Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure

The swordsman Ragan Song engages in...

A Dance with a Demon
(Part Two)

By Josh Chapman
About the author

AT FIRST NOTHING HAPPENED. The chanting continued, and the door remained firmly in place. Then, Song heard more coughing and wheezing, as the door swung slowly outward, leaking a ghostly red light into the shadowy corridor. A gnarled and crooked old priest dressed in the same yellow garb as the man Song had earlier slain stepped forward.

Perfect! Just the one man--a senile and infirm one at that. The Gods were truly shining upon Song this night.

"Hello?" the man croaked, swinging milky, obviously failing eyes around the dim surroundings. "Hello?Ö Who goes there?ÖAnd why arenít you inside with the rest, my brother?" The priest took a few small steps forward.

And then Ragan Song struck!

Springing down the last few steps, he landed directly before the wizened figure and instantly let fly an arrow of devastating power and speed.

The shaft flashed through the fetid air of the corridor, slicing through the priestís right eye and punching through the back of his head, to embed itself in the tough timbers of the door.

The tremendous force of the shot sent the old manís body lurching backwards to thump into the door and slide to the floor, only to be suspended by the arrow that had mashed through his cranium--the crimson feathered shaft of which now poked through his ruined eye socket. Slowly, the door began to swing back towards its frame under the weight of the ruined body.

Cursing in frustration, Song leaped towards the door, arms outstretched. He caught his leg upon the ruined cadaver dangling grotesquely from his arrow, and stumbled forward. The door had almost closed--thus once more barring his progress. In desperation, he flung out his ivory bow towards the shrinking gap between door and frame as his body crashed to the cold floor of the corridor.

The bow clattered against the wall, just as the last of the vibrant red light was retreating back from whence it came. Seemingly taking an eternity to succumb to gravity, the weapon appeared to slide with phlegmatic reluctance, down towards the black night of the mysterious door.

The fallen warrior closed his eyes, fearing the worst--expecting to be stuck once more behind this blasphemy of a door.

But then, a small sound found his ears--Klick! Opening his eyes, he saw a thin streak of ruby light slicing across the wall before him. Turning his head slightly, he saw that his magnificent ivory bow had wedged itself between the jar in the door, thereby leaving him free to continue without hindrance.

A grin of relief split across his handsome face as he hauled himself up onto his feet. Wiping the sweat from his fierce purple eyes, he walked to where the great door stood open a mere inch. Shouldering his bow once more, he gripped the edge of the enigmatic wood, again wincing at its frosty feel, and proceeded to heave the door open.

It was heavy, difficult to move even for him. The depraved imagery upon the wood seemed to come alive, as the door was slowly forced open. The carvings appeared to glow a rich black colour, a black that was fouler than the pits of hell itself. So dark and imposing were the symbols, that the rest of the timbers seemed dull and innocuous in comparison.

Yet Song shoved determinedly until the old priest's outstretched legs curtailed the movement of the door by catching against the opposite wall.

Now he was consumed by the oozing red light as it flooded the open doorway. The chanting was strong and resonant in his ears. A burst of heat issued forth from beyond the door--a sharp contrast to the woodís ghoulish chill.

Pulling his katana from its scabbard, Song stepped cautiously through the threshold, and into another world!

He was in a huge underground cavern. It appeared to be of natural origin, great stalactite teeth pushed through the gum of the placeís ceiling, some one hundred feet above his head. Both walls and ceiling shone with a deep scarlet hue and, Song found upon brushing some of the rock with his hand, held an unnatural heat within their sediment. Indeed, the heat of the place was overwhelming, the air was close, choking, and Song had to stifle a cough after breathing the harsh atmosphere of this subterranean nightmare--no wonder the old priest had respiratory problems.

Taking another few paces into the stifling chamber, Song found that he was walking upon an outcrop of some sort. Looking to his right he saw that the natural platform encircled the entire cavern, bisecting the giant dome around its middle.

Song crouched down and crawled to the edge of the outcrop on hands and knees, his katana blade gripped firmly between his teeth.

Peering out over the ledge of the precipice, his mind reeled at the horror of what he saw.

Some twenty feet below him, the priests of the temple had congregated for some repulsive ritual of bestial sorcery. At least two hundred of the bald, yellow robed men were kneeling, face to the ground with arms outstretched, chanting repugnant mantras to their defiled deities.

Allowing his gaze to pass over the bowed heads of the sycophantic order, Song saw a raised dais in front of the corrupted priests. Upon this platform was a table of black obsidian, and upon the table was a woman.

She was naked and writhing in pain, yet was bound at her wrists and ankles to the shining rock surface.

She was slick with blood--it appeared her breasts had been bitten off--and her struggles were gradually subsiding as yet more of her precious life force ebbed away from her to spill over the sides of the table and congeal in pools upon the rough floor of the cavern.

A man was upon the dais with the girl. He was also naked, aside from a bright yellow circle painted onto his chest. Unlike the priests genuflecting before him, however, this man was not shaved. A long mane of fine silver hair flowed down his back. The fringe along with most of his face was stained deep red with the blood of his sacrifice.

The manís sleek, pale body was dancing round the altar shouting unholy profanities and beseeching his god Shanazaraana to come forth and enlighten him and his disciples. Sporadically he would halt in his wild cavorting to lick and bite the ravaged womanís body.

"This must be Nyarlothetep!" thought Song, already placing an arrow to his bow. Drawing back with all his strength, he sighted the bow first upon the animalistic figure on the dais, then feeling a strange sensation of compassion, aimed at the wretched figure strapped upon the altar, and fired.

The arrow was straight and true, plunging straight into the heart of the poor woman, ending her suffering in a few swift seconds.

Nyarlothetep ceased his dancing, and glared through a dripping mask of blood and gore at the red-feathered shaft protruding from the now still body before him. The chanting of the priests had stopped, silence hung oppressively in the baking cavern.

Glancing up from whence the arrow came, the naked man spotted a figure above him, atop one of the caverns natural balconies. He spotted a man with a raised bow, drawn back past his ear, an arrow fitted to the taut string.

"No!" he called, eyes wide with fear. "You know not what you do!"

And then the arrow punctured him, and he died.

Immediately, the cavern was flooded with noise, or at least Songís head was, he couldnít be sure. It began as a deathly chittering noise, flooding his consciousness, wrenching at his very soul. Then came a tremulous moaning deep and rich. It made him feel dead inside, and yet more alive than he had ever been.

The walls and ceiling of the cavern began pulsing red and black. Rock bubbled and bled. The heat was unbearable, yet Song was transfixed at the edge of the overhang. Staring in awe at the priests, he watched in morbid fascination as they mimicked their surroundings. Screaming in agony, they gripped their shaved heads and rolled in a paroxysm of pain upon the ground as blood and brains boiled inside their skulls before erupting through watering eyes to froth and bubble on the scorching floor of the cavern.

Songís eye was suddenly drawn to the body of the woman still strapped to the altar. She appeared to be unaffected by the surrounding chaos; perhaps the unholy parasite was an affliction only of the living.

Yet something was happening to the womanís body.

Barely discernible movements began flickering across her body--the flicker of an eyelid, the twitch of a toe. Gradually these increased in both frequency and severity. Now she was moving entire limbs! An arm, a leg, her head.

Then she sat up, her chains snapping easily, trickles of blood oozing from the gaping wounds in her chest. As quickly as it had started, the unearthly wailing ceased, and silence reigned once more.

The now animate corpse stretched forward and effortlessly snapped the chains binding her ankles to the obsidian block. Then, somewhat shakily, she climbed to her feet, and stood atop the bloody altar. Spreading her arms to either side, she smiled up at Song and tipped her head back.

The warrior stared in horror as an ethereal black miasma drifted lazily from the womanís open mouth. It rose high into the parched air until it was suspended directly opposite Song. The woman collapsed upon the altar below, and the amorphous black fog gravitated towards him.

With a tremendous effort he shook off the unnatural paralysis which had held him in place. In a desperate shamble, he sprinted towards the black door, which had given him ingress to this terrible chamber.

Song knew the foul demon blackness was pursuing him as he leapt down the stairs, taking three at a time, stumbling blindly in the darkness. He could feel the evil of the malignant cloud pushing down on his back. He felt tainted, unclean.

There was no way even he could fight a creature such as this. As a warrior, he needed something tangible to attack; his fierce katana would pass straight through the ungodly mist that tailed him.

So he ran on. Ran until he reached the top of the staircase, ran through the winding corridors of the temple, leaping over the smouldering remains of the drugged-up priest, and rounded a sharp corner until he could see the balcony and the night sky once again.

Knowing he had no time to descend the same way as he entered the temple, Song sped past the dead guards and took a great leap over the balcony to go sailing into the black of night.

And there he was caught.

The great black mass invaded his being at the apex of his jump. Time seemed to stand still, he thought his brain was imploding, his nerves, shrivelling and dying. His very soul writhed in torment as the strange thing devoured him.

Suspended in the chill night air, in the clutch of the dark, a voice came to him:

"Ragan Song." It was a womanís voice, graceful and elegant.

"Leave me!" he cried thrashing his body in mid-air.

"Ragan Song, I cannot," the voice echoed in his head once more.

"Who are you?" he shouted, beating at his head, trying to vanquish the entity in the only way he knew how.

"My name is Shanazaraana," said the voice.

And Ragan Song wept, for he knew now what he had done. In averting the suffering of another, he had damned himself and destroyed his soul in the name of humanity.

He heard a soft chuckle inside his head as he fell to his eternal descent.

The End.

Back to Part One

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A Dance with a Demon is copyright Josh Chapman. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)