by Ravens & Qrows
The forest was dark, and the night, even more so. Trees barren and naked stretched miles and miles further than the eye could see.
Down on the ground, grotesque pests of all kinds scampered, skittered, and scuttled hurriedly away, wary of the approaching band of pagan worshipers.
"Fuckin' hell!" I pleaded. "Fuck, please! Stop!"
There must be dozens of them, all clad from head to toe in torn rags unfit to cloth even the lowliest of peasants to ever set foot in Escardia.
Below me, they were chanting, reciting, and quoting what sounded like bible verses, none of which were familiar to my ears.
"Oh, lord. Show us the way to salvation," said one.
"Cursed be those who reject the one, true god," said another. "Let he who appease his delights be guerdoned."
I was on the brink of death. My hands were nailed onto a wooden cross, skin scorched by torches of fire, and knees cracked in one too many places.
And despite all that, I was still very much alive, and still very much wide awake.
From the crowd, out stepped a man in a goat mask. His gloves were coated with ink, cloths doused in rain water, and skin tattooed with hundreds of scars.
He raised a hand; the crowd silenced itself.
"Brothers! Sisters! Sons of god! We are gathered here today as his followers, and as his worshipers; as his sons, and as his daughters; as his soldiers, and as his enforcers.
We are gathered here today, to appease his delights!"
The crowd cheered.
He pointed at the cross. "Bring the outsider forth!"
I was dumped at his feet, nails still in the palm of my bruised hands and rope still coiled around my broken legs. The man kneeled beside me and ruffled his hand through my hair.
"Fret not, my son. Soon, you will get to meet our god in all his glory! What an honor! You should be rejoicing!"
With what little energy left coursing through my veins, I lifted my head from the ground and spat a mouthful of blood at the man's mask. "Fuck you, and fuck your bastard god."
I blacked out.
My eyes flickered; I awoke to an aching pain in my head. There was a beam of dazzling light shining down from above, blinding my vision and worsening the headache.
Upon glancing around, I noticed where they had decided to dump me: a cavernous pit with not a possible exit in sight.
Apart from sunlight streaming down from an opening above, there was a shroud of darkness clouding everything around me. There was no doubt about it. I was as good as dead.
"Well, well, well. The lamb has awoken," said a voice from the darkness. "Took you long enough."
My blood ran cold. "Who's. . . Who's there?"
"Why, I'm the butcher, of course."
Something shifted in the darkness. With every slight noise, beads of sweat rolled down the side of my face. I tensed up. "You. . . You're here to kill me."
The voice inched closer to me. "Bingo! You're a quick one!"
"So fuckin' get on with it. Do it quick."
I rested my head atop a rock and sighed. I didn't, for the life of me, thought that it'd ever end like this. The voice inched yet closer. "No, I don't think I will.
I would like a word with you first."
"A. . . A word?"
Out from the darkness stepped forth a humanoid creature of unparalleled horror: two sets of horns stuck out from either sides of its faceless face,
arms skinny and forlorn dangled uselessly of its side, and skin that blended in all to well with the darkness masked its figure.
"I'm not one to fancy small talk, so I'll go ahead and point out the elephant in the room."
The creature hunched over and scanned me from head to toe. "You don't look so good."
For whatever reason, I no longer felt the slightest bit afraid of the creature. "You think?"
It laughed. I didn't. "I want to offer you a proposition."
I hauled myself up and sat up straight against a rock wall. "Unless you want to give my ass a good kiss, go and fuck yourself."
The creature dug a claw into my knee and wiggled his finger around, drawing out streams of blood and cutting open my skin like paper. I screamed. It smiled.
"I don't quite like that bit of attitude coming from your filthy mouth. Let's refrain from insulting one another, shall we?"
I swatted its hand away and shouted a number of curses. "God damn it! Fuck!"
The creature sat across me. "Let's cut to the chase. I need assistance, you need assistance. We can help each other out, no?"
I waited until the pain faded. "I don't have much of a choice here."
"Regardless whether or not I kill you, you're going to die of internal bleeding in approximately 6 hours, give or take. I, myself, am quite in a pickle too.
I can't leave this infernal cave without a vessel, and should you die, I would have to wait for another moon to have this exact same conversation with another soul."
"What're you saying?"
"I'm saying we can help each other out. You lend me your soul, and I'll spare your life."
I contemplated. One way or another, I was going to die. It was just a matter of choosing exactly how.
For the next half minute or so, I sat there in the company of the creature and reflected on the gruesome tortures I was subjected to by the zealots.
They showed not an ounce of mercy, and laughed in my face when I begged for them to put an end to it. But now comes an opportunity for vengeance, and I'll be damned if I didn't take it.
"In one condition."
The creature looked up from the ground. Its lips curved. "Hmm?"
"I get to slaughter every one of those zealots."
"You mean my worshipers?"
"Not a problem."
-Read the full story at the official Ravens & Qrows website!-