Rated L for Lovecraft; some dark imagery ahoy!
(COSMIC HORROR, NOT SMUT, how can you not know of Lovecraft my good friends)
”To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.”
Rated L for Lovecraft; some dark imagery ahoy!
(COSMIC HORROR, NOT SMUT, how can you not know of Lovecraft my good friends)
”To the scientist there is the joy in pursuing truth which nearly counteracts the depressing revelations of truth.”
Crickets chirped at the fierce morning sun. A hay wagon came to a gentle rolling stop at the foot of a hill, under the looming shadow of a large house.
“This would be your stop, yes?”
A sharp-eared boy popped out of the hay, nodding at the young elfin woman at the fore of the cart. His buggy green gaze turned to the dark-furred direwolf besides him. He poked the slumbering beastie in the side with a grin. She grumbled at him and rolled over -- right off the side of the cart and into the road. Not the most dignified way to disembark. Sneezing up clouds of dust, Daugi was now awake enough to blink the crust from her eyes and give her tiny companion a disgruntled growl. Fenn merely laughed soundlessly and hopped off beside her. Sorry for the rude awakening, but hey, I let you sleep this one out. You looked a little tired for running cross country.
“You do know, that no-one in their right mind would ask to be taken here,” the cart driver called plainly over to Fenn as he patted his grumpy wolf on the head. “Right? I can't help but find myself curious about your business with it. It's a cursed place. Who knows what voodoo is spilling from those walls?”
Fenn shrugged amicably and glanced at the shamble of a house. If anything, her words of warning bolstered him. How many times had he found wonderful things in the places no-one had the courage to go?
The boy fished around in his satchel a moment and handed her a fistful of money for her trouble. She scrutinized the payment a moment, then tipped her hat at him and snapped her reins, prying questions quieted by the coin. The hefty deer hitched to her cart tossed their heads and started off. “You’re welcome then, quiet one. Take care of yourself,” the driver called out as she shrank into the distance. Fenn nodded cheerily and waved good-bye before turning to face his destination.
This was no simple haunted abode that he was visiting. This was the mansion of the deceased Darcy Clemonts, a human researcher of strange magics and faerie beings. That which had fascinated her were phenomena which most didn't even want to touch; things which were not beholden not to the Tap, nor the thanes, nor quite even the rules of nature. A pity she had been dead the last hundred years. Even more a pity, her last work -- an unfinished documentation of Frost Fae culture and physiology -- was said to remain in this house. Fenn couldn't fathom as to why no-one had thought to take it from these creaking premises and get it published posthumously for her. It would have saved him quite a bit of research and trouble if someone had.
It was probably those “haunted house” rumors that kept people at bay. Fenn sighed and agreed that the place certainly looked a good place for unsatisfied spirits to roam. Oh well. It was something new to add to the Tarot library. Wouldn't Vince be pleased?
The abandoned mansion was squat and squarish, the bristly lawn as high as Fenn’s thighs and the walls overgrown with ropey vines. Boy, he was glad he had arrived here during the day. He couldn't even imagine what it would look like at night. Motioning for his pet to follow, the boy eagerly started across the eroding stepping stones, making a game out of not-falling-into-the-deep-grass. Daugi padded after him like an attentive mother hen. She didn't seem to understand the game, so Fenn decided that he was the winner in the end. He landed on the porch with a light thump, rattling the decaying boards. A quick nudge from Daugi saved him from falling over.
The door was unlocked and barely hanging to it's hinges. Opening it let out a front of humid air and old-lady smell. There was a quiet dripping in the background. Together, the two peered into the gaping dark inside. Did someone leave the faucet on? Was the faucet actually still functional after a century? Such important questions.
The inside of the place was as ugly and tasteless as the out. It might as well have been night outside, because the thick velveteen drapes mouthing the windows devoured the sunlight into muggy dimness. Daugi snuffled and licked experimentally at a dark patch on the carpeting, only to gag on the thick dust that collected on her tongue. A giggle welled up in Fenn’s chest at the sight of her shaking her head back and forth, her tongue lolling in disgust. Silly pup! Even in the bowels of this decrepit mansion, her antics tickled him.
It was an odd place, to be certain, cluttered with old-fashioned furniture in ghastly disrepair. One could hardly walk three paces without discovering a melted puddle of a candle tucked into a corner or guarding a tabletop. A metallic smell clung to them, and their wax was tinged pink. It was a wonder that the house hadn't burned down before Darcy died. Fenn inspected one placed precariously on a windowsill. The sill itself was greasy with lines of congealed white dust. He dabbed a finger in and tasted it inquisitively; salt. These measures spoke of ritual magic, even holding a bit of leftover brightness to the touch.
Perhaps he didn't study that particular brand of magic, but he had read a thing or two. Salt was sometimes used as a ward, to keep things out - or in, as need be.
Fenn snorted and pressed on through the halls, Daugi trotting behind him with pricked ears. He wasn't sure what sort of witchcraft had been going on in this house, but it probably hadn't helped those haunting rumors.
The boy combed through every crook and corner of the house, piece by piece. He ventured into rooms with brittle floors, clambered up into unsteady wardrobes, and stuck his head under spideregg-infested beds. The dripping sound from earlier was indeed a faucet, an old-fashioned tub leaking scummy brown water. Gross. Fenn plugged it up with a yellowed washcloth because it was starting to grate his nerves.
No stone could be left unturned. That manuscript could be anywhere.
At no point since he had stepped onto the premises had any ghost made itself known to him. Even so, there were little things that sent his hair prickling when he found them. One kitchen cabinet was host to a jar of salt, a tub of cow eyes, and a dried bone. Thankfully, it wasn't a human bone. It looked more like one of the slender leg bones Daugi would gnaw on after taking down a deer. Speaking of which, she was being a pretty well-behaved girl today, doing nothing more than sniffing uneasily at the grime and sitting down whenever Fenn stopped to look at something. He glanced over at her and quietly pocketed the bone into his bag. It'd be a real treat for her later.
Wrinkling his nose, Fenn closed the drawer again, leaning away from the chemical smell that seeped from the jar. Ugh. Maybe it was about time to check the second floor.
First door to the left of the creaky stairs, Fenn struck gold.
This had to be Clemont’s study. A glut of sour rot-smell smothered the air. The source of it; the thick tomes and curling stacks of paper. They weighed down sturdy oak shelves, shelves which matched a scarred desk. Fenn could hardly take a breath in through his nose without wanting to gag. Daugi, however, twitched her nose into every corner of the room. She was barely bothered by the stench.
Taking care to restrain his squirming gag reflex and breathe only through his mouth, Fenn stepped inside, scanning the shelves for some clue as to where the Frost Fae research might be hidden.
The geometry of the place seemed subtly incorrect. There was something very, very wrong about this room, but Fenn had no succinct words for it. The walls somehow did not seem to intersect as they should; in fact, the corners of the room seemed to contort and curve away from each other at boggling angles if he squinted at them. It didn’t bother him too much so long as he avoided staring directly at it.
Maybe all this mold he was breathing in was doing something to his perception. Fenn wrapped a length of his tattered cloak over his mouth and diverted his gaze from the walls.
What caught his eye instead was a curious item on the desk. A statue of a mangled fungus-eel thing squatted on an unbalanced pedestal, both dusted with looping characters. Surrounding it like a halo was a circle of salt. A slip of paper fastened to the statue simply read ”Rothaerh-Shash” and an odd list in another language. The look on its face was ghastly. Odd creature! Fenn made a ghastly face back before he set to work pouring through the shelves. Half of the books and loose papers piled onto the planks were spotted with hairy mold. Many were written not only in foreign tongues, but alphabets entirely alien to the little Fae. The covers felt fragile and crunchy under his frosty touch, like dry leaves. He tried not to destroy anything as he searched the titles.
A Guide to the Great Unknown, Blight of Wychcraft, The Art of Runes, A History of Raiaera, Protection Charms and You, Summoning Ancients, Beyond the Tap Eternal, The Outer Ring, Jungle Folk; the Fae of Dheathain, B’gnu-Thun Alack, A Manifesto on Magicyte Use…
Some of them were written by Professor Clemont herself. She had some interesting tastes in literature.
It wasn't until Fenn had found himself at the desk that he made some headway into finding what he needed. There was a thick stack of paper bound by leather cords set at the farmost corner, touched by rot like everything else. He hadn't noticed it initially in lieu of the grotesque statue sitting nearly on top of it. The title sent his heart soaring, and he jumped up in delight.
Needle in a Snowdrift; The Elusive Fae of the North
Fenn grabbed for the script with a near squeak of excitement, only to stop short as he found its corner to be trapped underneath the ugly statue’s perch. He sighed and took hold of the pedestal. It radiated a creeping warmth that was normally reserved only for magic, but he wasn’t sure why someone would enchant such a thing. It must have been used in whatever rituals used to take place here. Disturbing it felt wrong, and yet… Carefully, he lifted the pedestal up and slid the manuscript out from underneath...
The statue toppled off the desk and out of the salt circle with a great WHUMP, splintering the floor under its weight. Daugi bayed in fright at the disturbance. Fenn skittered back a few feet from his mistake, clutching the manuscript in hand. He ran a hand over his friend’s hackled mane, shushing her as she snarled and snapped at the door.
An ominous sloshing had started up in the distance. He doubted it was a leaky tub this time.
Fenn stood there with the manuscript tucked under one arm and his wolf bristling, both their ears twitching towards the echoing sounds. His inner survivalist was suggested they leave, right now, before they found out what was making the noise. Obviously, moving that statute had made something happen, and his instincts were telling him that it was probably not good. At the same time, the manuscript was weighing on him. He feared that if he didn't read this crumbling paper right now, it would break apart later. It was too old to risk taking into the elements, too fragile to risk dropping or bumping, and too precious to leave behind without taking a peek inside.
Catching Daugi’s attention with a tap on the head, he strung together a few specific hand gestures.
You, guard please. Stay by me.
“Wuff…” The wolf dropped to the floor next to him, keeping her trembling, agitated red glare fixed on the door. Fenn curled up against her bulk and painstakingly untied the cords locking the papers together. Many places between the pages were sealed together or fuzzed over with mold. If he wanted to learn anything useful from this, he had to do it fast, but he had to do it carefully. The damp cover frosted over under his hands and the binding peeled. He turned to the first semi-readable page.
Frost Fae share many attributes and beliefs with their forested kin. For instance, all Fae have immense lifespans, far beyond the scope of a human. The average age that faerie beings reach seems to be of seven hundred years, a number comparable to that of elves or dwarves. Fae reach adulthood near their first half-century of life. A Frost Fae is only considered an adult after they hav…
Waitwaitwait. Fenn blinked down at the writing and reread it. So, that meant he was probably more a… a teenager by his kind’s standard’s than an adult. He stuck his tongue out glumly. So if by the standards of my race, I’m still technically that young… Damn it. There went his smug sense of superiority over the adults in his life. The boy continued reading, wondering faintly what the safe age restriction was (if there was one) for a Fae to drink. Hopefully, his ignorance of himself hadn’t caused any lasting harm.
Slurghhhshhh… A shudder wracked Fenn. Holy shit, those noises were distracting. They made his ears ache. Better meditate more on his age later, and read faster.
Daugi whined through chattering teeth, folding her paws over her ears as she kept an eye on the door. Not even the smell of dragon had ever made her quiver like those noises did. Fenn soothed her with gentle scratches behind the ear as he read, trying to still her fidgety unease. Despite the pervasive squelchy gurgling that ran claws down the inside of his skull as it slunk ever-closer, the boy kept hunkered down, skimming through the text. He needed to hurry. He needed to know more.
Much like the Fae scattered throughout the rest of the world, Frost Fae often organize themselves in rough communities known as… Several Courts are known to exist within Salva… ordian forest of Corone...
...utterly unfettered by the cold; one could stand naked in the most bitter of snowstorms and be perfectly comfortable...
Frost Fae blood may be well worth the study. It is apparently non-magical in nature, hence, it must be composed of a natural combination of elements that could theoretically be recreated and replicated. Imagine all the potential uses for a liquid incapable of freezing…
...reamers find themselves longing for faerie revels. As one girl put it, they were practi…
Regent possessing a gift for “dream walking”...
…paired rituals to create new life… an exhausting process, hence any Court must think carefully befo... initiation…
…believed that a Frost Fae’s appearance is an indication of the properties of their soul, especially once… with cruel features is probably cruel as well. Likewise, one with a more bestial appearance might… result, Fae children born with severe physical defects are believed to have spiritual ones as well, and thus are often abandoned or cas...
Oh. Ohhh. Pieces to a puzzle Fenn didn’t even realize he was putting together clicked into place. His hand went to his throat, unease crawling under his skin. A baby that voice for crying was unsettling in and of itself. Imagine what a culture who feared deformities would think of such a child. At least he now had a faint idea of why he had never known where or who he had come from. His birth Court had probably ditched him the first chance they got. While that answered a few unfortunate questions, it wasn’t quite what he set out to learn. Where did it talk about magic? Did it have more information on what Courts might be hidden in Corone?
What were Fae supposed to be like and how did one find them, damn it?
He flipped a few chapters back to a section he had initially skipped, desperate to learn more before the gurglings caught up with him and Daugi. The booklet was especially fuzzy here, and his frosty fingers weren't helping matters.
…adolescent met... formation… awful and wonderful to behold…
Damn these mold blots; the knowledge was literally rotted away. This bit felt important to him. Fenn seethed in snowy uncertainty and scrutinized the useless fuzzy page for words that no longer were there. Adolescent what? What happened then? When did his adolescence end, even?
Fenn glanced up suddenly. The ghastly noises were starting to take on an eerie quality. It seemed to have found the stairs, for a slithering and a bumping began upwards.
As it came closer, the sound became very, very wrong. They struck Fenn's ears as a deep crimson. A bleeding, noxious red. Festering and drying, the sound of withered teeth scraping against flesh. Of scabs sloughing off skin. Rotting and consuming, hollow and ravenous.
Fenn grip on the manuscript loosened and it dropped to the knotty floorboards and hunched over, pressing his hands to his ears. They were sticky with a thin trickling seepage of blood.
It was a melody, almost. Green gurgles sung their roots into the mind, growing like an unwanted infection. Mushy. Crusted. Of bitter and bile. Warm. Dripping. No cure was on hand to the fester, the seething. The noises slithered past the study and down the hall.
Fenn collapsed, wishing to drown it out with a cry of his own. Tears stung his eyes. A song, a scream, it didn't matter.
A voice, black, whispered to the soul in worldless languages. Telling it of a need to conquer. Pleading for space to encompass, to overgrow. Gangling vines, frothing teeth, and the gnashing eyes, an inutterable whisper. The things it asked for; insatiable. Growing. Devouring. That the sound alone caused Fenn to perceive such a disjointed picture of reality was impossible. And yet, there it was, blinding him. He could see nothing else but it.
As the chromatic sounds bled into Fenn’s ears and stained his vision, as he lost grip on reality and body, there was Daugi at his side.
She paced, and shook him, and nudged him, and licked him. None of it caused him to shake out of his paralyzed stupor. Pressing her ear to his back assured her that he was still taking deep, shuddering breaths. He did naught but twitch and bleed. Once, he retched the sour contents of his stomach onto the floor and the pale tree-slices he had been inspecting before the fit began. He did not seem conscious of any of it.
This behavior increasingly worried Daugi.
From the moment the unholy song had started up, it had fully affected the direwolf. Her senses were much keener than that of Fenn’s. The hideous burblings of whatever beast had been unleashed had assaulted her with great power at first. Wanting, grabbing, trying to worm their way into her mind. Eventually, their grip had slackened; it had no true hold over her. However, they only seemed to have become stronger in their effect on the tiny Fae the more of it he heard, and this distressed his friend to no end. Perhaps one needed a complex, language-oriented mind to be so utterly broken by the foreign commands. Poor child.
Whatever her pup had come here for, it was no use to him if he was dead. She was in charge now. She voted that they leave.
The bulky lupine backed up to the end of the study, readied herself, and gave a great running charge at the door. It tore from its hinges and toppled to the floor, the bang echoing around the house. It wasn’t the way the door was supposed to open. Whatever. Human architecture was simply too befuddling, and Fenn was in no state to figure out the knob for her.
She took the leg of his fusty, dusty breeches and dragged him over the shattered door, moving around splinters were she could.
Much like the study, the walls of the upper hallway now curved and shifted away from each other. Space itself seemed to be struggling against the restraining bonds of the house, screaming against reality. Daugi pawed at the new vegetation that had webbed over everything in dark, gooey lumps. Fungoids thrived in angry flowered bursts. This was not this same halls she had walked through before. Spacially, they were no different. But in their very nature, they were reborn.
Her ears turned to the bedroom at the farthest end of the hall. Something from inside bumped against the door, slamming it shut. Fear prickled at her haunches. Her air stood on end. The closed door strained and groaned under the weight of something pressing up against it. Cracks formed in the wood only to be filled in with fungus and ooze, and it tore apart like a thin web.
The wolf had witnessed many things as she traveled with her odd pup. Biped corpses, the maw of fey dragons, slavering draves... None of them struck with the same screamless terror as what pushed through the door like some twisted anemone.
The tendrils had a grisly stretch to them similar bare tendon and muscle fiber, tapered and gaping at the ends like an eel’s mouth. Heads of green-grey fungus sprouted and withered from the smooth crevices. Black stalks shifted like primitive eyes, rippling in all directions before coming to a focus on the dog and the boy sitting in the center of the hall’s narrow space. It was easy now to understand why the walls were distorting. They had to, to accommodate for the reaching mass of the thing.
Daugi was silent now. Her fur stood on end as it turned their way. She dropped Fenn and stood between him and the beast, challenging it with a growl.
What are you?
It twisted, an unfamiliar motion of consideration, intentions unclear. It seemed to regard her -- no, Fenn, he who had foolishly revived it -- much as one would stare a cockroach that had wriggled out of the floorboards. The song devolved into shrieks and chattering clicks. No more a song, now a battle cry.
Awake and vexed.
Though she had no understanding of the writhing beast before her, Daugi implemented the same plan of action she always did when faced with a great foe and no Fenn to do the thinking. The first thing the wolf did was get Fenn out of there the fastest way she understood how; pushing him over the edge of the stairs. He slid down them softly, the squishy moss and mold slowing his descent.
The next was to run baying at the beast, accosting it with all the strength her bulky body held.
Her teeth dug deep into the fungoid flesh of a tendril. If it was hurt by her biting, it gave no indication. The mass between her teeth shivered and split in two, one half a new freed tentacle, the other still pinned by the direwolf’s futile tearing jaws. Rearing up into the air, the beast wormed down the stairs. Despite her best efforts to slow the thing, claws digging into the floor and walls, Daugi was dragged down with it into the living room of the mansion.
Expand. Remove threats. Conquest.
Rapid thrashing wracked the beast. It swung the stubborn direwolf through the air in wild loops, breaking a chandelier and nearly running over Fenn in the process. Daugi smashed into a chair. Her grip loosened, and the beast freed itself of her. She yapped in pain and rolled over the broken furniture, struggling to get her bearings.
As she shook off her dizziness, the beast turned to Fenn with a thousand beady stalks. A slither of the tendrils wound around his wrists and chest, lifting him up for viewing, for inspection. The boy stared back with bleary eyes, still blinded by its song.
It began to pull him in opposite directions at once, as if it was judging how easy it might be to snap him in half.
Daugi had often recognized his magic as almost a separate being from the boy. There were many instances where he seemed a bit off-put by its machinations. It was him, but not him. Even as he lay prone, it prickled around him, the spikes of an urchin. The foreign touch stirred the frost. It crept up the boy’s sleeves and collar, to crawl curiously onto the tendrils grasping him.
Chittering screams echoed through the broken mansion. It dropped Fenn, drawing away from the source of the frost with shriveling tendrils, a snail from salt. It seethed momentarily, but did not retreat. There were many ways to squash a bug.
The broad, dripping tentacles grabbed much as an octopus might for an ancient coffee table and hefted it into the air. Still burbling its sloshy song, the beast upended the furniture and positioned it over Fenn’s sleeping head.
Just as it was about to come down, a snarling streak of black fur bashed into the beast’s side, and the table missed its target by a few inches, cracking the floor besides him. It hollered a hollow brown note and swatted the furious, tearing mass of black away, throwing her again. Sharpened claws skidded for a grip on the wood planks, shredding splinters and rot alike. Daugi panted, getting to her feet again to growl down the beast. One of her paws throbbed immensely as it supported her weight, twisted during her rough landing. She was coming around to the fearful realization that she did not have the means to defeat this threat. Death nor mortal injury did not seem familiar concepts to it.
The longer they stayed in the room, the more fungal blooms appeared. Spores were thickening the air. Fenn coughed, his breathing labored.
Daugi’s gaze snapped between the abomination and her vulnerable charge. Diving for Fenn, she snapped him up by the collar, almost giving him whiplash as she streaked away. Her throbbing paw was ignored for the moment. The creeping abomination receded into a blur behind them, letting out nails-on-chalkboard screeches as it slithered after. It was strong. But, it was not fast. She wasn't sure where she was headed. The door? A window?
Drapes tore, salt scattered and glass exploded. Fragments tore into Fenn’s face and her side, watering the grass black and red. Daugi landed on the lawn on the other side with a heavy groan. The air was knocked clean out of her.
Time felt still. Had they really escaped? The wolf rolled over and looked back at the house, barely breathing for fear.
It was at the window, tendrils tapping the shattered glass, leaving oily tufts of spores behind. When it touched a spattering of salt, it hissed and retreated back into the dark of the house. Daugi rasped for air and struggled to her feet, staring into the dead black. She understood that they hadn’t defeated it. It was probably only a matter of time before it found its way out of the wards placed on the house; hopefully, that time would be in centuries.
With the retreat of the beast, the noises had ceased. Silence rang loud in Fenn’s ear. He sat up ponderously and glanced about, not entirely certain he understood what had just happened. The boy looked rather bewildered as he stanched the black oozing from his cheek. Glassy green eyes stared back at the house with confusion before he was yanked away from it unceremoniously.
Still dragging her stunned little friend by the sleeve of his cloak, the direwolf limped in the opposite direction from whence they came.
It took crossing three bridges, four dirt roads, and one scraggly signpost before Daugi decided it was okay to let Fenn out of her protective grip. That gave him time to lament the pebbles he was dragged over -- ow -- and mull over what the fuck just happened in that mansion.
Fenn only had vague memories of the encounter. Everything went fuzzy after the noises had gotten to him, most of it obscured by the jarring colors of the song. He did have the faint impression of a muscle-like, moldy tentacle monster holding a table over his head though. That freaky image still left his bones as weak as jelly. What happened to the manuscript? It must have been left behind in the confusion. A bit sad, though not exactly unexpected. He could live with losing that so long as, you know, he was still living. At least he got a little out of the text before shit hit the wall.
A far more frightening thought pierced his skull. If that bile being inside Clemont’s house had stirred her curiosity, then what did that say of the Fae that she also studied? Holy fuck, wasn't that a funny thought? Time for more research. But, this time, maybe in a less dangerous area if he could manage...
The prolonged dragging stopped abruptly as Daugi flopped over with exhaustion on the side of the road, whining. Her paw hurt, her lungs burned, and she was still just the littlest bit scared out of her wits. The warm sun beared down on them and the yellowy grass prickled into their sides.
They were probably going to have to hitch another ride later, weren’t they.
Fenn gently slid his sleeve out of her drooling mouth and threw his arms around her head in a wordless hug. I have no idea what happened back there, but I forgot to thank you for saving me from it. Not-dead is the best kind of alive! She grunted and licked his face in reply, her tail thumping in tired relief. Oh! That reminded him. Fenn let go long enough to rummage around in his bag for the thick bone he had found in the cabinet. Yes! Still there! His stomach was oddly empty for some reason, so he fished out some stale bread for himself too. The boy presented her the treat with a proud flourish of his hand.
She perked up and took the dusty old bone gladly, gnawing and slobbering over the curious flavor. What a just reward for an awful day.