Friday, November 9, 2018

Where The Shadow Lies

Where The Shadow Lies
by
Bobby Derie

There was blood on the bedsheet, knotted and clenched between her teeth. Blood on the twisted sheets that tied her wrists to the bedposts. A spreading brown stain beneath her, dried foam at the corner of lips and mouth. Dried vomit mixed with blood on her shift. The small, fragile chest beneath did not move.

Beside the bed, the priest knelt, held his head in his hands and did not pray. The bible and censor lay on the floor where he had tossed them.

Somewhere, as far away as the next room, a rosary clicked. The old woman moving through her hails, dry lips whispering the words.

"There was supposed to be a demon," he managed, unable to look at his handiwork. "What in the name of God have I done?"

###

Friday, November 2, 2018

Blood in the Streets

Blood in the Streets
by
Bobby Derie

Bob the Knob was dead. There would be blood in the streets.

The witches of the Thirteenth Street Coven circled their cauldrons and sharpened their athames. On Rune Street, the warlocks put up their wards and oiled their tommyguns. Down by the docks, the Kraken Tong raised black flags, and lowered them to half mast. Ahead of the funeral, the Daughters of Mina cleaned out a mausoleum and installed fresh caskets. They were ready to go to the mattresses.

The cream of society did not arrive to see Bob the Knob's black casket lowered into the earth, but the scum of the darkworld came to pay their respects. The succubi and incubi the Knob had favored worked the edges of the crowd, lifting black skirts to comfort the bereaved at a discount—and no-one doubted its what Bob would have wanted. Each ex-wife stuck a silver pin into the skin over his heart, looking at his face for any sign, and more than one went away red-eyed when the corpse remained unmoved. They were not his widows, but they had shared something of his life, and now they shared something of his death, congregating a little and swapping old memories, little of the venom left for each other now.

A low priest served as master of ceremonies, a defrocked Dagonite who had bowed before any number of altars. Most of the crowd made their signs against the evil eye as the thin balding man with a friendly face made the opening invocation, only gently slurring the pronunciation of the Knob's patron deities.

The casket was barely lowered when the long white hearse swung past the grave...the window rolled down... No one knew who was the first to scream, but the word rang out shrill among the quiet graves.

"Hellfire!"

Don L'ambrusco melted down to his bones in the opening barrage, though no-one knew if he was the one they were after—the Knob's funeral was a target-rich environment. Yet this was a crowd that did not duck and cover when the infernal flames burst out and wilted the green grass and scorched the earth.

The wands came out, and pocket pistols. Curses pinged off the limo's wards, but the bullets cracked the unarmored glass, smudged the sigils, and struck into the darkness from where the hellfire had emerged. Some fool had failed to ward the tires, and the black rubber popped and shrank, the limo dipping precipitously, unable to speed off or steer. Blasts of lightning scraped along the weakened wards as the soldatos moved in for the kill, and the limo knocked over couple of tombstones and ended up crashing into a tree.

The driver tried to flee. She got about three steps before being hit by multiple curses. The thing that fell on the grass, squirming horribly, looked somewhere between a frog and a squirrel, twitching limbs clawing at the suit suddenly three sizes too big for it. One of the ogres stomped it flat, sometime later.

Blood rained from the sky, as the survivors turned on each other...but this was only the beginning.

Bob the Knob was dead, and the truce was broken.



Friday, October 26, 2018

There Is A Troll

There Is A Troll
by
Bobby Derie


"...Aarvak, who has teeth like shovels, and digs among the roots of trees. But Aarvak hates garlic, which is why you should always spread garlic juice around your trees."


Nnad tapped his teeth wisely after this pronouncement, and drew in a puff of smoke from his long-stemmed pipe.


"And there is a troll..." he began again after a moment's thought, but I had already put him out of my mind. There was always a troll, with Nnad.


To him, the world was full of trolls, gliding through the mossy woods at night and in pale misty mornings; trolls throwing rocks at one another from the heights of mountains, building up islands and scooping fish out of rivers with their bare hands to eat them whole. Trolls hid behind and beneath rocks, they lived below the earth and in castles on clouds above the sky; and never once had I seen a single one of Nnad's trolls, for they were always on the other side of the mountain, or asleep within their hidden houses.


When Morda was found headless in the remains of her summer kitchen, Nnad in shaking voice said that the troll Morkar had returned, and for weeks after wore an onion on a string about his neck. When we had run the varg to earth, dirty and half-starved, with Morda's head in one bag and her summer sausages in another, Nnad had claimed he was a thief of Morkar's treasures - but the varg had died anyway, confusion in his eyes as the old man laid the onion-string around his neck.


When the children of Mellion were found in the woods, their livers picked out, Nnad had claimed the troll responsible was Galgost, who preferred such treats above all others, and warned mothers in the neighborhood to cut a rune on the left hand of each of their children. Some of them did, and the wee ones cried as the blood flowed. After Sven Bloody-Hand was found, digging into a tomb, and confessed, Nnad claimed the poor boy must have learnt the hunger from Galgost, and asked how many caves Sven had visited.


When the girl Alamm fled from his farm, blood streaming between her legs, Nnad claimed there was a troll between his legs, one that he kept calm only with regular dips in the glacier-stream that ran through his pasturage, and by judicious cuts with the little knife he always kept at his left hand.


I asked him, as I led him to the woodblock, where Alamm stood with the sword between her hands, what the name of the troll was.


"Nnad." He smiled sadly at me. "It's name is Nnad."


###

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Confession

The Confession
by
Bobby Derie

"I was a profiteer," the voice was a watery croak "in the war of souls."

There was a gurgle and a smacking of wet lips.

"Do not bless me, for I could not stand it. I do not come to be shriven. I come because if I do not confess, then my sins will consume me. Perhaps it is already too late."

The night was silent for a moment, save for heavy breathing. Then a long pause.

"Every war has its profiteers. If you cast the conflict between Heaven and Hell into such a frame...but it is not quite a war of nations. Every church and sect has their truth, and all of them think their purpose is to save souls...to draft sinners onto the side of God...and they each work in their own way. Such confusion always creates opportunities."

A wheeze, wet and phlegmy, paused the speech.

"A war of souls...there is no territory. There are no soldiers. The ranks of the clergy, all they are is recruiters. They work to sell you on the good word. Sometimes they scare you, sometimes they entice you, but it's all to get you to sign yourself over to them. Like two used car salesmen, trying to get you over to their lot. In such a war, weapons aren't swords and bombs...they're ideas...pitches...marketing." Another gurgle. "Well, I made weapons. And I sold them to both sides."

Another cough, ragged and pained.

"Both sides. Hell. I was at Gutenberg's elbow when he set the type, and steadied the hand of the scribe as Muhammad dictated; I showed Smith those golden pages, and lent LaVey the typewriter to pound out his first draft...and ah, the rewards, as the Bibles flowed forth, texts holy and unholy, and how the souls flowed in...and me with my percentage. Well, it kept me in girls, I'll tell you that."

The cough racked into something like a sob.

"That was my sin, really. I had forgotten...forgotten my purpose. Then one day I turned on the news. I watched. And I didn't stop watching, for a long time. Till the dust settled on me, and the lights went out because I hadn't paid the bill. Then I crawled into a bottle. Because that's what I was supposed to do: watch. Watch over them, help them, guide them...and all I did was mislead."

###

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cottontail

Cottontail
by
Bobby Derie

"Move your fluffy ass, thumper."


Joanna cringed a little and moved aside to let the man go past her. She had her mother's hips, wide and full, and it was sometimes easy to block the aisle on the bus. Still, she thought, as she wiggled the small tail like a ball of cotton at the base of her spine, that was no need for slurs.


Her big brown eyes fell on the scrolling line of advertisements that ran across the ceiling of the bus. Recreational cannabis. Hydrogen fuel cell amphibious cars. Cosmetic gene grafts. The usual run of brightly colored adverts, cartoons, infomercials. Like most people, Joanna had learned not to let her eyes linger on any of them too long, or the software would register interest.


She could feel the eyes on her ass. It was, from a certain standpoint, her best feature: neither of her parents had gone in for genetic breast augmentations, or at least hadn't paid to make them inheritable. That kind of thing was expensive. Her face...well, the lagomorph features set a few people off. More than one person had mistaken her pronounced philtrum as a cleft palate. The doe eyes, at least, could be mistaken for an affection.


Joanna's mother had never quite understood what it was like, growing up. She had been a third- or fourth-generation furry, proudly pointing to her great-grandparents at conventions in the '80s; she had saved up half her life to get the augments and genelifts that made her a "honey bunny" - which Joanna had inherited for free. But kids can be cruel, and pulled her tail and worse things.


Then puberty had set in.


Highschool was bad enough without the ticking genetic time bomb of carefully engineered augments suddenly shifting into high gear. Then there were the...expectations. There were a few other lagomorphs in school. Joanna's parents had known them through the community. Everyone just expected her to...keep to her own kind. When they didn't expect her to just be a horny little rabbit girl, straight from their hentai-fueled wet dreams.


That had been confusing enough. Trying to figure out whether she was a furry, just because her parents were.


The bus came to a stuttering halt at her stop, and Joanna turned to get off. She had to squeeze past a couple of people, her cottontail brushing against them. This time, nobody made a grab for it. Joanna hadn't always been so lucky.


###

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Red Line

The Red Line
by
Bobby Derie

When the sun rose, the curse of Inanna fell on Em-met, and he lay as one dead.
When the sun set, the blessing of Erishkegal fell on Em-met, and he rose as a part of the night.


He thanked the moon, and ran with the lions,
He fell on thief and brigand, and drank of their life,
He haunted the tombs of kings and priests,
And no temple would receive him.


His seed was all dried up,
Yet he did not want his line to end.


On a moonlit night he came across a dying woman,
Hard were the marks of life on her!
He did not slake his thirst,
But gave unto her what was his.
He added his blessings and curse to her own.


This is the red line of Em-met.


Ka-ma-ra is not the name she had in life,
It is what we know her of in the walking death.


She went where Em-met would not,
She defiled the high holy places,
She seduced the daughters of kings,
They bathed her feet and scented her with oils.


Em-met could not understand Ka-ma-ra,
Nor control her.


In the end, she sat beside him as he faced the sunrise,
And held tight his hand.


Bashti was the red daughter of Ka-ma-ra,
Daughter of her old age.


She spoke the new speech of the invaders,
She haunted the new temples and the old,
She withstood the blades of bronze and iron,
And she began the litany of Em-met.


Did Ka-ma-ra pass beneath the shadow of the world?
Bashti holds her tongue, now and forever.


So the red daughter passed to new lands,
Loneliness consumed her.


Here is the crime of Hekam,
Whom Bashti fed out of spite.


He was first-named of the slayers,
He became what he had hated and hunted,
He was hunted by his brothers,
And yet Bashti taught him the litany.


Hekam abashed himself at her feet,
He became her dog.


As a beast he wandered the dark shores of the river,
Until he came unto himself once more.


Hekam begat Arras, who suckled redly at the dog's teat,
Arras the Scarred, soldier of many wars.


Arras begat Caius, one of many who drank from the red goblet,
Caius who survived Arras' thirst.


Caius begat Gwenwyfhar, the first to ask for the red gift,
Gwenwyfhar who honored her great-grandmother Bakshi.


Gwenwyfhar begat Arryn, who was strong with the beast,
Arryn who feuded against the children of Hakim.


Arryn begat Terese, her final daughter,
Terese who stayed by her and held her hand as the sun rose.


This is the red line of Em-met.


###

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Gentleman and the Necromancer

The Gentleman and the Necromancer
by
Bobby Derie

"Would not a necromancer forego the expense of a craftsman and simply...obtain the materials they need more directly?"

The man tilted his cobwebbed hat at his guest, lost in thought. Then spoke, in a distinct voice.

"A necromancer might," he paused to let the echoes of the crypt die out. "But a gentleman never would."

The guest drew herself up to her full height—tall enough to stoop under most doorways, and with her hat and veil had to practically bend herself like a bishop to enter any room. Her dress was dark, and of good material, but hardly fashionable: no bustle or hoops, and very little in the way of petticoats. It had a high collar and her heavy boots, pointed as a cavalryman's, poked out from beneath.

"I think you put on airs, sir. We are not so different."

The man pointed at the pile of antique gold on the table.

"I do not devalue your labor, madame. Only our philosophy and motivations."

"You call forth the damned as surely as I do," she spat at his feet, a black glob that quivered before his dusty finery. "You may question them on matters of ancestry, aye, but where else do you get that geld, if not from forgotten crypts? We both make a living off the dead."

"You mistake me, madame. I take nothing that is not mine. You see, it has been quite a long time, and I forget where I put things." The gentleman smiled, dry lips cracking. "That's why I must ask the children where I put them."

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