“We may have found one. Just one. With sense enough to teach.”
“You won’t ever see me teaching.” the Hag of a woman crowed. She had been bound in chains and beaten within an inch of whatever beauty she might once have held. Her eyelids were loose and sagging, a small pimple,about ready to pop, was caught in the flap that drooped over her right eye. Her left eye was swollen, purpled, pulsing and bruised.
“You’ll do as you’re asked creature.” the thing that escorted the Hag was Boraine by birth. Thick set with tufts of golden hair covering her skin from head to toe (or from head to hoof). The Boraine’s name was Heffga, of the Sun-Skins Kin. Heffga favoured the battle hammer, as hard and blunt an instrument of death as one might come across, and of honoured scars she bore over two dozen, the most prominent of which was a laceration curving from the side of her neck down to the tip of her shoulder blade.
A worthy opponent, that Groll. Tunderan, if I’m not misremembering.
“We may have found is a far miles stretch from we have found, Heffga. I did not send you away to bring back to me hope alone. Come, show this child to me.” a figure, indistinguishable before the blazing fires that pooled around their throne?… That’s no throne, that’s a f*cking burial mound. The Hag spat at the ground, snarling from under her toothless gums. Heads an’ skulls for the comfort o’ the arms… spines, no doubt about it, making for backing. This one has a few skeletons in their closet. The Hag smiled, on the verge of cackling.
“A fine specimen.” the figure leant down to better see the crippled woman, “Tell me child, what is your name.”
“I ain’t a child, chicken. Just take a look at how I sag and how I limp. Breasts like turkey neck and the rests no better.” now she chose to laugh, aloud and forcefully.
The shadow-bound figure seemed unaffected, but Heffga was far from accepting of this outburst. She buried a hoof in the Hag’s back, sending the old woman sprawling to the ground in a desperate cry of pain. SNAP. Was that the Hag’s back? Or perhaps her knees? Or just her chin as it caught on the stone flooring.
The guards that stood a-line down either side of the columned hall straightened at the sudden sound. Their steel boots clicked together, halberds echoing off the floor as each one struck the ground with the base of their weapon. Attention.
Fancy figure, fancy hall… fancy guards, let’s watch them fall.
The Hag looked up at the throned figure, its hands tapping impatiently upon hollowed skulls. Blood trickled down the Hag’s chin from her toothless gums, and for a moment her eyes rolled up and back into the whites. The figure sat up, seeming to feign an interest.
Underfoot the stone slabs warmed themselves, then from warm they grew hotter, and from hotter they started to smoulder. Smoke rose between the columns of the room, steel plate armour ringing in the heat. Hop two, hop two. The guards began to dance, not a single one was able to maintain their calm demeanour before the heated grounds. Drop down. All in a row, as if dominoes caught in a breeze, the guards fell. Only they didn’t just fall, they were felled. Each body taken by a spasming fit before coming to a jarring halt, forever at attention on the ground.
Heffga unbuckled her hammer – she had no fear of heated grounds, Boraine were born by fire, it was in fact the very purpose of their hoofs to seal out the heat – and raised her hammer’s head up high, ready to strike off the Hag’s own.
“Stop, Heffga. You would so soon seek to take the life, the knowledge, of the prize I’ve awaited?” the figure peeled back their hood, coming into the light of the flames. There was no face to see behind that hood, no eyes, no ears, no lips for speaking. Just a mask of blotted skin drawn loosely round the sides of a hollow ball of bone. The mask itself spoke of pain, the eye-less sockets harrowing, the lip-less mouth curved down into a frown.
“Well now, that just ain’t a pretty sight.” the Hag snorted, licking her gums. She wasn’t afraid of this new creature before her. Death is already at my door, why not do some good and take this self proclaiming, delusional pr*ck along with me?
“Child, stand for me.”
The Hag didn’t argue this time, she struggled to her feet, smiling.
“Kneel!” Heffga cried, bringing down her waiting hammer, “You are not worthy of R’myska.”
The masked figure tilted its head in subtle amusement.
Crack. The Hag’s knee snapped before the hammer. She fell screaming.
“I asked you to stand.” R’myska rose from upon the throne, offering a decaying hand to the Hag, “Now please, stand with me. Show me.”
The Hag looked up into those pitiful sockets, they seemed almost elated and yet so severely depressed. “Go f*ck yourself.” she crowed, spitting bile that ran a neat line down the left cheek of that harrowing mask.
Again the Hag’s eyes rolled back to whites, only this time the R’myska came forward – to put a stop to all this… these unnecessary games – raising a hand, and from no more than the clicking of fingers the Hag fell, screaming once more.
Heffga gave a start, her body felt heavy, her heart tired in its mortal cage.
“You will show me what I want to see, child.” R’myska grabbed the Hag by the collar of her ragged dress, lifting her up from the floor. The sockets of
R’myska’s mask burned like wildfire, a cool light passing through veins that mapped unearthly skin. The Hag began to shake, violently. Her mouth started frothing and foaming.
“Please, don’t do this…” Heffga’s voice caught in her throat as she fell to one knee, her golden-coat quickly fading to grey.
As is the price of Drawing power from the World. R’myska mused. To Draw is an exchange, it requires life, it requires force to manipulate. Then looking on the dying servant that was Heffga; it will be a shame indeed, to lose you. “Now show me!” R’myska cried aloud, a guttural scream thrown at the Hag.
The Hag struggled momentarily against R’myska’s firm and skeletal grip, then finally she fell limp. At that very same second Heffga collapsed, her thick-furred body withered down to the bone, blood spilling from her nostrils… flooding out from within.
The Hag had not an ounce of strength left with which to fight against
I’m far… far too old… for this sh*t.
The Hag’s eyes faded to grey. R’myska’s veins, steaming as they cooled, took on a pale light that reflected that very colour.
Then they were lost. Both torn away from this World.
R’myska had asked to see.
And the Hag was helpless to resist.
And show she would.
Copyright © K R Perry 2019