Return to Ulgrotha: Flesh
The cages rattled, wood hitting wood a sound more unsettling than the lightning roaring in the night sky, the pitiless splashes the carriage’s collective hooves as they punched and marred the bog expanse, the murderous howls echoing through the hills all the way to the snowy peaks of the Koskun. The captives wailed and cried, begging still for Serra and her angels to set them free, a cacaphony almost as blood curling as the rattling.
With each stop, one voice was removed from the choir, and eventually the rattling had no rival.
He, no older than nine, was trying desperately to sleep the nightmares away. His eyes had been shut ever since a vampire slit his mother’s throat and a werewolf tore into his father’s chest, the sound of fading heartbeats so loud that they might as well drown the world, the roar of twin flames that lit his world. But as he was shoved in the cage and went through the night’s strange symphony, only the rattling of the cages stood out. This would be a sound that he would listen until the moment he joined his travel companions, meat reserves for the long journey of this raid band from the former territories of An-Havva to a far southern outpost, established after the Great Restoration.
It took a single night to cross the continent to its southern hemisphere, but with the forcs of the Barony a night could last far longer than normal. It was an agonising process all the same, his heart threatning to explode with each stop, with each pleading or resigned breath. A thousand years could have gone by for all he could tell, and he remembered every single second.
One stop would be the final one. There were no more voices to silence, the rattling was all there was, lasting beyond the roar of lightning and the pitiless splashes and the murderous howls. It took while for it to settle, but just as it did the wood creaked with additional weight and the smell of rot and wet dog filled the carriage. His cage was torn asunder and his eyes were shut as much as the eyelids could muster, trying to deafen the world with his own sobs. But a hand grabbed him by the neck and threw him outside, into the mud. It cushioned his fall and even offered some shelter, but it was humiliating, especially as sneers and laughter filled the otherwise empty air.
“You want this one?” the vampire asked, “Surely you would have stronger ones if you had some self-control. I even starved for your stupid sake, I drun only three drops!”
“Dramatic as always” the werewolf sneered, “Coachman, the steeds if you will.”
The man whimpered, but walked to the reins all the same. And a scene that lived on since the days of the Baron unravelled: the horses wasted no time biting as hard as they could into the bony legs and chest, grinding bone and flesh alike as they gorged themselves greedily. The man didn’t even bother to scream, his voice was raspy like a broken rake.
“There, now you have blood” the werewolf said smugly.
“Amusing” the vampire deadpanned, “But again, why this one? She choses the most dignified to be her ilk, you seem to go after malnourished runts.”
“A leaf can only come from a bud, and a bud can be molded into whatever you like, grown into whatever you need. You vampires deal with death, we werewolves deal with life. It is only natural you don’t understand my ways just as I have little interest in yours.”
“And yet your philosophy still fascinates me at times. If you weren’t stubborn we could actually have a conversation, but you’re dead set on pretending we can’t relate.”
“Buy me a few rounds and we can relate, all night long…”
The vampire chuckled, seemingly embarassed.
“I think you have work to do. I sure as hell wouldn’t like to delay her new pet.”
“Indeed, let’s not.”
All pleasantries ended, the werewolf grabbed him by the nape. His eyes were shut until the eyelids hurt and the orbs themselves felt squished, but the smell and sound of the licked lips painted the face perfectly before it was seen.
A horrible watery sound ressonated through his ears, and a claw then grazed his eyelids. Though they were peeled right from his face, he couldn’t scream as the light of the moon made the werewolf now truly seen.
With a monstruous lunge, the beast’s jaws enveloped the face. Teeth sunk, then melded with the bloody wounds. Flesh poured in and flowed out, boy and beast now one, a horrifying kiss blending two faces in one. Smooth skin intersected with coarse bristles, eyes flowed in two pairs of amber, one rimmed with white and another with canine black. Skulls broke and reformed within the veil, no thoughts but the wild urges of the Garden forming a green hurricane of predation and hunger.
A final couple of sickening bone cracks, and his humanity ended that night. Flesh flowed forth to each rightful owner, eyelids and other wounds restored as though the flesh was new. A trickle of saliva run down the werewolf’s black tongue, matched by a torrent of vomit by the other participant.
“Bravo” the vampire clapped, “Make him squirm before we parade him.”
“Sit, dog” the werewolf snarled.
And he sat, his flesh a slave to the words of the werewolf. His eyes didn’t close for the rest of that night.
“Here he stands, my Lady.”
The throne room — a makeshift parody of a corruption — was bleak. It rotted of moss and mold and decaying wood, it looked more like a flooded cavern than anything architectural. Eyes betrayed an unnatural court, of all things wrong that accumulated across the centuries the plane rebuilt itself.
Yet, to him, there was only her.
“What fun, what fun!” she cackled madly, “I can tell he’ll be the one! Oh, break for me until we’re done!”
She wasted no time commanding his flesh. His form was never permanently human or lupine, always a grotesque amalgam in between. His teeth and claws at first gnawed himself, sometimes devouring his quickly regenerating flesh and marrow. This quickly extended to other people; captured humans, fae or even angels and minotaurs, it didn’t matter. He would eat them no matter how much his soul reviled that, and that was if he was lucky. Sometimes, he melded with them, sharing their agony with no way of reaping comfort; sometimes he melded with other slaves of Irini, and sometimes with her free servants instead.
The first few days were a nonstop cavalcade of horrors and sensations that ranged from the hellish to the corrupted heavenly, heart flaring when it had the shape to do so. But eventually, even the most chaotic ride becomes a routine, and in routine there is stagnation. Stagnation leads to resignation, and resignation leads to despair.
And it was a great enough despair that fred him.