“The Captain said that you could do this thing.”
“This is an unholy thing you ask.”
“But you will do it?”
“Certainly. Our order owes much to Captain Marsh. Also, you have paid well, and you will pay yet more.”
“So much more. I will send so many through his gates that he may name me a herald. I will pen songs in his name, and sing them unto the heavens.”
The priest snorted.
“He will name you not, oh uninitiated. Not until the black waters of mystery close over your head will you understand how foolish are your words.”
The singer laughed.
“So, great Choronzon cares not for comedy?”
“Great Choronzon cares not.”
There was darkness. I was drifting down, down through endless black waters. There was a light. Rather, there was a lightening of the darkness. A sort of black illumination below me that drew me ever downward, yet it seemed never to grow brighter. Even in that black light, I could not see myself. I searched and searched for my hands, my feet, any bit of myself, but I saw none. There was one thing though. Trailing behind me, above me, there was a length of rope. Not much, just a few feet. Seeing that rope, I could almost remember. I am an envied woman. I am the beauty of Lover’s Hill. I am…
Now there is cold, and pain, and hunger. The chanting…
The chanting drew me from the black depths, and I did not want to leave there. There was a terrifying, unimaginable horror awaiting me down there, at the source of the black light, but it was a horror that I hungered for. A gate that I knew I must pass through. The blackness was my mother’s arms, and she embraced me. Her black name is still wet on my lips, and I can almost recall how to say it. A lilting, gorgeous name, like the name of a flower…
But no, she is not my mother. My mother’s name is Anfrid. I am her daughter, the beauty of Lover’s Hill. I am… I am! I…
The chanting drew me here, and here there is naught but hardness, cold, pain, and hunger. There is a constant tugging at the base of my spine, an incessant pressure that wants me, that reminds me that I am his, that I am hers, that I belong in the black. But the black waters fell away, and here is a dark room full of the smoke of strange incense, and robed figures in firelight. A street singer that I have seen before is standing over me, separate from the hooded figures. His left hand is cut and bleeding, and the blood from his hand is dripping into my mouth. The blood has no taste, but it has warmth, and I am oh so cold. The incense smoke has no odor. I do not taste or smell or feel any thing other than hurt. And cold. And hungry. The hurt is an ache, a yearning, a monstrously desperate need for a lover to fill me. The cold is maddening, wet and freezing and never ending. I am so hungry that I want to eat the world and send it all into the black where He waits. The black inside me.
I sit upright on the stone altar, and seize the nearest hooded figure. I pull him close, and sink my teeth into his muscled chest. He screams, but does not struggle, does not pull away. He gives.
The hot, bloody pieces of him warm me, soothe me. Fill me. He groans, and his breath comes in sharp gasps.
The man has no taste. The others now watch in reverence as I crunch on the man’s dirty toes, down on the floor like a beast, my mouth full of bloody viscera and bone. The man is nearly silent now, his whispery breath becoming more and more shallow.
But I am not a beast! I am the beauty of Lover’s Hill! I am…
The hooded figures begin to leave the room, one by one, until at last only the street singer remains. He watches me eat, his pretty face and sharp eyes glowing golden in the firelight. As I eat, slurping and tearing, ravenous, I begin to feel a lessening of the freezing pain that gnaws at me, inside and out. The warm flesh of the man fulfills both my hunger and my maddening desire. The strange pulling at my spine is not so unbearable, and as I acknowledge that thought, I feel the pulling slip from me and onto the dead man I am eating, like a lasso. I feel the man being pulled down into the black waters, not the meat of him, but what he really is, the thing he is inside. As the man slips away into the black, he smiles at me, and waves his hand. He smiles using meat that I have already swallowed, and waves with finger bones that I have already bitten off. He is whole again, and beautiful, radiant with black light. The wet stench of his carcass underneath me is like sweet jasmine and lavender, cloying and heavenly.
I look up at the singer’s pretty face.
“Do you know who you are?” the singer asks.
“I am…I am…” I speak. My voice is ragged and wet, inarticulate.
No! I am the beauty of Lover’s Hill! I am Anfrid Brown’s daughter! I am! I am…
“I am my master’s servant, and I will pave the path to His gates with the multitudinous dead. I will slip His coil from round me and onto others, to drag them into the black waters ahead of me.”
The singer reaches down and grasps the end of the rope attached to my neck.
“And now, my beauty, you serve two masters. Come.” the singer says, and gives the rope a gentle tug.
*Dedicated to my friends in The Grave Gnosis Coven, Caine Del Sol and Scarlett Nova. Thanks for everything. HHD