A darkness began to creep across the clearing, and with it came an unnatural cold. First, the moon became obscured behind a thick bank of clouds, her light no longer shining through. The fire slowly began to die, almost as if it were suffocating from a lack of oxygen. The revelry became quiet, and spirits began to slip back into the woods from whence they came.
Soon, only Sam and I were left.
I don't know what it was, but something compelled me to tell Sam to leave. I turned to my friend, and said, "Sam, you know you need to leave. I have to face this challenge alone."
He looked at me, almost begging me not to send him away. He opened his mouth, seemed to think better of it, and closed it. At last he spoke, "I know, friend. Good luck." And with that he was gone.
I stood alone in the clearing, my mind and heart racing. I didn't know what I was about to face, nor did I think I would know it when I saw it.
The night became colder and the darkness deepened. Somewhere in the distance, I heard the insects that scream in the night, and their words burned into me. The wind picked up and howled over me as the voice of the night began to speak.
It was as if some unknown language was calling out, and I thought of the Al Azif, the book named for the sounds of these insects. This led me through a torrent of memories about it's various and storied misfortunes, and of the great invisible monster that Ebn Khallikan declared devoured its author. I considered the Brood X, but knew they would not rise for several months. What would come on the wind? What thing would I see?
Slowly, the words began to form. One at a time, mixed with strange, otherworldly syllables they came. The words are burned into my memory, but I cannot record them. I was unsure what to do, yet in this moment of doubt, words forming around me that are too horrible to repeat, I sought action in my mind.
The cry of the night creatures grew louder, crecendoing to a mighty tumult, and I was forced to my knees. I put my hands to my ears, and I choaked back a scream, fighting for my sanity.
Suddenly, action occurred. I did not cause it myself, nor did I realize what I was doing. I simply, easily, went back to basics. I did what I do every day. I prayed.
The words I prayed are lost on that wind, drowned by the insects' cries. They can't be repeated because I no longer remember them. But the words reached the ears I intended, for suddenly the sounds stopped, and I was deafened by the silence.
Still I huddled on my knees, afraid to look. What would stand before me, and would the thing that had come with such a disharmonic chior try to destroy me?
A hand on my shoulder assured me otherwise.
I knew the hand that rested there before I opened my eyes. The woodcutter next to me was smiling down at me when I finally looked up, and I felt relief wash over me like water. There was still something else that I needed to look at, and I knew it would be horrible, but at the moment I knew it would be tempered by strength.
I stood and faced my protector. He winked at me quickly, and nodded to my right. I clenched my teeth and turned.
Before me stood a mountain of a creature, easily eight times my height. He had wings that stretched to blot out the moon and stars, and in his left hand he held a wickedly curved sword, while in his right was a skull. His eyes were flame, and his tattered clothes hung off his body, and his skin seemed to move with an unnatural rhythm.
I squinted, trying to make out his skin in the darkness, and was shocked to see that this was not one entity, but millions! The skin (and I assumed the vital organs, if any existed in this thing) were all created of creatures of the night: locusts, earthworms, roaches, spiders, and cicadas. The creature loomed over me, and I knew who it must be.
"Erebus," I whispered.
To be continued. . .
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X
Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV
Part XVI | Part XVII | XVIII