NaNoWriMo 2013 Excerpt from The Demon Within

NaNoWriMo has come once again and many of us at the Café, myself included, are already busily typing away trying to get to that coveted 50,000 word goal. Sadly, the frenzied pace of full-time job, word counts, and daily living leaves me little time for actual, coherent writing, so instead I’ll treat you to weekly postings from the trenches. Please note that “treat” here is a subjective term. This is pure, unedited and unfiltered writing here folks. I can’t be held liable for damages caused to your psyche or personal property due to reading this material.

I’m writing five, 10k-word short stories this year for NaNo. This excerpt is from The Demon Within (working title), about a barbarian bred for fighting demonic hoards who gets exiled for being tainted by one.

When he opened his eyes again he found himself in a barren field. The read earth was plowed and dug up into long furrows and in each trough thee was a kind of liquid fire pulsing. As he looked about, the furrows realized the furrows went on in every direction, radiating out from where he stood. The sky was empty and gray, light, but no clouds or sun.

Arac drew his sword, his mouth thinning to a hard line as he saw it. Even as he drew it from the scabbard the bluish steel turned black and when he held it up to look at it, it seemed to dim the very air around it.

There was a chittering behind him, high-pitched and mocking, but when he turned, there was nothing more than the red, plowed earth. He forced his mind to calm, but the niggling voice in his head wondered if perhaps he really had been tainted, and simply did not know it. He shook his head violently and snorted. How could he not? He had heard countless stories of what happens when someone is tainted. The fever dreams, the convulsions, bleeding eyes, mad hallucinations… He remembered when a woman from the Harkan tribe appeared at their gate, gibbering like one of the shadowmen that steal peoples’ souls, and convinced the only cure for the Taint was to strip the skin off the flesh and eat it.

The chitter returned, closer this time. Arac looked down along the furrows themselves for movement, but, beyond the slow pulse of the liquid fire, there was not even the shifting of silt. He started to step forward, but stopped. The queer chill ran up his back again. The furrows started scarcely a step beyond where he stood, but the chill dread told him that heading in any direction now would mean death.

He turned slowly around him again, taking in the world. There is nothing about this place that seems familiar, he thought, and yet I know it. I’ve fought here before. He closed his eyes and knelt, jamming the point of his sword into the dirt before him. His tongue felt dry and cracked in his mouth, but he prayed still to Deonami, the water goddess, quencher of the Great Flame. Béo had all but stripped the land of its bounty before the Cataclysm and Deonami buried him within the earth. The battle had nearly killed his goddess as well, but she was still there, sleeping beneath the black ice in the north, giving what water and nourishment she could while she rebuilt her strength.

Arac prayed to her now, for water to cleanse his spirit and sate his thirst, and to cool the anger he felt growing within him. He knelt there for days on end, or what felt like days, in this world with an unending, empty grey sky. The earth still flickered and pulsed, and the chitter drew ever closer, and every moment his senses were fighting, half urging him into action, the other knowing it would be death. And still he prayed.

Spirit of Water, nourish my soul,

Feed my limbs and heart,

Keep my heart calm as still water,

Let me legs run long as the river,

Steel my arms and soul to rage like the tempest wail,

Forever guide me, Spirit of Water,

Rise from the depths and to the heights of the sky,

And saturate the lands until the very earth bends to your will,

Spirit of Water, nourish my soul.

The chittering was all around him when a drop of water hit him square in the face. He shook his head in shock and looked up. The sky was still empty, but another drop hit his cheek, and then another and more, until a soft rain began falling all around him. The chittering started to move away again, and the sense of dread faded. Puffs of steam sizzled up whenever a drop touched the rows of fire, and he watched in amazement as the black began to bleed from his blade and soak into the earth.

Suddenly the earth shifted before him. Arac stood and watched wide-eyed as the bright lines of fire began to draw together. The rain too, shifted and concentrated themselves on the rising mound of fire. Steam sizzled and popped as the thing took shape, forming the slender images of a woman with a soft, full bosom and myriad tentacles that flowed from her waist and moved over themselves like rippling water. The fire cooled until it was pale blue, though still mottled with black char. When she opened her eyes, they were black with one iris blue and one red, and vertical slits for pupils. A gentle smile came to her lips and she glided toward him. Her pale blue face glowed like snow in the moonlight and Arac knelt again, bowing deeply.


“You know me, Arac?” Deonami asked, playful, voice smooth and deep.

“How could I not?”

“And now?” Arac looked up and found the face of his mother staring back at him, though her eyes were still fire and ice. Arac stood again and nodded, once.

“Only the water goddess could bring the rain,” he said.

“You’re dreaming, barbarian.” Her face shifted back. “But you speak true.”

“A vision then.”

“A warning. You’ve been tainted.” She glided slowly around him, and he felt her eyes burrowing to his core. He felt suddenly naked and helpless, and the thought send a terror through him such that he nearly fell to him knees quaking. The shame of the feeling brought back the rage and he pulled his sword from the earth and held it high.

“I was never defeated!” he roared, as much in defiance as to beat back his own fear. “The beast fought well, but in the end he could not lay a hand on me.”

“Didn’t he?” She drew up close to him. She only came up to his chest, but her felt her looking down on him. “Look into my eyes, barbarian. Tell me what you see.” She raised herself to eye level and he swallowed. Her blue eye was as cold and hard as ice, but the red one burned with hatred, a living fire behind a slitted lens.

“Demon,” he breathed, stepping back. “You nearly had me. Snuck up on me as I slept, eating my essence even now, yes? Just like the last one, using my thoughts against me. Well, my father told me how to deal with such dreams. I need only to kill myself, and then I will kill you.”

Arac drew the sword forward and made to plunge it into himself, but the apparition reached out, touched the blade, and it turned to vapor, puffing away so that he only clumsily slap himself in the chest.

“You truly are a fool,” Deonami hissed. She drew up full before him, entangling him in a web of slippery, cool tentacles. “Wake yourself now and you’ll lose any chance of ever ridding yourself of Béo’s taint.”

“I won’t give in to you.” Arac struggled, but the seemingly fragile figure held him like an iron vice.

“You need not give in to anything. Simply remember yourself. You see me as I am because the taint befouls you. Look into my eyes and see the truth.”

He turned his head away again and Deonami dropped him. He rolled away and stood up again panting. “If I am tainted, how can I trust anything you show me?”

“A man who prays for succor, but does not take it is a fool of the worst kind. I leave you to your fate.” She turned away from him and glided away, beginning to fade almost at once.

“Wait, no! What am I supposed to remember?”

“If you truly wish to know barbarian, then survive until you reach the foreign lands and find the people who worship me there. Perhaps you’ll be able to regain my favor before the taint takes you.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.