An inhuman cackle, dry and monotonous, like a bad act, rang out. Blood slowly spread over the floor, icky and thick, almost as dark as the shadows themselves, covering the dusty stone floor. Nearby a woman cried, her face red and cramped into absurdity.
“NOOO!! Conn! Oh, God!” She screamed, scratching the ground in anguish.
She tried to reach him, the corpse, but the invisible wall marking the end of the chain stopped her. All she could do was look and weep.
“Back off,” Magus scorched her forehead with his bony finger, the control has gotten better from daily practice it’d seem. “That is no more.”
The shadow that sliced the man like a fish slowly lowered from the ceiling. With one arm it held onto the meager stones that made the ceiling, it’s body able to twist and turn like some weird machine.
It fell onto the floor, the joints cracking and squelching. On its faceless head a wide grin stretched, going from one side to the next, where nubs marked its ears. The coal-like eyes blazed to life as it stared at the unmoving victim.
The humans watched with their eyes wide open as the pale monstrosity approached the corpse. Dragging its legs forwards it scratched the surface with the jagged claws every other step, filling the silence with the eeriness. Eventually, it reached the man’s body, stepping on his back and digging deep into the flesh.
Like some animal it sniffed around loudly from the two holes that were its nose. Seeing that none were going to challenge its meal, it lifted the man on the wide shoulders. More blood spilled as the claws dug deeper and deeper into the soft skin, scratching and separating fat from the muscle.
Sharply turning around, it sniffed the air even more so than before. The burning eyes locked onto one of the women. It ‘walked’ up to her. Towering the feeble human two to three times, it had to bend down, exposing the skinny, leathery back for everyone to see. A distorted tattoo of a serpent was on it, old and withered, probably belonging to the original owner of the beast’s past.
Inches from the woman’s face it stared, the mouth frothing, seemingly bleaching the razor-like teeth it had.
“The arm.” Magus said, almost sounding annoyed.
The woman, still from the shock, just then realized that she held onto the bloody limb and threw it away in panic. The monster grabbed it before it fell onto the ground and, as if satisfied, walked off into the shadows, leaving a trail of blood and a sharp snicker in its wake.
“What the hell was that…?” Iphis finally spoke.
“Hmm? My servant, of course. Humans call it a ghoul, I believe.”
It came to be due to an unexpected success of one of his experiments. A man, although Magus suspected a woman should work as well, that has gone through severe torture and was on the brink of death had to be fed his own and other human’s flesh.
Sustaining oneself in such a way had some effect on the body, though what exactly he was yet to discover, but the consequence was one turning into a ghoul after death. Unfortunately, the corpse raised by natural means of being surrounded by undead, which was a discovery he made a while back in Bargor, and it was yet to be confirmed if him raising it would also work in the same way.
“I know that!” She gripped her chest. “Why the hell did it take the corpse?!”
“For the same reasons a hunter takes the catch.” He waved her off, turning towards the women. “Anyway, where were we…? Ah! Right.”
Taking out a large bunch of keys he unlocked the shackles of the two women. “Here you are,” he said and pointed to an empty spot where old stains of crates still marked the ground. “You know what to do.”
It took a moment, but after a glance at their own children, determination returned to their eyes and they stood up from the cold floor and began limping towards the spot. When they got there they looked at each other and waited.
“What is it?”
“When…do we start?”
“When? Now of course.” Magus did not know that they expected a signal. After all, why would they? It felt weird that a living, intelligent creature needed almost as much instruction as a zombie.
At least now they knew what to do and went at each other. There was no technique, no… target for their strikes, just a wild struggle. They pulled on the hair, ripping it out in large chunks, and beat one another with the softness of a baby. Eventually nails and teeth came to action as they began to lose themselves in this plain dance.
The undead was dumbstruck at the scene, not expecting for it to be so simple and easy to move them…
“Iphis.” He suddenly asked, still looking at the bloody scene taking place. Fighting without weapons took an impressively long time.
“What is it,” she asked, expecting some weird question to come as usual. And it did.
“Would you also fight to save your offspring?”
“I’ve never had a child so I do not know.”
She knew of the so-called maternal instinct, but never experienced it herself. Even in her earliest memories she never seen her mother as…a mother. At times she even doubted whether the woman considered her as a daughter. Succubi lived a different lifestyle than humans after all. In fact, the first time she saw her was 14 years after birth, after getting released from the Germinary.
“Then,” he pointed upwards, showing another question was in order. “What would make you act in the way they did?”
“Nothing. I’m not foolish to commit suicide.”
“Hmm…” He crossed his arms, unsatisfied by the answer.
The women screamed even louder, punching each other to a pulp, but the slightly higher woman seemed to have an advantage and soon pinned her down. It all made sense and Magus couldn’t help but nod at the act. Not all are equal, the opposite of what some of the books he read said, and even the slightest physical advantage could make a large difference.
Soon began the deadly squeezing of the neck accompanied by muffled screaming, or perhaps begging, of the woman below, and irregular breathing of both. Tears ran down her red cheek as she struggled to her best and refused to give up. Taking out awkward chunks with her teeth, an animalistic rage overtook her and at one point she almost managed to get out of the grip. Unfortunately, it was never meant to be. She was but a human. Too desperate to rely on her frail body and trapped in the personal hell of this moment. In the hastily decreasing time of her existence she probably thought of her family, friends, or other vague memories, and likely despised that single flaw which tripped her in this world’s path. Quickly the lack of breath overcame her, the body succumbing to unconsciousness, shutting off her thought process for eternity.
Magus expected for the other woman to stop, as humans preferred to avoid taking other human lives, but it didn’t happen. She screamed, laughed, spat, punched, bit and shook the dead corpse for an unnervingly long time. He felt the life extinguish long before the struggle ended, but didn’t say a word. Captivated by the complex emotions uncoiling before his eyes he could not help but write it all to memory.
“Congratulations.” He clapped as monotonously as he spoke when she was done. The woman just sat on the body and refused to move, even her child stood in shock at the sight of her ‘mother’. “The little boy it is. Iphis, do the thing.”
“What a mess…” She said and walked up to Rene.
All this time he stood unmoving, seeing what he wished to see, blind to reality. Leaning over to him she once more whispered something incomprehensible in her demonic tongue. In the meanwhile, Magus moved the boy over to the side and chained the victor of the bout. The other women seemed to segregate her immediately in the already-meager world they had.
“Show me how trained he is.” The bone jaw clattered in amusement, though he himself felt nothing.
With a snap of her fingers the man named Rene went red. Literally. His eyes bulged to their limits and turned bloodshot, even a large vein popped on his forehead. Standing there he heaved seemingly in panic or shock, and glimpsed around looking for the exit. Then he saw her, Iphis, and his heart calmed. With a *shwing* he pulled out his weapon.
The arming sword gleaned in the darkness, reflecting the only source of light in the undead’s grip. He stood in a stance, muttering something under his breath.
“Devil. . . devil. . . devil. . . DEVIL!!!”
He ran at the child whom was in utter shock, unable to even comprehend his oncoming doom.
With a masterful stab the gleaming piece of metal pierced the child’s chest.
It coughed blood and the man sighed in relief.
“I did it! I did it, princess! I beat the beast!!!”
On a loose table flickered a candle, bleak and weak, barely pushing the darkness away. Two corpses, almost as pale as the wax itself, lied on it. Stiff as rocks from the hours of death. An undead creature worked on them, cutting tendons and separating the meat like a butcher.
The door creaked open, almost putting out the flame of the candle, and someone stepped inside.
“Oh for the love of…” she silenced, knowing no god. “What the hell are you doing?!”
“This is absolutely disgusting.” She gagged, barely holding the contents of her stomach in. “What’s the point of all this? They’re not even undead.” Magus typically cut open already raised corpses, to which she got used to. Ultimately, they were monsters at that point. “Is that the child you ordered me to kill?!”
“Did you come to pester me? I said you’re free to rest, mortals need that after all. Why are you not doing that?”
“I couldn’t sleep because of all the ruckus outside.” She lied. The memories from today kept her awake. “What are you planning…?”
“So hu- demons wake up from excessive sound? Interesting.” He took note of it in his black book. It was getting thicker and thicker as of late from all the extra notes attached. “I’m planning a trip.” He chuckled.
This worried Iphis as she could never predict his actions. Where is he going…?
“Don’t tell me,” she grit her teeth. “that you’re going to the Demon King…?”
He waved her off as usual. “Don’t be foolish. Isn’t he far away?”
Again, laughing monotonously at his own words, he continued taking organs out of the corpse and putting them in jars. Iphis couldn’t help but retch at the sight.
“No.” The skeletal hands worked with mechanical diligence, filling and sealing the containers. “I’ll be going to that human… duke.” He paused. “Now that I think about it. Do you, demons, also have dukes?”
“We do, but it’s slightly different from the human government.” For some reason it felt soothing for her to not speak about death once in a while.
“Oh?” He took out a liver. It was misshapen and covered in white lumps. “What’s this…?”
Turning around he raised the liver for her to see, as if she’d answer what it was, but all he received was her back and more heaving.
“We don’t follow the royals…” She wiped her mouth. “Only the strongest economically, physically and militarily gains the title of King and all its benefits.”
“Sounds like a lot of hassle.”
“Mhm. The ‘physical’ part is the most troublesome. There’s no surprise that no incubi or succubi has ever gotten the throne.”
“Right. Well, your people are more of a… spy material. Though, as servants you also do well. Sometimes.”
“That’s exactly what a Demon King would say.”
“You met him?”
At this point he was already arm-deep inside the woman’s mouth, reaching and messing around the insides. The corpse’s chest rose at an odd angle from this and Iphis naturally chose to not look.
Sitting down on the sofa she looked around everywhere but the table. The room was basically empty, although surprisingly tidy, considering that a maniac and self-taught ‘surgeon’ stayed here.
“Want me to tell about him?”
Magus didn’t respond, now fully immersed in inspecting the teeth and tongue.
“What are your plans?”
He ignored her again.
“Do you actually believe you can kill humanity?”
The word ‘humanity’ seemed to reach though, as he promptly stopped doing whatever nasty he had begun.
“Kill?” He put down the pliers. “Who said I’ll do that?”
“Isn’t what you’re doing right now just that?”
“This? This is a necropsy.” He stirred the jar, moving the whatever-called piece of meat inside. “Didn’t I say that already?”
“So what’s the point of all the murder up until now? You’re risking a lot with all this open slaughter.”
“Oh? And what exactly am I risking?”
“You should not underestimate them. That army you’ve seen is but a fragment of their true power, and it’s only this country we’re speaking about. There are many more, larger, stronger nations out there.”
“What you said is nothing new to me.”
“Then how are you planning on doing this?”
“A servant like you shouldn’t bother such trifles, but just to make it clear for you – I will not murder and will not kill.” He picked up the pliers and pried the corpse’s mouth open. There was much work to do. “I will erase.”
“Good luck with that.” It was impossible and she knew that. One, two, three. A thousand. No amount of people, or monsters in this matter, can do that. “Anyway, what’s with the candle? Didn’t you boast about the undead having the most perfect of dark visions?”
“Curiosity, curiosity. Look,” he raised the pale hand of the corpse and put it next to the flame, smoldering it. “Look how light penetrates the skin. Why is that?”