WatchNon-threaded

Forums » Creative Corner » Read Message

Share your short stories, poems, collaborative works, original artwork and more.

The Final Curse (Dark Fantasy)

4 months ago
Commended by mizal on 6/20/2020 9:33:57 AM

The Final Curse

It all belonged to him. The old walls that rushed past, belonged to him. The stairwell that he hurried up, belonged to him.  Every one of the creaky wooden steps, belonged to him. Every single stone of the old tower, every room and all the books, belonged to him. The books! An extensive collection, centuries old, filled with the secret arts of magic and witchcraft, obscure rites, and darker rituals. They all belonged to him.

Out of breath he reached the upper library. Leaning heavily against the oaken door, he surveyed the scene. The shelves, which had always been bulging with books, held only few remaining volumes. The others were strewn across the flagstone floor, stacked in disorganized piles or just discarded in seemingly random heaps. Two quick steps took him to the nearest pile, his heartbeat hammering between his temples. He knelt down and began to dig for a specific book. Precious minutes passed until he found the leather-bound magical Almanac. It was still turned to the right page. He read,

Recarnatus (Cf Reincarnatus)
The return of the returning in the flesh and continually so and thus in its return eternal forever.

Would she return? He had to know. And, if so, when? He had to prepare, but how? How would she return? It didn’t make sense. And, eternal? Would he have to fight her forever?

“Recarnatus,” he whispered.

There had to be more! All these books, these mountains of knowledge, had to contain more than a vague reference. His heart was beating furiously. How was he supposed to find anything in this mess? Perhaps he should return at least the most precious works to their shelves, but there was no time. There would be time to clean up afterwards, if he survived. He had felt the curse take hold, felt it still, powers being shaped, like the distant grinding of an enormous machine. If he could not counter it, it would be his death, or worse. If he figured it out, he would have a chance, a decent chance, but time was fleeting. He had to do something, had to act, had to work faster, think faster, read faster. Just a little bit more time!

It had to be in Selgrim's Curses! Searching feverishly he found the book and started flicking wildly though its pages. Selgrim's was filled with the darkest secrets, but the ancient warlock had written it in a single flow. The book contained no chapters, no headings of any kind, just a single long text. He flicked the pages back and forth, read some lines here, some there. Even if he had known what to search for it would have taken time to find, time that he did not have. Droplets of sweat formed on his forehead, ran slowly over bulging veins, and dropped onto the old parchment. More precious minutes passed, while he was trying to wring some sense from those pages. In despair he cast the volume back onto its heap and started digging through the piles again, but it was pointless. He was lost. Soon he had picked up another book. His eyes were reading, but his mind wandered aimlessly, and his ears rang with those three words

“Recarnatus Vortosh Anori”

 

Vortosh

“Vortosh,” he said it carefully at first, then more forcefully, “Vortosh!”

Perhaps the second word would provide a clue. It was his best lead surely. He dropped the book he was holding, fled the library and dashed down the wooden stairs.

Vortosh, the word was hard and sharp, not soft and round as the Eldari incantations. The elven language was the source of most common spells, but powerful beings had used magic long before the Eldar. Vortosh was a Shinsti word, a phrase from the language of a long-forgotten people.

He reached the tower's basement, followed a narrow corridor, rushed down another flight of stairs, chiseled in the bedrock. The door to the secret room stood open still. The room itself was filled with stone tablets, which shone in a strange blue light that came from nowhere—old light she had said, as if that was an explanation.

The Shinsti cronomancy the old sorceress had gleaned from these stones had been her greatest power. She had taught him everything, but not these ancient secrets. Taught him enough to be a worthwhile assistant, a slave to take care of the menial spells, repetitive witchcraft and paltry sorcery. The neverending repetition of these trivialities had made him strong and sure in his magic, as she had said it would. One more thing she had been right about. One more thing to hate about her.

Over the years his hatred had grown, festered. His rage had become a fire that fueled his studies. He had learned all she taught him and then more, spending every free minute in the library. Finally he had found this room, and for the first time she had refused to answer his questions.

On a pedestral in the center lay the greatest treasure. A giant book bound in a cover of blue steel. It was said that the monumental volume had been forged by a scholar king of old. Its waver-thin pages of beaten metal were said to contain an Eldari translation of every word of the Shinsti language.

He had come here already earlier this night, several times in fact, to discover the meaning of Vortosh. But once again his eyes wandered purposefully down the long list of words:

VORRATT
VORSHI
VORTAGG
VORTESH
VORTOS
VORTOSSESH
VOSASH

It wasn't there! But it had to be. In fact, he had found it earlier this night. Was that the curse? Impossible! He tried again

VORRATT
VORTESH
VORTOS
VORTOSSESH

Enthralled he stared at the metallic pages. Heart pumping, sweat dripping, how was this possible? The room spiraled out of focus. How was this possible? He felt his mind being pulled in weird directions, he was going insane. Was that the curse?

“Stop!” he said to himself, shouted it, “Stay calm. Focus. Think.”

If he did not manage to keep calm and think carefully he was as good as dead—or worse. Just an hour ago he had been in this room and found the word... but it was not in the great book. Of course, it wasn't!. It wasn't because it was not a word, it was a name. He remembered now. The name of a great teacher who had been a distant legend already three thousand years ago. It took him only minutes to find the right tablet, a list of wise men and women. There it was,

Vortosh — Shash Shash Rashi Idish

With trembling hands he returned to the great book to discover the meaning of those words.

IDISH: One who does to do

RASHI: Confused by the obviousness of the matter

SHASH: One who takes a detour or a shortcut that misses the destination

It made no sense. Who had this Vortosh been, what power did his name command? It was unfair. How could the sorceress have solved this riddle when he couldn't? It made no sense. He felt his mind slipping again. Chasing half-thoughts, wandering weird path, perceiving clues where none existed.

With great effort he pulled himself together. He had to approach this calmly, logically. The first two words remained an enigma, but perhaps last word could point him in the right direction.

 

Anori

“Anori,” it was an unusual word, one that he had never heard before. He had found no clue in the library, and it certainly wasn't a Shinsti term. This left only one other place to search. Another place he had searched before, but perhaps not carefully enough.

Climbing the stone stairs to the ground floor with heavy lumbering steps, a sense of dread rose in his mind. He fought back by reminding himself that the whole tower now belonged to him. It was a thought his mind could cling onto. He followed his corridor to one of his doors. He entered his dressing room, and slowly crossed its dark expanse with soundless steps. Finally he reached the door on the opposing wall, his door. He slowly turned the cold metal of his door knob and opened the door to his... no, he opened the door to HER room. He was aware now, that this would always be her room.

To an observer he would have seemed calm, casual even, but his heart was beating faster than ever, as if it wanted to erupt from his breast to escape the fate that was awaiting the rest of his body. Her body was still on the floor, the long slender dagger still in her back. There was a smell of blood, a dark stain on the heavy carpet. Very cautiously he walked to the bookshelf, giving her body a wide berth. He was sure that she did not move, still her gaze followed him. A trick of the light perhaps, a flickering of the candle. She was dead, would stay dead. She had died quickly, a few last breath and it had been over, just enough time to utter three simple words:

“Recarnatus Vortosh Anori”

He repeated the words. Just three words, not much for a curse, but when she spoke them the terror had drained from her face. She had died knowing that her revenge would destroy him. But, he wasn't dead yet, there was still a chance to undo the curse, if he could discover the meaning of the final word. He pulled a random book from the shelves and started reading, but soon discovered that it contained only the most basic spells. He put it carefully back and tried another one with the same result, small enchantments, he knew them all by heart. Why had she been keeping these trivial books in her bedroom? He tried a third book, but it was a philosophical treatise of magic that did not even contain a single spell. He had been here before this night and just as on his previous visits, there was nothing. Nothing worthy of the greatest witch in the north. Why were these books even here?

“WHY?” he shouted it at her.

She did not answer his question and it struck him with new gravity that she would never answer his questions again. He put the book back on the shelf carefully. He would have liked to toss it across the room, tear it up and burn it, but her gaze was still following him, piercing him.

In his mind the same scene was replaying. He felt the hilt of the dagger in his hand, felt the sharp blade part old flesh. The point briefly scraping against a rib and hot blood gushing over his fingers. Heard those three words that sealed his fate.

“No!!” he screamed, screamed it like an animal. With his last hope shattered, he sank to the floor. There he lay in front of the bookshelf staring back at her dead eyes. He wanted it to be over, wanted death to come swiftly. Welcomed it. But death did not come. In time he could have learned every secret of the tower, his tower, but time was running out. He had failed, failed narrowly, so very narrowly. If he had only managed to decode the first word. Surely it would have put him on the right path. The first word, the Eldar word was certainly the easiest part of the spell.

Perhaps there was still a chance to find its secret after all. A glimmer of hope kindled his soul. If he could just focus, do things methodically. Cling to the thought, he told himself, it's all yours now. All the secrets of the tower do belong to you. But time was running out! He jumped to his feet and ran for the stairs to the library.

 

Recarnatus

It all belonged to him. The old walls that rushed past, belonged to him. The stairwell that he hurried up, belonged to him.  Every one of the creaky wooden steps, belonged to him. Every single stone of the old tower, every room and all the books, belonged to him. The books! An extensive collection, centuries old, filled with the secret arts of magic and witchcraft, obscure rites, and darker rituals. They all belonged to him.

Out of breath he reached the upper library. Leaning heavily against the oaken door, he surveyed the scene. The shelves, which had always been bulging with books, held only few remaining volumes. The others were strewn across the flagstone floor, stacked in disorganized piles or just discarded in seemingly random heaps. Two quick steps took him to the nearest pile, his heartbeat hammering between his temples. He knelt down and began to dig for a specific book. Precious minutes passed until he found the leather-bound magical Almanac. It was still turned to the right page. He read,

Recarnatus (Cf Reincarnatus)
The return of the returning in the flesh and continually so and thus in its return eternal forever.

...

The Final Curse (Dark Fantasy)

3 months ago
I'd read this quickly at work the other day and just realized I never did come back to comment on it. Really well done though. I can't say I ever felt too much sympathy for the POV character since it became clear pretty quickly he was a backstabbing little weasel (even before it was revealed in the literal sense it was pretty obvious he wasn't exactly an innocent victim...) but the sense of intensity and desperation was clear and there was just enough element of mystery before we realized what was up. And researching things in an arcane library just so happens to be an activity I can't not enjoy no matter what form it takes. This scenario would make a good little storygame in its own right, the details we got of the tower that he never will get a chance to explore more of made me want to know more too.

The Final Curse (Dark Fantasy)

3 months ago
Both of your stories have been listed as Dark Fantasy so far. What exactly is it that makes fantasy Dark Fantasy? Just kind of interested in what other people's criteria are, since it doesn't seem like anyone can ever agree on definitions for the various sub genres.

The Final Curse (Dark Fantasy)

3 months ago

Oh that's complicated. So the other category that I can think of would be supernatural horror. For me the dividing line is that SH deals with supernatural elements in a world that is otherwise normal reality, while fantasy is based on the presumption on an entirely different world.

So this story is fantasy because it is evident in the historical remarks that this is not the real world. If I replaced eldar and shinsti with Babylonian and Assyrian that would make an SH story for me. 

Cleary they are not high fantasy stories, the anti-heroes pretty much make sure of that. Both could pass of as Grimdark but they lack the grittiness that unusally comes with that subgenre. 

What would be your classification?