Black Hollow: Epilogue

Canton’s heavy eyes responded, but only just.  Like a rusty door found in an abandoned ruin, each opened tentatively into the dark unknown.   He felt a cloud of murky color fold back into his mind, leaving only a dark residue of what he once could see. It felt like his consciousness was turning the page of a large tome. What was waiting for him now? Shouldn’t I be dead?

But instead of seeing light or color, that which he remembered seeing, he saw only darkness. He would have thought he was blind, but there was an outline of shapes before him. He could tell then, that he wasn’t seeing so much the outlines, for the darkness was complete. But he found that somehow he could tell by a type of aura around objects. As an elf, he could see in the darkness better than a human, but this new vision, if that’s what it was, felt odd to him. He tried to ascertain what the shapes were, but he just couldn’t tell. There was too much motion, too many unfamiliar forms. Other senses now came to him. For starters, he was cold. Very cold. It was a deep feeling, as if the very blood that ran through him needed to warm. A shiver ran along his spine, but then ended there at the base of it. He couldn’t feel his legs. This frightened him, and when frightened he remembered his heart would beat more quickly, but this time it wasn’t. Canton attributed this to the battle shock he was no doubt still suffering from.  The next sensation was a thirst, monumentally powerful. It didn’t seem to come from his throat so much as it came from deep inside of him. He needed to drink, he needed food. He was sick without it.  There was something about the thirst that troubled him, but felt natural to him too.  It was new, but yet a part of him in some odd way. He had never felt any change like it before. A last memory, of a horde of nightmarish creatures tearing at his throat came to him and that’s when he began to ponder that the change was that he was dead. I am nothing but a spirit now, thought the once governor of Far Realm. A spirit that must now find it’s way to the after world.

To assure himself, whatever that now was, that he was indeed deceased he tried to move his legs, and found as he predicted that he couldn’t. In his mind, he reached out for his left, for his right. But neither responded or worked. Then, for good measure,  he thought of his arms, and at first, what responded to his commands was quickly snapped back. His hands were stuck in something sticky and moist. But how was that possible he would feel arms if he were spirit. Wasn’t he dead?

A wicked voice, a cruel voice wafted out to him in the dark. It’s tone was almost unbearable for it was silky smooth yet penetrating. Canton didn’t just hear it in his ears, he felt it around his skull, under the bone, around him. Unnerved, disgusted, it was as if the voice was not so much from somewhere else. It was within him. It wasn’t asking to be heard, it was invasive. It would be heard.  The voice was far too near, and whoever belonged to the voice, knew him, felt of him.  It was a female voice, but it didn’t feel feminine. It felt powerful. It commanded in a whisper, and Canton feared what something above that would demand of him. “Why Canton, you have awoken! Excellent, most excellent.”

“Where am I?” asked Canton in a gruff reply. His face felt odd. His mouth too, like his jaw had become unhinged or something like it, it opened awkwardly. Am I not dead?

“You are with me, Canton, that is all you need concern yourself with now. It is a special occasion! You are here to witness the birth of a legend. How lucky you are!”

Canton asked the next question he most needed answered, “Am I dead?”

A laugh like glass shards scraped along the insides of his mind. “Dead? Why Canton, haven’t you always been?”

Canton did not understand. He couldn’t understand. The hunger ached in him. There was only hunger now.

“You are now alive, Canton, because you are a part of me. I have saved you. I will put you to great use,” said the slippery voice.

Still bewildered, Canton tried to squint his eyes, which was one of the few things he could now feel, into the darkness beyond him. Again there was no color, no light. Slowly, the outlines of forms and figures began to take on something he could recognize. At least he thought he could.

The dark veil pulled back and he saw now that he was standing high above a vaulted space, magnificently immense. He was looking down at what felt like some massive cathedral space, perhaps an arena of some kind. On the opposite end of his position, nearly as far as his view could discern, there was a dais, and on that dais a circular ring of light glowed. The light hurt his eyes, but the distance was so great, he did not shut his eyes.  There was motion, and he saw that walking across the dais, a lone woman held aloft a lantern. He now could see that the light from the lantern glowed too, but this light did not hurt his eyes, in fact it felt warm, gentle, which further confused him. In front of the woman, at the far was a large circular structure embedded into the stone wall. The ring of light was emanating from it.

The woman carrying the lantern approached the light ringed gate. Canton did not know why but something about it felt wrong, very wrong. He wanted to scream out, tell her to stop, but he could not. And then he recognized her. Of course! Her long braided hair, her native dress, dark skin. “Ulua! What is she doing?”

“She is becoming,” whispered the voice in his ear.

“Becoming what?” cried Canton. The hunger was building again inside of him. His mouth was parched, his blood was burning. He needed to feed.

“You shall see, Governor,” replied the voice cunningly.

Ulua, upon the dais began to chant. Her voice, although far away, rose throughout the space as though a large metallic instrument were being struck. But Canton could not understand any of it!

“I do not suppose you speak Ata’, Governor? No I didn’t think so. Allow me to translate for you. She says,’Oh mighty Olorhan. Our people are gone. I return to you now, the last of the Ata, I in my pride, in my blind faith to the defilers of this world, come to you to exact revenge upon them. I come to you strong, in your image. To bring wrath upon those who dishonor our people! I will become your instrument of revenge! Through me will the Ata’ reclaim the world, for your glory!”

Canton could not speak. Some perverse and deeply dark thought reverberated in his mind. But why would Ulua say such a thing? Why would she?

“You see Governor, although my power is as infinite as the souls I reap, I cannot harness the power that resides in Kasille’s arks. But thanks to you and your betrayal, I have now a vessel to carry myself onto the Path. Do you see now how special this moment is for us? You have made it all possible, Canton. And for that, you have been rewarded.”

To his horror, Ulua then approached the glowing ring and holding the lantern aloft, she stepped in disappearing from his view. For the first time since he awoke, Canton heard a great noise. There was a cacophony of sounds as though a great cheer had erupted. But this was not a cheer. It was the sound of triumph, but it was not from any group of people. And that’s when the shapes around Canton began to make sense. The swaying, the undulation, the complexity of a vast crowd of things, gathered along with him to witness the event. Some horrible ritual. Was I a part of this? Did I cause this?

“The darkness conceals all, Governor You need not accept the blame. I am the shadow in the light. I am the darkness that was here while you knew it not.

“Who, who are you?”

“I am the great mother that you once sought, Governor. I am the greatest of mothers. I birth lies, deceit, and cruelty. I am now your mother. You,” she ran a hand along his skin. “You are now my child, as are all others you once knew.”

Canton did not understand. He wanted not to. He wanted to leave, but he could not. He could not move. Why am I not dead, why do I feel so different? “I can’t feel the floor.”

“That, Governor, is because your legs are not standing on the ground.”

What in Ket does that mean? Canton felt the blood run colder in his veins now. The hunger was back. It consumed him!

“You are a strange one, Governor. Long have I watched you from the shadows. Your loyalty is admirable. It was the most radiant part of your light that drew you to me.  It is why I kept you…alive.”

“Why am I so hungry?” Canton blurted out. Nothing else mattered anymore.

“It is not hunger, child. It is thirst. You thirst now. And will evermore.”

The raucous thunder of the crowd boomed again. The noise was deafening, and now Canton could finally make something out.  It was a single word. A word chanted over and over. And then, before his vision, a from emerged. Canton knew it was the form that belonged in some way at least to the voice that was inside of his ear, inside of his mind. It was a woman’s form. Nude, perfectly formed, a maiden, her hair waving along her back. Her arms hung loosely at her side and then rose upwards while the chant grew higher and higher.

Canton then, finally, felt his neck. It was stuck like his arms, but now that he could feel the muscle he was able to train it, to twist it just enough to adjust his vision. He lowered it, downward, to see where the woman was going.

But instead of legs, the woman had no bottom half. Instead, there was a bulbous elongated abdomen, under which reached eight outstretched legs, like those of a spider.

Struggling against his own bonds, Canton could feel the bile the horror rising in this throat. The hunger burned in his flesh, in his blood, but still he fought. He had to know. He had to see. With all his might, he twisted every fiber of his neck and brought his gaze down to where he stood. But the woman was right, he wasn’t standing.

He was laying in a matrix of gossamer strands, strands that crisscrossed themselves into a massive web. Instead of two legs, he saw the portion of his torso where the bottom half of him had once been. It looked bloated and sickly. And underneath, as if sewn on by black twisted rope was the abdomen and eight wiry legs of a spider as well. To his disgust, now his mind registered them, he found that he could actually feel all eight of the points balancing themselves perfectly on the strands of the web.

The woman creature in front him, twisted her torso around to him, and Canton could see that like her legs, she had eight arms. Her face was a wash of pure evil. “Ulua is gone, fool. So are you, the part of you that you once thought you were. Now, there is only wrath! You will dwell in pain! You belong to me now, slave. You always belonged to me, I have only just claimed you!”

The woman turned back around to her audience who chanted Lolth! Lolth! Lolth!!!!!!!!”

 

 

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