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May Character Development Exercise


What's the one thing that your muse has done that they regret the most? What happened? How do they live with the consequences and have they ever made amends for their actions? Has this event impacted their lives/the lives of anyone else or how they deal with similar situations? Write a story around these questions.


Ritual of Death – May CDE


May 1, 1817


From the Diary of Brendan Keigwin,


A startling revelation was made clear to me today, one that could change my quest to rid myself of this darkness forever. The evil has been brewing in me for over a hundred years now, and I confess at times it overcomes even my will. I did not learn until today just how terrible a crime I committed at the winter solstice, when my latest attempt to exorcise the demon inside me failed utterly.


I blame the evil for my mistake. Surely, had I been fully in control, I would have recognized the signs? Of course I would. I am not heartless yet, and this horrible tragedy weighs heavily upon me. And yet, that dark part of me laughs at my remorse and reminds me of how good it felt at the time. At these times, it is hard for me to remember why I do not utter the words that would end my life completely.


The tragedy of it was, I chose her myself for the sacrifice. She was a young girl, maybe eight, living in an orphanage in a village some thirty miles from my home outside Dorchester. Her manner was naively sweet, with none of the canny street-smarts common to such wretches. The matron assured me she had no living family, and having a foster parent of such prestige would be a welcome change for the girl. I collected her and we went back to my estate with hardly a word spoken between us. For her part, she was too stunned by the elegance she'd been whisked into. I was nervous. The solstice was two days away, and the ritual I'd found and altered was the most promising to date.


The girl was to be a human sacrifice, the theory being that with enough power behind me, I could force the darkness out of me and into the bleeding and dying child. Then it would be child's play to burn the corpse and with it the demon that had haunted me for over a century. There was quite a bit that could go wrong, and it could leave me in worse shape than when I started. I was hopeful, however, that I would be free of that dark spirit before the new year.


Then the night came. Winter solstice. The longest night of the year, and the night the old pagan holiday of Yule began. I could not say for certain whether the Christian God existed, but I'd encountered too many of the old pagan deities and spirits to discount them as mere myth. No, they were real, and their power had not diminished at all over the centuries. They lay in wait for a suitable sacrifice. I had felt that power before. It was obvious to me why our ancestors had worshiped these beings. The ritual to gain immortality may have had unintended side effects, but the power released that long ago night had been nothing short of addicting.


It was time. I took a sip of the ritual mead, and collapsed to my knees in front of the stone altar. The potent alcohol was mixed with herbs to bring on the trance, and already I felt the effects. The shadows around me swirled in the light of the candles scattered around my private garden. My head swam, and I felt unconsciousness tug at me. I shook my head and focused on the stone idol before me on the altar.


I have walked the twisted paths of Hel's kingdom, climbed peaks made from the stinking corpses of the damned, crossed rivers of poison and of blood, sacrificed my very humanity for knowledge. Hear me Hel, goddess of the Dead. Daughter of Loki, it is in your hall that Baldir resides, waiting for the end of this world and the beginning of the next. It is your dual nature that man fears, the cold hand of death masked by dark beauty. I implore you, goddess of the peaceful realm, lend me your aid as I exorcise this darkness from inside of me.”


I took a knife from atop the altar gestured to the shadows. A servant came and laid the girl on the altar. I had eyes now only for the stone idol of Hel, where she sat patiently waiting on the sacrifice. I brought the knife to the girl's throat first and quickly slit it. The blood coated the altar, and I brought two bloodied fingers to the idol's forehead, Hel's portion of the sacrifice. I dipped my fingers in the blood again and brought them to my own forehead. A shock stiffened my body, and I felt the power course though me. I took the knife and slit my wrist. When the blood hit the girl and the idol, the power literally exploded inside me and all conscious thought died.


I woke minutes later, my mouth at the girl's throat, swallowing convulsively. Sickened, I fell backwards with a cry. I could taste blood in my mouth and could feel it churning in my gut. I turned over and heaved on the dry grass until no more blood came up. For a moment I felt fangs in my mouth, felt the demon's laughter, before they faded and I was left weary. On the altar, the idol sat where it had before, the same yet hideously altered. Instead of the random drops of blood on her, one whole side was evenly coated in blood, while the other remained pristine white. I looked away, shamed. The goddess had rejected my plea, had raised the demon in me only to allow it greater control over me. And now the sacrifice grew cold on the altar and here I sat, covered in blood, with the darkness stronger in me and fading stars on the horizon. I rose and went to my rooms to bathe. The servants were left with the task of disposing of the body and cleaning up the blood.


It wasn't until May that I learned the girl's identity. The orphan matron visited me in the morning, while I wrote in my darkened library, far from the sunlight that was now my enemy. The matron had looked into the girl's past and had received news she thought I'd be overjoyed to hear. The girl was a cousin of sorts to my own house. Her mother was descended from my sister, who married a common merchant before my change.


I was shocked. The girl had been my last remaining family, a family I thought long dead, and I killed her and drank her blood. I hid my reaction well, so as not to alarm the matron, but once she was gone, I cried my despair to the darkness. The darkness laughed at my remorse. It knew my soul, knew my greedy nature. I was damned.


I killed my own flesh and blood and drank her blood. The goddess was right in rejecting me. I am sickened by what I have done, and I despair at ever redeeming myself, and that part of me that glories in the blood and the power grows ever stronger with each spell I cast. I am not sure how long I can remain myself, human. I am not sure I deserve to live after the abominable act I committed, and yet I do not have the will to end my life.


Perhaps soon, I shall. Either that or I shall become the blood-sucking night fiend and have no regrets to plague me during the long daylight hours. We shall see.

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Brendan Keigwin

February 2010

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