Mercy's Light Extinguished
Tags: [Story] [Death] [Violence] [Blood] [Implied Rape] [Implied Torture]
A bloodcurdling scream broke the silence of the spring’s early dusk. A moment of deathly quiet descended over the courtyard. An explosion of splintering wood followed, as a giant, black-bladed axe penetrated the gate’s old oak planks. A second axe followed, next to the first. The gate buckled, curving inwards as the sound of plate crashing against it tore through the early evening’s sudden silence. Vesper looked around in sudden panic, seeing the initiates around her in much the same state.
Her eyes locked with Amelia’s. The force of the second crash against the gate shook some of the initiates from their fear-dulled reverie. Vesper and Amelia had always found strength in each other, but now her normally-calm eyes looked back at Vesper with rising panic.
The third crash was the last. A tower of a man smashed shoulder-first through the gate, the eight-pointed symbol of chaos decorating his armor like obscene jewelry. In one sweeping move, he bent down on one knee and gathered up his grotesquely-large weapons, one in each hand. He let out a deep, roaring laughter, casting his fiery red eyes on the first initiate in the frightened flock that had begun pulling back from the gate. More black-armored warriors and horrible, disfigured mutants appeared through the gate, piling into the courtyard, cutting off all chances of flight from the oncoming slaughter.
A monstrous creature stepped through the gate. He was human, but was covered in living, blinking eyes. Every bit of visible skin was dotted with them: Large, small, crying blood or long-since dried and rotted away from their gaping sockets. His nose flared in bored disgust, his eyes scanning the frightened group of initiates.
Behind the white-robed group of young women, the door to the living quarters adjoining the orphanage was opened, and out of it came the five guards the temple had. Vesper caught the man covered in eyes breaking into a brief, arrogant smile, then his arm shot out and sent a dark mass hurtling towards Amelia. The woman was knocked over backwards, her eyes bulging, tearing at invisible hands that seemed to have locked around her neck.
That was all the agitation needed by the throng of invaders. The giant, black-clad warriors and the disfigured mutants set into a cacophonous, bloodthirsty roar, and then charged. One guard had managed to get in front of the clump of initiates. Vesper saw his head fly, an expression of terror frozen on the helmet-clad face. A jet of hot blood burst from the falling carcass’ opened neck, spraying into the cold air. The steaming, warm liquid splattered onto the warrior who had separated the guard’s head and body, and onto Vesper as well. She took a step back, her icy blue eyes wide with horrified shock. Her back bumped up against the wooden pillar situated right in the middle of the courtyard. The initiate’s hands had already started fumbling over the wood behind her, searching for a way backwards, but it was too late.
A crazed, screaming aberration rushed towards her, sword lowered and ready to strike. Her throat constricted. Her heart felt like it had stopped beating as a thousand tiny prickles of fear poked at her innards. The sword pierced forward, the air audibly sliced apart as the point of the blade was thrust at her stomach.
She awoke, wetly gasping for air. One gasp followed by another, and another. Her senses assaulted her with darkness, a pregnant silence enveloping her. She sat completely still, the rough bark of the oak behind her comforting her with its mere presence. Slowly, her breathing leveled out. Had Amelia been here, she would have calmed her.
For another long, quiet moment she sat there, her hands slowly moving to her stomach. Her robe was torn and wet with something sticky, something that was not water. Her fragile mind constantly threatened her with wandering back to the events of a few hours ago, back to all that she had seen. “No,” she whispered quietly to herself, as if her voice alone could stop the dark path of her thoughts. “No.” A more decisive note loomed briefly in her voice. She ducked her head when she heard how loud the word sounded the second time around.
Now was not the time to waste the second chance that Shallya had given her. Amelia could still be alive. The possibility was there. Vesper had always remained certain that if something was ever to happen to her friend, she would feel it. She felt sick, but it was not the end. Not yet.
The young initiate’s upper body lurched to the right, determined as she was to get up. Her right hand instinctively shot down against the ground, stopping her halfway in her tumble towards the ground. The sudden stop made her feel like vomiting. Again. She bit her lower lip, leaning over further, shakily placing her left hand next to her right, pushing off from the ground. Barely halfway upwards, she had to grab at the bark of the tree behind her, clamping onto it, tearing a nail in the process of staying relatively upwards.
Her abused stomach muscles convulsed. She felt like screaming. There was nothing left to throw up, but she had to double over anyway. Tears forced themselves from her eyes, her mouth agape as her esophagus and stomach worked, allowing only for intermittent coughs of air.
Finally, she was able to stand again. Her shaking fingers clutched the crust of the tree. Time could only be dwindling. “I –have- to move,” she whispered to herself, putting one foot on the forest floor, a small distance away from the tree that had been her companion the last indefinable stretch of time. The other foot went out in front. Vesper’s stomach felt strange. Empty, yet tiny quakes continued to run through her painfully. Another step. The path taken by the marauding band into the forest was obvious enough. Easy to follow.
She stumbled through the dark night, a hand clutching her tense stomach, her way lit only by the sparsely-starred sky above. She staggered from tree to tree, slowly. Certainly, Vesper was no tracker, but she became more and more certain that the trail of the band of mutants and black-clad warriors was widening, and it seemed as if they had begun looking for somewhere to camp.
For the second time that night, a scream pierced the silence. Distant, this time, but close enough that cold fright tore through Vesper’s chest. Amelia. The scream was Amelia’s. Breathlessly, the battered initiate upped her pace, her heart’s beating soon resounding loudly in her ears. There was still time.
There was still time.
She could see flames up ahead, flickering with occasional shadows of large shapes moving around the clearing. The air pulsed with an ungodly, horrible noise. It took a while for the staggering, panting initiate to realize that what she heard was the twisted prayer of chaos. Chants to the dark gods. Raucous laughter began to become audible below the chanting, with the sound of skin against skin coming soon after.
Vesper placed her right hand against the trunk of an old oak, doubling over briefly while gasping for air. She looked ahead, her eyes swimming slightly with tears of despair. The light from the flames flickered, illuminating a gathering of warriors and aberrations massed in front of a crude stone block that Vesper could only assume was some sort of altar. The horned, eye-covered man presided over the assembled flock, chanting loudly with one arm raised, the other slowly moving over the top of the unholy stone table in front of him.
The flames flickered again. The man held a severed human head by the hair. In his trance, he appeared to be painting a barbarous symbol upon the stone surface with the blood and raw juices leaking from what he was holding.
She had to look away, her entrails turning in disgust. Instinctively, she held a hand up to cover her mouth, but there was nothing physical to hold back, only a hacking cough. Vesper turned her head away from the camp, sinking down along the trunk of the tree she was hiding behind. The young initiate felt her heart drop in her chest. Where was Amelia? The sound had surely come from here, and it was not her head that the vile heretic was using to draw with.
There was a flash of red light from behind her. The eight-pointed sign that the horned man had been creating was pulsing with light. At first, the rapid pulses of the light almost blinded Vesper, but slowly, her vision adapted, or the blinking slowed to a lazy shift in hue from blood-red to almost black.
Vesper could clearly feel the difference in the air’s charge. The feeling of the area had gone from bad to worse. Whatever was happening on the altar, it was dangerous. She had to find Amelia and then the both of them had to get away. Where was not important. Once more, Vesper’s eyes darted around the camp, passing heaps of armor, filth, weapons and even human body parts. Finally, with the aid of the sickening light now bathing the camp, she saw it. A silhouette behind the altar, tied to the fallen trunk of a tree that surely had to have been as old as the world itself. The person on top quivered faintly. It was a woman, but her head was turned away from Vesper.
The figure’s arms and legs were pulled down along the curved sides of the enormous log, tied and held in place with black leather straps. The curve of her legs looked unnatural, too smooth. It only took Vesper’s trained eyes and mind another heartbeat to figure out why. Every bone in them had to have been shattered or fractured. The figure stirred. Vesper was unable to hear anything through the increasingly loud chanting, but she saw the unmistakable shake of the body’s shoulders. A sob. The person was alive.
With the ritual seeming to close in on some sort of feverish climax, Vesper rose from the ground, staggering along the edge of the clearing. She passed the altar, casting a glance at it. For a moment, she felt sure that one of the eyes socketed everywhere on the horned man’s body followed her moves, but he made no move to have her captured, nor did any of the men or mutants.
At last, Vesper was past the altar, closer to the large, fallen log. Reaching up to brush a lock of matted, golden-brown hair out of her eyes, she cast a glance past the tree she was hiding behind. The figure imprisoned figure was still more than ten steps away, but close enough that she could have heard Vesper approaching, were it not for the deafening, hellish chanting.
Vesper swallowed, her eyes roaming down over the naked figure. She was tied very tightly against the large log, barely able to move her limbs at all. Her back was marred by what appeared to be whip-marks, cuts and a few large bruises. The worst, however, came further down. Vesper averted her eyes immediately, closing her eyes tightly.
The mad, horrific chanting seemed to be reaching a crescendo, only to abruptly stop. Complete silence enveloped the camp.
Vesper cast another glance past the tree. The horned, eye-covered man had left his position at the altar and picked up two jagged, ceremonial-looking knives. He was moving purposefully towards the figure tied to the large, fallen tree, with three of the bulky humanoid warriors in tow.
Vesper’s eyes darted from him to the tree, seeing the figure tied to the giant log look up. The initiate’s heart skipped a beat, a tingling sensation starting in her head and chest, slowly descending until it layered in the pit of her stomach, weighing her down.
Amelia’s blonde hair was frayed and appeared to have been roughly cut off in places. Both corners of her mouth were ruptured and dribbling blood. Her nose appeared to be broken, and her deep blue eyes were dulled with pain. She had trouble keeping her head steady, her throat working, trying to say something, but her words never left her throat. All that Vesper heard was a vague hiss of air from the girl’s opened mouth.
With powerless desperation rising in her chest, Vesper looked at her lifelong friend. Amelia was too far gone, too groggy to realize what was going on. Her head wavered a little as she seemed to attempt to focus on Vesper, then, finally, her head simply fell to the barky surface below it with a small thump, eyelids half closed.
The lead cultist stopped at the side of the trunk, a dagger in each hand. He was already lifting the two blades high above Amelia’s abused, bare back. It seemed as if in the last possible moment, clarity forced itself upon the beaten and battered initiate. Her eyes opened, staring into Vesper’s. She looked frightened and in pain, far from the blissful slumber they had always been taught. Amelia’s breathing accelerated and she began to writhe what little she could in her bonds.
Vesper refused to move her eyes from Amelia’s, but it was obvious what happened. The young woman’s body jerked once, twice. She squirmed and continued to writhe, albeit far more weakly than before. Blood began to bubble from her throat, overflowing her lips. Red beads rapidly assembled and formed, trailing down to the initiate’s chin, clinging on only to loosen from her skin and drip down. Her body jerked again with a third stab, causing her to arch her back, eyes rolling upwards, before she finally collapsed down against the log.
There was no sign of oncoming paradise in this; there was only a horrible, tortured death, alone and amongst enemies. Tears trailed from Vesper’s eyes, her stare staying locked with Amelia’s eyes, even as those deep blue eyes slowly, painfully lost the luster of life.
Vesper blinked, shaking her head. She realized that her hands were clasped in front of her mouth, that her breaths were coming through her nose in heavy bursts. The three warriors accompanying the leading cultist had kneeled next to Amelia’s body, and were now lapping up the streams of blood formed down over the young woman’s body.
With her limbs shaking, Vesper stumbled backwards, away from the tree she was hiding behind, back into the darkness of the forest.