lunes, 6 de marzo de 2017

Crimson Malice soundtrack

Since I began collecting epic movies (fantasy, historical, etc), and kept on writing my first novel (way back in 2001), I got to appreciate more and more the details in the works of classical composers, and of course, the score for movies, series and videogames. And it alwalys led me to discover more, to find a recognize certain cues (one of my favorites being Mars, The Bringer of War, by Gustav Holst).

And when I was writing, I chose to make a list on which to select certain tracks that I had repeated many times, or that I was humming or recalling while depicting certain scenes on the page.

Since that moment, I have been doing this for almost all of my stories, and in doing so I have come to discover more soundtracks from games and movies to add to my collection.

Thus, here I present the soundtrack I have compiled for my debut novel, Crimson Malice.

1. The Red Stain
2. A Rite of Passage
3. Look at the Seeping Red!
4. Hazardous Prey
5. One Drop of Silence
6. Blossoming Rain
7. Nightmare Slain
8. Of Charms and Spells
9. Gathered Again 
10. The White Terror
11. Trespassers 
12. Where The Filth Thrives
13. Erlaine is Watching
14. The Veiled One 
15. The Bleeding and the Longing 
16. Embodied in Red 
17. Shriek of the Owls 
18. Ylfengs and Groths 
19. A King is Seen
20. A King Requests
21. Smiling Wound 
22. Beneath the Skin, Behind the Walls 
23. The Leave Taking
24. To Drisfarne
25. A Day Among Hunters 
26. Ravenheads
27. A Heir for the Raven Lord
28. Crimson Birth 
29. Bereavment Through Torment 
30. Exiled

All tracks belong to their proper composers.
Soundtracks used:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt / Hearts of Stone (Mikolai Stroinski/Marcin Przybyłowicz & Percival Schuttenbach)
The Witch (Mark Korven)
Le Pact Des Leups / Brotherhood of the Wolf (Joseph LoDuca)

martes, 31 de enero de 2017

A gaze not returned

Franz Sedlacek - 'Ghost above Trees', 1931

Through the eyes of mankind, good and evil seeped through, reaching deep into the heart and coming back as the most soothing words or the most baneful. And even in dreams, behind close and tired eyelids, visions most sublime or dreadful could still be perceived. As soon as there was anything worthy of sighting, no gaze could be denied, unless blindness hindered it.
In these days, blindness was starting to be yearned, for it granted protection against a most terrible plague.
It had been five months since the renowned physician Sakis had set out in a perilous journey, on his quest to solve the mystery of several deaths throughout Crecian settlements and cities. Refusing to believe in the unnatural condition of the disease, his research had led him to clues hinting that the deaths dated back from two hundred years ago, on a military campaign under the auspice of Saurornitholestes the Stern. He had been a Crecian whose constant defiance and mockery of foreign traditions of the vanquished enemies pushed him ever further to declare that no curse would ever hinder him or his progeny.
When Sakis sought to find a way to stop The Accursed Sigh from wiping out an entire race, he had gone from secluded areas to villages, to cities and battlefields, until he reached the arid lands of Sraq, confident upon his finding of what he believed to be a former bastion in Lemanite territory.
In the last part of his journey, he had gone from trying to find a logical explanation to finally accepting the existence of a power beyond his reason, and that, should he ever found a way, he would let it to pass the curse, if it was such a thing, to haunt the Lemanites and not the Crecians.
The Accursed Sigh could still be far, claiming more victims in odd intervals, but always causing more and more chances to spread beyond. And perhaps the curse was not limited by the old rivalries between nations, and since every living man and woman had the possibility of stumbling upon a corpse, no matter its condition, then the world was sure to succumb.

All those lamentations from afar, all those gasps of horror preluding the misery would never be so loud to reach Deresim now, for the home of the Greyfolk was at the mercy of a different menace.
This one proved to be sentient, and it had chosen Deresim to haunt, to terrorize, beasts big and small were still in its wake, but it was only persons that lured it ever closer.
In the city-estate of Oroxes, people had been most restless and afraid. For six months, they had been trying to raise a high wall that enclosed them, as if hoping that only looking up was the only way they could ever see the sky. And in fact, they clung to such desire, all their thoughts were bent on that goal.
It was not because they feared an enemy army which had gone long time unpunished. The higher the rose the walls the more people died every dusk and dawn. And as the construction labors continued, every traveler nearby became a victim of the unkind terror from the sky, a menace that thrived with every demise, rising from the ground, for it never lay for too long to be entombed or cremated.
They were already prowling, with a keen sight that surpassed that of eagles, gliding in the distance waiting to claim a new victim.
“No mist rolls by, and our hands can’t build faster what our dreams can’t even conceive, if they were but longer than a blink.”
Thus spoke Marfisa, queen of Oroxes, of amber eyes. Among her own, she had the sharpest sight and hearing, and had never been ambushed in battle or alone, in the midst of the ruckus or at the mercy of an assassin. Yet such a gift was not enough for it had failed her to protect her kin when the wrath of iron and flesh turned for the worse, and nowadays, when a sinister force was stalking from above.
She stood right between the pillared courtyard, a great square that had served once as the main entrance for her armies, but now most of the pillars had been toppled down to be turned into material for the wall. Anything that could serve as a barrier against those who stared from afar, for they were aware of whenever a victim looked at them.
The wall only occupied the eastern and northern regions of Oroxes, and it was not tall enough yet. Even when people slept under safe roofs and warm blankets, they feared their own windows, the hearts clutched by fear every dusk and dawn. At every chance of their gaze aimed at the horizon, they closed their eyes and cursed at themselves for not being able to control them.
And just right from the order side of the walls, the whole land surrounded them, as far as they could see, with the distant mountains like blackened fangs rising from below, seemingly tamed by the sun, but as soon as it descended, it spawned the silent horrors that brought doom just for being seen.
“Wicked, tainted souls, for so accursed they are than in our passing we only serve to increase to grow their ranks. And more foolish we are to think we could ever face them in hand to hand combat!”
She clenched her fist until her nail sunk a bit deeper now. The itch in her skin didn’t bother her, even when it was about to tear open her old scars.
“Do not forsake the good tidings Sakis might bring soon, my queen!” Olcybia said, approaching with caution, wishing to prevent her from hurting her hands, for in previous fits of anger she had been about to hurt herself much worse.
“And should that fail, what else are we going to do?”
“If the legend is true, we could search for the Queen of the Night.”
“You are easier to lose your mind than I do, for believing such things.”
“It is a rare thing, I cannot deny it, but let us recall that, if what has been said is true, it is a key in our salvation.”
“So rare, indeed, that it only blossoms once a year.”
“And when it does, it is impossible to look away from it. Beings of good cannot avoid it… as well as beings of evil.”

Marfisa stopped clawing at her own hand, and upon looking at her, she carefully closed it, as if she was holding a flower. Her fingers trembled, as if already hesitating to close her hand lest it crunched something so delicate.
She already knew the tribulations faced by a group she had dispatched to look for that miracle. Day after day she wondered how close they could be to grasp it and bring it back to home.
“One of them has to reach me, as soon as possible,” Marfisa whispered. “Sakis and the cure for The Accursed Sigh, or Alomidis bringing me a Queen of the Night.”
Olcybia was about to say something else, and they both knew it already. He refrained, for it would be too harmful to remind her of the very thing she lacked, which was still something to yearn, something that not even in her dreams she could see it.
Queen and counselor took leaven and left the pillared courtyard, at the sight of a large closed gate, which bespoke of a deafening silence, a death sentence just like everyone out there that happened to stare at the terrors that took advantage of any person’s eyes, because sooner or later someone would look at them, whose gaze was the last thing the world had to offer, and it was beyond baneful, more terrible than the presence of a large barbarian horde.
A sky without clouds, it was the most radiant blue, under which the proudest army and city of all Deresim should have ever walked. However, every denizen of Oroxes flinched or blinked, quickly bowing their head or crouching, as if a terrible force clasped his head and left him without eyelids, staring right at the clear sky.
Whether it was bird or an insect, whatever it was that glided or floated was enough to chill one’s blood. In spite of the sun’s warmth, of its gilded rays that invigorated the earth and called to life many creatures, there was the chance, a rare event that could be destined to become an everlasting curse… for what would happen if they could now strike at every hour of the day? People either would have to live underground or become blind.
And after that, who knew what else would happen.
Since the menace had reached Oroxes, they could not be prepared enough after warnings and odd tales, until the first deaths took place, and despair would loom from the horizon hence that day, when the sun set and the moon shined like a grim beacon, summoning terrors that killed men like wolves rampaging through herds of sheep.
Children did come out to play. Adults locked themselves in their homes, in their rooms, and even then, they wished to be in smaller spaces, as if their own bodies were not enough: a skin too transparent, too thin and light. An embodiment of frailty that was strengthened after death, and then, turned into a predator that was lured by any random stare.
For too many days, the people in Oroxes wondered if the very sky above their heads would turn against, and if so, what kind of shape would death take if not the horrid horde, a ghastly presence, faster than a shooting star, faster whatever god or goddess wove the strings of life and decided to cut it.
When dusk came, everyone had to return to their houses or barracks, and guard were keeping watching behind walls with slits, yet still hesitating if that would keep them safe even after night. It was the toughest challenge, for people knew they should never gaze at the horizon or else they would die right away.
Later, a full moon hung high on the sky, and Oroxes was at the mercy of the malevolence. In that moment, racing through the plains, two horses galloped, pulling a carriage behind them. Another rider came along. The rider and the people inside the carriage traveled blindfolded, which had been a ridiculous but secure remedy so far.
Because too many were wondering if blindness could save them, at least none of them would ever accept deafness as a choice, and they trusted their ears, hoping that company would ease their anxiety.
The visitors were nearing the western part of the city. There could be seen the glimpses of the outer wall to be constructed, but now it was unguarded. The frantic galloping could not be compared to the heartbeats of the rider and the people inside the carriage. Time and time again they removed their blindfolds to look at each other but never through the slits of the wall.
Should they start screaming, calling out a name, asking for shelter? Perhaps the guards would wake up sooner than expected, and all for the better, unless they resolved to take up in arms and forbid anyone else to enter the city. However, it was well known that whoever awoke in the night, for as long as there was moonlight, the risk was high.
Not because of the sounds, but for the unfortunate accident of looking at the horizon or at the moon, to the bigger source of light, for they would know it and return the gaze.
From the barracks, the guards were wondering who could be approaching. Shaken by recurring nightmares of an army favored by the foul terrors of the air, their blood was chilled at the thought of going into battle against foes that should not be seen at any moment. How could they retaliate when their strength as men was not enough? How foolish and desperate could they be for expecting to fight in the dark, seemingly sheltered by their own eyelids against those that longed to be seen?
Meanwhile, out in the streets, dashing out like frightened rats, Queen Marfisa, Olcybia and their escorts were rushing to western part of the city. They all run crouched, holding tight the torches, feeling a terrible burden of shame and fear upon their backs. The blurred ground beneath their feet seeming closer and closer as they run, only stopping to check up on the road ahead, but never looking higher.
Something was already looking at them from the sky, and not just from the distant mountains. All it took was just once glance, even by accident. Just once glance and another death would follow, and in turn, another corpse to join the fell swarm.
“Who could it be? Sakis or Alomidis?” the queen asked.
“Does is truly matter who is coming?” his counselor replied, gasping.
They stopped to catch their breath, and only peeked very carefully as their walked next to the wall of a house, straightening their bodies, dragging their faces across its surface.
“May the gods forgive me for having to choose…” the queen whispered, feeling her heart beating too fast, placing her hand on her bosom. “But I hope whoever comes truly brings us something to be free from this curse!”
“We need to run faster!” said a soldier. “But I can see it. And we need the guards to open the secret door, with arms at the ready!”
“Spears and blade are of no use against those things!” the queen whispered. “Not even fire!”
“If our enemies are mortal, they will fear them!” the soldier hissed.
Once more, the race was resumed. A long open space lay ahead of them before they could reach the barracks and the outer wall, and there, they had to find the hidden opening to venture out and find who was approaching. Two screams were heard in the distance from the other side.
The queen tripped and fell to the ground. Olcybia turned back at once and rushed to her. The guards, having noticed, went to them, with their shields raised, sheltering them, blocking the sight from above. Every one of them was breathing heavily, as if a terrible siege was taking place.
Trying to remained calmed, they stood motionless for a while.
In what seemed a tortuous movement, when Olcybia and the queen stood on their feet. They and the escorts walked very slowly, all looking at the ground. Their eyes burned for they refused to blink. No wind blew on that night, and the sound of their panting bothered them.
“Over here!”
A voice had cried ahead. The sound of footsteps brought them a bit of relief as the glow of more torches was conjoined. When both groups met, they all kept a steady pace, looking at the ground, peeking from time to time at required height to avoid dying. When they reached the wall, the screams from outside were heard again, setting them again on a flight mood.
There was a loud snorting and neighing. The screams that followed made them think a vicious horde was about to breach the wall, calling forth the monstrosities that stalked from the sky, like vultures that descended faster than lightning at victim that happened to look at them.
“To the left!” cried a soldier. “Follow them!”
The soldiers rushed one after another, speeding out of urgency and fear. This time they were looking ahead, yet they held their shields above their heads. The queen and her counselor followed them, hoping that no hostile presence met at the other side.
In the middle of the night, it seemed they would have to tread an endless path along the outer wall, fearing the secret door had disappeared. But they had placed a sign, and torches to find it easier. Only, this time it was not.
There were no torches, or a bonfire or lit brazier. Nothing.
They took them! Marfisa whispered. They knew about it and willingly came down and snuffed them.
A frantic search had begun, pressing themselves against the wall until they could feel it. Separating themselves, so they could cover more distance, the search forced them to drop their spears to have one free hand, while the other kept the shield.
The carriage and the rider were still outside, sharing the same risk just like the others. The rider had taken off his blindfold, and now struggled to look at any other thing that wasn’t the ground, so he crouched and embraced the neck of his mount. Shouting over and over, asking for help.
Just one accident, anything. A sudden clumsiness or wrong turn, a sudden jolt of the head. Death was already soaring in the night, very high above the city, even from the distant mountains or in the horizon, on the flats long ignored by armies. And this iniquity was numbered by the hundreds, and every victim they claimed was doomed to join them.
It would swoop in, silent, precise, deadlier than any archer or spear-thrower, and whoever was caught and met those eyes would have his heart crushed, and his face contorted and frozen in panic, for which no tears and caresses could ever change or conceal, nor the sun could ever warm again.
And no dirt or fire would take the corpse as it rose, twisted and rotten, to join the dance of death every sunrise and sunset, longing to be seen, punishing every person that dared to look at them.
“I found it, I found it!”
“Don’t look at the sky! Don’t look!”
There was an incredible tension with every passing moment, an unpleasant sensation of something barely caressing their heads. Not a flutter of wings or a whisper, but the grim assurance that something was hanging right above their heads, stretching long, withered fingers to reach out another victim.
It was just one man, venturing out from the city’s outer wall. The darkness within the passage was but a blink as he went through the secret door. When he looked around, he found the carriage and the rider and shouted at them, waving a torch at them. A desperate cry in the dark, answered by neighing and indistinct words.
The rider dismounted, gesturing at the guard as the horses pulling the carriage stopped. When the door was opened, four people had descended, almost tripping on each other, still placing the blindfold on their eyes once more. Only then did they look at the sky, or else the burden of fear would have them walked on all fours.
The rider went to free the horses from the carriage’s yoke, and led them into the door, which was high enough for horses at least. Beasts were not really endangered at all, but they could not afford losing them whatsoever.
But they were all still outside, with not roof and walls to keep safe. When the guards took the reins of the horses and keep a tight formation around the visitors, they had yet to reach some place on which to spend the night. Accidents could still happen, and the curiosity to have a glance at the sky was increasing, for no warrior could afford to go around, as if crawling like worms or vermin, fearful of wings of prey.
“Into the barracks, now!” a soldier cried. “The door’s been opened. Leave the horses alone, for the soaring corpses are after us and us alone.”
Guided only by words and nervous glances, the group made their way into the nearest barracks, going one by one, and as they stepped through the doorway, each one finally straightened and breathed deeply, as if woken from a nightmare. The night still endured behind them, and its horrors never stopped focusing on the next kill.
When the last man entered, the door was shut with a bang. Now the queen had opportunity to find out who the visitors were.
Casting aside their blindfolds, the four persons knelt in her presence and spoke. The first one was a Crecian clad in green, whose cloak was stained and ragged.
“Queen Marfisa, of honeyed eyes, I have brought, as you requested, a Queen of the Night. May this give us at last a chance to vanquish the evil that stalks us from the sky, for now we depend on it… if it ever blooms.”
From the other three Crecians, there was another clad in a different manner, for he had his whole head wrapped in clothing, and likewise were his arms, as if concealed by several leaves embroidered into one another. Then, as Alomidis looked back, he gestured at that man to come to approach. A Lemanite hastened to him and knelt, placing both hands on the floor, leaving a small ornate box. As he bowed ever lower, he said:
“I am Faryaz, Queen Marfisa. An astronomer and botanist. We both went through a lot of trouble to find the sample, and discovered that the floating corpses are growing ever restless.”
Alomidis grabbed the Lemanite’s hands and gestured him to sit upright, to look at the queen.
“You are no slave and here we hold no grudge against you or your kin.” he said.
“What did you say, Lemanite?” the queen asked. “What did you see?”
“My queen, please, look at how the man you sent off has returned!” Faryaz said.
“He was with me when I took it,” Alomidis added. “It was a night I never wish to experience again. For they are taunting us, they revel in our fear, trying to call us out, reaching out with dead fingers, looking for our blindfolds or eyelids, willingly messing up with any way we have to remain hidden from them.”
“They were so close I could smell them, stealing away what little warmth my body had!” Faryaz said. “Whispering, mocking, challenging. Death does not halt their moves, and death is what on that they feed. No matter if we seek refuge behind walls or under roofs, shutters and doors will be banged, torches and bonfires will be snuffed, lurking even at the warmest lights of dawn, or the last gleams of dusk… we will keep being stalked.”
“The soaring corpses said a fell power controls them, all for a single behest, to outnumber the stars in the sky, corpses must be created, for theirs is the army that grows ever larger.”
A sepulchral silence followed. Not even the flames from the torches crackled. No one gasped or sighed, and still they were alive, on their feet, if only because the horrors outside had not torn apart the roof and slaughter them at once.
“Faryaz went with me,” Alomidis said. “He risked his life with me just so we could get the flower. If tales are to be believed, it could wipe out those terrors once and for all.”
“When the night takes up a tangible form, it mocks you, it frightens you…” Faryaz said. “Trying to lift you up and then pressing down on you, as it tries to open your eyes… It can see through your skin, and the dark seems endless as if the sun had forgotten to rise again.”

Marfisa said as she picked the box, heaving a painful sigh, looking at the ornamented box in which the flower was kept. It looked like a dried, small cocoon of green, with thin veins that gave it an unsightly texture. She had been told how rare it was, and that not one of them ever bloomed at the same time, and it only happened once every year.
“Thus it will be, then,” she said. “Our fate lies in the chance of it ever opening to our eyes, the one thing that we yearn, and the one thing that perhaps they might ignore much easier than we do against them.”
“The flower also grows in the strangest of places,” Faryaz said. “Perhaps it might be somewhere in this city, and we should be thankful the soaring corpses had not plucked them from the earth, and that they don’t go under daylight.”
“Such power concealed in ugly wrappings. We will have to tread more carefully now in our chores, lest we do not step on it, and stop our animals from chewing everything they find.”
She had heard stories that went from wonderful to utter bewildered ravings of imagination, words that bespoke of insanity that saved miserable souls from the greatest horrors, against those that refused to be grasped by mind and logic. For the queen, it was beyond her comprehension that there could be a power that surpassed that of the flesh and mind, of virtues, of goodness and sacrifice that could make base men and vicious beasts tremble in fear.
Dawn would not come soon, and the soaring corpses were still out there. At least, people would be safe for as long as they remained inside, asleep if possible, laying still yet breathing, so that their eyes never opened, and that curiosity led them closer to the shutters only to have a glimpse of what could be floating way up high…
Or right in front of them.
The queen slowly bobbed her head, already feeling the stupor taking hold of her body. Everyone needed rest, but no one could take for granted their ephemeral peace.
“I will dream upon it, but better than dream, I long for it, even if it stings my heart. For the suffering of embodied terrors and things most unholy, that would greatly be a new welcome into this world for me.”
“Even if it were the only time in your life?” Faryaz asked.
“Yes. The last thing I heard was that the abominations of Solpuga were frightened by not one, but three Queens of the Night under different circumstances, and everyone in Sraq believed those things would devour the world. What could have been so terrible to frighten a beast that is invigorated and lured by the sun? What did it see that it has not surfaced ever since?”
Whether in day or night, the salvation of Oroxes depended on the blossoming of a rare flower, whose sight was beyond magnificent for creatures of good, and beyond terrifying for creatures of evil.
A special quarter had been prepared for the queen, though it was not a luxurious as expected. Four guards stood by the door. Other soldiers had prepared more beddings for the visitors to sleep on the floor, just like them. Taking turns, the soldiers kept watch, looking around, but somehow, they ended up looking at the floor, for if they stared too long at the sleeping ones, they feared to disturb them.
At the next day, the queen returned to her citadel, located in the middle of the city, shaped like a crown of alabaster, atop a flight of stairs that surrounded it. It had retained its whiteness for so long people believed it would remain so till the end of times. In old days, since its foundation, the city lacked outer walls, because their warriors served as walls whenever a foe dared to harm them.
When the attacks from Teleioi or Alogae became fiercer, enticed by the tortuous cruelty of sieges, the denizens of Oroxes raised walls and dug tunnels, secretly placing large iron spikes with which they could thrust upward, as if they commanded the fangs of a large beast beneath a marching enemy.
But, with the threat of the floating corpses, and their precision to kill, the only choice was to remained inside, almost sentenced to curse their own eyes for glancing at the world.
It had begun like the rarest of plagues, a menace unlike any other, for it preyed upon any person, good or bad. Cities and villages, hermits and wanderers, fishermen and mercenaries, kings and vagrants, all of them had suffered, whether by accident or mere curiosity, a swift death just by looking at what seemed distant wisps of cloud, shapeless blobs on the horizon.
For five months, all those victims did not last long on the place where they died, for the curse took possession of the corpses, and empowered them to soar and glide without wings, to mimic the birds without chirping. Rotting as they flew, they appeared right before the sunlight waned, on every sunrise and sunset, waiting to be seen.
And by a painful lesson, the people left behind, the mourners, they all learned to never utter again the name of the dead. For on the night afterward, the soaring corpse would stalk the person until the fatal encounter, every night, hanging by the doorway or window.
Only when the sun rose up, and while it hung on the sky, the soaring corpses disappeared. On cloudy days they returned, taking advantage to make their ranks grow larger.
Queen Marfisa spent the day supervising the shutters of every household, farmstead and barrack, as well as asking her people to find for any Queen of the Night that had sprouted in any unseen corner or recess in Oroxes.
“Dark times may loom ahead,” she said as she strolled through the city. “when our weapons are rendered futile, when we are besieged even in our dreams.”
She recalled having heard from scholars and veterans of war about countless dead that, supposedly, had seen the last of any war, that one which took their lives. Unlike those days, it was always a conflict against men, against greed or hatred, or a scheme that wound up from generation after generation, risking offspring and lands until the streams of mind and flesh converged into one place.
Under the sign of the baneful Flag of Hate, every army decreed annihilation to its counterpart, native or foreign, dragging along the tightest bonds of friendship and the most intense rivalries. Those who by some fluke of fate survived, destined to slavery or loneliness could hardly cling to a hope of revival, burdened by the unfolding of history which they did not lead. And the dead stayed dead, no memory too strong to keep them fresh, and perhaps, it was for the better that nothing else could harm them again.
Not anymore, for the dead despised graves and pyres, and eulogies and altars no longer appeased them. It was more than envy, an unknown scorn kept them afloat, lingering for the chance to be seen, adding one more corpse, devoid of tears and gasps. No other struggle and longing except that of prolonging death, not only in their decay but also in taking lives.
The radiance of the sun was not enough, even when it heated the iron cuirasses and shields or the slabs of stone and the wood used for the shutters and trapdoors, the light and the heat were not enough. How sacred a glorious lamp since the creation of time and being could hang so high and yet be so powerless against the deathly crowd in the horizon?
With the coming sunset, Oroxes remembered that the dead were not interested in seeing the end of all wars, but pouring down and flooding every city and village, every hut and remote dwelling, swirling and crawling into the smallest crevice or hallowed space to greet the living and ravage them in a blink. No gaze was to be left unanswered.
Like an unstoppable disease, it would spread to all Everdant, more ominous and precise than any oracle and more terrible than any twilight of the gods. For when the dead had outnumbered the stars, they would swarm and consume the gods in a hideous feast.
By night, Queen Marfisa, encased in her room like a prisoner, cradled the box her arms, whispering quietly to herself, hoping the flower could bloom at the sound of her voice. Over and over, until the drone of it made her lose sense of her utterances, wondering if she had already let slip a magic word that caused the miracle.
Olcybia had asked the guard to open the door just a bit to have a glimpse at the queen. It was a disturbing scene, for the city had never been besieged, any attempt in the past didn’t last long and hundreds of bodies lay around the outer wall by the end of the battle.
“Do we need to entomb ourselves, then?” he wondered. “Must we pretend to accept our cold stay in mortuary walls until our last breath, so we may not rise up to the sky and prolong the curse?”
And how deep should their tombs be to spare the world the amassing atrocity?
The soaring corpses were already on the prowl. There was no moon this time, but the few bonfires and torches that lighted the city was enough life for them to be easier to be found by any curious eye. Shutters and doors kept them at bay, and inside every dwelling, people struggled to sleep.
In the house where Alomidis slept, it also lodged the three Crecians that had come in the carriage. Alomidis had been the last one to lay on the bed, after having procured first some lit braziers and jars with oil, as a last choice should the soaring corpses managed to find to break into the room. There were also large basins filled with water, to prevent any fires that added another calamity. The shutters were well shut as well as every door. It should serve just fine.
When he stopped feeling his body shuffling on the bedding, he felt the waves of sleeping filling his head, and he let go into an ephemeral blackness. It was not oppressive, and it wrapped him slowly. After a while, he could see blurry scenes, and feeling himself stepping into the world, back in Oroxes, at dawn. And no sinister shapes were out to kill anymore.
Faryaz had struggled to fall asleep, too. It was not after a long while, when the stupor didn’t paralyze his limbs that hurt him at the slightest movement, that he could finally dream of better morning and nights. He dreamt of a world ridden of The Accursed Sigh, and of countless generations spared of that horrible malady. In that world, the sky was no longer infested by the ravenous corpses that frightened the birds and lingered with the stars, for now every dead could rest in peace whether in a grave or in a burning pyre.
In the darkest, quietest hours of the night, it never occurred to anyone how close death prowled indeed. For everyone in their sleep resembled very much a corpse, except for a faint movement of breathing, but no one could have noticed, and the guards that struggled against drowsiness knew it well. And they envied them as well as feared the dark.
Someone was moving, whispering. A barely audible called, coming from a wakened mouth, driven by longing. No guards could have listened to it, and perhaps they should have broken in, even in the scandal of disrupting a pleasant dream or sickening nightmare. It was in nights like these than a sudden intrusion could save lives.
“Indira,” said a voice. “You shall outrun the long night… Indira!”
“What is it?” said another voice, gasping loudly. “What have you seen?”
The flames from the torches didn’t flicker. Two Crecians had woken up, their beds in front one another. The warmth and the dark made them think they were in a cave, as if sheltered from a chaotic war outside that had been raging for too long.
“I saw her. I saw her…” one of them said, scrubbing his eyes.
“How fortunate you are!” said the other after a long yawn. “If only we could freeze our dreams and hold them in our hands.”
The shutters from the farthest window cracked. There was a loud bang, followed by scratching sounds that send shivers down the spines of those two. Then, complete silence, as if the world had drowned a cry. A strange sensation, they even thought something was about to be absorbed through a sudden vacuum, as if a large gaping hole was about to be opened.
Through the closed window, as it splintered broke in a hideous shape, swirling and spreading its limbs, a flying corpse of a woman sped on and headed straight to the man who had uttered a name. Grabbing him tight with cold, rotten hands, the corpse opened her mouth and showed her large, empty eye sockets.
The terrified victim just froze after shivering for an instant, not even gasping at all. It had died so easily as it fell limpness in the cruel embrace. And another person had seen the whole scene, sealing off its macabre fate.
Alomidis and Faryaz could not wake up any sooner.
The doors were swung open as five warriors rushed in, waving torches. However, they were also holding their shields blocking their torsos and faces. As ridiculous as it was, that was how they ought to take a stand against those terrors, which turned the sense of sight into a penitence without peace.
Alomidis and Faryaz, as soon as they saw the glow of the torches, realized what had happened. Darting out of their beds, they fell to the floor, closing their eyes and scampering clumsily towards the soldiers. They did not dare to raise their heads lest they witness the grisly murders.
Shaken by the confusion and shivers, the soldiers knew how difficult it was to contend against the soaring corpses. What took place afterward they already knew: the first slain man was trembling as it levitated, the color of the skin a sickly ashen green, the eyes had burst out and it poured down in a repulsive way out of its sockets as these ones grew bigger. The mouth, once a gesture of fright now a grin of rotten teeth and blasphemy.
The monstrous woman wound up and twisted like a serpent, darting effortlessly, taunting the soldiers as her claws scratched at the shields. It gurgled and hiss, letting out a low cackle that pierced deep into everyone’s ears, a disturbing feeling that seemed to melt down the bones and muscles of the stoutest of men.
The body in the other bed was also transforming, taken by the dark power. It twisted and stretched in unnatural ways, trying to draw attention of at least one eye, one poor soul too unfortunate to gaze upon it.
“Come and watch this flame, you wretched mockery of life! Be purged in it!”
Recoiling like a viper, the cadaveric woman groaned and went straight to the soldier that defied her. It was a swift clash: the ravenous head against the armored man, and as soon as the long fingers grasped the shield, the body slithered with ease over it and then bumped face to face with the warrior. Both fell to the ground. The warrior flinched and had his eyelids torn apart, bleeding and burning as the face of horror stabbed him deep into his soul.
The other warriors threw oiled rags on the beds and then set them ablaze, before the corpses stood trembling. The flames licked the sheets and the corpses, they were still moving, trapped between a hidden struggle of the last breath torn apart with malice and the repulsion towards fire. At the same time, the presence of living men, of watching eyes, it aroused them to pounce on them like rabid beasts.
That had been the only time when anyone could ever look ahead: whenever a dead person was burning, in order to prevent a slain one to turn into another monstrosity.
“There will come a day in which you’ll all burn!” shouted another soldier, fighting against his panic behind the shield. “A roaring light that will shear off the night, a glorious brother of the sun spawned from the earth!”
With wavering arms, clinging to a fool’s hope, the warriors raised their torches, trying to scare away the demonic woman. From her smirking face came out a laughter that echoed in a mix of hisses and low gurgle. The sound of long, croaking cries from the burning bodies disrupted her cruel assurance of victory.
Like a black wisp of smoke, it snaked away through the open window, where more soaring corpses where soon to enter. Alomidis and Faryaz, escorted by the soldiers, were led out from the room, and the doors were shut as soon as everyone alive was out from that damned place.
Another sleepless night, and now they had a fire to keep under control.
Dawn came with several clouds that blotted out the sun, granting those demonic forces a longer time to taunt and stalk. They went from house to house, placing their heads close on every shutter or doors, scrapping them, banging them., and then, listening closely. At the mere mention of a deceased friend or relative, they would break in and kill the sleeper.
When the sunbeams pierced deeper into the clouds and cast their light on Oroxes, the floating terrors flew away, as if swept away by an invisible hand. Faster than lightning indeed, the several corpses had been taken into the mountains, where they sunk deep into crevices and caves, waiting for another chance to increase their numbers.
In such hour, the soldiers now could put off the fire in the room, disposing of the bodies to cremate them and keep the ashes in an urn, later to be sent away, from which no one could ever find them or scatter them. 
Meanwhile, the queen had called to an early gathering. In the company of Olcybia and the most trusted scholars, botanists, even priests, they all expected better answers from Alomidis and Faryaz, whose knowledge of the rare flower was not sufficient to give them hope.
“The night always comes after the day, the moon after the sun, and so it has been and so it will be,” Marfisa said, sat on her throne. “And now… we are holding on to something that eludes us, that perhaps it may never happen.”
“Only once a year, my queen.” Faryaz said.
“We might have much less than that!” Marfisa replied. “Have you not realized? We cannot even sleep undisturbed, lest our own grieving through dreams takes to our doom!”
“And it seems they have become more daring now,” Alomidis added.
Marfisa squinted her eyes, glaring at him, and raising slowly her palm, gestured him to remain silent. Alomidis bowed his head and bit his tongue. At the eyes of everyone, he looked like a dog that had been scolded.
“Do not say what else are these demons capable of!” cried Olcybia. “Or else they might be already accepted the challenge… even from afar, while hidden from the sun they had heard your words, your compliments.”
“I try to dream of their destruction!”
“I want them to be destroyed now! And look, the sun does them nothing at all, and they are cursing it and mocking it while beneath the ground. Dreaming is not enough, longing is not enough. Our very spirits are affronted, our essence in the darkest moments, when we are being assaulted in ways never seen before… It is no longer the man against man, or man against nature…”

Marfisa let out a long sigh. It seemed she was about to weep. Then, she rose up and cried:
“How can we kill death so it never happens again? Is refusing our mortality and affront too ambitious?”
There was a short time of hushed voices while Alomidis and Faryaz felt as if everyone was deliberating on their execution for the failure they had been.
“It is a rare plant, my queen,” Faryaz said. “Even when we have found two or three in the same place, they never blossom at the same time.”
“Or in the same day?” Marfisa asked. “Oh, how useful have you been!”
It was a different kind of tension. Whenever someone stopped speaking, the silence that ensued triggered all kinds of thoughts, assuming someone resorted to cowardice, or to pretend an unbreakable semblance or pride or righteousness. Yet what words did not reveal, the expressions would do sooner perhaps. From one person to another, they all were conjuring a maelstrom in which to trap the accusers or instigators, the responsible ones for a failure that endangered the city.
And how long it would be then before the soldiers were called to seize the dissident voices? How long until the queen refused to accept any excuses beyond her reckoning?
“We cannot risk an exodus,” Marfisa said. “Every night would only bring us closer to them, and we cannot live without sleep. Even worse, we know not how much time we have left even if we chose to start digging a pit beneath the city… unless it caved in and we fell into an abyss, for the burden of our fear and incoming misery told the earth that we craved not for a massive grave, only for death!”
“That pit would have to be deeper indeed than our own fear,” Olcybia added. “so that our corpses never took flight and joined the accursed crowd in the sky.”
It had never occurred to her to see an actual end of days, an apocalyptic vision that surpassed that of any oracle or legend she had ever heard. And though she knew Alomidis and Faryaz did not have any power or solution beyond their nature, their own mortality, she did realize that in such a fact, a new horror could unveil.
For now, no matter how anyone died, or how virtuous or base a person had been, there was no paradise or idyllic departure of earthly limitations, for as soon as life was extinguished, the body would decay only to rise up at the behest of malevolence, bearing a thousand faces for the world to see…
Those were the faces of the deceased, and they were despair to leave this world alone. Bound by blood, every gaze would be returned, and every name uttered would summon them. No person could be so lonely and safe in a barren land or locked in a cell, for the dead would swarm up, calling out the name of the last man on earth, delivering the fatal strike through the windows of the soul: the eyes.
“Let it be known, then,” Marfisa said, rising from her throne, as if heeding the call from the baneful night in her mind. “No one shall remain asleep for as long we are afraid. We would not trust our eyes but our hearts. They must itch, they must burn, so our hands grip the blade and the torch unbent towards the blasphemous winds of death. Let us remind it as it brings to us a host of corpses that they are not people anymore, they are not alive… and we shall remain alive and human! A blazing constellation on earth, as we expect a flaring sun born from the ground!”
There were no applauses or cheering, no fists raised in the air or weapons clanging on shields. It was solemn silence in the wake of catastrophe. Every man knelt and bowed his head towards the queen, holding their breath. They all craved an impossible feat: to destroy an ethereal malice, to banish the tangible atrocities into oblivion so that they could never return.
Gatherings had been mustered in the city’s squares, heralds went to every corner to repeat the queen’s words. Whether tonight or in the next ones, they would face something more terrible than any army or mythical beast ever conceived. It was a defying call against the darkness, against their own mortality, because they would not afford it to become corrupted any longer.
“Make sure every dwelling or shelter has fire and fuel, besides that we already have in our hearts” the queen whispered to herself the last orders she had given to her soldiers.
No one was going to flee the city. It would not be emptied. The tunnels of the past that had been used to set traps beneath invading armies remained untraveled. No helmeted head would loom from the outer walls, and no person was to be left alone. Shutters and doors were to be locked at dusk, and by means of sheer willpower, they would outlast the night.
Instead of digging a tomb, the city of Oroxes entrusted their hopes in the heat and glow of fire. From candles to torches, from bonfires to ovens. If night fell upon them like a starless mantle, they would challenge it with their own constellation, as if they commanded a host of fireflies, all the while they held their eyes closed, with ears deaf to wicked voices and whispers, asking them to come out, to behold their beloved deceased ones.
One last look at the upper void that fumbled the living, before it swallowed everyone.
The sun hid behind the horizon, with no one to bid it farewell. A desolate landscape, even the animals in farms had fallen asleep, or perhaps they were frozen by an early fright, despite they were not the prey.
After a long while, a large, full moon shone high on the sky. A grim, blind eye heralding a slaughter. It beckoned them, pointing at the sleeping city.
The stars were but mute observers to the grim dance below, ever descending, as if the sky had breathed a foul miasma, on which the embodiment of an unholy resurrection had spawned from above. It was not from unearthed graves but from the air, and it was impossible to look away from it.
Hundreds and hundreds of shapes came down floating towards Oroxes, accursed puppets of a malevolent will that reveled in cruel ways, unchallenged by faith and reason for thousands of years. A foreboding host cut against the sky, they flocked like birds of prey above the city. It was a display that could have aroused a raucous enemy of the Crecians, but now it belonged to a profane presence.
It mattered not if the people pretended to be brave by embracing an insomniac watch, hoping that walls and doors would keep them safe. Their homes were not graves, and no corpse was to be left unscathed. In these long hours, even the memory of departed beloved ones was dangerous, for in it was the risk of summoning them once more, and with their intrusion came the penitence.
Alomidis and Faryaz shared the same space. They had not been condemned, though now the night was to pass judgement upon them. What need was there to worry about the next day? The search for another Queen of the Night was useless. However, there was a much greater disturbance in their hearts, and they swore their sight and hearing, for they could not go out.
The city was too big, and before they could find a way to counter the message of the queen, the burden of fright and guilt hardened their legs. A conflagration was about to start, a desperate measure to battle the night and its horrid congregation.
The dead swiveled and glided over roofs, their tethered garments waving. They crawled upon walls, caressing the doors and shutters. Whispering and smiling, they asked to be let in, uttering the names of the people they had left behind, not with ghastly croaks and hisses but with voices full of life. Only a voice but not a body, except a withering husk.
Disrupting the oppressive silence, the soaring corpses filled the air with their voices, calling out to a long past memory. Bereavement was a morsel that aroused them greatly, it was their way to wreak havoc among the living.
Meanwhile, inside every home, and in the palace of Marfisa, people would not wait at the first sound of splintering wood and screams. By means of fire, Oroxes was to burn like a sun in the middle of the night, for the miraculous flower in the ornate box remained closed.
Since no one alive was outside, the monsters were ready to defy the limitations of the curse, for at the time of such an easy slaughter, they knew that by the next day no one and nothing could punish them.
Then, a faint beam of light, a little spark, buried between undergrowth of a well. Among the trash, a bulbous thing cracked open, and it revealed gleaming leaves. A flower should have sprouted there, but there was no one to see it.
The weakest of lights turned into a pillar of white, flickering like a firefly. With every pulse, more fiends were drawn to it, already stretching their hands to snuff it out. Without a sound, without glory the spark waned and waxed until it vanished.
It seemed as if the world had stopped, as if everyone held their breath, like when a coin was tossed, waiting for how it would fell. What began as a spark burst out like a bulging mass of light, growing faster and faster. Protruding from its surface in irregular intervals appeared giant spikes.
People noticed a strange glow behind the shutters as they clattered, hearing strange noises of hisses and groans. The light crept in through every crevice and hole. At first, those who beheld the light tried open them, even when those terrors were ready to kill, but as the light became more intense, everyone shut their eyes out of fear.
Perhaps it was fear that stayed the hand and mouth of Marfisa before ordering to set ablaze the whole place, thus spreading the sign to her people to destroy everything. Olcybia called her and asked her to look at the light. As soldiers rallied around her, she felt her heart was about to burst with joy, and her tears were hot, and would not dry in the spite of the light that broke in like a golden waterfall.
Soon Oroxes was swallowed by that strange light, a sun born of a small bud, on poor soil. Its power a display that brought a most satisfying revenge, yet it was only beheld to the very creatures it was meant to destroy. Wrapping each and every one of them, it burned. Now a terrible choir of agony had begun. No recess in the flesh or bone was spared, down to the last of them: every fiber and hair, every tooth and nail.
The ghastly cadavers were twisted and stretched, ravaged by a power stronger than swords and spears, rivalling that of whatever force had corrupted the bodies of the departed. It halted their next fell deeds, it killed them all. It killed the dead.
By the next morning, Oroxes saw the city was now filled with thousands of crumbling remains, and as soon as anyone lay their gaze upon them, the bodies turned to dust, blown away by the dawn breeze, under a brilliant sun.
They had, in spite of their incoming doom, survived. Alive and human, who did not succumb to violence in murder and suicide. Of those horrifying abominations, nothing remained.

Luis Arturo Marín Sandoval (Maese Delta)

Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-CompartirIgual 4.0 Internacional.