Grimshade: Revival

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium
A continuation of my Grimshade series. This shows a resurrection leading to a bigger conflict. Let me know what you think. I'm not sure if this is were I want the story go.

Submitted: September 24, 2018

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Submitted: September 24, 2018

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It was dark and cold. Evelyn had never seen a night sky that looked so beautiful. It was black with bright specks of red, blue, purple and gold, like paint flicked from a brush. She was unable to see the horizon. The ground reflected the sky like a mirror, disturbed only the ripples her footsteps created. 
"Beautiful isn't it," said a voice behind her.
Evelyn turned on her heel to face the voice. Squinting her eyes, straining to see into the darkness, she could make out a large silhouette moving towards her. She watched as rippled footsteps drew closer.
"Yes, it is," Evelyn replied.
As the shadow approached she began to make out two, dog-like, emerald green eyes. Glowing like two light bulbs Evelyn couldn't look away.
"Do you know where we are?" She asked.
"We are nowhere, and everywhere," the voice was calm and soothing.
"I don't understand, how can we be everywhere and nowhere?" Asked Evelyn.
"You died Evelyn. This is where some people go before their final resting place," said the shadow.
There was no denial in Evelyn's mind, somehow she knew it was true, "So, does that mean you're an angel? Are you here to escort me to the other side?"
A wide grin spread below the green eyes revealing pointed, white teeth, "No dear, I'm no angel."
The tone and smile sent a chill down Evelyn's spine. 
"While I'm not an angel, I am not what you need to fear. There are far worse creatures lurking in the darkness," she felt a touch as light as smoke on her shoulder as the large beast brushed past, circling her, "I will do my best to protect you."
Evelyn felt nauseous, but nodded.
"We are not safe here, we need to get moving," said the black dog.
"First tell me who or what you are," Evelyn said.
"Which one? For I am both a ‘who’ and a ‘what’," replied the wolf with a toothy grin.
"First who, then what," she said.
"My name is Huron. What I am is harder to explain. You could call me a shade, some simply call me a black dog, both are accurate," said Huron starting to walk away.
Evelyn stood in place for a second then deciding she was satisfied with his answer she followed.
"Where are we going?" She asked.
"This place is not meant for humans, you won't survive long. If you want to return to your body on earth then there is someone we must find," he said.
Evelyn was suspicious of Huron, "Why are you helping me?"
"There is only one way out of this abyss. I am hoping, if I help you, you will agree to let me go with you."

“Back to earth?” she asked.

The dog nodded its large head, “Would you believe me if I told you I have been trapped her for nearly two centuries?”

Evelyn could hear the despair in his voice and knew he was telling the truth, “I believe you.”

They walked in silence for a long time. Evelyn watched Huron. Every now and then he would look up to the stars and slightly adjust their course. She assumed he knew how to navigate by stars. After what felt like hours Evelyn broke the silence.

“Huron, how do creatures end up here?” she asked.

“Have you ever heard of a Grimshade?” he asked in return.

She shook her head, “No, I don’t think I have.”

“A Grimshade is a special type of spellcaster, usually they are human but the can be one of the other races like elf or orc. Grimshades hunt beasts and monsters; usually only ones that cause trouble. If they defeat you they send you here. To live in eternal punishment.”

She hesitated before asking her next question, “What did you do to attract the attention of a Grimshade?”

He didn’t answer immediately, he took several minutes before he spoke, “I wasn’t in this form, back on earth. I was human,” his voice sounded sad and distant, “I was a Grimshade. The power went to my head. Another Grimshade had to stop me. And she did.”

Evelyn thought about that for a long time, “Well, two centuries is probably long enough.” She said with a small smile. The wolf smiled his toothy grin back at her.

“Who are we looking for?” Evelyn asked.

“His name is Murukan. He is the only creature here that even the reapers fear,” Huron said.

“The reapers?” she asked.

“The reapers are the ones who bring us here after we are defeated by a Grimshade. They are violent and cruel, do whatever you can to stay out of their way,” said Huron.

“But Murukan is different?” Evelyn asked.

“Yes, Murukan was the first creature sent here. Some say it was created for him. It is said that it took many Grimshades and many reapers to overpower him,” he looked at Evelyn with his bright eyes, “Judge for yourself when you see him.”

Huron stopped. It took Evelyn a minute to realize he wasn’t moving. She turned around looking at him, “What’s wrong?”

“Shh, be quiet,” his ears were perked up, “Something is coming.” He crouched low.

Evelyn looked around. It was hard to see through the darkness, but something caught her eye, “There,” she whispered dropping to one knee. “What is that?”

“A fury,” said Huron, “Don’t move, take a deep breath.”

She looked to him confused. The shadow wolf at her side crumbled into a cloud of smoke, filling the air. She took a deep breath as the smoke engulfed her. She squinted her eyes trying to see through the haze. The fury was standing ten feet from them looking from side to side. Black flesh, dried and shriveled hung at its sides. Tattered rags covered its emaciated body. Bright blue flames flashed and shimmered from the top half of its head, burning from its eye sockets. Evelyn’s heart began to race, her lungs aching with longing for fresh air. Go away! Leave, she screamed in her head. Desperation was setting in. She needed air. Her lungs were screaming. The shadows around her felt as if they were tightening their grip on her, holding her in place. She reached her arms out, clawing at the air. She couldn’t hold her breath much longer, she had to breathe. She felt like she was drenched with ice water as the shadow released her. She fell to her hands and knees coughing and gasping for air.

“I’m sorry, Evelyn are you alright?” asked Huron now back in his wolf form.

She sat down on the cold water like floor to catch her breath, “What was that about?” she croaked.

“I’m sorry, there wasn’t time to explain. A fury see heat, your warm blooded. I am not,” said Huron. Evelyn understood, he acted like camouflage, hiding her from the fury.

“Well, thanks I guess,” she put her hand to her chest. Her heart rate was slowing and her breathing was back to normal.

“Huron, what happens if I, or anything else, dies here?” Evelyn asked.

He grinned, “Don’t know, never died.”

There was something about his tone that made her think he was hiding something but she dropped it for now. She changed the subject, “Why is Murukan going to help us? Does he want me to take him back too?”

“No, he is much too big to go back with you. There is two ways we can handle Murukan. Bring him tribute and ask for a favor. Or devote ourselves to him and receive a favor that way.”

Once again Evelyn was lost, “I don’t know what either of those things mean, but I trust you want to get back to earth as much as I do, so which do you think is more likely to succeed?”

“Finding a tribute will be difficult, if not impossible, I don’t think it would be wise to spend all our time looking,” Evelyn began to understand what he meant by ‘tribute’.

“You mean a sacrifice?” she asked.

He didn’t look at her, “Yes.”

Evelyn felt nauseous again, “No, I will not sacrifice some creature to this Murukan.” She said her tone firm.

“It would be less creature and more person,” he said quietly, “You’re the only human I have seen in a long time so unless we get lucky I don’t think it is a viable option anyway.”

Evelyn was speechless.

“Devoting ourselves to Murukan isn’t much better though,” said Huron.

“Why? What do we have to do?” Evelyn said through clenched teeth.

“Swear fealty, he will ask for a favor in return, it could be anything. If we accept, we won’t have a choice we will have to obey,” he said.

Evelyn pondered that, Anything? “Why do we need him? What favor are we asking?”

“The only way for you to leave this place is if a Grimshade brings you back. We need Murukan to contact a Grimshade on your behalf.” Huron explained.

“Alright, how much farther till we reach Murukan?” She said.

Huron could hear conviction and determination in her voice, “Not too much farther, you will know when we are getting close, he is the only one who doesn’t live on the water.”

Evelyn looked at her feet, watched the ripples extending out with each step.

“There look closely at the horizon,” said Huron.

Evelyn looked up. It all looked the same to her, stars above and stars below reflected by the water, “What am I looking for?”

“Mountains,” said Huron, “Murukan built himself a temple in a valley surrounded by stone mountains.”

Evelyn looked closer, raising a hand to cover the reflection of the sky. She could see it, off in the distance. A group of peaks stuck out past the horizon line. Slowly step by step, mile by mile the peaks rose. Soon they towered over the two travelers.

Evelyn looked at Huron, “Why do we not need to rest? Or eat?” she said the thought just donning on her.

“Physical bodies need food and sleep. A soul only needs the breath of life,” he replied.

Evelyn nodded, Makes sense. Her eyes were thankful for the upcoming land. Being unable to discern ground from sky for so long had been a strain on her eyes.

Huron stopped, “This is it.” Evelyn realized that the water was lapping at a rocky shore line only a short distance away.

“He will already know we are coming. Don’t speak unless spoken to, and do what I do,” Huron continued walking. Evelyn could see a white trail worn into the dark grey stone leading towards a large canyon. She felt her legs tremble beneath her and she realized she was suddenly very nervous. Evelyn gasped. Two furies stood on either side of the canyon.

“Don’t make eye contact, they are guards, they won’t hurt us,” Huron said keeping his head tilted down. Evelyn copied him looking at the ground as they passed between them. She could feel the heat radiating from their fiery heads. She let out the breath she had been holding. The canyon walls were covered in ornate carvings and paintings extending as far up as she could see. Images of strange creatures and epic battles. The same elephant humanoid frequented the images. Evelyn could see figures standing guard on either side of the canyon, spaced evenly. She kept looking straight ahead as they passed between two creatures with the bodies of men but the heads of lions. They held long spears with large curved blades. Neither one reacted to their presence. After passing several pairs of odd creatures the canyon finally opened up to a wide valley.

Huron stopped, dropping into an awkward wolf bow. Evelyn copied him dropping to one knee and bowing her head.

“Welcome honored guest, the great and powerful Murukan is expecting you,” Evelyn didn’t look up until Huron did. What she saw surprised her. It was a human. A middle-aged woman, who was not ugly, but not pretty stood before them.

Huron stood, “Thank you.” Huron followed the woman. Walking behind Huron Evelyn looked around. The valley was filled with ornate stone work, tall towers and temple buildings around the edges. Hundreds of creatures populated the valley. Some sat cross legged, in meditation, Evelyn assumed. Others worked on adding new carvings. One group was standing in a circle, chanting and swaying in rhythm. She couldn’t see what was happening in the center of the circle and she didn’t want to. She stayed close to Huron as they weaved their way through the crowds. She felt their eyes on her, but she was determined not to make eye contact with anything. A wall separated the inner valley from the larger exterior. Two warriors carved from stone stood sentinel at the doorway to the inner valley. Standing twenty feet tall they towered over Evelyn as they passed.

The inner valley was empty compared to the exterior. A dozen robed figures sat cross legged on raised pedestals. Divided in pairs by race. Evelyn noticed two humans, ad two of the creatures with lion heads amongst the figures. They created a half circle around a large circular platform. Behind the platform hung a patrician of thick red fabric. Evelyn looked at the figures and wondered which one was Murukan. Huron and the woman stopped in front of the center pair, ghoulish creatures with teeth too large for their lips to cover.

“Wise elders,” the woman said, “I present to you Huron the Shade, and Princess Grey.”

Evelyn’s heart beat fast. She didn’t know how the woman knew her name or that she was a princess.

“They seek audience with the great and powerful Murukan,” as she spoke Huron bent his front legs into a bow. Evelyn took a knee her head bowed as well.

“Our master is expecting you, you may rise,” said one of the elders, Evelyn didn’t know which.

She stood up and watched as the woman who had led them in hurried out of the inner valley. Tremors shook the ground. Evelyn looked at Huron then looked around, looking for the source of the shaking. The red curtain was separated by what appeared to be a large golden goad and an elephant trunk. Evelyn stared, open mouthed, as the largest creature she had ever seen walked out from behind the curtain. While it was humanoid, its head was that of an elephant, three fingers on each hand plus an apposable thumb. Its bare feet resembled elephant feet but with more prominent toes. He wore and embroidered cloth around his waist and a gold plate hung over its round stomach, held in place by a thick gold chain. The bracelets on his wrists rattled together as he walked onto the platform and sat down crossing his legs. Evelyn had to tilt her head back to look up at him, he was easily fifty feet tall.

“Huron the Shade, it has been too long,” said Murukan in a deep commanding voice, “And did you bring me another tribute?”

Evelyn blood ran cold, Was it all a trick? Am I a tribute? She looked at Huron waiting for his response.

“No, not this time, your majesty,” he said with a bow. Evelyn let out a breath of relief, “This is Princess Evelyn Grey. We come seeking your favor.”

Evelyn bowed.

“Ah, I see. Let me guess,” Murukan pointed his goad at Huron, “Another plot to get you back on earth?” He laughed, “Alright I will hear your offer.”

“Thank you, your majesty. We come before you today in desperate need,” said Huron, “The princess is from a noble family who need their heir back,” he hesitated looking at Evelyn bracing for Murukan’s reaction, “We need a Grimshade to revive her.”

Murukan slammed the handle of his goad on the stone platform, “It is done.”

Huron stood up strait, “It is?”

“Yes, consider it done. That is what I will do for her, but what do you need shade?” asked Murukan.

“Evelyn has promised to take me with her if I helped her return to earth,” said Huron.

A smile spread under Murukan’s trunk, he began to laugh. It was small at first then grew to a booming air shaking laugh, “Well if she promised.”

Evelyn looked at Huron, hoping he would explain what was so funny about her promise.

Murukan read her face, “I will explain in a minute, but first my conditions.”

Evelyn looked back at Murukan. This was what worried her, what would it be? Her first born? Her future kingdom? Her life?

“Devote yourself to me, when you die you will return here to be one of my subjects, when you return to earth there will be a day when you are approached by one of my followers,” he was looking at Evelyn as he spoke, “On that day he will give you a task, promise to do that task, whatever it is and I will help you get back to earth.”

Evelyn considered his words. She looked up at his watched his fan like ears flap slightly, “Alright, I agree to the terms.”

Murukan turned from Evelyn to Huron, “I want you to bend, finally devote yourself to me,” his trunk pointed at Evelyn, “I will send you back, but you will be bonded to her, you must help her with the task she is given.”

“I understand, and I agree,” said Huron.

Murukan stretched his arms out wide and smiled, “We must hurry, let the ceremony begin.”

In unison the elders rose from where they sat surrounding Evelyn and Huron; escorting them from the inner valley. When the population in the valley saw Murukan they congregated around the stone altar the elders were walking towards. Low chanting swept across the crowd. A cold sweat formed across the back of Evelyn’s neck, her mouth was dry.

They climbed the steps of a four sided pyramid. A stone slab waited at the top. Evelyn’s stomach churned as she over looked the crowd that surrounded the altar. One of the elders gestured for Evelyn to lay on the slab. Hands and legs shaking she did as she was told. The stone was cold and uncomfortable. Murukan approached standing over her.

“My beloved subjects, today is a glorious day. Today we add two more to our number,” He waved his goad and trunk as he spoke, his long white tusks swinging back and forth as he turned his head. “This is the first step to fulfilling the promises I have made to you, soon our kingdom will be restored.”

Evelyn didn’t know what he was talking about, she looked to Huron but he wasn’t looking at her. Murukan lifted his goad in the air and brought down the point impaling Huron. He roar in pain, biting at the goad. Evelyn sat up, about to leave the slab, when the elders grabbed her by the arms and legs forcing her to lay down. She screamed, struggling against their grip. The surrounding crowd chanted louder and louder. Another elder stepped up and ripped the front of her dress open. Murukan lifted his goad in the air, Huron still impaled on the tip, like food on a fork. He brought it down on her chest between her breasts. The goad pierced her skin stopping when it hit the stone altar. She looked down at her chest. There was no blood, but a searing pain. Black lines began creeping from the wound forming a symbol on her chest. He removed the goad. Huron was gone. A black mandala tattoo centered between and extending under her breasts stood out from her pale skin. The wound slowly closed without leaving a scar.

“Remember our deal princess,” said Murukan as he stepped back, away from the altar.

The elders released her, but before she could sit up, a cold boney hand grabbed her by the throat lifting her into the air. She stared into a lifeless face under a black hood. Tattered flesh clung in patches on the skull. It slashed her with the long bladed scythe and everything went black.

 

Evelyn woke with a gasp. Her body was stiff and cold, she tried to move her arms but they wouldn’t listen. She could feel some sort of thick padding surrounding her. She felt warmth spreading from her chest, down her stomach and legs to her toes. The same warmth followed her arms down to her fingertips. Her muscles ached but she felt her control returning. Slowly, she moved her hand. It stopped six inches up. Her hand met thick padding with buttons stitched every few inches. She felt all around her, she was trapped. The warmth spread to her face and her sense of smell returned, as well as her sight. A rotten stench filled her nose and mouth. Even though her eye sight had returned it didn’t matter it was so dark she couldn’t see her nose.

She tried to scream but her mouth was dry and her voice too hoarse. She smacked the palms of her hands on the sides of her prison but the padding prevented it from making any noise. The air was stale and humid, Evelyn gasped like a fish out of water. She heard a loud thunk as something hit the side of her coffin. She tried to scream again but still nothing happened. There was a loud cracking noise; sunlight splintered through a crack in the side. Evelyn shut her eyes, involuntarily waiting for them to adjust. Fresh air filled the coffin as the top was lifted off, Evelyn sat up, scrambling out of the box.

“Take it easy. You’re safe,” said a voice to her right.

“What’s going on?” She said slowly opening her eyes.

“It’s a long story. For now let me just say, welcome back to the land of the living,” said the man.

Memories flooded back to Evelyn. Memories of a shadow dog and a huge elephant man. Was all that real or just the dreams of a dead girl? She thought. Her eyes finally adjusted to the light, she opened them. A young man, about twenty five, crouched next to her. She remembered the tattoo, she touched where it had been placed. The skin stung. She wanted to look, she wanted to see the tattoo. It would have to wait. The young man stood up and held out a hand.

“Slowly, it will take a few days for the rigor mortis to fully leave your body,” he said as he helped her up and steadied her.

 

 

To be continued…



© Copyright 2018 JackCrawford. All rights reserved.

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