A circular room. Walls, floor, and ceiling are all white, with golden script flowing across every surface. Surrounding the table in the middle are three figures. A short man, bulging with muscles. His red hair cut short in a military style, his beard given free reign. Several intricate braids are scattered throughout, glints of metal barely seen. His face is scarred from battle, left eye milky white from whatever wound bisected his eyebrow. A tall woman, thin and graceful. Deep green hair falls in a cascade behind her, reaching the small of her back. Her adornments are minimal. A white robe with a thin silver belt and matching cuff on one wrist. She looks up, revealing piercing green eyes that seem to see through to your soul. The third member of the group is a girl, just out of her teenage years. Curly dark hair frames her face, while her dark brown eyes contain a surprising depth. Despite her looks, those eyes have seen centuries.
“Everything ready?” The gruff dwarf speaks.
“Of course. I’ve chosen my hero.” The girl responds.
“Excellent. Then let us begin.” The elf says. Lifting their hands in tandem, they form a circle. Those who can sense power, would see it flowing in a circle, faster and faster. As they proceed, the writing starts pulsing in time with the revolutions of power. Everything is according to plan.
“AAAAARRRRIIIIIIIII!!!!” A whiny voice cuts through the ritual. “I’m booooooored. Come play with me.” Appearing out of nothingness, a wiry figure appears. Nearly six feet tall, he is dressed in leather armor. Short blond hair is cut just below his jawline.
“Lokir! What? How did you get in here?” The girl stammers, partially dropping her stance.
“Pay attention Ariana! You’re losing the targeting! Unless you want your hero’s soul to be lost to the void forever.” The dwarf barks at her.
“You didn’t make it easy! I had to go sideways through the sixth dimension, and invert myself through the fourteenth nexus.” The newcomer whines.
“Lokir, we are busy here.” Ariana grits out through her teeth. “Come back some other time.”
“But I’m boooooored. Ooh, what are you up to?”
“Nothing that needs concern you. Begone!” The dwarf grunts.
“You’re overcompensating Bruin.” The elf warns. “Targeting a church is hopeless. We can at best narrow down to a continent.”
“Summoning a hero? I wanna play too!” Lokir cackles gleefully, placing his hands upon the table.
“Lokir! No!” Ariana warns, but it is far too late. A chaotic swirl of energy flows into the ritual, seeping into the unfortunate soul trapped within.
“Make this lots of fun for me, kay?” Lokir smiles as he backs away from the glare of the other three. “Byesies!” With a wave, he is gone.
“I’ll throttle that-“
“Enough Bruin.” Ariana admonishes him. “Where is our hero going to land?”
“Southern forests.” The elf laments.
“The southern forests? That covers a third of the continent!” Ariana wails. As the three godly beings watch helplessly, a blue streak shoots through and collides with a hologram of a planet. “Where did he land? I’ll send my priests out immediately!”
“You know as well as I do lass, that we can’t track godly heroes. We’ll have to hope that someone kind stumbles upon him.”
Normally the raven haired child would be asleep at this time of night. It was midnight after all. However, tonight he was bouncing around inside the carriage in excitement. After nearly a month, he would be able to see his father and step-mother again. That’s why instead of stopping in the town, the guardsman allowed the giddy child to convince him to keep going through the night. The roads around the barony were well patrolled, and there hadn’t been any bandit incidents in years. Besides, Baron Locklan had splurged and paid extra for the magical lights that lit a good twenty-foot circle around the coach. It would be a shame to not use them.
The child was the oldest bastard of the Baron, though that didn’t keep him from being loved. Always unconventional, the Baron had explained from an early age exactly where little Eric was in the grand scheme of things. He would never be able to inherit any titles from his father, but would always be counted as family. Even should Eric not wish to live within the family means, his step-mother assured him that he could apprentice wherever he wished. If an apprenticeship didn’t appeal, there was always the University at the capital. Whether he showed an aptitude for wielding magic or special promise with a blade, he was promised nearly every advantage towards realizing his future.
Of medium height though skinny, Eric had a deep tan from his love of outdoor adventures. There was hardly any tree at the manor that hadn’t been climbed at some point in his six years. The most unsettling point about him was his stare. Whether it was the intensity, as if he were judging your soul, or the fact that his left eye was a blue so deep as to be nearly purple while his right eye was hazel with a ring of gold encircling the outer part of his iris, people tended to keep their distance. Those that managed to overcome their insecurities found a boundless enthusiasm for new things. Even rarer were those that managed to earn his trust, though once given was unshakeable.
Though the family manor was only a twenty-minute trip outside of town under normal conditions, the coachman was taking his time to ensure the safety of the horses. Nearly an hour of travel later, everyone was more than happy to finally see the peaks of the manor appearing just over the hill, backlit by the half moon. “Eric, I see the tops of the house in the distance. Not too much longer and we will be home,” the guard captain called out.
“Hooray! Thanks Captain Eckert, dad’s going to be so excited we got home early don’t you think?”
Chuckling, the captain responded, “Of that I have no doubt young lord. None at all.”
“How many times do I have to tell you Captain, I’m no lord and you know it.”
“At least once more young lord, as I keep telling you to stop calling me captain and simply call me Miles.” The captain continued the longstanding game between the two. “Though not the heir, you have earned my respect. Always remember, being noble has nothing to do with who your parents are and everything to do with your own character.”
“I know I know. You also taught me to respect my elders, but you will always be elder than me. I guess that means I won’t ever be able to stop calling you Captain.”
Guffawing loudly, even the usually surly coachman cracked a smile at the impish behavior of the two traveling with him. Shaking his head, the coachman asked, “Sir, are you sure you aren’t expected? Seems that there’s an awful lot of light in the windows up ahead for this time of night.”
“It’s fine, probably just the Baron finishing up some business. I’m sure he fell behind a little bit with the family meeting.”
“The reason we are out here with little Eric. Apparently some of the more powerful summons that are passed down family lines require a yearly ceremony. This week was when the Baron decided to do it. Since Eric isn’t in the line of succession, he couldn’t be on the grounds.” Continuing on, the coach passed through the gate, the stopped at the stairs leading to the main entrance. Launching from inside, Eric tore towards the front doors like a hawk swooping down upon a rabbit. Skipping every other step, the laughter of the two men followed him inside.
“MOM! DAD! GUESS WHAT? I’M HOME!” The exuberant child bellowed while slamming the door closed behind him. Crossing the foyer, he wondered what was taking so long for his parents to reply. “Mom? Dad? Anyone awake?” At his last question, a dark silhouette filled the door leading to his father’s study, tilting its head to the side as if pondering what this little bundle of energy was.
“What could this possibly be?” A dark, melodious voice that was most definitely not his father’s responded. Moving forward in a jerky manner that displayed none of the Baron’s natural grace, the light revealed something that would haunt Eric for years to come. His father, drenched in blood from a massive hole where his heart should be, stood there with several dark bands attached to his extremities. The inky blackness of the bands sent shivers of revulsion up the boy’s spine. Coming off the bands were ropes made of the same substance, that appeared to drink any light foolish enough to shine upon them. The bands culminated in the hand of some eldritch horror. Four arms covered in a shiny black chitin were attached to a hunched body covered with the same material. The chest and stomach were covered in hundreds of tiny protrusions containing small proto-hands that were swaying in a manic dance. The creature’s two desiccated legs dangled beneath it as it floated a few feet above the floor using some unseen force. The face was shockingly white compared to the body, with several flexible stalks with an eye on the end of each one surrounding the head. Two antennae were also perched on the forehead of the creature. Again the melodious voice came, straight from the creature that was behind his father, “The orders of the contract have been fulfilled, the Locklan family lies dead in this house. Yet this little one calls for his father, frozen at the sight of me with a trail of urine running down his leg. Does this mean I can play with you little one?”
Screaming in utter horror, Eric turned and raced towards the door as fast as his little legs could carry him. Chuckling, the creature waved its free hand and a massive red arcane seal covered the door. As the child slammed into the door and bounced off, the creature spoke, “Now, now little one, you can’t go leaving just yet. We have hours of fun ahead of us.”
“ERIC! WHAT’S GOING ON IN THERE?” The faint voice of Captain Eckert could be heard as the door rattled in panic. “ERIC, OPEN THE DOOR!”
Tears freely flowing, Eric turned and looked at the creature. Gathering what little courage he had left, he confronted it, “Wh, Why did you d d do this?” Though his voice quivered, his stance remained firm.
“Why, because I was ordered to. Summoned by my master, I had no choice to obey.”
“Who is your master?”
“Ah, that would be telling little one. Can’t do that.”
Just then the sound of shattering glass reached their ears, followed by a muffled exclamation. “Eric! What the hell is this? What’s blocking the windows? ERIIIIIC!” The panicked voice of Captain Eckert could be easily heard.
“He he he, can’t have any uninvited guests. You’ll find all the doors and windows have been sealed so that we can truly enjoy our time here.” The monstrosity chuckled. “Oh, but where are my manners? You can call me the Corpse Puppeteer. Now, how about a little game of tag?” As he finished saying it, Eric noticed the long object in his father’s hand as he staggered forward. A sword covered in congealed blood. “Oh, but one on one isn’t going to be enough. I think a second person would really enhance our fun. Come on out m’lady, your son wishes to play.” Beckoning with his empty hand, strands of blackness shot forward into the study. Immediately thereafter, Lady Locklan’s ravaged body shambled out. Multiple stabs and slashes marred her body, and the sheer volume of blood left the original color of her clothes unknowable. The terror of seeing his step mom, her head flopping about grotesquely from the massive slash though her throat, finally broke the little boy. Fleeing deeper into the manor, little did he know his night of horrors was just beginning.
Sliding to a stop in the dining hall, his brain took a moment to process the sheer horror. Walls coated in blood, the slain bodies of all his cousins, aunts, and uncles littered the floor in various poses. The worst was the attempted statue of limbs something had started in the corner. Each room had been desecrated in some manner, no matter where he turned some new horror awaited. Bodies of servants that had watched as the young boy grew hung by their entrails. Maids that had helped him clean his messes lay dismembered.
Several harrowing hours later, the boy found him cornered in his father’s favorite room. A massive glass window overlooked the prized apple orchards. “Ah, such a fine room that I haven’t corrupted yet. You will help me with that, won’t you?” The Corpse Puppeteer asked while hovering behind the Baron and Baroness. Back plastered against the seal covering the glass, the boy finally gave in to the inevitable and slid down into a seated position. As the people who raised him finally shambled in front of him, the bloody sword fell to the ground with a clatter. “NNNNOOOOOOOO!” Crying out in frustration, Eric looked up just in time to see the bodies of his parents fall to the ground, finally freed from the vile clutches of the summoned monster. “Damn you, seconds away from the end of my fun and the sun rises!” With a final curse, the monster returned to its original plane of existence with a pop of foul smelling smoke.
Seconds later, a door shattered under a mighty blow as Captain Eckert was finally successful in gaining entry, the seals keeping him out having vanished with their maker. Rushing from room to room, Eckert finally found the boy sobbing silently over his parents. “Oh Eric, I’m so sorry.” Gathering the boy in his arms, he held Eric’s head buried in his shoulder so he wouldn’t have to see the carnage again as they left. Settling him in the coach, he looked straight into the boy’s eyes. “Listen Eric, I don’t know what happened but it is obvious this was an attack on your family. Something strong enough to block every entrance to the manor like that has to be a major summons, which means that there is another noble family involved. Though you don’t have any claims to inheritance, I doubt someone that would be this ruthless will let you live.” At the boys mute nodding, he continued. “I have a brother, his wife is barren. They will take you in, and you can claim to be my bastard. I’ll go back into the army and look for answers there. Before we go, I’m going to go back in there and grab some of your clothes and the emergency stash of coins your father left. We will also need to find a charm to hide your eyes, not many people have unique colors like yours.” Hurrying back inside at the boy’s nod, Eckert quickly grabbed some needed items and headed back out. “Take these and try and get some rest. The coachman fled hours ago, so it’ll just be me and you for now. It’s been a long while since I’ve driven something like this, but I’m sure we will make it eventually. Rest now as best you can Eric, you will get through this.” With those final words, Eckert took up the reins and guided the horses back onto the road. They never looked back as the sun continued to rise on the carnage left within the manor.
Bio: I'm a chemist that gave writing a try, and loved the results. Everything is mostly for fun right now, though I might try and get some things published eventually. Certain traits of my daughter have made it into bits of my stories, and she sometimes keeps me company when we both have trouble sleeping.