A little more than an hour after the departure of Mike, Callie, Jon, and Edward; an ash grey car drove into the desolate town of Murgent. It stopped in front of the Sarrgoset Hotel.
The car door opened, and Charles Longstreet stepped out.
He walked over to the hotel; its front door was ajar.
Longstreet entered the hotel, passed through the hall, and walked into what appeared to be the aftermath of a full-scale slaughter.
“Gods!” Longstreet said, “Those kids are a wrecking crew!”
He went up the sticky red stairs; then up another flight of stairs, to the third floor.
He found the room he was instructed to find.
The door was open.
There he found more bodies, more blood and gore.
He found the one he was looking for: a hefty woman with a knife in her back; she looked cut up and battered, to boot.
He removed the knife from her back and, with a grunt of effort, turned her over; face up.
He took the knife, and sliced across the palm of his hand. He poured his thick polluted blood into the body’s open mouth.
Longstreet smiled. “Behold the wonders of magic.” he said.
Zedda’s eyes fluttered open, and her terrible scream could be heard for miles.
It was about an hour ago, as his children were leaving Murgent, that Charles Longstreet had received a communiqué from his current employer, master, and all-around string-puller; Araboam Sinestri.
He had been driving as fast as he dared, in the night; trying to make up the running head-start Mike and Callie had on him. Suddenly, the radio in his stolen car turned itself on, and tuned itself, to a static-filled realm between stations.
The static thinned out, and a voice spoke.
“Hello again.” it said.
“You.” said Longstreet, “I wondered when I’d hear from you again. I take it you’re none too pleased at my rate of success. Well if that’s the case, you only have yourself to blame; you’ve been of no help to me at all. You give me very little information and no back-up of any kind; you throw me out here and expect me to do it all on my own. Well I’m sorry, that’s going to take some time---“
“On the contrary,” the voice interrupted, “All things are going as planned. Do not think for a moment I had not taken your incompetence into my calculations. As a variable, it has been quite predictable; and yet more useful to my ends than you can imagine.”
“Oh.” Longstreet said, unsure of how to take that.
“Nor will you be alone in your task for very long. I have instructions for when you reach Murgent, and you must follow them to the letter.”
“I will do as you say.” Longstreet replied.
Zedda wouldn’t stop screaming, and Longstreet was about out of patience.
“Stop that!” he shouted.
Zedda stopped screaming; but began, instead, to moan.
“Leave me be!” she said, “Let me stay dead!”
“No.” Longstreet said, “You’re a witch, you know how this works; you gotta do as I say.”
“I’m of no use to you as a corpse,” she said, “My power is gone.”
“That's not entirely true, now is it? There’s still one thing you can do.” he said, “One little thing, and I'll return you to your final rest.”
“What do you want? I'll do it!”
“I want you to conjure up a Morrtog for me.” he said.
Longstreet cleared an unbloodied area of loose debris, as Zedda went to her room, to fetch some manner of magical paraphernalia. She returned with colored chalksticks, and a golden ceremonial knife.
“There are more elegant, safer, and…genteel versions of the ritual I’m about to perform,” Zedda explained, “But this is the quickest way; the ancient way.”
She handed the knife to Longstreet, and bent down to her knees and drew a crude circle about twenty inches in circumference, with one of the chalksticks. Using various colors, she drew strange runes around the inside wall of the circle, and a major symbol at its center.
“Jammuk Jarru” she said, “The Door In.”
She put aside the chalks, got back to her feet, and started removing her bloody and tattered clothes; until she stood naked before him, and utterly unabashed about it.
“This next part requires blood.” she said.
She handed him the chalksticks, and took from him the golden knife.
Its blade was shiny and sharp, and with a single flick, she cut across the tops of her index and middle fingers. The blood that came forth from these openings was not red, but a darkening burgundy. She used this blood to draw another circle, this time on her ample belly. A runic symbol, different to the one on the floor, went in the center of the new circle.
“Jammuk Parra.” Zedda said, “The Door Out.”
“Swell.” Longstreet said.
He was anxious to get back on the road.
“Before I begin, I must warn you.” Zedda said, “The code of my order forbids any Conjuura from summoning more than one Morrtog in her lifetime. I myself broke that code, among others, when I summoned my second Morrtog, Mr. Balooda.”
“Was he out of control?” Longstreet asked.
“No, it wasn’t a problem of control. Balooda was just as servile as Mr. Blessure, my first. It was a problem of palatability. Balooda came out just skewed; demented in both appearance and character. It’s a matter of diminishing returns, you see. Every time one reaches into that bag, one gets a less stable specimen. I shudder to think what a third summoning, from a dead Conjuura with corrupted blood no less, will produce.”
“We’ll soon see, won’t we?” Longstreet said.
Zedda stepped into the chalk circle.
“Now begins NiyaChakNya, the dark summoning,” she said, “You must not touch nor interrupt me in any way; no matter what you see.”
“No problem there.”
“The Jammuk Parra will expel the Morrtog in it’s true form. I must give it a name before it’s free. So it is important that you not make a sound or distract me---“
“Understood!” Longstreet shouted, getting antsy, “Let’s get on with it!”
Zedda interlaced her fingers and brought them up behind her head. She arched her back to an unpleasant degree, and closed her eyes.
“Peyya Korrien, MorrCha Ard sah KunChuReen!” she spoke in a loud voice, “Ussa Zedda Stanetta, um KunChurra, NaGarr tevvis Jammuk NaHwa Xalix shessa Maqwa! Umma um MorrTog, ChaNya sah MorrCha, shessa agraffa ChunTra!”
Silence alone, answered.
Minutes ticked by.
Zedda’s eyes remained closed. Her unsettling posture did not waver in the slightest.
Then…there came a sudden and awful ripping sound, like flesh being torn, from the vicinity of Zedda’s midsection.
“It has begun!” Zedda gasped, as a hole appeared on her stomach, in the shape of the blood circle.
Longstreet’s mouth gaped, as a horrid red light poured forth from the hole, along with what sounded like a million lions roaring over the aural backdrop of exploding suns. Worse yet was what he could see. A hellworld painted lava red; burning so bright it lit up the rest of Zedda’s torso like a candle in a pumpkin. And in that hellworld could be seen moving mountains of crawling black beasts that climbed over each other like a swarm of roaches; mountains that that tottered, fell, and rebuilt themselves.
“GODS!!” came out of Longstreet’s mouth in a dry croak.
“QUIET ASS!” Zedda screamed, her voice almost lost in the din. Her eyes were open now; so wide, they looked as if they might pop off.
“Ussa, KunChurra, NuallYa ChunTra YanNya Xalix um MorrTog, um ChaNya sah MorrCha, NaHwa grawpus!” she recited.
At this a massive talon came through the hole and grabbed the side of it. Another talon appeared and grabbed the other side, and a black bumpy head consisting of needle-sharp teeth and red eyes pulled itself through, and roared. It looked at up Longstreet and smiled.
The beast pulled it’s arms through, one at a time, then popped it’s shoulders out. The hole showed no sign of expanding beyond the borders of the blood circle, so the Morrtog had to squeeze itself through mercilessly, to climb out of the hole. It’s talons now reached the floor, and it skittered at the hardwood, looking for purchase. The good thing about all this was that it blocked and muted the sounds and visions of that other place.
Throughout all this, Zedda continued to maintain her arched posture; a vision of surreality beyond even Longstreet’s experience.
The Morrtog was now halfway out; the rim of the hole at it’s middle (around where it’s navel would be, if it had such a thing). It was coming much faster now, and would pull itself free in seconds.
Zedda removed her hands from behind her head and placed them gently on the thing’s jagged back.
“I NAME YOU…” she began to say.
Then something unexpected happened.
Upon Zedda’s first word, the Morrtog somehow turned itself around within the hole until it faced up, bent itself toward her, and grabbed her shoulders. All this lightning quick.
As it’s talons sunk into her, her pronouncement was cut short. Her mouth opened in that deep intake of breath before a shattering scream. Then, with an upward thrust, the creature lunged at Zedda’s neck and chomped off enough of it that the head fell backward; where it met her back, kept from falling off by a single strap of flesh. Eyes open in horror, mouth open in a scream that never came.
The Morrtog propelled the rest of it’s body all the way out of the hole so fast, it was out before the body could fall.
Behind it, the hole to it’s realm faded away and turned to flesh once more.
The Morrtog arose, as Zedda’s ruined body at last succumbed to gravity, and collapsed.
The Morrtog turned toward Longstreet; grunting in a gravel-filled voice something like: owwmm! eeyowwmm! eeyowwmm! eeyowwmm!
The sound of that cut through Longstreet like a knife, but he showed no outward annoyance or fear. He stood his ground as Sinestri had instructed him.
“KenJa ved RaFa ChorrGen?” it asked in it’s throaty voice.
“Speak Thrist.” Longstreet said.
The Morrtog looked at him with curiosity. It looked back at Zedda’s body.
“She brought me forth, but she was not my master.” it said.
“Neither are you.”
“No.” said Longstreet, “But I serve the one whose dark blood brought you forth. Do you wish proof?”
The Morrtog shrugged. Longstreet lifted the hand he had cut to resurrect Zedda, and held it under the Morrtog’s snout. It sniffed at the caked and clotted blood at great length, and made that annoying “Owwmm! Eeyowwmm! Eeyowwmm!” noise.
“Is that sufficient?” Longstreet asked, with disgust.
The Morrtog bit off his pinky and ring finger with such quickness, that Longstreet didn’t know what had happened until he saw his fingers in the Morrtog’s mouth; when it started chewing them with open-mouthed glee.
“It’ll do.” It answered, opening it’s mouth and showing him the black gristly mess on it’s forked tongue.
Black blood poured from the stumps like warm syrup, but Longstreet felt no pain; only a minor throbbing that dissipated within seconds.
Sinestri’s Malevolencia, Longstreet thought to himself, It’s numbed me. In more ways than one, no doubt.
With his good hand, he took out a clean handkerchief, and wrapped the damaged hand; but already, the black blood was down to a dribble.
It’s getting thicker all the time, thought Longstreet, How much time do I have, before it solidifies? Could that be why Sinestri wants this creature? To take over for me when I turn into a useless lump of coal?
But those were questions for later.
“You will not do that again.” he said.
“As you wish.” the Morrtog said with feigned servility, as black drool ran down the sides of it’s mouth.
“And you will take a more human-looking size and form.”
“As you command.” the Morrtog replied. It closed it’s eyes and began to shimmer, decreasing in size, just a bit. When the shimmering stopped, a tall and pallid man stood before him. He had long jet-black hair and wore a black raincoat. His eyes, however, remained red; and his smile was still an alarming array of white daggers.
“Close enough, I guess.” Longstreet said.
“What name will you bestow upon me?” It asked.
“Name yourself.” Longstreet said. He turned and walked out of the room, down the two sets of stairs, and out of the hotel. The Morrtog followed. When Longstreet got back in his car, the Morrtog joined him in the passenger seat.
“Babbidaz.” It said, “My name will be Babbidaz.”
“Good,” said Longstreet, and started the car, “What does that mean?”
“Death.” Babbidaz replied.