Feast of the Immortals (short story)
Title: The Feast of the Immortals
Author: Armaxis Telexana
The first rays of dawn broke through the clouds, the pale golden light warming the face of a man as he stirred in his slumber. The sunlight danced across his pudgy face as the sun continued to rise, marking the beginning of a new day. The man's bulbous nose twitched a little, and he arose from his expansive bed, the residual sleepiness still plainly able to be seen across his features.
Donning first a robe of deep black silk, then slinging a sash of pure white across his shoulder, the man strode, or rather, bumbled slightly across his cavernous room. Picking up a ring of several golden and ornately etched keys, he attached them to his belt and promptly left his room, the massive door causing an echo within it's high walls as it shut.
High stone walls surrounded the man's vision as he turned and walked down a very long, expansive hallway, the sandals upon his feet causing soft echoes to reverberate across the stone. Masterfully-painted murals adorned the walls of the expansive chamber, rendered in life-sized detail. His eyes studied each depiction, and his thoughts stirred as his gaze shifted across the images on the stone; he always remembered things when he looked over these paintings every morning .
The first mural was painted with the drab and dreary colors of a swamp, with a gathering of humans in the foreground. Each of their faces wore a mixed expression of wonderment and curiosity as they stared into the distant background, where an expansive city was half-shrouded in the boggy mists. Thin emerald towers rose into the air, seeming to glow amongst the fog. Farther below the towers of the city were mottled grey buildings and structures, barely able to be discerned amongst the masterfully rendered mist of the swamp.
The second mural retained the same drab, dull colors in the background, but within the foreground the renditions were much more neutral. Far in the distance, the city of emerald towers stood, still shrouded in mists. Lithe, blurred figures walked in a line from the city and into foreground where they were rendered in magnificent detail. Green scales covered each figure's body, and their forms were clearly serpentine. A crowd of humans gathered around a few of them as the serpentine beings made explanatory gestures or demonstrated a way of working with stone. The humans were painted as curious and mindful of the serpentine beings. The man remembered his great-grandfather telling him of the serpentine beings, how they used to walk the city when he was a child, and how his ancestors created everything they held dear with the help of these strange, yet kind people.
The third mural was painted mainly in neutral colors. Depicted here were humans gathering supplies and materials along the edged of the swamp, with others laboring over buildings and other structures. Within the far background, the city of the serpentine beings stood, only the faint green hue of its towers shining through the mist which surrounded its perimeter.
The fourth was easily the most beautfiul and elaborate of all, painted in vibrant, lively colors, a city of grand stature dominated the foreground. A massive temple was depicted in the center of the city, its brass dome reflecting the fiery light of the sun, and the towers which flanked either side of it rose higher than any other building within the city's walls. Their narrow, pointed tops were coated with pure gold, glinting proudly at their lofty height. A plethora of other buildings were able to be seen in the painting -- shops, marketplaces, houses etched with beautiful scrollwork and fountains of pure white stone. But in the very far background, the city shrouded in mists could be barely discerned, and it appears menacing and alien compared to the shining city of humans.
The man's expression was varied as he looked over each painting, the movement of his eyes across each feature of the murals seemed to be connected to his current thoughts. Every time he glanced over a depiction of the city in which he lived, he felt slightly proud and smiled. When his eyes travelled across the images of the mist-shrouded city or the serpentine beings, an intense, zealous rage ran across his mind, and his features darkened noticably.
The man muttered and continued to walk down the halls, and soft murmurings could be heard from acolytes and priests as he passed down a passage which lead to a chapel. On the man strode, a look of frustration on his face. He passed the acolyte's quarters, most of them were still asleep in their beds, and turned again into large meeting room.
Brilliantly embroidered tapestries adorned the walls of the circular room, and a large round table, crafted of a rich, glossy red wood predominated the space. Several men, dressed in priestly attire sat upon cushioned high-backed chairs crafted of the same beautiful wood as the table, and they all rose as the man entered. They bowed solemnly to him, though a few of the old greybeards amongst the group clearly did not do so out of respect.
"Greetings and the blessings of Her unto you," the man spoke and made a small gesture with his right hand. The remaining men sat down, and he finally took a seat, interlacing his fingers and leaning forward, he had been prepared for this.
"We do not have enough food for the celebrations!," one of the older members in the room exclaimed. This seemed to start an explosion of complaints and problems -- the tents were too ragged, the chickens weren't laying enough eggs, the oxen were too sick to pull the supply wagons, and many more problems too numerous to list. The man shook his head and put a stern look on his face, and spoke, "Gentleman and brothers, you forget...the people will come no matter the stains on the tents or the food. They will come because they wish to celebrate our Lady Lorminstra," He said, and with a quiet chuckle, spoke again, "And of course, with the proceeds of the donations we receive during this festival, we'll ensure any future celebrations are not pulled off as shoddily as you make it all out to be."
One man glared at him, clearly the eldest of all those gathered, he stood up and began to spout off in a rage, "Reldar! Ye gods, boy! Ye have the mind of a merchant, tis be not the way to honor Her! Tis not the way an Arch Priest should act! Ye do not deserve the title if ye're going to not give the people a wonderful festival tae honor Her!" With a deep breath, the elderly man stared at Reldar from across the room.
Reldar's eyebrows furrowed, the air of tension thick in the room. He spoke calmly, never blinking or taking his eyes off the old man, "Brother Aerab, I may not be older than you, but I am doing what I can to ensure the survival of this Order so that we may spread Her word amongst everyone. If we must forgo a small bit of luxury here and there, it is in Her name. Do you defy the betterment of Her church?" He raised a bushy eyebrow at him, and inwardly, he smiled. This old fool had always opposed him since he had risen up in the ranks of the church, and now he had a chance to cut him down.
Not a word was said, Aerab took his seat silently, a bitter look on his face as he stared at the young Reldar. "No," he uttered, still retaining the bitter look on his face. Reldar smiled and looked toward his next in rank.
"Sarel, sort out these details for me, will you?" he half-ordered as he rose from his seat, "I will be in my chambers, I have much praying to do today before the festivities commence tonight. I thank you gentleman for your time." He bowed to each of the businessmen in the room, and strode out the doors and into the winding halls of the temple.
Reldar sat next to his window, which provided a perfect view of the festival below. It had been going on for several hours, and Reldar could easily see that nearly everyone in the entire city was there. The sun was rapidly setting, the golden hues flowing over the tent-tops which lined the streets. Reldar sighed and closed one of the massive tomes he was reading and leaned out his window, watching the various acolytes amongst the crowd collecting donations. He knew that the nightly service for Lorminstra was about to take place, and that even more donations would be given after such a grand demonstration. Eagerly he watched a large platform in the middle of the tent-riddled streets where priests were already beginning to perform blessing services. The sun slowly crept down and out of sight as the festivities went on, the service nearly about to begin.
Something caught Reldar's eye as he watched the going-ons, distant and alien, the emerald city could be seen against the horizon. But something was not normal, the mists which shrouded it were slowly turning red, resembling a thick ichor which then began to seep into the surrounding bog. In disbelief Reldar watched, for within minutes, the mists had crept throughout the entire swamp and was rapidly approaching the city. He yelled down at the people, but his voice went unheard amongst the rabble of the crowd.
Like a torrent of blood the red mists flowed into the city streets, Reldar watched in horror as the crowd began to take notice of the strange happenings, many began to flee and panic. Reldar felt something else, a small vibration at first, but then the very earth began to shake as strange utulations and chantings filled the night air. Reldar stared wide-eyed, the chantings were coming from the emerald city across the swamp. Shaking, he ran from the window and hid, the chantings becoming more prevalent amongst the din. Soon he could hear screams of panic intermingling with the utulations, which had risen to a deafening roar amongst the chaos that spread through the city. Sobbing, Reldar closed his eyes, just in time to not notice that complete and utter darkness had enveloped the city.
Dawn slowly arrived, and Reldar awoke in a cold sweat, crouched in a corner. He stood up, hoping that all he had witnessed was some horrible dream. As he looked out his window, he stumbled as if he had been hit physically, for what he saw confirmed that it was not a dream, but an awful reality. Wrecked tents and overturned carts littered the streets, pushed aside by the panicked crowds. A few bodies could be seen in the streets, obviously having been trampled by the hordes of scared people. The very essence of fear could be felt within the city, for even as the sun began to light the skies, Reldar could see that nearly every window was lit up brightly by the many candles within. He breathed a small sigh of relief, "At least nothing attacked the city," he said, and suddenly a thought dawned upon him. He looked out toward the mist-shrouded emerald city, and he smiled widely.
Again Reldar found himself within the meeting room, with its high-backed chairs and brilliant tapestries, the usual priestly officials were there, but this time it was not merchants which they met, but the leaders of the city's army.
Reldar took his seat after making a sign of blessing over the assembled, he kept a firm grip upon his ebony staff as he studied the leader of the city's forces. The man had a deep tan, obviously the result of being out in the sweltering sun for many years, and several scars could be seen on his face. He was donned in a suit of polished platemail, with a royal blue cape edged in pale yellow silk -- the colors of the city's banner.
"I thank you for coming on so quick a notice, Lord Trolen," Reldar said, and the captain nodded slightly. Reldar went on, "I come to you with grave news...I am sure you know of the panic which occurred last night..." Reldar trailed off for a moment, and shook his head. He let out a small sigh for a more dramatic effect, "I had witnessed the entire thing from my quarters high in the temple. The mist, and those...those..." Reldar shuddered inwardly, but this time, it was not merely an act. "Those voices...I heard and saw them before any other at the festival. They came from the Grand City of Emerald, and I fear that if we do not take action soon, the next incident will result in all of us dead in our beds."
The captain seemed to think about this for a moment, his thick fingers drumming against the wood of the table, finally, he asked, "Do you have the support of the Church behind you on this claim?"
Reldar smiled, "Why, yes, I even have the support of the Lady Lorminstra, for she has come to me to warn me of the people of the Grand City of Emerald, and that we must take action against them."
From within the ranks of the priests, Aerab's voice could be heard, "'E had no vision. No vision..."
Reldar suddenly shot a small glance over toward Aerab, and ran his fingers across his staff, "The old fool isn't going to ruin this for me," he thought, and suddenly the spell contained in his staff wove itself quietly and without disturbance around the old man. He became calm and silent, and nothing appeared to have changed with him at all.
The captain sighed, "Are you -sure- that you have seen what you described to me, priest?"
Reldar nodded, "'Twas a most horrific sight, but all which I say is true."
The captain nodded once again, "Then I have no choice but to take action, priest. Rest assured that this threat will be wiped out within a matter of weeks."
Reldar smiled, although meekly. He thanked the captain and nodded to the acolytes standing near the chamber's entrance. The acolytes quickly opened the door, and the captain and his men strode out. He stood and the rest of the assembled churchman did the same, each going his own way to meditate or rest.
Reldar walked down one of the winding halls of the church, and leaned against the walls. Stroking his chin, he chuckled to himself. Across the wall from him were the gallery of paintings he looked at so often as he walked by. His eyes focused upon the serpentine beings and their city, and he laughed, knowing that soon they'd be gone forever. Suddenly, he saw a form standing in the hallway.
"I know what ye are doin, boy! Ye're going to destroy us all with ye wicked plans!" Aerab shouted from across the hall, then he abruptly walked out of sight. Reldar chuckled to himself. He knew that the old fool wouldn't get in his way; things were already in motion.
Aerab walked along the corridors of the temple, muttering to himself. He had always known that Reldar was power-hungry, but he never expected it to go this far. He reaches his quarters and opened the door. Sighing, he laid back on the bed. "Why must ye allow such fools to be in your ranks, M'Lady?", he asked with another sigh. Closing his eyes, Aerab began to recite prayers quietly. Slowly he drifted off into a deep sleep, where he had a most peculiar dream.
He could feel that he was suspended in air, and he opened his eyes. Before him laid the boggy marshes and the city he called home. Far out in the distance, he could see the thin emerald towers pierce the horizon. He suddenly began to move toward them very quickly, and it was as if someone else had willed him to move. The city of emerald towers began to draw closer into his sight, and he could almost make out details in the city, but as he began to approach, what he witnessed was horrible.
The emerald towers began to crumble and fall, and great fires raged along the buildings. The haze of smoke was so thick that he could see nothing but the crumbling towers and the flames that licked at the sky. Somewhere off in the distance, he could hear the throaty chuckle of Reldar. Suddenly, his vision went completely blank, and he stood alone in a room of swirling shadows. He could sense that someone was there with him, something that lurked within the shadows...he could catch a glimpse of its body as it moved, but nothing was ever clear to him. Something compelled Aerab to walk into the mass of swirling shadows, the same thing which seemed to move him toward the city. Slowly and hesitantly, he walked into the mass of blackness, and suddenly came face to face with a pair of huge slitted eyes.
A hollow voice echoed from around him, "Tell them...tell them..."
A blinding flash of light heralded the end of Aerab's dream, and he awoke in a cold sweat. He quickly stood up and gazed out his window at the city across the bog. For but a moment, the tallest tower in the city pulsed a green hue, then dimmed. Aerab shuddered once, then climbed back into his bed, still shaking.
Two weeks had passed since Reldar had last spoken to the captain to tell him of what happened, and now he watched patiently from his window. Soldiers lined the streets, packed in their dense formations. The captain was giving a speech from a wooden platform that had been erected in the middle of the main road leading to the town gates. As the captain stepped down, the platform was quickly moved out of the way, and he lead the thousands of troops out the town gates.
For hours Reldar stood at his window, watching the lines of soldiers make their way to the Grand City of the serpentine beings, night began to fall, and he could see the tiny spots of light that their torches made. Finally, they had the city surrounded, and Reldar smiled as he saw the pinpoints of light begin to make their way into the massive structure that loomed over the horizon. Hours passed as Reldar continued to watch, and a thick haze began to spew forth from the towers, blocking out the moonlight.
Reldar chuckled, and the smile upon his face was wide. The emerald towers began to crumble and fall as flames began to rise into the night sky, Reldar's laughing was loud and echoing as he threw up his arms in joy. All night he watched the destruction of the city across the bog, his triumphant laughter ringing throughout the temple's halls.
None of the soldiers sent out to the Grand City ever returned. The officials worked with the church to hold a memorial to the men lost in the battle, and in time, things returned to normal. The church began to expand it's power, as did the city itself. Time passed, and the city grew to become a very successful trading center, with the church directing it's power. Nearly twenty years had passed since the destruction of the Grand City, and Reldar once again stood at his window, planning for the festival he had announced would occur on the anniversary of the triumph over the heathenous ways of the serpentine beings. The festival was to be the most extravagant to remember, and the call for this had reached out to the far corners of the world, and exotic merchants were already arriving in the city.
He stepped down from the window and wiped a bit of dust off a small ledger on his desk, turning a few pages toward the correct date, it was the 20th of Eorgaen. He jotted down a few notes and ideas in his spidery handwriting, and let out a long and satisfied sigh. He started to move toward his doorway, for he had decided he deserved a small break from planning. Striding quickly along the halls of the temple, he reached a long and winding stairway, leading to the depths of the building, into the dungeons. Snatching up a torch which lay in a sconce nearby, he made his way down into the darkness.
The overpowering stench of sweat, rot, and worse filled Reldar's nostrils, but still he made his way on. The scurrying of rats could be heard occasionally, as well as several sobbing or soft laughing sounds. Corridors of barred doors lay before Reldar, and he moved briskly to the one he sought. Putting his face up to the bars, he whispered, "Hello, Aerab."
Within the dark room, a figure lay huddled in the corner, twitching and shaking occasionally. It lifted its balding head up at the sound of Reldar's voice, but did not answer.
"A shame you could not stop those dreams, isn't it? You were a fine, fine member of the clergy..." Reldar said, the bitter sarcasm in his voice enhanced by the faint chuckle that followed afterwards. "I just thought you would like to know, my colleague...a grand festival is to be held, a memorial to the destruction of that horrible city..."
Suddenly the seemingly frail and broken figure in the corner came to life with a crazed scream. Reldar jumped back as Aerab banged on the doors furiously, his gaunt and fear-stricken face staring at Reldar with wide and bloodshot eyes. "You FOOL!" He screamed, "It is coming! It is coming!" Spittle flew from his mouth as he spoke in a crazed frenzy, "Ye finally did it! Ye did! Ye did!" Aerab's face disappeared back into the darkness, but he continued to scream and curse aloud, and several thumps reverberated through his cell. Reldar turned with a look of disgust on his face and made his way back up to the more pleasant sections of the temple.
Leaning against the massive doors of the main entrance to the temple, Reldar watched as waves of people moved back and forth across the streets. Occasionally one of them would bow to him, and he would move his hand in a wave or a sign of blessing. He could hear hawker's cries from the marketplace down the street, and he watched wagons pass by, filled with exotic wares. At times he'd spot one of the foreigners wandering the streets, easily identified by their gaudy garb. One of them, a women in colorful, draping silks, and an odd belt adorned with mangled and amorphous bells made her way toward him, seemingly with a purpose.
The air filled with jingles as the woman made her way toward him, and she quirked a slender eyebrow in his direction. "You are what they call...the Arch Priest, yes?"
He smiled thinly back at her, "Yes, that I am." She stared at him with her crystal green eyes, and smiled deeply. She again spoke, "I see many things for you, Reldar," she tucked a thin strand of red hair behind one of her ears, and for the first time, Reldar took notice that she was an actual elf. He had never thought he would actually see one in his life, but he did not let his guard down, he had heard tales of their cleverness and guile. "And how do you see that, m'lady? Do you too draw from Her Grace Lorminstra's holy wisdom?"
This was met with a wry chuckle from the elf, and she placed a slender hand into a deep red velvet bag around her waist. "No, good sir, I am a Reader of Sigils, and my power comes from within." With one fluid motion, she tossed what looked like miniscule stars to Reldar up into the air. They shone brightly and hummed with power, staying suspended above the elf's head for several moments, then they began to spin. Faster and faster they spun, sparkling with what seemed like a light of their very own. As Reldar watched, they pulsed a deep blue, and then fell to the ground with a sharp clang. Reldar could see them all clearly now, they seemed to be symbols of some sort, carved of a strange metal which gave off it's own luminescence. The elven woman kneeled down on the ground and began to make a few small gestures as her eyes ran rapidly from one oddly-shaped piece to the next.
The elf let out a small gasp and her eyes widened a bit, she looked up at Reldar, and the look upon her face was as if she had seen a horrible monster. She spoke, her voice laced with barely concealed fear, "If you value you your life, you will leave this city in five days time, even then..." She shook her head as she began to gather up the odd pieces scattered along the ground, "That which you have disrupted will no doubt follow you..."
Reldar moved to speak, but already the elf had quickly made her way back into the crowd, only the flurry of her long silks could be seen as she half-ran from him. He had never expected his first meeting with an elf to be that strange, and he dismissed her comments as idle babble from one who did not even follow Her Grace Lorminstra. He looked up toward the sky, and saw that it was already beginning to get dark.
He walked through the entryway of the temple, and smiled at a few of his fellow clergyman there. The halls of the temple were already deserted at this hour, most of the brothers retiring to meditation or to their studies. Reldar continued to walk , and eventually he found himself alone in the winding corridors. He started to make his way up one of the many staircases in the temple, but he heard the faint sound of a weak moan, and then a sudden sharp hissing sound...then silence. Curious, he moved toward the sound, and eventually found a door which was slightly ajar. Stepping through, he recognized the room as one of the small shrines set up for the acolytes to reflect in. But as his eyes moved across the chamber, they fell upon a horrible sight. The severed limbs of a young acolyte lay strewn about, and deep red stains decorated the walls, a testament to the grisly force inflicted upon the poor youth. The acolyte's limbless body lay atop the altar, the expression on his face a horrible mask of fear and shock frozen there for all eternity.
Reldar felt the contents of his stomach work their way up to the back of his throat, and he suddenly found himself screaming for help, any kind of help. He stumbled out from the room, shuddering. He felt incredibly dizzy, and fell back upon the walls as he tried to regain his balance. Several priests began to take notice of his frantic callings, and a crowd of them gathered outside the doors, all murmuring quiet prayers as they beheld the gruesome site within. Reldar managed to stand to his feet.
"Get the body out of here, bless it in Her Grace's name and toss it in the bay. No one is to know about this." He glared at the assembled priests, around 20 in number, and spoke again, "No one. I will not be having a panic before this festival. No one is to talk of this, we will deal with finding the fiend who did this after the festivals, and not a word of it until then, understood? Lock the door to this room, and let no one enter it."
Every priest nodded and began to carry out Reldar's orders as he made his way up the staircase which lead to his room. Still shaken from his experience, Reldar climbed into bed, still fully clothed in his church garments, and his night was fraught with dreams which made him stir and awake in a cold sweat until dawn poured into his window.
The 21st of Eorgaen came, and Reldar conducted business as usual, as if the events from yesterday had never happened. He kept a hawk's eye upon all the other priests which had seen the slaughter, and all of them seemed strangely quiet. As the day drew to a close, Reldar sat at his desk, occasionally scribbling down another reminder, note, or order to be done. A very faint sound broke the silence, and Reldar nearly jumped as he heard it -- a distinct and sharp hiss could be heard in the distance, then was abruptly silenced. Reldar stood from his chair, and whether curiosity or foolhardiness drove him to go searching for the sound, he did not know.
He made his way down a flight of stairs, the faint light from the few torches which lit the hallway flickering and shifting. All was quiet in the temple now, but Reldar thought he heard a few soft footsteps nearby. Once again, he followed the source of the sound. He found a door which was slightly open, and his knowledge of the layout of the temple told him that it was another small shrine for the brotherhood to meditate or offer prayers in. Hesitantly, he stepped through the threshold, and another gruesome sight unfolded before him. A priest lay limbless atop the altar again, his throat gashed open as if by some large claw. Reldar maintained his calmness, except for a few shudders now and then. He saw no limbs strewn about the room, only a small trail of crimson leading to the open window nearby. Reldar ran to the window and looked out.
The bog's water reflected the bright moonlight, and Reldar could see the faint trail of crimson running down the roof, he searched the banks of the bog, and for a moment, he thought he saw a form standing along it's edges, but it disappeared with a ripple of the water. Reldar departed from the room, and visited a few select priests which had witnessed the last horror, and told them to again dispose of the body and speak not a word of it. The priests obeyed his words, and Reldar retired to his chambers for the night, where his mind was filled with dreams of the elven woman and her foreboding words.
Reldar did not come out of his chambers for the entire day. A few acolytes came to retrieve his lists and orders, but most of his day was spent surveying the city. By the time the sun was setting, Reldar had seen all the tents set up, and already he could see people making merriment in preparation for the festival. He sighed deeply, his mind was full of thoughts that he did not wish there, and he soon decided to take a small stroll through the streets. Slowly, he made his down to the main floor of the temple and began to walk slowly toward the doors.
Suddenly, a whoosh of air rushed by Reldar as a figure speeded across his vision. A blur of motion was all he caught, and he turned to look toward where the running person went. All he caught was the tip of a green tail which slid out of sight through the window. Down the same hall, he saw an open door leading to one of the many small shrine's within the temple. He knew what to expect as he pushed the door open, and he shuddered as his eyes befell upon the sight before him.
A priest lay before the altar, looking pale and almost drained of blood completely. He bore hardly any wounds on his body, but his blood had been painted across the walls in strange patterns and symbols. As Reldar looked over the symbols, he felt queasy. This time, he did not wake any priests, he disposed of the body himself and locked the door to the shrine. He did not sleep that night, and he only dealt with light business that day, he wanted to be alone with his thoughts.
He had gathered a few of the priests which had witnessed the slaughters before, and told them to close down all the personal shrines, and to make sure none were frequented, and he told them to watch by the doors for the night. Reldar found himself slipping off into sleep as he sat at his desk, watching the moonlight dance across the water of the bog. Sounds of singing and celebration could be heard in the distance, and before Reldar closed his eyes, he caught sight of a ripple near the banks of the swamp.
A sharp knock startled Reldar from his unintentional slumber. He opened the door, and the priest which was there looked shaken. "My Lord..." He murmured, and suddenly shuddered, "They...they found a...body...just...a...a s-skeleton now..."
Reldar blinked for a moment and shook his head, with a stern look he stared into the other priests' eyes. "Dispose of it, and tell all the other priests to return to their beds and to not utter a word of this!" The other priest looked a bit dazed by this, but nodded and quickly disappeared down the flight of stairs.
Thoughts raced through Reldar's head, he wondered if the elven woman's troup was doing this. He started to tear at his hair, scowling and muttering to himself, trying to figure out who would do these things. He again faded off into unconsciousness, and his dreams were filled with images of the scaled tail he briefly saw disappear out the window but a night before.
Reldar awoke during the afternoon, with a long stretch, he gazed out his window again and smiled, he had forgotten the past events for but a few moments, and his beheld a grand site from his lofty viewpoint. Tents and poles and colorful wagons lined the streets, entertainers and dancers and hawkers all could be seen, thousands upon thousands of people were walking about, the city was literally crawling with people from everywhere. He could see the robed acolytes and priests amongst the crowd, their rather dull garments easy to spot in the sea of color they waded through. He realized that he was probably alone in the temple, and as the memories of the past few nights came rushing back to him, he quickly made his way toward the door.
He made his way through the corridors of the temple, methodically checking each room. A blubbering, gibbering sound reached his ears, and he hesitantly made his way toward the sound. He opened a door to another small altar-room, and he cringed, for he saw the same priest who came to his door last night. He looked very pale, and he had been stricken of his clothing. He stared blankly forward, and his breathing was labored. But Reldar did not cringe, nor become sickened as he looked over that broken figure of a man, for etched in the priest's flesh were the same symbols which decorated the walls in blood but a few nights ago. The battered priest let loose a moan and a low murmur, and Reldar then noticed a statue sparkling in the dim light of the chamber. Stepping in a wide circle around the wounded priest, he picked the strange object up and held it toward the beams of light which poured from a high window in the wall.
The statue was a depiction of a serpent rearing up as if to strike, it seemed to be carved of emerald. Reldar noticed that as the beams of light hit it's dark green surface, it did not bend and shine outward, it rather seemed as if the light was completely absorbed within the statue's crystalline depths. He looked into its eyes, and became startled for a moment by their almost lifelike quality. The statue dropped from his hands and rolled right toward the man which lay on the floor. Suddenly, the wounded priest screamed as if seared by fire as the statue rolled into his line of vision.
Reldar stood motionless, afraid to even move, as the man twitched and convulsed on the floor, screaming and shrieking after he had seen the statue. He began to let out a long, anguished wail, but he was cut off, as if he had suddenly been choked. He lay motionless, his body stiff and clearly lifeless. Reldar had a very dazed look to his eyes, as if he couldn't believe that any of this was happening. He picked up the statue from its place on the floor, and walked slowly back to his room. He sat the statue on the edge of his window, and he pulled up a chair to watch the festivities. He sighed deeply, he had no idea what to do about these horrible events. He couldn't even believe that they were happening.
He watched the crowd for hours upon hours and the priests within it, and he smiled, his mind focusing on things other than the recent happenings. He knew that the grand blessing ritual was to be held in a few minutes, already the crowd's attention was focused upon a large platform which had been erected in the city square as the high priests gathered in preparation.
"They will gather quite a bounty for the church's coffers..." Reldar said with a small, satisfied chuckle.
A sharp hiss sounded from his doorway, and Reldar leaped up from his chair. He stared wide-eyed at the creature standing in front of him -- its eyes were slitted as a lizard's, and it's skin was of a deep emerald hue. Scales covered its body, and it's tail thrashed along the floor -- the same tail Reldar spotted that unholy night. It moved toward him fluidly, and for the first time in his life, Reldar felt a dreadful fear deep in the pit of his stomach, for he knew that this creature was. The same creature from the paintings he gazed at every morning, the same being from the Grand City of Emerald which aided his ancestors centuries ago. A creature from the city that he had made rubble.
"You..." It spoke, its voice sounding like that of a serpent's menacing hiss, "You are the one...and you ssshall ssserve our Lord'sss purpossse well..."
The serpentine being reached one of its claws toward the statue, Reldar pressed himself against the wall, attempting to edge away from the being as it raised the statue high above its head and started to chant in an unintelligible language. Reldar watched, frozen by fear, as the being continued to recite verse after verse in its strange language, the very same language he had heard so many years ago. Reldar turned his head toward the window, and screamed as he saw the bog. The same mist had arisen, tinted red by the light of Lornon's moon, and it was rapidly heading toward the city and the revellers. But within the mist, barely able to be discerned, were hordes of the serpentine beings, swimming toward the city slowly and with a purpose. He hadn't noticed that the creature in his room had stopped its chanting, and was now advancing toward him, and within seconds it had grasped him in its powerful claws. Reldar screamed as it stared into his eyes.
"Now, human, you and your city ssshall feel the embrace of Death!"
With massive force, the creature heaved Reldar through his tall window, the glass shattering with a resounding echo. The revellers and priests looked up from their celebrations only to see the Arch Priest Reldar fall to his death. The red mists flowed into the city streets, and the reptilian beings soon followed, all within the city tried to flee, but death had already embraced the city, and there was no escape for them. Utter darkness fell over the city as thick clouds blocked out the light, where the serpentine beings continued their vengeful feast.
Dawn broke the night sky slowly, and the thick clouds which blanketed the heavens soon parted. The beams of sunlight fell upon the face of a broken husk of a man, he breathed heavily, and his face seemed to be stricken with signs of an intense fear or perhaps insanity. Dazedly, he opened his eyes and surveyed the sight before him.
He stood in a pile of rubble miles long, the city he once knew had been destroyed utterly in just one night. He ran a hand over his head, his fingers tangling in his dirt-encrusted hair. He heard movement behind him, and he spun quickly around to find himself face to face with a large green serpent. It reared up as if about to strike down upon him, but instead, it spoke.
"Aerab..." It whispered with its forked tongue, and Aerab recognized the voice...it was the same voice of his dreams, the dreams that had tormented him for so long and driven the other priests to put him in the dungeon, "Aerab, you will go, and you ssshall tell othersss of thossse who wrong me and my fold. Remember what hasss transsspired here well. Know that those who defy me shall become a feassst for me and my children. Tell them...tell them!"
Thoughts raced through Aerab's mind, and it seemed like days passed as he stared into the serpent's slitted eyes, he dared not turn them away lest he incur the wrath of the creature. Within his dreams, all he could ever see was a hint of the serpent's form, for it was always concealed in shadow, and even now, it's voice grated on the last thread of his sanity. It had driven him to wake up in cold sweat, screaming in a gibbering tongue. He was frozen to where he stood, staring up at the being before him. The words "Tell them!" echoed in his mind, growing louder and louder until even his own thoughts were drowned out by the booming words.
Suddenly, Aerab's features appeared to change as he stood staring at the serpent. The lines of fear on his face were replaced with a look of grim determination. The serpent turned and faded out of sight, and Aerab nodded to where it had been. Walking through the rubble, Aerab's form soon disappeared over the horizon, and he continued to walk to the ends of the very planet itself. Wherever he went he told people of the feast, the feast of the immortal servants of Luukos, and how the greed and lies of one man brought doom upon a once grand city.