The moist scents of the rain forest began to fade, replaced by a steadily growing foul stench. Amonsun-Ra curled his lips up in a grimace, the unique scent of The Stench filling his nostrils. The Stench was the result of the overflow from the forest’s year round rains. This marshy waste was a natural barrier around his people’s home, preventing most outsiders from entering the rain forest.
Soon enough, Amonsun-Ra found himself standing at the edge of the trees, looking out to the abandoned shrine out in The Stench. Legend had it that the shrine was not always so decrepit, that it was once the main source of Xolra’s power here. The reason why the stone monument was abandoned remained a mystery to his people, the truth lost in time. Only fragments remained and they all mentioned two things: the stone traced Xolra’s path across the sky, and it was a Moonscale that originally defiled the shrine. The desecration of such a holy place led to the formation of The Stench, warping the overflow of Xolra’s mercy into a foul mockery.
From afar, the monument was merely a tilted stone monolith peaking out of the muck.
Closing his eyes, it was easier to focus on the scents he was after.
Soon he caught a whiff of death and turned to follow it.
As he came upon the camp, it was nothing like he’d ever seen before. Slarega were simple folk, relying on nature to provide. This was not natural.
At the center of the camp was a dead fire with some sort of cloth cocoon beside it. Beyond that was a tent of strange design. The material was not leather, but unnatural.
Amonsun-Ra surveyed the unusual encampment, before spotting the empty package V’losa had mentioned. His lips curled up again as he caught a stronger whiff of death.
“Necromancy…” Amonsun-Ra hissed with disdain, before dropping the container.
Approaching the tent, he sniffed cautiously. The scent of stale earth filled his nostrils and he quickly sneezed, glaring at the foreign structure. It almost smelled old and dead, like a corpse left out in a cave to mummify.
The entrance to the tent seemed to be bound by a strange union of metal. Hmm…
Crouching down, he found a small tab that with little force, he was able to pull and raise up the seam of the tent. Immediately, the opening fell forward to reveal a pile of dirt.
“By Noxuth, what is this?” The Slarega mused aloud, reaching to pick up a stick, before poking it into the pile of old, dried soil.
“Hmm…” Amonsun-Ra stood up at last, shaking his head as he looked about the odd camp.
He had learned little here other than a potential threat of necromancy. Foreigners. Never knew what to expect.
He turned to leave, but found himself looking back towards The Stench. Perhaps he should investigate the shrine.
It took little time to pass through the trees and out into The Stench. He grimaced the whole time, his legs sinking almost knee deep in the gush. Thick, foul mud clung to his toes while tall marshy grasses wrapped about his tail as if to pull him in.
“Ugghh… disgusting place,” he shook his head, feeling he would never get this awful stench off of his scales until his next full molt.
The shrine was far larger than he expected and soon enough, he felt hard, slimy stone beneath his scales as he stepped onto the platform the monolith was built onto. The monolith itself was carved to Xolra’s creation of the sun and the rain that fed and watered his people’s forest home.
Carved into a thin mountain peak, the monolith towered over the platform. Though the platform was worn down by time and the elements, faint markings remained of the original symbols. The carvings stretched out in what appeared to be straight lines from the base of the monolith. A shadow was cast by the monolith, lining up with one of the lines.
The shrine was intriguing, mysteries lost to the ages, but it was also depressing. To see the stones so worn down and covered in lichens without anyone to care for it.
He sighed briefly, about to leave when he spotted a broken clay pot at the base of the shrine. Inside the pot was a small bouquet of dry flowers that once resembled the sun in full glory.
They were blooming stars, marigolds!
He could not resist the pull then, heading towards the monolith. The marigold flowers had been picked with utmost care, left in the vase as an offering to Xolra.
So the shrine was not abandoned after all!
Amonsun-Ra could scarcely believe it as he knelt down beside the dried flowers. They couldn’t have been more than a week old. This was no accident. The blooming stars were the most sacred of flowers, capable of healing ailments both physical and mystical in origin. In full bloom, the flowers resembled the sun, and in turn, life.
Touching the blooms gently, Amonsun-Ra turned to look at the marsh surrounding the shrine. He hated to use such water, but that was all he had at the moment.
Walking to the edge of the platform, he cupped his hands together to pick up some water before depositing what he could into the vase. If someone else was using this shrine, then perhaps all was not lost. He had to wonder who would use this shrine since when his people avoided it.
Kneeling down at the center of the shrine, Amonsun-Ra took a breath and closed his eyes. It was a simple prayer that required a brief period of silence and stillness.
Focusing on his breathing, Amonsun-Ra allowed himself to relax. The descending sun’s rays warmed his spine as he remained kneeling before the shrine.
Soon, the foul smell of The Stench faded, replaced with a soothing floral scent. Warmth surrounded him like a blanket of light.
Taking one last breath, Amonsun-Ra opened his eyes and gasped. The dry marigolds were in full bloom once more, their petals moist and vibrant as ever in the dying sun.
So the shrine still had power.
Xolra had not completely abandoned this place. Perhaps his people should return to this spot.
Smiling, Amonsun-Ra stood up, delighted with the knowledge he had learned. This was even better than the arrival of the foreigners. His brethren would be ecstatic about this discovery.
The sound of a sudden plop like something had been pulled out of the water behind him made him roll his eyes.
“V’losa… will you ever tire of this?” he asked as he turned around to face the female, only to tilt his head in confusion as nothing was there. Hmm… strange. He could have sworn he heard someone moving in the water.
Shrugging, Amonsun-Ra turned to look back at the shrine. The shadow cast by the monolith was almost indiscernible from the grey veil falling over the land as the sun set.
Amonsun-Ra looked up, realizing he had spent more time out here than he had intended. V’losa had mentioned a Moonscale. He did not wish to meet the fiend at night. A Xanthra was a powerful warrior of light, but he would be strongest at day… just like the Moonscale would be strongest at night.
Time to leave.
Turning to head back to the trees, Amonsun-Ra froze as he caught a whiff of stale earth and death. His muscles tensed, the few spines on his back erecting in warning as his tail stiffened. He was no longer alone, but he could not see who was with him. Was it the Moonscale? Or another hunter camouflaged?
His citrine eyes darted back and forth, scanning the area for a sign. There was nothing. It appeared as if he were alone, but he knew better.
The sound of water splashing behind him made Amonsun-Ra turn, throwing his hand forward and launching a golden fireball forward.
A startled shriek made him jump back, but the fireball continued on its path across the marsh before finally burning out in the distance. Well, that hadn’t worked.
Looking to the stone, Amonsun-Ra spotted wet prints on the stone, but they were not any he recognized. There was no discernible toes or hooves, it was a solid print with strange lines across it. What was-
His thoughts froze as he caught the fresh scent of old earth, and he whipped around, throwing another fireball.
Again, the fireball missed its target, but he heard whatever the creature was snarl in frustration. How was he going to get out of this? He was too far from any patrols.
Shaking his head, Amonsun-Ra looked up the greying sky of dusk and threw his hand up, launching a beam of red light into the sky. If he died, at least the Xanra would know there was a threat in the area.
Another snarl made him turn, only for Amonsun-Ra’s body to stiffen entirely as he felt a sudden force on his throat.
The Slarega froze, feeling smooth flesh upon his ridged brow while sharp claws dug into the fragile scales of his throat. It was an unsettling feeling to feel scaleless limbs upon his scales.
Whatever creature held him, continued to growl behind him, almost as if speaking, but he could not understand the words. The voice was frustrated, an angry rumble behind his head. Cold breath dried his scales as his attacker seemed to lean closer.
There was a deep breath, like a predator savoring the scent of prey, before his head was forced down, exposing his neck. Amonsun-Ra didn’t have the chance to react before he felt his scales and tender flesh beneath get pierced by two fine points. His eyes widened in pain, jerking away from his attacker, but the attempt was half hearted, like his body was refusing basic survival instincts. His body became numb and useless against the attack.
Spots occurred on the edge of his vision, his head becoming light and spinning as the creature fed off him like a parasite. He was powerless, his body failing him in a crucial moment, bending to this creature’s will.
As if it were not enough to ravage his body, Amonsun-Ra felt his mind become invaded, his memories being sifted through like sand by a foreign force. His thoughts and memories were like a river, rushing through his mind before all he saw was purple.
Amonsun-Ra gasped, his breathing heavy as he opened his eyes, staring at the decrepit shrine. It still had power.
Mustering what little bit of free will he possessed, Amonsun-Ra reached forward to the shrine, before reaching up with his other hand to grab the creature’s smooth arm. Blinding yellow light leapt from the shrine to Amonsun-Ra’s hand, bathing in him in light.
The creature behind him wailed as the bright light surged from the Slarega to it. A sudden flash of pain lanced through his throat as he felt the creature rip its hand away, its claws slicing through his scales.
As soon as the creature let go, Amonsun-Ra collapsed to the ground.
The word was a dark blur around him, but he was vaguely aware of something nudging his shoulder. Soon he was staring up into the dark grey sky, before his vision became filled with a ghostly pale apparition.
The creature stood over him, a deathly pale smoothskin with long, silver hair and hungry red eyes. Blood dripped down from the creature’s mouth as it seemed to mumble some more in its foreign language.
His sight failed him moments later, the world slowly going black. The only thing he was aware of was the faint hint of warmth and the metallic taste of blood on his lips. It was the last thing he felt before his body succumbed to the cold as his lifeblood drained across the platform, tainting the shrine.
As the world went black, there was no peace… only hunger.
About the author
Writing, gaming and creating art are my passions. Along with cats. All hail the mighty felilne overlords! Fantasy- traditional and urban- are my forte, but I dabble with romance, sci-fi and occasionally horror. Let me know what you think!