Just an idea I was messing around with involving one of my go-to villains, Rook.
|It looked like a statue; a statue that could have been crafted from the mind of a deviant the likes of the Marquis de Sade. Lean and lithe enough to be alluring and beautiful and yet its proportions were abnormal enough to make it subtly unattractive. It looked like a weird mixture of a hairless lynx and a human. Its facial features were sharp and feline; its body nearly human except for the tail and claws. It was both gorgeous and nightmarish and would have left any viewer conflicted with disgust and keen interest.
It stood facing a painting; a large, framed painting. The work put into the scene was as detailed and meticulous as the statue itself. A winterscape littered with soldiers dressed in 19th century French uniforms. Some dead, some marching, some dying. Delicate snowflakes falling, adding to the snow that was already knee high to the frozen troopers. It was a scene so real that one could not help but shiver when looking at it. For hours the statue stared at it, unmoving. It’s slitted eyes locked, it’s head tilted a margin to one side as if it were thinking; contemplating. Hours? Perhaps minutes? Perhaps years… time was fluid here. A heartbeat could last a life time or not time at all.
This was The Painted Nether, a realm outside the mortal world. A prison to a darkness that had long ago been forgotten by man. The Dark Artisan. The Corvian God. The Whisperer. Rook; he was the last of the Nine. Beings of immense power who forged magic and laws; who guided and punished humankind. They had locked him away here and now he was the only one left. His cell had become his sanctuary for he was protected from the power of being forgotten. The weakness of every god. Once their name disappeared from the lips of their worshiper, so to did they cease to exist. But not Rook. So long as he remained in his twisted gallery of shades and memories, he could exist without the devotion of those whom he tormented and destroyed so easily. Though it was not without cost. He could never enter the mortal world and for all his incredible power and knowledge, he could only hold so much control over the world he had grown to hate and fear. Only in his art could he manifest his dark thaumaturgic craft. The scenes he painted, when finished by his signature, became reality. Terrible, terrible paintings covered the walls of his gallery. Each a vengeful punishment on the ephemeral beings he loathed.
A great city burning under the onslaught of barbarians, an army of goose-stepping soldiers marching through a city of light, a deadly disease ravaging unchecked across a map of Europe. Greif, pain, death and sorrow were trademarks of all his creations. If not for the restraints of his prison, he would have scourged the world of all life and made his throne out of the bleached bones that were left.
“My child.” The voice came from everywhere and nowhere all at once. It was a whispery tenor with a soft feminine edge. “This painting again?”
The statue snapped to life, whirling around with eyes wide. The title of child was far from the truth. This living statue was ancient, carved long before Rome ever built its empire. But to its creator, it was but a welp. Rook had seen the formation of the Earth itself with his own eyes.
“Yes, Father.” It spoke to the dark nothingness around it.
“My dear Phobos. My beloved scion. Why does it intrigue you so?”
“What is the white stuff called again, Father?”
A soft chuckle glistened through the Nether. “Snow.”
“Snow.” Phobos repeated the word, “Snow. I like how it sounds. It’s deadly?”
“It can be. In the right circumstances.”
Several feet from the statue, the darkness shifted and weaved, coalescing into the titanic form of a human male with a pair of raven-like wings. It stood nearly fifty feet tall, it’s skin the color of polished eggplant – so dark that it seemed a void that would devour any light that came near it. A hungry blackness. A pair of glowing green orbs peered down at the statue. It looked up at its master without fear.
“One day, will I see snow? Will I see mortals?”
Ancient though he was, Phobos had no knowledge of the mortal world. His naivety contrasted with his wisdom of power and wickedness. He had the curiosity of a child.
Another chuckle, “Yes. Perhaps today is that day.”
Rook had created countless statues to keep him company in his exile since his imprisonment. Most of them he also destroyed when he grew tired of them. But Phobos was something special. He had not created him for company; he had created him to be a catspaw to the world beyond. A tool in which he could pour out his magic and send it to the physical plane to wreak havoc. Phobos was a weapon; a weapon of harrowing power.
“Oh yes, please Father.” His voice dripped with a craven eagerness.
It was spring; April of 1986. A frosty dew lay on the ground outside of Pripyat, Ukraine. The air was a brisk and cold as the war that had been building between the Western nations and the USSR. Yuri was driving home from working the midnight shift at the nearby power plant. He was exhausted; so much so that he was starting to nod off when he saw the hitchhiker on the road in front of him. Hitchhikers were a common sight in the USSR for the union of states was vast and cars were expensive on the meager salaries that people around here lived on.
Something about this man though made him stand out. Not his looks, for he looked like any other person – dark hair, lanky build but short – no, it was something else. Something that made Yuri’s skin crawl but left him at a loss as to what it was that was so unnerving. He wasn’t an ugly man but not a runway model either. He was plain; ordinary. Perhaps in his late twenties, there were a million such young men wondering up and down Soviet streets. That creepy feeling nearly convinced the older man to keep going but he’d been a drifter himself in his youth and it was cold out. He’d not leave this poor comrade to freeze.
Perhaps his nerves were unfounded. The man seemed nice, though he was inquisitive about things that seemed a little strange to Yuri. He was looking for work too which was great. The plant was always in need of more workers to meet the ever growing demands of the expanding cities it supplied with power. When Yuri brought it up, the stranger’s questions turned to that. He seemed excited about it. Yuri answered what he could, the best that he could. Then the questions took a dark turn without warning.
“Do you normally drink vodka at work?” It wasn’t an accusation.
“What?” Yuri’s guts tightened. Could he smell it on him? He’d changed clothes and brushed his teeth in the employee bathroom before he’d clocked out.
“Is it because of what happened to your daughter? The wreck and all?”
Yuri gobbled air, “How the hell…”
“It was a horrible accident. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to have killed your child. I understand why you drink. I just want to know if you always do it when you’re at work.”
It was like a searing blade right through his heart. How many countless nights had he lain awake in bed trying to convince his guilt that it hadn’t been his fault. He had been backing up, in a hurry and hadn’t checked his mirrors. She was supposed to be in the house. Why? Why wasn’t she in the house? How did she get behind the car so quickly. Oh god, why? Oh god.
The anger bubbled up, he turned to the hitchhiker. The moment he did, he caught something in the road ahead of them out of the corner of his tear-filled eyes. He looked back.
There she was. Clothes bloody, body crushed, standing in the center of the lane looking just as he had seen her last before her body was taken. She lifted a hand.
Yuri slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel. Jerked it too fast, too soon. His truck skidded, tires squalling, and then flipped. It smashed and rolled three times before coming to a stop near the side of the road.
Tired and intoxicated, the nightshift worker had not been wearing his seatbelt. Some fifteen feet from the wreckage of his truck he was sprawled out, broken and bleeding, on the pavement. He was disoriented; his vision blurry and unfocused as the passenger side door swung open. The pain riddling his body was excruciating. He tried to scream but his lungs couldn’t even hold enough air to stop the unbearable burning that gripped them. Blood spurted from his mouth from the effort.
Something emerged from the truck. His eyes focused and unbridled terror gripped him. It was some kind of hellish creature; something like he’d never seen before. Scrawny and feline and undamaged from the wreck. It slinked forward, came to rest on its haunches beside him. He tried to scream again and again he failed. The creature extended its arm, swirling two fingers in the blood that was pooling on the asphalt. It held them up, studying it. Then it looked past its fingers into his dying eyes.
“Human. You are leaking. Blood. This is blood?” It cocked its head to the side, frowned at his lack of response. “How does it feel to be dying? Does it hurt?” Its inquires were not sadistic but rather genuine.
Phobos did not know death; not in the sense mortals knew it. He’d seen his Father destroy other creations of his but that was not death. Phobos, like the others, enjoyed artificial life. It was the Dark God’s power that animated him and so long as Rook lived, so too would he. He reached out with his other hand and laid his palm on the man’s chest. It heaved at the touch. He could feel the gurgling bubbles inside. It was an odd sensation. Humans were so warm; so fragile. The flesh and muscle gave way to the pressure, something Phobos had never encountered before. He was made of marble even if it appeared to be flesh. He pushed, a fountain of blood erupted from the man’s mouth, bones cracked. He withdrew his hand.
“Goodbye human.” Was all he said as he stood up.
For a moment the man thought the thing was about to kill him but Phobos simply turned and began walking away, this time back up the road where whence they had come. As he walked, his form changed. Half a dozen steps saw not the golem but the newly dead man walking, waiting for another ride.
This power plant the human had worked at sounded interesting. Phobos felt he could learn a lot if he could get there. It also seemed like a great place to unleash his Father’s power. Who knew what kind of chaos he could cause at such a prime location.
What was the name of it again? Ah, yes. Chernobyl.