The Wedding of the Oberherrescher, Part 1

This Week’s Prompt: 40. Warning that certain ground is sacred or accursed; that a house or city must not be built upon it—or must be abandoned or destroyed if built, under penalty of catastrophe.

The Research:The Ground Under Your Feet

Part 2: Here

It began with a fallen brick, a loose piece of stone work that drew everyone’s attention with a crash at the top of the stairs. Three generations of Oberherrscher watched as the single block fell from the top of the arch, leaving a pair of broken stone fangs at the crest. And then, after a moment, a dozen more followed, the archway collapsing almost in it’s entirely. Beside them, Lady Holdberg and her brother Tobias gasped in horror. For, to the tears of all, the youngest of the Oberherrscher family, William, was now beneath the great stones of the hall.

The footmen on hand rushed them out of the hall as the mother fell to her knees weeping. Up a few flights, the would-be bride and her brother were taken. Tears, they had once been told, were for the privacy of closed doors.

“Do you think…do you think it did him in?” Lady Holberg said, after recovering herself.

“It is possible. But men have surivived in the depths of fallen mines. He might be alive.” William said, sitting by the bed.

“A strange thing, for the stones to break. Stone ought last longer.” Lady Holberg said, turning out the window. “But I suppose crumbling stone is to be expected in this valley.”

Along the valley, in clear veiw, was the stone caracasses of castles rising out of the mist. Lady Holberg wondered how so much had fallen away so fast. Why none of the halls and towers had been swept away and rebuilt later.

“You know, I once heard the crusaders tore down entire monuments, that they could raise more castles in the distance.” She said, staring at the crumbling ruins. “It seems strange to spare these architectural cannibalism.”

“Perhaps,” William said, walking over to the same veiw, “but there are no new castles to be built, are their? And forts in the colonies and frontier are so far that carrying the stones seems a fools idea. Maybe if there is a war on the continnent, they’ll carve new ones out of the hills.”

William’s eyes drifted from fallen peripat to tumbled tower, until it cam to rest again on an intact and inhabited residence. It was a stained window into an old hall. William could see the eldest of the Oberherrschers seated at the table, a man more wrinkles than skin. Beside him, dimly in the sunlihgt, William made out the form of the elderly matriarchs of the Oberherrscher family, sisters that were piles of black veils and gowns, nearly living shadows in their perpetual mourning dead husbands. He wondered briefly if it was his sisters fate.

“How many elders are you marrying into?” William asked, as his eyes scrutinized the table more carefully.

“What? I don’t…just the three I think.” Lady Halberg said, coming over to her brother. She counted the members at the table he pointed at. Seven, seven bodies in seven seats, each a shifting and whispering mass of silk.

“That is…odd. Perhaps there are others they are entertaining?” Lady Holberg wondered.

“They seem familiar, and concerned.” William said.

“Panic makes sense, when your youngest son dies a week before the wedding night.” Lady Halberg said, leaning over to see more clearly. However, their observations were interrupted by a pounding on the door.

Another footman with the red-yellow crest on his chest explained that the family had good news down in the main hall, if the lady was more at ease and not anxious of heart. Lady Holberg infromed the footman that she had regained her composure. William Holberg had never lost it.

So the Holbergs were escorted down the stairs to the main hall. A large hall built like an upside down ship, with a large set of cross beams, the columns were topped by the great lions of the mountains, claws outstretched in order to grasp invisible prey. Lady Holberg wondered if the arhitect realized that they seemed to be reaching for the people sitting in the hall.

The middle generation of Oberherrschers was waiting in the middle of hall. The eldest Oberherrscher had abdicated to Heinrich Oberherrscher when he passed his seventieth year. Heinrich had since lost a great deal of his youth to the castle, by most accounts. By his thirtieth year, his hair was rendered silver despite his face still having something young about it. His eyes were bagged and seemed to catch the light of lanterns and candles, making them glowing orbs set into a melting waxen mold. His wife was a singluar stripe of red, with hair kept in curls. She sometimes seemed to Lady Holberg to be a tongue rising from the Earth. The lady was pale by her own discretion as well, her face a somber moon even in the brightest room. They were speaking quietly, as best not to be overheard, until the Holbergs arrival imposed silence as the two turned to face them.

“Sofia, madame, I am glad to see you well. Well, as well as you can be all things considered.” the Lord Oberherrscher said, bowing his head slightly. “but we have good news, grand news in fact.”

“Is it about Tobias? Is he safe?” Lady Holberg asked. William observed that the footmen moved back and forth quickly with hammers and chisels. Thing with which one could break down stone, presumably to clear out the mess.

“Our beloved is safe and sound, yes. After you left, we found found him. Some stones broke his leg, and his of course deeply frightened. But he is alive and, with some work and bracers, will be able to walk in a few weeks time.” the Lord Oberherrscher replied, his mouth forming a thin smile.

“Oh, that’s wonderful news! Why didn’t you simply tell me?” Lady Holberg asked.

“It seemed…inappropiate not to address your dismay, young lady.” Lady Oberherrscher replied.


It was days before there was another incident. William and Sofia made a point of visiting Tobias, broken thing that he was. He resembled his father ever so slightly, being broad shouldered and with a wide head. He was striking in his striving for fitness, but it never seemed to wear on him properly. With the cane that was now his custom, it seemed even less. William once remarked to their father that he seemed to bulge through his skin, as if it was a suit tailored for a much younger and smaller man.

But the calamity that came did not befall Tobias. They were walking in the main hall, Heinrich Oberherrscher directing them in the rituals of the familial marriage with the eldest of the family. The aged former lord was never addressed by name, only Grandfather or Father. Sofia had never seen him walk, always seated rather in a chair. A pair of attendants stood on hand, presumably to move him whenever he needed to be moved. At times, when the light was dim, they were identical in everyway. The sun seperated them nicely however.

The rituals were not to strange, additions to the sacrament that only a devout man would object to. They featured a cup that was filled with wine from the ancient vineyard, from which both man and wife would drink. A specially prepared loaf would be eaten, containing a few specks of the castle grounds baked in.

“And then, after this, you shall recite the vows. These vows–” Lord Oberherrscher said, before a loud crack of stone cut him off. A second followed, then a third , a fourth, fifth. One of the great lions of the hall suddenly came tumbling down, claws out stretched. In silent terror, Lord Oberherrscher dived out of the way, but not fast enough. Long stone talon marks struck across his back, leaving bleeding lash marks.

“No, no don’t mind me!” the bleeding lord shouted, struggling to his feet as footmen rushed towards him. “Carry on, carry on, I’ll be fine. I’ve got more than enough blood in me, I’ll be fine.”

“I think it might be best to pause, wait for your recovery.” Maximillian said, eyes glancing at where the lion fell from. There was a scafaloding hidden behind it, a way for servants to move in the upper towers. And for instant he saw a large form slink down the hall, a shadow darting down.

“No, no, it’s fine, I’m—” here the Lord’s protestations were interrupted by a coughing fit as he gripped his back. His palms were stained as the footmen lifted him up.

“We must stop, for the night.” the eldest Oberherrscher said, a sudden burst of shouting from his oversized mouth, elongated by wrinkles. “Tomorrow morning we will finish. Lady Holberg seems to have the jist of it anyway, and I won’t have you dripping blood on the floor. It must be kept clean, very clean.”

“I…do get the general idea, thank you Lord Oberherrscher for your concern.” Lady Halberg said, curtsying briefly. Her brother walked her up some of the stairs towards their room. The walls were narrower here and the bricks were blended over, emerging only in wounds of the wall. If one was not cautious or perceptive, one might be misled and think the whole castle was but one large cave grown out of the mountainside.

“This place is not well in the head.” Lady Halberg whispered to her brother.

“No, it does not seem. Still, I wonder if it’s the place or something else.” Maximillian said, frowning. “I saw a man, or a thing, pushing the lion.”

“Nothing human could have moved it. No, I think this place has simply gotten old. Look, here, feel this patch of stone.” Lady Halberg said touching a break in the wall. “It’s spongey and warm. I can sometimes see roots growing, or dark molds breaking through the edges of the stone.”

“Festering architectural wounds aside, I saw something move that statue. And if it couldn’t be a man, well, then perhaps it was something else. Old castles and ruins attract red caps and worse. They might have come up here in the mean time.”

“And next you’ll have us running to the friar. Misfortune comes with age, because it looks so similair.” Lady Halberg said, glancing again down at the heaps of stone below. In the setting sun, they seemed almost silver and gold, shining stripes against a blue green earth.

“Well, be cautious. I best make sure that my own room lacks cuts and bruises that send large stone lions crashing down.” Maximillian Halberg said, taking his leave.


Lady Halberg waited until night came, until the sun was gone and the pallid moon made the world a dim shadow of itself, to begin preparing for the night. She told her self that such misfortunes as had come to pass must be common to the family and the castle, too old to stand alone anymore. To old to be anymore.

As she stared at the wallpaper peeling like potchmarked skin, she began to slowly drift to sleep. It seemed to rise from the bed like an intoxicating fog. Her sleep had been the best in this old crumbling castle, it’s age welcoming her below, a temporary excursion to the lands of the dead.

But then, there was a scratch in the hall, an iritant that began to rouse her. The scratch came again, louder. Something dragging along the hall. Her eyes slowly flickered open, to hear great thumping now. Footsteps, no, horsesteps. Marching down the hall, clopping along the stone floor. That roused the Lady instantly. She reached for a poker from the fire place and crept toward the door. The horse had grown louder, larger. Lady Halberg had heard of no horse of such size, the ground seeming to shake with each step.

Despite the wills of her father and mother, Lady Halberg had some valor and fire in her heart. She opened wide the door, raised poker to smote whatever intruder was waiting. But what she found astounded her.

Atop a white destrier was a man in shining white, a scimitar at his side and dressed in bright blue robes. He rode on at full speed now, galloping through the halls and shouting in a tounge she did not understand. At best, she imagined it an archaic Arabic. But the roar of wind that followed him down the hall, a light like star, startled her back into the room. After a moment to regain her composure, she looked again.

And naught was there but moonlight, shining through a window. It’s light cast a pale image of St. George running through the dragon along the hall, with only the red and green to distinguish the blurred image. Lady Halberg cursed the veil of sleep for betraying her, as no sign of hoofsteps were on the floor.

But as she stood, she did see something, something bent over in the hall. It had the form of a great man, one of immense and impossible stature, staring with a loathsome eye and a long beard like roots. She back slowly into her room, reaching for a candlestick. Here eyes never left the form and it’s eye, which was locked with hers. Gripping a small silver stick, she turned away only to light it with a match in the drawer.

When she turned back around, it was gone.

But the lady was familiar with the hunt, and considering herself well armed, decided to pursue the figure. She took the candle down the hall where that form lurked, thinking it some burglar or the attempted murderer of her soon to be father-in-law. She was not entirely wrong on either account, to her credit. The form had abandoned the hall, but Lady Halberg found it easy to follow footsteps. It stayed atop the castle for a time, before fleeing down stairwells that Lady Halberg barely knew. Only lighting more eagerly sought the ground than this man.

Lady Halberg stayed close behind, thundering along. She made no attempt to hide her pursuit, perhaps hoping that it would frigthen the theif into surrender or inaction. Instead, he seemed more set on escape. So set that, after delving a layer beneath the earth itself, he had vanished. There was nothing but the room plastered over, with giants holding up it’s roof. Lady Halberg caught her breath, cautiously examining her surroundings. She had no desire to go from hunter to hunted.

As she paced, the lady tapped the walls absent mindedly with her prod, eyes darting round. She paid it no mind, until it strukc a portion of the wall and sounded hollow. She frowned, turned and struck it harder. Hollow. Something on the other side. She knelt down cautiously, touching her hand to the spot.

And quickly recoiled from it’s heat. She resolved to retire for now. She would inform Maximillian in the morning. After all, her sleeplessness would be apparent, and she suspected it would not due for her to be pursuing the castle secrets in the dead of night.

CoverTaboo.pngPart 2:

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The Wedding of the Oberherrschers, Pt 2

This Week’s Prompt: 40. Warning that certain ground is sacred or accursed; that a house or city must not be built upon it—or must be abandoned or destroyed if built, under penalty of catastrophe.

The Research:The Ground Under Your Feet

Part 1:Here

“A what?” Maxmillian said in a hushed whisper.

“I don’t know what, but it was large and fast. Must have been the thing you saw.” Sofia said, carefully cutting her eggs.

“And you chased it?”

“Is a noblewoman not to defend her castle? If I went to you, it’d have escaped.” She said, glancing over at Heinrich Oberherrscher, who’s back was clearly still pained. Whatever miracle cure there had been for Tobias had by all accounts expired.

“Well, I—Hmph. Fair enough I suppose. I doubt they’ll give me much trouble, though watch yourself. Whatever is causing this seems to prefer you remain a maid.”

“It can rot then.” Lady Halberg said with a chuckle.

“I’m serious! First it attacks your fiance, now it interrupts your rehersal and nearly kills your father in law. Be wary, or it will kill you.”

Maximillian himself found it easy to be excused from the exercises that day. The elderly Oberherrscher from his long seat and footmen waved him away when he explained he wished to get some air. The footmen he found somewhat more vexing.

“I’m quite fine, thank you.” He had said to the latest pair that improvised themselves as escorts to his walks through the castle.

“Yes sir, if you feel safe and certain.” The men with lion helms said, leaving again. Each patrol had said so, and each time Maximillian worried it was less concern and more menace. Still, he made his way down the path his sister had charted, into the depths of the castle. As he approached the underground, he took up his own torch. There was no sun below after all.

He found the wall quickly, and found it still hot to the touch. Not as burning as his sister said, or perhaps his skin was tougher to the threats of the fire. Running his fingers across it, he found it easy to remove some of the stones, making an opening that he could duck through. The burglar, he noted, must have been swift fingered to open and close such a passage before his sister seized him.

The interior of the room before him was…well, it was wonderous. Gold and iron lined the walls instead of bitter stone. Carvings along it, broken into the rusting iron between the gold showed saints painted softly, small figures in the presence of veins of metal and well worn works. And the heat was greater, the air thick with burnt incense and a dull hum.

Maximillian gripped his sword as he went in deeper. As he walked through the tunnel, he saw sarcophagi on the side, with faces as much lion as man. Writing ran across their faith, and on their chests was carved a foreign sigil. No sign of cross as tall, except the guard on the sword that ran to its feet. But footsteps below drew Maximillian deeper.

Deeper and deeper, in caverns that glittered in the torchlight, until at last he came across a vast cavern. It had the look of a chapel, a great altar in the center and rotting pews lined for service. They had been cleared back for another massive cyst. It was brass, lined with gold, with a face made of silver. The form showed a large prince, attended on all sides by impish creatures and locusts. Written along it’s bottom was the name “Dahak, Master of the World”. Beneath it names unfamiliar to Maxmillian: Agraes, Bael, Marbaras. As he inspected the shape, he heard a laughing shot from above.

Chapel Vathek

Raising his torch, he saw it crouched on the bone like beams that ran across the ceiling. Defaced images of angels and saints sat in judgement behind it, a hunched over mountain of a man. He had a beard that ran down his chest, and eyes that shown in the dark. His laughter was bitter, and as he rolled his head back, Maximillain saw a thin iron cross hanging from his neck.

And he spoke, in hoarse tones.

“So you are the boy they send now to rout dear Marbrason? Come, good forign man! Test your strength! The Lord will see you slain far from home!”

“I have absolutely no idea who you are.” Maximillian said, drawing his sword, “But if I am slain in defence of my sister, then the Lord is not the one who has decided this bout.”

“Your sister? You are the brother of the bride to be, the bearer of inquities? Then our opposition is one of bad faith,” the man mused, stroking his long beard, “for your sister is one of the many I hope to save.”

“Save by tossing statues at her?” Maximillian shouted up at the man. “You’ll pardon my lack of faith in your benevolence.”

“Not at her you fool! At those who would do her the worst harm man can imagine!” the man said. “The Oberherrscher scheme new malices for you and yours yet. For they have spoken with what works in the older house. They appeal to deeper powers.”

“And who are you, to know so much of the Oberherrscher’s comings and goings?”

“I am Marbarson, as I said. Or is your listening poor?” The man said from the rafters.

“Yes, but who is that? Surely you cannot be a man. I saw your work with stone, no man could do that. Not alone.”

“Aye, I’m not enitrely a man. My mother was of Eve’s line, but my father was of a crueler kin.” Marbrason replied, pointing down towards the unbroken earth. “For that fool’s reign, it was courtly fashion to be attended by infernal dukes and princes as if they were foreign dignitaries. And of them I am begotten.

“Well, if you are a child of the devil and a woman that would lie with him, why should I trust your words at all?”

“Because it was not my father in flesh that raised me.” Marbrason replied. “No, his kind feel no compassion for their offspring. I was one of many wild calibans, through blackened and charnel wood, amazed at the wars and wonders waged by impish legions overhead. But I had a single stroke of happy fate, despite the rest of miserable kind.”

“You, a happy fate? You forgive my disbelief.”

“Ah, but it was belief! For I found a man loathed by my father’s ilk. He was old and broken and had naught but one possession, a simple book. A commentary on what was left of holy scripture. This man taught me the things that spirits of greed and inquity were loath to think of. Voiceless he was, his tounge removed by dogs of the crowns then. But still I learned enough of holy words then, and kept the book close, as I hid in this dim chapel.” Marbarson said, gesturing at the cavern. “For it was only towards the end of darkness that my father’s mechanical engines and his compatriots breaking earth were able and willing to pierce it’s halls, to be a tomb for the Prince who brought them. Then I was driven to further flight. But it was near enough the end.”

“The end? Which? A hundred crashed and desolate castles lie like bodies around this hill.”

“And all of them and more fell to the Turk’s sword. As much as my father resented them, they came as holies on the land. I saw the saints riding with them. I saw them, shining horses and firey swords.” Marbarson said,tracing one of the saints above him. “The ilk of my sire fled before them. And I saw my sire, with his dread designs and plauges attempt to escape into the earth, to emerge from the tomb when it was free. That I could not allow. So I spoke words from pslams as best I knew them. Now, he lies imperfetly bound beneath the earth.”

“And so, for the sake of a prisoner you make attempts on the living?”

“Bound not silent! Listen, lordling, and you may hear him breathing in the gold that lines halls. No, I assail the living to send them fleeing this place, lest they be seduced by him and his. And for years, I succeeded. Centuries passed without a word. But this family.” Maximillian swore Marbarson shuddered. “They knew some fell art from backward hills, and were able to break some of the bond. So they have their legion of imps, who take on the guise of footmen, and fell powers to send me back below. They have become partners in Marbras’s scheme, with your sister at it’s center.”

“So, not only am I expected to believe that one of hell’s legions lies in these halls, but that the Oberherrschers are in league with powers infernal. Have you any proof of this?”

“Have you seen their footmen? How they all seem much the same?”

“A uniform does that, creature.”

“Then look about this hall. Look at how the ore grows, wrapping and weaving around.”

“The world is full of wonders. That ruins become beuaty is no secret.”

“Fine! Then tell me, princeling. Where are the priests?” Marbrason asked, leaning over.

Maximillian paused. He thought over every man and woman that he had seen in the halls. The Oberherrschers had made no mention of chapel the Sunday before, but Maximillian had assumed modern notions of piety had penetrated this far. The ritual however, and the ornateness of the castle seemed suddenly at odds with that. Biting his lip, he finally hit upon a point.

“Ah! But there is a priest coming, for the wedding! Perhaps they must invite one, but they are not afraid of holy men!” Maximillian said, stabbing at the air with his sword. The incence shook with the laughter of Marbrason.

“Even a demon can wear the clothes of a holy man. But if it will not persuade you, ask them. Ask them about this priest. See how much he is, for I swear by all that is holy, they have no concern or intent on the sacrament of marriage. But leaving that aside, what think you of Tobias?”

“What of him? He is strangely formed and sickly—a”

“And ought to be dead.” Marbrason said, tilting his head. “Buried beneath stones that shatter bones. But he is walking, utterly unharmed. I have watched him from afar, but you must have noticed. Not even a bruise.”

“Say I believe you,” Maximillian said, frowning, “say I trust you that these men of rank and power are creatures of hell and servants of darkness. What would you have me do? Flee, with my sister, and tell the world this story?”

“What you do is your own will. You seem eager to use your sword for your sister’s defence. Put it proper.” Marbrason said with some remanent of a reverend’s authority. “I will endevor by all means to undo these beasts that call themselves men. For I cannot allow my sire to free himself, nor by means foul create more of those creatures wise men call nephilim and fools call giants.”

Before Maximillian could respond, Marbrason bounded down atop the tomb and made to leave through the tunnel again. However, as his feet set down on tomb, the cloud subsumed him, devouring him whole. Maximillian started back as a large lion rose from the earth, a glowering appraition with purple eyes rushed upwards, disheartening between the rafters. He made a hasty retreat at once.


While her brother had his encounter below, Sofia Halberg was walked through the halls to the lion’s chamber. With repairs on the second hall, and her own concerns about the uncertainty of the structures there, Tobias and the elder Oberherrscher had agreed it’d be best to move to the closest thing the old castl had to an chapel in this day and age.

The Lion Room was the image of magnificence. An elaborate statue of a lion bearing tomes of law stood in the center, flanked by serpents. The elder Oberherrscher explained in brief that the lion was for John, bearing with a lion’s roar the gospel all the way to the old castle. The men who became the Oberherrscher line, he said, found something prefferable to the Gospel as John told it then to the others.

“It was an eternal supposition, not some nonesene of prophecy, but a taste of the immortal walking among us and spreading out, a plauge of goodness on the world, roots of a grand tree that was planted in the beginning.” The elder Oberherrscher said. “Nothing of kings and geneologies, nothing of infants and fleeing. Pure beatific visions of the cosmos.”

Lady Halberg was not so caring on the matter of gospels, though the large statue of the lion was imposing enough. The room was lined with gold and glass, a great mirror on either side giving it and it’s fountains a sense of eternity. The fountains, Tobias explained, were ingenious designs of his ancestor. The water itself came from a fairly distant spring, and was run using a set of pipes, pumps, and pulleys. Once a month, some of the servants dealt with the manual portions of the system, insuring the water was always fresh and shimmering like silver.

“Used to be actual silver, but we lost that bit of the work didn’t we.” Tobias said, turning to his grandfather. The grunt neither confirmed nor denied what Sofia assumed was jest.

“What was this room for back then? It’s so…much.” Sofia said, faining a loss of words.

“It was the chapel, when we were properly pious. But Heinrich hated church, I suppose.” the eldest said frowning. “Tinkering with machines from France and the Orient. Dangerous nonsense, it was. But the room is fine for it’s older purpose. Better even, I’d say. More intimate and yet, with the mirrors, all the more vast.”

An illusion of vastness, Sofia thought. An illusion and little more.

“I must admit, it will be quite close with all of your family here,” she said, turning to Tobias.

“Well, a bit. But it won’t be that bad, we have enough room for all the portions. And it is more convient, look, the altar is already here!” Tobias said, leading Sofia around to see a large pair of winged lions bearing up the flat surface. A footman, who had entered silently as far as Sofia could tell, set the ritual cup and plate on the table.

“Now, let us rehearse once more. You two will say the old vows, and as the closest thing to a priest left in this building, I will ask you if you invite the greatest of spirits into your lives. You will, of course, affirm for that is the only way for this all to proceed.” the eldest Oberherrscher said, slowly wobbling towards the altar. His preferred chair had been left in the hall, to not impose on the room.

Sofia nodded along as the steps were traced again. A little dance done in celebration, the Oberherrscher explained. A tradition from the country out West, before they had come into the illustirous estate of ruin.

It was around the second go of the dance, hands locked with Tobias’, that Sofia heard a rumble in the deep. In the mirror, she saw a lion with the eyes of a man staring into her own, eager and hungry. Its teeth were bared in a grin that seemed unnatural. She started, breaking the grip as it’s mouth widend to a silent roar. She felt her face grow cold and pale.

“Ah, anything wrong, my delight?” Tobias asked,glancing behind him.

“No, no.” Sofia said, regaining her composure. “It’s just so sudden, all of this. To think, only another night and I will be wed.”

“Oh, of course. It’s natural to be nervous.” Tobias said, smiling. There was something in his grin that reminded Sofia of the lion. Something hungry in his eyes.

They were excused by a mildly annoyed senior. Sofia was surprised to find her brother returning so soon, pale and slightly bruised from his expedition. He silently waved away any discussion of his activities, instead joining Tobias in a discussion on the virtues of the hunts locally. The conversation turned to rival hunting stories, which Tobias and his grandfather had in abundance. Boars were a frequent nuisance it seemed to the peasantry and serfs around them. In their nobility, the Oberherrscher family took to hunting the creatures at every opportunity, by means cunning and bold at times.

After dinner, which the Lord and Lady Oberherrscher attened in silence, the two Halbergs exchanged their experiences. When the potentially infernal nature of the Oberherrscher family was proposed, Lady Halberg hesitated over the rites she had been instructed in.

“It simply sounded like an antiquated form of communion…but it is vaugely worded.” She said, thinking. “No doubt something is intended. Why, if there were a devil behind it, it would be Faustian almost, to invite in a ‘greatest spirit’ but not specify that it is holy?”

“Possible. And if he is bound into the ground, like the poor Marbrason said, then consuming the earth…”

“Yes, it is an invitation to possession. But how are we to escape the trap then?” Lady Halberg said, pacing. “Have we any means? If we attempt to way lay them, their legions of footmen will rush to their aid. And I doubt politeness will prevent their endevors now, so close to whatever heinous aim they have up on me.”

“No, no, a frontal assault is foolish.” Maximilian agreed. He paused for a moment. “But if we act swift, we might not need it.”


“At the wedding, we shall be in that wretched Lion’s Room?” He said, glancing around now for unseen ears.

“Yes, in all its gold and mechanism.”

“Well, then we need not worry much about striking. They will be crowded in. If we act swiftly, the whole lineage might fall in moments.”

“Can demons not dance on a needle’s tip in thousands?” Sofia said, sitting on her bed. “They might wait invisible in hundreds of swarms upon the whole place.”

“The caliban made mention that devil hands cannot assail a priest, and seemed by his iron cross to escape all but the worst. I will descend down into that place again, and make off with an image of a saint to protect me. If that fails…” Maximillian stared into the moon. “If that fails, we will be forced to reckon with the forces a scholar of Hell and his servants can muster.”

“Then let us see how best we can handle them.” Sofia said sternly. “I will see if my gown can hold a letter opener in it’s sleeve. We must be of stern stuff tomorrow, for good and ill.”


And so they came to the fateful day in the Lion Room. No window entered, no light from the sun fell on Sofia’s face as she stood before the altar. Tobias was dressed in the red coat of his family, his millitary sash and honors underneath. The Lord and Lady stood beside him, in rapt attention. Footmen stood at the door, eyes peeled for ‘the nameless assaliant’ that Lord Oberherrscher swore was stalking them. His veiled grandmother sat beside them. And behind the altar, dressed in a long red and white robe, was the eldest Oberherrscher who sermonized the needs of commitment and loyalty to one another. Sofia noted that for his religious pertentsions, Oberherrscher was careful never to mention any word of God in the room.

Her bother noted that and more beside her. He noted that Tobias carried a sword, though whether decorative or not he couldn’t say. Heinrich was still aching from his back, and if Maximilian could come from the side, it would slow his turn. Both women were an unknown matter, and bounding over to slay the mostly infirm patriarch was equally questionable. After all, the apperance of fragillity might mask something darker.

They waited until the vows. Maximillian watched through the mirrors as Tobias promised to be faithful in marriage and strong in her defence, to provide her needs and wants. He slowly rested his hand onto his blade as Sofia replied. As she promised to obey the wishes of her husband, her wrist felt at the small letter opener stuffed into the sleeve of her long white gown. And as she promised to do so in health, she took the bread and wine.

Held them both in her mouth as carefully as she could. Tobias seemed utterly unaware, as elder Oberherrscher asked if he accepted the greatest spirit upon him. Tobias nodded fervently. He then turned to Sofia.

“I accept the Holy Ghost into my soul.” Sofia replied, spitting the bread and wine onto Tobias’s face. There was an instant of confusion and then outrage across the Oberherrscher family’s faces, replaced by alarm when suddenly Maximilian sword plunged into Heinrich’s side. The elder let out a shout of agony, falling over in pain.

Maximillian wasted no time, perhps infected by the swords purpose long ago, and turned his blade on the Lady next, who fled behind the lion statue in the center of the room. Carrying on with his stroke, Maximillian struck down the matriarch of Oberherrscher instead. During the panic, the footmen outside entered and drew weapons of their own, the Lady Oberherrscher quickly pushing behind them.

Sofia was having her own misfortune, however, as she tried to drive her letter opener into Tobias’ chest while he was distracted by wine in his eye. But his hand was quick and his build did not dissapoint. Swearing, he grabbed her wrists and held it back for a time, his grip began to hurt.

“Harlot, you would try to slay me now? Had you not the presence of mind to try at least after our pleasures?” Tobias shouted, his voice sounding distant as he drew his own blade. Holding her hand above her head, Tobias kicked Sofia in the stomach, knocking her over.


“Of course you couldn’t, no, you guessed the game. All well, we’ve never necessarily been one for invitations, have we Simon?” Tobias said, turning to his elder. Sofia heard the blade as it left it’s sheathe, a grinding noise like rows and rows of teeth. She shouted a warning to Maximilian as he parried the footmen’s spear. With quickness granted by fear, Maxmillian avoided the blade, it’s edge like a hawks tearing claws. Tobias lazily swung again, nearly slicing the young Halberg’s head off.

“Have at you devil, in the name of the Lord!” Maxmillian said, driving his steel into Tobias’s chest.

Tobias stared at him for a moment, calmly tapping the steel blade. The silence was broken by the footmen’s cackling laughter. Maxmillian slowly dragged his sword down, tearing through Tobias’s jacket. A mass of metal pipes and alchemical vials, tubes of rubber and flickering wires that pulse in the remains of flesh stood there, uninterrupted by the blade.

“I would not invoke the Archtyrant here, boy. You’ll earn few friends.” Tobias said, slashing across Maximillian’s cheek as Maximillian was still struck by what was before him.

Sofia now began to stand. She saw the mechanisms in the mirror. Worse she saw some ghastly cloud seem to hover over them. The Lady Halberg was not used to fighting, but doubted a letter opener would suffice where a sword failed. In it’s place, however, she turned to the distracted but stationary patriarch. She advanced on him slowly, twirling her instrument in her hand to feel it’s weight, before striking. The blade found the old man’s bones softer then she thought, sinking into his neck. His head fell back, and stared up at her, eyes empty and mouth agape. Out flew a host of small things like flies, swarming onto the ceiling.

“Oh, and wonderful. Now there’s no one left to say the ceremony.” Tobias said, turning to face Lady Halberg. With a gesture, the swarm was upon her, gripping at every edge to hold her to the altar’s side. “You truly are a foolish lot, aren’t you? Here I am, offering to be the start of a new, better future, fo you to be a new Eve to a—you know what, never mind now. Marbras must be freed eventually, but we still have time to fix this my delight. Still have time.

“You, however,” he said turning his attention back to block one of Maximilian’s blows to his shoulder. “need to cease.”

With a clicking precision, Tobias—or what Sofia suspected had once been Tobias—strode at Maximillian, his clicking living blade meeting the unfeeling steel. It tore at the steel, rending off chunks and leaving them on the floor. To his credit, Maximillian held his own against Tobias and the spear men. He ducked and wove, slowly driven towards the entrance. No doubt, he realized, more footmen would come and overwhelm him from within.

“The statue!” He shouted at Sofia as he pulled against the swarm’s strength. “Sofia, by God, the statue!”

At that, and realizing her brother’s intent, Sofia pulled free of the swarm, her gown nearly torn to tatters as she slammed her shoulder into the statue. It rocked back and forth, a pendelum that finally finished when Sofia gave it another push. The weight of the golden lion descended on the two swordsmen.

Maximillian held his hands to pervent the blow, to hold off his doom futily. But it didn’t come. Opening his eyes he saw Tobias, face half construed into a lions roar, growling as he held the great golden idol up. For a moment he began to lift it. And in that moment, Maximillian made his fateful stroke. He drove his blade again into the mechanism, and Tobias let out a cry as it periced wire and vial.

And with a resounding thud, the two were crushed. The footmen shrieked in rage, as the last Oberherrscher heir died. Sofia looked over the carnage, noting that the Lady had escaped. She wondered what nightmare she might weave. But that was for another time. For the moment, she wept for her dead brother, for the terror that was finally at an end, and for what could have been but was not.

Well, this was the longest I’ve written in a while. What can I say, the prompt got away from me. I would like sometime to return to the story, as length means I didn’t have the time I felt needed to edit it. And the ending is too rushed to my taste. Still, I’m fairly proud of this one!

I will say I do have a prequel to this story, set in the time of Prince Dahak. If there is sufficient interest, I can post it. But I feel the story does stand alone.

Come by next week to see our research on Italy, Fear, and Death!

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The Ground Under Your Feet

This Week’s Prompt: 40. Warning that certain ground is sacred or accursed; that a house or city must not be built upon it—or must be abandoned or destroyed if built, under penalty of catastrophe.

This Weeks Story:The Wedding of the Oberhrrescher, Part 1,The Wedding of the Oberherrschers, Pt 2

The idea of sacred and cursed spaces is one that has a large deal of weight in folklore and myth. Culturally, the notion is found often in religious centers and temples. A large number of temple complexes, both in the Middle East and in Mesoamerica. Ziggurats and pyramids are raised over sacred spaces, forming layers of holiness one on top of the other. While the exact qualities of a sacred space vary from place to place, they generally follow common themes. Mesoamerican civilizations preferred caves, Mesoptamian ziggurats reflected mountain tops, and so on.

Incompelte reconstruction


Sacred spaces are often places that connect to divinity, and as such—despite the prompt—are often occupied to one degree or another. There are a few places that are too sacred, often believed to disturb or anger the inhabitants of the area if built upon. This notion still has folklore roots, particular in areas that are considered haunted.

The cause of hauntings is…well, very common across regions. Typically, places that are haunted, drawing from these lists, are the sites of terrible crimes. Particular favorites that we talked about here and here, are murder and suicide. Tragedies often resonate and inhabit the buildings and even the space.

This is well known in the horror trope of the Indian Burial Ground, which has problems all its own. A haunting typically results in more murders, disappearances, and strange sounds. Again, here. The notion of accursed land that is built over and therefore incites vengeance is too played out for my tastes. No, I prefer to return to the notion of vengeance do to taboo violation.

Taboo is a familiar term, but in this case I mean it specifically in the anthropological sense: a rule that, if violated, invites supernatural retribution. These rules sometimes are enforced by the divine principles of the world, but other times they stand outside the divine and pursue at their own will. The Furies, for instance, do not necessarily obey Zeus and often seek to enforce the rules of hospitality and familicide on their own. Taboos extend beyond that, of course. Some include taboos against incest (a universal one), the ownership of certain items by certain people, and so forth. Constructing a living space in a taboo’ed area results in considerable more than haunting. A taboo invokes divine wrath, something more akin to the calamity fortold in the prompt.

There is also a rather obvious structure that could be followed here. We are given a rule: Do not build here. Someone violates the rule. And then there is calamity. But I think that such a structure wouldn’t fit in the 1500-3000 word limit I am attempting to maintain. Rather, I think the calamity is the focus, for a number of reasons.

Firstly is the nature of buildings. They are long lasting things, generational things. Houses are haunted for years to come, old castles see generations pass by. Places become more than instants, and the vengance of gods is often long coming.

Instead, I think I will take a page from the Gothic. The Gothic is obsessed with place as a reflection of pysche, of geograhpy and buildings with symbolic value. This is both a continuation of the sacred spaces and accursed places in the prompt, and the notions of the Fisher King. In the Fisher King notion, the damage to the ruler of a land is reflected in the damage to the land. Consider how Scar, in the Lion King, rules over a wasteland that is cured upon being dethroned.


In this notion, I would suggest the terrible building, that has blasphemed against the world, has been built for a good deal of time. Abandoned and re-inhabited a few times, perhaps, as the curse strikes down inhabitants that dare claim the land. When the calamity comes, it ought to be towards the end of the lives of those who violated the curse. The victims, then, are not only those that knowing violated the pact or taboo, but their descendants who now face a reckoning. This reckoning will take the forms of gradual events, isolating and driving at the victims until they discover its ultimate cause. All too late, of course, to avoid their fated doom.

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The Earth Shakes

This Week’s Prompt:39. Sounds—possibly musical—heard in the night from other worlds or realms of being.

The Research: Sing Me A Song


It started with a funeral. Jack was taken up into Abraham’s bosom, perhaps too soon. He was young, by the standards of the dead, having just crossed his third decade when he was taken from us. I didn’t know it, as I sat beside Ms. Yuri then and there, watching the pallbearers lower him down into the earth as the wind whistled and the clouds formed overhead, that this was the start. But really, it should have been apparent.

Ms. Yuri got up to make a speech for the man who’s name she would now never take. I don’t remember it’s words as much as it’s emotions and themes. It’s the curse of emotion, to obliterate the finer details. Passion cares little for the proper use of a comma, as long as the sounds stir the soul.

Ms. Yuri gave the same speech as I think every funeral speech gives. Nothing exceptional. He was a lover, a friend, he knew how to make you laugh. He loved children and music for their subtle complexities beneath a veneer of simple understanding. And how tragic, how tragic it was that he died.

The priest gave last rites, mumbled and muffled. He clearly had forgotten most of the words, teetering over as he was. He tried his best to seem somber and sober, but failed to convince me that he was either. And with that, Jack was sent below. Ashes to Ashes, dust to dust.

As he was lowered, I saw Ms. Yuri sit suddenly upright, as if struck with inspiration. She settled after a second, staring ahead with steely determination. I didn’t ask about it. I assumed it was a deep resolve that people get when they see death.

I wasn’t entirely wrong.

The first time I was sent in uniform back home. It was a black, with silver buttons. It had the Pinkerton badge at the side of the coat, and silver trim to the pants. The call had taken me out to an old hill on the edge of town, where a farmer insisted that something was stealing his cattle. I sat watching the area with my headlights on, waiting for someone to lead them astray. What I saw was…not exactly that.


The wind carried the sounds of a pipe organ through the air. I watched as the grounds began to slip and shake almost soundlessly, bending the gates aside. And almost aimlessly, the cattle wandered out.

I pulled forward slowly, honking my horn at them. The ground, despite the apparent changes, was still there and still steady. My car bent with it, making a grinding noise as it entered the sinking section. The cattle backed away from the loud metal monster with me inside. One or two seemed unconvinced, so I honked louder. The second noise seemed to shake off the pipe organ. The warping the music made came to a sudden and somewhat violent halt, the ground snapping back with sharp spikes.

The bottom of my car looked awful, beyond even the best mechanic. When I explained to the home office what had happened, I got a simple business as usual response. The cattle hadn’t gotten away, and I suggested the farmer use some ear plugs to keep them inside. Whatever cattle thief was trying to pull them back seemed to be doing so by accident.

“It was the weirdest thing. Have there been sink holes like that?” I asked Lea Yuri over the phone.

“A few, yeah. They think there’s some limestone caves breaking down around the edge of town. Excess sewer water or something.” She replied over the static connection. “But you heard piping?”

“You can’t tell me that’s caused by the sink hole?” I said irritably as I got my shoe off, muddy from the walk back into town.

“In it of itself? No, but it might have pulled down some pipes or something, you know. Like a bunch of bottles.” She replied. “ But yeah, its a bit freaky. Cows aren’t worth that much either. Must have been an opportunist. Did you ever find them?”

“The stolen ones? No, not a bit of them.” I said, placing the phone on the counter as I went to make coffee.

“Huh. Well, I’m sure they’ll turn up.”

“Who cares, job’s done. I’m going to read a bit and try and forget all this.”

“All what? You sound fine. After all, you didn’t fall into the sink hole.”

“Wasn’t a sinkhole, and my car took a hammering. Hoping company is fine with replacing it.” I said, adding my Irish to the coffee with a shaking hand.

“Well, good luck with that, and good night.” Ms. Yuri said, before the click hit.

There were, in the newspaper, other sinkholes that night. A few had suddenly filled, damaging cars and livestock and people at times. Most were around the outskirts of town, and had made a piping sound as the wind went over them. In the face of overwhelming evidence that I couldn’t be to blame this time, the company repaired the car. It made a creaking noise every time I used it.

A creaking clacking noise that was great for making me unsubtle as I drove along the coastline. It had been a while on the Pinkerton team, and I’d been bumped to some of the less savory work. I had my badge read, and a gun at hand. There was a strike by the shore that we had decided was going to grow violent. I had my black and silver on, as I pulled up to the docks. The same company car as the other thirty or so. The cars made a barricade from the strikers, a wall of steel we could stand behind.

“Ronald, looking sharp as ever.” One of my fellows said as I got out of my car. “Still wearing the ribbon I see.”

The ribbon was a small purple piece of fabric around my badge. Made it look a bit better, feel a bit better.

“Get rid of it.” he followed up, staring over the strikers. “We need one face, one motion unbroken if we’re going to stem this tide. If they smell a fracture, they’ll surge.”

Cursing a little, I took off the ribbon, stuffing it beneath the jacket. The strikers didn’t look eager for blood yet, but a quick toss would fix all that. I scanned for the cap, for Robinson. He would start getting them riled up and then it would be a matter of –

A violin string cut across my thoughts, suddenly and shrilly. Plugging my ears, I looked back and saw Robinson shouting something and a flaming bottle go flying. I fell to my knees as the violin chords rang up and down, ranging as best they could. When I managed to stand, I saw the barricade burst, as a car went flying.

I crawled quickly as the car was carried into the warehouse, shattering wood. I grabbed a billy club and turned to see utter chaos. They hadn’t broken before a wall of black coats. No, I saw teamster and Pinkerton hurling stones, breathing fire. I saw crimson eyed men taking clubs to scaly strikers. There was a rushed, blood pumping music in the air, the sounds of a whole orchestra declaring battle and blood. The wind ran through the rafters, the sea churned and in the distance I saw lightining crackle.

Angel of Fire

And above the mess, I saw it. A form like a man, with a sword and shield, eyes of fire and wings covered in blades. It was a blazing red angel of death, staring down at me with black eyes that bled white. Like a conductor, it gestured over the blood shed and brought the flames to crescendo before turning to me. And then he pointed his sword at me.

The rest of that day is a crimson blur. When it was over, the hope for a more peaceful solution was stomped out. A fire roared to life, after the Molotov, sweeping through most of the harbor. Emergency crews tried their best, but were beset constantly by delays, by set backs that made no sense. Rides that should have taken seconds took hours. Streets seemed to shrink and grow, or run in circles. Engines would send out water, only to have it fall short by ten feet, and move sluggishly as they brought it closer. In the end, the fire burned itself out, and the flooding ended the ashes.

We lost any contracts with the city after that fiasco. It wouldn’t be long until there weren’t anymore Pinkertons, just the left overs doing independent work anyway. Some of us, me included, still wore the black uniform and silver shield though.

The independent route wasn’t much different then before. When you wear the tattered remains of a uniform, the people that higher you are the kind who respect the effort. Even if it wasn’t all the same black anymore, with patches of dark grey and blue sewn on, it carried the same weight as before. The uniform filtered jobs, kept them to what would have been expected. Old standbys would hire me for the old jobs. When they passed on, their sons and daughters might ask me to look into some rabble rousing or missing goods. None of the new bloods were much intreasted, not for a long time. The occasional exception was the rare man or woman who was of means but wasn’t satisified until they looked like proper elder statesman of the town.

And it was one of these that bought my attention one late rainy night. It wasn’t proper rain, not yet, but the occasional dripping down from the sky, kisses from heaven they would say. It was annoying, yes, a rhythm at the back of the mind, but not to unbearable. Not yet anyway.

The young man who answered the door looked like he would die of even that little bit of rain. He was a scrawny man, with round bags under his eyes like an overworked racoon. Looked an absolute mess, even in a button up. The loosely hanging red tie didn’t help matters.

After we went through the pleseantries of trading names, Louis Howell lead me to his study. A large map of town was against the wall, with pinned newspaper clippings covering a good third of it. Red and blue lines ran between them, making an sort of spider web going out. Star charts were sitting beside them, noted with quickly scribbled dates. Howell lead me over to it, where a centeral gold pin sat in the middle.

“So, here it is.”

“Here what is?” I asked, looking it over. I had met a few crazies before. They weren’t the kind you wanted to do regular business with. Unstable.

“What I need you to look into. See, these occurrences? Pot holes, flooding, fires?” he said, pointing at the newspaper clippings and photos. “Their echoing out from this spot, or echoing to it. They go out one way,” he continued, tracing a ride line out of the city, stopping at the farm, “and come in another.”

He traced a set of pot holes in and out along the red-blue line, then a flood, then a riot. First, a mugging. Then, down the street, a day later, a murder. At the end? A pair of riots, that trickled back towards his gold pin as thieves and murderers.

“And? There’s plenty of problems these days. What’s specially about these?” I asked, leaning over the star charts.

“They line up, they line up you see, with not only the dates, but some odd phenomenon. Each occurred roughly contemporaneous with the alignment of a star over a specific spot. Further, witnesses all reported strange distortions or an in ability to remember the incidents.” He said, turning with a manic look.

How do you tell a man that we call that being drunk?

“Anyway, the circumstances aside, I don’t know what exactly is happening. But it’s getting worse. The amount coming towards the spot has increased over the years, three fold. And the events are accelearting.”

“Oh really? Well, alright, you want me to poke around the place?” I ask, checking the address. Yuri’s house. An oddity, but she’d been quite a while. To be honest, at the time, I didn’t know if it was hers anymore.

“Exactly! Find out if there’s anything suspicious there, you know, machines or noises or something?”

“Hmph, and how do you expect me to do that without breaking and entering?” I said, looking at a photo that had a clear condemned sign over the house in question. That answered the Yuri question nicely.

“I’ll pay triple your hourly for breaking and entering.” He said quickly.

And so I drove down the road with some tools to engage in the highly legal practice of breaking into a house condemned by the state. The rain had gotten to the point of real, proper rain by now, to the point of clouding up my windows.

It was after I flicked on the washers that I first felt the earth shake. For a moment I thought it was the busted bottom of the old thing, caught on a rock again. But now, the rising and falling of the ground was definite, if slow at first. I brought the car to a stop when the road broke apart in front of me.

As I stepped outside, I felt a warm wind coming from the great crevasses, like ovens opened beneath the earth. There was a sound of trumpets and organ horns ringing in the street. In the light of the cracks, I saw people running. Assuring myself I had my piece, I kept going on foot, no matter what happened.

The crazy was onto something and now a sense of civic pride compelled me to find out what. I tried to walk along the roads, but the fog was growing thicker and thicker. The invisible symphony continued as I got closer to the iron gate, forms rising out of the ground with limp limbs and glowing eyes. The heavens seemed to glow with a dim green haze.

The door was open, but I had to duck to avoid the bending and swaying frame. The door frame was piping and whistling like steam as it moved and appeared to rend. I got through with only a sharp whack to the back.

The inside walls of the old Yuri house had all been torn down. There were still some structural supports, but the entire place was open to the eye to see. Strings ran up and down the entire structure, attached to a bows that sawed across them. Great bellows across the sides pushed wind over flutes and through trumpets. A dozen hammers whacked piano strings, a forge of unearthly music. A small phalanx of record players played recorded voices into a heavenly choir. And in the center, at a small panel with switches and knobs, was Ms. Yuri.


“Ma’am, what are you doing?” I shouted over the orchestration. The waves of sound were near deafening, the whole place shaking and heaving with even the most delicate of notes. Ms Yuri didn’t notice.

I grabbed a billy club and turned to one of the strings. If she wasn’t going to listen, I’d need to stop this. It was tearing everything apart. And hey, maybe we could get some answers. But when I brought the club down on the string, it bent backwards and snapped. My hands, so close, felt numb just being that close, the blood painfully resuming it’s flow when I yanked it away.

“That’s not going to stop it, Ron.” Ms. Yuri said, flicking another switch. “Something this big can’t just be smashed up.”

“Oh, so you can hear what I’m saying! Great. What the hell are you doing?” I shouted, my words drifting against the tidal wave she was moving.

“I can hear so much more than your voice. I can hear you. I can hear it all, and its time to add a few notes to song.” Ms. Yuri continued , flicking another switch. A fire flared up outside. I could see people screaming and running about, the city crumbling apart. But I couldn’t hear it. In this house, there was only music. And Ms. Yuri’s voice.

“I’m not going to be mere maggot meal, a memorial waiting for worms.” She said slowly, looking up at me. “Jack’s gone, everyone goes. Everyone. But not me. I’m not staying and waiting for that nonsense to take me. I heard it, that first day. A missing note, a sudden disharmony, can’t you hear it?”

“Lea, that’s insanity.” I said, backing up a bit.

“Insanity is taking any option but this one. There’s a choir, an orchestra, a whole symphony waiting for me out there. And I will add myself in, I will join that immortal, invisible, eternal melody.”

“Your killing people, Lea. You’ve…you’ve kiled people.” I said, it slowly settling in, the lines crossing in my head. Even before she spoke back, I gave up on that line of reasoning. You don’t cause the damage Lea had, you don’t break roads and collapse buildings, start fires and ignite riots, if ‘you’ve killed people’ was going to stop you.

“I’ve ended a few lines, yes. To make room for mine. You can’t just expect something to fit, without making room. Listen to it, Ron? Can’t you hear it, waiting for me? So close, so close and I’ll be free.”

For the first time, there was a sound from outside the house. A clap of thunder shook the very ground. A couple more followed, and soon it was a growing drumbeat.

A good man would have tried talking her down, maybe. Trying some reason or something. I, for my part, tried shooting her where she stood.

The bullet melted before my eyes into drops of iron on the floor.

“The world hears me, Ron, and it would rather me not stop my singing.” She said, smiling through the lines of strings. “You can’t break this. You can’t overpower all this, not with your voice or that old rickety horn. This is the cosmic song. You are barely a single note in front of all this.”

I turned out the door again. It was shaking and shifting so much that it was almost a blur. I looked at the chords again, strumming along as they went. I had one left card to play.

Even without anything else, a normal piano string could do a nasty number on you if it suddenly sprung free. Its thin and durable and thus very sharp. I weighed exactly how numb I would get if I got close. How much momentum would I need. See, a bullet didn’t work, but that might not mean much. Slow something down fast enough, and it collapses. But if it’s just thick, I might be able to push through and do something …more serious.

So I slowly walked towards it, lowering my shoulder to better bear the weight of the song. It was immense, as I pushed through it. It was mountain, it was valleys, it was fire and freezing. I felt my body bruise as I got within a foot of the strings, I felt rashes and pains spread in a few inches. I nearly buckled, my legs bending and my knees crying out for relief. I forced my hands forward, even as the blood seemed to stop flowing to my palms.

With my last bit of strength, I grabbed the strings. I held them so tight my knuckles were white. And then, since my arms were exhausted, I yanked my back. A giant lever, I failed to break a single string, my hands still resting on the strings.

But I heard the note I had made resonate through the house. A sudden disunity. The burden was a little lighter. I yanked again. And again. With each yank, each out of step note, each effort, the song weakened.

“What are you doing?” Lea shouted suddenly. “Stop that! Stop that now! If you damage it now, who knows what will–”

And then, at last, I pulled one free. With a loud snap, a piano wire was tore free, cutting deep into my hand and then my back. I toppled over in pain, face down as the ground quaked.

The rolling thunder didn’t stop. It was one long clap, that went on forever. The shining in the sky continued, all the colors of the world. It glared down still, I could feel it on my back. The ground churned, waves of dirt and stone rising and falling as my consciousness faded.

I woke up in an empty lot. The city around me was broken, heaps of rubble instead of buildings. As I stood, the pain in my back flared up and pushed my back down. Looking around, I saw a few people pulling themselves out of the rubble. The dock was gone, utterly consumed by the water that had come nearly to the small house. Everything around was ground down.

I grabbed a cane and tossed off the torn up remains of my Pinkerton coat. It wasn’t any use anymore, as I limped around, gesturing for people to help me move some of the large pieces. It was all rubble for now. But it’d get better.

This story has a problem of pace still, and I feel that my lead isn’t active enough. The conspiracy theorist at the end would work better folded into the main character, and more intreactions with Yuri would help. Adding some smaller incidents and a more concrete main story before the ‘twist’ would be better as well. But that is all the time I had with this one.


Next week, we’ll examine places you should never go, never build on, lest it be haunted.

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Sing Me A Song

This week’s prompt: 39. Sounds—possibly musical—heard in the night from other worlds or realms of being.

The Resulting Story: The Earth Shakes
Mr. Lovecraft here proposes something like a much older notion: The music of the spheres. The world presented by this notion is not too alien: It is a world guided by rhythms and motions of music. You hear this talk, for instance, when angelic groups are referred to as choirs. The cyclical nature of the world, as observed, makes analogs to music not terribly hard. The Music of the Spheres refers to the music that all of creation makes, including other worlds and realms such as Heaven and Hell.

This concept has a great deal of pull in fantasy works. The grandfather of Fantasy, Tolkien, incorporated music into the creation mythos of Middle Earth. The Valar sing forth the world, and evil comes from the discord produced by a single singer. The communal element of music and a choir is fundamental to the image: there is a notion of participation in a greater whole.


Of course, other works of mythology have used the singer in other ways. Orpheus, the most famous musician of note, was a gifted singer. So gifted that he moved the lord of the dead to cry and show mercy. Such was Orpheus, that he sang even as his head drifted down the river. Orpheus during his life played so well, he drowned the sirens. Orpheus’s rites, carried forward into his mysteries, were universal in tone, dealing again with themes of revival and cosmic connections.



This is the main folklore I will use as the beginning. The other story is that of Krishna, a famed god of India, or demigod, who as a child would engage in the song and dance. Krishna lures the milkmaids of the local village out, and they engage him in a dance that lasts (via Krishna’s manipulation) over a billion years. Krishna’s dance lacks Orpheus’s tragedy and Orpheus’s personal tragedy, but it connects on the level of passion and intimacy among the gods. This power to shape and reshape is key to music.

Fantasy of course is familiar with the notion of magical music in the form of magic harps and bards.

Orpheus’s story begins with not only his marriage, but the death of his wife in his wedding. Notably, she dies fleeing a satyr, a wild man who is filled with lust and passion. In flight she gets bitten by a viper.

Orpheus’s mourning cries move all the nymphs and then world wept with him. The gods directed him to Hades. There he descended and sang to charm the lord of that place and his wife. Such was Orpheus’s singing that the punishment of Tarturus for a moment paused. And all listened mourning. And so Hades sent Eudryice out, on the condition that Orpheus never look at her until they reached the sunlight lands.

But Orpheus looked. And so was doomed.

And such was his second grief that he wandered and gave up all the gods, save his father Apollo. But once while worshiping, he is assailed by Maenads, worshipers of Dionyosous. They slay him for his impeity to the god of revelry, and he sings as he washes away. Women, who he had sworn off, assailed his head with stones and sticks as it drifted. But these would not hurt. So the women descended on him and tore at his flesh, ending his journey.

There is something then of the Apollo versus Dionysous, revelry versus civilization, light versus darkness, cthonic versus celestial to the myth. And that, along with the theme of passion, is of key interest to our story.

The power of music to lure and bend is common to both this story, the story of Krishna, and of course the Pied piper. It’s effect on man and beast alike. It is a power that reaches into minds and souls, that bends even the unbendable.

I would write thus about a musician motivated by passion. I would write about a woman motivated by a lost passion even—but not motivated to recover or resurrect her lost Lenore. That is something done too often, particularly with female villains. No, I have a better aim.

The notion of escaping death is perhaps better. Remember when I mentioned the often refferred to Choir Invisible? The immortal chorus of angels? The place of gods? I think this is where our woman is headed. Not to revive her husband, but rather to raise herself from that terrible fate that befall men and women alike.

A humanities response to the more scientific minded hubris, then.

Further, in the vein of pulp that makes up my blood now, I think she won’t be the main character. Or rather, not the character who’s view we share. Rather, we should examine from a secondary character rooting out what has happened. After all, when toying and perfecting the divine song, strange things are no doubt going to result.

There will be a trail of clues through the years, until at last the confrontation comes. That is when, I think, the Orphean magic must work. The dead then will rise, frightful as they are, to the call of the divine song. Calamity and apocalypse surrounds the final show down.

To keep above pulp, however, we want a harmony of two themes. Our villianness is formed of Gothic works, passion and hubris, loss and despair, pride and madness. Then what of our protagonist?

I think if the one wants power by joining something greater and bending it to her whims, then a protagonist may be one who has suffered in reverse. This is not one to be admired, of course, nor followed. But a person who is purely function who seeks to escape and become an individual perfectly parallels a person who seeks power at the cost of individuality and sanity. We will have to work out the details later.

I would be remiss not to mention where this prompt seems to have gone, in Lovecraft’s own work. The Music of Eric Zann has clear inspirations here.

So check that out, after our story comes out, and tell us about your own! What did you hear, from those distant outer spheres singing into this world?

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Drowning Deep

Trigger Warning: Suicide

The Relevant Research:The River Runs Deep

This Week’s Prompt: 38. Drowning sensations—undersea—cities—ships—souls of the dead. Drowning is a horrible death.

Silver light settled around the bodies beneath the bridge, a ghostly corona around a corpse homage to the moon above. There was a total of ten identifiable bodies resting there, waiting. Gazing upward at me, pupils rolled back to reveal pallid with dots among the bloated flesh. All drowned.

“Could be a serial killer?” Dorothy next to me said as the various smarts started trying to figure out how to haul up this mass with damaging much.

“Could. Be the weirdest yet. I mean, I guess he could just drown them, but seems like people would have heard something.” I said, squatting down to look. “Can’t be group body disposal, though. The one at the bottom’s rotted quite a bit. What’s the underwater version of a maggot?”


“Funny. Anyway, if they were all dumped at once, they wouldn’t have rotted so weirdly.”

“Different drops then.” Dorothy said with a shrug.

“Yeah, but I’m not seeing any wounds. Look, no cuts, no lacerations on the top one. No blood at all.” I said, frowning and looking to either side of the bridge. “Plus, you’d think someone would have noticed, right? Like on a morning jog? River’s been clean most of the month.”

“Clean, but how many people look down into the rivers these days. Maybe he dead weighted them?” Dorothy said, shining her flash light towards the feet. Nope. Completely bare of rope.

“Suicides?” I ask, thinking for a moment.

“All in the same spot?”

“I mean, it would explain the lack of bonds or wounds. But your right…wouldn’t they see the bodies? And if they did, why would they…I mean, seems like a weirdly private mass suicide.”

“They’re not all cults, Jim.”

“Most, most are cults.”

“Could have been a pact?” Dorothy said, frowning sat the water. I shook my head.

“Pacts are smaller, usually. Plus, now that I think of it, if this was organized—a”

“The rot would all be the same.” Dorothy finished.

“Guess we’ll have to see what the guys find.” I said standing up. My knees audibly cracked. I slipped the flashlight into my jacket, and tipped my hat to the boys trying to figure out how to lift the bodies out without them disintegrating.

Suicide wasn’t exactly new to Windgift. There was a joke around the department, ever since the factories and railroads made the city big, that one in every two murders was really a suicide by criminal. But it had exploded lately, near the waterfront. This was the first pile but the concentration was the only thing that separated it from miles of river shore.

I wandered down the raised and fenced coast line. There was an occasional shimmering fish swimming up its waters. I wondered if they knew when people died here, if they started up and up to feed on the remains. If they were gathering for a feast. Wonder what kind of fish ate only the fingers and toes.

The bodies were ruled a suicide, with a probably corpse desecration by a surviving member or by the scum who’d set them up for it. Lawyers were watching their wills, vultures watching a limping cow to find it’s hunter. There was no revolutionary firebrand to collect, though. And if the wealth made its way to some singular cult leader, it did so through a venerable hydra of untraceable transfers and shells of human beings. It was an epidemic, a plague.


I looked at the pristine, perfect pale river. A disease that, by all efforts of our fine municipality, had no healers at the moment. Not enough. So they had, failing to cure the disease, put someone to stand out as to prevent the systems.

I sat at my chair atop the iron tower, watching the iron fences around the bridge from behind metal bars. The first guy ‘fell out the window’, so they built a railing. The second hung from the railing, so they added spikes. Next bit the wounds and leapt out. So they finally put in bars. And, premptively, they removed the rafters and anything that might serve such a purpose from the room.

I even got a nice new uniform that was a too elastic to hang anything from, and entirely lacking a belt. I hadn’t exactly been happy to receive the job. Even without the collapse rate, preventing self destruction wasn’t what I had signed up for. I mean, yeah, you always had to watch the occasional drunk. But this wasn’t the robber and gangster filled apocalypse I wanted to be the watchman against.

I had already shouted scripted warnings out onto the bridge three times that night. Once I had to use my tranquilizer for a fool who had nearly scaled the fence. It wasn’t lethal within four shots, and it made a loud cling on the third to signal for back up in case the shot had been self aimed. Hard, given the length, but there was no need to risk it.

As night began to rise and the clouds lost the little light that escaped them. It was another dark night, with stolen stars lining the streets and glittering in the river, giving it an outline of dull gold. Occasionally a thin veneer of oily waste rolled down its way, distorting the shape like a large serpent slithering just beneath the waters.

It was beneath one of these persistent blights on the face of the river that I first saw it, between those bars. A languid form, a second ripple working its way out of the oil drifting on the surface. It was a spiny thing, with a longing, flicking extension like a tail. I didn’t see it properly yet. It caught my eye as a strange disturbance and nothing more.

Following it there was a clatter of steps on the bridge. Bolting up, I saw someone leaning against the iron nailed planks. Her ear was pressed up against it, listening intently. I leaned over in my chair, impulsively reaching for my rifle and my megaphone.

She was staring straight ahead with this blank stare, focused. She took a step back, staring now at the barricade, almost stroking it.

“Get away from the barricade ma’am.” I shouted through the megaphone. I don’t know if she heard me, entranced by something invisible. She stepped back, and took off her shoes. Then her socks, then her gloves.
“Ma’am, step away from the fence!” I shouted a second time. No signs of her making a move but bizarre behavior on the bridge could not be tolerated. She started rapping a rhythm on the rough wood. I frowned, listening for a tune.

And I heard it. I heard it first in the rapping, but then in something else. A sound that wasn’t there before. A soothing melodic sounds, a melancholic sound coming from the river. Gripping my rifle, I turned out the window. And there I saw it, coated in oil. The head of a great dog, a scaly hide behind it. It swayed as it almost howled out a siren song above, calling to the woman. Calling to me, to join it in the river and be free.

I thank god the bars caught me before I did anything, that the railing spikes stabbed my leg shaking me out of it. I carefully lowered my long rifle down between the bars. Looking down the scope I fired a dart at the beast. It yelped but carried on.

I fired again, this time down the throat. It banged on a tooth and lead to a grimacing, ducking thing that still skulked near the surface, howling at me. The woman at the bridge was banging on the wooden barricade.

I fired the third time, the loud ding of the rifle matching the dart’s sinking into it’s right ear. It howled at me, and sunk beneath the waves. It was utterly gone when I looked for it. My darts floated on the empty water, and the woman, shaken by a fellow law officer, moved along.

I scribbled a note on the paper before leaving.
“Shoot singing river dogs on sight.”

I doubt anyone will take it seriously, but it now joins the one about beautiful lake women and swans. I fear, honestly, that our river has become sort of gathering place for things like that dog. Next time, I think, I’ll aim for the bloody eye.

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