Gothic Story: The Collective Evil - by Nightwind

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The Collective Evil - by Nightwind

A heavy mist envelops the dark primeval forest on this night. From the towering cathedral-like branches of the ancient trees, the Centurions as some like to call them, droplets of water fall to the forest floor - projectiles, which send the smaller creatures of the night scurrying for cover. There is the fragrance of dampness - water upon the decaying leaves and fallen branches that cover the ground. The moon is not to be seen - its light blocked by the thickness of the mist. Still, along the pathway that meanders through these dampened woods, a flicker of light shines from the stone cottage - a lantern by the door - forever burning. Like a tiny beacon, the glow from the candle within casts an eerie hue through the fog. Its light does not penetrate very far however, so thick is the air with the cloud of watery droplets.

Inside the cottage the candles burn as always; they cast dancing shadows upon the red and black curtained walls that line the large hall. The aroma of recently burned leaves and nag champa fill the air. There is no music to be heard on this night. There are neither the captivating and melancholic violin riffs that often fill this place, nor the sound of guitar, atmospheric keyboards, drums or vocals. There is only silence.

Beyond the red curtain - inside the master bedroom, Sebastian relaxes in his favorite armchair. Here, only the crackling of burning logs in the fireplace breaks the silence as he rests - eyes half closed - he, the perfect picture of contentment in this homey atmosphere.

Suddenly, his eyes open and he quickly transforms himself into a state of high alertness. For a moment he looks around the room; then, climbing down from the chair, races toward a window. Jumping upon the sill, he gazes out into the eerie darkness with penetrating green eyes. The mist is thick, and even with his keen eyesight, Sebastian is unable to peer beyond the watery veil. Jumping down from the windowsill, he returns to the chair and once again gazes into the fire. This time however, there will be no return to a state of total relaxation; there will only be feelings of uncertainty and perhaps even fear - of what he is not certain. Now, the fire only offers a minimal amount of comfort as he anxiously awaits the return of his mistress

December 18

It sometimes amazes me as to how quickly time seems to fly; after all, I feel as though it was only yesterday that I'd had my Halloween encounter with Raven and our subsequent trip to her world - a world of the dead perhaps? Yet, it was a world to which I'd been able to gain access - with Raven's help of course. And speaking of Raven, I can't help wondering what she might be doing right now. Is she spending the winter creating her music by the warm fires in her most unusual home? Does winter even exist in that world? Yes, I saw her name on the gravestone that morning. I realize that she has passed on - and yet, there she was! And she took me to a most unique world, where I experienced lovemaking that was beyond my wildest dreams.

When it comes to Raven and the events that transpired during the days surrounding Halloween, my mind seems to be in a constant state of confusion - constant analysis, concerns about her well being, the constant uncertainty about an encounter that I believe was real; and yet, seems so unbelievable. Most of all, my spirit still yearns for her. In spite of the six or so weeks that have passed since we were together, I continue to feel as strongly for her as I did when I first saw her in the cemetery and heard her beautiful music at the concert a few nights later. My mind holds onto visions of her mysterious world.

In spite of all this, I am feeling a certain sense of contentment on this evening; for in the course of several weeks, autumn has given way to winter. A cold wind is blowing from the north. It's blowing over the mountains, down the highway, and across the farms and the meadowlands; dispersing a light snow in the wake of each icy gust. The Ozark landscape is beginning to take on a whiter hue as the snow begins sticking to the grass, the now-dead cornstalks, and the branches of trees. Inside my abode a woodstove burns; its fire crackles as if offering warm assurances in contrast to the icy wind that lurks just beyond the doors and windows. There's no music playing tonight. I am sitting quietly as I savor my humble but adequate defense against winter's first onslaught.

Suddenly, I am startled out of my contented musings as I feel a touch upon both of my shoulders from behind. At the same time I hear a recognizable feminine voice whispering in my ear even as this unexpected guest kisses me lightly, and then presses her cheek against mine. "You look like a man who could use something to do."

"Raven! Oh, thank the Goddess; you're back!"

I rise out of my comfortable position and embrace her. Still, even though I'm deliriously happy to be in her embrace, I can feel the coldness from her body - the body of a wonderful living soul who lost her physical life some years ago; yet, she is here.

Breaking the embrace but still holding her, I take my first look at her beauty in weeks as she smiles. "Do you always sneak up on people?" I ask her.

"Only you," she replies. "Besides, knocking on doors gets boring sometimes, especially when it's easier to simply walk through them unnoticed."

"You're right about being unnoticed. How long were you here watching me before you decided to announce yourself?"

"I just arrived. I'm afraid that, at the moment, I cannot afford to simply hold back to watch you. I'm here to enlist your help; that is, if you're willing to offer it."

"You're the enchanting ghost that walks between the worlds, and you need my help?"

"Actually I do, she retorts, I think I have a serious situation on my hands. In my world I'm experiencing a growing dread - a sense that something evil - incongruous and destructive is coming. I would ask that you come back with me in order to help defend against whatever it is."

"Of course, I'll help in whatever way I can," I respond, "but I know very little about your world. You're the one who created that wondrous cottage that you live in. And that surreal forest - I mean, that world is…well…so you - so fitting toward your personality. Can something else actually endanger what you have there?"

Raven looks at me with a facial expression that denotes grave seriousness. "And what about this modest but comfortable house that you exist in - here in the mountains, that is so often filled with the sound of dark music? Then there are the scarecrows and ghoulishly-adorned dolls and mannequins that you use as wards in order to keep unwelcome intruders off this land - to protect its essence, is that not so you?"

"Well, I guess it is," I respond."

"Could your country paradise be destroyed if a major war breaks out; or if the developers suddenly decide that they want it?"

"Please, don't even say that word 'developers,' they're a living nightmare," I tell her. "I don't even like thinking about them."

"But their intentions can destroy that which you have worked for here," she adds. "It can happen in other worlds as well, and I sense that something now threatens my existence - something evil! I don't yet know what it might be, but I have a feeling that I may soon find out.

"I'm not going to lie. This could be dangerous for you, especially since you're somewhat limited by your physical body. But you know now that death is only a doorway that leads to other existences - existences such as mine. What I ask of you won't be difficult. I simply need your magick in order to reinforce my own. Will you help?"

"Of course, surely you know by now that I'd do anything for you."

Raven gives me a penetrating but appreciative look that seems to run right to the core of my soul. I feel warmed by it and grateful for the opportunity to help her. "Then we'd better be on our way," she tells me, "Adventure awaits. You might want to secure your place here," she adds, "because I'm not sure how long this might take. A few nights spent in my world could equal a more considerable passage of time in yours."

With that I put more wood on the fire, shut off the water pipes to protect them against freezing, and then turn back to Raven. "Can we leave from here, or do we need to go out to the cemetery?"

"We don't need to use the portal in the cemetery," she smiles, "you do."

With that last point cleared up I put on a jacket, shut off the last light, and we walk out into the cold snowy night. We traverse the distance between the house and the old oak in the cemetery without a word being spoken between us - me, dressed in my leather winter jacket and hat. She was dressed as always - elegantly attired in black.

When we reach the tree Raven takes my hand and gives me a short series of instructions. "Remember," she says, "hold on to me and firmly hold the image you now have of my world in your mind."

Standing there, I can feel the cold wind blowing through my hair. I can feel the tiny snowflakes hitting, and then melting upon my face. Suddenly, there is the feeling of disorientation, and I'm not cold anymore.

Humans in general, do not realize the power they hold within their belief systems - the power to step away from the polarity of light and darkness to a place out of balance - to a place where greed and aggression reside - where one act is not in service to another - to a place where death no longer serves either god or goddess - and where spirits are suddenly released into the ether regions with intense feelings pain and anguish; this, not only due to concern over their own recently-lost lives, but over those who still physically reside upon the Earth.

On a still summer afternoon a child throws a stone into a pond. In a perfect circle the waves travel out from the center. Although small, the waves affect all - even to the farthest reaches of the pond - the shore. Humanity throws a boulder into the sea of existence! What is humanity's collective creation? What could it be?

Suddenly, the now familiar corn field seems to materialize around me. Although it's dark, I quickly realize that we are once again standing on the edge of the forest - the forest of colossal trees with their sometimes twisting branches - the forest that Raven resides in. Something is different tonight however, for although I have a keen sense of where we are, I can barely peer into the forest at all, so thick is the veil of mist enshrouding it. And what a strange fog it is! Although the air is still, the unusual mist appears to be swirling up from the ground. Whirlpools working in reverse, I think to myself. This place feels different tonight! Yet, the thick fog does not extend into the corn field, although clouds loom overhead blocking out much of the moonlight.

"My feeling of dread intensifies," Raven says to me. "Things seem more…well…how do I say it…Incongruous? We'd better be going."

"Wait a minute," she adds, "do you hear that?"

I do hear something. At first it was just an almost indistinguishable rumble. But it's getting louder - and closer. As I turn to Raven she speaks quietly, "horses - several of them."

As the horse's hooves beat upon the ground in an ever-intensifying drone, it quickly becomes apparent that they are coming from across the field, parallel to the mist-enshrouded forest. Soon I see them. Their riders, now aware of our presence, slow their pace. Finally, a half dozen horsemen stop before us.

A man, still mounted, breaks away from the rest of the group and approaches us. Although I cannot see him well in this darkened landscape, I can see that he is dressed well in a black cape, white shirt underneath, and a dark wide-rimmed hat. He appears to have long shoulder-length hair. Still, there's something about his eyes. I can't really see them in the dark, but it's almost as though I can feel them. I wonder if this is what's meant by the expression, "the eyes are the doorway to the soul." As for the horses, I cannot see into their eyes either. Yet, I can feel each one's spirit - its wildness and even wisdom. Who are these people? I wonder to myself.

"Lord Sorin," Raven greets him. "What brings you out on a night such as this?"

"Lady Raven," he answers in response while tipping his hat, "I think you know what brings us so far out of our territory - the same sense of impending danger that motivated you to travel back to the Earth plane in order to recruit the efforts of your human friend here. Something hideous is coming and we're out looking for clues as to what it might be. We hope that it isn't going to be like the last time."

"Well I certainly hope not," Raven interjects, "we just arrived and I'm anxious to return home so that I can consult with Sebastian. The mist has grown thicker during the short time that I have been gone. I often rely upon his perceptions."

"Yes, Sebastian's ability to peer into the unknown was quite helpful to us last time. We'll continue on with our search and perhaps we can compare notes soon? Whatever is coming I suspect threatens us all."

"If the Lord of Thunder feels threatened then we have much to be concerned about tonight and in the days ahead. Yes, we may need to compare notes soon."

With that, Lord Sorin rejoins the rest of his band, and they continue on their original course through the dark night.

As the riders depart Raven turns to me. "Come, we need to make our way through the woods before the mist thickens any further. There's much to do and prepare for."

I'm filled with curiosity as we begin our slow journey down the wooded path. Because of the thickening fog and our increasing inability to even see the ground beneath us, we move slowly; thus, leaving plenty of time for me to seek answers to my questions. "Who are those people?" I ask my companion. "And why did you refer to him as the lord of thunder?"

"I refer to him as the Lord of Thunder because he is the Lord of Thunder. Sorin is a very powerful Fae leader and guardian of Nature. Wherever you find lightening and thunder you find Lord Sorin." With his powers Sorin serves both the light and the darkness. He can be a powerful ally or a formidable enemy. I prefer to have him as an ally."

"Something tells me we're not in Kansas anymore," I say almost under my breath. Raven just looks at me with a knowing smile.

Finally, we come upon a bend in the pathway and a small clearing. The fog is so thick that my vision cannot penetrate far enough to see what lies within this break in the trees, but I know from my last experience that we have reached Raven's cottage. I feel a great sense of relief as we step inside, for here we are inside my companion's wondrous domicile with its large chamber and black and red curtained walls. Although I've only been here once, I feel at home.

Suddenly a cat comes running out from underneath the curtains that separate the large chamber from Raven's master bedroom. Stopping abruptly upon seeing me, this interesting creature looks me over - studies me. I would describe the animal as being somewhat large for a domestic cat, all black with piercing green eyes. What is it about everyone's eyes around here? I wonder to myself.

Raven's voice quickly interrupts my thoughts. "It's okay Sebastian. He's a trusted friend. Did you miss me while I was gone?" Sitting down in one of her comfortable easy chairs, she then allows the cat to jump into her lap. Immediately, he seems to relax, and as she scratches the top of his head and ears, Sebastian's facial expression changes; he soon falls into that blissful state that only cats seem able to achieve.

After a few minutes, Raven turns to me and asks, "Would you like some tea? I have a special blend that comes from a beautifully-blooming wildflower that only comes into season for a few days out of the year. The herb is very medicinal and helps produce mental clarity and concentration - something that we might need over the next several hours.

"Sure," I tell her. With that, she puts Sebastian down and goes into another room to fetch the tea. Moments later, she's back with two glass cups in her hand. The tea has an almost orange hue to it and upon first taste, I find it to be a very pleasant beverage indeed. "Thank you," I tell my hostess.

At that, she bends over to where I am now sitting and plants a very sensuous kiss upon my waiting lips. "Oh yeah, now that's what I've really been waiting for!"

"All in good time," she responds, "but first we have some important business to take care of; and, I need to consult with Sebastian."

Raven returns to her seat and motions to the cat. "Come here Sebastian! Tell me what you've been feeling during my absence."

I sit quietly and just watch as this interaction takes place. Both Raven and the cat simply stare at one another - looking into each other's eyes. I know that a type of psychic communication is taking place, for as the seconds and minutes slowly pass in silence, I watch her facial expression change to one of deep understanding and concern. Although I am only a bystander to this exchange that is taking place between them, it's almost as though I too am picking up on the dark nature of the information being given. Somehow, I can sense that the situation isn't good.

Finally, both participants break their gaze. Raven reaches out and ruffles the cat's fur. "He hasn't seen anything but senses something very destructive and evil; as do I," she tells me. "I suspect that a powerful thought form has made its way into this reality, perhaps from yours. That would explain the thickening mist; it's still gaining power. If that's the case, we've got to find a way to separate it from its source - to negate the beliefs and actions that give it life. We must also safeguard this cottage and the woods that surround it."

"And we need to do it magically?" I inquire.

"Right you are," she says with a smile.

With that Raven walks over to the entranceway, opens the door, and takes a look outside. "The mist continues to thicken," she informs me. "We could easily lose our bearings and get lost by going outside. But I have an idea."

"Which is…?"

"We can cast a circle of protection while remaining inside this structure. Then, we can expand it by visualizing its growth outward - into the woods, to the farmlands, and farther beyond. We'll need to concentrate on maintaining the atmosphere feel of this place - the peaceful ambiance of the natural things that surround us outside, and there must be music. Let's gather up some things that we'll need and bring them here. They'll need to be in the circle with us."

Quickly we make our preparations. Raven leads me into another room where she stores all kinds of tools - magical and otherwise. We return to the main hall with a couple of large bags filled with leaves, sticks of incense, and a black cauldron, which is approximately two feet wide by two feet deep. Upon her request, I begin pouring the leaves from one of the burlap bags into the cauldron. Raven goes into her bedroom and returns shortly with her violin.

Yes, it's that violin, the one from which flows forth the essence of her very soul - a magical soul from which emanates music dark and melancholy, but yet exquisitely beautiful and filled with a natural spirit - a music capable of soothing any savage beast, perhaps even a powerful thought-form.

"Are you ready to cast the circle?" Her words disrupt my thoughts suddenly and completely.

"Yeah, let's do it."

With my assent obtained, she positions the cauldron in the middle of the floor. By simply removing several screw-in pieces of the caldron, which lie near its bottom, she is apparently able to convert the device from a liquid-holding container to one that can adequately hold fire. Next, she lights a long and sturdy match, which she then slides into each of the holes. Within moments a slow-burning fire begins to take hold. The air holes at the cauldron's bottom appear to allow for enough air flow that the fire can continue to burn. Still, it will burn slowly. Finally, she tosses several sticks of incense on top of the burning leaves and within moments, Raven's great hall is filled once again with the fragrance of burning leaves and incense - the fragrance that I first noticed upon my first visit here. The almost-magical aroma spreads slowly throughout the rest of her candlelit abode creating an almost autumnal atmosphere of tranquility.

Suddenly there is the sound of an explosion from somewhere in the distance. The ground shakes beneath us, but our peaceful ambiance remains in tact.

Somewhere out in the darkness of the night, Lord Sorin signals the other horsemen to stop, even as he attempts to quell his own mount's nervousness; this, after hearing what appears to be an explosion - one that is quickly followed by a hideously-low growl - an almost sadistic, yet sickeningly vile sound. "What in the name of the Goddess was that?" he asks aloud - his question not aimed at anyone in particular.

One of the other riders, a woman, approaches and stops at his side. She removes the hood that has been restricting her hair, and giving her head a shake, frees her long curly locks. Her hair is so intensely red that its color can be discerned even on a night as gloomy as this. "During all of the time that I have lived in the land of Mircea, I've never heard a sound as horrific as that."

"Neither have I Alexandreina. And I cannot believe that this is not some hideous manifestation that has come to us by way of the humans."

"Perhaps, but we cannot forget that the human world likely contains as much diversity of thought and action as does our own. Earlier tonight, you spoke with the human witch that took residence here after her departure from the Earth plane. What are her plans?"

"She intends to consult with her familiar, the one named Sebastian. I must admit that he displays magnificent powers of perception. I would…"

"Then I must attempt to contact her clairvoyantly, she interrupts, "I doubt that whatever is afoot here can be defeated by bow, arrow and sword alone. I suggest that we hold up here for awhile and that you and the others allow me the solitude needed to make contact."

"I will make it so Alexandreina."

Their conversation concluded, she leaves his side and rides off in search for a place of solitude. As the sound of her horse's hoofs retreats toward a nearby rock formation, something new becomes audible. It is the sound of a traumatized people -screaming - fleeing from some unspeakable horror that lurks somewhere in the darkness.

Suddenly a ghastly entity appears from over the horizon. As it moves in their direction, the Fae horsemen stare in disbelief at the abomination taking place before them. Whatever it is appears to be the very personification of all that is evil and despicable. As it hovers somewhat above the ground, they see that it is of a muddy complexion and appears to be a large and obscenely grotesque living plasma - a living abomination with two huge eyes that ooze a red liquid - blood - the blood of the millions of innocents that have been vanquished by the dogs of war in their lust for money and power. Yet, this sanguine liquid pours from the eyes of a creature that remains filled with the vile and sadistic desire to take more life - to destroy all in its path in order that it may live.

The creature lets out another loud growl and a sickening slimy yellowish-white mixture drools from the abomination's mouth. The filth from the creature's mouth drops to the ground and there are explosions wherever it makes contact. Fire spreads across the landscape and the cries of fleeing Fae villagers now burning in agony fill the landscape. Then, there is an inaudible but clearly psychic message that chills the small band of horsemen to the bone: "How dare you disregard my rule over you! How dare you challenge my superiority over you by taking up arms against me! Now you will all die as will your world."

This doesn't make any sense, Sorin thinks to himself, we are not even familiar with this creature. How could we have challenged it? This abomination must have the Earth plane and the humans that reside there as the source of its vile nature. "Try to keep your horses calm;" he tells his men, "we've got to hold our ground until Alexandreina concludes her business."

A moment later she returns atop her mount and takes her place by Sorin's side. "Do not draw down the thunder until I give the word," she tells him. "We will work with Lady Raven and her companion to defeat this awful thing. Let us secure our horses and take refuge at the rock formation from which I just came."

With that, the Fae riders take refuge, and with almost overwhelming anxiety, wait for the proper moment to strike.

The gothic story continue here: The Collective Evil

Written by: Nightwind

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