The Redemption of Merik the Black

Glynn Barrass

Tonight is not a night to wander alone and unarmed, mused Merik, as he tramped through the grey cobbled streets of nighted Vyones. Over the past few weeks, two children had disappeared from their beds never to been seen again, and a night watchman had been strangled and killed at his post, rumors abounded that demons and succubae ruled the city by night. And this night, with the moon at its fullest, bloatingly peering down through silver tinged clouds, was a night Merik hoped wholeheartedly not to find himself accosted by any interloper on these darkling streets, be it supernatural or otherwise, as the city’s fathers, under pressure from the populace, had ordered a nightly curfew to stem the tide of fear throughout the city, a curfew enforced by many teams of well-armed and over eager guardsmen.

The large cloth sack attached to Merik’s back was causing him no end of aches and pains, and upon hearing the clatter of footsteps somewhere on the street ahead, Merik took that moment to duck down into a tiny alley off the main thoroughfare and rest his weary body against the warm but moss encrusted wall. At this importune moment the contents of the sack, which come morning, would prove to be the third child in less than a month to be discovered missing from its cot, began to winge and struggle in distress at its bound and stifling predicament. Quite distressed himself at the unreliability of locally made sleeping draughts, Merik quickly but quietly pulled the sack from his shoulders and placed it on the alleyway’s floor, gently but forcefully lulling the child back to unconsciousness with his bare hands. ‘A lot more trouble than a drunken watchman’, Merik mused to himself as he made his way to the end of the alleyway, now the footsteps had faded off into the distance, ‘but far easier to carry!’

The moon had lowered its face only marginally by the time Merik reached his destination, the home of his friend and fellow sorcerer Shandrath, although he still puffed and sweated from the exhaustion of ducking and crouching to get to the house covertly and without molestation.

Merik entered the house of Shandrath through the back door, so as not to be seen knocking on the large oak entrance way at the front by any prying neighbors, the back door opening upon the tapping of Merik’s coded knock. Following his host down the damp stone steps to the cellar, Merik placed his sack on the obsidian stone altar of the arcanly-decorated room of necromancy and dark magic. The pungent stink of incense and candle wax filled Merik’s nostrils as he surveyed the black draped room, diabolical symbols of magic painted upon the floor and walls. A blue tinged fire burned before the altar, and before this fire, knelt the third member of the evil triumvirate, the sorcerer Claron. The book Claron read from whilst throwing strangely coloured powders into the fire, was a forbidden tome reputed to have been written by King Solomon himself, and feared and maligned by even the most tainted of worshippers of the dark arts due to the instructions it held for the summoning of some of the most foulest and evil of the demonic hierarchy.

Raising his head from his work, Claron smiled and greeted Merik; ‘Ah Merik, I see you’ve made it without molestation again eh?’
‘And just in time it seems!’ Merik nodded, as he and Shandrath knelt beside Claron, joining the ritual he had begun to chant. Climbing to his feet and removing a cruelly bladed dagger from his belt, Claron strode around the prostate pair of wizards and leaned towards the now struggling object ensconced within the sack on the altar.

Claron’s grisly task completed, the other two sorcerers stood erect whilst Claron doused the flames of the fire with a brazier filled to the brim with the fruits of his horrifying rite, at this point, both Merik and Shandrath began chanting in unison, their voices reaching a hoarse pitch as they reached the final syllables of the summoning ritual; ‘Snelgarr Foroth, Snelgar NYARL!’ The dousing of the flames revealed a crude circle carved in the stone around the remains of the fire, the view of this and the room being quickly obscured by a cold and noxious cloud from the scattering remnants of the flaming pile.

Upon the dispersal of the sickly black smoke cloud from the cellar, the thing revealed within the confines of the circle appeared to be a tiny disfigured grey skinned creature, less than two feet in height. It sneered at the three wizards from a shriveled goblinoid face, black greasy hair slimed across its shrunken scalp. It seemed to have a twisted spine as one deformed arm sunk lower than the other, which dangled below a swollen shoulder. Completing the tiny creature’s queer anatomy was two twisted, stick like legs, lurking below a distended, blue veined stomach.

A stench not unlike that of sour milk and feces permeated the room as the entity opened its black twisted lips, revealing within its mouth dozens of sharp white teeth and a shriveled purple tongue. In a voice that sounded more like a child choking its last breath than anything else, the entity turned to and addressed Claron, but instead of asking for what forbidden knowledge they desired in return for the lifeblood of an innocent, the little monstrosity disclosed to the room a dark deed Claron had perpetrated in the past, a deed so dark and blasphemous that Claron’s companions were struck dumb with awe at the enormity of it, as was Claron, for he thought to never have a single living soul discover his nefarious deed.

The turn of Merik came next, and although the deeds he had performed for this and other ceremonies had been dire and murderous, they paled in comparison to those that Claron had allegedly performed.

To both Merik and Claron’s surprise and chagrin, the moment the demon turned its shriveled little head towards Shandrath, the third member of the group of wizard’s to have his darkest secrets exposed, Shandrath leaped madly at the thing, with the intent of silencing it by wrapping his fists around its scrawny neck. Too shocked to raise a hand to stop him, the sorcerers watched Shandrath reach the little monster, and as he went to close his hands around its throat, the demon issued a squeal of surprise and promptly disappeared in a cloud of grey dust. Shandrath himself landed on the circle and ended up knocked unconscious as his head collided against the altar stone with a loud crack.

The two sorcerers worked silently as they snuffed out the candles and incense within the chamber, wondering to themselves how the ritual gone so awry? Why did a demon they had summoned with the intent of it’s disclosing to them secrets of magical lore, instead speak out loud their darkest and most sinister secrets, and in Shandrath’s case, secrets so terrible that he couldn’t even face the demon’s utterance of them? After carrying Shandrath to his bedchamber and placing him in a comfortable position, the two wizards left by the back entrance of the house and went their separate ways after agreeing to meet at Shandrath’s house again some time soon to discuss the happenings that had occurred in the aborted ritual.

Merik spent the following days as only the idle rich could, lounging about his home, being waited upon by his many servants, and when said servants were asleep in their quarters for the night, dabbling in the incantations and rituals his secret library of occult tomes afforded him. The unforeseen circumstances of the disastrous group ritual afforded him no end of sleepless nights though, for how could a ritual intended to increase their occult knowledge end in such disaster and confusion, a confusion increased two-fold when tentative enquiries into Shandrath’s health revealed that he had disappeared from his home the last night Merik had seen him and not been seen by any soul since?

Merik and Claron met again at the appointed time a few weeks after Shandrath’s mysterious disappearance, and with keys given them by the servants left to look after the house, in case of their master’s return, let themselves into the cellar of Shandrath’s house. Against Merik’s better judgment, Claron had deemed the most prudent way to discover what had become of their erstwhile companion was to perform the same ritual as before, in the hopes that they could this time question the demon as to what had happened to Shandrath and perhaps discover some much desired magical secrets besides.

The ritual was performed in the same manner as before, both Merik and Claron ensuring there were no mistakes made in their wording or gesticulations. The sacrifice, which this time Claron had provided, was performed and the lifeblood spilled onto the fire, creating a suitable medium for the demon to manifest itself from. And manifest itself the demon did, the same sneering little gnome that had appeared to them aforetime, sniggering and reeking in its repulsive manner as it leered at the two shuddering sorcerers, for this time, the demon did not arrived alone; attached to a thong of moldy black leather the demon held between its dirty, misshapen fingers, there stood a small, disheveled thing attached to the leash.

Prompted by a tugging of the leash by the demon, the shriveled little thing raised its bulbous head to stare at Merik and Claron, not needing to open its mouth to speak, or even to shuffle itself out of the slowly dispersing noxious cloud surrounding it and its master, to confer its identity to the two observers, for giggling and drooling through its deformed little lips, the shrunken visage of what was once Shandrath leered up at the terrified and disgusted sorcerers!

After escaping Shandrath’s house and fearing ever to return, Merik and Claron never again delved into the arcane arts, especially as after some weeks later, Claron himself disappeared without a trace one night whilst sleeping within his locked bedchamber. From this point onwards, the servants and few acquaintances of Merik noticed quite a staggering change in his habits and attitudes, for suddenly he began attending church and dispersing quite large amounts of his fortune to good causes and charities, especially those good causes and charities which involved helping the poor and unfortunate children of the city, a pastime he had not be know to indulge himself in previously. Of course, no one knew the reason for this eccentric man’s sudden turning to piousness and philanthropy, and as he had always been an eccentric and reclusive type, those around him didn’t question it and put it down to a weird change old age had brought upon him. Merik of course, had no real care for the church or the poor, he only knew that although he had performed some very evil deeds in his past, one waited for him in the beyond who was far more evil than he could ever be, and hoped that by doing good deeds in this life, he could avoiding joining this creature in the next.

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