Dendrik sat huddled in the dark corner of the tavern. The firelight danced across his cowled face as he took another deep drink from the flagon clutched between his hands like a healing potion.
Maybe it would stop the shakes.
A frigid night breeze accompanied by tufts of moonlit snow agitated the fire, as another patron opened the door to the establishment. Dendrik didn't seem to mind. He rarely felt the cold anymore. Not since the demon had come for him. Its touch had somehow inured him to feeling much of anything; except the terror and the rage. The ale helped, especially when he spiced it with juice from dal-al sleep berries. That would calm him some nights...for a little while.
Sweat dripped from his brow despite the cold, and the sheen from the fire made him look like a madman struck with fever, hiding beneath his hood.
Was he mad?
He wondered. So many things had happened since that night in the forest. He remembered trying to run through the snow, but the creature was right behind him; mocking his desperation. He remembered the glowing yellow eyes and the heated breath on the back of his neck. There was a roar, and then everything went black.
The priests had tried to protect him, but all of their spells failed; leaving him writhing in agony. Days passed. He seemed to recover. But then one night she came for him, robed in vestal white, crowned with stars, a scepter of rage and hunger in her radiant gossamer hands.
The temple was gone now; burned to the ground by those that had tried to kill the demon inside him, the bodies ravaged, the relics smashed.
Dendrik had run.
He didn't remember for how long. There was so much he couldn't remember. He closed his eyes and let the ale fall from his grasp, then clutched his fists to the side of his head. When the demon came for him, all he could see was darkness, then red, everywhere red; red wine, and the screaming. He flinched in pain as another spasm wracked his body, sending waves of lightning currents through his stomach, arms, and legs. His fingers felt like wires pulled too taut, pinpoints of stress about to snap.
He wanted to scream.
He spasmed again, so savagely that the table was knocked to the ground, scattering chairs and patrons alike. It was happening. The never ending recurring nightmare from which there was no escape.
"Hey!" The tavern keeper barked. "Yer gonna have to pay for that there table!"
Yes, he would pay for the table, pay and leave. He stumbled a few steps, threw some coins on the floor and managed to get outside. The wind was cold, the sky was luminescent. The great silver blue goddess of the night looked down on him with imperious indifference. He fell over again in agony and looked up at her in supplication, a beggar on his knees, subjugated by her majesty.
“Please...” He heard himself whisper through sniveling tears.
A drunken man with a round face and a big belly was suddenly standing over him jeering.
"Aye, lookey here! He can't handle his grog!"
The man kicked him.
“Oy, listen up sodder, I’ll be having whatever coin you’ve got left. You hearin me?!”
Dendrik tried to get away, but the man grabbed him with a plump arm...an arm that was so...weak...an arm that was so...soft, connected to a body that reeked of rum soaked flesh and blood...a being that was beneath him...that served only one possible useful purpose to the power that raged within him.
He wanted to yell at the fool to run, but she was gazing down with contempt. Her will was all that remained of him. Her command to claim all things for the wild and the night; her decree that his savage soul be exalted and damned. As the transformation took him, Dendrik opened his mouth to scream at the man to flee. But all that anyone in the village heard...
was a blood curdling howl.
Copyright © 2017 Short Stories by Christopher Daniel Barnes - All Rights Reserved.