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Typhon

Black and Deep Desires

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In the shadow of a great mountain rested tiny Razgolay. A mansion stood at its center, surrounded by obedient hovels full of fearful underfed people. Farmlands Razgolay had, and livestock and a small river too. What it did not have, however, was egress. 

Long forgotten was the road which led to the capital. Long overgrown and long disused. Those people who remained trapped under the mountain's shadow in little Razgolay breathed their first and last breaths there, their brief lives ground down in service to the master of the mansion: Lamius. 

Like his father and his father's father Lamius was the Morlog of Razgolay. In brighter times, he would have been called "lord". But in the shadow of the mountain, they called him The Morlog. It was an honorific of fear, for Lamius was a cruel and brutal man as both previous Morlogs before him had been. 

Yet, for better or worse, Lamius was doomed to be the last Morlog. There was no power left in his mansion. Nor romance. No woman could ever love him, and so he would sire no offspring-- unless he found a way to divest himself of the awful rot in his soul which terrified his loyal people and plagued his every thought.

It was to this end that he had embraced the witch woman who now resided with him. It was said that she was a rare beauty, but he could see in the fullness of her smile and the roundness of her hips only bitterness and decay. She, like all things in his view, was ripe with misery. 

Yet perhaps, one day, he might see her as others did. 

"Master. She has been here for over two months." Bergamund complained. He was the last flickering flame of love left for Lamius in Razgolay, and old withered man who had been a boy when the curse of the Morlogs was cast and knew more about Lamius than anyone. 

"Is that disagreeable to you?" Lamius asked, sunken into his black leather chair, whose seat sagged from the heavy weight of three doomed generations.

"My lord, it is a breach of propriety. She has long overstayed her welcome, as I have repeatedly said." 

Lamius stared into the fire. The only light in the room bloomed from it, casting long shadows. 

"You have also often wished that I were free to love as my ancient ancestors once loved. If she claims to have the power to free my soul from its torment, is not a measure of indulgence to her needs permittable?"   

"Perhaps, my lord," Bergamund said, with acid suspicion in his voice which sounded to Lamius no different than the song of a bird, or the laughter of a child. They were all, to the Morlog, vile sounds, "But only if she is honest. And in my long life I have met few women who combined both honesty and beauty, and never have I met a woman who combined both of those with magic." 

"I take your council, loyal servant. Call her to me." 

Bergamund left with a smile, but on his master's face was only dead skin, gladless and unimpressed even with the fierce beauty of the fire which colored him. 

@Rust and Stardust

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The weeks stretched on as a dull, thudding pulse under the shadow of the mountain in Razgolay. The living crawled over the bodies of the dead in a futile cycle of scraping crops from the earth and falling upon each other with a sudden heedless violence before returning to scratch out more grain for the mouths of their squalling babes and mindless elders. They succumbed to the dirt. The cycle continued. They never did see the sun without the shadow of the mountain. This was the one trait that the villagers of Razgolay had in common with the woman in The Morlog’s mansion.

She wore a smile of accomplishment and little else as she sat before a vanity’s mirror while she brushed her hair. It fell in long sheets of black. She ran the boar bristles of her brush through it methodically, with the attention a soldier dedicates to sparring. Were the hairbrush her sword, the dabs of rose water at her wrists and collarbones served as her shield, the droplets of obsidian she wore at her pale throat were her bow, the red curve of her mouth her arrows.

A saucer of milk sat between her glass jars of glamours for the little kitten a maidservant brought to her on the fourth night of her stay. Tears still studded her eyes when she sat at the dining table. The maidservant thought the gift of a mewling creature to be a kindness. It brought her a moth on the seventh night, and Cerys watched with fascination as it pulled off its delicate wings. 

Cerys Adrastae had given the servants in The Morlog’s mansion little more than her name and a tale of horror spoken in shuddering sobs, yet they gave her silken sheets to rest upon in an unused room, they fetched water for her bath, they brought her figs and honey. Sometimes, she would walk into the halls and place their calloused hands within her own, to thank them for their kindness in a voice like fragrant perfume that wafted from the sweet throats of orchids. The pain in their hip would subside shortly afterwards, or they would find themselves immune to the pox that consumed their neighbor. 

A refined lady, they said. A kind lady. Gossip from the scullery maids in the kitchens transferred to those that tidied up her room, and together with the details that fell from Cerys’s lips, they constructed what satisfied their curiosity of the woman’s origins. She was of a noble family destroyed beneath the fist of the tyrant king, one with a bloodline rich with magic. It was through the kindness of strangers that permitted the survival of her mother and her subsequent birth, and the life that eventually led her to Razgolay’s village. The village was in desperate need of aid from a skilled mage. Bouts of incurable rage would seize hold of ordinary men and fill them with madness, yet they would regain clarity beneath her touch. Unnatural infestations of spiders frantically cloaked the farmlands with their webs, yet they would return to the darkness of the mountain’s forests at her command. 

She came to the estate to petition The Morlog’s aid for the monsters that plagued the surrounding lands, but...here, her shoulders would shiver and she would bury her crumpling face into her hands. All recalled how they found her, blood staining her ripped clothing, feet cracked from fleeing through the forest without shoes. She fell into the servants’ care and gained their affection.

All spare one.

Bergamund knocked at Cerys’s door before announcing his lord’s request to see her. A spider peered at the top of his head from its small web nestled in the molded archway marking the entryway of her chambers. Venom oozed along its mandibles. 

“One moment, Bergamund.” 

His name twisted on her tongue like a rat in a snake’s coils. 

Cerys had a preference for red. In accordance to her wishes, the dusty guest suite transformed into a dusky crimson womb. Low embers never ceased to burn in the fireplace. They cast a soft, hazy glow over the brocade curtains and the velvet settee. She existed in half light, illuminated only by flicker of waning candlelight. 

She opened the door and followed Bergamund to Lamius with the kitten held in her arms. It purred in contentment at her throat. When Bergamund would turn to glance over his shoulder, it would contort its face into an enraged hiss. Cerys stroked its white fur and murmured sweet sentiments beneath her breath.

Once, at dinner, Bergamund found himself unable to recall the color of Cerys’s eyes. When he forced himself to glance up from the smile curled on her mouth, ice contorted in his veins and sank its fangs into his heart. 

Conversation, already scarce, grew nonexistent between them after that night.

It was in silence that they walked to The Morlog’s study and in silence that he left her, his old hips dipping into a shallow bow that she returned with the inclination of a nod. Cerys stepped into the darkness of Lamius’s inner sanctum and stood in his shadow behind his chair.

“You requested me, lord? What is it that you wish?”



 

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It took effort to rise from the low chair of the Morlogs. Lamius did it slowly, his large hands wrapping around the worn wooden armrests and pushing the rest of him to full height.

He was tall; the only person in the lord's estate who wasn't dwarfed by the high rafters of its halls. The light of the fire seemed hesitant to flicker on him but where it did it cast deep shadows over the sunken parts of his face. His eyes were ringed in darkness. His skin was white and solid smooth. He was forever hunched forward, as though the great weight of his family curse were a burden he bore physically as well as psychologically. 

This pitiable man, this Morlog of Razgolay, met the supposedly charming Cerys and her supposedly endearing kitten with stoicism. Inside his mind, yes, he was imagining killing them. But outwardly...

"Are you well, lady?" this politeness was the ultimate offense against his true nature. He did not care if she were well. His only inclination demanded that she be made more unwell. He could think of many good ways to make her so: he could beat her with her cat, killing both simultaneously. He could throw her in the fire. He could tear away the skin of her face and then throw her into the fire. Then, he could feed her face to the cat and, as it was distracted, step on it.

But it didn't need be so theatrical, he could easily wrap his hands around both their necks and-

"I have called you here to speak of a solution to my distress. You know my condition, yet you have only helped others. In doing this, you have neglected me. Correct this mistake, lest my distress become your distress and you find yourself suddenly without the comforts you have become accustomed to under my care." 

Could she not see what a mistake of nature she was? How could she smile so confidently? Surely, it was her socialization in a world full of people who could not see beyond her beauty. Yet Lamius could see nothing of beauty in her. She was a tool, of a disgusting and malformed nature. But such was the entire world to a Morlog of this unfortunate age.

She was, at least, a tool that could be of use to him. 

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Truly, her predecessors were admirable in their efforts with the design of House Morlog’s curse. How easy it would have been to have left the noble house bereft of their emotions, to force them all into their own personal voids, yet no; the man that stood before Cerys was twisted in his own utter disgust with all that existed, herself included. Had the remnants of her bloodline not been extinguished by her own hand, she would have complimented their dedication to another family’s pure misery.

Yet, like most, they lacked a proper imagination. For all their cleverness, they did not foresee their own end.

Lamius was an enormous man with dark and motionless eyes. Immovable, a stone washed ashore and worn perfectly smooth by the battering ram of endless tides. His skin was a carapace. She wondered just what viscera stirred within.

His spoken threats were saturnine and clumsy. Though her own height was diminutive in comparison to his, though she stood in a room removed from the servant’s corridors where any raised voices would have been muffled by the thick stone walls and heavy door, she felt no fear. Should he destroy her, he would destroy the last shreds of hope that dared breath light into his blackened heart.

Cerys glanced up through her lashes. Her unreflective eyes, pale and untouched by the fire’s glow, met his own and held them for a moment. Delicious, atrocious loneliness, all barred by black iron.

“Lord Morlog,” she crooned, “do you not see that my aid for you extends to the needs of your subjects? The more they dwell upon their own unhappiness, the less use they are to you. And they are necessary. Their love is advantageous. For this is what I see: your condition was constructed to pull your House to its knees. A curse is a parasite. It feeds upon the misfortunes of its host. It must be weakened. Thwart it—show it that your sight is untarnished by the base desires of lesser beings, and that you are fit to lead. It will take further time to untangle the mechanisms of your condition.”

The black spray of gems at her throat glittered. “Curses, after all, are not easily broken.”

 

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