Monday, January 28, 2013

Trial of the Undead King


Dangling from the highest point of the tallest tree in all of the Secret Lands was a small sack hastily fashioned from the loincloth of Brrda, the Savage. Within that pouch sulks the skull of the Undead King, Mrrda. The cursed being, apart from his body, is pathetic and hopeless. It cannot move, nor call for its limbs, nor do much of anything but scream like a banshee and plot its revenge.

And it vows that above all else, it will have revenge.

"Hear me, denizens of this land!" His voice is harsh, with all the pleasantries of rustled leaves and snapping twigs. It is dry. There is an odd crack like stones clacking together. Few are near enough to hear it, and the birds that have waste no time in taking flight. They are not so foolish as to observe what manner of monster lurks around the Dark Lands.

"Your king demands freedom! This humility is not for him!"

No creatures come to his aid. The anguish draws the attention of several minor denizens of the Dark Lands, but none are fond of the sunlight above their canopy. They greedily perch below, drooling at the thought of sundown. Most will be cosumed before then.

Sensing the eager scouts perched in the branches below, the Undead King ceases his calls. Realization begins to creep over his skull. This is not his world anymore. No beast will bow for him, for he is not their king.

The warmth of the sun reaches through the brown cloth, touching the skull's bony cheek. When it grows cold they will come for him. Mrrda swears, scolding himself for drawing such attention. Even an immortal king fears the demons which lurk in the Dark Lands.

Desperately he reaches out, just as he had for days before. His mind stretches over the forest, pushing beyond what it had before. It is a sensation which is difficult for beings focused on the tangible world to understand. The most accurate analogy would be to plung one's arms into deep water, losing sight of the hand as it dives deeper. The numbness in the fingers, making them fumbling and foolish. Reaching for an object which may not even be there, and which is undoubtedly deeper than one's arms are long.

His mind tapers into coldness at the Dark Land's edge. No body is to be found there.

Exhausted, the king rests. As he gathers his thoughts the loins which bind him begin to cool. Time is running short.

Thunder claps over the jungle. For a moment Mrrda relaxes, believing that a passing storm cloud simply blotted the sun. It is a calm that shatters as darkness rocks his cloth cradle. An evil energy so intense that it jolts aches through Mrrda's skull approaches from below.

And to his horror, it bursts above the canopy.

This beast is not a native of the Dark Lands, and it has no fear of the sun. Having sensed Mrrda's mind, it quickly tracked back to the source. Monstrous claws dig into the tree's trunk, and in mere minutes the branch from which Mrrda's prison dangles is creeking beneath the weight.

Mrrda nearly chokes on his voice, then boldly declares: "Be gone with you, monster. Your king commands it."

A low growl crawls across the branch. "I have no king."

Its hot breath pours upon him. The sound of sniffing, deep and heavy. A disgusted snarl. "You're not what I thought you were. Just a shadow of something more. Killing something so pitiful is beneath me."

Rage flares up within, but Mrrda bites his tongue.

"Still, you don't deserve to live."

A mighty paw cracks against Mrrda's skull. The cloth prison tears, tossing the bony bundle into the jungle canopy below. As he falls, Mrrda catches a fleeting glimpse of his assailant. Black fur, black stripes, and claws the size of a large knife. Then it was lost behind a curtain of leaves as Mrrda fell deeper amongst the trees.

He bounced off a mossy trunk, slid to the ground. Mud filled his eye sockets, piled deep into his nostrils. A final defiant oath of vengeance before the puddle pulled him into silence.

***

It jerked oddly, contorting at all joints like a rusting clockwork doll. Toes crunched over crisp leaves and squashed through patches of foul-smelling murk. They came to a stop before a deep and dark pool of runny muck. Its back rattled as it bent over and reached into the muck, fishing blindly for what it knew was there. Minutes passed. No results. Then the fingers bumped against something hard, like a rock. They traced the shape of the object, curling tightly inward at two deep pockets.

The Undead King pulled its skull up by the eyes, and with a menacing grunt placed it back atop its shoulders.

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