Originally published in Common Tongue Magazine Issue #1
Darkness shattered into firelight as I was pulled into the real world again. Summoned from my home by speech and blood, my eyes strained to find the edges of the objects around me. This body is weaker than most I have had to assume, but that would not stop me from doing terrifying things. In a few moments, my eyes adjusted, everything was sharpened, and I could feel the whole of my surroundings.
I stood in a clearing in the middle of a wood, but I was not alone. Encircling me, a myriad of campfires and torches filled the grotto with a warm glow. Man and their fire–how they prized it. A hundred or more of the pitiful creatures bathed in the amber light. Sweat rolled down their skin as they collectively panted to catch their breath. The summoning must have been an exhausting spectacle. My stomach lurches as the musk of their sweat reaches my nostrils.
Fear smoldering behind every stare, they cannot look away. My gaze swept the crowd in a glaring arc. I could never understand why so much value was placed on such fragile creatures. My hate burned against them and I dashed forward with malicious intent. The crowd cowered at my sudden movement with audible gasps and excited screams. I covered the distance in an instant, a blur of motion toward my nearest target.
“Stop,” a voice boomed, and I froze mid-stride. I was compelled to freeze, unable to move. Straining against my invisible bonds, I saw the speaker standing confidently at the head of the gathering. He was more ornately dressed, which is usually how they distinguished their status. Their self-imposed hierarchies stoked my rage even more. They all are savages–no matter how much they pretend otherwise. I fixed my eyes on him. His arrogance oozed with each motion as if being the chief among these swine was a source of pride. He is the one that brought me here–trapped me here. The binding was strong and my will was superseded.
The cocksure man stepped forward and closed a large, old book in his hands. The book, and the blood that he paid, was the source of my summoning. No matter how deeply buried, men always found a way to obtain forbidden knowledge. They probed in the dark to satisfy their lust for power and significance. With an insatiable curiosity, they will inevitably find what they covet. I was obligated to comply.
More words from the book wielder. I had not heard this language before, but I knew exactly what he was saying. It was always the same. This time, however, it was desperation instead of greed. They were losing. And I was their last hope.
“Now is the time,” the man said. “Now we take our revenge and wipe the filth of the Tu’onrim from our boot.” Cheers erupted and the fear around me eased into a general wariness.
Time passed slowly as the company packed up and began to squeeze through the narrow crevasse that led out of the grotto. Even with this fragile body, I could have crossed the expanse in moments, but I was stuck at the speed of the crowd as they plodded forward.
After an excruciating amount of time, I could see that the front of the group had reached a sharp incline that led upward and outward into the daybreak. The speaker began his ascent toward the opening. Loose gravel tricked his balance and he fell hard on the rocky path, the book tumbling just out of his grasp.
One, two, three, four… I had killed a dozen before the screams made it to his ears. Another dozen before he scrambled to clutch the book once more. “Heel,” he shouted downward like an animal trainer asserting dominance. I froze inches away from the next victim who was stiff from terror.
Sobs exploded as the ramifications of the moment took hold. A chaotic scramble gave me a wide berth. Each person waged an internal war trying to justify the high cost of their endeavor and their resolve fled their bodies with their tears. The summoner took control and shouted orders to those around him in an attempt to salvage the last drop of their morale. On his orders, the crowd broke into two parts. A small group stayed behind to tend to the bodies while the rest continued up the hill, trembling with each step.
The sun had been above the horizon for a few hours by that time I walked out into the open. The trail wrapped around the mountain to the right and disappeared. To the left, nestled against the other side of the mountain face, was a small lifeless village. It seemed the entire town and many others were camped at the edge of a grassy steppe directly ahead.
Thousands of soldiers maned the front line of the camp with their support in large tents behind them, an enemy encampment just on the other side of the plain. It seemed by their size that the speaker and his band was outnumbered at least twenty to one. Despite this any tribulation he may have certainly felt, he confidently strode forward anyway with me as his weapon close behind. We moved through to the front line and the entire camp began to meld behind us one by one until they were all clumped together at the edge of the clearing.
The speaker turned. “This ends today!” He yelled back at the crowd. “No more will we let these vermin take over. We will cleanse this land of their contamination and take back our rightful place.” Swords clanked against shields and the shouts of exhilaration became deafening.
The speaker, his book clutched tightly, led me to the center of the plain as the crowd kept its distance. The enemy camp responded as a group of horsemen galloped toward us. The speaker grinned, determined to enjoy his coming victory.
“Kill them,” he motioned forward, “kill them all!”
I moved at an unnatural speed toward the approaching riders. The book gave the speaker’s words power, but it did not give him wisdom. He will realize his mistake too late.
Before they can respond, I cut down the horsemen and move into the camp. Their mortal weapons could not hurt me even if they had been fast enough to try. I worked my way through each quarter until nothing was left alive.
With the speaker’s last command guiding my actions, I slipped out of the far side of the enemy camp and moved toward the encampment of my captors. Words have meaning. All means all.
I kept out of earshot to avoid any new commands and skirted the edge of the plain to arrive back where we started. I ripped through the crowd as they ran in every direction. I saw the speaker racing back but he would be far too late. Moments passed and my work was done.
The speaker finally made it across the expanse breathing heavy and muttering, “Stop, Stop, Stop…”
An eerie quiet took hold of the plain as I stood face to face with the wielder of the book. His eyes pooled water but refused to run. He received his wish, but it was not what he wanted. He was the supreme power now but with no one to lord over. Every empty town for miles was his and his alone, but he would forever be alone in them.
“Go, you foul thing” he said. “Go back to whatever hell you came from.”
Darkness grabbed me and pulled me back… back home.