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Author Topic: HALLOWEEN 2020!  (Read 534 times)

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Offline NO1SY

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« on: October 31, 2020, 06:57:01 AM »

We live in a dark and troubling time, such that tonight, a night used to festivities and house-parties galore, may be an unsettlingly solitary experience for many Raiders.

And so, I invite anyone who finds themselves unnerved by the quiet, or bored of the trashy horror flick you have watched 13 times before, to bleed their creative juices onto a page and create something new and hideously terrifying.

Write, draw, or both and fill our 2020 tome of horror this Halloween.

(I apologise for the damned watermark...)
« Last Edit: October 31, 2020, 07:19:22 AM by NO1SY »

Offline NO1SY

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« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2020, 07:16:37 AM »
I will begin with a short piece I wrote as a prologue couple of years back (I would write something new if I had any free time nowadays...). Rather than let it rot, abandoned, may you find some entertainment with it.

Happy Halloween everyone!



The sounds of battle were lost amongst the trees of The Fogwood, south-west of the capital, and so were Sir Wallace and his unit. It was perpetually gloomy in here, making it hard to track the time of day, and a thick fog forever lingered throughout, seeming to cling tight as they waded through it. The men’s pace had been reduced to a crawl as they cautiously crept up to every shadow lurking in the endless murk. But, as was the first and the fiftieth, each was just another bloody tree. Moreover, so tightly wound were they that they started to attention at every little sound that cut the silence. The noises always seemed to be to be right behind them, no matter how far away its source truly was. It was getting difficult to even see the man  tiptoeing an arm’s reach away.

What an unholy place... Sir Wallace shivered, ... gives me the f*cking creeps. He was an older knight now, had seen his fair share of squalid, post-siege cities and crow-torn battlefield aftermaths, but this place churned his guts something fierce.

And why was he even here in the first place, trekking through this forest of nightmares? The Crusade was practically won. The Holy Army of the Avestran Mainland should be knocking on the Heathen King’s bedchamber door right about now and negotiating the surrender of whatever goes for this backwater island’s poor excuse for nobility. He should be there too, with his men, feasting and drinking and sampling from the local ladies so thankful to be saved from their godless existences by such an honourable knight. Spoils of war and all that. After such a display of righteous and divine power, the rest of the misled insects on this patch of dirt would soon come scuttling into the light to accept the grace of the true King, and the true Gods, all by themselves. And he wasn’t convinced that even insects would choose to live in a place such as this.

But the Clerics were worried about this, as of yet uncharted, part of Thadia. So here Sir Wallace and his soldiers were, at their whims, scouting for the source of whatever forest critter had managed to spook the most capable holy warriors Avestra had to offer.

By this point, however, he was beginning to wonder if this forest would ever end. He was getting exhausted, and his joints ached from hefting his shield and keeping his sword at the ready. With no guiding lights able to pierce the canopy above, nor landmarks of note in sight, perhaps they were walking in circles. Sh*t... he tensed at the thought, what if we cannot find our way back? At least in this fog his men couldn’t see the dire look on his grizzled face.

A cry from his right caused Sir Wallace to jump. Forcing the tension to release its chilling grip on his chest, he stood for a moment to let the tumbling moths in his stomach fly away on a slow exhale. Internally chastising himself for his descent into cowardice, he began to march for the source of the wail.

“Gods damn me if I’ll be afraid of any more trees in the dark...” he grumbled to himself as he pushed past trembling men along the disorderly line.

It wasn’t long before the sound of sobbing led him to the young man; collapsed to a slumped kneel, shield and spear shed on either side. It was Harper Grace, the son of some poncey baron who wanted the recognition for his family serving in the conquest.  All the brat’s usual bravado was lost, replaced by the air of a broken toy soldier. Sir Wallace was marching up to the whelp to make an example of such pathetic display of weakness, but stopped dead in his tracks when a sickening crunch beneath his foot caused his skin to crawl. Probably just a fallen twig you old foo- What he saw beneath his foot unnerved him. He lifted his gaze slowly, peering round to the front of the boy. Clutched in Harper’s shaking hands was a cracked and muddied human skull, caved in from where the poor kid had likely trodden on it.

“Wha... What is th-this place C-Captain?” The young soldier managed to whisper between weeping and snivelling breaths, before raising a quivering finger to point out ahead of him. As if in mocking response, the fog that insidiously enveloped all of their surroundings thinned just enough for Sir Wallace to make out the horror that lay before them. The entire forest floor ahead, from the rib he had snapped in twain underfoot to the furthest tree in the haze, was covered completely in a macabre blanket of bones.

The fear had gripped Sir Wallace so firmly that he barely registered when the first three of his soldiers cried out as they were cut down. The noise of his own panicked breathing and pumping blood threatened to drown out all other sounds. He could just about make out the blubbering of Harper as his tears began anew. The snotty noble had screwed shut his eyes, held his hands fast over his ears, and curled into a ball in the muck of the forest floor in a feeble attempt to shut out the horror surrounding him.

Slowly, and still struggling to comprehend, Sir Wallace staggered about-face to meet his attackers, but he found himself smothered in fog once again. Alone, save for the weeping boy at his side. He knew his men were fighting all around, yet he felt completely isolated. All he could see through the veil were vague and writhing shadows. Beading sweat trickled down his brow and stung his darting eyes, but he dared not close them despite how much he truly wanted to.

Any chance of finding the little fight that he truly had left in him drained away when Farris, the unit’s second in command and best sharpshooter, collapsed backwards out of the fog, landing at Sir Wallace’s feet, dead. His already ugly mug was stricken with an immortalised visage of pure terror. It didn’t take a Cleric to determine how he had died, even in his stupor Sir Wallace could clearly see the rusted sword sticking skyward out of the man’s chest. But it wasn’t that which broke the knight’s final threads of resolve. It was the hand that held the weapon. A bloody, blasphemous hand of bones. Stripped bare of skin and all but a few strands of rotting flesh, and yet holding together even without any sinew. Frayed and ragged scraps of a sleeve dangled from the bowed bones of a forearm; a forearm detached from the rest of the body but still moving, swinging at the wrist as if trying to dislodge the blade. And so Sir Wallace knew the enemy.

Gods... was all he could manage to think as he almost drunkenly wheeled himself around and around, uncertain as to from where he would be assailed. And then he saw it. Dim light off in the distance, breaking through the trees. An escape.

He trudged forward. Partly delirious with fear, partly delirious with hope, he made his way clumsily towards the light. He was thankful that there were no bones littering the ground anymore, for he surely would have stumbled on them. He just dragged himself on. Pushing past tree after damned tree. The light grew brighter and brighter through the fog. He could hear the rattling and clinking and grinding of his pursuers behind him. From the sides, the same tumult. The air was tightening, the fog thickening, the claustrophobia setting in. But as he stumbled onward, by the grace of the Gods or by sheer luck he was never beset, and so he did not deviate, did not look back. He dared not look back.

And then, all of a sudden, there were no more trees. There was no more fog. No more unholy noises. Sir Wallace was free.

Stood on a hill at the edge of the Fogwood, the tired knight could do nothing but fall to his knees and gaze in relief over the quaint little coastal village that huddled below him, untouched by the war. A semblance of focus returned to his vision as his fear slowly drained from him, though it taxed him now for the energy it had provided for his escape. Despite how much he wished to feel the gentle sea breeze that lightly stroked the lush green plants around him, his body felt completely numb after the bombardment of sensations he had struggled through just moments before. So he just tried to see.

The waters lapped lazily up a sandy beach of a natural bay. The sun was setting in a sky of pretty reds and oranges, and it cast long shadows, reaching inland towards him, from the simple wooden houses that meandered along dirt paths. One shadow fell upon him, however, from atop the same hill.

It appeared that Sir Wallace had stopped at the rear edge of a well tended garden belonging to a large manor house that stood proud just off to the side and ahead of him, overlooking the same view. It was an interesting building of a style unlike anything back on the mainland, defined most prominently by the two tall spires pointing skyward from the top, one from the tall pillared porch that sheltered the grand entrance at the front of the house, and one in the far corner that rose from a circular three story tower. The dark tiled roofs were steeply slanted and punctuated by several ornate chimneys. Most of the windows were tall and thin affairs that were arched at the top, save for those that were part of the two story sets of bay windows that flanked either side of the entrance, which were squared so that their walls could be topped with decorative parapets. It was built of large grey, stone bricks and there were several displays of expert masonry in exceptionally carved arches and capitals all over the facades, only ever obscured by Ivy that climbed up the one flat wall closest to him.

Sir Wallace was captivated by the harsh grandeur, and was content to simply stare until he became aware that he too was being observed. A lady, draped in a dark dress of several layers, looked down upon him from a second story window in the mansion. A sense of duty welled back up inside of the knight. The dead march this way, I must warn them! he thought as she walked out of view. But he found he had not the strength to move. No... that’s not right... The lady strode gracefully out from the grand entryway, a lithe silhouette framed by the perfectly carved pillars. But for as breathtaking the sight, Sir Wallace was disturbed. Why can’t I move? What binds me here?

He forced his gaze down to his limbs, which felt so detached, and whimpered. He was held, grasped by hands that should have been dust, by hands held together when they should collapse, by hands that gripped like a vice when they should have toppled away. Sir Wallace tried to struggle, to shake free, to lash out, but they had unholy strength. The skeletons stood sentinel over him, unmoving, pinning him in place. And there weren’t just the four that held him. The entire treeline around the Manor was haunted by the dull blue, ethereal glow that hung in their eyeholes. A ragged army ripped from time, outfitted in various states of decay.

As the lady glided across the neatly cropped lawns towards Sir Wallace, the weathered knight did the only thing that he could think of in that moment to seek salvation. He began to pray. Not the vacant words he regurgitated in communal services as a shallow show of faith, nor the borrowed words he calculatingly utilised to rile his soldiers into a zealous fervour during the war, but, for the first time in decades, true prayer. Through quivering lips, he invoked the graces of every God he could name within the pantheon written across the night sky in the constellations that shone down upon all the world. The words were nothing more than a quiet mutter, but their heartfelt sincerity somewhat overcame his shame and embarrassment, calming Sir Wallace’s pounding heart and erratic breathing.

Ten paces away, the lady had stopped in her tracks. She tilted her head slightly to one side as she beheld him inquisitively, her left eyebrow slightly raised on her beautifully crafted face. The red of the sun filtered through luscious and cascading white hair. But Sir Wallace would not allow himself to be distracted.

“... Graaft, He who built the mountains skyward from the land, and He who forged the body as a vessel for the spirit, temper my body upon your mighty anvil so that I may be durable in the face of insurmountable forces. Zalimandar, He who breathes life into the shell and blesses the miracle of birth, fill the cracks in my spirit so that no rot may take hold...”

As the words poured from him and he allowed himself to believe them, as if he were witnessing divine intervention, the unholy horde surrounding him slowly backed up, step by step, then faded away for good into the gloom of the woods. He struggled to continue as a lump formed in his throat and the relief washed over him, as the last of those haunting orbs disappeared in the dark and he felt their oppressive, blasphemous glare no more. Perhaps the vice-like grip of his captors had slackened a little too? He would praise the Gods forever from this day forth if they could secure his freedom, he just had to call on them a little longer.

“Morgiana, She who melds perception and opens the mind’s eye, allow me to see through the illusions of my foes meant to mislead or break my resolve. Hart, He who is the shield that protects the faithful and the sword that smites the wicked, may you empower my arms to wield my faith with a sure grip as you exemplify. Bal-”

The Lady flitted to him in the blink of an eye and flutter of black velvet, and he was immediately robbed of his next breath and words. Her skin was silk upon her perfect cheekbones, powdered with a delicate rose blush. Her verdant eyes put the most exquisite emeralds to shame and her lips were an artistically contrasting crimson. Her nose couldn’t have been carved better from marble. In all his years Sir Wallace had never seen a person more stunning. His eyes began to wander down a long neck and a well proportioned corseted chest. A long, elegant glove hugged from her upper arm all the way down to the hand at his chest, a hand that clasped the hilt of a dagger.

He looked back up to her face in disbelief, the loveliness of her smile at odds with the deed she had committed. With her free hand she caressed his cheek and drew his gaze up until she was pointing at the sky. The last light of the sun was doused in the ocean on the horizon, revealing the night sky. A starless, godless sky.

“Welcome to Winter’s Glade.” The melody of her voice was saccharine, in equal parts sultry and sickening. She drew his dismayed gaze back from the void to her, and for the first time he saw. For a fleeting moment he caught a glimpse behind the thin, intoxicatingly gorgeous veneer to a spectral visage that he knew was her true self. A withering, desiccated being more husk than person. Sunken eyes, cracked lips and thin, disheveled hair betraying the centuries upon centuries that she must have walked the world. And within the ghostly figure, there writhed the faces and formless bodies of hundreds of tormented souls; coalesced into one, forced into servitude, feeding her life.

As his warmth was drawn into her, he felt himself join them.