New creatures under old stars
Dec. 11, 2018
The body still looks beautiful, in a way. The soul formerly inhabiting it still lingers within, maintaining the red of the lips and the spark of the eyes. The man standing in front of it doesn't worry. The last stage is guaranteed to eradicate any humanity left inside.
The man, named Ezaliah, turns to his apprentice, a boy whose youthful eyes have sunk into his face, terrified from what they have already seen. "Paner", the man says. "Prepare the pyre"
Paner nods and runs at the area he had cleared off. A black circle, bordered by smooth rocks, at first glance indivisible from any area meant for a campfire or a fair fire. If one was foolish enough to look closer, however, the would see sigils written into the soil, sigils that didn't resemble any written language and didn't look like any objects known to mortals. And if that person was completely out of their mind, didn't run back to the village, they might notice the metallic smell of the air, and make the connection with the red color of the ground. Of course, the point where one made the connection would be mere moments before making the ground even redder.
Paner has stacked some woods in the center of the circle, in a nice rectangle shape. His hands are calloused, and his back hurts, but it's nothing next to what will happen if he fails in his duties. He looks over his shoulder and sees that Ezaliah has taken the body and is carrying it towards the make-shift bed. He lays it, in a much gentler way than would be expected. The woman's chest - what's left of it, at least- is still moving up and down, and her fingers didn't stop twitching as the older man carved them, and Paner almost feels sorry. He knew that woman, she was always so nice to him. She was the first one to welcome them at the village, and the only one to care about his bruises. That's probably what sealed her fate.
Ezaliah searches his bag for a minute or two, and grads out a small glass box. The moment that Paner's eyes lay on it, they are stuck, mesmerized by the flame dancing and twirling inside of it. That little flame, he knew, was more precious than hundreds of thousands of him. Ezaliah always carried it, never revealing its origins and smacking him at the head when he asked. The first moment he had taken it up, he told him that if he ever hurt the flame in the slightest, there would never be a body for the locals to find. Ezaliah opens the box, grabs the flame with his bare hands, pain twitching his face, and abruptly, almost carelessly, throws it to the woman's body.
It sits on her hair for a moment, and then it starts growing, moving to all directions, devouring flesh and shredded clothes and bits of bones that have been made visible thanks to his teacher's skill with a dagger, and Paner supposes it does not stop at what he can see, but it burrows inwards, turning her lungs and mind and heart to ash. He wants to look away, he really does, but there is just something in that sight, something that is more than destruction and orange madness. It takes a while to die down, and Paner has to step away, his skin protesting the heat. H closes his eyes for a moment, and when he re-opens them, instead of a black pile of what his old neighbor used to be, he beholds the same woman, unharmed, and perhaps healthier than she was before. He makes to step towards the miracle, but his teacher puts out a hand to restrain him. Before the boy can say anything, the woman starts moving.
It's just her hand at first, the merest sliver of the fingers, that might have not stopped at all since before the fire. Then it extends to the whole palm, and then her whole hand is shaking, and before Paner can quite realize what is happening, the corpse stands up and faces them, its eyes shut tight. It turns its head to the sky, and for a moment time stands still. Then it spoke.
"The stars", it said, voice booming. "The stars haven't changed since the last time". It turns its head back to the two, and Paner is faced with milky white irises, spliced in half by a blood red line. "But I suppose everything else has"
"It has", Ezaliah says. "But as your role stays unchanged. I brought you back to life, and now you have to serve me"
The...thing? The soldier, Ezaliah had called it, the soldier doesn't move. It just stared at them for a long time, not making a sound. Paner shifts in his place. He knew the ritual was meant to summon something, but his master had never told him what, or why they wanted it. But the pieces seemed to fit in place.
"I shall menace earth and heaven. Nobody will ever stand in my way. And you, dear thing, will help me achieve it". Ezaliah laughs. "Well, technically you will achieve it for me. You are bound to me."
"Change of plans", the Soldier says. It failed to elaborate further, earning a confused stare from the boy and a growl from Ezaliah.
"It does not work like that! I summoned you, and now you must serve me!" The vein of his neck looked like it was about to explode, and Paner would love to be able to say he'd never seen him so angry, but that would be a lie. He'd seen him much, much angrier.
"You and the boy summoned me", it walks closer to them, its hands clutching Ezaliah's throat. "I am only bound to one master". It turns to Paner, who is now noticing its expression hadn't changed in the slightest. "Look away, boy. This is not going to be very pretty."
Paner closes his eyes tight and covers his ears, so he can barely hear his teacher's screams. He looks deep inside himself, tries to find a drop of pity for Ezaliah, but he can't force himself to feel anything but relieved.
When he opens his eyes again, Ezaliah's carcass is laying on the ground, and the Soldier is staring at him.
"So", he says, voice barely escaping his mouth, "am I your master now?"
"Can't I, like... release you? Set you free?"
"Great, just great", Paner mumbles. Then, a bit louder: "Do you have a name?"
The Soldier looks lost for a moment. "I used to", it says, "but I forgot it". It turns its head to the sky again. "I suppose I have to find a new one"
Paner hesitates for a long moment before he reaches for the Soldier's hand. It doesn't take it, touching his shoulder instead.
"Yes", he says. "I suppose you do"