"Atop a cliff in a clearing which sprouted a few pines, a ceremony was taking place during the night. There was a large group of townsfolk crowded together, some of them were riddled with wounds and moaned out in pain, others had eyes full of fear and some even had eyes full of anger. They couldn't act on their hate though as they were surrounded and closely watched by scarfed soldiers. The same scarfed soldiers who had attacked their town, killed their families and dragged them here."
"Why had they been brought here? The question was plastered onto everyone's faces and filled their minds."
"Eventually, a man stepped forward to answer their question. They assumed he was the leader due to his difference in clothes. He wore a simple red cloak and his hood was up. He called out to the group telling them not to fear for they had been chosen. Their lives would be spared and in return all they had to do was join the very scarfed soldiers who had attacked their town."
"The man told the townsfolk calmly that they didn't have to decide right away. The preparations would take an hour and he would answer any questions they had in the meantime. Some of the townsfolk began to see some hope in this man, he seemed sane, at least enough to reason with. They began to call out, some asked questions and some asked to be freed, the man calmly began to answer questions one by one."
"Some started to worry when it didn't seem like the man would let them go. Many began to worry when they saw a large pot be set over a fire and then be filled with a suspicious green fluid, were these the 'preparations' the man spoke of?"
"At the back of the group of townsfolk there was an unconscious boy laying. He had a knife piercing his abdomen and various other wounds on his body, many townsfolk presumed him dead but this boy slowly began to awaken due to the noise of the villagers."
"For what was to come, the boy would wish he had stayed unconscious...."
When my eyes opened I was staring at the night sky, I noticed it was a particularly serene night. The stars were all still and the moon let off a dull glow, by all appearances it seemed like such a sky should accompany a completely uneventful night.
And yet, as my memories caught up to me I realized this night had been the most eventful of my life, and not in a good way. I remembered my fathers body which was punctured with so many arrows it resembled a porcupine and I remembered getting stabbed.
Things were hazy after that, but I do remember a scene of Pontius charging valiantly into a wave of scarfed soldiers.
Pontius was valiant?
I wondered if I remember correctly. But, nonetheless he was probably dead now too.
What about Nel?
Was I able to save her? I-I can't remember. Dammit, things got really hazy after I was stabbed. I weakly reached out to touch the hilt of the knife stabbed into me, yup, it was still there.
By all means I should be dead, and yet I wasn't, not yet at least.
I looked around while on the ground and saw there were lots of other townsfolk around me. They were all focused on a single red cloaked man, they were all shouting out at him but none approached him, the camp seemed to be full of scarfed soldiers.
Oh, we've been captured.
I tried to get up but I was too weak and it was extremely painful, I let out a low groan as the pain resounded through me. A townsfolk man noticed my groan and looked at me in surprise. If I remember correctly he was a hunter from town, his name was Gert.
"Oh, you're still alive?"
Isn't that much obvious? "Yep."
There was a long moment of silence as Gert looked at me.
"That wound is fatal, yer a dead man."
"Is that so."
"I can end it, if ya want, a quick clean death."
"No, I still have to look for someone."
"Eh? Up to ya I guess, can ya move?"
"I can't even get up, can you lean me against that tree over there so I can see?"
"Sure, but it will hurt."
Gert moved me up against a nearby tree, and he was right, it hurt like hell. But at least I could see better now.
"I'm gonna get out of here."
"Eh? How are you going to leave?"
"I'm gonna work with some other townsfolk to plan an escape, some of these idiots think they can talk their way out of it, what a load of bull, these guys ain't sane one bit."
The plan of an escape probably should have given me some sense of hope, but I didn't feel anything from it, I was going to die anyways, escaping or not escaping didn't matter.
"Well, good luck and thanks."
"Yep, good luck to you kid."
Gert walked away into the crowd of townsfolk. I turned my attention back to the people shouting out questions to the man.
"Can you at least let my children go?"
"The children deserve this opportunity the most, who am I to steal it from them?"
"What does it mean to join you? What will we have to do?!?"
"You need only serve our lord."
"Why did you attack our town? Why did you kill my parents?"
"It was the lord's will."
"Why would we serve such a lord if he tells his followers to harm us?!?"
"Nay, the lord loves you all."
"Then why would he tell you to kill us!?!"
"Because he loves you all."
"Y-you don't kill people you love..."
"... Hmmm, I can see we have differences in opinion, but that's fine, we should all be on the same page once you join us."
"What happens if we don't join you?"
"No worries, it's your choice after all, the lord would still love you either way."
"Then would you let us go even if we don't join you?"
It seemed this was the question of most interest to the crowd because after it was asked the entire crowd went silent. For a few long moments the entire camp was dead silent besides a suspicious bubbling coming from a large cauldron behind the Cloaked Man.
Then the Cloaked Man clapped his hands.
"Alright seems like the preparations are ready! Those of you interested in joining please step forward."
Oi oi you just ignored him Cloaked Man, couldn't you make it less obvious...
A few townsfolk fell to their knees when they realized the Cloaked Man had no intention of letting them go if they refused. The crowd seemed extremely hesitant and nobody stepped forward. The Cloaked Man just stood waiting patiently by the bubbling cauldron.
Then I saw Gert step forward from the crowd.
"Excellent, the lord will recognize your initiative, please step forward."
Eh, what was Gert playing at. I thought he wanted to escape?
Looking closer I saw a metallic glint coming from Gert's sleeve. Just as Gert got closer to the Cloaked Man he quickly whipped out a blade from his sleeve and stabbed it into the Cloaked Man's neck, the cloaked man just like any other human dropped dead to the floor, a pool of blood spreading from his wound.
Gert turned to the surrounding scarfed soldiers who hadn't moved.
"HA! I just killed yer boss ya stupid scarfed cunts. If none of yall wanna bite the dust ya better scram, else we ain't going down without a fight!"
The scarfed soldiers didn't move, and the townsfolk assumed this meant they were scared, some of them started to feel some hope.
"You scum! Touch me and I'll kill you!"
"We aren't going down without a fight!"
The townsfolk started yelling at the surrounding scarfed soldiers trying to scare them off. I laughed weakly as I watched.
I guess cornered animals really do bark the loudest.
Eventually a single scarfed soldier woman walked forward towards the dead Cloaked Man. Gert jumped back a bit as she approached, putting up his fist threateningly.
"What, ya want some too? I won't hold back cuz yer a woman, I'll kill ya I will!"
The scarfed soldier ignored Gert and walked up to the cauldron. She slowly unwrapped her scarf revealing a wicked smile that seemed almost plastered onto her face. A lot of townsfolk got scared just seeing that smile, and even Gert became a little pale.
The woman then scooped up a large amount of green liquid from the cauldron with a ladle and began to drink it. Everyone was silent as we hear the sounds of gulping coming from the woman as she scooped up more and more green liquid.
Who knew the sound of drinking could be so menacing.
Eventually after 10 or so cups she stopped, incidentally she still wore a smile but now it was a soft smile. She reached down to the Cloaked Man who was dead on the ground and quickly jerked out the knife throwing it aside then slowly removed his blood red cloak and donned it herself pulling up the hood.
She looked exactly like the Cloaked Man had before, but now the cloak was covered with blood stains from the man before.
"Ahem, pardon the delay. We can continue now."
"Huh? What are ya getting at-"
The Cloaked Woman quickly held up her hand cutting off Gert.
"Please don't talk, you are one who has disregarded the lord's offering, your presence upsets me, you must be punished."
Quickly a handful of scarfed soldiers stepped forward and grabbed Gert. He tried to struggle but there were too many scarfed soldiers. Gert tried to call out for help from the crowd but they looked extremely fearful after seeing the woman assume the Cloaked Mans position without any care for her dead comrade.
Gert was quickly dragged in front of the Cloaked Woman and forced onto his knees.
"Eh! Let Go! What're you doing-"
"You must be punished, we offered you the chance to join us but you refused our lord's offering by slapping it away with your filthy hand. I'm afraid it must be removed."
The Cloaked Woman got extremely close to Gert and looked directly into his eyes.
I'm not sure what Gert saw in those eyes, but he pissed himself.
"N-no please, please I'll join!"
The Cloaked Woman looked on silently as the scarfed soldiers slowly forced out one of Gerts arms, the one he had used to stab the original Cloaked Man. Then the woman pulled out a sickly black sacrificial knife, oh that's like the one stabbed into me, must be a standard issue.
To be honest, it was a pretty crap knife, so when she first swung down it didn't cut the arm off cleanly and just sunk in a bit. Gert of course was screaming in agony crying out.
"AHHHHH! NO, NO, I'LL JOIN, IM SORRY, I'LL JOIN! GRAHHH"
The woman didn't respond, instead she slowly began to saw away with the dull knife, inching slowly further and further into the man's flesh and bone. The entire crowd was dreadfully silent as they listened to the combination of Gert screams and the tearing flesh. Many of them puked or looked away, some even covered their ears crouching on the ground.
Eventually the Cloaked Woman got through the arm and it plopped to the ground, Gert bled profusely from the mess of flesh that was left but he was still conscious.
"Please, please I'm sorry, I'm sorry, don't cut me no more..."
"Very well, I can sense your regret is sincere, I won't cut you anymore."
Gert bowed his head in relief.
"Thank you, thank you, thank yo-"
"Rip off his other arm."
Gert looked up shocked as 2 scarfed soldiers grabbed onto his other arm and the other 4 held onto his body. The 2 scarfed soldiers started to pull.
"Gahhh, what're you doing, you said, you said, you said no more!"
"I said no more cutting, this isn't cutting. I am a woman of my word after all."
Gert stared at her wide eyed as the scarfed soldiers continued to pull his arm. It took a bit but eventually everyone started to hear the tearing of flesh, tendons and bone, similar to the sound when you pull apart a chicken bone.
Crunching, tearing, screaming.
The scarfed soldiers ripped Gerts remaining arm from its socket. And Gert plopped to the ground, eyes rolled back into his head.
"Mmm, the lord is not unjust, this man has paid the price we shall not punish him further. In fact, let us show the lords good will through this man."
The Cloaked Woman went to the cauldron and scooped out a serving of green liquid. Then she went to the Gert and poured it into his mouth. Gert wasn't conscious enough to swallow so she just closed his mouth and eventually Gert's body convulsed a bit before swallowing the liquid.
The woman got up and upheld her hands like a showman.
"Behold, the gift of the lord!"
The crowd stared close as they waited to see something happen, they stared and stared but nothing happened. Gert's body didn't move. The woman realizing something was amiss looked down at Gert then kicked him slightly.
"Oh, I guess he died before he could receive the lord's blessing. Well let this be a warning to those who wish to deny the lords offer."
The Cloaked Woman waved her hand and a few scarfed soldiers took the body of Gert over to the edge where they threw him off. I swear, just before Gert fell out of sight I saw the ghost of a twisted smile form on his face, but perhaps it was just my imagination.
All in all, my mental state right now was questionable at best. That entire scenario that just played out before me should have horrified me, made me sick or angry or scared and yet I felt nothing.
Something was seriously wrong with me. It's probably because I was dying.
"Okay, with that distraction out of the way, those of you interested in the lord blessing, please step forward."
This time the fight had completely left the crowd of townsfolk. Many of the townsfolk stepped forward and were given cups full of the green liquid from the pot. The few that stayed behind either were unconscious or their mind had already overloaded.
This was a good opportunity to look through the survivors to see if Nel was here. I scanned through the crowd looking for Nel, but I didn't see her. Well, maybe she didn't get away, but at least she wasn't in this hell.
A familiar face did pass my eyes, it was Mrs Sanders. She was one who had stayed behind, it appears her legs were cut and she couldn't move. I called out to her.
Mrs.Sanders looked around weakly then her eyes focused on me.
"Oh Yule, are you alright..."
She turned weakly to look back at the ceremony about to take place.
"Ahh, I guess it doesn't matter much."
There was a long moment of silence as we watched the Cloaked Woman continue to hand out cups of green liquid.
"Excellent, now you wise children, drink and receive the gift of our lord."
The people all reluctantly tipped the cup and drank the green liquid. They immediately began to convulse on the ground scratching at their bodies as if they were burning up. Some of them began to foam at the mouth and started shaking, those ones didn't get up. The ones who did get up all seemed the same as before except for one new feature.
On their face a twisted smile was plastered.
"Excellent! I'm so joyed to see so many new children accept the teachings of the lord."
She then turned to the ones who hadn't drank.
"Fear not, the lord still loves you a lot as well. We will send you to him now."
She motioned and a few scarfed soldiers moved towards those few townsfolk and began to stab them to death, most of the time it was through the heart, quite quick. But sometimes people would try to run, screaming out in fear, they were quickly stabbed multiple times.
Very quickly it was just me and Mrs.Sanders left since we were in the back, but they were quickly approaching us.
I guess this is where it ends.
"Yule, did... did any of the other kids make it out?"
I looked at Mrs.Sanders who had a worried look in her eyes. Ah, she cares about her students to the last, to be honest I don't know if any others made it, I didn't even know if Nel made it out. But right now in her last moments, she didn't need to know that.
I smiled at her the best I could.
A scarfed soldier came to stand behind her and she smiled sadly as tears fell from her eyes. Just as the scarfed soldier stabbed the blade into her chest I heard her whisper softly.
"They're all dead aren't they..."
Then the blade sank into her. I stared sadly at her bleeding corpse, I guess in the end I could never fool Mrs.Sanders.
Then the scarfed soldier was approaching me with the knife and just as he was about to stab the Cloaked Woman called out.
I looked at her as she walked over then crouched down beside me, I could see that inside her cloak a soft smile was on her face. To be honest, I found that smile much more terrifying than the twisted smile from before. Before it seemed forced but now, now it seemed she truly embraced its insanity.
She pointed at the knife embedded in me.
"This is one of our knives, where did you get this."
Where did I get this?
I laughed a bit then looked at her.
"Ha! You must be stupid and insane, I didn't get it I was stabbed you dunce."
The Cloaked Woman stared at me for a while unblinking, then her smile widened.
"Mmm, then you must be a special boy."
"And a special boy deserved a special death."
The Cloaked Woman the quickly grasped the knife embedded in my abdomen then ripped it out unleashing a wave of pain. Just as quickly she stabbed it again into the other side of my abdomen. My eyes went wide with shock as she pulled it out again and again continuously stabbing my abdomen.
She then ripped the knife out one last time then plunged into my left chest, missing my heart but stabbing into my lungs. Quickly blood filled my lungs and I coughed up a mouthful of blood.
The Cloaked Woman got up then looked down on me smiling.
"I think that death was quite special. Well, enjoy your last few moments although they will be painful, I must go pray to my lord now, it's been a very productive past few months, I suspect he will respond quite well this time!"
The Cloaked Woman walked away leaving me alone with my wounds. As the adrenaline fades the pain begins to set it.
It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. It hurts.
A savage burn runs through me as I struggle to breath, its only purpose is destruction, pain, and death. As it flares out it demands attention until every inch of my mind thinks of only one thing.
Screaming, I tear at my chest trying to dislodge the intruder. But as I scratch, claw, and cry it only smiles back at me wider as the pain grows. Like an intense song reaching its peak the heat flares threatening to burn me up completely.
"It hurts, it hurts, arghhhhhhh!"
The pain grows. My eyes widen to their limits, the world is dyed red, insanity threatens to take over.
"AAAAAH, gwah, stop..."
The pain rises prepared for the final act, somehow it seems to smile mockingly at me. This is the end of its play, it wishes it could have stayed longer.
"IT HURTS! ARGHHH, GWAHH .... !?!"
But then it's gone, my muscles give out and my eyes blur, the searing heat is gone, however something has taken its place, something far more sinister.
Cold, it's so cold, it feels as if every inch of my body has been submerged into ice and yet I do not shake. While I danced with the heat it seems this cold has crept up and wrapped around me unnoticed, silent.
This is better, anything must be better than the pain I felt before, but that's when I notice. Where the pain before would smile and mock me this cold only stares on with a sliver of anticipation. The kind you would see in individuals who take pleasure in burning puppies or ripping the limbs off insects.
My mind is filled with despair, I realize this cold is anticipating my death. I don't want to die, to cease to exist, my life was far too short.
"No, it's so cold, please ..."
Despite my pleas, the cold stares on. I wish I could feel anything, anything except this cold. My eyes blur further, the cold's eyes sharpen in anticipation, death is approaching.
Slowly, even speaking becomes hard and my thinking slows, I can't feel anything anymore, not even my own pulse, yet I feel a brief strand of anger and manage to spit out my last words.
"Dying huh, yea... guess I'm dying. Wouldn't things be better off without death?"
Why exactly do we die anyways?
Ugh, I'm fading.
Then I hear it, a terrible voice rings out inside my mind, gruesome and sinister. I struggle to open my eyes and look past the sacrificial knife buried in my chest, the source of my pain, cold and looming death.
There I see it, a figure clad in black robes looking at me with cold eyes and a mocking smile, somewhere in my subconscious I've felt those eyes and smile somewhere before...
The figure's eyes lock onto mine.
"What you just said, do you really believe that?"
The voice seemed to come from inside my own skull, loud, far too loud. Its eyes are deep black like an endless void, I can't look away. I struggle to respond.
"You said you would be better off without death. Do you truly believe that?"
Isn't that obvious?
Is this person sane, who would ever want to die? I was about to respond back venomously, but something about those eyes made me think I shouldn't.
"Death is sad, painful, hateful, grim and full of despair. Nothing good comes from it, everybody despises it."
I weakly pointed to the knife in my chest.
"This insanity would never have ended me or my story..."
It stares at me intently, and stares at the knife in my chest, blood bubbling out of the wound. I can't read what it's thinking, why was it still smiling? Finally, it responds.
The figure pulled out a piece of paper and a feather pen from its robe.
"This is a contract. I will prevent your death; in return you need only do some odd jobs for me every now and again. It's quite a good deal to be honest, I suspect you will accept so I will sign first."
The figure scribbles onto the parchment. Then hands me the feather pen and contract pointing to a certain spot.
" Sign here."
"W-wait, what's the job?"
"Gravedigger. A small town nearby will be in need of one soon."
I gulp, that doesn't sound so bad, I thought it would be something like selling my soul. I know gods can request anything in contracts.
Work as a gravedigger to save my life, deal!
I sign my name and as I hand it back to him, I happen to glance at his signature. My eyes widened, for some reason it read 'Izmus - God of Death'. The figure caught my look and laughed eerily.
"Oh yes! I never introduced myself."
It stepped back and made an exaggerated bow while sliding the contract into its robes at the same time. That's when I realized it, peaking out from that hood was a horrible skeleton smiling at me.
It looked up at me and I was trapped by the black void of its eyes once again. It began to present itself.
No, no, no, no, not good, not good at all!
My vision begins to blur further as blackness creeps in, but in my last moments I see it's smile widen darkly as it announces itself.
"I am the savior of the damned, the one true God of Death, Izmus. I look forward to our partnership."
Then darkness takes me.