|Added On: ||December 29, 2012 8:11 pm|
|Community Series: ||MOTU Modern|
Written by: M. Lawson Humble
1. The Beast: Bound by a Spell
The beast lay face down on the cold, ancient stones. Vibrating with the ever-present primal energy that had coursed through the veins of the Mountain of Snakes since time immemorial, the stones throbbed like a laboring heartbeat beneath his pounding head. Blood pooled and overflowed out of his bruised mouth from the swollen and inflamed pulpy housing of his cracked canine. The beast’s flat, crooked nose, which had been broken many times over throughout his brutal life was broken once again, and shameful salty tears streamed down from his wild yellow eyes, diluting the thick, crimson lifeblood that was fated to soon dry and form a matted crust on the stinking louse-infested orange-brown fur surrounding his hard face.
“Get up,” commanded the alchemist. When the beast did not reply, the alchemist laughed quietly, turned his back on his slave, and walked away disgusted, into the depths of the dark, gloomy, and evil mountain. But then, he stopped suddenly and called back over his shoulder. The laugh was gone from his voice. “Lie there if you wish,” he said in a high voice dripping with poison,” but see that you do not fail me again…” He paused. “Fool.” The tapping of his staff then receded until it was no more than an echo of echoes.
The beast heard neither the command, the rebuke, nor the fading clank of the staff over the violent ringing in his ears.
He lay unmoving for many moments, cursing the alchemist, cursing his fate, cursing the cruel gods of his tribe, cursing his tribe. They turned him out- his own kind. Among monsters, he was a monster. More beast than man. A killer. A murderer. They paid the price for their arrogance though. The chief. His wives- sons. Everyone. Pleading elders. Mewling infants. They all lived their last moments in pain and regret for casting out Raqquill. Raqquill the Beast, they called him. But no longer. No longer. No one still lived who knew his true name.
The beast extended his long, heavy, powerful arms, pushing up on his cracked and calloused fur-covered knuckles. He rubbed the swirling stars from his eyes and smeared the blood and tears into his hair. There was a yawning wound across the bald, vividly-colored, but creased and scarred flesh of his face. At first, the wound had vomited a steady waterfall of blood, but now it was beginning to blacken and clot. “No matter,” growled the beast aloud to himself. “I have endured worse.” He spat on the stones between his bare, clawed, prehensile feet and cursed. “And I will endure more.”
Hunched over and stumbling unsteadily, the beast then shook his head furiously, trying to dislodge the unwelcome thoughts and memories that were now forming in his brain. But his will was not strong. The memories came.
After the murder of his tribe by his own hands, the alchemist, then only a man, found the beast wandering feral through the shadows of the tall trees in the forgotten forests of the Lonesome Lands. “Join me,” said the alchemist in a voice that could not be ignored as he emerged before the beast from the cover of low, moist fog one gray morning. “For I have heard tales of your vicious nature and have followed the trail of gore, death, and sadness that you leave in your terrible wake. “Join me,” he repeated, “and I will give to you your heart’s desire. Join me, for I am in need of warriors to fight by my side. I am called to the blood-drenched shores of the Berserker Islands, and I will not go alone.”
“I…” snarled the beast, “am no warrior.” He pulled his lips back, baring his long, sharp teeth in a smile that was not a smile. He crouched low to the mossy ground, and the muscles in his proportionally short, but incredibly powerful legs tensed, preparing for a lunge that would allow him to eviscerate the bold stranger who smelled of incense, crumbling books, and lies.
“Fine,” agreed the alchemist. He never broke eye contact and did not cower as he spoke. Though he did not say so, the beast was impressed. “You say you are no warrior. I agree. Truth be told,” he shrugged, “I can find warriors enough. I need something… more. I need you. In your amoral ferocity, you are… unique. Again I ask you: Will you join me? What is your heart’s desire? Simply state to me your wish, and our pact will be sealed.”
Puffs of billowing steam and sprays of yellow snot rushed from the beast’s wide nostrils as he exhaled and growled with strange sounds that could scarcely be described as language, “My desire?” he rumbled with contempt. “New death. Fresh meat. Cracked splinters of bones in my teeth and the taste of marrow upon my tongue. Those things I desire, stranger.” His eyes narrowed. “And those things I see before me.”
The beast pounced. The alchemist laughed as the beast- the outcast- the killer smashed into an invisible barrier that protected him like a cocoon.
“But you see, my stinking slave,” laughed the alchemist again, “our bargain has been struck. You have expressed your desire to me, so therefore you are mine.”
For nearly a day, the beast howled with a hate that was terrible to behold as he clawed, slashed, and bit into the barrier that surrounded the alchemist. The barrier did not yield. But the beast did.
Finally, with two broken arms, heaving in agony and frustration, the beast collapsed. When next he woke, the beast found himself healed and rested, nestled within a bed of straw in a filthy, moveable rusty cage. He was not caged for long though. Upon waking, the beast was immediately released onto a raging battlefield. Confused, deafened by the screams of the dying, and blinded by the flash of swords, axes, and the crackling, colorful luminescence of beautiful but deadly blaster-fire, the beast pressed into the temples of his throbbing head with his long, nimble fingers and gnashed his glistening teeth, working up a foul-tasting froth in his black-lipped mouth. He roared. He roared and heroic warriors trembled. He roared again, and all went red.
As the alchemist looked on from far away in the safety of his chariot, he smiled with approval. He realized that the scales had been tipped in no small part due to the unleashed hate and brutal skill demonstrated by his new slave. After an hour, the battle was unequivocally won. The alchemist’s end of the bargain had been honored. The beast realized his heart’s desire a thousand times over that gruesome day. And from then on, the outcast with a forgotten name- the unhappy, blood-soaked creature was forever bound to the clever and malevolent alchemist.
“Bound by a spell,” sighed the beast after the insistent memory had played itself out. “Were we still in the wild, with him stripped of his magic and his false tongue, things would have been different. Yes. Long ago would my teeth have ripped the lies form his throat. Long ago would I have feasted on the rotten meat of his diseased body.”
“Move,” snapped a feminine voice, as deep and as dark as night. A shadow passed by the beast like a breeze in the dimmed corridor. “Your stench nauseates me.”
The beast did nothing but grunt as the woman- the witch hurried by without a backward glance.
She could smell him, true, and she never failed to voice her revulsion, but he could smell her as well. She smelled sweet. A potent mix of lavender, leather, and sweat. And although hairless for the most part, with her strange soft skin a sickly cast of yellow, she attracted him. She was never far from his mind. But he was cursed to never act upon his desires. The alchemist had deemed it necessary to magically forbid him from ever touching her. The witch knew this. And in her boundless cruelty- a quality that further endeared her to him, she ceaselessly taunted him with seductive sway of her unbelievable form.
The beast rumbled low in animal hunger, but eventually tore his gaze from the temptress-witch.
He lumbered on. Further down, as the corridor widened, through an open door, the searing light of a brightly illuminated workshop flooded the dank corridor, casting its glow onto the slimy, wet stone walls that closed in around the beast like an unwanted embrace. Shunning the darkness, he entered into the light and attempted to engage those who also resided against their own will, deep within the bowels of the ancient Mountain of Snakes. “Kronis. Trydor,”
he ventured as his eyes adjusted. “What do you want, filthy… savage?” asked Trydor without looking up, for his full attention was focused upon the cybernetic arm of the man known as Kronis. Trydor wielded a nuclear-fusion powered soldering gun, and was reattaching a battle-damaged component with surgical delicacy to the artificial arm of his fellow warrior. “Stop squirming, Kronis,” he whispered impatiently in exasperation through clenched teeth, “or we’re all dead.”
A metallic whirr accompanied the cyborg’s words as he replied, “I can’t help it.” He grunted. “Gods! His smell… Go! Go, baboon… Leave before I leap from this table and skin you. Then I will wear your flesh and fur as a cloak. Although…” He laughed. The sound was the sound of gears grinding. “I will be sure to wash it first. Several times, I should think.” Despite himself, Trydor chuckled. “Or Maybe I’ll twitch my arm and blow us all up so I don’t have to look at your ugly face any more.”
The beast snarled, cursing himself for expecting if not kindness, at least an acknowledgement of shared sadness- a nod of understanding. “I should have known better,” he thought. “I belong nowhere. These two will never accept me. Nor…” he reflected, “nor would I wish them to.” The expression in his yellow eyes grew harder and the bright blue and white coloring on his face deepened. “They are both nothing but meat and metal to me.” The beast grew larger and stood up straighter in his anger. He repeated his thought aloud. “You are both nothing but meat and metal to me! Were I in my jungle home—“
“But you’re not, monkey,” said Trydor, standing up. Despite his small stature in relation to the beast, Trydor radiated confidence, and his presence demanded attention. “You’re here. In my workshop. My workshop.” Trydor retrieved his sword from a hook on the wall and wrapped his deft fingers around its emerald hilt.
“Can I move now?” asked Kronis.
If Trydor still possessed his natural humanoid eyes, he would have rolled them. “Yeah. You can get up. And as payment for my services, you can help me show the monkey the door.”
Kronis sprung from the sterile table. Heavy metal boots upon polished metal floor resonated harshly as the mad cyborg found his feet and stepped forward. He tested his cybernetic arm. As usual, the work of Trydor was flawless.
Kronis smiled and pointed a gunmetal blade that was now forever a part of his body between the eyes of the beast as he said, “We heard you, you know? The boss beat you raw again, didn’t he?” The beast did not reply. “What did you do this time? Huh?” Again, the beast held his tongue. The cyborg laughed for an uncomfortably long time. “Gods. The sight of you must sicken the boss. Sure sickens me. And,” he smiled a metal smile, “I’m a pretty sick guy.”
“Go now, beast,” said Trydor with an arrogant, condescending grin, casually testing the perfect balance of his perfect blade. “You’re no match for us.”
The beast shook his matted head. “Bound by a spell. Neutered by magic,” he snarled with hate. “Were this not my fate, you both would now lie dying at my feet spilling guts and oil.”
But before the machinist and the madman could reply, the beast turned clumsily and took his leave. Cruel laughter followed him as he lumbered out into the corridor and further down into the darkness.
After a time, completely by chance, the beast came to the edge of a vast subeternian lake. The lake was connected, by way of a maze of lightless underground waterways far beneath the Mountain of Snakes, to the boundless Sea of Rakash- the sea that ceaselessly crashed with indifferent elemental fury onto the abused rocky shores of their war-torn planet.
The beast crouched and plunged his arm into the brackish water. Foul excreted oil oozed from his fur and pooled, resting and shimmering like a rainbow circle around his arm on the surface of the stagnant black lake.
The beast stopped breathing. He was as still as a stone. And then he struck. Underwater, his claws pierced the scaly flesh of his prey. The beast extracted his arm and examined his catch. The creature was small and it gasped in desperation as its lungs filled with its own blood and the stale air of the cold cavern. It frantically kicked its frog-like legs and flailed its nearly-translucent webbed arms in a hopeless attempt to free itself. The beast took no joy as he crammed the squirming creature, bulging eyes, long serpentine tail and all, into his mouth. He chewed several times before his meal stopped moving and died. He then swallowed and sucked the blood and bile from the soaked fur that covered his furry fingers.
And then, the beast was thrown onto his hunched back as the water in the lake came alive and seemed to explode. He was blinded by the salt and the slimy strips of seaweed and rotten muck that slapped him in the face.
In a language unknown to the beast, a voice screamed, filling the cavern. Although the language was unintelligible, its tone was unmistakable and the beast knew to whom it belonged. The servant-king of the deep- he, who like them all, was bound by the spells and the lies of the alchemist- the frog. The frog who walked like a man crashed into the beast, pounding him with fists covered with scales as hard as bone and as sharp as the teeth of the purple land sharks.
The beast tried in vain to grab ahold of the frog, but his enemy- his fellow warrior was far too slippery. And of course, in unfairness, the beast was magically forbidden to use his awesome full strength against those whom the alchemist singled out. His only option- the only option that would allow the beast to cling to his cruel, brutal life was in shameful retreat.
The beast worked his feet into the heaving chest of the green frog and kicked hard. The servant-king flew through the stale air and smacked onto the surface of the lake and sunk slowly in a daze.
“But the frog will return,” groaned the beast aloud. “In seconds… a minute if I am fortunate…”
Holding his mashed face in his palm, the beast rose and stumbled from the bank of the subeternian lake and ran for his miserable, worthless life. Only after he had covered many miles, sinking ever deeper into the depths of the Mountain of Snakes did he allow himself the luxury of collapse.
As he sat in the dark, he moaned in agony and cursed himself for a coward. He howled into the nothingness and sobbed, full of revulsion for the pitiful creature that he was forced to become. “Raqquill the Beast would never flee from a frog!” he wailed as he cried in frustration. “A frog!” But this was now his reality. Bound by a spell. Tricked by an alchemist. Slave to a liar. Mocked by those whose fate he shared. The lowest of the low. Less than nothing.
“And if you regained your full strength?” asked a voice from within his aching head. “If I removed the spell of weakness, what then?”
The beast stood suddenly, his massive body flooded with wild adrenaline. In eagerness, he cracked his head upon a low, overhanging rock. He fell to his knees, scraping his flesh and spilling his blood on the ground. “Who are you?”
“No one.” The voice was as harsh as stones scraping. “Answer my question.”
Not knowing what else to do, the beast answered truthfully. “I… I would kill them all.”
“Good,” laughed the rock-voice. A snorting inhalation accompanied the humorless laugh. “Starting with whom?”
“The alchemist,” replied the beast, this time without hesitation.
Unbelievable forgotten power then flooded into the exhausted limbs of the beast. His chest expanded and his heart pumped the strong beat of war-drums in his ears.
“Then go. Kill.”
End of Part One.