Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure



Today, dear readers, we present a sword and sorcery tale, with a Lovecraftian flavour. It's tale of a wizard who goes too far in his quest for love and power...a young man determined to rescue his love from a dire fate...and a curse that might destroy them all as it summons forth a creature from out of legend...

 

The Dark DevoureR

by
Kirk Straughen

about the author


 D ARK AND LIGHT INTERMINGLED in strange disharmony. What craft can right this blighted frame, what Art can make it whole?

The Dark Devourer lurked within the wall, hidden in shadows deep that gathered like ebon mist upon the cold grey stone. The being's body, a sable sphere encircled by equatorial tentacles, eight in all, which moved in slow rotation about its form; glowed faintly with a nimbus of unearthly light that rendered the stone transparent to Lord Abaxis' baneful gaze.

It returned his stare with a single milky organ, which usually floated at random within its body, but was now fixed with cold and calculating intensity upon Abaxis’ twisted visage, thrown into weird relief by the shifting light of enchanted tapers that kept the thing at bay.

Lord Abaxis hunched closer to his nemesis, glared at it, held up a dancing flame. The Dark Devourer quivered slightly in the sorcerous candlelight. Its tentacles accelerated to a blur of motion; the body tilted and into the wall it sped, as if the very stone were some vast void that opened up before its fleeing form, which grew ever smaller as it retreated into unmeasurable otherness.

"A small victory," thought Abaxis, sullenly. "But it will return. That thing has such patience it could watch the Mountains of Moonim erode to hills, and it is as relentless as the very elements that wear away their soaring heights."

He sighed deeply, cursed the manifold gods who were said to have woven Creation’s tapestry upon looms of thought, reflected on the curse that had befallen him …

Fair was Lady Usara, as fair as Ophan, the nearer moon when it shines in fullness upon the world, and guilds the night with charming radiance. Aye, fair indeed was she - the very opposite of Lord Abaxis; full of grace and loveliness like poetry become flesh, a sharp contrast to his own dark and brooding nature, his shattered body, twisted face.

He had tried to woo her, much to the derision of the other Lords, who viewed his efforts at courtly love with a mixture of pity and contempt; the crueller ones aping him in vicious pantomime – his limp; his stutter that destroyed all hope of graceful utterance.

Usara responded with diplomacy to his clumsy efforts. How well he remembered her words, so kind and yet so cruel:

“My Lord does me great honour with his attentions,” she had said in dulcet sincerity. “But alas, my heart belongs to another. Please do not despair, for I am sure the gods will not be so unkind as to see you alone all your days.”

Abaxis now turned to Usara, bound spreadeagled upon his bed, lured to his lair by false pretence, drugged by soporific wine. He approached the girl, gazed upon her flawless beauty, saw the drug was waring off. Was she worth the bane he had brought upon himself by killing old Paraman? He silently cursed his own murderous rage as his mind replayed that fateful scene.

A day ago he had approached the reclusive wizard, requesting a philtre that would sway Usara’s heart. But Paraman refused to aid him, saying: “Love, my Lord, can’t be compelled. It must arise from the attraction of two souls to one another. Such matters are of the spirit, and I will not debase them with mere chemistry.”

In a towering rage, Abaxis had hurled a flask at the man. The vessel shattered upon the sage, drenching him with its poisonous contents. Paraman died quickly, but not so quickly that he could not command the Dark Devourer, his familiar, to fall upon his slayer:

Abaxis had narrowly escaped, using his own small arts of sorcery to defend himself, but it had proved a brief respite at best, for the thing now perused him relentlessly, determined to fulfil its master’s last command.

“Hypocrite,” thought Abaxis, sourly. “Paraman was a devotee of Diasa, Goddess of Pacifism, and yet he doomed me thus. Well, at least I’ve never pretended to be other than I am.”

Again Abaxis focused upon the girl; saw her struggle feebly, like a parn within the hunter’s snare, a cruel gag stifling all pleas for mercy that could play upon his humanity. For a moment pity rose within him - good and evil contending within his soul. But seductive lust proved stronger, and in a sweeping torrent consumed him with burning passion – a black flame that seared away all noble sentiment.

Placing his gnarled hands upon Usara, Abaxis drew up the girl’s brief robe – over her thighs, the swell of her belly, the fullness of her breasts. She lay revealed before his lecherous gaze, trembling in revulsion at the thought of his polluting touch, struggled wildly as his cold fingers eagerly reached for her …

**************

Swiftly Setmen climbed the trellis to the balcony high above, blind to the beauty of the vine’s night-flowers, oblivious to their heady scent. Silently, he seized the balustrade, hauled his lithe body across the ornate rail, moonlight glinting from the dagger between his teeth. Stealthily creeping to the open doorway, he peered within. His darkest fears were realized in what his eyes beheld.

A slight sound came to Abaxis’ ears. He turned his head, one hand hovering over Ursara’s breast, the other above her loins.

Setmen lunged, his dagger flashing in a silvery arc. The hunchback spun about, caught the youth’s descending wrist, grunted as the blade grazed his cheek. Both protagonists wrestled desperately, each surprised at the other’s strength.

With a frantic heave, Abaxis threw off his assailant, sent Setmen tumbling against the room’s massive candelabrum. It fell upon the youth, pinning his legs beneath its heavy weight. Usara watched helplessly, struggled desperately as Abaxis advanced upon her lover, dagger poised for the killing stroke.

Suddenly, the hunchback froze – a sinister shape whirled at him from cloaking shadows - the Dark Devourer. No magic barrier held it back; the inscrolled candles having been extinguished by their fall. With appalling swiftness the entity sprung upon Abaxis like a murlu upon a ris, enfolding him within its ebon embrace.

The world vanished. Abaxis tried to scream, but had no voice; tried to struggle, but had no limbs. His mind seemed to explode into a thousand whirling fragments, yet each still linked to the other by tenuous threads of consciousness.

Somehow he sensed his soul in all its multitudinous parts – weird geometries, some bright as mirrors, others darker than darkness. Glowing onyx tendrils snaked among the spinning forms; caught the black shapes with nets of force; absorbed them all.

There was no pain, only an indescribable sense of transformation, this quickly followed by a feeling of strange coalescence. The bright shapes moved together, linked in intricate patterns that established new harmonies. The scene faded … Peace.

**************

As the Dark Devourer fell upon Abaxis, Setmen, with strength born of desperation, fought free of the wrought iron stand’s pinning weight. Snatching up his dagger, he struggled to the bed, slashed Usara’s bonds with frantic haste. Both stumbled to the door, tried the handle, and to their horror found it locked.

With a curse Setman turned. The key must be on Abaxis’ body, but the Thing still hovered above the fallen Lord, its tentacles penetrating his skull like phantom worms. They were trapped within the room, were at the creature’s mercy. Would they share his unknown fate?

“I fear my love,” said Setmen, “that I have saved you from one fiend, and delivered you to another. Men I can fight and kill, but that thing is a metanexa, a being from beyond Creation’s outermost sphere, against which I have no defence.”

“Then we will die together,” was Usara’s fearless reply as the being withdrew its ghostly tentacles, drifted towards them with silent menace, the inhuman gaze of its milky orb now locked unsettlingly upon them.

Abaxis opened his eyes; saw the Dark Devourer advancing upon the pair, the youth valiantly shielding the girl’s body with his own. The creature stopped, inserted one serpentine member within the lock. There was an audible click. The door opened, and the lovers fled.

The metanexa turned its milky orb, fixed it upon the Lord, and with one tentacle wrote these words upon the very air in flaming script:

“I am called the Dark Devourer, for do I not consume the darkness within the souls of men? Your mind is free of shadows, my Lord, go and make right your wrongs.”

The words faded, the being spun off into darkness; vanished. For a time Abaxis sat in contemplative silence. He sensed the change within himself, and all who saw him would agree, for although still hideously deformed, an inner light somehow transfigured his ugliness.

“It seems my curse has been my salvation. Oh Paraman, oh Usara, how I have wronged you both,” he thought, weeping bitter tears of shame at his disgraceful acts.

Time passed. Abaxis rose slowly to his feet, stepped out upon the balcony. Enfolded by night’s warm solitude, he looked up and beheld the nearer moon. Ophan’s gentle light, streaming down from star gemmed heaven, kissed his ruined face; and with this subtle epiphany he was content.

The End.



 
 

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