Authors: Jeff Gunzel
Tags: #Magic, #Sword & Sorcery, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #dark fantasy epic fantasy science fiction action adventure thriller, #Epic, #Literature & Fiction
Copyright 2013 Jeff Gunzel
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Screams of never-ending pain echoed through the endless blackness, blood-curdling screeches born of pure agony blending into an endless symphony of suffering and torture. It was an unrelenting agony that remained a constant, no matter how many days, years, or centuries passed by, that those trapped in this prison of pain of which no one ever escaped had to endure.
The astral forms of both men and demon alike tumbled through the darkness, urgently flailing away at their bodies in a futile attempt to extinguish the searing flames engulfing them, urgently trying to stop their involuntary breathing, filling their lungs with fire and acid, all the while praying for merciful death that would never come.
Their astral forms proved to be the perfect vessels for the never-ending explosion of suffering. Though not quite flesh nor spirit either, their forms could feel each scorching blister as it pulsed with boiling liquid then burst into steam before instantly reforming, only to repeat the process again and again. Flesh burned away while new skin quickly graphed itself over exposed white bone. The regeneration meant little, considering the newly created flesh would only remain a second or two before it charred and floated away in a sticky cloud of black ash.
There was simply nowhere to run. Burning alive in one spot was just as torturous as in another, but run they did, flailing about as scorched arms and legs thrashed chaotically through the nothingness. The violent, desperate swimming motions gave the doomed beings a temporary sense of purpose, as if they could somehow writhe their way through the celestial prison where the rules of both general physics and time itself had been rewritten by forces unseen. But there was nowhere to go, and no end to the constant suffering that would be their only companion through many unnatural lifetimes.
Ignoring the screams echoing from every direction, the massive creature lethargically placed one hoofed limb in front of the other as it moved through the blackness. The simple movements of walking were no more than distant memories taking over as he smoothly drifted along, old instincts that served no purpose in this poisonous hell. His muscular black legs were as thick as oak trees. They pumped along through the darkness, all the while pushing against a mockery of air.
Regardless of how the broken physics worked in this hell, Krytoes was still able to move as tortured souls cried out in the scalding atmosphere. No, Krytoes was not immune to the pain as his black, leathery scales burned away over and over again. The demon felt every inch of his long, spidery fingers as they flickered with blue and orange flame, then charred into black and white ash only to grow back, then meet the same fate once more.
But his eternal calm and composure had nothing to do with tolerance, nothing to do with years of being burned alive and breathing toxic gases, only to never find the blessed relief of eternal sleep, the final peace only the blackness of true death could ever bring. None of this mattered to the powerful demigod, for the truth was far simpler. He relished the euphoric torment. Only in a mind this twisted and broken could explosions of agony shooting through one’s body be compared to the essence of life. He felt an intoxicating bliss that rattled his senses with each violent burst of fire, a wondrous joy he had shared with countless beings through his many lifetimes, too numerous to count. His final emotion while watching their faces contort in anguish was always the same: jealousy.
Being trapped in this hellish dimension was nearly a blessing. He could never have designed a more perfect place to call home, but his shared paradise did little to mask the reality that he was still a prisoner here—a fact not easily ignored, but a simple truth limited only to time. Nothing lasts forever, as was evident by the ever-changing universe. Energy is never really lost, nor is it created from nothing; it merely shifts from one form to another.
Even through the distracting ecstasy coursing through his thick, scaly body, Krytoes could still sense a shifting power from beyond the barrier of his temporary prison. The prison felt more and more fragile with each passing year, as if its very energy were being drawn away toward some unseen force. There was little doubt Krytoes could not be held here for much longer, but why did that even matter? What reason could there possibly be to ever leave this blackened utopia that brought the being nothing but pleasure?
However, the answer to his fleeting question was found easily enough as the conscious thoughts of unsuspecting humans coursed through his mind. Reaching out to the world of men, he could feel each individual piece of meat wandering through their pathetic lives, the illusion of control imprinted on each thought as the simple creatures lived from day to day. This ability to clearly feel the feeble insects had only come to life recently, and the more he concentrated on it, the more they enraged him.
The piteous beings hadn’t the slightest understanding of what true fear really was. They falsely believed their pitiful existence was a right, never understanding how frail and delicate life really was. To them, this right had somehow been earned by doing absolutely nothing, then sealed in arrogance by contributing even less. How dare they look to fancied deities and mythical fables of a higher power to justify the gift of life that had been given? Although the myths of a higher power were at least partially true, the perfect image of peace and love that could only be conjured through minds as simple and primitive as humans was certainly not the reality.
They would all learn soon enough that the gift of life was not a thing to taken for granted; that the only thing they truly feared would soon be considered the greatest gift imaginable. Death would become the only possible release from the pain and suffering they would feel when the time finally came. They believed death would be a blissful, eternal sleep that would signify the end of the suffering that Krytoes would deliver, but it was a peaceful end he simply couldn’t allow.
Even though he longed to unleash his gifts of agony and pain, a single sliver of apprehension haunted the beast, one he could neither explain nor ignore. These humans were nothing more than insects, simple creatures that would provide him with endless joys—novelties existing only for his amusement, yet there still seemed to be one amongst them...
There existed a single human whose thoughts he couldn’t penetrate. One who effortlessly defended against his mental intrusions and seemed to defy the very laws of nature; one whom Krytoes had known for centuries would someday be born into the world of men, existing only to deny him the joys he had more than earned. Not that he held any fear for the puny mortal, no matter how extraordinary this perversion of nature might be. It was nothing more than a harmless fly; a tiny pebble placed in his path to either be kicked aside or stepped over, but nothing that could ever threaten his ascendance.
Yet, despite the demon’s yearning to begin his dark game of justice, to share the sensations he had experienced for centuries now, an odd tingling tugged at the back of his twisted mind. He felt an unexplainable trepidation which forced the fearless being to hesitate, if only for a moment. Sure, this mutation had somehow defeated Dragot. In fact, it seemed the half-demon had been completely overmatched…but no matter. Of course the abomination would fall to his knees like any other mortal. An insect with a stinger was still an insect, after all, and Krytoes was sure the freak would certainly prove to be no more dangerous than one.
he scoffed to himself as his flesh bubbled and seared as it had for too many years to count.
What do the insects know of such matters? So what if this prophesized mutant has really come to be
? The towering being closed his large purple eyes and tilted his head back. Rows of black and silver teeth twisted upward in something that resembled a smile. Capturing this freakish being would be his greatest triumph, a trophy to play with day and night. He would become a toy that Krytoes would make sure to keep sane even as he made him scream for countless centuries, to be sure the pleasure registered properly. His twisted smile only deepened as the pleasurable thought burned into his mind.
I’ll have you soon enough...Gate Keeper
“Taxes must be raised, my Queen. The upgrades alone will cost…I understand the roads don’t really
to be repaired, but you see…the new guardsmen’s uniforms would make Tarmerria the envy of…surely you wish Taron to set an example for excellence…I’m certain the good people will be more than understanding…only the finest tapestries arriving all the way from Athsmin…an extra coin here and there is nothing when compared to the comfort of their… Queen—my lady, are you listening to me?”
The plump man leaned forward in the handcrafted chair, exposing the white and blue patterns embroidered across its plush backing. Wiping his thick, stumpy finger across his bald head, he flashed a puzzled look toward the Queen. Ilirra’s bright green eyes were wide open, but she appeared to be looking right through him. His questioning expression altered little as he sank back into the thick, soft chair. He waited a moment longer, nervously fingering the large silver buttons sewn down his bright red vest before speaking again. Tilting his head questioningly, he weakly muttered, “My Queen, have you heard anything I’ve said? All these necessities will not pay for themselves. You simply must raise the people’s taxes.”
Ilirra’s eyes snapped back into focus, her distant glare landing on the soft man who suddenly found himself wishing her attention had remained elsewhere. He began to tug at his vest once more while using the back of his other hand to wipe the sweat beading from his forehead. The pudgy man wanted to look away as her piercing green eyes drove through him like razor-sharp daggers, but he simply couldn’t. The uncomfortable silence seemed to linger hours as she held his passive gaze.
is the brilliant financial strategy my trusted advisers now lay before me?” she growled, mercifully breaking the silence.
“But my lady, the numbers simply don’t add up any other w—”
“Numbers!” Before the man could blink, silverware and fine porcelain plates flew through the air as Ilirra exploded to her feet, flipping over the solid wooden table as if it were made of dry grass. The thick blue pitcher shattered against the wall, leaving its red contents to run like thin lines of blood. “So the people of Taron are to be further exploited, simply to accommodate the growing greed of a corrupt government.”
The startled man fell over in his chair, but managed to get back to his feet. “But–but, my lady,” he stammered, backing away with his open hands raised. “These subjects were talked about for several hours before we came to our...reluctant decision. All the other advisors were in agreement as well. The final verdict came through a series of carefully calcu—”
“Nothing has been made final until I say. You answer to me and no one else,” she hissed while stalking the groveling man as he retreated backward. Her dark blue silk dress swished with each graceful, yet powerful stride. Her fiery red hair was uncharacteristically tattered, flaring out in thin strands from her single thick braid, adding to the crazed look in the Queen’s eyes. She pointed her finger as if it were a dagger aimed directly at his heart. “So you think to try and deceive me as well as take advantage of the people.”
“No! No, my lady, that was never my inten—”
“Interrupt me again and we shall see how well you fair in the games.” The man swallowed hard before a tiny whimper escaped from his lips. “Tell me, Hubert, am I to believe your percentage of the proposed new taxes had nothing to do with this decision?” The man only answered with another hard swallow, coupled with a look that bordered on panic. “And by laying out this excessive budget that looks to only benefit the Queen, doing nothing to aid the public, the certain backlash that follows will fall squarely on my shoulders, leaving the rest of you leeches untarnished in the eyes of the people. Not to mention, your coin purses just a little bit fatter.”