Originally posted by Pennarin
What a brilliant idea. Great title.
Born of Pain and Drought
As Karum finished intoning the ritual’s words of power, the faintly luminous gray pale above the now unwrapped corpse burst open into a gray flame shooting into the corpse’s mouth, completing the ritual and casting the immediate patch of ground into near darkness. As Karum’s eyes slowly adjusted to the feeble starlight, he saw the corpse’s back painfully arched backwards, limbs flailing, the breathless form coming back to a semblance of life. Cracks appeared on the skin from which small gray flames burned and writhed. As Karum watched, the burnt furrows hardened and cracked and crevassed until from the sooth Tanis’ features emerged out of a stranger’s. And from this corpse, obtained from the mortuary not an hour before, a wordless scream erupted, echoing against the dunes.
Karum bent down to restrain the born again man: “Do not despair, friend Tanis, for the fires of the Graybirth are short-lived”, and indeed within moments Tanis settled down again. “I have found your murderers, my brother, they are still in the city so confident are they of your demise. And out of your second chance and their complacence together we shall exact revenge.” At this utterance Tanis’ fragile, pain wracked frame became very still, yet from the depths of his eyes a furious gray light rose to meet the night.
A revenant is born.
Ah’Navor knelt before the altar in supplication, awaiting the great privilege the queen would soon bestow upon her humble servant. She had chosen Ah’Navor as the recipient for the Transference of Scales, the holy ritual that would make him the greatest servant in the eyes of Badna after the queen herself.
Arranged in concentric circles around the queen and Ah’Navor lay the sanctified living sacrifices for the yearly ceremony that strengthened the Star of Badna’s curse. But this year, those sacrifices would be used for a different purpose…
Abalach-Re stepped around the altar on which the giant sapphire rested, to stand in front of Ah’Navor, intoning the ritual’s words of power. Golden rivulets of light flowed from the drugged sacrifices across the vast room and into Abalach-Re’s outstretched hands. Within moments the sacrifices fell to the ground, their dead forms desiccated and ashen. The sounds of the dying were soon replaced by the quiet echoes of the vast room.
Ah’Navor spent the hours thereafter in prayer, the queen’s magic striking him in faint waves that penetrated deeply into his body, imparting power unto him in unfathomable ways.
After a time, he began to hear whispers without an apparent source; words in a language he had never heard, full of sounds suggestive of chanting birds, hissing snakes and blowing wind. He was hearing the queen’s thoughts in his mind! The realization nearly made him stumble in his prayers, which he was sure would have greatly displeased Badna in this moment of communion.
Long after his body had grown fatigued from lack of movement, Ah’Navor felt a rising, tingling sensation on his skin, which rapidly expanded to encompass first the flesh below, and then his very bones in a shower of pain that made him scream. In panic he opened his eyes and found himself floating above the shrine’s floor, his skin wreathed in cold, cobalt flames. Before him was the queen, who had shed her appearance like the serpent its old skin, unveiling for Ah’Navor’s sight her true appearance, which he had but seen once before, when he was ordained as her royal defiler.
His gaze followed her hand’s movement to her chest, whence she snapped a single scale with claws that could dent steel. His rising gaze was not swift enough to catch the small, glistening orb being expelled from her impossibly wide maw. Orb and scale both floated to a point in midair between Abalach-Re and Ah’Navor, each slowly spinning under the burning gaze of the chanting queen.
With a sudden rush, the orb and scale accelerated to slam into Ah’Navor, the scale striking his chest while the orb embedded itself in his abdomen, knocking the breath out of him. Ah’Navor felt a pain he would never forget for the rest of his life as the two objects burned through the cobalt radiance, turning it a dark red color around them. The now scorching crimson flames writhed madly as the scale buried itself in his chest, and the orb slowly disappeared within the inner folds of his abdomen, leaving but a slight bulge in his skin indicating its presence.
Ah’Navor felt his pain-wracked body plummet to the marble floor, his body casting hundreds of shadows from the wall candelabra, now that the magical flames had extinguished. His seared and nauseatingly bruised flesh still seemed to burn under his searching hand.
You are whole, intoned a voice in Ah’Navor’s mind, overpowering his feverish thoughts, filled with such certainty of his well-being that he lifted his head to meet the gaze of Abalach-Re, now become queen again. Rise, my chosen, my sweet, said the queen in her honeyed voice.
As Ah’Navor rose to obey her he felt a new organ stretch and awaken within him, and in a moment of clarity sensed the palpitating life of those sacrifices still alive at his feet, as if he had run his fingertips over all of their beating hearts at once. When he arose, the queen continued: You will find all of my enemies, all those that committed treason against me and their god Badna, and you will bring me back the very substance of their lives… starting with the traitor Farcluun.
The name of the traitor sent a pang of alarm in Ah’Navor’s tired heart. The queen, seeming to sense his distress, narrowed her eyes to cobalt slits as her smiling face turned to a snarl.
You will serve, the imperious voice commanded in his mind.
Of Blood and Leaves
The wild woman applied herself with dedication that surprised him greatly, and to his bound self she seemed aglow with an over-abundance of inner strength that seemed to light up her face in the cool darkness of the grove. With each scream she managed to draw out of him, screams inevitably turning to silent, exhausted rictuses of pain, it seemed to him her eyes showed what he had rarely seen before anywhere else but in a mirror―a sense of purpose. These were his last thoughts as she seized his head between her hands and the life ran out of him.
As she came out of the dying grove, rubbing her bloody hands in coarse sand and drying leaves, Anoch stopped briefly to nod at the mound of dirt under which she had buried the druid that used to tender the grove. Now this place was in danger of being overtaken by the ravening sun and sand she could already see encroaching upon it.
“This grove does not need to echo your death, land-brother”, Anoch said to the mound while casting her hand down and letting the golden rivulet of life energy she had just stolen shower down to the grove’s parched ground. “Only a few more of these dogs’ wretched lives, their substance freed and returned to whence they took so much from, and I will see your grove returned to its former glory. This I promise.” Anoch turned her gaze back in a direction over her shoulder, back towards the grove’s deepest part―where even defilers are powerless―to a bound lifeless man laying on the ground, his body crumpled unto himself like a gutted aprig. “This one finally told me where I can find others of his kind, and it will take only a few more. Yes, a few more.”