He kept running, his heart pounding wildly in his chest, his hands frantically clawing at the branches that tried to catch him, stop him, pin him to the ground and choke him. Roaring furiously, he hit the damp soil with a loud thud, his bare foot trapped among gnarled roots of a willow tree. Panting heavily, he slowly turned his head and, baring his teeth, sent the tree a deadly glare. It did not seem intimidated, however, so with one violent pull he set his leg free, never minding the pain from the mercilessly torn skin.
Standing up slowly, he looked around, desperately trying to guess the route he had come from, but the forest seemed to look alike no matter what direction he turned his head. The cursed fortune teller had tricked him. She took his gold, promised him deliverance, gave him hope and… sent him to the woods, for a slow painful death of starvation. And what if he met one of them here? One of them could be a hunter, or a hermit… or…
His eyes flashed with the purple glow of anger.
Blinded by tears he could not shed, he rushed forward, paying no attention to the direction anymore. He kept running, focusing entirely on the exhaustion that was gradually taking over his body, slowing his pace, taking the breath away from his lungs… he enjoyed it. The pain in his strained muscles was welcome; the frantic throbbing of the tainted blood in his ears was like the most beautiful music, tempting him with the siren's voice of ultimate demise. It meant that the end was near, that he would collapse and hopefully die right then and there, away from the world, away from the one he loved. Alone.
The sun rose, blessing the world with its golden light, but there was no blessing for him. Howling, he dropped to his knees when the body finally gave up after the long night of pitiless abuse. With an exhausted sigh, he fell face down to the ground, the smell of rotting leaves barely registering in his mind before he drifted away into painful memories.
There was a faint, flickering light, fading slowly in the distance. He followed it, eagerly, curiously. In the aromatic darkness of the hot summer night, the deceiving glow danced playfully just out of reach, leading him further and further away from his land, from the safety of his home, until he could no longer recognize the surroundings. Then it disappeared, leaving him helpless like a child, lost in the middle of a deadly marsh, where every step could be his last. Shivering, he stared longingly into the pitch-black darkness that had swallowed him when the light had flickered one last time and disappeared so unexpectedly.
“Come back,” he heard himself pleading, his pale lips moving independently of his will. “Come back to me, please…”
And the light heard his words, reappearing as an incandescent sphere right in front of his face, allowing him to take a good look at the myriad shapes swirling inside, each glowing with its own color, all adding up to create the purest white radiance he had ever seen.
He found no courage to speak, he found no nerve to move, all he could do was stare in awe, thrilled and privileged that gods allowed him - him, a mere farmer - to witness such a wonder. Time seemed to stop at one blissful moment when his eyes focused on the graceful movement inside the sphere, following the colorful tendrils thrashing wildly inside, as if… trying to break out? To warn him?
When he attempted to move, run away in panic, he found himself unable to and only then did he recognize the misty shapes to be human, their faces twisted in agony, hands reaching out to him, begging… and instantly disappearing in a flicker, dissolved into nothing.
The ancient, emotionless voice resonated inside his mind, cold as ice and just as numbing to his senses. He closed his eyes tightly, hoping to wake up in his own bed, feeling the warmth of his beloved wife’s body pressed to his, but in vain.
YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN.
No, this could not be! He tried to say a silent prayer to the gods, but the words burned his tongue, causing pain, bringing the unknown feeling of revulsion to his soul.
YOU PLEADED FOR MY HELP. YOUR GODS HAVE ABANDONED YOU. YOU BELONG TO ME NOW.
“What are you? What do you want from me?”
He immediately regretted asking the questions. They sounded like acknowledgement of his fate, like admission of his defeat… they made the betrayal of his gods a reality. The light in the sphere flashed menacingly.
I AM THE HUNGER. I AM THE TORMENT. YOU SHALL BE MY HARVESTER.
Pain surged through his veins in an ice-cold wave, shattering his soul into hundreds of shards, pulling them all out of his trembling body with one vicious tug. He didn't dare to breathe, staring as they hung in the air in front of him, tantalizingly insubstantial and yet there, a stolen part of him that had left him hollow and sore. Carefully, he reached out for them, fingers quivering, needy, but at that very moment, in a blinding flash of light, the shards were gone, scattered in all directions, far beyond the horizon. He watched them disappear into the night, helpless and unable to feel anything but fear and the lonely, salty tear slowly rolling down his cheek. The last tear of sorrow he would ever shed. Clutching at his chest, feeling the unbearable void inside, he was finally allowed to collapse to the ground with a beastly howl. A soulless beast, that was what he had become.
EVERY SHARD OF YOUR SOUL IS NOW A MARK ANOTHER SOUL BEARS. THEY SHALL GUIDE YOU TO THE ONES I HUNGER FOR. BRING THEM ALL TO ME AND I SHALL GRANT YOU FREEDOM. RISE, HARVESTER.
He woke with a terrified cry bursting from his chest. Shaking off the nightmare that had haunted him each time he dreamed, he looked around. Half of the day was already gone, never to return. The forest was strangely quiet, however, the mist still gliding majestically just above the ground. He stood up, his tired body protesting faintly, but obeying his will. Dragging his feet, he moved ahead, desperately trying to ignore the distant calls he kept hearing in his mind.
The longing howls of his shattered soul.
He obeyed his Master, he had been bringing dozens of innocent people to the mire, deceiving them with false promises, always guessing what they desired the most, what temptation they were unable to resist. They each carried a piece of his soul within them, he could read from them as from an open book and then he watched them die a slow, painful death as their bodies were slowly sucked into the swamp, their souls mercilessly torn out and imprisoned in the glowing sphere they sustained. And every time he shivered in delight and self-loathing as – shard by shard – his own soul was being gradually restored.
All this time, through all the days... weeks... months of his tireless, vile hunt, he pretended he couldn’t hear the call that was closest to him, the one that burned his mind with its intensity. The call of the shard that had marked his wife’s soul.
He stopped abruptly, feeling cold hardness of stone under his foot, and looked around suspiciously. The clearing in the vast forest was cut in half by an ancient road meandering among the ruins of a long forgotten temple. Treading carefully, he passed a broken pillar, half buried in the grass, around a moss-covered marble statue, its face mercilessly mutilated by the wind and time. Not too far away he noticed an altar, almost completely covered by the lush foliage. It seemed abandoned at the first glance, but there was a small brazier burning merrily in the center, the rich aroma of herbs and incense making his head spin.
The soft sound of footsteps on the grass quickly brought him back to his senses. Skillfully hiding among the trees, he watched a woman approach the altar and the sight of her, so close, so real, brought a glimpse of hope to his crushed heart. The fortune teller did tell the truth, after all, for there she was - beautiful, innocent and pure, just as the old woman had foreseen. Her forest-green gown with simple golden ornaments marked her as a High Priestess of the Sun. Flaming red hair adorned her pale face, gently caressed by the wind when she stopped abruptly, as if sensing his presence. Clasping her hands on her chest, she looked around, her eyes frightened, alarmed.
“Who’s there?” She asked softly, her voice slightly quivering, but commanding at the same time. “Show yourself!”
Painfully straining his iron will to fight the urge to flee, he obediently emerged from his hiding place. Acutely aware of his intimidating appearance, he stood before her, tall and dark, his wild, hollow eyes humbly focused on the ground. His long raven hair was filthy and unkempt, his clothes torn and disheveled, tanned skin marked with numerous scratches and stained with blood, his bare feet dirty and bleeding. He hunched his back, struggling to look submissive.
“The Harvester.” Her words blistered the air and landed upon his shoulders heavily, like the curse that they were.
He fell to his knees, reaching out a begging hand to her, but not daring to touch.
“Help my wife,” he whispered frantically, unable to speak more than just the simple plea.
The priestess brushed his cheek with her soothing fingers, ignoring the way he reflexively flinched at the gentle touch.
“My messenger told the truth. I can do it, Harvester, but there is a price.”
He dared to lift his gaze and immediately drowned in the tranquil ocean of her mossy green eyes.
“I know.” His heartbeat was slowing, calmed down by the mere presence of the woman in front of him.
She smiled at him and all the darkness in the world seemed to have disappeared.
“Your love for her will save you both,” the priestess whispered, planting a motherly kiss on his dirty forehead. "And many more."
When she led him to the altar, the ancient evil stirred in the distant mire, its angry howl shattering the still air, rolling across the hills and forests, seemingly endless until it was swallowed by blessed silence at last. The deceivingly pure light flickered furiously and disappeared as the last spark of life faded from the Harvester’s eyes.
The priestess put the bloodied dagger away and with gentle fingers closed the eyelids of the tormented man lying in front of her on the altar. The goddess had accepted the offering and many souls had been saved that day.
In a distant cottage, a woman woke up from her nap and stretched lazily, enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sunlight and the feeling of almost unbearable relief that had suddenly washed over her. Gently caressing her belly, she smiled at the child growing inside.
“Let’s hope your daddy's all right, wherever he is,” she whispered, staring longingly at the pillow on the other side of the bed, untouched since her husband had suddenly disappeared one night six months before.
You can also find this story on my AO3 account: [link]
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Guess what guys! I'm
reopening my stores
(Etsy and Storenvy)
and commissions, I
can finally announce
that I'm getting
married and I need
to save as much as
possible for the big
day, July 27th.
before anyone asks,
the wedding is not
been planning it for
a long time...
away time is back
:D! This time I've
got 1500pts to give
away c:The last
giveaway was really
well received so I'm
doing another! After
the way the last one
panned out, one
thing I would like
to remind you guys
of is to PLEASE
PLEASE follow the
guidelines so you
can be properly...
Sorry, I can't
believe it's been so
long since I've done
this "orzEdit: I
forgot, but my
friend here's having
it's about your
with your favourite
food. It can be your
own character or
mmkay like 2
people asked me this
after I held my
giveaway T U T im
sorry I didn't give
you a direct and
easy to understand
answer but... I hope
this will be better
than the answer i
gave you two XD I
wont note you back
but i hope you will
see the journal ; A
;I've also had
`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More