The halls of the Tower of Darkness were decorated with murals depicting grotesque beings; the curved jaws and mouths littered with jagged, uneven teeth were a frightening sight. The moon shone brilliantly in narrow corridors shrouded in the shadow, except for the square windows that were scattered about. The monolith stood alone atop a windy mountain, the path leading to it covered in black snow. Poison oozed from deep in the earth, tainting the ground.
The path wound down the mountainside, close to the only nearby village. It was a small town called Sel’verene in the tongue of the Old Ones: the village of the cursed. The village thrived in the shadow. The few sparse buildings were dark beneath the pale moonlight, nothing stirring in the streets or distance.
Fear governed the countryside. The people did not dare to linger in the darkness, not even with the lunar skies so bright. Skeletal brush was scattered about the village. The tavern was the only building that dared any noise – the lamp there burning dimly in the shadowed light. The beaten path that wove its way to the far side of the village was entrenched with footfalls in the fresh snow. The tavern itself was dark and dank. It reeked as if it served as a stable for horses and swine.
Yet, the better part of a dozen sour-looking men remained seated in their chairs. The tables were dusty and the doors to the tavern were open wide, allowing the frigid air outside to whisk through the main room. The men drank their dark amber liquid from musty glass steins, the froth sticking to the cold glass and dripping down the side.
The wintry gales blew back their long, scraggly hair and equally thick beards that covered a sickly demeanor. The mood of the tavern was sour at best, not a word exchanged from patron to patron – even the comely serving woman behind the bar dare not utter a word. A hand slammed into the brittle frame of the tavern, the skin worn and reddened from the cold air. The cuticles of the nails were cracked and bleeding: dried blood blotched over pale white skin. The hand slid down the doorframe, the moisture of the snow aiding the abrasive surface.
As the hand neared the bottom, a man fell through the open door. His cold face was filled with dread and fear. His hands were gripped tight like claws, knuckles white and bloodless. His mouth was agape, crystal blue eyes open and unwavering. With a beard much thinner than that of the other patrons, his hair was cut along his shoulders – the ends fair and unspoiled. He crawled along the floor, his hands gripping the wood and slipping as he moved forward.
The patrons looked on unfazed as the man inched through the doorway and into the center of the tavern. “Help…me…” croaked the man. His voice was cracked and worn like a brass horn played far beyond its years. He curled into a ball and shivered horribly. The minimal coat he wore had deep lacerations ripped through it, like three sets of distinct claw marks.
The man closest to him watched the man reach up for him, the labored movement causing him to open his mouth once again like a dying fish out of water. The man rose slowly and slammed the heel of his boot into the prostrated man’s face, splitting his already cracked lips. He spilled blood upon the cold, wooden floors of the solemn tavern.
“What…” groaned the man as he gripped his stomach and rolled away. He tried to raise himself upon another arm, but failed to do so when another patron knocked his arm to the ground. Slamming the chair he had been sitting in over the weakened man’s back, the blow drew a weak scream from the crawling man. Two of the patrons stood.
Upon seeing the man writhe upon the floor, the remainder of them stood. They began to beat and strike the man with whatever object they could find. The man’s cries were soon drowned out by the crunching of his bones and squishing noises as he bled his coat crimson.
The patrons’ chests heaved heavily as they stared at the beaten man. His face was mangled, the claw marks upon his back exposed when they tore the clothes from his back. The man groaned and spit blood, his remaining teeth stained from the bloodbath. His eyes streamed with tears. They grasped him by the shoulders and dragged him outside into the moonlight. His incoherent mumbling did not deter them from their mission.
His ravaged body lay in the snow; his face was turned toward the sky. He could hear them walking away. He waited for a long time, his mind slipping from consciousness as he lay there. After a while, he realized that he was alone. “Help…” he called weakly. No answer. “Please…”There was no answer, but in the distance something growled and leapt across the earth in mighty bounds.
When it landed, he could feel it through his entire frame. “Is someone there?” No answer. The growling was much closer now, and this time accompanied by a solitary pair of footfalls. He tried to move, but his body would not respond. His mind was frantic, irrational fear beginning to grip his senses. He tried to crane his neck, but his muscles just seemed to mock him.
A cruel laughing fit crept into the man’s soul. He stifled the laugh as best he could, saliva forming at the edges of his mouth. Coughing, he let the absurd laughter spew forth.
Disclaimer: Mary Bearden personally reviewed these products. I did not receive any monetary compensation for my review, just a sample product. All opinions are mine and belong to me solely. My thoughts and opinions may differ from yours.