Shadows Rising: The Congregation

Nightfall in Brahmir: Shadows Rising

Chapter Four – The Congregation

Chapter Two, Part Three: Shadows Rising: Puzzle Box

The story he’d only just heard about Sorvane rang truer than he’d hoped. The man, if he could call it that, was certainly resilient. Despite the mana charged silver in his bullets the masked attacker refused to let up.

Veinar swung low, transforming his threaded cane into a whip which lodged into the flesh of Sorvane’s muscular legs. He pulled with everything inside of him, channeling the power of the Old Beasts, dragging the creature to its back as Olem dashed past him, pistol raised at the thing’s head.

One shot, a second shot, and a third from the detective rang out into the lakeside as Sorvane moaned in pain. The clay mask which looked to have been worn for so long the man had grown around it, cracked, revealing a maggot nest below. He raised his pistol and fired six shots, each of the bullets slamming into the man’s head. His man shattered after the second, revealing the true face behind the mask, scarred and eaten away by the maggots which had taken up residence within his cheek.

“No wonder he doesn’t talk.” Veinar quipped, puling the whip back with a press of a button. As it retracted, he felt a short tug, followed by a tremendous one as Sorvane wrapped his hand around the bladed whip and dragged Veinar into the shallow water. Olem shouted, firing once more upon the killer as Veinar lost his tricorn hat to the murky sediment.

She released his cane and stood, his overcoat dripping with silt.

“I’ve had enough.”

He stripped his coat and tossed it onto the dry Bankside as Sorvane stood, the blades of the cane, half retracted, still embedded into his waterlogged flesh.

He slipped a small piece of paper, coated with a powder unique to his home land and reached behind him, withdrawing a large bonesaw attached to a handle by a single radial hinge. He swung the saw and pulled down on the lever, transforming the saw into a spear as he struck the paper across the side of the blade.

The whole weapon ignited and he charged his opponent.

Sorvane raised his blade and swung, swinging through the air above Veinar who ducked beneath him and jammed the sharp tip of the blazing saw into the creature’s abdomen. Rotten water spilled from the wound, carrying another host of maggots into the lake as it drained and Veinar slipped a second paper from his hip bag, striking it as he did the first. 

His weapon began to crackle as lightning jumped across the surface.

Veinar yanked the saw blade out, feeling the Old Beast surge within him as the saw end of the weapon tore through Sorvane’s weak flesh and out his side.

The maggot infested corpse stumbled, then fell into the water and sank below the surface.

To the side, Olem lowered his pistol with an aghast look on his face.

“What was that?”

Veinar reached into the filth and retrieved his cane, filling with the switch until it retracted in one smooth motion and became, once more, a cane.

He stowed the saw on his back once more, resting it on a metal hook attached to his suspenders and waded through the muck to retrieve his coat from the bank.

“It was magic from my home.” He joked. No point in explaining the reality, it was an alchemical conception he’d have no time to get in to given the nature of their journey.

As he whipped the silt and sand from his coat, Olem met him on the beach and eyed the body of Sorvane, barely distinguishable in the lake beneath the broken fragments of his mask which still floated, numerous holes with small triangular marks decorated its fractured face.

“So, what do we do now?”

Veinar slung his coat over him, concealing the saw and took a deep breath. 

“I suppose we go back to Ammon’s Reach, try to navigate the tunnels.”

Olem nodded. “It’ll be much faster this way than to move through the countryside. That’s multiple days, I doubt we have that kind of time.”

Around them, the woods groaned.

Veinar drew his pistol and fired a shot into the darkness. A scream howled into the night and a wraith burst into flames leaving behind a pile of crystallized salts.

“Suppose you’re right.”

As the men turned back to the cave from which they’d emerged, a sound echoed through the sky.

Chapel bells rang out through Ammon’s Reach and the surrounding countryside. The ringing of the bells echoed against one another and created a mess of noise.

“I’m afraid to question the meaning of that sound.” Veinar commented, moving toward the cave.

Olem followed behind, searching the sky for something.

“It means the Bellringers are gathering.”

He scooped his hat from the lake and shook the maggots from it before he returned it to his head and looked over his shoulder at the detective.

“I’m going to need more than that, Olem.”

“Right, the Bellringers are a group we use in extreme emergencies. I’m assuming someone reached out to them to tell them what’s been going on. With Seals being broken, Dhurri, or one of the remaining Lamplighters likely reached out to assemble them.” Olem’s voice wavered as he explained.

“There is something you aren’t telling me, isn’t there.”

“If the Bellringers use their power together, they will bring something else down into the city. We can’t let them go through with it. We already have enough on our plate.”

Veinar waded into the mouth of the cave, not intent on waiting for his companion.

“So, how much worse are you expecting?”

Olem followed behind, grunting with each step.

“Bad like, the Lamplighters have been nearly exterminated every time it’s shown up. The Bellringers are the only ones capable of getting rid of it, and that’s not even for long.”

Veinar approached the clay door and held it open, rolling his eyes.

“I couldn’t ask for a better way to spend my weekend.”

He closed the door behind him and locked it before following Olem back into the undercroft, and hopefully back to Ammon’s Reach in time.

The undercroft was far from deserted, their traversal through the winding halls slowed by the presence of Silman’s Son, still wandering the halls, and an upwelling of other haunts of lesser caliber. Puzzle spirits and wraiths wandered the halls, forcing the pair to take side paths and desert from their marked territory, but they made it back to the Chapel’s access ladder soon enough.

As they climbed, Veinar drew his pistol, prepared for the worst. It had only been an hour and change since the bells rang, but given Olem’s frequent muttering, he assumed it would draw more than just that thing he called the Dancer.

At the top of the access ladder, Olem pushed his way into the Chapel and through it to the streets, where the morning sun peeked over the trees and ghouls skittered back to the shadows. Some disappearing outright while others simply tucked themselves away in shadowed alleys and beneath stretched rooftops.

Veinar caught up with Olem, overseeing the city streets, still surviving thanks to the peoples unwillingness to venture from their home, still, the place felt more empty than it had before, deserted almost, as if the houses were undamaged because there was nothing within for the creatures to bother.

He shook the feeling and checked his ammunition before he waved to Olem. “Where do you think Orri is?”

The detective parsed up and down the street before he sighed. “She could be anywhere, I doubt she’s here at the Chapel, which, as far as the confines of town are concerned, leaves the chapel at High-rise, the Ringer’s Hut in Whitewall, and the shack to the north, along the barrier wall out to the edge of the weald.

Veinar spun, searching for signifying landmarks to point him in any of the three directions, and started marching. If they didn’t know where the girl was, assuming she was related to the tolling of the Charnel Bells at all, it wouldn’t do them good to stand around and waste time.

He moved briskly through Moonside, Olem at his heel the whole time who once and a while piqued up with a question, but otherwise remained vigilant and kept an eye on their surroundings.

AS they moved through the city, the sentry automatons began to wake and start their frequent patrols. They passed one who approached a dark alley, and released a stream of molten liquid, which draped a spirit and sent it screaming back to the grave, or rather, wherever the dead go when they die.

Between Moonside and Flourmill, the armed guards atop the buildings had been stationed and prepared or an outbreak, or a war, whichever came first. 

The pair passed through Moonside, they took note of every brick out of place, including the shattered window in the second story of Garren House and the smear of blood decorating their garden walkway.

In the distance, screams flew over the city as the sun broke along the tree tops and they neared the border to Whitewall. They didn’t turn to find the locus of the noise, they didn’t have time.

The gate between Flourmill and Whitewall was a stretch before them as the pair of men moved in silence, until they were stopped.

Before them in droves, emerged hundreds of figures, most of them clergy from the Moonside Chapel, draped in crimson robes with boils covering their bodies they stumbled from alleys and buildings, knocking down Mana Wards and lamps on the way to their gathering place, the watch post just on the other side of Whitewall, staring into the district away from the hunter and his companion.

Veinar watched the shambling crowd move, the fresh wounds oozed pus and blood from some, and others scratched at smaller boils, threatening to tear them open.

He motioned for Olem to wrap around the block, to move further from the crowd and through the far gate toward the south of the Flourmill district. The crowd didn’t notice them wrapping around the edges of the district as they congregated, following a voice into the center of Whitewall.

Veinar hoisted himself up to a small shed, and then onto the roof of a house to get a better look, where he saw the group moving from Flourmill to Whitewall, but saw another moving from Moonside to High-rise.

“What’s going on?” Olem whispered.

Veinar hushed him and slipped a pair of binoculars from his coat pocket and placed them over his eyes. His fingers wrapped tight around the wire which hoped to hold them up.

Through them he watched the first of the two congregations moving in unison behind a violet robes Bishop, whose features were out of focus, leading them into the center of Whitewall.

The second group led by a Bishop dressed the same, toward Styne Manor in High-rise. Neither of the parades of people appeared to be in any amount of health.

“Ole,” He started. “Have you heard anything about a sickness in the city?”

The detective spat from the rooftop. “Not lately, we’ve been underground for almost two straight days, though. I’m not sure what I could have heard about.”

Veinar nodded and lowered the binoculars.

“Suppose you don’t have a quick way to get rid of boils, do you?”

He motioned for the binoculars, and as soon as they were in his hand, he scoured the city for understanding.

“Oh, I see.” He mumbled, his eyes locked on the congregation swarming around Whitehall though he could certainly not see them after returning the binoculars to Veinar.

“Should be easy enough.” He joked, tucking the seeing apparatus into his coat and taking a stand on the rooftop where he saw a group approaching, creeping through the alleys of Whitehall toward them. “Just when we thought we were alone.”

Below, scurrying through the streets like a frenzied mouse was Orri, alongside another Lamplighter and a collection of youths of varying ages, the Bellringers, he assumed. As they drew nearer and nearer, they signaled that they’d see them, and then Orri motioned for them to get down.

Veinar obeyed, regardless of whether he wanted to do so, and climbed from the side of the house to wait for their companions at the bottom.

As soon as they turned the corner and ran into them, Orri wrapped her arms around Olem and held him tight.

“I’m so glad you two are safe.” She whispered, releasing the detective and making her way to Veinar to embrace him as well.

He stopped her with a hand. “I’m alright, thank you. I am well pleased that you have come out unscathed as well.”

Orri stopped, blinked a few times and then rolled her eyes. “I’m glad you’re safe, too. You obstinant man.”

He shrugged. “I’m not really a toucher.”

The other Lamplighter stepped forward, bowing to him slightly. “I’m Eva, a part of Orri’s corps.”

He contained a grim laugh. “I think, you might be the only Lamplighters left.”

The group of kids approached from behind them, the youngest perhaps twelve and the oldest in her late teens.

Behind them, he heard the sound of a gun cocking. 

Veinar whipped around, aiming his pistol at the sound as another woman stepped from the shadows of an alleyway and into the sunlight with a rifle in her hand, a stained white cloak around her shoulders with baggy trousers, weighed down by what looked like bullets.

“They aren’t all that’s left.” She grinned at Orri who rushed forward and stared as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

“Ella, you’re alive?”

“Like I’ve always been.” 

The women embraced for a moment while the pack of youths surrounded them. The eldest, a young woman with curly red hair, addressed the group.

“We’re in the middle of something we’ve never seen before. The recent resurgence of the Sealed nightmares have been released, slowly. From Linde to Korrigan, and who knows who else have returned all at once. Something is happening in the city that is threatening all of us. Yuri took his own life, preventing us from uniting as we once had.”

Eva, the Lamplighter took over.

“Besides the return of anything we’ve faced before, new threats are emerging. A new host of spirits were unleashed in High-rise last night in the basement of Orda House, Felicity Amgrange was killed by her husband in some kind of attempt to prove to the Church that she really was gifted with the Powers.”

“Which,” Orri interrupted. “We never outright denied.”

Eva tensed her lips, signaling the elder Lamplighter that her comment wasn’t necessary. “What we know is that the city is under attack, but by what we don’t know. We’ve seen multiple entities active outside their usual awakening. Sinder, and Korrigan, to name the two most dangerous.”

Olem cleared his throat, stepping forward from the circle. “Sorvane was reawakened as well, but Veinar managed to put him down in spectacular fashion.”

The group glanced his way and Veinar nodded, blushing.

“And,” Ella stepped up. “Last night, the Lampand Matrix was reconfigured by a young woman, Kiira. After her aunt and uncle attempted to use it to gain protection from the night, it was returned to her home by an unknown source. Kiira’s whereabouts are unknown, but I went to check on her at the turn of dawn and found the Garren House empty, the Matrix nowhere to be seen. It can be assumed the Arbiters have been released.”

The redhead resumed her debriefing as Ella finished.

“We are operating under the suspicion that every one of the Sealed have returned, which won’t bode well for anyone. As you’ve seen, numerous members of the Breaking Sun have been spotted with strange boils on their bodies, milling about the city. We know this isn’t related to the Fleawild, but have no further information.”

Olem raised his hand. “I was seduced by Korrigan last night, and in the dream, he showed me this exact thing happening.”

Orri smirked. “What happened?”

“Dhurri became a monster, leaking black tar. Then, so did everyone else. He was stopped by a woman wreathed in flames, and then Veinar woke me up. I didn’t see the end.”

Silence fell over the group for a moment.

“We need to find Archbishop Dhurri.”

As they began to think, one of the Bellringers, a young man on the cusp of thirteen, collapsed to the ground and started howling in pain.

The Lamplighters rushed to his aid, immediately channelling the Powers over him as Eva cast a bright golden light from her fingertips that washed over the boy. Orri placed her hands on his cheeks and whispered a prayer. The redhead knelt beside him and placed her own hand on his forehead, and then, began to speak.

“It’s the Dancer.” She muttered, looking behind her.

Down the road, came the form of an old man hobbling with a cane in hand. His wrinkled skin covered in pus filled boils, not unlike those upon the rest of the townsfolk. He cackled as he walked, singing a song in a foreign tongue. 

“Derren,” She whispered to him, “Snap out of it. He isn’t going to hurt you. He can’t.

Another boy knelt down and did the same, placing his hand on their weeping companion. The rest of the youths followed suit, muttering together as the red haired girl joined in to the chorus of voices and began to chant in a tongue reminiscent of the Old Beast.

Veinar watched, as from the lips of the teenagers came a silvery light that coalesced into a sphere above them all. It grew, and grew until the sphere surrounded them all. They refused to stop chanting.

He turned alongside the other adults to look toward the old man who himself had quieted, his face twisted into rage. He paused a few feet from them and screamed.

“You can’t run from me forever little ones!”

The old man’s jaw stretched like it was being pulled from both ends, snapping bone as two sharp, shining mandibles emerged from the depths of his mouth, ringed with razor sharp teeth as Veinar stared in awe at three. Tiny, rotating lights that floated within the depths of it’s throat.

Transfixed by the light he took a step forward.

“What are you doing?” His mind spoke to itself as the old man transformed before his eyes, growing and changing. The mandibles retracted and pierced his cheeks, spinning in upon themselves as the man’s arms stretched and grew wild with hair, his fingernails sharpened to lethal points and his jaw cracked, elongating with an unnatural veil covering it. From beneath its skin, a white porcelain mask emerged and stretched to cover his face and then shattered, dropping to the ground.

What was revealed beneath was no longer the old man’s face, but a large oblong head, covered in eyes that grew from creases in a brain concealed by a pinkish bony cage. From his ribs grew four more arms, stretching and shifting, the hair that once covered him retracted beneath his skin as if frightened by the sunlight, and from his back a long tail emerged with a single har point, made of bone.

Veinar took another step against his will. He screamed at himself to stop, to turn back, to hold himself but his body refused him, until Ella and Olem wrapped themselves around him, shoving him away from the beast.

“A Pineal Wurm.” He thought, staring. “What a shame.” His fixation upon the thing shattered as it crawled up the side of a nearby house and grew larger still, mounting a nearby watchtower positioned against the wall that divided Whitewall and Flourmill, and it hung, upside down there, calling to him from deep within its mind.

“Come to me, Veinar. Come to know the madness.”

He felt his leg push forward, to reach out and touch the Wurm, and in a moment, the sound of the children’s voice came to a halt.

Around them, the silver bubble which had formed collapsed upon itself and he felt a surge within his mind, telling him to run toward the beast and leap into its arms.

The redhead shouted, and the collapsed ball of silver power shot from above her, slamming into the beast and knocking it from the watchtower. It’s massive claws dug into the bricks, hopelessly trying to hang on as it fell to the ground and screamed in agony, the crash of it’s body rocked the surrounding buildings, knocking dust and rubble from them as it thrashed to the ground.

“What was that?” The girl shouted at him.

“A Pineal Wurm, a beast from my home. We drink from their minds to gain insight regarding the world. There are many like it.” He quietly answered, regaining control one limb at a time.

The boy who fell, Darren, stood as the creature flipped onto it’s legs and crawled through the city to safety, or, far more likely, to recuperate and strike again.

The boy stammered, weeping.

“It told me, it told me what would come.”

He shivered as Orri Tok to him, kneeling and embracing him as he shook. Veiner watched in solemn silence as the boy whispered.

“Blood will fall from the skies and the world’s eye will open. The Pact, he called it, will be reborn.”

Olem shivered, no doubt reliving Korrigan’s nightmare.

“What Pact?” Veinar asked, looking to the elder Lamplighters, who both hung their heads.

“Long ago as the history tells it, when Ammon’s Reach was little more than a settlement, a group of frightened travelers beset by creatures of the night made a bargain, They would trade the life of their firstborn in place of protection for their descendants. Each of whom would be freed from the creatures. This agreement was made with a being we’ve long since forgotten, in another time cast out by the five Goddesses. The fine print of the pact to save Ammon’s descendants came at a cost. For years the firstborn of each family was offered upon an altar.” Ella lit a cigarette as she spoke, “Between then and the entity being cast out, Ammon’s Reach, and the rest of Brahmir enjoyed a frought time of peace. So much so that the goddesses were able to reawaken, in the absence of the Entity, their power was reborn.”

Orri patted Darren on the cheek, who had quieted. She took over for her companion.

“At a point in our history, the Goddesses decided it would be in their best interest to banish the Entity forever, to prevent its power from resurfacing. This kept the townsfolk from their need to sacrifice their child, but so too did it free the beings of the night to once more hunt us and kill us. Years prevented from such by the agreement made, brought them nothing but rage as their empty bellies grew thin and hungry.”

Veinar nodded.

“It is an old story,” Olem chimed in, the weight of his own missing child heavy in between his words. “It is a fairy tale. Told to the children to keep them from stepping out at night to be killed by the world in which we were too unlucky to have been born.”

The Lamplighters tried to dispute, but Detective Olem didn’t give them the chance.

“Our people have been beset by nightmares since we awoke in this world and we will be plagued by them until we die. It is our mortal duty to survive, without the need for excuses.”

Orri swallowed hard. “Some don’t believe the histories, for one reason or another.”

“Sounds to me like your people are haunted by more than what comes out at night.” Veinar replied, drawing his cane from his belt loop and placing it firmly between two stones. “If I know anything, it is that the night never ends. It doesn’t matter what brought it to fruition. If blood will fall from the sky, let it fall on a people set to defend their home. Not on a band of cowards, afraid of the coming tide.”

The group fell silent at his words, sharing glances with one another.

“What should we do, then? If this is the end.” The redhead whispered.

“We kill them all.” Veinar replied, as if they should have known the answer all along.

Ella chuckled to herself. “I like you, hunter, but how do you suggest we accomplish such a feat? The Lamplighters have been eradicated, those who remain are unfit for fighting besides those of us who are here. What members of our rank I still employ at the Mercy are healers and companions, not warriors. The Bellringers have been cut down with one death. What do you and the detective hope to gain from standing to fight? You can whisk yourself away to another world, be free of us. Why stay?”

Veinar gritted his teeth. “Because I promised this detective I would find his daughter, and I intend to do exactly that. Regardless of what happens to this world in the process.”

He watched a tear fall from Olem’s eye, and Ella remained quiet.

The silence continued for some time before a voice spoke up, a timid stuttering voice from a boy more than half his age who pushed a pair of grease stained glasses up his nose and worked his way through his words.

“If w-w-we can d-d-do anything, w-w-we w-w-will, sir.”

Eva, the young Lamplighter placed a hand on his shoulder and locked eyes with Veinar.

“I won’t give up, no matter what comes.”

The rest of the Bellringers chimed their own agreements, the redhead stood and extended her arm.

“We will do what we can.”

Veinar took her hand, and turned to the elder Lamplighters, who he’d known had seen their share of haunts. Their faces told stories of nightmares like his, twisted and cruel and filled with pain. For all of the pain, though, he knew one thing.

They grew powerful from the ache. Insight was never free.

“What di you suggest?” Orri finally answered, her arms crossed tight in front of her.

“We find Archbishop Dhurri.” He took a step toward her. “We trap the Seals, and we lock down the city. No one in, no one out, until we’ve parsed the whole from the unholy, and then we burn the rest of it to the ground.”

Ella, who had taken to leaning against the side of a house, stepped back out into the sunlight and pulled the lever on her rifle, chambering a long silver round.

“If this is how we go out, in a rain of blood…” She flicked her cigarette from her fingers and drove the slide back up, locking the bullet into place. “Then we die for what little there is to love.”

Veinar grinned, what did they know of death more than he?

He reached out and put his hand on Orri’s shoulder and grinned.

“Death, dear Lamplighters, is never the end.”

Mean for the Holidays is an annual writing project where I post new writing every day for the 13 days leading up to Christmas, this year the theme is “The Night Alone” — Telling you stories about things that go bump in the night. Thank you so much for reading and I hope you come back to see how this story ends. If you enjoyed it, I’d be honored if you sent this to a friend.

Nightfall in Brahmir is an episodic fantasy fiction story taking place in the world of Brahmir, where the lines between dead and alive are not simply blurred, they are almost nonexistent. In this place, all manner of horrors plague the denizens from returned corpses, trickster spirits, to killers stalking the daylight. Part One will be four Chapters, each of which follow one of the main characters as they try to work out what happened to Mayeli, and rescue her from the grasp of the strange powers that be within the merchant city, Ammon’s Reach.

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One Reply to “Shadows Rising: The Congregation”

  1. […] Part Two, Chapter Four: Shadows Rising: The Congregation […]


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