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Ch. 1—AfterwardsFrom the Personal Log of Dr. Meldrek Jellidar Akern
This is a true account of the loathsome horror from beyond the grave I and several others encountered that stormy evening back in October of the year of the Hound. Ever since that ghastly episode, these questions kept turning over in my mind like falling autumn leaves: what horrific force could have possessed that wretched Gentry girl to come back from beyond the Veil, from beyond her final resting place in her land of exile? And what was she trying to do exactly?
Faerie as well as the Underworld had set firm boundaries between the living and those who had passed over the Stix, forbidding further contact. However, that wretched creature had done the impossible, and through sheer stubborn will had even possessed a stolen decaying, half-alive corpse that otherwise would have been consigned to the maggots and oblivion.
DO NOT misunderstand me. This isn’t some big-budget Hollywood horror movie or an exploitation trash tale of undead gore and debauchery. This is something infinitely more worse and evil. It is an otherworldly horror brought about by a warped brain hell-bent upon possible revenge; a mind in league with not only with a cosmic power of darkness, but also that which lies at the heart of every human and near-human being.
Because of this walking blight, this creeping corruption, this secret more terrible than all the night terrors of childhood, evil legends now hang over this ancient coastal city like a shroud as they do in the mortal towns of Curtisville, Boulderville, Arkham, Kingsport, Dunwich, Inneswich and of course, terrible Innsmouth.Before the coming of the Terror, Eskaŕd was known only as a carefree and charming place, with small quaint alleys and beautiful flower gardens everywhere. Without a single sinister part to impart a melancholy bleakness or sinister funeral darkness. Although it did have ghosts as was often the case with many of the old-world cities in Faerie, they were of the boisterous, non-malevolent kind rather than the unpleasant, skinny, clawed fingered entities of popular macabre tales.
Ch. 2—The Badger and Hare
It was a bustling seaport situated at the mouth of the river Vlar, whose waters emptied sluggishly into a bay sheltered by high chalk cliffs. It wasn’t very far from Harnam, and lay just across the river from Waldalchia’s capital Gher—Wahlund. Besides its many architectural gems and spectacular scenery, the town itself was in the middle of an enormous bed of fossils, many of which were incorporated into much of the buildings’ architecture.
One bright morning in late October, a Gerdin woman arrived at this coastal paradise. She was a recent immigrant, who had decided to take advantage of the Indian summer that was blanketing much of the countryside, with unseasonal warmth and sunshine, and enjoy her annual autumn holiday on the coast.
On a rented bicycle, the Gerdin woman (let us call her Fiona, for now) rode along the famous L’Avenue des Lions and then spent a lot of time in the Old Street Market, getting her picture painted and haggling with the various vendors there. Although young and rather inexperienced, she wasn’t ignorant or pretentious to go rushing around, guidebook in hand in response to the overblown elegance of a certain elfin chateâux or to search out a famous five-star restaurant. The things she most admired and enjoyed were those of the mundane and the commonplace.
After finding cheap lodging at The Golden Hen with its imposing facade of honey-colored, ammonite filled stone and blue-grey slate, she then visited the nearby quay where pink and ochre-colored crains stood to placate the spirits of those lost at sea. Later, after a modest supper of seafood served with salad and onion soup, she traveled into the Bohemian Quarter with its numerous student cafés and antiquarian bookstores. Eventually, one quaint sign caught her eye in particular, on it was painted a hare and badger dancing a waltz and the words, "Badger and Hare Books & Tea Shoppe."
A bright light shone from within, casting a warm, burnished glow upon the crowded bookshelves rising nearly to the ceiling.
Fiona, delighted by the cozy atmosphere of the place, entered and found herself in a maze of overflowing bookshelves. It was a literary Aladdin’s cave, stacks of leather and cloth-bound volumes piled haphazardly to the ceiling, warm friendly lighting, jazz music playing on the hidden speakers, cats nestled like cushiony bookends in shelve or in the overstuffed chairs dotting one corner of the room. As she moved down the main hallway, one of the shop cats followed as if to keep her from shoplifting.
Eventually, she found herself in the historical section and was soon flipping through a copy of Lost Gher—Wahlund Landmarks: A Portfolio of Long Vanished Buildings, by Yves Godine. The aged yellowed pages crackled, bringing forth a musty aroma of dust and mold. Leafing through more pages, she noticed many sepia photos of trans-dimensional stations and whistle stops, once connecting Faerie to exotic ports of call on Hualau Urth: London-Prime, Istanbul, Hong Kong, Prague and various others. Now the only Urth people that do visit were from the Mortal Territories and the eight other Worlds in the Yggdrasil System. Hualau Urth was now too polluted and war-scarred, too demented and decadent to be considered a safe tourist destination or even a trustworthy ally.
Staring at the photos, Fiona thought about her last place back on Saffrasia—a crystal tower sanctuary with hundreds of rooms, galleries and corridors all interconnected and branching into strange distant places, and if she wasn’t careful (which happened quite a few times), she would suddenly find herself somewhere else, an utterly odd place filled with strange people and even stranger creatures.
Ever since she was a child, she had found Dr. Who Space-Time Travel fascinating, but now she only felt keen dread whenever she would open a windowless door and not knowing what might be there on the other side. What she had experienced at Lum House the previous year didn’t make matters any better. In fact, it seemed to have added a few new anxieties—ones of basements, underground tunnels, moonlit windows, and ghostly people in garish costumes.
A cat knocked some books from a nearby shelf, startling her back to present time. Jumping back, she looked around wildly.
It was just like being in Lum House all over again. The dead quiet muffled the music, the distant shuffle of footsteps, the lively chatter from inside the tea shop. Her hands went cold and numb for several seconds and she almost dropped the book. Abruptly from overhead, she heard a hollow rumbling crash like furniture tumbling downstairs. Funny how that storm came on fast, she thought. Now she could hear the first drops of rain hitting the slate roof.
Usually Fiona didn’t mind storms, but this one gave her a really strange edgy feeling—as if the storm was closing around just this one single building in order to prevent all possibility of escape, not that she had any intention of escaping anytime soon. An antiquarian bookstore was one of the best places to wait out the dismal and dreary weather. She wasn’t the only one with that idea in mind. From where she stood, she could see a motley assortment of Folk hurrying along the street, pulling up their jackets or adjusting their umbrellas and newspapers to keep off the rain, which was now falling in long, blinding sheets.
Frowning, Fiona shook her head and continued on with her browsing. For a split second she thought she saw the photograph of a crowded Pemberly Station moving like an old film reel, but she couldn’t be sure. It could of just been a lightning flash as well as her wild imagination overreacting as usual.
Ugh, get a grip, Fiona! I mean, look around you. What could be much more peaceful and safe than this quaint place?
Peaceful and safe... like this old town of white chalk cliffs and giant ammonites.
“Nothing weird’s going to happen,” she mumbled. “I’m just getting the creeps because of the storm and because today’s Halloween.”
Shivering, she shut her eyes tightly and stood really still, feeling her skin prickle with goosebumps, and listening as the rain pelted against the windows and the wind howled around the eaves of the shop.
Something brushed against her ankles, startling her. Gasping, Fiona snapped her eyes wide open and looked down.
A large silvery-blue cat looked up at her with wide orange eyes.
“Oh, hey there, kitty-cat,” Fiona sighed in relief. “It’s nice to meet you. You gave me quite a start there.”
The cat sat up, stretching out his front paws to snag her pants leg.
“Well, aren’t you just precious—”
She knelt down to scratch the tom gently behind his ears. He leaned his head into her hand, eyes closing ecstatically as a deep purr rumbled up from his chest.
Fiona thought about her own cat staying at her aunt’s place back in Harnam. It was probably for the best, since many of the inns and hotels in Eskaŕd didn’t accommodate companion animals, and Miss Tabitha barely tolerated the boarding house cats or even being put into a cattery for two weeks.
She’s definitely going to yowl up a storm when I get back, Fiona thought wryly, as well as insisting on sleeping near my head for the next couple of nights. At least she’s not pooping in my slippers like she did when she got out of quarantine.
Yet even the petting of a friendly resident feline couldn’t quite dispel the feeling of dread that hung heavy in the quiet, musty air of the shop. Like an expectation that something very dark and ominous was steadily approaching... but exactly what it was, Fiona was unsure.
“Uh, say, Monsieur Chat?” she began hesitantly, not knowing if the animal would answer back in fluent French or some Gerdin language or even telepathy. Anything was possible in the Realm of Faerie.
The cat raised his head, staring silently as he continued to knead his paws on her pants leg.
“Uh... you wouldn’t happen to notice anything odd with the atmosphere here?” she asked lamely. Fiona thought for a minute, then added, “That creepy feeling you get when ghosts are about to show up?”
The cat’s only response was to rub against her legs, his purr rising to a loud steady thrumming. Then he uttered “Meeow,” which roughly translated to. “Pet me more.”
“Ah yes,” Fiona nodded gravely. “No wonder you don’t understand me. You’re a plain ole Earth Cat.”
Earth Cats couldn’t talk nor understand the complex Gerdin or Faerie languages. Despite their lack of complex thinking skills, the Midgard Federal Republic, composing of multiverse governments, rescued as many Earth Cats as possible as well as many other animals before the barbaric hualau species destroyed the planet entirely.
“Well, that’s great,” Fiona muttered as the cat batted one of her floppy sleeves with one of his paws. “Out of all the cats in this place, I get one who’s a simpleton. I must be losing my mind here. I’m complaining to an ordinary non-Faerie feline.”
The cat continued his continued his contented purr. almost seeming to smile as he rubbed against her hand.
“Yes,” she gently scratched behind his ears again. “The life of an Earth feline must be rather enjoyable, plenty of food, shelter, always having someone at your beck and call, ready to give you an endless supply of love and affection. Kind of like the fur person I live with, only she can read, play board games (when she wants to) and dispense helpful advice... Of course you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. I could be talking about fern centipedes and tree vampires ready to invade, and you’d think I’ll be talking about providing you with pampering room service along with a helping of fresh tuna fish.”
“Mrrow,” the cat replied before climbing into her lap and curling up into a ball for a snooze.
Fiona stared dumbly at the blue bundle of fur, feeling as if a huge leaden weight had been lifted. Although the storm outside continued on, the dense "fog" of negativity seemed to have dispersed.
“You Earth rascals might not be super-geniuses,” she muttered in wonderment, “but you sure are experts when it comes to breaking up bad vibes. I feel better already.”
However, despite her gratitude toward the friendly feline, Fiona had no intention of remaining a comfy “cat” chair for several hours. At the same time, she didn’t want to distrust this furry bundle of utter cuteness.
As she debated whether or not it would be okay to let pussum finish his nap in her book bag, she heard a familiar sound.
Ch. 3—Even More Strangeness
Goat bells clanked and tingled as the front door swung open. Fiona’s ears pricked as she listened for the sound of footsteps, but all she could hear was the hiss of rain and wind whispering across the threshold, bringing with it the skittering of dried autumn leaves. For less than a minute, she listened carefully. So what’s going on? She thought as the silence stretched into several long uncomfortable moments. They got the wrong place or what? Finally, she picked up the still-sleeping feline and slowly rose to her numb feet. Without warning, the door slammed shut, causing Fiona to jump and the cat to suddenly bolt awake and scramble out of her grasp.
Bewilderedly, she watched as the cat barreled down the narrow aisle, finally disappearing into the Mystery section.
“Well, that was weird!”
The words escaped her lips in a rush as her heart thumped rapidly with fear. Cautiously, she peered around the wall of books just in time to see an unimaginably strange sight—a great pack of long-legged black hounds or something dashing down the main aisle. Could these animals be responsible for the door suddenly opening? She was suddenly seized by the notion that there was something rather unsettling about these things and that they should be left well alone.
Let sleeping dogs lie, she thought, suddenly remembering that human proverb. Something was wrong; something was very wrong. She shuddered, and suddenly it was very icy cold and the lights didn’t seem to be working at their best. With each crack of thunder, they seemed to wane from their brilliant orange to a dull filmy yellow. In this strange flickering twilight, the main aisle seemed to stretch into the infinite, and the tall shelves surrounding it seemed to loom large until they resembled a forest of shadowy trees. At the edge, the hounds turned to look back at her, their sulphurous yellow-orange eyes glowing steadily, but they made not a sound. Wait a minute, are those things standing up? She did not cry out, but just stared and held her breath as shadows seemed to flow out of the shelves and surround the gaunt shaggy figures. When the shadows receded and the strange visitors had vanished, the lights returned to normal, eventually she breathed in a shaky breath, her heart pounding hard in her chest. Once her mind cleared and her heart resumed its normal beat, Fiona decided she had just encountered some young phouka who decided to just scare the living crap out of her for their own twisted Halloween amusement.
“You've got nothing at all to worry about... ," she muttered reassuringly. "Just some harmless mischievous faeries who enjoy playing practical jokes on people. That’s all. Nothing to worry about.”
As if on cue, the door opened a second time with a screech of bolts and a clatter of bells. Fiona flinched suddenly, rubbing the side of her elegant face. Her wide golden eyes fearfully examined the various Folk swarming in. The majority of the visitors were students, chattering and gesticulating wildly; there was also a sprinkling of elves and Gerdin like herself. Yet there wasn’t a single face that she recognized until her glance fell upon a fashionably-dressed elf woman. At first, Fiona took her as a stranger until the woman looked up and regarded her with bright foxy eyes.
A wave of familiarity flashed through Fiona’s mind, and for a minute or two, she thought she was staring at a person she had known years before. Despite the different shade of hair, it was the face of a fox sprite and fellow exile who had been inhabiting the automated Tower Hotel long before Fiona’s unexpected move to Saffrasia. The Fennec (she never mentioned a name) was the first one to show the Gerdin the utmost kindness and sympathy during her first difficult times on the island, when Fiona lost her spirit allies. But then the vision faded when she remember that the Fennec had been dead at least fourteen years now (snatched off the roof by a Wild Hunt never to return). The similarities in features was pretty striking, but it was merely nothing more than a sheer coincidence.
The two women stared at each other for a few minutes, before the elf turned to follow her beau into the warren of rooms. Fiona resumed her reading, her thought shifting from poignant recollection to those of more immediate concern—whether she should get a cab upon closing time rather than endure a rain-sodden ride back to the inn.
At least that unsettling quiet that had been hovering around earlier had gone away. Fiona had pretty much dismissed it as extreme anxiety caused by the low barometric pressure, the strange acoustical effect caused by the rows and now of towering bookshelves as well as the unsettling 'canine' visitors. Everything seemed to have returned to normality: customers were quietly leafing through pages or scrutinizing small notepads for specifics titles or authors. A herd of vigilant cats closely pursued a pesky grankle bird. The radio, which had been emitting a relaxing stream of Dave Brubeck piano melodies, suddenly crackled with buzzing and popping static.
Fiona frowned, flicking her ears in annoyance, but continued on with her reading. So absorbed she was in her book, that she took no notice of the front door rattling open. An icy breeze whispered past, stirring her snow-white hair as it went down the central hall.
Fiona slowly raised her head, nostrils twitching. A strange odor had come in along with the fresh scent of rain; it wasn’t a very nice smell— it was sickeningly-sweet, a bit like gone-off maple syrup with a touch of astringent bubble gum mixed with that smell you sometimes get from rotting garbage. Although faint and diluted, it still almost made her retch.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a flicker of movement and turned her head sharply. Moving slowly down the hall was a figure clad in a bright orange rain poncho. Fiona stood motionless as the figure passed the shelves housing her reading space. She stared at it for what seemed like an eternity while her scalp and skin prickled and her heart hammered a thudding tempo of alarm. What scared her was the figure’s lack of any discernible features—no visible hands or feet or even a face, just a long hooded poncho enclosing what seemed like empty moving air. Yet there was substance for the floorboards creaked loudly under unseen feet as the thing glided by.
For a moment Fiona just stood there, feeling shiver after shiver ripple down her back, listening to the creaking tread of the footsteps. Then setting down the book, she forced herself to step out from behind the musty stacks to get a better view. As lightning flashed outside, throwing everything in stark relief, she thought she saw a flash of movement at the far end of one corridor. A moment later the passageway was empty. As she took a few reluctant steps forward, she caught a whiff of that syrupy-sour odor.
“Ugh... uggg," she spat as she buried her nose into her sleeve. That perfume! She didn't dare say the words out loud for fear the 'visitor' might still be lurking around the corner... listening. So utterly vile. Why anyone would want to go around smelling like that? If I ever smell that again...I think I’m gonna die, or else, barf all over the place
Shaking her head, Fiona turned and staggered out into the main corridor. I just don't understand why a person should feel the need to douse themselves in stinky cologne/perfume and pollute the air with their scent. I would much rather smell skunk than that rancid stink. Ack! I can nearly taste that stuff. Ack! Bleech! Ick! And barf-aroni!
Fiona jumped when the crackling radio static rose to a high-pitched, screeching whine, before fading behind the wall of voices. At first, faint, unintelligible whispering was heard, gradually rising into a roaring babble—voices in various languages, pleading for help, screams of agony, profane threats and shouts of damnation. They faded in and out as the storm distorted the transmission, until the dizzying array of voices finally rose up through the bursts of static: “Where’s my ma? Where’s my ma? Mmmm-aaaa-mmm-aaa! Come on, I just wanna to go home. I don’t like it here. I wanna to go home.”
“You're going to pay for what you did to us!”
“Quod est ultimus finis, quia sis venturus ad inferos!”
“Hope you rot in Hell, you worthless piece of maggoty trash!”
“Pythonissam! Pythonissam! Quid enim est! Veneficam!”
“You deserve an eternity in the deepest, darkest,coldest abyss of Niflheim!”
“Side by side, our rage will grow like the terrible gate hounds Garm, Cerberus and the Devourer, Ammut. It will eventually rip and devour your foulness until nothing remains but a grease spot not even the ants or feral dogs will lick up.”
“We will not be contained! We will no longer comply with your imbecilic terms!”
“The sum of suffering in the Mortal Realm will pale in significance compared to the suffering you will be forced to bear in the Otherworld!”
“Help us, Baron Samedi and Maman Brigitte! You know well the Law of early folk and the Laws of the Gods. Let all matters of justice proceed in our favor. Avenge us, ease our suffering, and soothe our pain. Make her pay for everything she’s done! We don't care how you do it, we only care that you be swift in your ultimate Judgment, just make her suffer.”
Fiona stood riveted in horror and dread by unholy garble of howls and shrieks ripping from wall speakers. Alone, each inhuman voice would have raised the hair on the back of her neck. Together, they were absolutely unbearable. After several more excruciating minutes, the sound abruptly cut off to a raucous deejay voice.
“All riiight! This is Pete the Pirate Draug, KLICH’s Late Great Top Undead Dude, speaking to all you quick and lively folk from within the vastly deep of Davy Jones’s Locker. And that Hate Dedication was from All the Lost and Lurking Revenants from the wilds of beautiful Northern Humboldt County.”
Fiona stood as rigid as a lawn statue in stunned silence.
“This next song is dedicated to Clarissa Van Devereux with the message: ‘Your venomous, parasitic, life leaching, soul-devouring, body snatching days are numbered, and you’re going to be nothing but worthless dust in the eyes of the Gods.’ This was immediately followed by a manic voice babbling, “Ah he he he he he heee, Wipe oooout!” As an energetic drum solo thundered through the halls, Fiona heard high heels clattering toward the front accompanied by several Gallic curses concerning pirate radio stations.
Fiona let out a big sigh of relief, sending up a little puff of dust and cobwebs.
“Well, at least I’m not imagining things,” she muttered as the radio was quickly set to a sophisticated BBC station. Nothing but an obnoxious bunch of campus radicals celebrating their favorite day of the year—All Halow E’en. And I also didn’t see a real spook—just someone in a really good costume... and a really lousy choice of personal scent.
Yet still, Fiona couldn’t shake off the feeling that something very odd had just happened and that there was more to it than just some Halloween tomfoolery. Almost all of it seemed to have coincided with the arrival of that figure in that hooded poncho. And just who exactly is this Clarissa Van Devereux anyway that got so many people peeved off at her, enough to denounce her on some weird pirate station?
The name sounded familiar though. She remembered that some years back she had seen it on the front page of a tabloid while standing in the checkout queue of the local supermarket; some sort of big-time scandal concerning one of the prominent Gentry families. Something about one of the youngest heiresses getting exiled to the Mortal Territories amid allegations of harassment and extortion of several human and Ainsel students at the Limoux Elementary School in the Harnam area. There was also mention of a nasty prank at one of these student’s birthday party, something that sent the children nearly mad with fright leading to a stampede resulting in many serious injuries.
Fiona didn’t know the exact details of the prank since she didn’t buy the tabloid out of fear of embarrassment; besides, they were rather expensive to get anyway.
There was another blinding flash of lightning, followed shortly by a loud clap of thunder.
“Cripes, that was a doozy,” Fiona muttered, feeling her ears ring. It’s really amazing how this storm came up all of a sudden... like it was all paranormal, which is rather a worn-out cliche when you think about it. Next thing you know there’s some Vincent Price or Lon Chaney guy going to turn up, dressed as a mad scientist or Jack the Ripper, which probably isn’t really a bad thing since they probably have more sense compared to that dingus who walked in here earlier smelling like a cheap perfume parlor.
And that was when I emerged from my shadowy hiding place. Grinning broadly, I tipped my top hat as her widening golden eyes took in my long frock jacket with velvet shirt, cravat and red sunglasses.“Bonjour, Mademoiselle, rather unusual weather we’re having," I began. “Allow me to introduce myself, I’m...”
“Holy crap!” she interrupted suddenly.
I raised an eyebrow. “I beg your pardon?”
“I was right!” she blurted out at last. “Ah gawd, it’s like being in one of those cheesy Hammer Horror films! Well, there goes the last shred of normality of my perfect vacation.”
Ch. 4—A Death and Disappearance
From the Journal Entry of Kes Allyntahl
“I swear, there’s something weird that’s going on here,” I said as soon as I recovered from my initial surprise. To be fair, there was something weird with most of Waldalchia—every town and city and small country hamlet had its share of oddities. The difference was that while some of these mysteries have a clear recorded history behind them, others keep their secrets like tightly sealed tombs.
Beneath the 19th century’s antiquated charm of The Badger and Hare Books & Tea Shoppe, something very disturbing had just happened—something that eluded all reasonable explanation (which shouldn’t be surprising, since this was Faerie country and it was Halloween and there were all sorts of costumed folk roaming the streets spreading the Halloween cheer and pulling numerous pranks). However, I was so officially freaked out by these horrifying series of events that I soon found myself explaining all this to some debonair weirdo I just met. The “debonair weirdo” eventually introduced himself as “Dr. Meldrek Akern,” with a bow and a flourish. He was a tall, angular man whose sharp aristocratic features suggested a heroic-type of elf, but the yellow-green cat eyes and wide toothy mouth was a dead giveaway to his lamia heritage. Although I was understandably wary of these Dark Faeries that were heavily reputed to be death-bringers and devourers of mortals, I still felt some comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone.
Now it was Dr. Akern’s turn to stare. “So I guess I’m not the only one here seeing and hearing things,” he said finally. He leaned one arm against a nearby shelf, staring off into the distance.
Nervously, I glanced over my shoulder, half-expecting to see that orange hooded figure or those skinwalker/phouka things standing right behind me, ready to strike out with enormous, dagger-like teeth and claws or latch onto my head with gross squidy tentacles. However, the aisle was deserted although I still felt as though we were being closely watched...in a way that it felt as though that there was a big cat or bear behind us, even though there wasn’t really.
As I turned back, the lamia went on, “Didn’t see anything resembling the dogs you saw though, just a gaggle of teenage girls, giggling and gossiping away—all from the American Commonwealth, judging by their loud raucous accents. Although I did hear those phantom voices on the radio, but unlike you, however, they were barely audible behind the static, almost indecipherable. I couldn’t even tell what specific gender they were. All I know is that they had an angry and upset tone to them.” He hesitated a minute or two, then added, “And as to a figure in a orange poncho, well...I didn’t see anyone answering that description nor did I detect any strong disagreeable odor.”
“Well...” I stared at him, utterly dumbfounded by his answer. “You must have seen something odd walk by where you were standing?”
“I did,” he murmured. “I saw Yrela Vonng—”
I arched a puzzled eyebrow. “Who?”“Yrela Vonng,” Dr Akern looked shocked at my confused response then realization set in. “Oh, well, she was way before your time...” His gaze grew distant as he started to reminisce about when he was just an awkward, angst and acne-ridden teen growing up in the 80s.
Oh, by the way, for all you curious humans reading this here story, I was born in the late 90s in a country under military dictatorship, where the only outside music that was allowed in was classical music and Oldie stuff from the 40s, 50s and early 60s. So yeah, I come from a primitive culture, one that wasn’t familiar with the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and the siren opera diva and pop singer, Yrela Vonng.
Two decades ago, Yrela Vonng, otherwise known as “The Venus of New Averoigne” had been the songstress supreme of nine worlds. With her sultry beauty and richly melodious voice, this Faerie equivalent of Mariah Carey had charmed and captured the hearts of every audience from New Amsterdam to the far-flung outposts of the outlying Rim Planets.
And then after winning at least 20 awards for her music talent and probably 1,000,000 for her very existence (everyone in the multiverse seemed to have adored this girl) she just vanished.
“Just vanished?” I said as soon as Dr. Akern finished his story. “What do you mean, ‘just vanished?’ Like in the middle of a traffic jam or on a vacation cruise?”
“More like vanished into thin air out the back of a moving taxi,” Dr. Akern cast a glance back toward the shadowy shelves. I could tell he was regretting he had ever stepped foot in this place this evening. “Let’s go where there’s more light.”
“The tea shoppe?” I asked. I sort of had a hankering for some mouth-watering Earl Grey crêpe cake.
“Too crowded,” Dr. Akern murmured, shaking his head. “Besides, I’d rather not go back there with that Thing roaming about.”
The look of disappointment on my face was then quickly replaced with dismay and astonishment.
“Thing?” I stared at him, I could feel my heart plummeting a free fall to the pit of my stomach as all my blood froze to an icy crawl. You would think a lamia wouldn’t be scared of Things that go bump in the night... unless this particular “Thing” in question was far more worse than the usual "ghoulies and ghosties. And long-legged beasties."
“Yes, a Thing,” Dr. Akern shot one last nervous glance over his shoulder as he ushered me across the wide central aisle. “Not a woman though it had a woman’s form. Or that may have only been an illusion... and what you saw was actually closer to its real form as your brain could process. Or maybe both of us are crazy—” When he noted my frown, he added almost guiltily “—which I greatly doubt anyway.”Eventually, we sat down at a wide table in the middle of an enormous sitting room. M. C. Escher-type stairs and ladders led to the surrounding bookshelves, while lamps with elegant amber and gold silk shades hung suspended over elaborately carved oak tables and chairs. A few people sat here and there, all was quiet save for the dry rustling of pages and hushed conversation.
“You were bound to hear about it sooner or later,” Dr. Akern leaned forward, dropping his voice to a low whisper. “Either through local gossip or the tabloids—and to have it happen here of all places where the only major crime is just a few picked purses and wallets or some school lads vandalizing some old grouch’s backyard. When it first reached my ears through the news wire, I could hardly believe it myself. It was so utterly bizarre, like something out of one of those penny dreadfuls.”
“So what did happen, exactly?” I couldn’t help asking. “You said this Yrela Vonng lady disappeared out of a moving taxi?”
“Seventeen years ago, it happened,” Dr. Akern said gravely. “On a rainy even such as this one of the 31at of October. Yrela Vonng and her latest boyfriend, this writer chap by the name of Walter Inqpen, had just attended an opera. Eventually, they were picked up by this coach driver. So as he was driving them back to their hotel, he could hear the couple talking and laughing away in back. Well, midway through the trip, he suddenly caught whiff of this foul and nauseating odor. What in the world could that be? he wondered. Did the cab suddenly drive over a heap of rotting garbage or a dead dog? As he was looking back the way, the horse suddenly came to a sudden dead halt nearly knocking him from his perch. No matter how much the driver shook the reins and flicked the whip, the animal still refused to budge. It seemed terrified, trembling and sweating with its eyes rolling white and its ears flattened tight against its head. Finally, he managed calm the horse down and then, after thinking the matter through, went to check up on his passengers.
“After getting no reply from his knocks, he opened the cab door. That was when the loathsome stench erupted over him like a wave of sewage gas, and then passed quickly, leaving him cold and trembling. As soon as he recovered his senses, the driver then noticed Walter Inqpen slumped over in his seat, a look of incredulous horror etched on his now ashen face. And as for Yrela Vonng, she nowhere to be found.”
I stared at him without saying a word. I felt my flesh beginning to creep while my mouth had suddenly become dry as sandpaper. Had I heard this story without experiencing all the crazy stuff that evening, I might have arched an eyebrow and frowned a skeptical frown. I would have have regarded the whole story as just too bizarre for believability...like something out of an urban legend or a Gothic horror novel. Now I find myself once again worrying about who or what might be standing close behind me. Peering about me, I surveyed the shadows of the surrounding shelves, and carefully sniffed the air. There was nothing to be seen, though; no one was moving stealthily in darkness dressed in orange or covered in shaggy black fur. No reek of heavy, rancid perfume wreaked major havoc on my sinus passages, leading to blinding migraines as well as violent puking and nosebleeds.
“There were the usual police searches and conspiracy theories,” Dr. Akern went on, “and blame placed on the usual suspects. First Britianian Anarchists, then the New Remodeled Life Party and then the Hualau Urth Reunification Party. Even Walter Inqpen was suspected, since he was a Hualau Urth expatriate, but this was soon proven impossible given the poor beggar’s condition.”
“Did he ever regain consciousness?” I asked anxiously, feeling a twinge of sympathy for this Inqpen fella even though I never even heard of the guy in my life.
Dr. Akern shook his head. “Sadly, no. Poor ole bloke died three days later. Had he awoke, I greatly doubt his mind would have emerged unscathed from his indescribably awful experience. Whatever beastly thing he witnessed not only shattered his mind beyond all reach of earthly aid, but shattered his soul as well.”
“Well, what about that odor then?” I insisted. “What do you make of that?” A knock out gas? Something a ninja assassin might use?”
“Well, mademoiselle,” Dr. Akern regarded me owlishly as he adjusted his spectacles, “you might as well ask the guys down at forensics about that, although I highly doubt any decent assassin would want to use a smoke grenade reeking strongly of rotting flesh.”
“Okay, then if this Yrela woman is missing and presumed dead, who the bloody hell did you see then?” I demanded across the table. “A ghost? An imposter?”
Dr. Akern shook his head slowly. “No, wasn’t no ghost I saw,” he murmured, "nor an imposter. It was Her—Yrela Vonng, as she had last appeared, as solid as you me and you, strolling slowly along without a care in the world, and singing in that heart-throbbingly sweet voice of hers—'The Green Hills of Earth.' ”
More like the Irradiated Hills of Earth, if you ask me, I thought with a roll of eyes.
Hardly anyone of my generation sang “The Green Hills of Earth” nowadays. Why sing praise for a now dying world swarming with dregs and degenerates?
Dr. Akern continued on, seemingly oblivious to my look of incredulous disbelief. “And yet, even though my ears and eyes told me that this was Yrela, my gut instinct told me, 'No, it’s not her. The real Yrela’s gone, and whatever that thing is that now wears her radiant form, it’s Death incarnate. Don’t call out to her, don’t approach her or something terrible will happen to you if you do.' ”
My plucked brows rose quizzically. "So what did you do next?"
Dr. Akern shifted uneasily in his seat. “I don’t scare easily,” he explained. “I’m a lamia, a kin to the Liam, the Children of Lilith. A cousin to the ghouls, the Ifrits and the Djinn. I am of the Night, so why should I fear the countless beasties that slither and shuffle around in it?
“But watching that thing walk past, I was suddenly struck by this intense feeling of dread and panic so I ducked back and hid in a space below some stairs. I crouched there for what felt like several minutes and then suddenly every light started flickering wildly and the temperature started plummeting rapidly as I glanced frantically around. I stumbled back against the wall, facing the passage where I came out of.
“That thing that looked and sang like Yrela Vonng was suddenly standing just outside the shelves. I didn’t even hear any footsteps approaching. It must have either seen or heard me when I ducked out of sight, and it knew I was in there even though it seemed to have trouble seeing through the dark, which was rather fortunate for me.”
"It tried to get you?" I asked, eyes widening. I sat straight up in my seat as a chill ran down my arms and my back.
The doctor nodded. “Would have too if it weren’t for those cats.”
"I was rescued by a clowder of cats," He grinned wanly. "Funny...how they all seem to come out of nowhere. One minute, I was alone and the next I was suddenly surrounding by a sea of felines—all of them hissing and spitting like cobras whenever she tried peering close into the gap. Well, eventually they chased her off so I was able to come out of hiding. But then my courage suddenly deserted me, and my only thought that remained in my mind was to get get as far away from this place as quickly as possible, perhaps even from this town. Then I saw you and thought you were actually that thing now in a different guise...”
“Wait?” I laughed. “You thought I was that ghost?”
But my companion didn’t laugh nor cracked a smile. “It’s not a ghost,” he said softly, “perhaps its a demon or even a vampire.”
“But aren't vampires supposed to be invited in first?” I exclaimed. “That orange thing I saw waltzed right in without anybody holding the door.”
“Not all vampires adhere strictly to traditions,” he informed. “Consider my kind, for example. We have no need to survive on fresh blood alone for our existence and can consume regular food and drink, and also have no need to sleep in a coffin when a bed will suffice.”
"I see..." I said, nodding thoughtfully. “That’s a really curious tale you just told. You'll pardon me for saying I hardly know what to believe.”
“It does not matter what you think,” Dr. Akern told me. “It happened, and I’m just glad I’m not joining Yrela Vonng, and gods only knows how many other unfortunates who wound up part of that thing.”
“Ot—others?” I said hoarsely. I thought about all those insane voices I heard earlier on the radio, and that hate dedication to some messed-up witchie-rich Gentry girl named Clarissa Van Devereux. Was there a possible connection between this Gentry and the disappearance of Yrela Vonng? I snorted, then at the very silliness of it all.
Nonsense, I told myself. That Gentry kid hadn't even been born yet when that diva disappeared. You've been watching too many X-Files and conspiracy movies.
Ch. 5—The Yggdrasil Triangle
“Yes, Yrela Vonng wasn’t the first one to disappear under mysterious circumstances,” Dr. Akern fiddled with his cane as he stared down at the table. “Although she was the only one to vanish within the city of Eskaŕd itself. All the others were in neighboring communities, many of them along the Yggdrasil Trail in the Quinarth Rim Area.”
He paused when he saw the incredulous look I was giving him. “Is something the matter, Kes?”
“Cor Blimey!” I exclaimed. “I've been there before!”
"Been where exactly?" he asked.
“Quinarth Rim Area!” I exclaimed impatiently. “Just a mile from the Swanwick Coast to be exact. Lived there about a year, although it felt what seemed like five to six years.”
“Ah, yes, Dr. Akern nodded gravely. “Time passes slowly in the parts closest to the Yggdrasil Wood Epicenter. A lot of very strange goings-on in that place. It’s a wonder more people haven’t gone missing.”
“How many?” I added as I folded my arms.
“Nine, to be exact,” was his reply. “All of them young people, ranging from tweens to twenty-somethings. First ones to go missing were a trio of British evacuee children during a Halloween picnic at Virebelle Rock in 1940 and the latest happened in 2011 when an eleven-year-old Ainsel girl from Branshel, named Krissa Beetle suddenly disappeared while picking mushrooms.”
He hesitated and then said. “She was the only one of the nine to ever be found. Her body was little more than a dried husk when it was discovered on a bench at Willowdale Station, seven months later. Her remains were in such a deplorable state that the cause of death couldn't even be determined."
I stared at Dr. Akern in the dim, yellow-orange light while the storm noises echoed through the massive hall.
“Always seemed to be a pattern,” said Dr. Akern, scratching his chin thoughtfully. “The disappearances all happened during the same time of the year—the last day of October—and the weather was either overcast or raining, just like tonight.”
“And we might have just see the ‘prime suspect’ in all of this,” I muttered, feeling my hair bristle on end.
“I wonder,” Dr. Akern began. His voice ceased as he glanced about him sharply before looking me squarely in the eye. “I wonder,” he managed to blurt out, “if that was the ‘real’ Yrela Vonng who stepped into that carriage on that dark dreary night so many years ago?”
I just shrugged and shook my head vaguely. I wasn’t there so how the hell should I know what exactly happened. As I write this now, I still don’t know. The only two people who might know more than me were now deceased and they weren’t coming back.
Soon enough I found myself looking back on my last place of residence, way before Lum House or that vacant mansion that eventually earned me a trip to the courthouse.
I had lived between two forests—the Yggdrasil Wood in the South West and the Swanwick Forest in the North East. I had only been in that portion of the Yggdrasil Wood four times and that was more than enough for me. Although I had never witnessed anything out of the ordinary there, I did find it odd that in this seemingly ideal habitat there was a scarcity of wildlife. Whereas in the Swanwick Forest, it wasn’t uncommon to see a lot of woodland critters even in the nearby towns and villages. Another thing that bothered me was the eerie quiet of the place (no birds chirping or animals rustling in the undergrowth, even hardly any wind or insects stirring).
It was like some major cataclysm had just taken place, wiping out the majority of animal life, leaving only the plants behind. And that was not the worse of it. No, the worse part was that huge metal Gate standing several miles deep within the Woods, surrounded by a number of arcane stone crains.
No one was quite sure who had built them, but their purpose was quite clear. The stones were a secondary reinforced barrier arranged around the Gate, keeping whatever was imprisoned there from breaking out and coming through to this reality. People say you could safely go in the forest, so long as it was by day and didn’t go too far in. But the most important rule of all was not to go within the crains and not stand in front of the Gate, especially during the hours of midnight and 3 A. M.
I was always careful to follow the rules, careful not to trespass and not become a source of contentious gossip, for gossip tended to flow fast in small towns like nearby Swanwick, Toad Hollow, Hodgepodge and Green Briar. They could be really nice to visit even for a lengthy stay...so long as you obeyed the rules. And just when I was really enjoying my stay in that idyllic place of bountiful natural splendor and pastoral harmony, someone broke the rules one day—someone who thought I was one of her ‘bestest friends forever and always’, but I wasn't because I completely hated her guts.
“Really, it’s time something was done,” the doctor continued. “We can’t have that Thing roaming around the place, quite possibly stalking other victims; don’t you agree, Mademoiselle... Mademoiselle... Kes?”
“Uh, yeah,” I said inanely. “Well, I’m sure that posse of cats can handle it okay without having us call in reinforcements. Have you ever read H. P. Lovecraft’s "The Cats of Ulthar?" Death by a thousand cats is a rather unpleasant experience for anything corporeal.”
“Yes, but supposing they don’t kill it,” Dr. Akern insisted. “Supposing they miss the brain or heart—what will we do if doesn’t die?”
I felt my stomach lurch. At the same, time, I was getting really annoyed.
We? I thought, silently fuming. Is there a mouse in your pocket or something? I came here just to browse for a good book and now I’m expected to participate in a monster hunt... with a big possibility I might be eaten or else, possessed? Who does this bozo think I really am here—an elfin knight in shining armor? Wonder Woman? An X-Man? I’m just an ordinary vacationer for Gods’ sakes! I absolutely have no experience whatsoever in dealing with the occult, other than running for dear life and the use of protective barriers and talismans. If this guy thinks I should help him wrangle some nameless terror from who knows where without proper nullifying equipment then he could hire someone else them. I’m leaving!
Ch 6--A Moth Flew In
As I opened my mouth to tell the doctor that I wasn’t getting involved in a Scooby-Doo type adventure where we chased down some mystery monster in some spooky location, and that I may be free-spirited and headstrong, but I certainly wasn’t stupidly rash to jump eagerly into a fight with the dark unknown...when it happened.
A bright green moth (at least that was what I thought it was) flew right into my mouth and straight to the back of my mouth and straight to the back of my throat. Immediately, I let out the loudest banshee-like screech ever. But it quickly dissolved into coughs and wheezes, tears began streaming from my eyes. I gagged, but the wretched little beast wouldn’t budge, instead it kept fluttering desperately, trying to crawl back out my esophagus. Crud! I thought. I’m going to die because the stupid bleeder mistook my mouth for a porch light! What a lousy way to go, death by stinky moth!
In a couple minutes I was surrounded by people as well as cats. Then I heard Dr. Akern bellow “Heimlich maneuver!” before I was suddenly being hoisted into the air and several abrupt squeeze were applied to my diaphragm. The moth shot out of my moth like a little green cannonball, soaring high into the air before landing out of sight on one of the nearest top shelves.
There were cheers and a round of applause as I was set back on my feet again. Knees knocking, I tried to regain my composure as I rubbed my sore stomach muscles and massaged my sore throat. I wanted to do the sensible thing and leave, since I pretty much had enough of all this weird stuff for one night. Instead I shuffled to the table and sat back down.
That thing had to have been a hawk moth of some kind. It was so bloody huge! As much as I really appreciate their importance as pollinators, the haphazard flight patterns and zooming into my mouth just really didn’t do it for me. Ugh, I feel so bleah! Moths taste so disgusting I can’t understand why Miss Tabitha likes catching and eating so much.
“Miss, are you okay?” said a high clear voice.
I turned and saw that blonde elf woman from earlier and her bespectacled beau.
I also saw she was holding the blue earth cat close to her face. The tom was purring away like a distant motor as he rubbed ecstatically against her cheek, once more proving the theory that cats were brilliant manipulators.
“Oh, I’m fine,” I croaked. Before another fit of coughing and gagging earned a few whacked on the back by Dr. Akern.
“Okay, that’s enough,” I wheezed, turning to glare at him. “I’m okay!”
“Does she need ter get an x—ray?” asked a New Londoner wearing a scarf and baggy cap.
“Wot for, then, eh?” said his unshaven friend in a dapper woolen jacket and jeans. “The bloody doc already got the bloody moff out! Right!”
“Yeah, but wot if it left some eggs behind?”
“Oh bloody hell,” I muttered, wishing I hadn’t watched Alien last week at the Midnight Monster Matinee.
“Don’t be daft. That’s wereps that do the bloomin’ egg-injections, not moffs! Honest guv!"
“Hey, I think you’re scaring her,” an American girl commented, probably one of the gaggle the doctor saw earlier.
“Yeah,” agreed another. “She don’t look too good.”
I imagined that my eyes were bulging while the rest of my face was taking on the greenish-grey hue of a toad.
“You sure that was a moth she swallowed?” a third asked.
“Of course it was a moth,” the first girl replied snidely. “What else could it be?”
“Oh, maybe a pixie...a pillywiggin...or even a green finch,” the third girl guessed.
“That wasn’t a sprite or a finch,” Dr. Akern told her, before I could open my mouth, which probably was a good thing because I might have hurled at that very moment. “A sprite or a bird wouldn’t have acted in such an idiotic fashion. It had to have been a moth, judging from my young friend’s negative reaction, it was quite possibly one of the bad-tasting varieties. My guess is that it was a green-backed snot-sipper.”
“Eeeeeeeewww!!!” said the chorus of thoroughly disgusted teen fashion victims.
“Those things are just so gross!” cried their haute couture leader. “One of them flew up my sister’s nose once! She had to go to the hospital to get it removed. It was still wriggling and stuff. Sick, right!”
Fortunately, we were spared further details of this hospital visit when a voice suddenly bellowed from above, “Oi lads! Up here!"
Everyone looked up to see a trio of kolbold kids peering down at us over the edge of the topmost shelf.
“She okay?” the oldest one inquired.
“Yes,” the doctor replied, “the situation is now under control. No need for worry or an ambulance.”
“Oh, good,” the kolbold said. “I think we might have found what was causing the problem.”
“Naw, looks more like a poker chip to me,”the kolbold replied, “either that, it’s some weird kind of monocle thingie. 'Ere, check for yourself!”
He held up something slightly bigger than a checker piece, it’s greenish-yellow glow reminded me of the bio-luminescence of deep ocean fish and fireflies.
A confused murmur ran through the crowd at the sight of the strange glowing token.
“What is that thing?”
“That doesn’t look like a moth. It’s more like an emerald.”
“No, right, emerald don’t glow like that. It’s more like one of them decorative glow-in-the-dark glass or resin stones posh folk use in landscapin’ their gardens and patios.”
“Hopefully, the damn fin’s not radioactive or we’re done for.”
“The guy would have been dead already if it was. It’s got to be something magical and legendary...like the Crystal Snow-globe of Rittmeister Karl or the Wondrous Wishing Eight Ball of Queequahog.”
“Yeah, and it could also just be something that came out of a gumball machine or Cracker Jack box.”
“While the lively discussion continued, I could only stare in shock, unable to believe that this unholy relic would be finally coming back to me. As I watched the thing slowly illuminate the room with a golden-green brilliancy which shimmered like moonlight over a tropical bay, I had the dreadful feeling that my troubles were only just beginning.
Written by Mmpratt99 deviantart
Below is a gallery/slideshow of illustrations (drawn by the author, mmpratt99 deviantart) that go along with the story.