The Scribe makes for an unsettling sight. The clothes that once covered him have all but decayed away with the ages, leaving him as naked as the day he emerged squirming from his mother’s womb, conceding nothing to the horrified imagination. The skin that covers his body is the sick, putrid grey of of human flesh in the terminal stage of decay and in many places, hangs awkwardly off his body in large, rotting folds of putrefying tissue that dangle dangerously , leaving exposed the voracious masses of writhing maggots that have tunneled extensively through the Scribe’s decayed flesh. Occasionally, a massive clump of the flesh eating larvae tumble free of the Scribe’s body, and begin to squirm about in great distress, anxious to be reunited with the source of both their safety and nutrition. Just as loathsome to behold is the vastly bloated belly that bulges outwards with the gases of decay and rot that are at work within. Every now and then, small pockets of gases build up and explode, tearing open large messy cavities in his stomach and more gruesomely, causing a hail of putrefying flesh and intestine to rain down in a foul shower of rotting human detritus. But it makes the Scribe extremely uncomfortable and self-conscious if anyone stares at his grotesque body. He would much rather you look him in his rotting eyes that weep a constant stream of loathsome smelling retinal fluid behind the pair of rusting eye glasses that perches precariously on a once large and hooked nose that now sags over his mouth comically, flaccid and limp, in the process of dissolving from the rot that has almost completely eaten away at the cartilage that once held it firm and upright. Held as if to modestly cover a grossly distended scrotum and testicles that the bloat of decay has grotesquely swollen to the size of a small water-melon, lies an incongruously new scrap of parchment that gleams almost with a sparkle. It is on this that he notes down your name as he adds you to his ever growing list of victims.
A futile existence spent in vain, one drenched in hideous despair. This is the painful knowledge that the Grey Scribe is doomed to live with for eternity and even now, centuries after he left his mortal existence behind, it continues to eat away at him like the virulent, burning venom of some serpent. Only his desperate desire to sow inflict the most twisted and gruesome punishments his imagination can devise, helps to assuage his agony by reminding him that even though he is beyond all hope of redemption and salvation, he still has the consolation to share his eternal misery with others and doom them to the very hell that he designed for himself centuries ago. For why should they be left in peace to enjoy what fate and destiny were cruel enough to deny him when he yet walked among the living?
But if he is vindictive, one cannot hold that against him. For the Scribe was no crazed mage or ambition blinded tyrant that craved to crush the minds and souls of mankind and chain them to a single, twisted will. Indeed, one can only sympathize with him when all is said and done and to call him ‘‘evil’’ would be tantamount to adding another insult to all the previous ones that he has been forced to suffer.
The beginnings of this tale lie in the land of Rotgat, one of the largest and wealthiest provinces to be found within the kingdom of Dogarth. Rotgat is unique among all the various provinces to be found within the borders of the kingdom of the Dorges, for it is still homes to a large native population. As their nearest neighbors understand, the Dorges, a tall, fair skinned race that trace their roots back to the barren, bleak plains of the great Wostern marches. Two centuries ago, a massive exodus from the Wostern marches took place, an event so monumental that the bards of the kingdom still sing of it in their sweeping sagas, the Dorge people sallied forth from their harsh homeland to seek a better fortune for their people, urged on by the extravagant promises that their gifted chief Agor son of Argoth, had foreseen in a sacred vision granted to him by their monolithic god, great Horokang. Swiftly covering the vast distances that lay between the stony soil of their homes and the lush pastures of the southern lands on the backs of fleet steeds, the Dorges soon arrived in the fertile lands that they had been promised.
It was tragic that the rich land that now stretched out before them was not Agor’s to give away to his people. For millennia now, it had been inhabited by the Dana. Records of this short, swarthy people remain few and far between, but what is known is that they were a race of gifted cultivators and master builders, sowing vast fields of grain and erecting imposing obelisks of timber and brick to honor the pantheon of myriad gods that ruled over them. But war was not a key strength of theirs, the numerous chiefs and kings of the Dana having grown content to devote their energies to reaping the abundant barley and erecting ever more impressive monuments to the gods whom in all their great wisdom had endowed this land with such great fertility that their mortal sons never had cause to raise arms against one another.
So it was that these peaceable people were wholly unprepared for the vicious invasion that now overtook their land, as hordes of bloodthirsty riders sowed destruction and devastation in their wake. Resistance proved futile, and it did not take long to dawn upon the wretched natives than their best hope of survival lay in shameful surrender to the ruthless foe. And so it was that a great family among the Dana, the illustrious line of the high priest Tuathil, humbly prostrated themselves before the fearsome horsemen that encircled their grand villa, begging on bended knees that they would forever swear their undying allegiance to the Dorges if their lives were but spared. Like the others fortunate enough to survive the mass slaughter, a family that had once dedicated itself to serving the great mysteries of Rugoth, sublime lord of the divine pact, swore at the point of a steel blade that there was no god by Huroakng, that terrible monolithic horror that the Dorges worshiped, the grim Savior that promised salvation to those that bathed their blades in the blood of the pagan and infidel.
In the years that followed, the great warrior-priests among the Dorges moved quickly to consolidate their conquests by setting up great churches and monasteries to minister to the spiritual needs of the newly conquered population. From within the walls of their strong-holds, the missionaries and priests sallied forth to even the remotest Danan villages to instruct the people in the many way in which their formerly damned souls could now seek salvation in the arms of Hurokang ,the One and Only God that embraced all who desired to descended to the blessed paradise that would await the soul of the believer following his demise. To achieve this aim, they would spout a nigh endless stream detailing the gruesome tortures that awaited the one that refused to repent and accept the true god. The deities they had once worshiped were condemned as demons and evil spirits, none more so than Rugoth, the foul trickster that would lead mortal souls straight down the path of damnation were they ever to turn their backs on divine Hurokang and choose instead to make unholy pacts with that accursed abomination. Afraid of violent reprisals if they said otherwise, the older ones among the descendents of Tuathil forced themselves to hold their tongues even as the missionaries of the Dorges poisoned the minds of their children and in doing so, chained them further to the yoke of bondage that the Church had come to impose upon them. To protest would have meant drawing the ire of the local Dorge militia, unleashed by the missionaries from time to time upon the die-hards that refused to forsake their wicked old ways.
As the ages passed, the Tuthail gradually ceased to remember their once exalted origins, as the elders went to their death-beds too fearful to even dream of sharing with their knowledge that the Church of Hurokang would have considered vile blasphemy. And so it came to be that the Tuathil were soon reduced to being just another impoverished Danan family forced to toil on the estate of the Dorge warrior that been granted the ancestral lands of Rugoth’s own by the king of the land that had come to be known as Dorgarth or ‘‘haven of the believers’ as it means in the tongue of the Dorge.
About five decades ago, a boy was born to the wife of the head of the Tuathial family. And though they were but a family of meager resources, a joyful feast was thrown to celebrate his arrival for his birth had come as an immense blessing to an anxious father that had come to fear the worst, believing that great Hurokang had decided to punish him for his minor sins by denying the male heir needed carry on his name. So grateful was he that he even doubted the amount of the required tithe paid to the local Church, eager to demonstrate his gratitude to omnipotent Huorkang. Kankos, they christened the boy, after his grand father.
Kankos soon proved to be a source of pride to his parents. Growing up to be mild mannered boy, he impressed his elders with his eagerness to do as he was told. At the age of five when his peers preferred to wander in the woods hunting squirrels or ducks, the little boy scurried around the cottage, doing the household chores with a dedication that brought great pleasure to his parents. Every compliment he received was music to his ears, their briefest word of encouragement driving him to redouble his efforts. True the other boys mocked him for what they regarded as his slavish eager to please, but it bothered Kankos not one bit. Not for him the unbecoming, shameful defiance of the other children. Serving his elders and betters gave him am immense pleasure that nothing else could. Indeed, even the most casual observer could see that Kankos truly lived to serve.
When he reached the age of ten and the local Church fathers came calling, a whole new dimension opened for him to do exactly that. For the wizened clerics had come to pride him with a rudimentary education. While the ruling Dorges had seen fit to neglect the vital needs of the conquered Danan in almost all areas, the priests of Hurokang had been shrewd enough to realize the importance of indoctrinating the children of the Danan in their faith to ensure that the vestigial holds that the lost culture of their ancestors may have still held over them, would be extinguished for good. And so it was that a royal decree had been implemented which imposed upon all Danan clans and families the requirement that their eldest sons leave them upon turning the age of ten, to enroll in religious schools that the monasteries ran, purportedly for the sole aim of uplifting their poor benighted minds and sharing with them the shining fruits of the glorious civilization that the Dorges had brought them.
Kankos left with a heavy heart, for he was sorry to bid goodbye to his family whose approval and admiration he had spent so much effort in wooing. And indeed for the few months of his new existence, he spent a bleak and gloomy time in the dank dormitories of the local monastery. Homesickness still plagued him and the monks were stern and harsh, and Kankos found them more difficult to please than his own family. But deep within him that old urge to win the approval of his betters still thrived, and so he responded to the increased standards expected of him by making a heroic effort to master the basic lessons that the grumpy, cantankerous priest taught him and the other Danan children. Every spare moment that the priest allowed him would be spent in mastering the lengthy religious texts that he had been ordered to memorize. And this he did reasonably well, attracting the grudging admiration of the priest who had despaired of ever teaching the most sublime cornerstones of the true religion to the hoard of apathetic Danan children. But it was in the area of penmanship that he truly shone. It must have been that deep within his blood, the old heritage of long forgotten Tuathil still lived, for while his peers struggled with the heavy, ornate script of the Dorge clerics, laboring painfully to write down the sacred verses on crumbling scraps of parchment, Kankos took to it like a duck to water. When the crude quill was roughly thrust into his hands, anxiety and apprehension swirled within his heart and mind as the glowering expression of the priest bore down on him. But then, screwing up his courage with an epic effort, he dipped it in the clay pot of ink provided and begun to copy the verses onto the parchment that he had been given. Hesitantly at first, his hands traced the ornate character on the rough surface. And then they begun to move rapidly, almost as if of their own volition as Kankos quickly proceeded to write out the rest of the hymn. The priests forbidding face relaxed into a small smile of pleasure and Kanko’s heart rose in blissful joy. At long last he had earned their approval.
In the following years that he spent at the monastery, Kankos became famous for his almost legendary penmanship. Very soon, he had moved on to the complex hymns and prayers that had proved themselves well beyond the capacity of the students. Everyday, it was with great pleasure that the priests inspected the beautiful, polished script of Kankos Smiles of approval were plentiful as were the short but heart-felt words of praise. Never in their lives had the Dorge priests met a Danan child so capable of understanding the sacred cannons of the divine faith of omnipotent Hurokang. One of them even so far as to tell Kankos that he had a good future awaiting him. And Kankos gave praise to great Hurokang whose priests had showered upon him such sweet words of encouragement and praise. Every day and night, before he woke and before eh slept, his heart and mind would be filled with the holy prayers that alone could convey his gratitude to the one true lord of the world.
At last the time came when Kankos had reached the end of his schooling term . By now aged eighteen, he was ready to return to his parents and assume his rightful position as his aging father’s successor as head of the family. But there was a part of him that mourned his passing from this venerable center of learning, reminding him that his simple family of farmers would have no use for his elegant writing and the modest amount of education that he had amassed.
So imagine his joy when things did not turn out that way. Old Father Cabot, the very same teacher that had promised his young charge that a future life of good fortune awaited him, requested to speak privately to him on his final day. Kankos complied, in equal parts flattered and mystified. Both feelings soon turned into tremendous joy when the elderly father offered him a position as an apprentice scribe to a relative of his that lived in the bustling merchant city of Hurgon. That man was a prominent and wealthy candle-maker who had earned a considerable fortune by making the great tapers that the Church used lavishly in its rituals. If Kankos so desired, he would employ his influence to win him a position as an apprentice scribe in his kinsman’s candle-making guild. Scarcely daring to comprehend the wonderful offer that had just been given to him Kankos stood dumbfounded, at a loss for what to say. Mere words alone would have not been adequate to describe the powerful feelings welling up within him. But a cursory glance at the old mans face revealed the beginnings of am impatient frown, and Kankos hastened to give his answer. Kneeling humbly to kiss the priests withered hand gratefully, he made his gratitude very clear so that Father Cabot would not be confused as to what his decision would be.
Wasting no time once he had conveyed his sentiments to the embarrassed priest, he set off home to tell his parents the good news. Kanko’s mother openly wept at the painful idea that the path her son had chosen to take would mean him having to live so far fro them. But his father, though shedding tears as well, made a brave effort to smile. H was sure Kankos would well in Hurgon and make the Tuathil name proud by becoming the first Danan to secure a position as a scribe in a prestigious guild.
And so Kanko’s left for Hurgon on the appointed day, nervously clutching the letter of recommendation that Father Cabot had opened on his behalf. The old man had even goe so far as to arrange for a local Danan peddler to bring him to the headquarters of the guild in his cart. And it was no less than such a devout, god fearing person deserved as the trader told him during the ride to Hurgon.
Once they had reached the imposing marble building that housed the head quarters of the guild, Kankos was ushered to the grand entrance by the trader and displayed his letter to the richly attired door keeper who waved him in. The young man spent a couple of nervous hours in the luxuriously appointed waiting chamber before one of the senior scribes showed up and demanded to se the letter that Kankos had already shown the door man. A cursory glance and Kankos was ushered into the great marble expanse that lay beyond. Thus did his career as a scribe begin.
For the next few years, Kankos was made an apprentice to an aging scribe in charge of making tallies of the candle sticks that were to be supplied to some of the smaller businesses residing in the city. Though his arithmetic had not advanced as far as his penmanship, it was still adequate and Kankos did a reasonably good job. But that was not enough for his superior who soon proved to be nasty tyrant that often hurled invective at the young Danan man over the slightest errors that the latter made in his calculations . Hurt by the inexplicably hostile attitude of his superior, Kankos made a concerted effort to make his calculations as precise as possible. But his hard work was to no avail. Instead, as his skill improved, the senior scribe’s torrent of abuse seemed to become even more heated. But the torment he suffered at the hands of that horrible wretch did not end there. On many an occasion, the tyrant would simply drop his responsibilities and tasks in the lap of Kankos, forbidding him to leave until he had completed all the work that he had been given.
Sadly, in his relentless persecution of Kankos, this foul being was hardly alone. The other young apprentices whom Kankos tried to befriend, inevitably rebuffed his friendly overtures with cruel jibes about his thick, rural accent. Occasionally, he would even bear witness to their more senior colleagues smiling in approval as their young charges behaved in the most appalling manner towards the young Danan. Faced with such vicious hostility, he begun to withdraw into himself, becoming a timid recluse that lived in great terror of his cruel colleagues, a pale shadow of the cheerful youth that he had once been.
The truth took a long time to dawn upon Kankos but when it did finally reveal itself to him, he was greatly saddened. Unlike the stern but appreciative priests of his native village, these Dorges did not like him to be around them, he who was the sole Danan to ever be admitted into this guild. And yet he would not even consider the idea of returning to the countryside as his spiteful colleagues had exhorted him to, for he was reluctant to give up the dream that he had come to cherish so much. Taking refuge in his faith, he prayed ardently that all-seeing Hurokang would take pity on his plight.
As it so transpired in the months that followed this desperate appeal, a kindly scribe that had previously worked in the monastery of Father Cabot had been quickly take notice of the young Danan’s competence and recommended to the overall senior heading both his department and that of Kankos, that the Danan be promoted. Sadly, the request was not given the justice it deserved and Kankos continued to slave away under the cruel supervision of his tyrannical superior. There were times when things became so bad that tears would run down his cheeks as he wished
that he had never left his native village.
But the good Samaritan that had attempted to have him promoted had not given up on this quest. His sojourn in the church where Father Cabot ministered, had left him with a powerful respect for the old man and he was determined to see to it that the elderly cleric’s young protégé was given the opportunity he so richly deserved. And so he took the unprecedented step of seeing the chief scribe himself. He described to the somewhat surprised guild official how the quality of the accounting work had improved immeasurably since the new apprentice scribe arrived. Many of the clients that he had spoken with, had said as much, congratulating the guild on the fact that the writing and arithmetic of the person that they believed to be the new accounting scribe, proved far superior to that of his predecessors. The crabbed, barely legible hand writing and sometimes dubious accounting of his senior had always been a great source of distress to the customers.
After an hour or more of further persuasion, the senior scribe promised to look into the matter. If what he had been told was true, it was high time the accounting scribe be replaced by a man who would do his job both faster and better.
With a content smile on his face, the would-be benefactor left, confident that fairness would prevail and that Kankos would be given the position he richly deserved.
Alas, how was he to know that this noble effort he had made on behalf of the poor Danan junior scribe would bring nothing but misery for the young man?
The senior scribe had underestimated the determination of Kanko’s senior to hold on to his position. For almost two year snow, he had been making life painful in the extreme for the filthy heathen that was eying his job, with the intention of sending the Dana packing back to the filthy little village where he should have remained. Twenty years he had spent in this position and he had become fond of the luxuries and relative prosperity it afforded him. And so when, the senior scribe’s serving maid, who had clandestinely eaves dropped on her master’s conversation with the other scribe, shared with him the juicy morsel of gossip he had heard, he was livid. Thanking the woman profusely and mentally praising Hurokang that he had the good sense to strike up a friendship with her all those years ago, he begun to hatch a dark, base plan that would remove from his life, the accursed Danan that had the audacity to crave a job in a respectable guild that had hitherto taken in only good Dorges, true believers all. And what was worse, the foul pagan had actually dared to covet his very own job! It was time that rat was disposed of. Then perhaps the race traitor that had assisted the Danan cur would learn his lesson and would never dare to repeat this accursed impudence. And with his plan for revenge in mind, he sought out the maid to rope her in. At first she seemed aghast at what he proposed, but after an hour of skillful coaxing, she agreed to aid him, her greed having won the better of her. In his wisdom, the old villain had promised her no less than thirty silver farthings if she played her role well.
Two days after his senior had learnt of the meeting that had distressed him so greatly, the plan was swiftly launched. One night as Kankos was striving hard in his office alone again, he heard a soft knock on the door. In a tired voice, he invited the visitor to come in, thinking that the watch-men come to remind him in their surly way that it was high time he returned to his cheap lodgings in the slums. They always had an annoying habit of doing exactly that just when he trying his best to stave off exhaustion and focus on completing the vast amount of paper-work his senior had left him. He gave a sad sigh. It was another day of a painful humiliation that awaited him the next day.
Imagine his astonishment then, when the person that trooped into his dank counting room, turned out to be the fair-haired buxom serving maid of the senior scribe. Striding boldly towards him, she stared him in the face. It seemed to him that there was almost something like pity in her eyes. And still fixing him with that inexplicable look in her eyes, she ripped off her bodice violently, leaving her prominent bosom bare. A self inflicted punch to her right eye was quick to follow, leaving it with an ugly bruise. Torn between utter disbelief and panicked concern, Kankos immediately reached out to grab her hand, afraid that she would do further harm to herself. But no sooner had his fingers closed around her wrist, then she begun to scream so violently that the entire district must have heard her.
Alas, the good intentions of those who had cared so much for his welfare had come to naught. True to their regular pattern, the watchmen on duty had come to make their regular stop at the counting room of the accounting scribe’s apprentice to remind him that guild building was about to be closed for the night. Upon hearing the terrible scream coming suddenly from the small, ill-lit chamber, they stormed in to find the single flickering candle in the room throwing its scant light over the disheveled maid with her torn bodice and the Danan miscreant that held her hand in a merciless grip. Reacting instantly, one of them slammed his club into Kanko’s head, knocking him unconscious.
When Kankos regained consciousness, he woke up with a searing agony in his head, expecting to find himself in the city infirmary. He was to be disappointed. It was the bleak , scabrous walls of what was unmistakably a prison cell that greeted his eyes, a tiny space that was reeking to high heaven of stale urine and feces. As he rubbed his skull groggily, trying to remember what had happened to him, a burly guard unlocked the gate to his cell and strode in. Grabbing his tangled hair in a brutal grip, the glowering brute proceeded to drag him in this extremely uncomfortable manner all the way to a dank chamber where he found himself confronted by a stern faced magistrate sitting behind a shabby wooden table. Before the disoriented and utterly terrified scribe could even speak a single word, the official intoned in his bored, perfunctory tone that he, the accused, Kankos Tuathil had been found guilty of attempted rape. The two guards that had brought him to the head-quarters of the city watch had been accompanied by a distraught woman that had displayed no hesitation in identifying him as her attacker. A week from now he would be beheaded in the public square.
Every single word that spilled carelessly from the man’s mouth, stabbed Kankos in the heart like a blunt dagger. No longer able to hold on to his composure, he begun to scream his innocence, swearing upon the name of divine Hurokang that he was an innocent man who had been framed for this heinous crime. He would have done better to save his breath. Behaving as if he had not heard a single word of that terrified outburst , the magistrate coolly instructed the attendant bailiffs to haul the wildly screaming, struggling wretch back into his cell. But deep within himself, he felt a scalding rage simmering violently. It disgusted him that the guild had been stupid enough to allow this Dana scum to become one of them, a depraved beast that had repaid their misplaced trust and kindness by attempting to rape a Dorge woman of decent back-ground and birth. He couldn’t wait to see the thug’s face when the time came for Kankos Tuathil to be dragged unwilling to the headsman’s block.
Hurled roughly back into his cell , Kankos resolved to do the only thing that would get him out of this dire situation. He prayed. Kneeling on the filthy floor of the cell, he opened his heart and mind to great Hurokang, confessing the foul, lustful thoughts that had crept unbidden into his mind whenever he had seen the pretty maid alone and vulnerable. He was being punished for his sinful mind and rightly so, but he begged that the god would take pity upon him and spare him the fatal penalty for a crime that he had not committed.
But Hurokang, the omnipotent and mighty, the all-seeing one to whom no serets were hidden, chose to turn a deaf ear to the desperate petition of the Danan man. Instead of his grim situation taking a turn for the better, a new tragedy struck, one so horrible that it would break his mind and spirit for good.
Two days after he had been brought into the horrible place where he would spend the final days of his life, the young maid who had accused him was found mysteriously dead in her home. A neighbor who had become suspicious after having noticed that she had not left her home to leave for work early in the morning as was her custom, had made a visit, only to find the unfortunate dead in her bed with strangulation marks very visible against her throat.
Very soon, the news of this horrid twist to the story of the Danan rapist that had simultaneously horrified and titillated the minds of Hurong populace, begun to spread around like wild-fire. Many in the slums begun to whisper darkly about ancient Danan clans that continued to practice dark, forbidden arts in secret on their remote farmsteads. Every wise person knew that most of the Danan had never really embraced the true faith, choosing instead to feign conversion even as they worshipped evil spirits in secret. The family of the rapist must have used some evil spell to bring death on the poor woman. How else could she have been murdered when there were no signs of forced entry into her home as her neighbor had testified?
This wave of fearful superstition was soon carried into the rural hinterlands on the backs of peddlers venturing into the countryside to sell their city wares to the Dorge farming communities. In less than a week, this grotesque fable had reached the province of Ratgot where the Tuathil family still lived, blissfully unaware of the grim events that had recently transpired in the city of Hurang.
Meanwhile, Kankos continued to pray feverishly, hoping that great Hurokang had forgiven him for the moments of moral laxity that he had suffered. But when his would-be ally, the same scribe that had committed a terrible blunder in trying to win for him the accounting scribe’s position, came to visit him in prison, it was not tidings of Kanko’s imminent liberation that he brought. With an ashen face, he handed a scrap of parchment to the anxious Kankos through the iron grill. The latter scanned it anxiously, hoping for good news. The letter bore the hand writing of Father Cabot.
As he read it, his hands begun to clench the parchment violently. When he had finally finished reading it, he begun screaming in anguish as the bitter tears rolled down his eyes. An enraged mob of Dorge herders had broken into his family’s house, determined to inflict righteous revenge on the vile demon worshipping family of Danan witches that had killed a woman through the use of back magic and foul sorcery. With their hearts filled with a fanatical preachers exhortations to seek bloody vengeance for the death of a believer at the hands of the Danan infidel scum, the intoxicated thugs had savagely raped his sisters in front of the horrified eyes of his parents. When his elderly father attempted to stop the defilement of his daughters beneath his very own roof, the depraved intruders had violently struck with a club on his head, shattering his frail skull to smithereens and causing him to die instantly in a pool of his own blood then and there itself. But his familys humiliation had not ended there. In a gesture of absolute contempt, the local court had ordered his now widowed mother to pay a hefty sum to her daughters assailants. The local magistrate had seen fit to condemn his aged father’s desperate but futile attempt to prevent the rape of his sisters as an ‘‘savage and entirely unprovoked assault on two fine young men that had never violated the divine laws of Hurokang’‘.
Shaking his head mournfully, his visitor left silently as the anguished screams continued to ring on the stone walls of the prison.
Kanko’s next visitor proved to have an even more disastrous effect on his already precarious emotional state. The night before the day scheduled for his execution, Kankos stared bleakly at the feces encrusted floor of his cell. He no longer feared his imminent death now. The terrible events of the past few months had robbed him of all desire to be alive any longer. All he looked forward to now was the divine paradise where he would join his beloved father.
But even that promise of solace in the afterlife would soon be lost to him. One of the guards abruptly yelled to inform the prisoner that he had a visitor, interrupting his reverie. To his utter amazement the man turned out to be none other than his former superior, the accounting scribe that had made his existence in the guild so hellish.
The old man took one look at the flabbergasted expression on the face of Kankos and let loose a raucous cackle, one so rich in its ruthless malice and depraved delight that it made him shudder a little to hear it. Without any further preamble, he begun to reveal a little secret that Kankos had not been aware of. Taking care to lower his voice to an almost barely audible whisper, he admitted with a vicious leer upon his sagging face that the tragic incident with the maid had been a trap of his own inspired devising, one that he had hatched with the ambition of preventing a filthy pagan Danan like him from stealing a job that he had occupied undisturbed for nearly. Kankos listened with mounting horror and fury as this wicked tale of deceit and treachery spilled in a sadistic torrent from the withered lips of the monster villain that was prancing before him at this very moment, reveling in the terrible misery that he had wrought upon the pathetic, hapless Kankos. Just when he had begun to feel that nothing could shock his already ruined world, this spiteful disclosure by his hated oppressor now threatened to shatter his mind completely. But even this loathsome confession on the part of that of vile creature, paled in comparison to the terrible blow that was about to fall upon a man already reeling towards the dire brink.. In the same hateful whisper, the scribe went on to tell Kankos that he knew the real killer that had slain the serving maid whose accusation had condemned him to death in the first place. It was none other than him. The woman most regrettably, had experienced a sudden inconvenient bout of remorse and had confessed as much to him. In fact her need to cleanse herself of the guilt plaguing her had become so powerful and urgent, that he had come over to her house in the middle of the night when the entire neighborhood had been asleep, to try and convinced her that if she were to ever confess the truth behind Kankos conviction to the watch, her folly would undoubtedly blight both of their lives. Unfortunately, his increasingly fevered attempts at persuading her to see widsom had failed, and the meeting had ended on a very dismal note, with her screaming at him that she would save her soul by telling the truth even if he was intent on forfeiting his on the day of judgment by persisting in this foul falsehood that had cost an innocent man his future. At that point, he had become so overwhelmed by the dreadful possibility of finding himself facing the stern, unyielding justice of the watch, that before his mind could actually register what he was doing, he had seized her throat and throttled the life out of her with his bare hands before he was aware of what he had done. Then, horrified by what he had done, he had quickly fled her house, but not before dragging her corpse to her bed and leaving it there to be discovered the next day.
But that night, the memory of the woman writhing in her death throes haunted his dreams and he begun to fear the terrible fate that undoubtedly awaited his soul on the day of judgment. As the days passed, the fear of all-seeing Hurokang’s wrath consumed him with fear, until, unable to endure the torment of divine retribution any longer, he had decided to confess his terrible crime to someone that he trusted. Prepared for the worst, he sought out his cousin, a senior priest in the great cathedral of Hurong, told him all the details of the foul sin that he had committed, leaving nothing out. But to his intense amazement and relief , his kinsman assured him that his sin could be expiated with a generous offering to the Church’s treasury. He as a high ranking priest that ahd dedicated his entire life to glorifying the divine one, was especially favored by Hurokang and enjoyed a special access to all hearing ear of the Great Lord that few others mortals enjoyed. And he, generous and noble fellow that he was, would come to his cousin’s rescue by conducting a lavish sacrifice to appeal to great and forgiving Hurokang that the man whose soul he was interceding for, did not deserve to go to hell for a crime that had taken place in a moment when wild terror had caused the guilty one to take leave of his senses and perform an act that he would not have conceived of in a more rational state of mind . And Hurokang would spare his cousin the torments of hell, for the Great Lord was the supreme avatar of reason and enlightenment. He would without question grant the boon one of his beloved and humble chosen asked of. And so it was that the murderer left a content man.
But there would be no similar intercession for Kankos, the accursed son of pagans. One of the guards had mentioned to him that the arch bishop of the cathedral himself would deliver a special appeal to the Great Lord to cast the soul of the accused down into the burning bowels of hell and eternal suffering. And divine Hurokang would grant this boon for He knew in his flawless wisdom that the judgment of his devout and dedicated priests was not to be doubted.
And with those cruel words on his lips, the villain left, cackling as he savored the delicious prospect of young Kankos suffering the eternal damnation that he had expected for his own soul.
As his visitors joyous footsteps thundered down the dank hall in a grotesque effort at a merry little skip, Kanko’s sanity finally abandoned him. The god whom he believed would rescue him, could not be counted upon anymore. Hurokang had remained oblivious and blind when Kankos had prayed to Him to put an end to the savage persecution that he had been forced to endure in the guild. Hurokang had remained that way when Kankos had tearfully appealed to him to exonerate him of a terrible crime that he had not committed. Hurokang had continued to watch idly as his poor family had been forced to bear helpless witness as his sisters had been raped and his father brutally murdered. And now Hurokang would heed and grant the request of an ignorant, bigoted priest who thought it fit that an innocent man suffer eternal damnation for a crime he did not commit. Either Hurokang did not exist and everything that he had been told his entire life had been a great deception, or perhaps the Great Lord simply did not favor the Danans as he did the Dorge. In either case, little would be served by remaining a loyal devotee.
He would forsake Hurokang and instead transfer his devotion to another god that was more worthy of it. After all, his people worshipped other deities prior to the coming of the Dorge, gods that the Church father had always insisted were vile demon come to prey upon the souls of the unwary and thwart the benevolent designs of Hurokang. It was good that he did not care any more what the Church fathers said or thought. The faith they preached had betrayed him. Perhaps the gods of his ancient ancestors would be more sympathetic.
But who to worship? Most of the old Danan gods had had their names extinguised by the Dorges that had conquered the lands of his fathers. How would he call upon them if he knew not their names?
And then it begun tugging somewhere at the faint edges of his memory. That long forgotten fragment of knowledge that the Church fathers had imparted to him in the early days of child-hood. They had told him frightening tales of an evil sprit that made dark pacts with mortals in order to corrupt their souls. Ragoth, was it? Nay, it was Ruogth. Yes, he was pretty sure it was Rugoth. Perhaps Rugoth, the hated and despised foe of the god he had grown up revering, would now aid him. With an ironic, mirthless little smile on his face, Kankos begun to improvise a prayer.
‘‘Oh, Rugoth, shadowy spirit of dark pacts, will you not hear me and answer my plea? If thou art ever existed, come before me and avenge my humiliation .
No sooner had he uttered these bleak words borne out of his terrible despair, that he noticed a strange movement in the dark, shadow obscured nooks and crannies of his cell out of the corner of his eye. Then, before his mind could make anything out of what he had just noticed, a skin-crawling sensation raced up his entire body, holding him a helpless, terrified captive within its clammy embrace as he watched a curious spectacle unfold before him. For a moment Kankos wondered if his sanity had finally forsaken him, as the numerous shadows in his cell begun to writhe violently like snakes and entwine with each other to coalesce and form into a vast back cloud of utter darkness that expanded to fill every inch of his tiny cramped cell, snuffing whatever pathetic illumination that the flickering candles in the corner lent as it reached out with serpentine tendrils of inky blackness to grab and wrench them into the opaque darkness of its squirming mass where they were rapidly snuffed out. At that point Kankos knew that what he was seeing was no hallucination conjured by a mind that had finally succumbed to the terrible misfortune that had befallen him. Despite the terror that was now spreading rapidly within him, something in his mid told him that his invocation had actually been heard and answered. Perhaps the monstrous shadow thing confronting him now was none other than Rugoth. Did not the old tales told by the priests warn of the presence that lived in shadows, spying upon mortals to hear them give vent to wicked, immoral desires?
Barely had this though formed in his mind, when the hideous tendrils seized and dragged him towards the seething bastion of shadowy darkness that dominated his cell. Alarmed by the brutal suddenness of the assault, Kankos felt his bowels collapse in terror. But he was far too terrified to even notice the warm excreta seeping through his breeches.
And then his mind was invaded by the thing that held him immobile in its hideous appendages, crushing his feeble, half-hearted efforts to resist its intrusion and force it back into the expanse of darkness from whence it had slithered out. A dark, sonorous voice boomed through his head, chilling his very blood with the power of the terrible loathing and fury that seemed to infuse it..
‘‘So you call upon me now, heir of the Tuathil when the god you adored has abandoned you. You wish me aid you in quest to seek vengeance against the one that has done you such terrible injustice, knowing that with all else lost to you, this is the only ambition now that can grant your maddened soul the closet thing to solace that you will ever be able to experience. And so I will. For a price. And it will be heavy price indeed. In a golden ages long gone now, I would not have demanded such a burdensome demand from a devotee, but things have changed considerably since then. The god that you recently, forsook destroyed my worship, leaving me a weak remnant of what I once was. I was a god once, am now a miserable sprit forced to hide in the shadows and become the grotesque, hapless monstrosity of the horror stories that your people now tell the children. And with the relentless passing of time, I continue to wane in strength and power. Like a mortal wasting away from a terrible illness, I am slowly fading away. Even to manifest myself in this manner, takes a terrible toll.
If I am ever to survive, I must somehow regain my power. So listen well son of Tuathil. Your blood-line has forgotten, but your distant fathers were my priests, serving me with utter dedication and loyalty. For centuries, they celebrated my mysteries and invoked my name to honor the contracts and pacts that great men would make with one another under my watchful eye. And whoever that would break the terms of such a pact, I would inflict terrible vengeance upon. But when the time came for him to honor his vows, one of your ancestors failed me. Instead of defending me with his blood as he had sworn to, your ancestor chose to embrace the new god that the invaders brought and helped spin their foul lies about me.
But it is still possible for you to redeem the name of your fathers. If you but swear to let your body become my temple and your soul my sanctum, I, Rugoth, god of the pact, will be given shape again, and you will make the one that blighted your life, pay most dearly. So give me your word and I will aid you.’‘
A normal man would have refused to surrender his very body and soul to the frightening cloud of pure shadow that now glowered balefully at him with eyes that he could not see. A sane man would have refused what this fallen, twisted fiend that what was once a god. demanded of him. But Kankos was not a sane, normal man any longer. His dreams had been crushed, his family ruined and dishonored. Everything that he had ever loved and cherished had been destroyed by the foul liar that had been granted a pardon by the priests for his miserable, tainted soul. The same priests that had condemned him to the terrible afterlife that was reserved for those that fell afoul of Hurokang who had forsaken him due to his Danan blood. And so instead of hesitating when faced with this dire choice, he calmly reached into the pocket of his soiled breeches and removed a piece of parchment and tiny quill with a jagged edge that the guards had bothered to confiscate. He felt no fear. None at all. His mind was clear, serene even. He knew what he had to do. With a perfunctory movement he gashed the skin on his right wrist with the sharp point of the quill and dipped it in the blood that spilled out of the severed vein. Then he proceeded to write on it, using the red fluid within his body as ink. It was his oath of eternal bondage to the will of Rugoth, the god that Tuathil had betrayed centuries ago with his cowardice. No sooner had he finished writing the last letter upon the scrap of parchment and sealed his fate for all eternity, did the writhing mist of living shadow engulf his body as a raging whirl-wind of back vapor. His screams could be heard ringing through the entire prison as the demonic mass of darkness brutally violated his body as it forced its way into the various orifices of his body, causing them to rupture and burst apart in wild sprays of blood.
But when the frightened guards rushed to the prisoner’s cell, all they saw was the blood that drenched the walls of the cell. The prisoner had simply vanished without a trace.
In the days that followed the bizarre disappearance of the alleged rapist, a gruesome tragedy happened. One bright morning, an old man ran out of his cottage drenched in blood. When his terrified neighbors attempted to restrain him, he screamed wildly and brandished a bloody knife at them, warning them that he’d make them pay for his family’s death. An alarmed man immediately rushed into the old mans cottage. A few moments passed, and then he could be seen racing out, horror contorting a face that had suddenly gone a deathly pale. When questioned by his mystified neighbors, he told them what head seen inside the old mans dwelling, wincing at the memory. He had stormed in to find the man’s wife and three sons lying sprawled in the hall, with their chests hacked open and their bloody hearts tossed to smolder among the embers of the fire-place.
As a mob gathered and begun to beat the lunatic brutally, someone quickly alerted the watch which arrived in time to save the wretch before he was slaughtered. But his death had been merely postponed.
The following week, he was tied to a stake and set alight as a stern faced priest condemned the killers tainted, diseased excuse for a soul to the deepest layers of hell, urging it to burn in that dark realm together with the evils spirits that had tempted it into madness and depravity. Many of those who where there to witness the murderous kin-slayer scream as the flames devoured him, shook their heads sadly, at a loss as to try and understand how someone whom they had known for so long, could have consorted with evil hell-spawned beings. But the thoughts of one witness in the vast crowd were infinitely more mundane as he watched the gruesome spectacle. The senior scribe at the local candle making guild sighed wearily, mulling over the inescapable fact that one of the less experienced and competent apprentice scribes would have to be trained from scratch to replace the demented old man as the sole accounting scribe now. Ah, the damnable hassle that would cost him..
Kankos stalks the land as the Shadow Scribe now, the twisted, malformed avatar of Rugoth. Bound in eternal servitude to a master that allows him no respite, his imprisoned soul must seek forever the ones that weep discontent and impotent rage, their cowardly little hearts craving terrible vengeance against the tyrants that oppress them, the tyrants whom they lack the courage to stand up to and confront. To put it simply, Kankos searches for the ones that he once resembled and spies on their dark thoughts and sinister desires from the shadows. He must listen and observe carefully as the hatred in their heart festers and grows ever more powerful until it drowns out everything else in their lives, urging them to do something to end the mental abuse that is inflicted upon them daily. He will watch unseen and unheard, as the insanity swallows them up in its ravenous maw and devours their minds, shattering their final, feeble hold on sanity.
And when Rugoth judges them to be ready, the Shadow Scribe will emerge from the dark shadows to make them the offer that will grant them the revenge that they desire so ardently. If they so wish, he will wreck a terrible vengeance upon their hated oppressors, cruel methods of their won choosing. All that the Shadow Scribes asks in return is that they sign their eternal fealty to Rugoth, the god of pacts, in their very own blood upon the piece of parchment that he carries with him. Once this is accomplished, the Scribe fades back into the shadows and quickly proceeds to wreck gruesome vengeance on the target of his convert’s wrath.
Sadly, those that make this pact will suffer even worse than the one upon whom the Scribe is unleashed. For the blood they spill and the quill they daub it in to pen their oaths, will create an unholy link between them and the vengeful god that the Scribe serves. Like a bloated psychic vampire, the dark god pacts will feed upon their strength and vitality day after day via this tainted link, utilizing the energy leached in this way to strengthen his hold on the mortal world. Finally, a time will come when his unfortunate clients finally succumb to this terrible torment, causing them to die a horrendous, prolonged death as a terrible flesh-eating illness ravages their bodies, causing them to rot while their hearts yet beat in their chests. But the end of their lives do not free them from the chains that the Scribe imposed on them so long ago. Every individual that swears fealty to Rugoth, will upon death, rise from his grave as a wretched specter, prevented from ever leaving the mortal world of the living by the monstrous will of the Scribe. With great cruelty, Kankos the Shadow Scribe rules over these enslaved ghosts, directing them to inflict twisted atrocities on those marked for death by the recent converts he has worn for Rugoth. And when they are not occupied in this manner, Kankos subjects the pathetic wraiths to the most gruesome tortures that he can devise, taking great solace in their agony and humiliation that these bound souls suffer at his hands.
For in truth, Kankos hates and loathes the presence that dwells within his repulsive husk of a body. Rugoth can never forgive the Tuathil for betraying their oaths of fidelity to him and so he takes great delight in humiliating and punishing Kankos, both by relentlessly mocking him for both his cowardice and that of his ancestors, and more disturbingly causing his body to suffer the most horrid attacks of decay and rot, reveling in the humiliation and anguish that both forms of torture produce in Kankos as he sees his appearance become ever more grotesque and disfigured. Only the torture he inflicts on others, both living and the dead, soothes his own agony and humiliation.