The large man opened the door, the little girl held in his arms and dropped the rope to the floor. His wife looked at him as he barged in. She needed to only wordlessly raise a finger with a scornful gaze for the giant man to stop in his tracks. Placing the child down, he sat down on the floor and began to take off his muddy boots. Esper ran to her mother who welcomed her to her lap as she sat at the table, lifting her up with a laugh at her toothy expression of joy.
“Mama, there’s a mushroom on the trees!”
“A mushroom? Oh. I see,” she answered with a smile hidden under her overcompensating, wowed expression of interest.
“Papa said I can’t eat it.”
“Did he now?” She looked to the man who just shrugged, the smile on his face as well. “How was it today?” Asked the woman.
“The usual. Though lots of them from the outer regions. There weren’t many of ours.” The woman picked up the girl holding her in one arm and stood up from the chair at the small table. Esper looked at her mother and reached up to grab her long pointed nose. Having succeeded in her task only a second later she laughed wildly.
“I need my nose,” said the woman with a deep nasally tone now as the girl held it shut.
“Why?” she asked.
“Well your father wouldn’t want to kiss me if I didn’t have it.”
“Eww,” said Esper, letting go nonetheless.
The man had risen up now laughing. “Well, yeah. I mean. Could you imagine?” he said through his barreling voice. The woman took a step forward and punched his arm which didn’t stop his fun. “So what’s for dinner?” asked the man.
“I don’t know,” replied the witchy woman coyly. She thought about it for a moment “How about…” She held out the girl.
“Noooo!” shouted Esper in protest. The man and the woman both laughed now at her plight. She pulled the child back and planted a kiss on her head. “Don’t worry dear, it was only a joke. We wouldn’t eat you.”
The man nodded and poked a finger under her arm to tickle her “Not yet at least. We wouldn’t even get a meal out of you.” She squealed with a laugh hitting her father's hand away.
The woman sat Esper down on the bed and walked back over the floor to the table, taking the large old book, she set it aside on the shelf by the bowls and cleared the table. Esper looked at the book and reached for it. Seeing this, her mother snapped her fingers to get her attention. Holding one up in the air again she scolded “Esper. You know you aren’t allowed to touch my book.”
The child leaned back to the bed and replied with an annoyed “Yes mama.” Satisfied the woman nodded and turned to the cauldron. A cloth was draped over it, which was unusual. The man approached and looked at his wife and then back at the pot reaching for the cloth. She slapped the top of his hand and wagged a finger at him too. “Ah, ah!”
“No peeking,” she scolded. “Be a dear and go fetch some water will you?”
The man looked at her suspiciously, but replied with a simple “Okay.” Thinking for a moment he went to put his boots back on. “Girl, come on. You heard your mother.”
“Yes papa,” replied the child, springing back up from the bed.
The two adults exchanged suspicious glances with each other. “We’ll be back in a few minutes,” said the man.
The woman nodded “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Picking the girl up in one of his massive arms he opened the door and stepped outside.
Lamm stood atop the wall, leaning forward against the palisades. His head was drooping and his eyes long since grown heavy. The young man rightened himself back up and took a quick, deep breath and slapped his cheeks with both hands. It didn’t look like any more travelers were coming tonight, apart from the one man with the cart who was scheduled to be here soon. Hearing a rustle, he looked to the left down off the wall, but saw only the bush. He supposed it was just a rabbit.
The young man wondered why he had to stand guard duty, wasn’t he the captain of the guard? Sure, he didn’t have that many men, but for what anyways? The handful of people that came into town from one single direction were manageable, and the people were mostly quiet and kept to themselves here anyways. Very little trouble. He sighed.
Looking down he called out “Schaff. Let’s call it a night.” No response. “Hey!” He called out once more. Leaning over the wall, he scanned the area beneath. His friend was nowhere to be seen in the darkness below that seemed to be just a little thicker than usual. With a curious gaze he ran his eyes from side to side, searching for the young man, but there was nothing to see or hear anywhere except for the dim orange light of the many lanterns and the shrill cry of the wind around them. He shuddered, it felt oddly cool today. Huh?
Something about that thought made the young man stop, as a strange and confusing realization arose in his mind. Lamm licked his thumb and held his hand out into the air over the wall. The sound grew louder. He was sure it was the sound of wind. But there was nothing to be felt on his wet skin now. The sound however grew shriller and louder constantly. It was cold, but there was nothing to feel. A banshee screech of something tensing its throat and inhaling without pause drawing in an endless stream of air.
Louder. Louder it grew and the man drew his hand back and covered his ears as the noise began to pierce his skull. His eyes frantically darted from side to side in search of the source of the ghoulish shriek. A movement to his left, hanging off the wall caught his eye. The lights grew dimmer fueled by the unprecedented dying of a still full lantern, the flame kindling low and dying out as if it had simply decided to cease existing of its own volition. Then another and then its neighbors. Within the blink of an eye, the top of the wall had become dark.
Lamm let go of his ears. The cry had stopped. Something smelled absolutely horrid now though and he wrinkled his face and turned to head down off the wall to find his friend, fueled by the great unsteadiness in his beating heart. Again the acrid odor hit him. It was oddly sour and pungent and he felt like he had smelt it before. The smell was deeply ingrained into him though, hiding away in one of those deeper recesses in our own minds we forbid ourselves from entering. The place where the dark things of the world that only the eyes of a child can see, are kept under lock and key.
The little light that seeped towards the wall from the town silhouetted the shape of the young man who was now standing before him, their eyes met. Sharp, squeaking groans escaping the figure of a grown man. Lamm gripped his pike tighter, his hands shaking as he realized what fate had befallen him now, just as it had nine years ago his father. He remembered the smell. He remembered what this thing was. The silhouette of the man before him standing in the darkness rippled, as if something had pulsed through it from the ground upward. The flesh rising up and tearing off the bones only to sink back down onto the body a moment later, misshapen and wrong and loose.
He lowered his pike, the bottom of the shaft scraping the floor as he shifted it. With a disgusting snap the dead man's head shot far too far around and faced him, the body unmoved. The squeaking breath grew louder, rising as the body of the suffocated man shifted with a wet fluidity, that was not meant for creatures of flesh and bone. He let out another shrill cry and this time another came in return from far away, from the other side of Achtel. From the road that leads down to the bottom of the abyss.
Lamm’s fearful gaze shot to the side as he heard the response, his core nauseous and his breath erratic. His heart pounding with primal intensity now brought his entire chest forward with its every strike. Only as he saw the blur to his right, the movement of the dead man in the shadows, did his vision return forward to see the wet milky eyes of his friend standing before him. The rough smell of liquor on his breath.
Support "Oratoria: Bury the Dead"
- Floor 69 of the metaphorical-dungeon
- Novice Writer
Socially awkward witches, sad hugs, dramatic adventures, spooky stuff, and comfy dungeons: My name is D.M. Rhodes, but I love to write about those things under the moniker 'Razzmatazz'. (Hopefully full-time, one day soon!) I’m a hobby occultist and, more boringly, I’m an XR expert, as well as a government-trained media and information specialist.
The main genres that I write in are litRPG-fantasy, action, adventure, romance, tragedy, horror, and slice-of-life. I seriously vibe with religious and occult overtones mixed in with super obscure story concepts. °( ~ )°
Thanks for taking an interest! Because of supportive readers like yourself, I can keep following my socially unacceptable dream! (I'm going to become the wizard-king.)
– Always open for feedback!