[livejournal.com profile] writers_muses #111.10 - The Hierophant

Nov. 14th, 2009 04:12 pm
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[personal profile] deathmage
It was early evening in the countryside of Dorset. In the distance, thunder rumbled as another storm approached. All I could hear was the wind rustling the dry leaves and in the distance, the rain falling on the fields. The dank air was ripe with the smell of rain, moist earth, and something far more potent...the unmistakable scent of decay. The rest of this estate was bright, cheerful, and open, but the area I was in was dark, choked with ivy, ancient trees, and crumbling stone. Fresh turned earth was the only clue that this place had seen the hand of man in the last hundred years. Fresh turned earth...holes in front of each crumbling headstone.

And the holes were empty.

I stood in the middle of this macabre graveyard. The ancient stones were so covered with lichen and weathered by the elements that many were unreadable, but I knew what each said by heart. I knew the names of the people that had been buried here. I knew their faces. I knew their voices. They served me still, many of them. The ancient, crumbling building behind me had been my home, upon a time. This, the graveyard where my most loyal servants and my most hated enemies were laid to rest. A private garden, hallowed by gods far older than the Christian God whose intruding presence I felt here now.

The shovel in my hand bit savagely into the earth. I dug furiously at one particular grave. The crumbling headstone was unreadable. I knew what it read. The body that rested here was one that had been dear to me in life, one I'd never raise in death. Almost a mother to me. If they had desecrated this grave...

The earth was freshly turned and easy to remove. My shovel hit wood and I hastily scooped more earth out of the way. I dropped to my knees and reached down part of the way into the pit, but more than that, I reached in with my senses, my magic. I could feel her bones resting there, in the earth, but where once they had been peaceful, now there was a disturbance, an irritant. A whiff of myrrh, a dampness in the earth that repelled, something...

The earth had been hallowed by the Church.

My servants were already preparing the bonfire. In the middle of the shadowed graveyard, dead limbs, dried leaves, and even scraps of wood furniture from the ruined manor were piled in a large cone shape. There were several tall unlit torches nearby, and the wood was ready to be lit. Mead lay in its cask on a makeshift stone altar. Beside it was a large wooden bowl, a horn ringed with silver, and a steel knife. Runes shown on all the implements. Beside the altar were four squares of turf and a covered basket full to the brim of covered jars and loaves of bread. My servants were fading into background, leaving the graveyard, leaving me alone to finish this rite. Well, not completely alone.

Bound on the other side of the altar there was a family. A small family, to be sure, a mother and her two daughters, but they were the mortal caretakers I'd left in charge of my estate. One of them, or perhaps all of them, had allowed or even invited this desecration of my land. They were bound tightly to a tree, their cries muffled by cloth gags. None had offered up the truth I'd been seeking, and so all were here, witness to the purification of this place. Soon they'd participate in a ritual far darker.

First things first. I ignored the scared women for now. The bonfire was ready to light, and with the steel knife I struck a piece of flint to start the fire. The tinder caught, and then the oil that a servant had coated the wood and the torches in caught. The fire blazed high. I dipped each torch into the fire, one after the other, until nine stood beside the bonfire. Four were driven into the ground around the altar, each one marking one of the cardinal directions. And then, once the altar itself was warded from the priests' meddling, I took one of the torches and walked the perimeter of the stricken land.

The words were Old English, a tongue I knew and a tongue ingrained in this land. The words themselves did and did not matter. The meaning behind them mattered a great deal. It, this ritual, was balm to soothe the land insulted by the Christian priests. At each of the four corners of the graveyard I placed a torch. At each of the four corners I promised the land and the spirits that inhabited it that I continued to watch over it. At each corner I left a gift of bread, mead, and honey, and then I returned to the altar.

It was time to purify the land, to cleanse it. Upon each square of turf, I sprinkled mead. Upon each of the items in the basket – oil, honey, milk, and bread – I sprinkled some of the mead. It was not Hel I was calling tonight, but Thunor and Ing to protect the land and make it fruitful again. It was a ritual that hadn't been done on my own home land in all my years. I'd learned of it from my grandfather, but he'd never even had use of it, this charm I spoke to help heal the stricken land.

Each square of turf was brought back to its original corner. In each hole I placed a small wooden charm in the shape of a hammer and a small bit of the food and mead before I laid the turf back. Once all four corners were done and I could feel the alien presence in the graveyard leave, only then did I take the remaining food offering and bury it in the earth above that one poor, desecrated grave, an offering for her and for the gods.

The night wasn't over. Now...now it was time for revenge. The women, the mother and her nearly-grown daughters, sensed this and their screams grew louder. The knife cut easily through the mother's bonds. She collapsed into my arms and tried to put up a fight. A touch of power, enough to make her weaken, was all it took to reduce her to sobbing in my arms.

“There would have been other ways to do this had you not brought Christian priests onto my land, disobeying a direct order from me, and had you not lied about it. But you did, and I don't want your blood or your body polluting this place.” I looked into her eyes, the fury I'd been repressing coming to the fore now. She'd noticed my fangs and her muffled cries came louder.

There was no ritual to this death. There was only my fangs in her neck, her blood coming almost too fast to swallow. The truth that I sought was there, too, as she grew weaker. The three of them had stumbled upon some of my writings in the old manor house. They'd come out to the graveyard and seen the empty mausoleums, the graves unhallowed by the Christian God. They'd known me for some time, and suddenly their suspicions had been confirmed. It was all there, the whispered warnings to my staff (who were much too practical to take them seriously and alerted me in Los Angeles), the invitations to the Christian clergy....everything. The betrayal saddened part of me, a part that had watched this woman I was killing grow up, but another part was furious and far too pleased by her blood flowing down my throat.

I didn't take into account her panic. She was nearly dead, but with a surge of adrenaline she wrenched the knife from my hands and drove the sharp blade home just below my heart. It was my reaction that ensured her death. I pushed her away in my pain and surprise, and my fangs ripped her throat farther open. She fell to the ground to land in a pool of her own blood. I fell too, as my legs gave out. Pain. There was a horrible pain. I couldn't breathe. Tired. So tired....

His undead servants found him close to dawn. The body lay unmoving in front of the stone altar, knife still embedded just below his heart. Curiously, although it had been hours, the flesh was still warm and supple. There was still an aura around the graveyard, of magic left unfinished. The servants were well-trained. It was too close to dawn to get their master to his rooms in the main castle without question, and so a mausoleum was opened and his body laid on the stone. A small bit of the mead was poured out, as an offering, and the torches and bonfire were put out. The site was cleaned and put back to order. The two women were left tied to the tree. The dead woman was sealed in another of the mausoleums. The servants called the mortals in the castle and gave excuses, an emergency came up, the master would be away. And then they waited. For what, they couldn't say. But their master's body was still warm, and when the knife was removed the wound closed quickly. Most importantly, his magic still animated them, still made them “live”. They would stay by his side.

Three nights later he woke...changed...


Thirst was all I could feel when I first woke. It was pitch black, but I knew immediately where I was. It was more from instinct than conscious thought, the thirst was overpowering everything, but I could sense the dead around me. The animated dead, my servants. And...the incorporeal dead. Ghosts. Inhabitants of this graveyard. All hovered close by. And when I rose to my feet, a collected sigh of astonishment went up. I ignored it. I felt alive. I felt strong. And I knew. I was dead. I was one of them, and yet not. I was a vampire.

I pushed the door open easily and beheld the night with changed senses. No longer was it dark. The stars were never so bright! It was like the moon gave off the brightest daylight. And there, still tied to the tree where I'd left them, the two traitorous girls, starved, nearly dead.

I was on them before they knew what was happening.

I felt my servants behind me, the two I'd brought back to England, the two most loyal to me. It was only when I'd quenched my thirst and stepped away from the nearly-dead girl that Michael spoke.

It was not what I expected, a greeting, or reassurances. No, what I got was growled in a strained voice. “Sir....we thirst.”

I turned, and they were close behind me, each staring intently at the blood that still dripped from the wound on the girl's neck. They were thirsty? Even as I was...Ah. It was my magic, my energy that gave them life. What happens when that energy suddenly develops not just a taste for blood, but a burning craving for it?

I slit the girls' wrists and let them have their fill, and then we disposed of the bodies beside their mother, though I kept part of my promise. Their stink did not pollute this place. The destructive magic was easier now, a thought, concentration, and their dust settled to the floor of the mausoleum. My servants were on the phone with my manor in Los Angeles, instructing the others to avail themselves of stock usually reserved for me. From them they learned that two nights ago, November 1st, a vampire and self-proclaimed god had taken over the city. My manor in Los Angeles was threatened, though for now the vampires filling the streets thought my servants were vampires.

My place was threatened. I had no choice but to respond. My servants and I left for the States by the same private jet that brought us to England. It landed in a small private airport inside the city limits. With chaos all around, we headed home.

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Brendan Keigwin

February 2010

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