not looking up or opening her eyes.
She could hear his chair sliding back across the stone, and knew he was rising. "Come," he instructed as he took the scroll from her hands.
Denethia followed, her eyes cast downward at the hem of his black satin robe swishing over the dark stone below. The sound of his heels echoed throughout the chamber, a sharp contrast to the sound of his bare-footed slave behind him. When he stopped at an ironbound door, she again closed her eyes and tried to master her fears. The spell he expected her to demonstrate in mere moments was difficult, and the thought of the results made her skin crawl.
The door opened, and a wall of cold air slammed into Denethia. Even colder than the rest of the cavern, it also carried a charnel house stench that brought the taste of bile to her mouth. Celdin proceeded into the room, and she followed without hesitation, knowing the consequences of a pause.
When the Master stopped and turned, she raised her eyes once again. Lying upon the bloodstained limestone bier was a corpse. Stiff and obviously long dead, the body was covered in bruises, and bones pressed against the flesh of the unfortunate victim's throat, evidence the young man's neck had been broken. The body was nude, and somehow that indignity offended Denethia even more than the marks of his violent death.
Sitting next to the corpse was a wooden bowl, which contained all the spell components she would need to cast the spell she had mastered minutes earlier. Picking up the bowl, Denethia took a deep breath of the reeking air, and began the dark ritual.
She traced the final sigil upon the chest of the corpse, her finger coated in the mixture of blood and ash required by the spell. It was all Denethia could do to maintain her composure as she drew the runes on the body, fighting the urge to recoil from the clammy flesh beneath her fingertip.
Putting down the bowl, Denethia chanted the magical phrases that would culminate the spell. Celdin looked at the sigils drawn upon the corpse, and nodded approvingly as his unwilling apprentice intoned the harsh, guttural syllables of the death spell.
Denethia spoke the final word in a loud voice. She was so lost in the gathering power of her magic that the dark nature of the spell lost all meaning before a wave of anticipation. In the face of that power responding to her call, she could not help but feel a sense of triumph.
The corpse lurched as if hit by a great blow to the chest, then began to twitch, arms and legs moving randomly, resembling a puppet with tangled strings. Denethia could feel a connection to the horrific caricature of life. Instinctively, she knew she could command it and sense what was going on around it, even at a great distance. The creature's lurching hurled it from the bier to land at her feet, though the movements of the body were becoming more coordinated by the moment.
"Command it to stand," Celdin ordered.
She concentrated, utilizing her connection to the animated corpse to command its actions. The random, jerky movements of the creature smoothed as the connection to her mind gave it direction. Slowly, it rose to a standing position, head lolling backwards on its broken neck.
The Master smiled and said, "Very good." He then began to chant the words of a spell, and when it was completed, Denethia felt the line of power connecting her to the creature snatched away. The walking corpse belonged to her Master now, even as she did. Though her stomach was sour, and her senses screamed in disgust, Denethia felt a sharp pang of loss as the connection to her creation was wrested from her.
The corpse turned and walked away, following the orders of its new Master, going to join the other animated dead that stood still as statues in a tightly packed group at the back of the frigid chamber.
"Come," Celdin instructed, and Denethia followed. They left by the same door they had entered, but turned left instead of right in the corridor beyond that portal. Walking into an area declared forbidden to her, fear gripped Denethia's heart as her Master led into the unknown.
Keeping her eyes lowered, again watching the hem of her Master's robe, she clenched her teeth and fought the urge to run. Here, new most often meant more horrific. He opened another thick door, and again Denethia followed when he passed through the portal.
The floors here were not the natural stone of a cavern, but were instead smooth, worked by the hands of man — or magic. Curiosity got the better of her, and she glanced up slightly to the side, seeing walls smooth and worked like the floor. They passed numerous doors as they walked down the hall, but the Master continued to walk at a brisk pace, ignoring them.
They passed through a wide doorway, and Denethia realized that here the stench of death was far weaker than she had known since her imprisonment. Celdin stopped, and Denethia stiffened involuntarily, preparing for any number of new horrors to be introduced into her existence.
The Master turned and placed his hand beneath her chin, raising her eyes to his, "Congratulations, Denethia. You have now earned the right to leave the squalid conditions of your novitiate. I accept you as my apprentice."
Denethia knew the appropriate response; it had been impressed upon her many times over the years, "Thank you, Master."
Celdin turned to a dark-haired woman in black satin robes, "Kyleria, see that she is bathed and dressed appropriately, and then inform her of the conditions under which she now serves."
"Of course, Master," the woman responded in a deep sultry voice.
He left then without another word, leaving Denethia to absorb the sights of her new surroundings. The room appeared to be carved from the solid rock, the walls lined with bookshelves, filled to capacity with scrolls and books. Study tables — each with their own magical light hovering overhead — filled the floor of the room.
She had always dreamed of this, studying magic under a Master in a school full of others who shared the gift. Her parents had never been able to afford formal instruction, but they had always promised Denethia she would have what they had been denied.
Now, her dream was a nightmare.
Always an obedient and considerate girl, the lesson she learned from her first rebellious mistake would now follow her until the end of her days. She would not study under a kindly old graybeard — one who nurtured her talent and praised her success — but a cruel taskmaster that forced her to use her ability for dark purposes.
Every time she felt the rush of exaltation that came with learning a new spell, it was immediately followed by pangs of regret and revulsion. As repugnant as the death magic was, her soul screaming in triumph as she mastered the spells was more troubling by far.
Kyleria interrupted Denethia's musings, saying, "Come, let us get you out of those rags and into a bath."
She wanted to talk to the older woman, perhaps making a friend who could help her forget the truth of her imprisonment here, but she was afraid. Kyleria was obviously high in her Master's favor, and Denethia feared that the woman might be just as cold-hearted as he.
Nodding her head to indicate she understood, Denethia followed the dark-haired woman out of the study room. Thinking about the opportunity to bathe after weeks of being denied the privilege lifted her spirits — but only for a moment.
The blood on her hands and the stain on her soul could not be washed away by mere water.
Celdin, master of these dark caverns, and a Necromancer of the highest order, watched Kyleria lead Denethia into the room containing the bathing pool. The magical mirror allowed him to follow her, and study her in great detail as she disrobed in preparation to wash the filth from her fair skin.
The woman moved with a natural grace that complimented her petite form. He watched her with rapt attention, as she pulled the stained smock over her head to reveal her body. Her small breasts stood out firm and proud, crowned by the slightly darker circles of her areolas and protruding nipples. A frown crept onto Celdin's face when he saw the darkened tangle of hair on Denethia's mound. Eventually, should she prove worthy, something would have to be done about that.
As Denethia turned to step into the bathing pool, Celdin admired the taut curves of her backside, rising and falling in an arousing dance with her every move. The young woman sank into the pool with a great sigh of relief, leaning back to soak her hair, resulting in her breasts teasingly breaking the surface of the water.
Celdin continued to watch her as she bathed, the young woman's beauty emerging from beneath the layers of accumulated filth. His manhood erect and throbbing, Celdin knew the woman was going to be difficult to resist. He had known as much when he had taken her as a girl, and she had blossomed into a woman since that time.
He heard Kyleria enter, but did not acknowledge her presence. She knew why she was here, and she would be prepared when he was ready. Celdin smiled, knowing Denethia had taken her first step today. He had seen the ecstasy on her face when her magic brought life to the corpse on the bier. Likewise, the pain of losing control of her creation had been unmistakable in her face. The years waiting for that sign — the indication that the alluring woman was succumbing to his dark instruction — had been torturous. He desired her as he had no other woman, but until her will shattered, allowing the darkness into her soul to consume her, she was a danger. He dared not submit to his desires until the light of her purity dimmed to a pale flickering ghost of its former strength. Only when she was broken would he snuff that final flicker, drowning it in his darkness. Then, she would truly be his, forevermore.
When Denethia stepped from the pool to dry her body, Celdin banished the magic of the mirror. Turning, he saw Kyleria kneeling on the floor behind him, her lush body bare and anticipation lighting her eyes.
Standing and removing his robes, Celdin was prepared to give her what she desired.
Little in Denethia's life changed over the course of the following year. Her living conditions improved, but otherwise Celdin still expected her to absorb as much of the dark magic as she could manage, or face harsh punishment. Wearing clean satin robes, bathing and eating regularly, and having her own room with a bed instead of a pallet in a common sleeping chamber did nothing to dull the reality of her enslavement.
Gone were the days of simple hunger and filth that had served as punishment for failure during her novitiate. Now pain and humiliation served as a reminder that Celdin demanded constant progress. Three times in the last year, Celdin ordered Denethia to go about her day nude for failure to meet his expectations. Each time, she bore the welts of his whip on her backside as well. Though the two male apprentices stared at her body with lust, they knew better than to do more than look. The hunger in the men's eyes was frightening, yet more painful still was her body reacting to that hunger.
Forbidden by the Master to pleasure herself, Denethia lay awake many nights with an ache in her sex that was near maddening. The protective walls of indifference she surrounded herself with failed in the face of her arousal. Each time, she fell asleep exhausted from weeping, with the musky scent of her need hanging heavily about her, mocking her with its power.
Through her magic, Denethia learned to raise the dead as skeletons and zombies. She spoke with spirits, bending them to her will through her Art. Disease and decay were hers to command. Each day she grew more powerful in the dark magic, and each day she turned more inward. Like a puppet, she performed the tasks required thoughtlessly, because the horror of her actions was too difficult to bear otherwise.
She absorbed the knowledge of her black studies, discovering the means to create even the powerful, intelligent undead such as vampires. The strengths and weaknesses of those unliving creatures fell into place within her mind, preparing her to combat or command them.
The instruction concerning the nature of liches in Celdin's works showed that he abhorred the creatures, powerful wizards who sacrificed their own lives with a potion for the power of undeath. Only the strongest necromancers could hope to survive the transformative powers of the potion, to rise again in three days as creatures feared by all. Denethia shuddered reading about these obsessed beings, wondering how anyone could choose to snuff out their own life in the pursuit of power — even ultimate power second only to the gods.
This night, six years to the day since her capture and enslavement, Denethia sensed she was again at a threshold, a time of change similar to her elevation from novitiate to apprentice a year earlier. Outside, in the world now denied her, people laughed and celebrated. Dressed in fanciful costumes, feasting upon sweets, and drinking far more than was good for them, the people beyond the rocky walls of her prison rejoiced in the harvest. The harvest festival was a buffer against the coming winter, a time of freedom and merriment to carry through the cold months ahead.