Serrilin spread out his fingers until the skin wedged between them was like the webbed feet of a frog.

A dull sting crawled down his right arm, creeping with the stealth of a thief sneaking into a baron’s mansion. It coursed through his veins like a parasite gnashing at the boy from within. It was magma flaming through each and every nook or cranny within his body, leaving a searing, sizzling trail in its wake.

But above all, it was pain.

Unabashed, pure, and unadulterated pain. The very epitome of suffering. It did not discriminate, it did not relent, it did not take pity, nor did it relish it or even bask in it. The agony was indifferent. It would not so much as bat an eye at the boy should he endure it, and it would surely leave him to rot amid humid walls of that narrow cave should he perish.

But Serrilin would not–he could not, afford to die there. Not like some unfortunate wayfarer, reclined against some stalagmite and starving for days on end. That was not how it was meant to end. That was not how he was meant to end.

He pried his fingers apart further, feeling his bones cramp with a sore ache. He gasped out once, letting out misty breath, but bit his lower lip to distract himself from the pain. The flames of Asmodeus roared within him, and he embraced as the embers of his fire crackled inside of him. He eased his vision on his fingers yet again, and ache in his bones burned as his ring-finger snapped.

Serrilin gnawed on his lip, blood oozing and curdling through the gaps in his teeth. Through some miracle, he had stifled the shriek that so desperately wanted to leave the prison of his mouth. He ceased spreading his fingers apart for just an instant, and licked his lips. Iron.

“Asmodeus…I am…I am…” Serrilin croaked out the words from his frozen lips, only to stutter at the last moment. He felt the flames of hell festering at his fingertips. Their undulating forms coiled themselves along his fingers, he could not see it, but he knew that tendrils of hellfire strangled the life out his own arm with every passing moment.

Zarathustra. Who would have thought it? Who would have thought that after all these years, after all his travels, after all his dealings with beings beyond the ken of mortal men, and that after the innumerable tales he had lived through…who would have thought that the old warlock would still linger in his mind. As an apparition he came, only deigning to show himself in dreams that Serrilin never remembered or as a shadow streaming across the twilit horizon of frozen plains and tundras with crooked ebony trees.

He had taught him everything he knew, and had warned him that this was bound to happen. But Serrilin never listened to that. All those years of training and experience, he had taken the whole of it to his heart–save for one thing. The old Conjurer had called him a Cursed Child, one whom brought with him bad tidings and dreaded premonitions. He had scoffed at the assertion back then. If only he had known how right the warlock was.

But it was too late now. Much too late. “Asmodeus…I am…I am…I am…” the last word struggled to reach his lips, as though something–or someone–were holding it back. He gulped down the saliva that clogged his throat and slowed his wheezing breaths as well. He needed only whisper the final word, and all the pain would leave him. “Asmodeus, I am…” the hellfire nestled itself within his heart, now a permanent part of Serrilin. “yours.”

The last word echoed throughout the cave till it left its very mouth, only to reverberate back to the prone Serrilin. His arm went numb, and embers danced off the tips of Serrilin’s fingers. He felt as though a part of him had been torn away, cast into an abyss where he would never lay his eyes upon it ever again. And that much he expected, for that was the nature of taking the Blood Pact.

All men are bound to lose themselves one day. There are soldiers whom lose the final, fleeting traces of their sanity in far-flung battlefields, Kings whom lose their sense of self once they bear the crown of their peoples, and gods whose presence fades when the world forgets them. Yet there is only one kind of man capable of losing himself to the vile and unspeakable horrors that dwell beyond even the darkest recesses of the mind.
And this man was a Disciple of Zarathustra.

***

Who is Zarathustra? Who is Serrilin? Why is it that Serrilin is off in the middle of nowhere, stuck in some unknown cave?  This was another vignette I made yesterday. I’ve been trying to focus more on storytelling for a while now, considering that I’ve reached the 3rd Arc of my current book. Either way, I see this more as an excerpt from a longer work than anything else. Still, the setting might call me back for future projects…

Advertisements