Dullahan

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A Dullahan enters a village to learn more about the man whose soul she is going to take. While she is there she learns just how little humans know about her race. She also finds out the reason why they are hunting her kind down and trying to kill them.

Submitted: January 05, 2012

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Submitted: January 05, 2012

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A A A


Dullahan

When the cool air blew over the hills, it stirred up grass and blew a few dandelion seed into the air. The seedlings drifted about for a while before landing back in the grass where they would grow into more dandelions which would later die and the process would be repeated again. Of course, the wind and the seed that it carried were unaware of the figure that stood on the top of the hill. It was a young woman in a white shirt and jeans with a read scarf tied tightly around her neck. Beside her was a dark brown horse wearing a head-plate and mask and neck armor. A sort of black fog oozed out from underneath its headgear, but apart from that nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

If one had been at the hill a few minutes earlier they would have seen them arrive. They had risen up on the hill slowly with a sort of ethereal serenity. They had stopped gracefully and elegantly and the horse had pawed the ground and huffed and snorted in the morning light. Its breath had puffed out in a white stream nearly transparent against the sunlight pouring in between the clouds. The woman had dismounted, landing soundlessly in the thawing grass and had stroked the equestrian’s muscular neck before turning and facing the horizon. Night had ended; her duties were over until the sun sank down once again.

She already knew who her target was; Sal Morify, the old, wizened pastor that lived in the town below. The man was weak and dying and would rattle out his last breath in the early hours of the night. She would ride to his residence on the church grounds to take him away.

Now, however, she needed to rest. The night before had been a long and trying one. Three had been taken by plague in her perimeters and she had been forced to ride out to each one as fast as possible just to make it to the next soul in time.

Her life wasn’t easy, but she had known that it wouldn’t be when she agreed to take the job. Taking the souls of the dead to the gates of either heaven or Hell. rushing around every night just to make the deadlines, just to catch the souls before they escaped and were devoured by demons and trolls. This was that life of a Dullahan. This was the life of the headless reapers of the highlands.

Of course, she didn’t appear headless. The scarf that she had tied around her neck kept her head securely attached to her shoulders. Most Dullahans nowadays made some attempt of another to cover up the fact that they had no heads. Back in the old days they didn’t need to conceal their true forms. People had grown to fear them and made note to steer clear of them whilst traveling. Over time that fear had turned into hate, however, and the Dullahans leaned quickly that in order to remain in the world they would have to blend in.

She had seen enough riots and crucifications and genocides to understand what happened to the minds of human when struck with the fears triggered by ignorance. In fact, a few years ago a religious sect by the name “The Sons of Ariad” had begun pursuing the Dullahans. They had only ever caught one, but he had escaped less than an hour after his ensnarement. Though the sect had been unsuccessful, it had frightened the Dullahans enough that they had begun to hide their headlessness.

A cruel world ruled by even crueler creatures. She found herself thinking while stroking her familiar absentmindedly. The Dullahan ran her fingers through her short fire-colored hair. She would have to go into the village below to get supplies. Even the headless needed to eat, and she had not sated her hunger for two days. All the same, she hesitated. Going into the village meant leaving her horse behind. Not only that, but she would also have to use her Ouera to keep her head on without her scarf.

The Dullahan sighed and closed her vacant-looking green eyes before taking the reins and horse to a nearby tree. She tied the familiar to the trunk and threw a small ball of her Ouera at the branches, knocking a few crabapples to the ground. “Eat these,” she told the horse without moving her mouth. The Dullahan was immediately reminded that she would have to use sign language to communicate with the residents of the town below. She, like all Dullahans, could not speak due to their wind pipes being severed along with the rest of their heads. Only others of her kind and her familiar could hear her. The Dullahan greatly hoped that the civilians could understand sign language.

“Stay here. I’ll return soon.” She said to her familiar as she turned on her heel and strode down the hill until she came across the dirt path that led down to the village. As she made her way down the path she focused on concentrating the right amount of Ouera to her neck so her head would stay on. Once she was satisfied with her work, she pulled off the red scarf and straightened it out before re-tying around her neck in a way that made it look like an accessory rather than a necessity.

The gates that she walked through to get into the village were wooden and tall and bolted with iron that had long turned black with age. She stepped to the side so she could be scanned by one of the guards, as was protocol. The man looked at the touch screen scanner in his hand once, checking for anything out of the ordinary. When he found nothing her looked up and nodded and the disguised Dullahan and motioned for her to continue through the second set of gates that separated the village from the scanning station.

The interior of the village was all grays and browns with no buildings taller than four stories. In the middle of the village were a church and a manor, in which the mayor lived. There was a square with fountains and statues of religious figures in between the two large buildings. A few children were gathered around a man playing an acoustic guitar while sitting on the edge of a small wall that blocked off and area that had a few short trees planted in it. There was a market and a loading bay around back for trucks to load and deposit goods. There were two schools, a junior high and an elementary school, but since it was Sunday, the Holy day, no one was filing in through the double doors to go to class and learn something new. Houses of all shapes and sizes were stacked against one another and families in their Sunday clothes bustled out of them and into the streets.

Church would begin soon; however, the Dullahan had no interest in religious matters. She needed food and clothes and information on the residence of Father Morify. All of this was something that she would have to wait to obtain, as all of the villagers would be in church. She most certainly would not want to risk asking one of the village guards, they might assume something was off about her and check the scans again.

Right now, sticking to the shadows was her only option. The villagers- the highlanders in general- were very religious and would likely grow suspicious if they saw that someone was not attending church. The Dullahan wouldn’t risk her life by allowing herself to been seen skipping services. The last thing I want right now is to be discovered. I must not mess this assignment up! She thought as she sidestepped into an alleyway and sank into the shadows.

The Dullahan allowed a thick wisp of her Ouera to seep out of the barely noticeable seam in her neck. The wisp coated her body, concealing her from prying eyes. The dark substance would both shield her from the sun and make her invisible to the eyes of humans. Here she would wait until Church let out and the people of the village were once again milling about in the streets.

The redhead was aware that she would need a name to go by during her little misadventure in the village. She searched her memory to try to find a name that the villagers would not recognize, as all of the names that she new were those of the deceased. She couldn’t risk someone recognizing a name and realizing that she wasn’t the person that she said she was.

Liz. Yes, she liked the sound of that. Elizabeth Moore- a girl that had died in a freak horse accident more than fifty years ago- would surely not be remembered by any of the villagers.

‘Liz’ looked up when she heard the sound of the pipe organ echoing through the village. Damn speakers had too much volume on them. Let’s make everyone deaf shall we? The Dullahan rolled her pale eyes. I suppose I should try meditating…she thought. I might as well, as there isn’t much else for me to do at this point.

‘Liz’ closed her eyes and leaned against the wall of the alleyway and allowed her Ouera to flow out of her neck freely. During the meditation, several guards walked past, but none of them noticed the well-hidden Dullahan shrouded in the shadows of the alley.

The sounds of voices and footsteps alerted ‘Liz’ and she opened her eyes. Church was over and now everyone was out and about. The Dullahan drew her Ouera back into the seam in her neck and waited at the mouth of the alleyway for the opportune moment to enter the village bustle so that she wouldn’t be noticed and viewed as suspicious. Her chance came when a family passed by. The Dullahan stepped out behind them ad walked around a bit before heading into the market. She picked up some supplies and was about to leave the village when someone tapped her on the shoulder.

‘Liz’ turned around, clutching the bag that held all of her supplies to her chest. A pale, weak-looking man that was sweating underneath the over-heavy sweater he was wearing was looking up at her. “I know you.” He croaked. “I’ve seen you before.”

“I’m sorry.” ‘Liz’ signed, “I’ve never seen you before.”

“You’re deaf? Ah, I’m sorry, I didn’t know. I can understand your signing though…and you can obviously read lips.” The man rasped. “Are you sure we haven’t met though? I swear I’ve seen you…”

‘Liz looked the man up and down. “You’re Sal Morify,” she signed.

“Ah, but you know me I can see,” Sal chuckled, and then grew serious. “You’re a new face around here to most of us. We don’t normally see people from other villages. Tell me, where are you from?”

“I’m from Dú’ Baine.” ‘Liz’ told the man, “I’m passing through Tyredale to visit my family.”

Sal smiled at her, “why don’t you come with me back to my office in the church? We could talk together over a nice cup of tea.”

‘Liz’ nodded; this would give her a chance to get to know the church better. She would need t know its layout if she was going to infiltrate it to take the soul of the man before her. She knew that, nowadays, members of the church were required to live on the grounds. Therefore, her task that night would involve her sneaking in undetected.

Sal’s office was roomy and warm. Red carpets and curtains adorned the floors and windows and a variety of religious artifacts and documents covered the tables. Above the desk in the middle of the room where Sal now sat was a huge painting of The New Messiah and his army of Valkyries.

Father Morify poured ‘Liz’ her tea and then returned to the armchair at his desk. The Dullahan sat in a chair on the other side and watched him coolly as he sipped his tea. She waited for him to look up before signing, “So what do you do here?”

Sal smiled pleasantly, a gesture ruined by his sickly appearance. “Why my dear, I do what all the other pastors do. I teach and interpret the word of the High God Ariad.”

“I hear you also hunt Dullahans,” ‘Liz’ signed.

“That is true. The Sons of Ariad was founded here in this little village. Though we haven’t’ successfully captured one of the fiends, we have managed to drive them away,” Father Morify explained. “Why are you so interested my dear? Do you want to become an exorcist?”

“Someone like me wouldn’t do well as an exorcist,” ‘Liz’ signed, looking sheepish.

“Ah, well, some people just don’t have the ability to stomach some of the fiends that the Holy Exorcists have to face,” Father Morify shrugged. The older man suddenly looked sad. “I’m old and weak. The Dullahans fear me and once I’m gone…who knows? Will they come back? Or will they stay away and continue to leave this village in peace?”

‘Liz’ looked him up and down. The old man’s skin was pale and sagging. There were bags under his eyes that had turned a sickly purplish color. His lips were cracked and yellowed, as were his nails. His hands never stopped shaking and did so in such a way that his tea slashed against the sides of his cup.

He’s weak, he’ll die soon. How can he not know that it will end for him tonight? Could he really be so ignorant of the death that looms above him? The Dullahan wondered. She knew that night would be creeping up on her soon, and she would have to be getting herself ready in a few hours. Still, she wanted to hear more about the Holy Exorcists and The Sons of Ariad. “Why do The Sons of Ariad hate Dullahans so much?” she asked.

Sal let out a wheezing laugh. “It’s almost like you don’t know of the atrocities those demons have committed!” He peered at her, noticing her blank expression. “Could you really know nothing?” he asked.

“I know very little about the matter.”

“Very well, I’ll tell you.” Sal sighed, finishing his tea and placing his cup back in its saucer. “Or perhaps you wouldn’t want to hear…”

“No, tell me please.”

“Alright. It began shortly after The Great War. The Dullahans popped up and started carrying off the souls of the dying. They were the servants of the Devil! They spared none and would sometimes clean out whole villages! And once they finished with their work they would consume those very souls to create energy for them to run on. Thousands of souls, all never to see the light of the heavens and the kind face of Ariad all because those blasted demons needed them for food! We had no other choice but to found The Sons of Ariad to drive them away! In the end, we succeeded, but those demons still lurk, and when I’m gone-“ Sal broke off into a heavy fit of coughing.

‘Liz’ allowed a very believable look of concern to creep onto her face. “Are you alright?” she signed.

“Yes, yes, fine. I’m fine.” Father Morify looked up at her with red-rimmed eyes. “I brought you here for a reason, girl. There’s a Dullahan about and it will be coming for me soon. The guards told me that you had arrived and were a newcomer. I mean to warn you Liz, don’t underestimate the power of these demons. If it finds you, run away, you can’t fight it.

Pray to Ariad and The New Messiah for a safe path to Tyredale. The High God will protect you; his light will guide you through the darkest of situations.”

I’m back!” ‘Liz’ exclaimed to her horse when she made it to the tope of the hill. The familiar raised its neck and looked at her through un-seeable eyes. “I found out what I needed to know. Are you ready for tonight?”

The horse whinnied and scuffed at the ground with its hooves. It was ready.

The Dullahan lead her mount into the forest that crept up on the east side of the village. She changed into a black jumpsuit and combat boots behind the cover of a few bushes. She tied her head on with her red scarf and leapt up onto her horse. The beast reared up before shooting forward. They cleared the forest in a matter of minutes and descended down the hill.

The Dullahan coated both herself and her mount in her Ouera, allowing them to slip past the guard unnoticed. Once they were inside the village they headed straight for the church. The Dullahan and her mount slipped through the doors soundlessly. Once they were inside the church, she released her Ouera and allowed herself and her mount to flicker back into visibility again.

The sound of the horse’s hooves echoed through the dark, empty halls of the church. The Dullahan was not worried by the noise however; as she knew that only Sal would hear it.

When she arrived at his room he was ready for her. The old pastor hat a rifle in his hands and was sitting up in bed and pointing it at her. “You’re not taking me, demon!” he snarled.

On the contrary,” she replied, “I think I am.”

“Then you’re coming with me.”

“I won’t die if you shoot me. I’ll only get angry. You don’t want to deal with an angry Dullahan do you?” she asked him.

Sal lowered the gun a little. “Come closer, I want to look at you,” he whispered hoarsely.

The Dullahan stepped forward with no hesitation. Father Morify’s eyes widened, “you?!” he choked.

“You seem surprised.”

“I should have known.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about it,” the Dullahan told him. “You can’t do anything about it now anyways.”

“No! I have been a faithful servant of Ariad my entire life! I can’t go like this! What sin have I committed to deserve a passing as cruel as this?!” He shrieked suddenly.

The Dullahan looked on calmly and waited for him to finish. When he was done, she spoke. “There is no God. Not anymore. Once you ignorant fools took the world He gave you and destroyed it He had no other choice but to retaliate. He sent us to bring you to Him for judgment. Your wars shot His angels out of the skies and shattered the heavens. You killed him with your hate, with your ignorance, and with you greed. All humans have sinned merely by existing, though some sins weigh more heavier than others.”

“Where will you take me? You won’t eat me, will you?”

“No, I will not eat you. I will take you Home so that you energy may be recycled and used for something better than you. A tree maybe.”

Sal swallowed hard and gasped and clutched the sheets when the Dullahan pulled her Ouera out of her sleeve in the shape of a tall, twisted reaper staff. “Are you ready for judgment? If not, give me a reason to withhold from severing your soul.”

Sal Morify stared up at her pleadingly through his yellowing eyes and she raised the scythe up towards the ceiling. His mouth went dry and a sweat dripped off of his face as he began to tremble uncontrollably. “Please….” he whispered.

The Dullahan considered him for a moment. “That’s not good enough.” She told him, and brought the scythe down.

Sal’s soul had fought briefly when it was separated from its body. It had calmed down, however, once it was placed in one of the tiny flasks that the Dullahan always carried with her.

The Dullahan stood on the hill that overlooked the village. Her horse trotted up behind her and pushed its nose against her hand. She looked down at the flask that contained Sal Morify’s soul. You were wrong about everything, she said. We don’t eat the souls we collect. We’re not monsters, we’re just all that’s left.


© Copyright 2017 Aorin. All rights reserved.

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