The Long Night – by Sergio Saenz
The Long Night
Master Scrivener Xynn Errdegahr
Personal scribe to Lord Thyanaos Wrathis
Last of his house, minder of the Demongate
As you requested, I have compiled the reports on the unknown and untapped primeval forest known as Gloamwood. Deep within the perpetual twilight of this hinterland, dwell two tribes of note, the Clan of the Wolf and the Clan of the Crow. Each wax and wane over time, each contesting locations of unknown significance within the choked ancient forest they call home. Their disputes stretching so far back into distant time that encounters are more ritualistic display than open warfare. Not much is known of either clan as Gloamwood is largely unexplored. All scouts sent to investigate rarely return, and the few that have, have returned less than men. Their minds shattered, speaking of cannibalism, tales of men taking the forms of animals, and diabolic rites dedicated to unspeakable names. Perhaps it is fortunate that these tribes avoid contact with the civilized world.
I have thoroughly checked and rechecked the records and can find nothing of significance that would compel us to further explore this region at this time. The only abundant resource appears to be wood, madness, and death.
–Under Scholar Nuror Yfein
Library of Dha Dhaos Qhayshek
Capital City of Ched Nasad
The long night was finally upon us, the watcher of Mother Day was blinded and the umbral color of the night sky was unbroken. The wayward path of the void, a rite of passage for the youths, was to be performed tonight. Another group would be ushered to adults, to walk the paths of Father Night. The old man thought as he squat in his deerskin shelter, fetishes swaying, although no breeze could penetrate the darkened clutch of Maung. Ancient joints complained as he stood, leaning heavily on his walking stick, a large crow perched on its peak. The deep aches reminded him of how long he had walked to get here, how long he had walked the paths of the Father, and how soon he would be returned to the oblivion from which he was birthed.
His straying thoughts were interrupted by the gathering of his lonesome people. The youths formed a knot of anxious faces at its front. They pretended bravery, but he had long ago seen past the falsities of form. His milk white eyes, like white river stones deep within the pits of his earthen face, penetrated the depths of all that he beheld, and not many could bear his gaze for long.
The medicine bowl was filled and passed around. It was not long before he could sense the effects taking hold. The air began to throb, forms began to melt, and the ancient spirits of darkest night made themselves known. Slowly and softly at first a drum spoke, only to be subtly joined by another and another, until the drumming reached an arrhythmic peak, and incessant and unending barrage. The rest of the clan were dancing and weaving a circle around them, forming the cycle of decay and entropy, that which has no beginning and no ending. The young laying in heaps as visions assailed them and the Father spoke. Not all could bear his message, nor all would merit his attention, and passage was not guaranteed. Not all who tested themselves would wake, and none that did would be the same. To gaze upon the face of the Father was to understand the futility of life, of light, and chaos.
Not one word was uttered during the ritual. The bond that was formed between the members of the Crow Clan allowed communication beyond mere words.
Slowly a few initiates woke and were tested for signs of the Father. The untouched were stilled immediately, their carcasses thrown into the thicket, and returned to the earth. The night progressed deeper and deeper with a few diminutive forms still in the torpor of visions. Until he could see the very edge of the night receding, Mother Day encroaching on their privacy. Their time was almost at an end, the wayward path could not be performed under her cruel and jealous gaze. Those that did not wake soon would never do so again. The old man pulled out a thin sharp piece of bone and began culling the remaining forms, one after another. Perhaps this time they would welcome only a few into the tribe. As he made his way, with as much haste as his elderly form could manage, to the last child he saw that it was stirring. A quick glance over his shoulder showed scant seconds before the night was lost to them. Not enough time, perhaps he would be born again from the abyss and have better luck next time. The old man stooped placing the thin bone blade to the child’s throat, the razor sharp point drawing a bead of crimson fluid from the pale throat. With finality the old man leaned into it, the blade driven deep into the child.
The child’s eyes breached with alacrity, displaying solid black orbs. The mouth broke open like a fissure and ebony poured forth. The cacophony that spilled was terrible and beautiful, some that stood nearby were stuck down, blood running from their ears. The ruptured wound knit closed and the child no longer collapsed just as the first ray of light sundered the night sky.
The old man gathered the now unconscious form, the last of the newly welcomed to the tribe. Five had made the journey and would be welcomed properly the next night. This last one had been more than touched by the Father, whose magnitude could not be contained by a mortal form. It was clear he would be someone to watch, and set on the path of the wise. He would take this young man under his tutelage, and he would name him. The child died that night, but the vessel known as Deadsmell was born.