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the dark

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Beneath a withered tree accursed by time and mangled by frigid winds, from arid ground littered by decaying bones, grew a ghastly sprout. Blacker than a blind man's night, its thorny stemlet fed on the pride, rage and suffering that still permeated the barren earth of this derelict world. Akin to a worm, it slithered betwixt weathered skulls and burgeoned, generously fertilized by the lingering wickedness of the dead that once wasted their very own realm. Yet as its branches shrouded the murky skies, as every last drop of sentient pain has been drained from the earth, the hunger only grew. Driven by yearning, it pierced into the Mists and moved on, searching for new feeding grounds, while sowing seeds of irresistible destruction along the way.

The echos of countless lives have been absorbed by its ravenous roots and it learned eagerly about its sentient fodder - our patterns, habits, strengths, weaknesses and most importantly, our desires. It learned to adapt to every person's vice, to present itself in many shapes that could elicit lust, pride, greed, and any other sweet sin that its targets were susceptible to. Little by little, it spread through the worlds, enabling their slow and delicious demise at the hands of their own inhabitants. Though it was convenient to label it evil, it was naught more than a manifestation of sentient turpitude that has been condensed into a single entity - one that people across many realms happily embraced, as it spoke to their dearest, darkest impulses.

World after world, it feasted upon the living and hastened their descent into ruin, yet never before has it encountered one as mouthwatering as Tyria. The history, the magic, the gods, the races that inhabited this realm, the wars they fought and the destructive power they wielded, it was all so succulent and alluring. Hungry for a taste, the thorny tendrils extended through the Mists and slithered into the world unnoticed, like serpents in high grass. For centuries, they skulked and scouted as empires rose and crumbled, as continents sunk into seas and arable lands parched into deserts, until the Dark concluded at last: this was the place where it would sow its main seed.

Tyria was a fecund soil for its philosophy to germinate and blossom. While other worlds were oft quite luscious to destroy and devour, this one was even more enticing - it had the potential to become a lucrative investment. The Dark had learned, from the very beings it absorbed, that its esurient ways were not sustainable and though it could go on for eons marauding life from realm to realm, one day it would have had its last meal and then it too would disappear. Since its inception, it has behaved like a nomadic barbarian on a bloody rampage, but it knew now that it instead must farm our vice and sin; instead of victims, it should make of us its precious cattle.

So the Dark tore its roots from the lifeless earth that gave it birth, for there was nothing left there anymore - its home was barren and a new one beckoned it with sins most ripe. The endless strands of darkness pulled the core across the Mists, lugging it to the ultimate destination. It could almost taste Tyria on the tips of its talons - such a rich and fragrant world, only moments away, just one last pull and...

Perhaps it miscalculated, perhaps Tyria's defenses were too great, or maybe the Dark's essence was simply not compatible with this world. No matter how hard the limbs tried to pull, the core couldn't enter. It was ensnared, incapable of going forth and unable to turn back. Caught within its very own pocket realm betwixt Tyria and the Mists, its roots dangled in the void, while its branches palmed at the prized surface ahead. In its covetous pursuit of sentient sin, the Dark stumbled over its own greed and found itself, for the first time, subdued. Subdued, but not defeated, for its tendrils still managed to slither into our world and now sought out ways to free the trapped horror.
Posted Feb 12, 18 · OP
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Limbs numb, vision blurry, Rios slowly started to come back to his senses.

"..I'll fucking kill you! My sons will gut you like pigs! D'you know who the fuck I am?!"

The sounds of murderous screams alternated with helpless, fraught sobbing, then desperate wailing and back to death threats again - all the same voice.

He was still fading in and out of consciousness, but soon the screams seemed to have turned down at last. When his vision came back, the first thing that he saw, was an old hag - her naked, withered body strung up to a piece of blood-stained wood ornate with crude carvings. She was the source of the screams. Clearly fake, her cheap blonde wig was glued to her face with sweat, tears, vomit and saliva. Within her gaping maw, some teeth were missing while others were replaced by faux gold. By the looks of it, she could have been a vicious old madame of some backwater brothel in no man's land. Her wrinkled shape and previously augmented, but now disformed and sagging tits were covered in rough-hewn, ritualistic markings drawn with some sort of inky goo. Somebody had tied her up, painted all over her skin and tortured her to bring out her worst anger and fear all at once.

Rios frantically swept his eyes at the surroundings. It was unforgivingly dark around them, and only modest pools of light provided by the faint, cold glow of bleak candles allowed him to see. One glim stood upon a small ritual table, positioned right in front of himself. There were eight more, for every other barely visible individual stuck in the same unfortunate position, while the sacrificial crone was illuminated by a whole chandelier. He tried his wrists, just to find them firmly tied up. He too was fastened to a board and in that moment, the first strings of panic strummed in his heart...

Meanwhile, the screams and then even the sobs of the old woman finally came to an end, though he could still see her thrashing within her confines, while the rest of them appeared to have been paralysed in preparation for the grisly show that they were about to be forced to watch. Rios wanted to yell, both for help and to release the buildup of fear, but when he parted his lips, there was naught but silence. The whole room was suddenly submerged into a deathly quietude. He hung in this vacuum for a good minute that, as per cliché, felt like an eternity.

Then, from the endless darkness all around them, barely audible, the sound of gloomy, ominous throat singing emerged. First one voice - faint, then two, then three - now louder, until a whole quartet was humming notes of doom behind them. As the dreadful song engulfed their bodies, four figures wrapped in ragged robes emerged out of the shadows, weightlessly drifting over to the unfortunate madame. There were no footsteps, no sound of sweeping robes, even the noise of her struggle against the restraints was swallowed by the seemingly omnipresent chorus of the four as it continued to gain in amplitude. Rios couldn't see their faces beneath the hoods and the mystery was even more frightening than any monstrous mug could be. One of the four produced what could only have been a ritual dagger while the others gathered by a round centerpiece table.

The one with the dagger slowly guided the rough, rusty blade up the hag's chest and pressed the tip against a jagged nine point star-like shape drawn betwixt her clavicles. She was the tribute, not a baby lamb, not the purest virgin, but a filthy, sin-soaked old whore. The choir grew louder and louder - far from its initial distant notes, it was now akin to a thunderous, all-pervasive roar that crushed the very will to live. The cursed iron pierced her stained flesh beneath the neck and sunk into her chest. As the dagger jerkily slid down her torso, dull blade tearing her in half, a piercing, screeching scream - likely her own amplified a hundredfold - added itself to the rumbling chant and Rios could have sworn that his head was about to burst.

Once the wound gashed all the way down to her gut, the impenetrable shadows around them quivered and came into motion. They twisted into thorny tendrils and filaments that slowly stretched towards the victim, lingered for a few seconds in front of her falling innards and then snaked right into her mutilated body, becoming one with her flesh. The mixture that seeped out of her was no longer blood - dark and inky, it was more akin to oil. The most maleficient of forces were at work here and their magic resonated with a cancerous presence that left a man's soul shackled by fear. Rios couldn't take any more; agonizing panic tore through the last defenses of his brain and deep, neuropathic pain claimed his body in its entirety.

He must have lost consciousness again, for when he woke up, the room was peacefully quiet. The first thing he saw was the crone split in two and beneath her, a large bowl filled with a thick, inky liquid; while the modest candlelight fell on the bowl itself, the liquid within swallowed the light in its entirety and remained pitch-black. It was a black like he had never seen before - the darkness of it was not simply an absence of light, but an actual substance and it hurt his eyes as if he was staring at the sun.

Rios promptly looked away from the gruesome sight, turning his eyes to the other individuals that were tied to ritual boards just like himself. Each of the four hooded figures stood in front of a petrified, naked captive, and prodded at their flesh with needles, meticulously inking something into their skin. Was he the only one awake? The others seemed to have been submerged into a state of senseless bliss, for their heads hung without motion, and a Rios was truly jealous of them...

The malignant process of art making came to an end for his neighbour, and the hooded cultist took its little bowl of ink off the table then drifted over to the reservoir beneath the halved madame. He or she dipped the bowl into the concoction of blood and darkness, and carried it over to his next victim of macabre chef d'oeuvre. Rios helplessly yanked at his restraints, alas in vain, and excruciating dread took him over once more, as he realized that he was next. Right in that moment, he wished more than anything in the world that he could just teleport right out of here, or at least become a more fluid version of himself and flow out of his restraints, but he was always magically bankrupt so there was nothing supernatural that he could do to save himself. The robed figure now stood in front of him, the bottomless void beneath its hood staring right into his eyes.

And then the needle pierced his skin...
Posted Feb 12, 18 · OP
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